Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Caster's Realm: Class, Equipment, and Encounter Balance

Last response: in Video Games
Share
Anonymous
April 21, 2005 12:06:29 PM

Archived from groups: alt.games.everquest (More info?)

Caster's Realm: Class, Equipment, and Encounter Balance

There are few Everquest topics debated as heavily as class balance.
Though the term itself is nearly meaningless; you cannot balance
sixteen classes without them all looking exactly the same; the term
just seems not to die. However, in these huge and emotional discussions
on class balancing, two other factors are often ignored: equipment and
encounter balance.

Much of the evidence used for this article comes from personal
experience. No doubt hundreds of raid leaders and dozens of EQ
developers will toss aside this moldering rag of an article with
disgust and a heated "idiot" crossing their lips. Yet ignorance never
stayed my hand before, and it shall not do so here. So let the ignorant
broad statements begin:

Myth Breaker 1: Class differences mainly matter above level 65. Most
class balance advocates only speak to the highest levels of their
class. Below level 65, groups work well with any classes from within
the class archetypes.

Class balance below level 65 isn't as difficult a topic for two
reasons. One, there are few encounters below level 65 that cannot be
defeated by leveling up. Two, appropriately powerful equipment is much
more readily available below level 65 than above.

However, classes at every level certainly have class issues that should
be addressed. These issues, however, have little to do with balance
between classes and little to do with desirability for a group.

For the sake of discussion, let us break classes into the following
archetypes:

Tank: Paladin, Warrior, Shadowknight
Healer: Cleric, Druid, Shaman
Damage: Wizard, Mage, Necromancer, Beastlord, Ranger, Monk, Rogue,
Berserker
Control: Enchanter, Shaman, Bard, Beastlord

Above 65, clerics heal for more than druids and shaman. Warriors have
more hitpoints, better agro control, and defensive disciplines.
However, only the highest and most challenging content requires
specific classes. Even in zones like the Muramite Proving Grounds, Wall
of Slaughter, Ruined City of Dranik, and Riftseekers; groups without
warriors or clerics or enchanters succeed in their hunts. How can they
do this? Equipment.

Myth Breaker 2: Equipment matters as much or more than distinctions in
classes. At higher levels, equipment determines where one can hunt, not
level or class.

We can grossly oversimplify the benefits of higher power equipment with
the following statement. Raid equipped groups have more hitpoints and
do more damage than single-group equipped players.

A group can hunt in Riftseekers without a cleric if they have a
high-end raid-equipped druid and shaman in the group. As equipment
power goes up, encounter difficulty goes down. As encounter difficulty
goes down, class dependence lessens.

However, where SOE had the problem of tuning encounters so that groups
of mixed classes found them challenging but doable, now they have to
make them challenging but doable to both single-group equipped players
and raid-equipped players. How do they do this?

They don't.

Myth Breaker 3: Encounter tuning matters more than equipment tuning or
class balance. Many class balance issues end up being specific
encounter issues.

Encounter tuning is where all of these things come together. Each
single-group encounter assumes you have six characters of a similar
level and equipment power. Each one often assumes a balanced archetype
spread. However, above level 65, equipment power varies so greatly that
no single encounter can scale well to both single-group equipped and
raid-equipped players.

In Lost Dungeons of Norrath, SOE offered normal and hard difficulties
for adventures. While single-group hunters found "hard" to be too hard,
many raid-equipped players found them to be too easy. In Gates of
Discord, designed as a very hard expansion, many of the single group
encounters such as the Ikkinz single-group events, Tipt, Vxed, and the
sewer trials were too hard for non-raid equipped players at the time.

Dragons of Norrath includes five sets of missions each scaling in
difficulty from the less challenging Lavaspinners to the more difficult
Nest. Mission rewards scale along with the difficulty of these
challenges.

Tuning encounters for a mix of classes becomes very difficult at levels
above 65. High level raids often require specific classes in order for
raids to succeed. Many of the Gates raids, for example, require high
numbers of clerics. SOE designed Gates raids to pose a challenge to
even ideal raid configurations. If they designed them for raids with
four clerics, it becomes trivial to do it with twelve.

