For a long time I have had a regular flow of view on a few posts I made about the game Jade Dynasty. I have always wondered why, I only posted a few posta about it and never got particularly far in the game before I got extremely bored with it – too much grind, even if it was somewhat automated.
Recently I added a tag so that I could get some statistics from Google webtools about searches etc to the site.
It turns out that, not entirely surprising, the jade dynasty traffic is coming from searches for the most part. And many of them come from some pictures I posted. For example, if I search on “jade dynasty lupin” (lupin being one of the classes/archetypes in the game) then 2 out of 4 pictures shown directly on the result page are mine.
The pictures have also been linked from some posts in Jade Dynasty forums, also ending up here.
It it a bit weird that one may write a lot of posts about other MMOs, but one which I did not give much attention ends up generating a more regular stream of traffic here…
I have seen a few posts from various bloggers about how bad 2009 was for MMOs. Personally I do not quite agree. For me personally there were more interesting new titles released in 2009 than in 2008. But also considerations for a good/bad year should include existing games as well – new expansions and changes, different price and payment models etc.
Thoughout 2009 I have played/tried a few different MMO or MMO-type games:
City of Heroes/Villains, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Chronicles of Spellborn, Runes of Magic, Jade Dynasty, Project of Planets, Zero Online, Vendetta Online, Pirate Galaxy, Champions Online, Saga of Ryzom, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Fallen Earth, World of Kung Fu, Twelve Sky 2, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Shin Megami Tensei, FusionFall Online, GhostX – perhaps a few others also that I have forgotten about. Some of these would be an emphasis on tried rather than played though – for various reasons I barely completed the tutorial on some.
While otherwise limited in content updates, I loved when NCSoft/Paragon Studios released Mission Architect for City of Heroes/Villains. A really great feature! It was however plagued with being exploited by some and also in a sense too successful – too many story arcs and less than adequate search tools initially caused some trouble. While it is used by players today, it has perhaps not created the subscriber success that some may have hoped for. Still, it is an important step in making an innovative approach to MMO content a reality. I think that was one of the major milestones of 2009.
With the exception of Guild Wars, most of the fantasy titles I only played for short periods of time. Sometimes a bit grindy and with no special love for the fantasy genre, I gre tired of most of them quickly. Guild Wars has been lots of fun though – partially because it is a good game, but also very much due to the people of Tuesday Noob Club. Not played much lately though and the combination of real life schedule and lack of excitement for fantasy titles has contributed to that.
Just as I managed to totally avoid Warhammer Online last year I also totally avoided Aion this year, and World of Warcraft as usual. There simply has not been any compelling eason to consider playing either of the games.
Champions Online has received the bulk of my play time lately and for good reason – it is an excellent and fun game if you just want to mess around a bit, blow off some steam and get your mind of real life issues, just for a short bit. It is a good complement to other games or other activities.
I think most of the games I have played or tried I have not written much about – which is not to say that there are bad games. Sometimes it has just been bad timing, or some technical issue. I am glad that I have at least tried a fair number of games and see more of what is out there, rather than just focus on a few new Western subscription-based titles and live on the hope that the next big title with be it.
Has gambling its place in MMOs? With all online poker sites and other venues to spend your money on some combination of Lady Luck and skill it is perhaps not surprising that MMOs introduce some gambling also.
In Jade Dynasty one can buy items (Celestial Light and Dragon Mirror) from the game shop that atre essentially some lottery ticket, or rather a chance to pull the slot machine. The graphics are even of a type of slot machine display.
Most people are likely going for the 1st/2nd prize for each of these two, which includes a mount (Hornclop – sort of a unicorn), a unique pet (a fairy) and a Cloud Shuttle (flying/floating “mount”). As far as I know they are not available through any other means. From there it drops in value and usefulness.
Each chance at the slot machine or lottery ticket costs the equivalent of 0.75 USD. The 4th prize which the roll in the picture resulted in gives 2 portal charms (make a marker for teleportation) costs 0.15 each from the game shop – if you would have bought them at all in the first place. My guess is that most people wouldn’t.
