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Make Duels Fun Again!


imo there are immense fundamental flaws with the way dueling works on this server.

lets take the recording of the last 1v1 tournament's final between pax and grey as an example:

undoubtedly one of the most boring duels in the history of UO. i would like to argue, that while true that the two of them are the top duelers on the shard, the dullness of this duel is not caused by the fact that both duelers are on par in terms of skill. rather, it is caused by fundamental flaws in the way dueling works on outlands. i do not claim to belong to the very top of duelists on this server, but i have a ton of experience both on outlands itself, as well as t2a based insta hit dueling in general. i find it extremely obvious that there are glaring issues with dueling.

the first thing that becomes immediately evident when watching the tournament final, is that very few spells are being cast. for the most part, the duel consists of the two of them swinging their weapons at each other with often times very little intent to even stop the opponents gheal after hitting a hally hit.

the following is a very long description of this duel. by all means, skip it. watch the video of the finals if you can stand it, which should be boring enough, and skip the following part. i wrote this down so precisely mostly to confirm for myself that my complains about dueling on outlands are actually accurate.

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at 1:14:30, after 1 minute and 30seconds of just running around, trading some blows and ghealing up, grey finds the first opportunity to go for an explo poison ebolt combo after delivering a hally hit. pax manages to get heals off.

what follows is another minute of basically only trading weapon hits and healing up.

then, at 1:15:40, almost 3 minutes into the duel, both stop loading explosions. they are, i assume, reasonably low on mana and can not risk dropping an explosion after hitting with their hally, only to find their opponent get the gheal off, as this would put them at dangerously low mana. so from this point on, they both opt to load mostly ebolts, or even only harm/lightning/whatever. sometimes even just running at each other with weapons with no spell loaded, basically not having any intent to stop a gheal after they hit their weapon. it has become a complete mana war with the "winner" being determined by rng rng weapon hits. if one tries to meditate, the other stops it and the game of swinging weapons at each other and not even trying to stop gheals continues. occasionally, one will start up an explo or ebolt, only to interrupt it himself right away. they just dont have enough mana and they know it.

about one excruciating minute later (1:16:45), pax becomes bold and interrupts a gheal with his precasted harm after landing a weapon hit. knowing quite well that his chances of securing the kill by spending any more mana immediately are rather low, he decides to only precast the follow up magic arrow and goes for a weapon hit 50/50 to try and interrupt the gheal. and lo and behold, the rng gods are on his side and his axe interrupts the gheal. he gets the next gheal with his already precasted magic arrow, stops the 3rd gheal with a lightning, before precasting another lightning. at this point, grey puts in a mini heal, pax whiffs his hally, stops another gheal with the precasted lightning, whiffs another weapon but gets yet another gheal with a harm, only to be too slow to get the follow up magic arrow.

and we are back to both players chasing each other with weapons. presumably even lower mana than before.
at 1:17:56, we are ~3.5minutes into the duel, a roughly 5second meditation break happens and grey decides that this time it is his turn to spend mana offensively. he loads up an explosion, hits his hally and follows up with a poison which stops his opponents gheal. his explosion forces pax to throw in a mini heal while grey loads up his ebolt. having, presumably almost no mana left, grey decides to hold the ebolt and try for another weapon swing while pax mini heals. he misses and pax starts a gheal. grey decides not to interrupt it with his ebolt. pax is back to roughly 70%+ hp from minihealing. the ebolt could drop him to 50%, but since grey missed his hally and probably only has mana for a few more low level spells to follow up, which aren't enough to get the kill. he would need at least one more big weapon hit but his hally is on cooldown. chosing to fire the ebolt and a few low mana interrupts, only to miss another weapon would mean pax ghealing to full and grey likely being completely out of mana or at a huge mana disadvantage. he cant risk it. as a result, yet again we are back to running around swinging weapons, having no mana to threaten a kill or to interrupt gheals.

shortly after (1:18:32) grey not only hits a big hally hit, but because pax does not gheal right away, manages to land a big sword hit as follow up, which convinces him to spend some precious mana on harm, magic arrow and even a poison follow up. unfortunately he mistimed the magic arrow and pax gets the gheal.

