Following the incomparable Milax’s podcast with PM Wyrom, in which he asked for the head honcho’s top 10 updates of 2020, Luxie and I thought it would be a neat idea to poll the player community for its own top… 15! We ran a survey for a week asking players to vote for up to their favorite 15 updates from a curated list of 45, and what follows below is what 120 people collectively chose.

To build some anticipation, let’s start with some runners-up, using a cutoff of minimum 30 votes (25% of participants) to receive honorable mention!

Runner-Up: 20th Place tie with 34 votes (28.33%):
Paladin Spell Overhaul and Skill Cost/Cap Changes

Comprehensive, high quality paladin updates led by GM Viduus scored big with what I’m sure are a good number of paladin mains and paladin players in general. I was one of those 34 votes myself! As nice as many of these changes are even in the short term, improving on diversity and especially the lower level paladin experience, the significance of the new and updated spells should continue to be felt in the years ahead as players pick this profession up for the first time or even resume playing abandoned paladins. And let’s not forget that more paladin updates are on the way in 2021!

Changes to skill costs or caps had often been considered unthinkable in past years due to requiring the involvement of onsite and were another great update with, at least in my eyes, paladins, sorcerers, and wizards being the big winners. The first two potentially gained hundreds or thousands of training points back while wizards got a brand new (probably post-cap) goal of 3x Elemental Mana Control for better enchanting than ever. That such an update is nonetheless down here in 20th place speaks to GS dev’s impressive run in 2020!

Runner-Up: 19th Place with 35 votes (29.17%):
Monk Tattoos

Along with Light Armor Mastery, which also arrived in 2020, the tattooing service to provide enhancives to stats was basically the best thing that could have happened to monks. It aided with two sore points, namely their silver-earning ability and contributions to other players. Their combat had never particularly been an issue, as squares go, so the monk population rightfully jumped after this ability was introduced. Let me also give serious credit to ASGM Oscuro for the creativity; I never heard or read any suggestion quite like tattooing from the player base despite many times trying to brainstorm a service, but the elegant thematic fit of tattooing makes perfect sense in hindsight!

Runner-Up: 18th Place with 36 votes (30%):
GroupMovement Flag

I don’t think I can undersell the importance of this flag, from a QoL perspective, to those who are regularly leaders of large or even small groups. Having to keep track of everyone and always fretting that someone might be left behind was a nerve-wracking concern that often slowed down the leader and led to criticisms–some joking, some not–of them being slow even when they were just trying to be considerate. This flag does its best to keep the group together, which is a gigantic win that eases minds of both leaders and group members and makes hunting that extra bit more comfortable.

15th Place Tie with 38 votes (31.67%):
Enchanting Updates, Loresong Updates, and Profession Guild Updates

Whew, now that’s a way to start the big top 15!

Enchanting updates included many materials becoming easier to work on, many combat scripts becoming easier to work on, and zelnorn becoming possible to work on at all. Some participants might also have been thinking of the higher ceiling for wizards with the new 3x Elemental Mana Control cap as they cast their votes. All of this converged into a crowd pleaser, at least among the mechanically-minded in the community!

Loresinging gained the new information of exact enchanting/ensorcelling difficulty, making it easier than ever to gauge the caliber of wizard or sorcerer needed to work on project pieces. Maybe even more importantly than that, unlocked loresongs gained a new RT-free RECALL option that displays only the mechanical aspects. Loresong unlocking just got that extra bit more useful for clients past and future!

Lastly, profession guild updates cut the grind of berserking, lock mastery, and other guild skills by more than half. It would be exactly half on point costs alone, but carrying over points from one rank to the next–finally doing away with the ever-annoying situation of earning 10 points and wasting 9 of them since you only needed 1 to rank up–offered even more aid, as did replacing task trade-in penalties with a 15-minute timer in the vein of the Adventurer’s Guild. Huge boons to those struggling through their guilds’ training regimens!

14th Place with 39 votes (32.5):
Encumbrance Updates

This was a dark horse candidate to me when I included it, so the strong showing impressed me. It’s no surprise in hindsight, though; small races, empaths, and warriors can certainly rejoice over free encumbrance reduction from Physical Fitness, to say nothing of the new Porter skill offered via ascension. Even putting them aside, who can turn down a free pass on 10 pounds (or more) of gear by level 24, and 20 pounds (or more) by cap? Everyone from hoarders to group looters to simply people who like staying out in the hunting ground a bit longer won with this update.

12th Place Tie with 40 votes (33.33%):
Legendary Feeder and New and Updated Gear

The legendary feeder getting such love is fascinating to me, like a triumph of hope. There’s definitely something to be said for now having even the possibility of finding an auction-level item during one’s everyday hunting, despite the fact that ultimately many hopefuls never will. Even for those who don’t, there’s still the spectacle element of seeing these items go out and gazing with awe or cheering as a friend or respected member of the community wins something. I’m sure many also loved the message sent that auction-quality items shouldn’t be obtainable only via pay events and high-end silver events!

