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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hard vs. Annoying

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Before I get started on the main point of today's post, I'd like to say that my issues yesterday about not being able to recustomize your existing character were unfounded. See this post by Blackguard for info. Back to your regularly scheduled programming:

Many recent changes have lead some people to say that EQII is being made too easy or "dumbed down." For instance, in Live Update 16, the camp times on heritage mobs are being reduced. Also, players will be allowed to purchase lost shards from NPC's and vitality gain will be increased at the higher levels.

On one side we have those who are casual gamers and want to enjoy the game in a casual fashion. On the other side, we have those, like Quylein, who argue that the game is being made far to easy.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm a sometimes casual, sometimes hardcore player. If I had to say, I would like the game to be a bit harder. But I also follow the old game design adage: "we want the game to be hard, but not annoying."

So do the changes in Live Update 16 make the game less hard or less annoying?

Camps can be quite frustrating. I'd rather kill a hundred placeholder mobs than just blindly wait there for a camp when I'm trying to work on a heritage quest. They can been a motivation killer. They can also be fun in terms of socializing so that is something to consider. On the whole, though, I am willing to put these in the annoying category. I just like to think there are better ways of making quests challenging and fun. I would like to see SOE say, "Okay, we are reducing camp times, but this quest will be just as difficult because you will now have to defeat more mobs (or something more imaginative)."

As for the shard purchasing, it plays with one of the three aspects of the EQII death penalty: progress (xp debt), time (shard recovery) and money (armor repair). All it does is shift some of the penalty from the time area to the money area. Shard recovery can be kind of annoying when it is 2:00 A.M. and you want to go to sleep and you have to fight all the way down through Runnyeye because your group wiped. But that's also part of the risk that makes things exciting.

A separate problem is when shards are unrecoverable due to circumstances beyond the player's control. For example, you fall into a chasm in Permafrost and you can't get your shard. This is probably a major drag on customer service time. But the answer here is not to junk shard recovery because of the CS time, but rather fix the game design so this does not happen.

What if I told you shard recovery would cost five plat? Would that still be "dumbing down" the game? Of course, it won't be - the actual prices are
here. My solution would be to make paid shard recovery a very limited event that occurred only a handful of times over the lifetime of a character. How to accomplish that? Make the fees rise exponentially (i.e. first time 20g; second time 40g; third time 80g; fourth time 160g). I'd be okay with that. That way you could still use it if your shard got bugged and you didn't feel like petitioning or if it was just in a real tricky place and you were in a rush. But it would be a very rare thing you would have to be careful about using.

Finally, we have the increase in vitality at higher levels. I am not against vitality, I think it's a good concept. And sure, it does go fast at the higher levels. So I understand the rationale behind the change. SOE has a game mechanic they believe in and it is not working as they intended it to at the higher levels.

But I think leveling is at a good pace as it is. And no, I'm not at level 60 trying to hold down everyone else who didn't make it yet. I'm in the mid-50's. Sure, I'm a bit behind some, but I haven't felt the grind to be painful since the modifications to group and quest xp. I don't want a horrific grind but I don't want it to be too easy either. Perhaps if SOE raises the vitality at higher levels they should slow down the xp as well so it's a net constant in terms of overall level gain. But I realize that's never a popular thing.

Well, if you sense a common thread to my discussion of these three Update 16 issues it's "let's remove annoyances without making the game easier." Yes, I am a proponent of the "harder but not more annoying" philosophy but you have to remember the harder part. Right now EQII is tilted just a little to far towards the casual gamer for my personal tastes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that EQ2 is getting easier but I don't think that needs to be a bad thing.

There seems to be a war brewing between hardcore players and casual but ultimately the casual are always going to win out just through sheer numbers and the desire for MMO developers to meet their needs and get their money. It's just something we need to admit and live with.

On a side note, I find it quite ironic how hardcore gamers make the game easier for themselves by having the time, gear, and in-game connections. Trying a raid with crap gear in a pickup group... now that would be hardcore =D

5:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you just have to look at the numbers of hardcore gamers leaving the game.. my guild had a significant dropout since the revamp and im pretty much on the line of quiting myself. i dont think its a problem of the hardcores dont want the casual at lvl60 its just hard to understand why it should be 10 times easier for them to get there (well maybe faster not easier) and on the top it usually takes them untill everyone and their dog is at the max lvl to implement proper loot tables which again reduces the point of being there first. if thats their vision of the game thats fine but then they should have told us at the begining that they plan to fuck over hardcore gamers on a regular basis.

Logaras, a disappointed hardcore gamer

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that EQ2 was supposed to be targetted at the more casual gamer (or that's what I heard anyway) why should it have a vastly more severe death penalty than EQ1?

