Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Dark Side of Global Agenda 1.3

There are three major issues with 1.3:

  • Massive offensive ability power creep with no equivalent defensive bonus power creep.
  • The strategy of building a character has been significantly reduced. Many decision points in the old system were replaced by gear progression.
  • The gap between new players and well-equipped players is wider than ever with the new patch, even though HiRez supposedly made these changes to close that gap.

Power Creep

All devices are now at the same “rank”, which is basically equivalent to rank 4 of the old system.  Each device can have modifiers and modifications put on it to give it the equivalent boost to a full set of epics, but localized to that one device.

This is huge power creep. Everyone now does more damage and does not have to specialize their device point build (because device points no longer exist) and upgrades. You can do everything better without good equipment, but with good equipment you can do everything 21% better on top of that.

You used to have to pick two things to get a 21% bonus in across your whole character, but now you can pick one thing per piece of gear.

Character Building No Longer as Strategic

You used to have to pick one stat for armors and one for weapons if you wanted to get a full 21% boost in those stats(armors and weapon upgrades boosted exclusive sets of stats; you couldn’t have +damage armor, for instance). Now, you can individually boost one stat on each device you have. No longer do you have to make particularly difficult decisions about what you want to boost or switch out your upgrades because you are using a different build. Now it’s simply a matter of getting the perfect item—and it’ll take a damn long time to get the perfect item considering they cannot be purchased and must be randomly dropped.

Time is now more important relative to build decisions than it used to be.

THe device system’s removal also eliminates lots of difficult, interesting decisions and small trade-offs that could make a big difference in competitive play (or even PuG PvP sometimes).

The Gap Between Rich and Poor; Much Higher Time-focus

The old method for obtaining epics was to play the game a bit, get some credits, then buy the epics off the auction house for a total of roughly 1 million credits. That does take a month or two of gameplay, but even then it’s not a big deal because you can buy rare upgrades that give you a 14% cumulative bonus for significantly less. You can also buy the upgrades piecemeal throughout your career and see steady growth in your characters capability.

The new system requires you to find epic loot, which does not have a particularly high drop rate from anything, then make modifications (or buy them for roughly the price of what an epic upgrade used to be) to bring them up to a full complement of bonuses. You can buy an epic that is one modifier short of perfect for 200 mercenary tokens. You can earn twenty such tokens per day as a non-sub. So that means you have to be blessed by the RNG, or wait 10 days per piece of equipment to have something that’s roughly competitive. There are 14 such pieces of equipment.

It will take you at least 3 months in 1.3 to have one character outfitted in epics that aren’t even optimal. And the difference between a character outfitted in epics and a character in greys is much wider due to the specialization of modifiers on individual devices replacing the blanket bonus system. And this calculation assumes that you are being a good puppy and playing every single day and seeing success—it may take you as much as 5 or 6 months to have a single character in sub-optimal epics otherwise!

Perhaps if the drop rates were convenient, this process’ time-consumption would be mitigated, but that’s not the case. Drops are quite random and the place where you used to be able to do fast runs for loot—high-end PvE—is now much more difficult. All equipment isn’t useful for each spec, either. My minigun-wielding mobile assault has gotten an epic headhunter rocket launcher as his only epic drop so far. This is entirely useless to me—and its mods are garbage, on top of that. So you have to basically win the lottery to get a good epic item out of the RNG: you have to get an item you will actually use, and then it has to have feasible mods on it. It takes at least 10 minutes to earn one such random drop. Even with some luck, you’re still going to have trouble getting useful epics in any reasonable span of time.

New players have a hard 3-month path ahead of them before they can compete with the play-everday bunch. It was frustrating in the old system to play against opponents wearing epic upgrades when you were just trying to level an alt who barely had uncommons, now a new player or an alt has to look forward to a few months of being beaten senseless by players who have done nothing but invested more time.

It was arguable before that GA’s equipment system could be overcome without much tribulation by sheer skill—HiRez has made it much more difficult for this claim to hold up.


Anonymous said...

Agreed on all counts. There are still some things I like about 1.3, but these are the big drawbacks. My question is: is this what most of the player base wanted?

Anonymous said...

I'm a new player to Global Agenda, and while I can't comment on the state of the game before the latest patch, I strongly disagree that theres a 3 month delay until you can be competitive.

After playing the game for about a week I'm lvl 23 and lvl 21 on a medic/assault respectively which isn't even high enough to wear 'epic' gear, yet I feel I can easily compete with anyone in the gear I've accumulated thus far (green weapons, mostly blue armour/OHs).

Maybe my idea of competitive differs from yours, but if you feel its unreasonable for a new player to have to overcome a 4% dmg/healing(blue to epic) bonus and a couple % damage reduction, then you shouldn't be playing any mmos.

Also I'd prefer not to grind out credits for gear upgrades, but I guess thats a personal preference.

I will agree that from what I understand of the old system, its alot less strategic to build your character now, I'd prefer it to be complicated myself but this probably appeals to a wider audience.

This is not to say I like the loot system as it is, I don't. However I just don't agree that it creates a huge time sink for new players.

evizaer said...

Now that I've become somewhat more familiar with the numbers, I understand that the "competitiveness gap" isn't as big as I made it out in this post. Still, it takes much longer after the patch to get to optimal gear than it took before 1.3.