Disclaimer: Yes, I know we don’t have any power on the changes they do to this game, and I know that the GMs don’t have any involvement on the game development either (they can just pass info to their higher-ups I guess), yet I’ll write this anyways as an exercise, and I invite everyone who wants to build upon what I write or wants to take other changes to another direction to do it. Also, please refrain of anything “dead game” or “why bother” related, as it doesn’t come to the case of this exercise.
With that said, let’s begin.
I love Tree of Savior. I love its artstyle, aesthetics, music, the core gameplay (more Action-RPG oriented) and the Class System overall. But as almost every one of you, I’m not happy with the state the game is in right now. Ignoring playerbase, even if 500k people played it, I’d still not be happy with it. From a while now the game is going in a direction I don’t like, and on future updates they seem to push even more towards that. A lot of people thinks the same, one way or another, and that’s the reason most leave.
Even ignoring playerbase, the game is in a bad state. Content-wise, gameplay-wise, the game is not being the fun that it should be.
And why is that? That’s what I want you to think with me, as part of this exercise (or at least read it).
Let’s imagine you are given the position of Lead Developer of Tree of Savior, with limitless resources to make this, your passion project, the best it can be under your vision.
What would you do to make it the best it can be?
What would you change? What would you let it stay?
You are the Lead Developer, letting it die or rot in this bad state is not an option. Ignore the playerbase. Even if 500k players play it everyday, any changes you make to the game won’t affect that big playerbase. Would you be happy with the state the game is right now and leave it there?
I certainly would not be happy with it. So let me tell you what I’d make to Tree of Savior in this exercise.
Also, if you want to take into account the low playerbase and put yourself on a position of “saving the game”, you can. In my case, I’ll not, and focus completely on fixing the game to what I think would be close to the best it can be.
So, what would I do? I hope it doesn’t end up being a wall of text ;_;
~What I’d do to Tree of Savior as the Lead Developer with limitless resources~
First, I’d like to keep the things that remain good, like the music, the artstyle, the lore (the worldbuilding in this game is REALLY GOOD, I could talk about it for hours. And the main story is… decent, at least until Episode 12), the aesthetic in general, core gameplay and Class System. Of those things I’d change little to nothing. The things I’d change about them will be addressed here.
Second, I’d identify the Essence of the Game. This is the Cornerstone from everything will be built upon. The first thing that should come to mind when thinking about the changes and the gameplay as it is. I believe the game had its Essence on the start, and lost sight of it eventually. They tried to be a hard game on Moringponia days, a easier game on next raids. They wanted to get rid of RNG Stats/Gear on Glacia Days with the implementation of Sandra’s Magnifier for Primus Gear, and now they want it back AGAIN with the new Earring. The game doesn’t have a clear direction to go for years now. I want to fix that.
And the Essence of the Game I choose to follow is Variety. Diversity.
This game had Variety on its heart from the very start.
Variety in Classes to choose, at the start you could choose a new one every 15 Class levels if you wanted. Even now having 20+ Classes per Main Class to choose, and being able to be 3 at the same time is huge Variety.
Variety in Items and how you Gear, letting you use whatever you want and Craft a new Weapon/Armor every two maps you cleared if you wanted. The Collections make Exploration worth on those times.
Variety on Leveling (at least on the start), letting you grind maps or follow the Quests/Story, or a mix of both.
Variety on where to go, having A LOT of places to go, Maps to visit. On early levels you could go to like three of four different places with similar levels to explore or level up. Every place you go had its place on the Worldbuilding or the story, and had an identity. On the Orsha side of the Main Story you were one of the many Revelators saving Orsha and discovering the secret plans of Gesti and the Kruvina. On the Klaipeda side you were THE Revelator following the directions of Laima and the Revelations. Two sides of a coin that would converge on Fedimian. And between them, a lot of secondary places with their own storylines. Yes, the Quests were repetitive (I’ll address that), but the story behind them was good.
Now, the only thing reminding us of that Variety are the Class System, the Housing System and the myriad of costumes that we can use. The worldbuilding is there, but it isn’t worth doing it, and they’ll end up killing it with the next update where you can jump to 450 instantly. Everyone Gear up the same now, with little differences depending on Class. The Exploration is dead (just Automatch lol).
I’d make every change having Variety as the core.
But first, we have to talk about the first big change I’d do.
1.- OPTIMIZE THE GAME
I will always say this. If this game was optimized from launch, it’d have been as famous as Ragnarok Online. If this game didn’t have problems supporting 20k players playing at the same time on a Server, or dropped you from the game EVERY TIME you changed maps, or had horrible frame drops everytime there’s 10 people on a Channel doing things at the same time, it would be so, so much more popular than it is now.
