Dear ZOS Team!
I want to thank you for finally letting us test patch 1.6 on the PTS and I really like to give you some valuable feedback now. I am usually not much of a forums person but I feel the urge to contribute to the discussion here. I must also express my apologies for starting a new thread for this because most of the issues have been mentioned before but since I am really looking for some clarifications I feel that this has to be done. Also this is going to be very long so my apologies again. If you aren't so much into a long read I am sorry.
I. THE GOOD
First off, in my opinion your art department did a marvellous job on the new animations. I like them so much that when I went back to the live server to do some pre-patch PvP I already missed them. They are great and they feel a lot more fluid now. Thank you for that. Also the justice system is fantastic. To me it's immersive, it's fun to play with and it's a great addition to the online installment of your series in the best tradition of your offline games.
I play a Nightblade as my main char and I love the fact that you are not scared of totally scrapping skills that were sub par to other ones. You realize that in a system with very limited slots every skill needs to be awesome. The new reincarnation of „Blur“ is indeed awesome and I am excited to play with it live. However, I won't touch my sorcerer alt unless you revisit your decisions with „Critical Surge“ and come up with better ideas to buff the class that does not only include the pet line. But I am not an alt player and skill design shall not be my main point here anyway.
Just some ideas for the next big patch you like us to test:
- Unlock all waypoints for your templates. Riding across all of Tamriel to get a mundus stone is no fun and keeps us away from you know, actually testing stuff.
- Unlock all crafting traits and give us a huge supply of improvement materials.
Reduce the cost of basically everything in the game to zero, especially respec costs and PvP gear.
- Implement a shop in Belkarth that provides us with every drop item in the game.
- If you want us to test the basic versions of skills, then fine. Give us two items, one that levels our skills and one that de-levels them. We will be happy to test every base skill and every morph in the game with these items. We won't grind skills for you however.
You know, coding this can do an intern for you in a day for zero money. Even if this would not be true or you don't have any interns that are capable of doing so and you need a fully payed developer to do this you save time and money LATER because you don't have to copy characters from live AT ALL. And it doesn't cause any anger among the players that spend THEIR time to do testing FOR YOU. And that is always a good thing, don't you think?
II. THE BAD
Okay, but now to the clarifications I am desperately looking for. First off, I am really trying hard to understand why you jump from one extreme to another without exploring everything in between. What hit me first were the changes to the resource pool, especially hit points and the change to impenetratable. I totally understand that the mechanic so far was not ideal. A PvP player with fully decked out impenetratable gear could basically negate every critical hit in the game. This makes skills like „Critical Surge“ useless in PvP (too bad it's next to useless now anyway) and also it makes crit builds sub par to anything else. Crit builds are a choice in PvP and they need to be valid to a certain extend. I understand that.
So what did you do here? Before 1.6 you were simply subtracting the crit resistance from the crit chance meaning that if you didn't have a crit rating over 80 percent you wouldn't see any crits AT ALL instead of giving an 80 percent chance to NEGATE a crit IF it would happen (fully legendary impenetratable gear with shield). That being said, 80 percent chance might have been to high anyway. I understand that. However, your new approach is nerfing this stat into oblivion (pun intended) so a crit happens ALL THE TIME (if it actually DOES happen) and only mitigating a percentage of the bonus damage. While I would be totally fine with this mechanic (after all, crits SHOULD happen), based on that quote...
