Saturday, March 21, 2015

How I Would Change DDO's Enhancement System

Note that I did not say "improve" or "fix"; I find such statements to be arrogant and insulting - as if what that person proposes is the "only" way it could be "fixed".  That said, I do think my ideas would provide...betterment (at least, from the players' perspective - hehehe).

I won't be getting into discussing specific enhancements (ENs), because that is a whole different story (and, yes, there is a lot of debate on some specific ENs out there).  No, the focus of this post is the overall EN system mechanic.

But before we discuss the current EN system, let us review the previous EN system.  In the old system, you had all of the class ENs thrown together, and all of the race ENs thrown together.  There was a collapsing/expanding list of icons and titles; when you mouse-hovered over the individual ENs, a pop-up of the full description was given.  You still had the thrice-um...darned, "(total) AP spent" mechanic, which really, really, really sucked.  (But it was better than our current "AP spent IN TREE" mechanic...but I'm getting ahead of myself.)  Under the old system, you could only select one Prestige EN (PrE); but that was OK (with me).  At least the old system PrEs were true "trees" (unlike what we have now), and you still had access to all of the non-PrE "general" class ENs.

However, because of the collapsing/expanding list, that re-collapsed after every selection, it was a clumsy interface, and was in need of an overhaul.  Now, IMO, all that was really needed was a re-design to the UI and maybe a pass through the various ENs to 'upgrade' or replace some of the less useful/used ones.  But we got..."more".

First, there were the new "Epic Destinies", and with it, a "preview" of the new EN UI interface and layout.  Then came the beta for the new EN system.  Admittedly, the new UI is much better - it is easier to see what was available and which ENs had prerequisites (and which didn't).  I was involved in providing feedback during beta (as were many others) - mostly for the new fighter ENs, but some for rogue and ranger, too (these were my three first classes and still some of my favorite).  Unfortunately, even though several other people agreed with my assessments and/or voiced similar 'complaints' themselves, most of our feedback was largely ignored.

I still vehemently disagree with the use of the term "tree" to describe the current EN system.  A "tree" has a trunk and branches - in a true "tree", you cannot select a branch without selecting the trunk.  I suppose since you have to select the first "core" EN in order to select anything else in the EN "panel", it could technically be called a "tree", but it's not a "true" selection "tree".  Yes, there are some (true) trees within the panel, but the panel as a whole is not a "tree".  Still, it is what it is and "tree" is what the dev team insist on using to describe each PrE "panel".

OK, so, let's get on with some of the changes I would make to the EN system:

First:  I would allow up to (9) class panels to be selected.  In the original beta, we were limited to a total of (3) class panels.  Oh, there was such an outcry over that - and rightly so.  It basically favored "pure" builds over multi-class builds.  After much hemming and hawing, Turbine finally provided a means for selecting up to (6) class panels.  Seeing as how it was promised that each class would (eventually) have (3) PrEs to choose from, this provided multi-class toons with some much needed flexibility they previously were lacking with the (3) class panel limitation.

However - one can have up to (3) different classes in a multi-class build.  And if it's possible to allow (6) class panels, why wasn't this expanded to (9) in the first place?  Now, there is (rightly so) some suggestion (from a dev) that certain classes may actually get a 4th PrE (*cough* fighter *cough*) "some day"; will the (6) class panel limitation be expanded?  My guess is "probably not".

Would everyone use all (9)?  No.  Would a majority?  No.  Would *anyone*?  Yes.  I am willing to bet the farm that at least ONE person would use all (9) class PrE panels, if they were available.  And even if NO ONE did, so what?  What harm would it do to allow for the possibility?  Absolutely none.  But *if* a three-class toon wants to use a little from every single PrE panel available for each class, why shouldn't they be allowed to?  There is absolutely NO REASON why we shouldn't (and can't) have up to (9) class panels available.

{Of course, if some classes *do* end up getting a 4th PrE panel....well, I suppose there needs to be a limit somewhere...}

Second:  I would completely eliminate - or at least, severely curtail - the "AP spent IN TREE" mechanic.  I've heard the arguments, and they basically prove my point.  The gist of the argument is "if you didn't have this limitation, people would simply choose the higher-tier ENs and ignore the lower -tier ENs altogether".  Really?  You mean people would be free to choose the ENs they WANT, instead of spending the limited amount of AP they have on ENs they DON'T, just to unlock the ones they do?  Oh, the horror! (BTW - for the sake of all you Sheldon Coopers out there, that was sarcasm.)  Besides, there are some VERY good lower-tier ENs out there, so the notion that "no one would take the lower tier EN" is absurd.

Yes, there *may* be SOME ENs that would "need" this mechanic (like certain actual PrE ENs that are directly related to the PrE), but certainly NOT the ones that were thrown in to the PrE they were, simply because that was the "best fit" for them.  As a specific example, let us look at the ranger's "favored enemy" (FE) ENs.  They are located in the "Deepwood Stalker" PrE panel, even though they are CLEARLY a class EN, and not related to (the specific) "Deepwood Stalker" PrE at all.  So why should I be required to spend 5 AP in the "Deepwood Stalker" PrE panel, just to be allowed to take the 2nd-tier FE EN?  It's already dependent on you taking the 1st-tier FE EN and having 2 levels of ranger - that should be 'gated' enough.  But if you insist that there needs to be more gating, fine - change it to "total AP spent".  So if I spend at least 5 AP total (and I've unlocked the "Deepwood Stalker PrE, AND I've already taken the 1st-tier FE EN) anywhere, I can take it.

Now, I *can* see an argument for having the "Core Ability" ENs having the "AP Spent in Tree" mechanic.  That, at least, makes some sense.

Third:  Even if the "AP Spent in Tree" mechanic is kept in the class panels, I would change ALL of the "AP Spent in Tree" to "Total AP Spent" for the RACE panel (except for maybe the "Core Abilities").  Do I really even need to provide an argument for this?

Those are the "biggest" changes I would make.  If I were to add a forth, it would be:

Fourth:  Give an AP on the 5th rank (leveling rank), too - granting a total of 100 AP to spend (instead of just 80).  I've never quite understood why there isn't an AP for the 5th rank.  Best answer I've heard is that since you gain the ability to level on reaching the 5th rank, you don't need one, as you get other 'improvements' when you level.  True enough.  But would 20 more AP really hurt anything?  My guess is "no".

But then again, I'm coming from a player's point of view, so admittedly, all of my changes are biased to that end.  And maybe that's one reason why I'm not a game developer - or work for Turbine.

...that, and they couldn't afford me.


  1. Nata Nata NATALIIIIIIE22 March, 2015 14:56

    Trees! They've been called trees long before Turbine called them so. They may not be trees in a literal sense but what else would one call them? pyrimads is too much of a mouthful and trees(pine trees at least) get pointy at the top with a broad bottom so they're kinda like trees. Gotta use that imagination!

  2. Says who? I don't gotta do nothin', if I don't wanna. And they are *not* "trees". (hehehe)