Wednesday 5 February 2014

MMOs: Where Equipment is more Heroic than You

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

In MMO's usually what you wear is more important than who you are.

One of my main gripes in most MMOs is that regardless of who your character is, in the end you are defined by the gear you use - and often that gear despite having some level of rarity will never be unique. It's kind of like saying, to make the knights of the round table better you should equip each of them with an Excalibur and a Holy Grail. Suddenly such artefacts become cheapened simply by having duplicates. Why this is the case I'm not sure, as it surely isn't that hard to simply code that a particular item is unique, there is only ONE of them in the game. Maybe its magic properties expires after a week, regardless of the owners log in time, upon which it vanishes or reverts to a more common item resetting the flag for someone else to be able to get the magic shishkebob or whatever.

That is of course beside the point. If everyone can have all the gear then basically you are a storm trooper. Yeah you might think you are unique, with all those hard earned skills and levels behind you but guess what - everyone else can attain those too. In the end if you come across your counterpart of equivalent ability it will come down to the +1 underwear one of you is wearing to have an edge on the other. At least the way you play can still define you right?

Some games try to combat this by either going crazy with their available skill tree (Path of Exile) or simply adding an element of player skill (GW2, NWO) much like how flight and combat sims do it, yet even there exist tiers upon tiers of items locked behind abstract level requirements. Why? To take your time and money mainly. I just wish there were more games where a sword is just a sword and what makes your character better is his (and your) skill with it, instead of one sword being slightly more magical than the other. Yeah ok, that's plausible too but not when -every- person in the game (barring newbies) has a variation of magic sword.

What's really funny is when "gear score" comes into play. Basically your arms and armor become the hero, the only thing of importance, instead of the person underneath it.

We'll take the one with the +10 belt?


  1. That is something that always drove me crazy too. It even makes me miss Ragarok Online's system where it was 75% about how you spent points into stats and character skills and the other 25% were your gear.

    Even the gear I found more interesting due to the way you could customize it. There were card slots in the gear where gear with worse raw stats had more cards slots and gear with better raw stats had fewer card slots. Cards were very rare drops from monsters and gave different bonuses depending on the cards. Some could give +2 STR or +10% damage against medium sized creatures or +5% protection against fire damage or stuff like that.

    That system gave a certain strategy to the gear system as you could have gear slotted with cards for specific situations. Say, you were going to grind in an area with lots of mobs that were of a big size, had weakness to water element and counted as humanoid. You could have a cheap weapon slotted with cards that had those 3 things and coupled with the right build could do some insane damage. In fact, I saw a thread once where a girl put some screenshots of her doing short work of some mobs with some huge crit damage. She explained her build which went against a lot of the conventional wisdom on how to build the class and relied a lot on the cards. But the touch of genius was that it also used a couple of weapons that were very easy to acquire as they dropped by the dozens by the low level monsters newbie killed. The stats of the weapon weren't anything impressive but they had allowed to slot 4 cards so that was how she was able to put a bunch of cards on them to exploit the weaknesses of the mob she was hunting.

    The only drawbacks of Ragnarok Online though were:

    1) There was no respec. If you made a mistake on your build your only option would be to completely reroll the character. Mix that with a very grindy, very slow to level game and it could make one cry when they realized their mistake.

    2) Those cards were very rare drops. At the time I played in a private server where the drop rates were about 15 times higher, I think, than the official servers. And even then I spent a long time hunting for mobs to get a couple of cards I wanted. I think I only got one of them. I can only imagine how more painful it would have been in the official servers.

    Still I wish some game would try to implement a similar system as far as stats and gear goes. It would make the choices on gear a lot more interesting at least.

    1. Glad I'm not the only one that feels this way! Sounds like Ragnarok has a pretty good system going there, it actually sounds a bit like in the Witcher where you have to know what you are up against and prepare your weapons / blade poison accordingly.

      Hmm maybe I should give Ragnarok a try one of these days. :)