Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Designing a better raid reward system

I recently mentioned that game systems make stories happen between players. One of those stories that happens to thousands of World of Warcraft guilds is the one where tensions arise in the guild between the more advanced and the less advanced raiders. The more advanced players don't want to sign up for the low level raids any more, because those don't bring them anything any more, but the less advanced players only make slow progress without the help of the more advanced players, and thus don't catch up with them to help them in the next level of raiding. TBC changed that story only slightly: on the one hand the more advanced raiders at least get badges of justice when running Karazhan again, but on the other hand a guild needs to equip three Karazhan teams before having enough players for the 25-man dungeons.

Now I was reading Relmstein's excellent suggestion on how MMORPGs could be improved by using features from Spore: "Plus the ideas explored with the creature creator in Spore could also be adapted for several different areas in MMOs. A weapon and armor creator could easily be controlled by a game system dependent on the discovery of ancient scrolls. Work your way to the end of a medium difficulty dungeon and be rewarded with the knowledge on how to add a cool cross guard to your swords. The stats of items you create could be controlled by different types of tokens dropped off bosses with varying degrees of difficulty." And I was thinking that a system like that might be useful for improving the raid reward system.

As mentioned yesterday, the current raid reward system by dropping random epics has the big disadvantage that it rewards an experienced player helping others to get through a raid dungeon very little, while giving out big rewards to the new players that are given the guided tour. Rewards are inversely proportional to contribution, a system that is obviously problematic. The badges of justice already help, but what if we had an "build your own epic" system? Besides ready-made epics, the raid bosses would drop epic fragments, which could be assembled to more powerful epics. And there wouldn't be a loot table, but every raid boss could drop any possible epic fragment. There would be fragments determining what slot the finished epic goes in, whether it is a helmet or boots for example. There would be fragments determining whether the final epic would be cloth, leather, mail, or plate. And there would be epic fragments for the various stats, with the value of the stats depending on the difficulty of the raid dungeon. From all those parts you could build exactly the epic you wanted.

The big advantage of such a system is that the newbies in the raid would be better served with the ready-made drop epics. But the more experienced raiders who already have all the random drops they could possibly get can still get a reward in the form of epic fragments, which once assembled are an improvement over the random drops. So while helping the rest of their guild to advance through Karazhan, at least these raiders would be rewarded, and wouldn't feel stuck between raid dungeons.
They allready implemented a system, which is a bit like this.

The Recipes, wchih create BoE Items ins SSC/TK and BT/MH.

The Belts in SSC/TK require a Recipe drop, which can drop from various Trash, or bosses in those instances AND two Nether Vortexes (which drop there). The Recipe is BoP, but the Belt you create is BoE, so you can even equip someone, who has never even seen that instance.

This is only one Item, but it is a start and if blizzard thinks this is a success, maybe they will make more use of this system.
Added bonus: Crafters get to be useful!

Say that swordsmiths get to add a +1 or something every time they add something to their sword, tailors add to their robes, etc

You could even allow some (but not all) 'scrolls' or whatever be applied to other people's items with your crafting bonus so that there's an economic incentive there.
The problem right now is that Raiding is tedious.

Even experienced raiders can get burnt out. Who wants to raid for a few weeks for several hours each week only to get maybe a single piece of loot as an upgrade?

If you don't get that piece of loot as a upgrade then your stuck with some artificial merit system known as DKP.

This puts you at the mercy of the guild for all the work you have done. If the guild disbands or you are kicked then all the DKP is evaporated.

Sometimes you might want that one piece of loot. You can only do a raid boss once a week.

So you go week after week fo a 15% drop and when it finally does you now need to compete against 7 other dps for the item.

There are just so many problems with the loot system right now. I think they need to find a way to make it more rewarding even on cutting edge content.
One more thing:

To the people who say that they raid for the story i can understand, but imagine having a book where you can only read the first 100 pages until you reread those first 100 pages 20 times.

That is how i would describe raiding. That is why gear should matter even to the most avid player whos raiding for the story.
Blizzard is still working with timesinks. Those random drops are nothing else. You work four hours to kill the prince in Karazhan, all the other bosses can drop anything useful and in the end you get a toke nobody can use, an item nobody wants and another item everyone has already.
Can anyone explain to me why those tokens can only be equipped by 3 classes? There is no serious reason why there are three different tokens instead of one token for all classes. But hey, if would actually be rewarded for your work on a regular basis, you will perhaps finish the instance faster and demand more or something like that.

Marvel Universe Online canceled.

Cryptic is switching development to Champions Online, which makes no sense to me.

1. There are only 8 people under the age of 35 that have even heard of Champions.

2. The character development system in COH is fine, and is actually the best part of the game, where as the Champions development system is too complex for an MMORPG, so essentially this is simply being done for the brand name - but Champions doesn't have the brand recognition of Warhammer, so I don't see the same level of buzz being generated over this.;title;0
No thread hijacking, please! I actually have doubts that anyone under 35 even knows Marvel. :) I was aware of the cancellation, but considered it to be non-news, because nobody was waiting for Marvel Universe Online anyway. The few superhero fans out there are playing City of Heroes.

No thread hijacking, please!

Sorry I didn't go through proper channels.

I like your ideas, but would it be too easy to suggest that they just make raiding more financially rewarding? If the bosses dropped 10(or another number) times as much gold it would be more worth a veteran going there, and with raid lock-outs it could be looked on like a kind of daily/weekly quest type thing.

