When In the Depths of the Forest went live in Runes of Magic there were cheers heard across Taborea, but players soon protested. Along with all of the new content, Runkewaker also added a nerf in the form of increased mana costs for many of the skills in RoM. On top of the existing base mana costs for skills, a percentage modifier was added that significantly increased the cost to use skills as you leveled up.

Many players were unhappy with the skills being balanced in this way and went as far as staging cross-server in-game strikes in Varanas' Central Plaza until something was done. Only a few days after the patch went live, a new hotfix was applied to RoM which removed the balancing act completely. Tony Tang, the Vice President of Business Development at Runewaker, issued a statement to announce the removal of the balance, but he also clarified that the company was confident a change would need to be made to address the issue of the game becoming less challenging.

In this week's article I want to take a closer look at why many players were upset and point out why I think the balance may be for the better.
After reading the official statement, I walked away thinking Runewaker was trying to implement a game-wide balance and a class balance. While the skills used by all classes were affected, casters were understandably affected more. Mana pools are starting to get very large, making it easier for healers to spam Group Heal, but healers also like to stack wisdom stats, which would increase the mana cost with a percentage-based system. The main contention with this was that some players with lots of stacked wisdom reached a point at which they simply could not sustain mana for the length of a boss battle. They were left standing around mana-less for so long that the group inevitably wiped.

There's a lot of wiggle room in the idea that healers with lots of stacked wisdom can't sustain mana to the point they'll always be useless after so-many minutes. For starters, you can stack such a varied amount of wisdom on virtually any piece of gear no matter what level you are. Mix that with a party of other players containing different classes with their own varying amount of mods, with the level of the boss you are trying to fight, and with dual classes that can allow non-healers to still give themselves minor self-heals, and the debate quickly starts to blur. I've seen it said that lower-level players would have it harder, and I've seen it said higher-level players would have it harder.

To me, it sounds like the mana nerf would scale just fine, but that higher-level players will have it tougher. The higher-level instances become increasingly more difficult and could cause a gray area where the average healing ability of the group can't compete with the increased time it takes to down a boss. Tanks and DPSers need to concentrate more on spending mana towards melee and holding aggro, while at the same time the self-heals like Regenerate aren't as effective against the increased difficulty curve that high-level bosses have. You might end up with a healer so stacked with wisdom that he or she would be very ineffective for the majority of the battle. But even with that scenario, the solution seems to be added strategy and being more discerning of whom you form a party with.

Some players have also voiced concern that the real money they spent to stack oodles of wisdom would be made near worthless -- that they are being punished for spending money because their heals won't be as efficient. Being able to clearly see that you're not healing as efficiently as you were before does seem disheartening, but it's a matter of comparison within RoM's game world. In this case, I think the straightforward view -- that you may be able to heal less but take down the boss faster -- is the correct viewpoint. As an extreme example, I've seen video of high-level players taking down Warnorken Arena's Manticos in four seconds.

There was an ancillary complaint that this was a cheap way to make RoM harder with the sole purpose of pushing players into its cash shop. Any move that isn't blatantly giving the players something or making the game easier could be seen this way. The problem is that a nerf isn't necessarily bad or good. You sometimes need to look at the entire game with all of its many facets to see the different ways a nerf or change affects an MMO. In this case, I think there's overwhelming evidence and agreement from RoM's community that mana pools are so big now that many players never find a need to use mana potions anymore.

Many players who have voiced their opinions on the forum agree that something needs to be done about the large mana pools, but they don't like the percentage modifier. There has been a lot of really terrific advice and opinions on how to handle the bloated mana pools, but all the solutions that I've seen appear to require unnecessary changing of other game mechanics, or they don't solve the solution for every class. I'm not a designer. I could easily be overlooking some important factors, but from all the information I've gathered it seems that while the percentage modifier might not be a perfect solution, it's the best solution. It could make the game more challenging, balance healers -- and mages -- a bit, and create more distinction between which roles the different classes are best suited for.

One thing that surprised me was how nice players were once the nerf was removed. I know that was to be expected, but I honestly didn't see it coming. Once the statement was made, players not only flocked to make thoughtful thank-you comments, but posted detailed and on-going ideas of how to help. I always find it refreshing to see such positive conversation in an MMO forum.

So now we're anxiously waiting to see what Runewaker will do. Should the team just give the players what they want and leave well-enough alone? Or will this hurt RoM in the long run, so therefore Runewaker should do something now at the risk of upsetting too many players? If you see a middle ground, let me know.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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