Neverwinter – That Could Have Gone Better

I bit the bullet and bought some more epics for my Cleric last night.  That got me to the 8300 gearscore (8328 I think I had) to give the Tier 2 dungeons a shot.  Queuing for a T2 dungeon was instant, even without a dungeon delve active.  Load it up, unequip all my gear to address the threat bug (go naked, re-equip) and look at the party.  2 wizards, 1 rogue and a great weapon fighter.  No tank.  Well, this should be fun.

We died on the first pull.  Not like a little died but more along the lines of stepping in dog poo wipe.  I let the party attack then put my Astral Shield down.  5 seconds later, everything but 1 target are on me.  I used a lot of potions that fight but still died. Without a healer, the only character than can survive for any amount of time is a well-played Rogue.  That wasn’t enough here.

Tried it again and this time we made some progress.  The wizards remembered that they were called Control Wizards for a reason.  They kept things together, the GWF and Rogue took care of the damage and I healed.  We couldn’t just run up to enemies either, we needed to pull them to us to avoid the natural chain pulls that occur in the game.  Aggro ranges are odd.

We get to the first boss, some guy with a mouth for a head.  That’s got to suck.  Anyways, he has 3 spawning pools around him that continuously spawn adds, 4 at a time.  So not only do you have a giant mouth attacking you, there is like a dozen enemies at the same time.  Threat being non-existent without a tank, I died a few times.  We somehow had the boss teleport to our spawning area and that let us kill him and move on.  Weird bug.

Moving on, we get to see more and more of these giants who deal 75% of my health in a single hit.  Fun!  There were some absolutely insane pulls on this trek and my hat is off to the group for surviving it.  Very impressive.

Then we get to the last boss.  He’s a super mega giant with 2 friendly giants around him.  Plus some other trash. And there are what seems to be 4 portals in the room that summon Berserkers.  If you don’t know what these guys are, they start off weak and once they hit 25% hit points, they hit like a convoy of Mac trucks.  I can heal 2 of them at once but 4, plus 2 giants, plus a boss?  What?

First attempt was ok, we killed one giant them got swamped.  Second attempt we tried to nuke the boss. I put Astral Seal on the boss, which causes players to heal when attacking.  That turned the ENTIRE ROOM on my butt and I died within 15 seconds.  Third attempt was tying to clean out a side of the room, no luck there.  Did I mention everything respawns in the boss room when you die?  No?  Anyways, we wiped a solid 6 times and everyone was out of repair kits at the end.   Healing isn’t the problem, threat is.  And it’s a massive one.

See, I’ve been spoiled by WoW and every other LFD tool in existence.  Games have 3 roles, tank, healer and DPS.  A LFD tool should fill in those slots appropriately.  That a Cleric is the only class that can heal and that a Guardian Fighter is the only class that can tank, you would think this would be simple to implement.  Healer/Tank + 3 anything else.  I mean anything.  Worse is that if someone leaves your group, you can’t replace them.  Aghhh!

Guild runs are cool but I have yet to find a guild that runs more than 2 teams at any given time.  And because dungeons are long, you could wait an hour or more for a team to be ready.  LFD with a premade group and people to fill the slots makes sense.  Just for the love of pete, please make sure there’s a tank and a healer or just don’t make a group.

Neverwinter – That Was Different

In the previous post is a picture of my character.  The purple items are tier 1/2.  As you can see, there are a few slots that I need to fill out.  The cool thing about the Queue system (very similar to LFG) is that it tells you up front what to expect as loot in a given dungeon.  Seeing as how I need a belt and a rings, I queued up for Cragmire Crypts.  I also queued up for a few more dungeons (you can queue as many as you’d like) but CC prompted me before I had a chance to add too many more.

A side note here, the game has ongoing events during the day that add extra rewards.  Sometimes it’s extra PvP currency, sometimes extra XP from the Foundry and a few more.  One in particular is called Dungeon Delves.  This one guarantees a personal chest at the end of a dungeon, if you ENTER the dungeon during the event.  Could take you 4 hours to finish but the chest will be there.  I’ve only done one, but it gave me a decent ring.  The ring was bind on pickup though, hopefully this isn’t always the case.  Would hate to trash repeats when I could put them on the auction house.  (gamer says do this, the design freak says this is a bad idea).  Without the event, there are only 2 drops a dungeon.

I had mentioned a few times in the past that grouping in Neverwinter was tough in that a few items were quite different than the standard WoW seems to have put up.  Threat is extremely hard to manage on multiple enemies.  During boss fights, Cleric will take nearly all the attacks because of this.  The days of just AE blasting enemies are gone since boss trash are practically mini-bosses in themselves.  Also, the group finder tool is incapable of balancing groups outside of a healer and a tank.  I had one with 3 rogues, two of whom dropped right away.  The queue system is also unable to add more people to an on-going run and since you can’t teleport people to the group, it effectively kills any run as soon as someone drops.

