Archive for September, 2012

Level 70-80 world-drop sets

September 29, 2012 20 comments

A few months ago I made a few posts about the old world-drop armor sets and included the screenshots of all twelve level 40–69 sets. I was wondering whether I should try farming the level 70–80 sets as well; initially I thought it would take too much effort, but eventually I decided to do it after all. It provided a pleasant enough diversion from other boringly repetitive activities such as farming hardmodes.

(If you don’t want to read my ramblings, you can jump straight to the screenshots.)

Farming epic Kheshatta

I did all the farming in the epic instance of Kheshatta (although a few bosses in the 70–80 level range could also be found elsewhere, particularly in Atzel’s Approach). Although these are group bosses, they can also be killed by a single player, at least by soldier classes, as long as you use enough CCs (don’t forget the stun from doubletapping forward) and kite them when needed to recover health. You can even solo kill the level 82 Bat Demon Lord boss that way, even though it hits pretty damn hard; in my experience, the best thing to do was to kite it in a fairly big circle in the area left of where it floats before you pull it; the sloping and uneven terrain there seems to hinder the bat’s pathing a bit and thus slows it down, making it easier to kite and recover health. But solo killing the bat is really more trouble than it’s worth.

The main problem with soloing these high-level bosses is that it takes a relatively long time to kill them; with my DT it usually took me a little over 6 minutes to kill a level 80 boss in the Ghanatan area in the southwest of the playfield. (Killing the level 75 Hong Gildong bosses took me about the same amount of time — although they have a bit less HP, they do magical damage and I don’t have much protection gear, so I had to kite them more.) If I grouped up with a healer, even if it was a crappy healbot that didn’t do much damage by himself, the same level 80 boss could be killed in little more than 2 minutes, simply because I didn’t have to kite and doubletap.

Another problem with farming these bosses by yourself is that many of them are surrounded by trash mobs, e.g. the ones in tents in the bat camp area. With a group of 2 people, this is no problem — one of them pulls mobs from the tent and runs away; the other player aggroes the boss from this group, moves him out of the way and starts fighting him; the first player keeps running until the other mobs reset, whereupon he can join the first player in fighting the boss. If you are alone, separating the boss from the trash mobs is a lot more difficult because by the time the trash reset, chances are very good that the boss resets as well. You have to try hitting him or irritating him so as to keep him aggroed a bit longer than the trash mobs. So generally, when I was farming alone, I limited myself to bosses that can be pulled without aggroing any trash: the two level 80 ones in the first group of camps in the Ghanatan area, and two level 75 Hong Gildongs near the city of Kheshatta (one near Onyx Chambers and one northeast of the city).

I feared it would be very difficult to find someone to team up with for farming epic Kheshatta bosses, since hardly anybody goes there nowadays. However, it turned out to be easier than I expected; I could often get a healer by advertising in global. Of course, if you wanted to find a full group for this, it would probably be next to impossible. Fortunately the way these bosses are balanced now makes it easy enough to fight them with 2 people and there’s really no need for a complete group. It even turned out that you don’t really *need* a healer for this; on a few occasions I teamed up with an assassin and it went OK as well — between the two of us we could keep the bosses CCed so much that my potions and self-heals were able to outheal the damage I was taking.

(It was interesting to see how thoroughly unfamiliar many people are with epic Kheshatta farming nowadays. For example, the concept of pulling the trash so that I could then separate the boss from the rest was new to many people, and some of them had remarkably many problems implementing it. Yes, when I say “pull the mobs and run away until they reset”, I mean that you should sprint the hell away from there, not take two timid steps backwards and wait until the mobs maul you! And when I say “pull any mob from inside the tent”, I don’t mean that you should walk into the tent with your 4k HP and your green light armor and expect to be able to run out of there alive while five epic mobs are whacking at you… It’s as if some people didn’t know about ranged attacks, and remarkably many healers seem to lack a bow or crossbow. Grrrr.)

Epic Kheshatta in the olden days

Farming epic Kheshatta felt very nostalgic and brought back many memories from the early months of the game. I suppose that nowadays much of the game’s population consists of people who weren’t playing in 2008 or early 2009 and thus don’t even see what the fuss is about — why the heck would anyone get the idea of going to epic Kheshatta in the first place? And yet in those early months of the game, the level 80 blue armor sets you could farm there were for all practical purposes the best armor you could get. They were practically just as good, in terms of stats, as the dungeon sets from places like Atzel’s Fortress and Onyx Chambers; and the only armor better than that was purple gear from raids, which few people had access to in the early months of the game.

Many people would join with a character below level 80 and get some XP from the boss kills, which was particularly valuable in those days when the amount of solo content was insufficient to comfortably level you through the 70–80 range (unless you wanted to grind villas a lot). I spent so much time in epic Kheshatta farming groups with my barbarian that she got the entire level 80 Ravager’s set before even reaching level 80 🙂

Another good reason for going to epic Kheshatta was money. In the early days of the game, bosses in epic playfields dropped a lot more money than they do now. If a group of 6 players killed a level 80 boss in the epic instance, it could easily drop 15–30 silver for each of them. You could get a similar amount by solo killing a level 50-ish boss, for example in epic Fields of the Dead. And I heard of people who would go at level 40 to farm level 20-ish bosses in epic Wild Lands of Zelata to get enough money for their horse. I wasn’t really aware of the money-making potential of epic bosses until relatively late; when I did, I spent a few hours farming epic Fields of the Dead and got the impression that the money from it was quite a bit better than from gathering materials for sale. But I was hampered by the fact that my character was a juggernaut guardian, her DPS was therefore complete crap and killing those bosses was fairly slow.

In any case, some time in the summer of 2008 Funcom then nerfed the money drops from bosses in epic instances, to approximately 1/4 or 1/5 of their previous values. This made farming epic bosses (killing level 50-ish bosses alone, or level 80-ish bosses in a 6-player group) quite unattractive from a money-making point of view. However, nowadays, since you can farm epic level 80 bosses just fine as a group of 2 players instead of 6, the money aspect is non-negligible again. In terms of gold per hour, I suspect it’s a viable alternative to doing MoA farming runs in Kara Korum. I still wouldn’t really want to try farming substantial amounts of gold this way, though.

