Before I went on holiday recently I’d read several discussions on the LOTRO forums about “being squishy” in the open world – the big rebalancing patch for Update 13 had changed the core combat calculations affecting character defences, damage output and the combat effectiveness of monsters out in the open. One result of these changes is that some players feel their characters suddenly are much weaker or more vulnerable (i.e. squishy).
On the Neverwinter forums there has been at least one discussion on the merits of the prerequisites for Module 3’s Icewind Dale content. The discussion centres around whether players should be locked into progression style content in order to unlock other content.
It’s an interesting point of debate. Should open world questing require you to make much effort to optimise your character? At one end of the spectrum, with games where you level very fast (e.g. WoW, GW2) then gearing isn’t very crucial at least if you avoid group content. At the other end there are games that require your character to be moderately well geared if you expect to even complete the core solo content – SWTOR is like this, LOTRO certainly was like this originally and seems to be moving back in that direction again (after several expansions made it progressively ‘faceroll’ easy).
This issue can come up in a game in different ways, I’ve given two different examples above. I do think learning to use your character’s available skills and powers is part and parcel of playing a MMORPG, the devs should not leave it to the mythical endgame to suddenly expect us to press more than one button. There seems to be a number of players who get by with the barest minimum in games though, leveling characters without any idea they have abilities beyond the most basic of attacks.While I can understand some of the arguments made by such players in the mentioned discussions (e.g. wanting to game as relaxation or a dislike of complex stat systems), I’m generally happier if I feel like I have to put some thought into my character’s development at a general level and tactical choices or ‘build’ on a session-by-session level.