Yes, the blog lives. Technically, at least. Life gets busy and complicated, but when it eases up a bit or a topic strikes my fancy… well here you are.

On the heels of the announcement of WoW’s Wrath of the Lich King Classic, a number of recent posts have taken up the topic of WoW’s dungeon finder due to be added to the Classic version of the game. Wilhelm has some thoughts here, Rohan has a good post here, and a series of interesting somewhat related posts from Bhagpuss and Shintar, got me thinking.

We’re not playing WoW at the moment, but readers of TAGN will know that our little group of ageing adventurers have returned to Valheim after setting WoW Classic aside and exploring a few other games– New World and Lost Ark specifically. Part of what propelled us back to Valheim, for me at least, was the loss of a sense of place, of “worldliness”. I’ve been down this road before.

One day all this will be yours? No, not the curtains.

I play these games to be removed from this crazy world to spend some time immersed in that crazy world. Experiences are what I take away from these games and exploring and adventuring in a virtual world to me should be a unique experience– even if that experience is potentially very similar to that of another player’s– the pathway, choices and timeline are my own.

The recents posts weighing in on the WoW Classic Dungeon Finder debate, damage meters and dps rotations (and or the demise of “support class” play) struck a chord. These games have evolved from being a world to explore to largely being a single “story” line to experience, largely at the exclusion of all other kinds of gameplay.

I’d add a big third item to Rohan’s two ideas about Dungeon Finder– Dungeon Finder destroyed the “world” of WoW. In the guise of solving the group formation problem, a whole host of changes ensued which led to many of the issues Shintar and Bhagpuss discuss. The advent of the DF feels like it was perhaps the first big obvious manifestation of a new and shifting philosophy of game design.

As Wilhelm discussed, DF required that instance related quests were now placed within the instance itself rather than the instance run being the culmination of a world-based narrative quest line. I always trot out the Van Cleef/Deadmines story line from WoW Classic being the epitome of the before times.

A trot across the Northern Bree Fields

The “world” became irrelevant and needlessly time consuming. As the bar for accessing and experiencing content was reduced to logging in and clicking the LFD button, world questing and travel went out the window. With instanced content being simultaneously the easiest content to access and the repository for the best gear needed to progress to the, er, next best gear, an endless cycle of class and dungeon content revision and optimization ensued. The DF made adventures like this unnecessary.

The success of the new bite sized instance based experience depended on channeling players into set roles to feed into the DF to provide a predictable, homogeneous and optimized experience. Rotations, damage meters, gear score, “cleave” runs, etc. all grew out of this fundamental shift.

Likewise, the primacy of effectively lobby based instanced content in these and only these roles effectively killed off any other modes of game play. Crowd control? No longer needed. Stealth? Hardly. Unique “builds”? Need not apply. Specialized group buffs or other “support” activities? That went out with high buttoned greaves. Gear score too low? Pass. DPS checks? Yup. Fast travel to any and all points? Check. Don’t even get me started on “phasing”…

Kamagua Sunset

And all of these changes, some incremental, some more earth shaking, took us from somewhere close to the 1999 Everquest virtual world experience to something much more like Lost Ark’s fixed character archetypes, linear maps and story lines.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Lost Ark for what it was, and before that, our re-exploration of Diablo II. But what those experiences didn’t offer was an individualized character that I could relate to and take into a world to create experiences for that character. Fewer or no choices, no individuality, One True Way to gear and play.

To me, that cascade of detrimental changes fundamentally started with the DF whose original mission was to solve a quality of life problem– how to facilitate group formation for instanced content. Very soon after that, the tail began wagging the dog and my how much wagging there has been.

If the difficulty of forming dungeon groups was the problem, the DF wasn’t the only solution. WoW certainly could have taken other tacks tried in other games. Scaling dungeon difficulty to group size or other indicia of “power” (i.e., gear score, level, etc.) could have been one way. LOTRO essentially went this route.

Mercenaries could have been another. Need two more to fill out your party? Hire a merc. Everquest and other games have taken that approach. Either of those alternatives wouldn’t have done any true “violence” to the core idea of an explorable world in which instanced content serves a role to move story forward and provide for progression.

When I look back at the games I’ve spent the most time in over the years (or had the most affinity for), the ones that I have stuck with for the longest– WoW, LOTRO, Everquest, Minecraft, and to a lesser extent, Valheim all have (or had at the time I was playing them) a true sense of place, of worldliness.

Icebergs Ho!

