Friday, September 14, 2007

In the Wake of GU38 - A New Proposal on "Reverse Writs"

It's hardly a secret that I'm none-too-pleased about the Status Item changes found in Game Update 38. It's too bad, too, because the changes to dual wielding, Bloodlines spells, and the appearance slots really made for a fantastic update, only to be tarnished and overshadowed by a frustrating nerf.

Let's take a step back in history, shall we? (take note of the bit in bold)

July 20, 2005 - Game Update 12
- Earn experience for your guild by collecting status loot!

- In addition to completing writs that are assigned to you by city NPCs, you can now earn guild status by turning in new kinds of dropped items.

- Many of the NPCs around Norrath now have a chance to drop items that the major political factions in each of city are after. Be on the lookout for these new types of Scrying Stones, Amulets, Sealed Documents, and Relics. There are different varieties of each of these items for each level range.

- You can sell these new items for status points to the same NPCs that assign writ quests. This is a whole new way to increase your guild level and personal status.

- Regardless of whether or not you are in a guild, status loot can be traded to other players or sold to regular NPC merchants for cash.

Leading up to their launch, the new status items were billed as a form of Reverse Writs. While a normal Writ (aka City Task) would ask you to venture out into the field and kill specific mobs in exchange for a reward, a Reverse Writ status item could be found on most any mob, but in return for this be worth far less status per item. It would, I believe, take 12-15 Tier 2 status items to be worth as much status as a Tier 2 Writ asking you to kill 8-12 of one specific mob type.

If you wanted oodles of status to level up your guild, City Tasks were still far-and-away the way to go, but status items certainly helped! In the higher tiers, the ratio of points-per-item vs. points-per-Writ got a little bit better, too. As more high level characters were out there killing mobs en masse, more valuable status items entered the world, and this came to be a very significant contributor to total Guild Experience and Levels.

Fast forwarding, as we all know by now, this system was badly abused by certain guilds that managed to nigh-instantly hit the new level cap within hours of the last couple expansion launches. While I do blame those guilds for being Choadly McChoadlersons, it does seem like there's WAY too many status items in the world, and SOE probably should have examined the drop rate a good two years ago.

Now we're sitting in the aftermath of a huge nerf meant to prevent guilds from levelling too fast. I still hold to my previous statements that the new system is a severe punishment to innocent casual guilds that are high level while still carrying a roster with significant numbers of low and mid-level characters. BUT, what's done is done, and it seems we're just going to have to learn to live with it.

That said, when I loot a status item now, I can't help feeling that it's nowhere near as useful as it used to be. Most of my characters (of any level) don't need huge pools of status points, and they have more than they need anyway thanks to Heritage Quests (which I adore). Only my level 70 main has the ability to possibly win status items that can give us Guild Exp after Kunark launches, and last I checked, the market for selling lower level status items was pretty yawntastic.

My point in all this is that we should get back to considering what these status items were originally intended to be: REVERSE WRITS

What do we get from completing a normal writ? We get Status Points, Guild Experience, and Faction with a writ-giving sect of your home town.

What do we get from selling a status item? We get a few Status Points, and sometimes Guild Experience if you meet the criteria.

What happened to Faction? From a roleplay perspective, status items are worth whatever they're worth because they hold value as a trophy or recovered treasured from an enemy of the city. Writs have us killing enemies of the city; status items are the result of killing enemies of the city. They're fundamentally the same, except that writs provide you a directed goal.

And so, this leads me to my proposal:
Give faction for status item sales!

This should, of course, be tied to character level just as regular writs are, and mentoring can't let you turn in lower tier items, just as it doesn't let you get lower tier writs.

It would be a fine balancing act to make the status items worth turning in without making faction TOO easy to get, but for starters, let's say 1 point of faction per item per tier. So if my level 57 Inquisitor finds a Cobalt Relic on a mob, we have a Tier 6 character selling a Tier 6 item for 6 points of faction.

For those calculating at home, that would be 1667 Tier 6 status item sales to gain one full faction rank with one city sect. On paper, that doesn't look too easy to me, and could possibly even stand to be doubled (we do have to think ahead towards future tiers being worth more, though it's also likely that the higher level players get, the less meaningful the city faction system will be in its current form).

Normal players that don't buy out entire markets-full of items would find this to be a handy booster to their faction efforts, perhaps saving them a few writs-worth of work while pushing for a faction title. And it would make Reverse Writs a little more meaningful!

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