The hallmark of the fighter archetype in Everquest 2 is its ability to to take a punch. Nobody else can go toe-to-toe with a mob like a fighter can. At least, that’s the way it was supposed to work.
However, until recently, the game was not working that way. Any character that could acheive a high enough Agility score could become unhittable, and scouts were regularly managing to do this with stacked buffs. Here’s what Moorgard, SOE community guy, said recently:
For example, if a monk or bruiser could be buffed such that his agility was 200 points higher than the opponent’s to-hit stats, they would avoid all but 4% of the enemy’s damage output. A plate tank with a shield also had 96% avoidance, and a scout with no shield had 90% avoidance.
Even an AGI advantage of 100 points allowed light and heavy armor tanks to avoid all but 14% and 15% of enemy damage output, while scouts avoided 77% of the damage. Since this stat advantage was easily reachable with typical buffs and debuffs, tanking was trivialized in many encounters.
The change we implemented was to raise the stats of NPCs that are level 30 and higher while decreasing the bonus given by agility. Higher-level encounters were no longer as trivial to tank, especially for scouts (who are not meant to be tanking heroic and epic content anyway).
As an aside, I think this implies that having a shield cut down the number of attacks that hit by more than half at this level. That’s impressive.
One of the questions that might be asked at this point is why not reduce the strength of the buffs in some way, instead of reducing the effect of Agility? It’s a pretty good question, and wasn’t addressed by Moorgard’s remarks. We can only speculate, which is what I’m about to do.
There are lots of ways that Agility can be increased besides the buffs in question. Items, potions, debuffs on mobs, and so on. I expect that in some future expansion will introduce higher levels for characters with bigger buffs and better gear. How often one entity hits another and how much damage it does is a core piece of the game, which I would want to get right if I were designing the game.
Also, I would want to have rough parity in the value of each of the stats. For example, Strength isn’t as valuable to a mage as Intelligence is. However I would like Strength to mean about as much with regard to the combat effectiveness of fighters as Intelligence does to mages. Likewise, I’d like a point of Strength increase be worth about as much to the party as a point of strength increase. This was not the case, since high-level buffs of other stats were being replaced with the low-level versions of AGI buffs.
The changes to Agility produced another problem, though, which is being addressed soon. The problem in a nutshell is that brawlers and their subclasses, monk and bruiser, depend on avoidance to tank, but guardians and warriors do not. Instead, guardians and warriors wear heavy armor which mitigates or reduces the amount of damage done by a hit that finds its target. Which means that brawlers were somewhat compromised in their ability to tank by the recent Agility changes.
After further parsing and analysis, we have decided that further delineation is needed between a fighter’s ability to tank versus a scout’s ability. As part of Live Update #3, we are improving heavy armor to mitigate 11% more damage and light armor to mitigate 35% more damage. In addition to making fighters tank better overall, this should address concerns raised by bruisers and monks. Light armor tanks still depend on deflection, but with increased mitigation their tanking ability should be less prone to streaks of damage.
This is really good news for brawlers, who have been having a hard time. Most of these changes aren’t going to be highly visible for characters in their low 20′s or below, but are going to be pretty noticeable by level 30.
As long as I’m talking about mitigation, I’d like to point out a few other things. Shaman wards prevent damage from occuring. A ward contains a certain number of points of damage absorption. This absorption is calculated before mitigation. Let me explain. Suppose the shaman’s ward is worth 1000 points of damage. The tank gets hit by a mob for a nominal 600 points. A big hit. A guardian wearing plate without a ward would mitigate this damage, perhaps by half, to 300 points. But with a ward on him, the full 600 points is subtracted from the ward, with none left to be mitigated. That’s kind of annoying, since the ward, in some sense, is only operating at 50 percent efficiency.
Which means it doesn’t interact well with heavy tanks, and the best tank to combine with a shaman is an avoidance-based tank. Clerics feature reactive healing, which heals with each hit, and regeneration, along with the best instant heals, and druids use regeneration, which heals at periodic intervals, as long as you are hurt. These don’t match up with the other two fighter subclasses particularly well, they have more of a correspondence with different kinds of attackers.
Encounters which land lots of hits for smallish amounts of damage are best dealt with by reactive healing, which heals on every hit. In contrast, encounters which land relatively few, but big, punches will do better with regeneration. But the form in which the damage comes doesn’t matter to the shaman in the slightest.
But don’t worry, you can be effective in most situations regardless of your combination. The most effective part of any character is the fingers at the keyboard. Maybe your shaman/zerker/rogue trio can’t take on a single orange++ the way a cleric/guardian/rogue could, but knowing that means you’ll avoid the encounter, and handle the blues and whites just fine.