Have been checking out other games since I left Toril, and allthough so far none of them really kept me interested for long, there are some with concepts that could work in this game. It got me thinking though which of those concepts would help make Toril change into a game that's fun to play again.
Time and Risk
In order to justify the ever escalating eq stats zones have becoming longer and longer. And to keep up with the eq race you had to only do the longest zones. At the point when I left it was almost pointless to do anything other than Tiamat for eq. I hear Brandon has the zone down to 12 hours now. Sit back and think about that for a bit. 12 hours straight to get a piece of eq in a game. Who has that amount of time these days? Especially for a game - let's face it - aimed at us oldtimers. This game has evolved to a game that is increasingly impossible to play for the only audience it can attract. This can only go one way...
Part of the solution to make this game playable again is to reduce zone times. Tiamat, being the epic zone should take no more than 4 hours.
That of course poses a problem. With 4 hours it would be done every single boot, and within a few months everyone would have a full set of Tia eq, game over.
I've seen several solutions to this problem. The most promising is to make zones timed. You have 4 hours to finish Tiamat from the moment you enter the zone. Balance the zone so you have a significant chance to fail. This makes it equally hard to obtain a Tia item, while keeping the time to do something short. Instead of zones being just a matter of time to complete with no risk at all, you will actually have to be on your toes to win them.
Rares and reboots
I have always see rare loads at boot as a major flaw of the game. In order to finish a quest you have to log in at boot. Again sit back and think about it: why is it a good thing the game forces us to log in at a certain time to enjoy part of the game. It's stupid.
Rares have exist for one reason: to delay items coming into the game.
There is no reason why rares should load at boot. The current game mechanic kills questing an hour after boot, basically removing an important and rich part of the game for most of the time. Rares should have an x% chance to load at each zone reset. It has exactly the same result so why this hasn't been implemented a long time ago totally eludes me.
Solo play and Twinking
We have a small playerbase at the moment. That means very often, especially outside prime-time it's virtually impossible to form a full zoning group. This is often remedied by twinking zones, solo or in small groups. For single item fights this not much of a problem, but for zones this often means that zones no longer get done because the primary item is gone making the effort to do the zone not worth the rewards. Our areas staff therefore actively tries to prevent twinking as much as possible.
This is not exactly a solution, it helps some zones get done at prime-time, but kills off the game outside it. I think some of the easier zones that no longer get done should be rebalanced for smaller groups. Again using time constraints on those zones to upgrade the risk so even a small group can get a decent item from the zone. Obviously you have to prevent full 15-player groups from entering the zone and steamrolling it.
Eq, Old Zones, New Zones
Eq escalation is a huge problem in this game. Because new zones, and Tiamat especially, have so much better eq than older zones, it becomes pointless to do those older zones. Getting new and better stuff is one of the major parts of the game. When I left you could get the top end eq set (note that "THE" top set) from a handful of zones. Everybody is more or less wearing the same eq set.
I think you should classify all eq in 5 categories.
mundane, professional, premium, epic and artifact.
- No zone should have more than 1 artifact. Maybe with the exception of Tiamat that should have 2 or 3. At the moment all items from the top tier come from that zone. All epic items from maybe a handfull zones. See the problem?
- For each class/slot/category combination there should not be a single top item that stands out. You should be able to put together your eq set depending on your play style. I hope 2.0 will encourage this.
- It should be next to impossible to get a full set of artifact eq.
- Each zone should have at least 1 epic or artifact item, depending on the difficulty of the zone, to make each zone worth doing.
- Make sure quest items are balanced. A lot of quest eq now is ridiculously undervalued compared to eq coming from some of the newer zones.
Keeping to these rules should keep new and old zones balanced.
Obviously fixing this problem requires at least an eq-wipe. I can imagine a lot of people don't like loosing a bunch of stuff that took years to put together, but it's neccesary to keep the game fun for years to come.
XP, Grinding and Trophy
My last gripe is xp. What is the point of levelling? In my opinion the concept of xp and levels is used to teach people the game and their class. It should not be a construct that acts mostly as a obstacle to keep people from playing the endgame, eg. zoning.
XP therefore should be aimed at what it's supposed to do. Teach people the game. And that is exactly what it doesn't do right now. XP for the most part is sitting in CM/DS/... and kill mobs over and over again, without learning the geography of the mud, using all the great content, or something else remotely useful.
You could replace xp by doing a number of quests all around the mud teaching specific elements of the game. Find a number of items in Waterdeep to get to lvl 2, Kill a mob to get to lvl 3, get items from mobs from around Faerun for lvl 4, and so on. Make em class and maybe alignment specific. It will be much more fun to do, and actually performs the task it was ment to do. Prepare people for the endgame!
At the very least make xp a lot easier, and make it impossible to get xp from just a few zones.
I quite sceptical that any of this will actually happen, even though Toril 2.0 looks really promising in terms of gameplay. 2.0 does not fix the primary problem of this mud though. This game seems to hold on to game mechanics that worked when this game was still state-of-the-art and there were hundreds of players. People don't seem to realize that we now have to compete for the scarce player base muds have left, and that we in order to be competitive have to listen to needs of those players, and the basic need is a game you can play with little time. Unfortunately this game has developed in the opposite direction on a road of certain suicide.
That is a shame, because this game has so much to offer, not in the least the greatest bunch of players and imms i have met in all the games i played so far.