Group encounters have the same problem. If encounter damage is tuned to
allow success with druids and shaman healing, it becomes easier to
accomplish it when one has a cleric. Since it becomes frustrating when
encounters require specific classes, most encounters become easier and
more reliable when one has an ideal class breakout.

Everquest is a game of challenging encounters. We want to fight in
challenging battles, receive rewards for our victories, and travel
forward to new challenging battles. From our first fire beetle to the
Overlord Mata Muram, challenge and progression is what keeps the game
entertaining.

Why does this matter? Frustration comes from hitting a wall in
progress. If we cannot find appropriate challenges or we receive
inadequate rewards, we become frustrated. If we face only the exact
same sort of challenge, we become bored.

There are a few things SOE can do to help balance encounters at levels
above 65.

SOE can equalize the primary abilities of the four archetypes across
the 16 classes. They can reduce the difference in healing power between
druids, shaman, and clerics so any of the three are capable of healing
more effectively in high powered groups.

SOE can reduce equipment disparities between single-group and
raid-equipped players. Single-group gear could offer 80% of the power
of raid gear from that same level and expansion.

SOE could tune more high-end encounters around the four archetypes
instead of specific classes. They can change the types of challenges we
face to avoid simple damage vs. hitpoint vs. healing formulas. Dragons
of Norrath shows us good examples of encounter variance and success
states not dependent on damage, hitpoints, and healing power.

I covered a lot of topics with very broad strokes so let me spend a
minute to summarize. What have we learned today?

1. Three factors really go into our characters when it comes to power:
level, class, and equipment.

2. Individual class balance issues only become a problem above level
65.

3. As fun as it is to debate class issues, equipment issues and
encounter balance often make a bigger difference.

4. While we like to dig into statistics and debate details, we really
want challenging encounters and rewards for defeating those encounters.

5. It is very hard to balance encounters for the wide range of
equipment power between raiders and non-raiders.

6. It is equally hard to design a challenging encounter that a mixed
group can defeat that doesn't become trivial for an ideal group.

We play Everquest because it's fun. Class identity and equipment power
are important factors, but most of all we want to face new and
interesting challenges and we want to receive rewards when we succeed.
When discussing class issues, always consider your level, your
equipment power, and the encounters in which you fight. Most of all,
remember that the whole purpose of all of this is fun.

Loral Ciriclight
3 March 2005
loral@loralciriclight.com
Anonymous
April 21, 2005 8:41:48 PM

Archived from groups: alt.games.everquest (More info?)

"Mike Shea" <mshea01@gmail.com> wrote in
news:1114095989.451011.61280@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com:

< snip >
>
> There are a few things SOE can do to help balance encounters at levels
> above 65.
>
> SOE can equalize the primary abilities of the four archetypes across
> the 16 classes. They can reduce the difference in healing power
> between druids, shaman, and clerics so any of the three are capable of
> healing more effectively in high powered groups.

I hate this philosophy. It's one of the "features" I had the biggest
problem with in EQ2, because it completely eliminates any sort of
identity from the individual classes. All subclasses within an archetype
end up pretty much performing the same tasks, just with different
skill/ability names and graphical effects. I don't believe they each
need to be equal in all their respective roles for success.

> SOE can reduce equipment disparities between single-group and
> raid-equipped players. Single-group gear could offer 80% of the power
> of raid gear from that same level and expansion.

That sounds intriguing. I might suggest maybe 75%.

> SOE could tune more high-end encounters around the four archetypes
> instead of specific classes. They can change the types of challenges
> we face to avoid simple damage vs. hitpoint vs. healing formulas.
> Dragons of Norrath shows us good examples of encounter variance and
> success states not dependent on damage, hitpoints, and healing power.

I don't have a problem with certain encounters requiring certain
classes. I actually like that approach. What I *do* have a problem with
is when that certain class is the same for 80% of the encounters.