I am not a gambler myself, so I find no interest in the prospect and I am not enticed by Lady Luck to try to win a good prize here. But there are apparently other who are; I saw posts in the Jade Dynasty forums from people who had bought various amount of “tickets” and not won 1st prize – top one was 150 of these “tickets”. But there were also people who hit the jackpot almost instantly.
But 150 of these “tickets” are more than 110 USD. That is a lot of money. And this on something which does not really have a skill element, just chance. I cannot say that I like this introduction of gambling in the game for real money and especially for items which are not possible to obtain through other means, as far as I can tell.
Neither item is essential though. To each their own, but I think it is stupid.
As in most MMOs, Jade Dynasty has its own crafting system to make stuff. Actually it has multiple systems in place, but I am only going to cover part of it here. The part I am going to cover in this post is the basic parts that most people encounter at early levels.
Later in the game there are more options including pet crafting (i.e. the pet crafts in a workshop, not making new pets). Pets are a few topics by themselves, so that is not going to be included. Besides, none of my characters are high enough yet for that, so I have not been able to try it out (pets can craft from level 60).
This post will look at crafting of gear, i.e. weapons and armor. There are also other things that can be crafted through the same mechanics (e.g. Esper mediums), but that is also a separate topic.
In Jade Dynasty a new set of armor and weapons can be equipped every 15 levels. There is some starter gear available from level 1, but after that at level 15, 30, 45, 60 etc there is new equipment that can be used. This changes little bit close to max level as I understand it, but for the most part this is valid.
Each faction has its own set of gear at each level and there is different armor for males and females. This basically means that you can see on a character which faction and level range they are at directly, unless they chosen to hide the visuals, or have fashion outfits on top.
I decided to just put up a post with various small notes and items all blended together.
NCSoft has announced that they are selling additional slots for Mission Architect story arcs. I would buy more slots, even though I think they are a bit pricey. But they are not available yet as far as I can see. They do not seem to have put much effort into the already defined venues of allowing people to get more story arcs slots – Developer’s Choice and Hall of Fame. The latter is depending on player votes though, but they (NCSoft/Paragon Studios) do set the rules and conditions.
Reading some forums for MMOs that are in the pure micro transaction payment model, I find some parts a bit fascinating. While the type of discussions are pretty similar to any MMO forum, the games that comparisions are made with can be quite different from when you read a subscription-based MMO forum. It is almost as if there are two quite distinct groups of MMO players which only on occasion play the same games.
What is better, story or social interaction? Looking at a few of Western MMOs they have in some cases a large focus on trying to provide some interesting combat and a related story. But the mechanics and systems in place for social interactions (guilds/clans, friend lists, party search, community oriented activities etc) are in many cases more weak. Some Eastern MMOs have more grindy and boring combat and stories in comparision, but at least some have more developed mechanics for social interactions in comparision. Is that a result of more PvP focused gameplay or more general focus on social interaction?
In City of Heroes/Villains one of my heroes (Tsu Hon, martial arts/regen scrapper) is getting close to max level. I have not played much of the high level hero-side content, but decided to follow a few of the regular story arcs there. Some of the missions provided by contacts Tina and Unai have some real head-banging qualities – I would really like to bang my head against the wall rather than play those missions. It was a relief to be able to head to Architect Entertainment for some alternative missions.
I recently reactivated an EVE Online account of mine. I have two and this time I managed to remember what my first account was. It had been deactivated January 2nd, 2004. In my mailbox I had some unread emails from late summer/autumn of 2003, my character seemed to be member of a company I did not recall joining. I have not actually started playing yet, not sure if I am going to do something with my old character or just keep him in retirement.
