Design Decisions Vol. 1 – “River District Dig Sites”

Way too often do we not recognise or acknowledge all the small details in a piece of content. This series tries to examine design decisions the devs made, followed by an evaluation in how they impact the game. We will also look at how much work a certain feature required to implement and if that work was justified. Maybe we can even find better answers to design problems? Today we take a deeper look at the dig sites in the River District.

Campaign/Map Integration

The main idea behind dig sites is bringing back the exploration into Neverwinter that has been missing for so long. It is a core DnD concept to go somewhere, descend into a vault, fight enemies and loot the place.

And it works. Kinda. The concept is great but the actual integration could have been much better. I want to praise the creativity behind the idea but at the same time the missed opportunities make me sad.

“The tang of heated metal fills the air.”

Randomness of spawns

This is a straight forward and most welcome feature. Even though the basic concept stays the same there is at least some kind of changing elements. While randomness of mob types and even maps is an easy way to keep content from turning boring for a longer time, it is not enough to keep it fresh on its own.

“The tang of heated metal fills the air”

These flavor texts are a great example of how a low cost feature can add so much to the game experience. To all of the players who not just rush through every piece of content this is a welcome addition. It mimics a DM setting the scene via exposition. While it has no “real” gameplay functionality it caters to the flair of dig sites. Players who are into exploration and setting should love this addition.

“Your skin tingles with the magical energy flowing through the vault.”

Unnecessary mob spawns in the Treasure Room

This one actually upsets me. Why do I have to fight waves of mobs? Couldn’t the vault map just be two rooms/corridors bigger? Now that is just the devs being lazy especially if you look into what the dig site maps actually are. They are not only constructed of recycled parts of old maps, but sometimes even have the entire old map still attached to them.

A lot of players recognized one of the treasure rooms originating out of Throne of Idris. What if I told you the entire dungeon is loaded when you enter this dig site type? You just can’t enter it. It would really not have taken a lot more effort to extend the vaults a little bit. Having to fight through more space instead of fending of waves in one room is a much better design decision.

A better Arcanic Focus grind

Since the devs acknowledged there was not enough Arcanic Focus dropping, how about a better implementation than just adding it to daily quests? What if the dig sites were not only extended but also included an optional room with a loot node? This node would have the same chance to drop Arcanic Focus as the main node in the treasure room. There was actually no need to integrate the Focus into the daily and weekly quests if the drops from dig sites would be sufficient.

How does this improve the vault design? Players are left with a choice (the main theme of the Cloaked Ascendancy):

  • If you want to farm for a weapon set go loot the optional room.
  • Players who just want to finish their daily quest experience a more consistent and lower completion time since some of the treasure room mob waves have been spread out.

It is a win for everybody involved. Less daily grind, more Arcanic Focus (with little extra work required), a more interesting dig site design and all of that at barely any additional design work for the devs.

To the left would have been a perfect opportunity to add an optional room.

Missed opportunities

While not annoying the dig sites could have been set up so much better. For me it is mood dependent if I enjoy the vault raiding or I just rush through it to complete my daily Mercantile Mission. These dig sites could have been a real throwback to older times in Neverwinter. While they are not in the way and sometimes can be quite enjoyable, they are just not right on the spot.

I personally would have loved slightly bigger vaults (maybe only the ones further away from the villa?) instead of mob waves. Maybe even include multiple paths?

And it would have been so easy

That could very well be the theme of this entire series. You will find me saying this a lot about missed opportunities or just outright awful design decisions. The maps were already there. Like literally right next to the dig sites. It would not have taken any more resources at all to add a 2-3 rooms and maybe a corridor. Sigh.

As conclusion I like and encourage the idea behind creating a new type of farm medium. It has the exploration and direct looting to it DnD is famous for. Please give us more like this in the future, but this time think it through^^

Thanks everybody for your time. I hope you enjoyed reading whatever brabble I had to say this time. Please do tell me if you liked this approach and if you want to see more of it. I am still not sure that this is the correct medium for what I want to get out there. Anyway, that’s it for today, as always: stay classy folks!

Cheers, Jay.

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2 thoughts on “Design Decisions Vol. 1 – “River District Dig Sites”

  • March 27, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Maybe I have bad luck but lately its hard for me to drop any focus from sites. I was lucky with 4th dig site yesterday. Before the change had pretty stabile drop rate on them thanks to double tap.

  • March 27, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    A few other minor things could be better. The dig sites (and HEs for that matter) are mildly group-unfriendly in that if someone’s forming a dungeon or skirmish run you can’t just drop what you’re doing to join them and pick it up later, you have to finish the dig site or lose your progress. Also, since dig sites are their own map instance when you leave them the two minute timer to change River District instances is reset.

    And of course, there’s dig-site passes taking inventory slots.

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