Tag Archive for dungeon

Man vs Wife: Dungeon!

Man vs WifeDungeon!, originally released by TSR, simulates some of the aspects of Dungeons & Dragons. You play a character and roam through a dungeon killing monsters for treasure. It came out in 1975, a year after D&D, and has been revised several times. There is yet another version coming out in October, but the copy I own is the 1989 version called “New Dungeon” because it revamped the classes.

Dungeon! - The Box

It's a little on the nose... Dungeon... Dragon... subtle this is not.

In the basic version we play first, everyone is a warrior. (Wife: I want to be the female.) Fine, I’ll be… uh.. the dwarf, I guess. They both look like dwarves, which is funny because Dwarf is one of the advanced classes. Whatever. Warriors get to move up to 5 spaces each turn. (Wife: We don’t roll?) Not according to the box rules, but there are house rules where you roll to move. (Wife: Then what are the dice for?) I’ll get to that. Back to the moving. You can go up to 5 spaces, but if you enter a room you have to stop and fight and end your turn, even if it’s less than 5 spaces. If you want to go through a secret door, the dashed lines (Wife: I was just about to ask that.), you have to roll a die. Warriors open secret doors on a 1 or a 2. If you fail, your turn ends. If you fail three times, on the fourth you automatically find the secret door and can go through it. (Wife: That’s nice.) Yeah, a reward for just wasting three entire turns doing nothing.

When it comes to combat, monster cards have six numbers on them, and warriors use the red one. You roll both dice and try to get equal to or higher than the number. (Wife: What are the other numbers for?) The other classes and spells. If you beat a monster in a room, you get a treasure of the appropriate level. If you beat a monster in a chamber, you get no treasure. (Wife: Poor chamber monsters.) The board is laid out with rooms of six different levels of difficulty, with the higher levels getting the best treasures.

There are special treasures too. Secret Door cards let you walk through secret doors without rolling. ESP Medallions let you see monsters before you decide to fight them. Crystal Balls let you look at the monster and treasure of any room on the board. And Magic Swords give you a bonus to fighting. (Wife: How much?) There are four +1 swords and one +2 sword. (Wife: Do they stack?) No.

Under the basic rules, warriors need 30,000 gold worth of treasure to win. You have to adventure out, defeat monsters, collect treasures and return to the Main Staircase. First one to do that wins. When you play with more people, you get in each other’s way a lot, which drags out the game. With just two of us, she runs for the level 1 rooms and I head for level 4. (Wife: What?) See, I’ve played this game before (Wife: Cheater!) and I know that while it’s easy to fight level 1 and 2 monsters, many of whom need a 3 or even a 2 – you can’t roll less than 2 on two dice – to defeat, there is a disproportionate jump in difficulty from level 4 to level 5 in that level 5 is much harder than level 4, and level 4 is still statistically favorable to win while earning more valuable treasures. (Wife: Cheater! Cheater!) I know. I take a pretty quick lead, but I forgot two things. First, getting a secret door card is much easier in the lower level rooms, as is a magic sword. Second, if you go down the wrong hall to level 4, you end up having to detour through level 5 or take the long way around. (Wife: You went the wrong way?) I went the wrong way.

So, she racks up a pile of treasure, with Secret Door cards and magic swords, and while I have a pile of money I step into a level 5 room that’s too difficult. According to the rules, when you don’t kill a monster on the first attack, another player rolls for the monster and then you consult the damage table to see what the monster does to you. The results range from the monster missing and nothing happening, to dropping treasure, to being killed. (Wife: Are you dead?) She rolls a 3, so I’m not dead, but I have to drop half of my treasure and return to the Main Staircase. She’s now winning. (Wife: I’m winning!) And basically I’m screwed. My choices are to either go back to where I lost and try to reclaim my treasure and hope the next couple rooms give me enough to win, or take the loss and head for the easier rooms. The problem with the second option is that she’s been clearing out, and will continue to clear out, those rooms, so it’s a long wasted run to finally get something worthwhile. I decide to go get my stuff. (Wife: Revenge!) Revenge!

She wins. (Wife: I win!)

Having played out the basic game rather quickly, I propose we play again. Advanced this time. (Wife: You are just trying to steal my victory.) No, really, we should just play another variant. (Wife: Advanced is too complicated.) You could play a warrior again. (Wife: And you would play what?) A wizard. (Wife: Why?) Just to be different. (Wife: No, really, why?) I like wizards. (Wife: I’m not playing if you don’t tell me.) I put on my robe and hat. (Wife: Just tell me!) Fine! Because with spells you can defeat level 6 monsters really easy. (Wife: Cheater!) Whatever. We’ll both play warriors again, but we’ll clear the dungeon entirely and the winner is the one with the most treasure at the end. (Wife: Better.)