Yesterday I was adventuring a bit with Shaden, my Lupin, in Skysong. Lupin is the assasin/rogue-like faction in Jade Dynasty, providing the high damage melee, in part due to high rate of critical hits. The weapon of choice is a glaive, which she happily throws at the enemies like a bumerang at short range.
The bulk of the quests in Skysong seemed to dry up for me in low/mid-30s (a zone for level 30-44). While grinding mobs or doing repeatable quests are definitely a part of the PvE gameplay I was not too keen on this. However I did manage to find a few other quest givers which I talked to. One was the local Esper Mystic. He gave me a Voyage Quest, so I expected a bit of fedex/travelling. He did not disappoint in that, but he did provide some twists to it.
I have played a fair amount of Jade Dynasty lately, but at the same time not spent that much time active at the keyboard in the game. It is very much a game where you can do other things at the same time and every now and then have a peek at what is happening.
The auto-routing features makes your character go anywhere there is a specific target (NPC, mob type, place on map etc) – the only worry would be if he/she passed some high level nasty mobs that might kill the character. However, so far that has very seldom happened. Most mobs do not aggro unless attacked and most of the few that do you can still outrun.
Then there is the Invigorate features, which puts your character on auto-pilot and which may go and kill mobs in the surroundings. There is a fair amount of settings to play around with here. On top of this, I discovered that the quest God’s Gift which I mentioned in a previous post, is repeatable. That is you can get double XP and serious attack and defense buffs that last at least 2 hours multiple times. From reading the forums it seems that you can pick that quest once per day. I did not know that, so I have played most of the time with “normal” XP. The drawback with the double XP is that one gets less loot/money for the XP gained, which potentially could lead into financial issues.
It feels a bit strange playing a game where you most of the time are perhaps not controlling your character directly. Instead it works a bit like a pet in some other MMOs – you set up its behaviour and off it goes and does its thing without you thinking too much about it.
Overall this has worked reasonably fine for me lately. I have not had a huge amount of dedicated online game time available, but a little bit time here and there. This has worked out ok I think. I have also used the dream feature of the game a bit to get a some progression while completely offline as well.
It becomes a quite different game and perhaps not so much a traditional MMO. But I would definitely have stopped playing the game if these auto features had not been there – there are so many kill 10/15/20/30 mobs type of quests, combined with a bit of fedex type. There are some neat story pieces here and there, but overall kill-more-mobs view dominates the PvE gameplay.
I have not tried PvP yet; it is only enabled from level 30 and as far as I understand it there is no or limited barriers for high level players to go and kill low levels ones; plus that you can lose items if you get killed. SInce both PvP and PvE is available I suspect though that most players will level up in PvE realms and once they get to high level jump over to the PvP realms.
I prefer more e-sport type of PvP, so I am not so sure I will spend much effort on that part. But time will tell.
And yes, I have been playing and leveling while writing this post…
Have you ever played an MMO where when you created another alt character that you want to go past the first few levels since this by now was old familiar and slightly boring stuff?
After a bit more in Jade Dynasty I think this is actually what the game designers had in mind when creating a few game elements. I did not realize this at first, but after looking at it more thoroughly it does make sense. But it is not immediately apparent when you create your first character – which also makes sense.
First of all is the skill Heavy Blow. This is the extra damage skill in the first skill tree (level 1-15) before a faction is chosen. Reading the description for the power, it does say that the skill does extra damage before level 30. What it does not say is that it does a sh*tload of extra damage before level 30 and from level 30 it is actually pretty meh, compared to other powers available then in many cases.
The fact is, that one can pretty much rely on Heavy Blow as the only power up to level 30, besides the auto-attack. But why would they make one skill so powerful for the first 29 levels? I think the reason here has to do with skill point allocation. The game itself does not take lightly on reallocating skill points. Resetting skill points can be expensive – the equivalent of USD 30 for a complete skill point reset and USD 8 for a reset of the current tier only (15 levels typically it seems), if it is bought from the game shop. Maybe there are in-game alternatives to get those, but such prices do not encourage experimentation and trial&error with skill points.
