The Blessings (and Smites) of Dungeon Maker

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary, Game Updates & Maintenance, Grouping

Due to some family health issues, things have been slow at the Wire the past couple of weeks short of Update Notes. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a slow resurgence in news on the EQ2 forums as the devs come back from winter break….

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

Ever since the first Massively Multiplayer Online game arrived on the market, players have been seeking the shortest route to fortune, glory, and player experience (XP).

In EverQuest II, Pet classes (Beastlords, Summoners, and Enchanters) have always had an advantage with the TOS-bending concept of unattended gameplay. Druids’ Thorncoat spell is just one of many example abilities that can allow hardy characters to automatically engage and fight enemies without the player being near their keyboard. Now, it’s the much-maligned Dungeon Maker in concert with Chains of Eternity’s Experimentation feature which seem to have set up a perfect storm of shortcuts.

Dungeon Maker & Experimentation

For those who haven’t tried out the feature, Dungeon Maker allows players who own the Age of Discovery expansion to decorate a Dungeon (a handful of rooms from Crushbone Keep, Mistmoore Castle, etc.) as if it were a house, populate it with enemies, and then publish it so that other players can zone in and do battle for XP and tokens. At first, only simplistic Avatars could engage these creations, but after much player feedback, and Herculean development effort, the ability to “Play as Yourself” was added to Dungeon Maker.

For the Chains of Eternity expansion, the designers eschewed the usual Tradeskill writs and story quests in favor of powerful new Tradeskill recipes and abilities that potential customers would find valuable. One of these new abilities, Experimentation, allows crafters to boost the stats of, and even add certain effects to, crafted items.

What has everyone’s knickers in a twist is two specific effects — Augmented Smite and Augmented Blessing. The first does a small amount of damage to the enemy whenever the player takes damage. The second provides a small heal to the player under the same circumstance. These effects by themselves aren’t that impressive, until you realize that each effect can stack and multiply as the number of triggers is increased by like pieces of armor, jewelry, or weapons.

Level Agnostic

When I first heard that Experimented items were being used within Dungeon Maker to power level characters, I didn’t really grasp how this worked. It is with many thanks to helpful players that I learned how a low level character could gain so much XP for groupmates of diverse levels without lifting a finger. The “aha” moment was when I realized that the rules of Experience (XP) don’t really apply because Dungeon Maker is Level Agnostic. You can immediately see this when zoning into any Dungeon Maker zone as none of the enemies have level indicators.

Imagine a level 30 fighter grouped with a level 50 mage and level 80 healer in a Dungeon Maker layout. During combat, the fighter’s taunts and damage are scaled up so that he can keep up with the damage output of the mage. Meanwhile, the healer’s heals and cures are scaled down to match the levels of whichever player he or she has targeted. The damage of the enemies is scaled so that when damaging the mage, the fighter isn’t flattened, and it does more than tickle the healer. It’s a complex choreography that is surprisingly good in its implementation.

Although I have been personally unable to reproduce the “320 AAs and level 20-90 in 10-20 minutes” XP shower mentioned again and again on the EQ2 forums, I have done my own tests which support the use of Dungeon Maker and Experimentation in concert as an effective method to gain levels and AAs, although my results were not head-and-shoulders better than other options such as mass killing in low level dungeons.

The oft-quoted case study has been level 22 Shadowknights wearing a 50-50 mix of the Smite/Blessing gear simply walking through dungeons with hundreds if not thousands of enemies without any additional input. While the “XP machine” is proccing hundreds of heals and damage effects, high level characters can leisurely hang out at the dungeon entrance, racking up mountains of XP.

The Curtain Drops

It looks like these issues have caught someone’s attention judging by these tweets from Holly “Windstalker” Longdale, Senior Producer of EverQuest II:

When prompted for details by a player…

…Holly made it clear that the “DM exploit” is now in SOE’s crosshairs:

We’ve heard rumors that SOE intends to limit these Experimentation effects to only triggering once every 15 seconds, and to not affect the proc chances of other equipped items. While this will not totally eliminate Dungeon Maker as a power leveling tool, it will likely send players scrambling for the next Chelsith or other means of acquiring XP by the wagonload.

Commentary

My personal viewpoint is, if players have already experienced the game on one or two characters and have naturally leveled to 92 or 95, what is the harm in allowing them to speedily level other characters?

Due to numerous gear revamps, stat inflation, and nerfs to the difficulty of earlier game content, nearly every enemy in EQ2 from level 1-80 dies in one or two clicks. This does not teach the player how to master their specific class — only how to arrange their spells or combat arts to kill enemies as quickly as possible. The ship has probably sailed on rebalancing the early game and player power to make this content a challenging learning tool once again, so why not allow players to “play your way” and get to the top at whatever pace they desire?

The Level Agnostic code is an ingenious bit of programming, which is quite frankly going to waste in such an underdeveloped feature as Dungeon Maker. SOE has flirted with scaling dungeons in the past with mixed results due to incredible differences in player power even at the same level. Leveraging Agnostic technology could allow the team to tune dungeons throughout the level range (levels 20-92) to allow players of all levels, and further, allow players to acquire top level gear and equipment.

