New MMO idea — shoot it down!

I was thinking about the differences between soloers and raiders, and how some games don’t put enough separation between crafters and adventurers, and I came up with an idea to building systems around these differences.  Thought I’d throw it out for you folks to hack to pieces, and maybe together we can find the germ of a good idea.

So last night I was once again in the Lone Lands (LOTRO) with a level 13 character trying to grab a quest item he needed in order to advance in his chosen crafting profession (Scholar).  I’d done the same kind of thing with a level 21 or so just a few days earlier (in that case, Weaponsmith). In both instances, I did complete the quests by being sneaky, but some professions require you to kill a mob to get the quest item; I never would have been able to finish those crafting quests with these characters. I’d need help.

Unrelated on the surface is the difference between solo/casual social players, and raiders. Raiders have the time and inclination to spend long hours in-game and get the best loot. Solo and casual social players never get this stuff, and normally it doesn’t really matter because they don’t need it. But what if they did?

What we need is a way to transfer bound loot and quest rewards from one player to another. Now we could just make them not bound and let players sell them on the Auction House, but that’s not very interesting and it’d really promote ‘farming’ items and would probably throw the in-game economy out of whack.

But what if we decided to treat *experience* as a form of currency that, under certain controlled circumstances, could be transferred from one character to another? How? By player-created quests. What if Character A could form a contract with Character B to go get the Fizzling Falchion of Foozle, currently hidden at the bottom of the Dungeon of Really Unpleasant Unpleasantries, which Character A needs to complete a quest. The terms of the contract are that Character A will give Character B 1000 experience points in exchange for the Falchion. That 1000 points is *not* negotiated by the players — that is the pre-defined value of the Fizzling Falchion as determined by the devs (all loot and quest rewards would have an “experience value” assigned at creation).

That’s the core of my idea. The experience value of items would have to be chosen pretty carefully — an item would definitely have to “cost” more than the quest it completes generates (otherwise it’d incent players to always “sub-contract” their quests). The solo/casual player would have to work on do-able quests or monster killing to earn the experience to pay for the quest reward, but at least they could complete these otherwise impossible (for them) quests. And the higher level player would have another type of quest they could do to keep things interesting. Or it could work the other way, too. A high level player could “pay” for lower tier crafting items with experience by contracting a lower level character to go collect them.

There’d need to be a lot of checks and balances to prevent exploiting the system (and the game would have to be built in such a way that there was a need for this kind of contracted questing). But I think it’d add an interesting new system. It isn’t the same as gold, because you’re not just selling a quest item to the highest bidder. Instead, you contract to complete the quest and now you essentially have the quest, until you collect the item, at which point the exchange is made automatically. And there’d have to be some kind of time limit, so the hiring player has some idea of when the quest would be completed (or, alternatively, either side can break the contract with 24 hours notice or something).

Like I said, this idea just came to me this morning and I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it or develop it, so I’m sure the idea is still full of holes, but I’d love to hear some feedback.

16 thoughts on “New MMO idea — shoot it down!

  1. Well first we need a bit more groundwork. What specifically is this intended to cut down on/alleviate, what should it never effect, what are you willing to lit it effect outside of the primary goal.

    It seems to me that you’re hoping to alleviate the stress on solo and casual players to become group oriented to meet specific requirements. What do you not want this to effect overall? Is it acceptable if this changes the balance of grouping and soloing in a game? Is it acceptable if it effects the economy? Is it acceptable if it increases dungeon farming, or by extension farming of dungeons by players who have out leveled the dungeon’s content?

    It’s hard to critique an implementation, when at the moment, I don’t even know what you would consider an exploit of the system.

  2. Very initially, I thought of it as a ‘fix’ to the problem in LOTRO (and other games) where pure crafting characters can’t (easily) exist because you need to be high level to do crafting quests to advance.

    But then I starting thinking about it not as a way to alleviate anything, but as a way to add another vector of interaction between players, and to add new ways to get things to do.

    The important aspect is that this would be a negative sum transaction. Player A needs to earn 1000 experience points to pay Player B in order to get a quest that rewards Player A with 750 experience points. (All figures for illustration only.) That would keep the number of these contracts manageable and should keep the impact of farming minimal. Player A would only turn to this solution if he really needed to finish the quest and couldn’t manage it on his own.

    But I hadn’t considered ‘incidental farming’. When Player B hits the dungeon to fulfill the contract, he’s going to be dredging up a lot of vendor trash and random drop gear, which will impact the economy…

  3. EQ2 is pretty good about making it so crafters can max their tradeskills without ever having to fight a monster.

    But, generally speaking, I’d enjoy seeing contract systems in game. Maybe not for uber loot, but for things like gathering resources or crafting specific items (such as buy orders). There have been countless times when I’ve wanted to buy something in the auction house that wasn’t available and wished there was a way to indicate demand. Buy order contracts would fulfill that.

    Doing that for adventure loot would be an interesting twist on it. Developers seem to go out of their way to make you adventure for things yourself though. EQ2 has several quests where you are tasked with getting some items or resources, and buying it off the auction house won’t work, you have to actually harvest it yourself. Why? Who cares if someone buys their way through a quest? They are still playing the game. Let someone enjoy the game their way, and if someone decides to play a sort of powerful merchant who gets the best gear because he contracts out to adventurers, well, aren’t there always characters like that in fantasy novels? Why must we all be the adventurer? So I’m all for a system like that as it adds to the diversity of playstyles in these games.

