Bird Thoughts: New Player Impressions

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Bird Thoughts: New Player Impressions

Post by Heron » Tue May 18, 2021 3:40 pm

Hello! I've been here for a couple days now, and have some thoughts to share. I have played some Clok, so the commands are at least somewhat familiar to me. Unless otherwise specified, everything here is an observation and not a complaint. Yes, even the negative things!

Before you proceed, I am not a concise person. This is a warning.

* Documentation
- There are as many things documented as there are things not documented, and the wiki has many dead links. There is something weird going on with the pages that do exist, too: 'Help multi-throw' doesn't seem to work but 'help main-gauche' does. Multi-throw's page has to be brought up from the wiki.
- Aim and the container command are especially obtuse.
- Container is one of those things that would have been great to know long before you stumble on it. Two-handed inventory management is a little tricky.
- Aim is particularly egregious: the increased roundtime isn't mentioned anywhere, and 'aim stop' is syntactically obtuse. If I hadn't played Clok, this would have frustrated me a lot. A help file, or even a mention of the increased roundtime / aim stop when you use aim would be nice to have for future new players.
- Guilds mention a monthly fee, which looks and feels hefty to new players, but you don't have to pay it upon joining. This is not immediately clear, and I held off on joining until I had the funds.

* The bucket, and new player experience
- (from help files) The experience bucket is a concept meant to pace experience gains and discourage "power grinding", with the additional intent of encouraging players to occasionally take a break from grinding experience to roleplay with one another.
- Mechanically, the bucket holds 750 EXP and drips in 15 (2%) every minute, and reflection therapy bumps that to 17/minute.
- You have approximately 50 minutes of idle-time from 100% EXP. The bucket can be filled in like 5-10 minutes' time by an inexperienced player, and even faster later.
- The bucket is a major malefactor when it comes to the new player experience. My thoughts on it in the mid-late game haven't fully formed.
- A new player's skill point total and skill caps are low enough that they might as well not have points in anything, and they are locked in to this state for approximately five hours of idle time. I spent some of this familiarizing myself with the game, but having played Clok it didn't take that long-- plus the existing documentation is good and the commands are (mostly) intuitive. The rest of the time was spent covering myself in horse dung and waiting for the bucket to trickle. I expect a lot of new player loss happens right around here, before they ever get to level 2.
- In short, the lack of points and resources at the outset makes it difficult to interact with the game. The bucket exacerbates the issue by gating progress behind a fairly hefty idle-wall (that you have to babysit every hour) before the newcomer decides they want to stay.

- Being the patient sort, I toughed it out for another three or four levels (~15-20 hours). It was immersive, in that I really felt like I was covered in horse dung. I'm kidding; it wasn't that bad and I just checked in for my EXP every hour for like, five minutes each time. Duelist caught my eye since it seems to be developed as well as criminally underpopulated (I should be the seventh duelist once the demographics update!). With that in mind, I made a rough skillpoint budget and decided to go all-in on combat skills.

- I warmed up to the bucket (a little) at around level 4-- I had room to grow at this point and it wasn't just a waiting-babysitting game anymore. Not so coincidentally, this is when I became a duelist. Combat is fun. Duelist/combat will have its own little section right after this.
- The bucket is a bit strange, fills quickly, empties slowly, and feels small, but after the initial hurdle I don't mind it that much.
- The initial hurdle really could stand to be remedied just a little, and there are many options for that. Lower EXP totals for the first few levels, faster EXP, more generous initial skillcaps, as well as some guidance and direction would go a long way. Note that I'm not suggesting all of these things at once but rather presenting a short list of options.

