Monthly Archives: August 2009

A game is by definition an audio/visual experience. It is usually the visual side of things that get the most attention and so little time is spent on the other half of the equation. While visuals are critical for having a successful game, having great audio is very important. To think this deeper, try imagining Star Wars without John Williams’ sound track or James Earl Jones’ booming Darth Vader voice. Poor audio on top of great video can really deteriorate production value. The trouble with audio is that it generally comes late in the development cycle and all to often as an afterthought. Another difficulty is that while poor visuals tend to be obvious, poor audio tends to be a silent failure. Star Wars with slightly worse music would create a sense that “something is missing” or “something isn’t right” whereas a bad special effect is much more likely to be spotted for what it is.

So how do we approach audio in a space game like Jumpgate Evolution? The most important thing is to have a kick a** audio department. We have a full in-house audio production team along with good external talent who knows how to “articulate” music. As the visuals and tone of the game begin shaping up we make sure the audio department has access to as much information as possible: concept art, story documents and, of course, a playable version of the experience. We then spend a lot of time looking at other forms of media: movies, tv shows, commercials, other games… anything that might inspire. For a space game like Jumpgate Evolution, it can be quite challenging because there are limited references we can take from. Such as how should alien ships sound when they fly past or what should we use for the environment ambient sounds because in reality, space has no sound.

But our goal is to try to get that same emotional response from the game. Therefore a lot of this is breaking down the various parts that make a given scene evoke an emotional response. By removing elements from a scene you can quickly realize what the core elements of the scene are. For example, does a combat scene in Battlestar Galactica still hold up if the music is different, or if there are no special FX sounds, or if you remove the dialog with some radio distortion. Many things are also very subtle. For example we noticed that in many space scenes there are two levels of spoken audio. The primary is audio directed at the viewer (or the protagonist) and then the secondary audio which is voice chatter between external groups.

The next step is to do some basic concept work. This is done by taking a few minutes of unedited game play video and then letting the sound and music guys do whatever they want to make it sound like the experience we are trying to achieve. This is then evaluated by people watching the video and giving feedback. Once we have a few minutes of game play with the audio the way we want it, we meet with engineers and evaluate the feasibility of the various technical pieces involved. By taking this approach we can avoid spending time on features that will not provide the game experience that people find compelling. We also experiment with existing sound and music to see if it’s a quality issue. Sometimes the features and tech are fine, but the audio itself simply requires more iteration.

The final thing to consider is when to stop. As with everything in games, it’s difficult to know when you are “there,” so we spend a lot of time just testing the game. While we want to create a compelling experience at every level we also don’t want to keep working and iterating on things that are starting to have diminishing returns. This point can be incredibly hard to evaluate, especially with something as elusive as audio, but there is a sense that you know it when you hear it.

By having an early prototype that has been tested against a sample audience we can be confident that we are aiming towards a solution that will create the experience players are looking for. By comparing the experience to existing experiences in other popular media, we can be sure that we are measuring against the required quality mark. As with everything else in development it’s all about prototyping, rapid iteration and testing.

Name: Daniel Schmelzer
Position: QA Manager
Company: Frogster Online Gaming GmbH

The last couple of weeks before a Content Update are always the most exciting ones for a Quality Assurance Team working on a big MMO like Runes of Magic. New zones get added to the game with more opportunities to get involved with a new race like the Elves and their beautiful island. Two new classes, the Druid and the Warden add a new range of quests and epic adventures, which will only give great reward to those who manage to survive the biggest challenges our enemies throw our way. New areas like the Savage Lands open their gates and taunt us with new rewards for our Heroes of Taboera.

At first glace it is very surprising how much we take from a virtual world like Runes of Magic into our daily office lives. We also have daily quests like meetings or other tasks that we need to prepare for each day. Every morning we start with the same routine. With the early sunrise, we check our supply of coffee and supplies, and countless documents about old legends, great rewards and new enemies need to be studied. After a short group discussion, we start our daily work and enter into a new adventure. The outcome is always surprising and challenging.

Other fellow office companions ask us for guidance to understand the full spectrum of new features or are in need of descriptions and documented material to understand some of the biggest mysteries in the world of Runes of Magic. Countless numbers of new areas need to be explored, accurately mapped and documented so that even the most inexperienced member of our fellowship can easily understand the goal behind these adventures.

As you can already see to work in a Quality Assurance Department is definitely a huge adventure. But we would not like to trade with anyone else. To see parts of a virtual world grow from a basic idea on a piece of paper to the actual zone you can visit in the game and wander around in, is something very special and rewarding for all of the countless hours of work we put into it. We can’t wait to hear your feedback when you have a chance to experience these adventures at home for yourself.

Stay tuned for this weekend when we’ll be doing some fun things for the labor day holiday.

The Frequency of Travel Powers in Player vs. Player (PVP) and Zone Player vs. Player (ZPVP) Combat

The following Travel Powers dominate CoX:

  • Flight
  • Concealment
  • Leaping
  • Speed
  • Teleportation

The campaign world of CoX revolves around these five powers because of the importance of reaching a task-based destination (usually called Player vs. Environment, or PvE) and all forms of PVP. The Concealment power pool is of special mention because, although it does not change your method of travel, it does increase your ability to reach the destination without being challenged.

In the CoX PVP and ZPVP (which will be now be broadly referenced as “PVP”) environment, nearly every character (referred to as a “toon”) has the Super Speed power; this can be observed directly by watching a PVP battle or going to a PVP zone. Often, Super Speed (also referred to as “SS) is used in combination with the Super Jump power, which creates an extremely fast, high-and-low reaching character.

Flying, or the Fly power, is surprisingly one of the lesser chosen powers in ZPVP. If taken, it will mostly be chosen with other existing travel powers. For example, even though a person wouldn’t think jumping is needed when you fly, the Jumping power pool has the powers Combat Jump (which gives more maneuverability and some protection from immobilization effects) and Acrobatics (which gives limited protection from hold and knockback effect).

As well, a strong majority of the players use invisibility, or some variant of stealth, for their characters in PVP. One of the most predominant methods for avoiding the “Concealment” power pool, where Stealth and Invisibility reside, is to use a +Stealth “process”. This process is something that can be bought and/or created through the CoX invention system, and will grant the user a degree of invisibility when activating the power linked to it. For most players, the linked power will be Super Speed.

Teleportation waxes and wanes dependent on the current mechanics surrounding it. The Issue 13 release has changed teleportation enough that it is less desired by characters and less seen on the battlefield.

The Leaping power set is probably of equal, if not more, prevalence than any other pool set. The basis of this belief is due its ability to operate (and provide functionality) simultaneously with all other travel powers, while having two very desirable powers that are heavily needed to survive, those being Combat Jump and Acrobatics, described above.

While it is a debatable point, it can be observed that the travel powers have led to the creation of the artificial response mechanic (ARM), namely “Travel Suppression” (TS) in PvP. Because of the relevance of movement to using techniques such as kiting, and escape, this sparks less of a debate.

The notion of suppressing travel only came through the observations of developers who saw players “strafe” and “kite” their attacks in one fluid motion, being unassailable due to the speed of the action. The result was to “force”, through TS, an artificial mechanic that keeps the player in the confrontation as long as possible. (It should be noted that the timer for suppression is completely arbitrary; right now your ability to run or fly away is a few seconds, but they could easily raise it to one minute.)

A Description of Outcomes of PVP and ZPVP Due To Travel Powers in CoX

What has been observed is a constantly changing environment in all forms of PVP. Because of the prevalence of travel powers, some other powers have become less effective.

Melee attacks, as a whole, are less effective unless supported with super speed (and usually Super Jump). Without super speed, a ranged attacker will consistently have an advantage of dealing damage and getting away from a close range fighter. The advantage is with the ranged attack at this moment.

