Elite status

I was reading a post on the US LOTRO boards about a person who wanted legendary weapons to be much more rare. This poster also called for there to be deeds to do things like kill 10,000 orcs to achieve “signature” or “elite” status. Players who completed this deed would have rare and powerful characters.

Somehow, this person actually thinks that putting in a massive grind and tying it to a massive reward is a good idea.

It remind me of how people talked about Jedi when I first played SWG. People expected Jedi to be ridiculously powerful when compared to other professions. Many people were asking for Jedi to be kept rare, either for balance reasons or to stay true to the cannon. They wanted becoming a Jedi to be something that only the most dedicated of players would achieve. Some called for as little as one Jedi per server.

Later on, the developers revealed the method to becoming a Jedi involved massive amounts of grinding. Players would have to master unrelated and boring professions like cook, merchant, dancer, image designer, and fencer just to get a chance to start grinding Jedi. This is how they expected to keep the Jedi population down.

Jedi are so much cooler than a “Pistoleer” ever could be. More than half the server was either working on becoming a Jedi or a Bounty Hunter. Even people who weren’t particularly interested in swinging a lightsaber around wanted to be Jedi so they could have the strongest character. Yet somehow, people had expected that a massive grind would be enough to make the average player say, “No, I don’t want to be a big powerful Jedi. I’m happy being a weakling henchman.”

Massive power is a massive carrot. Super rarity is a super carrot. And awesome coolness is an awesome carrot. Putting these great carrots at the end of a longer stick just makes the game more grindy and boring, it doesn’t dissuade people from chasing their goals.

The rest of the server isn’t going to sit back and let you achieve “elite status”. If they have to, they’ll run macro programs or hire Chinese pro-gamers to kill their orcs for them. If you want something to stay rare, it has to be a challenge that gives almost no reward.

A nice title will do that just fine.

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Suzina is a 27 year old who usally plays the same MMOs as her husband. Games played: UO, EQ2, FFXI, SWG, LOTRO.

15 thoughts on “Elite status”

  1. What many of those SWG players were really asking is “to make all Jedi characters rare .. except mine.”

  2. Bri: “What many of those SWG players were really asking is “to make all Jedi characters rare .. except mine.””

    You just hit the nail on the head.

  3. “Putting these great carrots at the end of a longer stick just makes the game more grindy and boring, it doesn’t dissuade people from chasing their goals.”

    I don’t think the latter part is wholly accurate. I think that the people that stay aren’t dissuaded, but they do get bored, and then acidic. The “intelligent” people that understand that the carrot really won’t taste as good as the idea of owning the carrot just quit.

    Because with DIKU, there will always be a more awesome carrot. +10 levels…ding.

  4. Another thing you’re seeing there is people being really eager for -anything- that shakes up the classical structure of these games. Most people are ready for character customization beyond character creation and titles, and ready for something that matters a bit more.

    Players want to feel special and this is something that really goes against the grain of the common design wisdom we’ve had so far. It’s gonna take some nice thinking and rethinking of things to do this without breaking the common designs in horrible ways, because these designs really don’t contemplate for things like this.

    Players are tired of being copies and want something new, and you’re gonna see more and more of this as time passes. Titles and achievements were a nice stopgap measure but the cracks are already showing (regardless, titles and achievements have been well incorporated into our common wisdom and are here to stay. Every game will have them now, and it’s fine).

    This is the same reason why there’s always noise being made about hero classes or anything that makes characters stand out. We haven’t seen any of this yet because I don’t think we discovered how to put it in without breaking something else at the same time.

    It’ll come in due time.

  5. So, so true! I took one look at the Jedi unlocking thing when they unveiled it (ah, holocrons, wherefore art thou) and thought “sod this for a game of darts!”

    Then again I’m a crafter and I was a crafter in SWG — I’d done my grind dues with Armoursmith and Weaponsmith thankyouverymuch. ;)

    1. @Ysharros: “wherefore” actually mans “why.” When Juliet says, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” she is talking about his name. Think of it as “Romeo, Romeo, why are you a Montague?”.

      It’s a mistake so common that you might have been joking, but I figured I’d chirp in either way since that’s what grammar nazis do.

  6. Yeah… you frolic round the forest yet again without spotting a single tree, Suz.

    Grind is bad.

    Game unbalancing rewards are bad.

    Time is not skill; Grind is not challenge.

    Bragging rights can be in-game without being unbalancing. Guild Wars does it right. It rewards Achiever, Socializers, Killers, and Explorers all very well without depriving the others of anything.

    Don’t worry though, all too many developers (and posters on their forums) don’t get it either.