In my experience, epic Kheshatta farming declined significantly from early 2009 onwards, probably as people got more accustomed to doing dungeons and raids, but what really put the last nail in its coffin were the itemization changes in 1.05. Previously, epic Kheshatta gear was, in terms of stats, almost as good as the best blue dungeon gear; after 1.05, blue dungeon gear was still decent but epic Kheshatta gear turned into utter crap. So epic Kheshatta farming was quickly turning into a very time-consuming way of farming very unattractive gear, and it’s no surprise that people gave it up.

I couldn’t help noticing how much easier epic Kheshatta is nowadays than it was in those early days of the game. Back in mid-2008, it was a perfectly respectable challenge for a full group of 6 people. I guess this is partly because we have better gear and AA now, partly because the bosses probably got nerfed during the various rebalancing changes, especially following 1.05; but partly it might be because we use crowd control abilities so much more. At least I do — back in those early days, I hardly ever used CC at all. Maybe PvPers and people who played squishy classes were more used to doing CC, but I really only started paying attention to CC after the expansion was released — there the solo mobs were hitting hard enough that CCing them really made a significant difference.

Another thing that used to make epic Kheshatta farming harder than it’s now is that mobs sometimes failed to reset properly. For example, one player would pull mobs from a tent and kite them until they reset; meanwhile someone else would extract the boss from this group and start fighting him; and the trash mobs that were supposed to reset and go back to their tent would sometimes go to the players that were fighting the boss instead. Sometimes this would happen even if they took care not to hit those other mobs with splash damage as they were running past the players, etc. These problems seem to have been fixed, and I haven’t noticed any difficulties with the mobs resetting nowadays. Indeed sometimes they are more eager to reset than I would have liked — for example, bosses would sometimes reset while I was kiting them (in what I thought was a reasonably small circle) to regain health.


The sets are shown in alphabetical order, and the class with which each set is traditionally associated is shown in parentheses after the set name. I included a few comments about other similar items below some of the screenshots.

Baleful (Dark Templar)

In typical Funcom style, the relationship between the weight of the armor and its appearance is tenuous at best. This supposedly heavy armor set looks fairly similar to (and just as leathery as) the light armor Zephyrous set (level 40–69 ToS set).

Beastfury (Bear Shaman)

This is very similar to the Wildsoul set (bear shaman level 40–69 set); one notable difference is that Beastfury Helm has horns, which the Wildsoul Helm lacks.

Crow Feather (Ranger)

Crow Feather Jerkin and Tasset use the same model as Canach Scales and Breeches (barb light armor from the Iron Tower). Crow Feather Helm uses the same model as Coronal Helm (priest light helmet from Sanctum).

Empyreal (Tempest of Set)

This set is worn by many Stygian soldier NPCs. (The higher ranks seem to prefer Skyshear, though — the ToS level 80 dungeon set.) The level 40–69 PoM set, Beatific, is in a similar style.

I can’t help thinking that this curious combination of the flat-topped hat with the slutty chest is unlikely to get you taken seriously anywhere outside of a Railroad Conductors Gone Wild audition.

Midnight (Assassin)

Many of these items are similar to ones that drop in mid-level dungeons or as quest rewards in Tarantia Common District; see one of my old posts for more about those items. But they aren’t exactly the same; the Midnight set is more dark blue instead of really black.

Nadiral (Demonologist)

Ravager’s (Barbarian)

Ravager’s Harness (the chest part of this set) uses the same model as the Royal Hunting Jerkin, a level 76 green chest piece (barbarian light armor). I’m not sure where exactly I got the latter one; I suspect it’s some sort of quest reward. Ravager’s Helm uses the same model as Corybantic Helm (from the level 40–69 barb set), Spellguard Helm (level 80 blue BoP PoM/ToS helm, but I have no idea where one gets it), and Bossonian Bascinet (ranger helmet from Awar in Atzel’s Fortress).

In the ‘front’ picture, the character’s hair appears to be clipping very badly through the helmet.

Resolute (Guardian)

A disappointingly nondescript set, in which you’ll look little better than in green crafted full-plate armor :S Resolute Chestguard uses the same model as Deadmercy Chestguard (rare blue drop from the Trapped Ghost, Slaughterhouse Cellar) and Bloodsire Harness (heavy chest from Sanctum). Resolute Helm uses the same model as Bloodsire Helm (heavy armor, Sanctum) and Rookwarden Helm (from Jovus in the Crows’ Nest). Resolute Boots and Tasset use the same model as Watchman’s Boots and Tasset (guardian level 40–59 armor).

Resplendent (Priest of Mitra)

The chest uses the same model as the Sanctified Jerkin (a level 16 light armor chest, IIRC one of the quest rewards in Tortage night quests) and the Dustcovered Jerkin (green chest from the Trapped Ghost, Slaughterhouse Cellar), and IIRC there’s also an early 70-ish quest reward based on the same model. But the main feature of this set is surely the sexy blue miniskirt. There’s at least one other item based on the same model, Elegiast’s Britches, which is a low-level quest reward, but I don’t remember exactly from where. (Damn, how I wish that was still available!)

Vanquisher’s (Conqueror)

The helmet has an interesting crest which looks better from the side:

This set is very similar to Zingaran Doomed Path set (ranger culture armor), though not exactly the same. Vanquisher’s Tasset uses the same model as Mordec Greaves (which drop from Rorik in Atzel’s Fortress).

Voidseeker (Necromancer)

The Voidseeker Robe seems to have worse clipping problems with boots and thighs than other robes of a similar style.

Wildfire (Herald of Xotli)

I had to remove the boots for the back picture because they clipped too badly with the robe. Apart from that, the boots themselves are pretty nice and I’m not aware of any other boots that would look exactly the same. So they deserve a separate screenshot:

What else is in the loot tables?