* Duelist and combat
- Nightblade seems to stand head and shoulders above the other warrior guild entries, in that it has the most features, most versatility, and clearest identity. There's like twenty of them so I'm not interested, but I still often think, 'A nightblade could probably do this better.' I will make a lot of comparisons.
- Quick bit on combat: combat is fun, but growth is tied to mob rolls and not mob danger. You get the same skillgains for killing a crow (~20 HP, 3-5 damage on hit average) as you do an infested laborer (full human HP, armed with weapons that can and will put you out of commission on a bad roll.). This means initial combat is best raised fighting birds, preferably after you purchase a suit of armor, and then unarmed skeletons. I still have an easier time with skeletons than I do infested, and they roll 160-180 vs the infested's 100ish flat. Skillgains are also... Manageable, but pretty slow.
- A duelist's bread and butter is combat analysis, which is a total gamechanger. It's the inverse of nightblade tactics, where the longer you fight something, the more rerolls you get. Quick strike and feint pair beautifully with this, since you get a new reroll about every 3-4 attacks. You can immediately build a stack in the time it takes for your opponent's first strike to resolve.
- Quick strike is beautiful. It just feels good to club someone fast, and I can see it having a lot of mind-game potential in a PVP situation. It has a short cooldown and immense utility when it comes to adjusting your timing.
- Sweep currently feels like the most major portion of my power budget, and sadly it's not duelist-exclusive. We share it with nightblades. Constant feints and sweeps will destroy an opponent's balance, which (hypothetically) prevents them from counter-sweeping you. It also protects you, and renders them vulnerable, dispensing a very large number of negative rerolls. In the current game climate, if someone got off a tackle or sweep before me, I would immediately flee.
- There's a trio of skills that sounds very cool, but have functional issues: cloak parry, main gauche, and tactical dodge.
- Main-gauche: if your dodge is equal to or higher than your melee, you will almost never parry. If you intentionally sabotage your dodge by encumbering yourself or having it at a lower value, then yes, you will parry, but what's the point of sabotaging your own defenses? It also says you can get a free attack if you use a shield, but if you use a shield, you will almost never dodge. This is because you only roll your best defense, and generally speaking, shield > dodge > parry.
- Cloak parry has the same issue in that a cloak parry is better than a normal defense, but you will never parry and it only has a chance of activating if your defense fails.
- Tactical dodge is great, but shield-incompatible. You have to actively sabotage your own defense to use these abilities. I don't want to do mathematical gymnastics to lower my defenses to the point where my parry is better than my dodge is better than my block. Tactical dodge is already something of an ability tax to get main gauche / cloak parry to work with dodges. Either allowing tactical dodge to work with blocks or a duelist shield-centric ability that does the same would go a long way. It's mentioned in main gauche, and thematically, bucklers are very much a duelist thing. At any rate, it's kind of silly my class identity gets thrown out the window because I'm just too good at blocking.
- I'm looking forward to multi-throw, but I can't fit it in quite yet.
- It could be that tumble's dodge enhancement is what makes tactical dodge viable, but I can't afford that yet either.

- All in all, duelist looks strong, feels strong, is strong. It looks like a class designed to destroy armored opponents, and ramps up very quickly through its rapid attacks and balance control. Unfortunately, it shares a lot in common with nightblade, minus the lockpicking, hard crowd-control that shuts down dodging, cool magic, stealth...

- Where is the nightblade join room? I didn't want to play one but I couldn't even find the room in the warrior guild hall.

- For further ability development, I'd be interested in seeing more battle control (debilitating balance-spenders like sweep and tackle), some kind of qol adjustment for main gauche / cloak parry / tactical dodge, and maybe something like an enhanced combat precision (Even more aim accuracy, remove the time penalty on aimed shots?). Some kind of skirmisher trait that reduces your odds of being fended off by weapon length might be a nice add as well. Maybe some buckler or firearm-specific abilities, once those become more of a thing.

- These are my thoughts, and not a request for immediate buffs or attention. While duelist looks at a glance to be a discount nightblade, it does still handle and play well. It's not like I've been conned into taking half a class. The content here is for future consideration, whenever development rolls around to it. Ultimately, I'm happy with my choice and willing to see where the ride takes me.

-As a closing note, I'm somewhat concerned about ranged stealth, which was overwhelmingly powerful in Clok, where stealth gains came easy as breathing and perception gains were like pulling teeth and sneak attacks turned a defense roll of 3000 into 30 and you could just spam them and rehide. This existing trend is a big part of why I'm so wary of nightblades, who I notice have pretty deep stealth and ranged capabilities.

