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A List of Rather Important Balance Issues in the Game

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3/13/2020 0:30:11   

AQ has a number of well-known balance issues that come up every now and then. They get discussed and then forgotten. I feel like many of these are sort of controversial because many players don't WANT them to be changed due to how their build will be affected and some of them are locked behind a premium tag. Nonetheless, they are some of the biggest balance issues in the game and, in my opinion, should be addressed. As such, I am going to address them here (again) so that we don't forget them.

Also, in preparation for the inevitable argument "This is a single player game. If you think something is too strong, just don't use it" - To me this is the same as saying (albeit less extreme) "It's OK to have an item that instantly kills anything in the game for 0 cost. Just don't use it if you think it's too strong." Being a single player game is not an excuse for ignoring game balance, otherwise every single-player game can be a cesspool broken mechanics and it would be fine. Of course, I'm not advocating for perfect balance or expecting a balance update every month or something as it's far too much work, but most of the issue below have been around for a long time and are very impactful to gameplay.

Many of these issues will be related to the "nuke meta". The goal here is not to make these items unviable, but to bring them in line with other options. I am not including items that were clearly intentionally designed to be overpowered in exchange for convenience (e.g. Kindred, Book of Burns, Essence of Carnage), but a case for nerf can definitely be made for all of them.

Some of these suggested changes may seem a little harsh. However, before dismissing them, ask yourself:

1. Would I ever NOT use the item being addressed if I'm trying to optimize my build?
2. Would I still use the item after the (harsh) suggested changes take place in the builds in which the item is relevant?

If the answer to the first question is "no" or the answer to the second question is "yes", then the item is certainly too strong in its current state. If the answer to your second question is "never" or "very rarely" then it's being over-nerfed.

1. Booster Pets (Poelala/Dunamis/Therndas/Ramssy/Chilly/Mog Lightnaut)
  • Increases your damage by a percentage based on your INT and CHA.
  • % Damage Increase = [0.2 + 0.2 * (0.75 * INT / 250 + 0.25 * CHA / 250)] * Outleveling Modifier * Elemental Compression Penalty
  • Compression Penalty = 0.6 for Poelala/Dunamis/Therndas, 1 otherwise. At level 150, Outleveling Modifier ~ 1.03. For non-skill magic weapon attacks, the boost is multiplied by 4/3. Spells gain *1/2 of the boost. The guest version has its boost increased by *3/2
  • Damage boost is capped at 400 Main Stat/0 CHA (or some combination of Main Stat/CHA that results in the same value).
  • The main problem in the damage calculation is the 0.75 * INT / 250. This makes INT 3x as power as CHA in terms of pure damage boost.
  • Furthermore, booster pets' "accuracy" is tied to the accuracy of the player's attack, meaning that unlike regular pets/guests, their accuracy is completely unaffected by CHA, further devaluing CHA.
  • Booster changes a fundamental aspect of the game that balance is based on - the value of stats. Because of how much CHA is devalued by boosters, any build running CHA or not running boosters is automatically not optimal. A fully defensive build (i.e. the builds that get the most out of running traditional pets/guests) running wands/bows can theoretically get more out of running boosters + 250 LUK rather than running traditional pets + 250 CHA. This is how bad it is.
  • Booster pets/guests scale with skill multipliers. This is fine for spells and spell-based skills due to the *1/2 multiplier. However, for some reason, weapon based skills (e.g. Torontosaurus, Bloodzerkers) do not have the *1/2 multiplier to the boost. Why? Literally the only difference between weapon-based skills and spell-based skills is their classification. That's it.
  • This is 1 of the 2 reasons (the other being CIT) that armors with spell-based skills are instantly dismissed. This is why many people wouldn't bother to even taken a second look at the War armor even though it's decent on paper. Ask yourself this question: "Why would I ever use an armor with a spell-based skill over an identical armor, but with a weapon-based skill when CIT and boosters work the way they do?" The answer is never. Which leads us to the next question..."What reason do armors with spell-based skills have to exist?" This isn't even a question about flavor, as there is really no difference in flavor. It's just straight up weaker.
  • On a side note, boosters also scale with EleComp. However, I won't dwell too much on this as it is balanced in theory. Stuns/Celerity just make it feel very strong.
  • Suggestion: Change the % Damage Increase to use Lepre-Chan's formula. % Damage Increase = (0.2 + 0.2 * CHA / 250) * Outleveling Modifier * Elemental Compression Penalty. In addition, change the boost to *1/2 for all spells and skills. Their accuracy will continue to be unaffected by CHA and continue to scale with EleComp as well as other damage multipliers (such as Armor lean and Blood Contract), meaning they are still by far the best options for non-beastmasters and remain as very strong options (arguablly even the best option) for offensive beastmasters.