I’m not going to bore you with the details, because it was a very long game, but she won. (Wife: I win!) I avoided my earlier mistakes, but I just lost out on luck. She ended the game with literally all the Magic Swords (Wife: That don’t stack! Lame!) and most of the other special treasure cards. I didn’t get a Secret Door card until we were pushing into level 5. I also want to avoid the details because this game got really ugly. Remember that rule about having another player roll for the monsters? I recommend instead allowing the player to roll for their own damage. It’ll prevent players from being angry at other players and instead be angry at the dice. Nothing makes you hate another player quite as much as them rolling a 2 and you having to drop ALL your treasure and return to the Main Staircase. (Wife: Yeah! Screw that!) Honestly, we could have played the game a little more cutthroat, but tended to let the other get their own treasure back rather than go steal it after it was dropped.

I’m curious if the new version coming out this fall will have better or different rules. No matter what, if we ever play this again (Wife: Never!) it will be after a bunch of research on house rules that help the game be more fun.

Despite my lack of winning, I still like Dungeon! Though I fully admit that part of it is nostalgia. Back in the day (Wife: Here we go…) some of my gaming groups would use the board and modified rules along with real D&D characters. It was easier than drawing out a random dungeon map. We would just toss down the board, pick a chamber to be the entrance and start exploring. In my opinion, the game is worth owning for that alone.

Anyway…

Man, 0. Wife, 7.

(Wife: I…) Just don’t.

Allow me to retort…

Ten Ton Hammer’s WoW site has posted The Top 5 Reasons World of Warcraft is the Best MMOG.

JuliusAs the title of my post says, allow me to retort.

They say: You are never alone in Azeroth

But you are alone… so very alone. Sure, every zone on every server has players in it, but most of them won’t talk to you, largely because they don’t need to. With the game being so eminently soloable, why bog yourself down with socializing? WoW has become the epitome of the alone together, or together alone, style of play. If you aren’t in a dungeon or on a raid, all those other people are just background.

They say: Endless content means endless fun in Azeroth

Even more, they say that most games give you a single quest chain that goes from zone to zone. Easy to hold against a new game… but WoW is nearly seven years old. And still… have you played it recently? While there may be many zones to choose from that are appropriate for your level, especially after Cataclysm, there still remains only 1 real quest chain to progress you through the story of the zone. Skip some quests and others won’t unlock, you have to start at the beginning of the zone and play through or else all is lost. And once you get to the top, unless you like starting over and forcing yourself to play classes and races that weren’t your first choice, you’ll start repeating content, endlessly. Welcome to the grind, leave your fun at the door.

They say: The value for your money is insane compared to modern standards

All MMOs, even ones that aren’t WoW, are insane values for your money. Once you’ve bought in to the $15 a month fee, you can play as much as you want. The question really is, what sort of value are you getting for your time? They choose Netflix to hold it up against, and for pure money, if you still subscribe to both disc mailing and streaming, WoW is cheaper. But if you go with just streaming, because honestly if you are a real MMO player then you’ve got a DSL, cable or other high-speed connection, now Netflix is half the price. And what will you do in WoW? Dungeon Finder? Battlegrounds? Like with the previous item, unless you like playing Alts, you’ll be repeating the same content over and over. With Netflix Instant, on the other hand, as long as you don’t crave watching only the newest releases, you can watch movies and TV from all genres. A little horror, some action, a romantic comedy with the significant other, a TV show you missed that all your friends say you should have watched, cartoons for yourself or with the kids, documentaries, and so much more. If you want, you can even repeat content over and over on Netflix. Every December I watch a couple dozen Christmas movies on Netflix, I’ve seen them before, but they’re still good. Value is where you find it.

They say: There is nothing like community

I can almost agree here. WoW’s community is HUGE. Which enables you to find a niche of it you enjoy, surround yourself with them and isolate yourself from the rest of the people who are out to ruin your game. Don’t want to play with spoilers? Too bad, the community is going to ruin that for you unless you play alone with all chat turned off. Want to role play? Better get on an RP server and then find a group or guild that likes to RP the same way you do or else you’ll find yourself at the butt end of jokes or power players. And for Pete’s sake, stay the hell away from the cesspool of the official forums… unless you like that sort of thing, in which case, go, join in, and accept that other people will hate you. Want to raid? Be prepared to play their way and install the add-ons they demand. Oh, and while we are on add-ons, what about PlayerScore… the add-on that lets people judge you before they even get to know you. There is nothing like community, but there is nothing like community. This is one of those strengths that are weaknesses deals.

