I really get into gear progression and items, especially armor, in a fantasy MMORPG. Itemization can make or break a game for me, and I believe it can also make or break a game in general given how items are tied into so many other systems. From quests to loot drops, items dictate gameplay direction. How devs choose to provide loot, and in what form loot progression takes shape, truly is a core design decision.
One of (these days, maybe the only) traditional fantasy MMORPG I’m looking forward to trying out is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. The developers recently published a Q&A on their website about “Armor 101.”
Armor Tiers & Sets
In response to a question about gear aesthetics and gear progression being tied, they said that each armor set will have a unique look, and be based on a multi-tiered system per armor set. I’m not really sure that that means. The way I read that, for example, there’s chain armor and plate armor. Within chain armor there might be low tier-chain, mid-tier chain, and high-tier chain. Perhaps there are even tiers within tiers, such as a pristine low-tier chain.
There will also be armor sets, low and high-level. Armor sets will provide bonuses at higher levels, and early on players may not even obtain the full set. Again, this can be interpreted several ways. If there’s a set of “Keen Cloth” that could simply mean there’s a piece for each gear slot. That might also mean there’s only a few pieces but they make a special set.
Something I really liked in EverQuest was the nature of unique pieces of powerful magic items. For example, I might get the really good helmet from one zone, and find a fantastic tunic from another. They were individually amazing items, and had nothing to do with a set. EverQuest did include sets, particularly at higher levels, but there still remained a benefit for having those standalone amazing items everyone wanted.
I’m glad there won’t be racial armor. I can’t remember what game it was that I played in the last 10 or so years, but it got way too granular. There were grades of tier, and then grades of that gear for each race. Armor was made specifically for a race and couldn’t be worn by anyone else. I liked the diversity in aesthetics, but that quickly became obnoxious.
That said, I do sorta like how some items can’t be used by some races. There can be “large banded mail” and “small banded mail” and even “medium banded mail” for the different race sizes. Something always bugged me in EverQuest watching the Golden Efreeti Boots be super tiny on a gnome, and massive on an Ogre. I’m not championing a change there, because that would be ridiculous to have different sizes of magic items.
On paper, their intent is good. They want to make crafted gear just as good as dropped gear, but that means making crafted gear just as hard to make as dropped gear. It’s gameplay semantics at that point, because you end up having to get rare drops to craft the gear, and that means it’s no different from getting a rare drop on an item.
The “crafted gear being as good as dropped gear” debate is pointless to have in a game that isn’t an entirely player-driven-player-made economy. I don’t see this one panning out. It never, ever, has in any MMO for me.
Higher level players giving gear to their alts or lower level players has been a staple of my EverQuest enjoyment since the beginning. According to the Pantheon Devs, they’re doing exactly what I like. Items don’t lose stats when handed down by artificial scaling, and items aren’t necessarily no-drop or BoP. The player’s ability to wield them effectively is limited by that player’s skill with that type of item. “Your skill in 2-handed swords has increased to 12!” Works for me.
Lots more in the article. Give it a read if you’re into scrutinizing design like I am.