    2. Essence Orb
  • Essence Orb needs an outleveling multiplier in its formula.
  • The level 5 version converts 1 HP to 2.1462 SP. Absolutely ridiculously efficient.
  • Practically though, the lower level versions requires too many clicks and is too annoying.
  • This item obviously has lots of broken applications, but let's leave it here for now. At least it's balanced on paper this way.
  • In addition, its HP -> SP conversion rate needs a minor nerf under the new system of 1 HP = 1.125 SP. The conversion rate for the level 150 version should now be 75 HP -> 84 or 85 SP. It's a very small change, but since we are already on the topic, it is sensible to bring this up.

    3. Purple Rain
  • Once upon a time, this spell was probably fine, but due to the existence of QC spells, it is far too strong.
  • In effect, this spell lets you restore up to 1421 SP each turn, as well as any HP used for Essence Orb. Mages can get slightly more out of this spell to restore MP used by spells like Moonwalker's Grace/MP version of New Year's Surprise, though warrior can kind of do the same with Celtic Wheel/Int Misc. This is not OK.
  • Due to the nature of the spell, it is hard to balance as its value is not static.
  • Suggestion: Limit the number of actions that this spell can "rewind" to prevent it from being "abused". After the first cast of Purple Rain, the spell "stores" the next 3 (or maybe 4?) instances of changes to your HP, SP and MP. Further changes of HP/SP/MP will not be stored. On click, restore HP/SP/MP equal to what is stored in the spell. Basically, limit how much resources this spell can restore.

    4. Old-Standard Armors
  • This is already on the to-do list, but old standard armors (White Knight Z, Taladosian armors, HSVV, etc...) need to be updated to modern standards.

    5. Quickcast Stuns/Celerity with no use limits per turn (Primarily Love Potion and Shadowfeeder Pendant, but future items need to have this as well)
  • This one is a bit tricky because, admittedly, these items are appropriately costed on paper.
  • However, having unlimited uses is a bit too good considering that stuns completely eliminate defensive disadvantages, which is definitely a bit too good and too consistent. In general, unlimited attempts to use of anything is a risky business to implement.
  • Suggestion: Implement a once/turn use limit for these items. The purpose here is to reduce their consistency and preventing the player from frontloading all their SP in exchange for more immediate power.

    6. New HP Standard on Bloodzerker/Bloodmage Armors
  • There is some really...weird consistency issue? I'm not 100% sure if this should go under bugs or here.
  • I will just leave a post I made in another thread here about how it currently works based on testing, with the bolded part being the main relevant stuff:

    I'm not entirely sure I quite understand the new blood standard. Not saying they shouldn't have been nerfed (they 100% should), just inconsistent.

    1. Bloodzerker armors gains 20% damage, at the cost of 25% melee SPHP (87 hp@level 150)
    2. If you are using a melee weapon, for a cost of 99 SP per attack (or 25% melee in SP), you lock yourself into fire damage to deal x2 damage.
    3. If you are using a magic weapon, you gain the same cost as above, but it costs 246 SP, which is 50% melee, * 1.25 for being magic.
    4. Toggling costs no additional HP. I guess the elecomp is the reduced cost.

    Anyone else thinks this makes no sense?

