Perfect Ten: MMOs with the most needlessly obtuse stats

    
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You will lose here.

One of my favorite reviewers of tabletop RPGs at one point opined that percentile systems were one of the best tabletop mechanics possible, simply because they’re so intuitive. You might not know the system backwards and forwards, but if you see a character has “Pick Locks 70%,” you know what that means immediately with no need to reference any other numbers. It’s clear at a glance, and that makes a big difference in your ability to pick up and play the game.

Online games are not tabletop games (except when they are, but let’s leave that column to one side for a moment), but they do have a similar reliance on stats. And for a lot of those games, what a given stat does is pretty clear. Even games with a lot of stats usually make sense. You might pick up a piece of gear in EverQuest II with a dozen different stats on it, but as long as it’s clear what all of those stats do, you can evaluate how useful that gear is to you.

These games are ones wherein you pick up a new piece of gear and it is not immediately clear how it helps you. This is when you get something, you look at it, you look at what you have again, you look at what you got again, and then you start searching Google to understand this mess.

1. Star Trek Online

My love for Star Trek Online is well documented, and it helped me a lot when I realized that most of the “stats” on STO ship gear are really bonuses to skills, pushing them higher. That helped. It did not fix it, since you still need to know what all of those skills do. Also, it’s not all bonuses to skills. Also I don’t think anyone really knows exactly what things like Inertia are supposed to mean, even though we see those stats right there.

Fun fact: When I was polling around MOP’s virtual office for suggestions about games with obtuse stats, STO was the first one suggested. That should say something.

2. City of Heroes

There’s a surprising amount of former City of Heroes talent in STO. I’ve even said that game feels a lot like an inheritor of the CoH philosophy. So perhaps it’s not exactly shocking that CoH also had a problem with completely obtuse stats, helped not one whit by the fact that the game barely even wanted you to see its stats and also wanted to let you manipulate every little piece of stats with Enhancement sets.

Of course, CoH was helped somewhat by the fact that you didn’t quite get “gear” in the traditional sense, so you weren’t going to have to worry about this stuff too much until the high end. But it was still needlessly obtuse.

A little help here, maybe?

3. EVE Online

The sprawling nature of EVE Online lends itself to complex stats. That’s natural and expected. Heck, part of me thinks any developers of the title reading this article would take the game’s inclusion on this list as a compliment; there is supposed to be a steep learning curve as you figure out how the game is meant to be played.

This does not change the fact that the stats involved are so obtuse that a lot of players just see it and clock right out. Joining the ranks of people who clock out because of its philosophy, or because of its aesthetic, or because of…

Yeah, maybe this just joins a chain gang.

4. Allods Online

My memory of stats in Allods Online is dominated by the fact that there was a primary stat improving the variance of an ability by narrowing its range of damage output, while there was another primary stat devoted to improving my rolls on that variance. And neither one of those stats was devoted to actually improving damage directly.

I can immediately see how this could lead to some interesting builds and stat allowances, but it strikes me as one of those things better left for one or two talents or the equivalent. It certainly didn’t make me eager to lean in on the game.

5. Final Fantasy XI

Mercy me, this game. I’ve long considered Final Fantasy XI the truest source of vague patch notes, but it also had equally vague stats. You get a belt and it says “Counter +1” on it. That’s the only stat. What does that mean? The game never tells you, there’s nowhere on your stat screen to check, and there’s no help explanations or official documentation to tell you what to do. Does it improve your chance to counter? The damage of a counter? Does it add a trait? Does it enhance the existing trait and have no effect without that trait?

Screw you, player, run a few hundred battles with and without it to derive that information. Then in a patch we’ll announce that the rate of counters has been adjusted. Have fun.

6. Destiny 2

I have no idea what any stats in Destiny 2 do, and at this point I’m too afraid to ask.

Notably after!

7. Guild Wars 2

Let’s be fair, this one is a corner case. Guild Wars 2 deserves some praise for the fact that its gear right out of the gate is designed to let you prioritize things like dealing damage via conditional bleeds and burns, so your stats are meant to reflect that. You do damage with Poison, that’s a Condition, you want Condition Damage. That makes sense, right?

Except that it’s not always immediately clear how Condition Damage will affect that condition, and how much of your damage is based on the ticks of Poison compared to damage from skills that trigger off Poison, and there’s also Duration to consider, and… yeah, it gets kind of complex and fiddly fast. Perhaps everyone else finds it super transparent, but none of my many jaunts in the game have ever felt clear.

8. Dungeons & Dragons Online

Oh, Dungeons and Dragons Online, you have a fine foundation to build on. Third edition wasn’t the most transparent thing in the world, but it was at least largely straightforward. The problem is that it’s also kind of resistant to, well, the usual MMO stat array. Which means you need to add more stats. And fiddle with other stats. And give players things to enhance, and…

It’s a noble effort, at least.

9. Anarchy Online

Having never played Anarchy Online, I have to rely on the testimonies of people who have played it, and they are happy to assert the fact that the game lets you put lots of points in totally useless skills without ever pointing out to you that they are useless. This matches perfectly with what I have seen of the game from the outside looking in, and it does not surprise me.

