Been a busy couple of days sorting through everyone's feedback, we knew this would be a contraversial change but it's also one we feel fairly strongly about. I've sat down with our design leads & item designers and got a few updates / answers to questsions.
Right now the team is focused on making adjustments and getting the rest of the new features up to PTS, but we should be seeing a larger more detailed post on the changes (along with some revisons) early next week.
I also want to re-iterate that the hand tuning process is going to take a decent chunk of time, so you don't immediately see item X change don't immediately assume its not being adjusted.
Why are you changing item power progression
So first I want to be clear, we're not changing the power of items just to get more people through our raid content. Yes, these changes have the added benifit of making some of the harder content more accessible, but the item changes were made to address a more core problem across our entire endgame that only gets worse as we released new content.
As it stands right now on live our gear progression sort of looks like this
LEVEL 50 --> CHRONICLE --> EXPERT1 ------> EXPERT T2 ----------> RAID 1 -------------------------> RAID 2
As you progress through the content the item power grows in significant leaps, not only does this make it harder for earlier players to progress through content in PVE, it also causes problems with things like PVP balance.
With the changes we're looking to get things to look more like this
LEVEL 50 --------> CHRONICLES -----------------> EXPERTS -----------------> RAID 1 -----------------> RAID 2
This results in an overall better experience for all of our endgame players, gear upgrades are more consistant, players in general get better rewards, and it doesn't become progressively worse to gear up new players each time we add new content, since the gaps no longer grow on a harsh curve.
Another nice side effect of this change is it helps make our various tiers of PVP players a bit more competitive, since PVP matches PVE gear in progression there is also not as massive of a gap between the lower PVP players and the Rank 8 ones.
RELIC vs EPIC items across content tiers
Another really important question I want to answer is where we intend Relics to compare across Tiers. First off we very much want to move away from the idea that having 100% coverage of availible RELICS are required to complete the next tier of content. That was never our intent..... Relic Items are a reward for extra effort up and beyond the normal progression, and intended for those people who play the content first / more then what is needed for the normal progression. Ultimately you should be able to do a couple of bosses in the next raid without a single Relic from the previous tier. However players with Relics will definately have an advantage moving into the next raid. They won't have to gear up as much to take on harder bosses and they will be able to progress through the content faster, and thus get to the best gear in the next raid sooner.
Now that being said while we wanted to reduce the gap between EPIC and RELIC we didn't really want it to be as tight as it is on PTS today. Our Raid Lead and Item Designers have been tweaking the general power ranges so that Relics are always an upgrade in the existing tier, but also have a pretty decent lifespan into the next tier as well. With that in mind they threw me some example 2H weapons so people could see where we are going
Current LIVE weapons
Current PTS weapons
Weapons after next round of changes
As you can see there is still some definate and clear upgrades as players move from R1 EPIC -> R1 RELIC -> R1 EPIC -> R1 RELIC. We've also added additional information to tooltips such as Weapon DPS (the amount of damage this weapon adds to most abilities) so its clearer to players what those extra DPS actually equate to.
Ultimately the choice to replace a relic is always going to be harder then replacing an EPIC. We don't want all that hard work from the previous tier to just go in the dumpster when new content is released, while still making sure there are immediate and desireable upgrades in the new content.
Further hand tuning of items
We've got alot of work ahead of us comparing and tuning items, we will be paying special attention to items at the TOP TIER of the game... So items from Raid 1, Raid 2, and Rank 8 will be getting extra special attention to make sure that the progression feels good. This includes some limited work on items with procs as well.
There will occasionally be items from previous content tiers that remain best in slot for one reason or another, sometimes thats intended and other times it's a happy accident and we're ok with that. It gives people a reason to go back to older content, or some rewards to shoot for while helping new guild mates gear up. That being said it will always be the case that the vast majority of items in the next tier will become your new best in slot gear.
Difficulty of content & Encounters
One last thing I want to mention is that we're not just upgrading items and making everything way easier. We will be going through and making a few selective changes to existing content in both Expert, Master, and Raid zones. While you shouldn't expect to see a huge increase in difficulty we will do some minor adjustments to monster DMG / HP to account for some of the item progression changes.
Cleric Items & FOCUS
For Cleric players I want to assure you we're not quite done with item changes. Yes we did add focus in on many healer items in an attempt to reduce the number of sets a cleric needs (Tank/DPS/Healer). This also means we'll be going back to some of the older items with focus currently on live and bringing them more in line with the items we just tacked focus onto.