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General: Editorial: Static Rewards

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

Neil Thompson looks at what happens when games encourage everyone to seek the same items at each step of the way.

Over the last couple of years I have noticed a trend in most online games. EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons Online to name but a few, all have the same problem: the player characters all look the same.

I'm not talking about their faces (though the differences here are mostly negligible too). I am talking about the way they dress. It seems to me that everyone is shopping at the same tailor/blacksmith. Take a tour around any game and you will notice that players of similar levels are usually dressed identically.

The full editorial is here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios



  • HakikoHakiko Woodstown, NJPosts: 103Member
    While I agree with the point of this article I do not agree with the usual flawed hardcore/casual oversimplification and logic found here:

    Let's look at it from another perspective; we are all farmers ploughing
    our land, planting crops etc. All our farms are perfectly equal in size
    and quality, the only difference is while you are out tending your
    crops I am out socialising, enjoying life while you toil away. Harvest
    comes around and we all harvest our crops and I notice that my yield is
    a lot smaller than yours, why is that? I'm sure I don't need to spell
    out the answer but as this is a word processor I guess I will have to -
    you put more effort than I did.

    Of course in the real world the farmer could go to college and put in hard work for a short time learning something and then be able to make far more than his former farmer neighbors  in a lot less hours worked per week. In the real world time worked does not equal pay off. You can not make more than a highly skilled person by grinding away at minimum wage for an absurd number of hours a week, you just won't catch the guys making $50-$100 an hour.

    Most MMOs do not allow for cleverness to outweigh dumb hours worked.

  • Red_RiderRed_Rider Brossard, QCPosts: 261Member

        I think the probelm is a lot simpler,  what is missing is an outer layer of clothing.  In real life I believe that most peope in armor WOULD like pretty much the same,  I think only the king and a very few very rich people would have decorated armor.  The main difference betweem knights would be the outer clothing, cloaks, tabards and tunics.  So just give a way to make a variety of outer clothing and let people keep their static awards.

      Even in Ultima Online it was more the gown and cloak that differentiated the characters and the armor itself looked pretty much all the same.

  • RattrapRattrap ZagrebPosts: 1,599Member
    Heh , a nice editorial about World of Warcraft

    Anyway , It is not that everyone looks the same that is problem (although it sucks).

    It is the fact that everyone has the same gear that they got from quests. Blizzard has shot itself in the knee.

    First they invent game with totaly random gear drops -> Diablo
    And then they go and make WOW where a certan monster will always drop the same peace of gear.

    In short , there is no chance for economy - when there is this set of items that once you got you dont need anything anymore...

    But than again that is the problem with the whole game. It has an end. A brick wall that you hit.

    Like it is a single player rpg in which you reached end scene...

    "Before this battle is over all the world will know that few...stood against many." - King Leonidas

  • shaeshae Ottawa, ONPosts: 2,509Member


    I wonder how many Anti-WoW posts this is going to spawn. Because it's the only game with this problem, right everyone...?

    Anyways, I have to agree, completely. Personally I feel this is all appart of a larger issue, which is basing the action part of a game around gaining gear. When you make gear the centric goal of doing "X" instance because with that gear you'll be able to do "X" Boss fight, well then what's going to happen? Everyone is going to want that gear of course and thus everyone ends up looking the same.

    EQ2, WoW, DDO and others all have this same thing, getting to the end of a dungeon crawl isn't about the fun of doing it, or the story line your envoloping yourself into along with your gaming friends, it's about getting to the boss fights so that they drop "whatever" and then you rinse and repeat, going up higher and higher is you gain this and that level.

    The sad thing, it works. EQ2 certainly is hurting, we all know WoW wont be declaring broke anytime soon, so who knows. Maybe it's just those of us that remember a different way that don't like the way things are going, maybe we're the one that are wrong for wanting something different.