„Critical Resistance now reduces the bonus damage caused by a Critical hit, and with enough, can reduce the bonus damage to 0. The amount of Critical Resistance required to completely eliminate the unmodified bonus damage from a Critical hit is 50 * (your Character Level + your Veteran Rank number). For example, a VR14 would be 50 * (50 + 14).“
...I am assuming that 800 crit resistance (fully legendary impenetratable gear with shield) would now mitigate 25% of the unmodified bonus damage (based on the needed 3200 rating to fully mitigate it). That is a HUGE difference compared to the state the game is live now. So you didn't just convert the old stat to the new mechanic (which would have given 80% mitigation) you are dropping this to roughly a third. I, again, understand that 80% would have been too high and I also kind of understand this quote:
„As part of the overall rebalance, a certain amount of power in each area was reserved for the Champion System. Completely maxing out any one stat will not only require a lot of work finding or crafting the perfect gear, it will also require a significant investment into a certain star or constellation in the Champion System.“
But nevertheless, how would you ever be able to even get close to the old rating? I only know one set of gear that provides the same kind of bonus and that is crap regarding the other stats it provides. Even if that gear is considered as the „perfect gear“ there are still 35% missing to get the stat to the old rating and another 20% to fully mitigate the damage. With the diminishing returns on the points in the champion system I don't see how you would EVER be able to get this stat back to the pre-patch state. Also it would be ineffective to do so BECAUSE of the diminishing returns in the champion points. Distributing your points more evenly will ALWAYS be the better choice, especially because you have lots of different other defensive options.
Also, I have a question how this exactly works (and I am sorry to have this buried in this wall of text) because of this:
„ The amount of Critical Resistance required to completely eliminate the UNMODIFIED bonus damage...“
Maybe it's just the wording here, but what exactly do you mean with UNMODIFIED? Does the star only work on the 50% bonus and disregards mundus stones, set bonusses and even the COUNTER star that provides actually more crit damage? If so, then this star is pointless because it can directly be countered and not only that, you don't even have to chose between offense and defense values because the counter star is in another constellation.
Oh, and you don't even stop there, you also reduce the overall health pool by reducing EVERY health related stat in the game from an 1.5 to an around 1.06 factor. And that change occured during the last three weeks because in the ESO live show when you first talked about the champion system you had screen shots from the new provisioning recipes with the old health multiplier.
I am not even saying that this change is insane (it's just insanely different to live now), but I am saying that I personally think for a change of that scope you might need a little more metrics and testing than two weeks on the PTS. This will change A LOT and that can be researched in this thread:http://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/discussion/148546/yea-i-gotta-say-the-impen-change-has-made-pvp-way-worse-on-pts
Some people are argueing that you just have to adapt to the new system and hey, the great thing is it took our fellow theory crafters exactly one day to figure it out:http://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/discussion/148915/1-6-shield-stacking-infinity-ressources
While I totally agree that the initial post is a little bit skewed towards the point the people want to make (they are using „Harness Magicka“ versus pure magic damage) but if you are defending the system at the moment you clearly have not seen it live. It's not the point that shields are strong in the game (they are and they have been before). The points are:
- Due to the removal of softcaps you can now stack regeneration to an insane amount. That gives you maybe not unlimited resources but it gives you way more than before so you can spam powerful shields even more than pre-patch.
- There are enough abilities to counter magicka attacks AND stamina attacks.
While in other games this problem is handled with cooldowns you don't have that mechanic here.
- There are only a few counter skills to shields, if any (hey, sorcerers can even negate more than before so you are useful after all).
- If you have ever been annoyed by „Blazing Shield“ templars, well, wait until this goes live.
- There are literally no drawbacks of speccing into defense because everything scales with your magicka/stamina pool which also bolsters your offense, so you can still hit like a truck.
- All the changes to light and heavy armor are almost completely in vain because of shield stacking (well okay, if you fumble your shield stacking you are dead in a second).
This brings us to an amazing new PvP meta. Stack as many shields as you can and you are invincible and you don't even have to gimp your offense for that. If you don't want to adapt to that meta, you are dead. But hey, play as you want to play.
Next up your ingenous changes to the class skills: Compared to this issues above this is only a minor thing but as a Nightblade that used to run a magicka build I am not happy with the new morphs of „Ambush“, „Veiled Strike“ and „Assassin's Blade“. Did it ever occur to you that these are all the Nightblade's bread and butter skills? I mean it's the gap closer, the anytimer and the finisher. Great, now stamina builds have three more skills to chose from but magicka builds have three less to pick (depending on your point of view these also might be the better morphs). The single reason why many people prefer magicka builds over stamina builds is because if you do so, the game plays a lot more logical. You then have one resource for offense abilities and one for defense (blocking, dodge rolling and stun breaking). This is way more reasonable than burning through your defense while dealing damage and using utility. Also if you do so, all of your class skills become valid. Damage abilities suddenly deal damage, healing abilities actually heal and you can use utilities at a decent rate. I always felt that class skills should be a valid choice NO MATTER which build you use. They are your CLASS skills after all.
