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arvisrend
Lead Developer
04 Oct 2010

Location: substitutional world

First, what do I mean by "early game"? It's easy to say "character levels 1-9", but levels don't tell much about the player's strength in Morrowind (try reading every skillbook in Vivec and then fighting a Kagouti). (This is one of the reasons I want to avoid levelscaling.) Let me define "early game" this way: If you're no longer caring about how many cliffracers are trailing you while you walk from Ald-Ruhn to Maar Gan, then you're no longer in the early game.

This, of course, doesn't help to determine by script whether the character is in his/her early game. I propose something like "PC Health < 100 and Light Armor < 70 and Medium Armor < 70 and Heavy Armor < 70 and Endurance < 70 and Agility < 70". Does this make sense for your characters?

A few notes in advance:

- I am not against leveled lists for creatures; they can work very well when all creatures in the list have about the same difficulty. (This is what we did in Nehrim.) I don't like the "you're level 9, now you should be able to handle this" approach of Morrowind's levlists; very often the player is NOT able to handle what the lists throw at him until a couple of levels later, so a place which was harmless becomes deadly again with a levelup. Immersion-breaking if you ask me.

- I think the game handles disease very poorly. Diseased creatures don't add any tactical depth to the game, just a major pain in the butt when you're at low levels. And I don't just mean a blighted rat sending your endurance down by 40; anything damaging strength is pure annoyance. I am not against having them in ashlands, but I don't think they should plague Roth Roryn and Ascadia.

I have a similar opinion on sleep creatures, but I don't think of it as much important. Cat proposed only non-hostile sleep creatures in easy zones; I like that very much.

- I am talking only about aggressive wildlife; the rest needs not really be balanced.

- Yes, I can do the placing if we agree on something non-levelscaled.

Anyway, I'd like to make a part of Tamriel Rebuilt early-game-friendly. There is an obvious place where to start, namely the Ascadian-Isles style region on the coast of Heartland (does it have a name?). It has a cozy Imperial village called Teyn, a mirror-image of Seyda Neen; then it has places like Old Ebonheart and Andothren that could house the tutorial and early-game quests. (This isn't my idea.) And it looks inhabited and lively, exactly how a safe region is supposed to look. (Besides, with the many plantations it is going to have slaves, and slaves should not run around in dangerous places.) I can imagine a monster placement like this:

The Ascadian-style region (starting at 4-13, then going along the Thirr until 4-18, then along the sea coast until the river in 4-2) should contain only really easy wildlife, up to nixhound difficulty. The main roads might not even have that, just rats and stuff. Of course, at certain spots we can have handplaced hard enemies, but they shouldn't block main roads.

Roth Roryn goes up to Kagouti difficulty, again with weaker things on important roads and stronger things in select locations (more to the ashland side). Cliff racers occasionally but not enough to be an annoyance.

The eastern coast of Thirr might be either like Ascadia or like Roth. I don't think anything harder than a Kagouti is ok here, as again this place is extremely inhabited and lively. We might have some artificial dangers like the breeding Kagouti in vanilla.

Armun Ashlands should not be for noobs. I'm not against golden-saint-like difficulty, but again the road to Ald Erfoud should be easier.

I think the ashlands in the northern half of map 4 should be easier than Armun, but still not for the early game.

4-39 and 4-38 contain an interesting patch of Ascadian-style lands with rm rocks (mostly along the way to Verarchen). I suppose these can be something intermediate in difficulty. The rm rocks kinda say "careful, this is not quite Ascadia anymore".

Ultimately this is just how *I* imagine the difficulty of the lands from looking at them ingame. It's subjective and should not be valued much.

