In case you were unaware, power creep is a fancy little denomination for the process of lower-ranking content being suppressed and made even more insignificant when game developers release more layers of content on top of it. It can pose a serious issue when the underdogs are trying to catch up and get to a point where they can fend for themselves, or when newer players roll in and have to go through the entire process from scratch at a disadvantage that their higher-classed peers did not have.
There’s a certain steepness to the mountain that one climbs in this game; there are, no doubt, very few hikes you’ll experience in real life that are even a fragment of the hike you take as a Dragon Lord. It’s a daunting task!
First and foremost, when it comes to having admiration for games such as this one, I come second to none. However, I’d be willing to joust for that role if anyone else feels the same! But having firm support for a cause doesn’t necessarily entail refusing to see the imperfections, either; no body of work is ever fully above the rest.
In the gaming industry, I believe in the principle that after a while, there has to be some form of a revolution in the way things are rolled out so as to sustain a vigorous playing environment. Ideally, how much steeper can Mount Drudemore get before the great and revered Nature God, Arborius awakens in his angry state, shakes everything astray, and Danzig is left with no other option but to send Amarok and his squires off to war against Arborius’s henchmen, Chunk and Ettin; a battle that could spell the end of Atlas in all its glory? If that’s not what the objective is for the future of this environment, we may need to break the mold to ensure it never plays out.
Let’s start by addressing the core components contributing to power creep in this game. The first contender is:
TIER EVOLUTION: Frequency and Retention
Frequency: Click to expand for further detail.
We are now approaching what would logistically be the end of Tier 20, as we should be making way for Tier 21 this upcoming summer season. That speaks volumes for the vast majority of the player base; it speaks for mostly everyone except the whaliest of whales who have the leeway literally at their fingertips to rise above every competitor, and the most archaic veterans who have made their own dents into the game over time, but it most especially speaks to the underlings who are all out of reach from those already at or having surpassed the tip of the iceberg (which theoretically would include even the “whaliest of whales” and the “most archaic veterans”). This rapid frequency in the rollout processes is a whale of a problem.
Depending on factors such as activity and level of effort, it may take a player one year in passing to get to a minimum level of roughly 400. This sets the stage for Empyrean-tier dragons to roll in, and this is also about where that wretched grind starts to set in; the grind that’s notorious for putting a stop to every faithful player’s quick flow, turning them faithfully unfaithful in all of their future considerations.
When this grind, which everyone in this game knows and loves, is combined with the quick output of content at the peak of the game, it makes it tiredly difficult for the underdog to catch up and keep up. It makes it even more prohibitive on the newcomers who open the game to get their first glimpses; I’ve read accounts of some newer players quitting effective immediately after they’d discovered the hidden grind (hidden until it slaps you in the face at the point of reaching it), some existing here on the forums.
Given that there have been a handful of minor refinements made to alleviate the grind, I think the issue lies more in the frequency of tier launches than the grind itself as a natural and inevitable part of this game.
Retention: Click to expand for further detail.
When I say “retention”, I’m really pointing toward the inability at endgame to retain dragons for long enough to actually enjoy them and get a tangible feel for how they perform in battle before they become unviable.
Although it is true that endgame constitutes just a minority in the population of this game, their experience is as significant as everyone else’s, if not more. The underlying issue, and a common denominator among each and every player at endgame, is that dragons don’t show enough sustenance when quickly overlaid by the next procession of dragons (and accordingly, new tower levels) just a couple of months later. This issue isn’t at all exclusive to lineage dragons, either; I’ve seen the concern voiced regarding seasonal divines as well.
As it has a sort of interrelationship with frequency, I don’t feel inclined that this needs much more explanation.
TOWER LEVEL ROLLOUTS: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Perhaps one of the lesser issues in the bunch, so there’s reason to be lax here, but it’s still a very small systematic part of the issue in whole.
