TorilMUD and the End of the Harsh Death Penalty

I haven’t written much about TorilMUD of late.  My last recollection of the old days in my Leuthilspar Tales series was posted over a year ago.  In part this is because I cannot piece together much more in the way of coherent posts from memory… my most recent real play time in TorilMUD is now more than a decade in the rear view mirror… and in part because not much has been going on in the world of TorilMUD.

TorilMUD_logo

I peek in every so often using the web-based MUD client they offer on their site. (Rather unfortunately triggered by the ‘Log in’ button rather than the ‘Play Now’ button that needs a local telnet client.)  But news out of the game has been sparse.  A year has passed since their own last posted update.

But things have suddenly stirred.  There was a fresh post earlier this week gathering up some changes and updates that had gone into the game.  Nothing astounding there, but at least it was a heartbeat to prove that the game was still alive.

That, however, was just a warm up for the big news that hit today.  TorilMUD is changing how death and the death penalty works.

This is a monumental change.

As with so many aspects of EverQuest, TorilMUD’s death penalty was the prototype as to how things would work in Norrath.  And it was a harsh example to follow, with experience loss (a quarter of a level, and likely your current level to go with it if you weren’t far enough into it) just the opening salvo when you died.  Then you had to go back to your corpse because all of your equipment remained with your dead body.  That meant going back to where something that killed you lay in wait, only you had to go there naked.

In the three dimensional world of EverQuest this was multiplied by the difficulty one could encounter in just finding your corpse.  In TorilMUD you could at least scroll back and find a room name.  Out in a big zone like West Karana, you could be anywhere on that bad linoleum texture landscape.

Bandit Camp Gone Bad

Bandit Camp Gone Bad

SOE had to lighten up on the whole death penalty thing within a couple years as competition came along that offered an easier time with this sort of thing.  I remember a friend speaking glowingly about Dark Age of Camelot primarily because dying wasn’t such a game stopping, gut wrenching event.

But TorilMUD carried on as it was.  For as long as I have known about the game, and I started playing back in 1993, the death penalty has been about the same.  A couple of years back they removed level loss from the equation.  You would lose exp, and even go into exp debt for your level, but you wouldn’t lose a levels any more.  But that seemed to be the only concession that the team seemed willing to make when it came to that hard core aspect of the game.

And believe me, I know the pain of losing your corpse and all the hard earned equipment that might be on it, not to mention the complete horror showing of finding your corpse some place dangerous and dying repeatedly to rescue your gear.

So it comes as something of a shock that the TorilMUD team has decided to change their tune on the whole death experience.  The stated justification was put forth as:

The penalty for failure is so high that it’s terrifying to lead a zone or follow a new leader. After all, you may have spent years building your equipment. Do you really want to risk it on someone else’s leader training? Also, death comes so swiftly and suddenly on this MUD that every play experience is a potential hours long corpse retrieval. Not many people have time for that, and I’d rather they spend their time in the game having fun.

At a high level, the new system replaces equipment and experience loss with item damage and death fatigue penalties.

It is hard to argue with that.  And in a time when the population of the game is rather sparse, to the point that if a full group of 16 wipes you probably can’t find enough equipped people to come and save you, it probably makes a lot of sense.

The bullet points for the change are:

  • You will no longer lose experience on death. Ever.
  • When you die, you will be transported to a special holding room wearing all of your equipment.
  • From there, you can either wait for a resurrect or re-enter the game at your guildmaster via a portal.
  • Though you will have a corpse for resurrection purposes, your equipment stays with you at all times.
  • If you choose to enter the game via the portal your empty corpse will vanish. You can either get resurrected or enter the game yourself, but not both.
  • However you re-enter the game, you will have two penalties: equipment damage and death fatigue.
  • Resurrect will reduce these penalties significantly.
  • A new spell, raise dead, works similar to resurrect but doesn’t reduce the penalties very much. All Priest classes get it.

An end of another era.