Now, there is another problem: How do we ensure that players actually get to Teyn in their early game? We could put a boat in Seyda Neen and hope they find it; I am not sure if this would work (most players are averse to spending money on a ride that early in the game when they can spend it on armor instead). What I think would work is the following: Most players WILL go to Mournhold very early in the game, just to have the assassins off their backs. And if they are even half as curious as they should be, they would go to Almalexia. Now Almalexia is hardly a good place for entry-level quests (or at least it would be a big contrast to the endgame location that is Mournhold). But we could make Almalexia NPCs refer early-game players to the Imperial guilds (along the lines of "here is a quest for you, but FFS go to the Fighters Guild and get some training before you even try"), while the guilds tell you that they have nothing to do for such a beginner but instead direct you to the Heartland guilds. From here on you can either take the silt strider to Old Ebonheart, or walk (there should be a path description in dialogue). The "walk" part is why I wanted Nemon to make a pass from Othrensis to Roa Dyr through the mountains. Basically, you first go from Almalexia to Othrensis, then (through the not yet existing path) through Roa Dyr, from there on to Almas Thirr, then to Old Ebonheart and possibly Andothren and Teyn. All of these roads, of course, should be level-1-appropriate, possibly with some tutorial-style quests and caves along the way.

Alternately, make the Inlet Bog route beginner-friendly, but that would require more of a stretch. There are wild durzogs in the Bog; how would the road magically stay safe? (Plus, it looks extremely crooked and passes along a Daedric ruin.)

Sorry for the length. What are your opinions on this?
Post Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:38 pm Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
Haplo
Lead Developer
30 Aug 2003

Location: Celibacy

Some very minor points: the player just has to go to Ebonheart to get the Dark Brotherhood attacks stopped, so that's still Vvardenfell.

Also, there is that bandit who requires "protection money" along the road from Seyda Neen to Balmora, or else he attacks you. Players have no idea whether he is peaceful or hostile on their first play-through, and they have no way of finding out about him beforehand while in Seyda Neen. Once you know about him, the option of Silt Strider is more appealing.

I don't know where sending the player to Teyn fits in here, but if we want to go that route we should go all out on orienting Teyn toward the "beginning player experience". Maybe even include an option for starting the game there eventually?

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Post Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:37 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
Nemon
Developer Emeritus
18 Oct 2003

Location: Bergen

I'm all for catering to low level players in certain areas, pretty much in agreement with the areas arvisrend mentions. Many players will flock to Almalexia, not only because it's a huge city but also because it's a safe haven. No guars or kagouti screwing up your health - instead we can create tons of interesting quests ranging from mercantile stuff, political and such - until the player feels ready to go into the wild.
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Post Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:23 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
arvisrend
Lead Developer
04 Oct 2010

Location: substitutional world

Thanks for the comments, Haplo.

Haplo wrote:
Some very minor points: the player just has to go to Ebonheart to get the Dark Brotherhood attacks stopped, so that's still Vvardenfell.


I stand corrected. But probably most people will still go to Mournhold after that; it's the cheapest way to get into TR territory, and players will know it by that time.

Haplo wrote:
Also, there is that bandit who requires "protection money" along the road from Seyda Neen to Balmora, or else he attacks you. Players have no idea whether he is peaceful or hostile on their first play-through, and they have no way of finding out about him beforehand while in Seyda Neen. Once you know about him, the option of Silt Strider is more appealing.


Don't think he is exactly on that way, but very close; yes, I got killed by him on my first playthrough.

Haplo wrote:
I don't know where sending the player to Teyn fits in here, but if we want to go that route we should go all out on orienting Teyn toward the "beginning player experience". Maybe even include an option for starting the game there eventually?


Basically I think all the places on the way (Othrensis, Roa Dyr, Almas Thirr, Old Ebonheart, Teyn, Andothren) should contain some tutorial-style quests doable in the early game, like Ajira's Mages Guild questline, "Beauty and the Bandit", fetch-items, etc., as long as there are also some hard quests around so as not to make it look artificial.

EDIT: Thanks, Nemon, too. My thinking was just that Almalexia itself might be a bit too difficult for a newb: In Mournhold, at least, there is almost nothing one could do in early game without getting pwned. Maybe just some wealthy patronizing Indoril could give one a couple of chores and reward one with unproportionally good stuff... But you're the one who knows Almalexia better.
Post Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:24 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
arvisrend
Lead Developer
04 Oct 2010

Location: substitutional world

Quick and dirty non-levelscaled balancing suggestion for the exteriors of map 4, open to discussion.