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most annoying things in the game is waiting on timed mobs. I love doing quests way more than just grinding, so I run in to this a lot. Placeholders don't bother me, but when a mob is on a timer, I get really pissed off. There's nothing like sitting at the computer doing *nothing* for hours just get that last mob.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Quylein said...

harder but not more annoying

Amen to that!! My last few posts have been in the general direction. I didnt want to pick out any one quest just yet.. I want to redo an old heritage w/ an alt and give my true opoions. Like on how they can keep it the same difficulty with out having to make it easy for casual players sake.

Im not hardcore in the lest but these things they are chaning are not really fixes. The shard buy back was brough up to me as a way to get your corpse donw in a dungeon becuase there is no spell like in EQ1 to summon corpse..

I propose they place in 3 spells to summon corpse that requires a regent. 1 for Necro 1 for conj and 1 for SK.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That hard core gamer worked his/her but off to get there. Be it that they may have grinded 10,000 cyclops or 500 tear grifter quest or camped creator from the beggining till 4am. They worked hard at it, now to make the game easier for those casual players, should the hard core players continue to play..where is the challenge to it and where is the reward? The most loyal eq2 gamers are the ones who made that camp and are the ones who will quit because no one below them will never make that camp and still get to where the hard core gamer is.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

saying that only hardcore gamers worked their butts off to do things isn't exactly true.

I think that everyone who did anything they are making easier will have resentment for the people who have it easier now. It is human nature. Be it some huge raid that the "hardcore" did first before anyone else when it was super hard, or someone doing the Dwarven Workboots HQ before they changed harvesting so that you could fail and not have it count against how much you harvest.

So seriously, I don't think it is a problem JUST for the "hardcore" players.

But then ya know what? People are always finding new easier ways to do things in real life. Kids these days have it so easy. Grandpa had to walk seven miles to school everyday in a blizzard uphill both ways. It's the same thing. Human nature.

And then life moves on.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Zygwen said...

With respect to the loot tables for end game content not being ready, if you've played eqLive before you'd know that this is par for the course as far as SoE is concerned.

As for the Hardcore vs Casual, I like to see it as a bell curve with ultra hardcore on one end and super casual on the other. Most people fall somewhere inbetween. It makes sence for SoE to cater to the majority and I'm sorry to say but the handful of ultra hardcore players does not constitute a majority of players.

In my opinion, the most loyal players are the ones that stick with eq2 through thick and thin. Those who quit are by definition, not very loyal.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is, Hardcore and casual are not equal. Me, I'm a casual gamer, I have 3 part time jobs, a ladyfriend and a social life. I could never put 40+ hrs a week into EQ2, though the idea is appealing. I level at my own pace, help other players out, do things for fun (like flirting with bank tellers), and have fun trying to see all the content I can, rather then racing through Harclave 100 times to get to Lvl 45.

Am I any less of a player then the 60+hr, hardcore raider? I don't think so. I love EQ2 just as much as they do, even go out of my way to defend it on boards, and places like 1up.com. I take the time to go to places like Firemyst, Stormhold, Butcherblock, the Vale, even that weird lighthouse dungeon. I think I'm a more devoted player then the L60 who zoomed through his 1st 40 levels and has only seen the high end raids.

I don't think the game should be made into Wow, but what's the big deal about lowering camp times? Does anyone REALLY care to wait 6 hrs for a mob they need? Put tough placeholders there instead, put on 1hr timer at the most. I hardly think the hardcore will be hosed. Everyone complained when access restrictions were lifted, but it didn't break the game. Hell, I'm doing Zek access quest right now. Hardcore gamers already have the best gear, It's not like casual players are running around with the Fabled loot. Me, 1/3 of my armor is grey already.

The solution is to give Hardcore gamers something special, while making the rest of the game a little more attainable for the rest of us. Give them special titles, one-of-a-kind loot, or better yet, get them more involved with the game. How cool would it be if hardcore, 40+ hr gamers could have a hand in making content for EQ2? Things like giving their own quests to lowbies, taking control of special mobs in a zone (how cool would it be if they let a hardcore player control Holly Windstalker, letting them run around Antonica and cause havok on a Sunday afternoon?), or even giving them in game fame, like statues or weapons named after them? With the game changing so much (griffon towers in TS...), I think this would be a good way to satisfy the hardcore, as well as starting to erase the strict seperation between hardcore and casual.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Twodragons said...

Hey Harcore players, raid content and loot is your reward.

Us casual players will never see it.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's not yours to horde?

Get over it and move on to the next raid dungeon that I'll never see.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the changes that have gone in recently would, in my opinion, fall into the "less annoying" category. While the game is a little more casual than some hardcores want it to be, there's already an EverQuest out there for the true hardcore--it's called EverQuest.

That said, I fall into the "hard is cool" camp. I like for games to require skill on the part of the player, and don't generally like it when things are simplified for the masses if I can hang without something being dumbed down.

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