The Snail’s Report: Weaving Works!

12 10 2009

Busy times sure do cut down on the ability to play the game. Unfortunately, this workload isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. That said, I have a bit of time now to check in with the snail’s progress report.

Theladas is slow. I find myself far too distracted by crafting and gathering to keep up with the grind-whoring masters. As such, I’ve only recently broken level 21 on my way to the top. To be honest, I’m really not too concerned about being behind. I won’t be the first of my class to get top-end gear, but there’s no way my schedule could support the necessary raiding times to get that stuff anyways. I’ll be more vulnerable in PvP to high-level enemies, but there’s not much I can do about that – only the first through the Abyss get to be on top, and they’ve easily had five times the gametime that I’ve had.

Theladas also has bad luck. When crafting a series of Handicrafting Jewelry pieces, I ended up with only one HQ proc out of the twelve attempts that I made. It’s demoralizing, really, when I had such good luck with these things in the Closed Betas. I suppose I wasted all of my luck back then – how foolish of me.

True to my word, I haven’t worked on Jerricah or the others yet. I’ve reserved the names and made initial cuts at their avatars (I may make a second pass some other time), but they’re all still stuck at level one. I really do want to see the middle and end-game content that wasn’t available in the Closed Beta, it’s just gonna take me a while longer to clamber through the leveling ladder.

Allison may not be a Daeva, but she sure has an awesome set of wings.

Allison may not be a Daeva, but she sure has an awesome set of wings.

In the free time I’m not spending in-game, I’ve been watching Allison & Lillia. It’s a curious show that has a lot of Steampunk themes running through it. I find it very endearing, though the obliviousness of the characters is occasionally frustrating. The mysteries and adventures aren’t quite as engaging as the adventures of Ghost Hunt, but I like the setting: the technology, the times, and the conflicts are more believable (perhaps because they aren’t hinged on phantoms…). Anyways, it’s worth a look for anime enthusiasts.

On the questions front: More Weaving!

Theladas is a Chanter, which means his melee skills are sub-par compared to Gladiators and Assassins. His ability to push out numbers is still vital, however; I don’t ever want to be carried in a group, and killing enemies faster leads to less downtime in the solo venue. So I did a lot of experimenting on what approach to skill use was most productive.

First, some information to scope the Weaving problem for Chanters:

Chanters operate on an 8-second rotation with a 2-second swing timer. I have four skills that I use in the current rotation. All of my blackout periods seem to align at lasting for only 1 second, though the animations often bleed over (The animations are irrelevant for game mechanics, of course). Auto Attacks hit for 60-120 damage, while Special Attacks hit for 160-260. Given these parameters, I tried a few approaches to weaving:

  • Skill Spam: I burn out my skillset in 4 seconds, give or take. Two swings go out, one at 5 seconds and one at 7 seconds. I can wait one second for a third attack to land at 9 seconds, or cut it off and return to the skillspam rotation.
  • Tight Weave: With a bit of prediction, I can land a special ability just as the animation for the auto attack triggers. The result is essentially a boosted special attack, with the auto-attack damage and the special skill damage landing at virtually the same time. With proper timing, four boosted attacks will land in just over 8 seconds.
  • Tight Weave Adaptations: On an 8-second rotation with 4 auto-attacks, there’s no break for throwing on a self-hot or using any more special abilities. But the solution is pretty simple, in principle: when faced with a new special ability, it will be concatenated into one of the two existing chains. I then adapt that half of the rotation to be three skill-spammed abilities, effectively cutting out one of the auto attacks in favor of a special attack. For off-chain abilities, such as an instant HoT, I slip the ability in between the two chains. Again, a single auto attack is sacrificed for the ability if proper timing is maintained.

So, what does this mean? Well, simply put I deal 120-240 additional damage every 8 seconds by using weaving over skillspam. At level 21. By planning ahead, I can prep a heal in between skill chains at the cost of only one auto-attack. When I finally acquire more attacks for the rotation, I can again drop a single auto attack to provide space for the special skill. Once I have 8 special attacks to use on every 8-second rotation, I will no longer be weaving; until that time, weaving provides better returns than skillspam.

Extensions to Gladiators, Rangers, and Assassins? You guys will have to test it out yourselves. I suspect that weaving will always have some benefit, if only to help you queue your abilities up consistently in PvE.

Bottom Line: Don’t be a carry, Chanters; unless assigned to main-heal a random farming group, there should be a cleric in charge of healing the team. Your mantras do part of your job, but only consistent and well-timed weaves will bring your DPS element up to par with the rest of the team.

Okay, back to work with me. It’s time to prep a robotic forklift for simulation.

Busy times sure do cut down on the ability to play the game. Unfortunately, this workload isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. That said, I have a bit of time now to check in with the snail’s progress report.

Theladas is slow. I find myself far too distracted by crafting and gathering to keep up with the grind-whoring masters. As such, I’ve only recently broken level 21 on my way to the top. To be honest, I’m really not too concerned about being behind. I won’t be the first of my class to get top-end gear, but there’s no way my schedule could support the necessary raiding times to get that stuff anyways. I’ll be more vulnerable in PvP to high-level enemies, but there’s not much I can do about that – only the first through the Abyss get to be on top, and they’ve easily had five times the gametime that I’ve had.

Theladas also has bad luck. When crafting a series of Handicrafting Jewelry pieces, I ended up with only one HQ proc out of the twelve attempts that I made. It’s demoralizing, really, when I had such good luck with these things in the Closed Betas. I suppose I wasted all of my luck back then – how foolish of me.

True to my word, I haven’t worked on Jerricah or the others yet. I’ve reserved the names and made initial cuts at their avatars (I may make a second pass some other time), but they’re all still stuck at level one. I really do want to see the middle and end-game content that wasn’t available in the Closed Beta, it’s just gonna take me a while longer to clamber through the leveling ladder.

