Bind on Equip, Bind on Pickup

This topic is somewhat a continuation of my twinking post where I wrote about handing down items or giving great items to lower level characters.  Back in the early, original days of EverQuest few if any items truly bound to your character.  It wasn’t until my characters started getting planar drops that the majority of the gear was stuck to my character.   Before that time, I could go into a dungeon with a max level group, find some awesome items, and then hand those items down to a newbie character.  Many quests (true quests) for great rewards could be done, and the reward traded or sold.

Personally, I dislike the concept of bind of pickup and bind on equip gear.  I believe the problems people say are solved by these mechanics are actually caused by the mechanics being in place.  When gear is designed to bind to your character, that naturally creates an emphasis on gear and an emphasis on gearing up particular characters.  Suddenly content can be designed to force people into raids to get gear rather than allowing gear to be acquired and propagated throughout the server.  A rebuttal would be that good gear then floods the server, but again that’s indicative of another problem created by emphasis on gear.  Items should be much more rare, and the reliance upon items should be diminished.  If a rare drop offhand adds 9 wisdom that’s fantastic, but there should be a +7 wisdom quest reward or much more common item.

Bind on Equip and Bind on Pickup are indicative of a system where gear makes the character.  In a system where the character’s ability are emphasized and only slightly augmented by gear, the dependence upon gear becomes much less pronounced.  If the issue is giving players a reason to play, then that’s easily resolved by addressing design depth.  If all a game is designed to do is put people on gear treadmills through raids, then that’s the problem right there.

In summary, I’d like to see a game where everything can be traded to and used by characters of any level.  A robust scaling system would ensure twinks aren’t too overpowered, and content would have depth beyond treadmills and emphasis on gear making the character.

  • there (still) is at least one game which does have such a system: Anarchy Online. There are (almost) no level requirements on items, but skill requirements. A normal char without money or help from others can’t use much of the better items, but if you invest time to get the right buffs (and there are TONS of buffs), you can do amazing things with low level chars.

    Haven’t played it in a while, but afaik their new graphics engine finally will be released soon.

  • There are lots of older games like UO, and even classic EQ servers, that provide this type of play, but I’d love to see newer games change it up.

  • I fail to see what other goals a player may have besides getting his/her character better. This is Role playing by the way. Yea i can max out my performance skills but that does not actually change my character. I don’t think there is a better way than providing incentive through gear progression unless there are unlimited levels which is not that good imho.

    What i do believe is that the pace of gear progression is more of an issue than the thing itself.

    It is rather hard to limit the pace though since more skilled players with enough free time can eventually trivialize the content. BUT you cannot and should not design a game based on those elite players since they are a minority of a minority at best.

    I personally know a huge amount of guilds that were still doing T5 when wotlk came out and NONE of them were complaining.

  • Actually, Tera is like this. There is no bind on pick up items at all…the best gear in the game you can aquire on hardmode dungeons at max level and with crafting are boe and you can send them to any character..even reputation rewards are boe and you can hang them to your alts, and that is a great thing 🙂

    I do agree with Jim also and is why GW2 “failed” for me…

  • @Jim: No, I agree with you. When a game isn’t about skill progression or wealth accumulation, it has to be about something. Gear is a perfectly acceptable form of progression once you’ve reached the level cap. I think the value and/or emphasis placed on gear is simply all wrong these days.

    Jenks commented in my twink post:

    There was no sweat in earning it. The FBSS you camped in Guk for days, the Oracle Robe your friend gave you when they finally got their SMR, the Dark Reaver you haggled with a guy in North Freeport for an hour to get… those have history. They meant something when you handed them down. You loved your gear because it had a story.

    I agree with him. The fact that I can still talk about gear I earned, talk about the stories of obtaining them, and have memories attached to those specific pieces of gear is what makes the difference.

  • I really like the idea of taking the stats out of the gear and putting them into the character. Think of EQ’s alternate advancement system as the base of the idea. Instead of “gear resets” when you introduce new patches, you simply introduce new AA’s to earn.

    Gear can now last you until you get tired of the look. Another big advantage is your game design can support all different types of play styles. Raiding, PvP, Events, Exploration and general questing can all lead to advancing your character toward the “end game”.

  • @TheeNickster: That’s a very intriguing idea. Continual character development with gear being (mostly) for looks. I think the idea warrants some thought.

  • Bind on Equip and Bind on Pickup are indicative of an age where gear and plat farming became a business, and the (mostly fail) attempts of game designers to deal with that.

