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Click here to go to the next VIP post in this thread.   Old 2011-08-02, 12:57 PM   [Ignore Me] #1
Malorn
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Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


This discussion is one of the key points in the thread about the 20% power difference. This discussion is not about whether a 20% power difference should exist - this is a discussion about how it manifests in the game.

Fundamentally a ~20% or more power difference is not a bad thing for a game, provided it is limited by player choice and trade-off. You can even go higher for more differentiation, as long as there is a trade-off decision.

It comes down to one core principle:


There must always be limits to the number of power gains a player has active at any one time.


This does not mean the player is limited in their total number of abilities - only in the number of those abilities that can be used at any given moment.

Here are 4 examples of this that should be familiar to most everyone.

A) Implants in Planetside 1. A player had several implants from which to choose, but he could only have at most 3 installed at any given time. This was a beautiful way of giving players extra activated abilities but balancing it by making them choose which ones they could have at any given time.

B) Tactics in Warhammer Online.
A player had 'tactics' which were customizations a player could attach to their character. One might be that the player gains 10% additional healing. Another might reduce the energy cost of an ability (or in PS terms might reduce the implant stamina cost). Another was increased damage, but reduced survivability. A player could only have a certain number of these active, but they had a wide range to choose from and they could swap them out anytime out of combat. This was a beautiful system of customization but it kept the power in check. This is really what I'd like to see in PS2.

C) Gadget slots in BFBC2. Battlefield Bad Company 2 featured "Gadget" slots where a player could unlock abilities over time, but each gadget slot had a certain set of abilities which the player must choose. The difference between this and the tactic system above or the implant system is that some of those abilities were mutually exclusive. You could not, for example, have both the 25% gun damage gadget and the 25% armor damage - you had to choose one of the two. This is a good system because it allows you to limit the combinations that you see and keep potentially broken combinations of bonuses from being used together. This is a good lesson to learn.

D) EVE-Online's ship customization. It allowed a wide range of flexibility, but you had tradeoffs in the upgrades that were placed on the ship. Certain number of high slots, certain number of low slots, etc. Some things gave raw bonuses, like increased damage & rate of fire. Some things had benefits and penalty tradeoffs, like lower structure but faster speed. The point was your character may have been able to use all of those ship abilities, but you can only put a small set of those things on your ship at any one time.


One key observation with the Warhammer & EVE examples:

A tradeoff need not be sum-zero. The fact that bonuses are limited and the player must choose them is itself a tradeoff! So if you want more damage you don't need to sacrifice something else to get it. It can be calibrated for example that any given benefit adds up to about 5% net-gain. If a player has 4 benefits total at any one time, there's your 20% difference. That's noticable, but not huge.

If a player wants more than 5% that's when negatives might start coming into the picture to counteract the larger bonus. So for example we might have something like 5% damage bonus as one possible tradeoff (with no side-effects). Then we might have 10% damage bonus but 10% increase in damage taken, so the player has the option of doing more damage and taking more damage, or simply having a smaller damage bonus.


Here is how I would like to see power advancement work in Planetside 2. For the sake of clarity I'll call power bonuses "Tactics", as in the example from Warhammer Online above.


1) Players unlock Tactics via the cert system.
Some tactics are only available by deep investment in a tree and may take months to obtain. This is OK.

2) A player has a certain number of tactic slots that he or she can use.
They are sort of like Implants only instead of being activated abilities they are passive modifications (a customization if you will) of the player's base abilities.

3) Tactics have classifications or groupings, and some are mutually-exclusive with one another and can never be taken together.
This takes the Battlefield BC2 example for balancing purposes. This is just to prevent broken combinations from being used. It also allows the bonuses to be more meaningful since you don't have to worry about them interacting with each other (rate of fire bonus vs damage bonus, for example - a player shouldn't be able to get both because they interact and the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts) These groupings could be along the lines of "survivability" and "mobility" and "quality of life" and that sort of thing.

4) A player must choose which of his tactics to have active.
I may have 100 tactics unlocked, but I must choose a handful of those to be active, perhaps 5 for example to throw a number out there.

5) A player must go to an implant station or something along those lines in order to switch out the tactics
(but they can have loadouts to make it easy). The point is that if players can swap out tactics on a whim then they'll swap them out whenever they change classes and everyone will end up using similar bonuses all the time. By having them switch less frequently you get specialization. That is the person who is primarily a pilot with Pilot specializations will likely be running with those all the time, which will set that person apart from the guy who just happens to hop into a pilot class and fly around for a little bit. This is important to preserve specialization.