They say: The game is the most complete experience available

The game is polished for sure. That’s what Blizzard does best. And leveling is easy, whether you want it to be or not (you might enjoy the low-level game, but you’ll need to repeat it with other characters, be overpowered for it, or actually consciously disable your experience gain to play it). And the classes are all well-defined and have their own flavor and niches… all which boil down to tank, healer, dps. The dungeon finder works by putting a tank, a healer and 3 dps characters together. And when you use it, forget about actually seeing the dungeon. Go go go! If you stop and smell the roses, you’ll find yourself booted out of the group. In the end though, I can’t disagree with this final point. WoW is the most complete experience available. It is filled with tons of good and tons of bad. You can enjoy it, and it’ll break your heart. It is fun and boring. It is everything you want, and everything you want to avoid, all at the same time, mostly because Blizzard wants to cater to everyone, despite everyone wanting something different, some in direct opposition to each other.

In the end, you should decide for yourself if World of Warcraft is worth playing, and I say this even to the people who are playing it right now. It is easy to play, almost, one might say, addicting. But ask yourself, “Is this really how I want to spend my time?” If it is, that’s fantastic! Do it, no judgments, as long as you’ve made that decision consciously and with forethought. But if it isn’t, do yourself a favor and step away, cancel (actually cancel, don’t just “not log in” while still paying for it), try some other games or some other activities. Make sure that if you are playing WoW it is because you want to play WoW, and not just because you haven’t taken the time to think of something you’d enjoy doing more.

There. I’m done preaching.

Sneakin’ Around: Finding Dungeons

In a companion piece to yesterday’s rant on using the dungeon finder tool, playing a character who doesn’t kill means that the tool is useless to me.  So at least on this character I’ll never have to deal with that frustration.  The dungeons, however, aren’t useless.  For example, Wailing Caverns has a quest for picking up serpentblooms, which are ground spawns, so that means I can do it.  The trouble is that I have to actually go and find the dungeon.  I suppose trouble isn’t the right word, since I actually enjoy the exploring.

I know where the Deadmines are, but taking a peek at spoiler sites tells me that there aren’t any quests there for me to do as they all involve killing stuff.  Ragefire Chasm also appears to only have kill quests.  Shadowfang Keep as well.  I’m betting that most of the dungeons are going to be this way.  But many of them will also have herbs and ore to gather and mine.

In the meantime, I’m still traveling the world… just yesterday I ran all over Loch Modan looking for lost pages, which I found, and then I was ushered off to the Wetlands.

26 and roaming…

Removing Grouping – Part I

Before anyone freaks out, no, I’m not advocating solo play, nor am I actually suggesting that the grouping mechanic be removed from games.  This is simply a thought exercise.  This and the posts that follow in this series will take a look at aspects of what grouping bringstechnologically and if we can retain it while removing the mechanic of forming a formal group unit.

Note: Please keep in mind that all discussion that follows is from my own experience, so if I mention that some game did something first, don’t yell at me because some game I never played actually did it first.  Who did what first is actually irrelevant to the discussion.

The first element that comes to mind for me is communications.  Joining a group in most games provides you with a group only chat channel.  At one time this was necessary because it grew out of the design.  Some games originally only had two forms of communication: local and whisper.  Local would be just saying things and the people in range (in the room or on the screen) would see it.  Whisper was something you said directly to another player and only that person could see it.  Occasionally, games would have yelling or shouting, allowing people in adjacent rooms to see; and global, usually used by GMs to inform the entire game/server of something.  But onceEverQuest came out, and local became distance limited and shout covered only the single zone, and the game had a formal group object, they needed a way for group members to talk to each other across zones without using masses of whispers and relaying information.  Since then, most games now have the ability for players to create their own chat channels for any reason at all.  With that, rigid group chat isn’t strictly needed anymore.  Sure, its nice to have a channel you automatically join when you join a group, but since part of this is to eliminate group joining, we’ve established that the communications, if needed/desired, can be handled without the formal group.

In fact, to some degree, players don’t seem to care about group chat anymore.  When it comes to raiding or even guild chat, many people (though certainly not the casual majority) have moved over to 3rd party voice chat like Ventrilo.  This contributes to games becoming more “silent”, in my opinion, as members of your group may be happily chatting with their friends while they button push their group role with you.  I’d say this, on some level, is borne out by the recent LFG tool implement in World of Warcraft.  In that tool you can easily, almost instantly, get a group and go run a dungeon.  However, those players may be from different servers, so social interaction becomes less important beyond the dungeon and the combat happening “right now” since you are not likely to play with them again.  That is, unless they love playing with you so much, or you with them, that one of you decides to pay to move their character to a new server.  Given this, WoWcould remove group chat today and replace it with a Wizard 101 style of menu selectable phrases (“Thanks!”, “Help!”, “Kill this [insert target monster]!”, etc) and most people wouldn’t be adversely affected by the change.  They might even welcome it since the silence of a group could simply mean that everyone knows what to do and how to play, and not that people are being anti-social.

The Challenge of One

An idea that I always come back to that I wish MMOs would figure out a way to feasibly implement would be to allow a player to have only one character (or one character per server). My main reason for liking this idea are for community and accountability. If people are who they always are, its easier to find them, to remember them, and reputations have a much better chance of sticking.