I don’t know the specifics, but I’d make it so the game don’t eat your resources just for running.
And can support 2k+ players without killing server stability (I remember you, Automatch Implementation, killing game chat, drowning in lag and don’t let you Automatch because it’s broken). Ideally, supporting 500k+ players logged on the server without lag or breaking the systems.
And a full Channel without drowning in lag.
And not dropping 20+ frames every time a Pyromancer casts a Fire Pillar.
And not drowning you in lag/fps drop when you have 15+ people on Boruta/Giltine/GTW.
And not drowning you in lag/fps drop when you compete for World/Field Boss (remember World Boss? Remember the MMO part of this 5-man Party Action RPG?)
The 64 bit update fixed some of it, but wasn’t enough.
Optimizing this game to its full potential should be TOP PRIORITY.
2.- FIXING THE EARLY GAME
The early game should be a quick glance of everything your game has to offer. This is important.
It should make you invested on the story, the characters, the world. It should introduce you to the game mechanics, to the fun it is to play the game, and show you what it is fun about it.
It should teach you about its systems through gameplay, and not through walls of text or a button on the right corner that nobody uses. Even less through a text marathon on a “tutorial” map and leaving you 20 levels left to max. To me, that last thing is the same as saying “hey, pretend everything below 450 doesn’t exist, that isn’t our game, THIS is the real game”. That’s messed up and kills all the effort done before. The early game of Tree of Savior is repetitive. You oneshot everything until Episode 13. If you ignore the Story you do pretty much the same, oneshoting everything for 450 levels and 12 Episodes, not caring about your Gear (because they gave you an OP one for free that grows with you), and not learning/having fun with your Classes because you oneshot everything. Fun.
I’d fix it the best I can doing this:
Adjust the numbers: Test it so you don’t oneshot everything unless you’re really high leveled or high geared. Enough to make the Monsters on every stage of your Questing/Exploring experience challenging, hitting you hard enough to teach you to use your Consumables, and making the moves of the Bosses matter (because they hit hard if you just tank them). And making you hit hard enough to not make you feel you’re fighting a damage sponge, but enough to make you use some Skills and learn how they work for you. And making the Bosses more of a fun challenge, making the Action-RPG part of the game really shine.
Hopefully this fixes the absurd amount of damage you do on late game, and stop the recent concept of this game of “the game REALLY starts at Max Level now haha xd”.
I’d like to go one step further, and take the Guild Wars 2 route, fixing your level/gear numbers to the ones the map has if you’re too high, that way every map is a relative challenge no matter the stage of the game you’re in, but that’s just a personal preference and don’t know if it would help the game really. It’s just something I like.
Introduce the game systems on the Main Quest/Storyline: This would take a lot of redoing of old Quests, but I think this added up to the point above would make the early game a lot more smooth, and solve the problem of info-overload that happens when you reach level 440+.
The game has crafting? Make a Quest where you have to craft a special item from a Recipe the NPC gave you.
The game has Enhance? Make a Quest with a Boss where you deal 1 damage (or something like that), until you escape and the NPC makes you enhance your weapon, and then you hit it like normal.
The game has Trascendence? Same as above, just make that the Quests before makes you get Blessed Shards and Craft a Blessed Gem with a justification on the story.
The idea is that through Quests and interaction with the Main Story you introduce every system in an organic way, so we’ll have to do it with Gems, Enchant, Awakening, Ichors, Card System, Assister System, Arts, Atributes, Challenge Mode, Division Singularity, Remnants of Bernice, Choosing and Changing Class… and of course, with the main System of recent Tree of Savior: Raids.
Introduce Raids as soon as possible: As the main attraction of Tree of Savior right now, you need to make it known in a fun and engaging way, with nice Rewards for clearing them. Right now, the first available Raid is Solmiki, and the first True Raid (as they’re doing them now) is Skiaclipse. As they are now, they’re not fun or engaging to do, and the Rewards are really outdated.
I’d add Raids as soon as Crystal Mine 3F, making every single Demon Lord (Mirtis, in the Case of Crystal Mine) have it’s own Raid when you get to their point on the Story. The first ones would be easy, introducing you to how the Raids work, or that those Raid Bosses has their own unique mechanic (like jumping the lightning with Mirtis, adding some mechanic to it or making it more relevant on her fight, with Lightning Stacks or making elevated surfaces to avoid it… it has a lot of potential to make it fun), and this way we can give those Demon Lords more personality, make them more memorable and always relevant. The rewards can be some kind of “Fragment” or recipe to make Gear relevant to that moment of the Story, and make those fragments exchangeable for some Cosmetic that will make it relevant for people of more level (just like the Giltine Feathers do now).
