What (Guides) do You Want to See?

19 10 2009

Note: There’s a poll at the bottom – be sure to vote before you navigate away!

I don’t know how I still manage to have any free time these days. It’s getting absurd just how much work I have on my plate, yet I still somewhow find the time and energy to take one friend out for brunch, spend an hour plotting how to break into a locked room with another friend (to write a paper about the room for class, no less), and meet my parents for dinner. It’s busy as all hell, and I still manage to play a bit of Aion when my computer isn’t trying to fry itself.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that I’m not feeling stressed by everything. Indeed, I’m not here to whine or anything – I’m loving the work, and all the free time feels that much better because of the work I have to do to earn it. Rather, I’m looking for more direction in what I should be doing with this little corner of the Internet.

I set up a few stubs for guides on this website. If people are interested in learning more about any one of those topics, please let me know. I’m going to start by working on the “Character Design Guide,” which will aim to provide insight on which manastones you should use to enhance a certain element of your character’s performance. It’s not going to be a min/maxing guide, nor a guide on what a class needs to socket for. Instead, it’ll examine some more general character goals (more survivability, damage output, group viability, etc.), and discuss how to handle these goals for any class. After all, you can sculpt your character to be whatever you want – that’s the magic of manastones (and stigmas, coming soon).

Additionally, I have plenty to say about the playstyle, pros, and cons of Chanter play. It keeps creeping up between posts from my experience, which is fine, but I’m sure some viewers would love to have a single, consolidated file of all the goodness in a guide. Again, don’t expect me to explain a min/max strategy for Chanters: I really don’t believe in that playstyle, so I’ll be focusing instead on realistic, rounded performance improvement. Also, there are some quirks to keep in mind whenever playing a Chanter (positioning, balancing healing with offense, reactionary skills, etc.) – those will be covered in depth.

I even have some things to mention about the world of crafting. I don’t have full recipe lists, but I’m sure that Aion’s Powerwiki has a full compilation of those lists as it is. But understanding the inner-workings of crafting, especially those success-failure races? Yeah, there’s more than simply chance at play there. Rer of (Insert Awesome Aion Name) had some commentary on this topic a while back, and I wanted to expand upon it in a more thorough, comprehensive guide for permanent reference.

The question for you, then, is which of these topics would be most helpful for you? Generic Classes, Chanter-Specifics, Crafting Assistance, or something completely different? I’m open to suggestions – if there’s something you don’t understand, I’d be happy to investigate and provide whatever explanation I can. So, please, give me some feedback – vote in the poll for the field you want to hear about most! Also, if you fall in the “Other” category, please elaborate in a comment or E-mail (if you prefer privacy).

Thanks in advance for the input. I’ll be back in a bit with some storytelling fun; I’m aiming to keep posts distinct, so it’s time for a double. In the meantime, let me know what you want to see!

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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.





What does Aion remind you of?

20 09 2009

There, see? I’m not so arrogant that I refuse to use dangling prepositions. The situations simply needs to call for one. With.

I think I’m sixteen years old again. The anticipation I feel is so strangely reminiscent of driving home from the mall with my mom, avidly reading through the instruction booklet of the new game I’d gotten. It was Kingdom Hearts: my girlfriend at the time absolutely insisted that I try the game out.

Who wouldve thought a game with a dog-man and a lispy duck could be so excellent?

Who would've thought a game with a dog-man and a lispy duck could be so excellent?

I had rolled my eyes at the concept of a Disney-based video game having any merit: “How can there be any substance when it’s all about ‘Unda da sea!’ and a cartoon mouse?” But she was stubborn, and I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I trusted her judgment, and by the time I had actually picked the game up, I was surprised at just how anxious I was to try the game out. I haven’t felt that kind of good vibe about a video game in a long time; I’ve enjoyed several, but nothing struck me as being worth my time before I had a chance to play it.

And then I read about Aion. I heard about it through a 20-minute video over on Barky Bits (a resto druid blog). I was incredulous at first. “A Korean game, adapted for the US? That sounds a little hacked.” I was frustrated with WoW, though – my guildmates never seemed to have the same dedication to raiding and progression that I and the officers had. Dependency on so many of them really made doing anything a hassle, and Aion offered a shot at something new. So I read some more, watched some more, and decided to give it a try. CB2 hit, then CB3, and then CB4. I was hooked by then; I just played more for fun, no longer striving for level cap (the characters were doomed to deletion, so grinding wasn’t exactly appealing), but exploring the finer details of the game. OB was the final sell: getting back into the game for a few days in a row convinced me that the game was worth my time.

So here I am, driving home from the game store again as it were. Six years later and I’m still the same, impressionable kid I was. Thing is, I was extremely glad I gave Kingdom Hearts a chance: every minute of it was awesome. Kairi made me happy; She and Sora weren’t so far from Theladas and Jerricah (yes, I wrote about them – however terribly – even back then). I’m confident that Aion will be like that, too: every minute will be awesome. The content is well-developed and tested. The environments and combat are engrossing and relatively non-trivial, especially for introductory content. The crafting engine is superior to any other that I’ve ever seen. The class variety is substantial, despite initial impressions. Most of all, a good part of the community seems genuinely interested in experiencing the game. The atmosphere feels so different from WoW, where bosses are simply an obnoxious path to shiny gear.