I can understand why.  Even back in the day when you could count on there being more than 100 people online during most evenings and multiple 16-person groups would be out doing zones, people were still choosy about who they might follow.  That often helped assure failure, as a new group leader could not count on the best players and would end up with a second tier group that would be much more likely to wipe, thus reinforcing the perception that this new leader is not yet ready for prime time.

Now death’s sting will bite in a different way.  After more than 20 years TorilMUD has gone with the equipment damage and death fatigue option, both of which are staples of the MMORPGs that followed on after EverQuest.

More details on the change here.

The Four Stages of Ragefire Login Grief

The official launch announcement is up in the forums, the Ragefire time locked progression server is live.  Now the reality strikes home…

1 – Cannot log in

You could at least not toss my user name with each try...

You could at least not toss my user name with each try…

2 – Cannot connect to server list

Oh, come now, this part should be easy

Oh come now, this part should be easy

3 – Time out at the server list

And yeah, that login screen doesn't like me either

And yeah, that login screen doesn’t like me either

4 – The server is just full

Wasn't instancing the starter zones going to cover us on this front?

Wasn’t instancing the starter zones going to cover us on this front?

And about every fourth time I click on “PLAY EVERQUEST” there is just long enough of a delay before the error comes up that I think I might just get through.

Oh well, I guess I’ll watch the promo movie a few more times.

Hey, I had ISDN when EverQuest came out, no modem connecting chatter for me back in 1999!  Also, I was totally able to log in the first night.

Hrmm, how about that EverQuest Lore video then, that will keep me busy for another minute.

Ragefire First Night Follies – Half-Elf Bards, Level 50s, and the Big Wipe

On the bright side, I suppose it says something that a game past its 16th birthday can open a new server… a new server that requires you to be a subscriber in an age when free to play is the norm… and find it overloaded.

Crowd on the Kunark Dock

Is this where we catch the boat to the Ragefire server?

Seriously, when the Ragefire server went live yesterday at a little after 2pm PDT (at least half an hour before the plan) people were saying that the rush to get on was such that it was slagging the login servers and causing a problem across the game.

Still, people were getting in after a bit and there was a huge amount of goodwill right up until somebody noticed there were level 50 characters wandering the server.

The server was then locked and pretty much remained in that state going forward.

Fippy Darkpaw was up and low population...

Fippy Darkpaw was up and low population…

At one point the finger was being pointed at the Half-elf bards in particular as being problematic.  If this were really SOE, it would have been rangers… and nobody would have noticed the problem because who rolls rangers in EQ after all the years of abuse?

The initial plan appeared to be to get in, delete the level 50s, clean up any items they might have handed off, patch whatever caused this to crop up, and just open up the server again.

This caused a good deal of outrage.  With the server just up and fresh, it seemed better to the teeming masses that Daybreak just wipe the whole thing and start fresh, lest there forever be a taint on Ragefire.  Why wouldn’t Daybreak just take the obvious path out of this situation?

Well, it appeared that, once again, we were getting hosed by the cash shop.  According to the official post in the forums, the only downside listed to doing a wipe was that they would have to refund cash shop purchases, thus violating the eternal code of the con man, “Never give the mark his money back.”

We’re exploring the option of wiping the server. The benefit is it gives everyone a clean slate. The disadvantage of a wipe is it also clears all Marketplace purchases on the server.

-Roshen, Daybreak Forums

That there is a cash shop on the progression server rankles many, even if it is only supposed to be selling XP potions.  And if they were fretting about cash shop purchases, I guess some people logged in, rolled up a character, and immediately bought some.  So it was off on a search for a fix.

However, the fix wasn’t immediately forthcoming and people getting home from work or deciding to log in to see how things were going with the Ragefire server were continuing to have an impact.

At various points they were letting players on to the server again to check fixes, but for the most part it remained locked.  Along the way the overall plan changed and a full player wipe became the officially stated goal once they had the problem addressed.

However, as the hours dragged on the team needed to call it a night.  The server was up and down a few more times, but the official line eventually pointed to trying to start again fresh today as new issues cropped up, so we can hopefully look forward to another launch attempt this afternoon.