In the free time I’m not spending in-game, I’ve been watching Allison & Lillia. It’s a curious show that has a lot of steampunk themes running through it. I find it very endearing, though the obliviousness of the characters is occasionally frustrating. The mysteries and adventures aren’t quite as engaging as the adventures of Ghost Hunt, but I like the setting: the technology, the times, and the conflicts are more believable (perhaps because they aren’t hinged on phantoms…). Anyways, it’s worth a look for anime enthusiasts.

On the questions front: More Weaving!

Theladas is a Chanter, which means his melee skills are sub-par compared to Gladiators and Assassins. His ability to push out numbers is still vital, however; I don’t ever want to be carried in a group, and killing enemies faster leads to less downtime in the solo venue. So I did a lot of experimenting on what approach to skill use was most productive.

First, Chanters operate on an 8-second rotation with a 2-second swing timer. I have four skills that I use in the current rotation. All of my blackout periods seem to align at lasting for only 1 second, though the animations often bleed over. Auto Attacks hit for 60-120 damage, while Special Attacks hit for 160-260. Given these parameters, I tried a few approaches to weaving:

Skill Spam: I burn out my skillset in 4 seconds, give or take. Two swings go out, one at 5 seconds and one at 7 seconds. I can wait one second for a third attack to land at 9 seconds, or cut it off and return to the skillspam rotation.

Tight Weave: With a bit of prediction, I can land a special ability just as the animation for the auto attack triggers. The result is essentially a boosted special attack, with the auto-attack damage and the special skill damage landing at virtually the same time. With proper timing, four boosted attacks will land in just over 8 seconds.

Tight Weave Adaptations: On an 8-second rotation with 4 auto-attacks, there’s no break for throwing on a self-hot or using any more special abilities. But the solution is pretty simple, in principle: when faced with a new special ability, it will be concatenated into one of the two existing chains. I then adapt that half of the rotation to be three skill-spammed abilities, effectively cutting out one of the auto attacks in favor of a special attack. For off-chain abilities, such as an instant HoT, I slip the ability in between the two chains. Again, a single auto attack is sacrificed for the ability if proper timing is maintained.

So, what does this mean? Well, simply put I get off 120-240 additional damage every 8 seconds by using weaving over skillspam. By planning ahead, I can prep a heal in between skill chains at the cost of only one auto-attack. When I finally acquire more attacks for the rotation, I can again drop a single auto attack to provide space for the special skill. Once I have 8 special attacks to use on every 8-second rotation, I will no longer be weaving; until that time, weaving provides better returns than skillspam.

Extensions to Gladiators, Rangers, and Assassins? You guys will have to test it out yourselves. I suspect that weaving will always have some benefit, if only to help you queue your abilities up consistently in PvE.

Bottom Line: Don’t be a carry, Chanters; unless assigned to main-heal a random farming group, there should be a cleric in charge of healing the team. Your mantras do part of your job, but only consistent and well-timed weaves will bring your DPS element up to par with the rest of the team.

Okay, back to work with me. It’s time to prep a robotic forklift for simulation.





Character Pre-Selection, Plus Origins!

18 09 2009

It took me a bit longer than I had hoped, but I finally decided on the key characters that I wanted to create. Anyone reading my blog likely isn’t surprised: Theladas and Jerricah are the premiere characters in my writing. I was debating for a very long time if it would be worth making my templar alt now.

Thel got ousted from the rock; Jerri's never been a big fan of sharing.

Theladas and Jerricah, now in Aion! Thel just got kicked off the rock; Jerri's never been a big fan of sharing.

But then it hit me: as unlikely as it is that someone would name their character “Jerricah,” she and Thel have names that matter to me. Ry can go by any convolution of his name, as can ‘Aria.

I’m on the Azphel server. I was pretty undecided on the server front, so I went reading through some guilds online. Turns out that Dark Echo was looking to get some quality work done in the game right-off, and they had an opening for a Chanter. I jumped on the opportunity, and suddenly had a server choice made for me. I’m happy with it so far: the other guilds on the server seem like solid competition, and my guildmates are all pretty stellar. Some of you may know Anikka, over at Sin Healing (go say ‘Hi’ if you don’t!); it’s gotta be good if it has bloggers, right?

Anyhow, now that I have these characters created, I figured I’d share some background on them with you. These are (partial) backgrounds for Thel and Jerri in Aion:

TheladasBanner 3B1

Theladas was raised under the relatively traditional Asmodian adage: the only way to survive is to fight. He came from mundane (non-Daeva) parents, so his resolve to fight for survival was all the keener – there was no immortality to protect him. As a child, he sparred regularly with his father. The duality of a Quarterstaff as a practical tool (walking stick, or readily converted into a hoe or rake with a metal attachment) and a fighting implement led both Theladas and his father to favor them. Theladas often considered blading the ends of his stave in order to add some additional power, but he didn’t have any exceptional skill in crafting.

Theladas learned fighting from his father and morality from his mother. He rolled his eyes at her lessons; he resisted the concepts of generosity and service with the whole of his being. The outside world taught him that any such vulnerabilities could cost him his life: he didn’t understand why taking such a risk could ever be worthwhile. Nevertheless, he humored his mother. He had some elementary practice in acting, too: no normal Asmodian could eat his mother’s cooking with a straight face.

Shortly after Theladas turned twelve years old, his home settlement was besieged by the Balaur. The city went up in flames, and Theladas lost both of his parents in the melee. His mother was killed before she could even leave the house – one of the dragon-like beasts tore through the wall and killed her in the atrium. Theladas’ enraged father forced Theladas into a closet before charging out to seek vengeance. He allegedly defeated three of the Balaur before they devoured him in the town square.

Bitter, angry, and orphaned, Theladas had no choice but to serve as a priest’s servant at the nearby city in Adelle. He loathed the work and stress, and was rarely given any more attention than an obtrusive slave. He lived on meager rations, as he was forbidden to hunt for himself, and was thoroughly alone. He wept for his parents daily, and cursed them afterwards. He hated them for making him care, and he hated them for abandoning him so recklessly.

