Towards the Future: Elite Blocks

gettin_upstaged

Sega is considering adding special blocks which will require players to have cleared specific content before they’re allowed to enter. The aim of this is to filter out unskilled players so that they can design more difficult content down the line without the issues that this presents right now. Currently, their idea is to have the requirement be to have cleared Heaven and Hell floors 1-5, but this may change in the future as its still under discussion. This lock is allegedly going to be treated as a kind of “entrance exam” for the harder content they want to do.

The Scrub Problem


It’s something that seems to have been on some players’ minds for some time, but now even Sega is considering a solution to this problem. So you want to run endgame content, to team up with your peers and take down tough enemies that would either be too difficult or take too long to do by yourself? So you hop on down from your campship and lo and behold, your peers are carrying un-grinded blue weapons or whatever 10-11* junk they happened to find and are proudly adourning their ungrinded unaffixed Gal Griffon units. Then you check out their classes and find that if they even have a subclass at all it’s a completely bizarre one like HuFo or SuRa and it’s only lv10 or so… shit.

Yeah running things like Mining Base or any lv80 raid boss that isn’t Yamato with people who freshly reached lv75 but haven’t addressed their gear yet can be a wholesomely frustrating experience. There’s not much you can do about it personally, as you’re at the mercy of real RNG essentially as to who you end up with when you join a group. Thankfully, the problem is largely mitigated by the fact that most runs can be carried by a handful of well geared players but this does present somewhat of a design problem for Sega.

Now I’m gonna go on record by saying that I don’t hate people who are under-geared by default and most shouldn’t either. Generally speaking, they’re not joining runs to ruin your day and the vast majority are not joining your run to be a “leech” either. They may be genuinely unaware that their gear matters all that much (thanks to how PSO2 is designed, this is fairly common) or that their performance is sub-par or it could just be that the very quest they joined is their only choice to get the gear they need for varying reasons. I may go into detail discussing this in another post..

For Difficulty’s Sake


Sega’s stance with PSO2 has been one where veterans and scrubs alike can play together. There’s nothing wrong with this goal on the face of it, it’s just that it does limit their design somewhat. They can’t make harder content because of it, I mean in the grand scheme of things the recently buffed Profound Darkness is incredibly easy and that’s already annoying enough with a party with enough fresh 75s in it. Imagine if there was a run which required everyone to be well built, well geared and deeply familiar with their class as a baseline? It’d be an utter nightmare to queue for.

The addition of some kind of filter should in theory help alleviate this problem, though difficulty in its own right is a complex issue. Designing hard content for a multiplayer game goes beyond just challenging people’s gear and knowledge; it involves teamwork too.

As a good example, look at Challenge Mode: Mission Start. Clearing this quest requires predetermined roles to be filled, which are often negotiated at the start of the quest. You need someone to tag unkillable bosses, someone to pick up VR capsules, someone to be taken by the Fanji who can burn down Dark Ragne quickly among other things I’ve likely forgotten. PSO2 in general doesn’t really have many teamwork mechanics, there’s only really a few I can think of that actually work:

  • Techer Shifta and Deband
  • Zondeel
  • Zanverse
  • Weakbullet

That’s it. Those are really all the viable team-work mechanics (that arent “do damage”) and they can all be done by 2 different classes. If you combined those two together you’d get the fabled “ultimate support” but you should probably never run that build…

Now, before you start, yes I know there are other skills that are “teamwork” oriented but I said “viable”. Unfortunately, most of the skills in the game outside of these just aren’t effective enough in the current state of things to really be useful. Chain is a bit of an outlier, as you minorly benefit from others using normal attacks in order for your Chain Finish to be all the more powerful.

Essentially, PSO2 has three roles a player can fill:

  • DPS
  • Techer
  • Weakbullet – the giver of which is also a DPS

That’s it! This isn’t actually a criticism in case it sounds like one, I don’t necessarily mind things being like this as I have my issues with games employing the old “holy trinity” system among other things. It just means that they’re much more limited in terms of what they can design, because there aren’t really many roles for them to exploit from just the classes alone.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a problem. Like imagine if there were 12 different defined roles that players needed to fill. Can you imagine how much of a nightmare it would be to cobble such a group together from randoms?