I was joking at one point about getting the fully authentic day one EverQuest experience with all of this, but for all the problems and crashes and disconnects and what not more than 16 years back, I was still able to actually play for a couple hours on that very first day.  I was never amongst those who were able to get on Ragefire yesterday, so I went and tended my garrisons in World of Warcraft.

Still, this does seem to answer the musical question, “Who is this company that claims it used to be SOE?”  Clearly there was some SOE showing through with them getting to the right answer only after having annoyed their audience with the wrong answer first.  The Daybreak aspect seems to be an attempt to be SOE, just faster.

We shall see what happens today.

Addendum: Keen has his own look at the day, including a screenshot of the bards errant.

Also, it would be cool if Ragefire was added to the server status page.  They managed to add the Beta server after all.

Doing the Null Sec Shuffle

The pre-Fozzie Sov re-alignment of New Eden continues apace.  If you look at the Null Sec Player Influence Maps site you can see changes on the map daily.  Black Legion has taken a big chunk of Fountain, the Northern Associates rental empire has all but disappeared from the map, and, likewise, The Imperium’s Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere rental space is rapidly shrinking down to nothing.

Over at DOTLAN EVE Maps you can see various alliances swapping, gaining, or dropping sovereignty.  Even CCP’s lore focused videos from The Scope has commented on the changes and possible power vacuum in null sec as the empires align themselves.

Up in the north, in the seven regions of The Imperium, the sovereignty shuffle is well under way.  The Initiative has set up shop up in Tenal.  LAWN just took over sovereignty in the Vale of the Silent, while Bastion soaked up the rest of the region.  My own corp and alliance is slated to head south from our long held home in Deklein to the Tribute region, space we took back during the Tribute War in late 2012.  I was there for that!

For me that means moving a lot of stuff I have accumulated over the last four years.  It is amazing how much stuff starts to collect in you hangar.  So I took my reactivated alt account and set him up to be a cyno monkey and got out my Archon to move some ships down to Tribute.

Archon... landing too far from the station...

Archon… landing too far from the station…

Here is where the Phoebe expansion changes rankle a bit.  First there is jump fatigue and the jump activation timer, which means waiting between jumps in the carrier as well as effectively limiting the number of jumps I can make in an evening.  That part isn’t so bad.  I can wait.  And I don’t want to spend all night moving stuff in any case.

Jump Fatigue timer counting down...

Jump timer counting down…

But then there is the second part of the Phoebe change, which limited jump range of capital ships.  Pre-Phoebe, having trained up Jump Drive Calibration to 5, my Archon could have made the jump from our old staging to our new in one go.  Now, with the 5 light year cap, it is three jumps.  So there was a bit more work for me, getting my cyno placed and then jumping the carrier in and docking up in one station after another.  You adapt to the game at hand, and fortunately I was able to get most of the ships I wanted to bring south into the Archon for one run.

The rest of the ships were a bit scattered.  But I managed to get them down safe, including some of the fat targets.

A Notcis on the go is easy mean

A Notcis on the go is easy meat

Moving stuff down was a bit easier.  There is a convenient jump bridge that goes most of the way down and haulers get a break on the amount of jump fatigue incurred.

Heading down in a Crane

Heading down in a Crane

After I got myself setup in the new staging, I started trying to reel in some of the more scattered ships I have strewn about null sec, starting with that Harpy I left in Fountain.  We still hold the staging system at 4-EP12, but as I mentioned above, Black Legion has moved into the area in a big way.

The route out of Fountain is through Black Legion space now

The route out of Fountain is through Black Legion space now

I figured with the Harpy I had a chance making a run for home through their space.  So I undocked and took the direct route to B-DBYQ and Cloud Ring, where I could again use the jump bridge network to at least shorten my route home.

The last Harpy out of Fountain

The last Harpy out of Fountain

Fortunately, Black Legion seemed to have business elsewhere.  I zipped through the few systems, some very familiar to me still from the war two years back.

I remember fighting TEST here...

I remember fighting TEST here…

In Cloud Ring I picked up the jump bridge network as planned.  It was later in the evening on the West coast, so it seemed good odds that I would have a smooth trip from there, with just a few waits on jump activation timers before I could log off and let that Jump Fatigue wear off while I slept.

