A Case For Complexity Part II

Yesterday we talked about how complexity in games can strengthen the community and help player retention. Today, lets bring it back to Neverwinter and look at the changes in module 16. Some of them are in my opinion good, others are disappointing. There are some areas like quality of life where we can universally agree improvement is a good change. For example, the improvements to the refinement system. I think we can all agree this was good. I will not look over this and instead focus only on the contentious issues. Those are the changes to feats, powers, boons, statistics, and attributes.

The Changes to Powers

I think differentiating powers, class features, and dailies more clearly by paragon paths is good. This is because it helps create a better identity for the paragon path. On live, there is very little to no difference between the paths. For example, can someone tell me how the identity of Iron Vanguard is different from that of Swordmaster? In order for these paths to be different, there needs to be more, well, differences. As a result of this, I think that making more powers paragon locked is a good thing!

The Changes to Feats

I do not like the changes to feats, but I understand why they made them. In the old system, I think if I were trying to pretend to be a developer I would only be able to balance one class. I would not have enough time to balance eight of them. There are two systems developers at Cryptic, Asterdahl and Noworries. You cannot expect two people to balance a system that needs, in my opinion, a minimum of eight people.

I would prefer a system more like the Path of Exile skill tree if I had the choice, but I don’t. The problem with the new system is there isn’t any choice at all. Some people argue the old system only had the illusion of choice since most of the options are bad. The thing is, a bad choice is still a choice. In real life if you choose to smoke and you end up dying of lung cancer, the choice to smoke was still a choice. It may have been bad, but you chose to do it.

I have heard many arguments against the existence of bad choices. For example, the fact that players who make bad feat choices are more likely to quit. My counter argument to this is the fact that making good decisions is another form of skill check. Being able to figure out what is good or bad is a skill, not everyone can do it. Just like having a boss in a dungeon require fast reflexes to be able to beat. For example, the Atropal before it was balanced. Fortunately, there are players with good reflexes who can help those without, just like there are players who can analyze mechanics who can help those who can’t.

The Changes to Boons

I am ambivalent towards these changes. The new system is not inherently better or worse than the old system, it is just different. Both systems are very simplistic. In the old system, you make four binary decisions, usually between an offensive and a defensive boon. Then you make a single Quaternary choice between four (usually bad) utility boons. In the new system you just choose between pretty much everything at once. I do not see either system as being particularly deep.

My issue with both systems is it makes the game harder and harder for new players to catch up in. Every time a new campaign is released, there are new boons. New players have to run through every single campaign to catch up. Every few modules they try to band aid fix this by making campaigns easier to complete. So long as they keep using the same boon model though, the issue will always keep coming back. If you have ever tried to level an alternate character, you will know how painful it is to do all the campaigns.

What I would do is instead give all players only 15 boon points. Then, make all boons like the stronghold, where you can move them around at all. There would then be five categories of boons and you could only put three boons into each category. Completing a campaign would unlock 1 boon in each category. You cannot allocate any of your 15 boon points until the ability to allocate them is unlocked. I would then make boons situational, for example, damage against undead.

The Changes to Ratings

In my opinion, this is the single biggest problem with module 16. In an effort to solve one problem, they created many more. The net result is a deceptive system which sells you the illusion of choice where there is none.

Problem 1, Too Many Statistics

The problem with the old system was, we were reaching the cap for every rating. In order to solve this, they decided to introduce counter ratings. Which is great on its own, but it depends on how it is implemented. The issue is, they decided to implement an additive system. This is bad because if your statistics are less then the counter rating, they do absolutely nothing. This creates a system where the optimal solution is to either go all in on a rating, or invest nothing.

This is especially bad for critical strike and combat advantage. If you invest in both of them, you are taking an extra penalty of 24000, before they even begin to do anything.

