Ecology Underhaul

EnyalidaEnyalida Nasty Woman, Sockpuppeteer to the Gods Member Posts: 4,386 Transcendent
edited January 18 in Common Grounds
Ecology is widely seen as a low tier tertiary, one with a trick or two but that generally has minimal impact on the game. In a general sense, Ecology has a wide range of "utility abilties" when compared to other options availible to the Druid and Bard guilds that can take it. However, the outdated and haphazard nature of the skillset causes it to significantly fall behind in all scenarios, including both combat application and utility. There have always been calls to address ecology to no success, but the overhaul really punished Ecology: flattening the few stand out abilities or strategies remaining to the skillset.

The purpose of this thread is to serve as a nexus for gathering and planning a player-driven "Underhaul", a campaign of coordinated reworking through the reporting/envoy mechanic. In this opening post I'm going to split the skillset into its component parts and address each one individually; provide an overview of the mechanic as it exists now; how it works in practice and in context; and present solutions both directional and concrete where possible. Hopefully that will equip those new to reporting to jump in! 

Ecology has five main mechanics: Charms, Banes, Fetish, Smudges, and The Bond. Each mechanic primarly serves the Ecologist in a specific niche, with only small amounts of crossover. I.E., Charms are a purely defensive ability and also constitute almost ALL of the skillset's defensive powers. Bond is dealt with last, as it's the most complex ability in this model. 


Charms (Defense)
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Ecologists use 20 commodities to construct a charm that, once worn, provides defensive value [dmp] to the ecologist. These commodities must be added in multiples of five, and dictate what types the charm protects against. This defense begins at a value of 2/2 and the cap increases by 2 for every additional unit (5 comms) supplied.  

Before the overhaul, charms were one of the big draws to Ecology. Instead of the expanding cap mechanic, the defense value started at 20dmp, ranging up to 40dmp for a Trans ecologist. The way dmp use to work is that the first 20 points counted 1:1 in defensive percentage, the next 20 counted 2:1 and so on. Therefore, if you dumped the entire charm into one type you could benefit from up to 30% damage reduction to that type from this one skill! Most users would benefit somewhat less from the defense, closer to around 20% if all of their comms were allocated to a single type. Because of the diminishing return mechanic, there was choice between maximizing the amount of defense to a single type and maximizing the overall defense value of the skill by spreading the damage reduction to multiple types, avoiding gaining dmp of a lower value. Because the full defense of 40dmp was divided into the 20 commodities, there was a high degree of granularity availible to the user to walk this line and figure out which was more important to them in their situations: something I personally think is good design. Overall this was at once the most flexible and most powerful static damage mitigation ability in the game!   

Post overhaul: Because of the 5 comm requirement, there are effectively four "units" of defense, you can use up from 0-4 of these to any type. However, the strength of the defense never scales: it is either 0% defense to a chosen type or 6%. This is a tremendous flattening of the absolute power of this defense, as well as removing the interesting nuance and flexibility of the power. That turns this into a set-it-and-forget-it incremental ability whose effects can be measured, but are very unlikely to make a tangible difference to the user in any usecase. It doesn't serve to reasonably shore up weak defenses because of the paltry nature of the defense, nor does it allow for a singular high defense value. It's outshone in every way by commonly availible consumables, and importantly doesn't even stack very well with them as the caps start so low and take a while to increase beyond the level of the consumables. In short, it was absolutely dismantled by the defensive overhaul and lost both its absolute power (which can be argued is a good thing, to lower defenses across the board), but also its value relative to other defenses. 


Solutions: Frankly the basic idea here is still solid, the numbers are just awful. To be fixed, charms should be made more granular (smaller increments than 5), and both the cap AND the power should scale to the number of commodities input. The maximum amounts should be dramatically higher than a level 2 defense. Perhaps other types of pure defense abilities could be incorporated to charms, or a second type of charm for non-dmp A suggested concrete report to this end will follow, this is the easiest to fix I believe. 


