What to post on a rant page when you have nothing to rant about? Someone else’s rant. I found this one well-written and interesting, and although I have a couple of minor disagreements with some of the specific points, overall I think it’s a good essay. This was sent out a hell of a long time ago, and is being reprinted here because I said I would weeks ago. 8P

Folks at Turbine,

Let me just preface this missive by saying I have thoroughly enjoyed my time playing and testing Asheron’s Call so far. I have racked up 11 days playing time on my main character, and I have almost a day of playtime on my servant (who is level 9 solely from identifying items!). I am 26 years old, have a job as a system administrator at a great company, a live-in girlfriend, mortgage payments, and everything else, so the amount of time I have invested in AC has been extrodinary.

It’s an extrodinary game.

That being said, I and many of my friends have some grave concerns about the game as it stands, and the last couple of patches have only made things more clear. With retail release right around the corner, now is the time to really fix these issues. I hope you take the time to read this letter in its entirety and seriously think about it, because I think it could potentially help AC out tremendously.

Let’s have a look at the larger issues facing AC.

1) Monster Balance

Monster balance is way off in terms of risk versus reward. There are many creatures which have the potential to harm or kill my level 33 character, which give worse loot than a level 9 undead miner and return little to no experience points. These monsters are universally avoided whenever possible, by everyone. What exactly is the point of these creatures when no one wants to kill them for any reason? There is nothing fun about them, after the initial discovery. They end up taking server resources and forcing crowding into the areas that spawn the creatures which are not imbalanced vs. the player.

What is the purpose of the zephir, the wisps, the wasps? Why would anyone ever want to bother killing a Lich Lord, when Lugians give just as much loot, almost as much experience, and are about ten times quicker and easier to kill? There are some really sick imbalances out there. Level 8 gold wasps with 70 hp that do up to 50 damage per spell (not resistable even with 130+ magic defense), Level 17 tumeroks that can cast level _5_ war magic at you for 90 damage. There are only 6 levels of magic guys. If level 17 creatures are casting level 5 magic, what are you going to do for the truly high level creatures?

When there are only one or two types of creatures that are worth killing, people are going to overcrowd those areas and camp the spawns. In turn, this overcrowding leads to kill stealing, camping, and every other bad thing about MMORPGs. What we need are reasons to hunt each and every creature on Dereth. Maybe wisps are badass casters and don’t drop any treasure (hey, they’re wisps), but perhaps they are worth great experience points? Maybe a Lich Lord is a pain and a half to kill, but shouldn’t that be mitigated by the great loot they drop (they don’t drop anything worth a crap currently).

To truly fix this problem, the whole thing with your character’s level influencing the kill gain you get from things has to go. Creatures should have a fixed kill value, based on how tough they are. The points you have to spend to gain skills as you get to high level are so huge that it really doesn’t matter that you still gain the full 10 experience for killing a rabbit at level 40. With standards in place, the balance can be approached more easily.

2) Character Balance

This is a big issue. So far I see you guys are taking steps to correct these imbalances as they surface, but mostly things are swinging too far to the extreme. I play a spear using character, and things have not changed one way or the other for my character, so I’m speaking mostly about my friends’ characters and using observations I have made while fighting along side of friends and other random high level people out in the dires.

At low level (less than 20th), I think the character balance is pretty good, aside from mages (which I’ll get into later on). However, as we move up past 20th level and into largely untested waters, things start to break down a bit. Archery was way too strong before, I think we all can agree on that. Archery was all anyone out in the dires used (with the exception of a few die hards like me, I refuse to give up my weak spear!). Archers were taking out raveners in an average of 4 shots, while I probably took close to 30 swings to kill one. Hence, all the highest level characters in the game were archers. Then archery got tweaked down a bit too much, and now it’s back to being pretty strong, but I think it needs further work due to a few problems.

The biggest problem is with the attack and defense formulas. The way they are set up currently, it is impossible for PCs or monsters to defend against even a semi-competent archer. This allows low and mid level archers to hunt creatures they have no business of challenging, as they are able to use the range and hitting advantage to take on vastly stronger opponents.

What can be done? Number one, make the range attack formulas equal to the range defense formulas. As it stands, there is no reason to ever specialize archery. Because of the unbalanced formula, once you hit 15th level even with trained archery you can hit direlands creatures almost every time, not even using heart seeker. Now I realize the reason for the increased hit chances was because of environment misses, but to compensate for that I suggest all range weapons be given an intrinsic +4% to hit, much like the unarmed weapons give intrinsic +4% defense. This would give them the slight to-hit edge they need, while not being too unbalanced. Also, the coordination should not be used as a damage boost for bows, since everyone is going to have a high coordination, even people who just use bow on the side a bit. The archery skill should be the stat that improves damage, if any is needed. I think it’s probably not needed, since they are already getting the effect of better quality arrows and now they can now use blood drinker.