Problem 2, Enter the Combined Rating

So, how do they solve this problem? They added the combined rating. What this does is it adds a flat amount to every rating, to essentially ensure you will always meet the minimums for every statistic and thus won’t be incentivized to force them down to 0. In addition to this, because they don’t want players min maxing between critical strike and combat advantage, almost every piece of gear that has critical strike, also has combat advantage. The reverse is also true.

So now you have a new problem. These ratings have vastly different caps, but you are forced to invest into one of them in order to gain the other. I find as a result of this, it is almost impossible to not have wasted ratings. You are forced to over invest into critical strike in order to maximize combat advantage. In the ratings distribution in the new system there is absolutely no choice. Choices are essentially made for you.

The best part of all of this is currently on preview you can cap out on every single offensive and defensive rating. It is worse then the old system.

What I Would Have Done

I would have gone with a system that uses diminishing returns, or a multiplicative reduction in order to solve these issues. For the purposes of keeping this non technical, I will not go into details as to the exact formulae I would use, but it would be similar to the counter ratings. I did actually propose this system during the closed beta testing. I was not the only one who proposed it either. Unfortunately, this was not implemented.

This system would not have the issue of ratings below a certain threshold doing nothing, because it is not additive. It would also not have the issue of players ratings going too high. Therefor the combined rating need would have never even entered the discussion.

The Changes to Ability Scores

I cannot find any logical reason for this change to happen. The sole argument made for it is simplification. Every class has its own role and ability scores should reflect that. What is worse is you cannot even allocate them at character generation. What makes this even more offensive is the way the developers have allocated these is not optimal in the first place. To seal the deal, they divided the effectiveness of ability scores in 4 so they give 0.25% per point. This makes ability scores useless.

This change is bad, undo it.

Wrapping It Up

And thus concludes a fairly lengthy article about complexity in general. Thanks for sticking through this with me, for those that managed the full read!


What’s your take on complexity and the Neverwinter module 16 changes? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!

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8 thoughts on “A Case For Complexity Part II

  • Avatar
    March 12, 2019 at 9:02 am
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    Disappointing? You mean one humongous Crock of Shit?

    🙁

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 13, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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    I has about 30 days of VIP left and I just uninstalled the game, could not stand what I saw on preview. Kinda watching on the side line to see what happens when this dumpster fire goes live.

    As far as “balancing”, why do they need to be balanced? Of course the answer is because of PVP, which always destroys a MMORPG that they try to it on to.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      March 14, 2019 at 3:43 am
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      Balancing is for PVE also. It eliminates the feelbadsman when picking a class and that class is the worst of your role. Every class and build would perform about the same. No groups looking for a specific class and build to run any dungeon.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        March 14, 2019 at 4:44 am
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        @Dancing Rain

        You mean

        One Cookie to Cut them All, and in their Sameness Bind Them!

        😡

        Reply
  • Avatar
    March 16, 2019 at 8:39 pm
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    i believe there are more than 2 developers, but only 2 systems developers. A system develop would outline the logic, the code monkeys would implement the changes. Not saying they have a lot of code monkeys, but I doubt this game is ran by only 2 people.

    The problem with having so many choices is that the only time the non-optimal choices get used is for exploits but they create a huge overhead in testing. Which is probably why they wanted to reduce the number of choices. Also less time managing character balancing theoretically means more time creating content.

    I would have included the loss in complexity related to removing recovery/ap gain. Not saying they didn’t need to get dialed down a bit but there was a decision process/balancing by the player between how hard you hit and how often you hit. That has been removed and the damage logic is more simplified.

    I have always been a big supporter of diminishing returns because diminishing returns also closes the gap between newer players and geared players. Diminishing returns don’t have to be effectively hard caps like they were pre-mod 6. They can be gradual and progressive. At some point even recovery on a gwf would outperform power in mod 15 if the diminishing returns on power existed.

    Another part of the complexity removed from the game was buffing/debuffing. I would have preferred these mechanics stay but be subject to a diminishing return. So that you could debate the group dynamics by balancing class dps and buff/debuff potential.

