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The Ardent Monthly Ledger - Issue 20
June 17, 2016

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The Midsummer’s Eve Special Event Zone Has Arrived!

It’s that time of year again when the countless magical delights and thrills of Midsummer’s Eve have once again descended upon the Seven Realms! The always beautiful Twilight Vale, with its ethereal green hills and twinkling forests, is both a restful haven and a place of great adventure where old and new friends alike can come together and conquer the dreadful Council of the Five Fae on the ever challenging bounty ladder that awaits within.

This special event zone, where all players are equalized to the same level, is not only brimming with all manner of treats and rewards and activities, but we’ve also added a few new surprises this year. Unlike previous years, a total of 16 special Midsummer’s outfits can now be acquired in-game within the event zone! We will not be selling any of this unique attire in the item shop. So with just a little diligence and enjoyable hard work, every player in the game has the opportunity to earn these fantastic outfits for themselves!

And with nine brand new event quests, as well as quests from past years, two dailies, and the addition of a rare new boss who spawns only in the Vale, players are sure to have no shortage of activities to choose from! Have a peek at some of the exciting new Midsummer outfits found only in this year’s Twilight Vale!

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Tired of having thousands and thousands of mats consuming vast amounts of your storage space? Or have you ever scratched your head in puzzlement as to why spiders drop milk? (Spider Milk, really?) Ever wish that your massive Zog collection yielded a higher value, and served more of a purpose? Well, happily, this latest build has addressed all of these issues and more!

That’s right! We’ve done a massive overhaul on the monster parts system within Villagers & Heroes, as well as made some great improvements to the Zog system. We have completely removed all existing fangs, milk, scales, silk, horns, claws, bristles, quills, and tusks from the game, and have replaced those items with nine single items instead. So that means there are now 169 fewer items for players to have to manage and collect, not to mention there will no longer be any nonsensical drops from monsters hereafter!

And Zog collectors, worry not, because at long last some lucrative benefits have just been added! We have implemented a new ‘rarity system’ for zogs – common, uncommon, rare, and ultra-rare Zogs – which, as before, can still be redeemed at the agent in Trader’s Path, only now players can unlock the ability to perform ‘zog contracts.’ Depending on the level of the rarity of the Zog, having five of any Zog will now yield pricey jewels, elixirs, and, yes, even crowns!

Zog contracts can be performed any number of times. Exciting for all players!


Oh, my, Sighfrid! How lucky are we to have this extraordinarily talented player contribute such fantastic art to the Ledger? Very lucky. Thank you, Sighfrid!

Necotrow (1)


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While by now, most of you are all acquainted with the hardworking individuals who comprise our little Otter team, there is in fact one pivotal member whom you are likely not aware of – and it’s high time we remedied that! He is our ‘Secret Otter’ and ‘The Man Behind Mobile,’ and a truly first-rate guy: Clark Fagot.

Clark started his professional life as a games programmer back at Dynamix in the 1990’s working on titles like Starsiege, Tribes, and Trophy Hunting. He was a founding member of BraveTree which produced the cult classic ThinkTanks. BraveTree eventually merged with GarageGames where he worked on games and technology for a number of years. Clark has also worked in Silicon Valley, and in a previous life earned a PhD as a research psychologist.

You’ve known Damon for a number of years haven’t you? Yes. I actually knew two of the other founding members of Mad Otter, Chris Cole and Paul Bowman, since junior high. The three of us met Damon (and Jeff Tunnel who founded Dynamix with Damon) when Damon was working as a sales clerk in Jeff’s game software store (before founding Dynamix). They used to call us the 3 hoodlums before they knew us because they thought we were going to shoplift. We eventually became friends because we were all interested in developing games (Damon was well into developing his first hit, Stellar 7, whereas the three of us were really just messing around – but Chris eventually published Sword of Kadash, which was a bad ass game for the time).

What possessed you to port Villagers & Heroes to mobile? Well, I first started working with you guys on the Steam launch. The team was porting the game to a new engine in order to improve the rendering before pushing to Steam, and they felt like they needed a little help to speed up the process. I focused on improving the memory footprint and some loading time issues. But after working on the game for a few months, I really was impressed by what was there. I felt like this was a real world and had tremendous value.

