26 August, 2007
Over at the, uh, lovingly named I Maek Gaemz blog (run by Patrick Rogers), there’s a post about devaluing items. It touches upon the issue of items, how equipment determines a lot of PvP fights and how the high end “raiding” game usually degenerates into getting incremental improvements. Patrick, a Meridian 59 player, mentions M59 fondly as a game that didn’t have this type of system given the limited selection of gear.
I figured it might be interesting to see what you all think of this issue, and how you would design around it. What game designs would you propose to eliminate some of the problems with equipment-dominated gameplay, as explained in the blog entry above?
When looking at a problem like this, the important thing is to take a look and try to understand why a system was designed (or has evolved over time) to be that way. Equipment is another facet of character in most games, where you acquire equipment to give you more power. The effort to acquire the equipment, especially a particularly rare piece of equipment, is also a sign of achievement that you can use to gloat over others.
Equipment also gives you a chance to customize your character. My main WoW character, a Druid, has two sets of equipment: one for going around in feral forms, and another when I need to do more spellcasting/healing. And, each of these sets of equipment has particular specialities: the spellcasting set focuses heavily on mana regeneration, since that helps me keep my mana going while casting a lot. The variety of equipment allows me to customize my character to a large degree. Compare this with a game like M59, where the limited equipment leads people to favor whatever the dominant strategy of the day is.
Equipment also provides a way to extend the advancement of characters. Instead of having infinite levels (you have to save something to sell the expansion with!), you can just have infinite advancement of equipmet. Getting another +1 to a stat is what it’s all about. Or, getting all purple items to show off to your friends. The equipment treadmill is just another way to keep people playing.
So, here’s the challenge. Either explain another reason for why current games tend to focus so much on equipment, beyond what I explained here. Or, explain a system that allows character customization or extension to gameplay without the negatives discussed in the original article. Good luck!