Monday, August 15, 2022

I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue

I have so much to say about Noah's Heart I could easily post about nothing else until the end of Blaugust, always assuming my goal was to have no readers left by the start of September. Even if I did, there's almost no chance I'd be able to explain how the game works or what the point of it is because right now, despite having played every fricken' day since I downloaded it in July, I'm still none the wiser.

Most multi-platform mmorpgs are like this in my experience. I have to assume it's the mobile heritage because PC-only games don't seem to be quite so dementedly insistent on layering systems over systems over systems until you can't see the screen any more. All multiplayer games seem to be converging on that hyperactive gameplay principle, though, so the division is a lot less obvious than it used to be.

Take events. Once a month would be a lot for a PC title. More like once a quarter. Noah's Heart only launched a month ago on mobile, half that on PC, but we're already into our second major event... I think. I'm not sure, honestly. It might be more. 

I can say with a relative degree of certainty that there's an event going on right now. It's called... oh, god, I don't even know that! I took a screenshot but it doesn't really help. 

Cheery start...
I take so many screenshots with the intention of using them in posts but if I used even half of them we'd be here 'til Christmas, never mind the end of Blaugust. I think "Scarlet Mark Mystery" might be the name of the event? Don't quote me on that. Whispers in Darkness is the name of the case I'm currently investigating, I do know that much.

The event is very, very odd. It's effectively a visual novel embedded in an mmorpg. There are mysteries to solve using something like one of those big connect-the-clues boards so beloved of game designers who watched too much TV in the 2000s. 

The investigations proceed by way of a combination of open-world gameplay and cut scenes that remind me of the way Guild Wars 2 used to do them back in the first iteration of the Personal Story, a kind of 2D puppet show, only better than that sounds. You have to collect clues to open more dialog options and sometimes there are fights. There's also an overarching questlike structure that keeps track of progress in your journal.

It's entirely possible to flatline the investigation by asking the wrong questions or making the wrong decisions, something I've done more than once. In a kind of roguelike timeloop you can then restart from an earlier nodal point where the mistake was made and make better choices using the new data you've acquired by screwing up.

Let me guess. She wears a tweed cape and a deerstalker, right?

At some point, quite a long way in, you run into something akin to an energy mechanic, where you can't proceed until you've done a bunch of regular daily tasks to get more clue-power. (It's not called that but that's what it is.)

People get all worked up over energy mechanics in mobile and F2P games but mostly they go right over my head. I can barely think of any game I've played where I even came close to running out of energy to do anything I wanted to do, even when I was playing several hours a day. 

I think it's because the way I normally play mmorpgs doesn't involve a lot of the things the designers choose to monetise. In Noah's Heart, for example, I could spend all day mining, chopping trees and foraging for mats, then all the next day using what I'd got to work on my house and as far as I can tell nothing would stop me. Ditto exploring.

Called it! The hold-ups were a surprise, though.

Even for the things that do seem to require energy, like running instances and such, chances are I'd run out of interest long before I ran out. For once, though, I think if there was an onerous energy mechanic, I'd know about it. I'm doing more instances than I generally do in games like this. They're short, easy, fun and you can access them almost instantly on demand. Whatever the energy tax is for doing it, it hasn't affected me in the least.

The roadblock for clues is different, anyway. It's like an energy mechanic but it's not one. It's more like a reminder to do all the vast number of activities the designers probably assume you'd want to be doing anyway. 

There's a huge checklist of Dailies and Weeklies that again reminds me of GW2 in that they're mostly just things the average player would be doing anyway - running various kinds of instances, finding chests in the open world, that sort of thing. Doing them gets you Life Points. I think that's what they're called. I'd have to log in to be sure and I'm trying to avoid doing that because if I do I'll only take more screenshots and I have more than enough for this post already.

Not so much as a trigger warning.

Each time you hit various Life Point markers - 30, 60, 90... like that... you get another Clue Point (Not the actual name.) You need nine to open the next phase of the investigation. I was up to 5/9 when I stopped for lunch and when I finish this I'll go back and get the other four. I want to carry on with the case. Solve it, if I can.

More than that, I want to know what the hell it's about. The translation, never great in Noah's Heart, is so offhand there are passages I can't be sure I've fully understood. There's also a lot of lore in there. I'm learning plenty about the political situation in Noah (Noah is the name of the planet, I only recently realised.) and also it's regnal history and the way the aristocracy functions. 