So when I finished my work for the Steam launch, I started to think about how awesome it would be to get Villagers & Heroes on mobile. To be honest, my first thought was that it would work well on Android TV, which is one of the reasons we started with Android rather than iOS. The other reason we started on Android was that I didn’t have an iPhone and I figured the project would only take a few months (ha). But eventually it became clear that this game was going to work really well on phones and tablets so that’s where the focus went.

Why did it take longer than you originally thought it would take? These things always do. But also, my original estimates weren’t really based on thinking about what needed to happen for the game to be finished. I’m sure if I had mapped that out I would have had a more realistic estimate. Another thing that became clear as we pushed forward was that we would need to totally revamp the user interface for mobile. This was work that Liam and Ivar both did an amazing job on, but it took a while to get right and was a ton of work. The end result, though, is a beautiful user interface. We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

Can you describe some of the trials and tribulations you went through to get a full scale PC MMO working on a tiny mobile device? : I already mentioned the UI re-design. I mention it again because of how crucial it is to get that right and what an amazing job Liam and Ivar did. That was quite the task just because of the way the engine we were using doesn’t separate form and function in a tidy way. So there was no way to simply supply a new form (tablet) with the same function. So that was a huge refactor for Liam. The good part is we are now in better position to target other forms (like tv if Android TV ever takes off).

But on my end, the largest battle I fought was over memory footprint. These devices just plain have less memory than a desktop. So I had to search for cases where we were being nonchalant about memory usage (or in more cases than not, the engine we were using was being wasteful). Just as an example, the terrain system (what renders the ground) stores the ground geometry in a very compressed format. But the engine we use was unpacking that at load for the entire scene. So I saved a lot of memory by simply unpacking what was needed for rendering. Without the memory optimizations I did the android low memory killer (that’s its official name) would close down our app periodically. That never happens now.

Was that the only challenge? Oh, no. Plenty of others. For example, I also had to pay attention to rendering performance quite a bit because these devices tend to have under powered gpus (at least the phones and tablets from a couple years ago, the newest phones and tablets are actually getting pretty powerful). I think we did a good job there. The game actually plays really well even on devices from 2013, and it’s playable on devices that are a little older than that.

But maybe the largest challenge I faced was with the tools that are available on android. On the pc I’m used to being able to use the debugger for developing and testing. Android also has a debugger, but it just didn’t work for a project as large as ours. It would simply hang if I set a breakpoint, which made it absolutely useless. So most of my debugging was done with logging, which is real, real, old school.

What were some of the joys? Oh, the whole thing was a joy in a way. I mean, it was a lot of work and a lot of it was difficult. But it was very satisfying to see this vibrant world come alive on these mobile devices. And it was a joy to see all the problems one by one get knocked down to where in the end the game is running wonderfully. And I have to also just mention what a great team Mad Otter is to work with. Just talented, smart people who are just a pleasure to work with. That’s not always the case so when it happens you have to appreciate it.


Congratulations, and our sincere thanks to the following individuals for their outstanding contributions to the game and the community. The Royal Guardians of the Realm for the months of April and May are:

avenian
Avenian (US 1)

curbstompjr
CurbStompJr (US 2)

jennybrave
Jenny The Brave (EU 1)

michel
Michel (EU 2)

felipepl2
Felipepl2 (BR)

shiann
Shiann (US 1)

cardqueen
Cardqueen (US 2)

ekimie
Ekimie (EU 1)

ErdmännchenBLN
ErdmännchenBLN (EU 2)

pepede
Pepede (BR)


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addicts

By now, you are all busy battling evil fairies in The Twilight Vale, but did you also know that a number of lower level zones, in addition to getting a new injection of story content, have also received fantastic cosmetic make-overs in this latest build? We encourage you all to explore these old zones that have been made wondrously new again!

Addict’s Ascent, for example, has been completely re-done. Flowing rivers and waterfalls now wind gently down the forested mountain. And your old friend, the Albino Boar, now has an evil crumbling stone castle, one worthy for so notorious a creature.

Make sure to also visit: Bearhold Valley, the all-new Bearhold Crypt, Memorial Pond, Lady’s Lake, Kingsport, Elk Meadow, and the new chamber in Ardent Castle. Be careful, though, for the Black Thrush, an evil secret society thought to have been vanquished long ago, have resurfaced and are more dangerous than ever!