And that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

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Re: Bird Thoughts: New Player Impressions

Post by Rias » Thu May 20, 2021 10:18 am

I really appreciate detailed feedback like this, so thank you very much for taking the time not only to check out the game but to write out such a thoughtful post. Knowing what people actually think of the experience both fuels my own motivation to keep working on the game and also helps drive change that will (hopefully) make the game better overall.

A few responses to various things in your post:

It's probably well past time for me to make a sweep of the wiki for broken links. I actually enjoy doing that kind of thing for the most part, I just need to remember to do it.

Regarding aiming, per the recent changelog: The aim command is now more informative about its usage and effects, including: providing potential aim locations and example syntax, noting the fact that the having a mob targeted will provide specific aim locations for that target, noting the fact that aimed attacks will incur an extra second of roundtime, and informing the player of the syntax that can be used to stop aiming.

Any ideas on how the CONTAINERS command can be made more obvious? I almost appended a note to the end of the INVENTORY command, but worried people might find that too annoying to constantly see.

Guild dues aren't actually a thing yet, but I figured it was better to mention them as if they were already implemented rather than spring them on people after joinning and not being aware that there would be monthly dues.

I keep going back and forth on the experience bucket thing. I mostly like it, part of me doesn't. I wouldn't be averse to tweaking it so it's not quite so much downtime. I'm also happy to entertain ideas for alternative methods of pacing. My original pacing idea for The Other Game was simply rest time to regenerate energy. That goes a little more quickly than I think I'd prefer for a pacing mechanism, though. Maybe. Hmmm. Happy to hear additional ideas from anyone on this subject (preferably in a separate BBS thread dedicated to the subject, though).

Happy to hear you seem to have generally enjoyed the Duelist class! It's one of my favorites conceptually, and they're really fun to work on because they have a lot of focus on flair and just looking cool. I'll see if I can get the reactive abilities you mentioned to be more frequently applicable. I particularly love Cloak Parry, so I'm happy to look into ways to make it apply more often. I'm also glad to see you say Quickstrike is so useful, because I worried it might not be. It probably is now more than before since it had its roundtime reduced recently.

Nightblades may have additional utility, but Duelists win out in style and class! That said, happy to give Duelists more to make them feel more unique and that they have more of their own not shared with other classes.

The Nightblade area is intentionally hidden and requires some extra looking around as part of their class feel and atmosphere. I've got an NPC prepped and almost ready to drop in the castle who helps direct guild members to the various specialist areas, including giving a hint about how to find the Nightblade area. Hopefully that will help people realize that yes, the Nightblade area does exist, it just requires a little extra looking around to find it.

Stealth ranged combat has been in the spotlight a fair amount recently regarding balance. It's recently received a few additional balancing factors including Risk stat accrual and the chance for people in the room to discover the attacker when stealth shots are fired. The "just immediately hide and repeat" isn't nearly as viable here as The Other Game thanks to the Risk stat increasingly weighing down stealth rolls. That's intentionally to encourage stealth users that once the jig is up, it's time to engage in open combat or just escape to come back later. I know that last bit doesn't go over well with some stealth lovers, but I've never liked the concept of constantly leaving and re-entering stealth. I feel like once someone's discovered, it's time for them to adjust to non-stealth tactics.

Again, thank you very much for the well-written feedback post, and thanks for coming by to check out the game. Here's hoping you find it enjoyable enough to stick around and add to both our community as well as the development of the game with feedback and suggestions.

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Re: Bird Thoughts: New Player Impressions

Post by Heron » Thu May 20, 2021 2:37 pm

Hello! I appreciate the aim fix a lot.

Regarding the bucket: I have mixed feelings towards it as well. I'd already outlived my gripe by the time I posted, which is that the first few levels (I want to say 1-4) leave you with many hours of idle time and little to fill them with beyond the beginner tasks. As a combat character, you have almost no room to grow at level 1, and what little room you do have you can't afford to take-- fighting even birds without armor or abilities will very quickly result in wounds and infirmary fees.

