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cronocr

How items should work in MMOs?

9 posts in this topic

In a single player game this is a simple question, but in a MMO management of items seems to be very complex, specially because I want to please most users in my design. So I decided to post several cases and would like to know what's the preferred mechanic for each:

1. Quest items: should this work in serial? the player that finds it first keeps the object until it's released by solving the quest; or should this work in parallel? there is a unique copy of the item for each player; should it be timed? the quest object is reset each X (how much?) minutes so another player will have to come back later.

2. Special items (ie. the property of certain NPC, a cool sword found in a dungeon, etc.): same questions, serial? parallel? timed?

3. Items inside corpses: I guess this is random, but should a special item appear in the Nth (what frequency?) corpse?

4. Items traded by merchants: should items be random for each player, or persistent? should the merchant have an unlimited queue of items?

Comments and ideas will be highly appreciated!
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Hello [b]cronocr[/b],
I've been playing MMO's for some years and from my experience I'll tell you what I think.

1. Quest Items - I think there should be unique copy of the quest item for each player who is able to loot it. If the quest item is on a spawn timer - that can annoy most people because they have to wait before getting it. The same goes if , in order to loot the item, you have to kill NPC - again there should be unique copy of the item for each player. But in this case, you have to set respawn timer for the NPC - it shouldn't be too short neither too long.

2. Special Items - Here's what I think. Each item dropped in a dungeon should be unique for the whole group, so only one player will be able to loot a certain item. Because if there is a copy for each player in the group , it would be a little dumb - for example a good dps sword drops and everyone gets a copy of it, but it is gonna be useless for the healer and the magic dps-ers. That's why I think it is better the item to be unique for the group.

3. Items inside corpses - I think there should be set a specific list of items that certain NPC can drop and there should be a drop chance for each type of item. For example the drop chance of magic item to be 5% and the drop chance for rare item 0.1% . Something like that, depending on the type of NPC (elite, normal, etc...).

4. Items traded by merchants - Here you can make it as you wish. You can make the merchant sell items just for certain classes - for example you are a Warrior and can see and buy only items for Warrior. Or you could make random items for each player , but it has to be balanced. It depends of the mechanic of the MMO, one other idea is to have a list of items set (persistent) and everyone to see the same items, but to choose the best for its class. Personally I prefer the last one.

This is my opinion.
I hope it helped [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] Edited by Getov
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Getov, thank you very much for your valuable comments! Those are helping me to define the mechanics of items in my design, now I have a better idea of what to do.

And I have another idea flying around my head. I'm thinking when the player is about to sign out he will have the option to setup an automatic shop. That is when the player is out, his character will be shown camping in the last position he was, like a protected NPC, and his character will work there as a merchant. The gamer can choose which objects he wants to sell to other players that interact with his character. Do you think this might be a good idea?
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That's an interesting idea, I've never seen it done so far.
However there are some flaws:
1. You say the character will be shown camping in the last position he was, but you have to consider how many other players will be passing around that position and actually interact with you.
2. The capital cities (or places where many people gather) may become overcrowded at some point if everyone there decides to open a market.

But still you can think of a way to do it. For example you can invent some kind of system to show to the other players in the same zone who has set up automatic shop and some way to guide them how to get to you.

Most (if not all) MMOs use Auction Houses, where each player puts the items he wanna sell.

I support your idea because you are trying to do something different ! Edited by Getov
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take a look at Ragnarok Online.
there, you have a class called Merchant, who has a special skill to set up shop. when setting up a shop, you set up the items you wanna sell and their prices, and just leave him there like that. the only problem was that if you wanted to leave him there in a persistent manner, you had to completely log off your account (meaning you cant play any other character from that account). this is easily solved by designing it right, tho, but they just allowed players to freely create new accounts, and allowed the game to run in multiple instances (so you could have one window opened with you merchant and track progress of your sales, and play another class on another account in the other window).
your idea to allow setting shop on logout is similar, but imho has a simpler way to it.
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When you consider a game design in a MMO you should always ask one question first:

[i]Can a group of players spoil the game experience of an other group ?[/i]

There's always a small group of players who want to spoil the game experience of others. Let's check your questions:

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1346938486' post='4977185']
1. Quest items: should this work in serial? the player that finds it first keeps the object until it's released by solving the quest; or should this work in parallel? there is a unique copy of the item for each player; should it be timed? the quest object is reset each X (how much?) minutes so another player will have to come back later.
[/quote]
No, a single player can block a lot of other people when using serial. Even timed is very annoying (a hi-level char snapping away the item just for fun). So only parallel is left over.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1346938486' post='4977185']
2. Special items (ie. the property of certain NPC, a cool sword found in a dungeon, etc.): same questions, serial? parallel? timed?
[/quote]
=> 1.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1346938486' post='4977185']
3. Items inside corpses: I guess this is random, but should a special item appear in the Nth (what frequency?) corpse?
[/quote]
Yes, it is similar to gambling, once you find one good item you can't stop searching all day.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1346938486' post='4977185']
4. Items traded by merchants: should items be random for each player, or persistent? should the merchant have an unlimited queue of items?
[/quote]
Random per merchant per day, don't make your life harder than necessary.
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1. Imagine this: A casual weekend player gets a quest item and logs off right afterwards. He only comes back a week later. And now imagine he doesn't come back at all (loses interest in online games, loses his job, finds a girlfriend, dies in an accident ... your choice). Who's going to ever finish that quest?

2. Same thing.

3. This can be a source of spawn-sitting / item farming and thus a source of annoyance. Though it can also actually be entertaining, funny as it sounds. A decade ago, I used to play Runescape, and having a chat while sitting on a spawn of monsters that had a chance of dropping a piece of rare equipment with the group was a great way of chilling out in the evening.

4. Standard stock items (Food, Rope, Longsword of mediocrity) should have infinite availability. Everything that is somewhat special should be limited by what comes in and what goes out, possibly with a small negative bias to remove items and money from the game (slows down inflation a bit). Edited by samoth
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I have not that experience with MMOs but been thinking very much on itemization on rpgs lately. Items are very important part of MMOs simply because special ones are the only way a character can progress after level cap (and that is one of the aspects that gives MMOs longevity). So in fact you must have two items systems one before lvl cap, and one completely different after it. In fact I cant think of a way Items will develop without knowing how does they affect the character design. That is a great issue especialy if you want items to be relevant on the end-game.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1346938486' post='4977185']
1. Quest items: should this work in serial? the player that finds it first keeps the object until it's released by solving the quest; or should this work in parallel? there is a unique copy of the item for each player; should it be timed? the quest object is reset each X (how much?) minutes so another player will have to come back later.
[/quote]

Well that depends on the quests design. And on the numbers of players doing that quest at the same time. Do you want that quest do affect the enviroment? Once a player ends it something changes on the scenario or on the npcs behavior? If yes then definitely it is finder's keeper's. If someone is doing that quest it shouldn't even be available to others maybe... But if it is a main quest with no influence, let them all have that item, for main quests it is mandatory since the player needs to do it...

For all the other points I wanted to hear more about the character design. What is the influence of gear on the character? Does a skilled player can live without gear? Does the items influence skills? or just armor + attack? Do you want basic sets of items to be mandatory? Can some powerfull gear open up new areas to low level characters? How much time do you expect a player to be on certain levels? Lets say your level cap is 50. Then players will spend most of their time grinding on lvl 40-50, there you will need some more items to keep them going more than on the previous levels... So the randomness of droping an item needs to be atuned with that. At every level past lvl 40 heroes will need one or two new good gear pieces, because the time spend between leveling needs to compensate somehow. Are items rewards from quests? Etc...
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[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1347022752' post='4977605']
Getov, thank you very much for your valuable comments! Those are helping me to define the mechanics of items in my design, now I have a better idea of what to do.

And I have another idea flying around my head. I'm thinking when the player is about to sign out he will have the option to setup an automatic shop. That is when the player is out, his character will be shown camping in the last position he was, like a protected NPC, and his character will work there as a merchant. The gamer can choose which objects he wants to sell to other players that interact with his character. Do you think this might be a good idea?
[/quote]


Maybe you shoud limit the items the player can sell based on their progress (level/location). Lesser healing items and weapon repair at lower levels and greater items at higher levels or something of that nature.
That is a very interesting idea. May you could allow player that stop there to leave something with the player that they will find when they login again, like a note or gift.

You may also think of allowing bartering, trading items based on a price/value metric set by the player or a request list. "i have these items I don't need and I'm need this amount of X items."
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