Mobhunter: The Focus and the Flip Flop

In case you live in Paw, the great Foci debate spread across every Everquest related forum on the entire web. This official notice declares that all foci will begin scaling at a rate of 10% per spell level after the level cap of the foci. This means Spell Haste 4, a 15% reduction in casting time up to level 65, will drop to 13.5% at level 66, 11% at level 67, and so on until it reaches 7.5% at level 70.

This has most high-end raiders in a fury. They spent months working through very difficult encounters in Gates of Discord where foci of 45% on some items will drop to 22.5% at level 70. Some call this the worst nerf ever even though it's not a nerf but an enhancement. SOE made a far better decision than letting the items cut off at 65 as they were advertised to do.

Originally, I agreed with the change. First and foremost, it helps all spellcasting players below level 65 which is the most important subject of this change. Most spend their time on this topic discussing 65+ gear, however. I remember the dark days where Focus 3 items stopped working at all. I expected my 65 gear would stop in much the same way. This was a good change in my mind. Others, however, felt sure that their high-end items would last forever (note: no item ever lasts forever. One should always want to upgrade eventually.) and became quite horribly vexed when they learned they would eventually desire to upgrade.

The summit forums, where yours truly gets all manner of uberfruit tossed at him on a daily basis, was no exception to this. In one of our dozens of heated messages I was called an uber / casual "flip flopper". We will get back to this in a moment. I spent much time considering this Foci situation.

What becomes clearer to me the more I test Omens and the more I think about Gates is that the two expansions seem to have come out in the wrong order.

Imagine if Omens came out four months ago with open zones, elemental level raid content, a lot of single-group content with equipment progression above LDON / Ornate, and most importantly level 70. Those who finished Time and LDON raids head into the more difficult Omens content (more difficult because they have no Gates gear) while they level up to 70 and acquire that content.

Then Gates comes along. The content is a lot harder. Much more of the expansion is locked but even single-groupers have an easier time with the sewers and mountain trials. Single group people are able to defeat the Ikkinz trials without raid gear. The people who made it through Omens now hit that super-hard content (scaled for level 70 Omens gear) at Qvic and above and earn that super high quality loot.

Things seem a lot smoother in that obviously simplified theory. There is a larger bridge between the single group hunters of LDON and the Planes to the single-group content in Gates. The raiding guilds have smoother progression to the high-end raid content and the rewards for that gear fits their level better.

If you can't tell, I began to cave. Perhaps being called a "flip flopper" finally did it. I must have laughed for hours about the use of such a politically motivated word in a discussion about Massive Online Gaming. I am a great fan of the use, reuse, and misuse of words as society changes. George Orwell's 1946 essay Politics and the English Language shows how the word "Fascist" got so misused that it became all but meaningless back in the 40s. Geoff Nunberg's Going Nucular (sic) talks about how the connotation of words like Plastic and Caucasian get horribly misused as our perceptions and politics change. It wasn't until I was called a flip flopper that I really understood what they meant. But I digress...

Very few people have high end Gates of Discord armor (don't scream yet, read on). In a year or two, the flip flop of Gates and Omens (see, I used it again!) won't matter. People will travel through the content in the most reasonable way, probably Omens to Gates. For them, it makes little sense to have high-end Gates items, items that will be more difficult for them to acquire even at level 70 not work on spells up to level 70.

While I will not use my vast powers of the active voice ("Increase high-end Gates gear foci limits from 65 to 70"), I will say that it makes sense that high-end Gates gear scales to level 70. More importantly, it will make more sense in a year when new players won't remember whether or not Gates came out before Omens. In a year, with focus gear scaling to 70, Gates will be the clear line of equipment progression for raiders. Without gear scaling to 70, the high-end Gates zones will see little use.

However, there is another side to this, a side that is not apparent yet to those who scream about their gear becoming "worthless". If your foci gear scales to level 70, you will most likely not see equipment progression in Omens since your gear was really meant (in my own theory above) to be acquired after Omens. You will spend your days tearing through raid content in Omens and in a month you will hit the high-end of Omens and realize there is nothing left. Unlike everyone else, current high-end raiders will have already torn through Gates like a drag line in a strip mine and they will realize there is no more coal to mine.

Then they may quit and that is what SOE wishes to prevent.

Let me conclude this essay on semantics, politics, itemology, and marketing by saying that increasing the level limit to level 70 on high-end GoD items makes sense. No other foci should get a free pass. All other Foci from Time, the Elements, and any equipment in GoD with Time or Elemental effects should scale as the original plan intended.

Loral Ciriclight
3 September 2004