Wasteland Diaries: The great respec debate

Shawn Schuster
S. Schuster|02.26.10

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Shawn Schuster
February 26th, 2010
Wasteland Diaries: The great respec debate
To respec or not to respec, that is the question. Having the ability to refund your Advancement Points (AP) to rebuild your character is something that's available in many MMOs, so most players have come to expect it. When that option is not available, it tends to become a focus on game design theory and certain levels of "hardcore".

The truth is, the folks developing Fallen Earth have already decided what they're going to do about refunding AP, as they've always said the option would eventually become available. Right now, we're in a sit-and-wait period to see how well their implementation will be received by players and how it will balance with the current state of the game.
Essentially, what they plan to do is introduce a small, limited respec that will be expensive and not available all at once. That way you can respec your character's skill point AP (not for stats/attributes though), but it will take some work and you really need to be sure that's what you want to do. I think this seems fair overall, but there are other options.

Respecs after major game mechanic changes

Yes, this is certainly important. As Megabubble says in the forums, "Full respecs are MANDATORY when you've got major gameplay balances going around... Don't punish players for dev mistakes." This is certainly something I agree with, but it becomes tricky. Should there be a respec after every single update? Only the PvP updates? Only PvE? Where do you draw the line? This happened with Champions Online fairly early on, where respecs were offered when the game was changed dramatically, but it soon became an expected offering at every single patch. That's not something I want to see in Fallen Earth.

The respec will bring players back

It most certainly will... until they find something else to aggravate them or distract them. Hey, I'm not saying I blame them -- afterall, we play these games to have fun, right? Once you're done having fun, you should move on; that's always been my philosophy. Of the players who come back with the respec, I really do hope it "fixes" the game for them.

Respecs are for carebears!

The other side of the spectrum here believes that any refund of AP is a sign of weakness. Where a respec can cause the most problems is with Flavor-of-the-Month builds in PvP, allowing players to change from melee to rifle to pistol to mutations as their focus whenever they get to a point where that would be most viable and advantageous to win the match. Your decisions should matter, and if you focused your character on First Aid, thinking that it would actually work as a way to heal your party in this game, then you lose!

I don't really agree with that (I made a First Aid character before I realized that the Empathy mutation found in Sector 2 provides the only real healing in this game), but I can see how we also don't want people switching back and forth whenever they choose. Limited, expensive respecs are pretty much the only way to approach this to prevent exploit, while still letting those who feel they've made a mistake correct it.

I have a good friend from high school who finished his commercial airline pilot training in early 2001. The terrorist attacks of September 11th pretty much made sure he was doing odd jobs for the next few years, instead of flying jumbo jets. Did he ask for a refund on his six years of college tuition? Nope. Sure, it sucks, but he pressed on and did what he had to. My point is that these things happen in real life. We don't need them in a game, too.

"There should be an option for a variety of players, without anyone worrying about the devs taking away their hardcore card. Real life choices are all the "hardcore" I need."

I was on the LifeNet podcast a few months ago, talking about this whole issue. My suggestion was that the respecs should actually cost AP. Let's say, 10 AP to completely respec your character. Then you'd have to ask yourself how much you really want to change those few skills around, and if it'd be worth it. Think of it like paying a penalty to get your 401K money out early. I'm certainly not saying this is a perfect system (because it wouldn't work past the first time), but it's just an example of a harsh penalty.

I think the impending system is a bit similar to that, although I'm not crazy about the idea of stat AP being untouchable. At this point, I'll take what I can get, because I'm actually one in favor of this respec, and I think the way they're going to do it might work well.

Community opinion

Being the forum lurker that I am, I've noticed that this topic seems to emerge a few times a week. I wanted to just spotlight a few of the best opinions that I felt were the most interesting.

TooTall makes a good point in this thread: "Some of the people opposed to respecs really need to pull the stick out and realize this is just a game. Nobody is playing this game to learn life lessons here - if you are here for that, or you think not having to respec is a sign of how manly or cool you are, get over yourself and deflate the ego because that is just pathetic. Its supposed to be fun (definition of a game), people should be able to make mistakes and correct them here, so grow up and get over it."

Hadouken07 also made a good point later in the thread: "The current system of no respec only punishes those that want to play a game without researching for hours/days about how to build their character first. Just playing the game should not be punished like this." While this is a moot point right now, it shows an opinion that I can get behind. I'm a big fan of research and character development that actually means something, but there should be an option for a variety of players, without anyone worrying about the devs taking away their hardcore card. Real life choices are all the "hardcore" I need.

So how do you feel about the impending respec? Do you think it's the best idea, or how would you change it?
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