Massively Overthinking: What we really mean when we talk about ‘difficulty’ in MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:

“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”

I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
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Skyforge streamlines and scales its adventure difficulties

The team behind Skyforge noticed a problem. Players who had hit the higher end of Prestige found themselves more or less locked out of useful Adventures as their rank was just too high, which isn’t ideal. It also reduced the number of different things that could actually be challenging for any given player. Thus, the team is planning to rework its difficulty structure to offer three difficulties for squad and group adventures that should provide a more universal mechanic.

Players will be able to choose between warm-up, challenge, and nightmare difficulty. The lowest will sync everyone to a Prestige level around that of the previous Invasion and reward appropriate gear from that, while challenge offers no sync and places you at the level of the current content. Nightmare, meanwhile, will boost the difficulty beyond the current cap and offer greater rewards (with more information due in the future). So no matter how far you’ve gone, you should have a challenge option to fit your character for a group.


WildStar patches in Primetime and preps November booster events

The most recent patch for WildStar is Primetime, and it is indeed all about making it the time for Prime. The Genetic Archives raid is now available in Prime difficulty, Protogames Academy is available in Prime difficulty, and both Space Madness and Infestation have been available for Prime challenges. That’s a raid, a dungeon, and two expeditions. But that’s not all, as the dungeons and expeditions can now go to prime level 15 with accordingly better rewards. Plus, there are new rewards available for renovating your housing plot, which isn’t exactly a Prime difficulty but does get your home plot ready for primetime.

The patch should get you primed for the various events coming in November, as detailed in the latest DevConnect dispatch. A free level 50 boost will be available through November 5th, Residential Renovation will run from November 10th to November 17th, and doubled experience is available from November 24th to the 27th. There are also new pets from Madame Fay and new items coming to the shop this month, so check out the full rundown to prime your engines.


Guild Wars 2 raids won’t be getting more difficulty options in Path of Fire ‘at this time’

There are new forums for Guild Wars 2, which means that one of the first development posts can be another reminder that the developers at ArenaNet don’t want to make raids accessible. Indeed, a new post on the new forums states pretty firmly that there are no plans to make alternative difficulties. Anet’s Crystal Reid suggests that raids are intended to be about “skill.”

“We won’t be adding a different difficulty tier at this time. Raids need to continue to remain the most challenging content in the game, and they aren’t designed to be accessible by everyone from a skill perspective. Could they be more accessible from a ‘finding 9 other players to play with’ side? Sure. That isn’t always an easy problem to solve, and any solution would detract away from the team making more raid content. We’d love to get more content out to you guys faster really.”

The post goes on to address difficulty in the most recent wing, stating that the Mursaat Overseer difficulty is a bit too easy compared to what was planned and the team wants to bring out more raid content more quickly. So that’s good news for everyone who enjoys the raid difficulty and wants to be faced with more punishing mechanics and nerd-herding, and bad news for… well, anyone who really just wants to happily experience the game’s story and has no interest in raiding now or ever regardless of the supposed skill it requires. So not much will change, then.


The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG is the worst at balancing difficulty?

Justin’s LOTRO Legendarium article on whether or not Mordor is too difficult struck a chord wth me. “I do not envy devs and their monumental task of creating world content that is somewhat balanced for players of varying skill and gear levels,” he wrote. “Make it too easy, and players get apathetic and drift away from your game. Make it too hard, and players pound their keyboards and ragequit.”

That’s a balance many MMORPGs have struggled with over the years as new patches are rolled out, from World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm to Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns, and as Justin argues, some games take “wild swings” from too hard to too easy and leave us frustrated and hunting for a new online home.

Set aside the specific’s of the LOTRO issue for now and consider the question more broadly: Which MMORPG is the worst at balancing difficulty — and why?

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Kritika Online patches Starhenge adjustments and Green Leaf damage decreases

Sometimes you go a bit too far. It happens. Kritika Online made some changes to Starhenge with its last patch to make the content harder on a whole, but those difficulty increases wound up overshooting the mark. By a lot, unfortunately. But it’s easy to fix that; the most recent patch for the game has dropped boss shield gauges, increased rewards, and reduced the challenge across the board in Easy, Normal, and Hard modes. Insanity mode will remain where it is, but for most players this makes the content much more forgiving.

Meanwhile, the game’s Green Leaf weapons also turned out to be tuned a bit too high, allowing players to clear Arena content faster and more reliably than planned. No punishment is going out to players who used the weapons, as it wasn’t the fault of players, but the weapons have been adjusted to the correct level. Check out the full list of patch notes for the fine details.


WildStar looks forward to more Prime difficulty content over the next year

The first major WildStar patch of 2017 unlocked the Primal Matrix and added the Prime difficulty level for select dungeons. What’s next for the game? According to the newest state of the game letter, it’s time for even more Prime difficulty, including Prime difficulty raids! No longer will you have to suffer through the normal difficulty raids like some sort of sucker, assuming you could actually get a full raid group together to even take on the content, much less clear it.