10. Path of Exile

Really any game based on the Diablo mold is going to include a whole lot of stats. That’s part of the drive of the game, improving the weird fringe stats into absurd levels until they suddenly matter. I don’t begrudge Path of Exile for that fact; I begrudge it for the fact that it has so many stats with such narrow application and a whole lot of skills that exist primarily to trick you into thinking that they’ll be useful when they really won’t.

The build diversity and weird options available in the game have always appealed to me, but the fact that I would need to learn how the game’s stats work usually turns me off again, despite the fact that I have friends who adore the game and would love for me to play it. But seriously, guys. Too many stats.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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ghostlight

Agree with you completely on GW2. All I know is that I’m mostly ok as long as I at least have level 80 exotic gear, and to be honest I’ve noticed little if any difference when switching between armor with different stats.

On a related note, one thing very curious was that there was a boss fight in Season three (cave in far shiverpeaks I think) that my warrior, ranger, elementalist, and guardian mostly breezed through, but my Mesmer could not do it. Not sure what was up with that???

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Tiresias

The Destiny 2 part confused me… because it has the most simple and straightforward stats in the game. You can literally read on the character stats or the mods stats what they do, with the only possibly confusing one being “weapon handling”, which allows you to look-down-sights faster.

Path of Exile doesn’t have confusing stats, it just has an overwhelming selection of them.

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Alexander Dragonfang

FFXIV – elemental resistances. Is obstuse as in why does it even exist.

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Eamil

They got rid of those completely a while ago.

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Alex Willis

I don’t think the GW2 case is that “corner”. While the number of stats is not that crazy, what they do and how they interact with each other are just…**makes broad, crazy gesture**

I’m surprised not to see BDO on this list. There’s a staggering amount of character information and world information on each screen, and only the barest attempt to explain how any of it works.

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Bruno Brito

Honestly, my issue with GW2 statwise is how the game interacts with conditions and direct damage. You don’t have a “dot” class, all classes can be dotters, all classes can be direct damage dealers, but since they gutted the trinity, you pretty much is reduced to a more bruiser-rish dps, burst dps or sustained glass cannon. And since the game evolved to have 2 elite specs for each class, the game expanded too much, but that core way of building didn’t, so the limitations started to show, for instance, Necromancer finally losing Shroud and everybody realizing how powerful Scourge is because Necro shroud held them back by design.

GW2 is a mess to balance, and really, i don’t see Anet being good at it either, since they just gave Necro a damage buff, and that’s not just what they need ( they need more in the way of support. Their damage is ok now, but they’re still a selfish class in a game where boonshare is meta ).

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Hirku

“You understand me? Catchin’ my drift? Or am I being obtuse?”

obtuse.jpg
Polyanna
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Polyanna

I love STO, but I can’t argue with its placement on this list. Even today, after like three rounds (more?) of total overhauls of the skill and stat system, there are still things like warp cores and deflectors with about 500 variants of each that are near impossible to make any sense of. Even items as simple as consoles can be impossible to figure out without a detailed theory crafting guide to point you to the right ones for your particular setup, and there are about 10,000 of them to choose from, around 90% of which are totally useless.

Also, anyone remember “Crew” from STO? I’m still not even sure what the crew actually did. The weirdest bit was that after your “Crew” were “killed” in combat, they would magically rise from the dead after a minute or so. There was even a console that would make them resurrect faster (which nobody ever used unless they had no idea what they were doing, because even when all your Crew were dead there was no discernible penalty to anything that actually mattered to your gameplay).

And then when you start upgrading things, it gets worse, because each quality upgrade tacks on even more modifiers to each item (which are randomly assigned, but now at least can be re-rolled if you have the right resources). At the highest level there even are mods that are split between two stats. And one type of weapon mod even packs an invisible increase to a stat that is not included in its name, but raises another stat that is also buffed by a different mod.

Anarchy Online is notorious for having a lot of skills, but most of them at least make some sense and do something you would expect from the name. There were some useless ones though like Swimming and Map Navigation (which eventually were retired because even Funcom agreed they had no reason to exist).

The only stat I can think of in AO that is really opaque is the Agg/Def slider, which adds invisible mods to your defense and attack speed. It sort of does what you would guess it does, but there is no real apparent way to figure out the best setting for a given build unless you find a guide somewhere that explains the weird math behind it.

JonBuck
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JonBuck

The Crew stat used to affect things like how quickly the ship was repaired and how fast disabled systems came back online. But at some point in a battle they could be all dead (Dave/Jim) so…now what? It was a silly stat.

plasmajohn
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plasmajohn

EVE Online … there is supposed to be a steep learning curve as you figure out how the game is meant to be played.

An oft repeated claim that holds little water today. Maybe when the game was launched folks couldn’t wrap their head around the math but 15 years and dozens of games with skill synergies later calling EVE-O complex is laughable.

It might be impenetrable to folks that don’t use any other keybind except ‘1’ but people used to end game challenges will be left scratching their heads wondering where the beef is.

