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Balancing Issues and Possible Solutions (open letter)

Mar 15, 2020
The design of Wizard101 doesn't blatantly discourage picking Ice. (I feel like I should get that out of the way now so that someone doesn't yell at me for no reason.) That being said, many systems up to this point have combined to create an incredibly hostile environment for Ice wizards. They've lost so much value in almost every part of the game.

The Pros

1) Ice isn't awful at 1v1 PvP. A 5 pip shadow-infused hit that gives you a tower shield good in PvP, as is a 4 pip hit that steals a shield is good. You've got health coming out of the ears, why not? It's not bad.

2) Ice isn't useless in group PvE. I mean, supporting the storm for max three rounds is a low bar, but sure.
The Cons

Want to do anything else? I hope you're prepared to waste a lot of time for people to end up not liking you for even trying.

1) Ice can't solo PvE with an aggressive play style in late game. Ice doesn't have very good AOE spells, Blizzard spam is okay due to its DPP in comparison to Frost Giant, Snow Angel, and Snowball Barrage.

It's possible to get respectable hitting stats on an Ice, but if a 130 Ice joins Mount Olympus, the rest of the team is going to blade the level 30 Storm for some reason. People don't have faith in Ice hitters. (Every part of this list is partially applicable to Balance and Life as well, but Ice is hit the hardest.)

2) Ice can't solo PvE with a defensive play style in late game. Enemies quickly spam strong hits that make playing defensively a complete waste of time for all defensive schools. (Unless you're in a group, protecting the squishy storm from dying in two hits. Then playing defensively apparently becomes kinda okay.) It becomes way easier to just try to hit as fast as you can. Imitate storm. Just imitate storm and you'll belong.

(Quick side note, Ice isn't completely hopeless. They have Abominable Weaver, which is honestly not awful in this context, as long as it's used well.)

3) Ice can't even imitate storm very well. (This is a problem because the design of the fights is completely geared towards imitating storm with the exception of ~15 fights in the entire game.) Like I mentioned earlier, the spells either split up the damage with DOT, which cripples tactics like trap/feint stacking, or some damage is removed to make way for side effects. Problem is,

4) The side effects are almost completely unhelpful.

Myth side effects are great while also having some useful spells that keep all its DPP. Medusa has a unique stun duration, Earthquake gets rid of all positive charms and wards, you can't get that from a effect-dedicated card like Stun.

But Myth also has AOE hits that keep their DPP. Orthrus is a solid damage AOE for a reasonable amount of pips, and Medusa honestly does enough damage to overcompensate for the two round stun.

Even Balance and Life have a decent balance with this. Life has King Art, (ugh) but it has Balance has Ra, but it has Power Nova.

(Balance not having any good single hits hits regarding DPP means that Ice isn't the only effected party here. Life not having an AOE hit with some sort of side effect is super boring design, but it's at least manageable.)

Ice is kinda disrespected in this regard. They have Frost Giant, Snow Angel, and Snowball Barrage, but they also have... Blizzard? They have Woolly Mammoth and King Art and Abominable Weaver, but they also have... Lord of Winter? Stunning someone and giving yourself a tower shield can be done for 0 pips, Fire and Myth wizards can stun everyone for 2 pips with an item card from a number of relatively common pets, and giving yourself a pip? Great work, I'll put it right on the fridge.

It leaves a lot to be desired. To have one 6-8 pip AOE and a 7-9 pip single target with fewer damage trade-offs would probably be enough for Ice wizards to become more capable in PvE.

5) Ice isn't specially good at support. All schools can train Elemental Blade and Feint. Balance can use 4 unique Bladestorms, Death can do the same for Dark Pact, a support that's the same school as the hitter can give even more unique blades. When reducing damage is only good to make the healer's job easier, it becomes harder to defend Ice as a "support school."

6) Ice isn't specially good at Jade healing. Yes, the strategy that is already incredibly useless for schools that aren't death. Life and arguably Death has a monopoly on healing, especially now that critical healing is so accessible.

Possible Solution

You can change how battles work a bit. Let the enemies have a bit more than Empyrea's health and damage but slightly lower the attack rate so that defensive play isn't completely pointless. Everyone will still be able to imitate storm if they want, but if they need to play defensively to solo, it can be balanced so that it's still harder but achievable.

You can fix bosses in this sorta way, too. Make the amount of hostiles in boss battles directly proportional to the amount of wizards in the room/battle, 1 to 1. There won't be as much defensive play in teams, so you can make the boss hit really hard but kinda slow the attack rate. This, along with tweaking the minions to make the battle smooth yet challenging, should be able to make battles more closely align with player patterns while remaining rewarding. You can make weird bosses that actively work against the players for important story beats, like how it's done in Empyrea, but hopefully in a way that feels more intentional to the player.

I don't want things to be easier, I want things to be more fun. I'm not mad that Ice does less damage than Storm, I'm just frustrated that Storm's upsides actually make the school really useful in multiple contexts, whereas Ice is currently stuck near the bottom of every category. Teaming up isn't bad, but relying on team up because you don't have the experience to wrangle your Ice into a good solo questing wizard is bad design, and it soils the experience.

I don't expect something like this to be done in Karamelle, or the world after that, or even at all. But the systems of the game have been converging in a way that makes it harder and harder for defensive play styles to have fun questing. Bosses like Dynt and Crusher aren't currently rewarding to solo, and are predictably "storm-like" in play style when you beat it in a group. I hope something is eventually done to address this power imbalance and make the game more rewarding overall.

Thanks and sorry if you actually read all of this.