Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Path of Exile: Awakening and RPG accounting

Aww Come ON!

I've been saying a lot of that lately...

So in the past few months I've been hot and cold on Path of Exile.  On one hand it's the best RPG I've played in a long time.  On the other, it can be a maddening, lag-filled, unbalanced, grind fest that drives me insane.

Nothing's obvious.  That is, nothing's obvious that will do you any good.

Yes, it's the standard medieval/fantasy RPG with requisite character types and boss battles and about 90% of the time it follows the RPG formula.  You fight, you level, you fight some more, you level again and along the way pick up some goodies that (hopefully) make the process easier.

It's that damned 10%

10 lousy percent that makes me want to break the furniture...

Within the infernal 10, as I like to call it, are things like: an ambiguous skill tree, a weird currency system, and seemingly spontaneous lag even when you're playing alone.

Relatively small things but they can get in the way.  For example, playing with friends online can be a tedious process of searching for their "instance" of the game.  Yet you can still join their party even if you can't see them!

Or that currency system. Oh lord what a convoluted mess.  I get the whole gold thing has been done to death but unless you just happen to find a lot of those precious "orbs" that you need to improve or purchase equipment, you're going to be stuck in RPG spreadsheet hell for awhile.

There are players that have made an entire career out of what boils down to RPG accounting.  Play the game for more than an hour and you'll be forced to do it too.  Let's try an example of a popular "orb" that I find a use for regularly.

It's called an "Orb of fusing" and it's purpose is to link up your equipment "skill sockets" so that you can use things like "support gems" to buff up your "skill gems."

By the way, that's another complaint.  You'd think that linking all those sockets would be a good thing but you could end up with strange results.  In my case I linked 5 sockets and instead of getting added value from previously isolated skills, I ended up with a strange amalgamation.  

My formerly separate "Fire traps" and "Arc" spells had been merged into a kind of "Arc Trap."  It looked cool but really wasn't what I was shooting for.  I'd never seen this happen before the Awakening update and honestly I couldn't have dreamed up this outcome if I tried.

Anyway, back to my spreadsheet story...

So say you want to get an "Orb of Fusing" and you didn't happen to find one in your travels across Wraeclast...

You're going to need to do some math and some travelling.  First, know that the word "gold" in this game is purely used as an adjective.  Every item has a value starting at the most menial scraps (scroll fragments) which really dont' have much value at all other than to combine to make the equivalent of a penny.

Now assuming you still want that "orb of fusing" and you're starting from zero you'd better get yourself a bunch of "portal scrolls"  Yes, the lowest meaningful currency is actually the "Scroll of Wisdom" but other than identifying anything that says,, "unidentified"  in its description, they're pretty much worthless for all but buying the "real" baseline currency.

So here's what you''l need to do to get 1 and only 1 Orb of fusing.

You'll need....

7 Portal Scrolls to get 1 Orb of Transmutation
4 Orbs of Transmutation to get 1 Orb of Augmentation
4 Orbs of Augmentation to get 1 Orb of Alteration ( I always confuse those 2)
2 Orbs of Alteration to get 1 Jeweler's Orb
and finally 4 Jeweler's Orbs to get 1 and only 1 Orb of Fusing...

By the way, to get all these orbs is going to take A LOT of time and you'll be running between no less than 2 vendors in two different Acts to get everything you need. (* 3 Acts if you need any more valuable Orbs.)

Check out http://pathofexile.gamepedia.com/Currency To get the full conversion chart.

Considering how often you're going to need to use Orbs to get anywhere in this game ( in the case of a Portal Scroll I mean that literally) that's an awful complex way of building a character.  

The worst part is, it's not obvious.  Oh yeah, devout RPG players will say there's always been an element of this madness to varying degrees but by the time you get competent you might as well have a PHD in RPG!