I actually have two different cases running side-by-side, both stalled, waiting for clues. I might have something still on the go from the previous event as well, although if so, I've already forgotten the details or even the general description for that matter. Frankly, there's so much going on I have no hope of remembering most of it.

I don't really need to. My typical session consists of little more than logging in and clicking on every icon on screen with a red dot. It takes me so long I rarely have time to do anything after. Each icon opens a window that might have anything up to half a dozen more icons to other windows and half of those probably have red dots too. And so on down the fractal.

Multi-purpose screenshot: red dots [Check] Cute Boy title [Check] Yet another mysterious shop [Check]

Red dots mean some kind of reward. Something to collect. A present. A gift. XP. It could be the familiar login reward for bothering to turn up at all or it could be for something I've done or that the game tells me I've done, even though I can't remember doing it. 

I used to click on all the red dots but some of them lead to systems I don't understand and others to screens where I have points to spend on things I don't understand either. Mostly I leave those alone. Others turn out to be invitations to group activities like Arenas or Trials. I leave those alone as well.

Even with the ones I don't do I still can barely collect my winnings before more builds up behind them. Not that I'm complaining. I did nearly two levels without leaving the spot where I logged in the other day. 

And there are so many currencies. I'll try and do a post on that one day because I don't think I've ever seen so many in so new a game. I mean, EQII has a ridiculous number of currencies but it took nearly two decades to acquire them. Noah's Heart seems to have managed it in two weeks.

That's such a great idea it deserves a post of its own.
We probably need a lot of currencies because we sure have a lot of shops. Not in the open world, where as far as I can tell there are no traditional NPC vendors at all, but in the UI, where there are at least half a dozen tabs, each with multiple tabs of its own: Market, Mall, Commerce, Consign, Auction, Top-Up...

You'd think that would indicate some kind of intentionally obfuscatory, predatory monetization but no, I'm pretty sure it's not that. Like everything in Noah's Heart, if there's a problem in the way something's been designed you can probably put it down to over-enthusiasm.

Ok, first, I'm a girl.
Second, the title is actually "Cute Boy".
Third it's not even Agi, it's Str.

To give one example of why I don't think the game is out to grab your last cent, this morning, when I finally found the Mall, I was able to buy two bag expansions, fifteen slots each, for a thousand diamonds. Diamonds are an in-game currency that you get for doing just about everything. I had more than twelve thousand. 

Selling bag space is a core moneymaker for most F2P developers and I've know games that sell you the slots one a time or, worse, rent them. Bag space in Noah's Heart is decent enough to begin with but to be selling this much, this cheap, for in-game currency, is uncommonly generous. I could have bought another two sets before I hit my permitted limit. I just didn't think I needed them yet.

I'm well aware this post is rambling and random but so's the game, or it is the way I'm playing it. Other topics I was thinking about mentioning today include 

  • Titles (I got one called Cute Man and it morphed into Cute Boy when I collected it.)
  • Wormeries (Aquaria for animals. I made one for a Tiger Butterfly.)
  • How my Warehouse got full (Even though I don't even know what or where it is.)
  • Guilds (They're a bit old school.)
  • The robot who wants me to bring it an apple (Which I can't find.)
  • Jet packs (We were promised them and we got them!)
  • Cars. (In and out of cut scenes.)

Any one of those would make a post. And most likely will.

It's a shame Belghast opted to play the much-hyped Tower of Fantasy rather than Noah's Heart. He'd be getting to the meat of things by now, offering helpful tips and knocking out How To guides. Unfortunately there's just me, blundering along, oohing and aahing and having a great time without even knowing why.

If I ever do work out what I'm supposed to be doing here, I'll be sure to tell you. For now, though, I really could use someone to explain it to me.


  1. Okay, I have to ask: why all the bunny girls? Is that really a thing in game?

    1. Not really. The ears on my character are just a free cosmetic that turns up early on. I think the thing on Shirley Granger that looks like bunny ears is actually a headscarf. Overall, for an anime game, Noah's Heart generally has fairly restrained clothing options, I'd say, although there are some exceptions. I'll add it to the very long and still-grwoing list of things I ought to do a post about...


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