The Banes (Window-type offense)
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Banes are incurable afflictions the Ecologist spends 3 power to lay on an enemy. They last for one minute. The three are: 
Snake Bane - Halves poison shrugging
Bat Bane   - Increases Music skill damage some percent (?)
Herb Bane  - Gives wafer eats a 50% chance to fail and instead do minor (100?) damage. Does not              consume wafer balance.


Herb bane has off and on been one of the "one tricks" of ecology. In tandem with aeon and asthma it can (now) be used to help perpetuate an aeon lock, though true aeon lack strategies aren't prevalent in commune group combat anymore, and the game is overall moving away from these types of strats. Herb bane has ping ponged back and forth in usefulness as it's changed, and that I think indicates that it eventually should be replaced, but it is overall of low priority. It's fine. 

The other two banes on the other hand have diverging potential. Bat Bane is strange in that it has no use for a Druid Ecologist, and when used by a bard or in groups does not change the math on Bard combat for the commune bards. The increased damage does not meaningfully change or help the bard, who kills via a dchord combo guaranteed to kill if pulled off anyways!

Snake Bane is pretty bad because it acts as one of two ways that active use of the fetish becomes even semireliable. In other words, it is a 3p tax on using the Ecologist's poison offense, without which said offensive powers are twice as poor as they otherwise already are.. This doesn't add anything interesting to the skillset.


Solution: Banes as an idea are interesting and workable: 1 minute effects that act as a "window" in which combat has slightly different rules. In fact, I predict (and have predicted previously) that combat design will increasingly rely on such effects as a natural result of the Curing Overhaul, see Nihilists etc.. However, these exact effects can stand to be totally replaced, particularly Snake and Bat Banes. What form they take would need to be addressed in the context of how Druids and Bards are expected to act, something that's very much up in the air for Druids even now.I think it would be neat for these to be highly conditional. Something on the order of "for the next 3 minutes every third dust aff you recieve causes you to recieve a lucidity aff" or "based on the order of affs hitting you, you suffer a secondary effect" or "For the next minute, if you shield you suffer 2 afflictions from this pool" or something.  

The Fetish (Direct, Single Target Offense)
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An ecologists fetish is an item that allows the ecologist to attack with poisons. This has two modes: an active mode and a passive mode that's connected with the bond. In active mode, the user can spend a short balance to attack an enemy in the room (or line of sight) with a single poison they hold in their hands. There are some limits on which poisons are allowed. They may spend 1 power to attack with 2 poisons. Alternately, the Ecologist may use their fetish to armor their bond, which allows spending 3p to have the bond sting a target for a time, with pre-applied poisons. This mode is also required for various other bond options.  

There are a lot of problems with this. First, the scope of poisons has been dramatically shifted as part of repeated Warrior and Monk overhauls. For one, a lot of the old good tricks for Druids involved using limb break poisons to hinder an opponent sprawled using morphite. The loss of the break poisons has dramatically lessened the standalone power of poisons. Remember, poisons are primarily balanced around being part of a warrior attack or monk combo, where they are paired alongside damage, wounds, and other afflictions. The ecologist needs to either spend power and a balance or more power and give up the ability to activevly respond to put out poisons, and must spend 3p or other setup time or the poisons have a baseline 33% chance to do nothing! Once upon a time, because most poisons were herb cures you could build herb stacks to force bad choices onto the enemy, but curing is faster and much more random now, this doesn't really work. In short, the fetish just no longer serves as part of a Druid or Bard offense in any meaningful way. It allows the user to spam afflictions onto targets, or add a small passive chance to afflict the target, but is categorically worse at doing those things than Glamours or any of the Druid tert choices. 

It's also a bit strange how the active stinging portion is entangled with bond mechanics at this point. I think that the intent was that one class taking the skillset, Druid, would be more inclined to using the active poison option to hinder for Sap and that bards would want to use their actions for music attacks, and would prefer a passive bond. However, this has become so muddied and problematic that it doesn't make sense anymore. 

There are also some significant QoL issues with the fetish, including the scavenger hunt mechanic required to form it and the WHOPPING 50p to do so when it decays. 