However, trouble found me where it often does, in  W-4NUU, a system I had to pass through on the route, and one that is adjacent to low sec, so which is easy for random people to camp.

I came through the gate into the system only to see a couple neutrals in local, which included a Garmur on the gate just waiting for me to break cloak.  Since I have found that my best odds in solo PvP drastically improve when I don’t fire my guns, I decided to just burn for the gate and head back the way I came.

As soon as I broke cloak and lit my afterburner the Garmur started locking me up.  He had me webbed and scrammed and was firing on me by the time I got into range of the gate, but that just meant I could jump through while he would have to wait a minute for his aggression timer to run down.  However, while he was shooting, his partner in crime uncloaked and declined to open fire, following me through the gate in an Ishtar.  Once through the gate and half a step ahead, I knew I could outrun the Ishtar.  I think he was just hoping to get lucky on the other side of the gate, that I might hang around.

Instead I headed for the alternate jump bridge route, which would actually bring me closer to our new alliance staging system.  However, there was an issue.  When you land on a jump bridge, you expect to see something like this:

A jump bridge module, ready to send you 5 ly down the road

A jump bridge module, ready to send you 5 ly down the road

Instead, when I landed at the POS on the alternate route, I found this.

A jump bridge still in its shipping container

A jump bridge module still in its shipping container

The jump bridge I was expecting to find was unanchored and just hanging in space in the box it came in, waiting for some good soul from GSOL to set it up… or take it away… one or the other.  So no jump bridge route down to Tribute.  Still, I wasn’t all that far from Deklein, so I just headed up and through fade, waving to the Space Monkeys as I passed through their staging system, and on into our old home.  One more ship back in the seven regions.

And while that was going on, there was a ping for a Reavers op.  Having used my jump clone recently, Wilhelm wasn’t going to be able to get down there.  But my alt was available, had a clone not too far away from our staging system in Querious, and could fly the Ishtar fit that the Reavers favor, so off he went.

The war down there has been carrying on, with Darkness taking back a bunch of systems.  But we still hold ED-L9T and have gone back to our more normal mode of operation, avoiding stand-up fights unless we have the numbers, docking up when we don’t, and shooting structures and setting timers whenever we can just to be annoying.

Foothold in Querious

Foothold in Querious

All that is more difficult without a second front to draw the enemy away, but we have cut deals with a number of the locals who got screwed over by N3, so we have some support.

I have been busy up north so I have been missing out on some of the bigger Reavers ops.  Last time I was down in Querious we got slaughtered, but recently we have had some wins with our allies down there.  I was a day late for our last big win, and that apparently but Darkness in a down mood as they declined to come out to play.  That was a shame because a group from Karma Fleet took a wormhole down to join in the fun.  They were all in frigate and were sent to go sit on the Darkness undock and taunt them while we went about our business.  We shot one of their towers, saved one of ours, and planned what to do next time around.  I have a few screen shots from that, though nothing terribly exciting.

And so the null sec churns and I fly all over the place as we all wait for the big sovereignty changes to finally hit.

How Much Warhammer Online Nostalgia is There?

So the news of the moment is that the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning emulation project (WAR-emu)  has a publicly available server.

Called Return of Reckoning, it is up and running and in alpha.

Return of Reckoning

Return of Reckoning

The project has an eye to eventually giving people the whole Warhammer Online experience, as the original game was shut down about 18 months back.

Of course, Return of Reckoning faces the usual emulation project issues.  They are trying to bring back a game where the code is owned by one unfriendly company, Electronic Arts, and the IP is owned by another company, Games Workshop, which has a litigious reputation.  These two are unlikely to be happy about such things, much less give a Daybreak-like blessing for the project.

So the project needs to tread carefully, lest they give either an easy reason to shut them down.  Looking at the site, there is a minimum of things that might be construed as trademark violations.  Everything is in the style of Warhammer Online, but there are no big Warhammer logos or anything.