Courtesy of the improved cadence, or as I referred to it, “the good”, the ascent through the tower levels itself (i.e. “the bad”, which isn’t reversed by the good just because it’s a good thing) isn’t half as ignoble as it could be thought, but somewhere else in the system lies another problem, and this is where things get particularly ugly. If you have an aversion to ugliness or anything of its like, I’d advise you to stop reading here… or not.
Every successive tower level contributes to power creep in that it makes the climb from underdog to top-dog even more outstretched. Much similarly to the conundrum addressed under the “frequency” subcategory in the previous segment, newer players—and even those in the actual process of development (i.e. midgame)—will find it a hassle to progress against odds that are continually stacked against them. That is the pure embodiment of what “power creep” truly represents, so enough has been said on this matter.
EXTRA RUNES AND GLYPHS: its Effect on Gameplay
Runes and glyphs, while beneficial to every player in-game in a seemingly harmless fashion, and definite requisites for dragons that heavily rely on them, are crucial contributors to power creep in this game.
The simple fact that the existence of an exotic rune outclasses the existence of a mythic counterpart serves as a wonderful example of power creep in runes. However, this isn’t even the root of the problem. The actual root of the problem here is how prevalent these things have become. It’s gotten such that seasonal mythics now depend on them to be at peak performance level; combine this with the Ascension Tokens, which are in a league of their own when it comes to power creep (making the things that allow mythics to thrive harder to reach), and you have exactly that. It also doesn’t help much in the way of defense that the only exotic defense runes have been in exclusive rune branches, and their availability has been severely restricted in any other way.
The power levels of a dragon with an exotic rune and a dragon with a mythic rune, or anything inferior to mythic runes, will be skewed by a long shot, and it won’t matter what the stats are on the dragon. As long as one dragon has better runes than another, it’s going to outperform its competitor every time. Speaking of things that skew dragon power, that brings me to the next culprit responsible for power creep.
ATLAS GEAR: the Underlying Problem, and Why it’s Such a Grand Ordeal
Gear is yet another candidate that brings pleasure and ease to one player and accounts for the strict and uneven competition of all the rest. Gear places a group of superior players on a throne and leaves every subordinate player wishing they had the majesty required to be within that group of players, as they realize there’s not much they can really do except submit or die trying to fight.
Gear is also unsustainable for most players who may find it difficult to procure the necessary shards required to craft or upgrade it; this is especially applicable to those without Atlas access. Factor in the range of different rarities of gear—especially the highest of the rarities: up to Elite, but liable to change at any rate—and the increasing difficulty to obtain one on each level, and you have a recipe for power creep.
ATLAS PRIMARCHS: Their Impact on Atlas, and How They Contribute to Power Creep
Atlas primarchs may seem like harmless little trinkets at first that you pawn off on the enemy, but they’re much more than that. They’re the kiss of death.
When you start off in Atlas, you’re immersing yourself into a completely different aspect of the game that’s much more dynamic, and the power creep here is perhaps much more substantial than in the core game due to it. In Atlas, you’re up against a multitude of different player levels, equipped with a smorgasbord of different types of primarchs.
If you’ve been around the map, or scanned around for more than 30 seconds total, you probably know how many different primarch combinations there are: bronze siegers, silver trappers, gold taunters, etc. And it’s blatantly obvious that with the climb up this “tree” (as depicted in Atlas), primarchs become more powerful; more offensive benefits are awarded such as extra storage for troops and higher combat powers. Due to the general concept of Atlas, these things contribute greatly to power creep. With each consecutive advancement up the tree, power creep’s stranglehold on those not at the top of the tree tightens.
Power creep is a pressing issue that exists in just about every interactive multiplayer game. It can be a total buzzkill when you go to face it, and it’s clearly inevitable to be the source of it when you’ve progressed so far past it already. At any rate, power creep is one of the issues that has my vote to be prioritized for further inspection. In a game such as this, that jungle never stops growing. I am more than certain I neglected to mention some contributors to the issue, but these were a few of them that exist in large measure.
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