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  1. #1
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    Default New Player Experience

    The new player experience (NPE) summarizes how a fresh player might perceive a game (as opposed to the returning player experience) and is extremely crucial to the health of a gaming community. If not enough players start playing a game, it will eventually dwindle out, so we sort of have an obligation to ourselves - as players as well as on the development side of things - to make this NPE a positive one. I feel that the player base is absolutely amazing in that regard, apart from a few crazy high-reaper people, most of us are very welcoming towards newbies - giving advice, carrying them through quests with patience and giving them a few 100k pp to get started. Still, so many true first-lifers play for exactly a life (and not even a full one) before never logging on again. So let's discuss: How do we keep them playing?


    1. DDO had a brilliant early game. But what the early game is has shifted severely.
    Most important for the NPE is the early game, the first few hours and days of playing have to be engaging and leaving them wanting for more. Back when I started playing, the early game was Korthos + Harbor - creative, well-done F2P quests. Only after that was it necessary to farm for Sigils of Leveling and XP grew more scarce. By that time, I was hooked and apparently still am. However, by now it's just completely outlandish to call the Harbor the early-game, because many people just skip it and those who don't just cruise through it in 2 hours. The real early game is the entire first life. I played so many different characters - for a few weeks before taking a break, then a few days before the next break, etc. Then I finally got once char to 20 and everything changed. That's when I actually experienced this game.
    In other words: we want to make the entire early game accessible for new players, and that means an easier time for first-lifers, because right now it's:

    2. VIP or bust.
    I recently explored old alt accounts of mine to fool around a bit. It was horrible, obviously. Then I did the maths to see how reasonable I could get to 20 on them - it was impossible. Even with farming a bunch of favor on all 8 servers, it's impossible to get a decent amount of packs in order to reach level 20. You have to go VIP or have no real shot of getting there. A subscription for a game you only get to learn is a huge barrier of entry. It's also a solid slope of exit - because if after a month you feel you haven't played enough or you have too much of a mountain to climb, it's easy to stop subscribing, realizing that the free version of the game is vastly different and stop playing. Most people that are VIPs don't have to be, because they already own everything there is to own, so they just keep being VIPs because they love the game. That's good business! It'd be better to give more people the chance to fall in love with the game.

    3. First Life Problems.
    The issues with first lives are very apparent: from level 1-10 there are far more than enough F2P quests, after 10 there aren't nearly enough. To my mind, the first life should be doable without buying any packs and with just a few repetitions - so about 1.3 million XP. In turn, the earlier levels could be stretched out a bit more to allow players to experience all those quests again - not 100% about this part myself. One way to go about it is to create a new kind of past life that can only be taken once, that only gives a bonus for the 2nd and 3rd life and nothing thereafter (this could also be an XP bonus) and that can be done at level 15 of a first life. The necessary materials for the appropriate heart would be farmable in the LoD chain, but only for first-lifers. The alternative would be a different leveling progress that brings level 20 a lot earlier - this however could be exploited more easily with alts for epic farming.

    4. Summary.
    This game has changed quite a bit from back in the day, and those changes have to be incorporated. This game is not really about the leveling, it's about past lives - that's what sets it apart from other games, that's what most of us do. When the essence of a game is the gathering of past lives, new players should be shown how this feels, they should be able to get there. Not by paying for it when they're unclear whether they want that, not by grinding 100 different chars they do a favor run with before deleting them, so they can finally get some packs. Show new players, how the first life works, give the first life to them. Otherwise, new players won't stay players for long. And you can only finance a game through whales for so long before they're all gone...

  2. #2
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    VIP or bust ignores the fact that you can purchase packs at your discression. I own all the packs (except for Sharn currently), and I've never been VIP.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    Show new players, how the first life works, give the first life to them.
    No. /notsigned

  3. #3
    Community Member Potatofasf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    2. VIP or bust.
    I recently explored old alt accounts of mine to fool around a bit. It was horrible, obviously. Then I did the maths to see how reasonable I could get to 20 on them - it was impossible. Even with farming a bunch of favor on all 8 servers, it's impossible to get a decent amount of packs in order to reach level 20. You have to go VIP or have no real shot of getting there. A subscription for a game you only get to learn is a huge barrier of entry. It's also a solid slope of exit - because if after a month you feel you haven't played enough or you have too much of a mountain to climb, it's easy to stop subscribing, realizing that the free version of the game is vastly different and stop playing. Most people that are VIPs don't have to be, because they already own everything there is to own, so they just keep being VIPs because they love the game. That's good business! It'd be better to give more people the chance to fall in love with the game.
    I sign VIP to open Elites... nothing else. If open quest on Elite was viable to Free Players I wouldn't subscribe at all.

