Monday, June 29, 2009

Pimp My Gear

I was a little mad when Champions Online and Jumpgate Evolution were delayed, but before I could even fume about it I actually got an invite into the Champions beta. I'm not going to go into any details, but I'm glad to see that Cryptic is keeping true to their history of awesome creation tools. I was always impressed by the character creation process in City of Heroes even if I found the actual gameplay quite boring. In fact a lot of my friends also thought that creating a costumed crime fighter was more fun than playing the game. In college I would often come back from class to find that my roommates had filled all my character slots with cyborg pirates. It's a shame that no other MMO developer has allowed players the same level of customization.

I guess the major reason is because most MMOs work off the diku model, which means that character progression is all about equipment upgrades. If equipment visuals were set at the beginning of the game then most players would probably start off with the most awesome looking weapons and armor they could imagine. Half the reason players like climbing the gear progression ladder is because the higher level stuff tends to look better. Thus, just putting a costume generator from City of Heroes/Champions into a WoW clone is probably a bad idea. Still this doesn't mean that a such a system couldn't be adapted for an equipment based game.

I think one good idea would be to meld the City of Heroes character creation system into crafting. It would require some fine tuning, but such a system would probably create a strong game economy as some players made their own gear. Developers could even use item rarity to limit the "awesomeness" of weapons and armor. A plain looking pattern or design could require crafting materials from low level mobs while the more spectacular ones could require items from dungeon bosses. While not everyone would want to design their own gear, I think a lot of players would appreciate more variation in equipment. This is especially true at the end game of MMOs like World of Warcraft where tier sets tend to make everyone look the same.

It's a very boring system and I don't know any valid reasons why everyone should look the same. I've heard the argument that it's good for PvP so that you can visually recognize weaker and stronger targets. That may have been true in the past, but the user interfaces for these types of games have improved over the years. Most now allow opponents to see hitpoints and mana, which are pretty good indicators of a player's equipment status. I don't think there is any good reason for not opening up a complex crafting system which allows players to customize the visual look of items they make. I realize that a lot of developers are afraid of "the time to penis", but City of Heroes has managed to avoid the issue.

I really hope the MMOs that come out over the next couple years start adopting the same level of customization seen in City of Heroes. I'm getting awfully tired of everyone looking the same when I raid or PvP. It's especially painful when the graphic artists are rushed and you get some of the ugly armor sets seen in Wrath of the Lich King.


Fish said...

I would be in favor of a system like that. I think another thing that would be good is to let crafters either have "stock" enchantment types (of the eagle, bandit, bear, etc) or let them budget out bonuses as they chose.

Relmstein said...

Being able to budget out bonuses would be very nice, but I think most diku minded developers would be afraid of that competing too much with PvP drops. Maybe a game where all equipment had to be crafted from item drops might be able to use that method.