Then, of course, there is the game client, the storehouse of art assets and interface that every such project requires.  They cannot make that from scratch, so they have to use the real one from the game, modified to connect to their server.  But handing out the client is a non-starter, as that is clearly covered by license and copyright issues.   So, like most such projects, they have to be a bit coy about the client, pointing you to some torrent or other dubious download site with instructions on how to download, assemble, and configure the client on your own.

That is often the stopping point for many people.  The idea of playing is great, the reality of getting there, not so much.

All of that is before we get into how the emulation actually functions.  When I see one of the admins saying, “seems people don’t understand what Alpha means” on the front page of the site, I both feel his pain and want to groan.  Nobody knows what “alpha” means, because it gets thrown around so much that it effectively has no agreed upon meaning.  It is a term straight from the Humpty Dumpty lexicon, meaning exactly what the speaker means at that moment, no more or no less.

None of which means I am necessarily against such projects.  I did dabble with the WoW vanilla emulation server Emerald Dream for a while myself, and enjoyed the nostalgia rush for a bit before the dubious nature of things… and the reality of being a solo paladin in vanilla WoW… dampened my ardor for things.  But there are obstacles to overcome.

And then, finally, there is the question I posed in the title of this post; how much nostalgia is there for such a project.  WoW emulation has a potential audience of many millions.  EverQuest and Project 1999 covers a base of a few million players who were in Norrath at one point.  Even Star Wars Galaxies has a hardcore following of a couple hundred thousand.  But Warhammer Online… it sold a lot of boxes initially, but its moment of popularity was particularly brief.

In July and August of 2008 a lot of blogs could speak of little else.

In September at launch, the blogesphere seemed to be ALL trying to log in and play together.  Well, everybody besides Tipa.

But by November things were starting to become pretty quiet on the Warhammer Online front.  The teeming masses of players had drained down significantly.  The open RvR zones were generally owned by whichever side could muster a half dozen players.  And the public quests were nigh-on undoable as nobody was likely around to help out.  Does something that fizzles that fast have much traction when it comes to nostalgia?

And by January they were sending out offers to former players trying to get them to come back to the game.  The bloom was clearly off the rose in just a couple months.

Not that an emulation project like this needs thousands of players.  You do not start down this path with an eye towards a large population unless you want to be severely disappointed.  A couple hundred regulars would be enough to make a project like this feel active.  And the site itself purports to have passed the 10,000 registered user mark.

So how much nostalgia do you think there is for Warhammer Online?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  We are about to see a frenzy of EverQuest nostalgia this week when the Ragefire progression server goes live at some point tomorrow.

I was tempted to go back to Warhammer Online and take a look when they were planning to shut the servers down.  The Mythic team even said they would let people play for free, though I couldn’t get my account reactivated, no doubt thanks to overlapping email addresses and the bane that was account consolidation when EA inflicted Origin on the world.

But I am not sure I am enthusiastic enough to play on a private server.  Warhammer Online memories my be all I really need.  How about you?

One Hundred and Forty Million Skill Points

Months pass and the skill points continue to add up until, suddenly, it is time for another milestone post.  The skill point milestone story so far:

The ongoing attempt to have it all on one character continues.  I keep telling myself there will come a point where I will switch over and start training an alt, Wilhelm having finally trained up all of the skills he could possibly need.

Still not there yet, that’s for sure.

 Spaceship Cmd   36,330,616 (42 of 71)*
 Gunnery         13,915,745 (36 of 39)
 Leadership      12,803,000 (14 of 14)*
 Missiles        10,572,290 (21 of 24)*
 Drones           9,884,163 (19 of 21)*
 Navigation       9,660,314 (13 of 13)*
 Armor            6,899,137 (14 of 14)
 Engineering      5,974,395 (14 of 14)*
 Shields          5,645,390 (11 of 12)*
 Resc Processing  4,569,908 (22 of 28)
 Science          4,408,426 (21 of 39)
 Trade            3,271,765 (9 of 14)
 Electronic Sys   2,900,285 (6 of 15)*
 Targeting        2,306,195 (8 of 8)*
 Scanning         2,045,230 (7 of 7)* 
 Neural Enhance.  1,770,275 (5 of 8)* 
 Subsystems       1,320,000 (10 of 20) 
 Rigging          1,312,395 (10 of 10)* 
 Social           1,130,040 (5 of 9)* 
 Production       1,157,986 (5 of 12) 
 Corp Mgmt        1,108,784 (4 of 7) 
 Planet Mgmt        769,335 (5 of 5) 