In addition to the armor from these twelve sets, the loot tables of bosses in epic playfields include various bind-on-equip items (not just armor but also weapons, shields, etc.). In one of the recent posts, we saw the list of twenty such items that drop from level 50 epic bosses; here’s a similar list for level 80 and 82 bosses:

Name Level Description Seen it drop at level
80 82

80 guardian polearm x x
Bloodrill Pants

80 demo/necro pants x
Bloodspittle Girdle

80 BS belt x

80 melee 1HB x
Celeritous Slippers

80 cloth feet with str x
Dawnmist Mantle

80 melee cloak x
Deathscream Arrows

80 arrows x x
Deathvigil Tunic

80 sin chest x
Diamondmind Opus

80 magic tali x

80 2HE, str, con x
Earthlink Boots

80 BS feet x

80 wis tali x x
Hollowheart Tunic

80 BS/ranger chest x
Howler Hide Cloak

80 melee cloak x x
Impskin Tunic

80 demo/necro chest x
Malignant Crusher

80 2HB, str, con x
Mark of Hate

80 DT tali x x

80 magic staff x

79 magic staff x
Nightwhisper Crossbow

80 xbow x
Ornvyth’s Bane

80 1HE, str, con x
Razorspike Chestguard

80 plate chest x
Scarabshell Tasset

80 BS legs x
Shadowslick Treads

80 sin feet x

80 sin dagger x
Skysplendor Shafts

80 bolts x

80 demo/necro staff x

80 soldier shield x x
Steelbrawn Sabatons

80 plate feet x
Swiftsinew Shoes

80 barb feet x x
Thornwarden Hauberk

78 heavy chest x
Thundernorth Girdle

80 heavy belt x

IME the epic open-world bosses generally drop items that are at most 2 levels above or below their own level; but unless there is some mistake in my notes, I’ve seen the level 79 Mindspire drop from level 82 bosses. I haven’t seen any level 77 items from level 80 bosses, though.

Of course it’s quite possible that some items are still missing from this list, if they never happened to drop for me during the time I was farming epic Kheshatta bosses. And it could be the case that some of the items that I’ve only seen dropping from level 82 bosses can also drop from level 80 bosses (or vice versa).

Some of these items also exist in a few lower-level versions, which drop from bosses of a suitably lower level (e.g. Howler Hide Cloak, Mark of Hate, Soulfeast).

A bit of statistics

In my post about the level 40–69 sets, we saw how to compute the probability that you’ll need to kill a certain number of bosses to get all the r items you want, assuming that the bosses have a loot table consisting of n items (and each item is equally likely to drop). So if you want to read about how to compute this, just click the link to that old post and read it there.

In the charts included in that post we used n = 96 as the size of the loot table, i.e. we pretended that it contains just the twelve armor sets and none of the other bind-on-equip items. But now we’ve seen that the number of these additional BoE items seems to be usually around 20, so we can repeat our analysis with n = 116 instead of 96. As for r, the number of items that we want to get, there are various interesting values to choose: r = 1 (if you’re missing just one part to complete your set — a familiar experience for many farmers like myself!), r = 4 (if you want to farm the BoP parts of one set, and will buy any missing BoE parts on the trader), r = 8 (if you want to farm one whole set), r = 20 (if you want to find all the items that aren’t part of any of the sets), r = 48 (if you want to farm the BoP parts of all 12 sets), and r = 96 (if you want to farm all parts of all 12 sets).


(all the results are for a loot table of n = 116 items)
r (no. of items we want) Avg. (± std. dev.) number of kills needed No. of kills needed to have a certain probability of getting all r items you want
10% 50% 90%
1 116.0 ± 115.5 13 81 266
4 241.7 ± 137.5 97 213 422
8 315.2 ± 142.2 162 289 502
20 417.3 ± 145.1 259 392 607
48 517.2 ± 146.0 358 492 708
96 597.0 ± 146.3 437 572 788
116 618.9 ± 146.3 459 594 810

By the way, in the special case where r = n, the Wikipedia refers to our problem as the “coupon collector’s problem”. One of the interesting results in its Wikipedia article is that the average number of kills needed in this case is n · Hn, where Hn is the n-th harmonic number. In our case, for n = 116, it turns out that H166 is approx. 5.335, and multiplying this by 116 really gives us approximately 618.9, which matches our result from the above table.

An encouraging conclusion

As you can see, the amount of farming required is considerable even at small values of r. In a way, this is discouraging — even if we limit our interest to just 8 out of 116 items, we still have to farm 50% as much as if we wanted to get all 116 items!

But seen in another way, it’s actually encouraging. Nobody would regard the goal of farming one set as unreasonable — after all, that’s exactly why we were doing all that farming in epic Kheshatta back in 2008 and early 2009. I farmed the complete Resolute set for my guardian back then, as well as the complete Ravager’s set for my barbarian. Now, a few weeks ago, when someone saw me looking in global for a healer for epic Kheshatta farming, they asked me why I wanted to farm it, and seemed to be impressed by my goal of farming all 12 sets. Perhaps they thought me somewhat crazy for even attempting something like that.

A statistically very naive person might imagine that farming for 12 sets will take 12 times as long as farming for one set; a moment’s thought would convince him that this is not the case, as farming for one set will likely also give you a few pieces of various other sets, and so on; so farming for 12 sets will take less than 12 times as long as farming for just one set. But how much less exactly? Our intuition isn’t of terribly much help with things like this. But now we can see from the above table — just compare the rows for r = 8 and for r = 96 — that farming for all twelve sets takes less than twice as much effort as farming for just one set!

So there you have it. If you wouldn’t think a player crazy for farming one set, it would hardly be decent to think them crazy for farming all 12 sets either 😛

Old-time farming sprees in Khitai

September 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s another nostalgic post, this time about the various insane farming sprees that we’ve seen in Khitai in the (relatively) early days after the release of the Rise of the Godslayer expansion. I suppose some people would consider some or all of these things to be exploits; but I consider that to be an unnecessarily ugly word. If the developers didn’t mean these opportunities to exist, they should have tested the game a bit better and fixed them before the release; and what is more important, they shouldn’t have set up the insane grinding requirements that pushed people towards (ab)using every possible shortcut to its fullest potential.

Forest of August Gloom

This is the area in the southeastern part of Northern Grasslands. One of the NPCs in the nearby village of Mei-Dianwafu gives a quest to kill 10 or so of the lotus-tainted animals in the forest, with a few Imperial Insignia as the reward.

Imperial Insignia are tokens that you can hand in to faction NPCs to raise your reputation with that faction (1 insignia is worth 200 points of reputation). Nowadays you get plenty of faction reputation simply by doing their quests, but in the early days faction quests gave less reputation than now, so insignia was more important than now. And nowadays you get lots of insignia easily as direct drops from dungeon bosses, and also from quest rewards for killing those bosses. But these things were added relatively recently; in the early days, the only sources of insignia were open-world quest rewards and (rare) direct drops from open-world mobs.

