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Item Luck in MMORPGs

Luck plays all sorts of roles in MMORPGs. I’m wondering how much randomness we really need, and how much of this random luck based gameplay can be replaced with the player actually engaging with and doing something in the game.

There are those moments of luck when you crit that monster right before it kills you and you survive. I think those elements of luck are less avoidable and are generally ‘okay’. They add to the spice of life and the thrill and dynamic nature of combat. Sometimes twitch based play isn’t always necessary, and even most twitch gameplay has elements of random luck.

The kind of luck I want to see change mostly has to deal with items. I’ve experienced a variety of item drop luck. EverQuest monsters would often have a loot table, and one particular mob might drop a pair of pants I need. I could kill that monster 100 times and it might never drops the pants, but it could drop them twice on the 101 and 102 kill. Raiding in WoW is another type of luck. When 10-40 people go into a raid the luck factor becomes much more complex: Does the item you want actually drop? If so, are you the one to win it?

That kind of randomness leads to frustration and is purely “Did it drop? yes or no?” Almost no skill or active input is required from the player other than attending and making the kill. There are slightly better ways which I admit do not remove luck entirely from the equation but use it more as one tiny cog in a much larger system.

One of these forms of item randomness I did find workable was that in SWG. For example, Krayt Dragons on Tatooine could drop an item called Krayt Tissue.  The Krayt Tissues would have stats like “Enhances: +30 (to 300) to Max Damage, -0.3 (to -2.0) to Speed.” The +30 was common and low end, and anything around 100+ was really good but pretty rare. This item was used in crafting by Weaponsmiths to make Acid Launchers, DH17 Carbines, and a couple of other weapons better. They would take the tissue, use it as a component, and rely on their skill levels, modifiers, recipes, etc., to output a weapon that itself could have a range of stats.

The difference between item luck in these examples (EQ/WoW vs. SWG) is significant. One is luck or “randomness” (call it whatever makes you sleep better at night) worked into a larger system and the other is simply ‘did it drop or not’. One feels integrated with the game, and the other feels lazy to me.

I want players to have more control over this randomness. It’s not enough to simply craft 100 swords and have 30 of them crit into pristine quality. What else can the crafter do to have control over that end result? Is there a way the crafter can use the materials or a skill he can acquire? It has to be more than whack-a-mole or combine and pray. It has to be more than “did it drop for me?” These all have to be combined into something more dynamic and complex.

I still think SWG was on the right track. The raw materials had variability in their quality based on several factors: Conductivity, Decay Resistance, Flavor, Malleability, Overall Quality, Potential Energy, Unit Toughness, etc., etc. Any combination of these could have a different quality, and it was up to the crafter or a supplier to find them in the world and harvest enough to be used.  Crafters then combined the resources, used experimentation points, and crafted an item that itself had varying degrees of stats and qualities based on the outcome of the components and experimentation. Very few items were the same, and crafters could leave their mark based on their recipes — this is what made someone the “best weaponsmith on the server.”

Integrating this all into a crafting system seems to be the easiest way to remove the dumb or lazy luck factor. While I get that some people enjoy loot pinatas, it’s way too one dimensional for me and won’t ever lead to something new or better.

We Will Revolutionize MMO Mining

Two days ago I made a post about the MMO I want to make one day. From that post a ton of ideas have started to pour in about how certain features would work. I have been frantically taking notes as you guys expand upon my thoughts and even take the simple notes I posted and run with them in the exact direction I was wanting to go in-game.

One of our readers named Gringar hit the nail on the head with how I want mining to work.  I mentioned that I want miners to actually have to go into caves and mine, and he already jumped to where my mind was going: Vast cave networks!  Imagine if mining was done in massive mountains with tunnels and the deeper you go the better the resources you can find.  I started thinking more on the idea.

I’m not big into the idea of this voxel stuff where the world itself actually breaks. I don’t like WoW’s (and all modern themeparks’) style of nodes either. I think I would stick to something a little more like UO where you you can interact with various surfaces of the cave and resources can dry up and randomly replenish and rotate.  If you didn’t play UO, think like SWG.

These caves would be glorious to behold. I’m talking massive caverns, crystals, rare metals, super rare artifacts to uncover to be used by crafters to enhance weapons, etc.  The better your mining skills the deeper in the caverns you’ll be able to go.

Here’s where it can get interesting. Imagine how deep these caves can go… in the words of Saruman: “You fear to go into those mines. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum… shadow and flame. “

Yep! I want there to be awesome enemies to stand in the way, traps and obstacles to overcome, and other horrors to frighten even the strongest miners away. What if certain areas of the cave could randomly be uncovered as a certain amount of ore or stone was withdrawn from deep enough in the caverns.  Imagine after a few weeks the caves have been mined deep enough that suddenly a door appears at the bottom with glowing runes.

The miners open the door and a massive winged abomination comes crashing through.  Adventurers would have to come and save the miners, or else the miners would have to retreat to a less deep and less rewarding tier of the cave.  That might be a neat way to get both gatherers and miners working together since the adventurers want what the demon guards, and the miners want the resources.

So many awesome ways to take simple systems like gathering and make them into a huge features. Keep the ideas coming  guys, this is great!