> I covered a lot of topics with very broad strokes so let me spend a
> minute to summarize. What have we learned today?
>
> 1. Three factors really go into our characters when it comes to power:
> level, class, and equipment.

Makes sense.

> 2. Individual class balance issues only become a problem above level
> 65.

Not sure I agree with that, but I hear you.

> 3. As fun as it is to debate class issues, equipment issues and
> encounter balance often make a bigger difference.

I agree.

> 4. While we like to dig into statistics and debate details, we really
> want challenging encounters and rewards for defeating those
> encounters.

Absolutely. That's what drives us in EQ for the most part.

> 5. It is very hard to balance encounters for the wide range of
> equipment power between raiders and non-raiders.

That's a given, IMO.

> 6. It is equally hard to design a challenging encounter that a mixed
> group can defeat that doesn't become trivial for an ideal group.

True, yet I'm not sure it is all that necessary to do so. Trivial loot
code could go a long way toward making that a non-issue (just an idea,
easy folks).

> We play Everquest because it's fun. Class identity and equipment power
> are important factors, but most of all we want to face new and
> interesting challenges and we want to receive rewards when we succeed.
> When discussing class issues, always consider your level, your
> equipment power, and the encounters in which you fight. Most of all,
> remember that the whole purpose of all of this is fun.
>
> Loral Ciriclight
> 3 March 2005
> loral@loralciriclight.com

Sound advice, I'd say.

--
Rumble
"Write something worth reading, or do something worth writing."
-- Benjamin Franklin
Anonymous
April 21, 2005 11:15:54 PM

Archived from groups: alt.games.everquest (More info?)

In article <Xns963F76FEB3A51Rumbledorhotmailcom@204.127.199.17>,
Rumbledor <Rumbledor@hotspamsuxmail.com> wrote:
>> SOE can equalize the primary abilities of the four archetypes across
>I hate this philosophy.

I agree.

<aol>
Me too!
</aol>


EQ needs MORE distinctions between classes and races, not less,
IMHO. For instance, why not have an evil cleric gain the ability to
CAUSE disease? Good clerics get a group cure disease (or whatever)
instead...

And druids are DPS who can heal, not healers who can't DPS
either. Especially with the changes to some nukes and rain spells.
Druid healing is more or less sufficient I think, lacking perhaps a
useful HOT to buffer with.


AS far as gear goes, I'd like to see them get off the mana/hitpoints
treadmill and offer more useful magic effects. For instance, picture
an encounter whose boss mob uses a powerful rain spell. Single groupable
with some luck and an extra healer in the group, or single groupable if
one of those healers has the Blessed Umbrella of UberMobRaidMob_63 whose
specific effect is to...mitigate rain spells....
April 22, 2005 2:40:51 AM

Archived from groups: alt.games.everquest (More info?)

In article <Xns963F76FEB3A51Rumbledorhotmailcom@204.127.199.17>,
Rumbledor@hotspamsuxmail.com says...
> "Mike Shea" <mshea01@gmail.com> wrote in
> news:1114095989.451011.61280@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com:
>
> < snip >
> >
> > There are a few things SOE can do to help balance encounters at levels
> > above 65.
> >
> > SOE can equalize the primary abilities of the four archetypes across
> > the 16 classes. They can reduce the difference in healing power
> > between druids, shaman, and clerics so any of the three are capable of
> > healing more effectively in high powered groups.
>
> I hate this philosophy. It's one of the "features" I had the biggest
> problem with in EQ2, because it completely eliminates any sort of
> identity from the individual classes. All subclasses within an archetype
> end up pretty much performing the same tasks, just with different
> skill/ability names and graphical effects. I don't believe they each
> need to be equal in all their respective roles for success.

/agree

If I wanted to play a cleric I'll play a damned cleric. I do not want to
roll a shaman to find out its really just a cleric.

> > SOE can reduce equipment disparities between single-group and
> > raid-equipped players. Single-group gear could offer 80% of the power
> > of raid gear from that same level and expansion.
>
> That sounds intriguing. I might suggest maybe 75%.