Solution: I suggest untying the fetish from familiar armor, and removing bond sting entirely. The bond now has other options for attacking on its own that can be expanded and balanced alongside whatever fetish does. At minimum, fetish stinging should no longer have to deal with shrugging, but frankly I think that it would end up more clean to have the fetish to no longer use poisons, and work as a single target active offense in some other way, keeping in mind how poisons are balanced. There needs to be discussion on what this could look like when combined with the other types of offense this skillset offers. 

Smudges (Group utility/offense)
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Smudges are items crafted out of herbs that are lit to do a room effect on a delay. The user spends a short balance to craft the item (1-2s iirc), and then can light them in their room or have a bond deliver them to a target. After a randomized delay of 0-5s, the smudge erupts into smoke, displaying its type to the room. 8s after this point, the effect resolves on all of the user's personal enemies who are unshielded in the room or its tree elevation. Using a gust enchant during the 8 second burn period causes all smudges in the room to reset back to the delay period. The smudges are:

Hills    - Afflicts enemies with mud. Causes rubble-like delay on walking, cleanse cured.
Desert   - Afflicts enemies with blind and small bleeding (150?)
Swamp    - Non-magical movement stopped for 1s. Trying anyways extends the time slightly. 
Valley   - Enemies are flung into the sky, if possible.
Mountain - Enemies are sprawled, with 0-2 limbs randomly broken.
Forest   - Enemies are stunned, set ablaze, and recieve minor damage (~200).  

Smudges are another pretty much okay mechanic that hasn't changed much as a result of the overhaul. Generally speaking it's almost always going to be better to KILL a single target than mildly inconvenience the entire enemy group unless you're doing a groupwide hinder. Some of the smudges have served that kind of role for druids, though less so for bards who mostly use them for the group effects. 

Solution: The smudges that tend to see use in group combat are forest for the stun and valley for the group splitting. Sometimes mountain serves to split groups or do some slight hindering in conjunction with a non-druid meld, so that's good. These might need a bit of cleaning up, and are rather random, slow, and costly for what they do but are otherwise mostly fine. In particular Mud needs a new effect to move away from cleanse cures, Swamp needs a rework, and Desert needs adjusting to cope with the new curing overhaul. By and large these can be tackled one by one, and shouldn't have a large impact overall on the rest of the skillset. 


The Bond (Utility Grab Bag, single target passive offense)
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The bond is complicated, which is why I saved it for last. The user can kill an animal and then rebirth it to recieve a random pet. The pet is very easy to kill, and can destroy the ecologist if this happens. This pet may be moved around at range, with a limited ability to hear what people say in its room, and generally scout mildly. By forgoing the active fetish abilities, the bond becomes armored which makes it invulnerable to being killed though attacking it can still disrupt it. It also then can be used in combat for a few effects, like delivering smudges at range, stinging enemies to deliver poisons/snakebites and a new secondary effect, or as a way past barricades, as the user may teleport to it after a delay.

The basic thing with the bond is that it's CLUNKY as all hell, and needs significant updates to its capabilities: some to enhance it, but many just to take various patches done over the years and reintegrate them to the base functionality more cleanly. There's a lot of mysterious old difficulties, such as not being able to choose which specific animal you want to rebirth, necessitating "rebirth roulette" where you spam it and its high power cost until you get the animal that fits your class - something made worse by upgrades based on what specific animal you have. 

In theory, the bond is supposed to be used primarily by Bards, and the active fetish by Druids, but this doesn't really shake out very well and is of dubious value.  

Solution: Finally finally just allow rebirthing a specific animal. There's now too much that depends on the specific animal with both transmigration effects AND unique animal attacks. Let bonds see emotes and other types of actions in the room they're in if Listen is on, including illusions (this is actually a buff to illusions). Take familiar sting out (as noted), and focus more on unique things the bond can be commanded to do, perhaps on its own "familiar balance" akin to beast balance. Some of these things can be immediate, others will be more complicated.

Comments

  • DeichtineDeichtine Member Posts: 2,016 Transcendent
    Quick response to some of the points.

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    Charms


    Charms are solid defence and comparable to other terts that give either non or just minor defensive buffs. It provides a decent buff that doesn't require much upkeep. Its very good for shoring up the weak parts of your defense.  Its a decent buff for bards and druids.