    I like to earn those 25 DP each 100 favor.
    (Sarlona) ACTIVE TRleveling Valenttina (Warlock - Past Lifes Monk X3 / Ranger x3 / Rogue) - Just for Cannith Crafting Usbing (Unarmed DPS - Past Lifes Fighter X3 / Monk X2 / Paladin) Stucked at Level 24 Iconic...- Outdated Build inactive Adnanref (Evoker - Past Lifes Wizard X3 / Cleric X2 / Favored Soul / BladeForged) Stucked at Level 15 Iconic...

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    @Potatofasf I assume you mean that for new characters? Because once a toon is on their third life they can open Elite regardless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amundir View Post
    @Potatofasf I assume you mean that for new characters? Because once a toon is on their third life they can open Elite regardless.
    Yeah, but we have to play at least two lifes to get there... Now I just pay for the 500 DP monthly and some other VIP perks...

    But as a New Player, open Elites was the hook for VIP Subscribing.

    Sorry, if I didn't made it clear on the first comment, my bad.
    (Sarlona) ACTIVE TRleveling Valenttina (Warlock - Past Lifes Monk X3 / Ranger x3 / Rogue) - Just for Cannith Crafting Usbing (Unarmed DPS - Past Lifes Fighter X3 / Monk X2 / Paladin) Stucked at Level 24 Iconic...- Outdated Build inactive Adnanref (Evoker - Past Lifes Wizard X3 / Cleric X2 / Favored Soul / BladeForged) Stucked at Level 15 Iconic...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amundir View Post
    VIP or bust ignores the fact that you can purchase packs at your discression. I own all the packs (except for Sharn currently), and I've never been VIP.



    No. /notsigned
    Yeah, it's sooooo easy. All it takes are GH, Vale, Druid's, High Road, Path and DDark. And that's being extremely optimistic when it comes to finding parties, getting openers for BB, not getting bad advice (like buying VoN or 3BC) with just no room for error. All in all that yields 1900+ favor, so you gain 725 points and pay 3950 (net 3225). Suppose you grind for an extra 50 favor (100 DDO points) on all other 7 servers, you still need 2500 extra, meaning you have to buy-in 25€/$. Just to somehow manage that first life.

    But sure, let's make sure noone else will ever start playing this game again, that'll make things better.^^

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    Yeah, it's sooooo easy. All it takes are GH, Vale, Druid's, High Road, Path and DDark. And that's being extremely optimistic when it comes to finding parties, getting openers for BB, not getting bad advice (like buying VoN or 3BC) with just no room for error. All in all that yields 1900+ favor, so you gain 725 points and pay 3950 (net 3225). Suppose you grind for an extra 50 favor (100 DDO points) on all other 7 servers, you still need 2500 extra, meaning you have to buy-in 25€/$. Just to somehow manage that first life.

    But sure, let's make sure noone else will ever start playing this game again, that'll make things better.^^
    yeah and running behind a party without being able to hit anything with a broken build with no game knowledge. is really helpful to. lots of fun also not being able to contribute to party.

    i suggest you play a cleric intmi tank and follow instead of leading to really truely understand the true problems of a first time player. you will be amazed by the mountain climb in this game known as game knowledge.

    you might find it amusing people die in korthos on normal.

    but the same game knowledge and equipment to perform tasks is the gap in player base of those doing low reaper and high reaper.

    i have multiple toons that play mid to high reaper and nothing over 6 past lives playing 9 toons i dont have many reaper points either. will be 10-20 years before i will ever see those wings.
    Last edited by amelair; 05-31-2019 at 07:09 PM.