As I am leveling an alt character, I have always been disuaded from spending any significant amount of time on older quest lines and dungeon romps for the simple reason that any armor or weapons I acquire will be invalidated within an hour or so of gameplay. If adornments, armor, weapons, or jewelry could be acquired throughout the level range that were effective at the top-end of the game, then instead of just 6 months of relevant content, the entire back-catalog of content designed from 2004-2012 becomes relevant once more for players.

Right now, players wanting to gear up their top level characters have just 11 dungeons to choose from (Skyshrine, Underdepths, and the Chains of Eternity zones). Eliminating the Group XP Penalty was a great first step at encouraging players to play the entire game, but we could go so much further.

Further Reading

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Comments (23)

  • Froak

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    “320 AAs and level 20-90 in 10-20 minutes” is complete rubbish. people love to exaggerate when they dont understand something. the way the DM awards adventure xp in a chunk at the end is limited to gaining a level and getting 99.999999% into the next level. at most, if you do it right you get 2 levels each run by killing something or getting disco when you zone out. just to go from 20-95 would be 38 runs not including AAs (assuming you gain enough xp for 1 level and 99.9999% every run which you dont at the higher levels).

    is it a fast way to PL sure. is it faster than having an aoe tank run you through low level dungeons – for 90-95 yes but from 20-90 no. is it the fastest method ever in the game…. not by a long shot. does it need to be toned down – YES, but not nerfed into oblivion. but this is SOE, they cant manage moderation on any changes.

    Reply

  • Matik

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    They should leave it in, people have and will always find ways to power level. Mentoring, SK mercenary, xp pots, there is no legitimacy left in leveling, in the traditional sense, and there hasn’t been for a long time. If someone just wants to grind it out real quick then let them.

    Reply

  • bhagpuss

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    I’m glad this cheesy farrago is getting fixed, not least because I love the whole concept of the Dungeon Maker as originally envisaged and would like to see all “leveling” aspects removed. Turn them into full-on storytelling instances for which, like housing, the only reward is the sheer pleasure of making them and visiting them.

    That doesn’t mean I’m against the concept of fast leveling, though. I agree entirely that it’s time for a Level Up button. I wouldn’t limit it to 90 either. If people are daft enough to want to press one button and “finish” the game, let ‘em.

    Reply

  • Gourdon

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    There is nothing wrong with the items. The problem is with their scaling. A level 92 character with all MC/experimented can’t have the impact of a level 22 with all MC/experimented. SOE developers are just dumb if they can’t figure this out.

    Reply

  • Filly67

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    First off, glad to see you are back Feldon. Hope you are well.

    Second and back to topic. Although this type of gameplay is not something that I am interested in I am once again amazed at how upsetting this type of playstyle is to other players. I am consistantly baffled as to why anyone would care about how someone else chooses to play the game. A powerleveled toon is not infringing on my gameplay. If I had to guess I would say that most of the players using this option are veteran players, who like me, have many max level and max AA toons along with a handful of lower level ones. How can this be such a big issue for people? The devs have dozens upon dozens of things that need to be corrected that effect everyone’s gameplay. I would like to see them stick to those issues instead of, as usual, caving to the cranky minority on the forums.

    Reply

  • Sigtyr

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    There has to be a way for new players to level up to where most players are. The guild I am in have certainly got a good influx of returning players that have seen the opportunity to cath up and actually do things with guildies. There has to be an easy non PL way to catch up. If that means that SOE have to (can) sell Level 80 and 180 AA tokens on the SC store it is what it is. The last weeks have been fun, many people have rejoined EQ2 they have been able to catch up. what is wrong with that? Yes there are other problems with leveling fast but they are far less serious than lack of players.

    Reply

  • Dedith

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    I’m not sure why there was so much mention of unattented gameplay in this article when you really do need to be at the controls for this DM leveling method. You cannot walk into ALL of the mobs, you’ll crash to the character select screen due to the lag. Thus most of these maps are build with large groups far from each other. So there is the fact you do have to walk around, although not much, it’s still attended gameplay. That and you have to complete the map and zone back in, etc.

    Overall, the dmg and healing done by these procs just needs to scale better at lower levels so it cannot be so overpowering.

    Reply

    • Feldon

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      The unattended gameplay thing was just to make the point that there have been ways to gain XP without actively clicking buttons for a long time. And how hard would it be to write a macro that moves your character forward for 2 seconds, stops for 30 seconds, moves forward 2 seconds, stops for 30 seconds. Running a Dungeon Maker zone could absolutely be scripted such that the player only needs to check on things once every 20 minutes or so.

      Reply

  • Jim

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    Froak, You are wrong about early levels.

    You do not need to clear zone for 2 levels, only kill enough to get those levels…example level 40-42 would be 25k (estimate). That is basically 1 group of mobs or 60 seconds.