So, grouping is harder since people have to pay attention.  Healing is tougher since you’re going to get hit a lot (I healed nearly 3 million the last run and average HP is ~20-25K per player).  Chaos is higher and you need to better use your skills or things will go bad and go very very bad.  The thing about today is that the players at 60 are not casual.  To be at 60 today means you put in a fair amount of time and that raises the skill bar a tad.  I am certain this will change with time, as it has with every other game.  Bell curve and whatnot.

This run went well.  Very well in fact.  Enemies died quickly.  We only had 3 people die to bad luck.  The last boss was a mess mind you but he died and none of us did.  The entire run at max level took about 40 minutes.  I remember doing it while leveling and it took well over an hour.  Made some new contacts, had a blast.  Would do it again in a heartbeat.

And here’s the real kicker.  The Queue system works instantly during a dungeon delve.  If that event is not active, you could wait 30 minutes.  It’s crazy what incentives will do.

The Trinity’s Crutch

Last night I ran a dungeon in Neverwinter as a Cleric.  Throne of Idris.  We had 1 Wizard, 2 Great Weapon Fighters and 1 Rogue.  That’s right, no tank.  I died a fair bit and the last boss was a 10 minute+ fight (well, on the 3rd attempt) of running around after the Wizard left and the GWF died, leaving us with 3 to kill a 5 man boss.  I danced and jived and sucked back healing potions and screamed when the boss finally dropped dead.  It was a ton of fun.  It was also a level 40 dungeon that took over 90 minutes.

I’ve been gaming for quite a long time and 99% of it deals with combat.  Sometimes this is a war of words but often with someone taking a blunt instrument to the head.  In both cases, combat is a combination of taking an attack, recovering from the attack and giving your own attack.  Hence the Holy Trinity concept of Tank, Healer and DPS.  Other than Guild Wars 2, I can’t think of any class-based game that didn’t explicitly focus on this trinity.  Sandboxes (EvE, UO, DF, etc…) are not included since most players will build a character with all 3 facets.

In older versions of D&D (pre v4), you had the concept of trinity but a lack of good tools.  You needed a great GM and a decent ruleset to make it work.  Or really good players.  A bad GM would send everyone after the Cleric or Wizard, then slowly choke down the rest of the group.  MMOs brought the concept of Threat as a mechanic to the table, where players were ranked, based on actions, and the monsters attacked the player at the top of the list.  At lower skill levels, this works rather well since DPS and Tanks and Healers are somewhat even in terms of output, since the scale is small.  At higher levels, as is evident in WoW, DPS will outpace a tank’s threat by exponential factors.  Inversely, as tanks get better, healers have less threat since they have less to heal.  Until that point, Healers are wearing “kick me” signs.

Developers try to address these issues with 3 tools.  The first is a threat modifier, where you do more/less threat per action based on your skills or class.  Tanks typically want more, healers a whole lot less and DPS can be used as the middle ground.  Using WoW again as an example, Vengeance provides a DPS boost to a tank based on the damage they take.  This gives tanks the ability to hold threat against tons of enemies while DPS is going wild.

The second is with a taunt.  A taunt does one of two things.  Either it gives you a massive boost of threat or it puts you at the top of the threat list.  The former only seems like the latter when you’re close to the top.  I’m still trying to figure out if Neverwinter uses the 2nd type or not.

The third method is called a threat wipe, and it’s usually seen as dirty pool by players.  This is where a boss is going smooth and all of a sudden he forgets everything that’s happened and you need to restart the whole threat dance.

I play a Cleric and a Tank in Nevewinter.  Again, Open Beta disclaimer.  Threat in the game is currently broken and it’s enough to reduce my enjoyment of the multiplayer aspect of the game.  As a Cleric, one bug fix is that I need to remove all my gear then re-equip it to have a chance to survive any group encounter.  The way the Cleric works is through mostly Heal over Time spells.  Given that there are continual spawns on a boss, any boss encounter I’m going to get swamped with enemies, so I tend to gather them up and run to the middle pile, hoping the tank can get them.  Which isn’t often.  As a Tank, I have a 15 second taunt that seems to make the enemies turn to me, then turn away after 1 hit.  My threat building skills work in a small cone in front of me and for them to really work, I need to block all attacks (due to the mechanics of the Mark skill).  Since blocking means not moving, I can’t really pick up the adds and keep the boss on me.  I’ve worked a few things out so far but jeebus is it ever hard to keep threat active.

As much as I enjoyed the dungeon run last night, there were 3 or 4 times where I just wanted to quit the run from sheer frustration.  The thing that kept me going were the other players and the attitude of “damn this game, we’re going to beat it”.  I ended the run with no drops, next to no experience gain, 90 minutes out of pocket but 3 new names added to the friends list.  Something to cheer about after all.

Also, I need to get FRAPS re-installed…