As for new and updated gear throughout 2020, the solid combination of quality and quantity is probably what brought it to 12th place. Some highlights include GM Avaluka’s Animalistic Spirit weapons and shields, GM Naijin’s cartridge vambraces, and GM Retser’s Twin Weapons, parasite armor, sprite armor, and Energy Weapons (previously limited to runestaves but now in melee and archery form). Not that it comes even close to stopping there, as that leaves SGM Estild’s mana-infused armor, GM Kenstrom’s hand-pylons, GM Zissu’s Animate Dead weaponry wands, GM Tivvy’s Bags of Trrix, and still more. For sure a great year in creative gear.

11th Place with 41 votes (34.17%):
Combat Maneuvers Overhaul

GM Naijin worked tirelessly on improving combat maneuvers throughout the year in multi-phase updates that reduced RT, reduced stamina costs, made maneuvers usable in RT, and ultimately culminated in converting all of them to the SMR (standard maneuver roll) system–among other things! The high placement is well-deserved recognition for thorough, important updates that have literally changed the game for every profession, both on offense and defense. Word is he might not be done yet, either!

10th Place with 43 votes (35.83%):
Ranger Spell and Companion Updates

The dev team gave ranger players a sweeping update, led by GM Mestys, as many of them had wanted for years. A near-total overhaul of their spell list included new attacks, new buffs, and new modes for old spells. Improvements to companions also came with it, both mechanically and flavor-wise with more interesting ambients than endless hunger. Rangers still have updates yet to come in 2021, but what’s already done has been received very warmly–enough so to secure a neat top ten spot despite only affecting one profession!

9th Place with 48 votes (40%):
Archery Overhaul

From rangers to ranged we go! Did someone say infinite ammo with no more GATHERing? How about a brand new weapon base in hand crossbows? Or how about ditching the much-maligned mfire combat maneuver to introduce MSTRIKE FIRE with Multi-Opponent Combat ranks, including phantom ranks for archer rangers and crossbow rogues? These weren’t even the only changes to archery, but definitely some highlights of a comprehensive re-envisioning of an entire system of attack. New eyes turned to archery that never would have given it a second look before.

8th Place with 52 votes (43.33%):
AoE Updates

Paladins, rangers, and bards everywhere rejoiced as player-friendly versions of their spells were released at last! …and not only them, but probably the many people who had ever been caught and killed by a stray AoE spell! This GM Zissu-led update (at least, as far as I can tell) making the top 8 despite including some nerfs–a target limit being imposed on 410, 635, and 1030, for example, or 410 being weaker crowd control for low-level and mid-level non-pures–is almost surely a testament to how important it is to players that they be able to neither accidentally kill other characters nor be killed by them. Here’s to a friendlier Elanthia.

7th Place with 54 votes (45%):
Max Mana Formula Update

From one magic-focused update to the next in the top 15! Despite the running community joke about Purestone, that mostly applied to mid-level characters and up; low-level pures had often been troubled to grow up as casters, to the point of many embracing a mentality of swinging a claidhmore until level 20. (This was happening even with pures who didn’t want to be war pures in the long run.)

GM Naijin turned that around with a new mana formula that frontloaded max mana gains a bit, often doubling the mana pool of low level characters–if not even better than that. It’s far from benefiting only pures, though; semis could use their rather expensive attack spells sooner than ever, monks had an easier time with combat spells and spellups alike, locksmith rogues could cast 407 more often, squares in the Guardians of Sunfist gained extra mana to spare, and more. It’s no wonder the mana changes are a player favorite!

6th Place with 57 votes (47.5%):
Group Credit Tagging Changes

Next up is an even bigger paradigm shift for group hunting than the GroupMovement flag. Hunt in a group, hit an enemy (like-level), and for the next two minutes you’ll get credit for anything (like-level) the group kills even if you don’t get another hit in.

Lifelong solo hunters might not understand why this change is so beloved, but it’s a massive QoL update for frequent group hunters who struggled with issues like purposely using weaker attacks or even holding back from attacking at all to make sure everyone got their hits in, constantly checking in with others to make sure everyone was earning exp, awkwardly timing bandit runs to not end with one person having 8 left while everybody else was finished, and other problems that could make group hunting overly complicated.

At the time it was introduced, there was a drawback to this change of making it harder for bards and wizards to get credit toward loresong unlocking and enchanting while group hunting, but by the end of the year that was resolved as all profession services were converted to an exp-based system (an update which, itself, got votes from 27 players). Group hunting has never been easier, quicker, or more stress-free.

