Off Topic: “Sword Art Online”

The cover of the manga of “Sword Art Online”

With all the drama involving MyDDO’s passing, I thought it would be fun to talk about gaming from a different perspective.

I’m been on an anime-watching kick for some time now. One show caught my eye and then my rapt attention.

Pretend it’s about 10 years from now. There’s still PC gaming, but the interfaces have changed.

You might have heard of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality gaming interface, in development today,  that fits over your face, giving you an immersive stereoscopic display.

In this near-future, you can place a helmet on your head, which immerses your consciousness into a 3D environment where you don’t move an avatar–you are the avatar.

This device, the NerveGear, is the heart of virtual multiplayer online gaming, and the premise of the anime adaptation of the manga called “Sword Art Online.”

“SAO” is a hot new game, and one player, who goes by the name of “Kirito” during his participation in the game’s beta test, is one of the first 10,000 players in the newly released game.

The world of Aincrad, the game’s setting, is a massive floating castle-like structure with lands divided into 100 levels. The goal of the game is the beat the floor’s boss and ascend to the next, beating the game at the 100th level.

All seems well for Kirito and a new player he befriends, Klein, when their avatars (and all 9,998 other players) are suddenly transported to the town square on Floor 1. There, the game’s creator appears, larger than life as a skyscraper-sized, faceless, robed spectre, to tell all the players that they cannot log out. They must stay in the game and complete it to leave. Further–if you die in the game, you die for real, as the NerveGear will zap your brain on your failure. Others on the outside can’t remove that helmet, or it will kill you as well.

It’s a perma-death game in more ways than one.

I haven’t read the book series (but I will once I can find it) but the anime adaptation is said to be quite acceptable. Whoever wrote this story had a good knowledge of gaming lore and skill. “SAO” is a world where swordplay is the norm: magic does not exist as an offensive force (although a later story introduces another gaming world where the reverse is true and magic is dominant). There are hints that unarmed fighting is possible, but sadly, I didn’t see any ninjas.

As such, it’s a tough world to fight within.

By the start of episode 2, you learn that over 2,000 of the 10,000 players have died in a single month. A group of players, with Kirito and his sole party member, a girl named Asuna, tackle the first boss.

This was where I laughed my butt off: It was a ginormous kobold boss, complete with lieutenants that were essentially paragon kobold fighters (as seen in “The Shroud” or “Enter the Kobold”)

SAO_E02Kobolds! And those things were kicking the ass out of this raid party of at least thirty players!

But that’s what you and I would expect, right? Kobolds aren’t particularly powerful unless you aren’t.

There’s much in the way of gaming lore and in-jokes, but the drama of watching a player move up the ranks to be what we all dream of being; the one player that saves the day–it’s exciting, humorous and extraordinarily dramatic.

There are two gaming worlds that Kirito and friends visit in the anime storyline–and you’ll wish you could grab a copy of the game and log in yourself.

Well, discussing this show any more would totally spoil it for you. You can watch all the episodes of “Sword Art Online” –free–on the anime web site Crunchyroll, or, if you have Hulu Plus, you can find it there.

OurDDO: An Aggregate Feed for MyDDO Ex-Patriots

Evennote, the Great Filk Master of the MyDDO community and one of it’s shining bloggers, has made the first strike against the twilight that faces MyDDO.

In short, she’s asking any MyDDO contributor who has created a blog elsewhere to send her your blog website, where it and others will be seen on a centralized feed to give us all a semblance of community once more with DDO blogs. In fact, I propose it will be a better feed since the MyDDO New Posts feed was very limited in size, leaving many posts lost to people who visited its blogosphere less frequently than some.

Visit Evennote on her new blog for details and what conditions should be met for adding yourself to the feed. Victory to the Resistance! 🙂

A Perilous Move of the Dojo

With MyDDO’s imminent demise, I’ve successfully transferred the content there to this new blog. I’m already missing the companionship of the other blogs, but hopefully everyone there will have a new blog site where we can share links and continue our reading.

Most of the links are still cross-referencing the DDO links and will soon die, but it’s likely I won’t get to fixing them very soon.

Also, I’m heavily enjoying the diversity of built-in WordPress themes. I’m trying out several in the course of the days to one that’s easily readable and is more or less complementary in form to the simple themes of my companion website, home of the Monk guide. Be patient while I go all squee and change the website’s appearance like a girl with unlimited credit in a shoe store.

Update 17: Game Changer for a Tanking Monk

I don’t know about you, but Update 17 was a game-changing breath of fresh air.

First, we get Epic Gianthold. The wilderness area is a bit more, um, interesting, when you occasionally get a dragon that pounces on you and your party like a cat on a mouse. The quest refreshes are welcome, but what I loved, just LOVED was the quest chain reward for completing the flagging quests for the new “The Fall of Truth” raid. You didn’t have to step in the raid door at all to gain some Extremely Nice Phat Loot from the end-chain rewards. Run that one again and again and again, folks.

