Icewind Kindness

This past weekend was an Icewind Dale bonus weekend, so I decided to take it as an opportunity to do some quests there on my three characters that haven't completed that campaign yet. Two of them hadn't even started yet, and it occurred to me that with their low gear levels, Biggrin's Tomb wasn't going to be very fun to do on my own.

I often see people looking for groups for it in zone chat however, so I figured I'd find myself one or more other not too well-geared people and we'd do it together. Somewhat to my surprise though, both times when I answered a call asking whether anyone needed Biggrin's Tomb, I actually ended up in the company of a seriously overgeared character who was just rushing through for their own weekly anyway and who had just felt like offering someone else a free ride while they were at it.

I was really surprised by those random acts of niceness and I'll try to remember to pay it forward next time I go in there on one of my own better geared characters.



Cash in Neverwinter has always been in a bit of an odd place. As a new player, I remember that the prospect of needing however many gold it was to buy my first white quality horse seemed quite daunting. (They've since changed it so that you get the starter mount for free.) After that though, the usefulness of coins quickly dropped off, because beyond maybe buying some basic potions from a vendor, there wasn't much you could do with them, what with even the auction house trading in astral diamonds.

Over time, Cryptic tried to make gold a little more useful, by making it the currency required to swap out enchantments (used to be AD) and requiring gold deposits to the guild coffer for certain guild upgrades. In practice though, most people still always had way, way more gold than they'd ever be able to find a use for.

Well, the workshop has changed all of that, because the prices some artisans charge to craft things are no joke. I was initially quite thrilled by the new option to put them to work "indefinitely" (until your delivery box is full at least) but it only took a few days for me to realise that this was quickly draining all my gold reserves, which felt very weird considering that in the old crafting system most tasks were cash-neutral or even positive.

Unblogged since had an article about how there's at least one item you can craft to generate lots of gold, though I'm wondering whether in typical Cryptic fashion that wasn't actually intended and will soon be hotfixed or even considered an exploit. I've been trying it anyway, as I figure it's just gold, and since that's not tied to the "real" economy it's unlikely to be a big issue. It's still strange to suddenly be even thinking about my gold reserves though.



A new quality of life change in Heart of Fire is that you don't have to manually loot items anymore. The way it used to be was that you could loot money by simply running over it (it appears as little piles of cash on the ground after defeating an enemy), while actual items required you to run over/target a little glowy thing on the ground, wait for the interaction prompt to come up, and hit F to loot it.

This has now been changed so that like money - and lockboxes actually - you pick up all items by simply running over them.

A part of me is actually kind of disappointed by this. I remember when trying LOTRO, I was quite weirded out by how loot just appeared in my bags automatically. I enjoy the act of looking at and sorting out what rewards I just earned from defeating an opponent - if they just go into my bags without me doing anything, that makes for a very disconnected experience.

On the other hand though... whenever the game was laggy, it could be a real pain to have to wait for the loot prompt to come up for every single item drop, so I like not having to worry about that anymore, and of course not having to click repeatedly makes the whole process a lot faster. I'll still have to run around to gather my shinies at least, so it's not as if they fully automated the whole thing just yet.


You Thought Poop Quests Were Bad?

Well yes, they are, but I bet your MMO hasn't asked you to literally crawl up a giant's rectum and clean out his bowel (yet). In Heart of Fire, this isn't just a quest, it's one that's repeatable once a week.

Yeah, I'm not quite sure what to make of the humour in this module. I was never really a fan of the Penny Arcade comic... every now and then someone would link me a particular strip about MMO mechanics or something and I'd go "heh yeah, that's pretty spot on" but if I tried to browse the archives at all I'd quickly get bored as I didn't find most of them even mildly amusing.

The new storyline in Heart of Fire is at least kind of funny so far; it's just all incredibly over the top, with characters constantly spouting anachronistic dialogue or the story centering on juvenile jokes like the quest mentioned above. It's all just a little bit jarring when compared to the rest of the game.


I Can Has Workshop?

Heart of Fire release day! Most of my evening was taken up by trying to figure out the new professions system, and my first impression is mostly great, with a little bit of annoyance thrown in.

I do like that they changed it from the equivalent of a lame time waster into something that's properly integrated with the rest of the game, with quests and everything. I enjoyed working my way through the associated story so far, until I hit a brick wall in the form of a "craft items worth 500,000 points" quest.

This does bring me to the main negative I have so far, which is that as someone who used to have everything maxed out, it feels a bit annoying to be held back by time-gated stuff like that again, even if Cryptic was generally generous with letting you convert old resources to new. I imagine it's going to be a bit of a chore to get all my alts back up to speed.