  • YeeboYeebo Laputa, CAPosts: 1,359Member
    I can definitly see what you are talking about at high levels in WoW, and EQ II in general.  But at lower levels in WoW, you have no-one but yourself to blame if you are wearing the same outfit as everyone else. Usually in any given ten level stretch there are at least four "sets" of whatever type of armor your are wearing available.  The stats on the items are randomly generated, so you can  wear a set of whatever you like with whatvere stats you like if you are patient and check the AH a lot.  In fact, mxing and matching sets to make my lowbie alts look as cool as possible is one of my favorite activities in the game.  The reason that you see folks of the same level generally wearing the same gear is that they are wearing quest rewards. Most players don't bother to worry that much about what they are wearing until they hit the end game.  An honestly, you level so quickly that they are probably right ...unless you just enjoy getiing together nice looking sets of lowbie gear.  Even if you are a "powergamer" and want to be decked in blues at all times, there are multiple instances with their own loot tables in any given  level range. 

    Obviously, all that changes at 60.  For each class there is only one set of "best" level 60 gear, an I think that stinks.  It's one of the main reasons I feel like the endgame in WoW falls on it's face.

    One thing that would make a hige difference, imo, is a tinting system.  DAoC and EQ have really nice tinting systems where you can customize the appearance of gear at any level.  Other solutions include games like CoH or PSO where you design the look of your PC when you roll him/ her and it doesn't affect their stats in any way.  Lots of different sets of viable end game gear would obviously be even better...but that's just a pipe dream.  We'll nevr see that in any major game....

    I don't want to write this, and you don't want to read it. But now it's too late for both of us.

  • LordVanidorLordVanidor Austin, TXPosts: 70Member
    I'm pissed off my space ship looks the same as everyone elses. EvE sucks.

  • NetherbeastNetherbeast Foothill Ranch, CAPosts: 55Member
    City of Heroes has done it right. Loot doesn't really exixts and you can look like any hero or villain you can think of and more. Your cape doesn't add to your defense, your powers do. This allows for an extremely large amount of diversity.

    Star Wars Galaxies was a game that had everyone in the same armor. Eventually they added more armor, but it was attack an of the clones.

    D&D Pen and Paper had stats for the same armor but one set of +1 Scale Mail didn't look like another set of +1 Scale mail. Online games should strive to add many variations of the same armor, removing the same look for everyone.

    Or better yet, look at what Hero's Journey is doing. You can get any clothing or armor and it doesn't have the same stat efect, rather they have slots which add the powers. The game isn't out yet, but what it sounds like is that you can have a tunic with 2 slots be just as powerful as plate armor that has 2 slots. Same with weapons. You add defenses or attacks into the slots like diablo or FF7. In this way, there is a reduced chance of looking like everyone else.

    I hope to see more innovation like city of heroes and heroes journey in other games.

    Give a man fire and he''s warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he''s warm the rest of his life.

  • MrbloodworthMrbloodworth Newport News, VAPosts: 5,615Member

    is also another reasion that SWG pre-cu was so good.

    Despite what everyone says, not every one cared about armor. and with the
    player crafted nature of them, sometimes bone armor was just as good as
    composite... so it was about looks. Resistances in armor varied, and no one set
    had them all, there was always something that could get threw. Most other mmo's
    just have the armor factor.


    and lets not forget that you could mix and match pieces of
    armor types in different areas of your body.

    Bone helm, ubese chest, composite legs... Nothing on the arms ..etc.. Bio-clothings.... etc... etc... etc...

    "Anyone posting on this forum is not an average user, and there for any opinions about the game are going to be overly critical compared to an average users opinions." - Me

    "No, your wrong.." - Random user #123

    "Hello person posting on a site specifically for MMO's in a thread on a sub forum specifically for a particular game talking about meta features and making comparisons to other titles in the genre, and their meta features.

    How are you?" -Me

  • LiddokunLiddokun San Francisco, CAPosts: 1,665Member Uncommon

    I haven't seen any mmorpg where player skill is more important than loot. It's always about loot, loot and more loot. And even in pvp games the better geared person will almost always beat out the lesser geared ones. A prime example of this is of course World of Warcraft. A lvl 60 mage in greens will have almost no chance of beating a lvl 60 mage in full set Tier 2. But of course this is fair. Life isn't fair.