One of our guild’s trips to “Return to Madstone Crater” did run into a little glitch after slaying a named giant there. Our reward chest decided to be too high for our level–literally.

It was suspended above a shrine about 30 feet in the air.

Look! In the air! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's our BLEEPING loot chest!

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s our BLEEPING loot chest!

Thankfully, the gamemaster corrected this for us in less than 5 minutes after reporting it. Way to go, Turbine! It made for some laughs, that’s for sure.

Next, the devs refresh much of the gear from Level 1 to 20 throughout, oh, about every damn quest. Very few raid loot changes except “Tempest’s Spine” (which I think needed a little love).

Of course, aside from mostly positive updates to the gear’s stats, one addition: Augment slots, just made my day. (In fact, it’s making me a sandwich and getting me a beer right now, and teases that I’ll get a “dinner and a movie” later.)

For those not in the know, augment slots are similar to the (phased out) epic augment slotting system and the (legacy) Guild augment crystal idea. The biggest difference comes not just from finding slots on lots and lots of named and unnamed loot from level 1 and up, including Epic gear, but what you can add to it.

At first I was “meh” about it because I knew that my tanker Monk’s White Dragonscale Robe is nice enough as it is, and I won’t wear a lesser robe just to get a Blue Augment slot for more Physical Resistance. Then I looked at what it means to have a specific slot color.

It’s the primary colors game when adding gems to slots. A Colorless augment gem can go in any slot since it’s without color. A Blue gem can only go in a blue slot. But a Blue gem or Yellow gem works with a Green slot since Yellow and Blue make Green.

Further, there is an Epic White Dragonscale Robe–with a Blue slot and more AC.

And then I had a nerdgasm over what that meant for my tanker Monk, Lynncletica.

At first I thought that I’d have to Twist and Shout like crazy for Epic Destiny abilities to raise PRR and HP since I wouldn’t likely find Blue slots needed for PRR. But Green slots are found in many places. You can run the “Delera’s Tomb” chain, get an updated Hellfire Cloak with a built-in gem in it’s Green slot, pry it out with a Jeweler’s Kit from the DDO Store (which lets you keep that pried gem) and pop in your Blue gem.

Ta-da! I just got +10 to PRR, and still have an empty Yellow slot for perhaps a Deathblock gem.

Mind you, the Hellfire Cloak was maybe a ML5 item, but adding the +10 PRR gem (bought for 150 TP on the Store) raised it’s ML to about 16. I am still happy. More so than grinding for that Iron Cloak of the Bear that had only 3 PRR (although the Exceptional Combat Mastery is very good for stuns and the like).

My euphoria continued through this weekend by several Crystal Cove runs with guildmates to generate all I needed to build a Greater Bold Trinket and upgrade my Ring of the Buccaneer to its maximum (creating a Green slot) that will get a PRR +14 gem once I hit Level 20.

Further: All that gnashing of teeth and lamentations of my women in keeping essential protections like Deathblock and Heavy Fortification while trying to keep my set items equipped can be solved with any loot with a Green slot to put the needed gem in place.

My eye now looks to the epic Treads of Falling Shadow, which has Ghostly for Lynncletica, or the improved Ring of Shadows, and so much more. I’m purposefully gearing her for Epic Elite power now so that she’ll be more than ready for it later. A PRR of 90 to 100 is now so possible it brings tears to my mind’s eye.

All I need to do once I confirm all the new slotted gear is working as intended is to review whether to respec to add Dodge, Mobility and Spring Attack to add better “stick and move” attacking required for melee in Epic Elite as well as dodge bonuses to get Lynn to at least 12%-15% consistent Dodge.

I’ll still train her in Legendary Dreadnaught for a super-HP path but I believe now that Twisting what I can from that into Grandmaster of Flowers (keeping the 15 PRR and Dodge bonuses there, not to mention Everything is Nothing) will lead Lynncletica to a new level of enlightenment.

There’s still the matter of a better Reflex save to make this work best. I need 45 or more.

And finding a slotted returning shuriken would make my day complete–again.

UPDATE (3/8/13): It’s the fine print that always gets me.

While PRR normally stacks, augment gems are marked as an enhancement bonus. That means only one gem works at a time and lesser ones are ignored.

I was sad at this just as Lynncletica reached Level 20 last night and put her epic gear on to see her new numbers. I wasn’t too sad about the PRR for long. While only the +12 PPR appeared, I showed a 42 PRR, 87 AC and a +38 Reflex with all Grandmaster of Flowers effects and Way of Sun Soul gear active. I’ve started on Legendary Dreadnought to get that extra 15 PRR as a twist but realize that more Reflex should greatly help with tanking as well. Surprisingly I don’t own a pair of Grave Wrappings or Drow Smoke Goggles…

Sadly, the Heavy Fortification or Deathblock gems out there are going for maliciously high prices on the Auction House, so here’s hoping one can buy them on the Store.

Going to have to  grind more than an army of Starbucks baristas by a coffee mill.