LET’S PLAY GREENSPAN [Author: Riprend]

The basic problem is that money is stagnant. It piles up in players\’e2\’80\’99 hands and goes to fund increasingly silly ventures. In UO, the silliness vortex was incredibly evident. When you\’e2\’80\’99ve got enough money that you have a castle that\’e2\’80\’99s running out of room on lockdowns, you\’e2\’80\’99ve got a real problem.

For the solution, let\’e2\’80\’99s introduce an entirely new feature: INTERACTIVE RANTING with Mad Lums. Your Lums are weapons, armors, magic items, rares, guilds, and PKs. Here we go:

High-end ( ) are noticeably absent in UO. Without premium ( ) that set the player apart not just in appearance, but in overall efficacy, gold will inevitably pile up and be used on stupid looking and useless ( ). If you\’e2\’80\’99re worried about balance, just set up housing space in some godforsaken place and they\’e2\’80\’99ll flock there for these ( ). UO is not meant to be an online freak show, but with all these worthless ( ), it\’e2\’80\’99s been one for some time now. I implore the at least mildly enlightened design team – do something about these ( )!

Now cut and paste that bad boy and send it off to your favorite designer. Not that I\’e2\’80\’99d be biased, but this guy would be a good start.

In our next project, Everquest and Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call economy, the answer is a bit more complicated. Both of these games are inherently unfriendly to the casual player – success in one requires uberity, success in the other requires participation in storylines that require uberity. In the process of gaining uberity, the average gamer is left out in the cold with substandard equipment that the uberitors have passed down. But with a little Reaganomics, we can fix these, too.

These two have something greatly in common – lazy coders. Back in the day, the designers passed down a dictum that probably looked a lot like this.

Re: Coding Team

We\’e2\’80\’99ve decided to put in some items that are really neat looking and make a player real effective, but we need some way to, well, you know, make sure they stay kind of limited. We don\’e2\’80\’99t want everyone running around with these fuckers. Code us in a way to hold them down by, say, tomorrow.


Your Designers.

The most obvious path of action for the coders, aside from pillaging and slaughtering a design team that consisted of a bunch of people with psychology degrees who had never written a line of code in their life, was to implement quests that required getting rare loot off of rare monsters and making it so only the people in the right place at the right time could get them.

The other way, after a little more thought, was to make quests that only rewarded the person who did them. \’e2\’80\’9cHmm,\’e2\’80\’9d the thought went at the coffee pot,\’e2\’80\’9dI don\’e2\’80\’99t want to go through all the trouble of coding different systems to recognize these just to appease these numbnuts… Hey, I know! Let\’e2\’80\’99s just introduce some code where only if you do the quest or kill the monster, the phat lewts stay on you forever, and you can\’e2\’80\’99t give it away or sell it!\’e2\’80\’9d

With that, the no-drop item was born, and Baby Jesus puked over the side of the manger. (And no, Mary wasn\’e2\’80\’99t at the Taco Cabana.) What they didn\’e2\’80\’99t anticipate was the wound this would open on the game economy.

Uberitors immediately set out after these items, making a collection of overpowered items simply through the virtue that they were rare. Less and less, they went after items that they could sell, because they didn\’e2\’80\’99t have to buy anything. And when the high-end player had the full set of planar armor, or the Atlan Staff, or the greater shadow armor, or the… you get the picture. The trickle-down stopped.

The regular items that could be traded around stopped being produced in favor of these l33t r0xx0rers. The best example of this is the Testament of Vanear in EverQuest. Once a day, a low to midlevel soldier drops an item that can be turned in (with minimal effort for the rest of the quest… as little as two gold can be spent in doing it) for a +10 wisdom, +10 mana no-drop holdable book. This item is something wisdom-based casters frequently keep from their 25-30 days all the way up to 50+.

By the pure virtue that it\’e2\’80\’99s rare, EverQuest designers felt it was excusable to put in an overpowered, near-essential item. Thus, they killed off any reason to make money in-game by selling off items. Supply and demand of decent items remained constant, keeping the casual player out in the cold.

The worst example, though, is EQ planar armor.Planar armor devastated the high level economy. By taking money completely out of the picture by making all of it no-drop, the trickle completely stopped. Some of the best tradeable armor in the game is still approximately the same price it was when the game was released. Worse, the nature of the planes made it so only members of uberguilds could enter it – and since it was no drop, players had the choice of having substandard armor or joining one.

And of course, as has been shown, that led to guilds squabbling, MOB calendars, and eventually, guild bannings. All the while, the person who doesn\’e2\’80\’99t want to be uber is consistently shut out of the process and the game.

Maybe, just maybe, if those coders way-back-when had decided to take the road less taken rather than the one with the drop-off into a ravine at the end, our games today wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t be so discouraging for the great number of players who work, go to school, and have other things to do besides playing a game. Maybe, just maybe, players would quit camping hours for these rare spawns and get back to good old fashioned dungeon crawls with their buddies.

The no-drop flag is one of the most unrealistic and hurtful design concepts there is. And it all results from code that takes the easy way out.