  • BountyGregBountyGreg AlsdorfPosts: 37Member
    getting the same stuff from a mob wouldn't be a problem actually, if the item wouldn't always do the same thing.
    We loot stuff and strangely they always have the best quality, aren't used, and are looted as they would have just been done. Added to this, they always do the exact same thing, same damage, protection, effect or whatever it is the loot does.
    I think this is due to the nature of the instances and dungeons of those games. You go through a dungeon and at the end, the boss is waiting...To me it seems like bosses are lazy and just wait for their death.
    And why does a dungeon HAVE to have a boss actually? I mean, you should go into a dungeon to see what's in, all we do now in games is searching the shortest way to the end. If we could just run through I bet we would do it.
    When a dungeon has be beaten, another spawn should come, how comes NPC called "Ivan" always comes back and revives? is he a zombie or so? I always get to kill the same guy, either I do one particular dungeon 1 time or 50 times.
    We should get rid of our bad habits and start to play for enjoyment and not for item-stats

  • AnofalyeAnofalye Quebec, QCPosts: 7,433Member

    I respect other players that are stronger than me if they acquire this by playing the same gameplay I do (thereby I can dream of succeeding) or if they buy it with RL $ and that is a secondary way to progress, so that most peoples getting where they are, get there by doing the same gameplays I do.

    The day someone is stronger than me by playing ANOTHER gameplay, I ask my gameplay at least EQUAL or better to get there, if the answer is no, I leave right away.

    If a grouper is stronger than me, I will just work harder (will I succeed or not is another topic in itself).  If a raider is stronger than me, I will just change game.  Quite simple indeed.

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

  • LiddokunLiddokun San Francisco, CAPosts: 1,665Member Uncommon
    One way to make an mmorpg more immersive is thru scripted instances. Example: Instead of BIGBADBOSS_001 just waiting at the bottom of the dungeon wait for his eventual demise by Mr_Knightinarmor_005963. He would be in his chambers pacing around or in his study planning more evil deeds and as soon as the heroes approaches his room, BIGBADBOSS_001 would sense the hero(es) and bust open the doors to his room, and give a thunderous roar in defiance and say stuff like "Time to die, puny humaaaan!" Then charge at the heroes.
  • AntiocheAntioche Grand Rapids, MIPosts: 132Member
    I personally think that all items in any game should decay over time, except certain things that players would always have the chance of losing via death, or it being stolen from them, or going missing if the player were to stop playing the game or not log into the game for certain period of time.

    More emphasis should be placed on players doing in-game designs for clothing and armor. If it were possible to create a system in a game that allowed players to do custom scrollwork, artwork, etc. to clothing and armor that would greatly increase the uniqueness of player models. Of course the load this put onto the servers and the players' connections might be too great.

    It would also be nice to see armor and weapons visually degrade instead of me checking the con/dur of my stuff. I would rather be able to actually see dents in my armor, rips on my clothes, and notches in my weapons. I'd like to see bloodstains on my weapons/armor as well that stayed there until I cleaned them off. If I never cleaned them then they would just stay bloody and dirty etc. :)

    The fact that the player's adventuring has no affect on the appearance of their avatar certainly detracts from a player's ability to feel immersed in the game.

    It is pathos we lack, and this lack of pathos makes the worlds we explore quite stale.

  • uncusuncus Fonda, NYPosts: 528Member

    Originally posted by Antioche
    More emphasis should be placed on players doing in-game designs for clothing and armor. If it were possible to create a system in a game that allowed players to do custom scrollwork, artwork, etc. to clothing and armor that would greatly increase the uniqueness of player models. Of course the load this put onto the servers and the players' connections might be too great.

    The major problem with this - besides bandwidth as you very insightfully point out - is kiddies that want to use swastikas, penises or other symbols that many would find offensive.  Look at the number of idiots with names like "Sir Spoogalot" you think that giving them crayons is a good idea?

    Your suggestion of gear without vivible stats is excellent!  Unfortunately, I again doubt that the unwashed masses would stand for it.  I remember when Ryzom was in beta and there was no "conning" of MOBs; you had to guess how tough they were by size alone.  That hit the forums and went away quickly [and they still had few subscribers...]  Great ideas, but most likely unable to withstand the pressure of the lazy or obnoxious.

  • BrynnBrynn Albuquerque, NMPosts: 345Member

    Originally posted by uncus

    Your suggestion of gear without vivible stats is excellent!  Unfortunately, I again doubt that the unwashed masses would stand for it.  I remember when Ryzom was in beta and there was no "conning" of MOBs; you had to guess how tough they were by size alone.  That hit the forums and went away quickly [and they still had few subscribers...]  Great ideas, but most likely unable to withstand the pressure of the lazy or obnoxious.