5th Place with 58 votes (48.33%):
ESP Overhaul

A long-hoped-for change came in the form of the ESP system, which saw a sweeping update that in many ways went beyond expectations. From what I could tell, the major perk players wanted was no more need for crystal amulets. What we got was, indeed, no more crystal amulets–but also thinking while dead, speech verbs and tones on the thought net for better RPing, new channels, custom channels, global channels, and more.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration at all to call it essentially lnet (the service, not the channel) in a moderated in-game context. It’s fantastic to hear the likes of Roblar selling on Merchant or Newsby delivering her headlines on the TownCrier channel. The timing couldn’t have been better, either, given the days and sometimes weeks when lnet struggled to handle the number of people trying to connect to it as in-game population frequently reached 800+ due to more people stuck inside or working from home throughout the year.

4th Place with 60 votes (50%):
RESOURCE Verb

Never underestimate the impact of QoL: that’s the takeaway from this update’s high placing in the community top 15! Tracking enchanting essence, necrotic energy, and monk motes down to the exact number has made providing profession services more accurate and efficient than ever–and speaking of seeing things down to the exact number, the RESOURCE verb also provides a way to check favor in the Order of Voln. This update might not be flashy, but clean simplicity is its own glorious reward.

3rd Place with 64 votes (53.33%):
Ascension

Many years of hope and discussions at last culminated in this, the initial release of Ascension! Though primarily intended as a post-cap system, ascension is available to all starting as early as level 20. Ascension is arriving in phases and this year’s Common tier focuses on enhancing stats, skills, resistances, and regeneration. It even stacks on top of traditional enhancives, giving the ability to go over the previous limits. Some players have been experimenting with pushing conventional experience into ascension as early as possible to see how it changes the leveling process.

Still upcoming are the Elite and Legendary tiers of Ascension, which are likely to make the community top 15 of whichever year they release in and are expected to be more nuanced and character-defining than the Common tier. Even among those who don’t find the Common tier itself especially exciting, the ability to earn ATPs now and be ready for the more complex abilities can itself be a great new carrot to chase.

As for those who do love the Common tier in and of itself, it’s not too hard to see why since it’s opened up paths paths to earn another 95 weapon AS, another 70 bolt AS, another 20 CS, up to 40% resistance of any damage type, over 100 pounds of encumbrance reduction, and more! Even one of these goals could take years–possibly decades in some cases–keeping GS engaging for a long time to come.

2nd Place with 68 votes (56.67%):
Open Sea Adventures and Kraken’s Fall

The silver medal of GS in 2020 goes to GM Retser for his Open Sea Adventures project, mind-boggling in its scope and ambition. Several interlinked new systems of player-owned ships and upgrades to them, roles on a ship, oceanic travel, combat at sea, and more came together to form something truly special and innovative that had players’ praise, hype, and love throughout the year! And did I even mention there’s an entire new town, Kraken’s Fall, that comes complete with its own lockers, adventurer’s guild, and other amenities?

This is all not even saying anything of the more subtle benefits of Open Sea Adventures; the ships and their upgrades are perhaps the best always-available silver sink in the game, the combat with pirates and other ruffians out at sea is essentially like having your own instance of a hunting ground, and apparently Kraken’s Fall is even a paradise for bandit bounties (at least for now).

Retser continued working fervently on this grand adventure throughout the year with updates and bug fixes aplenty, and I can only assume there’s somehow still more to come in the future.

1st Place with 72 votes (60%):
Locksmith Updates

2020 saw several great updates for locksmiths such as the LMASTER RESTORE ability for Lock Mastery masters, visible difficulty numbers while disarming traps or using calipers (or loresinging, for that matter), and no more experience penalty for extracting plinite with magical aid!

…but these updates were mere icing on an exquisite cake. The true centerpiece, the community’s top pick of 2020 updates, is the locksmith pool brought to you by GM Naijin. This ingenious addition finally created a needed alternative to inconveniences like hoarding boxes in lockers until a locksmith friend logged on or paying the exorbitant fees of the NPC locksmiths–who have now largely been sent packing!

Finding consistent locksmith work and ranking up in Lock Mastery has never been easier for rogues either, to the point that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone has already leveled a rogue from 0 to cap entirely via the locksmith pool. They now have even more readily available non-hunting experience than empaths–and the silvers and scarabs aren’t bad either! (Speaking of scarabs, the pool has definitively answered the question of whether they below to the picker or the client!)

In short, everything converged to make the locksmith pool the community’s top pick of 2020 GS updates. More silvers saved, more locker space saved, more silvers earned, more experience earned, and overall simply a stellar addition that entirely reshaped the way we look at loot.

While the above updates were players’ individual favorites, what did players think of the year of updates as a whole? Let’s find out in part 2 of this report!

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Leafi

Leafi reports on current events in and around Wehnimer’s Landing, where she can often be found dashing about day and night! She also hosts public Town Hall meetings in the Landing and helps with numerous TownCrier projects behind the scenes, including entirely too many proposals that create more work for Luxie. Does this lass’s troublemaking know no end?