The "tradeoff" here is that a player must make a tradeoff decision - do they want to run with more aircraft maneuverability, or more footspeed or something else? They make that decision and they get the bonus. But they don't get all bonuses they have unlocked simultaneously, that's the key.


Squad leader abilities can work the same way - they're like tactics which get applied to the entire squad. You can differentiate squad leaders by which leadership tactics they choose to apply to the squad. You can have SPECIALIZED squad leaders who run with armor or aircraft or max bonuses, or general purpose squad leaders.

And of course outfits can have a different set of tactics that they too must choose. Some types of benefits could be reserved for squad leader or outfit bonuses to keep them appealing.

And best of all, new players can 'catch up' quickly to vets simply by joining an outfit and a squad. They'll still need to unlock some of their tactics but some will be available right from the get-go so they will have something and be competitive. THen over time they're rewarded for their specialization by having more tactical options for their chosen playstyles.


The key thing here is CHOICE and not being able to have-it-all. That is what preserves specialization and makes those customization decisions meaningful. When you just give out a bonus to everyone when they train a skill and they keep that bonus forever and ever is when you have a bad system. That's when power advancement is dumb and ridiculous. I wanted to differentiate the two so the developers reading understand that the beef most of us have with the "20%" thing is that it doesn't lead to customization unless the player must make tradeoff decision.

The power of this system is tremendous. Devs can track which tactics people are using and if a single tactic is overly prolific or being completely neglected it might need some changing. More tactics can be added over time as the game evolves and it won't throw the balance of the game out of whack.

It also allows bonuses to be meaningful, and not piddly 1%-2% here and there, but 10%'s, and 20 and 25%. Again, because a player can't have them all they can have meaningful customizations that change the way they play in significant and noticeable ways. I can choose to be a max specialist or a pilot specialist or a strange sort of hybrid based on my playstyle.

The possibilities here are endless and the bottom line is balanced, meaningful specialization that scales with additions to the game as it evolves.
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Old 2011-08-02, 01:38 PM   [Ignore Me] #2
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


I've always imagined that you'd actually have say 5 "slots" per playable roles (and perhaps 5 "general" slots which effects can be used across roles). Though you could argue this defeats the idea of specialization, I would say it actually adds more customization to the game, akin to how in TF2 one persons Soldier will no be the same as another.

Also don't forget that there are tiers of "tactics" that are limited by battle rank.

Otherwise agree with pretty much everything said.

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Old 2011-08-02, 01:52 PM   [Ignore Me] #3
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


+1
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Old 2011-08-02, 02:05 PM   [Ignore Me] #4
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by Malorn View Post
That is the person who is primarily a pilot with Pilot specializations will likely be running with those all the time, which will set that person apart from the guy who just happens to hop into a pilot class and fly around for a little bit. This is important to preserve specialization.
Why?



At any rate, they already said that the certs unlock upgrades(though I don't know if all certs have a corresponding upgrade), and that they are purchased with resources. Presumably you won't be able to fit all upgrades at the same time, so there will be tradeoffs. Except sights.. Those better be a straight up free upgrade. I hate iron sights.

If some do just give a straight up bonus to your character, I have zero issue with the bonus applying all the time. I do not feel that I need to have an advantage over them at the same role at any time. If we could have a game with zero leveling, that would be great, but we don't, so it is what it is. If they have the certs, I'm happy to fight them with those certs.

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Old 2011-08-02, 02:35 PM   [Ignore Me] #5
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Eh, this sounds like it's already in game to some degree. Attachments to weaponry and tools that may or may not be restricted by class. I can't bring my HA certs with me as a jump trooper for example and having to return to a station to swap out active "tactics"/certs for ones that help me as a jump trooper seems kind of counter-intuitive to what SOE is attempting with classes in the first place.

I'm also not under the impression that we'll see straight up stat boosts, like clicking 5 times on a talent and getting 15% more damage from your fireball

More like... stat boosts via attachments and equipment/vehicles upgrades that one can actually see. A highly maneuverable Reaver would look more maneuverable than your average flying brick I would assume. Course, that brick probably has hellfire rocket pods drilled into its underbelly that can coat an area in crimson flame, while the reaver running circles around it can only really hope to take out its enemy one at a time.

