Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The 50/50 EQ2X AA Slider

One of the more intriguing design decisions SOE made with the free to play variation of EQ2 was the call to lock the AA slider at 50% for free players. 

Background of the AA system
EQ2's Alternate Advancement points - the game's version of talents/traits/etc - are earned through a separate experience bar that advances primarily from discovering new locations, completing quests, and killing new mobs.  Because there aren't enough of these unique activities to earn all of the possible points (250 with the latest expansion), regular experience that would gained by level capped characters is instead converted to AAXP. 

Last fall, the devs implemented an oft-requested feature allowing players to begin converting combat exp to AAXP prior to the level cap.  The feature was in high demand because it is comparatively easy to get enough experience, but new level 90 characters (especially those who attempt to group instead of doing solo quests) are often badly behind on AA's. 

In the traditional subscription EQ2 service, the AA slider allows players to divert anywhere from 0 to 100% of their exp to AA.  Players who opt for the subscription to the free to play EQ2X servers also get to adjust the slider at will.  For all non-subscribers, though, the slider automatically defaults to a 50/50 split in experience, which cannot be altered.

Effects of the fixed slider
This seemingly small decision has much more significant effects than I'd anticipated when I first heard about it.  I rolled up an EQ2X character and have 8 AA's by level 13, which is way faster than I'm used to.  However, I'm also noticing that it's taking significantly longer to gain levels.  There are pros and cons to this approach.

  • In level ranges with large amounts of content, it is easy to outlevel quests, leaving you with a quest log full of trivial quests to either blaze through anyway for minimal reward or abandon.  With the slider set to 50%, you can finish many more quests before outleveling a zone.

  • If your primary goal is to catch up in levels with your friends, and you're willing to be behind on AA's in order to do so, you will not have that option unless you subscribe.  (Your friends can mentor down to your level, but their rewards for doing so are generally not that great.) 

  • Though EQ2X has gone to some trouble to limit the power of non-subscribers by locking them out of higher quality spells and gear, I find that my character feels unusually powerful because I have more AA than normal.  This might balance out over time, because all AA's are not equally large upgrades to your character's power, and I'm going for the ones that will have the maximum impact first.  Then again, even though I'm not "outleveling" content or twinking it to death (the way I do on my live account), right now things feel easier than they should.

  • From a business standpoint, SOE would like to see leveling take longer.  The longer it takes for players to hit the cap, the longer they will stick around to potentially buy stuff.  Also, gear upgrades will "last" longer if it takes more time to outlevel them.

  • Not every level range has equal amounts of content.  In particular, I'm concerned about having enough exp to clear the 60's and the 80's (the current expansion, though they'll be fleshed out a bit by next year's expansion as well) with the slider where it is.  If you do have to scrounge up every last bit of content, that really hurts the level of interest in playing alts (which is normally one of EQ2's strengths). 

Overall, I'm not sure whether the consequences will be good or bad. Either way, it's an interesting experiment.


Xaxziminrax II said...

Excellent coverage. Keep it coming.

Carson 63000 said...

Heh, I've been having a bit of a play around with EQ2X these last couple of days, and I wondered if I was mentally defective for not being able to figure out how to slide the slider. Good to get some clarity, and to know that it's not me.

Yeebo said...

AT least up to 20 there seems to be enough content that the AA bar being locked is a good thing. I spend 90% of my time on green quests as it stands. It will be interesting to see how things change at higher levels.

Magson said...

You'll have plenty of content in the 60-70 range. I recently worked on my defiler for 4 weeks and had the xp slider set anywhere from 50-90% during the entire time, and usually at 75%. The only KOS instance I did was Nest of the Great Egg. I never touched Loping Plains.

Went from level 59 to 66 and felt like I was hardly trying. I also gained about 20 AA's or so. If I had left the slider at 50/50 the whole time I think I would have easily hit 70.

Anonymous said...

Hello, you make a nice Blog. That inspired me to try EQ2E, too. I have a question about the Inquistor. What AA's are best?

Green Armadillo said...

@Anon: Inquisitors are a melee-based class, so your top priority should be to pick up additional melee attacks. Because EQ2 skills all have cooldowns, it's more valuable to have a wide range of options ASAP than to max out a few. What I'm planning is:

Cleric Tree
1: Yaulp (melee "stance" of sorts, required for rest of Cleric tree)
2: Skull Crack (new attack)
3: Hammer Divine Smite (same, whatever order you prefer)

Inquisitor Tree
4-6: Invocation Strike (You now no longer care about updates to the Invocation spell, including Grandmaster upgrades)
7-9: Strike of Flames (note that you do not have the spell version of this attack yet, but you don't need it to get the AA)
10: Litany Circle (AOE attack, beware of hitting nearby non-aggro mobs)
11: Writhing Strike (you could get this sooner, but I wanted Litany Circle first)
12-13: Litany Circle (continued)
14-15: Act of War (requires 2 points for one rank, prereq)
16: Strike of Corruption

This gives you seven combat arts to work with early on. Next, I'd work on Battle Cleric on the Inquisitor line (add more points to whichever attacks seem best) and then passive melee abilities in the Cleric Tree. When you hit the 50 AA mark, you'll want to take a brief detour to the Shadows Tree to get Litany of Combat with AA's 61-65. By that point, you should have a pretty good idea what you will want going forward.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. I will try it.

I found a nice AA Calculator and tried to recreate your build:

Is that about right?