Invisibility, or Stealth, has the obvious advantage of determining the battlefield in ZPVP. CoX has one archetype (AT) completely developed as a stealth template (The “Stalker”) and, coupled with Super Speed, he is easily capable of closing in on an opponent and striking, only to get away. Subjectively, it appears that is his sole purpose, but it should also be noted that the developers of CoX are currently using Travel Suppression as a mechanism to keep the Stalker “attackable”, visible, and in the confrontation for a few more seconds at this time (however, there are other powers the stalker can use to be completely intangible to attack for example, Phase Shift, which makes you intangible, and Hibernate, which encases you in a block of ice, untouchable).

Teleportation has been more affected than any other travel power. One extremely common power in the Teleportation pool is “Teleport Foe”. It has the ability to target an enemy at long range and bring them to your feet. At the post-I13 release, any foe who is teleported has a moment of intangibility which they can use to run off. As well, players that used to teleport out of combat, now find that their power does not function for a number of seconds after they are hit.

Flight may be underrated, but this may also be because there are so many powers in the past that removed the ability to stay aloft (some powers have a “-fly” effect in them). After I13, powers that immobilized or held characters became less effective because of their short durations, the fact that passive powers no longer toggled off when held, and that the hover power will normally keep you flying even when immobilized or held.

But one of the reasons flying is used fairly infrequently could be because a flier cannot catch up to a person running at super speed. Subsequently, since traveling at super speeds is extremely common in all forms of PVP, fliers lack the ability to chase characters running from battle. It should be noted that characters cannot fly at super speeds (The two do not work together).

As stated before, some attacks are less effective. At the same time, though, other attacks are nearly completely ineffective. For example, among one hero archetype, there is a power known as “Time Bomb”, which resides in a secondary power set known as “Devices”. The time bomb takes eight seconds to set and will go off after 15 seconds. The problem with this power is that it is easy to be killed in the eight second preparation and extremely unlikely that the bomb will even be near a battle when it actually explodes with its extreme damage. Needless to say, Time Bomb is not a PVP chosen power and the occasions where it has been chosen are rare.

The viability of choosing a power for PVP is, therefore, based not only on its damage. The animation time, or prep time, of the attack is extremely important. (It should be noted that NCsoft has lately been working with the powers to establish a link between the amount of damage done and the prep time.)

But what seems of most importance to choosing a power is how easily it can connect based on travel powers. Since their prevalence, all powers that require range to continuously work (such as the Radiation Infection power, which requires you to stay within 70 feet of your target) are often, but not completely, ignored. Maintaining a specific range is very difficult, and therefore more immediate powers that “Fire and Forget” are chosen.

Further Use of Artificial Mechanics and Implementation of Travel Powers In The Future

The Artificial Response Mechanic “Travel Suppression” is the system that is used by CoX to handle balance to the pervasive use of travel powers as a means to attack and escape combat. It is not believed that travel powers were originally meant to be used as a means of combat; instead, they were only meant as a method of arriving at the fight destinations.

Although this is speculation: what ensued appears to be less than intended. Early on in their release, characters were performing “drive-by” attacks through the forms of travel and removing themselves from commitment of combat before any actual confrontation took place.

Travel Suppression, although artificial, is designed to counteract such an action. Through the use of arbitrary timers which can be raised or lowered, you are forced to move at walking speed levels if you are attacked or attack. While it can objectively be argued whether this system is working, it is noteworthy that all forms of PVP are going through changes at this time, which keep the characters in a state of change. It is not uncommon for the developers to allow “respecification” tokens, where a character can change his power choices, after they make they make such changes.

It is anticipated that CoX will remain in a state of change with all forms of PVP for a long time. While it is not extremely uncommon in MMORPGs to establish patches and minor changes, major overhauls are not often as frequent. Where they have occurred, other trends have been established (i.e. The “Trammel” event in Ultima Online and the “NGE” event in Star Wars Galaxies).

Therefore, the conclusion is that PVP will have many changes to come, because it has been changing from the moment of its inception. Yet, it will be extremely difficult, or even dangerous, to change the system dramatically, because of the implementation of travel powers as an optional choice for any character in the spectrum. The backbone of the system becomes dependent on dealing with those powers as a majority; for them to go away now, or be revised into a completely new system, would likely cause a collapse in the loyal subscribership.

Recommendations for Travel Power Implementation in Next Generation Superhero MMO PVP

The City of Heroes/City of Villains MMO model is a great example to how a superhero setting can be implemented. Yet, what we notice is that travel powers dramatically affect PVP outcomes in CoX and have caused it to undergo constant changes. This includes changes so significant that players often resort to re-choosing or rebuilding their powers.

An option for a next generation superhero MMO might be to incorporate travel powers into actual full-scale powers within the normal framework of choices. For example, as noted above, Super Speed and Teleportation have a natural course of effects which could be used to cause damage and provide utilitarian uses. Invisibility and stealth are likewise the tools of defense and elusiveness. This also applies to Flight and Leaping.

This recommendation would reduce the necessity (but not necessarily the appearance) of travel powers in PVP; instead they would serve the primary purpose of being a trademark characteristic of the intended hero or villain. This becomes more attuned to how comic book implementations have curtailed the overuse and advantageous use of travel powers in their pages.

Another recommendation could be the use of Natural Response Mechanics (NRMs) as opposed to artifical ones (ARMs) like Travel Suppression. For example, a natural response to super speed, flight, and so on would be the lessening of accuracy. In this model, the faster you go, the more difficult it is for you to accurately target. The outcome, then, becomes natural: If you want to fight well, you slow down. Subsequently, an indirect response later becomes less people choosing the power, but not entirely discarding it as an option.

The goal, therefore, is not to devastate any single power; it is to make it equally as important as the others.

Yet another option for a future superhero MMO would be more interactivity within the environment. As is clear, melee-based attacks have a natural disadvantage among fast-running, high-flying, and teleporting-to-escape, opponents. As a matter of fact, even when both characters have the same modes of travel, the ranged attacker has advantage over the melee user.

An interactive environment allows characters new strategies; what if the fire hydrant can be smashed and the pool of water turned to ice? Now the speedster can slip and fall. What if you can push a building over on top of the flier? What if you can pull a lamppost out of the ground and swat the jumper like a fly?

Summary

It is clear that Travel Powers have a predominance to mold the shape of PVP, and can significantly alter the importance of other powers in combat. It is also important to see that wide-scale use of Travel Powers seem to delegate the need for consistent changes, refiguring, and revising of PVP.

To future development, it becomes of primary importance to determine what percentage of fliers, jumpers, teleporters, and speedsters designers would like to see among their populations. Is it necessary for each person to have a form of “super” travel? How does your travel system compare to other MMOs, both from your, and all other, genres?

Careful implementation of these powers, by paying attention to how they were treated throughout comic book history, is advisable, due to the scenarios writers foresaw in their evolution. Likewise, a natural implementation of these mechanics may indirectly help influence choices and outcomes. What we are observing is not ironic; many well-circulating documents (i.e. comic books) have addressed these powers before.

Australia’s Classification Board has listed a new rating for Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut, suggesting that the GameCube game might be ported to current systems.

The rating says “multiplatform,” which further vagues up whatever Sega’s plans are here. That Gaming Site, which saw the listing earlier today, figures it could be a new control scheme on the Wii, an XBLA release, or part of some new compilation.

Sonic Adventure DX debuted on the Dreamcast in 1998; the Director’s Cut was the version brought to GameCube and PC in 2003.

Sonic Adventure DX to be Remade Again? [That Gaming Site]

Priests are a versatile class. Other classes tend to have one area of healing excellence; priests can do well in almost any role. Holy specced priests will do best as area-of-effect healers; while Discipline specced priests excel as single target healers. As a general rule, holy priests will be assigned to raid heals and a discipline priest will be healing the tank or off-tank.

With dual specs now available, some healing priests will go with a dual spec of discipline and holy and will switch depending on the needs of the raid and the demands of the fight. Still, a shadow spec can make farming faster and easier and many priests will pick one healing specialization and take shadow as their second spec.

