Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A lesson in economics

So I have this friend who's big time into race rewards trading, and we were just talking. Apparently the racing population has gone way, way up in S5 and S6. I mean, I don't blame them. Release, right? With all the population increase that entails? But that's not the only reason. 

Firstly, you might have noticed a pattern in the race rewards. Yes, I know, a sample size of 2 is statistically insignificant...but it's not just statistics at work here, is it? Besides the obvious - craft white at 50 - it appears that 80 is a legacy and 135 is a (relatively) high value unique. There are also higher value rewards at 600 and 1000 than there were previously. For the most part.

We think it stands to reason that the 135 reward is an incentive for racing. Legacy, well you know my thoughts on the matter already. I'm glad they're doing it. Supply and demand: the supply just got cheaper/better. Infinite supply at the given price of 135 points. Demand goes up and some new equilibrium is reached.

There's another factor at work here, too. Alt art became much bigger business once the appearance microtransaction showed up. Basic supply and demand again, obviously: said mtx creates a demand, mostly in SC, for pretty alt-art items. Thus, more people are tempted into providing the supply.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

This is what I've been saying all along


Life has been busy, I meant to make this post a while back and it kept getting pushed back. Analysis of the above linked thing:

- I'm told people were paying 4c for cruel Dominus. Considering that was the most lethal area in the game, not surprised. Qarl's post suggests that they will be looking at it. Like I said, it's overtuned, and I've been saying this for a long time.
- Yeah, people make 90 in a week. I don't have that kind of dedication, and hats off to those who do. Most of the big names in racing are notably absent, though...maybe a week is too long? Level 90 was the top 0.008%, two people made it, therefore one person is 0.004% of the total race population. And so 25 000 characters were made on the race, in total.
- Class breakdown 60+ points to the prevalence of spec throwers, I believe. Ditto 80+. The pattern does not hold for 60-. Likely a combination of other styles being less survivable/efficient/etc, and the players' choices behind the computers. I'd say it's almost a given that, of the population willing to put in the effort to make 60 or 80 in a week, a larger proportion of them are efficiency players and picked ST for exactly that reason.
- IR is popular because it smooths out the experience. Evasion is strong, but it has its moments; armour guarantees you'll get hit, if for smaller amounts, and consistency is pretty important when you don't get a second chance.
- It being a one week race, and CI gear being generally more expensive and harder to get relative to life gear, no surprise on the lack of CI characters. Why is it suggested that IR needs to be looked at, but CI doesn't?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A hybrid defenses build

thoughts post

It did strike my fancy to make a hybrid build. Where are the better ES nodes to be found, templar or shadow? Most probably templar.

As Essentia is a low DPS claw, I expect to offhand it and use a mainhand-only skill. Therefore: X - splash - multi - life on hit, etc etc. That, or ground slam, or some other mainhand forcer. Since Essentia's bonus 10% block only applies to dual claws, hm, maybe I'll stick to double strike. This here's flexible enough, anyway.

skill tree

Here's an 80ish points beginning of an idea for a build. It has lots of INT trouble, and 126% HP in addition to the usual ES. Fair amount of damage nodes too, perhaps even a bit much. RT just on the way, and passing near most major weapon clusters for whatever the main hand weapon-of-choice is. Might I suggest an axe? Of course, then the accuracy node right at the start can be skipped. And yes, that's VP, because why not. We aren't getting much by way of regen, with low HP, and it goes so nicely with GR.

skill tree

Alternatively, there's a fair amount of crit available on this half of the tree. Accuracy nodes have been added, because they are most definitely necessary, and even so I'd be trying for acc on helm, gloves and if possible even weapon - or just an additional accuracy gem, which provides crit chance with quality. It's a level 86 tree though - I'd probably cut down on some of the damage nodes before then, since crit is better damage all around.

See commentary on Tiurakh doublestrike build for play style, though as an armour character I'd probably be playing it slightly differently. It's a really long shot, but I saw someone with a 300pdps Tiger's Paw once - that'd be hands down the best weapon here, since it has intrinsic LoH and I might be able to get away with not using that gem.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

TIL: do not stand next to Vaal when he dies in an Immolation race

Also, if you make a witch in a no-projectiles race, plan to kill Hillock unarmed. Herp derp. Ditto ranger. Witch is popular though, because a lot of skills (firestorm) bypass the projectile thing. Without going too much into detail on our race strategy, I will say that party racing is a lot more fun than solo, and far more efficient as well.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Why I am not in favour of SFL

Part 1
Part 2

To recap: the three ways to earn currency are playing the game, playing the market, and playing the slots. (That last one is crafting, and yes, it really does resemble nothing so much as a slot machine. I have the 6S5Ls to prove it.)