Some months later, one of the priests of the temple took notice of Theladas. Her name was Allison Mews. She took Theladas aside one day during his work, after catching his unique way of sweeping the floor (it was much like swinging a quarterstaff, she thought). Sure enough, Allison found that the boy had training with a weapon. Theladas almost too readily told Allison his story: he’d gone for months without telling a soul. The next day, Theladas was roughly shoved away by his old owner, and Allison took over as his caretaker.

Over the next year, Allison worked with Theladas to hone his fighting skills. She also taught him how to meditate. In the meditative state, she told him, he could potentially protect himself and others with his willpower alone. Theladas didn’t quite understand her point at first, yet he soon began to feel what it was she spoke of. After a harsh day’s work, Theladas would meditate as Allison had taught him, and the aches in his shoulders would lift. He learned more and more about controlling this new strength, with Allison providing advice and assistance as necessary.

Theladas never fully understood why Allison offered to help him. He asked her about it regularly, yet her reply was always the same. She would shake her head and smile, saying, “I’m just doing Marchutan’s work.” Theladas knew she was lying, but ultimately ended up respecting her reasons. He knew she wasn’t trying to kill him, at least, and had no qualms with taking advantage of an opportunity. And so Theladas learned, and practiced, and practiced more, and injured himself in practice, and practiced more.

Theladas was well past his fourteenth birthday when he was out running an errand for Allison. His journey sent him across the island of Ishalgen: to each person he brought a missive, he was resent to another person with yet another letter. Theladas was grinding his teeth pretty hard by the time he passed through a graveyard. A purple glint then caught his eye: Theladas had discovered the crystalline prison of Munin.

Munin watched expectantly as Theladas approached. At once, he saw something in Theladas’ eye that was more than mundane. “I never thought I’d see another Daeva grace my path,” he said to the boy. Theladas stopped short, eyes narrow.

“Who’re you talking to?” he asked.

“You, of course,” Munin said with a scowl. “Do you see anyone else around?”

Theladas rolled his eyes. “Then you’d better stop looking through that purple thing – it’s messing with your eyes. I’m not a Daeva.”

“Oh, but you are,” Munin insisted.

“Daevas don’t come from mundane parents; everyone knows that,” Theladas said, glaring at the ground.

“Then where did the first Daevas come from, hmm?” Theladas looked back up at the man’s question. “They didn’t just fall out of the sky, you know. They’ve been a real part of this world for a long time, but they came about by chance. From mundane parents, no less.”

“So?” Theladas asked, impatient to get back to his work. Thinking about being a Daeva was making him envious.

“So, don’t let your parents define who you are,” Munin told him. He then pounded on the purple glass of his prison. “How about a deal, then?”

“What deal?”

“You go back to Allison Mews, and ask her why she’s been taking care of you-“

“-How did you-“

“-When she tells you that it’s all about Marchutan,” Munin went on, ignoring Theladas with a wave of his hand, “ask her if she would take care of you if she didn’t know you are a Daeva.”

Theladas stared at the man in the purple crystal for a long minute. “What’s the deal, then?” he said at length.

“If she has been telling the truth, then she’ll simply laugh it off. If she laughs the thought of you being a Daeva away, then you know I’m wrong; you can go wherever you like, and serve your mundane life out however you like.”

“Go on,” Theladas said, a bit reluctantly.

“Mmmm, but if she has been lying,” Munin said with a wry smile, “If she has been lying, then she’ll tell you at once when you ask her that question. She will tell you, just as I have, that of course you have the blood of a Daeva in your veins. And when she admits it, you come back here and I’ll see you onto the next step in your Ascension.”

Theladas slowly started to turn from the prison. “What’s in it for you?” he then asked, stopping dead in his tracks. When Munin didn’t answer, Theladas added, “Why would you want to help me?”

“Why, so that you can help me, too,” Munin said with a grin.

Theladas hurried back to Allison’s chapel quickly, his brow furrowed in contemplation the whole way. “A magical man inside in a giant, purple crystal is the expert on Daevas now?” he asked himself lamely. “What is this world coming to? I don’t even know why I listened to him.”

But Theladas couldn’t help his curiosity and, hide it though he tried, his hope that there was something more to his life. Allison’s eyes went wide when Theladas asked; she knew at once that he had met Munin. However, true to the old man’s word, Allison admitted to knowing that Theladas was more than a normal servant boy.

“You’d best go meet with him again,” Allison instructed. “You have a long road ahead of you.”

JerricahBanner 3C

Not a week after he had met Theladas, Munin had a second curious visitor. A young girl, dressed in fine robes and with the palest complexion he had ever seen. Her hair was a pale blond, vibrant in its luminence. Her eyes were an oceanic blue, and were presently filled with apprehension.

Unlike Theladas, the girl approached Munin’s prison with intent – she had come here to find him. Munin smiled warmly at the girl. “What’s your name, young Daeva?” Munin asked.

“I-I’m Jerricah,” she replied quietly. Her eyes were wide with wonder at the massive purple crystal. “And I’m not a Daeva. N-Not yet.”

“Ah, but you are an Albescent,” Munin said, tilting his head to the side. Jerricah nodded once. “That must be hard.”

“My family hates me,” Jerricah said, dropping her gaze quickly. “I’m nothing like my big brother, Yanis. He got the dark skin and dark hair; I got this curse, instead.”

“It’s not a curse, dear,” Munin told her.

“It is,” Jerricah insisted. “I can’t go anywhere without being ridiculed. Sure, being able to manipulate energy at will is handy, but lots of people can do that – they just have to study for it. I paid for it with this-” she gestured at her body, almost in disgust, “-instead.”

Munin couldn’t help but chuckle. He raised his hand in apology when Jerricah’s icy eyes locked on him. “I mean no offense, dear lady, but I think you underestimate just what a gift it is you have.”

“Looking like one of them is a gift?” Jerricah scowled.

Munin shrugged. “Outward appearances won’t mean much once you actually pursue your path. The mastery of energy that you already have far exceeds what most sorcerers are ever capable of. You’re only what, twelve?”

