A few more Atlantica Online design discussion points.

I want to follow up on my previous post about Atlantica Online and some of the good things it does, as there are indeed a few more systems I think are worth pointing out. I’m currently level 52 in AO, which means I’m in the heart of the grind, out of newbie land, and have far more options in terms of locations to grind (err, quest, yea, quest). The shocker? The slower pace and increased length of each grind is still not bothering me, and my interest in the game still remains high. I have yet to pay a dollar for it through the RMT shop, but the servers are still up.

One thing AO does well is the game has a very ‘worldly’ feel to it. In addition to the traditional ‘point A to point B’ leveling path, which takes you from the noobie dungeon all the way to the high level stuff, AO gives you incentive to take time off that path and move around a bit. The city of Rome is the mecca of the world, the location of both the free league PvP tournament and the arena NPC tournament. All players are given free teleport access to Rome, making it easy for anyone to reach. This also impacts the immediate area around Rome, as again a quick teleport and some walking gets you where you need to go. The more important NPCs in the game also travel the world, walking from town to town. The games chat channels are often full of people looking for a certain NPC, and it’s not uncommon to go on a little search to hunt one of them down. Towns allow you to teleport (for a small fee) between them, which cuts down on the major walking, but does not fully eliminate it. The need for an NPC can be somewhat random, as mobs may drop something randomly only one traveling NPC accepts. You can opt to ignore the item (usually they have a timer of 24 hours or so), or you can go on a search and get your full reward. The nice thing about this is if you are an explorer type, you can focus more on this aspect, and if you hate travel, you can ignore it. The degree in which you interact with the traveling NPCs and the other ‘worldly’ aspects of AO is up to you.

AO keeps track of which mobs you have gained information about, and this information comes in three levels. The first is ‘basic’, which puts the mob on your list and gives you a small damage increase when facing it. The second is ‘location’, which is self explanatory, but important when you receive a quest to kill 20 of x and you don’t know where x is found. The third and final is ‘item’, which lets you know what the mob can drop, and increase your odds to get the higher value stuff. The method of acquiring this info is simple, kill the mob. In true F2P fashion, you not only have to kill said mob, but perform a bit of genocide, and as far as I know, it’s not a set number but rather somewhat random. But wait, how does the ‘location’ help if you gain that info from killing said mob you ask? Simple, players can share mob info with friends and guild/nation members. It costs the players some Will, a stat that functions like a mana bar that passively regenerates at a reasonable pace, and gives them a point of stamina, a stat that increases xp gain per battle as long as you have it. Will is also connected to teaching a crafting level, teleporting, and eating food to regen hp/mana. A high level or veteran player is likely to have a large collection of mob info, making them a great source of help for newer players. It’s a small touch, but helps foster a mentor/apprentice feeling to the game. (AO has a system in the game that officially supports the mentor/apprentice relationship, but aside from a cash bonus when the player hits 30, I’m not sure what else it does)

So now we have players asking for crafting training, mob info, and NPC locations, along with all the usual MMO chatter of quest help, strats/builds, etc. In stark contrast to WAR, AO almost has TOO much chatter (the crap UI also complicates this, with some seriously questionable design, but remember we are judging it by F2P standards, so it gets a pass), and that chatter is both local and global, region and guild. The world is abuzz with life, which is somewhat odd when you consider that the basis of that ‘life’ in AO is grinding out mob after mob in a somewhat basic fashion. That grind is tolerable, hell even enjoyable, because at all times you have so many little side projects and distractions. While you are indeed killing your 100th ant for a quest, you are also working on crafting, waiting for the Arena, and watching your auction house items sell, all while asking/answering questions about the world. This comes down to one important design decision; AO knows exactly when to stick to its setting as a fantasy world, and when to throw that setting and immersion out and give players modern functionality like IM-style chat. It works, you still get a decent sense of immersion (one could argue even better than WoW or WAR), and at the end of the day you have a fun game. Again, definitely worth the time to download the 2gig+ file.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Atlantica Online, MMO design, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A few more Atlantica Online design discussion points.