I have memories of those places and experiences as if I had visited them and spent time there. These are entirely unlike the memories I have of reading a novel or watching a film. For that matter, even the experiences of separate characters in those worlds have their own unique recollections.

Are there any virtual worlds left to explore and experience any more? For the time being, I’m entirely content with the sense of place and worldliness I’m finding again in Valheim.

Troll Magnet

Fortunately, I’m wearing all metal…

Ever had one of those days? I guess technically in Valheim, every day is one of those days which is sort of the point I guess. Working from home during lockdown has at least one advantage lately and that is being able to duck into Valheim at lunchtime and potter around a bit.

Valheim, being Valheim, I know not to set my lunchtime ambitions too high. Something mundane is usually safe like gathering and replanting some wood or tinkering around with base improvements. Of late, I’ve been anticipating making a new and improved dock for a soon to be launched longboat now that we are comfortably in the iron age. Some surveying and head scratching needed to be done, so a lunchtime look around and think seemed just the thing.

Until a troll raid started that is. There’s always a troll. Or this time, two trolls.

There I was down at the dock site with a cart full of materials outside the wall, no food (I was only feet from the main base after all) when I here the noise and see the ominous screen warning “THE GROUND IS SHAKING”.

Trolls being trolls, they made a beeline for the just finished crafting building in the compound. Hearing that gut wrenching crunching sound, I left the cart where it was and sprinted up the hill to the backside of the base only to see the pallisade come down and a troll in the compound wailing on the roof.

Fortunately, it was daytime, I had arrows and I was able to aggro the troll and kite him out of the base. His friend came along, but I had to keep doubling back to make sure I kept him interested too. I kited him a good distance away, plinking and running until I finally had the first one down and then turned to number two.

With only one to dodge, that went smoothly. I returned to the carnage.

Well, with the compound cracked open, there was nothing to be done but start picking up the pieces. The court yard is the new hub for ore operations. Ore can carted in the gate and unloaded into a chest which protrudes through the wall next to the smelter. Likewise, there is a chest next to the charcoal kiln on the same wall, so loading and unloading is quick and easy and the workflow inside the crafting hall is quick and easy being able to transfer wood to kiln, then coal from kin to smelter or coal storage chest without having to move.

Likewise, one can feed ore from the ore box into the smelter, collect the iron bars and deposit them into the chest next to the forge without having to move. Elegant efficiency. Until trolls show up.

The boxes of wood, coal and iron ore being pretty full, when the trolls attacked, they went for the smelter and kiln destroying the holding chests which leaves a rather untidy mess to clean up. And because of the weights involved, there’s quite a bit of shifting of materiel to be done.

Well, that’s the way the palisade crumbles some days, so I became resigned that my lunch hour would not be engineering a new dock and lighthouse but rather repairing what I just finished building yesterday…

With all restored, I still had a few minutes to get back to the dock project. I must have been back down there all of two minutes when the SECOND TROLL RAID began…

Mrs. Potshot across the house heard me shout, “you’ve got to be kidding…” Back on troll patrol, I was better able to handle these guys and distract them before they got any real damage on the base.

Base defended, I logged off until just before dinner while I was waiting for the bread to finish. If there’s a second good thing about lockdown, its been the opportunity to rekindle my bread baking, but that’s another story entirely.

While the house was filling with that fresh bread smell, I finally got to work on the new dock. That’s the screen shot at the top of the post. The storms rolled in and the seas turned angry. Out at the end of the dock, mountainous rollers would sweep the end of the new pier while I was working away hoping that lightning strikes weren’t a thing in Valheim.

After running low on stone and with time short before dinner, I decided to hop on out to our Dieppe base– see Wilhelm’s blog for the story there– to retrieve some supplies of stone that we wouldn’t need there.

Through the portal I went, I filled myself up with stone when “THE GROUND BEGINS SHAKING” again… Of course this troll went straight to work on the palisade wall and guard tower. Unfortunately, he didn’t lose interest and the compound was breached. My third troll raid today…just as my oven timer went off…

What’s that in the road, a head?

Running low on arrows and stamina, bread hopefully not burning in the oven, timer incessantly chirping at me just out of reach, I gambled that I could defeat the raiding trolls before my bread burned and for once the gamble paid off. Trolls dispatched, bread out of the oven, it was time to rebuild the Dieppe base defenses before dinner.

Maybe this evening I’ll finally get to that dock.

To Build or to Explore…

I seem to be splitting my time in Valheim between base building and exploration. I enjoy base building immensely and my server mates indulge me by providing copious quantities of materials so I can build and enhance the public facilities.