    I could see making charms easier to switch but overall charms works well as it is as a good defence. Not opposed to changing them but they are good as they currently are and I don't feel they need a straight number buff.

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    Banes

    Bat Bane is useful for bards currently. Atm the dchord combo on its own wont kill a fully def'd person entirely on its own.  Looking at the lower end for non artifacted bards who don't have 13/13 magic buff bat bane is priceless in that it gives them the opportunity to pull off the dchord kill combo against high magic resistance people.

    The dchord combo only really works if you have artifact level high magic damage than the target has resistances and the target doesn't have vitality. Bat bane alters that in giving a decent edge to lower buffed bards bringing them up to the level of being able to kill people with the dchord combo.

    I like bat bane as it is currently for bards. Certainly its pretty useless for druids though.


    Snake bat is kind of eh I agree. The chance it gives to increase poison afflictions isn't big and isn't of too much interest to most people for the power cost. I like the concept of your idea though but would like to see it kept to the poison aspect of Snake Bane. Something along the lines of to copy your idea with a tweak: For every third poison affliction you are hit with you suffer an additional random poison affliction. Similar in nature to what your concept was but sticks with the toxin aspects.


    Herb bane is pretty insanely powerful with aeon and asthma but fairly useless in most other situations. Could happy see it totally reworked to something else though.

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    Fetish


    Active cast fetish is garbage. Any change here is good.


    Splitting the active cast from the armour is a great idea as is splitting the active cast from bond sting,


    The passive bond sting itself is pretty amazing for a tert. Its an activateable passive that does 1 poison aff every 4 seconds. Bond sting has a much higher passive affliction output than any other bard tert. Bond sting is pretty dam good for bards and I wouldn't like to see it change much beyond what it is.


    Making it easier to re envenom and recast to avoid some of the clunky steps in-between going down and recasting it would be nice but the passive nature of the afflictions is the main strength of this skill.


    Bond sting is one of the best and most used abilities for bards in ecology would not want to see it change in any big way.


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    Smudges


    Mountain Smudge is amazing for bards solo play and goodish for groups as a general hinder or disrupt. Bards focus is keeping people in the room long enough to do their auric set up. Mountain is a delayed limb break that can be precast before enemies enter the room. You time it so they enter and it hits giving you a lot of extra time to go for the auircs. The fact that its aoe as well really helps in groups.


    Desert Smudge: The bleed is pretty small and easily ignorable even when stacked up. The blind is exceptionally useful though as a counter to channelled kills. Quick burn smudge will save your life but other than that the smudge isn't that interesting but still having a good instant kill counter is handy enough to have.


    Valley Smudge: Useful for splitting up enemy groups but not a whole lot else. Although indoors it is the highest damage smudge. Has utility uses currently.


    Hills/Swamp: Both sort of serve a similar purpose for bardic play. Similar to mountain in stacking them up to keep people in the room. I'd favour mountain but these two have their place and can be weaved into the rotation while still hitting with mountain. Would happily see them reworked to something else though.


    Forest: Its alright aoe damage and a stun, nothing too exciting but it gives the bard decent aoe that they otherwise wouldn't have.



    A note on smudges overall is that they have some very potent effect for no power cost. A big part of bards is power management and having a variety of useful actives that don't cost power is pretty nice for bards.


    I'd be happy enough with changes to smudges in some way but as a core mechanic they are alright. Could see a little buff in letting you build two or three in your inventory instead of just one but overall Smudges sort of work well enough.


    Bond pet


    Yea randomly killing and spawning the pet until you get the right one is a pain. That's a good quality of life change right there to fix.


  • DeichtineDeichtine Member Posts: 2,016 Transcendent
    Wanted to post a little summary response and idea for ecology [email protected]

    Summary:


    Bond sting is the core of the skillset for me as a bard and the only reason ecology has an edge vs glamours or drama for us. Keep bond sting as it is now with minor QOL changes.


    Smudges are alright but easily open to minor tweaks.


    Snake bane and Herb bane should be reworked.


    Leave Bat bane as it is.


    Charms are alright as is.


