Random loot: Endless gameplay vs endless grind

 
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 12:29 pm    Post subject: Random loot: Endless gameplay vs endless grind Reply with quote

The idea:

Each mob has a treasure list, which consists of zero or more items. When a mob dies, a single item type is selected from its treasure list, allocated random magical bonuses appropriate to that item type, and dropped at the mob's feet. The strength of the bonuses is based on the power level of the mob. Each item has a 'radiation' value calculated from its bonuses, so that equipment with powerful bonuses will use up more of the wearer's total magical item quota.

The goal:

The randomised bonuses ensure that (almost) every item is unique, and gives players the incentive to keep hunting for better equipment, while the radiation means that even weak items can be useful. The random nature of the bonuses also encourages players to trade with each other.

The reality:

Competitive players feel obliged to spend countless hours farming mobs, in the hope of getting something better. Non- and low-equipment character builds dominate the scene, as most players have no interest in grinding for equipment.

The solution:

This is where I'm having trouble. I don't want to scrap random equipment, because I think it's a really nice concept, and have plans to use it as the basis of a trade and auction system. So far I've implemented the following to try and reduce the problem:
  • Boosts: Players can 'boost' a small number of kills each day, earning an exp bonus. Boosted kills also have triple the chance treasure being uncommon or rare (which in turn results in larger bonuses).

  • Epics: There are various different types of 'epic' item scattered around the game. Epic items don't have random bonuses, instead you can specify the bonuses yourself (with each epic item type having a list of available bonuses). These items are powerful and non-random, but each player can only use one epic item at any one time. Epic items typically use around a quarter of your total magical item quota.

  • Crafting: Some mobs drop craftable material instead of actual items. This material can be quickly and easily converted into an item of your choice (from a list depending on the material type and size). The bonuses of this new item are still randomly generated, but at least you always get the item type you want. Not all material types can be crafted in this way however - for example the metal equipment that many players need cannot be crafted.

  • Treasure chests: It's possible to collect treasure chests from various locations. If you pick the lock (via a minigame), it generates one or more magical items. These items are selected based on your character's setup, so although you may not get exactly what you want, you should always get something reasonably useful.

  • Unenchantment: Mages have the ability to remove a certain amount of unwanted bonuses from equipment, which in turn lowers the radiation for non-mages. They can also 'reroll' the item's stats (although doing so increases the radiation for non-mages).

  • Binding: Demons are able enchant non-magical items, giving them a set of random bonuses as if they were magical treasure. This has a cost, however, and only produces the lowest quality of bonuses.
Some other ideas I'm considering:
  • Craftable metal: The current craftable materials all come from creatures you kill - dragonbone and dragonscale from dragons, ironwood from treants, pelts from dire animals, chitin from giant ants, etc. I can't think of many creatures made from metal (mostly just golems), plus it doesn't feel quite right for someone to simply turn an ingot of metal into an item (you can sew a pelt into a jerkin anywhere, but you'd need a forge to turn a lump of iron into a sword). However it's really just a case of finding a plausable excuse - I think it would be a big improvement if players could craft metal items.

  • Semi-random bonuses: The crafting idea was popular because it allowed players to choose the item type they wanted. This idea allows players to instead choose the bonus they want - at least to a certain degree. There are two ways I'm thinking of doing this. The first would be to let players specify what sort of bonus they want - that bonus would then be one of the bonuses on the item (with the other bonuses generated randomly as usual). The second possibility would be to support explicit bonus name/s in the treasure list - for example the hill giant might always drop a cudgel with a 'damage' bonus (but the other bonuses would still be generated randomly). However I'm not sure how to implement the first without it feeling klunky, while the second approach would require a lot more mobs dropping duplicate item types, to ensure people could get the bonuses they wanted.

  • Shopkeepers: If certain mobs bought/sold equipment, it would give players a way to offload treasure they don't want (rather than hoarding or discarding it), and also give another way to find better items. My concern with selling is that it would reduce trade between players, while I fear that allowing players to buy equipment wouldn't help the situation much either (the good stuff would be bought as soon as it came out, leaving the shopkeepers with junk that nobody else wants).

  • Auction list: I'm toying with the idea of having a big generated list of random items which players can bid for, with items vanishing after a few days if no bid is placed. My main concern is that this could seriously undermine the value of random drops from mobs. However as long as there were few enough items that the players were always hungry, I think it would probably be okay.
Does anyone have any other thoughts or suggestions? How do other muds with random equipment avoid it feeling like grind?
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Deadsoul



Joined: 29 Dec 2007
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Location: Southern Hellinois

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

had a random equip generator. players liked it alot when it worked well.

500k names 1100 obj stats to the 5th power for amount of stats per object available. 24 object wear zones. was alot of objects and only like 12k lines when all was said and done.

change the object being created by the level of the critter which loads it. works out quite well.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deadsoul wrote:
had a random equip generator. players liked it alot when it worked well.

But how did you avoid it feeling like an endless grind for better gear?

Deadsoul wrote:
change the object being created by the level of the critter which loads it. works out quite well.