Talent Specs

There is no one cookie cutter spec for either the Holy or the Discipline priest and you will need to play around to determine what spec best suits your healing style. There are a few mandatory talents: All priests will put 14 points into the Discipline tree to get the Meditation talent. It gives you mana and without mana, you’re not healing. Most Holy priests will want Spirit of Redemption, Serendipity, Circle of Healing and at least one point in Holy Reach. Even if you only die on the rare occasion, Spirit of Redemption gives a very nice buff to your Spirit and is well worth the one talent point. You went holy to be a raid healer, so you’ll want Circle of Healing, and Holy Reach increases the range of that spell and Prayer of Healing. Serendipity is a tool to increase your haste for GH and PoH. Many fights are quite predictable and, if you have Serenity procced and ready to go, can make your Prayer of Healing spell a fast cast spell when massive raid damage hits.

Allocate your talents as best suits your personal style. If you cast Renew often, you’ll definitely want Improved Renew and Empowered Renew. If you seldom cast Renew, spend your talent points elsewhere. If you’re a Holy priest who won’t be using Power Word: Shield often, do not spend points on Body and Soul.

The big bread and butter spells for Discipline priests are Power Word: Shield and Penance. Power Word Shield mitigates incoming damage and is a fast cast spell, so Improved PW: Shield is a given. Penance is a powerhouse healing spell. Couple this talent with Aspiration, which reduces your Penance cool down. These two talents, together with Glyph of Penance, makes Penance an extremely powerful spell and the Discipline priest who wields it a powerful single target healer. Even with the nerf scheduled for 3.2, every Discipline priest will want this spell in his or her arsenal. Other talents the Discipline priest will find very attractive are Divine Aegis, Borrowed Time, Grace, Pain Suppression and Rapture.

The other primary spells you will use as a Discipline priest are Prayer of Mending and Flash Heal. You’ll be pre-stacking PW: S and PoM on the tank every chance you get. You can use these two spells, along with Prayer of Healing to help out when a large amount of raid damage comes in as well.

Glyphs

Attractive Minor Glyphs are Glyph of Shadowfiend (restores mana if your shadowfiend dies early) and Glyph of Levitate (goodbye light feathers). Most will choose either the Glyph of Fortitude or Fading for their final Minor Glyph.

For Major Glyphs, popular glyphs for Holy priests are Glyph of Flash Heal, Glyph of Renew, Glyph of Circle of Healing, Glyph of Prayer of Healing and Glyph of Guardian Spirit. Which three to choose will reflect on your healing style. For Discipline priests, Glyph of Flash Heal is also popular, along with the Glyph of Penance and Glyph of Power Word: Shield.

Spells

For a Holy priest, your main spells are Circle of Healing, Flash Heal, Prayer of Healing and Prayer of Mending. Remember that your Serendipity talent will speed up your Prayer of Healing Spell and have a three stack whenever you anticipate incoming raid damage. Also, don’t forget Hymn of Hope when mana gets low and Divine Hymn to deal with widespread raid damage.

For a Discipline priest, your primary spells are Flash Heal, Penance, Power Word: Shield and Prayer of Mending. Discipline even has a powerful AoE heal in Prayer of Healing. While not as powerful or fast as that of a Holy priest, it can still be valuable when raid-wide damage puts many in the danger zone.

Anticipation: Proactive and Reactive Healing

What separates the good healer from the great healer is being able to anticipate incoming damage and heal proactively. Many of the fights in Uldaur have predictable incoming damage. Learn the fights and have Serendipity 3 stacked ready to cast a hasted PoH when the Deconstructor throws Tympanic Tantrum or Kologarn casts Shockwave. Have the Renews ticking for Heat Wave in phase 2 on Mimiron and have PoM sitting there ready to start jumping. A Discipline priest will use Shield preemptively to mitigate incoming damage. Also know your fellow raiders. Are their members in your raid who are likely to steal aggro? Is the raid about the break a sheep? You might want to cast a PW: S on the mage who cast it. Tanks are good at grabbing aggro, but are not fail proof and mages are very squishy. Any healer can react to healing that is already done. The great healer anticipates incoming damage and starts to cast spells proactively.

Valuable Stats

What stats should you look for in gear? Intellect is probably your most valuable statistic for both Holy and Discipline. Crit is also important for both specs as is Spellpower. While the value of Spirit has decreased, it is still quite valuable to the Holy priest and of middling value to the Discipline priest. Stamina is also a valuable stat, but this statistic should grow at acceptable levels as your gear improves without any special focus. As a general rule, Spirit is a more valuable stat for the Holy priest than Mana per five, as it gives a boost to Spellpower as well as to mana regen.

Haste is more important for Holy priests. Elitist Jerks recommend that a Holy priest stack Haste up to 12 to 14%. Haste is less valuable to the Discipline priest and should not be stacked above 11%.

Enchants

When you come to raid make sure your gear is enhanced with the proper enchants. For your helm, you will want to be Revered with the Kirin Tor to get the Arcanum of Burning Mysteries enchant or with the Wyrmrest Accord for the Arcanum of Blissful Mending. For your cloak, Enchant Cloak: Greater Speed (+23 Haste). If you are a tailor, the Darkglow or Lightweave Embroideries are additional options.

Enchant Chest: Powerful Stats gives +10 to all stats. The choices for bracers are Enchant Bracer: Superior Spellpower (+30) or Exceptional Intelligence (+16). The best enchant for gloves is Enchant Gloves: Exceptional Spellpower (+28).

A tailor can make Brilliant Spellthread or Sapphire Spellthread, which can be used to enhance pants. Good enchants for boots are Enchant Boots: Tuskarr’s Vitality (adds +15 Stamina and minor movement speed) or Greater Spirit (+18).

For a one-handed weapon, the best enchant is Enchant Weapon: Mighty Spellpower (+63). For a stave, use Enchant Staff: Greater Spellpower (+81).

Gems

How you gem your gear depends on your needs and will change as your gear changes. The values to look for are Crit, Haste, Intellect, Spellpower and Spirit. Spellpower and Crit are always valuable, but at times you may with to boost your Haste to keep it in the recommended 12-14% range for a Holy Priest. There are also new epic Stormjewels, which give the highest pure stat boost. You’ll probably want to save this for that special Best-in-Slot item, as these are rare and therefore quite expensive. You’ll most likely be using the Insightful Earthsiege Diamond as the metagem for your helm.

Consumables

If you anticipate high number of wipes as your work on new content, Flask of the Frost Wyrm is the flask of choice. If the wipe risk is not high, good Battle Elixir choices are Guru’s Elixir (+20 all stats), Elixir of Spellpower (+58) or Elixir of Deadly Strikes (+45 Crit). Your best Guardian Elixir choice Is Elixir of Mighty Thoughts (+45 int).

You can use stat food to boost your Crit rate, Haste, Spellpower or Spirit. I personally tend to go for Crit, but will shift to haste if my gear changes bring Haste below 12%.

Be sure you come to raids with your gear fully and properly enchanted and gemmed. Bring sufficient supplies to keep your performance enhanced throughout the raid with flasks or elixir and food buffs. Also be sure to bring enough reagents to keep the raid buffed throughout the encounter.

Of course all this preparation brings us to actually casting spells, but that is a long post for another day.

“I think this special event will be very attractive for low level users and especially beginners, and we have prepared special gifts at particular levels and as a reward to inspire the game players. The offers will be exciting elements to state the game, they must not miss it!” said the Chief project manager of Zemi Interactive, Hyunho Shin.

The special event will commence from 28th of August with an update and so many 4Story users have high expectations. Also Zemi Interactive is planning to offer diverse in-game events for MMO lovers.