  7. I think you overrate how many people would not be dissuaded, and would in essence cheat the game. Most players tend to really value fairness and merit over achieving goals, and tend to choose against the goal when forced to picked. Grinds really do dissuade people, so long as other options exist; endgame itself is a long-term grind, and it seems to dissuade a lot of players from doing it.

  8. Another note.

    Unlocking the Jedi character gave a person a second character slot. It did not necessarily have to be a Jedi, I don’t think.

    Many of us simply wanted the dang thing, so we wouldn’t have to pay 30 bucks a month for a second character. I think SWG was one of the few games to actually limit people to one character.

  9. In the original pre-CU, during the “hologrind” version of unlocking Jedi, it was the unlocked slot that was Force-sensitive, and could only be a Jedi. Your original character went on being their Force-insensitive self.
    When they changed the Jedi unlock system to the village grind then it was your main that became a Jedi, and the unlock slot could be anything you wanted, including another Jedi if you put in the grind. The idea was you might want a character to get away from the stress of being hunted.
    As a nostalgic aside, most Jedi, including myself, had Bounty Hunter alts so they could play both sides of the hunt.

  10. Head of nail hit. Great read.

    Titles work well. Housing trophies work well. Cosmetic items can work well too. Balance destroying super classes? Not so much . . .

  11. I did not buy SWG when it was released because I wouldn’t have wanted to play anything other than a jedi, and didn’t feel like being punished for that. I didn’t buy it later because every single person I knew who tried it (over a period of years) said it sucked.

  12. @Suzina: “Later on, the developers revealed the method to becoming a Jedi involved massive amounts of grinding. Players would have to master unrelated and boring professions like cook, merchant, dancer, image designer, and fencer just to get a chance to start grinding Jedi. This is how they expected to keep the Jedi population down.”

    I wanted to expand on this point, putting in my recollections and baseless conjecture:

    The developers were put into an awkward position with the game’s setting. Jedi were supposed to be quite rare at the time — well-nigh exterminated, in fact. However, fully 50 percent* of the potential players would want to play Jedi. (The other 48 percent would want to be Boba Fett, and the remaining 2 percent wanted to pretend to strip for money.) So, everyone who bought the game needed the potential to play Jedi, but just making it a starting profession was out of the question given the setting, and making it an unlockable profession ultimately meant walkthroughs that would set people to grinding, not playing — eventually leading to the same Jedi overpopulation, but now with a bunch of people bitter about having to grind to get there.

    So the developers introduced a random element to opening the force-sensitive slot: profession mastery. Since every character could, in theory, master every profession, if you required a specific character to master two (or three or more) particular professions, but you didn’t tell the player which professions you had to master — indeed, that they needed to master professions in order to unlock the Jedi slot — then you could keep the population down. Presumably there were other, non-random conditions involved as well: visit every planet, defeat X different types of creatures, gain Y amount of faction standing, and so forth, making it tricky to reverse engineer the conditions required to become a Jedi.

    Theoretical end results? Minimal Jedi getting unlocked, and a reduced drive to grind since players wouldn’t know exactly what they needed to do — without a clear goal, perhaps they’d just go play the game. So it wasn’t just “barrier by grind”, but also “barrier by obfuscation”.

    Several months in, the natives got restless. Jedi were absent. Rumors abounded that the developers didn’t include them in the game at all until well after release.** The problem was that the developers misjudged how people play RPGs: given character X, a player tends to do a couple of things: first, get maxed out and stay maxed out, and/or second, stick within a narrow range of focus. If you became a Master Image Designer you might go dabble in becoming a Musician or Dancer, but you were very unlikely to turn your character into a Master Carbineer.

    So the developers concocted the rare loot-drop Holocron to nudge people along, leading to spawn-camping, Bounty Hunters learning they needed to take up a Nalargon, and much dismay.

    * Statistics derived from research at the Center of Making Sh*t Up.

    ** A rumor that may have merit, since they might not have patched in the Jedi code components until people got close to unlocking the slot. Or perhaps the developers lied, who knows.

  13. I took part of the Holo-grind back in the pre-CU days.

    Very dark days indeed.

    A large majority of the server populations were doing nothing but grinding out professions.

    No real grouping was going on. Only “Solo-grouping”.
    People would group together for the XP bonus and then go run missions solo instead of with the group.

    At the time anything could be soloed easily. This could be done with the proliferation of unsanly powerfull Doc buffs, player made armor and weapons that made you into a walking Panzer tank.

    Everyone was soloing professions like a freaking assembly line instead of consuming the games content.

    The artisans made a killing though.

    In my opinion. The Jedi carrot killed SWG long before the NGE.

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