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.