    I also would have removed bonding from sharing buffed stats. This would have slowed the power creep. In fact I would have had stopped bonding runestones from stat sharing at rank 10 (45%) and added some form of damage bonus to the companion in stead. Similar to how they did weapon enchants. This would have balanced eldritch with bonding a bit and narrowed the progressive gap between geared and ungeared players.

    I still think there needs to be content/mechanic incentive that separates the types of dps. melee, ranged, aoe, single target. In such a way that encourages team composition to have diversity in dps. They think they have created more diversity by making healers necessary again but they have ignored it killed the buff/debuff roles. The end result is no change in party role diversity. They needed to make the types of dps matter as well as make cc a role. Else we are all crowded into the same field of who can engage the mobs first

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 25, 2019 at 12:26 pm
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    I don’t think this whole “difference between new players and old” is really a valid argument. I joined the game a little over a year ago, I think in Mod 11 or 12, and I fell in love with the game, going through all the campaign stuff and leveling up. I’d see level 70 players running around and be envious, and occasionally I’d run a random queue where one of them would just kill everything as they entered a room, but did I ever consider quiting because other people had played longer? No. Now I am that guy in those random queues, and the one thing I do that may be a little different is I go slow and make sure people get through, not leave them in the dust to fight stuff I ran by….but I digress.

    I simply do not understand the thinking that new players have to have an easier path to become experienced players. You hardly ever interact with different level characters, unless they’re your friends and then they are helping you. Running quests in Ebon Downs with an occasional level 70 running through really has no effect on the game. Is the attitude so “millenial” in thinking that people shouldn’t have to work at something to get all the rewards? Can anyone explain this to me?

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 25, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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    And another thing!…. Yes, after writing this I continued to dwell on it. If you really want to make the game better for all players, especially new, then get rid of the things that everyone actually hates and finds annoying and makes you want to rage quit. Like a mechanic that makes you ring the same queue 50 times to earn a reward to move up in a campaign, and end game dungeons that are exponentially harder than just running the associated zone. Unlocking a dungeon, like Fangborn Island or Castle Never, and then going there and just getting absolutely pummeled is no one’s idea of fun. No one’s. I know it is difficult to create enough content that keeps players from doing the same thing over and over again just to advance, but this game really does push the limits. How many times have I gone and gotten documents fro Jim in the AI basement already? That’s how you make the game better for new people, not changing stats to make them more like level 70 people.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 25, 2019 at 4:34 pm
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    I completely agree with both your comments, John. When I started in Mod 2, I looked around PE at level 60 characters in their purple, epic gear with breathtaking stats like Power 183, Crit 153 on one ring and just thought that this is what I need to strive for. Of course, it was a lot easier to keep up with multiple Alts with 2 mods as opposed to 15. I think now the limit would probably be two, maybe three toons, but not twenty.

    The Dev team (not that any of those Mod 2 guys are left now) have done a lot of really good stuff with the game since then, but they’ve done just as much stuff that is really, really bad. The worst thing is claiming they are following D&D 5E for Mod 16 when they are doing absolutely no such thing. The worst of it I think is probably completely messing up the point-buy system, and the worst of that is the Paladin stat array. It’s just retarded.

    But how many Paladin experts were in the beta testing for Mod 16? None?

    I have five Race Re-Rolls I was going to use on old characters to keep the race and get better starting stats. But there’s no point, because (EG) my Dwarf Guardian with STR/CON 13+2/18+2 will be changed to 16+2/16+2 by the game anyway. The only point of a Race Re-Roll now is to actually change race, when many, many people used them to improve the starting stat rolls of characters they created when they didn’t know what they were doing, or because the game has changed so much that higher non-Primary and non-Secondary stats were worth having, in certain cases.

    I wonder if I can get a Zen refund on those Race Re-Roll Tokens?

    I doubt it…

    😡

    Reply

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