1:19:10, another explo poison ebolt-precast by grey where he decides to not waste mana on dropping the ebolt and instead goes for the weapon 50/50 which he misses. pax gheals. stay with me here, i know it gets repetitive but it is kind of the point of this post to show how dull duels are here. its gonna be over soon, i promise. more weapon trading with no intention to stop gheals.

its 1:20:30. over 7 minutes of basically just running around swinging weapons. with maybe 5? total attempts of actually casting and targeting offensive spells / combos. same old, same old. swinging weapons. nothing else. at 1:21:21, after a little streak of nobody hitting very often, grey seems to have found some mana again. he hits a hally, albeit the damage done is what you would normally see from a katana. feels bad. he drops his explo nonetheless, but his poison gets resisted. pax gheals. take a guess what follows. basically nothing for quite a while, exactly.

1:22:45, after another minute of just trading hits, grey hits his weapon, drops an explo, then poison, pax stops the follow up ebolt and gheals.

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finally, at 1:23:20 this ordeal is coming to an end. what does it take pax to secure the win? a hally hit that takes away around 50% of grey's life, which he follows up with a harm to stop a gheal. he then precasts a magic arrow and tries his luck by going for another weapon hit. meanwhile grey mini healed to 74% but pax hits the 2nd hally for another 44% of grey's life which brings grey to 30%. pax stops a gheal with his precasted magic arrow, loads a lightning, misses a weapon, but stops a gheal with the lightning, loads another, hits his axe, harm, magic arrow pre, another axe hit, releases the magic arrow, loads lightning aaaand.. just kidding, its not over. even with all those hits, the occasional mini heals kept grey alive. he is at 41% when pax misses his next axe and grey gets the gheal. even with those massive hally hits and hitting a lot of sword or axe hits, while disrupting every gheal so far with harms, magic arrows and lightnings, the damage just wasn't enough. but at least some spells were cast. unfortunately, they are now very low on mana again.

could pax have stopped the last gheal with the precasted lightning? absolutely. but this is where it becomes crucial: grey is back to 41%. pax needs at least! another weapon hit, likely more. harms and lightning just don't cut it. they don't deal enough damage. furthermore, both are constantly low mana. casting even one offensive spell too much, only to then miss the eventual weapon hit that would be needed even after all those hits he already landed, could mean that he runs himself completely out of mana.
i hope that a few things have become painfully obvious by now: mana regen is too low. spell damage is too low. and resulting from that: weapon damage is too high, since the most viable tactic is to just trade blows, hoping to gain the mana advantage and run the opponent out of mana from just hitting more and bigger weapon hits.

anyways, its around 1:24:00, 11 minutes into the duel. i can guarantee you, after the last exchange they are running extremely dry on mana. so they trade more blows with basically no attempt to stop gheals. they run around and swing their weapons. if they land a big hit, they never rely on spells. to follow up. if they target a spell at all, its only to follow it up with another weapon hit. if it misses, the gheal goes through and its back to running around.

at 1:25:51, and this time for real, it is coming to an end. grey is at 73%. ghealing would be extremely mana inefficient at this point. mini heal is always mana inefficient. he has almost no mana left, so he chooses not to top himself up. pax hits a hally. grey drops from 73% to 18%. a 55% hally hit. i am not sure if sudden death was finally active, or if the rng gods decided to have mercy with everybody watching the tournament. in any case, grey's fate is sealed. he runs away briefly casting nothing, which makes me think he has no mana left, then he eventually starts a gheal, which gets swiftly interrupted by a harm. pax, as you might have guessed by now, does not stop the next gheal with the magic arrow he casted, but instead only precasts it, hoping for a lucky axe hit follow up. but alas, he was too far away! he does hit the axe, but grey gets his gheal off before! yet another bait by the author of this tale? how much longer can this grievous endeavor last?! well, although getting the gheal, after getting hit by the axe grey is down to 22%. sudden death damage i guess combined with rolling a 35hp gheal (hopefully the buff to gheal makes it to live). pax still has his magic arrow loaded, which he uses to interrupt the next gheal after grey throws in one mini heal. he casts a harm for the next gheal and while grey is frantically mini healing, pax lands the final hally hit to bring grey from 34% to 0%.

if you skipped most of my descriptions of the duel, you might have made it this far into the post. to recap, these are imo the issues with the way dueling currently works:

1) mana regen is too low. if one of the two duelists gains an early mana advantage due to for example landing more RNG weapon hits, he can abuse it by simply never allowing his opponent to meditate, hoping to keep being on the lucky end of RNG. furthermore, even if mana is equal, or even at a slight disadvantage, not allowing for meditations to occure allows one to extend the duel for an immensely long time, during which because of lacking mana, neither opponent can do much but to swing his weapon. in addition to increasing mana regen, i suggest finally making it scale with intellect, which would help shifting the focus away from rng weapon hits. i do not consider arguments like "mana regen is in line with era X or Y" to be valid. outlands is way too customized for such arguments to hold any ground.

