I am quite certain most people know of the [Re:Build] by now, IMC’s attempt to rework the core structure of the game’s class system. With it comes a renewed enthusiasm for the game and what it could be. However, enthusiasm is often accompanied by pessimism and many players are caught up in talks about how the game has many problems that need to be addressed before it can be truly great. These include things such as optimization, punishing RNG, and PvP balance. This is not a post to talk about those things. I think plenty has been said and IMC would have to be blind and deaf to miss these comments (whether you believe IMC can see or hear is a separate subject entirely).
As changes happened on the test server, one particular change piqued my interest. One iteration of the rebuild resulted in rather tough monsters. In situations where players expected to get past stage 5 in challenge mode, they were unable to get past even 3. It got me thinking about how I would need to adapt my builds and play patterns to make the most of a new situation before it even arrived. Unfortunately things have since changed and the current iteration of the rebuild seems to make monsters weaker than they are now. Maybe it’s too late to change how strong the generic monster is, as the rebuild is going live on kToS in the next couple of days, but this thought experiment got me thinking about why I would get excited about the idea of making the game more difficult.
Perhaps just making all monsters stupid tough shouldn’t be the goal. I’ve heard that was the state of the game at one point, but I started playing late in 2017, so I wasn’t around for that. Besides, maybe keeping field mobs, hunting grounds, and challenges modes somewhat easy is okay. That sort of grind can be something relaxing to do. But I’m afraid everything else would also be too easy! I feel like we need bigger things to work towards. I don’t want the game to continue down the trajectory of ‘grinding just to grind better’.
I also think that adjusting difficulty will be a central part in achieving the goal of class and build diversity. I’m under the impression that the main goal of the [Re:Build] is to encourage diversity. When I heard that mobs were getting tougher, I immediately started thinking of how I might want to have different farming builds to farm different areas. If the mobs were going to become tougher, I’d need more specialized builds to thrive in the rebuild. Perhaps that’s one way to bring about diversity, but it’s probably not the best. It does scratch the surface of the main idea that has been stewing in my mind though: Class diversity should come about due to a diversity of challenges . If the rebuild is trying to give us class diversity, it should also give us a diverse set of reasons to play differently. If everything in the game is too easy, build choices will feel moot because you’re going to succeed either way. At that point, people will probably feel forced into playing a few meta builds that are good at everything. Honestly, there will always be meta builds, but there should also be space for more specialized builds to succeed. If the game is too easy there won’t be a need for specialized builds. So, let’s talk about how we might create challenges that encourage unique builds.
I think that there is already some degree of challenge diversity in the game. There’s the obvious one of PvP versus PvE, where CC and survivability excels in PvP and raw damage typically wins out in PvE. Then there’s the difference between AoE and single-target builds in PvE, where AoE feels best in challenge modes and mobbing situations where single-target damage is suited for world bossing and raid dungeons. There’s also some role diversity, where many parties will call for damage dealers, a buffer (typically thauma-linker), and a healer (typically cleric/priest/kabbalist in tough content). Right now most of those roles are fulfilled by only a few classes/builds and the unique things other builds could bring to the table largely amount to nothing. Note that there is no real need for tanks in the game. Here I want to talk about different hypothetical situations could encourage the use of different classes.
Wipe mechanics - The Velcoffer raid and the Asio raid originally introduced what seemed like wipe-mechanics to the game. That is, situations where the entire party could be obliterated if the players approached the situation incorrectly. Unfortunately, I think the game made them too soft. In some cases it’s possible to be tanky enough to just ignore these mechanics. In other cases (Asio in particular) you could just stand far enough away to not be touched by damage at all. I think that these telegraphed mechanics need to be more punishing. Mechanics should force players to confront them . Players could either deal with them as they are meant to be dealt with or find workarounds. For instance, if Asio’s magic orb mechanic were threatening enough then players might bring a paladin to delay the orbs to buy time to break them, or use CC to slow them down. Alternatively, players might be encouraged to bring the future Oracle to give the team invulnerability to survive the mechanic’s punish.
Mixing AoE and Single Target - The Asio raid is structured around having a massive mobbing challenge at the beginning and some bosses at the end. On paper, this should force a party to balance around having enough AoE versus single target damage. As the game is right now, you just need enough AoE damage to clear the first part and you aren’t really punished for not having enough single-target damage. The main problem here is that most AoE damage dealers just happen to be really good at single target damage. There’s no real distinction in the game. Tune the game so that we need to put in more thought when choosing damage dealers in our parties. I like that both Velcoffer bosses have sections where the players get swarmed by additional monsters, but I feel like those parts could be made more meaningful somehow.
Double Bosses and Varied Defenses - I feel that a mainstay of MMO design are boss fights where the players have to deal with two bosses at the same time. I’m surprised ToS doesn’t have any! They could have different resistances, so different damage types are necessary to excel. Make us bring a wizard to kill one and an archer to kill the other. Or maybe persuade players to bring physical defense shred and brute force the entire fight with just physical damage dealers. Also, make it important for us to manage the HP of the bosses. It’ll be an interesting challenge, and it might be an excuse to have a tank to distract one of the bosses while the party deals with the other.
Make Boss Positioning Matter More - Velcoffer slightly cares where you are in the fight because you need to run to safe zones when he phases. But does it really matter when you can survive outside the safety zone (this goes back to the idea that wipe mechanics should be more punishing). Boss positioning is an incidental thing in the Asiomage fight because keeping him on the edge of the map avoids the magic orb mechanic (pretty lame, imo). I’d like to see things similar to the Velcoffer phasing mechanic, except maybe adjust the distances to be further or perhaps have random safety zones. This could make it important that the boss be positioned equally far from all the safety zones. Or perhaps have it be moving, so it’s important to carefully move the boss around during the fight. Either way, this could bring about the need for tank builds, or DPS players good enough to control the boss. Speaking of tanks, maybe we could have bosses’ single target attacks hit harder so tank builds look more attractive. And if people don’t want to play tanks, but we still need to be tanky, maybe people will try harder to maintain linker’s physical link.
Timing and Synchronization - Right now Velcoffer does this thing where he becomes invulnerable when he phases. He puts the brakes on the players so weird things don’t happen. I want there to be fights where there are no such brakes and the players have to slow themselves down, or else weird things happen. And sometimes, when weird things happen players need to adapt and that’s interesting. Alternatively, there could be situations where more damage could be demanded from the party. This could bring about a more unique need for chronomancers, where they can help to ‘resynchronize’ the party and set up for burst.