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    The vast majority, if not all, of the quest packs that do not have an epic option should be made free (or have a DP cost that is about 1/10th of what it currently is so that new players can get some experience using the cash shop and have the fun of earning and buying new content through the free DP they get from playing). Most F2P games let you play the entire game for free and it is only bonuses (like our tomes) that you buy in the cash shop.

    If they gave all the heroic content to people for free they could run the heroic TR train until they are hooked enough to buy the epic content. Currently many new players get to the mid-levels and get bored and leave. I was willing to make dozens of new characters and delete them to farm DP before I finally got hooked enough to spend $145 to pre-order the collectors edition of Menace of the Underdark with the 13,000 bonus DP add-on, but many players don't have that kind of patience and leave for games that let them play long enough to get hooked.

  9. #9
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    To point 2 (VIP or bust) : There is the Starter Pack, which I personally find a *very* good idea, especially since the Hireling is Permanent + Gold Seal !

    Also, there are the DDO points, one could buy points, wait for rebates, and buy then. No need to be VIP.


    To be VIP is, however, needed in endgame. Or so it seems to me.


    One very differfent point is that I've noticed that there is no mid-level free wilderness area. With the ephasis on "free". And with "mid" I mean the range of 15-20.
    ( Something inside me still doesn't count anthing above 20 since 20 was the cap when I had left DDO years ago. )
    "Archbishop Dryden wants to talk to you to tapper this dale."
    "Archbishop Dryden wants to talk to you to tap on this dale."
    "Archbishop Dryden wants to talk to you to tap on this tale."
    English is not my first language - misinterpretations galore !

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alrik_Fassbauer View Post
    To point 2 (VIP or bust) : There is the Starter Pack, which I personally find a *very* good idea, especially since the Hireling is Permanent + Gold Seal !

    Also, there are the DDO points, one could buy points, wait for rebates, and buy then. No need to be VIP.


    To be VIP is, however, needed in endgame. Or so it seems to me.


    One very differfent point is that I've noticed that there is no mid-level free wilderness area. With the ephasis on "free". And with "mid" I mean the range of 15-20.
    ( Something inside me still doesn't count anthing above 20 since 20 was the cap when I had left DDO years ago. )
    Valid point, except that the starter pack is a rip-off. Catacombs is absolutely irrelevant as a pack (unless you aim for Silver Flame favor) due to it's level range which is already covered over and over and over by F2P quests. The first 12 levels in this game are insanely quick - it's only after where you need help and where people get properly stuck - and thus stop playing.

    Waiting for a sale is also inapplicable for newbies who just start out now. Telling them to wait half a year so they can buy something on sale in order to finally level past 15 is akin to telling them to look for a different game.

    As for the endgame... once you get the packs to easily level 1-30, you farm points just by playing. It still requires patience, but I find non-VIP from life 6 onwards much easier than on life 1-3.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    Valid point, except that the starter pack is a rip-off. Catacombs is absolutely irrelevant as a pack (unless you aim for Silver Flame favor) due to it's level range which is already covered over and over and over by F2P quests. The first 12 levels in this game are insanely quick - it's only after where you need help and where people get properly stuck - and thus stop playing.

    Waiting for a sale is also inapplicable for newbies who just start out now. Telling them to wait half a year so they can buy something on sale in order to finally level past 15 is akin to telling them to look for a different game.

    As for the endgame... once you get the packs to easily level 1-30, you farm points just by playing. It still requires patience, but I find non-VIP from life 6 onwards much easier than on life 1-3.
    On the other hand, waiting for a sale on that Starter Pack means I actually bought a copy for 4 different friends, because the 2 dollars I paid per copy sounded like a decent price for the ever-so-useful permanent Elieri. I don't think it would be worth buying full price, but that 80 (or was it 85?) percent off was basically impossible to leave behind.

  12. #12
    Community Member Alrik_Fassbauer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    Valid point, except that the starter pack is a rip-off. Catacombs is absolutely irrelevant as a pack (unless you aim for Silver Flame favor) due to it's level range which is already covered over and over and over by F2P quests.
    You forget or at least don't mention a point which is very important to me : The story.

    Meanwhile the Catacombs story isn't worth an Oscar, it's imho solid for *very new* beginners.
    Plus, it has imho the best end game dialogue ... I don't remember many stories against the big bad evil going like that. From an psychological point of view, that end game dialog is very well written.