Most of the quests that gave insignia as a reward were poster quests, but in the Northern Grasslands there were also a few that you could get by talking to NPCs, and the Gloom Forest quest was one of them. And these quests lacked a cooldown back then, just like poster quests do. So in principle you could keep taking and completing a quest like this again and again, as much as you liked.

The other detail that made Gloom Forest such an incredible farming opportunity was the fact that you could do it in a group, or even in a raid. When any member of the team killed one of the animals in the forest, all other members got the quest update from it as well (if they were within range). So people would form raids of 18 or even 24 people, pick up the quest, ride en masse to the forest, round up a bunch of animals and AoE them down within seconds, often without even dismounting. Then they would ride back to the quest NPC, hand in the quest, take it again, and so on. You would get 10 insignia or so every few minutes, which was vastly faster than by doing any other insignia-giving quests. Some people would spend entire days farming this quest, though I myself found it too boring to endure it for more than an hour a day or so.

I think that for most people, the motivation for all this insignia farming was that they wanted insignia so they could raise their reputation with the Tamarin’s Tigers faction faster. This faction is present in only one playfield, so gaining reputation by questing was even slower than for most other factions; and people of course wanted to reach rank 4 quickly so they could get their tiger mounts. As a side effect of Gloom Forest farming, you also got a reasonable amount of money and AA xp from handing in the quest.

Funcom closed this glitch relatively soon by adding a cooldown of around 15 minutes to this quest (and other similar quests).

Paikang boxes

This is probably the most innocuous of the farming opportunities in this post. It’s a perfectly normal poster quest in Paikang, requiring you to collect a few boxes lying around the banks of a river in the central part of the playfield (near the island with lots of apes on it). Like all other poster quests, it has no cooldown and it gives you a few Imperial Insignia as a reward.

What makes this quest so attractive is that it’s so quick and easy to do it. You can pick it up from the poster near the entrance to the playfield (where you enter it from Chosain), ride to the river bank, pick up the boxes, ride back and hand them in to a NPC standing right next to the poster, and you’re ready to pick it up again right away. The boxes respawn quickly so you won’t have problems getting them even if several people are doing the quest at the same time. One annoying thing is that the poster gives you a random quest from probably 10 or more possibilities, so you have to keep deleting and retaking them until you get the one you want.

At some point, the quest was nerfed a little — the number of boxes you had to pick up was increased, and IIRC the number of insignia in the quest reward was decreased. But it’s probably still the fastest way of farming insignia by a purely solo activity. The reason why it’s not as popular as it used to be is, as described above, that there isn’t as much need for insignia any more, and that you get plenty of insignia easier than ever before simply from doing dungeons.

First phase of Pagoda and Palace

The boss fights in the Kang Pagoda and the Palace of Yun Rau consist of two phases; you get the loot (and the lockout) only after you completing the second phase. In the Kang Pagoda, if you wipe during the second phase, you’ll have to do the first phase again in the next try; this used to be the case in the Palace as well until they changed it to its present mechanics (where you don’t have to repeat the first phase if you wipe on the second).

In the early days after the expansion was launched, the first phase of these encounters generated AA xp, just like the second phase. IIRC you would get about 70k AA xp for each phase in the Kang Pagoda, and around 80k in the Palace of Yun Rau. This doesn’t sound like much now, but in those early days, getting AA xp was slower and harder than now; those 70 or 80k per hardmode were more or the best you could expect to get (except in Yag HM, as we’ll see below), so the only question was how to repeat this as often as possible (i.e. without too much travelling, zoning, killing trash, etc. between each boss kill and the next). So people would kill the first form of Po-Sha or Yun Rau, then deliberately wipe on the second form, and then resurrect and repeat this for as long as they wanted.

This practice was more widespread in the Kang Pagoda than in the Palace, partly because more people were familiar with the tactics for it and partly because in the Kang Pagoda, you could have one of the healers stand outside the boss room and the AoE wouldn’t reach him there, so he survived the fight when everyone else wiped and could easily and quickly zone in and resurrect everyone else. This avoided the need to zone out to the main playfield where the rez pad was located (since the dungeons didn’t have lobbies like they do now).

This was the main source of large-scale AA xp farming in the first few weeks after the expansion, before people learned how to do KK dungeons. Funcom put an end to this practice relatively soon by removing the AA xp from the first phase of these two encounters, so there’s no longer any motivation to wipe deliberately on the second phase. Later they changed the Palace fight (but not the Pagoda) so that wiping on the second phase doesn’t reset the first phase at all.

Kiting in the Coppice of the Heart

In the Coppice of the Heart, there’s a circular area where you’re supposed to fight the boss. Nowadays, if you go out of this circle during the boss fight (except the phases where you’re destroying the veins and arteries), you will get a pretty hard-hitting dot that will kill you quickly. In fact you might get the dot even by approaching the edge of the circle too closely (while still being inside it).

But in the early days, this dot didn’t exist, so in principle you could kite the boss in a big circle around the room, past the big arteries and so on. He moved slowly enough that even a caster could kite him. The key thing was to prevent the boss from ever hitting the kiter. Like many mobs, the boss seems to have an idea of what he wants to do next, and he refuses to consider doing anything else until he performs the move he has in mind at the moment. So if he intends to hit the aggro holder at least once, but the aggro holder kites him so that the boss never has the chance to hit him, this means that the boss will never consider doing any of the other things that he would otherwise do, e.g. move to the centre of the circle at 75% of health and cast his shield (where you’d then have to destroy veins and arteries to remove his shield).

So by kiting the boss around the room like that (and making sure the kiter never gets hit), you could avoid having to deal with the veins and arteries. There was also no risk that his aggro would break off — it might, if he managed to hit the current aggro holder at least once, but since he couldn’t, he just kept running after him. IIRC his heals also had no chance of proccing during this kiting (and his heals were a much bigger problem back then than they are now, since they could proc often enough that you needed two rogues with TW to remove them; and rogues in general were even more incompetent with heal removal back then than they are now).