I agree pacing is important in muds. Even though we as players tend to rush towards the top, it's a very lonely place once you're actually there. That said, I don't think it would hurt to tone down the exp total scaling in the beginning. I'm up to 8 hours a level at 11, but at this point I have most of the abilities I wanted to see. Only tackle is missing, and the rest are 'nice-to-have's. I'm pretty comfortable with where the character is at in terms of lethality, so I've settled into a rhythm and, while slow, it doesn't frustrate me too much.

Let's talk some more about duelists! I've gotten and tried out most of the others since I wrote the original post.

I'm surprised to hear your thoughts on quickstrike. In my eyes, it's one of the class's defining perks, and actually ludicrously deadly. The reduced damage is noticeable when taken straight, yes, but after you make someone eat a feint, a sweep, and anywhere between 7 and 17 (my high score) negative rerolls from being prone-imbalance-staggered, odds are pretty good you can hit in the 30s-50s. It's often the difference between getting one vs. two hits on a staggered enemy, or two vs. three if it's a long stagger. If it's a long stagger I can often pull off something like qstrike - sweep - attack - qstrike - attack (they get up in the middle of this one), which adds up.

Multi-throw is deadly for the same reason. Up to three dinky, fragile knives is nothing! Up to three dinky, fragile knives when you have to take the worst of ten on your defense roll is devastating. I look forward to reaching the full 6, and having enough levels to actually land more than like, one in six aimed shots.

I've tried stiletto offhand, and the boost to deadliness is absolutely massive (against laborers). Main gauche and cloak parry feel wonderful when they work.
I currently do my EXP harvesting at Bald Hill, with the hill guardians. Without a shield, my defense roll drops by 20 points and I get hit a lot more, so I can't make use of those abilities.

With a shield, I can often drop them after only taking light hits or even no hits. I can finish a level's worth of practices with just one infirmary trip if I'm lucky. These look to be ~250 attack, 320 def monsters. I'm at 210 attack, 230 defense but I've been here for 2-3 levels already. Dodge/shield use raise so quickly the practice will be maxed in 2-3 skellies, and I get .6 per kill for melee/ranged. I only need 17 kills to max my practice for the level, and this comes quickly.

As for a solution for cloak parry / main-gauche, I'd like to suggest simulated defense rolls. Let's say a shield duelist has the trifecta (tac-dodge, main-gauche, cloak parry):

The duelist's highest defense is block, and it is used.
The game silently rolls a dodge and parry. These are then capped by the main defense roll, block, above.
If the defense roll passes AND the silent rolls are high enough to activate a special ability, they activate. Maybe all at once, maybe in an optimal order set by you.

Duelist rolls a 200 on main defense, and a 190/180 for dodge and parry. The opponent rolls 150. 150 is not 50 lower than 190 (dodge), so t-dodge doesn't activate.
Duelist rolls a 10 on main defense, and 250/250 for dodge and parry. Dodge and parry are capped at main (best) defense, so they have an effective value of 10! You don't get more defense rerolls.
Duelist rolls 200 on main defense, as well as dodge and parry. Opponent flubs with a 1. Maybe tac-dodge goes off, activates cloak parry, and since your parry roll is high enough you gauche them with the shield for the trifecta! Maybe you-the-dev write it so only one ability activates, but the order is reasonable (Priority: tac-dodge -> main gauche -> cloak parry, depending on cooldowns.). Cloak parry would still keep its passive chance to activate when an attack goes through, and that would be tracked separately. The hidden parry roll would cover for someone like a duelist without tac-dodge.

This change would benefit every class with tac-dodge, as it enables them to use a shield without shutting down a powerful feature. Marauder has a similar overlap to duelist with shield bash. Using a shield to bash with disables their automatic trip.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not the hidden rolls should be affected by rerolls. My gut says no, both for the server's sake and for the fact that you're focusing on blocking. This means using a shield significantly reduces your odds of a dodge passive activating, and dodging reduces your odds of a parry passive activating since they're not getting rerolls. It sounds about right to me.

The abilities currently work well as long as you don't use a shield, though. They're fantastic.

Question on flip: I saw in a post the distance mechanic was removed, so does flip's passive still do anything?

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