“Thirteen,” Jerricah corrected, standing up straighter and crossing her arms.

“Thirteen,” Munin agreed. “Do you have any idea what you’ll be capable of in ten years’ time? The very elements themselves will be at your beck and call. Ice storms, walls of fire, earthen monuments, and wind strong enough to shake the mountains shall leap from your fingertips. Albescents have a blessed strength with magic, an attunement and intuition for the elements that no one can ever understand. No number of books, and no number of hours spent studying can ever give you that. You may look like an Elyos, but an Asmodian Albescent who rises to her call is able to fight with unmatched skill.”

Jerricah sighed heavily. “I’m never going to have a normal life, am I?”

Munin raised his hands helplessly. “Sorry, kid; I don’t deal in normal. Last time I tried that, they put me in this prison.” He laughed at his own joke, but Jerricah was still staring at the ground. After a moment of silence, Munin raised an eyebrow. “Was there something you wanted to say to me?” he asked.

Jerricah looked at Munin, slightly confused.

“Something you wanted to ask me, maybe? Or did you just walk out here to mock me in my jail cell?”

“Oh!” Jerricah started. She shook her head and forced a smile. She then bowed deeply before Munin. “I have heard that you are able to help the men and women who are ready to ascend with the road to Pandaemonium. I implore your guidance in finding my way to immortality.”

“So you’re serious about this?” Munin asked.

“Yes, sir,” Jerricah said, still bowed.

“At such a young age, are you sure?” Jerricah didn’t move. “Why not go to one of the Guides in town?” he asked. “I’m but a poor prisonmate, after all; why come to me?”

“Because you are wiser than them.” Jerricah said.

“Don’t lie,” Munin said with a roll of his eyes.

“I didn’t,” Jerricah began. She trailed off, feeling Munin’s eyes boring into the top of her head. She sighed. “I can’t go to any of the Guides. My parents have forbade my ascension; they’d have me slave in the basement for all eternity. I cannot stay here any longer.”

“And so you hope to escape your home by rushing into the world?” Jerricah nodded slightly. “Out of the frying pan and into the fire if you ask me,” Munin said, apparently losing interest.

“Please, Munin,” Jerricah said, standing up and staring Munin in the eye. He could see her determination at once. “Please grant me guidance. I cannot go alone; I don’t know the way. But I cannot stay here, so I must go. Please.” She watched Munin’s expression closely, her small hands balled into fists.

“Well,” Munin said slowly, letting his voice drag. With another glance at Jerricah, Munin threw his hands up in defeat. “Who am I to deny a lady in distress?” he asked of the air. Then, with the responding bow that Jerricah had been waiting for, Munin said, “I’ll do what I can to guide your way to Ascension.”

At once, Jerricah’s face lit up in a smile; Munin laughed. “You should smile more,” he told her, “it suits you.”

Plenty more to come, but I think that should give a little background to these kids.





What do the Numbers Mean (Part 1)?

13 09 2009

This is the first installment in a series of posts I’ll be putting up periodically (They’ll be interspersed with other posts). The goal of this series is to explore the relevance of the various statistics in the game. I’ve played a lot with different characters since the second Closed Beta, and knowing which stats do what is a key component to building an effective character.

The numbers, what do they all mean?

The numbers, what do they all mean?

We all want effective characters, right? No one wants to be a sitting duck for World PvP.

So we’ll take a look at some of the basic stats now. There’s more to be discussed in the future, but that’s why this is a series.

Warning: this is a long one. Every class has these stats, but only some classes care about some stats, so feel free to jump through to just the parts you care about.

Stats that can be acquired through early Mana Stones:

  • HP (Hit Points)

HP is a fancy, video-game convention for health. Two characters is easier to encode than six – go efficiency.

This one is pretty straight-forward: every incoming attack that bypasses all of your defensive attributes deducts from your HP. If your HP drops to or below 0, your character “dies.” Of course, Daevas are immortal, so your character doesn’t stay dead for long. Nevertheless, dying is a serious hassle (You have to wait for a rez or respawn at your obelisk, suffering a penalty either way). From a downtime perspective, death is the single worst devourer of time – avoid it.

So, staying alive is good – I’m glad our survival instincts are still intact. Now, how helpful is HP at improving survivability? I’d argue that it’s the best tool available at low levels. At higher levels, this may change, but HP is extremely powerful at the opening of the game. Why? Because every attack hits it, be they physical or magical. Parry and Physical Defense can help against melee, while Elemental Defense can help against spells, but HP helps against both. Moreover, every class can access the stat: there’s no need for a shield to get mileage out of HP.

From a survival perspective, HP is the last line of defense. You’d obviously much rather resist or dodge incoming fire, but I’ll wager that 100% avoidance isn’t a possibility in this game. If you can’t avoid every attack, then it’s best to be prepared for those attacks that will break through the front lines: a poor last line will only earn you more quality time with the Obelisks of Atreia.

  • MP (Magic Points)

This is the magical counterpart to HP. Every character in Aion has MP, and every character uses MP when executing special abilities. For Warrior and Scout classes, these stats are largely irrelevant: the latent MP regeneration of all characters tends to keep pace with the rate of use (their abilities are dirt cheap, in other words – MP is meant to be a non-issue, at least for fights under five minutes in duration). For Priest and Mage classes, however, MP plays a big role in gameplay.

Running out of MP isn’t dangerous on its own. 0 MP will not kill your character, but it will place you in a risky situation: without MP, you can’t perform any special abilities. You can think of MP as the fuel of your character: you won’t explode when you run out, but you’ll have to manually push your character the rest of the way home. Again, this is less of a problem for Scouts and Warriors: their normal attacks are likely enough to get them through to a rest point. Mages and Priests use at least some magical attacks, however, and their melee abilities are far less potent (Chanters excluded).