The only way to counter that issue is to scrap that system in favor of either introducing a new resource ONLY for defense and keep the rest as it is OR (even better) make all skills use the same resource (pick one and leave the other one for defense). That is the ONLY way to fix this mess. Also it's stupid to scale the damage of abilities by the SIZE of your available pool. Because once you max out one resource every skill of the other resource becomes an invalid choice. Trying to make a hybrid gimps you for every skill in the game. This system is fundamentally flawed, it always has been and this change DOES NOT make it better. It's just shifting the problem. As a Nightblade I can try to live with it and either become a stamina build now or pick the sub par morph for „Ambush“. But it does not solve ANYTHING. What would have helped though is to give any class the free choice to convert a number of skills to stamina and NOT single morphs. Then your system would have been STILL fundamentally flawed but at least you wouldn't have limited the choice for magicka builds.
I am sure this won't ever happen because of the franchise. That being said, the only reason why TES worked is because there have never been stamina skills. There only have been weapon attacks, blocking, running, dodge rolling, sneaking and in ADDITION tons of spells. Introducing weapon skills caused this mess. Time to clean it up and not to make it worse and causing the ILLUSION of fixing it.
III. THE UGLY
And finally, my biggest problem with the patch. The champion system, also known as the alternative progression system of the endless grind. While I love the art style and the different choices you can make for your character, right now I have the very strong feeling that this will break the game, at least for me. Let me elaborate:
It probably has to do with my playstyle that might not be compatible with MMOs or what the industry thinks how an MMO should be. Since Aion I probably played every game ever released and I spent LOTS of time doing so. Since then I am somewhat resistent to „content“ that can be defined as „grind“. I am mainly PvP focussed and I never quite understood the need of „progressing“ your character after a certain point. It took me around four months to get to VR 10 because I mainly play PvP. At release I was kind of fine with the progression ESO provided although I percieved the veteran ranks as an unneccessary grind but with the help of crafting and guild mates it wasn't that bad. True, I was always behind power wise because I spent a lot less time questing once Molag Bal was defeated because I percieved my story as over. But again, it wasn't that bad. You could get decent gear quite early on once somebody had the required traits researched and everything beyond that was more of a soft progression.
If you have watched the ESO live show when they first introduced it I was instantly reminded of the planar attunement in Rift. Exactly the point in their release cycle when I quit the game. While I can adapt to a horizontal progression with a slight vertical tendency the claim that this actually the case here is simply not true. The developer in that show claimed that a new player can easily catch up with a veteran player because of the diminishing returns of the stars. While this is true for ONE star it is not for the whole system. There are plenty of stars to chose from and many of them are viable for every possible build (which is a good thing in theory), also there are several very good perks that are unlocked when you put many points into one constellation (which is also good in theory). The problem is, if you have many points and distribute them correctly I think you will get a huge edge over new players over time. Not only because of the different stars and the perks but also because for every point you put into the constellations you get addtional hit points, magicka and stamina. As we all know, this does not only scale your resource pools, it also bolsters your damage and healing.
So for me, several questions arise here. I haven't figured out the exact math behind how much resources you get from one champion point (I haven't even tried to be honest) but it's not a flat bonus. When I adjusted my template I first picked my gear from the bags, then added the armor runes, then distributed my champion points and THEN my attribute points. For one point health I didn't get +122 HP, I got more. So I am assuming that you get a percentage bonus on your already existing pool instead of getting a flat value. So first, this means strong characters become even stronger the more champion points they spend. Also, does this percentage bonus diminish at some point? Are there any soft or hard caps on your resources? Since they removed any caps I have to assume that there are no caps at all. But even with diminishing returns how the system is set up I assume that the veteran characters will become MUCH stronger over time.