2) spell damage is too low. luckily explosion and ebolt are getting a slight buff, which might even turn out too big of a buff. my biggest issue with explosion and ebolt is the range of their damage. it isnt rare to hit ebolts for 15 dmg with gm eval, currently. this is just ludicrous. besides ebolt and explo, it is imo instrumental that spells like lightning and fireball, maybe even harm, receive a buff as well. lightning deals on avg roughly 11 dmg gm eval vs gm resist. fireball deals around 8. currently, their ownly function is to disrupt gheals. you only get to have a limited amount of interrupts with the way circle 1-3 spells work on outlands. this heavily shifts the whole process of dueling towards getting a lucky string of weapon hits, since they are basically your only way of dealing noticeable damage and interrupting with spells is limited.

3) weapon damage might be too high, for certain though it is too random. not only do you need to get a string of multiple consecutive weapon hits in a row to kill someone, i sometimes hit hally hits that do as much damage as my katana usually does. this is insanity. rng is and has always been a part of instahit pvp, but on outlands it is simply too much.

4) the low circle spell interrupts mechanic:
as if there wasn't enough RNG already, you had to add RNG to spell interrupts? harm should be 100% for the first harm and 0% for the following for 5s, instead of 50% as it currently is. less rng is better. other than reducing those chances to 0%, i am fine with the mechanic, but:
the way low circle interrupts work here, in combination with low mana regen, low spell damage and high weapon damage simply results in duels revolving almost exclusively around getting lucky weapon hits and lucky weapon damage rolls. consider for example more oldschool mechanics where multiple harms always interrupt at 100% but where recast timers are longer. this results in timings being way more important and opens up more combos. you might miss a weapon hit but you have other means of interrupting. and you dont have to spend as much mana on spells like lightning, which deals low damage on outlands. this is why mana regen in duels feels extremely low: you are forced to spend a lot of mana on spells like lightning that do not deal damage, because it is your only way to interrupt at certain points in the duel. and on outlands, you NEED that weapon hit at just the right time, otherwise your opponent will get a gheal off.
again, because i feel i did not make myself clear enough: current mana regen might be t2a accurate. it might even be higher. but if you are constantly forced to spend 11 mana on lightnings just to interrupt a gheal while dealing almost no damage with those lightnings, it simply does not work.

5) following up on 4: remove poison from the low circle interrupt mechanic. poison can get resisted. it should not share a the same cooldown on interrupts with fireball. fireball is rarely casted. it not sharing a interrupt cooldown with poison could result in fireball getting used more often. this as well would go a long way to shift duels more towards exciting spell combos and away from random weapon hits.

i find duels rather boring on outlands.
i think that increasing mana regen, scaling it with int, buffing spell damage (including low level spells like lightning), as well as reducing randomness in weapon damage and possibly reducing weapon damage a little would shift tank mage duels away from the heavily weapon focused playstyle we currently have, towards a more mage centric playstyle where duels would revolve around actually casting spell combos, where not every combo consists of following up each and every spell by trying to get a lucky weapon hit. duels would be more interesting, fast paced, skillful and less rng.
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I'm at least another tier below Rio in terms of skill in duels - so maybe that invalidates my opinion - but I agree with this post 100%. Watch the duel alongside Rio's commentary...
My only dueling experience here is watching them, I find them extremely boring and have checked out of every tournament after the first couple of rounds due to boredom, for the reasons Rio lists.. I'd love to see the opinions of top duelists, since I feel like my lack of dueling experience invalidates my opinions here a little, but I know if duels weren't just waiting for a string of lucky hits with max damage, they'd be a lot more fun to watch, and I'd likely even start dueling as it was one of my favorite pastimes once..