Narrowing the scope to Priests and Mages, how important is more MP? Having more doesn’t hurt – it’s a boost to longjevity, therefore reducing downtime. However, I’m hesistant to recommend it for anything more than a healing class; for dealing damage, there are better choices.

For Sorcerers, Spiritmasters, and offensive Clerics:
imagine that you’re in a car. Think of MP as your fuel tank, and Magic Boost as your engine. The stronger your engine, the better you convert fuel into energy. Likewise, the more Magic Power you have, the more damage you deal with each point of MP spent attacking. Meanwhile, increasing the size of your fuel tank will also increase the amount of energy you can produce; You simply won’t be able to produce that energy as quickly without a stronger engine. Increasing your MP does the same thing: you’ll be able to deal more damage, but your damage per second will not improve.

For Chanters and defensive Clerics: if you’re running out of MP in your healing career, stack on more MP. As far as I can tell, Magic Boost does not influence the strength of healing spells. At all. So, until MP regeneration stats appear in the late game, more MP is the only way to improve your healing capacity.

  • Attack

For physical damage dealers, this is the bread and butter of your damage output. Attack will increase the damage of melee or ranged auto-attacks, as well as the damage of all special attacks that deal physical damage. The base damage of your physical attacks and skills will be one additional point higher for each point of attack you have. That is, if I have a physical attack skill that hits for 20-30 damage, then acquire a new gear piece of gear with +3 attack on it, the skill will hit for 23-33 damage.

How valuable is Attack? In terms of PvE content, it’s likely the most important stat for dealing damage. Attack scales consistently forever; there are never diminishing returns on the value of Attack. The only caveat is to make sure you have enough Accuracy in your gear to avoid being parried and dodged all the time (Note: you’ll never see the word “Parry” spring up when your attacks are parried, as they do when you parry an incoming attack; speciously low numbers are the best indication of having insufficient Accuracy). Physical Critical Hit is also valuable, but is not as reliable (especially in shorter fights). Crit also suffers from diminishing returns late in the game.

For PvP content, Attack becomes less important. Making your critical strikes as likely as possible will quickly outweigh the benefits of increasing the damage of every attack by a little bit. Why? Because a healer sitting on your target will be able to keep up with a steady stream of damage; sharp bursts that are less predictable are your best chance for dropping your target before the healer can react with a big heal. Attack still matters in PvP (bigger crits are bigger), but Crit should take priority until Crit starts to suffer from diminishing returns.

For casting classes, avoid Attack. Attack has absolutely no bearing on your spells, so you won’t hit any harder for having it.

  • Accuracy

This stat is a good thing: Accuracy makes your physical attacks more likely to connect. Rule of thumb: if Attack makes it harder, Accuracy will make it hit more often.

Aside for Math Junkies ahead. On each physical attack, your accuracy is compared to the Dodge, Parry, and Shield Block of the target (if applicable). I believe that each comparison is made independently; I’ll have to test numbers in PvP to get a more accurate model. For the moment, I’ll provide the best-guess equations that I’ve run across:

%ChanceToDodge = (DefenderEvasion – AttackerAccuracy)/10

%ChanceToParry = (DefenderParry – AttackerAccuracy)/10
Note: This requires the Defender to have a physical melee weapon equipped.

%ChanceToBlock = (DefenderShieldDefense – AttackerAccuracy)/10
Note: This requires the Defender to have a shield equipped.

Then, assuming that each of the above checks is performed independently:

%ChanceToBeHit = ((100 – %ChanceToDodge)/100 * (100 – %ChanceToParry)/100 * (100 – %ChanceToBlock)/100)*100

It’s a reverse equation, I realize – You’re the attacker in the above case, so the target’s chance to be hit is the same as your chance to hit the target. Again, I’m also assuming that each of these checks is independent because of a gut feeling; they could be dependant, and therefore added instead of multiplied in the last step. Something about the nature of this equation makes me doubt that, though; there’d be too many opportunities for exploitation.

To get mileage out of this in PvP, you simply need to read your opponent’s stats. take a look at some geared character models and you’ll see the kind of Evasion, Parry, and Shield Block they’re likely to have. For PvE, the problem is harder – we don’t have numerical models for them. So, time for hand-waving estimation!

for a normal monster of level X:

if 1 < X < 10: MonsterEvasion = 40 + 8*X; MonsterParry = 120 + 24*X; MonsterShieldBlock = 120 + 24*X
if 11 < X < 20: MonsterEvasion = 120 + 12*X; MonsterParry = 360 + 28*X; MonsterShieldBlock = 360 + 28*X
if 21 < X < 30: MonsterEvasion = 240 + 16*X; MonsterParry = 640 + 32*X; MonsterShieldBlock = 640 + 32*X

for an elite monster of level X:

Take the number found in the equation above and multiply by 1.5

So that’s some major hand-waving; I have no source for those numbers. They’re likely to vary level by level, and even across mob types. However, I believe the estimations are reasonable – the values are drawn from appropriate-level manastones, which I believe demonstrate part of the game’s expectation of growth.

Either way, those numbers should make a good baseline for physical DPS classes to look at: your accuracy should be enough to at least negate the chance for a monster to parry your attack (every monster I’ve seen so far can parry, even if they don’t seem to have a weapon). Once you reach that, lean towards Attack.

  • Physical Cricial Hit

A critical hit deals double damage to the target. Physical Critical Hit (PCH) increases your chance to score a critical hit with a physical attack (who would’ve guessed?). That said, how much PCH do you need to crit, say, 20% of the time? 50%? 100%?

The best-guess equations that I’ve found so far look like this:

for PCH < 450: %ChanceToCrit = PCH/10

for 450 < PCH < 550: %ChanceToCrit = 45 + (PCH-450)/20

for 550 < PCH: %ChanceToCrit = 50 + (PCH-550)/100

So, there’s a very sharp dropoff once you reach about 450 PCH. Until that divide, the rule of “1PCH = .1% Crit Chance” holds.

I’ll save theorycraft on the benefits of Crit versus Attack for another time. Both PCH and Attack are good, and both are likely to be rare, expensive stats to acquire. Your best bet in the early game is likely to take whichever is more affordable.