  1. Tesh says:

    They really did throw in a lot of little incentives to be social, but without hobbling the game for those who want to play solo. (Shadow Dungeons aside.) It’s a nice sweet spot to hit, and smart design.

  2. syncaine says:

    Yea I would say Shadow Dungeons are as close as it comes to forced grouping, and even then a witch scroll can be used to limited effect. As far as I’ve encountered though, all shadow dungeons are used for optional quests, not the ‘main’ quest line.

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  4. Tesh says:

    Aye, as far as I can tell (I’m at level 52 also, I think… it’s been a month or so), the Shadow Dungeons are just extras. They can provide some nice rewards, but they aren’t necessary. I was able to solo them up until the Harpies’ Shadow Dungeon. That one I’ll have to come back to.

    I did wish at times that other players could jump into a fight in progress, like they might in WoW, to help out. The combat in AO is more restricted, so it was harder to get people in and helping, even if they were volunteering to do so. If the “jump in and help out” mechanic was easier, I’d be tempted to go prowl the lower level Shadow Dungeons helping lower level players.

  5. syncaine says:

    Well in a group they can jump into a fight that’s already underway (as can be done in PvP during war). Granted if you are running solo with a witch scroll, you can’t get help, but if you happen to get jumped by something, and your buddy is far away, he can come in later and help out. At first the limit to only 3 people was troubling for me, but after being involved in a 3v3 PvP fight during our war, I’m more than ok with it now :)

    I actually just finished that shadow dungeon, as the final boss is the last step of the Beast Trainer merc quest. Died a good 8-10 times, but I finally got him thanks to his helpers joining the fight at different times, rather than all 3 at the start.

  6. Bonedead says:

    I almost downloaded this last weekend (read: the previous 2 days) but that 2gig+ file stared me down pretty good. I would’ve stood up to him but I was feelin pretty unlucky with my 1.5 down DSL (read: pewp).

  7. Tesh says:

    That’s all I have, Bone. I had to let it run overnight, but it worked the first try. Good luck!

    Syn, that’s what I was angling for; the Beast Trainer. I settled on an archer for my back row in the interim. With my main who is also an archer, I can stagger Silence casts to keep bosses quiet.

  8. Mallika says:

    Hmm, I need to get back to my characters in Atlantica Online. They’re only … hmm … level 14 or something. I enjoyed the combat a lot. Quite enjoyable, and I even deliberately kill stuff in the area over and over just to see what crafting stuff and chests could drop. Rather addicting, I have to say.

  9. Coppertopper says:

    I downloaded this based on your first blog post Syn and really enjoy the combat. I haven’t figured out how to use magic yet, but it’s cool seeing combat play out via the instances battlefield. Looking forward to exploring more details you’re describing here. And I thought Aion was going to be the FTP mmo of choice for me.

  10. syncaine says:

    Aion is set to be F2P? News to me.

    Magic is easy, you just click the icon in the lower right and click the mob/merc you want to target. You upgrade the spells from the books that drop. The strategy of when and what books to use is a bit deep, but that’s the basics. If you read all the quests, many of them have random gameplay hints written in, which I found really helpful.

  11. Tesh says:

    Note that you can’t use Magic in the first round of combat. You can “use” scrolls in the first round, but they don’t trigger until the next round (whenever you use them).

    …I do wish there was an easier way to switch control to other ready units. As far as I can tell, you have to tell units to Guard or Pass to take focus off of them, allowing other units who have enough action points to actually get a turn.

    Sync, have you found an easier way to shift around to other units? This can be important, since the game gives you control of only (up to) five units per turn, but any unit with enough action points can theoretically act, if they get “activated”. You may want units other than the active ones for tactical reasons. (Especially when bringing a new unit up to speed.)