So basically you had one player kiting the boss, and everyone else standing in the circle and hitting him with whatever ranged attacks they had. This could be pretty slow if you had mostly melee classes that couldn’t do anything else than shoot arrows with their bow or crossbow; but it was a simple and reliable tactic, unlike the intended one with killing veins and arteries and removing the heals.

In principle, a necro could even kill the boss completely alone, by kiting him while the pets were DPSing him. I wasn’t yet doing Khitai with my necro back then, so I never tried it myself, but for some people it was a nice way of farming some extra rare trophies and AA xp, especially if they couldn’t easily get a good hardmode group. Funcom seemed to disapprove of this and some people even got banned for it. As usual, it took them a nontrivial amount of time to add the dot which is still there and prevents this sort of kiting nowadays.

Den of the Crowmen

As you know, the hardmode version of the Den of the Crowmen encounter involves two bosses, Kian Lai (big bird) and the Royal Hatchling (small bird). Normally you should DPS the small bird down to 10%, at which point it becomes unattackable and flies into the air; after that you DPS the big bird down to 50%, kill some adds, then kill the big bird, then the small bird becomes attackable again and you kill it as well. The big bird drops the blue normal-mode box while the small bird drops the purple hard-mode box.

In the early days, it turned out that if the small bird’s health dropped below 10% while it was CCed, the mechanic that should have caused the small bird to become unattackable at 10% (and remain such until the big bird dies) didn’t trigger. I’m not sure if all CCs worked for this, but e.g. fear definitely did. So what you could do was fear the small bird just before its health reached 10%, then you’d keep DPSing it while it was feared, and by the time the fear was over its health was already well below 10% and it wouldn’t become unattackable. You could simply kill it and get your hardmode loot chest with AA xp, a purple armor part, and a rare trophy.

But you didn’t get a lockout — it’s killing the big bird that gives you a lockout. So after killing the small bird, you’d run away until the encounter reset (or you’d simply wipe on the big bird). After the encounter reset (and you had no lockout), you could do it again and again, thereby farming rare relics quite efficiently. What is more, since you could use the same instance of the dungeon all the time, you didn’t have to re-clear trash after each boss kill.

So in a way this kind of farming was even better than what we saw above in the case of the Pagoda and Palace — there you were getting just AA xp, here you were also getting rare trophies and loot. But you needed at least tanks with resolve for it, and it took a while before people got familiar with the Den encounter, so in the early weeks the Pagoda and Palace predominated. Funcom eventually fixed the Den farming glitch by making the small bird resistant to CCs. This made the fight a bit harder as well, since you couldn’t help the tank by CCing the small bird.

But really, in the long turn the main thing that made this sort of farming unnecessary was that they eventually increased the rate at which you can obtain rare trophies legitimately. In the early days, each hardmode gave you 1 rare trophy and that was it (with a few very rare exceptions, such as the crates of 5 rares in Pagoda and Yag HM). Nowadays you get 1 rare from each *normal* mode, and an additional 2–3 rares from the hardmode loot box, and crates of 5 rares drop from more dungeons than before.

Coconuts and mangos in Paikang

One of the Children of Yag-Kosha faction quests in Paikang (called Silent Strides) involves collecting a few coconuts (without killing any animals meanwhile). It’s a simple and quick quest and like any other faction quest it gives you a few Marks of Acclaim as a reward (as well as some money, AA xp, and faction reputation). In the early days, most of the repeatable faction quests had a cooldown of about 1 hour; but Funcom forgot to add a cooldown to the coconut quest, so you could re-take it immediately after handing it in.

Some people would spend hours and hours doing this quest again and again, mostly because they were interested in farming marks of acclaim, though the amount of money they got (either as a direct reward from handing in the quest, or from selling blue potions which IIRC were also part of the quest reward) was also pretty nice. None of the two or so characters with which I was doing Khitai grinding at the time was in the Children of Yag-Kosha faction, so I couldn’t get in on this action myself. To be honest, I’m not so sure if the rate of MoA per hour from this quest was really much better than from a traditional Kara Korum MoA farming run (if you had three factions at rank 2, plus the Jiang Shi faction), but some people seemed to prefer doing the coconut quest instead.

After some time, Funcom decided to do something about this, but instead of simply giving this quest the same cooldown that most other repeatable faction quests had, they took their usual idiotic way of responding to things they don’t like, and made the quest non-repeatable altogether.

People then started to focus on another Yag-Kosha quest in Paikang, which apparently also lacked a cooldown. This one is called Treats and Threats, and requires you to place mangos on the altars around the Yag-Kosha camp; while doing so, you have to dance to frighten away the apes that attack you. Eventually Funcom made this quest non-repeatable as well, thereby decreasing the number of repeatable Yag-Kosha quests in Paikang from 4 to 2, screwing the people who were in that faction and wanted to farm MoA in Paikang legitimately.

As usually in cases like these, the real source of this problem was that farming MoA was so slow and tedious, and Funcom eventually fixed it by massively increasing the amount of MoA quest rewards from all faction quests.

Last time I looked, there was another repeatable faction quest in Paikang that lacked a cooldown: one of the Shadows of Jade NPCs asks you to bring him the woman that he wants to marry, but while talking to her you can allow her to escape to Chosain; the quest fails and is replaced by a different one, where you just have to return to the Shadows NPC and tell him what you’ve done. You still get some MoA from this, and you can re-take his quest right away. (I’m not sure if the quest is also repeatable if, instead of failing it, you bring the woman to the Shadows NPC like he told you to.) But there’s a fair bit of riding involved to get from the Shadows camp to that woman’s house and back, so even though you could farm this quest over and over again, the amount of MoA you’d get per hour wouldn’t really be any better than from a normal quest run in KK or Paikang.

Speaking of repeatable quests in Paikang, I vaguely remember having heard something about people sharing a partly-completed quest for the Ai District and handing it in, again and again, or something like that, mostly with a view to making money. But I never knew the details of this, and I don’t have the impression that it was a widespread practice.