I might disagree entirely. They need to find a new way to differentiate
raid gear from single group gear other than just making raid gear
categorically better. (e.g. like situationally better... that situation
being a raid setting for example.)

> > SOE could tune more high-end encounters around the four archetypes
> > instead of specific classes. They can change the types of challenges
> > we face to avoid simple damage vs. hitpoint vs. healing formulas.
> > Dragons of Norrath shows us good examples of encounter variance and
> > success states not dependent on damage, hitpoints, and healing power.
>
> I don't have a problem with certain encounters requiring certain
> classes. I actually like that approach. What I *do* have a problem with
> is when that certain class is the same for 80% of the encounters.
>
> > I covered a lot of topics with very broad strokes so let me spend a
> > minute to summarize. What have we learned today?
> >
> > 1. Three factors really go into our characters when it comes to power:
> > level, class, and equipment.
>
> Makes sense.
>
> > 2. Individual class balance issues only become a problem above level
> > 65.
>
> Not sure I agree with that, but I hear you.

I again disagree entirely. Factors from ability to solo reds vs
dependancy on groups to engage blues, downtime, expense, gear
dependancy, are all serious issues pre-65.

> > 3. As fun as it is to debate class issues, equipment issues and
> > encounter balance often make a bigger difference.
>
> I agree.

Encounter balance = Class balance

They really aren't distinct.

> > 4. While we like to dig into statistics and debate details, we really
> > want challenging encounters and rewards for defeating those
> > encounters.

> Absolutely. That's what drives us in EQ for the most part.

That's a nice dream. In practice its a crock.

Some 55-65s get together yesterday to take out an epic 1.0 mob, they
engage it and promptly wipe... they didnt factor in its stun, didn't
allow the tank to generate adequate aggro, and got the casters summoned
and munched.

Its a challenging fight in its own right.

It was also a fight they could have done if they'd spent some time
figuring it out. (Hell Ive seen it duo'd by a 65th mage pet with a
cleric healing it. They had a 64th warrior, 54th cleric, and several
other 55+ classes present.)

Did they want the challenge? Hell no! They begged some 68ths to help
kill it... (er... they "helped" the 68ths kill it...er...well... not
that the 68ths actually needed much help mind you.) And of course they
were quite proud of themselves when the mob dropped in 20 seconds,
despite their only real contribution to the fight was that of convincing
someone else to do it for them.

Where are the players that really want a challenge? I rarely see them. I
know a few, and I acknowledge that upper end guilds don't have anyone to
run crying to whenever they get spnaked by a raid mob, but the vast
majority of players I see from level 1 to 70 avoid being actually
challenged like it was a toxic plague. (And even those uberguilders
rarely do anything challenging with their alts... at the drop of the hat
they drag out their 70th level uber-raider or call in a zerg of 70th
level friends to deal with any perceived difficulty they are having.

"Can we take the fierce turepta with 6 50ths? Nevermind, I've got a 70th
level friend coming to 'help' us...." (er kill it while we sit back here
and watch, after which we can go back to happily grinding regular
turepta's which never bring the tank below 80%.)

Challenge? No thanks. The only challenge these people want is how to
maximize their AA/h... and that means getting twink gear, and camping
easy mobs within sight of zone lines.

> > 5. It is very hard to balance encounters for the wide range of
> > equipment power between raiders and non-raiders.
>
> That's a given, IMO.

I think its even harder because almost nobody is prepared to die except
against raid targets with their mains. A good balanced encounter should
be able to kill you.

If you can win without breaking a sweat you don't really deserve much
XP. (In some games this is actually accounted for, mobs are worth full
xp the first time you kill them, but after a few dozen, you aren't
"learning" anything new, and your xp per kill drops off to nothing.
>
> > 6. It is equally hard to design a challenging encounter that a mixed
> > group can defeat that doesn't become trivial for an ideal group.
>
> True, yet I'm not sure it is all that necessary to do so. Trivial loot
> code could go a long way toward making that a non-issue (just an idea,
> easy folks).

