Need vs. Greed

Need vs. Greed

Mind if I roll need?

You’re in a dungeon group camping the epic sash of awesomeness. This sash is one of the best you can get for your melee abilities. You realize you are the only melee DPS in the group, and the only one who can use the sash. It drops! YES! But wait… why is everyone rolling ‘need’ on the epic sash of awesomeness? You ask, “Hey, why are you all rolling need?,” to which they respond, “I need money bro.”

Need vs. Greed is one of those glorious debates that sorta fizzled out over the years. I don’t know whether it’s because loot has become so individualized, or everyone just rolls need on everything because they no longer care. I for one have an opinion.

Only those present who can use the item as an upgrade are entitled to a chance at obtaining the item. I believe that the warrior filling the warrior role should get the warrior drops, and a wizard filling the wizard role should get the wizard drops. No, it doesn’t matter if you have a warrior alt! I don’t group to feed your alts. Greed rolls, or FFA rolls, are for items that no one can use as a direct upgrade.

There’s a school of thought out there which supports the ridiculous idea that any item is up for grabs by anyone if that item can provide any use — whether that use be liquidating it for cash or being used by an alt. These brilliant people seem to completely ignore the ‘greed’ side and lump everything into a need.

Some games have a built-in system to protect players. Warrior items can only be rolled on by warriors, etc. Some systems are more loose where you can roll if you can pass the check of simply being able to equip the item. While better than nothing, you’ll still lose items to the guy who wants to fund his other melee character when that awesome melee gear drops that he already owns.

Advanced Loot Window

EverQuest’s Advanced Loot Window

Some games do not have any of these systems at all. EverQuest is a prime example, and the source for my recent thoughts on the subject. I know that the advanced looting system was added and will be present on the progression server. This introduces a rolling system like WoW has/had where players can roll need and greed, etc. I fear this system may induce idiot loot

How to protect yourself against idiot looters:

  • Start your own groups and use master-looter
  • Decide on the rules upfront when forming a group
  • Know the rules of the group you’re joining before you join

As I alluded to before, this debate over the years has given rise to the clamoring for individualized loot. Such an idea isn’t completely out of the question for me, as I have often championed this very thing be present in all raid environments. However, something about forming a group to go into a dungeon and camp an item makes it more real if that item has a tangible presence for everyone. I think it all boils down to the world feeling connected and shared between everyone, and no part of the game being instanced — even the loot.

I welcome your thoughts.

An MMO Without a Focus on Loot

I was having one of my regular MMO discussions with a friend yesterday when we brought up a subject that started to make a lot of sense. MMOs didn’t used to be about the loot; sort of, but not really. The following are just thoughts we came up with while having this discussion.

We started thinking about a few examples of the older games we played extensively, and tried to identify in as few words as possible why it is we played — what was our drive or our reason for logging in each day.

Ultima Online – We were essentially living life. We made houses, started careers, accumulated wealth, and everything centered around making the act of living life easier.

Asherons Call – The world was constantly changing and we wanted to see it evolve; all about seeing what happens next.

EverQuest – Building relationships and creating dependencies on others was what kept us logging in. EQ (before Velious) wasn’t about raiding or looting as much as it was seeing how far we could advance and what challenges we could overcome.

Dark Age of Camelot – We lived in the world to defend our realm.

Loot can’t be the focus in a MMORPG that is going to recapture our attention. An MMO can and should have loot; we decided to nix the idea that maybe an MMO didn’t need loot at all, but can’t be the center where all roads lead.

When loot isn’t the focus, the other aspects of the game suddenly because exponentially more important and visible. There’s a reason players don’t participate in things like exploration, socializing, housing, or care about things like “realm pride” anymore. Those things do not actively drop epics, nor should they because that doesn’t make sense.

An MMO without a focus on loot is set free to be so much more. Design becomes a slave to gear when too much focus is placed upon it.

DAoC was about PvE

In yesterday’s post about Crowfall I mentioned long-term goals and driving factors for why players should care. What makes someone wake up at 3am to defend a relic? Why should I care if I lose my keep? Many games creating a PvP system these days seem to look to DAoC as an example. WAR, GW2, ESO, and Crowfall all have the keep capturing mechanics and really did/do borrow heavily from the system. While they miss many features like proper character advancement in PvP, map size, and the nitty gritty details of how sieging should work, etc., there’s one bigger picture key ingredient they’re all missing: A focus on PvE.

DAoC was about PvE. The game long-heralded as the best RvR/PvP game of all time was driven by the players caring about PvE and how their characters performed outside of the frontiers (where the realm war/RvR took place).

DAoC had relics which increased your character’s stats and damage. Owning these was paramount and the goal of RvR was typically to try and push hard enough that you controlled the keeps necessarily to make the relic vulnerable. To make players care a bit more about those relics, the realm controlling most keeps had access to the best PvE zone in the game: Darkness Falls. Darkness Falls was the best place to level characters, get gear (that wasn’t player made), and earn money.

I have memories of being in Darkness Falls grouping for Legion and hearing the announcement that Albion was advancing and taking our keeps. We bailed out as fast as possible and rushed to the frontiers to defend or retake our territories in order to keep our coveted Darkness Falls longer.

Player made gear was typically the best back in the day. You weren’t going to earn that gear by PvPing. PvPing gave you realm ranks and points to buy new abilities which made you much stronger, but you still needed that player made gear. Player made gear, like all gear, wore out and broke over time. There was always a need to earn money which meant PvE.

