Archon’s Forge Love

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This morning I am going to talk a little bit about my love of the Archon’s Forge area in Destiny, and we will see where things go from there.  I know I have talked a bit about this in the past, but the Archon’s Forge for me personally alone is worth the price of the expansion.  You have to understand that I love milling around in patrol zones, as in that is pretty much my default “I want to play some destiny” mode because it allows me to putter around.  So far my favorite patrol zone to date has been the Dreadnaught, because in many ways it felt like an old school MMO dungeon.  Back in the days of Everquest and Dark Age of Camleot, dungeons were these sprawling places with no clear path that you were supposed to travel.  As a result the community developed designations to break apart an otherwise huge zone into “camps”.  The Dreadnaught was similar, with various sections of the map labelled as you zoned into them, with the coolest area being the Court of Oryx.  This was an area where you could summon groups of Hive and Taken in the form of mini-boss fights, with the chance of there being decent rewards at the end if you were the person that summoned it.  What I liked about it was the fact that three or four players who were not actively grouping, could work together on a shared objective and get pretty reasonable rewards as a result.

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Archon’s Forge is very similar but also manages to work in one of my OTHER favorite areas of Destiny…  the Prison of Elders.   The backstory behind the area is that this is the place where the Fallen come to prove their worth in combat.  We as players collect Siva offerings, that you can get by doing various things including Public Events, Patrols and occasionally off Majors.  It is a random chance sort of thing, but I wound up getting one pretty quickly.  From there you go into the Archon’s Forge area, and there is a terminal that you use the offering on.  These come in Green, Blue and Purple varieties which denote how difficult the mobs are that are going to spawn as a result.  Unlike the Court of Oryx, the Archon’s Forge actually locks down while the event is going on, so you have to be fairly quick to duck inside in time to participate.  Essentially you end up fighting waves of mobs, culminating in some sort of a boss like encounter… generally centered around a major or handful of majors.  The two things of note that make this extremely awesome are that first…  it seems to be equally rewarding for the players just hanging out and participating and those that are actually giving up the Siva offerings.  Secondly it seems to be self perpetuating, in that the encounters themselves drop a fair number of new SIVA offerings…  allowing you to pretty much keep the process going indefinitely so long as you have three or four people.  Essentially everyone keeps key trading, summoning the next round to keep the loot machine rolling.

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The other night after the Final Fantasy XIV raid, I poked my head into Destiny and then spent the next hour and a half at the forge doing short events.  What is awesome about it is that not only is this a flood of greens and blues, but I managed to pick up eight legendary engrams during that time period.  Additionally I’ve gotten several pieces of armor, ghost shells, artifacts and I am pretty sure at least one of my recent guns dropped in the forge because I have no recollection of getting it otherwise.  The big loot comes from killing the mini-bosses and just appears in your inventory much like the end of strike/crucible items do.  My only concern is that I believe there is a limit of 20 items in the mailbox… meaning I really need to head to orbit more often while doing the forge.  I am probably loosing a ton of loot as a result.  I also probably should strip down myself to only the items I need to participate to create more room for said loot, and spend time between matches deconstructing greens.  In any case regardless of those logistics… this is one of my favorite places to hang out because it is so simple to just hop in and start doing stuff.  I SHOULD be doing strikes… and I managed to finish one of those last night that I had two quests for.  The problem is right now my Destiny time is pretty sporadic, and Archon’s Forge seems to fit the perfect amount of “engagement” for me.

Learning from Destiny: Loot Scaling

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Last night I was a bad human being.  It was a pretty rough day at work because of reasons that I can’t really go into.  So when I got home I decided to boot up Destiny and check out the newest running of the Iron Banner event.  Quite literally the next thing I know it, it was almost 11 pm and I had spent the entire evening playing the game.  This would have been no big deal were it not for the fact that Tuesday nights are a night set aside generally for Final Fantasy XIV and raiding there.  I will have to send out my apologies later, but this is a testament to just how fun this “looter shooter” still is.  For those who are uninitiated… the Iron Banner is a PVP event, and one that I participate in freely and actually look forward to.  The reason behind this is that there is exclusive loot each time it runs from an awesome set of Iron Wolves themed gear and weapons.  During year two this was an amazing way to get increases in your overall light levels, and with year three the gear that is available is completely new and fresh.  Generally speaking each month the event brings two pieces of armor and two weapons, and this time around we have arms, class items, shotgun and auto rifle.  These items can be gained through rewards at the end of the match, or by ranking up with the Iron Banner faction and purchasing specific rolls of each off the new leader of the Iron Banner…  Lady Efrideet.  This time around the daily quests reward loot instead of just getting packages at rank 3 and rank 5, and I managed to complete two armor packages and two weapons packages.  I also managed to get to almost rank 4 in faction in the first night, which tells me that they are trying really hard to make this event feel like less of a grind.  As far as drops… I got one awful roll on the Auto Rifle, and four pairs of the gauntlets… most of which are going to be used as infusion fuel for my Hunter and Warlock whenever I get around to playing them.

