There has been many recent threads about the lack of challenge in DDO. They are likely to evolve as follows:
1) Players notice that the game is too easy. Even casual players are doing EE content.
2) Nobody wants to play a game that is too easy. Devs agree and tweak EE to become harder.
3) Players notice that EE takes a disproportionate amount of time compared to its rewards. They argue for better rewards/xp at EE, preferably exclusive loot at EE. And preferably unbound saleable loot, so that there is a reason to still run EE content even after you've obtained desired loot.
4) It's only fair that more effort leads to better rewards. Devs agree and tweak EE loot to be slightly better. Only a different color augment slot or slightly improved bonuses, to limit power creep.
5) The player base devotes its enormous collective intellect into min/maxing the newly available loot. Scaling over ten equipment slots, plus unanticipated synergism between loot, leads to substantial power creep. ASAH sales allow the casual players to obtain said loot.
6) Go to step 1.
The main problem with arguing for more challenging content is that it is only a prelude to arguing for better loot or more power, which in time leads to a lack of challenge again. To stop this vicious cycle, to break the mindset that more effort should always lead to more rewards, I propose a difficulty setting that is meant to challenge capped toons, and is explicitly meant not to lead to greater tangible rewards : the Punisher Difficulty.
A) Only capped toons may enter this difficulty.
B) You pay an entrance fee of 100k plat.
C) This difficulty awards ZERO xp and guild renown.
D) There are no chests or breakables. No loot is ever given out. Each run will always be a resource-consuming run.
E) The first successful run gives you a white ribbon that you can display. Each time you successfully complete a DIFFERENT quest at this extreme difficulty setting, you accrue Punisher favor points which causes your ribbon to change color.
This should short-circuit the cycle at step 1, and stop the power creep. And power creep is bad. I just TRed and went from level 1-12 with xp saga stones, and from levels 12-20 with trash equipment from the AH. I found heroic elite difficulty to be incredibly boring. Despite severe undergearing (I was still using lvl 12 gear at lvl 19) on several occasions, I've put up LFMs and completed most of a quest on elite before a newbie who joined even found the quest entrance. I'm now afraid to group with newbies, because I am so far ahead of them in power that there is no way the experience will be a good one from their perspective. Maybe they get a bit of free xp, but there is no way the quest was fun, or educational, because mobs are usually dead by the time they walk into.a room. A large Power spectrum is especially bad in a game with a declining population, because it's just not fun to group with people who are wildly outside your power group,