Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No Loot for You!

The Loot Nazi
Image credits to Ele Goulding
It may be every gaming bloggers dream to have the ear of a game developer who actually listens to your ideas and considers implementing them.

It's the MMO blogging equivalent of striking the mother lode or winning the lottery.

So you can imagine how our dear friend, Syncaine, must have felt to be invited to the exclusive MVP forum by Averturine to discuss the current and future game state of Darkfall: Unholy Wars.

I respect Syncaine and enjoy his blog.  He makes some good points and he is a good advocate for a more common sense type of MMO that I enjoy.  If not for him, I would never have even tried Darkfall 1 and later Darkfall: Unholy Wars.

So it's with this perspective that I begin my narrative. I'll post another blog entry in a day or so on my opinions, but this post will mostly be about a blogger and his dream.

Our story begins with the creation of an exclusive club:
[...] we have created the MVP forum, a private invitation-only forum section for discussions featuring direct developer participation. The first wave of invites has been sent to a diverse group of players, and more will follow.
-Tasos Flambouras, founder of Aventurine

Invitations were private and who was an MVP member with "direct developer" interaction was unknown. The first rule of the club: Don't talk about who is in the club. Now if the secretive nature of the MVP club seems like a bad idea to you -- you aren't alone.
MVP forums are essentially telling me, the average player, that my opinion is worthless.
-Valnak, subscriber and non-MVP member

We have since learned that within MVP forum, the following idea was circulated to the MVP community for feedback by one of the game's developers:
On the gear sink front, the idea of items getting damaged when a player is ganked had been circulated in the office for a while now and we feel it’s a step in the right direction. This does not hurt the willingness of players of any wealth to gear up and go out since when they are ganked, their items, especially the valuable ones, are more than likely looted or lost in the fray. There are some options here and we would like your feedback on them.

One is whether only equipped items or all items, including ones in the inventory, should receive the durability hit. Another option would be choosing between a flat x% chance of an item breaking or items receiving a flat durability hit and if that takes them to zero durability, then they break.

We also thought of replacing items that reach zero durability with their broken versions. This would however lessen the effect we are trying to achieve by creating an influx of materials so we have decided against it.
-Vangelis, an AV game developer

By all reports, Syncaine seized upon this idea and EleGoulding, an MVP member, described his reaction within the MVP forum:
The idea was one of many that got tossed around, it wasn't the main priority of discussion until Syn Caine started bringing it up every other post.
-EleGoulding, an MVP member
Now the idea of a gear sink in Darkfall is not a new one and it already exists in the form of durability. As items are used, whether through PvP or PvE, item durability is consumed.  There is no repair, so when an item breaks, it disappears from your inventory. Weapons, in particular, degrade quite quickly and armor degrades at a moderate rate.

The central issue at the moment is that very few players are actively doing anything other than PvP and even this is limited to duels and maybe one skirmish a night.

Uzik, another MVP forum member, leaked a snippet of his argument with Syncaine in the MVP forums:

Here is how retarded this gear grind logic is.
They are saying:
-People have lots of gear in their banks
-People don't log into Darkfall because they have too much gear
-Therefore if people had less gear, they would log in and play more

This is the reality:
-People have nothing to do in game
-People don't log into the game
-People have lots of gear in their banks because no one is playing, and those who are playing don't do anything
-Therefore if people had more things to do they would lose more gear

MAKING GEAR HARDER TO GET WILL NOT ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO PVP. If you don't encourage people do play the population will continue to dwindle. AV NEEDS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO PVP AND ACTIVELY PLAY THE GAME.
-Uzik, an MVP member

Now, as previously noted, this discussion happened behind closed doors in the MVP forums. AV released a lackluster patch this last week and the community was pretty upset about it. In reaction, AV allowed the MVP forums to shed their anonymity and share with the rest of the community the things that had been discussed.

I do not believe the reaction they received is the one they hoped to achieve. The first comment against the gear destruction on gank was relatively benign from a Forumfall newbie.

Sounds good, but the only thing i have a problem with is when some items are destroyed when you Gank someone, that sucks :( im sure there are plenty of other ways to have gold sinks and item sinks.
-Blackmeat, 20 posts, joined May 2013
Syncaine was quick to respond:
Such as? Keep in mind the extent of the sink needed here, it has to be fairly massive.

Sinks are difficult to viewed as a short-term positive because the initial reaction is "you are taking stuff away from me!" , but without them most aspects of an MMO simply don't work. It can sometimes be difficult to see the long-term benefits of a properly balanced economy, but current DF:UW is a good example of what happens when you don't have one. The lack of motivation to farm mobs, fight over holdings/villages/sea towers, the underutilized market, the stagnation in crafting; all of these things exist today primarily because DF:UW lacks a sink big enough to counteract the many faucets we have.
-Syncaine, author of Hardcore Casual
Massive? Huh? IMO, this is one of the first signs that Syncaine is disconnected from the rest of the Darkfall community. At no point has anyone brought up the need of a 'massive' sink.

It's also clear he doesn't understand the cause-and-effect relationship about why people don't fight mobs, fight over holdings (??), use the market or stagnation in crafting. I'll write about why he's wrong in another post but it's obvious to everyone who still plays that "gear destruction on gank" is not a central issue that needs to be addressed to retain, attract or bring back players.

The next few posts are from people who have now been revealed as MVP members and it's obvious that they've discussed this already on the MVP forums.

Jonah Viel, one of the most well known and respected PVPers in the game and whose "balance" posts on PVP are widely regarded as the most well-thought out cuts right to the crux of the issue.
The problem with Unholy Wars was never gear not leaving fast enough.