Already do:

KaVir wrote:
The strength of the bonuses is based on the power level of the mob.
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Deadsoul



Joined: 29 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2009 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if your catering to a over abundance of half worthless equip, it can do.

as far as an endless grind. from 2 perspectives.

the old fart, mudded there for ever, has alot of stuff. knows what stuff drops else where staticaly (vs the random dynamic). likes to grind, but with random loot its funny about being randomly bad or randomly good, randomly crap or random wow. likes the occasional ohh. has 6 vaults filled with stuff.

random adds alot of elements for this type, but its not abundant for the over achiever.

now from a new guy stance, dude is happy to get anything, is still exploring and enfilled by the snare of wonderment in the surroundings of abundant loot. it adds to the flair.

part of the job of mudding, is unless the system is flawed, it shouldn't really end. its only after you run out of primo stuff to attain, that you have to find something to do to net you the next best thing. once static and quest drops are out, then all thats left is random.

it fills 2 voids, but creates junk.
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Kernal



Joined: 01 Jul 2007
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deadsoul wrote:
if your catering to a over abundance of half worthless equip, it can do.


Any equipment worse than your current is at least half-worthless; so, I suspect every well-designed random loot mechanism is necessarily full of half-worthless equip.

Moving on: Can you give a better idea of exactly what you want?

It seems to me that the "grind" is a central aspect of most MUDs through advancement (exp, or whatever). Ideally, this is not separate from the grind for equipment; the rate of advancement and the rate of acquiring better equipment should be on par with each other. Perhaps your equipment set won't be optimal, but it'll be satisfactory.

This balance is broken if regularly-acquired equipment is too strong or too weak. Too strong and it becomes a better investment to farm low-level mobs for equipment rather than appropriately-leveled mobs for character advancement. Too weak and it's no longer worth the while of players to bother finding a good equipment set.

From your description, it sounds like the latter is the case. It's too hard for players to find a good equipment set, so most don't bother. All of your proposed solutions are ways of (effectively) making equipment or equipment-farming better to encourage this facet of optimization.

Without knowing (really anything) about your game, the biggest unknown to me is the effect of the radiation. It's no longer the case that stronger equipment is just better - rather, it's very important to get the right set within the radiation limits. While this is certainly a much more interesting restriction for optimization than the alternative, it may be working against you here. Getting the right low-radiation item requires farming low-level mobs, which gives low exp and a poor chance of getting a useful item, while fighting higher-level mobs gives good exp and a worse chance of getting a useful item.

The unenchantment proposal seems like it would solve this issue.

I haven't proposed anything useful for you, but hopefully this was a productive excercise nonetheless.

Cheers,
Kernal
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Deadsoul



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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

honestly if you have alot of people building, having people make items works pretty well, as they know what items are good to make.

if your short on staff, then random is a win. how ever, i feel making loot makes better items for the game, without the junk factor.

but one players junk is another players gold.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kernal wrote:
Moving on: Can you give a better idea of exactly what you want?

To make the gathering of equipment less of a grindfest, without losing the concept of random items.

Kernal wrote:
It seems to me that the "grind" is a central aspect of most MUDs through advancement (exp, or whatever). Ideally, this is not separate from the grind for equipment; the rate of advancement and the rate of acquiring better equipment should be on par with each other. Perhaps your equipment set won't be optimal, but it'll be satisfactory.

That is generally the case, but my mud is pretty competitive, and most of the players interpret "satisfactory" as "sub-optimal". As one player put it, "at least primal grind is finite...Eq grind is until the day you die."

Kernal wrote:
Without knowing (really anything) about your game, the biggest unknown to me is the effect of the radiation.

There's a selection of standard item types, each of which are reasonably well balanced against each other, and each of which specifies a magical bonus table. The bonus tables contain a list of magic bonuses, along with the valid range of each bonus and the corresponding radiation value per point of bonus. For example, before applying the multiplier for the power level of the mob that dropped it, a longsword can get an attack bonus of 3-7 (if magical), 5-10 (legendary), 7-12 (mythical), 10-15 (relic), or 12-17 (artifact), and that bonus has a value of 3 radiation per point. So if the longsword has +10 attack, it'll have a base radiation of 30.

The type (magical, mythical, relic, etc) is determined randomly, with the stronger mobs being more likely to drop the more powerful types. The more powerful types will usually have more bonuses, and they also reduce the radiation, although this can never go below 50% of the item's base radiation. Thus an optimal longsword could have that +10 attack for as little as 15 radiation (although it's rare to have a completely optimal radiation item).

Mages can enchant additional bonuses onto items, but these add a number of enchantment points equal to the base radiation value of that bonus type (so enchanting attack on your longsword would add 3 enchantment points per +1 attack). Unless you're a Mage with the Enchantment power, the enchantment points will be treated as radiation - so effectively the bonuses are added at base radiation cost.

Perhaps some means of lowering the radiation down to the optimal amount would be worth considering, however...

Kernal wrote:
It's no longer the case that stronger equipment is just better - rather, it's very important to get the right set within the radiation limits.

That's not actually much of an issue, as players can tack additional bonuses onto their equipment to top-up the radiation, plus the weaker items tend to be less optimal in terms of radiation anyway.

But if the radiation could be lowered down to the optimal amount, then it could well be that people would start farming weak items. I suppose they would still be limited by type though (eg you can only wear two rings, so if you want a bonus that only appears on rings you're going to want decent ones).
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