Don't see how TLC applies. He's saying the holy trinity can shread an
encounter that a rogue, druid, zerker couldn't touch. And he's right.
Anonymous
April 22, 2005 4:26:18 AM

Archived from groups: alt.games.everquest (More info?)

42 <nospam@nospam.com> writes:
> > > SOE can equalize the primary abilities of the four archetypes across
> > > the 16 classes. They can reduce the difference in healing power
> > > between druids, shaman, and clerics so any of the three are capable of
> > > healing more effectively in high powered groups.
> >
> > I hate this philosophy. It's one of the "features" I had the biggest
> > problem with in EQ2, because it completely eliminates any sort of
> > identity from the individual classes. All subclasses within an archetype
> > end up pretty much performing the same tasks, just with different
> > skill/ability names and graphical effects. I don't believe they each
> > need to be equal in all their respective roles for success.
>
> /agree
>
> If I wanted to play a cleric I'll play a damned cleric. I do not want to
> roll a shaman to find out its really just a cleric.

You get my vote, too. I *like* the fact that a druid is not a cleric.
Sure, sometimes I wish my druid's HP/AC buffs were better, or that I
could rez, or of course do bigger and better heals. But that's part
of the tradeoff of being a druid -- I get other abilities that *ought*
to make up for the clerical abilities I'm missing. And to be sure, I
enjoy the mobility of port spells and SOW, and having a wide variety
of buffs, and so forth.

The solution, as many have already said in response to the OP, is NOT
to make all classes the same within a given archetype, it's to design
encounters so that there isn't any single class or combination that is
"ideal" for the vast majority of encounters. Sure, let there be times
when you really need a cleric (or else have to be really good or lucky
or both), but have other encounters where a druid is more useful than
a cleric, or even encounters where you don't particularly need a healer
at all but really need crowd control (and again, encounters should vary
as to which crowd control class is best).

In short, the solution to class balance is MORE CONTENT. If you don't
have the right class mix to take on certain targets, who cares? There
are lots of other targets; pick one more suited to your abilities. And
ideally, this should include multiple paths through an expansion; e.g.,
different GoD trials could be easier or harder depending on the classes
you bring to bear, and there shouldn't be ANY single class that's
clearly the best for all of them. Sure, you might need a generic
trinity (tank, healer, crowd control), though ideally I think it would
be better if there were ways to make up for the lack of any one part of
the trinity. But for any reasonable set of classes, played well, you
should eventually be able to get keyed or flagged or whatever you need
to advance to the next level of content. And if you fret that there's
content you missed because you only followed one advancement path, hey,
roll up another alt and go back and do it a different way!

I'll even go a step further and say that this could also be the answer
to the "problem" of balancing encounters for raiders and non-raiders.
Yup, they have different equipment. So what? Have some content aimed
at raid-geared groups, and some not. I'm not raid-equipped and likely
never will be, so that would mean there's content I'd never get to see.
As long as there's plenty of content that IS appropriate to my level of
equipment, I'm happy. And of course, if I play long enough, I can hope
that at level 70 with single-group gear I can at least handle the
content that was challenging to raiders at level 60, or whatever.

Part of this does come back to the problem mentioned by another person
in this thread: many players just want the reward, not the challenge.
So if some content is designed for non-raiding players, they can get
their raid-equipped friends/mains to come mow through it. Well, if
that's how they want to play, why should I care? When I come to that
content, I'll tackle it with my meager bazaar-twink gear, and I'll have
a blast, win or lose.

-- Don.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
-- See the a.g.e/EQ1 FAQ at http://www.iCynic.com/~don/EQ/age.faq.htm
--
-- Sukrasisx, Monk 52 on E. Marr Note: If you reply by mail,
-- Terrwini, Druid 51 on E. Marr I'll get to it sooner if you
-- Wizbeau, Wizard 36 on E. Marr remove the "hyphen n s"
-- Teviron, Knight 13 on E. Marr
!