To make the Raids always fun and not one shot everything, I’d make them fix your level/values of your Gear to the one of the Raid once you’re inside. The Raids have to be Fun, and in any way have to be seen as a “thing I have to farm ugh”.
With this, there’ll be at least 13 New Raids to do, all with their own mechanics and things to do in them, with an unique and fun Boss. You can “revive” old Raids like Masinios, Wastrel, Asio and Ignas this way too.
In regards of difficulty, I’d make them have a Solo, Normal (Party, Same version as Automatch) and Extreme/Hard (Party) version. The Solo Version is self explanatory, it has limited runs weekly and is a good way of getting used to the Raid mechanics. The Normal Version is the regular Party Version, can be accessed through premade Party or Automatch, and the Rewards are the regular ones. You can enter to the Normal Version a shared amount of times with all the existing Raids, let’s say 5 or 10 times, so you can do 2 times 5 different Raids and receive Rewards, or all your runs on just one. The rewards have to be balanced around this. Also, they’re shared by all your Team, that way the game doesn’t punish you for having 1 character. Maybe this seems weird now (how we’re used to the recent ToS System), but it’ll make sense. And the Extreme/Hard Version is accessed through premade Party only, and here’s where you use your Raid Portal Stones. Recipes for each Raid doesn’t exist here. You have Raid Portal Stones, you can access this mode if you have the people and the willpower to do them. They’ll be Moringponia Hard (or even more) difficulty, so they’ll test your skill on the game, making the combat of Tree of Savior shine the brightest. The rewards will be worth, giving you materials to Craft powerful Gear that won’t be mandatory to clear Raids, it’s just for the people that want to be competitive in other Content and be one step further ahead. In my vision of Tree of Savior (Variety), being competitive isn’t the only way of enjoying the game, and also it isn’t mandatory. And following this vision, even the Mirtis Raid of my example will be balanced to be much more difficult on Extreme/Hard mode, giving you rewards that are relevant even on late game, and for that reason every Extreme Raid will be accesible for people over some Gear Score and level. Never max level or optimal gear as a requirement, but with the mechanical difficulty I mentioned above.
I’ll mantain the feature that you can enter Automatch and participate to help on a Normal Raid even if you used all your weekly runs, just to help. Maybe add a Roulette Reward System (like the FF14 one), where you Automatch to a Queue that can fill you on any Raid, giving you random Roulette rewards. The Raid part of the game has a lot of potential.
Make the Exploration worth: this part is tricky, but I believe one of the main appeals of Tree of Savior was its vast World and the Exploration that you can do there. I’d like to make it worth somehow. Maybe reworking Collections to be more worth, or giving beautiful Titles (like the Weekly Boss Rank 1 Titles) to people that completes a extense line of Subquests on the non-Main Story Maps, or rework the early Recipes of Weapons/Armor to be similar to the Drakonas Accesories, where you follow a long line of Crafting to get them. That way you can get a Legend/Goddess tier Weapon/Armor just following a Recipe line through your journey on every Map, rewarding Exploration. I won’t make this Legend/Goddess Crafted Gear mandatory, but I’ll make them equally strong as the Normal Raid crafted ones of their tier. That way (remembering Variety), you can be decently geared through many ways, and the people that loves Exploration have their part of the game. This will mean that yes, drops from Monster will be back even on the latest Episodes, and Recipes will be dropped from them too. Maybe this way we can add new Collections for those maps too, or more Maps per Episode, just like it was on Episode 11 and below.
Add Animated Cutscenes to the Main Story important events: This should make people more invested on the Story (or at least know what’s going on on a broader way). Imagine the First Revelation shown to you on the Bokor Master’s house through a slideshow of moving, Full Art images with the artstyle of this game (like the Title Screen ones, specially the old ones that moved and everything), or the way we defeated Ignas in this way, adding written dialogue on a fitting way. Telling that is beautiful wouldn’t be enough to make it justice, and would make a lot more people understand what’s going on.
Adding all of this should make the Early game (and part of the Mid and Late game) much more fun and interesting, with a lot more Variety, and also introducing early to the main mechanics of the game. This should make leveling much more enjoyable, and also should prevent of the mentality that your only option to enjoy the game is rush to max level. There’s a ton of things to do before max level now, and in my vision, even the latest Raid doesn’t require it.