Brand new exciting game promo movie can be seen by following the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwrZY2NmuPs

About 4story:

‘4Story’ www.4story.com a popular free-to-play MMORPG developed and published by Zemi Interactive, proudly announced to MMO lovers to join ‘special event for beginners’. This tremendous event will offer guide messages from the first quest for users and special gifts will be given to them when they reach certain required levels. Especially this event will be a fabulous opportunity to low level users and beginners to get closer to the 4story’s fantasy world.

About Zemi Interactive:

Zemi Interactive Inc. is one of the leading developers and publishers of MMORPG titles based in Korea since 2002. With outstanding experience and knowhow in developing 3 block buster MMORPG titles ‘4story’, ‘Travia’, ‘Dragon gem’, Zemi Interactive has successfully globalized all its products. The latest title ‘4Story’ has successfully launched in 10 language versions being serviced all around the world. More information about Zemi Interactive is available at www.zemiinc.com

A huge part of any beta test is wading through the massive amount of feedback you get from your testers. This input can range from the ridiculous to the sublime, and we’re very fortunate with Champions Online to have not just a very vocal community, but also a passionate one. Our players really care not just about the state of the game, but about how they will be interacting in a superhero-based environment and experience.

A great deal of what we have been doing over the past few weeks is in direct response to the interests and bugs reported by our testers. An excellent example of this is the creation of The Powerhouse. This is a building that exists in every major zone where heroes can try out powers before they lock them into their power framework. A “buy before you try” concept was brought up in a forum thread about training powers and the difficulties of selecting from the vast array available. It was a great concept, and we worked hard to get it into the game as quickly as possible.

Much of what we glean from a beta test comes in the form of bug reports. We have a pretty amazing bug reporting system within the game that not just allows players tell us what’s wrong, but lets them track the open issues. It provides a list of missions, including all the ones completed by the player reporting it, which can be selected from a drop-down box. It also provides a browse and search function for reported issues and a search feature to see if others have reported the same bugs. If you find a bug has already been reported, you can press a button that adds you to the list, or you can add more info to the issue. You also have a separate dialog box where you can keep track of your open issues, see their status, and update them or even close them. Tools like this allow us to gain the maximum we can from our testers.

The most difficult thing we have to do is deal with testers that are passionate about the game, but communicate that passion in ways that aren’t constructive or definitive. Their angst or concerns are evident, but there needs to be the ability to have a rational and measured discourse about the issues. Also, it’s important to listen to what is being said as opposed to transposing fears or unfounded beliefs onto what any developer is saying.

On our end, we have to work to look past when a player is fuming to see the core issue at hand and try to address it. The recent change in the game’s experience curve during open beta is a great example of this. A group of very vocal and passionate players became enflamed over the changes. The experience shift was indeed dramatic, but we quickly worked to inform players that this was not the last change, and that we were going to be moving things back the other direction. The passionate discourse began, and while some people were willing to see what was going to happen with the next course correction, others would not be swayed from their belief that we had utterly destroyed their game and wouldn’t be doing anything to make it better. Ultimately it comes down to realizing that no developer wants to make a bad game or do something to hurt their players, even when you’re upset. And on our end as developers, we have to keep cool and keep talking to our players.

And after all, both in beta and afterwards, communication is the key. Staying connected to your player base is essential to the longevity of the game. Understanding their needs and concerns and making sure they know what you’re doing to address them is vital. We’ve worked very hard throughout the beta to do this, and that dedication to communication is paramount to our live service. So keep talking, people – we’re listening!

Prior to the release of a new patch, I can usually be found on Singularity, the EVE Online test server, tinkering around with the upcoming changes. It gives me a chance to get a good look at what’s coming, understand how it might affect the game, and occasionally catch any undocumented changes before the patch notes are released. We all know about the changes to Factional Warfare and Rigs that are due in the 1.5 “mini-expansion”, but there’s always going to be bug fixes and other changes slipping in under the radar, such as the brand new pod model that’s recently made an appearance on the test server.

This isn’t the first time the pod has been remodeled, though, with the current capsule appearing roughly two years ago, as part of the Trinity expansion.

The organic shape and the green coloring of this newer model clearly mark it out as Jovian, which seems appropriate given that the pod technology the empires possess was given to them by EVE’s fifth major faction more than a century ago. (Personally, I think I prefer the Trinity version; I like that it doesn’t look like the product of any particular race.)

A new ship model wouldn’t normally be that big a deal amongst the dozens of available spacecraft, but the pod is different. This is what every player sees when they leave their ship, whether it’s by choice, or due to their vessel exploding, and until we can get our hands on the Walking In Stations feature and start strutting our stuff on the station walkways, this is the closest we’ll get to seeing our avatars in the game environment. That small capsule contains your current clone; lose that and you’ll wake up back in a cloning station, minus any implants you had fitted. And you will lose it.

Death comes to us all in New Eden; no matter how safe you think you are; if you choose to leave the protection of a station you risk destruction. Losing your ship leaves only a wreck behind, which contains whatever modules survived the explosion, and unless you have some way of looting the wreck before other players can get to it you’ll lose almost everything you brought to the fight. This can be a shock to the system, and a difficult thing for new players to adjust to, especially those coming from MMOs with minor death penalties. How it handles death is what makes EVE stand out from the majority of its peers.

EVE is a virtual world, with thousands of other players interacting with each other on any given day, and being part of that world also means dealing with the not so nice sides of it. The ability to destroy another player’s time and money was always going to attract the more sadistic players, and this has earned EVE a reputation as something of a haven for those of the griefing persuasion; the kind of players that attack others just for the fun of it. But this is just the darker side of a vital part of EVE.

The player versus player aspect of the game, whether it’s combat or competing for resources/profits, is what I find so compelling about EVE. No other game has given me the rush that I get when I’m fighting other players in EVE, and this is largely due to the harsh death penalties. When you can instantly respawn, along with all of your gear (and maybe reduced stats for a few minutes), there’s no real fear of death, or element of risk. The possibility of losing millions of isk is what encourages players to become better pilots; you learn to keep an eye on local and the directional scanner, understand what you can fight, and what you should run away from. You either get good, or lose even more ships; and it’s this deadly environment has given rise phrase “fly what you can afford”.

Death not only powers the PVP combat side of the game, but also EVE’s economy. Rather than the typical MMO crafting professions that are usually only a small facet of the game, the industrial side of EVE produces just about everything that keeps the game moving, from the vessels and weaponry we fight with, to the Player Owned Stations used to claim territory out in 0.0 space. This symbiotic relationship between those that create and those that destroy is the beating heart of EVE. Yes, the death penalties may seen relatively severe, but it’s what makes EVE, EVE.

It’s brutal. It’s unfair. But it makes victory so much sweeter.

Continuing in the mold of building and establishing a parallel Earth brimming with historical culture and lore, this newest addition to Atlantica Online expands the universe as we continue to take a page out of history. Players can already traverse the globe and visit real-world locales such as the Great Pyramid of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. Or if they’re not too keen on sight-seeing, players can meet and take quests from historical figures from the likes of King Tut and Beowulf to the great modern inventor, Henry Ford.

In the next major content update, we introduce a brand new dungeon heavily influenced by the great, yet troubled Post-Impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh (be forewarned though, it will contain some spoilers). And it is the tragic-hero nature of his curious, yet influential life that we want to share with our players, not only because it makes great content, but because it also adds to the plethora of historical events in Atlantica Online. While a lot of the quests have been historical fiction thus far, much of the events in this dungeon are based on actual occurrences—like his letters to his brother Theo, as a matter of fact. So it is a very different approach as players will find themselves learning about an influential figure through an uncommon medium.

The Vincent Van Gogh dungeon, called the Van Gogh Gallery will be a level 124 zone located near Paris, in a small town called Auvers-sur-Oise, where some of his most famous paintings were completed. There, you will see a familiar landscape as you cross a bridge to The Church at Auvers, one of Van Gogh’s later, and more recognizable, paintings.