If I had to tally the time spent doing each, I’d probably say 70% base building/ 30% exploring.

Near our main base, I found a nice abandoned farming community in a Meadows biome so I began redomesticating that with a barn and guard tower. Of course, just a short jaunt to the north was a beautiful point at a navigable river delta and the sea that connects our home island, the farm island, our first swamp/crypt delvings and our Elder Base which became bronze central because of the abundance of copper in the Black Forest there.

At the point, Unna wanted to create a new base and I wanted to experiment with something different, so the Round House was born. Building in the round is a bit fiddly but I learned quite a bit building this one.

Continue reading To Build or to Explore…

A Rude Awakening

I woke up in the East River…

A few random Valheim thoughts for a Monday morning…

Logging out while on a boat

Or more specifically, logging back in after logging out in a boat… I was out exploring in my Karve when I had to logout to attend to things IRL. I was just off the coast of a Meadows biome, so it was pretty low risk, but I thought, why bother landing, I’ll just log off close to shore so I can resume when I log back on.

Much to my surprise, when I returned, the game dropped me in the drink next to my boat. Those ladders are there for a reason. I’ve got to suspect that its something to do with the game engine’s way of handling moveable objects like carts and boats.

I recall having many odd experiences in Medieval Engineers. In that game, you often took your life in your hands when building. You never knew when the evil spirit of Clang would visit to tear apart your construction. For example, when building a cart, you typically started making a structure that was fixed to the landscape, attach wheels, etc. and they sever the connection to the landscape at which point the cart became a mobile object (hopefully) and didn’t fly apart and kill you.

So far, nothing so disturbing in Valheim other than the slight weirdness I experience in my cart-on-a-boat project. Similarly, when I logged and relogged, the locked up cart seemed to have just been dropped in to the water at its last location which is fine by me.

Somehow Valheim knows…

Others have commented on this as well. Valheim knows which direction you intend to sail and promptly aligns the wind in the opposite direction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve undertaken a long boat journey having to paddle for most of the way, then on the return leg, having to do the same thing in the opposite direction.

Valheim also knows when you are thinking about logging out and visits some parade of horribles upon you so you are left with the the option of logging out anyway without addressing the situation or spending more time in game to resolve it. This has resulted in countless late bedtimes for me.

Case in point, after a successful adventure with our little group Sunday, I found myself at what we are calling our Elder base– so named because it was set up to be near the Elder altar. The Black Forest area around there is rich in copper and tin, so while a bit austere, the base has smelting facilities and a high level forge.

Evening chores done, I decided to log on to experiment with a few crafting ideas– more on that to come. Having just about exhausted my time and creativity, I was about to log off only to have a troll– its always a troll– show up and immediately begin attacking the base. I never left the walls of the enclosure, he just spawned and came right for the base and started destroying the palisade wall and things just inside.

I, of course, was completely without arrows or the means to make any decent ones. Between smashes, I managed to crank out 40 or 60 measly wooden arrows. At that point, the troll was in the compound (which is quite compact) and he caught me and one shotted me.

My respawn was mere feet from where I was killed which is both a good and bad thing. Good in that there was no run back, bad of course, because my corpse was still in range of the troll ravaging our base.

I was able to recover my gear, reequip and then play ring around the rosy with him around our base building plinking him with an arrow, then running to the other side of the building forcing him to change directions. Lather, rinse, repeat, troll dispatched.

What he left behind was a complete mess. The palisade wall was down in spots, so that had to be fixed. He had smashed one side of the base building including beds and chests leaving a glittering mess to pickup. Frustrating when your bags are full since you suck up all the bits when you get near and have to rebuild someplace to store them etc.

Nothing to be done but to get to work restoring the palisade, putting walls and a roof back on the base and then getting chests, beds and a fire situated again. Two plus hours into my 30 minute excursion and it was past my bedtime again…

Valheim always knows.

Shipping News

The evening’s modest goal: A cauldron.

After all the wild and wooly misadventures of late, I thought I’d have a quiet evening working on the farm Unna and I have been building. Our carrot production was ramping up so we’d soon have enough to feed captive boars, replant and use to make Carrot Soup to add some all important diversity to our Valheim diet.

Carrot Soup requires a cauldron and a cauldron requires Tin. Tin can only be found in the Black Forest, often near the shore, so that shouldn’t be too hard. I was also looking for more Fine Wood which comes from Oak and Birch trees. Some of those should be in the Black Forest as well. As far as I can tell, there are no Oak or Birch “seeds” in game yet, so they cannot be farmed yet.