About two years ago, I made a point of doing the Siege of Neverwinter event on my paladin to get her the Neverwinter Champion's Charger, an armoured horse mount that, among other things, stood out for its funny walk. Instead of galloping like most horses, it ran at a very fast trot, which was not completely unique - the Jubilee Parade Horse uses the same animation - but rare. It made the rider look a littlie bit uppity and just a tad ridiculous, which suited my pally just fine.

Well, image my horror when I had to discover this week that they apparently patched that out! Now my charger gallops just like any other old horse. I am disappoint. What an odd change to make.


VIP Withdrawal

With how intensely I've been playing for the past few months, I've been purchasing VIP time throughout most of that and actually reached max VIP rank at long last. This week I let it run out though, as I've been taking a bit of a break until the release of the next module and didn't want to feel like I had to log in every day to claim my free keys during that time.

On the occasions I do log in, I've been missing the perks like mad though! Mostly I keep trying to invoke in places where I can't, and I've previously written a post about what makes the travel signpost so attractive. Now I also miss the ability to summon a mailbox or banking portal at will.

It's funny to me how much I've come to rely on VIP features after not finding them that attractive when they first came out. I still think that the game is very easily playable without them, but once you get used to the extra convenience it's really annoying to have to make do without it. I have to give credit to Cryptic there for managing to hit a sweet spot in terms of usefulness.


River District Heroic Nerf

I didn't find completing the Cloaked Ascendancy for a second time too bad - what with using a Signet of Patronage and being able to complete the area's daily quest in about ten minutes by chaining five of the small heroic encounters.

A couple of months ago Cryptic already nerfed the seal rewards from those heroics, but I didn't really care much about that at the time because I wasn't running them for the seals anyway; I was running them to progress the campaign.

Fast forward to this week, when I decided to start my third character on the River District... just to find that at some point in the recent past, Cryptic also nerfed the heroics' contribution to the daily quest. While you could previously complete it from five encounters, now you need twice as many, presumably in an attempt to push more people towards doing the mini lairs instead, which I don't like very much. (Unless those have been nerfed too. I didn't try.)

I'm feeling really dejected by this - why make an old campaign that already suffers from being somewhat boring and grindy even more so? I get that this game is very much about grinding, but at least when it came to older content, Cryptic used to be a bit more generous and tended to lower requirements over time instead of raising them.


Goodbye, Salvage

We've had another dev blog with accompanying forum thread on an upcoming Heart of Fire change: the concept of salvaging high-end gear (turning it into unrefined astral diamonds) is going away, and instead this gear will now just turn into refinement points like lower level gear.

My first reaction was a proper Darth Vader-like "Nooo!" though I guess in fairness, we don't really know just how bad it's going to be yet. The devs say that they'll add AD as a reward to lots of activities to compensate for the loss from salvaging, but they don't have a history of getting that sort of rebalancing right very often.

It's still going to be a nerf for me either way, because as it stands, I'd often collect gear on the weekend when I had more time to play, and then slowly salvage it throughout the week to maximise my bonus AD from invoking. After this change I won't be able to "save up" AD this way anymore, so if I don't have as much time to play during the week, well that's just too bad.

I suppose I should have seen it coming though, as I've been feeling quite comfortable with my AD acquisition levels lately, considering my casual level of play. One thing I've learned throughout the years is that if something is working well for me on a casual level, Cryptic will rate it as crazily unbalanced at the high-end, and it will be nerfed soon afterwards.


Don't Hate Mondays

I have a habit of staying up late on Sundays when I shouldn't, probably because subconsciously I don't want the weekend to end. As a result I tend to feel very tired by Monday evening and usually don't game as much as I would on another day.

I'm starting to think though that I might be missing out by not playing on Mondays more often. The first time I noticed this was when I happened to spend a Monday in Borovia, where the map was being positively depopulated by all the hardcore players running around and slaughtering everything in sight to quickly get their weekly done, and when the big heroic on Yester Hill popped, I never saw Thornspur die so quickly before.

This week I observed the same phenomenon when I quickly jumped into Omu one more time, the Tyrant came up, and people killed everything so quickly that I actually got the achievement for keeping all the beast cages intact. Plus at the end, where the Tyrant is supposed to run away when his health gets low - well, it did still happen because the script commanded it, but strictly speaking his health had already hit zero a long time ago. Just finding a good group to tag along with makes this kind of content so much easier.