Friday, May 4, 2012

AVWW Post-Release 1.009-1.010 "The Opal Guardian's Store" Released!

This one is focused on the remainder of the largest complaints we've had so far.  Once again, the results are pretty darn exciting if I do say so.

Supply Depot / Meteor Storm Missions Overhaul
So, these were definitely the most-hated missions.  They took too long, had too little strategy if you did certain things, or were impossibly hard if you did other things.  Not a good balance.  There were also a lot of glitches with the stacks of crates in multiplayer in particular.

Well -- that's all changed now!  There are no longer crates at all in fact, but rather there are four larger "supply stash" objects that you have to protect.  And the new catch is that you have to protect all of them rather than just one, which really brings this a lot closer to its original Missile Command roots.

Enemies are still in abundance to bother you personally, but they won't mess with the supply stashes anymore -- that means that the meteors are now the sole threat that can actually cause you to lose the mission.  The monsters are just there to kill you and make life more difficult.

There's now a handy heads-up display showing the health of all the supply stashes, so that you can protect the ones that are in more danger.  There's also way fewer meteors over a much shorter period of time, and fewer monsters also.  It's still a very hectic sort of "defend the hill" vibe to this mission, and they are quite a challenge... but it's world's better and more interesting than it was before.

We'll of course be very interested in feedback on the new mechanics from folks, but at worst I think you'll find that these are a giant step in the right direction.  Personally I think these are pretty cool now, albeit still one of the more difficult mission types.

Trash Mob Loot Drops
Okay, so folks really wanted trash mobs to drop something other than just health.  This came up during beta, but died down after a lackluster implementation involving the six-colored consciousness shards.  Then we switched to health-only drops, and players who had been through most of the beta with us seemed placated because the alternative was clearly worse.

Then we hit 1.0 and of course now there's thousands of new players, and the strong consensus has been that they want more of a reward for killing trash mobs.  "Otherwise, what's the point?" has been the general sentiment.  Of course, then there's a smaller contingent who prefers avoidance and has been arguing the other side... people can't ever agree on anything, not that I'm particularly complaining.

Keith has always been in the camp that he wanted to see loot drops from minor enemies anyhow.  I've been the one who was so opposed to it, because of some of the experiences during beta.  For instance, when the rewards were tied to the monsters themselves there was no way to decouple the reward and the challenge.

So if you had three bosses guarding some cool treasure, you'd inevitably get 3x the normal boss reward PLUS the treasure, which just made all sorts of trouble for a challenge/reward system.  And it's more complex than that, too, but I won't bore you with the details -- I believe those are still somewhere in the forums from back in November or thereabouts.

Anyway, something occurred to me yesterday when Josh brought up the fact that "enemies should drop loot" was starting to reach a fever pitch of popular opinion: my concerns really had to do with bosses and vengeful ghosts and missions.  So the compromise is easy: during freeform exploration, trash mobs now drop the consciousness shards as well as the health they were already dropping (not either/or like it was in the beta, as that was a big part of the problem then).

However, during missions you don't get rewards from killing even the trash mobs.  During a mission your sole focus is the completion of the mission, so that makes sense.  Outside the mission you're fighting and exploring and doing whatever other activities interest you, and I can understand players wanting to get rewarded for more activities than just poking their heads into every corner of the world.

The Store
So what's the point of those consciousness shards, though?  Yesterday I said they had no point but would soon.  "Soon" meant this release, as it turned out.

In your settlements you'll now find a third guardian stone: this one being the Opal kind.  Talking to this guy brings up a store where you can spend... you guessed it... consciousness shards.

The store itself serves several functions.  First of all, it provides a combat-based way to get some basic supplies like upgrade stones, wood platforms, and crates.  You can now kill enemies rather than exploring stash rooms if that's really your preference.  I recommend still using the stash rooms for things like that and then spending your shards on cooler stuff at the store, but to each their own.

Secondly, the store acts as something of a safety valve for when the random number generator is unkind to you with enchant unlocks or some of the more central guardian powers as mission rewards (buoys, wind shelters, and seek survivors mainly).  You can now spend a fairly substantial sum of shards if you wish in order to get those things outside of the normal course of missions.

Which is great for your average player who enjoys the exploration anyhow: now they have all these shards and probably not much need to spend them on basic supplies like wooden platforms or upgrade stones.  So they instead get to invest those either into enchants that are hard to find, rarities like elusion scrolls, or getting more buoys without having to stalk secret missions for potentially a really long time.

In other words, the store is a way to remove some of the accidental grind that could happen simply by virtue of the world being so randomized.  If you're unable to get something you absolutely need, you are no longer stuck with just having to explore ad infinitum looking for that thing: the store is your safety valve that lets you trade some combat or exploration loot (you find shards via both) for whatever you most need at the time.

There's actually a larger variety of random tweaks and fixes than usual with this one, too, so be sure to check out those release notes.  There's a new music track, player bats work differently, the warp gates let you move around differently, and so on.  More to come soon.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: 1.010 is now out.  This is basically just a cleanup maintenance patch with some hotfixes for stuff from the last few versions, plus some extra polish we threw in there "just because."  Hopefully this is the last release prior to Monday, when we get back down to serious business.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

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