In the last few weeks, we have seen an unusual number of significant mid-expansion balance changes that affect the value of incentive rewards that players have already obtained. Perhaps the changes are necessary, but that will come as little confort to players who already obtained the rewards, and are now about to discover just how temporary they were. A brief rundown:
- WoW Jewelcrafters will have their profession-specific gems nerfed in the next major content patch, because the current versions are superior to other professions' self-only perks. Personally, I narrowly avoided getting burned by this one, as the gems were so good that I had been considering switching my own profession choices to get them.
- EQ2 is nerfing procs after finding that the current versions produced more damage and healing than intended.
- In the wake of problems with players exploiting City of Heroes' shiny new Mission Architect feature, the developers are removing kill badges that players had created custom missions to farm.
As Blizzard discovered in their failed attempt to reset PVP honor pre-Wrath, reducing the value of player rewards/currencies by inflation is far more acceptable than taking the rewards away outright. This puts the developers in a tough spot when they launch content and discover that they screwed up.
Consumer Confidence in MMORPG Incentives
Eric at Elder Game took a look at the Cities of Heroes situation and writes that players aren't sure which content is "safe" to play since the only policy is that the GM who banned you was correct if Paragon wants them to be. The potential effects he describes on the game - millions in support costs, and a constant need for developers to band-aid the Architect system instead of creating new content - sound troubling. However, if the lack of a policy actually undermines player confidence in the whole reward structure of MMORPG's - time invested leading to improvements to your persistent character - that would be more of a Doomsday scenario.
Many raiding guilds already run into trouble at the end of an expansion cycle, when players decide that they're uninclined to invest a large amount of time and effort into raiding for gear that will be reset in a few weeks. The last thing developers need is for players to start making that kind of meta-game decision (are they going to nerf this mid-expansion?) year-round.