It seems things are never quiet in regard to Runes of Magic these days. If it isn't holiday events or new world bosses, it's large-scale balancing issues. Players may still be plugging away at title achievements this Halloween, but the event has been going long enough for people to settle into a daily routine and get back to everyday affairs. In other words: it's something to do, but the shiny is starting to wear off.
I took advantage of this lull and decided to do a Q&A on the overall difficulty of RoM. It's not a huge issue; it's more like a constant issue that creeps into other discussions on class balance or the memento system. And after the attempted change to a percentage-based mana cost, it's definitely worth consideration. Is RoM too easy? The question seems like it'd be a quick one-line answer, but there are many ways to view it that would yield different outcomes. What are players' goals? How can a change to one system affect the whole game? How will future updates affect any changes made today? Is there an answer to whether RoM is too easy or not? Well. Let's find out.
Hate the player not the game
As much as I hate that saying, it does fit. Many times we tend to think in a selfish manner when it comes to what we want to be easier or more challenging. As social as MMOs are, it's quite often that the boss we are trying to take down, the questline we're trying to complete, or the annoying twink we just can't kill reminds us that Runewaker should do something about this. Being conscious of those times can help us reflect on what we want to write in a forum, but not so much if we're still coming down off an adrenaline high from a raid or battlefield. Indeed, we often think things are too hard more because we're at a certain stage in a fairly balanced game than because the game is actually imbalanced. What about all the players better-geared than we are? Are there other parts of the game that could inadvertently affect what we're doing, if changes were made to suit us?
One small change in one part of the world could have dire consequences in another. Ever heard this before? A kid in America accidentally steps on a butterfly, and Godzilla destroys a city in Tokyo. It's based on the fact that our world is interconnected. MMOs share this concept -- there are many features and systems for players to experience, but they are all connected. Changing one skill for a Mage or Knight could affect raiding, minigames, PvP and more. What about adding a new high-level set of gear for the new level cap? It's going to affect the economy, sure, by making previous top gear sets less valuable, but what about other items? Instances offer different stat drops as well. What will a flock of new players in one dungeon do for other dungeons and players? How will a lower availability on a stat that was previously good for you affect the difficulty for new players working their way up the ladder? I don't think I could have said it better than Sera. Making a game is hard. Most of us couldn't do it. Not alone anyway.
Back to the future
Runewaker has to be very careful when considering what changes to make and how such changes will affect RoM in the future. One thing the past has shown us is that problems could arise with the advent of new updates. Will something break when chapter 4 is released? I'd say it's almost certain, but that's old hat. Problems, many problems, will always arise. What's this have to do with how easy or hard RoM is? Updates, patches, hotfixes -- very often they have brought changes players have asked for.
In one patch, players only want clean drops; in the next patch, those clean drops inevitably negatively affect something else players were doing. This article isn't here as a rant about fickle players. It's -- in part -- meant to show the many sides of player expectations and desires while considering how those desires affect the challenge of gameplay for everyone.
One thing that was mentioned after my Q&A was how momentos damaged the challenge in RoM. Many players are no doubt new to this, but the momento system was added specifically because the players asked for it. It wasn't Runewaker's answer to making gear acquisition more palatable to a few players. It's a token system that players specifically asked for by name and function. Maybe it was planned already, and maybe it wasn't, but now there are players asking Frogster to remove momentos. To reiterate, balancing is hard.
What's my take?
As much as it sounded like I was creating a smear campaign against players, I actually agree with the majority. Most people said that RoM was fine, but a large pool of players also said it was too easy (and a few said it was too hard). I feel the same. I think the difficulty is about right. Besides, RoM has things like dungeon difficulty settings and scalable minigames based on a player's level. However, if you start getting into a career of running the dungeons, a couple things start constantly showing up, one of which is the fact that gear modding has allowed for some hard-to-balance instances. I have another article I'm working on about gear, but gear modding has allowed for a large gap when it comes to ease vs. difficulty. The difficulty settings have helped and are a wonderful option, but I'm not sure it can tame the beast of near-unlimited gear customization.
The other issue brings me back to the percentage-based mana cost that only lasted a few days. It was obviously a system that tried to add challenge to the game. It affected all classes to one degree or another. It might have had its problems, but I would have liked to have seen some longer testing of it. I've been keeping up with the fan videos on YouTube and in the RoM forums, and it really is spam-heal city in most videos. Don't forget, the percentage modifier may have been taken out, but only to be reworked.
My final word. RoM is mostly fine but leans toward being too easy. Not just too easy; the game seems to be slipping into a balancing quicksand. Some of the systems that give us unlimited choice are also slowly making it harder and harder to keep things in check. I don't want to get into the cash shop, but I do think it's so integrated into the game that it's too easy a whipping boy anytime something challenging is added into the game. It's also obvious that Runewaker is aware of the easier side of things and will be addressing them. Either my spidey-senses are tingling or I'm catching a cold, but I have a feeling we're in for some major changes in the near future.