Difficulty settings, not tiers

While plenty of forum posters are not happy about the expert dungeon nerfs (which, I must admit, I find somewhat surprising), the more I think about it the more I realize this is not an issue of making the current offerings easier or harder, it’s about actually having different levels of difficulty to suit different players. On the surface Rift appears to have this, with normal, tier one, tier two, and raid instanced content. This is not the case however.

It’s not the case because as a player, you don’t really have a choice in what you run. You run normal dungeons, then tier one, then two, and finally raids. It’s a progression path, but that’s pretty flawed. If, say, I’m at a tier two skill level, I find normal and T1 too easy, T2 just right, and then raids too hard. If I cap out at normal, then the rest of the end-game content is too hard for me, whether I have four friends, nine, or nineteen. That’s a problem.

Looking at T1/T2 instances, they in reality replace what most themeparks have at the end in terms of dungeon content. I’m ok with that ‘recycling’ of content because your character plays much different at level 50 than they did at 20, 30, or even 40, and plenty of players miss out on those instances during the leveling game. Splitting the ten instances between T1 and T2 is the mistake, as is making the 20 man raiding content tuned to be attempted after those 5 mans.

A far cleaner solution would be to tune all ten 5 man instances to normal, T1, and T2 difficulty, with the gear requirements and rewards being minimally different, but the tuning varying. Normal would be tuned to an ‘average’ PUG group, requiring only the most basic of group makeups, T1 would be a step above that, and T2 would be tuned closer to raid difficulty.

The rewards for the more difficult settings would only be slightly higher, and all three tiers would take around the same amount of time to complete assuming equal competence (in other words, don’t call it T2 because the trash has 90k hp compared to normal’s 30k). This way, if PUG groups are wiping on T2 or T1, drop down to normal. Not interested in that difficulty level, just jump straight into a higher level.

Raid instances should also follow this setup.

One very important key to all of this, and something that I believe DDO screwed up, is to not lock the higher difficulties and require everyone to first complete normal, than T1, and finally T2. If I want to bash my head straight into the T2 wall, let me, don’t force me to faceroll normal and T1 before letting me play at the level I feel challenged at.

If this was done, I don’t see how casuals can complain about being ‘locked out’ of all the content, and I don’t see how the ‘hardcore’ could care about normal being nerfed further. Unfortunately, in the current setup, when you release something difficult you ‘exclude’ the PUGs, when you nerf you piss off the ‘hardcore’, and at the end of the day whatever you do, someone is upset.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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20 Responses to Difficulty settings, not tiers

  1. Max says:

    For start providing different rewards for different tiers aside of titles , achievements etc. Otherwise player base will whine and complain incessantly

    Fact is – players were doing all kind of crazy thing before they became MMO -like speedruns ,record runs . With no rewards whatsoever. heck Why people play l4d expert and such? -they get no new purplez

  2. Max says:

    *For start stop providing.
    –Sigh need edit buttonz

  3. Warsyde says:

    Dang, that’s what I thought they were doing in the first place (I’m not 50 yet). It’s kind of silly to split it up like that, your suggestion makes far more sense.

  4. Saucelah says:

    You should post or link this to the forums. It’s not a bad suggestion.

    • SynCaine says:

      Devs read more than just the forums.

      • Nils says:

        I agree that there is a chance that they read this blog.
        Anyway, the point here is not so much the innovative genius of the idea, but that there are probably reasons the devs don’t do it this way. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. The idea that they mindlessly copy WoW is just too hard to swallow.

        • SynCaine says:

          I know they read the blog :)

          The likely barrier here is just scope/effort. While not a TON of work, tuning 10 dungeons for three difficulty levels is more work than turning 5 of them into a T1, and 5 others into a T2.

          I would argue that putting in the effort to do so gives you a better return than nerfing all T1/T2 dungeons across the board to accommodate the average PUG, but then again I write a blog and they write the code.

  5. Phedre says:

    I think the flaw with your suggestion is that many (most?) players will do all content at T1 level and call it a day. What is new at T2 or Raid? As per your suggestion it is exactly the same dungeon with the same bosses.

    By creating complete different dungeons for each level the content stays fresh and I have something to work for when I am done with T1. Doing the same stuff but a bit harder sounds dull. I think they made the right decision as it is. Hopefully going forward to will add new dungeons at each of the levels.

    But as you said yourself at the end of the day whatever you do, someone is upset.

  6. Y||B says:

    there should be a game, that scales the dungeon based on how many people are in your group and what difficulty setting they picked …. like CoX ;-)

  7. Whoreatio says:

    fuck dude you have turned into a pussy.

    Recycled content is fine these days ? Im sure you had a different view back in the day.

  8. Angry Gamer says:

    “Unfortunately, in the current setup, when you release something difficult you ‘exclude’ the PUGs, when you nerf you piss off the ‘hardcore’, and at the end of the day whatever you do, someone is upset.”

    Too true… you upset someone but which group is larger and therefore less likely to impact sub numbers by their departure?
    Hmmm… just thinking here but it’s not “hardcore players” whoever they are – you would not believe the contradictory information everyone sees about who hardcore players are and what they want.

    My personal opinion (formed over reading all the EJs whines at the WOW forums over the hint just hint of nerfing heroics)… is that all they really want is to lord their specialness over the peasant casuals.
    Keep them looking special and they are happy campers… give access to specialness to groups not in their self selected leet group… they will whine you to tears.
    [by the way it’s unscientific opinion… so far I have had no luck in getting any survey person or researcher to determine if this more than opinion]

    By the way we are reading… just the translation of blogglish into geek is not coming out as any clear technical direction. yet… but I am trying

  9. Linkin says:

    If only some MMO out there had this type of difficulty adjustment, and had experimented with a variety of methods for accommodating groups of different skill levels. Wouldn’t that be something?

    Are you not trying anymore, or do you actually have no clue the level of self-contradiction you put out? Hopefully, that MMO job for which you’ve been vying with this blog comes around soon. Maybe then you can stop fapping the devs with this utter garbage.

  10. Rem says:

    If this was done, I don’t see how casuals can complain about being ‘locked out’ of all the content, and I don’t see how the ‘hardcore’ could care about normal being nerfed further.

    Unfortunately, too many players are conditioned to play for rewards, not the experience. Thus, if you make the difference in reward quality between T1 and T2 significant, the so-called casuals will complain about being locked out from the better rewards due to some reason that is most definitely not their lack of game and social skill (the same as people in WoW complain about heroics being too hard instead of, you know, just running normals).

    On the other hand, if you make the difference in rewards not significant enough for the above to happen, the so-called (and mostly self-proclaimed) hardcore will complain that there is “no point” in running T2, as it’s just “artificial challenge with no reward” (the same as people in WoW complained about raiding in WotLK being too easy without even attempting hard modes).

    A game company would have to have the balls to design a game that keeps player attention through quality of experience, not through skinner-box tricks. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a significant long-term-sustainable audience for that.

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