But, anxious player is anxious. So, how to pass the time? Here were a few of my solutions:

  • Read about learning and memory. Perhaps not the wisest decision ever.
  • Run errands and clean up my suite. all of my dishes are spotless now, at least, and I have food enough for a week at least.
  • Go back to work, this time reading about historical architecture. I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep straightaway.
  • Look for new anime TV shows to watch. Darker than Black and Bokura ga Ita both caught my attention. I’m well aware that they’re polar opposites, but I really enjoyed what I watched of both. I guess I have an eclectic taste (in anime, anyways).
  • More work: define an algorithm for finding perfect exponents (a^b, where a and b must both be integers) for any given integer, c. Then, determine a linear-running-time algorithm for determining the optimal days to buy and sell stocks. To think that this was the most fun work I had on my list of options…
  • Ghost Hunt: Pure Excellence in Storytelling.

    Ghost Hunt: Pure Excellence in Storytelling

    Back to TV for a while (This was when I actually stumbled across Bokura ga Ita). My number one recommendation is still for Ghost Hunt, though;that show was so amazing, I wish I could wipe my memory and watch it all over again. Single best series I have seen in any genre in years.

And now, I’m revisiting my old Warrior Tanking Guide for WoW. I had a whole discourse on just about every aspect of tanking (I know you’re just so surprised – like I could ever write at length about a topic). There are a few lesser-known points of tanking, though, and they apply to gaming in general. So, as many of you are shaking with anticipation for the gun to fire and the sprint to start, I’ll offer these three key points of unsolicited advice to you:

  1. Do What You Love. Gaming is about having fun. If whatever you’re doing isn’t fun, you shouldn’t push yourself to do it – not here. Experiment, to be sure, but don’t ever think that you’re locked into a certain situation just because you started it. Life is all about making choices, and in the world of games you always have the opportunity to change those choices. Take advantage of this flexibility: if you want to level faster or slower, do it; if you want to try crafting more, go for it; if you hate the class that you were so sure you’d love, don’t sweat it – just try something else!
  2. Be Social. Aion is just coming off the racks, and the precedents we set at release are going to persist throughout the game. I’m really hoping everyone makes an honest effort to be helpful and upbeat as we kick off; fighting and complaining at each other will only leave a sour taste in every player’s mouth. So, I challenge every player to give at least one active piece of advice to another player when a question comes up (even if it’s the 123739’th time it’s come up in Region chat, as some surely will). Have patience with your fellow players; some of them are likely far cooler than you’d imagine. Also, if you’re in a guild that’s running Ventrilo or a similar VoIP, get on in there and mingle. Even if you don’t stay with the guild forever, meeting other players and getting to know them will enrich your gaming experience. There’s nothing like chatting about movies while bashing in the skulls of helpless NPCs.
  3. Take Breaks. This one is crucial, no matter how hardcore you may think you are. Two types of breaks are worth keeping in mind: breaks for your whole body, and breaks for your hands. Whole body breaks means don’t eat your meals at the computer; do yourself a favor and spend the fifteen minutes of eating somewhere else. Read the paper, walk the block, or just stare off into space. Constant exposure to a single thing is draining, whether you notice it or not. If you take breaks periodically, even if only for a few minutes, you’ll come back more refreshed and focused. You’ll get more done, believe it or not. I’ve seen it happen, too: four hours of raiding broken up with hourly five-minute breaks runs so much more smoothly than a four-hour raid with a single 15-minute break, or even a three-hour raid with no break. Monotony hurts your brain: be sure to help yourself by taking breaks and staying hydrated.
  • Then, the breaks for your hands: these are just as crucial. Any software engineer will tell you just how easy it is to work for hours without resting your hands. I often run the risk of typing out these entire posts without resting my hands; I really need to borrow Spang’s software so I can have a hardcoded interrupt, too. The basic idea is that putting too much stress on your wrists (by, say, pressing them against the edge of your desk or keyboard for hours on end) can compress the carpal tunnel, a small tube that protects the nerves controlling your hands. Applying pressure to those nerves hurts, and will damage the dexterity of your fingers. It’s unlikely to develop into full-blown Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome, but there’s no reason to hurt yourself while playing a video game. What’s the solution? Hand exercises!
  • Yeah, it sounds dorky. Hands are important, though; I like my sense of touch just the way it is. The relevant exercises here are really easy, too: just 15 seconds per hand every hour or so for the health-nut. Simply press the elbow of one hand into your stomach, and hold your palm up to the ceiling. Then, using your other hand, pull down on your fingers to make a right angle with your hand and forearm (or as close as you can get – don’t pull harshly or force your hand down). This is the easiest way to relieve the stress on the carpal tunnel. After ten seconds of stretching it, let go and pull your hand into a fist, knuckles facing the ceiling. Shake your hand out, then switch to the other one (even if it’s only handling your mouse). There’s more exercises if you’re curious, but the whole body breaks you should be taking will be more than enough in tandem with these stretches.

And with that, I’m gonna go back to work. I hope those tips help, and feel free to check out some entertainment, perhaps from the list above (look up the Funimation shows in Youtube Shows – they’re happier there), if you’re still fretting over how to pass the time from now until launch. Don’t worry, the game will be here soon enough! There’s plenty more to be coming from this blog, too. I may be a bit briefer because of time constraints – somehow, I doubt that any of you will complain about that.

Just a few more hours to go! The car ride was so much faster when I was sixteen…