Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Known Unknowns : Coping With Confusion In Noah's Heart

asked a very reasonable question in the comments to yesterday's post about why, if I'm spending so much time playing Noah's Heart, I have so little idea how any of it works. The short answer is because there's a hell of a lot to learn and the game doesn't seem all that bothered about explaining the fine details. 

Maybe a few examples would help.

Let's start with housing. Almost three weeks ago I posted very positively about the system, saying "I'd go so far as to say it has the potential to be one of the better mmorpg housing systems I've seen although I'd probably need to be a little further up the housing ladder than the second rung to say it with any authority."

I'm now on the sixth rung. I've made some progress but it's been slow. 

I've opened five more rooms - two more bedrooms, the alchemy workshop, the kitchen and a room called "Post", the exact utility of which is still unclear to me. I've also researched nearly a dozen functions on the housing Tech tree, not all of which I understand.

For a long time I was roadblocked by a quest from my butler, Marcella, who's been taking me through the basic functions of the housing system and demonstrating how they work. She wanted me to visit the house of a friend and help them but I didn't have any friends in the game and no idea how to visit anyone's house.

I came across a very similar quest in Chimeraland but there all housing is out in the open world. All I had to do was jog along the shoreline to the next house down the bay, then interact with the owner indirectly through the window that pops up when you trespass on someone's lawn.

Housing in Noah's Heart is instanced so that's not an option, which left me stymied. I did consider sending a DM to some random person to ask if I could friend them just for the quest. I have no shame - I've done that sort of thing in games before. There was so much else going on, though, I just forgot about it.

Yesterday I happened to be going through my chat tabs for some reason or other, when I noticed someone had sent me a friend request. Quite a while ago, actually. I hadn't noticed. 

That might sound odd but I've already had several DMs from NPCs - someone called Yuff sent me a really stalkery one - so it's not always immediately obvious whether incoming mail is from a real person or not.

Anyway, since the option to Friend someone was right there on the screen, I thought I might as well take it. They were offline but this morning when I logged in they'd accepted the return request. After that, I opened the Friends tab, clicked on my new friend's avatar image and found a menu with several options, one of which was Visit Home.

I clicked on that and it teleported me into my new pal's front yard. I found another button somewhere in the UI marked "Help" and with one press my quest was done. 

After that I was able to talk to Marcella again. She gave me a couple of new quests I was able to finish before, once again, she asked me to do something that floored me.

This time it has nothing to do with my lack of social skills. I just can't work out what she's talking about. She wants me to "Dispatch phantoms to the post and complete 1 tours". The mouseover tip helpfully advises "Go to Home and open Dispatch page to complete Post travel", which almost sounds coherent, but when I go to Dispatch there's no "Travel" option in sight.

I was thinking it might be because I hadn't yet researched the necessary upgrade to my house via the Tech panel. To that end, I've opened both Beginner Post Traveling and Basic Tour Skills but still no joy. 

It's at this point in most games that I'd give in and go to the wiki but unfortunately in Noah's Heart's case that's not an option. There is a wiki but, as you can see if you follow the link, it barely qualifies as a placeholder. There's virtually no useable information there at all.

There's also a pretty extensive in-game Encyclopedia, which is a lot more useful, but it suffers from the same kind of translation issues I was talking about yesterday. Not ideal for a primary information source. Still, I 'd be able to make sense of it, I'm sure, if only there was a relevant entry. There is not.

These kinds of communication problems go some way towards explaining why I still feel so at sea after nearly a month of playing Noah's Heart. I think, on balance, even the very confusing Chimeraland explained things better. Lost Ark definitely did.

Luckily, all I really need to do to keep upgrading my house is to make and add furniture and decorations. By doing that I also progress my crafting skills, specifically Craftsman and Tailor, while making food to give my Phantoms, something that increases my Affection levels with them, lets me level up as a Masterchef.

Making things requires a lot of materials. I get regular supplies of crafting mats from Assignments in the various workrooms in my house but mostly I need to go out into the open world and mine rocks or chop trees. As yet, I haven't got the locations of specific mats clear in my mind. I'll bet there's an in-game way of locating them but as yet I haven't yet sussed out what it is. 

Consequently, getting the necessary materials to make, say, the Fire Grate that Jessie, the Craftsman trainer, wants as proof I'm ready to progress to Level 3, is taking me quite a while. Coming up with the steady flow of mats for all the furniture I'd need to keep my house upgrades rolling in would be a full-time job. 

And that's what it's meant to be, just as it was in Chimeraland. It's the gameplay, or part of it. If you find it dull or grindy, as many will, then you're probably not the target market for the game.