Atlantica Online Atlantica Online

Here, you will come across the NPC Joseph Roulin—art savvy players will recognize him as the Postman portrayed by Van Gogh during his stay in Arles. After a short conversation with the Postman, you learn that it has been a few years since Van Gogh’s passing, and that something strange has been occurring around the Church at Auvers. There’s something amuck at the church, and it is up to you to figure out what is going on.

Upon entrance at the Church at Auvers, players will see that the church has been turned into a gallery of real-life works of art by Van Gogh. The church will also have four wings that will lead players to different parts of the dungeon, where three of which are actually re-creations of other Van Gogh paintings. The aforementioned three dungeons are called the Café Terrace, the Langlois Bridge and the Arles Hospital, all named after his famous paintings.

You will eventually make the acquaintance of Marguerite Gachet, the daughter of Dr. Paul Gachet, the doctor most famous for treating Van Gogh during the later stages of his life. Throughout the journey, she will guide you through the conflicted mind of Van Gogh, and as you hop through one painting to another, it is revealed that the effects of the mysterious substance called the Oriharukon may have affected his health.

A lot of research went into studying the letters Vincent wrote to his brother Theo, revealing great insight into the life of Van Gogh, and we wanted to share his life with the players. As you unearth the mysteries behind the life of Van Gogh, we hope the journey through the small town in France will have you wanting to learn more about the great artist.

Elemental: War of Magic is a PC turn-based strategy game with a sweet map and a marriage alliance system that sounds like something from George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

That’s no accident because developer Stardock’s CEO & President, Brad Wardell is way into A Song of Ice and Fire – as am I, and so most of my time with Elemental was spent talking about the marriage alliance system, the story elements and a potential novelization of the game that’s currently being negotiated with Del Rey (publisher of A Song of Ice and Fire).

In Elemental, you control a single avatar, called a sovereign, imbued with magic. The sovereign can raise cities, gather armies and command all the resources a Tolkien-esque world would have to win a war (magic, dragons, ancient lore, etc.). The sovereign can also walk around maps and explore dungeons with your armies to acquire even more resources. The goal – as with most strategy games – is to build up enough resources to sustain a well-equipped army or bribe an enemy into being an ally that can lead to total domination of the map – and the death of all the other sovereigns via your army or badass spells.

However, there’s more to Elemental’s strategy than researching the most powerful spells, buying the best armor or obtaining the most farmland to feed the biggest army. The sovereign can also amass vassal families as a resource. Members of the family can join the army with special stat buffs, be appointed to run cities or married off to other players’ vassals to create alliances. Different factors within families affect how well they do each job. For example, a son might be weak in battle, a marriage might be childless so the alliance falls apart, or maybe the daughter is just too unattractive to marry off. Either way, the families loyal to your sovereign evolve throughout the game into various generations – and they might even change sides if you marry off one too many children. Also, they can die and will stay dead.

The world in which Elemental takes place is like J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Middle Earth in that it has history. Any map you play on is a part of that history, whether it’s one of the small ones you could complete in a couple of hours or the massive maps that take months to play. Del Rey helped Stardock put the history of the world together so that no part of the story drags, reads poorly or smacks too much of Tolkien fanfiction.

Beyond that, Elemental is also about accessibility. Wardell said that the game should be able to run on most machines and still look fabulous so that even laptop-owners can join in the fray. The key to this is Stardock’s level-of-detail engine that determines how much you can see in any view of the map. The game supports both a third-person, overhead view that looks sort of like Diablo and a massively pulled back view that converts the map to a stylish “cloth map” with your sovereign enlarged to giant size so you can still see him or her. As you zoom in or out, the engine will add or subtract detail. Zoom in from the cloth map and the land suddenly becomes realistic, with clumps of dark green forest and blue lines of rivers. Zoom in farther and you can make out crop lines on farmland and walls around cities. Farther still and you begin to see little stick people farming the land and walking between buildings in towns. And at the closest level, each individual farmer looks distinctly different and even has its own shadow.

In the long term, Wardell looks to the modding community to make Elemental a robust world of fantasy and strategy. He said Stardock learned from Sins of a Solar Empire that sometimes modders have a much better idea for how something should look, or are able to craft an item that changes the dynamics of a conflict in awesome ways. To encourage this kind of creativity, Elemental provides modding tool with the game and an upload system similar to Spore’s Sporepedia creature library. Users can upload their player-made tuff as “non-canon” items for other users to download for their own games – and if the developer likes the item enough and it doesn’t totally unbalance gameplay, they can promote the items to “canon.”

Sadly, I didn’t get to see the modding stuff – mostly I spent time ogling the map views and discussing the specifics of the family alliance system. For example, I asked if it were possible to create a potion with the modding tools that will produce only sons in a marriage and Wardell laughed, saying it was possible , but probably non-canon. He did say that you could research potions in the game to make vassal family members more attractive so they’d be easier to marry off – but he wasn’t quite sure yet how the succession of children from a vassal marriage would work.

Like, if both parents die, does the oldest child automatically become head of the house, or will it pass to the firstborn son? These are questions that probably only interest me, Wardell and any Song of Ice and Fire fan who thinks Myrcella should get the Iron Throne instead of Tommen (incest notwithstanding). But the answers to those questions will make Elemental a richer strategy game in the long run.

Elemental: War of Magic is due out in early 2010.

At last year’s BlizzCon, the Diablo II team made a big deal about the power-customizing rune system, but this year it was strangely absent. We asked game director Jay Wilson where the runes went.

Diablo III‘s rune system, is an ambitious feature in which every skill for every character can be modified using various runes, changing the way the skill affects enemies. One rune might simply add an additional attack to a skill, while others have more profound effects.

“We can’t really do any runes for a skill until we’ve locked a skill down, and we’re notorious for redoing things. When we do finally decide to lock a skill down, that’s the point where we say, “Okay, now we can develop the runes for this.” So we design out the runes for it, and we do those last.”

SO the system, itself involving a massive amount of brainstorming and design work, is dependent on having skills set in stone. With four characters revealed and a fifth and final one still waiting in the wings, it feels as if a fully-realized Diablo III is a long way off, no matter how polished the demos were at the show.

Jay continued, giving us a status on each character. “The wizard and the barbarian both have runes – the wizard has the most, and the barbarian has some. The witch doctor has a few as well, .”

After running into confusion with internal testers over why some powers had runes and others didn’t, the team decided to turn the feature off until they could deliver a more complete version of the rune system.

“It was a big disappointment that we couldn’t show the runes off in their entirety, but hopefully the next time we do a big unveiling of the game they’ll be there.”

The Burning Crusade raised World of Warcraft’s level cap to 70. Then Wrath of the Lich King took it to 80. Why is it only going to 85 in the Cataclysm expansion? Tom Chilton explains.

Among all of the changes coming in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, raising the level cap to 85 instead of following the pattern set by the game’s previous two expansions is one of the strangest. Blizzard lead developer Tom Chilton took a little time during BlizzCon this past weekend to explain the smaller jump.

“It’s certainly different. More than anything else it’s a question of what we thought was the best use of our development time and what we thought the players really want the most. With this expansion we’re delivering more total level up content than we have before – it’s just not all post current max level.”

But don’t the players enjoy the rush to level up?

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from players that don’t necessarily like it when an expansion comes out and they feel that they have to level up to the new max level as quickly as possible and then go back to their endgame activities. There are players out there who enjoy the level up experience, but by no means is it all of our players.”

The decision all comes down to the goals of the expansion. With a brand new 1-60 experience on hand, the team really didn’t need to put the endgame that much further out of reach for the influx of new Goblin and Worgen characters.

“In this case, we’re trying to better balance the time and development effort we put into the different areas of the game. We’re trying to make sure we get a little bit more endgame content while still appeasing the level up crowd with five more levels.”

When I started working on Aion, we were staring at about two-million words…and a looming deadline. The two-million words were coherently translated into English, but they still needed significant help if they were to resonate with a Western audience. From the very first story meeting—heck, from the car ride to the very first meeting—we realized that we were doing something that hadn’t been done before. We were taking a full-fledged MMO, stripping it down to its narrative essence, then rebuilding it so that Aion’s story showed as much polish as its art and gameplay.

