Remember that I’ve previously asserted that I’m not President of the KingsIsle fan club. Here be well-founded anger.
On Friday, April 8th, the Test Realm for Wizard101 opened to test new equipment. These amulets allows a player to convert otherwise school-specific double-powered pips (sort of like combo points) for equal-strength use in a different school. For example, if you play Ice school you could buy a Myth school amulet and have essentially the same power with Myth spells.
The amulets went live in a shockingly short amount of time: the following Wednesday, April 13th. In more than two years of playing the game, since five months after its release, I have never seen anything move from test realm to live so rapidly. I can’t fathom why KingsIsle moved so quickly. They knew, without a doubt, that the programming on this equipment was clearly, deeply and unfairly flawed in regards to the PvP component of the game.
To understand why the amulets are a huge problem, here’s a bit of background on PvP. Remember that Wizard101 is a turn-based card game. Two schools each have a high-level spell that not only attacks all enemies on the opposite side, but stuns every single player on the opposite team, rendering those players unable to cast a spell in the next round. Two other schools have “stun all” spells that do no damage. Three schools have no such ability.
While “stun all” isn’t a much of a problem in PvE, it became a huge issue in PvP with a strategy known as “chain stunning”. This is essentially casting the stun-all spells repeatedly. The opposing team never had a chance to do any damage or heal. It was a fundamental unfairness that could have destroyed the PvP element of the game.
KingsIsle took their time, but eventually retooled the stun-all spells so that, when cast, they also left behind four “stun shields”. They drop one at a time, so every player who has been stunned resists the next four stun spells.
EXCEPT in the case of the Myth school spell named Earthquake. Earthquake does a moderate amount of Myth damage, then destroys all shields and buffs. Ravenwood students refer to this as “dropping” everything, because the icons representing the shields, traps and blades drop into the fissure left at the end of the earthquake animation. And Earthquake drops stun shields too.
What’s the point of creating the stun shield if it can be destroyed in the very next round, or even by the very next spell?
This was a possible PvP team strategy pre-amulet: In one round, an Ice school player casts Frost Giant to damage and stun all. In the next round, the first player from the same team casts Earthquake to remove the stun shields, and a Storm player casts Storm Lord to damage and stun all before the round is finished. The very next round, the first player casts Earthquake and a Fire school player casts Choke to stun all again.
This was a plodding strategy, because unless the players casting Earthquake were from the Myth school, they had to wait extra rounds to cast Earthquake. There are ways to donate pips to other players, but those spells are rare. At any rate, it was slow going. Until now.
The Burger King amulets change everything. Any player can now buy an amulet to convert all primary school pips to Myth school pips, and then can cast Earthquake in as little as two rounds.
And any player can use Earthquake: by spending training points in the Myth school or using a Treasure Card. Treasure Cards are one-use cards that carry extra damage. Myth school students can craft Earthquake Treasure Cards. Earthquake Treasure Cards, both crafted and regular, can be given to other players with no trade of other cards required.
And it gets more insidious! Earthquake Treasure Cards are more readily obtainable than ever through the Gardening feature introduced by KingsIsle in 2010. That’s right…you don’t even have to spend gold (the in-game currency) at the Bazaar or ask a Myth School friend to craft an Earthquake for you. You can grow them for free in your dorm room with seeds that drop from mobs and bosses.
Players can easily buy, harvest, or craft a big stack of Earthquakes and give them to all the players on their PvP teams.
Why hasn’t KingsIsle fixed the unfairness of the Earthquake spell in PvP? This could be achieved by fixing the programming to preserve the stun block shields, or changing the spell to add four stun block shields to each player hit by Earthquake.
Why would KingsIsle introduce equipment that makes it even easier to exploit the flaw in Earthquake? Essentially, this is a speed-pass to Warlord (the highest PvP title in the game). The amulets cost $20 and are not yet available through boss drops. KingsIsle has stated that they will be available as boss drops, but no word on when this will happen. And there are amulets for seven schools: even if an amulet drops, it might not be Myth.
If you don’t PvP in Wizard101, the Burger King Amulet issue isn’t of particular concern to you. But KingsIsle’s behavior regarding the amulets should be troublesome for anyone who has, does, or will spend money on the game. Because it stinks like week-old roadkill on Firecat Ally.
KingsIsle has full awareness of the fact that Earthquake drops stun shields. Players have repeatedly asked for a fix, but none is on the horizon. Players also voiced their concerns about the amulets accelerating the casting and frequency of Earthquake during the brief Test Realm trial. But nothing was done, and again there has been no concrete plan offered by KingsIsle to address this.
By now I’m SURE you wish I’d bring this rant in for a landing. Or at least lower the landing gear. I promise, I’m heading somewhere with this.
Thanks to the new amulets, anyone can buy themselves the Warlord title for $20.
There is only one way to fix this: make the amulets unusable in PvP. This can and has been done in-game. There is PvP equipment that cannot be used in PvE, and there are elixirs and henchmen that cannot be used in PvP. It IS possible to stem the tide of unfairness until the Earthquake exploit is fixed.
I sincerely doubt KingsIsle will take this opportunity to be fair. They stand to make too much money, not only from the sale of the amulets but from players using crowns (obtainable only through cash) to reset their training points to obtain Earthquake.
And the Warlord title is forever. So even if KingsIsle does right the wrong at some point, anyone who obtains Warlord using the double-whammy of Earthquake and amulet can keep that rank forever. All they have to do is stay out of the PvP ring, which sounds like just the type of strategy someone who has bought the title might do rather than risk losing it.
It doesn’t feel very family-friendly, which is the primary marketing claim KingsIsle built the game upon.