Don't even get me started on the strange effects that can happen once you start actually using these "Orbs" for their intended function.  Strange outcomes like my Arc Trap which effectively combined and made useless 2 separate skills all from one little "Orb of Fusing"  

The whole reason I got into this mess was because an otherwise awesome piece of equipment was made less so because the skill sockets weren't linked.  

Using Orbs is akin to rolling dice in an RPG board game.  So just because you spent hours trying to get the right combinations of currency to get that one perfect Orb doesn't mean things will necessarily turn out the way you expected.

Which is where the whole RPG market thing comes in.  You may have to use 20 Orbs of Fusing before you get the desired outcome and that can get expensive.

Which has spawned a spinoff marketplace where players trade using in game currency and sometimes actually buy (with $$$) items. In case you're wondering, yes if you're caught buying Path of Exile items outside the game ( with $$$) you will get banned and so will whomever is selling to you.

So at least we won't have the Diablo 3 marketplace problem but I have to wonder if making the whole thing this complicated was really necessary.  

For me it takes the fun out of a game when things aren't clearly defined.  Path of Exile Wiki's abound but none of them address the game's nuances which can put you at a real disadvantage.  

It's almost as if the developers have taken all of this way too seriously.  It's a free to play game not a lifestyle choice guys.  
It didn't have to be this hard...

There are times where the tedium of all of this "game maintenance" gets the better of me.  RPG players know full well the dangers of playing a character with inferior equipment.  The more they level the more critical it becomes to level their equipment with them.

Path of Exile makes that difficult.  With this huge accounting mess and the voodoo involved in getting the perfect combination of buffs sometimes it just doesn't seem worth it.

I like to play a game not spend half of my time doing the equivalent of balancing my checking account.

Some of that is necessary but there's a bit too much of it in Path of Exile.  

I pretty much sum it all up in the first 45 seconds of the video below....


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Path of Exile: Finally my Awakening has happened!

So last weekend I was determined to see Act 4.  In my last POE article I lamented on how changes to the core game since the Awakening update had effectively handicapped all my characters.

Life's boring without adversity so with a bit of skill point shuffling, equipment hacking (as in jeweled orbs) and some patience I finally got to Act 4 with my highest level character.  That happened to be my witch: both a good and bad thing.  Good because there was a very real chance she'd finally level up but bad because in cruel mode she's basically a bullet sponge.

With the help of Shotglass I was able to win the Dominus battle in cruel mode but not before losing half a level of experience points.  We continued on to Act 4 and got our feet wet.

Later, I took my most promising character, the Marauder, through Act 3 and then on to Act 4 all on his own.  He was in normal mode and as such things went easier for him.  Long story short he actually finished Act 4 and gained a few levels in the process.

One thing that seemed puzzling was that Act 4 was actually a bit easier for my characters than Act 3 except for the boss battles.  Where my Witch or Ranger might actually be bested by a mob of baddies in Act 4 they were no worse than the challenge of a new character in say, Act 2.

So there it is. I've finally arrived and my opinion is somewhat improved.  Of course I haven't run the witch very far into Act 4's cruel mode yet...

Video evidence below!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Making the LiveStream Switch

I've been streaming on Twitch for a few months now and while it's the de-facto game streaming service I've had my issues with it.  

Server outages, lost broadcasts and highlight exports to YouTube with no sound.

Hey, it's a free service so you can't expect perfection.  But that last one, messing up the YouTube exports, is problematic for me.

I don't have enough followers to qualify for TWITCH's partner program which means I don't make a dime off my streams.  I'm not pleading poverty just stating the facts.  I am, however, a YouTube partner which means I can make a few pennies there.

Which bring me to my point.

I've been trying out the YouTube Live Streaming and so far it's been more stable experience than TWITCH and I can monetize the views and at least help to support my Internet connection.

So Check out my YouTube channel at : https://www.youtube.com/user/RealDudzFryd and subscribe to be notified of when I go online.

To whet your appetite I've included a few vids from my most recent YouTube streams.