    Now, let's compare that to Bloodmage

    1. For Bloodmage skill or any damaging spell cast in Blood mage, gain 50% melee in damage, then *2 for being a spell.
    2. You pay cost equal to 436 hp, or 125% melee, which means you are paying cost for the 2x damage of a spell, which Bloodzerker is not paying.

    And then we have bloodzerker/bloodmancer blades which costs:
    1. Costs 52 hp (15% melee) for 15% damage per attack, +20% in magic mode.

    I dunno, maybe I got something really wrong here, but this seems to be costed very inconsistently.

    Again, I would like to say that the nerf is a POSITIVE change in my view. However, it does seem to be very inconsistent in the way that it's costed.

  • Suggestion: Increase the SP cost of Bloodzerker toggle to cost 50% melee in SP for both magic AND melee attacks (196 SP, up from 99 SP for melee). Magic should also keep it 25% increased SP cost that it currently has. Bloodzerker toggles should cost another 25% melee in HP (total of 174 HP cost with the toggle on, 87 with toggle off. Alternatively we can keep the HP cost of Bloodzerker toggle as it is but reduce the HP cost of Bloodmage to 218, but I prefer the hp cost increase on Bloodzerker than HP cost reduction on bloodmage). Magic attacks in Bloodzerker should cost an additional 25% hp (109 HP without toggle, 218 with toggle). In addition, as stated by RobynJoanne, Pyromancer Bloodmage needs to be updated.

    7. Chieftan's Ironthorn
  • I left this one for near the end because every time this item gets brought up, someone decides to make the argument that Warriors are not competitive with Mages without this item. Because of this there are a few things I would like to first clear up.
  • First, this has nothing to do with Mages vs. Warriors. Mages can use CIT just as well as warriors. A mage doesn't treat Bloodzerker + CIT any differently from a warrior. Mage spells and skills do not deal more damage than warrior spells skills. They are all valued at 200% melee. Both mages and warriors are capable of using the same weapon-based skills and SPell-based skills. CIT does not discriminate between warriors and mages.
  • A mage's main advantage is that they have a full mana bar to use as resource. MP is also fully restored every 2 battles while SP is not (but SP passively regenerate), meaning MP is more convenient for farming. However, Warrior's (and Ranger's) main advantage is that their weapon attacks deal 1/3 more damage than mages' weapon attacks and skills cost only 80% of the SP that it would cost a mage to cast. It has nothing to do with their damage output.
  • CIT is the major reason why armors with spell-based skills are considered much, much weaker than armors with weapon-based skills. You only need to ask yourself the question "Is there any reason to use an armor with a spell-based skill over a weapon-based skill while CIT exists in its current state?" to know whether or not it needs a nerf.
  • That being said, CIT comes with major defensive disadvantages. While it does give +5 Melee/+10 Ranged/-10% Earth, it is still MUCH weaker defensively than a regular level 150 Earth Shield.
  • Suggestion: Turn it into a fully powered Earth Shields (with versions for each level bracket), but give it a berserk lean toggle for no cost. This will give it an appropriate accuracy trade-off for damage (meaning you can't just mindlessly spam it for every single enemy) while allowing it to equally affect all armor skills/spells. This will help substantially with the bias for armors with weapon-based skills over spell-based skills.

    8. % Damage Boosts for Weapon-Based Skills vs. Spell Based Skills*New point*
  • In anticipation of someone trying to make this about mages and warriors, please read the first 3 points I have in point 7 - Chieftan's Ironthorn. In case someone thinks this, this is completely irrelevant to mages vs. warriors.
  • This was already touched upon in point 1, but for some reason, spell-based skills/spells/SPells (valued at 200% melee) get *1/2 of the boost from most damage increasing sources while weapon based skills (ALSO valued at 200% melee) get the full damage boost.
  • This is another contributing factor to why armors with weapon-based skills are valued over armors with spell-based skills and why many people wouldn't bother to take a second look at armors with spell-based skills (unless they are EXTREMELY strong, like bloodmage armors).
  • Suggestion: ALL spells and skills, both weapon and spell based, should get *1/2 modifier from damage-boosting sources (unless of course it's something like a berserk lean, where it is not warranted).