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Player: AngelinaCopperscale
Server: US 2
Class: Hunter

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In your opinion, what are the draws of Role Playing Games? They offer a temporary refuge, of a sort, from reality. This isn’t true for everyone, of course, but many of my friends online are people that have hard lives for one reason or another. Older people who’ve suffered a lot of slings and arrows, myself included. In reality, you’re shackled to your circumstances, however grim. They surround you, they confine you. An MMO gives you a measure of freedom from all that, at least for a while. A virtual world is literally designed to be interesting and engaging. If you have a knack for understanding how these worlds work, success is easier both to define and to achieve. Why would people spend as much time as they do in MMOs if reality itself were more appealing?

What aspects appeal the most to you about them? And the least? I like the people I’ve made friends with over the years. I love being able to help other players. I love the way that people are just communicating mind to mind. If you’re fat or ugly or old in reality, you can leave all that behind you in an MMO. Heck, even if you can’t walk or talk or hear in the real world, nobody can perceive this in an MMO. I knew a player for years once before discovering that she was deaf in reality. I didn’t even know, so I didn’t act weird around her. I probably would have in real life, as much as I would try not to. Interacting through an MMO stripped that irrelevant detail away, leaving me doing what I should have been doing in the first place, talking to her like a normal person. How cool is that?

The downside is that I sometimes wonder what separates “serious” MMO players from gamblers, alcoholics, junkies and such. Those people also find reality unpleasant, they also use their chosen refuges from it. The outside world doesn’t see my online family of friends, the hard won battles, the web of responsibilities that form in our virtual world. To them, I’m basically playing Super Mario Bros for a large fraction of my waking life, which would admittedly be a problem. But as the one actually experiencing my life in cyberspace, I know better, or at least I think I do. But if you subtract all the things we know about in our virtual worlds and view things from the perspective of a “reality” based person? Don’t they kind of have a point? I guess everybody needs to decide that for themselves.

What was the last book you most recently finished reading? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Why? Reamde by Neal Stephenson. Generally I prefer fiction to non-fiction and fantasy/sf to regular fiction because, as I’ve mentioned before, reality sucks. :)

You are one of the founding pioneers on US 2. What was it that first drew you to Villagers & Heroes, and what is it today that still keeps you playing? I and several of my friends came from an MMO called Free Realms, which had just been “sunset” (i.e. foully murdered), and we were all thoroughly heartbroken over it. One of my friends from there, aliasSam, started playing Villagers & Heroes and said this might be a good place for us to start over. So I tried it out. I liked the variety of “jobs” we could pursue, the artwork, the quirky humor, and especially the villages where we could literally be neighbors with our friends and work collectively on projects that were beneficial to everybody.

Best of all, you Otters are personally invested in this place. Free Realms (and many other MMOs from that company) died because at the heart of things, shareholders needs were given priority over the needs of the players that lived in the worlds they made and even over the feelings of the developers that made them. Here, you Otters own the world you made. You love it like we love it, and that’s something I think too few MMO players take into consideration when picking a virtual world.

So, after the death of my old world, I and many of my Free Realms friends were reborn into the world of Villagers & Heroes. aliasSam and I founded the guild Realmers and our guild city New Pixiewood, named after the city of Pixiewood from our old home. I’m terribly proud of what we’ve got in New Pixiewood, and I love the culture in V&H, so friendly to new players, so free of spammers and scammers and trolls. I’m proud to call Villagers & Heroes home now. :)

For the benefit of newer players who will eventually be facing the optional zones of The Rift and Maldwyn’s Tomb, how would you compare the two zones? In terms of gameplay mechanics, do you think there any similarities between them? Why or why not? LOL, the Rift was a nightmare before it became optional, mostly because it took months to advance through it monster to monster one at a time, and few of those can be beaten without a decent sized group of players that know what they’re doing. Nowadays, however, it’s fairly easy to find a group of old Rift veterans to help you run the whole thing bottom to top in an hour or two. I love the way the battles are designed, every monster having different strengths, each with their own Achilles Heel that you can exploit to defeat them.

In a way, it’s sad that most players will probably run the Rift only once just for kicks now, won’t have to gather a group of high level friends and learn how to beat them again and again and again until you learn to do it right. Hey, I’d be happy to teach anybody that wants to learn, but I wonder who will want to go through that work now when they don’t have to. But those battles, learning to win them with your friends, that was epic.

