Yesterday we talked about how complexity in games can strengthen the community and help player retention. Today, lets bring it back to Neverwinter and look at the changes in module 16. Some of them are in my opinion good, others are disappointing. There are some areas like quality of life where we can universally agree improvement is a good change. For example, the improvements to the refinement system. I think we can all agree this was good. I will not look over this and instead focus only on the contentious issues. Those are the changes to feats, powers, boons, statistics, and attributes.
The Changes to Powers
I think differentiating powers, class features, and dailies more clearly by paragon paths is good. This is because it helps create a better identity for the paragon path. On live, there is very little to no difference between the paths. For example, can someone tell me how the identity of Iron Vanguard is different from that of Swordmaster? In order for these paths to be different, there needs to be more, well, differences. As a result of this, I think that making more powers paragon locked is a good thing!
The Changes to Feats
I do not like the changes to feats, but I understand why they made them. In the old system, I think if I were trying to pretend to be a developer I would only be able to balance one class. I would not have enough time to balance eight of them. There are two systems developers at Cryptic, Asterdahl and Noworries. You cannot expect two people to balance a system that needs, in my opinion, a minimum of eight people.
I would prefer a system more like the Path of Exile skill tree if I had the choice, but I don’t. The problem with the new system is there isn’t any choice at all. Some people argue the old system only had the illusion of choice since most of the options are bad. The thing is, a bad choice is still a choice. In real life if you choose to smoke and you end up dying of lung cancer, the choice to smoke was still a choice. It may have been bad, but you chose to do it.
I have heard many arguments against the existence of bad choices. For example, the fact that players who make bad feat choices are more likely to quit. My counter argument to this is the fact that making good decisions is another form of skill check. Being able to figure out what is good or bad is a skill, not everyone can do it. Just like having a boss in a dungeon require fast reflexes to be able to beat. For example, the Atropal before it was balanced. Fortunately, there are players with good reflexes who can help those without, just like there are players who can analyze mechanics who can help those who can’t.
The Changes to Boons
I am ambivalent towards these changes. The new system is not inherently better or worse than the old system, it is just different. Both systems are very simplistic. In the old system, you make four binary decisions, usually between an offensive and a defensive boon. Then you make a single Quaternary choice between four (usually bad) utility boons. In the new system you just choose between pretty much everything at once. I do not see either system as being particularly deep.
My issue with both systems is it makes the game harder and harder for new players to catch up in. Every time a new campaign is released, there are new boons. New players have to run through every single campaign to catch up. Every few modules they try to band aid fix this by making campaigns easier to complete. So long as they keep using the same boon model though, the issue will always keep coming back. If you have ever tried to level an alternate character, you will know how painful it is to do all the campaigns.
What I would do is instead give all players only 15 boon points. Then, make all boons like the stronghold, where you can move them around at all. There would then be five categories of boons and you could only put three boons into each category. Completing a campaign would unlock 1 boon in each category. You cannot allocate any of your 15 boon points until the ability to allocate them is unlocked. I would then make boons situational, for example, damage against undead.
The Changes to Ratings
In my opinion, this is the single biggest problem with module 16. In an effort to solve one problem, they created many more. The net result is a deceptive system which sells you the illusion of choice where there is none.
Problem 1, Too Many Statistics
The problem with the old system was, we were reaching the cap for every rating. In order to solve this, they decided to introduce counter ratings. Which is great on its own, but it depends on how it is implemented. The issue is, they decided to implement an additive system. This is bad because if your statistics are less then the counter rating, they do absolutely nothing. This creates a system where the optimal solution is to either go all in on a rating, or invest nothing.
This is especially bad for critical strike and combat advantage. If you invest in both of them, you are taking an extra penalty of 24000, before they even begin to do anything.
Problem 2, Enter the Combined Rating
So, how do they solve this problem? They added the combined rating. What this does is it adds a flat amount to every rating, to essentially ensure you will always meet the minimums for every statistic and thus won’t be incentivized to force them down to 0. In addition to this, because they don’t want players min maxing between critical strike and combat advantage, almost every piece of gear that has critical strike, also has combat advantage. The reverse is also true.
So now you have a new problem. These ratings have vastly different caps, but you are forced to invest into one of them in order to gain the other. I find as a result of this, it is almost impossible to not have wasted ratings. You are forced to over invest into critical strike in order to maximize combat advantage. In the ratings distribution in the new system there is absolutely no choice. Choices are essentially made for you.
The best part of all of this is currently on preview you can cap out on every single offensive and defensive rating. It is worse then the old system.
What I Would Have Done
I would have gone with a system that uses diminishing returns, or a multiplicative reduction in order to solve these issues. For the purposes of keeping this non technical, I will not go into details as to the exact formulae I would use, but it would be similar to the counter ratings. I did actually propose this system during the closed beta testing. I was not the only one who proposed it either. Unfortunately, this was not implemented.
This system would not have the issue of ratings below a certain threshold doing nothing, because it is not additive. It would also not have the issue of players ratings going too high. Therefor the combined rating need would have never even entered the discussion.
The Changes to Ability Scores
I cannot find any logical reason for this change to happen. The sole argument made for it is simplification. Every class has its own role and ability scores should reflect that. What is worse is you cannot even allocate them at character generation. What makes this even more offensive is the way the developers have allocated these is not optimal in the first place. To seal the deal, they divided the effectiveness of ability scores in 4 so they give 0.25% per point. This makes ability scores useless.
This change is bad, undo it.
Wrapping It Up
And thus concludes a fairly lengthy article about complexity in general. Thanks for sticking through this with me, for those that managed the full read!
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