    Of course, it very much depends on what a Newbie wants.
    Action-RPG ? Then Catacombs isn't the right thing.
    Story ? Then, I say, yes, maybe, this also depends on the player.

    Catacombs was meant to be a very emotionally moving story (first talk to Friar Rhenau shows that).
    It didn't develop like that, because the storytellers either weren't world class - but again, who is ? - or because the space to develop the whole story was simply limited.

    However, since the decline of the Adventure games genre and the rise of the Action-RPG sub-genre, storytelling, and I mean *real* storytelling, has almost died out. Just play Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, which is still my very personal benchmark against which I measure most games.

    But these days, "storytelling" is something not really wanted by players who have been growing up and trained to believe that action and loot and adrenaline are the only worth things in gaming.

    Everyone zergs through games, not noticing the level of detail, the amount of work put into a quest, a raid, or whatever. Where raid people are especialy nunb against the whole look of the raid's environment, I guess. At least I've seen that in SWTOR. Speed is the only relevant factor. Neither the look of the environment is, nor the quest's story is.

    To get back to the topic : It highly depends on the player, what he or she wants to see.
    My fear is, however, that most people are just ttrained to follow more or less 2 aspects of *any* game : Loot and adrenaline.
    "Archbishop Dryden wants to talk to you to tapper this dale."
    "Archbishop Dryden wants to talk to you to tap on this dale."
    "Archbishop Dryden wants to talk to you to tap on this tale."
    English is not my first language - misinterpretations galore !

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    The new player experience (NPE) summarizes how a fresh player might perceive a game (as opposed to the returning player experience) and is extremely crucial to the health of a gaming community. If not enough players start playing a game, it will eventually dwindle out, so we sort of have an obligation to ourselves - as players as well as on the development side of things - to make this NPE a positive one. I feel that the player base is absolutely amazing in that regard, apart from a few crazy high-reaper people, most of us are very welcoming towards newbies - giving advice, carrying them through quests with patience and giving them a few 100k pp to get started. Still, so many true first-lifers play for exactly a life (and not even a full one) before never logging on again. So let's discuss: How do we keep them playing?
    Let'd dig into you comments and suggestions.


    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    1. DDO had a brilliant early game. But what the early game is has shifted severely.
    Most important for the NPE is the early game, the first few hours and days of playing have to be engaging and leaving them wanting for more. Back when I started playing, the early game was Korthos + Harbor - creative, well-done F2P quests. Only after that was it necessary to farm for Sigils of Leveling and XP grew more scarce. By that time, I was hooked and apparently still am. However, by now it's just completely outlandish to call the Harbor the early-game, because many people just skip it and those who don't just cruise through it in 2 hours. The real early game is the entire first life. I played so many different characters - for a few weeks before taking a break, then a few days before the next break, etc. Then I finally got once char to 20 and everything changed. That's when I actually experienced this game.
    In other words: we want to make the entire early game accessible for new players, and that means an easier time for first-lifers, because right now it's:
    Sigil of Leveling was removed from DDO with Update 3, it was a thing in game for less than 6 months. The way the Level Mechanic worked for those six months is F2P and Premium players characters had a level cap of 4, a copper sigil of leveling raised it to 8, Silver Sigil of Leveling raised it to 12, Gold Sigil of Leveling 16 and Platinum to 20. Copper Sigils were very common, Silver and Gold were fairly common, but Platinum was a different story. It was available in store for 50 Turbine Points, but with either update 1 or 2 it was dropped in price to 10 Turbine Points before being removed with update 3.

    Years ago I wrote a guide to being a f2p and minimizing your investment to be a premium player. The guide I wrote in 2009, updated in 2010 and maybe even 2011, my link to it no longer work as the DDO forums have been updated, but I still have the original and am going to cite it as I blew the dust off it a few weeks ago and wanted to post a new version.

    There is currently 100 Free to Play quests, with a Base XP of 225,000 on Normal prior to any bonuses. Without completion of all optionals and base bonuses (Daily, First Time, Persistence, Conquest, Ransack, and Mandatory Optionals) this will push you to right around 600,000 XP. You add in XP from a few of the easier Wilderness Adventure Area and you are sitting at roughly 750,000 XP. Completing those quests on Normal will also earn you 1274 Total Favor, or 550 DDO Points, including the first time bonus.