How does this stack up against the idea of SFL?

1. playing the game - this is true, and you get drops and stuff, but are you keeping good items or no?
2. playing the market, what market?
3. playing the slots - also possible, but you're only making items for yourself here...

From here it comes to an obvious point: do you hoard good items, expecting to use them on future characters? (There's a sub-point. How good is "good"? For sure it isn't, relative to the majority of items on the market...but meh, moving on. I'll define that as good enough to use, for the moment.) Is there stash space to do so?

What about items you simply don't have? The nature of this game is that it depends a fair amount on items. This could be build enabler uniques, or it could simply be sufficient ES on gear to go CI, or it could be finding a suitable weapon. In the worst case, it's finding sufficient HP/resists on gear to continue without getting 1-shot by any and all elemental damage or just any damage in general.

Before you ask me what about crafting. Let me turn around and ask you, how many chaos does it take to get good enough rolls on armour to keep instead of vendoring? Be realistic here, you won't find more than ~3 regals before merciless, so that's out. I suggest that you'll end up rolling HP+resist using alterations, at least at first. There's the option of alching gear and using the alc recipe to recoup costs, of course. Be realistic here, how long until you run out of scraps and whetstones? No, you can't buy more, you're self-found.

But Kiri, these are all first character blues! Surely after getting one character to maps, he can hunt down gear for the rest?

Yeah, it gets easier as you get more items. This is true, it's always true. I'd say it's not necessarily all first character blues either, takes at least 3 or 4 characters before you have actually good level-appropriate gear at all levels.

But there is another point to consider. In an SFL, you're limited to what drops you find and what items you make. All well and good for rare armour. What if you want to make a facebreaker build? What if you've just gotten a Crown of Eyes and no Phoenix or Shav, what do you do with it? And what if you want to make a weapon (non spell) build? Any weapon goes for the first 30, even 45 levels, but you try making reasonable clear time with any randomly alched weapon in early merciless, instead of a decent %phys (possibly with a +phys roll, but I'm not that picky.) No, in SFL the builds you can make are limited by the gear you already have, because you can't guarantee getting pieces you need as you go along.

In a league with an economy, there are ways to get around it, and there are ways to earn currency even if it sometimes feels like that Shav is perpetually out of reach. Just keep saving and you'll get there eventually. What do you have in SFL? Just keep playing, and maybe one day you'll drop or chance one. I've played over half a year of almost-daily play, some of it high MF, a lot of it high maps, frequently 10 or 15 hours a day on weekends and free days. I've seen maybe 3 Ambu's Charge, Crusader Chainmail drop. Not all were mine. I've chanced exactly one unique in maybe 5ex worth of chances. When you look at it that way, that Infernal Mantle sure cost me a lot, didn't it? For a good number of build enablers, chancing and dropping are the exception, not the norm; it's not unreasonable to say that you only build what the RNG wants you to build, in SFL.

There is another point. 

You want to play in an SFL league? You're gated by length of time played, luck of the draw, everything that has to do with items. The economy is there partly to reduce the extreme variability of item drops; it ensures that whatever you need, you'll probably be able to find it for a price you can reasonably pay. It was said once, somewhere, that if trading was made any easier then good items would have to be made even harder to get in order to keep the approximately same level of item gating. (There is logic in that, though I'd say go right ahead and I'll eat the RNG penalty if it means trading becomes less annoying and inconvenient.) The inverse applies too: if trading is harder or nonexistent, any content gated by items becomes suddenly much, much harder to reach. There are people playing self-found who have done maps up to 78, but I guarantee you the proportion of self-found people doing higher maps is very much smaller than their non-self-found counterparts. Particularly if you only consider people who've cleared merciless Piety at least once. 

tl;dr build diversity issues, item gating

There's also player interaction issues, and I feel that a lot of people who are "in favour" of SFL are actually just very irritated by the current trading system, but who am I to tell them what they feel. 

Why would you voluntarily lock yourself out of half the content? 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Great success! (to an extent) in descent: champions

previous post 1
previous post 2

I died at Brutus because I stupidly spent all my flasks in the chamber of greed. Noobiest noob mistake ever. Getting to that point was fun, though. Shadow build, picked up a claw from the beginning, used reave and firetrap. Item choices were the belt and the club. The former because improving flask recovery really is fantastic, and the latter because that's what caught my attention to begin with. I mean, you'd either be doing that with fireball or firetrap, right? ...ooh, something else to play with!

But anyway. Great success so far and I hope to actually play through to the end with this.

