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DragonFable: Release Analysis, 01/29/2010

Posted by Stelarinna on February 6, 2010

This past week, Riadne and the Ravenloss Weaving Emporium were both released, along with a few holiday necklaces and the beginning of a new DC-only special offer.
…That did not come out the way I wanted. Let me rephrase; a this-weekend-only DC weapon offer. There, that sounds better. DragonFable Engine 9.0 was also released, but I won’t be covering it in this post. For one, it seems that Zeke has beaten me to the task. (See if that happens again!) And for two, there just hasn’t been enough time for me or anyone to fully explore all the new features.

Ravenloss
Quest Releases: Weaving Emporium

Tomix and <character name> quest for the Flax Key (seriously? A key made out of Flax?!), and learn a bit more about the ChaosWeavers along the way.
Plot and Story Design
We learned too much too soon. One basic storytelling technique is that for every gain, the hero(ine) must sacrifice something. In novels, it’s usually equal to or greater than the resulting gain. In games, it’s more important that the player feel something is sacrificed. In other words, you have to run the quest if you want to find out more.
Now, Riadne has no apparent reason to distrust Tomix. But she gave us information which is normally restricted to the highest levels of SoulWeavers with barely any fuss. If it weren’t for Greed’s practically screaming from the rooftops that Riadne is as innocent as you can be after studying the ChaosWeavers for goodness knows how long, I’d be tempted to believe that she was tricking us.
Art and Graphic Design
The quest backgrounds were somewhat repetitive, but well-drawn as usual. Notice that I only said somewhat repetitive. While the basic theme remains the same with very little variation, the differently-colored “rooms” each have their own accessories and arrangement. There’s another of the little touches which characterize a good DF quest.
And Pandora’s chamber was definitely worth the side trip, especially if you take into account the fact that Tomix owns a custom weapon named Pandora; it opens up a lot of room for friendly speculation.
Combat and Enemy Design
Well, it would’ve been nice to have some completely new enemies, or at least differently-colored versions of the older enemies. But there’s been quite a bit of material released over the past week, so complaining about that just makes me sound like I’m whining.
Anyway, I suppose they’re called the ChaosWeavers for a reason…. And “new enemies every release” also becomes stale after so long.
Quest Layout and Walkaround
In a word, solid but unimaginative. The layout re-used most of Walking Through Fire, which in turn re-used the layout of Fetching Fire. The only difference is that this quest had a short prelude. Now, re-using existing quest layouts isn’t bad per se, and I certainly didn’t expect the Weaving Emporium to be labyrinthically difficult to navigate. It could’ve been more interesting, though.
The color-coded rooms were a nice touch and added some spice to the quest. However, they were scattered in a random order; red, green, red, blue, gold, purple. It hurts the eyes, it does. I would’ve expected a more logical layout.
Bugs and Balance Issues
There were almost no bugs in either the 8. or 9. versions I test-played, except for one enemy combat bug (I haven’t been able to duplicate it, so I’ll consider it resolved). No mentioning of bugs on the official Forums that I could find, either. Point for you, AE.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
Labyrinthically…is that even a word? *smiles a little* No, it isn’t, but it’ll do the job well enough.