  • Magic Boost

For magical damage dealers, Magic Boost is your primary stat for damage output. This is how you strengthen your character’s engine, as I mentioned in the MP section. Warriors and Scouts can pass this section by completely.

I have no formulae for the conversion of Magic Boost into damage, but I can guarantee that it’s less impressive than the conversion of Attack into damage (Magic Boost is anywhere between 8 and 12 times cheaper as a stat compared to Attack, so it rightly provides less benefit per point). However, nearly every target you find in Aion is better at mitigating physical damage than magical damage; you don’t need such a strong conversion to get more power.

Note that Magic Boost only influences offensive spells; healing spells and roots/snares don’t care about how much Magic Boost you have (as far as I know). Thus, only stack Magic Boost if you’ll be casting damage spells; otherwise, look elsewhere.

  • Evasion

Evasion increases your chance to dodge a physical attack. Dodging an attack avoids 100% of the attack’s damage, as well as any abnormal effects the attack may have caused (poison, stun, stumble, etc.). It’s a very powerful stat in terms of survival. Such a powerful stat is likely to be rare, though; it’s about three times as valuable as Parry and Shield block, as far as the game is concerned.

But how much Evasion do I need to get a reasonable chance to dodge incoming attacks? For this, we can look back at the estimations I made when discussing Accuracy.

%ChanceToDodge = (DefenderEvasion – AttackerAccuracy)/10

So, every 10 Evasion you have over your opponent’s accuracy, you’ll have an additional 1% chance to dodge his physical attacks. Again, PvP values can be estimated by simply looking at your friends in other classes; whatever their stats are at a given level are good indicators of what you’ll have to deal with. For PvE estimation, we go back to my hand-wavy estimations:

for a normal monster of level X:

if 1 < X < 10: MonsterAccuracy = 120 + 24*X
if 11 < X < 20: MonsterAccuracy = 360 + 28*X
if 21 < X < 30: MonsterAccuracy = 640 + 32*X

for an elite monster of level X:

Take the number found in the equation above and multiply by 1.5

These values are purely speculation, but they’re likely to be a good model. The numbers will likely deviate from monster type to monster type, too, so melee-oriented classes may be more accurate; caster classes may be less accurate. If your Evasion is woefully below the base accuracy of these estimates, it’s probably a good indicator that Dodging isn’t a core quality of your class.

How valuable is Evasion, then? It’s truly the strongest avoidance stat in the game. being able to completely avoid attacks and their detrimental effects is amazingly good for survival. The stat is extremely expensive to gear for, however, so you’re likely to lose out on a lot of other stats if you pursue Evasion. And even fully equipping Evasion gear won’t grant you a 100% dodge chance against enemies of your level. In my experience, a reliable defense and sustained offense are the best attributes of any solo class. Dodging is great, but unreliable; the game is always going to get lucky, so preparing for those times often improves your survivability more than stacking an unreliable stat.

Scouts have a particular proclivity for Evasion. Leather gear is stocked high with this stat, and so building upon that value is likely in their best interest. Their survivability is subsequently spiky, but a good Scout won’t be targeted too often anyways. Other classes are less likely to find high Evasion on their gear; stacking the stat when it’s below the minimum needed to Dodge anything is a thorough waste of time – you won’t see any benefit!

Final Note: Dodging is Omni-Directional. Turning your back on a target has no bearing on your chance to dodge incoming attacks (As far as I have seen).

  • Parry

Parry increases your chance to parry a physical attack. Parrying an attack avoids 50% (estimated) of the attack’s damage, but not the abnormal effects of the attack. Parry is less powerful in terms of survivability than Evasion. Therefore, Parry is a more abundant stat than Evasion.

Parrying requires that a physical melee weapon be equipped; Bows, Spellbooks, and Orbs do not allow you to parry incoming attacks. So, if you’re a Mage class, you’re welcome to ignore everything that follows.

The Parry equation is identical to the Dodge equation posed above:

%ChanceToParry = (DefenderParry – AttackerAccuracy)/10

The PvE enemy accuracy estimations also hold here, if you want to have an idea of how much Parry you need to avoid incoming attacks.

So, how valuable is Parry? I personally find this to be one of the coolest stats in the game in terms of survival. Because the stat is cheap, you can exceed your enemy’s accuracy with sufficient Parry, and you can do so by a large margin. This results in a 50% reduction in a fair number of incoming attacks (not all of them, unless you stack the stat absurdly high, but some). Because the stat quickly results in a likely chance of parrying incoming attacks, this can support a reliable defense. 50% of the damage coming in is still significant, but the percentage reduction means that it will scale nicely as you progress (suck it, WoW).

The bottom line is, each point of Parry provides an appreciable chance to mitigate incoming damage from physical attacks; the damage reduction per point is the strongest available to lower-level characters. Parry is therefore a key survival stat for melee characters without a shield.

Final Note: Parrying is Omni-Directional. Turning your back on a target has no bearing on your chance to parry incoming attacks (As far as I have seen).

  • Shield Defense

Shield Defense is the shield-using melee class’s alternative to Parry. Shield Defense increases your chance to block incoming physical attacks. Blocking an attack avoids a portion of the attack’s damage; the portion’s size is dependant upon the shield. Weak shields block as low as 30% of the attack’s damage, while top-end shields block as much as 45% of the attack’s damage. Each enchant rank on a shield boosts the block portion by 2%, leading to a maximum current value of 65% blocked on an incoming attack. In all cases, abnormal statuses caused by the attack will pierce the block.

Blocking clearly requires a shield to be equipped. So, if you’re a Mage or Scout class, feel free to ignore everything that follows.

The Block equation is identical to the Dodge equation posed above:

%ChanceToBlock = (DefenderShieldDefense – AttackerAccuracy)/10

You can also look back to find the estimated accuracy of PvE enemies in the Evasion section.

