Tag Archive for melee

The Normal Progression…

I’ve been discussing the problems with character balance in EverQuest with a few people recently, and I think we finally nailed down the problem with why the pure melees have fallen behind and more importantly why the perception of pure melees of themselves is so bad.

It boils down to the “Natural Progression” of a character through his life in game from level 1 to 65 (currently).

Let’s take the pure casters first. They start with spells. Intelligence casters get new ones every 4 levels until 24, then every 5 levels after that until 49. For wisdom casters, the priests, its spells every 5 levels from the beginning. In this progression to 49 they also gain specialization (20 for intelligence, 30 for wisdom), and through items they gain focus effects that can change the power, duration and cost of their spells. At 50 they begin to get new spells every level, 50 itself holds very little, but 51 to 65 ranges from 3 to 8 or so new spells per level, some more usefull that others, but they gain spells none-the-less. They also gain more items, and with those items can gain focus effects to further enhance their spells.

The Hybrids experience the same progression as their caster parent, only to a lesser and slower degree, with spells being at levels 9, 15, 22, 30, 39, 44 and 49. But at 50 they start to gain spells at every level up through 65 just like their caster parent. The penatly they suffer here is that they do not get all the spells of the parent class, but they also gain a few speciallized spells that they alone have. They gain also through items and focus effects, although sometimes to get these effects they will have to sacrifice other stats… but that is as it should be. They also gain melee skills as they level. Most of them get their last melee skill at level 40 (rangers get their last at 35) and those skill cap out slightly lower than their parent melee class. Above 50, hybrids get disciplines – 2 each, one damage dealing, one damage avoiding or recovering.

Pure melees get melee skills and items. Their melee skills stop at 30 or 35. Their items possess no focus effects (currently their are items in the Plane of Time that have melee focus effects, however, after strenuous testing, where caster focus effects return an average 6% increase in power per effect, melee effects return an average 0.5% increase in power, and these are not available to everyone). Above 50, pure melees get disciplines – one per level although not totalling 10 because some levels are skipped on the way to 60. Beyond this, a pure melees only method of advancing themselves is through items and pure level mathematics of the game (a level 55 monk will take less damage than a 54 monk during a fight all other things equal due to the small effect that level has in all game calculations), and their items don’t yield to them as much as the same items yield to the hybrid (wisdom, intelligence, mana, and spell focus effects).

What’s missing here is that beyond disciplines (most of which are situational, short duration, long reuse skills) a pure melee has little to look forward to as he levels except for the pursuit of more and better items. This has the effect of making playing a pure melee feel extremely one dimensional.

Pure melees, in my opinion, need to get more special attacks. I’ve written before about combat styles, and while I still think that idea has alot of merit, in my mind more special attacks would actually go much further to alter not only the game, but the perception of those who play it.

For Warriors:
As it is now, a warrior gets Kick, Bash (if he uses a shield), and Taunt. One of the current issues with warriors is that while they numerically should be the superior choice for all a group’s tanking needs, they lack the most important feature that is truely required, that of being able to reliably hold and control aggro (the attention of the mob). At first, not being able to as reliably hold aggro seems like a decent trade off for the up to one thousand hit points he may have over the other plate tanks, however, upon playing in actual environments it becomes apparent that maintaining agro is actually more important than hit points as long as the hit points of the tank are high enough to survive a few rounds of combat without healing. With 70-75% slows available to high level groups, attaining a point of survivability is almost trivial, and being able to maintain aggro (or more importantly to pull aggro back off the slower) far outdistances the other factors of tanking.

To that end, what I would suggest for warriors would be a series of special attacks along the lines of kicks, slams, slaps, pushes. There would be two lines within the warrior attacks, the first would be aimed at helping resolve the aggro issues with a low damage high taunt attack. This would allow for the warrior to juggle his taunt key with this attack for a more readily available aggro increase. The second attack would be higher damage, but lower taunt. This would allow a warrior to increase his damage in situations where he is not tanking, or does not need the additional aggro of the high taunt attack.

For Rogues:
The only problem I see with rogues is one similar to clerics. A cleric gets complete heal at level 39 and will use it forever. A rogue gets backstab at level 10 and uses it forever.

There isn’t really a problem with this except in that rogues have little to look forward to as I described above. So what I would propose is giving rogues a series of attacks similar to backstab in that they need to be executed from behind the target, but of increasing damage as the rogue levels. Similar to the warrior, I would give rogues two lines of attacks. The first would be extremely high damage line. Every new attack in this line would be stronger with a higher minimum hit and higher maximum hit. The second line would be half the power of the first line, but have a built in “evade” that lowers them on the aggro list, a distracting blow if you will. This would allow rogues to choose between the evading attack when they need to reduce aggro, but go for the high damage when aggro isn’t a concern.

For Monks:
Monk are supposed to be martial artists. As such, for them I see a simple continuation of the series of skills they already have. These upgraded attacks however would have various attributes, pushes, 0 second stun, a crippling attack that would through melee debuff the ATK of the mob, and other similar things.

In all these cases, it would allow all pure melees to have actual class related skills to look forward to as they levelled in addition to their gear, so in that respect it would allieviate the problem that pure melees don’t benefit from levels as much as other classes.

Melee Specialization

Another method to give pure melees something their hybrid children don’t possess is to replicate the long in place Specialization system available to casters (but not to their hybrid children).

