It Ain’t Called “Catching”

Posted: June 29, 2009 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

I love fishing. Like most boys, my grandpa used to take me out dockside to throw some worms at the sunnies. Now, I don’t get to go fishing as much these days as I used to, but I still go whenever I can.

I can quite easily spend a day casting my line into the water over and over and over hoping for a hint of a nibble. If I think I’m in a bad spot, I can move. If I think I’m using a bad lure or bait, I can change it up. If I think I should be using one set of tackle over another, I can switch. On a really, really good day I might get a nibble half of the time I cast. On my best days, I might actually pull in a fish 4 out of 5 times I feel a nibble or strike. On the days of my dreams, half of the fish I actually land are worth keeping.

I shudder to think of a place where I might show up to go fishing once a month and a guy at the dock simply hands me a pole which already has a 15 pound lunker hooked every time I drive up. No matter how nice his intentions are, he’d quickly take the thrill of fishing away from me.

“They call it fishing, not catching” is a saying my grandpa was fond of whenever I complained of long, dry days at the dock without so much as a nibble. He tried to teach me that it was those days of nothing at all that made the great catches all the better. It took me years to realize what he meant.

In completely unrelated news, SOE has introduced Research Assistants into EverQuest II.

  1. Loredena says:

    I think you just pinpointed the difference between those who are happy about this change, and those who are not. I’m happy — I don’t raid, I mostly duo with my husband or group with (lower level) guildmates. I was never going to put in any effort into ‘fishing for Masters’, and I can’t afford the going rate on the broker for most. But I can afford to make a few Adept 3s, and wait a few weeks for a spell. In some cases, it won’t even be for me, but rather for some of my lower-level alts, especially if I’m level-locking them for a time, or if they solo a lot. Since I don’t WANT to go fishing, getting them over time is great for me, it takes nothing at all away from the game. I can keep doing the parts I actually enjoy, and every now and then pick up a spell upgrade. For me, that is full of win.

  2. Kendricke says:

    …and what’s the advantage of getting that master each month? The game gets easier? The fights get a little less dangerous?

    In previous expansions, when the standard for spells increased across the board, the developers simply made the world more dangerous. Remember that first time you stepped foot into Kylong Plains and couldn’t figure out why everything there was so much harder than it had been in Loping Plains? Remember that first time you started to wander Moors of Ykesha and hit up some of the void shard instances and you couldn’t figure out why the difficulty had jumped yet again?

    That was after the spell standard had increased from Adept I to Adept III and after the general gear standard had increased due to the easy Legendary and Fabled gear from instances like Crypt of Agony.

    Now, we’ve got a world where anyone can pick up their Master level Offensive Stance for no cost what-so-ever. For the players who didn’t like “fishing for masters” before, I’m willing to bet they’re going to hate the expected difficulty of the first few zones of Sentinel’s Fate. After all, balancing finalizes in in beta and in beta, players will copy over – masters and all.

  3. Loredena says:

    Maybe because I mostly trio with my husband and we thus don’t do instances very often, but actually I didn’t notice a difference in difficulty between Loping Plains and Kunark. We moved to Kunark at about 67 and started working our way through all the quest lines there. I was wearing level 62 MC BP and legs, and the rest a mix of quest gear and drops and continued to upgrade with quest items.

    I *did* notice the difference in TSO as it was immediately apparent that 1) the instances assumed full balanced group, and 2) that they were balanced for full Kunark gear, which we didn’t have (we turned 80 about a month ago, so we were maybe 72 the first time we went to TSO). We started doing the quest lines in Lavastorm, and I now have a few of the tier 1 shard armor pieces (we don’t do the quest daily) and might end up in tier 2 eventulaly, but I’m not in a hurry.

    Why do I want the Masters? Because it’s fun to get something occasionally, and because since we DO mostly do small group content, it will give us a bit of an edge in Kunark and TSO — I’m used to entering instances when they are still green, but we’ve outleveled them a bit, because that’s what you have to do as a trio.

    I’m not going to worry about Odus till we get there (never having been max level before, in 10 years of MMOs, it will be novel to enter a new max-level area at launch). I do assume that it will be balanced around shard gear and at least a handful of Masters — but if they balance around full shard tier 2 and full Masters they’ll be clobbering not people like us, but people who join the game in Sept and hit Odus in March.

