Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shared Character Advancement in WoW and War

The very nature of using a class based system in a MMO means that your adding replayability into your game. Each class has it's own way of playing and can have a different array of attacks, maneuvers, and strategies. The best games out there even distinguish their classes further by adding in separate quest lines. Yet as much as this adds replayability to the game, it doesn't add any new content to it. A new class may have a revolutionary combat mechanic that attracts a lot of people to try it out, but it doesn't mean everyone is going to play it all the way through the game. Even on reaching max level a new character often has to worry about extensive reputation, honor, and equipment grinds. Often the time investment to improve a character after reaching max level proves greater then the actual leveling.

There's no real reason why a lot of these grinds need to be repeated for each character. I know some people have a lot of free time on their hands, but the days of MMOs being designed for the jobless is over. Gamers are older now and might want to actually bring an alt to a raid without investing another two hundred hours in reputation grinds. That's why I suggest an account wide sharing of certain achievements. Reputations with various NPC factions would be the most useful, but it could be expanded even further. Equipment could be allowed to be shared on the same account between different characters. I hate random loot tables and I always seemed to get drops for the character I'm not playing at the moment. The "Bind on Equip" system most games use could be changed so that players could put items in a shared account bank slot.

Now this is not a new idea and the main reason it hasn't been implemented before is that developers realize the amount of time that some players devote to the game. Its unhealthy in my opinion to play more then 40 hours a week and quite frankly causes loss of muscle mass. That doesn't mean that some hardcore players don't spend all week leveling up multiple classes and doing end game content with them. However, if a game had shared advancement for reputation, honor, or gear progression then this would reduce the amount of time it took to advance multiple characters. These hardcore players could get bored and leave earlier in this case and we all know they're the viral advertising underground for MMOs. I'm being a bit sarcastic here, but I believe that's the general thinking that has prevent shared advancement in the past.

I think Warhammer might be breaking this trend since I hear that its Tome of Knowledge will be a universal source of information for all characters on the account. This would help out a lot since most of the features in the tome require a specific task to unlock. For example, statistical information on mobs is supposedly unlocked the more you fight a certain type. So if my main character spent a lot of time fighting wolves then all my other characters should be able to open the Tome of Knowledge and see the wolf hitpoint range and attacks. It's not as good as having shared equipment, but its a step in the right direction. Just think how useful it will be to have a list of quests you've discovered in a zone. When you bring a new character into that zone you should be able to quickly pick up all the quests since the locations are already marked.

Blizzard not to be outdone has also announced they will be introducing a limited form of shared character advancement. In Wrath of the Lich King there will apparently be items which are bound to a player's account instead of a single character. These items are supposed to be very powerful and are intended as twinking material. I can only think this is being done to encourage players to level multiple characters, though it could also have an affect on the lower level battlegrounds. Depending on the level range of these items they will definitely change the current balance of power in the specialized battlegrounds. If you have ever done the level 19 Warsong Gulch or the level 29 Arathi Baisin games then you know how competitive the twinking can be in those brackets.

Neither World of Warcraft or Warhammer are totally embracing shared character advancement, but they are both making their own attempts to experiment with the concept. I have a feeling that other upcoming MMOs will probably avoid the concept entirely until one or the other has worked out all the kinks. After all, I could be wrong in my estimation of the impact of shared character advancement. Maybe making equipment bound to account will cause so many arguments over loot that no one will group anymore? There's always unintended consequences to major design innovation and sometimes I guess it's best to take baby steps when applying it to a 50 million dollar piece of software.


Regis said...

I don't really agree with you. One of the things I love with RPGs are to start from scratch, and to work my way up by collecting gear and such. With a, for example, shared reputation system I would be eligible to go and buy some good gear right when I met the level requirements, for no effort (on that char).

For me, the working for rewards are one of the things that keep me going in MMORPGs, and to be given stuff for free would drive me nuts.

That was the biggest thing that destroyed Diablo 2 for me. I would just dump high level armor and weapon on my new, levelling character.
I could never really enjoy NWN's expansion Hordes of the Underdark because I would start at high level, get powerful gear, and only become more powerful from there.

The system would make sense if all the real action were happening only if had access to the best gear, but that would make a extremely boring game... oh wait, that's WoW ;)

Cow Nose the 50 Pound Cat said...

Or, we could just get away from this whole damn leveling system and do something different!

(Great post btw, don't mean to be a wet blanket)

Bildo said...

I don't think WAR's TOME does go across all characters actually.

Just a hunch... ;)

Openedge1 said...

Of course another great post, and discussing something that already exists in one of my favorites..

Guild Wars

The shared storage system, which allows all characters on that account to access money, items and crafting material.
As well all items are NOT BoE, and as such all the uber "Green" or "Gold" items and weapons can be shared.
The disadvantage is all armor is custom made, so no sharing of that. And if you "Customize" an item which adds 20% damage (like swords, etc) these can only be shared with your "Heroes".
But, all runes, inscriptions, etc.

Thanks to the PvP metagame, you can insta-level to 20, and get access to elite skills unlocked by other characters.
Believe me, I was shocked when I logged back in, started my new Nightfall character, got my new Hero added to my group who was a Monk, and he could instantly have "Elite" super skills because MY Monk alt had already unlocked them..


Finally, the ability to carry over titles, discoveries, pets, and more from Guild Wars to Guild Wars 2 is proving to be an ultra cool feature. Cant wait to see how it is implemented.

The only other sharing is EQ2 with their shared storage system. Not as fully featured as GW's, but still good. And the bonus XP from mentoring is well done.
And LOTRO has shared house storage last I heard.

Maybe it is just WoW that does not really have as many things as other games...weird. Why is WoW so popular when it really is not as fleshed out as many other games.
Must be the reason for the polish, because it does not have a lot of stuff?
GW has killer Guild Halls and Guild Tools, so does EQ2 with the best Guild System.
EQ2 and LOTRO has housing, etc...

So confused.

Relmstein said...

Well to modify the idea. Shared advancemaned could be limited to characters of the same faction or to steal an idea from Tabula Rasa, the same family.

If all your characters of the same race shared a common last name then that would give a reasonable explanation for shared reputations.

"Oh, yeah Ian McConnel came through here and already turned in 5,000 rat tails so the Guards of Stormtower like all McConnels now" ~ random guard

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