Next up: Magery. Currently there is no reason to be anything other than a mage in Dereth. The spell formulas are a joke, they can be downloaded right off the internet or gotten from large allegiances quite easily. Mages’ spells are almost never resisted, by the monsters or other players, despite people dumping vast amounts of experience into the magic defense skill. Mages do the most damage, and are able to keep themselves out of risk with their large ranges. Since the latest patch, I logged in at the direlands and witnesses a couple of fourteenth level mages happily killing the new ‘improved’ drudge raveners with ease. A warrior would be hard pressed to take one on before 25th level. Not to mention the life magic which people abuse to kill level 103 magma golems for 10k exp a pop. Later on, once mages start hitting level 30 and up, they are able to cast level 5 and 6 magic. I have heard that Rasamin who is around level 40, is casting level 6 magic already. This is way too early for that type of power. What will he do now that he has all the best magic in the game at such a low level?

The levels at which you attain new ranks of spells are too soon. There is no way anyone should be slinging level 6 magic around before level 60 at the earliest and most dedicated. I’ve never seen a randomly generated weapon with any level 6 magic on it, but the two level 4 spears I have require a weapon skill of 220 and 275. For level 6 weapons, what spear skill would I have to have? 400? 450? Why are mages casting level 6 magic with skill levels in the mid 200 range then? If it stays easy to use this level of power in release, expect mage petitions to add 7th level and up spells by month four.

As far as melee fighters are concerned, there is no reason to be a mace or spear user other than to not be a clone. Spears are cheap to specialize in, but they are so unbelieveably rare that in the past two weeks neither I, nor any of my friends, nor anyone who is looking to trade with me has found a single spear with level 4 magic on it. Meanwhile, I personally have found at least a dozen swords and axes that put my current spear (Blood 4 and Swift Killer 3) to shame. Maces are equally rare and weak. Also, the warhammer is listed as using the axe skill, which makes axes too common and maces too rare. I think maces and spears should be a little bit more common as magic treasure, if they’re going to be a viable choice. Currently it’s probably a 10 to 1 ratio of swords I find to spears, and when I do find a spear, it’s usually crap. A measly 8 skill points is not worth it to suffer as a spear user currently. Additionally, unarmed is still too good to be a starting racial skill. Unarmed swing animations are way faster than swords, axes, or spears, and when you start getting the nice unarmed weapons with blood drinker 3 and up on them, the low base damage of the unarmed weapons matters less and less. At high level unarmed deals more damage over time than any other weapon type including swords, and it’s the cheapest skill in points to train if you’re Sho. It does suffer from the same rarity of weapons problem that spears and maces do, but it more than makes up for that in sheer effectiveness. Additionally, unarmed has the ability to deal out all 7 damage types, which allows it to cope with more varying monsters. My spear user has a rough time with golems because piercing damage is weak against them, which is understandable. Meanwhile my Patron/Monarch Kynn just throws on his cestus and mows them down, then casts a recall back to town to sell his loot (gotta love those 6 saved skill points).

3) Treasure Balance

The treasure system in AC is simply the best one in any MMORPG. Random treasure keeps thing interesting for the player (you never quite know what you’re going to get), curbs camping (EQ’s worst trait…caused me to drop it like a bad habit), and fosters character uniqueness. There are a few problems with the current loot setup as it stands, however.

First of all, the loot levels are overall too low since the last couple of patches. Nothing drops any high value or useful items anymore, making it impossible to even keep your items charged and your supply of healing kits stocked. This really hurts warriors, since warriors are the only ‘class’ which is actually forced to go toe-to-toe with the creatures, and is very reliant on magical armor and stat boosters. Mages and archers can cope because they have no need for more than one or two magic items to function – they never get hit anyway if they use the right ‘tactics’ (usually consisting of hitting monsters which can’t physically get to them). Also a great deal of the fun of the game for me was trying to collect oddly colored sets of armor and other rare magic items. When I kill a camp of high level beasties in the direlands, I expect more than a normal Yari, a hunk of cheese, and a 100 pyreal gemstone as loot. It’s just plain insulting that a level 65 obsidian golem drops less loot than a level 17 sandstone golem on a consistant basis. Monster loot levels need to be upped overall and they also need a complete overhaul. Obtaining interesting treasure was the most fun thing I did in AC, now it’s impossible to do.

Another big problem with the loot system are the static items. Even with direlands loot as it was previously, the static items were far too powerful for their requirements and how easily they are obtained. Static items should never be superior to random loot drops, otherwise what is the point of the random loot? People start to become clones of each other, each with a Sword of Lost Light, Wand of Black Fire, and Mattekar Hide Coat. Instead of static items, have dynamic quests (unique quests which change for each character, so they are not just slapped up on spoiler sites for every powergamer to repeat). These quests can reward the players with cash, random items, or experience points. However, I must argue that static items be removed from the game. This is not EverQuest, please don’t ruin the great random loot system by undermining it with static godlike gear everyone and his brother are running around in.

That’s about all I can think of for now, because this is turning into way too long a letter. 8) If you guys sat through all that I applaud you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or feedback you might have regarding any of this. I’d be more than happy to help you guys out, because I think AC has the potential to become a truly legendary RPG.

-Chris Malatesta
Zashi Watta in Dereth

And continuing my tradition of laziness, here are some lameass images of my character just before Dereth self-destructed. Stat shots included for those people who really like to check that sort of crap out.

I suck.

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