With Mirage having been recently "nerfed," or reduced in difficulty, there's been a lot of talk about just how tough enemies should be in Wizard101. On one hand, its original audience has aged with the game and needs more challenging fights to stay interested. On the other, a growing audience of young players needs to be able to pass through the content. Where's the balance? Challenge modes.
The Difficulty Problem
It's no secret that there's been a lot of talk about what should or should not happen in terms of difficulty. First Azteca was considered by most to be extremely difficult, followed by Khrysalis, a world with cheating bosses at every turn, then Polaris, which was considerably easier. Now Mirage, not only significantly longer but also significantly tougher.
After its initial release, Mirage and The Rat (the final Polaris boss) have undergone changes recently to make them easier. To me, this seems like a good solution. Players who are quick can tackle the world at its toughest, and players who are struggling still have a chance down the road. It's also important to note that our access to guides and other people provides us with a significant advantage. Beyond that, KingsIsle has access to data to see how players are progressing that we do not. Vanessa Mythdust recently wrote a relevant article for MMORPG here.
A Different Kind of Solution
A lot of people have called for difficulty options already. Pick a difficulty level at the door of any boss: Easy, Medium, Hard. This accommodates everyone, right? Not exactly. There are a few issues here.
- Players who would constantly choose easy might feel undervalued, like they took some kind of shortcut through the storyline. Some players would have no problem telling them that.
- If it were just about difficulty for hardcore players, they wouldn't mind this nerf because it comes after all of them have completed the world. They need some kind of reward.
- Part of what makes bosses difficult is cheats. Cheats can't easily be removed from bosses as they often serve story purposes, as in the case of The Rat.
We need a solution that allows bosses to retain cheats for story purposes, remains easy enough that dungeons can be completed by everyone, but also provides enough challenge for more experienced players in addition to some level of gratification for being able to complete bosses above and beyond what is required. And that's what it should be - a baseline of enemy difficulty with "extras" at increased difficulty, not an easy way out. We're raising the ceiling of opportunity, not dropping the floor.
Challenge Modes would be a series of risk/reward opportunities for players that would start at major bosses and eventually be offered for other boss fights. Challenge Modes would only apply to instanced zones, so regular mobs or wandering bosses remain as easy, difficult, "grindy," or whatever else as they always have been. But now, you have an opportunity for experienced players to go above and beyond, and have something to show for it. Challenge Modes include the following:
- What bonuses and restrictions apply to your team
- What bonuses and restrictions apply to enemies
- What rewards you'll receive upon successful completion
One easy way for this to be implemented would be to have one universal challenge mode for all bosses, then specific challenge modes for different major bosses. I've included four potential options for four different bosses in this post.
- One Challenge Mode for Morganthe reduces your team's accuracy by 20% and your critical by 95%. It also restricts you from using any ward spells (including traps, shields, or any card classified with a ward symbol). The different versions of Morganthe have 50% more heathl, 20% more resistance, and 15% more damage. Successful completion awards 75% more gold and a unique Shadow Spider pet.
- One Challenge Mode for Malistaire reduces your team's accuracy by 85%, but increases your critical chance by 25%. It also reduces the enemy team's accuracy by 25% and increases their critical chance by 45%. Successful completion awards 50% more gold and the "Lucky Shot" badge.
- One Challenge Mode for the Pendragon restricts your team from using charms (including blades, negative charms like Black Mantle and Smokescreen, or any card classified with a charm symbol). The Pendragon will have 25% more health, but is also restricted from using charms. Successful completion awards the "Prince Charming" badge.
- One Challenge Mode for Rasputin (The Rat) decreases your team's health by 20% and their damage by 25%. It also restricts your team from using charms. Rasputin and his minions will have 50% more health. Successful completion awards 30% extra gold and 150 crowns.
There are a variety of potential challenge modes, and plenty of potential rewards, from items to experience to potions, and so forth.
You cannot double up on challenge modes, you must declare which mode you're attempting, and you can only receive the rewards for that mode, even if you would fulfill requirements for other challenges. You have to take them one at a time. This means top-level wizards now have multiple challenges within the same dungeon across the Spiral. You can complete challenges multiple times for multiple pets or gold bonuses (badges are only awarded once).
There would be a few hurdles in implementing Challenge Modes, so I'll answer the major questions here.
How do you start or join a Challenge Mode?
Upon approaching a sigil, you'll have the prompt to press "x" to enter, or the options underneath (as shown above) for either Team Up or Challenges. After a Challenge Mode is selected, it can be initiated one of two ways. First, you can choose to enter the sigil (if the sigil is already in use, you will get a "Sigil in Use" message and must wait for an opening. Second, you can choose to team up and look for others to join your challenge match.
How will others know if a dungeon is in Challenge Mode?
When a player chooses to hop onto a sigil that is already occupied by a player who has selected a Challenge Mode, they will be given a warning prompt with the conditions of the challenge and an option to continue or back out. These will function just like other dungeon warnings. If a player is simply teaming up, they will select the Challenge Mode themselves and teams will be assembled based on the selected mode.
How will the Join a Team Kiosk work?
Those looking to join teams will also see team up options for Challenge Modes, indicated with a special symbol. Attempting to join the team will produce the same warning message as you would see if jumping on an occupied sigil, warning the player of the conditions.
Can you teleport into a dungeon in Challenge Mode?
All dungeons will retain their ability (or lack thereof) to be teleported into. Teleporting into a dungeon in Challenge Mode would show a unique message: "Would you like to teleport to your friend in Horizon Hold (Challenge Mode)?" Players who teleport in experience all the same restrictions and are eligible for the same rewards if they are active in battle when the enemy is defeated.
Would you be interested in Challenge Modes? What are you ideas?
Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!