The Prime difficulty is also coming to other dungeons and adventures over the remainder of the year. The other big addition is the new Communities feature, allowing players to come together and collaborate on housing plots instead of working separately. If you’re tired of how easy the raids in WildStar are, we’re sure you’ll be happy at the thought of making them even harder. If you’re not a big fan of the difficulty hike at this point, though… well, there are more Primal Matrix levels coming, so that’s something?

Source: Official Site; thanks to GreaterDivinity for the tip!


Dungeons & Dragons Online’s update 34 encourages you to not fear the Reaper (Difficulty)

Seasons don’t fear the reaper, nor do the wind, the sun, or the rain. You can be like they are, and considering the new Reaper difficulty is one of the central fixtures of Dungeons & Dragons Online’s Update 34, you probably ought to be like they are. After all, clearing Reaper difficulty awards you fantastic prizes through the accumulation of Reaper XP. Want your character to have glowing green wings and/or eyes? You can make that happen by conquering the highest tier of difficulty for quests and raids.

If that’s not your thing, that’s all right; the update also features a new dungeon in the Tower of Frost, which is available at level 14 on Normal and level 28 on Epic. There’s also the usual assortment of bug fixes, balance tweaks, and general improvements. Check out a gallery with some of the available rewards just below, and log into the game now to start earning those new rewards for yourself.

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Riders of Icarus plans adjustments for Legendary dungeons

How do you feel about the Legendary dungeons in Riders of Icarus? Do you feel that they’re tuned to just the right difficulty and that all of the drops there are happening at the right rate? The developers don’t feel that way. A recent post indicates that the game’s team has been monitoring feedback about the dungeon difficulty as well as player progress. No one wanted to jump the gun on making adjustments, but now that some time has passed, it’s time to tinker with the dungeons.

Specific changes are not noted, but players are assured that both the difficulty level and drop rates for needed crafting items will be adjusted to provide the best possible experience for players running this level of content. Details are still being finalized, but you can expect to see the changes applied to the game in the update on November 16th.


The Division launches patch 1.4 today

It’s time to see if you’re really as good as you say you are in The Division. The game’s newest patch is available today, and it adds the world tier system for players to select the level of enemies faced and the rewards provided. If your gear is weak and you’re not well-prepared, you can easily take on a lower tier and ensure that the enemies won’t blow you away; on the other hand, if you’re a skilled player with great stuff, you can take on a high tier and trade bullets with some really adroit opponents.

The patch also contains gameplay improvements, improved content rewards, bug fixes, and all of the other fun stuff you’d expect from a patch. Check out the full notes with all of the fixes and changes, and take some satisfaction in the fact that this patch has been more thoroughly tested by players.

Source: Official Site; thanks to A Dad Supreme for the tip!


Blizzard clarifies World of Warcraft quests that can’t be cleared in LFR

The World of Warcraft community was in a bit of a tizzy yesterday when it collectively discovered that you couldn’t complete a quest chain involving raids in the Raid Finder version of the content, followed by the official site confirming that you cannot do the quest in LFR. Community manager Ornyx took to the forums to explain the situation in slightly more depth, making it clear that this is unique for a specific quest chain, not the majority of quests involving raids.

While this particular appearance is locked behind a Normal-or-higher raiding threshold, the other raid-based quests (such as profession quests and the end of the Suramar storyline) can be completed normally through the raid finder; this quest line was meant to unlock an appearance specifically through non-queued content. If you want to understand this situation in a bit depth, jump down below; we’ll break it down for you.

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World of Warcraft: Legion opens up more Emerald Nightmare options today

Do you want to be the very best, like no one was before? Then you’ll probably want to take on the Mythic difficulty in World of Warcraft: Legion‘s Emerald Nightmare when it opens… today. Yes, that’s today, and your group had better be ready and waiting. On the other hand, if you would rather stick a fork in your arm and hook it up to live current rather than go through a scheduled raid night again, you’ll be able to jump into the raid finder version of the first wing as of today.

The game has also dropped a small hotfix patch to address certain balance issues, which include rolling back a fair amount of damage drops for Demon Hunters. The developers are also looking into ways to make Shadow Priests alter their current reliance upon Surrender to Madness, which means minor tweaks with the understanding that the power-up-then-die talent will be more seriously changed in the future.


Diablo III’s next patch improves screenshots, items, and challenges

Chewing your way through hordes of demons in Diablo III is going to get a little bit harder in the game’s next patch. Not because you’re losing your existing demon-horde-clearing options, no, but because new difficulty levels have been added above Torment X. With patch 2.4.2 you can dive into Torment XI through Torment XIII, filled with more demons and even better loot in an ever-expanding ceiling.

Patch 2.4.2 also features a number of item changes and improvements to the rewards of Adventure Mode, complete with higher drop rates for Infernal Machines. If this makes you want to show off how well your latest demon-slaughtering session is going, you’ll also benefit from the option to hide your UI so you can more clearly take a picture of all the monsters you demolished. Sure, it’s not a huge content update, but there’s still plenty to do with the patch.


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