Another important idea in the combat revamp seems to be a focus on greater transparency in the game. We see this in three primary areas, mob mitigation, spell progression and equipment.
Mobs now have no mitigation. Period. End of story. If your skill, weapon, spell says it does 100 points of damage that's how much it does. Unless it is resisted or misses. Definitely easier to understand what's going on there.
But what I'd like to know is whether this means that resistance debuffs are no longer meaningful. Presumably, they reduce the chance that the mob will resist the spell/art.
Spells used to do more damage as you leveled up, until they turned gray, I believe. In fact, many numerical values associated with a spell would increase with level. This is no longer the case. The only way to make a spell do more damage, or add more mitigation, or avoidance or resistance buffs, or whatever, is to upgrade that spell.
Important spell lines are now upgraded about twice as often, since the greater granularity is now needed. Before, when a spell's damage (or healing) increased when it's owner leveled, it's potential could keep pace with the mobs you were facing as they increased in level. That's no longer the case, so upgrades become more frequent.
In Everquest 1, by the way, all spellcasters got upgrades to all their spells only once every four or five levels. Which meant that right after your upgrades, life was a lot easier that it was when you were on the level just before new spells. And it also meant that gaining a level often didn't mean very much to you. I'm glad they've changed that.
I've made a few comparisons and found that even an adept 3 version of a direct damage spell does slightly less damage than the next higher level of the spell at apprentice 1. Though not by much. This was intended; the "better is worse" idea has been publicly walked away from. New versions of a capability will feel like an improvement, though maybe not much of one at first, if the old one is adept 3.
I don't think this holds true for the Master II training upgrades. These are very cool, by the way. Though it's easy to feel you've made the wrong choice with them, I recommend you relax on all but the one that represents your most recent upgrade, since the rest of them will have been superseded by newer versions of the capability that are probably a little better than the lower-level Master 2. But I digress...
If you can stand another paragraph of digression, we're going to have another round of picking these things made available to us very soon now. I recommend that experienced players decide this by asking themselves which abilities, and skill do they use the most often. This is simpler to answer than which would you use most often, and probably gives as good a result.
Anyway, mitigation on armor used to scale with the wearer's level and no longer does so. This makes things more transparent, certainly. Again, I think the consequence of this is that armor must be upgraded more frequently. Maybe jewelry too, but stats never scaled with level, and jewelry no longer affects mitigation at all. (If it weren't for double experience I'd probably be cranking out jewelry with stat buffs.)
Another place where there is perhaps more transparency is the issue of what your traits do for you. STR adds to melee damage, INT to spell damage. AGI adds to melee avoidance, and WIS to spell avoidance. And STA gives you more hit points, like it always did. Simpler to understand and explain, certainly.
I think this means that power pool size depends only on character class and level, and gear and buffs that add directly to pow pool. Specifically, greater INT does not add to mage's POW, nor WIS to priests.
Now it's not as though SOE publishes the formula for any of these things, so transparency apparently has its limits. One could argue that such publication isn't practical, since the formulas are quite likely tinkered with fairly frequently. But in the day and age of web publication, I don't think this would be terribly burdensome.
But it's got to feel like quite a risk to the publisher and team. Total transparency, exposing every tweak to the community, can be quite bracing. Though it's almost always good for all parties involved. There's also the concern that if the formula's are published, someone will "crack" them and exploit loopholes in the system. But "security through obscurity" is always a second choice, since it doesn't actually address the loopholes, just makes them a bit harder to find.
On the other hand, exposing yourself will allow you to find the loopholes you didn't know about much faster. There are definitely going to be people who will want the loopholes closes as much as SOE does, and will be happy to point them out. The point of such transparency is to expose the flaws, and in so doing, improve the game.
UPDATE 9/22/05 7:30 AM PST: I was reminded of two other places where the expansion/revamp has introduced more transparency last night. First, you can now look at your faction rating in the persona window. This is good news for folks trying to get titles from the city factions. If a faction does not appear in the window, it means you have done nothing with that character to earn the notice of that particular faction. The bad news is that after months of doing writs, my faction has barely moved.
The second form of transparency overlooked is that NO-TRADE items are marked as such when they are up for lotto when looting. That's handy.