  12. syncaine says:

    Guard is the only way I’ve found to do it (does wait work? guard uses 50ap) With a bit of practice you can get quite fast at guard switching and triggering spells/attacks using hot keys. In PvP being fast is crucial, as that 30 seconds goes by awfully fast. Having a good camera angle during the fight really helps too. I like a 3/4th view above my team, makes it easier to click on all 9 of them. If I need to target someone in the back rows of the other team, I swing the camera 180 if needed.

  13. Tesh says:

    Hmm… you’re probably right about Guard being the only way; it’s been a while since I tried Passing. That I can’t switch characters without Guarding is annoying and tactically troubling for tight fights.

    I’ve settled on a different camera angle, too. The default just doesn’t give tight control if you’re not hotkey proficient. I’m glad that it remembers the camera angle between fights. (Though not between logins, unfortunately.)

  14. sumdumguy says:

    Interesting that you guys are clicking on your mercs to select them. I use the number shortcuts, and find that it’s a bit easier/quicker/more accurate than trying to click on the right one.

    I am still somewhat shocked that my fav MMO right now continues to be a Free To Play game. There’s a freshness to trying to optimize the tactics of one’s squad while grinding the same mobs over and over again. And by changing the makeup of my squad, keeps combat interesting for me.

    You guys definitely need to do the Shadow Dungeons. It seems that both the Harpy one (Mohenjadaro) and the next one (Bran Castle) let you get class C mercs, the Beast Master and the Witch. New toys to play with. I guess you could just buy them in the Market, otherwise?

    And I was able to solo Bran Castle (for the most part) by using those bewitch scrolls. Didn’t solo Mohenjadaro, but it’s not too hard to find someone to group for it.

  15. Tesh says:

    I don’t use hotkeys often because I wound up playing more often than not with a sleeping newborn in my offhand. The game is playable with the mouse alone, which I appreciate, since I didn’t have another hand to operate the hotkeys. I can definitely see that hotkeys are the way to go, though, in the interest of speed.

    The Mohen dungeon is evil. I handled the other Shadow Dungeons before it, but that one was just evil. I haven’t killed Dracula yet, so I haven’t tackled Bran’s Shadow. Maybe later, when I come back to the game. I’m actually looking forward to getting a Prophet more than a Beast Master or Witch. I wish they offered the different units earlier in the game.

  16. syncaine says:

    I sold the BT orb, just don’t like that merc, and it did not fit into my setup. Perhaps at the higher levels I’ll need one, but you can always buy an orb on the AH, and by then 3.5 million won’t be as much for me.

    The tricky thing about Shadow Dungeons is they are a bit random. Some fights will start with all three groups, while others will have one, and as soon as you kill it, the 2nd and finally 3rd show up. This fluctuates the difficulty quite a bit. Witch scrolls are also hit/miss, depending on how much the enemy focuses on your other group. All that said, considering they are optional, I appreciate the challenge.

  17. sumdumguy says:

    Also, if you’re careful, you can often not end up with 2-3 groups of mobs, sorta like being careful pulling mobs in other MMO’s. …well, depending on the shadow dungeon. It seemed pretty impossible to not end up with 2-3 mobs in Mohen, but I was able to keep it to one group for the most part for a lot of Bran and currently Taj Mahal. And when I do end up with more, I have been using those Reinforcement scrolls which I can buy for 5-10k in the Market.

    And yes, it seems reasonable to sell or skip the Shadow Dungeons which offer a Merc that you don’t want. And Tesh, the different units are the reward that they’re offering for us to get on that treadmill/grind that are the Shadow Dungeons.

    It seems that for our level (meaning <60), having two Mercs being able to use a Freezing Axe = EZ mode. My main is an Axe, and I also typically use a Viking. The cc that I get from having two means I can lock down most battles reasonably easily. From what I gather, this is only temporary, as higher level mobs start becoming immune to Freezing Axe.

  18. Kenny says:

    Theres been upgrades. Origin Info. 10% extra exp. Insanely hard to trade around though…

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