Key:

Each region has been given 3 numbers and either an "ND" or a "D".

The numbers are difficulty ratings. Roughly, the difficulty is the average damage output of a monster, but with a bonus if the monster's combat stat is above 50 (Tribunal and Bloodmoon monsters have very high combat stats; vanilla ones usually don't), a significant bonus if the monster has magic or weapons, and a slight bonus if the monster carries a dangerous disease (drain end/str/int/will). Here are some examples from vanilla:

d01 (difficulty around 1): rat, kwama forager. (We have some variations on the former.) These should be doable for a player coming right out of the boat with some basic armor and a weapon.

d05 (difficulty around 5): alit, wild guar, nixhound. Scribs would also go here if they weren't peaceful. (The paralysis is why I don't put them under d01.)

d09 (difficulty around 9): kagouti, diseased rats/alits/nixhounds.

d15 (difficulty around 15): shalk, bull netch if they weren't peaceful.

d20 (difficulty around 20): wild durzog, black bear, betty netch if they weren't peaceful, blighted kagoutis, dreugh (I don't know why they're so tough but they are).

d25 (difficulty around 25): snow wolf.

etc. Note that I'm not using anything over d20 in the concepts.

The three numbers for each region are:

first, the difficulty of the monsters on and near roads.
second, the difficulty of the monsters which are far enough from roads that they would never attack anyone walking the roads.
third, the difficulty of the monsters that wake you from sleep.

"D" means that some monsters can carry diseases, "ND" means nope.

Obviously I'm bringing in my pet peeves here, in that I am completely avoiding levelscaling (I think that the level of a Morrowind player gives almost no information about his survivability, unless we know what major and minor skills he picked), keeping diseases at a minimum (I believe they don't give the game any tactical depth; they just force the player to reload if he finds his strength reduced from 35 to 15 and doesn't want to leave half of his inventory in the middle of nowhere), and am trivializing sleep creatures (when you're awakened without having regenerated your health and promptly get attacked by another tough monster, it's a matter of reloading unless you have potions to waste). As far as diseases are concerned, I am actually very fond of the idea to keep the noob lands completely free of them; it makes tough terrain appear tougher.

The elephant in the room: Will we actually be able to find enough distinct creatures for this to not become boring? The above list isn't particularly large, and we can't use much of it (no blight, no snow wolves, no durzogs outside of swamps etc.). I'm wondering what you guys think of using some of Midgetalien's resources (e. g., his Swamp Troll from Creature Pack IV, or his Owl Bear from Creature Pack III)? He has permitted us to do so back in 2007, and I'm rather sure he will renew this permission if we ask him again.

PS.

Map 4 without the ugly red text.

Map 4 without the ugly red text and the towns.
Post Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:27 pm Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
Katze
Developer Emeritus
26 Feb 2009

Location: Behind you!

Worsas made us a cool swamp troll replacer (even if I think the name isn't that fitting anymore), we should probably use that.
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Post Mon Jul 02, 2012 7:16 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
Theo
Developer Emeritus
16 Dec 2004

Location: PRAGUE

Do you also, for sake of consistency, plan to apply similar approach on other maps, including the already released ones?
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Post Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:35 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
arvisrend
Lead Developer
04 Oct 2010

Location: substitutional world

Yes, I just want to start the discussion with Heartland since it seems best suitable for such an approach. (I should have added that the east side of Thirr River Valley should also be d01/d05/d00/ND, and that the road from Almalexia through Othrensis and Roa Dyr to Almas Thirr should be d01/??/d00/ND so as to make these places accessible on low levels. I'm not decided about the rest of Lan Orethan and about the Inlet Bog.

(I just see that I made a typo in the picture: d02 should be d01.)

If these things work well, I see no problems with replacing the existing leveled creatures on the first three maps with non-levelscaled ones (the spawn points can be kept, so it's not much work); but I'd prefer not to do it with Telvannis until the Damoclean sword of redoing the landscape from scratch is no longer looming over the place.
Post Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:48 am Send private message             Reply with quote                   up  
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