Junk Loot

We’ve all experienced this a million times:

*You loot [insert junk loot] and 32 silver.*

We do that a few dozen times then realize we have to go back to the vendor to free up some inventory space.  When we get there, we rummage through our bags trying to figure out what is supposed to be ‘junk loot’ and what’s worth keeping.  After about 30 seconds, which feels like 30 minutes, and some aggravation later we finally have a somewhat clean inventory.  A few minutes later we go to equip our new sword and realize we just sold it to the NPC.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a tale as old as time for me.  Usually it’s bad enough to drive me to find an addon that simply sells all of my junk loot, or I stop looting everything altogether.  Sometimes I’ll even just vendor everything and say to heck with it all.  I started thinking about this yesterday and came to the conclusion that it’s not an interface problem, or something to be solved with an addon.  All of this is indicative of a larger problem: Why have junk loot at all?

Having mobs drop coins makes just as much sense to me.  I don’t need that act of going to a vendor and saying, “Hey, would you like to buy my moldy broken leather belt for 6 copper? Please?” Mobs can still drop loot.  Why not make it all worth using in some way?  Let’s assume I was going to get a broken hilt from a bandit.  Makes sense that in our scuffle he broke his sword.  Usually that’s junk loot and I would have to sell it.  How about it becomes salvageable in some way? The mechanic exists already in almost every modern MMO to be able to break down an item into components of some sort.

In many MMOs today if you kill a bat and it drops its wings — rare, I know, for a bat to have wings — you vendor them as junk.  In EverQuest they were used as reagents in the spell ‘levitate’.  Bone chips, a common thing found on a skeleton, were used for necromancers to summon their pets.  Many items that by today’s standards would be automatically sold by addons were used in quests to gain experience; Collect 5 belts and turn them in for faction and experience.  That turned ‘junk loot’ into something people actually wanted to hang on to and trade among other players.

Here’s another lesson of the day from Keen: When you think about getting an addon to make your life easier or solve a problem, think about whether or not there’s another way this issue could have been solved if the game was designed just a little bit different.  You’ll be amazed by the wondrous ideas and possibilities you discover.

ESO’s Redeeming Qualities

I’ve been on the fence with ESO for a long time.  I’ve also been a harsh critic of a lot of Zenimax’s choices.  I’m a very straight shooter; when I see things I don’t like I tell you, but I also feel it’s important to share things I think are pretty neat.

veteran-content

Small-group Content

I am a fan of small groups.  I like PvPing in small groups, and I like PvEing in small groups.  I love when content is fine-tuned precisely for a small group of people and everyone has a specific role to play.  Whether or not ESO’s content ends up being good, they are at least appealing to my love of being able to just grab my friends and jump into some content.  Forget that 40-man zerg.  I would rather the ‘experience’ guide me than the mechanics.

In ESO there are Veteran content, Adventure zones (4 people), and Trials (12).

Specialization

All of the crafting skills are part of the overall skill system, so you’ll need to consider your options carefully when you spend a skill point. Should you put one more point into blacksmithing, or do you really want to learn a new two-handed weapon ability?

You guys know how much I love specialization.  No one should be able to be everything.  People should have to rely on each other.  That, to me, is a hallmark of a good MMORPG.  I love that people in ESO will have to choose to spend some of their overall skill pool on improving their crafting.  Crafting seems pretty useful, too.  From what little I’ve seen, I believe there will be an actual reason to make gear right from the start. [Read more…]

Should Everyone Craft Everything?

EverQuest Next Landmark’s recent Round Table question is one I am passionate about.  Before we get to it though, let’s watch this video.

Should one character be able to learn all types of crafting?

The real answer to this question is a firm “NO.”  I strongly believe in specialization for just about everything in MMORPGs.  People should have to choose a path and commit, and each path should be very unique.  People should have to seek out others in order to benefit from the skills and abilities they do not possess.

When everyone can craft everything, there is no need for a strong economy and there is no need to interact with others.  You can sit by yourself in isolation and do everything.  I know there’s at least one of you out there (you know who you are) who will say, “I like not having to rely on anyone.  I don’t like talking to or having to interact with anyone in a MMORPG.”  This may sound harsh, but have you considered a single player game?  I’m tired of massively multiplayer games having their design dictated by the needs of the entitled xenophobes.

The modern-era of MMOs, however, dictates the answer must be a “yes.”  

I’m not naive.  I know that now’days developers will dumb everything down to the least common denominator.  I know that somehow everyone can be every class, craft everything, solo everything, and never even have to see another person because they get their own little instance.  I think there’s at least a small way to address the crafting portion of this unfortunate reality.

A realistic solution!

Let everyone take every craft and make the most basic items, but have specialties.  I may have every craft, but I can choose to specialize in carpentry.  As a carpentry specialist I can make the same furniture you can, but since you didn’t specialize in carpentry you can’t make the awesome roofing, armor racks, or awesome looking doodads.  But you went weaponsmith specialization which means you can take the basic swords and make them glow, light on fire, etc.

Let people feel like they can ‘get by’ without having to specialize, but make them really think about and consider the benefits of choosing one particular path to improve.