    Most of the internet wisdom(*) of that time has all but disappeared, but it is still possible to dig up interesting things if one puts some effort into researching the whole topic. (things like spotting for example the high correlation between people that disliked bound gear, the people that disliked questing for gear, and the people that disliked mob ownership locking)

    GW2 is somewhat unusual actually, since world drops are BoE (tradeable and twinkable), and dungeon tokens, badges of honour, etc are bound to account (twinkable). Compare that to say, WoW where your dungeon tokens are personal. Incidentally the new GW2 laurels are a personal currency, which irritates the living daylights out of me, even though I don’t even have alts to twink.

    I have mentioned this elsewhere but when gear binding was introduced into Vanguard crafted gear did not bind, and all the wanabe biznizmen went up in flames about “people passing down their crafteds and depriving us of income.” The developers duly obliged and made crafted gear BoE. The outcome was, of course, that people stopped buying crafted gear.

    Leaving history aside…

    I happen to hold the view that the whole gear-as-main-or-sole-reward concept needs to be burned to ashes and dumped somewhere near the St Andreas fault line. Easier said than done, granted, but character development, AAs and all those things can become the focus.

    At the end of the day, you the player (yes you) are drooling over the new! shiny! numbers on your character’s sheet. Yes, really. Imagine for a moment pulling that ubah purple with Int and Wis on it on your Warrior. You wouldn’t be going ecstatic that you got a purple, you would be bitching and swearing it does not do you any good, right? So its not the prupleness that matters, its the power you get from it. Whether you realize it or not, you will not care if that new power comes from a new weapon you got at the end of a dungeon crawl or from clicking a glowing pillar at the end of that same dungeon crawl. The culture shock of not focusing on the drops will wear out faster than you think, trust me.

    FTR, I dislike bound gear as a concept, but I accept it as a necessity. Hopefully when alternative advancement systems become less alternative and more mainstream gear binding gets consigned to the footnotes of history.

    (*) An oxymoron, I know

  • Let me start by saying that I completely agree.

    I had to think about why this shift happened, and I think part of the reason games have drifted in this direction is the sheer volume of “loot.”

    If you go back and look at Everquest, acquiring gear was pretty rare. You could be level 20 and still have empty gear slots. Going days without an upgrade at any level was not uncommon. Even getting a cloth shawl to fill that shoulder slot was a big deal.

    Like most of what I find wrong with the MMO genre, developers decided to “give people what they want.” People like loot? Increase it, a thousand fold! It wasn’t an overnight transition, but compare 1999 Everquest to 2011 SWTOR (or any game of your choice).

    Lucking into a piece of gear dropping, or camping for hours, once every few play sessions
    Run from quest hub to quest hub, with the loot I.V. pumping you full of loot at a breakneck pace

    Gear has lost all value. BoP is necessary because the sheer volume of items they shovel into everyone’s inventory. Allowing you to trade all that free candy would result in a nightmare “economy.”

    I am with you 100% Keen that I would love to get rid of item binding altogether. To do it effectively, I think there are bigger changes that need to be made first, and that starts with making gear exciting again by throttling the rate it enters the world. Earning is so much more exciting than receiving.

  • It’s a weird predicament. Gear has lost value but gained emphasis. And you’re right that it’ll take a lot more than simply changing loot to bring back the value of gear while removing its emphasis.

  • Giving gear to alts that you acquired on a high lvl toon creates a barrier between the have and have not people.

    There is one exception to the rule in my opinion. In a game like UO gear is easy to get and degrades. If its easy to get then a new toon can get the same or similar weapon not far into the game.

    Problems arise when you actualy twink an alt to the max where his power compared to similar lvl characters doubles, triples or even a tenfold. Example world of warcraft battlegrounds a full decked out twink of lvl 19.

    Yes that is where the strong dislike comes from.

  • @Zyler: I see where that is coming from but it is my personal opinion that if it takes effort to actually get the gear to twink then there is no problem with having a barrier between the have and have nots, because if you put more effort into the game then you should be more powerful than someone who has not. I also get that this does discourage newer players from joining a game, but there are also some newer players who are like that. I remember back in EQ, I wasn’t able to play it until a later expansion, I can’t remember which one, and I knew a bunch of people who were twinking and had a bunch of high level gear, and ran into others like that. Instead of discouraging me though it made me want to put in the effort to become that powerful as well. Which makes me think that maybe the problem is with the type of players being targeted now-a-days, the people who want to be at the top NOW and the whole have to have things now without working for it attitude which seems to have heavily influenced the genre.