You could be excused for thinking otherwise, of course. All the flashy pop-ups and free stuff that explode on screen every time you log in tend to give an impression of careless abandon. It feels as though all you have to do is sit back, maybe click a button now and then to keep your character auto-running to the next location and the game will just play itself. 

It won't. There's a proper, gritty, almost old-school levelling experience barely hidden beneath the shiny surface, which is almost certainly one of the reasons I'm enjoying it so much. If you don't put in the effort and the hours you're going nowhere. I do, after all, like leveling. And here everything levels, if only you can figure out what you need to do to make those numbers go up.

Your phantoms all level individually, as do their separate affections. Your three Career (Crafting) skills each have their own levels but you have a Career level that levels indepently of all of them. Your house levels up. So does your Mount. You can earn Fame with several factions, separately. Even your Friendship with other players comes with a numerical value you can work on. 

Then there's Adventure levels (I'm Level 14), Arena Ranks (I'm Silver III in Honor, Gold II in Fantasy.), National Plan and who knows what else. Even the damn server levels up! I'm on Spring Lake and we're going to ding 73 later today. 

The server level dictates the highest level your character can attain, which is why, back at the start, I blithely stated the level cap was 68, which was where my Growth Book stopped. Little did I know.

Currently the level cap on the server where I play is 72, simply because you can't be higher level than your server. As of this morning's update my Growth Book now goes to 89, which is, I assume, where the server's headed. You can swap servers to get past a cap lock, assuming you can find one that's higher than yours.

What actually causes the server to level up and how far it will eventually be able to rise I have no idea. The game is so intensely, ineffably complex, all I can do is hang on for the ride and hope I don't fall off.

Even if I was able to get to grips with what I've seen so far, there's always something new coming down the pipe. The latest addition would seem to be boats. There's a new item on the Exploration page called "Ocean Shipping" with a mission "Obtain a ship". Luckily, there's also a free ship now as a login reward. I thought we were getting a motorbike. Maybe I missed it. Whichever we get, I bet that levels up, too.

I hope that goes some way to explaining, if not excusing, my continuing confusion. I ought to make it quite plain I'm not complaining about any of this. On the contrary, I relish it. 

As Chris Neal at MassivelyOP implied about Chimeraland, it's not knowing that makes for compelling gameplay. Once you fully understand everything you have to do to survive and progress in a game, all that's left is to buckle down and do it. Then you keep on doing it until you can't bear to do it any longer.

Looked at that way, the longer I remain in the dark about how Noah's Heart works, the longer I'm likely to want to go on playing.


  1. Part of my job involves reading documentation written by support teams, and frequently for those support teams English is a second language. And every time I open up a new document to review processes, it shows.

    The more I read about Chimeraland, the more I'm struck by what I'd consider translation issues. You have to be part sleuth to figure out some of those things, such as that first pic stating "Your torso and appendages are in the best condition health-wise." That's a pretty strange way of saying "You are in good condition" or "You have a clean bill of health", but not so strange if someone is attempting to translate Mandarin to English.

    1. I confess I did deliberately pick that shot knowing how it would come across but actually there's a reason for the bizarre phrasing. Charlie Babbage, the phantom who's talking, is extremely uncomfortable with social situations and prefers the company of machines to people. She generally expresses herself in a way that's intended to come across as awkward, both for her and whoever she's speaking to.

      In this exchange, however, she's making a joke, or thinks she is. She goes on to suggest that the reason she's interested in the state of your health is because she might want to use your body parts for some kind of experiment and the punchline, when she finally gets to it, is that no, she wouldn't *really* do that.

      The interchange is very nuanced in that Charlie thinks she's being funny while the PC character doesn't but also the joke clearly relies on the possibility that someone might actually believe Charlie would use another person's body parts for experiments, even though Charlie herself knows she wouldn't.

      At least, that's my interpretation of the few lines of dialog the two exchange. It's not absolutely clear because of the translation but I'm pretty sure Ihave it right. Dialog like that is what makes me think the original might well be realy quite well-written but it's impossible to be sure.

  2. Good day! Hopefully your torso and appendages are in good order today. I do see your difficulties after today’s post. The game seems almost exhaustingly complex. However, you are still clearly intrigued and are finding the game enjoyable, so Play On! Atheren

    1. Almost every modern mmorpg is ferociously complicated. The genre always had something of a reputation for over-complicated mechanics but recent trends, particularly those ported from mobile gaming, seem to have tipped things right over the edge. I wonder whether the target market, which has to be 40-50 years younger than me, just takes all this in their stride or whether everyone just muddles through and pretends they know what they're doing?

    2. I've a feeling that Mrs. Bhagpuss would have to chime in with whether his torso and appendages are all in good order.


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