    My first Master is actually the defensive stance; I’ll probably get a taunt and guardian shield, then get Masters for my level 60 pally instead (as I’m considering level-locking her at 64 to faction on city writs in TT for a while). I don’t feel a need to be 100% Mastered, but I do want the edge of the ‘core’ combat arts.

    I’ll be curious to see how beta goes — my husband and I went to Fan Faire, and we’ll be in beta. As a long-time hardcore-casual player in EQ as well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been in a beta where my feedback is ‘overly difficult for non-raiding players, need a scaled down initial zone’.

  4. Illuminator says:

    Acquiring master spells the normal way is not generally something you do with intent; the spell you want can randomly come out of an almost infinite number of sources with incredibly low odds or not at all. I don’t think I’ve had it happen yet where I got a master drop and felt I “earned” it in a non-random procedural way. You basically pray for a miracle.

    That’s why I haven’t been bothered by the Research Assistant; it can’t exactly infringe on a sense of achievement that I never really had in the first place.

    And since childhood I have viewed fishing the same way and that’s why I don’t like doing it. 🙂

  5. Xeavn says:

    As a kid, I never did appreciate fishing. It never seemed like the the most efficient way to catch a fish, and to be honest it wasn’t. I didn’t actually realize until I was a few years older the point wasn’t to catch as many fish as you can, it was to sit outside and enjoy the weather and nature while catching a few fish at the same time.

    That being said, the system that was in place, going to an instance and hoping one of a few hundred different masters might drop that you would actually need wasn’t a good system, there really wasn’t any chance to catch the fish. If somehow you did get a master it was a miracle.

    The Research Assistant however is much to far in the other direction. Now instead of going out and spending some time with your friends earning your Master’s you are just handed them. No effort, no patience, no time required. How would you like it your favorite single player games just let you skip the end cut scene after you had owned it for a month? Kind of defeats the point, which is to actually play the game.

    Personally I am not planning on grabbing The Sentinel’s Fate, unless the development team completely changes direction between now and then, but even with all the changes they are hoping to make, I see one of two things happening, raiders will be completely bored at how easy they blow everything away, or very casual players won’t even be able to solo.

  6. Illuminator says:

    The other facet to the miracle is that “it rains on the just and the unjust”. You might be the most able experienced player in the world, but the newcomer to your tier just looted the master you haven’t been able to find for months. That’s the current system.

    If you are opposed to the Research Assistant you must necessarily also be opposed to the Master 2 (now “Grandmaster”) selection.

  7. Kendricke says:

    I’m not opposed to the Research Assistant. I’m opposed to the idea that there is no cost to the Research Assistant, nor any actual gameplay mechanic tied to the Research Assistant. There’s no real choice involved with the Research Assistant – just prioritization.

    With Grandmasters, you know that any choice you make prevents you from taking three choices. There’s no way to get two Grandmaster spells of the same tier at the same time in the current system. If the Research Assistant worked on a similar premise, I’d likely be ok with it…at least then there’s a consequence and choice built into the design.

  8. Loredena says:

    @7 In a way there IS a cost and choice — the cost is time, and the choice whose, and what, spell. I have 7 characters — sure, my main is most important, but hers also take the longest and even if I only did hers, it is not like she’d be fully mastered by the expansion launch anyway.

    I’m actually inclined to do more with some of the alts that solo more, or are level-locked, or otherwise need an edge (like my poor ranger who drops dead any time she winds up in melee range for instance).

    • Kendricke says:

      “I’m actually inclined to do more with some of the alts that solo more, or are level-locked, or otherwise need an edge (like my poor ranger who drops dead any time she winds up in melee range for instance).”

      What happens to your “poor ranger” when content is designed around the new master standard? Do you think the new masters will make things easier for you?

      Another saying my grandpa used to use when I was growing up: When everyone is special, no one really is.

  9. Kendricke says:

    In the case of research assistants, time is not a cost. I requested a master spell the day research assistants came out. Since then, I have not altered my gameplay in any way at all to accomodate that “choice”. I’m still playing the game in the exact same way I would have with or without the research assistant. Frankly, I don’t even have to spend that much time online…I can watch reruns of That 70’s Show or perhaps log into World of Warcraft and I’m doing just as much to “earn” that new master spell as I would if I were spending every minute of every day grinding out dungeons in Norrath.

    There’s no requested action, price, or cost. For every intent and purpose, that spell is absolutely free. If you gave me a “choice” of a free car from an online site, and I simply had to wait the month for the car to arrive at the dealership, I didn’t pay anything for that new car, either.