  • @Drathmar Sure you should be more powerful if you put the work in and earn the items.
    But not on a low lvl char that competes with other low lvl chars.

    Maybe it was a different playing field in EQ (I never played that)
    But in WoW battlegrounds that is meant to be about equality (thats why they devided it in lvl brackets) it should be about player skill and not supergear a character of the same lvl has no hope of obtaining himself.

    And yes PVE gear should not be in a PVP environment either. I remember that before servers merged in battlegrounds matchmaking that I where part of our factions best and most frequint pvpers.
    Then the top tier PVE raiders joined battlegrounds for the lolz and there was nothing we could do, because their gear outnumbered ours in stats 2 to 1.

    Thats just wronggggg

  • Items should be much more rare, and the reliance upon items should be diminished.

    I’m confused. So you want gear to be both rare and trivial? Why have gear at all, at that point? And what replaces gear as the carrot to completing raids more than once?

    I honestly do not get the “problem” with BoP/BoE gear. If nothing is bound and the game has any economy at all, you get the Diablo 3 and GW2 issue of there being thousands of pieces of gear on the AH for a trivial amount of gold. It does not even matter how rare any particular item is, as there are tens of thousands of players killing mobs at every hour of the day, and each unbound item is a permanent increase to the overall supply. Item decay could “solve” this problem, but who honestly likes item decay on a personal level? Are you going to fight tough bosses for the chance at rare item that may not even last long enough to fight the next boss?

    The system, IMO, is working as intended. Gear upgrades are both meaningful and feel good to acquire. While it does indeed feel bad to be on the warrior when a good mage BoP staff drops, that can largely be solved by either A) putting in worthy BoA gear (like they did with heirlooms and Scribe staves in MoP), B) possibly adding some rare drop that can unbind gear for just your alts, C) make more drops BoE instead, and so on. No need to set fire to the entire system.

  • @Zyler: See, you brought up PvP and you can’t do that (you even acknowledge it when you say PvE gear shouldn’t be in PvP — which I also disagree with but that’s because of a different reason). WoW’s Battleground system is flawed, and thus including the discussion of twinks as a factor is also inherently flawed.

    @Azuriel: A better way to put it would be gear should be more valuable, but emphasized less in how it affects a character.

    EQ didn’t have the issue you bring up because gear was more rare, took more effort to obtain. It -does- matter how rare an items is, and it -does- matter how much effort it takes to obtain the item. If I have to camp something for two weeks in a difficult dungeon there won’t be a flood of those items in the economy.

    Item decay doesn’t work when you want to increase the value of an item but decrease the emphasis. It works for the inverse: Increase emphasis but decrease value. If I lose the best sword I can buy, oh well I’ll buy another one. The twinking system fits an EQ model more than the WoW or SWG/UO models.

    BoE and BoP are indeed working as intended — in themeparks like WoW and its clones. No one is suggesting those games change; they can’t change. I’m saying the system doesn’t have to exist if a different and (imo) better system is used.

  • Rare gear with low reliance was in Everquest especially in the 30 – 40 range with no expansions. Bronze armor was the rare stuff and when you saw a guy in full bronze you cleared the way because he meant business! It was fairly rare but all it had was some AC.

    That of course wouldn’t work again today but it can get tiring to have to keep upgrading gear. +9000 to all stats isn’t good enough now, new armor came out with 19000 to all stats, get farming.

  • @Gringar: I think the idea can be done again. It can’t be integrated into any existing games, but a new game could certainly utilize a gear mechanic that had rare, valuable, desired gear without forcing characters to rely on it solely for their performance.

    I remember in EQ some players would have amazing gear and fail to perform as well as players with less gear. Skill meant something too.

  • I’ve always wanted to see a sort of legacy system where you have a personal guild of which the members are all of your toons. It would explain shared storage and be a justification for twinking, as well as open up cool ideas like shared housing between your characters, maybe tag teaming them in a pvp or pve environment.