That’s not to say that EVE’s design is faulty. In fact they got one thing right: Their ship equivalent to levelling ships are just as relevant as end-game ships unlike most themeparks where levelling zones are one-and-done.

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Hirku

It’s not that difficult to mouse over the Inertia label and read the tooltip.

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MassivelyMacD

I don’t see why what you have written about Anarchy Online sets it apart from any other MMO I have ever played. Any of these has skill that are totally useless and you don’t know until you try to investigate.

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Greaterdivinity

Based on a few of the recent games I’ve been playing/played…

Destiny 2 – Oh lord yes. The stats aren’t remotely explained, the tooltips tell you nothing, and mobility is still a largely pointless stat. I don’t know why Bungie even bothers with the RPG elements in Destiny at this point, because even with all the improvements (hey, the game is finally decent again!…too bad I’ve long since fallen off that wagon) it still seems largely like a shooter that they felt they had to tack on pointless RPG mechanics to.

Guild Wars 2 – Yep. Between there being a seemingly excessive amount of stats that accomplish similar goals and could easily be merged together (which would also help deal with the issues of gear from different parts of the game – vanilla vs. HoT vs. PoF – having access to wildly different stat combinations) and the complete lack of any meaningful tooltip/in-game explanation I still have no clue what most actually do. I know my Shaman gear on my guardian gives me life, makes me heal more, and makes my conditions do more damage (yay for gimpy hybrid build that actually works super well for my playstyle and casual content!) I wouldn’t be able to remotely quantify how any of these stats actually changed anything.

And…I think that’s it. I honestly didn’t even know ships HAD stats in STO, though I generally was unaware of anything like that outside of weapon damage and some of the weapon abilities (don’t even ask me what the different type of ship weapons do and how they synergize, ALL PHASERS ON MY STARFLEET SHIP FOR LIFE).

Though I will say, despite the overabundance of stats and modifiers on items in PoE I found most straightforward enough. There’s plenty of opaque complexity elsewhere, but the actual item stats are generally pretty easy to understand…though that may require getting a bit of foundational knowledge that I’ve acquired from years of painfully casual play and catching bits and pieces from friends that play hardcore.

I’m sure if I dug through my MMO library I’d turn up all kinds of games with stats that make no sense at all to me…I’ve largely given up trying to deeply understand the games I play. I don’t have the time nor the brainspace anymore, and as long as my madbad ass can tinker around without negatively impacting any groups I’m in and without overly struggling in solo play, I’m happy to roll around with gimpy-ass gear/builds that are purely a result of my own ignorance.

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Bruno Brito

Guild Wars 2 – Yep. Between there being a seemingly excessive amount of stats that accomplish similar goals and could easily be merged together (which would also help deal with the issues of gear from different parts of the game – vanilla vs. HoT vs. PoF – having access to wildly different stat combinations) and the complete lack of any meaningful tooltip/in-game explanation I still have no clue what most actually do. I know my Shaman gear on my guardian gives me life, makes me heal more, and makes my conditions do more damage (yay for gimpy hybrid build that actually works super well for my playstyle and casual content!) I wouldn’t be able to remotely quantify how any of these stats actually changed anything.

This is actually funny to me, because GW2 has a issue in that some classes don’t really translate well to the idea that all classes can do anything. Design holds them back. Necro and Guardian are good contenders, but honestly, any non-burning class, or one that doesn’t have good upkeep of more than 2 conditions don’t hold well.

Guardian has what, Burning as a damaging condition, which should be it’s main proponent, Guardians are zealots, and purify people in the flames of their wrath…except that Engineer and Warrior have better burning output while having more cover conditions. Guardian depends on those burning stacks, while engineer has…everything really. Bleeding, poison, confusion, etc etc.

GW2 class design coupled with their weaponswap actually holds the classes back, and makes the core classes weaker in comparison to their “side” grading elites: Necro is held back by shroud and complete lack of mobility and active invulnerabilities, while damage went nuts from all the powercreep from elitespecs, now you have the “atrition class” ( that always had less atrition than thieves and are pigeonholed into duelists/bunker builds, or they end up suffering from “focusthenecrotitis” ) getting oneshot by way better mobility classes with better tools to deal damage. Engineer ( core ) is held by Kits, and their terrible design. Honestly, if they didn’t want to give Engi weapon swap, why didn’t they just make us choose a kit on F1 and stick with it? It would be your weaponswap and the talents could reflect that. That also would allow the utilities to be more meaningful, and engineer weaponry to be buffed, since they’re awful. Guardian ( condi ) is held back by it’s awful condi output, since they just have one that means jack, and it can be cleansed easily with how much condicleanse is being thrown in this game.

The way they did Condis and Boons, the game became a condicleanse boonshare boonhate focused meta. You don’t have stuff like more classical MMOs where you buff people and that buff is meaningful from one class only. I think this core design is harmful, but since the nature of GW2 is to be more casual than anything, i get why they don’t need to fix it.

And condi guardian/warrior is just fun as hell. My core necro is fun too, but damn if i don’t feel the pain.