Despite knowing the likely response this kind of suggestion will get, I still want to propose a change to the 'stacking' or purchased enhancements and upgrades to your character. Please feel free to disagree entirely, but if you agree at least that the underlying problem could be addressed in a different way, I'd love to hear some alternative approaches!
So first let me try and define the problem as I see it.
Artifacts, wonderitems and the like are entirely cumulative, meaning that the advantage you gain scales somewhat linearly with how many upgrades you can obtain.
This means that I can (and often do) purchase multiple utility skills from other archetypes for me to use, defensive upgrades that make it harder to pin me down or kill me, wealth generating upgrades that make my character a better crafter and trader or simply able to pump out more free upgrades for myself, offensive upgrades that make me do more damage, or extra hindering, or faster afflicting. And all of them combine with each other (sometimes literally stacking on top of each other). There's no tradeoff I have to consider in upgrading myself - every time I get a new artifact power I will be slightly better than someone else without them.
Some ways to address this escalating power discrepancy between have and have-not included the below ideas:
- Nerf some artifacts to be less useful. While this does act to undermine the benefit provided by specific, 'overpowered' upgrades, it doesn't really address the underlying issue in general. It's also likely to cause major headaches for the company, because the value of real money purchases (in some cases, probably not the majority) will be deliberately lowered. As a result, I don't think this is a good long-term solution, it's only going to need to be repeated again every time something comes out that is considered too strong in combination.
- Let players ''rent" or otherwise borrow artifacts for no real world cost. While I do like the democratisation aspects this approach has, it's effectively ceding the argument that artifacts are required to be competitive. Worse, by making certain artifacts available to everyone for a little bit of in-game time, you are still reducing the value of those artifacts purchased for real-world money to the equivalent number of minutes of in-game effort it would take to hire them. I don't necessarily disagree with this solution if it were made prohibitively expensive in terms of in-game effort for a short loan, but by doing so that would counteract the intent.
I'd like to suggest a different option that may have been considered before, but I haven't heard about it yet if so.
Give players a slot-limited 'artifact set' to setup wherein only a certain number of purchased upgrades can be active at any one time.
This would take the form of every player having a certain number of 'upgrade points', let's say 50 points for the sake of an arbitrary example. You would then be able to: POWERSET <setname> CREATE POWERSET <setname> ADD <artifact power> POWERSET <setname> REMOVE <artifacts power> POWERSET <setname> INFO POWERSET <setnams> ACTIVATE
Artifacts powers would be specific upgrades that provide a character boost, for example 'celerity_1' or 'custom_beast' or 'wonderpipe_resist_2'. Some upgrades would be exempted as always-on if they would make no sense to include in the character advantage system, for example non-decay, customisations, manse (but not aethership) upgrades, etc.
Any artifacts you own that aren't in your currently active powerset would be considered dormant, and you would not have access to the associated verbs. They still retain most of their value though - they work at full strength if you choose to activate them.
Having an active powerset with fewer points used than the full amount available would provide a scaling decrease on experience loss at death and experience gain, down to nearly zero loss for having no artifacts enabled.
This is intended to provide a bit of a counterbalance mechanic for those who either don't yet have artifacts, or would like to show their skill by competing without them.
Artifact powers would have a weighted number of points, based on how much advantage they provide.
Boxes that provide instant escape might have a weighting of 8. Health runes might have a weighting of 3 per level. I don't actually know enough about the current meta to know what are the most powerful artifacts or wonderitems powers, but this is just to illustrate the idea.
I know this is going to take a bit of work, but I think it provides a happy medium between nerfing and unlimited gains - it puts control and strategy in the hands of players to decide what layout they want to take into each conflict, and it seems to me the least terrible way of devaluing existing customer purchases.
The system is flexible enough that you could add further restrictions or options as necessary - for example making powerset changes have a cool down of X minutes/hours to prevent rapid switching, or adding a maximum point penalty for wealth generating artifact usage (which I'm not sure about, to be honest).
Anyway, any thoughts? Not necessary? Better options?