NPC Releases: Riadne
Riadne. My name is Riadne, Arachnomancer Adept. And you are…?
Character Design and Artwork
All in all, the DF team did another great job on Riadne’s artwork. It’s not quite as detailed or complex as, say, Tomix’s, but it’s still very good; the color scheme fits Ravenloss perfectly, while managing not to appear overdone. However, I do think that it’s a bit intense for her; a lighter violet/grey would have done the job just as well. The strength of those colors draws the gaze away from her face (which might be part of the reason they wanted her to be a redhead; to keep our attention from wandering too much).
However, I have no idea why Riadne has freckles, of all things. Ravenloss is beneath Falconreach. There’s no natural light; I’m still not sure where the overabundance of artificial light is coming from, but that’s another story. I suppose the freckles could tie in to her backstory, but I can’t see how. Whatever the hair color, her violet eyes make it look as if she belongs in Ravenloss. (Then again, looks can be deceiving. My physical appearance is less than impressive.)
But Riadne’s greatest design strength lies in her animated frontal view. It was quite a shock to me; a pleasant one, but a shock nonetheless. That alone increased the realism factor by about half again. It was much easier to “see” Riadne’s personality after watching her blinking naturally during her monologue. It also struck a nice balance between the static expressions of most DF NPCs and, say, Vephoma of AQ’s almost-entirely animated features.
History and Relevance
None, really. (Well, the relevance part has yet to be determined.) Riadne is a wild card; we don’t know her motives or history. Until she chooses to tell us more about herself, I’d caution Tomix not to become too infatuated. Which brings me to the next section:
Interaction in the Quest Release
The mutual attraction between Tomix and Riadne is pretty obvious. No, scratch that. Make it “as obvious as the computer screen you’re viewing this on.” (Unless you asked the computer or a family member to read this to you. In which case I would write “as obvious as the (automated) voice you’re listening to.”) This is the first time we’re seeing romantic involvement of any sort play out between two AE NPCs. Yes, there are some couples in DF, AQ, and elsewhere, but either their relationship has already been established, or the story doesn’t focus on it except as a perfunctory narrative detour. I just hope that the DF team has the guts to actually write this sub-plot into the quests. It would be a shame to simply let this drift; it has a lot of potential, no matter the outcome.
Now, this attraction could just as easily be chalked up to simple infatuation. My best guess is that Tomix has been in Ravenloss for several weeks in storyline time, given the hardships he would’ve come across in acquiring and decoding this information; with nobody except around to keep him company. Riadne has probably been there for several months, given the amount of information she was able to obtain. It makes sense that they’d take a liking to each other.
What I’m attempting to say is that this doesn’t have to end with Tomix and Riadne as a couple, but I would like to actually watch things play out (near-)entirely for once. Their friendship can have storyline significance if handled correctly, and leaving much of it to the player’s imagination is just bad development. Inferrence is good technique in a novel (as one can also use phrasing and internal dialogue to hint at something), but not exactly good technique in a game; where everything we know comes from seeing the actual interaction.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
I hate Riadne’s hair. Let me say that again, slowly; I hate, hate, hate Riadne’s hair.
One, the color. I’m a redhead from a family of redheads, and therefore know exactly what it’s supposed to look like. This isn’t it. It’s orange, and a very badly-colored orange at that. The color clashes with the rest of Riadne’s outfit like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I don’t mean that in anything but a negative sense. I would much rather it had been black or a deep red-gold. Those suit Riadne; orange does not.
Two, the side-view design is chunky and choppy. The frontal or three-quarters view is fine, but the side view bundles it into an ungraceful…er…bundle. It looks as if Riadne’s defying gravity; or she’s in a starship. Let it fall more naturally, please. And anyway, I’d envisioned it as being at least shoulder-length.
All in all, I think Riadne looked infinitely better in the promotional poster.
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Groundhog’s Day
::Holiday Shop Releases: Amulet Shop
Oh look, it’s a tiny suncatcher charm! How sweet. Do you think it’ll help coax the sun to come out sooner? Can’t hurt to try. Wait a minute; that’s Bill Furray’s job, innit? *facedesk*
Level Variety
…nyeh. 10-level increments ranging form 10 to 50 gets boring after a while. But at least we got some necklaces, even if they’re rare; there’s a desperate need for more necklaces at almost every level. Almost the only necklaces worth their slot right now are either a high version of the Defender’s Necklaces, rare, or DA-only. In that order.
Power and Balance
Stats-wise, there’s a bit of a jump between the lower levels and the middling to higher levels. (I checked. I bought them all – hey, they’re free, right? – and checked them against an empty build. Or, at least, as empty as it gets.) However, it does follow DF’s power curves pretty well, and they’re certainly more effective than most other options.
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
They obviously fill an equipment gap, if not a level gap, and the stats are better than almost anything that’s out there. Plus, they’re free. What’s not to like? But I’m still keeping my Claddagh Choker for the theme, as a good-luck charm suits my MC better than something with as clumsy a name as the Groundhog Amulet V.

::Holiday Item Releases: Hole in the Ground
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck…. aw drat, it’s one of those grouchy groundhogs.
Design and Artwork
In a word, fun. It’s a fun holiday item which will certainly spice up the house yard a little. It’s an adorable little present; not the most innovative, not the most expensive, but fun. Mr. Furray’s “eye-popping” animation once he’d realized that he could see his shadow was a nice little touch. (Then again, the shadow might be because I bought a house in Doomwood; where the moon shines bright day and night. And it certainly isn’t directly overhead at noon, or any other time.)
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
Well, I can’t exactly say I’m happy about all the “fun” house items being DC-only, but that can’t be helped. AE has to stay afloat somehow, right?
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Item Releases: The “Ameratsu”
Factoid of the Day: Amaterasu is the Sun Goddess in Japanese mythology.
Design and Artwork
One-of-a-kind? Well, its artwork is simple; not plain, mind you, just simple. It suits the scythe well, though. I’ll give Lim that.
The dual-element concept is innovative, though not precisely new. In fact, it’s been used many times in AQ. However, this is the first such item I’ve seen in DF, and I dislike cross-comparing games if I can avoid it…. So, an innovative new-for-DF feature. Hopefully it’ll help cut down on inventory clutter. I just hope that in the future, it isn’t completely restricted to weekend DC rares. It’s innovative, it could be worked into a weapon subplot, and it’ll help cut down on clutter and confusion.
However, I do see why these are DC-only, one-weekend offers. The code for dual-element weapons as opposed to single-element weapons probably takes up more space, which means more bandwidth, and that stuff is expensive. Rolith has to get paid sometime, after all.
Power and Balance
It’s a dual-element weapon; while it may not be too much stronger than your typical DC weapon (and its power does grow as you move up from v. I), it’s far more useful across a wider variety of encounters. That fact alone completely destroys the standard balancing and power curve information you have for single-element weapons.
In other words, if you have the Amaterasu, you essentially got two weapons for one slot and price. That means you have to look at its power level differently than you would for two normal weapons. However, this analogy also has something missing, for the Amaterasu is not just two weapons in one. It is a different class of weapon altogether than a single-element weapon, and should be considered as such.
And did I mention that this weapon is a scythe, and far more cross-class than a sword or staff? (Daggers are relatively cross-platform. Notice I said relatively.) Things just keep getting more and more powerful these days….
Common Sense Factor (Personal Opinions)
Yes, I know. It is the Amaterasu, not the Ameratsu. I was just poking fun at the typo in the Daily Dragon. C’mon, people, her name can’t be any harder to spell than mine is… (Seriously, even Warlic has gotten it wrong- an event I still smile over, though not in a mean way.) Besides, I’ve never met anyone who was allergic to Firefox Spell Check, no matter how hard they tried to convince me otherwise.

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