What I'm definitely not for however is the whole "I get this attachment and it increases X, but decreases Y." That crap will work itself out without decreasing Y. I'd rather have additional firepower or ammo in my magazine than a naturally tighter CoF at CQC. No need to make my weapon hit any softer as a result of picking the accuracy attachment.
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Click here to go to the next VIP post in this thread.   Old 2011-08-02, 03:06 PM   [Ignore Me] #6
Malorn
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by CutterJohn View Post
That is the person who is primarily a pilot with Pilot specializations will likely be running with those all the time, which will set that person apart from the guy who just happens to hop into a pilot class and fly around for a little bit. This is important to preserve specialization.
Why?
Because "meaningful customization" wouldn't have much meaning if everyone could switch those customizations on a dime to whatever situation they are in. Some level of commitment to a speclization is what makes it meaningful and makes a specialist interesting. That isn't to say you are stuck with it, but I'm imagining something along the lines of PS1 implants. You can change them whenever you want, but there's a bit of inconvenience that lends you to generally run with the same ones most of the time. That makes it a real tradeoff.

Presumably you won't be able to fit all upgrades at the same time, so there will be tradeoffs.
You know what they say about assumptions. I'm giving the explicit feedback that your presumption is not only important, but essential to having that system work in a way that is meaningful and balanced for the game.

Originally Posted by EASyEightyEight View Post
Eh, this sounds like it's already in game to some degree.
Weapon attachments are one form of this, but I'm talking much more broadly than only being able to have one type of weapon sight.

If you played EVE, the way I'm seeing this is that a player's character is like a ship in EVE with different slots for augmentations. For example, you might have two "high slots" that are for damage/survivability type augmentations. You unlock them with the cert tree and put what you want there. You could have a set of "medium slots" for mobility/miscellaneous things that aren't direct damage/survivability, such as runspeed or vehicle handling, ammo carrying capacity, that sort of thing. Then you have your "low slots" for quality of life things like reducing MAX/vehicle timer, maybe lowering resource costs of specific types of upgrades, that sort of thing.

And of course then you have your resource-consuming upgrades like your weapon, MAX suit, tank, aircraft, etc that you customize.

So there's weapon/vehicle/max customizations that cost resources and then there's player character customizations that agument your play style which operate similar to implants - you pick them and can change them but only at specific places.

That's more or less the concept in a few paragraphs.
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Old 2011-08-02, 03:06 PM   [Ignore Me] #7
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Malorn, I wanted to come in here and flame you for getting deep into talking about balancing a skill advancement system we know little to nothing about. But after reading it, I realized it's just you expressing your opinion and hopes on what that system may look like.

Personally, I'm waiting to see what these skill trees look like, but there's nothing wrong with discussing and speculating, as long as we don't get to involved with actually emotionally debating balance. There's plenty of time for those arguments later.
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Click here to go to the next VIP post in this thread.   Old 2011-08-02, 03:13 PM   [Ignore Me] #8
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by Raymac View Post
Malorn, I wanted to come in here and flame you for getting deep into talking about balancing a skill advancement system we know little to nothing about. But after reading it, I realized it's just you expressing your opinion and hopes on what that system may look like.

Personally, I'm waiting to see what these skill trees look like, but there's nothing wrong with discussing and speculating, as long as we don't get to involved with actually emotionally debating balance. There's plenty of time for those arguments later.
Thank you for refraining the flames. We actually know quite a bit about the system from what they've described. Folks are concerned about the power advancement in the system and that's where I'm elaborating a bit more.

They could be doing it exactly as I describe. Or maybe they aren't and they'r emore EVE-skill like where everyone has a constant benefit that they get. Its not too clear yet on which system they're going with so I'm doing what Higby and others asked us to do - give them feedback. The feedback is mainly that we don't like the idea of giving vets power simply becuase they played the game longer, but power itself isn't bad as long as it comes with tradeoffs. That's actually a great thing to encourage specialization and differentiate players.

For example, I might run with a bunch of augments that help with squad leading, providing tank-relevant squad bonuses, and tank driving because I specialize in being a tank platoon leader. Outside of a tank I'm not as great as soeone who specialized full-on infantry. But it gives us each our niches that we can dive into and be unique snowflakes. And of course we can also change those niches when/if we want.
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Old 2011-08-02, 03:17 PM   [Ignore Me] #9
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


You seem to be conveniently forgetting the time investment to specialization. It's not like 2 months in of constant play anyone is going to have full access to the MA, HA, AV, Medical, Engineering, Reaver pilot certs. That may take up to 6 years. May take more. May take less. Or a player could dip a little into everything quickly but they wouldn't exactly be "specialized" either.

Really, you're freaking out over something we shouldn't have to worry about a long, long time from now.

And by then, no one will give a damn, because we'll all have found our preferred method of play and selection of equipment/attachments that we primarily stick with anyway, despite having access to so much else. Just think about how you fill your inventory now, and how someone else might fill theirs. I personally don't leave home with any less than 200 rounds and a REK, despite having no hacking certs.