As I write this, those two-million words are done—“done” being a euphemism for “mostly done but still subject to tweaks, bug fixes, and all the last-minute changes you expect right up to launch.” Here are some things that what we jokingly called the “Aion Westernization Army” learned along the way.

The Player Characters Have the Privileged Viewpoint

When you think about the story of a fantasy world, it’s easy to get caught up in the big-picture stuff: the world-creation story, the rivalries and alliances among the gods, and the sorts of stories you’d find in your world’s equivalent to Bullfinch’s Mythology. But the player who made that 1st-level warrior doesn’t care how Aion came into being. How could the player care, when we haven’t had the chance to provide any context other than a short prologue video?

At times, I felt like tattooing “You care about what the player cares about, stupid” onto the insides of my eyelids. One of the first things we did was figure out when the players would be likely to care about a particular aspect of the game, then time the “reveals” in our narrative so they matched that timing.

For example, an Aion character can visit the Abyss, the game’s central PvPvE zone, starting at level 25. And the Abyss War is central to the narrative—it’s the all-consuming focus of both Asmodian and Elyos societies. We timed the narrative so that players learn only scant details about the Abyss at first—it’s a mysterious place where many of the faction’s best soldiers are, and that’s why the “home front” needs your help. As your character approaches level 25, though, we provide the context that brings all those scant details into focus. When you go to the Abyss for the first time, you have a sense of the gravity of the moment.

Show the Wreckage Left in the Story’s Wake

The blessing and curse of storytelling in an MMO is that unless a game rigidly forces you to follow a particular narrative line (and Aion doesn’t), we writers have to tell our stories without knowing what order you’ll undertake all those quests and meet those Non-Player Characters (NPCs)…if indeed you interact with them at all. We can’t mandate the order, and we can’t make you pay attention.

But that’s the trap: We writers don’t really have “our” stories. The players are the motivating force for the storytelling–the story is theirs. In Aion, we get across the overall narrative obliquely. A war-weary general may make an offhand comment about the ruins of Roah, and a historian might talk about the city of Roah as it was long ago, but it’s up to the players to put those pieces together. NPCs who say, “Let me tell you a story…” are my worst enemy. Instead, Aion has a lot of NPCs who show you what the narrative left behind on its way to the players. But once the narrative reaches the players, it’s all prologue for their experience in the game.

Respond to the “Why Don’t You Do It Yourself?” Question

When we were staring at a list of more than 2,500 quests, making them as diverse as possible was crucial. And as we read through the quests, one key East/West difference stood out. Given a typical “NPC offers you a quest” situation, Western players tend to be a lot more interested in an explicit answer to the “How come you need me to do this, Mr. NPC?” question.

In the last few months, I’ve seen our writers come up with more answers to that fundamental question than I’d thought possible. Any MMO player can come up with an approximation of our list–the Player Character (PC) is more powerful…it’s a test…the NPC has other duties–you get the idea. The presence of the answer matters more than the exact nature of the answer. Put another way, the quest writer doesn’t get to blow off that question.

Even “Extraneous” Language Tells a Story

In Aion, new players are thrust into a society at war—a society where the wolves are at the proverbial doorstep. And Player Characters are expected to jump in and contribute right away. I’ve always been fond of in media res storytelling (where the narrative begins in the middle of the story), but that meant that our new Elyos and Asmodian PCs have to learn about life in Elysea and Asmodae while they’re busy fighting, traveling, and doing all the core gameplay stuff.

Player attention is a precious currency, so we resolved early on to make every word you read count. If you play an Asmodian character, you don’t click the “Accept” button or “OK” button when you’re talking to Morheim’s brigade general. Depending on the situation, that button says something like “Blood for blood!” or “The task is mine.”

“Blood for blood!” is the Asmodian version of a military hoo-ah; it can mean almost anything in context. But its overt meaning reinforces two core Asmodian principles: an eye-for-an-eye attitude toward perceived wrongs, and the notion that all Asmodians are one big clan—all of the same blood. And “the task is mine” reinforces how seriously Asmodians take their duties. They don’t just undertake a task…they own it.

It’s just a little thing, sure, but those buttons subtly reinforce the Asmodian mindset. And it sure beats “OK.”

Write Through the Game Elements, Not Around Them

One of the things that drives me crazy about MMOs is that despite the fact that they take place in made-up worlds, the narrative tries to pretend that some of the game elements don’t exist. Character death is a good example. Many MMOs are inhabited by NPCs who somehow don’t notice that the Player Characters die, but then a couple minutes later, those same PCs are just fine.

One of the delights of Aion lore is that it cops to the game elements by making them central to the fictional world. Aion PCs can’t die under ordinary circumstances because they’re Daevas. When they take enough damage to be “killed,” they’re yanked back to the Obelisk that their soul was bound to in the first place. And everyone in the world knows that Obelisks work that way. In fact, that’s a key answer to the “Why don’t you do it yourself?” question we talked about above. The NPC answers, “Because I might die, but you’re immortal.”

Rather than asking the narrative to ignore frequent PC death/resurrection, Aion asks the narrative to highlight it. And when I’m running around Theobomos and my Templar gets killed, that makes all the difference in the world. My “death” isn’t an interruptation of my personal narrative. It’s a continuation of that narrative.

Where the Story Goes From Here

We’ll be applying the five lessons—and probably fifty other lessons my colleagues will remind me about—with each Aion expansion released worldwide. Despite the bumps along the way (some file-naming puzzles and a massive XML file we nicknamed “Cthulhu” come to mind), we know that job of reworking Aion’s narrative isn’t easy, but it’s fundamentally repeatable.

But weirdly, it’s not the story told in the next Aion expansion that I’m looking forward to. It’s mid-September, when countless players start exploring Aion for themselves. Watching those stories play themselves out one level, one battle, and one quest at a time is the sweetest reward a storyteller could ask for.

One of my favorite tasks as lead data designer for Alganon is writing the lore and story for the world we’ve created. There’s something wonderful about spending time in a different world, full of new places to explore, and new characters to meet.

While some of the themes and elements of the world are traditional fantasy elements – the type of swords-and-sorcery you’ll find in numerous fantasy novels and games – Alganon is full of unique characters and strange creatures that put our own spin on the fantasy genre.

One of the unique elements that I hope will really excite players is the Talrok race.

Despite what your fellow humans may have told you, the Talrok are not the stereotypical bad guys found in most fantasy worlds. They don’t seek to conquer the world, or destroy all that is good. They aren’t demon-possessed witch-kings, misunderstood native people, or former slaves seeking revenge. They are not ancient beings driven mad with power, lust, or greed.

The Talrok are simply messengers of the gods. Their race was created with a single purpose: to spread the will of the gods to all of Alganon, instructing all races to work in harmony and forge a more perfect world – a world where the strong are rewarded for their strength, where life exists in a constant state of improvement, and where science and knowledge are not hidden away by fanatics who claim moral superiority.

Of course, creating such a world is not always easy. The world is far from perfect.

Rewarding the strong may require culling of the weak, rather than rescuing them. Constant improvement may mean overthrowing a popular tribal chief or conquering a smaller, weaker nation. And when it comes to forbidden knowledge, there is really only one way to know which of your grandparents would win in a fight to the death, and that’s by forcing them to battle in the arena.

If genocide, imperialism, and forcing the elderly to fight to the death will make the world a better place, then the Talrok do what must be done. “Will of the gods.” The humans, on the other hand, consider such acts to be atrocities. They seek to stop the Talrok from performing these acts of violence.

Depending on which side you choose, you will see the same world in a very different way.

As we developed, and continue to develop, the lore of Alganon, we made certain to keep this dual perspective in mind. While there is no actual Grandma Pit-fighting in the game (it’s just a humorous example to get the point across), you will find countless examples where a choice that looks like a heroic act of virtue to one side, looks like a horrendous war-crime to the other.