Celestial Necropolis

In the early days after Khitai was released, Celestial Necropolis lacked a lockout. If you got a good group for it, you could farm rare trophies and AA xp pretty quickly this way. But it was harder than it’s now, especially since most people still lacked the AA perks for it. For example, if you don’t have a priest with Steadfast Faith, and the Grieving Jiang-Shi mob manages to put the ruin on your group, this pretty much guarantees a wipe as you won’t be able to kill things quickly enough with the −damage debuff from the ruin. So you had to keep the mob chain-CCed to make sure it couldn’t cast the ruin.

You could similarly prevent the Conceding mob from putting the torment on people, or you’d have to be really sure that the player with the torment would run away on time (or that the rest of the group would run if he was rooted; but in that case you’d be deprived of a lot of DPS on the next Sentinel, so it was better to avoid getting the torment altogether).

Likewise, you could try to keep the Joyous mobs chain-CCed to prevent them from putting the healing buff on the boss. If this failed, you had to simply not hit the boss until the next pillar became active and his healing buff was removed.

In any case, after killing the boss, you had to go out, regroup, enter a new instance of the dungeon and kill some trash again, so it wasn’t as convenient as the Den farming mentioned above. But it was a bit more legitimate and could still be pretty fast if you had a good group.

There was one detail in which the Necropolis fight was easier than now: there was a rez pad in the dungeon itself, so dead people could release and run back during the boss fight. After they added a lobby and moved the rez pad there, people can’t zone into the dungeon from the lobby during the boss fight, so if they die, they are out of the fight for good.

Enigmata of Yag

The Enigmata of Yag is still a very respectable source of AA xp, especially if you kill the rare boss (Spawn of Nyarlathotep). But in the early days after Khitai was released, killing any of the bosses in Yag HM gave you a little over 800k AA xp — basically 10 times as much as any of the other hardmodes at the time. And you didn’t have to track for the rare boss — in fact it was in your best interest to avoid him, as his loot table was bugged so he wasn’t dropping loot like the other two bosses (Tetharos and X’cth) did.

What is more, Yag didn’t have a lockout in those early days. If this happened now, you could simply park your characters in the lobby and farm it for as long as you liked. Back then, the lobby didn’t yet exist, so after each Yag run you’d have to go back out to Kara Korum itself and regroup there before you could enter a new instance of Yag. To enter it, you of course needed the Crater Key buff, which expired after two hours. With a really good group, people managed to do six Yag runs with just one Crater Key buff. The key buff typically expired while they were inside the dungeon on the sixth run, but this wasn’t really a problem — you can stay in the instance without the key buff, you just had to be careful that you didn’t fall out of it (or that you didn’t release after dying).

Sadly I wasn’t able to get in on this farming myself; some of my guildies at the time did but I usually couldn’t get a spot in their group. This was probably by the best AA farming opportunity that ever existed in the game, by a wide margin. Nowadays you could probably get 1 million AA xp per hour with a reasonably smooth KK run, or even a bit more than that with two good Ai District or Ardashir Fort runs, and places like T’ian’an District and Vile Nativity have very decent AA/time ratios as well if you have a good group for them. But none of these things comes even remotely close to 3 million AA xp per hour, which is what people were getting from Yag in those wonderful lockout-less days.

Funcom eventually not only added a lockout to Yag but also nerfed the AA xp from the non-rare versions of the bosses there. But gradually they also increased the amount of AA you get from most hardmodes in the game, put additional AA xp urns to the loot tables, etc., so that a KK dungeon run is still a very good source of AA xp (if you aren’t too bored of farming it by now :}).

Categories: Age of Conan, Quests

Money drops from mobs

September 12, 2012 5 comments

Many mobs drop some money in their loot bags. Usually these are pretty small amounts, but bosses in epic instances of playfields can drop a substantial amount. In fact, in the early months of the game, farming bosses in epic playfields was the major source of income for some players. If you killed a level 80 boss in epic Kheshatta with a group of 6 players, you could expect around 15 to 30 silver per player; and you would get a similar amount if you killed a level 50 boss in epic Field of the Dead alone. I even heard of level 40 players farming level 20-ish bosses in epic Wild Lands of Zelata for money with which they would buy their first horse.

A few months after release, Funcom nerfed the money drops from epic bosses by a factor of 5 or so — the same kills that would formerly net you 15–30 silver will now give you just 3–6 or so. Since then, farming epic bosses for money doesn’t make much sense. However, recently, as I was farming epic Kheshatta bosses for the sake of vanity gear (screenshots of which will be published in a forthcoming post as soon as I manage to transfer a few characters to testlive so I can take the screenshots there), I noticed that if you kill these bosses alone or teamed up with just one other player, the amount of money you get is still pretty decent. I probably made more than 50 gold while farming for my 12 epic Kheshatta armor sets.

So I became interested in the amount of money dropped by the bosses. Obviously this is a random number; but what can we say about its distribution? I started writing down the amount of money for each boss kill and ended up with the following statistics (all money amounts are in silver):

of kills
Std. dev. Minimum Maximum
75 8 22.38 7.77 11.09 30.53
80 96 26.45 7.73 13.17 38.72
81 7 28.25 9.37 14.10 37.71
82 80 23.42 7.38 12.63 38.70

Now, obviously we don’t have enough data for level 75 and 81 to say anything reliable there. And even for level 80 and 82, where we have a decent amount of data, we see that surprisingly the average drop from level 82 bosses is smaller than from level 80 bosses — this is surely a sign that we still have insufficient data to estimate the averages reliably enough. Still, we have enough data to plot a rough histogram. We divided the range from min to max into 10 smaller ranges (of equal width); the histogram shows, for each subrange, how many kills gave us an amount of money that falls into that particular subrange:

I was expecting to see something bell-shaped, like a normal distribution — but we see that this is not the case. The values around the average don’t really seem any more likely than those closer to the extremes. And the extremes themselves, the maximum and minimum, are suspiciously close to a ratio of 3:1 — a nice round number which we would hardly dare to expect from e.g. a normal distribution, but which wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a uniform distribution and the developers deliberately chose its range so that max = 3 × min.