    Trying to justify a free master level spell through the “time is a cost” red herring simply doesn’t logically pan out. Time is only a cost if you have to use the time in a specific way for the reward. If I want a paycheck, I spend my time at my job. If I want a nicer lawn, I spend my time on my lawn. If I want a closer relationship with my wife, I spend time with her. If I want a new master spell, I don’t have to spend my time doing anything special – it doesn’t matter what I do.

    So, there’s no cost involved – only prioritization (as I stated). I simply choose the order in which to collect my free masters. It’s like deciding which slice of free cake to try first – there’s not exactly a cost there, either. No matter how you slice it, I’m getting free cake…and I’m going to get to eat it, too.

  10. Loredena says:

    My ‘poor ranger’ is 45, by the time she gets to Odus, if it isn’t RA’s giving masters it would be something else. TSO assumed that you had geared up in Kunark’s instances and that you had all Adept 3s. — we hadn’t, and didn’t, so we’re using the void shard runs for gear instead. I still only have 2 Adept 3s.

    As to the only cost being time — well, it actually is NOT just time. I have to get the Adept 3 first! That’s either quite a few plat (around 5pp per loam on Perma these days) or a lot of harvesting. Sure, you can argue that harvesting is still primarily a time cost, but it IS a cost, and a risk — until recently my primary harvester was 50! But at least I can get the spell I want, instead of hoping for something to drop in an instance I probably can’t complete anyway, for less than buying a master on the broker.

    I still remember EQ expansions that assumed everyone had raider gear. /shrug I don’t think this is going to make things any worse than they already are in that regard.

    • Loredena says:

      Oh, and umm, this is a game. I play it for fun, not work. I really really don’t care if my avatars are ‘special’. I’m sorry if it bothers you if yours are not, but in the end, they are just pixels, and no guardian is THAT different from another at max level.

    • Kendricke says:

      An Adept III/Expert spell isn’t a cost. It’s a reward unto itself. It’s already an upgrade from the Adept I/Journeyman spell. In essence, the only difference here is that once you get that upgrade from Journeyman, you can immediately ask for a free additional upgrade to Master without any additional cost at all. That’s not a cost. As with the other examples I used, there’s no consequence or choice there – you don’t turn in an Expert spell scroll…you just have already have the Expert spell scribed and usable. You dont’ turn in the spell during the 30 days. You don’t lose access to it. You don’t have to pick up an additional copy for the researcher to upgrade. You simply show up and say, hey look, I’m already this good…make me better for free, k?

      As far as the requirements when you reached TSO content, you’re only proving my arguments for me. TSO content difficulty did assume you had Kunark gear and Adept III’s…because when the expansion was beta tested, the majority of testers already HAD Kunark gear and Adept III’s. Because the expansion was designed to pick up where the previous expansion had left off, it was assumed that you had already put in the time and effort to acquire the rewards which were available to you.

      The next expansion will likely assume that most players not only have access to a significant amount of void shard gear (at least T1, if not T2), but will also now assume that your important spells are all of master quality.

      So, while you’re looking for any edge you can get over the content, the content just got another edge over you. The difference is that in a world balanced around master spells, there’s no way for you to progress your spells over the content if you feel it’s too hard…because the content in such a situation was balanced around the best spells you could get.

      The only way out is for SOE to create another tier of spells – to allow for Grandmasters to drop in harder content. However, that’s not really any different than the current status quo. It’s the same situation with different titles – that’s all. In the 1980’s, fast food resturaunts toyed around with their drink and food sizes by eliminating “small” from their collective vocabularies. Even though they’d still serve three different drink sizes, the smallest cups would be called “medium” while the largest were called “extra large”. You still had three different sized cups, but customers FELT as if they were getting a better deal because the names had changed.

      The euphoria you feel about “free masters” is all in your mind. It’s made up. It’s a reality created by your own perception. When the content is balanced against the master level spells, your relative strength will actually be less in the future than it is today…but you’ll be “mastered out” so you’ll FEEL as if you’re getting a better deal.

      As Xeavn said, this situation isn’t likely to hurt me. I’ve got multiple level 80’s geared out in raid fabled with most of my masters already. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of platinum on my accounts (I pay for four accounts right now). I enjoy challenging content.