    The average time from 20-95 with full AA is under 3 hours (In my experience, I would not doubt someone posting faster time)

    While there are faster methods to level low levels. (Shineys for example)

    I have yet to see a complete faster way to level a toon from 20-95 full AA.

    Either way I will miss it. (But another way always seems to come along.)

    Reply

  • striinger

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    Bhagpuss, there are DM zones like you describe…they are just usually empty. You can still play your way.

    I always thought the “vision” of the new SOE was all about “play your way”, which I don’t fully agree with. Still, if that’s their motto, then there really ARE no exploits anymore; it’s just an “unintended” way to play.

    EQ2 just isn’t the same game it used to be, for better and worse.

    Reply

  • bob0builder

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    90-95 60-300 AA takes about 5 runs in DM using a LVL 20 toon to PL (the lvl 20 toon wears the experimental gear). That’s roughly 20 minutes of hands on playing. but …

    Feldon knocked the nail in perfectly. Scripts have made this trivial. Setup a 90 toon with 50 AA and 20 minutes later they are 95/320 with NO human interaction. Do this on 6 different accounts at the same time and you can PL 6 toons max in less than 30 minutes all with no human interaction.

    Sigtyr, I agree. I really want new players (like my friends) to join me at 90+ not me to join them at <90 … I envision SC being the answer … SC for a 90/280 toon would be fantastic !!!!

    But the problem occurs when these toons arent for new players but for bot groups. People are using these techniques to increase their bot raiding groups and not to add new players. If you don't think bot raid groups (even heroic bot groups) are the problem your not seeing the entire picture.

    Reply

  • bob0builder

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    Gourdon, it works the other way around though, the lvl 20 is wearing the experimental gear not the lvl 90+

    The scaling isn’t the issue since the mobs are always lvl 20. It’s the experimental gear that’s the problem (for this specific exploit). This can’t be done without experimental gear (the procs).

    Reply

  • Gina

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    I think it is a valid form of gameplay that should neither be praised nor demonized.

    However, other forms of gameplay should also be addressed. I loved that the dungeon maker in City of Heroes could be used to create storylines. As in that game, I play EQ2 for the storylines, and would love this feature to be implemented.

    Reply

  • Abyss

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    I don’t know what the right answer is. But when looking for veteran playes isn’t there a gauge already in the achievement score? Nothing ever seems perfect, but isn’t it time to implement a reward system based on achievement score? Your score is an indication of the content you’ve experienced. What kind of reward? Maybe class specific abilities similar to epic weapon quest or maybe some multi class ability.

    Reply

  • zerigo

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    Yea, i would love it if my nerd points are worth something other then the random title or robe. i don’t think this is heading our way though, just saying.

    Reply

  • KG

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    I love the fact that you totally forget how this ability effects PVP. This HAS to be changed.

    Reply

  • Le Clown

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    botters will bot
    bads will be bads
    nerfing DM PL makes me sads

    Reply

  • Madcat

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    the good part of all of this, i got an old dungeon designed for my SK, not an easy one… Mob max boosted stacked by 59-60 mob. The whole dungeon give more than 2500 token. Befor i got really few people who have tried it, not a single one finished it (beside me at last based on my claim windows)

    But when i readed this news, i rushed to see if i got some token unclaimed. And i saw my old dungeon at 2rd place with more than 60.000 token waiting to be claimed.

    Thanks ;)

    But now if i want spend them buying 5 token lore box… nhaaa i will just keep them as trophy.

    PS : with my guild we have tried to quad it some time ago (all level 92) it was hard like epicx4 easy mod. I still think dungeon make is still not well balanced. And that kind of news give me right.

    Reply

  • Perplexor

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    Since this does not take away from gameplay for others, why all the whine? This is not like it was trying to do quests in the Bonemire and having to ask permission from the farmers to get an update,or the Headless horseman/NPU debacle on Guk. I run a level 22 zerker to level my alts and get tokens. I help friends who would love to raid and now dont have to grind for weeks when I get it done in a day. Also, I enjoy the Godmode my little zerker gets, and its only in the dungeons.This is the most fun ive had in the game in a long time. Let people play.

    Reply

  • Trueflight

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    Coming soon to a SC marketplace near you…

    Max level character 2500 SC
    Max AA character 2500 SC

    or get both for the low price of only 4500 SC

    Reply

  • badcat

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    If the would quit nefring down the quest xp and combat xp people would not find ways to so called exploit. The level 90-92 is a pain in the rear to level if your just doing quest, unless you get in a ss group, and I noticed they somewhat nerfed the xp in those zones.

    Reply

  • Rayzor

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    How do you guys do these epic power level instances without crashing? My high-end computer dies as soon as I engage a single one of those groups.

    Reply

  • Myth

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    I used to run Dm’s for my friends and guildies … i would run my own dungeon of 13 stacks of 150 mobs each in around 8 mins … i actually had fun doing it. I helped so many people and had fun doing it….. now i dont it just is to much of a time sink … i find myself playing other games where time vs effort make more sense to me … now with AoM and the lvl/xp nerf …. i may find myself not coming back :(

    Reply

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