Anyway I think I’ve ranted enough about this aspect. The thing to take away from this I feel is the players want harder content, the devs want to give us harder content, but due to how PSO2 is designed this won’t make things easy to pull off.

The Entrance Exam


So ignoring the difficulties of making difficult content, is the entrance exam they propose appropriate? Would it work? Are other tests more appropriate or is the whole idea potentially bad for the game as a whole?

The proposal is for the “Solo Extreme Quest” Heaven and Hell floors 1-5. Anyone who has run the quest should know that 6-10 is considerably harder than 1-5 which is a fair enough point. It’s not a terribly high bar to pass but it is a bar; there are plenty of players who, with the gear they turn up to endgame raid quests with, couldn’t even do that! So in theory it could act as a filter against fresh or lazy lv75s.

Of course the community has proposed their own ideas, including having floors 6-10 be the requirement, clearing XH Traces of Darkness in less than 8 minutes (solo), doing a direct build/gear/affix check before you’re allowed to enter among other things.

A potential problem with having an entrance exam be too strict is it may filter out otherwise decent players that aren’t specifically built for the entrance exam. Glass-cannon DPS will find Heaven and Hell 6-10 extremely difficult compared to a tankier build. You wouldn’t want an MPA filled with tanks though would you? Similarly, XH Traces of Darkness is awful for builds that would otherwise be a god-send to your MPA.

So what about gear? It shouldn’t be difficult to check for +10/+40 on weapons, or +10 on armor. It gets trickier when you then add in crafting, weapon rarity, weapon potentials, element choice and build synergy. Then there’s affixes! There’s all sorts of issues with affixes as there’s not really a “one size fits all” build for them. There’s also the issue that under the current gearing meta, affixes add a barely significant amount to your DPS anyway (most of it is coming from your weapon and build). Even if you could add such rigorous checks, you still run the risk of pigeonholing people too narrowly, again filtering out players that may be beneficial to your raid group.

Then there’s builds. As you can imagine, creating checks for builds could be a very complicated problem; especially again as you might want someone to be in what would otherwise be an inefficient build (say, TeSu) but is otherwise a very powerful support character (TeSu has the strongest Zanverse in the game as far as I know). Even the simpler check of class/subclass is prone to letting bad players through; FiHu sounds like a safe bet but they could be a wierd Guard-Stance build oriented around Chase Advance. Or a FoTe who still thinks it’s 2012 and is running a Lightning focused tree using Photon Flare.The specific builds are unimportant, the big thing is testing based on a build is prone to ignoring useful edge-cases and may make dangerous assumptions on “accepted” builds.

Essentially, pigeonholing by having too strict a set of entry requirements would limit their ability to design challenging content in much the same way as letting everyone play together regardless of build or gearing would. It’d be a self-defeating system.

Finally there’s the question of is this healthy for the game in the long term? Consider the case where we have a good, reliable entrance exam that filters out the scrubs. Great, the veterans can all band together and play hard content in harmony. But what’s preventing them from playing the easy content this way too? Consider an easy-ish raid Emergency Quest comes along. The veterans all pile into their elite blocks to avoid the filthy noobs, you now have nothing but noobs piled together. This could make runs much more frustrating for them than they need to be and it may even trap them in progression hell if they actually need to complete those quests to graduate into the elite blocks.

If handled right, having a pile of noobs together could work out, because as they can’t be carried by a veteran it could force them to learn how to play the game better. This may also highlight their gear/DPS shortcomings and force them to gear up so they themselves can get better runs. So it’s not all potential doom and gloom, I’m just not 100% convinced it’d actually work out this way.

Anyway, this was a long-ass rant. I felt I had a lot to say on this subject but ultimately it’s just my opinion. I’m likely wrong on some things. If you made it this far, thank you for reading and I hope what i wrote was enjoyable or thought provoking in some way.

1 thought on “Towards the Future: Elite Blocks”

  1. Most end-game weapons and units can be obtained and grind and then affixed without participation in raid quests.

    Therefore, the issue of: “This could make runs much more frustrating for them than they need to be and it may even trap them in progression hell if they actually need to complete those quests to graduate into the elite blocks.” will not exist because if you are willing to improve.

    A player with efforts can gear himself with fully grind and decent-4-slot-affixed 13* weapon from collection sheet and Saiki / Brisa units from Bonus Quest with relative ease and then tackle the bonus quest when he’s ready.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s