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It is a common perception that content nerfs are bad for games. The fact that some things become easier is often a cause of concern for players who are looking for a challenge, but let's look at why Rift content nerfs are not always bad.

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Rift's content nerfs come as a result of trying to balance content between those who are considered as hardcore and those who are casual players. In this sense, we're looking at hardcore as being players who have a lot of time to play, and casual as those who can only get on periodically. Elitism is in its own category.

As time goes on, MMO's get more and more content added to them. In the case of Rift, this has come in the form of raids and dungeons. To allow players to still have a form of progression, one thing that ends up happening is the content has to be tiered. When it comes to tiering, it is not necessarily named that; tiering simply means that to get to some content you must progress through previous. In a very real sense, this happens as you level up anyways.

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As more tiers are added to the game, it hits a point where casual players are still near the bottom and more hardcore players are closer to the top (or possibly even at the top). For Rift, the top right now includes Hammerknell Fortress and Rise of the Phoenix, whereas the bottom would be the Expert Dungeons (as the dungeons are pretty much a prerequisite for doing raids). With another new raid to be out soon, Infernal Dawn, that adds yet another step up, which will be above Hammerknell and ROTP. If we look at the order of progression at that point, it will be as follows:

  • Expert Dungeons
  • Drowned Halls/Gilded Prophecy/River of Souls/Greenscale's Blight
  • Master Mode Dungeons (this is really part of both surrounding groups)
  • Hammerknell Fortress/Rise of the Phoenix
  • Infernal Dawn

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In a sense, there will then be a total of 5 tiers of content (or 4 if you don't include Master Mode dungeons). Now, as time goes along even more will be added. The list will get longer and longer, adding more items to it. Which leads to one of three choices:

  • Increase the difficulty of existing content to match the newer content
  • Decrease the difficulty of existing content to make it easier/faster to clear
  • Keep the two separate and don't change existing content at all

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If we increase the difficulty, that will cause too many problems. Those who have not cleared it will not be happy, and those who have will just see it as being an unnecessary chore.

If we leave all of the content the same, the tiering will only hurt in the long run. If a guild that is already on the top tier and loses a couple members, they will need to recruit. If the content is left difficult and tedious, that means the only players who really take part are those in other guilds. So to recruit, the guild will need to pick up players that do not have as much experience. As a result, the guild will have to carry the new players through all existing content for a few weeks while trying to gear them up. And this ends up becoming an endless cycle that gets increasingly tedious as time goes on.

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If we decrease the difficulty, players, whether they are hardcore or casual, can take down the older content and get at least close enough to the high tiered guilds that they can be carried the rest of the way or immersed straight into the combat. It is irrelevant whether this is now, or in a year from now; it still plays out the same way.

As you can see, nerfing, or decreasing the difficulty is the most efficient method, both for new players and hardcore raiding guilds. It gives everyone the chance to not only experience the content, but to not be overwhelmed by trying to play catch up. Imagine having to spend 2 months in each tier being carried when there are 8 tiers to get through to play with other guilds. Not only will you, as a new player have problems, but the guild that needs a new person will also be forced to wait 16 months to get you caught up. And in that time, someone else is bound to leave, just restarting the cycle again!

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