I don't see any reason to demand players go back to a terminal to activate access to certs. Hell, with what we know thus far, and how players tend to act, I don't see any need to.
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Old 2011-08-02, 03:18 PM   [Ignore Me] #10
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by Malorn View Post
You know what they say about assumptions.
That they can be pretty decent for day to day operations if they are made with some sense?
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Old 2011-08-02, 03:30 PM   [Ignore Me] #11
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Tradeoffs are going to be what makes this system work.

There is a lot of value in your post Malorn, but I disagree with the notion of a total limit on active talents, in the context of your post.

While I do believe that some limits on the number of active talents would be ok, I think that there should be some categories where they may be active but unused. To clarify, vehicle talents apply when you are in a vehicle, infantry talents apply when you aren't in a vehicle.

In PS1, the ability to transition between vehicular combat and indoors combat had few limitations, Rexo/agile being the one that first comes to mind. If you severely limit the active talents of a soldier they are either going to not get out of their vehicle or feel that they are outclassed the second they step outside.

My assumption is that there will be general infantry skills, weapon skills, armor skills, vehicle general skills, specific vehicle skills and whatever there is for aircraft. Not all of these skills will come into play at any given time because they don't apply. Why limit across the board? Let infantry talents apply when the soldier is on foot and the others as the circumstances dictate.

If you were to go as far as to limit active talents, I would feel better about having active talents available for a soldier's possible roles (Air, infantry, vehicle, universal).

I don't think that having mutually exclusive talents is a bad idea, where if you have a certain talent active, another cannot be active at the same time. Swapping them out should be at least as easy as swapping implants though, if not slightly more. The hard part was the time invested in acquiring those skillpoints, so swapping them once you have acquired them should not be a painful procedure.
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Click here to go to the next VIP post in this thread.   Old 2011-08-02, 05:20 PM   [Ignore Me] #12
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by EASyEightyEight View Post
You seem to be conveniently forgetting the time investment to specialization.
I'm not "conveniently forgetting" anything. (I'm not sure why you seem to be so hostile to me, but I digress...). Time investment = more possibilities and options. I'm pretty clear on that. The problem without limits is that everyone converges to the same thing and specialization becomes meaningless. That's why I put "meaningful" in the thread title.

Really, you're freaking out over something we shouldn't have to worry about a long, long time from now.
Smoking won't kill you for a long time, it's OK to start now!

Punting a problem doesn't fix it. I want Planetside 2 to be the best possible game and not de-volve into some pile of crap 5-6 years from now because the fundamentals of the cert system were flawed. If anything we should be more congiscent of long-term effects of systems than a normal game because we're seeing it now in PS1. We have an opportunity to provide feedback to the PS2 devs on the designs and avert disaster now and I'm doing that. You may not see the value in that but I'm not forcing you to read my posts.


Originally Posted by Soothsayer View Post
Tradeoffs are going to be what makes this system work.

There is a lot of value in your post Malorn, but I disagree with the notion of a total limit on active talents, in the context of your post.

While I do believe that some limits on the number of active talents would be ok, I think that there should be some categories where they may be active but unused. To clarify, vehicle talents apply when you are in a vehicle, infantry talents apply when you aren't in a vehicle.
My OP was more to move the discussion forward from "zomg 20% bonus!" to more of a how to make 20% work in a balanced way to keep specialization meaningful and not be a detriment to new players.

There are certainly ways to keep the core principle in ways other than I stated. For example, having a category of "vehicle talents" as you describe could work very well, providing there's a large number of vehicle talents and sufficient differentiation between them. Its just different levels of commitment and whether they want to allow someone to go balls-deep into a specific thing and that's all they do, or whether they want to enforce a spread.

As long as the player must make choices and those choices are limited and meaningful I think that's a good system.

My assumption is that there will be general infantry skills, weapon skills, armor skills, vehicle general skills, specific vehicle skills and whatever there is for aircraft. Not all of these skills will come into play at any given time because they don't apply. Why limit across the board? Let infantry talents apply when the soldier is on foot and the others as the circumstances dictate.
The scope of the limitations is not something I feel strongly about, only the fact that those limitations exist and we must make meaningful choices.

I chose the description that I did because by putting them all together its a larger commitment opportunity to the player. if you have 5 cohices for example, and you put all 5 into a pilot and nothing else, then you are fully committed to being a pilot. If someone else wanted to be a more jack-of-all-trades, they would sacrifice some of that pilot commitment, making the full-on pilot more specialized. If you split it up among different categories that cover different styles of play then the specialization is less meaningful IMO. I don't fundamentally disagree with what you say, its just I like the idea of someone being able to do a deep specilization and have it mean something.