A great example of this is in the opening zone of the Talrok. When you start as a Talrok, you will be one of the first to leave the obsidian stronghold of Xanjuix Karr after a decade known as The Great Silence. For the last ten years, the strongest of the Talrok locked themselves inside the great city and dedicated every moment to studying the arts of magic and war. Even the gods themselves stayed within the city walls, teaching and guiding the advancement of these chosen heroes.

When the Great Silence ended, and the greatest of the Talrok returned to the world, they found it in chaos and disarray. Without the strength and wisdom of the Kujix Empire to guide them, the other races became lazy and weak. The once proud Ogran devolved into obese sloths, and fell away from the path the gods had planned for them.

As an official emissary to the Brokefist Ogran, it is your duty to return them to their former glory. You must instill in them a sense of honor, help them to find their inner-strength, and return them to their place in the shadow of the gods.

You must become their role model, a living symbol of wisdom, strength, and power. You must destroy the foul creatures that are destroying these once beautiful lands, and any who dare stand against you must be struck down without mercy. Separated from your guidance, the Ogran of Harraja have become weak. You must make the Brokefist strong again.

The humans, however, consider these methods to be inhumane. They see the culling of the poor and downtrodden as murder. They believe that the weak should be protected from harm, coddled and nursed, shown mercy and compassion.

The humans fail to understand that weakness is a plague, and all those infected must be cut away, so the vile disease does not continue to spread. Mercy will only extend the suffering to others. Justice must be swift, and blind. Only the chosen of the gods can strike with the speed and precision needed to stop this weakness before it spreads. Only the chosen of the gods can bring the Ogran back to their former glory.

Do you have it in you? Are you worthy of answering the call of the gods? We’ll see soon enough.

Hue “Hyuu” Henry
Lead Data Designer
Quest Online, LLC.

Dragonica is a side scrolling 3D action MMORPG created by Barunson Interractive. Barunson began Dragonica’s development in March of 2006 and finally released the game to three locations. Dragonica EU: Gpotato. Dragonica NA: THQ ICE. Dragonica SEA: IAH Games.

Gameplay

Dragonica’s game play follows the traditional side scrolling genre, its controls are completely customisable and are very easy to learn.  (Maple Story, Wonder King, and Windslayer) but it sets itself apart by focusing on group instances. The game consists of “Mission Maps” for every character level bracket. Each map features five progressive levels. This promotes excellent group community. Most of your experience will be spent playing with three other players.
Character Development

The game follows very close to the typical class development seen in most action RPGs. Initially you are able to choose between  Thief, Magician, Warrior, and Archer and at level twenty you get to choose again. Jesters/Assassins. Hunters/Rangers. Priests/Battle Mage. Knights/Gladiators. The game however makes your choice simple by giving each sub class a distinct advantage in either PVE or PVP thus you are forced to choose between PVE or PVP very early in the game.. At level forty you can access your third class advancement. There are also four secret classes not yet implementedin the game.  Dualist. Bard. Doctor and Gunner.

Item Drops

Although Dragonica’s world map item drops are very limited, “Mission Maps” offer a easy way to obtain items. Each time you complete a “Mission Map”.you are given a rank, based on your performance. The higher your rank the more items you will receive. The ranks range from D-C-B-A then S. This can offer incentives and challenges to players. .

Equipment Customisation

Dragonica offers the player extensive customisation regarding their gear. Each Gear will have different stats and can can be upgraded two distinct ways, Enhancement and Soul Force. You may also choose to disassembled gear by clicking the hammer in your inventory in order receive more Souls that can be used to improve your gear

Graphics

Dragonica is exceptional among its family genre (Wind Slayer, Maple Story and WonderKing) and is a stunning side scrolling MMORPG. With well designed characters, distinct class gear, and an inspiring world, Dragonica has a way of absorbing you into the games atmosphere and has few limitations. Graphically Dragonica outshines its side scrolling competitors and has a throwback art design reminiscent of older RPGS.

community

Dragonica has a very simple concept of community. It offers a Guilds, and a “Couple” system that can be leveled up to access newer abilities. It focuses heavily on a party atmosphere. Dragonica can definitely be seen as community based MMORPG with typically friendly players.

Player Vs Player

Although you can not engage PVP in the world map Dragonica does offer an extensive Player/Player system.  You may click the Player/Player tab at any point you are in the world map. You are given different PVP options, including different PVP maps. A PVP match can range anywhere between one/one to five/five. You can also collect points based on your PVP success which can be traded for set class gear.

Different Versions:

IAH

IAH Games: SEA/Global

* Pros- Will be the first to receive new game material
* Pros- Currently has the Most Players out of all servers
* Cons- Servers have the most lag
* Cons- Long downtime durring maintenance
* Cons: Fashion items in cash Shop will not be permanent
* Community: Casual, Relaxed Environment.
* Rank 8/10

THQ

THQ ICE: North America

* Pros: Cash Shop Items can be permanent
* Pros: Servers have less lag then SEA
* Pros: Short downtime durring maintenance
* Pros: Offers party buffs based on party member’s class
* Pros: Offers the “Couple” System
* Cons: Has more bugs currently then other versions
* Cons: Will be the last to receive new material
* Community: More “Serious” players then SEA
* Rank: 8/10

gpotato

gpotato: Europe

* Pros: Next to no lag
* Cons: Very Few Players
* Community: Hard to Find a party based on low player volume
* Rank 6/10

A guild you say? What the heck is a guild and what can it do for me, why would I want to join and how do I select the right one?

Let’s see if I can assist you in your choice.

In Dofus, and many other MMORPGs, players can join permanent teams, Guilds. These tend to be groups of people who play together regularly. However, as a guild grows and develops new members will be recruited from outside the social circle. This process can produce some bumps in the road since just like in the real world groups follow a process of development… Forming, storming, norming and performing.

  1. Forming: developing friendships and getting to know each
  2. Storming: this is the deciding of alpha, now in a guild there is a set leader however people have a tendency to be competitive and established guild members may feel threatened by a new player (especially if the new player is a higher level)
  3. Norming: everyone begins to feel comfortable in their roles
  4. Performing: everyone is working together and guild becomes a power house

Some of the stages will be apparent while others will pass by un-noticed. However, each time a new member is added the process begins again, sometimes crazier than others. This is important to remember when you join a guild. You will need to give the group a chance to accept you before deciding to jump out and find another one.

What is a guild?

A guild is like a big family. People you enjoy spending time with and meet with regularly. Okay you might be thinking, family; I don’t enjoy spending time with my family! So, if that is the case think of a guild as a sports team, sorority, fraternity or just a group of awesome people. There is a guild out there for everyone you just need to find the right group of people.

What can a guild do for me?

As part of a guild, you will have a consistent group of players to associate with. You can set up group hunts for drops or experience points (XP) as well as place a perceptor to help collect drops. Guilds tend to share resources, sets, weapons and strategies which can only enhance your gaming experience.

When it comes to hunting in Dofus, a reliable team is important. The items a monster can drop have prospecting locks (PP). The big drops, the ones that pay out nice in a sale or are needed to make your set will have a high PP meaning your group PP has to meet the minimum required to drop an item. For example, to drop a Turquoise Dofus (who doesn’t want to drop one of these) your group will need a minimum of 800PP that isn’t something you can do on your own unless of course your computer can run 8 accounts at once.

So, a guild can help you drop items safely, meaning your guildees will assist your hunting and share the drops you need, at least an honourable guildee would. Guilds also tend to share and trade services. Sharing will help both ways, such as I need a hat made and you’re a tailor… I get a hat and you get crafting XP.