So, Shield Defense is never quite as good as Parry (assuming that Parry does, indeed, stop 50% of an incoming attack). By and large, the stats are equally common, too. So what’s the appeal of Shield Defense, if it does less to keep you alive (unenchanted)? Templars have the added plus of inheriting some neat tricks in response to blocked attacks, but all classes that actively use a shield should probably look to Shield Defense instead of Parry to increase survivability.

The motivation for this is simple: The shield provides an absurd amount of Shield Defense, while the accompanying one-handed melee weapon provides only some Parry. Remember, reliable defenses will serve you better, even if they seem a little weaker up front. Because Shield Defense can get so high, it’s not unreasonable for a shield-user to block nearly every incoming attack. When every attack is blocked, you can expect incoming attacks to only deal 60% or so of their intended damage. Your HP thus has a reliable second line of defense that the other mitigation and avoidance stats can’t easily provide. It’s no surprise that Shields are designed this way: the best defenses should be reserved for the tanks of the game, after all.

So, if you want to get the most out of your shield for survival, stack Shield Block: the base boost to the stat that the shield provides should make getting a strong block chance relatively simple, so take advantage.

Final Note: Blocking is Omni-Directional. Turning your back on a target has no bearing on your chance to block incoming attacks (As far as I have seen).

End Installment 1

There’s plenty more to come in this vein, I’m sure: There’s the less common stats (Magical Accuracy, Magical Resistances, Physical Defense, and those core stats that you can’t touch). There’s also more to be said about prioritizing one stat against another when socketing in Mana Stones. I’m sure there will be more threads to follow thereafter, too: better estimation equations, different theories of stat importance, and more!

Is there something about the stats of Aion that you’re curious about? Is understanding these stats so deeply valuable, or is a gut feeling enough to get you through?





So, What’s in a Chanter?

12 09 2009
When I first heard about Aion, the Chanter immediately caught my eye. The Cleric, Assassin, and Templar are all cookie-cutter classes, more or less: their roles are well-defined and important, but their versatility is limited.

Then there was the Chanter. Where on Earth does he fit?

Cute, but not a Chanter

Cute, but not a Chanter

When I first read about Chanters, I immediately figured them to be analogous to the Bards of FFXI. Bards are a support class that provide an array of unique buffs: A Bard can maintain up to two “songs” on his nearby allies by rocking out on his instrument of choice. There are also some other tunes he learns that weaken his adversaries (Country? Heavy Metal? 3Hz? choose your poison, I guess).

But that’s not the Chanter.

The Chanter does have a few “Active” buffs that must be recast regularly to maintain them, but their MP cost leads me to believe that they are not meant to be chain-cast the way a Bard’s free songs can be reused ad nauseam. Chanters have a whole wealth of other tasks at their fingertips, and their subsequent role is a niche I haven’t ever seen before. So, what constitutes the niche?

  • The Buffs
This one’s obvious. Every Chanter guide worth its salt will extol Chanters as the buffers of Aion. We get Mantras, akin to auras from other games (I suddenly miss pulsing pally auras in Diablo 2). But I believe that there is more to Auramancy than simply turning on the three best mantras you have and just DPSing/Healing. There’s more to the job than that, and a true chanter will employ all aspects of the niche.

So what’s the game, then? Mantra management in and of itself is twofold: You need to keep the right Mantras up at any given time, and you need to get them to the right people.

First, Choosing Mantras: This can be as passive or as active as you choose. At the least, the Mantras you choose should be for the group, not for yourself. Any group you join will have at least two physical DPS (you and the tank, while not the top in dealing damage, deal almost exclusively in physical damage), as well as three option slots. Be sure to play to the strengths of the group: more physical DPS means you should be running auras for them; a group with three Sorcs in the back should set off an alarm to swap to magic-oriented mantras.

To make the job more taxing, a good Auramancer will vary auras based upon the enemies, too. If an additional mob jumps on the fight, or the one mob left is hitting like a truck, throw up your defensive Mantras. If a draining fight is finally coming to a close, swap to your recuperative Mantras. The more Mantras you acquire, the more situations you’ll encounter that require you to change them on-the-fly.

Second, Maintaining Mantras: We have this curious paradigm of floating icons above our heads to indicate being “in range” of a Mantra. Any experience in a group will quickly demonstrate that no one pays attention to the icons; the Chanter should. Especially in a mixed group of physical and magical DPS, positioning as a Chanter is crucial. Landing Mantras is a primary goal, while making sure to not stand in fire or cleave-range. Melee range on the enemy is a plus, but not always possible. Take those times as a respite, I guess: being in melee gives you even more work to do. Anyhow, always make sure that the people who need the Mantras get the Mantras – I doubt anyone’s going to come running to you to maintain their buffs until it’s too late.

Beyond Mantras, there are Words, Blessings, Shields, and Conduits to play with. I’ll save in-depth thoughts on those for later: they are far more situational than Mantras, but truly powerful and important tools in the Chanter buff-box.

  • The Offense
I almost never hear about the Chanter offense: few articles touch on the importance of Chanter melee outside of solo play. Yes, we’re viable at solo play because we have melee skills and self-recovery to keep us running. But what makes us important in a group’s melee composition? Anything?

Turns out that we need to be actively clobbering the enemy target to perform the second half of our buffing job. True, it’s now debuffing, but it’s almost as important. Especially in a melee-heavy group, which will put you in melee range of the target by virtue of your Mantra range, timely employment of your debuffs will boost everyone’s success.

Now, what makes our abilities timely? Most every Chanter special attack causes a debuff of some sort, but many are rather short-lived. The only debuff that’s likely to never fall off is the Hallowed Strike attack speed debuff (10s duration, 8s cooldown). For the others, you can’t maintain 100% uptime. The name of the game thus becomes debuffing the target at the opportune moment. To do this, you’ll want to talk to the other DPS classes of the game.