I also see your point on being able to have more use of the full cert tree that player shave unlocked and not bits and pieces of it. That's fair too, so I'm sure there's some middle ground. If you have more ideas please share. I claim to be no authority here, just someone who is a zealot for good design principles. The design details can vary so long as the goals remain.


If you were to go as far as to limit active talents, I would feel better about having active talents available for a soldier's possible roles (Air, infantry, vehicle, universal).
As above, I don't disagree. It is one way to do it and I'm sure it can be done in a way that works out well.
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Old 2011-08-02, 05:41 PM   [Ignore Me] #13
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Well, coming at this again, I think that a specialization should be borne out by the amount of training you've put into it... I was just running with your idea.

I think that limiting active talents should be done only to very general ones that anybody can unlock at certain battleranks.

So you get a few basic universal talent skill lines (not as much as a tree) that you can train up. Basic and useful stuff, that only a certain number of which can be active at any given time (this would be where 5 would be reasonable). Everybody can get them assuming they are the required BR. Everybody can train them, it is up to the person to decide which ones they want to have active at any given moment.

You can train other stuff, specialized or not and your hours, weeks, months, years of training isn't hampered by an artificial limitation on how much of your accumulated skillpoints can come into play at any given moment.

Doesn't seem fair to have a limit on which skills you've trained are available to you (aside from ones that do not apply to any given piece of equipment... cycler skills won't count towards your RoF when you're holding an MCG).

So my own way of letting players utilize their whole body of trained skills (which they have put a lot of time into) is to have common pool skills at certain BR which are geared to different playstyles. These common pool skills would have a low skillpoint threshold. A person could only have a small number of them activated at a time. These would act as a "session" specialization, as in, if you are planning on playing one night with a specialized playstyle, you could suit up with the ones relevant to that playstyle. They could be swapped out when you needed to switch to a different playstyle.

My own belief (and summary) is that you need to be able to use the skillpoints you've invested when they relate to the action/activity you are trying to engage in.
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Old 2011-08-02, 06:01 PM   [Ignore Me] #14
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by Malorn View Post
The feedback is mainly that we don't like the idea of giving vets power simply becuase they played the game longer, but power itself isn't bad as long as it comes with tradeoffs. That's actually a great thing to encourage specialization and differentiate players.

For example, I might run with a bunch of augments that help with squad leading, providing tank-relevant squad bonuses, and tank driving because I specialize in being a tank platoon leader. Outside of a tank I'm not as great as soeone who specialized full-on infantry. But it gives us each our niches that we can dive into and be unique snowflakes. And of course we can also change those niches when/if we want.
Very well said. This ^ is how I really hope it is in the game.

To carry on your example of the tank squad leader, I wouldn't want the trade off to be gimping the tanks, but rather gimping a different aspect of the game (like infantry as you stated). Meaning you should be able to upgrade your tanks rate of fire, but it shouldn't come at the expense of decreasing your tank armor. Rather the cost should be in not putting those upgrade points into something like infantry.

Using a PS1 example from my personal experience might help me explain it better. I fly a Reaver and want to be the best pilot I can, so I cert in Engineering so I can repair my plane in the field, however that meant I didn't have enough certs to get HA. So while I was more effective flying my Reaver, I was at a disadvantage indoors because I didn't have HA. Thats the sort of trade off I want, instead of "well you can increase speed, but it will cost you in accuracy" type of trade off.
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Old 2011-08-02, 08:13 PM   [Ignore Me] #15
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Re: Meaningful Customization & Balance via Tradeoff Decisions


Originally Posted by Malorn View Post
Punting a problem doesn't fix it. I want Planetside 2 to be the best possible game and not de-volve into some pile of crap 5-6 years from now because the fundamentals of the cert system were flawed. If anything we should be more congiscent of long-term effects of systems than a normal game because we're seeing it now in PS1. We have an opportunity to provide feedback to the PS2 devs on the designs and avert disaster now and I'm doing that. You may not see the value in that but I'm not forcing you to read my posts.
Not everyone agrees there is a disaster that is impending. Your interpretation is not the only one. If, years down the line, everyone has access to everything, my opinion will be Great! Finally!

The fun things about fps games are that people have their own personal tastes. People will do what they love doing a lot more than things they dislike. Just like they don't need RPG aspects to increase your power(since you do that naturally), you also don't need RPG to limit what you do, since that happens naturally as well. Even if I'd had a free cert for air cav in PS i would have rarely used it. Didn't care for it much. Wasn't big on leading squads. Barely ever took out a lightning, deli, ams, flails. Could have had certs for all those things and I'd still rarely do them because I just didn't enjoy it. Buggies sucked, but I loved them, so I took those out.

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