Something of note. My hotkey setups have reave and lightning trap defaulting to the same slot, so while I do actually have space for both, along with everything else I use, my reflexes and instincts...don't really go there. Ended up using WB to return life on hit after putting in lightning trap, go figure.

Something else of note. If you don't pay attention to room clearing, at least to a reasonable extent, you're going to end up way underleveled for a zone. I try to remain in XP range at least, so 3 levels' difference. This problem is only exacerbated by the trapper tendency to run off and do something else while the traps handle the mobs. Or maybe that's just a me tendency, who knows.

Single target is still a bit of an issue. It's playable, as in throw down fire/bear/lightning traps, if possible close in and use viper strike and if not then just kite around, but it's not nearly as reliable as I like it to be. And I haven't tested that against Gravicius so I wouldn't know.

Everything else relevant to D:C general applies, like get good resists, etc etc.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

On the practice of paying for boss kills

That's it, I swear I am done with playing main characters in HC leagues once this one's over. See previous. RIP me. (Of course, we'll see how long that resolve lasts, next time...) I suppose at least I have a map-capable SC character now. Maps are harder than cruel Dominus, who knew? >.>

I still think the difficulty spike at Sceptre is too steep. But as of the time of typing this, I'm standing at the top of the tower, a freshly minted level 50, about to wake up Dominus's minions. I've been playing solo all the way, using 2h ST linked with life on hit. It's a great leveling build, and I'm told it's great for killing Dominus as well. Guy I talked to yesterday said he was selling cruel Dominus kills at level 60 as ST.

For the past couple of days, I've been selling cruel Piety and Dominus kills. It bought me a headhunter, a really good armour piece (now in SC, incidentally) and start-up currency in Domination. The buyers are mostly of two kinds: the ones who simply can't be bothered to go it solo, since they're leveling new characters, and the ones who don't dare to play him. Considering my first few attempts at Dominus, I can hardly blame them. And I most definitely can't blame the former group either - I've probably had as many characters act rushed as I have levelled the regular way.

You know what the most interesting thing about it was? In however many hours of runs, totaling maybe a couple days' worth of playtime, I got to know Dominus really, really well. People fear what they don't know, see. At level 71, know or not, I'm not going to get killed that easily.

Someone else's cruel Dominus log (blue items only) and thoughts on the matter

Yeah, I'd rather pay someone than end up fighting the way he did. No offense intended. And as for practising on normal Dominus? Uh, I kind of did that at Cruel. After I ripped, the first thing I did was take my entire setup the exact way it was and go finish off the couple of merciless quests I hadn't done. (Two out of sheer laziness, and one was Dominus.) Died once at merc Dominus, and this when I know everything he does and the actual range of his skills and everything. Nothing really prepares you for the damage you can take. Of course, part of the reason is that I played it with the SC mentality: just try it, and if it gets you killed then try it again but a little bit more carefully, and if that doesn't work then try something else. The HC mentality is much closer to "don't try it if you don't have an escape route", and considering the amount of damage Dominus does when you're at the level "appropriate" to fight him, you don't always have an escape. You can get killed in 200ms - even before the information reaches your computer from the server, on a bad day.

This is with a build I am completely confident can take on (almost) all the content in the game, having extensively tested it on SC prior to playing it on HC. There are builds which simply cannot do some content at any level, mostly map-exclusive like Weaver, Shock and Horror, Piety, Megaera. But while I'm confident my FP build could probably take on normal Dominus at level 50, I'm not at all confident it could do the same for cruel at the same level. First form Dominus is something of a pain for me, second form is a cakewalk and I stall it while waiting for customers to get through the portal. First form is a cakewalk for my dual totem buddy, second form he can't reliably do at all without portals. Even Lunaris Piety can be a significant issue for certain builds, such as (some) totem and summoner builds. And don't get me started on normal Crematorium Piety as a summoner. Honestly.

Different builds are strong at different level points and at different content, and that's all there is to it. If you're playing a build not suited to it, why not get someone else to do it for you? There's no functional difference between paying for a kill and joining a party to do it if you're not going to contribute much, except the party is less reliable, slower and will proc Dominus with more HP. I do actually have a bit of a problem with taking that easy way out before trying it the regular way, mind. But there's no shame in trying, failing (including realising you won't succeed) and then paying someone to get you through the gate to the next level.

All comes back to the difficulty setting, doesn't it? Which I still think is overtuned for a3x in general and Sceptre/Dominus in particular.

Here's to reaching merciless on my future bow templar. This has been an entertaining interlude. I'm going to start the fight now.