    If you go back and complete a third of those quests on Hard you will earn roughly 600,000 XP, more than enough to reach Heroic Cap, with 850 DDO Points, give or take 25 DDO Points. A couple of strategic Adventure Pack Purchases (especially when they are on sale), Reaver's Reach, Sentinels of Storm Reach, and Red Fens (1150 Base / 805 to 860 on Sale) goes a long ways to open up options for players.

    If you farm Favor on the character you can earn 3600 Favor.

    Additional on a players primary server you have two additional Character Slots, which can be used to earn DDO Points (via favor) while playing the game.




    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    2. VIP or bust.
    I recently explored old alt accounts of mine to fool around a bit. It was horrible, obviously. Then I did the maths to see how reasonable I could get to 20 on them - it was impossible. Even with farming a bunch of favor on all 8 servers, it's impossible to get a decent amount of packs in order to reach level 20. You have to go VIP or have no real shot of getting there. A subscription for a game you only get to learn is a huge barrier of entry. It's also a solid slope of exit - because if after a month you feel you haven't played enough or you have too much of a mountain to climb, it's easy to stop subscribing, realizing that the free version of the game is vastly different and stop playing. Most people that are VIPs don't have to be, because they already own everything there is to own, so they just keep being VIPs because they love the game. That's good business! It'd be better to give more people the chance to fall in love with the game.
    Totally disagree here. The game as it currently configured favors Premium Players over VIPs. There is really not much reason to be a VIP.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    3. First Life Problems.
    The issues with first lives are very apparent: from level 1-10 there are far more than enough F2P quests, after 10 there aren't nearly enough. To my mind, the first life should be doable without buying any packs and with just a few repetitions - so about 1.3 million XP. In turn, the earlier levels could be stretched out a bit more to allow players to experience all those quests again - not 100% about this part myself. One way to go about it is to create a new kind of past life that can only be taken once, that only gives a bonus for the 2nd and 3rd life and nothing thereafter (this could also be an XP bonus) and that can be done at level 15 of a first life. The necessary materials for the appropriate heart would be farmable in the LoD chain, but only for first-lifers. The alternative would be a different leveling progress that brings level 20 a lot earlier - this however could be exploited more easily with alts for epic farming.
    See above for comments on XP and and reaching Heroic Cap.
    There is an issue on earning enough XP in Epic Levels, which is why the importance of spending you DDO points wisely greatly increases a players options for content.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    4. Summary.
    This game has changed quite a bit from back in the day, and those changes have to be incorporated. This game is not really about the leveling, it's about past lives - that's what sets it apart from other games, that's what most of us do. When the essence of a game is the gathering of past lives, new players should be shown how this feels, they should be able to get there. Not by paying for it when they're unclear whether they want that, not by grinding 100 different chars they do a favor run with before deleting them, so they can finally get some packs. Show new players, how the first life works, give the first life to them. Otherwise, new players won't stay players for long. And you can only finance a game through whales for so long before they're all gone...
    The big issue for new players isn't past lives, its about the lack of gear and guild buffs that new players have in comparison to veteran players.
    With the huge time sync that is Cannith Crafting their is little of no means for newer players get gear to fill out their characters gear set.
    Last edited by GoldyGopher; 06-03-2019 at 01:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnFlory View Post
    Valid point, except that the starter pack is a rip-off. Catacombs is absolutely irrelevant as a pack (unless you aim for Silver Flame favor) due to it's level range which is already covered over and over and over by F2P quests. The first 12 levels in this game are insanely quick - it's only after where you need help and where people get properly stuck - and thus stop playing.

    Waiting for a sale is also inapplicable for newbies who just start out now. Telling them to wait half a year so they can buy something on sale in order to finally level past 15 is akin to telling them to look for a different game.