    < Message edited by lolerster -- 3/13/2020 15:00:55 >
  • AQ  Post #: 1
    3/13/2020 1:20:12   

    1) I completely agree with the change of boosters' formula to Lepre-Chan's formula. From what I understand, boosters used to scale off Cha. While this was changed because they were deemed far too weak, as they are nominally weaker than the average pet and guest, the meta has changed so that non-beastmaster builds would still use boosters regardless of which stat they use. I am not as sure about the change to boosts to skills. While skills and spells are practically the same, this would be a completely fundamental change to the mechanics of the game and cannot be isolated to only boosters.

    2) Essence Orb (and other such conversion items like Discount Mogloween Party and Pixel Ether) should get a QC penalty as well as an out-leveling formula. The general *1.125 for SP should also be implemented to bring it to proper standards. It has also been brought up that scaling could fix the efficiency issue.

    3) Alternatively, Purple Rain could be like Doray and Father Time and have a delay in when it could be used. The latter are rarely considered broken because this delay is crucial to the balance of these items.

    4) Agreed. However, this is already on the to-do list.

    5) Agreed. This is the same way the Z-finity Gauntlets are balanced. Whether the latter are also unbalanced is another discussion that probably should be addressed, however.

    6) Agreed. Also, Pyromancer Bloodmage seems to follow old standards, making it far cheaper than other Bloodmage armors.

    7) Agreed. The primary difference between mages and warriors lies not in power but in the general easier accessibility of the former compared to the latter. This is primarily due to pet Poelala being in the UR GGB. Old-lean armors also contribute to this perception. The other main difference is the MP bar, which does provide a huge resource to mages. Since mages usually use SP as well, nowadays due to the greater power of skills, this resource is much less important than in the past. The greater base damage of weapons and lower SP cost should actually make warriors more effective and efficient than mages in the current meta (outside of unbalanced items like old-lean armors).
    CIT becoming a berserk toggle would make it properly balanced and fit it properly to its original theme of reducing BtH for greater damage. Universally affecting accuracy leans would also help. It could be similar to Grakma Warhorn. We have discussed in the past that it would require a ~-28 BtH lean to reach its current damage output.

    < Message edited by RobynJoanne -- 3/13/2020 2:56:08 >
    Post #: 2
    3/13/2020 1:54:28   

    I thought about making PR like Father Time/Doray, but considering they are on shields as MC effects and they heal the difference in resources at the START of the current turn and previous turn, it felt a bit too weak to take up a spell slot.
    AQ  Post #: 3
    3/13/2020 2:13:44   

    That's fair. Perhaps, we keep PR's current effect but merely add a turn delay, so people can't just use it whenever they want. The main issue remains that PR has practically no limits whatsoever.

    < Message edited by RobynJoanne -- 3/13/2020 2:54:06 >
    Post #: 4
    3/13/2020 12:58:49   

    Might I add to this list? Buff the Guardian No-Drop Armors.

    While it's understandible to have Adventurer No-Drop Armors be fairly middle-of-the road due to their intended purpose as starter armors, the Armor of Awe and UltraGuardian Plate have very different functions, gameplay-wise. They're not meant as starting armors: they're meant as unlockable upgrades and the ability to customize their element for a gold cost means that they're supposed to act as interchangible with most other armors.

    The problem is that they're bad at doing this because they all have very underwhelming effects compared to most of the Mastercraft sets, which means a lot of players have to either run compression, skip an element, or be comfortable using a much less powerful armor for one element. The only exception to this so far is the Insightful Armor of Awe, which has an actually useful skill.

    I think the easiest way to fix this would be to make each of their MC bonuses be an active skill similar to the Insightful AoA, this way there would be a vastly greater degree of flexibility allowed in builds because the armor you're forced to use can actually compete with other available armors in their element.
    AQ  Post #: 5
    3/13/2020 13:35:41   

    While I agree with your point, I would like to keep this thread focused on issues that has very significant impact on gameplay. A buff to no drop armor will increase their power level by maybe 5% or 10%. While annoying, I feel like it should be in a separate thread.