3.- FIXING THE MID GAME (AKA THE “CASUAL” SIDE)
People playing Tree of Savior doesn’t need to have “Gearing Up/Level up” as their only thing to do on the game. Remembering Variety, I’d have more things to do besides that.
We can add a lot of things here, depending on your preferences and things you want on the game. The first thing that comes to mind to me are adding exclusive Hats and Costumes obtainable through Crafting Recipes found on maps, or through NPCs that tell you that they can make certain Costumes or Hats if you bring them the right materials (like Ragnarok Online). Some of those NPCs could be unlocked after a series of Quests (rewarding Exploration), or things like that. Some people just want to look good on an MMO and hang out with friends. Giving those people a space and not forcing them to “just Gear Up” is necessary to maintain a healthy game.
We can make the Housing System more fun too. Making more furniture dropped by Monsters or as Raid rewards, making some things interactive or thematic (like a pool party furniture set, disco party, etc), or things like that. You can even make exclusive sets for TP if they take off and a lot of people is enjoying the Housing System, but never adding those things just for TP, always giving an option of obtaining other ones through gameplay. That’s a problem the Costumes have nowadays too.
I’d add more minigames too. Like the Monster Card game we had long ago, or the ones that are on some maps of the game (around the 200-300 level), but make them more fun to play with more people. The memory one on the Jungle map was pretty fun. I’d add things like that on a Game Room on each City, and just let people have fun with the ones they like more. You can add Popolion races where you bet some kind of currency, or some kind of Farm where you can put your favourite Monsters and befriend them, cultivate things (like the Guild one, but improved), and have your favorite Master take care of them when you’re away (befriending them in some way). Between this you can add rewards like Gestures or Stickers. Imagine if there were a System to befriend the Masters, invite them to your House/Farm, unlock a unique Sticker of them or their Master Costume. Imagine if you could have Assister Battles against other players.
All the things that get added here don’t have to give you Stats or Gear or anything that makes you stronger, even less have a Ranking, they need to be things that makes you enjoy the game in any other way that is not combat, “Gear Up” or compete.
4.- FIXING THE LATE GAME (AKA THE “COMPETITIVE” SIDE)
I have polarizing ideas on this one. This is because I’m too used to the actual systems of the game and where the story is going. One side of me wants to tear the systems apart and make a completely new system/story, the other wants to try to fix the mess that is the Gear System and the “Content” the players have on the late game right now. So I’ll address the two sides the best I can, but first, I’ll address the things they’ll have in common.
I’d add a tool that let’s you test damage and Builds. This can be done through Target Dummies that can be interacted to change their Property, Size, Type and Armor, along with the Weekly Boss damage meter on the Room they’re on. I could go one step further and let the player change Classes and Gear for a Rental one that dissappears once you leave the Room, but that it can have any option you want on it. That way you can test any Gear combination you want and optimize everything before investing your time and effort in getting it for real. For this to work the game should be more than just “hit the hardest than you can”, and the Gear options should be interesting, not just “here, have more damage when X happens or when you use X”. And the Classes more balanced, so the Variety shines more.
Every Class should have their identity shown in combat. And also, not every Class (nor the Raids that I talked about above) should be centered around Bossing/DPS. Healers should have a space to shine. Tanks and Supports (from every Class Tree) should have a space to shine. Squire and Alchemist should be more than Shops (like Pardoner). Sapper, Templar, Cryomancer, Sage, all those Classes that are not just DPS-Boss focused should have their space to shine on some part of the Raids, making them always useful to have on your Party, making things easier their own way, but not mandatory to have everytime. Just like a good AoE, a Peltasta with Swash Buckling or a good CCer was a blessing to have on the First Phase of Skiaclipse, when you had to kill all the Varnaclipses at the same time, back when that Raid took you like 20-30 minutes to clear.
Late Game Gear shouldn’t require max level. I don’t understand how an RPG in general has Content that requires max level. Max level should always be an achievement, a goal for the more hardcore ones, something you can be proud of achieving. The “Standard” Gear of every update should require 10-20 levels less than the max level. You can add Super-Hard to get Gear that requires max level (making them drop/exchangable from fragments of the latest Extreme/Hard Raids I talked above), remembering that Gear is not a Requirement for anything, but a Reward for people wanting to Rank or Compete in PvE content, like some Ranking on the Latest Extreme/Hard raid, Joint Strike/World Boss, Weekly Boss, Bernice or Uphill Defense (yes, Uphill Defense stays on my Version of the game, but Reworked.
