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In this article I’d like to take you back to October 18th, 2016. It was a quiet autumn day until the devs suddenly announced a massive change to the dungeon chest reward structure that was originally planned to go live with the Module 10 “Sea of Moving Ice” update. Until then, you could use keys to “peek” into chests. Meaning you could look into them and if you didn’t like what you saw, decline the chest, and keep your key. This behavior got changed so the key got consumed on opening a chest and players had to live with whatever was inside.
The Rage Was Real
Although the change itself was rather small and actually a bugfix, the rage was real. Peeking into chests had worked forever, up to a point where players didn’t even think it could not be intended. But more than that, the fix uncovered an underlying flaw within the whole rewards structure. Players peeking into chests was a symptom of rewards being completely sucky. You know, if they were worth the key, you would gladly just take them. But way too often the chest contents would not even cover the cost of the key itself, much less net you any kind of profit.
I even remember ironzerg, a moderator back then, advocating to rethink the change. It was one of those super-rare occurrences where mods strongly aligned with the community and not just tried to weather the storm. That already tells you how big of a clusterfuck it was. If your mods stop doing their job because they oppose you, you might need to take action.
A 180 Doesn’t Sound Too Bad
And that’s what the devs did. They put the patch on hold and promised a greater rework of chest rewards alongside the key changes. It roughly took two months until they came up with a solution. They added unique “chase” items to all dungeons and a chance to get a miscellaneous item (mount, companion, artifact) taken from an extremely large list of existing items from throughout the history of Neverwinter. I by the way totally forgot that the “Useful Items” tab was added as part of that system as well. Anyway, the rework received mixed receptions as players largely felt it still wasn’t quite enough. But that’s what we had to live with back in the day. You key got consumed, but you at least got additional chances at something.
Since then the devs have kept their approach of tying certain rewards to certain content. I’m not sure that’s what they wanted to do anyway, but it definitely started with “Keygate”. Now that Module 15 will see another huge change to dungeon chests, I’d like to revisit the changes and see how they affected the game.
Back then the change was a straight slap in the face of players and simply a nerf. The devs reasoned with a “bugfix”, but that was either them hoping to get away with it or being insanely naive. Either way, they at least delivered additional rewards after everything was said and done. Although the rework initially didn’t seem like as much of a compensation at all, our initial reaction almost feels a little hypocritical. The system evolved quite nicely and farming endgame dungeons for unbound loot indeed turned to become quite profitable since then. I know endgame players even made good old split runs in Fangbreaker Island because every 3-4 runs some valuable unbound item would drop. This effect surely has worn off over time, but it never felt like we were getting robbed as much on the long run.
The Rage was Warranted
That being said, it’s not like the rage was completely overblown back in the day. It was warranted, because the devs tried to serve a feature as bug and ignore the underlying issue. Don’t forget that only the community’s shit storm led to a deeper system rework. The devs would have just nerfed keys. So in a way, cheers to ourselves, for pushing the game into the right direction.
Endgame players that saw their ability of farming dungeons taken away could still run for profitable unbound stuff thanks to the rework. And casuals probably didn’t even use the ability to peek as much and simple accepted everything they saw. The only issue with always having to live with chest results is that Legendary Dragon Keys should really only be used for chests that guarantee some sort of progression. Because chests rarely generate more value than the original cost of the key.
Almost two years later, Keygate doesn’t look as bad any longer. It certainly didn’t “fix” the dungeon loot system and many players surely would like a completely different approach in terms of rewards. But evaluating the situation before and after Keygate, it feels like not a lot has actually changed for the worse. Are you missing the ability to peek into chests? Would you decline loot in Cradle or TONG if it didn’t contain an Ultimate Enchanting Stone for example? I believe I would not.
I mean, we had no choice to accept the change anyway, and have long familiarized, but it’s also not like I look back at “Keygate” in disgust. The system definitely works for most players (or many simply weren’t as affected by it). So Keygate became more of a hilarious mess-up of the devs than full-blown nerf after all.
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