      My arguments aren’t for my own personal gain. Oddly enough, it’s for players like yourself who are so enamoured by the idea of “ZOMG! Free Masters!!” that you aren’t seeing the forest for the trees right now. You’re concentrated on the short term personal benefits. I’m looking at the horizon wondering how you’re going to cope down the road.

      If you thought TSO was a wall of hard, you haven’t seen anything yet. Enjoy those masters. I’m sure it will give you the edge you’re looking for…

  11. Xeavn says:

    Loredena: I think the addition of Research Assistants was designed for players like you, however what Kendricke and a number of other players realize is that it has far reaching effects past letting you grab the occasional fun looking master for an alt, or even your most recent level 80 with a bit of shard armor.

    Players like myself, Kendricke and most raiders know exactly which spells to start researching. Which spells will do the most for my class, and for my group, and my raid as a whole.

    I also play this game for fun, although my opinion of fun isn’t the same as your opinion of fun. I have a good time by taking on difficult challenges and beating them. I am the kind of player that enjoys Halo 3 on Legendary, and Gears of War 2 on Insane. The thrill of beating Nexona for the first time, after numerous attempts, and many deaths was amazing.

    It is players like myself that will tell the developers during beta that the content is way to easy, because we now have all the best masters for our class. It also won’t be players like Kendricke who are harmed by the next expansion being quite tough. Kendricke has some raid gear, a fair number of masters and a pretty good understanding of his class. He can step his play up to meet the challenges easy enough. It is the super casual players, who enjoy soloing or playing with a couple of close friends who will in the long run probably be harmed the most by this change.

  12. […] over at Clockwork Gamer, Kendrick posted on EQ2’s Research Assistants with a fishing comparison.  A lively discussion ensued, but since it is pretty apparent that […]

  13. Illuminator says:

    I will concede that masters are basically just 15 or so pieces of fabled set gear under another name, so you can apply all the arguments to spells that you would to gear. Where it breaks down is that you will never see an avatar item drop unexpectedly off of a solo cockatrice. It is absolutely dumb luck.

    RA’s are more a consolation prize; I would be shocked if anyone sat on their butt and declined chest masters because the RA was working on it. By the end of an expansion you can get 12 masters from an RA. But this means nothing because the next expansion strengthens you to clear the prior expansion easier to farm those masters easier. In a weird way I think it evens out.

    But personally I wish spell strengths were purely AA driven instead of having to barter with uninvolved players who have no business hanging my needed masters over my head. Then gear proper is your progression point (although I’d rather traditional RPG storylines be the progression but I digress).

    Like Kendrick said, the same forces that “pressured” SOE to make masters more available in the first place would also equilibrate to make his proposed grandmasters more available. The AA option is the way to go. Deep down I would hope Aeralik understands this…I joyfully haven’t had new scribable spells since the one from Kunark.

  14. Wilhelm2451 says:

    So the net of this is that there will be no point (for me, at least) in returning to EQ2 for the next expansion because all the content will be tuned for people with master level skills and raid level gear?


    • Kendricke says:

      Fire up the account and you can “earn” masters while you’re not really playing…

      Either way, as Illuminator states below, the gear gap at the start of the next expansion will close significantly (even more than it already is) between high end raiders and those who have never stepped foot in a raid zone.

      The proposed system from Fanfaire indicates that all gear will have an assigned level and become greatly reduced in effectiveness after your own experience grows to 10 levels higher than the item. To put this in perspective, the level 80 breastplate which protected you well against that level 82 monster will actually be LESS effective against the same monster when you level up to 90. Yay! 😐

  15. Illuminator says:

    Don’t worry about the gear part, because it’s looking as if the most punitive gear degradation system of all time is about to enter EQ2.

  16. Moorgard says:

    I like free spells.

  17. Greg Prosch says:

    I agree with the whole fishing/catchin analogy. However, if I were a game designer I would definitely want my game to have some kind of system that rewarded players for keeping their accounts active. It seems that the spell research system is a rather clever way of doing that. Given how long it takes to research a spell it doesn’t seem to terribly imbalanced but I guess we’ll see. I never understood the whole vereran rewards system since you don’t have to keep your account active to get the rewards. Maybe they could think up a better incentive system than master spells to promote player retention though. I dunno. I guess my jury is still out.

  18. […] that happy about having apprentice I through master versions of skills.  This goes double when I read that everything after Faydwer was tuned to be challenging for those with master skills, because only […]

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