    @Robyn: I agree. One of the biggest issues is that there is no limit to how much Purple Rain can rewind. If we put a cap on it, then most of its issues would be solved.

    < Message edited by lolerster -- 3/13/2020 13:46:25 >
    AQ  Post #: 6
    3/14/2020 1:59:00   

    Since this thread will focus on things that have a substantial impact on game balance, I want to bring up subraces. The things that truly break the game are the core of the current stun meta, which itself destroys balance by removing the downsides of offensive builds. Snarl and Mesmerize also contribute to this issue and should also be mentioned. Snarl is much weaker than Mesemerize by itself albeit easier to proc due to using mainstat, but its interactions with Terror Eater should still be noted. Mesemerize has become much weaker now that pure builds no longer have Cha, but it is still similar enough to Love Potion to warrant mentioning. I understand that these abilities were already nerfed to be usable only twice per turn, but they're still relatively cheap and quickcast. If anyone disagrees and believes that both are balanced and okay for the game, then I'll delete this post.
    Post #: 7
    3/15/2020 18:24:33   
    Legendary Ash

    There is no reason why Weapon based skills should receive the full boost instead of half from booster pets as 200% *1.6 Elecomp *.24 = .768 and Spell based skills 200% *1.85 *.12 = .444, these numbers demonstrate that they are *1.7297 stronger.

    Weapon based skills allow for weapon specials to proc and the MC applies to all attacks.
    1.05*.85(.99(5*1.85*200% melee + 15*125% melee)/20+ .01*1100% melee)/1.1 = 164.5546875% melee per turn with 5% dmg
    1.05*1.5*.75(.99(5*1.85*200% melee + 15*125% melee)/20+ .01*1100% melee)/1.1 = 217.79296875% melee per turn ^with CIT

    Spell based skills don't allow weapon specials to proc and benefit most from Spell boost weapons such as Cutlass' *1.28125 that so far have no limits on how much of a normal attack can be exchanged to a maximum of *1.96875.
    1.05*.85((4*1.85*200% melee + 1.25(4*200% melee + .99*12*75% melee))/20+ .01*.75*1100% melee)/1.1 = 152.485653409% melee per turn with 5% dmg
    1.05*.85(8*1.85*200% melee + .99*12*75% melee)/20+ .01*.75*1100% melee)/1.1 = 163.728068182% melee per turn with 5% dmg both Sp + Mp Elecomp skills
    .85((1.28125*4*1.85*200% melee + 1.25(4*200% melee + .99*12*.9*75% melee))/20 + .01*.9*.75*1100% melee)/1.1 = 156.366193182% melee per turn with Cutlass
    .85((1.28125*8*1.85*200% melee + 1.25*.99*12*.9*75% melee)/20 + .01*.9*.75*1100% melee)/1.1 = 190.994034091% melee per turn ^with both Sp + Mp Elecomp skills

    In summary comparisons of 5% dmg MC weapons for a Mage given both Sp + Mp Elecomp skills is very close to a Warrior with Sp Elecomp skills.

    I think quickcast equipment should be allowed infinite attempts to inflict the status condition until a successful infliction, but then to limit how much can be stacked. For example restricting to one attempt is extremely limiting given that the save has a natural bonus to save for the monster and its against a monster of higher level than the item.

    < Message edited by Legendary Ash -- 5/6/2020 14:25:33 >
    AQ  Post #: 8
    3/27/2020 7:29:07   

    Love Potion and Shadowfeeder Pendant are balanced.
    Purple Rain is the real problem, especially when combined with Essence Orb. This extremely simple combo gives players like 4 full SP bars for free at the start of each battle. High END builds get even more SP, and INT builds get some free mana out of it too.

    < Message edited by Darches -- 3/27/2020 7:32:51 >
    AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 9
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