    I think the core issue with Ecology when compared to other terts is that all the other terts save glamours give the user an alternative instant kill. Drama, Runes, Dreamweaving, Tarrot, etc every other tert has an instant kill route to aim for.


    I think if you want to bring ecology up to speed with the others you don't need to rework much of the existing stuff you need to focus on giving it a workable instant kill.




  • EnyaEnya Member Posts: 475 Expert
    I categorically disagree with the assessment of charms. Even taking as granted that it's "solid defence and comparable to other terts" (which is highly debatable), charms once were one of the lead draws to taking the skillset! In the time since, the other tertiary choices for druids have gotten MORE defensive value than they had preoverhaul, while charms have only been nerfed significantly.  Ecology as a more defensive and utility oriented skillset just has not kept up with the times, and I think it's worth upgrading charms to get back to that and the other concepts I point out in my post.

     Having the defensive value scale granularly to the commodities input and having a mono-charm provide a strong defense on its own to its type are both priorities. 

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    Banes: It sounds like bat bane is then a power gate required for a dchord, just something you have to tick off a list before you kill that doesn't add strategic value or interest to the fight. With that in mind, it should also be reworked and if bards need it for dchord, dchord itself needs adjustment. This is the exact same logic that makes snake bane bad design: set-it-and-forget-it gates that involve no counterplay or strategy to use are a lazy shortcut to making things work (or are relegated to being unused). Though these kind of buffs can manifestly "be strong", they are strong in a way that doesn't have impact for the user or the victim, along with the counterplay problems. 

     Perhaps bat bane could still retain some of the "do more damage" flavor, but with the conditional nature suggested. In other words, for the next X time, under Y conditions you act as if you have sensitivity on you, or otherwise take extra damage. What about something in the realm of "For the next minute, every 10s you take 15% of the damage you recieved over that 10s as an echo damage. ", or perhaps based on an absolute number of seconds after JUST the casters damage.  That would mean that there's a strategic value to doing a damage attack a few balances before a big burst attack, so that the echo and the burst coincide. This is dramatically more interesting than "Just make all my numbers 15% bigger", and has more counterplay. 

    What if Snake Bane, instead of just reducing shrugging and acting as a gate, had some other interplay with poison afflictions that functionally made them more reliable or powerful in some other way. What if the person who laid the snake bane on the target would have a chance to deal a second poison on a different curing balance when they hit the target with a poison... when that balance has fewer than the others. Something that makes you not want to just spam the heck out of one balance and rewards you for spreading things around? I'm not sure there's enough pressure in any of these skillsets to make this instantly viable, but it's an interesting idea I think. 



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    Smudges, yep. These are all basically fine and have some niche use though ideas for hills and smudge would be good. Hills might literally just spawn rubble, or some unique equivalent (smoke that hangs around in the way slowing movement). Not sure what to do with swamp.  Might be neat to add a "fan" ability that allows the user to reset a single smudge of theirs that's started in the room without using eq on an enchant, so that if the timing doesn't work out they can pause it and be more strategic with it. 


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    Fetish, yeah. This is a tough nut to crack. My thought is that I'd like fetishes to not just be yet-another hexex/runes/dramaturgy/evileye/venoms clone with a slightly different delivery mechanism (in other words, not just be "deal 1-2 affs on command". That's lame, doesn't work for bards at all, and druids already have a tert that does that with runes. The idea of the fetish is that it's a semi-alive critter construct thing made of bones, animal bits, and magic. Perhaps playing on that?

    My immediate thought is being able to attack with it and have it do sort of... demipassive attacks on the target. What I mean is that you use the active and it flies out and slaps the enemy with (say) paralysis, and then when you recover its balance it flies back into your hand, dealing a second effect as you recover balance. That way, there's a sort of idea of combo chains. Perhaps each time you hit someone with a fetish effect it grabs a bit of them and holds onto it, and you can spend power to do a burst on someone who is marked enough... or it automatically happens if you stop comboing them? This is a very rough idea, but we can do a lot better than "push button have chance to deal X aff". 