And talking about that.
Late Game Content shouldn’t have their Hardest Difficulty as the only viable way to do it. Seeing the failure that it was Dimensional Collapse should make you get my idea. Having Eleven Stages and having drops so miserable that cheesing the hardest difficulty with Turn Undead is the only viable way to make it worth doing. That’s wrong, so wrong.
Making the Hardest Difficulties should be a challenge and had rewards accordingly. Following the example of Dimensional Collapse, I’d make Stage 5 to have the standard rewards (what you get on Stage 11 nowadays), and every Stage above that giving you extra Rewards alongside the standard ones, and making it Extra Hard too. The extra rewards can be on the line of what’s important on the Late Game Gearing (like chance of Evolution Stone, Boruta Seals, Vaivora/Blessed Transmutors, something related to the new Extreme/Hard Raid Gear, etc). And hey, you can stamp a Ranking to it that resets weekly, giving more rewards to the people that clear the highest stages the fastest. Supports/CCers shine on those type of content, so there’s that too.
Same idea for Uphill Defense. Stage 5 is super easy (like it is right now), and until that stage you get all the normal rewards, but after that it gets super hard, only for those ready for the challenge. You get extra rewards related to late game, and stamp a Raking too. Uphill Defense is fun, but right now you oneshot everything and that makes it really boring.
They’re deleting those contents (and adding another glorified Challenge Mode as a replacement), so what do I know.
The same idea applies for the Raids, you can’t make the hardest difficulty mandatory to enjoy the Raid as it was intended. But I talked about it above and presented my solution.
Make World/Field Bosses return. Remember the MMO part of this RPG? We need things that make that shine. You can use Field Bosses as a introduction to World Bosses on the Early/Mid Game, giving rewards to everyone that participated, and some extra to the higher damaging Parties. They can be of Easy/Moderate difficulty with some fun mechanics that makes you enjoy the combat. The rewards can be any exclusive and powerful Gear useful to that level range, but never drops mandatory/useful things on Late Game. The Late Game people would have World Bosses, with the same principle, mechanicaly complex and entertaining (not the damage sponges we got), take around 20-30 minutes to do 30-50 people with Standard Gear, and drop relevant and useful things for the Late Game.
Lag or frame drops having so much people on a Channel shouldn’t be a issue because we optimized our game on point 1.
If World Bosses return, Joint Strike has to go. I think this is ok, and would make more people participate. You’re less intimidated to take part on something with 20-30+ people or with your whole Guild that on a 5-man Party Event, or even daring entering one of those 5 man-Party when they kick you if you’re not meta or not geared enough. You wouldn’t be intimidated to participate if you feel weak because you’ll be going with a lot more people alongside you.
As for Weekly Boss, I’d rework it lightly. The damage system and reward is fine, the Ranking too. The Bosses would be their Raid Solo Version (because we have a Raid Version for every Demon Lord, see point 2), and add 1 or 2 extra mechanics that make it more challenging/fun. But please remove those tornadoes, flowers, damage runes, meteors, poison mechanics. The Ranking Rewards can be exclusive cosmetics still, that way you can show visually how tough you are. This would not be a problem because there’s a lot more places to get costumes/cosmetics now, even related to the same Demon Lord through the Raids (remembering Variety).
Solo Bosses: Remeber Solo Bosses? They should be Raids now, with the same rules I explained above, that way they’re always fun/worth to do.
Add something more to the Class Advancement. We got stuck on 3 Classes like 4 episodes ago. I always thought they’d implement something like a Master Class, where you get Circle 4 for one of your Classes, with new Skills on that Circle for that Class, 15 or 20 extra Skill Points to level up and raise the level cap for all your previous Skills 5 more. That would make you take the identity of your favourite Class even further, and have exclusive Skills for that.
Then the ARTs happened (a redundant feature to Atributes btw, just like Passive Skills now).
Then Vaivora Ichors happened.
I guess that took less work and gave interesting effects, so I guess that’s fine even though we’re like 2 years on that system now and we still don’t have 1 for every Class.
Well, in my fictional world we have limitless resources, so we’ll implement that instead of the Vaivora and ARTs system. The ARTs that are not just Enhance would be just Atributes, and the Enhance atributes don’t exist.
The Vaivora Effects could be adjusted and be on Gear that can be obtained from Raids or World Bosses, and the Effects wouldn’t be mandatory to make the Class as a whole work, like happens right now with so many Classes.
I believe that’s everything in common for the late game, now, for the polarizing part, the Gear System, I’ll talk about the two options.