This might be a bit late, but I’ll post it anyway: 1.4.2 is on the PTS, you can read the changelog here.
It’s a weird patch. On one hand you have little fixes that seem to be out-of-place 2 years down the road – fixes to quests, PQs, dungeons and tome unlocks. Don’t get me wrong, fixing whatever needs fixing, especially the semi-broken PvE and the pride of the game, the tome of knowledge, is good. But how come it never came up earlier? Most of these bugs are easy to squash, the only problem is locating them. Is Mythic’s Q&A department doing its job? Does Mythic even have a Q&A department now?
On the other hand, we have a few adjustments that might fundamentally change the way the game is played. Mythic seems to have realised that having such a huge powergap between those willing to grind renown 10 hours a day and those who want to enjoy the game for an hour, two per day, is not good for business. So they went ahead and adjusted the hidden levels and the new sets. Is it enough? Probably. Is it soon enough? Not nearly.
Addressing the power gap
For example, looking at the Slayer scenario weapons we can see that the current item level (ilvl) scaling, and consequently power, is really out of whack:
RR75 – ilvl 65
RR81 – ilvl 84
RR90 – ilvl 119
RR100 – ilvl 154
On the PTS this has been adjusted to make more sense:
RR75 – ilvl 65
RR81 – ilvl 70
RR90 – ilvl 90
RR100 – ilvl 100
For example, the dps on the one-handed weapons has gone from 70 < 77 < 91 < 105 DPS to 70 < 72 < 80 < 84 DPS (from the lowest RR to the highest, respectively). Keep in mind that all post-RR80 items have been adjusted, it’s not just the Slayer getting nerfed. (Also, I wanted to compare the current Doomflayer and Warpforged with the PTS ones, but for some reason Werit has removed the current ones from the AoW. Without an active sub I have no way to compare them, sorry. However, Werit is citing a 20% decrease in stat value on Doomflayer and Warpforged sets.)
It’s clear that Mythic went way overboard with post-RR80 weapon power and I honestly have no idea what drove them to introduce such imbalanced items in first place. Oh wait, I do…
Was Mythic high?
If the question is was Mythic high on drugs, the answer is probably not. But they might have been high on something else – subscription numbers.
You see, back before the RvR packs came out, Mythic realised they need to expand the game somehow and introduce new content, or they’ll be losing a lot of subs. Seemingly they didn’t have a lot of funds to do that, so they decided to expand the game not in content, but in progression. They just slapped on some extra levels and designed a few items. But that by itself looked a bit poor and wouldn’t have attracted many costumers. So in order to remedy that, they made the new levels and gear scale differently from the current ones and by doing so, ramp up their power. This made the new “content” a lot more appealing to players. It felt like there were going to be massive differences between playing at RR80 or RR100.
It was either Mythic (the developer always wants the game to do good and more subs means more money), EA (maybe they needed money to fund the SWTOR monster?) or some other greedy boss-bastard that saw this as a cash-in opportunity. Invest a bit of work and a small amount of cash, make the new content OP, see the RvR packs sell, profit. I don’t know who is to blame for this, but it doesn’t really matter. The matter of fact is that Mythic have their work cut out for them at balancing they are attempting now.
The equation (the thinking part)
I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll expand on it here. When Mythic introduced the RvR packs the one major incentive for buying them were the new levels and items. They made them attractive by making them extremely powerful. Which wasn’t a good idea at all, WAR being a PvP game and all. Now they need to rebalance them without losing subs of disgruntled customers who invested a lot of time into getting those items and without making the game boring.
Even though I’m shit at maths (and by some extent logics), I feel this problem is best represented with an equation. Here’s the simple equation regarding developer revenue for an MMO:
box sales + subscriptions = revenue
In this particular case, box sales are RvR pack sales. Now, with the RvR packs Mythic wanted to get good box sales, which they did by making the content desirable (they made levels and items past RR80 overpowered). But they also had to make sure that they were able to sustain the subscriptions after the box sales, which they achieved by making the grind to get to the overpowered content extremely long for the average player.
This created several problems, the biggest of which being that the small percentage of players who invested an extreme amount of time into the game were overpowering the lower and middle portion of the playerbase that didn’t. Mythic thought that this would rebalance itself in time, with casual players gradually reaching the highest power status aswell. But because the grind was so daunting and went against the very nature of the game (grinding renown in the most efficient way makes RvR more like PvE than PvP), this didn’t work. Now Mythic have the task of rebalancing the content or losing most of their players.
