Thursday, August 7, 2008


Making certain design decisions can be difficult. When you do your job right, you put a lot of thought into it. It's not just a coin toss or taking shortcuts, it's about what makes the most sense in both the short and long term. Sometimes, these decisions aren't overly popular and make things a bit more difficult for the players, but it's also for their own good.

As a player, I often used to say "wth do they do it that way? Why isn't the drop rate higher? Why can't we just get straight to (insert wish here)?" And today, as a designer I read the boards and get the same questions from players regarding decisions I or the other members of the team made.

I cannot go into the specific case that prompted this but I will give a different example. People have often complained about the artifact drop rate in Doom. It took too long. The same people always seemed to be getting the arties, etc. After a while, players got discouraged and most people stop camping Doom. A number of months ago, that drop rate was notably increased and people flocked back in droves to Doom. Within a month, the value of artifacts had collapsed. Within another month, a majority of people had once again abandoned Doom and mostly didn't care for artifacts anymore as they were now too common. Same thing with the Planar Swords and Shields. The minute people had a dozen, they lost interest in the event.

Finding the right balance where something is attainable with reasonable time and effort is never easy. But you have to do it in a way to maximize the longevity of your design without making it frustrating to the players. If players can get mass amounts of a new item you introduced within 2 weeks of it becoming available, that item will immediately lose its appeal and people will no longer bother with it. And that translates as days, weeks and maybe even months of designing and testing down the drain.

Randomization really serves both the player and the designers. It creates rarity which causes demand, which translates as higher resale value, which makes it desirable and therefore something players will actively hunt (Doom Arties, Crimson Cintures...). For the designer, that means more bang per buck.

So unless an object is highly consumable with default sustained demand (PoF, Potions, Petals...) , you shouldn't expect to have them easily available. Sure it would maybe make your life easier, but you would be bored with it within weeks/days.


Anonymous said...

Very nice blog. I enjoy reading your insights on UO design.

My opinion is that finding a good balance or perfect rarity in UO is pretty much impossible. When some of the player base is bots scripting 24/7, some are power gamers playing 40 or more hrs a week and the rest (most?) play much less, its difficult to conceive how some items, think doom arties before the fix or valorite runic hammers, would be achievable by the majority of players.

Even the spring cleaning turn ins seemed to me to be overly difficult to get. I thought the rewards were well thought out, the sorcerer's suit is usable but not overpowering. The deco items have a varied range of appeal to different people. But until the flood of 25k quest ticket rewards became available, most of the stuff seems to be out of the reach of the average player for the time the event will be in place.

So you create a system where there is high demand for some items, but only a few players can earn those items. Imo, this is what contributes to the cheating and duping that occurs.

Likewise heartwood quests, I see the same people doing the quests because it is too mind-numbingly unfun for most people to expend the time to do these.

I think one of the best approach to balance rarity is something like the the humility cloak quest. Once per char, but you are assured of getting the item.

Regine "Sakkarah" Abel said...

Unfortunately, whenever you create demand for an item, you automatically get the vultures (dupers) making an appearance. At the same time, I dont think it's fair to deprive players of potentially cool stuff just because dupers will try to abuse them.

I believe rarity isn't a bad thing, as long as the rare item isn't overpowering those who have them. There should be additional benefits to those who put the extra time, the extra effort, go the extra mile. I dont think everyone should easily have everything just because they also are paying customers. I pay to go to the gym too, but if I don't do the training on a regular basis, I can't complain because I don't have the same kick ass body of the customers that do. If I don't have the time, desire or (insert other reason here) to train as much, well sucks to be me.

But you're right, there is no such thing as perfect balance. We can only thrive to attain it, especially in a MMO. The biggest issue being that no 2 player will devote the same amount of time or energy to the game, whatever the reason. For us, it's all about "trying" to find that middle ground where the power gamer still has challenges and goals to achieve while ensuring that the casual player remains competitive.

Failure to do so invariably results in loss of players. So we try to take all those factors into consideration and the decision, while sometimes unpopular, is full of good intentions. We just try not to think about that saying about the road to Hell...