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TWINKING TRUTH [Author: riprend]

Twinking\’e2\’80\’99s a complex issue. I\’e2\’80\’99m not going to pretend to be the almighty scholar of the MMORPGs and say it\’e2\’80\’99s part of an obsolescence process that\’e2\’80\’99s natural to any themed world. (although I can agree with such postulates) I choose to look at it from a different angle entirely – just who does it harm?

We\’e2\’80\’99ll start out with the harmed parties:

1.)\tab New players who interact with the twink New players, raw to the process, see someone in advanced equipment and naturally wonder about its entitlement to it. In addition, it detracts from their immersion in the world and creates a sense of jealousy at a caste-based world structure.

2.)\tab The twink himself. Every time someone zooms through these lower levels, it reduces the impact of the new player experience. New player areas are designed with the poverty player in mind. Without that inherent mindset, one quickly becomes even more disassociated from the game world than they already are. For some, the act of taking a twink through its paces irreparably ruins their game experience.

3.)\tab Players looking for popular \’e2\’80\’9ctwinkable\’e2\’80\’9d equipment for their mains. It causes both a supply problem for them (equipment drain) and a time issue for them \’e2\’80\ldblquote with high level characters farming these items out to their other characters, it creates great anger towards the higher level caste because of the increased inconvenience.

4.)\tab Developers responsible for dynamic quests. This is one of the hardest to resolve problems with twinking. How can one design low and mid-level dynamic quests with such a disparity in character achievement? More and more with twinking, time-based quests have to be turned to as low level players\’e2\’80\’99 abilities increase. Look no further than EverQuest to see this, as foraging quests become more and more popular \’e2\’80\ldblquote a purely time-based endeavour.

As expected, I\’e2\’80\’99ve got case-by-case solutions.

1.)\tab Levels as an economic commodity rather than a time-based one. What if veteran players could use money to purchase level training for their characters? No doubt the amount of money would have to be scaled to the progression of the economy, possibly leading to more problems for developers. But as MMORPG players begin to expect more dynamic content in their games, more developers will likely be required to support this. In addition, this type of macroeconomical COULD be coded for autonomy\’e2\’80\ldblquote it was attempted in UO, and I\’e2\’80\’99ve got no doubt that with a successful evaluation of its problems could be successfully performed with lessons learned.

Also to consider in this is the fantastic money sink it provides. Players get NOTHING material for their money. Thus, it\’e2\’80\’99s a money sink that never grows old. The problem with buyable rares in UO as a money sink is that after a while, rares just aren\’e2\’80\’99t so, well, rare. And since that\’e2\’80\’99s where their intrinsic value lies, it\’e2\’80\’99s a money sink that\’e2\’80\’99s only a quick fix until the developer has to come up with another Shiny Thing for the player to spend his money on.

2.)\tab For this, the developer must take care to leave his lesson on the player the first time he enters the world. Class-based experiences aren\’e2\’80\’99t the way to go. In EverQuest, players undertake newbie quests that require no cooperation to achieve. In a game where grouping is inherently required later in life, the proper solution is to make sure those lessons are taught at an early age.

The second benefit of this is that players who learn these types of skills early will not encounter the frustrations when they have to become dependent on others for their gains. When you\’e2\’80\’99ve taken the glory out of soloing and made it crystal clear from the outset that this is a MMORPG and not Baldur\’e2\’80\’99s Gate from the outset, you won\’e2\’80\’99t see players butting up a perceived glass ceiling and turning to secondaries for that power rush they get when they\’e2\’80\’99re once more able to kill everything in sight by themselves.

3.)\tab As controversial as it is, I firmly believe that less no-drop items and more randomization of placement of desirable items is the way to go here. Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call has it right in most of this regard \’e2\’80\ldblquote the best weapons can be those you find at the most unexpected times. While it\’e2\’80\’99s not entirely realistic, it\’e2\’80\’99s one hell of a lot less fiction breaking than having King Ugrakunooga coughing up his Sword of Slaying 12 hours around the clock. While it\’e2\’80\’99s still going to cause resentment, it\’e2\’80\’99s a lot less obvious. A player roaming around a high level drop zone for his twink is going to cause a lot less anguish for a regular character than seeing him sitting on his ass at the culmination of his dungeon raid with his friends, farming out items from what the hopeful sees as a true immersive challenge.

4.)\tab This is the toughest of these to resolve, and my solution is more than likely going to spawn a long bitchfest. There should be no low level and mid-level dynamic quests, just like EverQuest. This is justified for several reasons:

a.)\tab The epic feel of dynamic content is best achieved when the participating characters are of epic stature.

b.)\tab Players should have a carrot in front of their stick. High levels become more and more meaningless as time wears on, as the game system becomes more and more familiar to the character. But when pitted against a living, breathing opponent never before seen and never analyzed in crucial detail, the experience becomes one of revitalization. This should be something players should labor for.

c.)\tab New players should be taught an appreciation for their environment from the start. The system should be designed where the epic feel so lacking for the high level players can be achieved in the regularly designed game. I can recall my first time in Befallen, and the exhilaration I got whenever we finally made it past that third level door, only to find (to relate back to the earlier point) high level players farming the elf skeleton for the Thex Mallet. The moment was ruined.

d.)\tab In concordance with c.), game system quests for high level players should be sparse. Killing the monster/retrieving the item only is exciting for a limited amount of time. The challenge has dissolved, and the desire has corroded. Instead of spending time on rote quests, developers should spend their resources on improving dynamic quest tools and in participating in the worlds of their crafting. (This, of course, gives the side benefit of developers expulsing the Ivory Tower Syndrome.)

In summation, twinking is a problem not of failed equipment dynamics, but of a failure of the original game to entertain the player in his role. If careful design is followed, a player should feel confident enough in his first character\’e2\’80\’99s abilities to simply not have the desire or the inclination to make another one. Making every player feel useful is the primary task of the developer, and when done correctly, problems like twinking eliminate themselves.