 Total         ~140,000,000 (295 of 398)

My focus over the last 10 month or so has been to get my character able to be a booster, either on or off grid, for fleet ops.  That is why there has been a big boost in skill points under Leadership.

Damnation in a POS

Dreams of being an on-grid boost…

Last April, at the 120 million skill point mark, I sat at just over 2.4 million points in Leadership.  Now I am way up to 12.8 million skill points in that category.  I also trained up command ships for the on-grid boosting role in addition to already having all my Tengu skills up to 5 for off-grid boosting.  So I must be a totally excellent fleet booster and sign up for that role in every fleet possible, right?

Um, no.

I have yet to actually fly in the booster role for a number of reasons.  While I sort-of know how to fly the role, the only time they have been asking for boosters have been for important ops, and I’d like a practice run before an op is counting on me.  You also have to invest in the ship and some expensive implants up front and be in that clone with that ship handy and ready to go at the right location.  And, while command ships and on-grid boosting was still a thing when I started down this path, off-grid boost is now all there is.  You go to a safe spot, turn on your links, and keep hitting the directional scanner looking for probes, in case the enemy is trying to scan you down to kill you.  That sounds dull.  I like to be with the fleet so I can at least see what is going on.  Ever the tourist.

Having Wing Command trained up to 5 has helped out a few times at least.  There tends to be a need for that so fleets can be the full 255 pilots.

Otherwise I have spent my training time rounding out my skills, getting things that affect my ships up to level 5.  I got the two missing racial frigates, Minmatar and Gallente, up to level 5, so I can fly all the stealth bombers now.  I am currently training up the sensor compensation skills for each of the races, which explains why targeting got a boost in points this time around.  Targeting may be the first category where I have all the skills to 5, though it is admittedly a small category.

I do have quite a few skills at level 5 at this point.  My skill breakdown is now:

 Level 1  - 3
 Level 2  - 22
 Level 3  - 41
 Level 4  - 82
 Level 5  - 158

Meanwhile, I have been quite enjoying the fact that losing your pod is now pretty much a no-cost issue for me.  Aside from the potential fleet booster role and my training clone, my clones are all implant free, so there is no loss potential on that front.

I have a neural re-map coming up in June.  The last one I did I flattened out all my skills so that anything I trained would be equally fast… or slow.  This time around I think I will go back to being biased towards training ship and weapon skills at the expense of the social and leadership.  I am not sure I need to train into Fleet Command V, which would be all I have left under Leadership.

And then there is the final silly metric that I have been using throughout this series of posts, which is how long it would take me to train to fly a titan.  By the 130 million skill point post, simply flying one was down to two skills, so I changed that up to what it would take to fly a fully fit titan, specifically the Minmatar Ragnarok.

Free wheeling Ragnarok

Free wheeling Ragnarok

When I looked at that I was 130 days and 17 hours away from being able to lock myself away forever in a rusty, angular space coffin.  Super caps are like the Hotel California; you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.  Not that I will ever opt for that.  I am not yet that much of a bitter vet.

I did not expect that number to change, but then I found I had actually trained a few of the of the skills.  Astrometrics 5 was a big one, though I don’t remember exactly why I trained it.  And then I trained up Jump Portal Generation to 4 so I could operate a black ops battleship, in case we needed one out on a Reavers op.  That seemed important after our misadventure with hot dropping.  Those two skills combined pushed the titan timeline more than 17 days, knocking the number down to 113 days and 12 hours.  The biggest skill in that is still Capital Ships 5, which is close to 70 on its own.

Anyway, my skill training online adventure continues.  The next stop will be 150 million skill points, which I ought to hit around the new year.