This is another look at the equation:
content appeal + time investment required = expansion success
This is basically the same equation. You achieve large box sales by making content in them appealing (in this case, overpowered), you get a stable subscription base by extending the time it takes for the player to reach the content and both of them combined will determine how successful the new content (RvR packs) is and how well it sells.
If Mythic wants to balance the game they can address the content appeal (box sales) part of the equation and severely lower the power (and with it the appeal) of the new content. But this will mean that the future box sales will drop (RvR packs won’t be bought anymore) and anyone who got lured into buying them in the past will feel scammed and disappointed.
Or you can adjust the time it takes the players to get to the new content. Severely lowering it would result in players reaching that power stage much sooner, making for a more balanced endgame. But it would result in players investing a lot less time into the game, which would negatively impact the subscriptions. Additionally, it would piss off players who have invested a large amount of time into the game in order to reach the content, since with the adjustments anyone could get there in a much shorter timeframe.
Mythic is currently addressing the first part of the equation, which does seem to be the better choice, since addressing the second part and shortening the grind would basically render the expansion fail at prolonging the game’s life. Which, incidentally, is exactly what expansions are for.
As much as this is the right choice though, it seems to me that Mythic will be forced to address the second part sooner or later aswell. Since the above equation isn’t really as simple as I make it out to be. Content appeal and time investment required are directly proportional (well not in the traditional mathematical sense, I’ll explain).
What I mean by that is that if you increase the time it takes to get to the new content (the grind), the content will appear less appealing to the players. Inversely, if you decrease the grind the content will appear to be more appealing. But if you decrease the appeal of the content (by reducing the power for example) the time the player needs to investment into the game to get to the said content will come across as non-sensical. The vast majority of players will only invest time into what they deem worth it. If they think the content isn’t good enough for them to work their asses off to reach it, they simply won’t. In short, content appeal affects the perception of the value of the time investment required, and vice versa, time investment required will affect the perception of the value of the content.
This is why I believe Mythic will sooner or later have to reduce the grind, which will in turn result in a shorter lifespan for the game. To increase the lifespan the developer will have to push out more content and I don’t think players will fall for the same trick again.
There’s been quite a few other changes, most notably, the career balancing. The first change is fixing the detaunts so they can’t be used while silenced, which is a minor fix that doesn’t really come into play. When have you seen someone use a silence so they don’t get detaunted, instead of saving the immunity for something more valuable like preventing a spell cast, staggering or disarming?
The second one is kinda big, it’s a fix to the melee channeled abilities. They will now stop when the target runs out of melee range. Which is quite a big nerf to melee WPs and DoKs, since their channeled heal can now be countered by moving out of range. Which means that CC will now have an even bigger effect on their survivability and melee healing (snare them, cleanse their root and run away). However, this means that melee WPs once again get the short end of the stick, since they are much more prone to being kited, whereas the DoKs are a bit more resistant to it because of their snare aura.
This will also affect Slayers and Choppas, but most likely only in smaller scale or 1v1 combat. But I don’t see this as a huge nerf since kiting is easily countered by getting a snare proc weapon or using snare immunity/Resolute defense before the channel.
Mixing it up and introducing new-old scenarios into different tiers will always help keep the game fresh. I especially like moving High Pass Cemetery down to T1, since it always felt like a bit of a crowded map, which usually plays better in lower tiers in the absence of most CC and AoE.
I also like the reintroduction of Stonetroll Crossing to T2. It’s a unique scenario with its three-point CTF layout and it always seemed to be one of those scenarios where strategy and teamwork yield best results. Although spawn camping always works just as well (/facepalm).
I cringed at seeing Mourkain Temple in T3 and T4 because it’s such a small scenario full of chokes. Most of the time the fight boils down to who has more AoE and CC stacked and then moves on to spawn camping. But reading about it being redesigned perked up my interest. I’m really interested in seeing how this turns out, because the layout certainly has potential.
Tying in with the reduction of power of the post-RR80 items the hidden character levels will also be adjusted. The wording seems to suggest a reduction in the number of them, which means a reduction in stats and overall power. But it’s not specific, which is why I didn’t want to address it in one of the sections above. Does anyone have any concrete info on this (from the forums perhaps?).
Oh and there are also new pets that you can adopt if you pay for them. Yay, EA! Yay, capitalism!