My guess here is that by making one power very powerful in the beginning, players would not need to spend skill points and thus perhaps allocate too much on less useful early skills, just to progress through the beginning levels. Of course, if you do not know or realize that at start, you will potentially screw up your skill point allocation anyway…
There is a minimum of 8 points that has to be allocated in the first skill tree as a prerequisite for later skill trees. So the best option here seems to be to have two points in Heavy Blow and the remaining 6 in Vigilance (increased resistance), at least for the two factions I have played around with so far (Modo and Lupin).
Some other elements to the low level fast track are some items that can be obtained almost right from the start:
- Celemiracle Dew
Provides 200k worth of hit point healing. Given that one of my Lupins at level 22 has about 800 max health, this is a serious amount of healing potion available.
- Tigeren Crystal
Increases attack power by 100 and then another 10%. Lasts for up to 8 hours
- Turtoil Crystal
Increases defense by 70 and then another 5%. Lasts for up to 8 hours
- Double XP
2 hours worth of double XP from combat
The last 3 are received by the quest God’s Gift, from the initial quest NPC Tanis Ka. Double XP timer starts when the quest is completed. The Crystal buffs also has 2 hours timers counting down for being activated when the quest completes. Once activated they last for up to 8 hours. If you die, they will have to be re-activated. But if the 2 hour countdown has passed, they are lost. The buffs these crystals give are significant – fighting level 30 mobs at level 15ish is no problem.
Those timers are real time – not online time. Timer will still count down if you go offline.
Now comes the final part in the puzzle here – the Espers and the Invigorate ability. This is as I mentioned in my previous post the “auto-pilot” in Jade Dynasty. What I had not realised then was really how it worked in more detail. Looking at the picture below, there is a “sword” shortcut bar in the lower right, plus another bar right below it. This is the Esper skill bar. Shortcuts 1 & 2 seems to be reserved for Esper skills, but 3-9 can be equipped with any skill available.
The HP, SP and EN slots are where “potions” can be placed for replenish health, spirit or energy. The settings windows can be opened from the “sword” and provide settings to set how often and with what priority different skills should be used. It also provides settings for looting and when to consume potions.
Another setting Window (the lower icon with sword and green thing behind it) provides settings on range and what to fight when running under auto-pilot.
Overall it does provide a quite comprehensive mechanism for leaving the character fighting, looting and gaining XP without the player needing to do anything. It is pretty “botting”, but in this case part of the game design. And combining Invigorate with the buffs above it is pretty much possible to just park the character in a group of mobs, turn on Invigorate and come back a few hours later to a character with a number of levels higher – at least with potions or buffs active.
In fact, I have been running a character in Invigorate mode as I have typed this (making screenshots etc as I go), which has pretty much gone from level 19 to level 23 in this time. Now I did not check exactly what time I started typing this though, but would probably be less than 1 hour. Most of this has been with the double XP buff running also.
I must admit I think the game has an element of attraction, even though it on first look much looks like a boring grindy MMO when looking at the combat. I think it would perhaps have been better if the grindy elements were not included in the game at all, instead of providing ways to bypass it.
But at least the game designers do seem to recognise that people might not enjoy boring grind play just to get to the “good stuff” and seem to have provided some means to alleviate that.
Remains to be seen if it works out well.
Jade Dynasty is called a martial arts MMORPG, at least that is what it is referred as in an ad I saw and which peaked my interest when I saw a link to it. The post here are some first impressions from playing around in the game for a little while.
The game is currently in open beta. I had never heard of it until a few days ago and it seems to be a Chinese MMO which is now scheduled for release in Europe and North America, at some point. The company behind the release is Perfect World International, which already have some other MMOs released already.
I am both intrigued by the game, as well as finding it really mind-numbing. If you like grinding mobs and doing countless kill ten rats quests, mixed in with a few FedEx type quests – then this game is right up your alley. But there are also elements of the game which are interesting, in a way.