Changes with the February Update: Alternate Ability Grants for Gold Members and Ability Changes
Piestro, post: 3043095, member: 17 wrote:With our February Update, we have a number of significant changes coming to EverQuest that we want to discuss with you. These changes include granting a significant number of AA to all Gold Members, as well as some changes to a number of abilities that are currently contributing to poor server performance. We wanted to present them in advance so you have an opportunity to let us know your thoughts before the changes go live.
AA Grant for Gold Members
One of the consistent points of feedback we have received from both existing and returning players to EverQuest is that the massive numbers of Alternate Abilities that are available in game can create a barrier for some players to progress their characters. Over the last several years, we’ve polled players in game and engaged in discussions on this topic on the forums and at live events.
After carefully considering your feedback and weighing our options, our current plan is to grant all AAs up to four expansions behind the current expansion. This will allow players to quickly get up to speed without completely eliminating the need to invest time in their character. Currently this will bestow the AAs up to Underfoot, but when we publish our next expansion, characters will receive the House of Thule AAs. Note that accounts must be Gold (after the membership changes, SOE All Access) to receive the auto-granted AAs and other requirements such as character level and pre-requisite abilities must also be met.
Ability and Spell Changes
In addition to the above changes, we’re also considering a number of changes to spells and abilities that allow for killing excessive amounts of NPCs simultaneously. The reasoning has to do with the ways that these abilities are used and how they are negatively impacting other players’ experiences and server performance. In order to more fully explain these changes, let’s turn this over to a few members of the Development Team.
Piestro, post: 3043097, member: 17 wrote:Jonathan “Prathun” Caraker (Lead Designer):
In the upcoming February update, we will modify several abilities so that they do not encourage killing massive groups of NPCs. Though this type of play is now commonplace, we never intended for these abilities to be used in this manner (I can attest to this personally, as I created the Mage and Wizard beam spells). The team would prefer not to nerf abilities, especially in a way that dramatically changes how they are used. Unfortunately the state of the game necessitates that we do something, and soon. To take a step back, let me acknowledge that, ultimately, the goal of EverQuest is to provide a fun experience for all. So, one might ask, if kiting large amounts of NPCs is fun then why bother disallowing it? Because, unfortunately, it creates an experience that is not fun for everyone.
What's wrong with pulling massive groups of NPCs?
Calculating pathing is an expensive operation. This is true in other applications and it's especially true in EverQuest. That is, the server has to determine how an NPC will get from its current position to a location where it can melee whoever its mad at, and this taxes the processor. When an NPC continually needs to recalculate its pathing, this taxes the processor continuously. And when hundreds of NPCs continually recalculate their pathing, the server has a problem. In extreme cases, NPCs cease to move - not just in that zone, but every zone hosted on the affected server. This can be extremely disruptive to other players.
For more details on server performance impact, see Jenn Chan's statement below.
Why are we making the change now?
This is a topic that we've discussed at length, for months. We considered adding summoning NPCs to zones where kiting was a problem, but we cannot catch all possible locations. Summoning NPCs as part of population also had the potential to penalize players who were not attempting to kill massive numbers of NPCs at once. Looking forward this was a solution that we'd always need to account for in our zone population. Whenever possible we avoid design decisions that will limit what we can do with zones, and reduce the viability of intended play styles.
We wanted to approach this with a concise and complete change that would address the issue completely, which meant also considering the difficulty for new and returning characters to catch up and the difficulty of acquiring thousands of AAs. To this end, we are making a dramatic change to the way legacy AAs are handled. We will automatically grant AAs for every expansion up to Underfoot to characters of Gold members. In addition, at the launch of each expansion, we will add one more expansion to the auto-grant list, such that characters will have the four most recent expansions' AAs to earn. This should greatly reduce the need to harvest many thousands of AAs.
What abilities are being changed?
The short version is that we're changing the abilities that are useful against scores to up to hundreds of NPCs simultaneously. There are several spells, melee abilities, and AAs that have been used for “swarm killing.” Generally, but not always, they meet the following criteria: they can hit multiple NPCs, that don't have a target limit or use limit, and their benefit is additive. The changes are meant to ensure that they are still useful, but no longer as useful against very large numbers of NPCs.
For more details on which abilities are being changed, see Aristo and Elidroth's statements.
Piestro, post: 3043101, member: 17 wrote:Jenn Chan (Technical Director):
We have charts that show our server performance over time, such as the chart below. We've noticed a disturbingly high amount of spikes in CPU and memory usage. After reviewing our logs and other data gathering resources, we've identified a number of problematic gameplay behaviors. In extreme cases, the CPU usage of a zone can use TEN TIMES the normal expected load. When the CPU is under this kind of load it cripples the zone, and even worse it also impacts the performance of any other zones on that same server. Our initial suggested fix was to add summoning NPCs to the population of the most problematic zones, but this change had other consequences and would likely not completely address the problem. We opted to take the time necessary to solve the problem as universally as possible.
An example of how mass killing NPCs impacts server performance. The peaks in this chart represent times when individuals were engaged in various forms of swarming
Since swarming can potentially adversely impact the gaming experience of many other players, our goal was to address the problem comprehensively. No longer rewarding swarming should discourage the behaviors that can cause these types of CPU spikes.
Piestro, post: 3043102, member: 17 wrote:Doug “Elidroth” Cronkhite (Assistant Lead Design: Systems):
When these spells and abilities were created some time ago, we never could have imagined players would utilize them in such clever ways. Being able to gather up most of the NPCs in a zone and take them down with a select group of spells does take skill and some finesse, but unfortunately, it’s not how the spells and abilities were meant to function. And more importantly, as Jenn mentioned, this style of gameplay is causing major server issues that disrupt gameplay for a lot of other people; these are issues we simply cannot ignore.
As a result, we’re making changes so the servers will be healthy both now and in the future. In doing this, we understand some of you may take a hit to your preferred play style. It’s never easy making big changes, but do know this will help the health of your server. These changes will also give us the potential to expand on these abilities more in the future instead of letting them decay.
AA Changes - Assassinate, Decapitation, and Headshot
The changes we currently have planned for AA abilities are significant in a few ways. Rogue's "Anatomy" and Berserker's "Decapitation" AA will be changed to limit their ability to proc against an infinite number of targets with no limitations on frequency. In order to prevent one class from having an unfair advantage, the Ranger ability "Headshot" is going to be similarly limited in use. These abilities were designed to allow players to quickly dispatch trivial enemies. Rather than return them to usability upon grey con NPCs only, the proposed changes to these abilities are as follows:
* Each ability will have its chance to proc reduced. The intended chance to proc should average out to about 2 procs per minute.
* These abilities will only trigger off of activated attacks, and not from riposted attacks.
* All ranks of these abilities will be refunded and new versions created, so players may choose to repurchase them if desired.
We’re also aware that some of you used these abilities as your primary way to earn AA experience. Our other changes (mentioned by Jonathan above) will help bridge the gap between your current AA count, and AAs needed to play your class well.