Joining a guild can be a win-win situation, but remember your manners, you can be kicked from a guild just as fast as you joined it. So be sure to understand your guilds etiquette and rules. Here are a few standards to be aware of:

Guild Etiquette:

  1. Treat others with respect
  2. Keep the drama down
  3. Are you begging for items but not contributing items
  4. Share and share alike

Why would I want to join one?

Well not only will you have the above stated benefits, but you will also have group of mentors. You will find your play time more fun. Your experience in the World of Twelve will seem fuller and you will experience things you just can’t do on your own with people you enjoy.

Here are a few pros and cons to help you decide whether to join a guild or stay solo:

Guild Pros Guild Cons
• Make new friends • Team politics
• Team support • Some guilds are alignment based
• Group hunts • Larger guilds may have set groups internally
• Sharing resources • Might not feel like you belong
• Sense of belonging • Sharing a paddock
• Guild events • Contributing XP
• Share sets and equipment • Drama from other players
• Place perceptors • Working your way up the ranking system
• Own houses and paddocks • Sharing perceptors
• Earned ranks • Time spent helping other members

Okay, so maybe you have joined a few guilds but haven’t yet found the right one for you. Selecting a guild can be challenging, so have some ideas of what you want from a guild and what you are willing to contribute. If you still haven’t found the ideal group, well have no fear, there are options: keep looking for the best guild for you, buy an established guild and become the leader or start a guild from scratch.

To begin you will need to either drop or purchase a guildalogem. These stones have a drop rate of 0.08% for 100 PP, meaning you can drop one on your own from any monster in Dofus, but this might take some time! You can purchase the stone from the miner seller room faster but they are not cheap. Once you have your stone head over to the Guild temple (1,-9) you must be pay to play (P2P) to use the stone and create a guild. Howeve,r your character can remain the leader if P2P expires.

Now for a few tough choices: what will your colours, shield and logo be, and even harder yet, what is a great guild name that isn’t already being used? These are choices I won’t try to influence for you, but remember that you want to attract people to your guild and not repel them with a bad logo/colour selection or name. The name is the most important marketing tool for your new guild.

Now, you have a great name, shield and logo but your guild will not become active until it has 10 players. So, get recruiting! Okay easier said than done. Most established players will only join high level guilds meaning you will need to either have high level friends willing to join you or start recruiting lower levels. Incarnam or hanging out at character statues as well as the recruiting channel are all good places to start.

I will suggest finding active players to recruit since your guild level is established by the XP contributions of members. So the more your members play and the more they gain XP, the more your guild will level.

Guild level is important since there are some restrictions set on guilds. There are restrictions to the number of members, houses, paddocks and perceptors you can have. Prior to level 10 your guild will not be allowed to hold a house or a paddock and will only have one perceptor at its disposal.

As your guild levels your perceptor will receive five spell points per level, you will have more tough decisions to make here. Save the points to add another perceptor or level one of the perceptors spells. You can add a perceptor every two levels but to do so requires the use of 10 spell points.

Hmmm… being the leading isn’t sounding all that much fun, there seems to be a lot of work and lots of decisions to be made. You will need to give it some thought and weigh the pros and cons of being a leader. The role will become more complex as your guild levels and grows. Are you ready for the commitment or are you just looking for a fun group to work with?|

As a final note, each guild will have different requirements for membership. Ask around, what have you hearing about specific guilds, good or bad, by asking a few questions of players you will have a quick understanding of the guild culture and there are some very creative cultures out there to explore!

This article will discuss the leveling of a priest for maximum speed (therefore optimal fun). The best way to level a priest is shadow. They deal the most damage under the least amount of time and take the least amount of damage. If you’re going to level your toon solo for the most of the time like mostly everyone in the game, shadow is the way to go. If it is your plan to level up running instances constantly with friends, discipline (for the damage and healing capabilities) or even holy is for you (if you’re the designated healer of the group). I will break down the leveling process into section of 10 levels:

Level 10-20

You get access to talent points at level 10, and you should put your first points into Spirit Tap (And improved Spirit Tap) to begin your path down the shadow tree. This allows for mana regeneration after an experience delivering kill (or Mana Blast/Shadow Word: Death crit). Then place your next points into Improved Shadow Word: Pain and only three points into Darkness.

Level 20-30

Get Mind Flay immediately. This move slows down your opponent and makes grinding much easier. It is then a no brainer to keep investing the points into Improved Mind Blast so that you can blast your opponents away faster and stop relying on non-shadow moves. The main focus here is to get to Shadowform as fast as possible. Once you reach level 16, it is wise to get Shadow Weaving. Shadow Weaving makes your more powerful as your attack mobs. As you grind your way towards 20, I recommend you go back and fill in your points in Darkness as well because of the increased dependency on Shadow affiliated moves.

Level 30-40

Vampiric Embrace and Improved Vampiric Embrace. Heal yourself through DPS and regenerate mana through DPS, almost a grinding dream. Now you have a choice between Focused Mind and Shadow Focus. If you’re having trouble hitting mobs, put your next points in the latter, otherwise the saved mana could help out in the long run. The next three points should be placed into Improved Devouring Plague for that extra periodic boost in health production while taking on a lot of mobs. Vampiric Embrace will stack with this attack.

Level 40-50

Shadowform saves lives, literally. Grab this and watch your shadow power explode while minimizing damage. You should only be using shadow spells at this point anyway. Place your next five points to increase your critting abilities. Now you’re beginning to feel like a caster. Improve your Shadowform for less disruption while casting as well as two points in Misery to help hit your opponents as well as increasing spell power during battles.

Level 50-60

Snag Vampiric Embrace for that extra mana producing dot that will increase your damage and the duration in which you can do that damage. After this, place the maximum points into Pain and Suffering to save some mana while you’re burning a mob, but not in time for your Shadow Word: Pain to expire. This way Shadow Word: Pain continues to refresh and do damage as you Blast and Flay away. After this is maxed out, go back and finish your points in Misery to unlock the next tier of points. The point of a leveling/grinding spec is to maximize damage for as long as possible. At this point in the game, it may be time to put some points in Crowd Control, as the major damage increasing talents have been used up. I would personally recommend points be placed in Psychic Horror. An extra fear where the mob does not run away from you agroing other mobs is a priceless life saving talent. Mind Melt will help you more and more as you level and gear you find is more tailored towards a caster, or Priest specifically. Putting points in that and Improved Psychic Scream will maximize damage the most efficiently while giving you that extra play room with fear if you’re in trouble. If you’re like me and you want to pick that Elite from behind some regular mobs without aggroing them, it may be overdue to invest in Shadow Reach. This gives you the distance to pinpoint and pick out the mobs you need to complete certain quests. Most of the fighting you are doing as a solo leveling is one on one, with some random beating you over the head with his club or staff. This talent is not critical to leveling although it is a luxury.

Level 60-70

To continue blowing away mobs without a break, Dispersion would be good for your toon. As well as that “Oh, Shit” button you can slam when there are just too many mobs to handle. Dispersion looks like a pvp talent, but it has its uses in soloing as well. Now its time to start heading down the Discipline tree to help you stay alive while managing your mana a little more efficiently. Put 5 points into Twin Disciplines to give your instant casts a little boost as well as make way for the next two more important talents: Inner Fire and Improved Power Word: Fortitude. These two talents give out a little bit more spell power and health for staying alive while bashing some monsters.

Level 70-80

To finish off your massive grind on the way to 80, it is worth investing in Meditation for increased mana production while casting (stacks with Mana Tap). Inner Focus is a neat talent and acts like a power boost. I would recommend macroing this ability to Mind Blast for a very powerful Blast every once in a while (3 minute cooldown), as this ability does not trigger the global cooldown and can be used in congruence with other spells. That is as far as I would go into the disc tree, and the rest is up to you. Mind Melt and Twisted Faith are more damage boosting abilities to help boost your DPS.

I hope you enjoyed my Shadow Priest Talent Guide. I am sure there are other viewpoints out there, but experience tells me that Shadow is definitely the way to go if speed is your desire.

by Jimmy Thommes