    I love that statement. image  It attests to the maturity level of most players.

    I think most of the posters in this thread feel as I do. A couple of the upcoming online games are listening to us, but not most. Afterall, if most players are the level uncus states, there are more of them to pay the monthly fees.

    And don't forget the gold farmers. They have to make a living too. Item centric games guarantee that they will.

  • SabbicatSabbicat Cambridge, ONPosts: 282Member Uncommon

    I say randomize the loot drops. For the life of me I could never really accept that the Uber Wolf carried the Sword of Destiny tucked away below his tail. And no matter how the fight was going it didnt pop out until it was killed.

    Crafting should diversified. And the truely creative should be the ones to make that Sword. And someone should be made to work really hard and save all there shillings to buy said sword.

    Sending 70 players to battle over who gets the drop is just rediculaous and probably why I gave up on these games long before reaching uberness.


  • sumo_kotensumo_koten SydneyPosts: 23Member
     Why do we need uber-loot that places one person far above those that do not have it? Why can we not reduce the impact of items on the power level of characters in-game?

  • BleakmageBleakmage Plattsburgh, NYPosts: 174Member

    I remember how, long ago, with my Wookie that I got to look just like I wanted wore clothing that I took painstaking hours to have tailor-made for me to get it just right.

    And then there was World of Warcraft, and the image that persists in my mind every time this subject comes up is how I was once in a group when all four or five of us had exactly the same armor/look. . .at the time I thought it was ludicrously retarded, but now that I think about it, it being WoW and all, wouldn't that be the way we would look if we were being generated by a building in one of the Warcraft RTS games?

    Can hardly wait for Hero's Journey! I just hope the howl of the whiners doesn't ruin that game like it has most MMORPGs in general. I remember back in Asheron's Call when it took a hell of alot of work to get uber loot, and you felt prould to wear it. More games should use that game as a model instead of EQ. . .ugh! (EQ2 isn't bad, though. . .)

    Off Topic: If Hero's Journey can be even a third as good as what it promises, it will blow everything else out there out of the f*#king water. :D

  • thePREdigerthePREdiger ViennaPosts: 152Member
    DAoC fixed the "looks the same feeling" with the ability to dye your armor pieces.
    Although many wear the same armor (in terms of texture) they still were able to personalize their
    char using their favourite colors on their armor parts/cloaks.

    WoW is really bad when it comes to individuality - all chars look the same in their armor sets.

  • sapho889sapho889 SicktePosts: 3Member

    Hehe, I personally agree with him.

    And you can even expand it to characters in generally. I checked out many MMORPG's and found that at level max almost every character of a class has the same skills and there are no differences.

    WoW of course is an extreme. It's very much focussed on a very small range of items that are the only possibilty to improve your char once you are 60. I never understood why blizzard didn't simply copy the loot/item generation they successfully used in their Diablo games. But I also think about thousands of other player using exactly the same skill setup than you.

    But allthough I hope there will be some games in the future that offer some more variations and allow some more individuallity (for example Horizons is very nice concerning individual character builds), there are a lot of people that like to play chars that are completely equal than thousand of other chars and they also like to run hundresds of times into the same instance to wait for only one mob drop one special item. What else could be the reason for tons of borredom korean grind games - except lower development costs of course.

    Regards, Sap.

  • NibsNibs .Posts: 221Member Uncommon
    Easiest solution: multiple models/skins for each item. Same stats, different look.

    Problem solved.

  • Jade6Jade6 HelsinkiPosts: 429Member

    Originally posted by Mrbloodworth

    This is also another reasion that SWG pre-cu was so good.

    Agreed, but I think the real reason was that loot was more like trophies which you could place in your house than stat upgrades, so crafting remained useful; paintings, crystals, luxury vehicles - all sorts of exotic items with no stat benefits but which looked cool. At most you found a new crafting pattern, and the items made with that were not necessarily better, just different. Consider the sonic blaster from geolabs for example, it wasn't necessarily better than a laser rifle but the fact that it used sound waves instead of laser to damage the target made it more useful against certain types of mobs and armor. That all went to hell of course when stat upgrade loot was added to the game after CU.