    As for the endgame... once you get the packs to easily level 1-30, you farm points just by playing. It still requires patience, but I find non-VIP from life 6 onwards much easier than on life 1-3.
    When I first started playing the had one quest pack on sale every week so you could collect content much faster. For some reason they now only have useful things on sale very rarely. Every single week should have at least one piece of permanent content (i.e. a quest pack, race, iconic class, or class) on sale so that new people can regularly experience the joy of buying things from the shop. Part of the ideal new player experience is having them be excited to see what will be on sale this week. We go months at a time with nothing worth buying going on sale. We know how addicted people are to shopping. This is where the money is made. Sales should offer a far more interesting selection. They almost never have good sales anymore (i.e. the 50% or 75% off of items that used to happen even during non-special times of the year), so they could at least offer a good selection of stuff on sale. What kind of store has a weekly sale where only 1% of their merchandise goes on sale each week?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alrik_Fassbauer View Post
    You forget or at least don't mention a point which is very important to me : The story.

    Meanwhile the Catacombs story isn't worth an Oscar, it's imho solid for *very new* beginners.
    Plus, it has imho the best end game dialogue ... I don't remember many stories against the big bad evil going like that. From an psychological point of view, that end game dialog is very well written.

    Of course, it very much depends on what a Newbie wants.
    Action-RPG ? Then Catacombs isn't the right thing.
    Story ? Then, I say, yes, maybe, this also depends on the player.

    Catacombs was meant to be a very emotionally moving story (first talk to Friar Rhenau shows that).
    It didn't develop like that, because the storytellers either weren't world class - but again, who is ? - or because the space to develop the whole story was simply limited.

    However, since the decline of the Adventure games genre and the rise of the Action-RPG sub-genre, storytelling, and I mean *real* storytelling, has almost died out. Just play Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, which is still my very personal benchmark against which I measure most games.

    But these days, "storytelling" is something not really wanted by players who have been growing up and trained to believe that action and loot and adrenaline are the only worth things in gaming.

    Everyone zergs through games, not noticing the level of detail, the amount of work put into a quest, a raid, or whatever. Where raid people are especialy nunb against the whole look of the raid's environment, I guess. At least I've seen that in SWTOR. Speed is the only relevant factor. Neither the look of the environment is, nor the quest's story is.

    To get back to the topic : It highly depends on the player, what he or she wants to see.
    My fear is, however, that most people are just ttrained to follow more or less 2 aspects of *any* game : Loot and adrenaline.
    I love the Catacombs pack and look forward to playing it each life. There are several reasons for that. First, I am a cleric at heart. Even though I have only played a cleric once on my main character (and that was my first life), all my farming characters were clerics and I always play the best healing class in games (with the exception of this game where farming past lives is the point of the game and you need to be powerful enough to solo in a pinch because people don't always join your LFM's). As a result, I love undead. They were always the preferred monster type for a cleric and so I still like them even though I mostly play Warlock.

    Secondly, Catacombs is the pack that gives the best favor to DP cost ratio and thus was the first pack that I bought. Back when packs regularly went on sale it was great to pick this up early and farm it on each character I made. Finally, it gives the best eternal wand in the entire game. For a poor character that cannot afford to guzzle potions or buy wands and scrolls like a rich vet it was very exciting to have an eternal wand that healed (although it loses its self-healing ability in reaper).

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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldyGopher View Post
    The big issue for new players isn't past lives, its about the lack of gear and guild buffs that new players have in comparison to veteran players.
    With the huge time sync that is Cannith Crafting their is little of no means for newer players get gear to fill out their characters gear set.
    This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Specifically, instead of having gear be such an unbelievable source of power, that power should come from class trees. Why do we still get +1 DC from our caster enhancements but +10 from our gear? If anything it should be the other way around or at least balanced. Great gear should make you the most powerful, but the vast majority of that power should be given to all characters, even new characters, from their enhancements. If +10 to DC is too much to grant at level 12 (and it probably is), then the enhancement should grant +1 to DC for every X levels you have in the class (including epic levels, which would count as every class as once).

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    Sep 2014
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    @Xgva: Two things here: 1) Waiting for sales is easy to do when you don't NEED the thing, newbies however don't really have that luxury. 2) Elieri is nice and all, but it's already telling that you reduce the starter pack to just that hireling. A hire helps out in quests, but a hire doesn't help you to get to 20.