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    Bonds: Disentangling bonds and the fetish means getting rid of bond sting in its current incarnation as a poison delivery vehicle. That said, there are already existing models that could pick up the slack on "passive stuff the bond can do" and that can include opening things up to poison affliction attacks, at least in the mean time while other things come to fruition. Bond passive attacks themselves have real effects now, and snakebond can get another looking at to expand the innate capacity of a bond to attack.

    This can be the extent of what the bond does in combat, very similar to tracking bonds work in combat, but I think it would be very neat to phase out the passive-as-in-no-further-input-required abilities in favor of passive-as-in-doesnt-take-away-from-your-main-actions type mechanics, closer to beast balance attacks. We don't really have guild skill quite like this in Lusternia where a minion-user directly commands their minion to attack using a specific ability, all of the guardians/wiccans in some way use passive minion abilities. I think it's a neat idea that has a lot of potential.  

    You point out the possibility of having an instakill option in ecology. I think that the logical place to put that is in the hands of the bond, once everyone can functionally have their bond at their side in combat. What I'm envisioning is some kind of instakill or functional instakill (like how meteor technically doesn't instantly kill) whose design is that the user needs to make use of the delayed-effect and passive mechanics embodied in their primary/secondary skills, smudges, the bond attacks, and possibly the fetish to leverage the special condition created by banes to do a big burst of effect (afflictions, hindering, damage, what have you) to order their bond to rip out the heart of their enemy as they struggle (or some other lore appropriate attack). 

    I've got a few possible ideas for this, but they really all shake down to needing to understand what's happening to the fetish and druids to go anywhere meaningful. 

    For now, I suggest reports to A) Make familiar armor not occupy the fetish, but make armor and conceal mutually exclusive B) make fetish stinging impossible during a familiarsting pending removing the latter ability and doing C) Look at buffing the passive attacks of the bond, possibly changing snakebond to allow for a snake that deals arbitrary poisons.


    Updated Concrete Solutions: 

    Charm:
    Still in construction on numbers involved, but thoughts so far is that the def should start smaller at 1/3 or so (but to potentially a wider range due to fewer comms required per), ramp up to ~3 pretty quickly through the midrange and then dramatically slow boosting the power after that... but instead REALLY boost the cap at the upper ends such that as you get to a mono-charm such you can exceed the 10 cap. Probably only a little. 


    Smudges:
    Change one of hill or swamp to create temporary (10s?) "mud pits" or "swampy terrain" in the  room that acts like the mud affliction on enemies in the room without being actually ON them. Fiddle with the other one somehow. 

    Add a "fan smudge" ability to do what POINT GUST does to smudges, but only on the user's smudge, requiring eq/bal but not using either, with a 10s internal cooldown so you can't use this to stack smudges - a dumb mechanic.  

    Desert: possibly up the bleeding, or make it tick a few times on the bleeding aspect (not the blind?). Low priority. 
     
    Fetish:
    Remove shrugging chance on fetish attacks and remove/rework snakebane. 
     
    Bond: 
    Have familiar armor not use up the fetish. 
    Exclude familiar and fetish stinging, and/or remove bond sting. Slow familiar sting to compensate for no shrugging. 
    Make the bond itself more useful now that it's not a wet blanket. 

    Banes:
    Rework bat bane to have an "echo damage" effect. 
  • DeichtineDeichtine Member Posts: 2,016 Transcendent
    I just want to bring up a big pain in the neck as well. Snake bond. I'm a fan of keeping bond sting as it is and just making Snake bond usable. 

    It wouldn't require a big change just the issue with Snake bond is that the snake decay so quickly and you can't really gather them in the middle of a fight to replace them.

    Some sort of way to place a snake bond and make it last longer or to be able to store snake essence to reapply it would be a big buff to ecology and its afflicting power.
  • EnyaEnya Member Posts: 475 Expert
    I'm still interested in this, but have been sidetracked by a combination of factors including both OOC and IC projects. Will update soon!
  • DeichtineDeichtine Member Posts: 2,016 Transcendent
    Nothing stopping you popping in the envoy reports for it now.
  • EnyaEnya Member Posts: 475 Expert
    Enya said:
    I'm still interested in this, but have been sidetracked by a combination of factors including both OOC and IC projects. Will update soon!

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