In Harm's Half-Way

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Captain skill In Harms Way has been "nerfed" by half. The skill, as previously existed, would take 100% of the damage dealt to the fellowship for a limited time. Combine this with Last Stand which would keep you alive a 0 morale for a limited time, and Strength of Morale, the massive man racial heal Captains could pull a fellowship out of a wipe... but not over and over again. SoM has a 1 hour cool down, Last Stand has a 15 minute cool down, and In Harms Way itself has a 5 minute cooldown. Certainly you could use IHW every 5 minutes, but that would mean you bite the dust every five minutes. You could do it every 15 minutes in line with Last Stand, but if you don't time it right, you still bite the dust, and even if you live, you're seriously down in morale, probably no more than 400. It's much better, and almost always used on the hour time table provided by SoM's cooldown.

Now, IHW will only take 50% of the damage. The Minstrel will now have to work harder to heal while the captain is taking only half the damage. Is this a bad thing? My gut reaction was to stare at the screen and re-read the note. And then say in my head, how could they? Then I had to remember to distance myself from the problem. I'm a captain and I've invested in my character. Naturally and without shame or ridicule, I should feel disenfranchised. And I do. But, but, but. Let's look at this a little differently and let's wait to see how it performs in test and possibly live.

First, we don't know how this will work in an actual group situation. It will make the event more challenging, but the captain still doesn't need attention from the minstrel so long as he has SoM available. That is the biggest reason for In Harms Way - the minstrel can focus completely on healing the rest of the fellowship, particularly the tank, without worring about fighting against damage. Now, that's only 50% of the case, so the minstrel must work twice as hard in that situation. But does that mean the minstrel still cannot accomplish the purpose of In Harms Way - to heal the fellowship whilst a wipe is avoided? I don't know. Nobody knows until it's tested... repeatedly.

The issue that will inevitably be brought up is that the captain is no longer epic. Sure, it won't be said in so many words, but that'll be the feeling behind the gripes, whatever form they take. I should note, however, that while the longest thread in the Captain's forums about the "nerf" starts out with "What the hell Turbine" there are three other positive feedback threads - that is, they're not necessarily happy with the change, but they offer alternates that they view as a better way to accompish Turbine's goal with this change to In Harms Way.

That's the last thing I haven't mentioned here - why did Turbine do this? Well, according to them, with the increased dps from 50+ weapons, notably legendaries, it has become increasingly difficult to design challenging encounters - the In Harms Way trio skill combo I mentioned above as it exists now makes it even more difficult. Players are too powerful and In Harms Way is too powerful.

The question many bring up is "how could it take two years to figure that out?" Here's where I need to point to the level cap increase and the combat system overhaul. With any level cap increase there is always the same balancing challenge between classes, mobs, gear, etc as there was for the initial development of the game. It's like they have to design a significant portion of the numerical systems driving all aspects of the game all over again. In Harms Way didn't seem to translate well into this post-50 redesign in the form it was in.

That's how I read the situation. Please don't take this post as Turbine gospel. This is what I see in their explanation and why they did it. I'm making a few educated guesses here, but I see them as entirely logical. The thing to remember here, captains, is that this has not yet been tested. Let's wait and see how things play out. And if the change does work as intended, what's wrong with a little bigger challenge?

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