Today, once again, my mystic gets killed by grey mobs. The mitigation nerf is a frustrating part of recent combat changes to allow the elite players a chance to continue getting stats – it grew out of the need to increase statistic caps. For some there’s a substantial “fun factor” in grinding up raw numbers. Not me. There’s a huge failure to provide enjoyment here and it’s easy to see why.
There is no documentation. One facet of MMO’s with a two-edged sword is the ability of the developers to make changes to gameplay, both on the finishing touches of the game, and on the core systems within. The ability to change is great; it should provide even better and more polished games. The downside being the difficulty in developing documentation.
Anyone with any computer savvy realizes that documentation suffers quite a bit. There’s a reason for modern programs containing so many tooltips, help features, and built-in documentation. And that is that documenting how they work in a printed book, or even on a website, seems to be beyond the ability of most companies to do.
Oh, sure, it’s not hard to make it happen. Hire some people and cut them loose. The trick being it just never seems to end up getting done. Say you were a game producer and you had the choice between hiring two people to build documentation, or one game developer to add cool new features. Who’s going to get hired ?
When I played AD&D, I knew how the combat was going to go. A monster had a certain amount of hit points I needed to grind down to zero; it had a mix of armor class and special abilities I had to get past. To hit it depended on its armor class, the bonuses on my weapons, and my level and class. I knew exactly what spells did. And this made the primitive pencil-and-paper mechanics quite a blast.
And this brings us to Everquest2. Now I think I’m a pretty interested player and I should understand how the combat in this game works. Yeah, I do understand some of it, but not all of it. And the amount I don’t get takes away the fun of pursuing excellence in combat.
For example – if I have a wisdom score of 300, I resist spells better than someone with 100. OK. But how do I resist spells in the first place ? I have no idea. I don’t understand the formula which would then give meaning to these raw numbers. It could be that there’s a base chance of 20% to resist a spell, modified by a ratio of monster and my levels, and further modified by my wisdom score. It could also be based on the phase of the moon for all I know.
What I find myself doing instead is ignoring the combat mechanics. I fight the easiest mobs I can in order to stay alive, and just intuit the whole thing. I can take out a white one-down-arrow mob. The group can take out a ^^^ yellow con. I don’t know how, or why, but I just do my job and it happens. Something fun goes missing due to this.
When I get gear – I don’t have any way to know what gear to pick. When should I give up +8 wisdom, +8 intelligence, and +2 stamina – when I get a +10 wisdom and +8 intelligence item ? Or a +12 wisdom item ? Simply put, I don’t know, so I pick higher-level gear or just take a wild guess. (and the design decision to exclude crafters from the best gear means I never buy crafted gear either)
Ah, but there are parsers! When the game doesn’t tell you the rules, you can use parsers and back into them. Well, sure. But problems with this include a) Nobody’s tried to keep anything like that up and running I know of, b) the dev’s monkey with combat a lot meaning it’s a constant effort to update and keep current, and the simple c) the players should not have to do something like this.
Now, suppose I find some seam in the game. Rangers have huge DPS so I will play a ranger with a certain gear mix and strategy. What seems to happen a lot is the developers find out and “adjust” me down. This may be necessary to make the game “fun for the masses”, but it really ruins the game for the guy who got nerfed.
So all these factors end up making me play the game not to experience combat, nor to become a powerful player, not to get the best loot and become the toughest guy on the block, but instead for things that are harder for the developers to invalidate.
I play to become rich – to their credit, the devs have controlled inflation remarkably well and kept the economy in amazing shape. I play to quest – enjoy the various tasks NPC’s give me and get a little roleplay in there. I play to compare myself with others – via the EQ2players leaderboards, and see who is the nuttiest quester or who’s killed the most mobs or any of the many statistics available. But the core of the game, fighting monsters and becoming powerful, it just doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for me because of my ignorance.
To really keep these games going on a long-term basis, I think some method of documenting how it works needs to be available. I think that’s where MMO companies want to be at – having subscribers *forever* – and I can’t see them actually achieving that if you leave players in the lurch on how to play the game. I’ve mentioned a lot of real problems, but I don’t have any real solutions. Here’s hoping they find a way to do it soon.