Aggro Me: Change
"Change is one thing, progress is another," Bertrand Russell once wrote. EQII has numerous changes in the works, the combat revamp being the most pivotal. But there are some other changes being considered that will have an impact on gameplay. Are they changes for the sake of change, or are they progress towards a better game? I would like to take a look at two of those proposed changes: the modification of the locked encounter system and the modification of the group death penalty.
The first is the locked encounter system. The beta patch notes dealing with changes to the locked encounter system have been reproduced in this thread.
I discussed the possibility of changes to the locked encounter system in this post on July 27th. I argued that the locked encounter system should be left as is and it garnered quite a few comments. You can check out some of my previous arguments there if you want.
We now have a better idea of the direction SOE wants to go with this. There will still be a locked encounter system in the sense that only the group or person who engages the mob will get the loot or xp. However, this does not address the issue I had with power leveling techniques, which I am against. A high level character could assist a low level player with a mob the low level player could never defeat otherwise.
Now, SOE does have a restriction in place to prevent this to some degree. If a non-group member does more than fifty percent of the damage to the mob, the original group will receive reduced xp. This is fine but I think it is incomplete. What if your group does one hundred percent of the damage to the mob, but you are being constantly healed by a high level character? I fail to see the distinction between using high level dps to power level and using high level heals to power level. If I am missing something, please let me know. In any case, I'm sure using a high level character to knock off forty-nine percent of a mob's hit points will also encourage power leveling.
You will also now have the ability to swap group members in and out during combat. I am not clever enough to think through all the possibilities for exploits using this mechanism but I'm sure others will.
It's worth noting that raids will remain the way they are, which I am quite thankful for.
Many on the forums support the change, but from those who don't there are two main concerns being voiced. One is the aforementioned powerleveling, and the other is griefing (kill-stealing).
As to the griefing aspect, I am not really concerned about it, although I am concerned about the rise in kill steal complaints in chat. I can live with that if I have to. Also, Blackguard states in this thread that you will have the ability to turn locked encounters on and off. So, if you are worried about kill-stealing, leave them on. It seems to me that this option already existed to some degree in the capacity to yell for help.
So I, and it seems a number of people on the forums, are satisfied about the changes with respect to kill-stealing due to the optional nature of the locked encounter system. But, I think people are missing the fact that the option will have no effect on the other issue, that of power leveling. As I stated in my previous post, I prefer no power leveling (or at least very minimal power leveling, i.e. the mentor system).
Gallenite (Scott Hartsman) makes his case for the modifications in this thread and he argues persuasively. It's obviously something he and other people at SOE have spent a lot of time thinking about. I advise you to read it yourself, but if I understand his main points, the benefit to the locked encounter modifications are three-fold: fostering community by allowing helpful actions, allowing people to feel like heroes and increasing immersion.
There's not much I can say about the community aspect. I agree that in-game social ties are a tremendous draw in any MMO. I do find it strange that SOE goes to such lengths to allow for soloing, which would seem to be a reverse of that philosophy. But I understand that people enjoy soloing, and I used to myself. It is a nice option to have. I do doubt that removing locked encounters will have that big an impact on building a sense of community.
As for allowing players to feel more heroic, I fully agree and can not argue with this point. It is a great feeling to save a bunch of low level players who are about to wipe. I just question whether the limited amount of times that such an event will occur justify the modification of a system I feel has such a positive effect on gameplay.
Third is the immersion argument. Of course, not being able to attack a mob because of an artificial lock certainly breaks immersion. And I do think immersion is crucial to an MMO. But I believe that certain gameplay elements (I gave some examples in my previous post) are simply important enough to outweigh the immersion factor. I will also take a cheap shot here and ask whether putting "Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo" ads in Planetside shows that SOE really cares about immersion.
But let me make another argument. To me, one of the biggest breaks to immersion is exploiting gameplay mechanics to power level characters. I don't want to be in a group where we have no danger of dying because we have a level 50 healer following us around. And I don't want to feel like I need to use similar techniques to compete. To me that has a detrimental impact on the "fun in the long term" Scott mentions. Power leveling makes me feel like I am playing a video game rather than living and fighting in a fantasy world which also happens to be a video game. For example, when I hear a game has buff-bots, I immediately lose a large portion of interest in ever playing said game. I'm not saying EQII will have buff-bots, it's just an example of how things that seemingly increase immersion may actually have the reverse effect.
You might say I can ignore powerleveling and just play as I normally do, but I feel it may be so widespread that it will be unavoidable.
That said, I will try to give the changes a fair chance. I should note that these changes may never go live (although I highly doubt that) and that they may go live with additional modifications. But I will say that for me, this is a change that is not progress towards making EQII a better game.
Since this post is already far too long, I will tackle the group xp debt issue tomorrow. I also know many of you are curious about the beta now that the NDA has been lifted so I am compiling some links for you on that subject which I will probably post Wednesday.