It would also help healers/tanks who can't farm as easily, but are needed for raids/groups.
Personally, I think that putting all epics on a token or reputation reward system would solve these problems.
On my shammy, i look at the loot tables in atlas for the 5 man runs, and go, wont go there, or there or there, need 1 item there and 2 there. I wont go on some runs because the items are not worth it, or are simply not for my class/spec.

SHAME on the dev's for making this a fact. Their loot/rewards system is horrid. How many quests have we done for the same items.... that we cant use? Broken systems for all.

Build a loot is a much more direct solution for the players, and keeps it in spirit with the blizzard time sink = we win approach.

The bosses in 5 mans are dropping 1 item, and the final boss 2. Replace these items with a token/fragment system that they've used in the past for raids and call it done. Yes, it makes the game more like the special Olympics, but if you've done a pug av lately, you know its only a matter of degrees already.
The first raid zones in EQ had a worse problem. There they put half the classes armor sets in one zone (Plane of Hate) and half in the other (Plane of Fear). So it could be hard to get needed classes to come to the off-zone. Especially Plane of Fear was a pita to "break". People would delevel from 50 down to 45 just from all the unsucessful corpse recovery attempts. (And if you died naked, your corpse didn't last long enough to get a rez)

And then there was Plane of Air which was the first one where they limited how many people could go. (Only x number of keys dropped to get to the next island). And they put part of people's epic quests deep inside. I remember spending Friday night, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday helping with those. Ouch. It was fun once, but nobody succeeded in convincing me to go back. (Wonder why! Lol)

I haven't gotten to the point of any raids in WoW yet, but I'm glad to see how far MMORPG's have come in this regard. It's good to see all the good ideas.

Personally, now that I'm married and have a little one on the way, it'd be nice to have raids in manageable chunks - say ~2 hours. So reading that there still are 4 hour+ raids worries me.

Maybe put in a time limit so people don't feel guilty about having to go to bed after a few wipes. I guess I'll wory about it when I get to 70.

Blizzard has already taken an additional step towards less wasted loot in a raid setting. If you look at Sunwell, bosses will drop items along with motes that can be turned into a vendor for a different item. For example, you can kill a boss, loot a paladin healing helm and a sun mote from trash, then turn those two items into a vendor for a warrior tanking helm.

This new system should help at least during the learning phase of the instance. Nothing is worse than getting the same few items on your first few kills.

My guild has killed Supremus maybe 10 times now, and he's dropped the druid idol 8 of those times. If the Paladins, Druids and Shaman in the raid could loot that idol and turn it into a vendor for any one of their ranged slot items it wouldn't be nearly as bad as disenchanting 6 items in 10 kills.
I'm 24, and I know all about Marvel and something about MUO. But I'm probably an anomaly.

As far as the actual topic goes, I agree with many other posters: this is already present in limited form in the crafting system. Crafting just needs expansion at the top end, that's all. More upgradeable items would be a good place to start.
The "make-an-epic" system definitely sounds cool, and like something that would be interesting, on the surface, from a player's standpoint.

But from a design standpoint, how is it any better, or even DIFFERENT, than the badge system?

You end up with a bunch of parts, that are used to make epics. If you don't want people to min/max the system and make ridiculously overpowered epics, you have to put some kind of restrictions on what CAN be made.

Since it has to be restricted to avoid players creating totally broken items, the devs have to put in a bunch of tolerances, and say that you can't make an item more powerful than the Platonic ideal of a +AGI sword, or whatever.

So now you've got a bunch of theoretical best items, and a bunch of ingredients. You know that players, in general, are only going to make the most powerful weapons.

So why not just simplify the system. Have a big set of best items (badge gear), and a simplified set of ingredients (badges).

If crafting in WoW was actually any more interesting than throwing a big batch of stuff into a box, pressing a button, and getting your result, it'd be one thing, but what's the difference now between an NPC that does it and a button on your Blacksmithing interface?

Sure, people like Tobold (and don't get me wrong, from what I've read I think I can safely put *myself* in that camp) would screw around with the system and make weird items, because we like it. We'll do quests for the story, regardless of reward, because we're *that* kind of nerd. But in the same way that it's a bad idea for the devs to dedicate 90% of their effort to satisfying the 5% of players that are hardcore raiders, wouldn't it also be a bad idea for them to dedicate 90% of their effort to the 5% of players who care about reading the books that are lying around in instances?
One of the good things about the Badge system is that Blizzard gets to control the quality of the loot that is doled out. Creating some kind of BYOEpic system could potentially lead to abuse and munchkining... and that doesn't even address possible issues that needed piece X is only available off boss Y.

The current Badge system works quite well, and gives more than enough incentive to run Kara. I've two upgrades queued that require badges, so I'm always up for running it.
Still has a problem. Time would come when the better players have all their fragments and the lower group only has the base loot. Same problem
Blizz would have to check their crafting system first to make it more interesting and rewarding. I think it wouldn't be too hard to figure out a way to make two or three different crafts required to create an epic gear with hugely expensive materials.

There are already potions and rods which are required for certain crafting recipes, but how about combining the crafting itself?

I'd like to see the WoW crafting taken to the next stage, even en par with the EQ2 crafting which is a lovely minigame in itself.

Enhance the crafting, make it meaningfull and interesting, and lower the world drop rates... that could boost the economics, too, and create a niche for the casual people to be recognised, too!

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