Monday, June 7, 2010

Quick Hit: Equipment which breaks

The first thing you need to understand when I talk about equipment breakage is that I’m not talking about destroying all of your rare and difficult to acquire equipment.

Or I suppose I am, just not in the same sense that you have come to understand “rare and difficult to acquire” relative to a game like Warcraft. If one boss drops three items for 25 people each week, it’s not very good game design to destroy that item a few hours later.

Now let me ask, should the "challenge" in acquiring a difficult or rare item be in "winning the roll" or in fighting the boss itself? In Warcraft, many boss fights are trivialized and the challenge itself is in the "roll" and not the "boss". As evidenced by the fact that many raiders will kill the same boss 25+ times before getting that Best In Slot item.

But what if each player got their own loot table and item for each boss. One drop every boss for each player involved in the raid. Instead of a 13 boss dungeon that provides 1 drop for each player, you have a 13 boss dungeon that provides 13 drops for each player.

Suddenly, an item that “breaks” after several hours of play is not such a huge obstacle.

Rarity is a relative term. You can make things difficult to acquire by making the boss fights themselves more difficult and challenging. And since the items themselves don't "last" or persist forever, getting that +1 upgrade doesn’t mean you throw out your old sword.

The advantage of such a system is that you don’t need “Gear Resets” to create equality. By virtue of simply playing the game, the content can be tuned so equipment simply wears out over time.

The consistent and constant loss of equipment created by breakage also provides a lot of value to your crafting system and economy. Why? Because the consumption creates a loss that needs to be replaced. An economy only works if that which is being used is consumed.


Stabs said...

The problem with this is you get a lot of players complaining.

CCP decided to just tough it out, and as a result they have re-educated their player base to accept and even support item loss. The price is a game that seems brutally unforgiving to new people.

SOE decided to cave in. As a result Star Wars Galaxies no longer really has an economy. I played it last year and it seemed to me that most veteran players had a maxxed out crafter of every class themselves on alt accounts or had a friend in the guild who could make anything. I had hoped to find a crafting niche but there really wasn't one (except oddly pet food on the bazaar which sold like hot cakes). There certainly was no point being an armoursmith now that they had made armour unbreakable.

sid67 said...

I think developers sometimes resist change because they don't want to challenge player's expectations.

In my opinion, that's the wrong approach. When a player tries a new game, I think they are open to change as long as it's GOOD change and they are exposed to it early on.

The other thing about a system like this is that it needs a decent inventory management system.

If you are going to ask players to hold onto older items as eventually replacement, they need the space and inventory tools manage those items.

Likewise, I wouldn't have an item go from 100% usefulness to 0%. I think as it starts to go "red" and "breaks" it loses effectiveness giving the player time to seek out a replacement.

tim said...

What about the totally opposite extreme? Instead of making items drop more often to offset breakage, why not make "unique and rare" items genuinely unique and rare?

I think Mortal Online is attempting this, where there will often actually be only one of a single item in the entire game. That item is for some lore-driven reason epic, rare, legendary, etc, and so it doesn't break so easily.

Or perhaps a little bit of both? I kind of like the idea of absolutely rare and unique items. I think it creates a bit of chaos and player-driven story to an MMO. I mean, if one player has this one ring that is the only ring in the entire game that does this really cool thing, how many players would be willing to hunt him down and kill him for that loot? What does the player value more? The ring or his own safety?

Now I'm getting away from item decay though. Still. I think some items should be supernaturally unbreakable. I mean, if a weapon is "legendary" then actually make it live up to it's status.

sid67 said...

Now I'm getting away from item decay though. Still. I think some items should be supernaturally unbreakable. I mean, if a weapon is "legendary" then actually make it live up to it's status.

There are plenty of examples in the Fantasy genre of "unbreakable" items. So I'm cool with a "legendary" item being of this variety.

I think what's important, however, is that these items are REALLY rare and a player can't equip one in every slot.

Along those same lines, I'm also OK with a player being given the option of casting a spell of durability on a specific item making it last much longer. Provided, again, that they can only cast it on one such item.

In my opinion, it's OK to mitigate some of the "pain" you might feel from item loss. The important thing is that the core component is built around item decay.

Klepsacovic said...

Making much more loot drop would also help smooth out some loot drama.

Would items break based on time or using the durability system? If it was durability, then that would make repair vendors game-breaking, but removing them would also remove a major gold sink. On the other hand, that's partially offset if we're not vendoring perfectly good gear.

Bag space could be an issue. Imagine a hybrid who needs not just 2-3 sets, but also backup for 2-3 sets.