Every DPS class has a few superiorly strong chain-combos that they execute with regularity. They all come with a sort of opening strike, perhaps from another chain that sets up a debuff of their own. The Chanter’s goal is to watch for these signals: the new debuff on the target, the particular swing animation, and so forth. When the first instance of this occurs, line up the debuffs with the incoming chain and watch their pretty numbers fly.

Once the Chanter has started his chain, watching the queues of the others becomes a mixed bag that is likely best ignored: on the one hand, waiting for allies to be ready will guarantee the big numbers, but likely sacrifice total debuff uptime. Because you are unlikely to synch with a DPS at the optimal rate, I recommend maintaining your debuff rotation for maximal uptime until something else demands your attention (spot-healing, Mantra swapping, movement of the fight, etc.). Synch back in by following a DPS of choice, then return to maintaining uptime (you won’t be synched with all of the DPS, after all, so perhaps by drifting from the first you’ll end up aligning with another the next rotation).

So now that we’re in agreement that the melee of a Chanter exists, how much of a change is it actually likely to cause? There’s the Chanter’s own swing damage, which is certain to be more than nothing. Then there’s the debuff applications and their impact on every other Physical DPS in the group. This is still an unanswered question in my head, so I’ll doubtless have more to say later, but given the reduction to Physical Defense from attacks compared to the defense benefit of the Shield Mantra, the debuffs in tandem will be a substantial, if temporary, boost to the group’s killspeed.

Back of the envelope math:

Say our debuffs provide a 20% damage increase to each physical DPS in the group, with roughly 50% uptime from the Chanter

three DPS each dealing ~25% of the damage to the target, Chanter dealing ~15% of the damage to the target, and Templar dealing ~10% of the damage to the target

PctDmgIncrease = (.2 * .5) * (.1 + .15 + (d1 * .25) + (d2 * .25) + (d3 * .25))

where d1, d2, and d3 are associated with each DPS, and are equal to 1 if that DPS class deals physical damage (otherwise, it is equal to 0).

Minimum: .025 (2.5%) ; Maximum: .1 (10%)

So, we increase killspeed by something on the order of 2-10% with our debuffing abilities alone, depending upon group composition and assuming that the debuffs cause the effect that I guess (it may be more, but I presently doubt that it could be much less).

Defensive Debuffs are clutch, too: the Attack and Movement Speeds of the target can be reduced, saving your tank some pain and reducing the risk of losing a runner to another pack. Always be mindful of these tools as a Chanter: they’re crucial to optimal play, and are a big part of what a Chanter brings to the table.

  • The Healing
This subject seems to be in heavy debate from what I’ve read. We get a superior HoT early on, and we maintain our basic single-target heal from our Priestly days. We also get a healing Mantra, but I suspect its contribution to surviving will likely be minimal. These abilities are enough to maintain a tank in most situations, and certainly enough to pick up off-targets that get smacked a few times before the tank can gain control. There is no AoE healing in our basic tree to handle constant AoE damage to the raid: Clerics have the monopoly on that.

What does this mean for our healing capacity? It’s substantial, and not to be ignored. We can heal a group through Elite mob grinding. We can heal a small team of friends through solo content (still in the market for some company once Live hits, by the way – shameless plug is shameless, I know).

We can’t compete with a Cleric in terms of sheer throughput, so I’m glad they’re around to chug out the big heals when necessary. But I definitely forsee synergy between having both a Cleric and a Chanter in the group. The Chanter HoT is superior, for instance: the tank and Cleric should always have a Chanter’s HoT active on them (Remember: Clerics can burn HP to regenerate MP, so give them the fuel they need to do so; you have plenty of mana recovery tools in your arsenal to cover the cost). When AoE damage springs up, AoE heals are still likely to be too slow to watch everyone: jumping in with spot-healing on critical allies may save their lives.

Bottom line: healing is an integral part of the Chanter game. Healing Stigmas, in particular, will enhance this game to bring you up closer to the level of a Cleric. Don’t expect to match the Cleric, but supporting him is a big part of the Chanter job; if he runs out of fuel, you’re all on your own.

  • The Rest
I’ll save Stigma discussions for later. The stigmas I see so far look cool, but I haven’t used most of them, so I don’t know how long those cooldowns will actually feel in combat.

There’s some discussion of Pinch Tanking on a Chanter, seeing as we can equip a shield and can debuff the offense of a target. We may be able to survive a few hits, its true, but your enmity generation is likely to be crap. Your best bet in the case of a dead tank is to try to get the mob’s attention with your shield on while healing whoever did get the mob’s attention. Meanwhile, your Cleric should rez up that tank ASAP (Chanters can rez in battle, too, but you’re more expendable than he is, if one of you needs to tank). I’d suggest sticking to using a staff for the rest of the time – your inability to taunt or hit ridiculously hard precludes proper tanking.

In-combat ressurection: don’t let your dps stay dead unless they really, really like standing in the fire. A Cleric likely doesn’t have the time to spare for this, but you should.

There may be some smaller nuances that I’ve missed. For that, I’m kinda glad: there’s even more to discover in the world of Chanters in Aion.

So, What’s in a Chanter?

Chanter = Indestructible Cheerleader

Chanter = Indestructible Cheerleader?

In a way, nearly everything. You’ll hear the “jack of all trades” title time and again as a Chanter. We have a bit of everything, but not all of any one suit. This means that a Chanter’s job is best performed in supporting the other five players in your group. Cheerleader jumps to mind: keep the spirits of everyone else up, and they’ll do everything better than they thought they could.

I believe that Chanters will have a fairly strong learning curve, which is a good thing for me. I don’t want to master my class before I leave the starting town. With a Chanter, there’s always another hurtle: swap Mantras more often, squeeze in more debuffs, optimize timing to avoid clipping your attacks with heals, and more. Mastery of these considerations will make a Chanter invaluable to any group.

Hello, my name is Theladas and I’m an Asmodian Chanter. Everyone calls me the “jack of all trades,” but I’ll show them: I’m the king of all trades, baby.

(That sounds a bit more appropriate than aspiring to be a cheerleader. Then again, there is Claire Bennet…)