Perhaps I should have started with this, but getting to level 50 was through rigorous PvE. Leveling wasn’t quick (before people macro’d and abused the leveling system like they do in every game). Leveling could take months to reach 50, and you weren’t a ton of use before level 50 out in the frontiers. Leveling through PvP wasn’t an option, and the silly “scaling” systems of today (another way for these games to ignore Pve) did not exist.

Although the “end-game” of DaoC was PvP, and one could PvP the entire time they played (after reaching level 50 and gearing up), the core of the game still maintained a healthy focus on PvE. The key isn’t to ignore PvE or come up with systems to avoid it. The two play-styles needn’t compete against each other. A great game can and perhaps should utilize both in harmony.

The Support Role

Some of my fondest MMORPG memories came from playing a support role. Today’s MMO’ers can’t fully appreciate what it actually means to be a support class — most probably think it means healing. Today’s MMOs focus squarely on everyone being a DPS class. Even the “holy trinity” is being done away with, and by “holy trinity” I mean the modern version which did away with the original true Tank, Heals, and Crowd Control trinity. Everyone just smacks the mob until it dies and rolls out of the way of telescoping red lines and calls it a ‘group’.

Support classes usually had one role in the group: Make everyone else better. This wasn’t the easiest role to take on for many reasons. It’s difficult to be the class that doesn’t actively do something like do the most damage or ensure no one else gets hit. Often the support role is under-appreciated by ignorant players, and it can be a thankless job — even more so than healing.

Some of my fondest memories are playing an Aug Shaman in Dark Age of Camelot. My buffs were so dang good that people wanted me in their group and were willing to have me take up a slot just to give those buffs and very little else. I felt extremely important, especially when downtime used to be a real thing. What’s downtime? Perhaps that’s best left for a post unto itself, but suffice it to say downtime was when the group had to wait and do nothing to regain mana, stamina, or health.

Support roles could also be a little more dynamic, but that often meant being a ‘jack of all trades’ and doing lots of things decently but nothing good or great. I’m thinking back to my year playing a full-time Druid in EverQuest. They could heal and dps along with others (not great but helpful) but they could also root, snare, debuff, pull decently, and buff.

I’ll even go as far as including the EQ Enchanter as a support role. Although capable of incredible DPS when played by an expert in the right situation, the Enchanter was best known for two things: Crack and Mez. Again, probably meaningless to the modern generation. Crack was a buff called Clarity that would greatly enhance mana regeneration. Mez was a spell that rendered enemies incapable of moving or attacking as long as they were not damaged — essentially allowing your group to fight multiple monsters at once while only technically having one enemy active.

Support roles were done away with over the years because specialization has been done away with and seen as a weakness. Players used to pick a class that was really good at one thing, and that one thing wasn’t just  broad “DPS” or “tanking”.  Classes used to be very, very specific and known for anything from being the class that can mez to the class that can pull (I realize even “pulling” is now a foreign concept).

Now everyone needs to be able to DPS, take a hit, do some sort of self-healing, have a buff that falls into a category of buffs, and wear bitchin’ gear. There’s this idea out there that ‘If I can’t do it all then I’m being gypped and robbed of my fun!’ Lots of entitlement running rampant.

 

Improving Monster AI

We’ve had quite a productive discussion in the comments of this week’s articles. Another great topic came up about improving monster AI. Lately the trend has been more toward highly-scripted encounters resembling ‘intelligence’. We all know that’s a bunch of crap. Public Quests, “Dynamic Events”, etc., are all just scripted events that run, complete, then reset.

One idea from the comments yesterday was: “An orc facing a lone opponent will attack, but if there are three or more people nearby, he runs away. Unless there are other orcs nearby, in which case he calls them over.” This is very similar to the “bring a friend” (BAF) type system we saw in EQ and DAoC. Also the “call for help” some monsters did when they would run away and bring more monsters back with them.

Camping a dangerous area full of really tough mobs (note the 2 words ‘dangerous’ and ‘tough’) back in early EQ days required you to use spells to manipulate mob behavior. I remember needing spells like “Lull” to pull one mob at a time. I remember one person’s job was to snare or root a mob (usually snare since it would slow them enough, and if a mob was rooted it would still attack which increased downtime) so that the mob could not get away and bring back more friends.

Another idea for improving mob AI was more along the lines of unpredictable elements influencing monster behavior. “A long list of random hidden stats would affect how mobs interact. Using the orc example again, one lone orc that spots three players may attack if his strength and bravery stats are high while intelligence is low. A different orc may gather friends.” I love the idea of having visible cues for these traits such as bigger orcs probably having more bravery, and scrawny orcs having more magical abilities or intelligence — intelligence would likely mean getting friends before charging in alone.

One of my favorite ideas was something else brought up: Players taking control of monsters. I remember this being a feature in EverQuest for a short period of time, and a PvP feature in Lord of the Rings Online. I think the idea of letting players take control of monsters from a zone and even level them up is a fun idea worth exploring. The more a player played as a monster, the more powerful their monsters would be the next time they play. This way players are encouraged to be great monster players and not just use them for griefing. Obviously tons of work on a system like that is needed, but it has potential.

All of these ideas are really just getting at the fact that mob ai in today’s MMOs is weak. It’s really predictable, not much of a challenge, or hasn’t changed much in years. There are lots of ways to increase the dynamic nature of PvE without just increasing health, how much damage something does, or making it happen in phases or waves. Players like myself would like to see more variety, and development time spent, in this areas.