First things first: i am super happy with the latest patches. They delivered more than i ever hoped for. So dont see the following as some kind of demand. I am fine and thankful with the game as it is even if development was stopped today.
Yesterday we had a short discussion about difficulty levels and grouping (and the lack of).
And the current lack of grouping in this game is kindof the beginning of a big topic leading in all kinds of directions, one of which is difficulty level.
Imho there exist a couple of reasons for not grouping currently. My shortlist:
1.) Headruns: the issue that only 1 player can pay the portal at a time and the others have to leave the instance is overly complicated.
2.) The Wild was designed as a group Level. It was originally farmed for the high elite density (and of course Dessy). But nowadays there is no incentive to clear the Wild which is a shame because of the group oriented difficulty.
3.) Abbys bosses: I was shocked when i was ordered to wait outside of the Abbys portal while a BM should handle the boss because that way it is easier.
4.) Overpowered chars handling everything on their own and rushing away from the group spoils the fun for the rest. When i see one of the rare parties and there are two blademasters in. Chances are high that i don’t want to join.
The last point is an important one with implications.It is at the same time the hardest to solve as imho perfect balance doesnt exist. There will allways be overpowered chars.
But it is also the one with the biggest impact on grouping.
The one thing that can keep overpowered chars from doing their thing on their own, is a difficulty high enough to make them dependant on their team mates and a desire to solve the content in a group.
The last point is allways adressed by increasing the loot for parties. But this doesnt really solve the issue as overpowered chars still rush away and spoil the group fun probably even more so. The group memebers are merely the loot buffers. So difficulty comes into play. If the game is hard enough to prevent the overpowered ones to handle stuff on their own and they realize that the guardian somewhere back actually can support him by healling or combining damage he will stick with him. I have seen it on runs to St Pauls.
Sounds easy to solve!? It is not. And that is because difficulty level is probably the hottest and most emotionally discussed topic in games like this because it has the potential to completely polarize the community. Some players prefer “easy mode” some a bit of a challenge and for some it cant be hard enough.
In the beginning of Hellgate it was discussed heavily and emotionaly because the game got really hard the nearer you got to Sydonai nightmare and he wasnt really killable for all types of Chars.
Now how is it in similar games and did they solve it?
In Diablo III it was a similar probably even hotter topic. There were mega shitstorms in the beginning because the game was really hard in the end. So hard you played chars like Wizards with physical shields. Diablo III solved the big shitstorm about difficulty after a few iterations. First they made the game from super hard to easymode which caused the next shitstorm. And then they finally cam up with the rift system where the player in the Endgame simply chooses the difficulty of a random map with a random boss. This immedeatly solved all shitstorms about wether the game is too hard or too easy in the endgame. It created competitions as there were leaderboards for who reached the highest rift level- they had a system of comparison. Who is the strongest solo and who is the strongest group player. And it supported player roles because in the highest rifts it turned out that other combinations of chars where more benefitial than a group of single dps chars.
Path of Exile introduced a more refined way of creating highlevel maps of “choosable” difficulty. These were dropped maps with affixes like on weapons where each affix added a certain difficulty like eg special mob density or especially mean mobs with double HP. The player could even augment those maps.
Now the question is, could such a system be envisioned for Hellgate, would it be reasonably easy to implement, would it even make sense in here and what are the flaws that must be circumvented. Or can the issues be circumvented by other means.
In short (lol) such a system would mean the possibility to spawn a random map of a choosable difficulty and some form of comparable difficulty rating. Probably refinable POE style with augments like additional elite density or even Boss(es). It could be combined with special drops that can be used to create harder and more diverse map parameters.
The current patch definitly did something on the difficulty side with Rifts, Catas and Brompton and Sydonai (all super nice changes imho). The game now actually kindof has a system of choosing the difficulty. So if the mechanical issues points 1-3 in my shortlist are being solved and the overpowered stuff (BM, Crit/Evo, Shrap) got nerfed back a bit and nothing new gets introduced (Summo ?). Then it is all good. I doubt it though because the char balance is such a difficult thing.
But a map system not only has the potential to support grouping but it also is a piece of ongoing content creation.
To be continued…