Specialization would occur at level 30. The melee would train one point in all of his basic melee skills (not special attacks). Only one would be allowed to go over 50, and that one would cap at 200.

The specialization of a melee skill would result in better use of a weapon of that type. A chance, the same chance that casters get for their specialization, would be applied to each swing, which if successful would add additional damage to the blow. This damage would be equivalent to the reduction in mana cost that a caster gets, but would need to scale according to the delay of the weapon in order to prevent overpowering.

Pure Melees: Balance

When people think about games like EverQuest, if you ask them about class balance will probably tell you that either the casters, or the hybrids will be the hardest to balance. But in truth, the hybrids are easiest, followed by casters, and leaving the melees at the hardest to balance.

It almost seems illogical that the simplest classes would be so hard to balance, however it is exactly that simplicity that makes it so hard.

With casters, if you have an imbalance, you have give them new spell lines, remove spell lines, play with damage caps and resist rates, mana costs, etc… spells open themselves to alot of “wiggle room” in their design, both in direct use by the caster and in direct effect on the target.

Hybrids have the spell flexibility of casters, even if it is to a muted level, as well as having an avenue for melee damage output, damage avoidance, mitigation, etc… all the melee skills.

A pure melee has only those melee skills. The only way to balance a melees is by giving him new armor and weapons, or changing the effect of the weapons on a target. The problem with changing the effect on a target is that those changes will inherantly filter down to the hybrids. The hybrids might be well balanced, but when you make melee skill changes you may unbalance them inadvertantly. The problem with armor and weapons is that its boring.. and frankly, just how big a sword do you give them? And if you give them class restricted weapons, especially no-drop weapons, as loot, you basically place a hole in the loot table that even the most diverse guild will eventually arrive at. Once all the rogues have the new weapon, it becomes rot loot.

Before going on with my ideas on balance, let me just lay down one thing you must understand before going on… Active vs Passive. In EverQuest, pure melees are largely active for the first few seconds of combat. The mob comes in, you move around, get set, assist. Once combat is fully engaged, the pure melee classes become passive. Warriors get taunt and kick, rogues get backstab, and monks get flying kick or other alternate attacks, and they all get disciplines, but by and large you turn on auto-attack and then hit one key until the mob is dead. Hybrids and Casters on the other hand are different. Hybrids remain active all the time, and casters become active after the mob is set (or before in the case of clerics healing melees and enchanters controlling mobs on multiple target pulls). The biggest play advantage they have is that using their choice of spells and skills they can help affect and control the fight in a way that a pure melee cannot.

That said, most of my ideas are not just for pure balance, but also to make the pure melee classes more active in their combat rolls.

The first item I would suggest toward melee balance would be to unlink the disciplines they already have. While I see much merit in the idea that I have to wait an hour to repeat a discipline that is of great use, I do not see why that should prevent be from using a little use, or moderate use discipline. Allowing pure melees unlinked disciplines would go toward them having a more active role in combat.

The next thing I would suggest is to give pure melees “specializations” similar to what casters get for their schools of magic. Allow a pure melee at level 20 or 30 put a point into the specialization for all his available weapon skills, with only one able to go above a skill of 50. As skill in the specialization grows, have it factor into a pure melee’s ATK or “to hit” mathematics so that they become more effective with that weapon type over the others. Not so dramatically such that using a non specialized weapon will cut your damage output in half, but enough so that the player would come to prefer a certain type over others. Of course, like the casters, offering a way to reset and respecialize later would be best to help reduce the impact of mistakes or changes in preference.

Another thing I propose is to give melees more avenues for balance in the form of Fighting Styles.

At just a quick glance at speedy implementation, you can give the pure melees mana to manage the use of these styles, making it act the way that Bard mana does now. These styles would alter the melee attack slightly, offering a way for a pure melee to interact and affect the course of battle in more ways than turning on auto-attack and hitting a special attack key.

A few simple examples of what might be done:

  • Offensive Stance: This would increase the melee damage, which decreasing defensive skills. More damage for less armor class.
  • Defensive Stance: The brother to the offensive, increaing defence skills while lowering damage output. More armor class for less damage.
  • Forceful Blows: Cut the damage of blows in half, but add in a greater chance to interrupt spells.
  • Slashing Blows: Increase damage output for mana cost per tick, increased damage only applies to mobs tagged “fleshy”. The idea being that you are slashing and tearing the skin for more damage.
  • Crushing Blows: Increase damage output for mana cost per tick, increased damage only applies to mobs tagged “non-fleshy”. The idea being that you are trying harder to break the bones of undead or the shell of a bug, etc, monsters with an outter layer that is not flesh.
  • Precision Strikes: Quadruple the damage per hit, while tripling the delay between hits for a mana per tick cost.
  • Critical Study: Every critical hit becomes a crippling blow, every crippling blow becomes a doubled crippling blow for a mana per tick cost.

These are, of course, just simple examples that would need to be greatly tested and tweaked before implementation, but I think something of this sort would help give pure melees more to do, and more avenues for balance without greatly overhauling the classes.

In any event, I don’t think that balance of the melees can be achieved with directed changes to the existing structure. Simply adding more damage per second, or more “tankability” won’t cut it. I strongly believe the only way to properly balance the melees is to broaden these simple classes and make more ways to improve them slightly as opposed to having to improve their one or two ways greatly just to see a difference.