Fair enough, I’ll go get some Tin and along the way collect whatever Fine Wood I could find along with any Raspberries, Blueberries or Mushrooms I mind find too. Because Tin is usually near the coast, I’ll take the Karve which has 4 modest storage slots.

Of course, if I’m going to be mining in the Black Forest, I might as well plan for collecting Copper too, if I find it. Bronze is always needed and I’ve been consuming more than I’ve been collecting and feeling a little guilty. And if I’m sailing to the Black Forest, I might as well skirt some new territory to see if we can find that elusive trader, Haldor, who has yet to show himself. This is my typical session in Valheim– an ever expanding list of things to do, all sparked by desire to accomplish One Simple Thing.

Ok, Tin, Copper, Wood, Berries, a longer sail… This could get time consuming if I have to go back and forth. Enter the Container Freight Solution. In looking on the web for something about Birch and Oak seeds, or lack thereof, I ran across a quick reference to putting a cart on a boat to be able to increase the Karve’s carrying capacity.

Well, if I’m headed out to collect things by boat, this sounds like a great idea to tryout. The first challenge was to get a cart on to the boat.

First attempt, I wheeled the cart down to the dock and scratched my head. A vain attempt to drag it on to the boat from the side failed, so I went with Plan B. Build a platform over the deck, build the cart on the platform, destroy the platform.

Of course, I attempted this at night, but you can see the floor panel with the cart on it as I’m about to destroy the floor.

Success! Platform removed, cart on deck. Time for a shakedown cruise. I wasn’t keen on filling it up until I was reasonably certain it wouldn’t end in complete disaster, so off I went.

The cart seems to get knocked about a bit on deck which is a little disconcerting. The pull shafts seem to get caught up in the sail lines as it pivots with the wind. Still it seems to handle the rough seas fine enough.

Surviving the shakedown cruise, I finally got to the task at hand. I left the boat just a bit off shore because of a nearby troll. There’s always a troll… As soon as I started mining some copper, the troll decided to visit. Troll dispatched, I resumed mining only to hear the sound of crunching coming from the boat. I immediately suspected grey dwarves.

No dwarves. The boat and cart seemed to be having some kind of a tussle and damage figures were floating in the air. At first, I thought perhaps I’d moored too near a submerged rock and the swell was beating the boat on it. When I got on the boat though, it was clear that the cart seemed to be fixed to the landscape while the boat was floating on the water. As a result, the boat was dashing itself against the cart and taking damage.

I couldn’t move the cart, and I couldn’t destroy it, so I finally managed to yank the boat free before it destroyed itself (note the damage in the screenshot below). With the boat out of the way, the cart remained fixed but floating just above the water.

Various attempts ensued to build a platform out to, under and around the cart to either retrieve it or break it down, all to no avail. Finally, I gave up and had to log out for some chores around the house.

To my amazement, when I logged back on, the cart was still there, but this time it was floating in the water so I was able to bump it back to shore and roll it up on to land again.

My plan was to just break it down and continue experiments at a later time. After all, the whole point of this excursion was to get materials for a damned cauldron and 2 hours into it, I was no closer to my goal.

In for a penny, in for a pound, so before I completely gave up on the cart-on-a-boat idea, and thinking of how many land or sea trips it would take to retrieve the ore I just mined, I decided to give one more go.

I built a proper dock with the level of the dock well above the height of the gunwales of the boat. Then I grabbed the cart and just rolled it on to the boat. While far from a precision operation, the extra height was just enough to allow the cart to fall into the boat in suitable fashion. I loaded it up with 800+ pounds of stuff and off I went back to base. While the boat didn’t ride any lower, handling certainly felt more sluggish. I’m assuming the physics engine is still accounting for weight somewhere.

On arrival at my home port, I was confronted with the opposite problem. Do I shuttle all those goods out of the cart on deck or is there another way. Well, at this point, safe at home, I said what the heck, lets try the brute force method first.

I got in the boat, stepped into the control position of the cart, took control and with a mighty tug or three, managed to yank the fully loaded cart off the boat onto the dock. Op success.

From that it was a piece of cake to pull the load up to the crafting area of the base.

Now all I had to do was turn piles of wood into coal, smelt the tin and copper ore, carrying some tin and copper overland to the farm base, build a forge, and then the cauldron so finally, I could make my carrot soup.

Just another typical day in Valheim.