Farming level 50 bosses

Now, it’s a pain in the ass to get more data for the above table, since killing level 80 epic bosses takes a lot of time; and I don’t intend to kill any more of them now that I’m done collecting my epic Kheshatta armor sets. So I started killing level 50 bosses in epic Field of the Dead instead, hoping that the distribution of money drops there is the same (just with smaller values, of course). Here are the results after 500 boss kills:

of kills
Std. dev. Minimum Maximum
50 500 5.14 1.48 2.56 7.67

These are just the sort of things that you would expect from a uniform distribution. A uniform distribution on the range [a, b] will have the average μ = (a + b)/2 and the standard deviation σ = (ba) / sqrt(12). So if we take a = min = 2.56, b = max = 7.68, we see that the average should be 5.12 and the standard deviation should be 1.478, which is very close to what we see in the table above. And we can also see that the maximum is roughly three times the minimum, b = approx. 3a, similar to what we already saw above in the case of level 80 bosses.

The histogram also shows how close we are to a uniform distribution:

Of course there’s some variation from column to column, but that’s only to be expected.

So, at this point we can speculate that the amount of money dropped by an epic boss of a given level is distributed uniformly in the range [a, 3a], where a depends on the level. It would be interesting to kill a few bosses of other levels to get a better idea of how a depends on the level (my guess is that it’s an exponential function of the level), but that would be pretty time-consuming as it’s hard to find a lot of bosses at the same level. Level 50 is a bit of an exception there, because you have the Fields of the Dead with 13 level 50 bosses in a small area; for most other levels you’re lucky if you can find one or two bosses at that level.

Incidentally, I managed to kill 120 level 50 bosses in epic Fields of the Dead in 90 minutes of farming (I think with a bit of care you could do it faster still). At an average of 5.14 silver per kill, this gives you an income of 4.11 gold per hour — not bad at all compared to things like doing quests in Kara Korum or farming resources for sale (at current prices on the Crom server at least). But it does assume that you’re the only player farming there; and I saw other people killing those bosses more often than I had expected.

By the way, while I was killing the level 50 bosses, I also wrote down which blue items dropped that weren’t part of any of the level 40–69 world-drop sets. I ended up noticing the following 20 items (they’re all bind-on-equip):

  • Battlebrawn Necklet
  • Battlespite
  • Backbreaker
  • Blacksever
  • Bladebrave Tunic
  • Bloodblight Bolts
  • Bloodrighteous Belt
  • Bloodpurge Boots
  • Compendium of Many Hurts
  • Corpseskewer
  • Howler Hide Cloak
  • Mark of Atrocity
  • Mark of Hate
  • Mindward Robe
  • Painthreaded Leggings
  • Sightshift Mantle
  • Sleekspeed Leggings
  • Soulfeast
  • Sparkfrost
  • Vigorspine Tunic

The last time I added a new (previously unseen) item was after approx. 380 boss kills. So it’s entirely possible that there might be a few more such items dropping there that I haven’t seen even after 500 boss kills.

Anyway, the number of such out-of-set items in the bosses’ loot table is potentially interesting if you want to estimate how long you’ll have to farm them for. In my post about the level 40–69 sets most of the calculations simply pretended that the loot table contains just the 12 × 8 = 96 items from the sets and nothing else; now we see that a more reasonable size of the loot table would be around 116, not just 96.

More about the uniform distribution

Suppose that we have a sample of n points, X1, …, Xn, taken independently from a uniform distribution in the range [a, b]. The mean of such a distribution is μ = (a + b)/ 2 and its variance is σ2 = d2 / 12, where d = ba. (You can easily derive these formulas for μ and σ2 by yourself from the definitions of mean and variance, or you can look them up in the Wikipedia.) In practice we don’t really know any of a, b, μ and σ — we just know the sampled values X1, …, Xn, and the interesting question is how to find out something about a, b, μ and σ from our sample.

We can start by computing things like:

  • Sample average: Xa = (1/n) Σ1 ≤ in Xi.
  • Sample variance: S2 = (1/(n − 1)) Σ1 ≤ in (XiXa)2.
  • Sample maximum: Y = max {X1, …, Xn}.
  • Sample minimum: W = min {X1, …, Xn}.

Since our X1, …, Xn are random variables, the above-listed sample statistics Xa, S2, Y and W are random variables as well. What can we say about their distributions?

As is well known, the sample average is distributed approximately according to the normal distribution with the expected value μ and variance σ2 / n. Since its expected value is μ, this means that the sample average is an unbiased estimator of μ. The standard deviation (square root of the variance) tells us that on average, the sample average will deviate from the correct value of μ by √(σ2 / n) = σ / √n.

How much is that in practice? In the case of our 500 level 50 boss kills, this standard deviation amounts to approx. 6.6 copper; for the 96 level 80 boss kills, the standard deviation was approx. 79 copper.

If we move on to the sample variance, S2, it is similarly well known that its expected value is σ2; in other words, it is an unbiased estimator of the population variance. (That’s why we had to divide by n − 1 when computing S2; if we had divided by n instead, which might seem to be intuitively more reasonable at first sight, we would have obtained a biased estimator that would slightly overestimate the population variance.)

Next let’s take a look at the sample maximum, Y. We can see that its cumulative probability function will be

P(Y < y) = P(X1 < y, …, Xn < y)
= P(X1 < y, …, Xn < y)
= P(X1 < y) · … · P(Xn < y)
= [(ya) / d]n.

We now have to take its derivative with respect to y to obtain the probability density function:

pY(y) = n (ya)n − 1 / dn.

Now we’re in a good position to calculate the expected value of Y:

E[Y] = ∫ab y pY(y) dy
= … = bd / (n + 1).

You can see right away that this is a little less than b, the true maximum of our distribution; but the discrepancy gets smaller if we take a bigger sample (i.e. a bigger n). And intuitively it certainly makes sense that the sample maximum, Y, underestimates the population maximum b, because sometimes Y is below b (if all your samples Xi are below b), but this doesn’t get counterbalanced by cases when Y would be above b (because this is impossible — none of the Xi can be greater than b, so Y can’t be either). So we see that using the sample maximum Y, to estimate the population maximum b will actually cause us to underestimate it. Soon we’ll see how to get a better estimator.

Finally we have the sample minimum, W. Here we can use a very analogous way of thinking as we did for Y above and we would end up with the following result:

E[W] = a + d / (n + 1).

In other words, on average, W overestimates the population minimum a by just as much as Y underestimates the population maximum b.

Estimating a and b from W and Y

Now, as is often the case in statistics, we can try to derive estimators of a and b by pretending that our Y and W happened to achieve exactly their expected value and then solving the resulting equations for a and b. In other words, we have the pair of equations

Y = bd / (n + 1)
Z = a + d / (n + 1).