Maldwyn’s Tomb is a different animal altogether. I call running it Tomb Raiding myself :) I find that most high level players can fight and defeat any of the individual monsters in Maldwyn one on one. The problem with Maldwyn is that most of the monsters there are in groups which tend to shred parties fast, and most of the feats traditionally used to break up these groups don’t work in the Tomb. But if you want to get the bounties in there, the groups are what you need to deal with. Different players run Maldwyn with different strategies. my guild contains mostly hunters, so when we run we use strategies that work well for hunters.

Other players do things that work well with the classes they have available to them. There’s a large learning curve in Maldwyn, not centered around the creatures inside but around the zone itself. There’s no map. A lot of secret passages, difficult jumps, a lot of things you can do that will get your party split up or get them killed or most likely both, until you learn the tricks to avoiding them.

What new feature would you most like to see added to Villagers and Heroes, and why? Mini-games. Leisure activities. I want something to do besides leveling up all the time. I want to decorate the inside of my house. I want to have instanced lots to build stuff on. I want a way to derp around that’s fun for its own sake and has nothing at all to do with exp points. Stuff that feels less like work and more like play. That’s what I want.

If you could abolish one piece of modern technology, what would it be and why? Universal surveillance. People tracking everything we do, everywhere we go, everything we say. Especially the long-term archival of this data. This is done to everybody, not just suspected criminals. As long as this data exists, there’s an increasing likelihood that it will be abused.

If you could move your village to any zone at all in the game, which zone would it be and why? Twilight Vale. I love everything about that place, the music, the motes in the air, the fae everywhere, the scenery, it’s all magical. I’d move my city there in a heartbeat, with my guildies’ approval, of course. I’d also considered how Lakeside or the Graveyard could might expanded. Underwater lakeside domed lots built by the Mara for their human guests? Graveyard lots that extend into the friendlier portions of the Afterlife? That might be interesting.

What are your initial thoughts and impressions about V&H going mobile? Awesome! Now I just have to figure out where to plug my mouse and keyboard into my phone…


Let’s hear it for our fantastic player community! Have a look at the Fan Friday creations of the past few months!


As always, we are so very grateful to Avenian of US 1 for providing us with another lively and amusing anecdote about his escapades in Villagers & Heroes. Thanks, Avenian!

The Infamous Trader’s Idol By Avenian

Quite some time ago, I received a quest to acquire a Trader’s Idol. Finding this idol took some time, and then all of sudden it was Idol Day in Ardent. A bunch of people were getting and trading idols with us low level future heroes of Ardent. I had almost forgotten about this little trinket until last weekend when I received one in my mail.

“Ha, Ha,” I thought as I transferred the idol into my inventory. Then I realized that this item cannot be deleted. I able to delete everything else in my vaults, without or with a warning, but I am not allowed to delete this “gift”. I even tried to open a trade window with the person who gave me the idol but they quickly cancelled the trade.

Now I know what you are thinking, I could have mailed it back. I could have offered it in chat, which I did but I had no takers. Instead, I made the long arduous journey to Traders Path in order to find Plente. Plente, who has plenty of idols, took my idol. However, this little tale does not end here because the next day I found 3 new idols in my mail.

What did I do to deserve this? I have treated this person with the upmost respect. I often warn this person watch out for the block that this person continually runs into in Maldwyn’s Tomb. I remind our priests to make sure to heal this person so that this person does not die from their tankless fighting style. I would even consider sharing a meal in real life with this person, and maybe even some Vin also (vin is French for wine if you did not know).

I must admit though, this person made me laugh and smile at this little gesture. Even on the following day when I received another idol in my mail from this person who I will not name. And apparently, according to a Fan Friday submission, I may be receiving more. So, if you are in need of a Trader’s Idol, or two, I might be able to hook you up. Even if you don’t need a Trader’s Idol, or two, I can still hook you up since I have lots.


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What would Midsummer’s in Villagers & Heroes be without the annual Saving Private Otter event? That’s right, he’s baaack! The inexperienced little warrior who is desperately trying to make it home, is as lost and low level as ever. Private Otter needs savvy teams to help keep him alive, acquire certain items, gain as much XP as he can, and of course make it back home again all while the clock is ticking!

The event will take place on all servers, and expect huge prizes! Stay tuned for more details!


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