Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dr. BadParse, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Race

When I'm not gaming or raising my kiddie (though I am trying to raise a gamer, so there's some crossover), I spend nearly 40 hours a week as a Technical Trainer. I have plenty of experience with the issues related to CHANGE. People just don't like it! Even if you give them a new piece of software that will help them work 10 times more efficiently, there's always pockets of resistance and scowling faces to go with them.

With the launch of Kunark this week comes a flurry of changes to every character - even those whose owners haven't purchased the expansion - in the form of revamped Racial Traditions. It's a real glass half-full/half-empty situation. One could say that any updates to the Tradition system are a hugely-positive change, because the vast majority of the racial perks of old were just about useless anytime after level 30. Some bonus powers are better than none...RIGHT?

According to a very vocal (like nails on a blackboard) crowd, this is as wrong as can be. You see, now that most of the Tradition choices either scale with level or provide static bonuses that are always useful (like crit %), your choice of race is a little more meaningful than it used to be. A little.

One of my favorites so far is a guy on EQ2Flames who proclaimed himself the most-screwed by these changes because he's a Barbarian Wizard. Oh was he angry! The anti-change arguments tend to carry a few key points, which I'll try to sum up sans excessive cursing:

1) Race choice has never mattered before
2) SOE promised at launch that all races could play all classes with equal effectiveness
3) People with more-unique race/class choices are being penalized

My responses:

1) That's not true at all. For most of us, stat points make a difference, because we haven't maxed out our primary stats. If I choose between Erudite Wizard or Troll Wizard, I'm sacrificing a rather large amount of intelligence that will absolutely have an effect on my damage output, and it'll still be relevant at higher levels unless I deck out in fabled gear and lots and lots of buffs/potions/etc.

The same applies to melee classes. Damage and to-hit chance modified by Strength, hitpoints modified by Stamina, Agility boosting avoidance (not much, but it adds up).

But it isn't just base stats. Not all Racial Traditions of old were very interesting, but some made a good impact. My Human Monk got +5 Defense, which is wonderful at any level. My Gnome Wizard got Intelligence bonuses and a de-agro power which always served him well. Ogres got some decent options to boost physical stats which, along with their natural stats, made them excel at melee...though over time, levels and gear make a +5 here and there matter a lot less.

2) SOE never promised that all races would be equal! They promised that all races could play all classes, and that's exactly what they delivered. If Race didn't matter at all, EQ2 would lose a lot of replayability.

I happen to love my Ogre Conjuror because when his pet dies, he can take a couple more hits than average. The new Ogre revamps will actually make that more pronounced, and I'm excited.

Come on, you didn't make a Troll Fury because you thought he'd be uber, you made him because it was fun and interesting and unique. And you know what? It still is!

3) The notion that you're being "penalized" by the new traditions is just silly. Failing to get a certain bonus (especially while receiving others) is not logically equivalent to a penalty. Even for as wordy as I am, I don't think I can expand on this simple notion.

So what's to blame for all this overreaction? I think most of you know the answer!



Parsing itself is not the absolute root of all evil, but how good or evil it is all depends on how you use it. You want to parse yourself to see how you perform under various circumstances? Go right ahead! If I'm grouped with friends and we have a little competition to see who can out-DPS the other, that can even be fun...

But if I'm in a pickup group and some assclown spams some numbers and accuses me of not working hard enough, well, he can just bite me. Not that this happens very often, and hasn't happened in a long time, but I also avoid the most parse-happy environment: raiding.

So what we have now are a bunch of whiners who are pissed off because their Mages are going to have 2% less chance to score critical blasts than their equally-equipped (but race-appropriate) counterparts. Apply similar logic to other race/class combos to get the melee or priest versions.

Well, you know what? EQ2 isn't an exercise in math. EQ2 isn't a real-time strategy game. EQ2 is - believe it or not - A ROLEPLAYING GAME. Some of you might have seen the letters "RPG" thrown around before. That doesn't mean "Rocket Propelled Grenade!"

Any good RPG is as deep in lore and character development as it is the numerical mechanics. As such, even if the old Racial Traditions weren't very awe-inspiring, they still at LEAST showed us that the various races of Norrath were intended to be better at some things than others, be it stats, tradeskills, or resistances.

And now that those intentions have coalesced into something more meaningful, you're going to throw a hissy fit because you aren't as maxed-out as the guy next to you? You're going to demand something as goof-ass as a "racial respec?" If you really gave a damn about RPG-system min/maxing, you'd have taken one of the plainly-obvious choices for your class in the first place, even if the impact was minimal.

So to sum up: Stop parsing and just do your best on every fight, pick some new Traditions and find their most opportune uses, and ...uh... GET OVER IT.

The rest of us thank you.


Josh said...

'cuz, after all, if you aren't the optimal build, what's the point of playing?


B said...

sarnak wizard baby!

+2 heal crit ftw :|

I don't care! I'll try harder and humiliate people with advantages. :)