  4. Well, in that case you have a few things you can do.

    The most streamlined approach would be to allow a person to place a “bid”, really just a marker to show they want it, on a rare item from a dungeon. The equitable experience would, if they have it without de-leveling, be held in escrow. Then when the BoPs drop for players in the instance, they can choose to keep them or exchange them for exp, the item would then be automatically distributed to a player on the list with preference to the looter’s friend list and clan, then into a straight fifo system. By limiting people to only one ticket per dungeon over the life of their character, you can easily prevent the majority of useless “bid”s. Additionally, only allowing this for pre-level cap dungeons would seem an obvious choice.

    The contract system would mean the addition of a buy order system of sorts. It all depends on where it would be handled, for instance if handled at the auction house it would create something of a secondary market in experience points for rares. Perhaps if it was handled through an NPC at a major city that is available early on, it could be handled more like a quest. The client would leave the name of the wanted object, the quantity, and the experience with our automated middle man, and then people in need of more to do would pick up the generated quests in town. This would allow more options for the client in terms of requests, and possibly open a whole new play style of mercenary. A few additional titles, and perhaps some story missions for people who pick up mercenary quests regularly would allow the achievers and adventurers to benefit directly from the less involved populace, especially for things like rare crafting goods for instance. Though now you’ll also need to be a bit more deterministic on prices and there is a whole Pandora’s box waiting if payment is at all expanded beyond exp.

    Placing contract “npcs” outside of dungeons would work… but not very well in my opinion. Quite frankly, it’s just far too much duplication of work to have a person have to walk to a dungeon entrance knowing that they aren’t going in. Having it as a fall-back system, for people who find out the hard way that they aren’t going to survive a particular dungeon would be useful though.

    Method number 1 is about minimal impact. Get people who were there anyways to help out a needy player and get some xp in return. Most other methods that come to mind are basically guaranteed to create some major shifts in game play styles. For instance you’ll have more full time down time people, and fewer of your players are necessarily going to experience all of your content. On the other hand, even if the system sees some abuse, it’s also going to see heavy use, especially from people who are working on alts and just happen to hate a particular dungeon with a fiery passion, or people who have plenty of time in small packets for a couple quests or some mob smacking, but don’t have any big chunks to devote to forming a group and running a dungeon/running around collecting mats. On the other hand, the door is opened for a lot of emergence, and therefore a whole lot of griefing.

  5. Wow, lots of good ideas. I have often wondered why nobody has tried this, and then I remember that several games have, such as Star Wars Galaxies, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be done well, I’d love an escape velocity type quest system for example, or Privateer, instead of an AH have a QH(Quest Hall) or have both.

  6. From Lars:
    “Who cares if someone buys their way through a quest?”
    This, in a nutshell, is one of the big points of microtransaction games. Let players bypass the stupid stuff (grind) they don’t want to deal with by paying cash for it. If they wind up involving other players, well, so much the better for the game economy.

    Back on topic, I really like the idea of offering contracts. Paying for them with experience is an interesting mechanic… but why not just use the game currency? Perhaps I missed something. Yes, on the one hand, it’s like buying something on the AH, but really, the transaction is totally reversed. The hunter has to go find the requested item, and knows that they can earn a certain amount for it. The buyer knows that he doesn’t have to fight the market once a contract has been accepted. (Unless we’re just talking about standing AH requests rather than player-generated quests.)

  7. The main reason to avoid in-game currency (and I’ll admit its a pretty thin reason) is gold sellers. Many players already seem to feel an in-game economic crunch, and by the number of illicit/gray market gold selling websites that are out there, I have to assume a statistically significant proportion of players buy gold. By being able to pay a player in in-game gold in order to complete a quest, the system would be encouraging gold sellers.

    More generally speaking, how do you map gold to experience? If I’m paying you to go get the item I need to complete a quest, and I’m going to get 500 experience points for completing the quest, how much gold is that worth?

  8. Like anything else marketable, it’s up to the player setting the price. If someone undercuts them, they have to adjust. Finding a starting point might be tricky, but I suspect it could be pegged to the median of AH sales of the item, if it’s going to be something that the devs do. Push the bounty price 20% higher or so higher to pay for convenience’s, and you’re off and running.

    The system that encourages gold sellers most is the grind. Giving players in-game economic ways to avoid the grind may well discourage gold sellers. *shrug*

  9. And it should be “overbids” rather than “undercuts”, since we’re talking about offering bounties, not trying to sell a commodity. Sorry. 🙁

  10. Nope, if the players can set the price, the whole system is so hugely open to exploitation that it’d be a disaster. A cornerstone of the system is that things have a set price, non-negotiable and mandated by the dev team.

    Well, that assumes you want some kind of control on leveling pace. If the player sets the cost, then when your guildie rolls an alt, you start doing quests for him for 1 xp (or 1 copper, if you’re using currency), and he goes from level 1 to near cap in a couple of hours.

    But letting players put a price on quest completion items just seems like its opening a huge can of worms, to me.

  11. Hrm. I must have missed something, then. I was just reading the “bounties” as requests for loot, not for quest completion itself. Dumb Tesh.

    If the bounties are just for loot, I don’t see too much trouble… but yes, quest completion could be gamed.

    *wanders off*

  12. Well, it’s all kind of vague and rambly, but the initial idea was a way to give experience points to another player so they could get quest completion items for you. But you’d have to give them more experience than you’d earn for the quest — it’d be a way of accomplishing quests that you ‘need’ for some reason, but can’t complete on your own.

  13. So wait, it’s for the *item* that comes from a quest, or for completing the quest itself? Those are two different things, which is where I’m running a tangent.

  14. Well, I never really focused on that. I was thinking in terms of items that only drop when you have the quest, y’know? Foozle only drops his Falchion if you have the Quest for it.

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