    Much of the armor in SWG looked the same, eventhough you could choose the colors; but I have never seen so much variation in terms of normal clothing. People didn't wear combat armor unless combat was imminent, as items decayed when you died, so most of the time people were wearing cheap, light armor, or just normal clothing without any stats. You could mix, match and color the clothing any way you wanted (at crafting time) which together with an extremely detailed character creation and the ability to "image design" the way you looked even after character creation ensured that there was unbelievable variation in how people looked, AND you could look exactly the way you wanted.

  • avienthasavienthas FreiburgPosts: 94Member
    It´s not only about "looks the same", it´s also about "wears the same", and no amount of dye or whatnot will change that. Diversity shouldn´t stop when it meets the eye but go further down.

    It is remarcable: in a market mostly populated by hardcore capitalists, the popular mindset concerning any and all controversial things is purely communistic :" Noone shall have better gear than me",  or "classes /professions have to be balanced" which is another way to say " noone shall be stronger than me".

    Apart from beeing pathetic, it is ruining every chance of immersive quality fot the game.


  • SamuraiswordSamuraisword Washington DC, MDPosts: 2,111Member

    Originally posted by Hakiko

    Most MMOs do not allow for cleverness to outweigh dumb hours worked.

        Of course they do. If you die a lot, you receive penalties, if you play smart you don't. If you kill certain mobs, you will receive better drops than other mobs of the same difficulty. Some tradeskills are more profitable than others, and some crafted items are in more demand than others.

    There are many choices of equal hours played/worked, where it is clever to choose one pursuit over the other. It all depends on what your goals are.

    I agree with the OP 100%. The notion that people who play/work less in a MMOG are entitled to the same rewards as those that achieve more ingame, is bullshit.


  • MLecl0001MLecl0001 Saint Paul, MNPosts: 153Member

    You know what is funny, I have played quite a few MMOs, and I like to browse through the forums of the MMO I am playing at the time.  I read all the time about topics relating to balance, loot, power gamer vs casuals, carebears vs hardcore, etc..   Yet I never read about any one having fun, am I wrong to believe that MMOs are in fact a game?  Yet every time some one tries to use, work, or something similar as a reason to get "phat lewts" they always try to mirror the game to real life.  Yet I already play the game of life, and I play MMOs to escape the idiots and stresses of that game of life.  I play MMOs to relax and have fun, yet there seems to no longer be fun in MMOs.  Now all that is left is whining, complaining, and work.  I already have 2 jobs, I really dont want a 3rd. 

    Now onto the topic at hand, how about like in WAR they are going to have armor sets that will most likely look similar for every one of your class.  However the way they are going to diferentiate the way they look is by allowing you customization options.  Such as dyes and allowing you to put trophies on your armor, such as beards and skulls of fallen enemies.  That is such a simple and great idea and takes care of the cosmetic appearances.

    Now if you are talking stats on gear, that is another issue entirely, an issue that isnt thedevelopers fault so much as it is the communities fault.  Now developers could add all sorts of different items with different stats that cater to every imagineable play style with one certain class, then do it for every class.  However over time the community would settle into a cookie cutter build with cookie cutter items, that optimizes all the "wanted" or "needed" stats for a certain class.  This is also fueled by the communities need for the perfect trinity and pigeon holing classes into certain roles.

    Lets take for example the druid in WoW or any class with healing ability.  Blizzard could have made tier 1 and 2 and 3 sets for the different playstyles of those classes druid, shaman, pally, and priest.  However they knew that the community, would and did pigeon hole any class with healing ability into a healer.  So what would the point be to spend all that time and effort on making alternative viable sets?  People would have just complained because it would have been more items that dropped off the bosses, thus decreasing the chance that a more "needed" piece of gear would drop.

    So when it comes to gear it is 2 sided, with one being a relative easy fix, and the other a complex mix of garbled crap.  If its strictly cosmetic, just give players the options to change and customize their gear.  If you are talking stats, well thats a whole other mess that involves not only the developes but the limited and often intolerant views of the community.

    P.S. Lets bring the fun back to MMOs and leave the work for real life :)

    Edit - Grammar and spelling reasons, I suck at both but I try :P

    Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

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