Monday, July 18, 2011

Rift Alternate Advancement For Advancement's Sake?

Part of Scott Hartsman's Rift State of the Game is a plan to introduce alternate advancement at the game's level cap.  While I am a non-raider who does enjoy continued progression - the theoretical target audience for this system - I am not convinced that this is a good idea. 

I'm curious what Scott thinks of the AA system over in his old game, EQ2, where players arrive at level 90 with less than half of the current AA cap and can expect a lengthy grind to obtain class-defining abilities in their AA trees.  Unlike gear, there is no short-cut involving plat or guildmates willing to hand you loot - your AA will remain substandard until you've played "enough" to fix the problem.  This is fine if you're happy with what you're doing while you play and less fine if having a minimum number of AA is a balance requirement for your friends to be allowed to bring you on raids. 

Meanwhile, the balance implications are significant.  In the short term, this is yet another form of vertical progression that will make the repeatable content that is intended to keep players in the game easier and easier with each passing day.  In the long term, it's not just group players who face content balanced around the assumption that players have AA - either all future content will assume some baseline level of AA or all future content will be easier than intended for current players.  The former is a problem for new players (who would have to stop and grind AA before continuing to grind levels so they can get to the cap and grind more AA).  The latter is a problem for current players (who will find each new expansion's difficulty ruined by their efforts in the previous one). 

I understand the appeal of the alternate advancement - it's a way to give players permanent progression in chunks that are much smaller than additional levels (which would have an especially big effect on an open ended class system like Rift's).  It is possible that the system could even be used for something unique and interesting, though it's equally possible that it will be reduced to boring but mandatory stat bonuses.  In either case it is unlikely that the game will break on the day the system comes out.  In the long run, though, Trion might end up regretting the decision to add more vertical progression solely for the sake of progression.


Yeebo said...

This does sound like it could be a bad idea. The options they seem to have are either go with a system like LoTRO where maxing out your virtues only gives you a modest power boost (hopefully your other talents are at least close to done when you cap...or you will need to do some grinding), or a system like EQ and EQ II where you are essentially a capped out gimp until you've ground out the necessary points.

If it's a trivial boost like virtues in LoTRO, players will whine about the system, calling it a largely pointless grind. If it contains substantial power boosts, all the problems you mention seem likely.

Stabs said...

The issue I had with Rift is that it all just happens too fast. If we'd been at the level cap for a year maybe we'd welcome this. As it is it feels like we barely have a chance to catch our breath before they raise the bar again.

Starseeker said...

AA can be tricky to balance. It really depends on what the AA does. The way it is worded is you can attune yourself to an element. So, perhaps there is some gain and loss to it, such as resists, you gain a large benefit to water resist, but you are venerable to fire or earth whatever. I do agree though that AA can be a slipery slope, I am just hoping they introduce it for when you hit level cap, instead of like eq2 where you are struggling to gain levels AND aa while leveling.

rulez said...

I would rather keep raiding and grouping for the content's sake and the tiny chance to maybe some day get some loot to increase some of my stats by a tiny tiny bit.
Especially when there are raid and group quests involved that even when completed for yourself, someone else needs help with.

Instead of having a too obvious age long grind dangling before me all the time with a clear defined end point.

Green Armadillo said...

Your second wish is granted - the system is currently confirmed for endgame only, with both the pros (which you mention) and the cons (can't start working on it until you hit 50, and what happens when the cap increases?) that entails. Be careful what you wish for?

As to your first point, large bonuses to resists (or damage vs elements) are exactly what concern me, because those are the kinds of bonuses that make you useless in group content that is balanced with the assumption that you have them. On the resist side of things, we already have the planar focus thing that players are supposed to have one of for each element, adding in AA on top of that will quickly make players who don't have the requisite numbers go splat.

I do agree that there are more interesting ways to implement AA's and less interesting ones. I expect that the first batch will probably be more interesting. However, as Stabs notes, this is a six month old game. EQ2 wasn't serving up 48 points of passive stat boost and one actual ability when its first AA system arrived, but it gets harder as the cap gets higher.