    @Alrik: I agree with you in some regards. I like the Catacombs myself, after Delera's it was my favourite pack and I've played it so often that I got the TP investment back. Story is also an important part to DDO, you're absolutely right, the question is though how to go about it. For example, I love the quests that force you into the story, that make the story obvious enough that you can't avoid it. Compare Study in Sable with Coalescence Chamber. Sable is about you talking to people, figuring stuff out, Coal has a running gag of you not interrogating people but slaughtering them. Both have story elements, but in the second example you can completely ignore those. Study in Sable would be great early quest in that it shows how you don't always have to brute-force everything (Stealthy Repo is a good example for that). The reason I go there is this: Study in Sable makes you enjoy the story, but it's also restrictive too many of those wouldn't be perfect. Coal (there are better examples, I'm sorry I've picked that one) allows you to enjoy the story, like many others - also, the Catacombs. It allows you to enjoy the story, once you don't have to care about other stuff anymore. And that's just it - new players will soon find out that TRing is more or less the twist of this game and a much better experience than leveling to 8, getting stuck, leveling to 10, getting stuck and dumping all those characters while desperately grinding DDO points to maybe one day not be stuck anymore. Before this day comes though, most people will give up. I did so multiple times. Once however, I got lucky, when in an anniversary event I got 3 +3 tomes, so I decided I would not dumpster this particular character. Getting to 20 was still horrible, and farming tokens was more horrible still. But after my first TR, the game was a lot more fun, and the speed started to pick up - and I decided I enjoyed it enough to spend more than just the 4-5€ to become premium.
    What I'm saying: Catacombs is all fine, but many builds will have an atrocious time in there, and it doesn't help with the leveling. Leveling is important though.

    @Goldy: I already did the math, my excel file makes this very easy. Even with EBB (which requires a lot of help, but yields 4.5*baseXP per quest as opposed to 4.7*baseXP from running normal AND hard). The difference between your calculations and mine? When I add up 750k (which is already wildly optimistic) and 600k (again, very optimistic, especially with "one third of the quests"), I only get to 1.35mill, which is 550k away from cap. Why is your estimate optimistic? Because wilderness doesn't pay much XP. And while yes, the XP is theoretically there, the 50k XP you get from Ataraxia (killing 1500 mobs+all the other stuff) is just saying: oh, it's possible - just walk for 500 miles, what's the problem? Besides, Ataraxia's already is the highest f2p wilderness and only yields XP up to level 14. That's the next point that makes your estimate optimistic - most of the f2p XP is tied up in low levels. The only high level f2p quests are the LoD chain, because Good Intentions is just too hard for new players and Demon's Den is Demon's Den. Also, they both have fairly bad XP. To put it bluntly, you fudged your numbers AND made a blatant miscalculation to deceive the actual facts that say this: You get to 16 if you're more thourough than it's fun. After that: good luck grinding. A lot. And if you show new players that the game is a grind, why would they stay?
    Also, look at the other responses I made in this thread: you need to spend about 4k DDO points to get to level 20 without the game becoming unbearably grindy.

    To your 2nd point, you're simply and purely wrong. Yes, long-term, it's easy to do as a premium player. When you already have the packs to reach level 20. Once you have the freedom, once you are on your 3rd+ life to open, VIP doesn't help you all that much. Before that though, you need 3k invested points for the first life. Many more for the 2nd and still some more for the 3rd, although providing BB by yourself helps a lot at this point.

    To your 3rd I can only repeat that your maths is wrong. 750k+600k is not 1.9mill.

    Using guild buffs as any kind of example is just unreasonable. There are so many guilds with full buffs that accept anyone. I don't think there's a single server where I couldn't get a level 1 char into a guild that's decen enough, oftentimes even withou asking and without grouping up. The gear holds one back, that's true, but simply being able to group up with others and getting to a point where one can get into a position to get gear is crucial. Right now, gear is doubly guarded - first you have to grind the middling stuff so you get strong enough to grind the good stuff. Gear is still mostly for epics though. Grab a vorpal ranged weapon, a speed item and maybe some HP and you can already at least participate from level 1 through 15. Doesn't help though if you need to run every quest you own 5 times in order to reach cap. And don't even get me started on the practicalities. Even as a good player, a new player build will have issues soloing the LoD chain on normal, let alone hard. And you won't find groups for normal and hard.

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