Remembering that d = ba and solving these equations for a and b gives us the following estimators:

A = W − (YW) / (n − 1)
B = Y + (YW) / (n − 1).

Again, intuitively this makes a lot of sense; we know that Y underestimates b, so to get a better estimate of b we must add something to Y (and similarly we must subtract something from W). We know that Y was a biased estimator for b because on average it underestimated it; but what about B, is it still biased or do we finally have an unbiased estimator now? To find out, we have to compute its expected value:

E[B] = E[Y + (YW) / (n − 1)]
= E[Y n / (n + 1) − W / (n − 1)]
= E[Y] n / (n + 1) − E[W] / (n − 1)
= … = b.

So we see that B is an unbiased estimator of b, and we could similarly show that A is an unbiased estimator of a.

Estimating μ from W and Y

Now, remember that the mean of a uniform distribution is μ = (a + b) / 2. Since A is an unbiased estimator of a, and B is an unbiased estimator of b, it follows that (A + B) / 2 is an unbiased estimator of (a + b) / 2, i.e. of μ. Let’s call it M:

M = (A + B) / 2 = (W + Y) / 2.

This is the second unbiased estimator of μ we’ve seen today — the first one was the plain old sample average, Xa. Which of these two estimators is better? The fact that they are unbiased really just means that their mistakes in both directions tend to balance each other out on average (i.e. they err just as much by overestimating as they do by underestimating); this doesn’t yet tell us anything about how big these errors are, on average. For that we need to compute their variance. We already saw earlier that the variance of Xa is D[Xa] = σ2 / n = d2 / (12 n). But what about M?

The variance of M is a bit more tricky to compute. We saw that M can be computed as W + Y, but these two variables are obviously not independent of each other (e.g. because we know that WY), so we can’t say that D[M] = D[W] + D[Y]. Instead, we can start by computing the joint probability distribution of W and Y. The cumulative probability function is

P(Y < y, W < w)
= P(Y < y) − P(Y < y, Ww)
= P(Xi < y for all i) − P(wXi < y for all i)
= [(ya) / d]n − [(yw) / d]n.

To obtain the probability density function, we need to take the partial derivative with respect to y and w:

p(y, w) = ∂2 P(Y < y, W < w) / (∂yw)
= … = n (n − 1) (yw)n − 2 / dn.

(All of this of course only makes sense when w < y. If w is greater than y, the probability P(Y < y, Ww) is 0, as the sample minimum cannot be greater than the sample maximum. In that case P(Y < y, W < w) = P(Y < y) and since it no longer depends on w, its partial derivative with respect to w will be 0, so that p(y, w) will also be 0 there.)

Now we’re in a good position to start computing the variance of M:

D[M] = E[(ME[M])2]
= E[((W + Y) / 2 − (a + b) / 2)2]
= (1/4) E[(W + Yab)2]
= (1/4) ∫∫awyb (w + yab)2 p(y, w) dy dw
= n (n − 1) / (4 dn) ∫∫awyb (w + yab)2 (yw)n − 2 dy dw.

This looks a bit hairy, but it becomes a lot easier when we substitute the variables a bit. Let’s introduce u = yw and v = w + yab. Our integral turns into

D[M] = n (n − 1) / (4 dn) ∫0d duuddu dv (1/2) v2 un − 2
= … = d2 / [2 (n + 1) (n + 2)].

Remember that our other estimator of μ, namely Xa, had a variance of D[Xa] = d2 / (12 n). So we can see right away that M has a smaller variance by approximately a factor of n / 6. Or in other words, if we use M instead of Xa to estimate μ, our errors will be on average √(n / 6)-times smaller. Or in still other words, if we want to make sure that our average error will be sufficiently small, we need a much smaller sample size (i.e. n) if we use M than if we use Xa.

Estimating a and b from Xa and S2

We saw earlier that for a uniform distribution, the mean is μ = (a + b) / 2 and the variance is σ2 = (ba)2 / 12. If we solve this pair of equations for a and b, we see that a = μ − σ √3 and b = μ + σ √3. Since we know that e.g. Xa is an unbiased estimator for μ, and S2 is an unbiased estimator for σ2, we can plug them into these formulas for a and b to get another pair of estimators for a and b:

A’ = XaS √3
B’ = Xa + S √3.

Are the new estimators unbiased? Let’s try:

E[B’] = E[Xa + S √3]
= E[Xa] + √3 E[S]
= μ + √3 σ = b,

and similarly we could see that E[A’] = a. So these new estimators are also unbiased, just like our previous ones (A and B) were.

An interesting question would be which pair has the smaller variance; but when I tried to compute the variance of A and B, I couldn’t get any elegant results, it all quickly turned into a horrible mess.

However, there is one other argument against using A’ and B’: it’s perfectly possible that A’ might turn out to be greater than W, and B’ can be less than Y. And if that happens, you’ll feel a bit silly having estimated the population maximum with a number that is smaller than your sample maximum. This cannot happen with A and B.

Wrapping up

Now that we know a bit more about uniform distributions, we can go back to our experimental data:

Statistic Boss level
50 75 80 81 82
n (sample size) 500 8 96 7 80
W (sample min) 2.56 11.09 13.17 14.10 12.63
Y (sample max) 7.67 30.53 38.72 37.71 38.70
Xa (sample avg.; estimator of population avg.) 5.14 22.38 26.45 28.25 23.42
D[Xa]* 0.066 2.74 0.79 3.54 0.82
M (better estimator of population avg.) 5.11 20.81 25.95 25.91 25.67
D[M]* 0.0072 1.86 0.19 2.62 0.23
A (estimated population min) 2.55 8.31 12.90 10.17 12.30
B (estimated population max) 7.68 33.31 38.99 41.65 39.03

*Note: actually, the formulas for D[Xa] and D[M] require d, which is ba; we of course don’t know the true values of any of these parameters, so we used BA instead.

The standard deviations √D of Xa and M are useful as they give us an idea of how (un)reliable our estimates of μ are, and also how much more reliable M is than Xa. You can see that the expected error of our M-estimate of the average drop from level 50 bosses is barely 72 tin!