However, building a game that only allows one character would necessitate design changes to the existing paradigms, or major overhauls in player expectations. Assuming I can stick with this theme for a bit, I’m going to examine different elements of existing MMOs and how they would benefit from and/or need to change for a single character per player (per server) design.

This inaugural entry is going to begin to cover what I think will be the biggest impact from a single character decision: alternate characters.

The issues brought up by not allowing alternate characters are many and deep. The first and foremost is education. If a player is new to MMOs, they may not be familiar with the various archetypes present in the genre, so when presented with a character creation screen they might be presented with descriptions of what a warrior or a cleric is, but without game experience they probably won’t understand what that description really means.

One thing I would propose would be introducing the concept of a “trainer module” to the game. A simulation of the game. Let players build a character for the trainer, any level, any skill set, any stats, any items. Then throw them into a randomly generated dungeon, an instance just for them completely detached from the game world. On one hand, this will give players a place to try out and understand characters. On the other hand, it also gives you and your players a tool for testing character builds for bugs and flaws.

If this worked out well for solo play, let players do the same thing but run through the dungeon with a group. Even PvP if you wanted. This might also be a good place to work on that LFG tool so players wanting to test can find each other. Hook it up to an IRC chat server and players can even sit around discussing the game. And if the multiplayer aspect of it works, you might even consider throwing in raid training.

The catch is, nothing is saved. These characters are not persistent. You leave and they are lost. You gain nothing. No experience points, no items, no badges, nothing. If you want to test a buid over and over, you have to rebuild it over and over. Maybe if people complain you could allow them to store builds, but that shouldn’t be a first priority, the major objective here is giving the players the ability to understand characters without investing hard work and time that they’ll get angry about later when they discover the character does not play the way they interpreted the description.

A good idea? A bad idea? Of course, no idea can exist in a vacuum, and future entries I plan to explore more options and issues.

The Path Not Spoiled

One discussion that always seems to come up with me over and over again is the problem with spoiler sites.

My first issue with them is that they are usually just information dumps. There is never any care put into the presentation of the information. Here is the quest, here are links to the item stats and maps for drops and comments from users including location coordinates and more. I would love to see sites that actually care for the game offering tiers of information, a couple levels of “hints” before the final reveal. Of course, that takes effort and since many spoiler sites ultimately strive to be ad driven click fountains of cash, its much easier to just dump information in its most Googleable form to generate as much traffic as possible.

The next issue is the justifications used by players who frequent spoiler sites. The big excuse is that they want to know what’s up with a dungeon or instance before they go so as to minimize the chance of a wipe out, especially since wiping out wastes time and costs in-game money for repairs and/or recovery. I tend to avoid spoiler sites, and when I get in groups and head into dungeons, I do my best to force my group to assess fights before charging in, to consider consequences. We don’t usually wipe out, but even if we do I try to ensure that everyone has fun doing it. Encourage people that we can do it and try again. The people who wipe out most groups are often the ones who went to a spoiler site. Either they got bad information, or incomplete information, or worse… they got spoiler tunnel vision. This happens when you need monster X for a quest and find the directions on where to find him and how to beat him, but the page you looked at didn’t mention the trap encounter in the room prior, or the 57 other encounters you have to get past before the one you want. After enough outings like this, the spoiler-reader will just up his research, making sure they know a dungeon inside out, soup to nuts, before stepping foot inside. People justify going to spoiler sites to avoid wipe outs, but it seems to me that most wipe outs occur from people using spoiler sites to avoid actually learning to play the game.

To me, games like MMOs are about the journey, the “how” of getting to your destination. The social interaction, working with others toward common goals, that is where the fun is at. It seems, from my experience, that lots of people focus entirely on the destination, and the answer to “how” is “as quickly and easily as possible.” I just don’t understand why people would invest so much time and effort into the game reducing it to collecting widgets, be it levels or items. Why play a game in a manner that intentionally avoids most of the game?

I used to play tennis. I was actually pretty good. Many of my opponents were confused by my play style (I have no back hand, I actually switch hands to utilize two fore hand swings). But I wasn’t great. I practiced, I played in a league, but as much fun as I had and as much as I wanted to play, there was a ceiling to my level of skill. So, I settled into a level of play where my opponents were challenging, where I had opportunities to both win and lose without dominating my playtime with either. And that is the approach I take toward all gaming. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and I try to win more than I lose, but neither winning all the time nor losing all the time is fun. But even so, I enjoyed tennis most when practicing and leading up to a match, or playing the match. At the end, I won or I lost, and neither matter to me at long as I felt good about how I got there.

Was I raised differently than most people? Can someone help me understand why so many folks are focused completely on the ends and are willing to justify so many means to skip right to it?