  • I played Lineage 2 for a long time and there werent any BoP and BoE, there was a lvl restriction but not that u couldnt use item – you just got slowed and i think your other stats got lowered so there was some punishment to use powerful item. The system worked. The reason to that was that it was a grind festival mmo ( and im not a fan of that ) and very low chance to drop full items, most of items that players had were from craft and you could fail crafting new item. Enchanting items was an option to create more powerful items but it was a risky move too – item could get destroyed in process when going +4 and more. So adding all that things – there werent many powerful items in market. And the same items were used to PvE and PvP.
    I think the general thing is that PvP players dont like to grind/farm and PvE players dont like to fight vs other players and they most of the time hate each other. So make one group rely on the other one and vice versa for example : PvE player cant farm/lvl in area because of enemy so he needs protection to do that – call PvP players. And PvP players needs stuff to fight enemies – make some of the most important stuff acquired by using skills that some less-PvP oriented classes have.
    Its maybe put in a simple way by me but i hope you will get the point.

  • “I remember in EQ some players would have amazing gear and fail to perform as well as players with less gear. Skill meant something too.”

    This is what set EQ apart from other games, a well skilled Enchanter,monk/sk or cleric were worth their weight in gold and would determine a pleasant days camping or a nightmare few hours recovering and corpses and exp the hard way.

    I think there can be a way to set gear apart from the character, skills in using the specific armour/weapon type governing how effective said piece of loot is. Character level capping out the stats/dps etc. It can all be done with ease, but it’s not about the loot itself, it’s about how it’s obtained and the story behind that. I had items handed down to me by my brother (who started playing eq a few months before I did), then got a guild and got some spare items handed to me again but the things I remember where the extremely fun camps where I managed to not only hold a camp most of the evening but got a piece of loot I needed (fungi tunic from king springs to mind). Sure I could have just farmed some easy mobs, sell the loot for menial amounts till I had enough to go and buy it from someone.

    Wow and others of it’s ilk seem to rain down loot to where it’s a game of numbers and situational gear (hi resist gear, yes EQ did it in it’s later stages but I never got that far) when you got an upgrade in EQ it was for months because it literally TOOK you months to level (3 months or so from 50-60). I remember having a piece of gear from lvl 40 whilst I was raiding dragons at lvl 60 in EQ … if you saw someone on your lvl 60 raid in WoW with a lvl 40 ring you would first laugh your ass off at them then boot them from the raid.

  • The best way to make gear more valuable is to give it a short life-expectancy, I would say 2 weeks without the option to repair. We learn to love what we lost and look to find it again in others.

  • “If the issue is giving players a reason to play, then that’s easily resolved by addressing design depth.”

    Is it so easily resolved? Many have tried and failed.

    Ultimately the big question is whether your new design is more fun than gear and levels.

  • Agreed pretty much on all points of the OP. When power creep is designed into the game via gear, it puts less value on class design and abilities and more into ‘who can PvE the best’, which is great for actiony dungeon crawlers, but not with persistent online games with a PvP component. At most, dungeon loot and boss drops should add a glowy look and small chance of a magical proc and/or some minor spell that can be used once an hr. Limit the magical abilities and stats to only be partially effective on a lower level toon and BoE is not an issue.

  • Agreed 100%, Keen. To summarize and elaborate:

    • No BOP or BOE. Ever. It’s a completely artificial, knee-jerk response to deep economic flaws within a game’s design. (I.e. if you hand out “special” gear like Halloween candy, what else can you do.) Likewise, dungeon tokens are an additional knee-jerk response to BOP; if players could freely trade loot, then they wouldn’t have to go trade in tokens to get a desired item.

    • The emphasis should be on character/player skill and ability. Items should be available to enhance skill, not replace it. Likewise, the focus should be on character development, not gear development.

    • Most items should degrade with use, requiring repairs. Items should be able to break. (But the materials should be salvageable, e.g. if my mithril sword breaks I should be able to take that mithril and reforge it into a sword of equivalent quality.) Higher quality items should degrade/break less.

    • Looted items with special/magical effects should be rare and/or unique. Yeah, not all players would be able to acquire some of those, but so what; welcome to life. On the other hand, these items would actually be valuable (like in EQ). But, that said. . .

    • Items should be enchantable, preferably by players. It should work like the Elder Scrolls games: low quality items and low enchanting skill can only provide limited enchantments. Also, enchantments should not be permanent unless very high quality items and skill are available. (And an important enchantment to have would be one that reduces item degradation.) This creates value in characters that can enchant and higher quality items that are better enchantable.

    • There should be no artificial separation of PVE and PVP gear. What’s good for one should be good for the other. (If not, then there’s a design flaw somewhere.)