Another problem here:
„As part of the overall rebalance, a certain amount of power in each area was reserved for the Champion System.“
Okay fine. But this rises the question how would you even balance new content? While in other games where the power of a character is tied to certain gear you can aquire or be helped to acquire by your fellow guild mates this is purely tied to XP, meaning how much time you have spent in the game so far. When I compare how much power you can get by only our initial 70 points (it's way more bonusses than wearing an additional set of armor) how much difference will that be in a year from now? If you are releasing a new area, a new dungeon or a new raid in a couple of months how are you planning to design your encounters? How much champion points do you assume we should earn in these couple of months? I mean an encounter has to be challenging so you HAVE to assume a certain power growth during your release cycles. If power growth is tied to gear, one could acquire that. Either by buying, crafting or getting help from your guild mates by grinding out the previous raids. This growth is only tied to XP so there is now way to gear up to be en par.
Also people are already thinking about clever ways to acquire champion points in the most efficient way possible:http://forums.elderscrollsonline.com/discussion/148707/how-long-does-it-take-you-to-get-a-champion-point
And I can't even blame anybody for that. It is a grind after all and people want to be efficient at it. It is not even the problem that it is outragously slow at the moment. How it is on the PTS I don't see myself getting more than one champion point in a day. But this is NOT the point. The problem is that a) there will ALWAYS be a certain playstyle that just provides more XP than others. In PvE it might be grinding, daylies or dungeons in PvP it might be zerging. So no matter how much you TRY to balance it, you just won't. This system forces you to adapt to a certain playstyle if you want to be efficient. This is fine for levelling because sooner or later levelling will be over and you will be en par. But this system is endless. We are talking about 1200 champion points at the current rate this is a couple of YEARS of adapting to that playstyle.
I mean in our very small guild (I know we are not the benchmark for the MMO market whatsoever but still) we have people that just like to hang out in the game and craft, acquire all recipes and styles, do some fishing for the achievements and I am sure they would enjoy the new justice system. This playstyle will NOT be valid in terms of developing your character. Everything you don't get enough XP for will suddenly feel like a waste of time again. And we are not talking about two more veteran ranks, we are literally talking about until the end of time here.
And also b) if you have wasted your time for a while how would you catch up? You can't. You will ALWAYS be behind people that are very efficient at grinding. How MUCH behind that will be remains to be seen but this enlightenment mechanic just does NOT cut it. I for example as I stated at the beginning of this very long post play only PvP. I do not grind and I do not zerg. So MAYBE I will get one champion point a day (and I am playing almost every day of my life) while other people might get two or three a day because they are just a little bit more efficient that I am. This is not a problem today or in two weeks from now but it will be in a couple of months.
IV. A FRIENDLY WORD OF ADVICE
Dear ZOS, I am humbly asking you to prove me wrong and give us a template on the PTS with 1200 champion points so I can see that it isn't that bad. However, I am assuming that it actually is. If you are introducing a system like that you have to be REALLY clever about it. If I would have done that I wouldn't have tied it to XP. I would have tied it to just be in the world and interacting with it. I would have limited it to a certain amout you can get over a certain period of time. I would have removed that limit from new players until they are en par. I would have distributed the points at a MUCH higher rate. But even without all these mechanics, it would STILL be relatively hard to catch up if you start a couple of months from now.
If you are not clever about it, you have to fix your mess later. You have to give new players a head start with a couple of hundred points later down the road. Do you think your player base now would like that? People now are actually freaking out because they only get the same points no matter how much alts they have grinded to VR 14. Do you think THESE players would like if you gave new players tons of points for free because you have to at some time in the future? I highly doubt that.
And last but not least, you are putting some nice little XP potions in your cash store. Usually I wouldn't have a problem with that because it is just XP. Everybody who cries „pay to win“ is a little bit out of line in my opinion. But honestly, with a system like that I think XP potions are very problematic. What you get out of the champion system is worth much more than an item and the system is DIRECTLY tied to XP. To me it's pay to win in a vicious disguise, but maybe this is just me.
V. THANKS FOR READING
Sorry for the ridicously long post but I felt the need to share my thoughts. To sum it up, thank you so much for letting me test this on the PTS. Because if this goes live, I can safely cancel my subscription. You are not getting a single dime from me for these ideas. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.