It is the fact that we all were allowed to harvest in safezones for rare essences and as such, the market is ruined.

If you want to actually FIX the economy, it's either with a wipe and new rules (not every 3 months btw, that is an awful idea, no offense to whoever came up with it, but that is really horrible), or with introducing new loot that people all need.
-Jonah[fataLity], non-MVP member
For Forumfall, it's mostly been a positive discussion to this point. There are some concerns, but overall, people like what they have read about the other changes. Then it starts to take a turn for the worse.
It's totally deflating that anyone would suggest implementing a feature like this. It's quite possibly one of the worst ideas I've seen circulated around these forums. It completely violates the principle of risk vs reward, which is the heart of Darkfall.
-bsrge, 90 posts
My opinion on this is that the gear break idea is a bad idea. Here's why, it doesn't solve the problem. Will gear breaking on gank make people come back? Resounding no. Is it going to solve the economy problem? No.
-Cyber-Hick, 800+ posts
As many mentioned the idea of losing durability when ganked totally sucks in my opinion. This is our reward for going out and killing our enemies. Broken armors and weapons as reward? This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
- AseldingVentus, 1000+ posts
How is a durability hit on gank even up for discussion? How the fuck is that a priority at all at the moment? All that will do is devalue the full loot system. So frustrating.
- Sumdyar_VZ, 1000+ posts
When the hottest topic coming out of the MvP forums is "gear break on gank" instead of fixing easily fixable issues that have been plaguing the game since early beta there is a huge problem.
The suggestion forums were doing just fine before the MvP forums. After this latest "gear break on gank" fiasco, the MvP forums is a joke to me. I don't want people like SynCaine having "higher value input" in what gets implemented into the game, when the guy played maybe a year of df1.
-Dim Mok, founder of Sick Bastards
Can't believe people are actually even considering this... It's fucking stupid. Add real shit to the game please. Better yet just Buff villages, stealing, mob drops.
-Erock, 1000+ posts
I don't like the idea of being forced to 'destroy' things simply to get rid of them. Positive incentive through creation is a better sink for a sandbox. Add new tiers of armor that required the lower tiers as part of the mats.
- rhodric, 80 posts
All I can say is if they actually do implement it then truly AV is intentionally trolling us...
-Mycke, an MVP member
I think you've demonstrated well enough that exactly what we thought was going to happen with the MVP forums indeed did happen; where they admit people who have terrible opinions (and run blogs filled with terrible opinions, in your case) and then hold their terrible opinions to an undeserved level of status.
- Abaratican, 5000+ posts
I fear the MVP forum will do more harm than good if this is a serious topic. Embarrassing, they clearly choose people that don't create constructive input, but better yet volume posters who have put on a big show.
-Degmara (Tony Yayo), member since 2003
The fact that AV is even considering something like gear destruction on ganks before addressing the real problem is quite upsetting.
-Dhalsim, 300 posts
Syncaine said its a good idea.. And I don't know if you are aware of this but he has a blog and holds the record for bringing people into Darkfall(Im sure that the top notch PVP videos being released by the like of Jonah Veil did nothing for the game)
Fix the game before making such drastic changes that could take away from PVP value. If they get people into the world with smart development and there is still an abundance of gear lets revisit the idea then.
-Synik, 3000+ posts
No one wants SynCaine and Xipher to represent them. I mean honestly, who here can say they have EVER had any substantial interaction in-game with either of them?
I don't even know if SynCaine even played DF1 or DFUW for a good amount of time. MVP's were supposed to be pillars of the community who could represent the best interest of the players, not just advance their own playstyles.
-Uzik, an MVP forum member

For the sake of fairness to Syncaine, I left out most of the comments that were far more harsh in their criticism of him personally and his credentials. The essence here is that this 'gear break' topic has had a significant backlash and Syncaine has largely taken the brunt of the attacks since he has been acting as the idea's biggest advocate. I have to think that given the high hopes for "developer interaction" that he must have had upon getting into the MVP forums, this reaction from the community must be a very bitter pill to swallow.

Right now, he is perhaps the most villified and hated person on the Darkfall forums.

And the simple truth of the matter is -- he's wrong.

It's not that the concept of gear breakage is necessarily flawed at it's core. It's that it's too late to make these kinds of changes and it's simply not a change that will bring people back to the game.

Quite the opposite, it's a polarizing change that will drive players away from the game. That's the worst possible thing for Darkfall right now. Particularly since the "economy" is not the most broken part of the game. This is blindingly obvious to those of us who still regularly play but not so obvious to those who mainly theorycraft on their blog about how MMOs should work under ideal conditions.

The lack of a "gear-break" feature is also not the cause of the current problems that plague Darkfall. There are a host of other reasons why the economy is broken in Darkfall that have nothing to do with scarcity of resources.

I'll address that claim in a future post, but for now, let me just say that the economy is not simply broken because of sinks and faucets. The economy is broken because it lacks depth and crafters can't make a profit.


Carson 63000 said...

I find it interesting that the main objection is not "I don't want my shit to break when I die!" but rather "I don't want some other guy's shit to break when I kill him, and stop me from looting it!"

Stabs said...

I think in general inviting players to share in development is a disaster waiting to happen.

Obviously it's even worse if the player in question is inactive and out-of-touch.

Part of the problem is that the players who get roped in to do this aren't representative and they will tend to use their influence as a method of winning rather than a way to improve the game for everyone.