Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sugar Shack 24: Thoughts on Loot

Packing and delivering Christmas gifts has put me in a materialistic, yet expansive mood, and prompted me to think of loot and treasure in MxO. Obviously, by this I mean the stuff we accumulate from vanquished enemies and bosses and missions.

It seems to me that there are three basic principles with loot.

1. Loot should excite as much as possible. Otherwise, when you get to 50, why bother? (except for info. Except to help others. Except or the packrat impulse. Except for the buzz.)

2. But it must not imbalance the game. At all costs one must avoid the D&D Monty Haul Syndrome. We already have this so some extent, where everyone has a Direskin, Sakura Bandana, Ethereal Shoes, Widow's Moor Lenses, etc.

3. We should not ask for miracles from the devs. Much though I would like jewelry and smokes and handbags and dresses, it would be a serious time commitment for the devs to do all this while they're still trying to arrange candy corn for next Halloween. So I'm thinking small and tactical as much as possible.

With these three principles in mind, let me make some suggestions.

1. Some loot can be retired. Stakes, Silver Bullets, and Holy Water. I doubt that I have ever, ever seen anyone actually use these. Currently in this game, lower-level people who encounter vamps and succubi are likely to have upper-level buddies with them who engage these mobs. So these items seem to me to be totally superfluous. Low level pistols, catsuits, the cheap boots you can get at any vendor...stuff like this, can be kept, though no one ever uses them much.

2. Prestige loot could be introduced. Prestige items are the envy of all who behold them, but they do not instantly slay enemies or unbalance the game. But their desirability makes people work hard to get them. What are some possible ways to create prestige items?

2.1 Some looted items might be items which are normally strictly seasonal, like the party hats, would work year-round. Easy to engineer for a dev, yet rare to find.
2.2 Some items are variations on existing items. Color variants on clothes, like Black or White Lotus blouses. Open-toed shoes not in black. Maybe handguns or cellphones with different colors. Also not difficult to engineer, since some NPC already have these.
2.3 Other types of clothes, non-buffed. Existing clothes could have variations created with different patterns and colors. These would add value without changing the way the game works. In a tactical sense. Naturally, wholly new types of clothes would also be okay!
2.4 Documents/Story items. These would add background to characters in the story, maybe be just a couple of paragraphs, and be tragic or amusing. They would add depth, not direction.
2.5 Emotes. Perhaps some mishes might enable you to use a new emote if you find a piece of code or something.
2.6 Hair Tinting or Hair Style Kits. Who wouldn't fight her way to the bottom of Creston Heights Dungeon for some salon time? Especially if it were a _unique_ hairstyle, not available during the normal character creation process!

The above should not be insuperable to create. What can be done to make them rare? Prestige can be introduced in one or more of three ways.

2.1 They cannot be decompiled. If you want one, you must earn it.
2.2 They cannot be transferred. We already have this with some items.
2.3 They are only found on some missions or some mobs. Boss loot is already like this.

The benefit of prestige items is that they add measurably to the value of the game without ostensibly unbalancing what a character can do. And they should certainly be less difficult to architect than flies in amber or glimmers of the course. And they would be fun without being deadly, as opposed to more and more weapons, which can be deadly without being fun.