Distant Cousins

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For lack of a better term, Bungie and Blizzard are cousins because they exist as part of the same larger company of Activision Blizzard.  In fact it is rumored that during the planning for Taken King, Bungie had a sit down with the developers from Diablo 3 to talk about the lessons learned in crafting the “Loot 2.0” patch.  Now it took a lot of tweaking but I feel like Bungie finally landed on a version of that formula that works for them.  There are similar references in World of Warcraft Legion that draw ties back to Destiny, the most obvious is the above NPC in Dalaran that is named after the weekly NPC that shows up bringing awesome things and trading them for strange coins.  However it feels like there are still a lot of lessons that the World of Warcraft team could learn from the things that Destiny is doing right.  The games are designed very differently, but Destiny seems to have accomplished the holy grail of modern MMOs…  being able to create static content that players will be willing to repeat over and over.  The majority of the strike and crucible playlists are all pretty well worn at this point, but the way rewards are handed out makes a huge difference in the willingness of players to keep pushing forward and attacking the content.

Predictable Upgrades

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Warcraft Legion is an expansion full of variable loot tables that shift and change through the use of the Warforging and Titanforging systems.  This was a definite good step forward, because it gives a slightly glimmer of hope that something interesting might come from the forty ninth time you are running Eye of Azshara to help a guildie through it.  The problem however is that it still feels like that glimmer of hope is an extremely tiny one.  Lets take the Looking For Raid system for example to throw some numbers at.  The baseline for all loot in that “raid” is 835, and more than likely if you defeat the personal loot boss…  the item you are going to walk away with is that low item level.  The zone as a whole has a maximum possible light level of 870, meaning that there is an extremely slim chance of still getting something useful from there if you run it on your main.  Right now in Belghast I am sitting at 854 item level, and that means that most of the content that I run in the game other than normal or high mode raids, is not going to produce me any upgrades.  However in the back of my head I know that it is theoretically possible, and I am having a hard time reconciling what is likely to happen with what might possibly happen.  I mean I did manage to get a SECOND legendary last night off of an emissary chest… so I have more luck than I should have at times.

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In World of Warcraft we have “Item Levels” but Destiny has essentially the same concept called “Light Levels”.  Getting higher light means you perform better, just like getting higher item levels in theory means you have the potential to perform better.  How Bungie handled this problem of potential for drop versus actual level dropping is that they started creating items based on the players current stats.  So if I get a weapon in the game to drop from a package or decoding from an engram…  its light level is set based on my current converted light level.  Right now I am sitting at 351 light in Destiny, and I have a handful of items that are over that level but that is my average.  When I get a new item it means that item will be 351 light or better, generally within a range of 5 light, so up to 356 in this case.  Legendary engrams and item drops currently seem to have a cap around 385 in game, so I will continue to be able to keep leap frogging my way through light levels by consistently receiving upgrades each time something new drops.  World of Warcraft loot should work like this, meaning that each time I do a quest out in the world…. the item of the level rewarded should be based on what my current item level is.  I’ve had friends who have received up to 870 items from World Quests, so it does not seem unreasonable that any loot I get from doing them… should be at a minimum whatever my current average item level is.

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In order to really make this feel right, I think World of Warcraft would also have to move away from the current tiered system of item levels.  Right now if we go back to the example of LFR, an item when it drops can be 835, 840, 845, 850, 855, 860, 865, or 870.  Each time some combination of stats and “forged” suffix changes and tweaks up the stats and item level.  It just feels like it would simply be cleaner for the purpose of giving players a constant but incremental flow of new gear… for each item to just have a variable level.  So you could then get an item that was 844 or 858 depending upon what your current item level happened to be.  The items we know are simply mathematical equations, with this or that stat scaling based on the item level.  So in theory it should be just as easy to show you an item that was 862 as one that is 860, but the constant progression of slow bites of the apple as you keep improving your stats for me at least would feel better than running a bunch of content and seeing nothing but disenchant fodder as a result.  This hit home especially hard as I have been trying to run mythic and heroics with friends to get them geared up… and so often when the personal loot boss finally submits… the end product is not an upgrade at all.  As a result we have started trying to stack armor types, so that in theory at least SOMEONE in the party could benefit from the item.  There are honestly a lot more lessons that I feel like Blizzard and the WoW team could learn from the way Destiny works, and I might elaborate on them in additional posts… but this loot post was a good starting place.