“What feature would you like to see implemented in MMOs that isn’t there already?” That’s an awkward question that I get asked from time to time and for which I never seem to have a good answer on hand. I mean, other than the notion that I’d like them to be more awesome and last forever with no repeated content, which is probably impossible (well, in this century, at least). Sticking with the realm of “might be possible,” here’s one I think would be kinda cool: stat-keeping

I’m not talking about stats for your character, like kills, W-L records in battlegrounds, etc., although those are cool (and if SWTOR‘s Huttball doesn’t allow you to keep player stats, like goals scored, I’ll rage). Rather, I’m thinking something more like global stats, tracking a large portion of players’ activities, and maybe using those to dynamically alter content.

For example, right now, a typical endgame dungeon cluster might consist of two “easy” dungeons, one “medium” one, and one “hard” one or raid. Of course, what devs think of as “easy” and “hard” might differ from live results. And, it’s been proven time and time again, MMO players will go after whatever gives them the best loot in the shortest period of time. That’s why people continually ran Grand Stairs at level 60 and Sword-halls at level 65 in LOTRO, despite there being a bunch of other instances available. With games moving away from specific gear drops in dungeons and going with more barter systems, there become fewer reasons to make multiple endgame dungeons. If you create five of them, people will run the “easy” one as much as possible, if completing that twice gets you as much as completing the “hard” dungeon once and comes with a better chance of success or is quicker. Even skilled players will often eschew the “hard” content in favor of getting the quick and easy rewards.

So, how about this: Make all dungeons as close to equal difficulty as possible, somewhat like Rift’s dungeons across one tier. Let’s call them Dungeons A, B, C, and D. When the dungeons are released, each one gives up, let’s say, 15 barter tokens upon completion. Now, let’s suppose A is the “easiest” and gets run a bunch, B and C are “medium” and get run several times, and nobody ever runs D because it’s too hard. After a period of time — let’s say a week — 50% of dungeon runs have been in A, 20% each in B and C, and 10% in D.

Now, what the devs do on that weekly basis (or daily, if they could even manage it) is adjust the token rewards, downgrading the rewards for dungeons that get run a lot and upgrading them for ones that don’t get run much. You could use a formula like this:

Tokens = 20 * (1 – X)

Where X = the percentage of times that dungeon is run. This means that, if all dungeons are run equally, each would reward 20 * (1 – 0.25) = 15 tokens. In our example, Dungeon A will reward 10 tokens, B and C would reward 16 each, and if you were brave enough to run D, you’d get 18, nearly twice as much as what you get for running the “easy” A.

A more robust, expandable formula would actually be:

Tokens = (T * D/(D-1)) * (1 – X)

Where T is the “ideal” number of tokens (15 in our case) and D is the number dungeons included in this “group.” So, if there were 10 dungeons, each being run 10% of the time, you’d get:

(15 * 10/9) * (1 – 0.1) = 16.666 * 0.9 = 15 tokens

And if the “easy” dungeon is being run 91% of the time, all the other dungeons would reward you with:

(15 * 10/9) * (1 – 0.01) = 16.666 * 0.99 = 16.5 tokens (rounded to 17?)

Which doesn’t seem like much, until your realize that the “easy” dungeon is only giving you:

(15 * 10/9) * (1 – 0.99) = 16.666 * 0.09 = 1.5 tokens (rounded to 2?)

OK, that might be an extreme example. I think, too, that there would need to be some decisions made regarding how long to “keep” numbers on file. For example, the above examples would probably result in the “hard” dungeons being run more than the “easy” ones, and then next week, the “easy” dungeons would be worth more tokens than the “hard” ones, which runs counter to the whole idea. Perhaps the last month’s worth of data should be kept and used to fill out the formulas, even if the rewards change every week. And this obviously does nothing to deal with actual loot drops (weapons, armor, jewelry, etc.).

So, what do you think? Would you like to have reasons to actually run “harder” instances, or are you happy with the “easy” grind? Really, this system wouldn’t make the “easy” grind impossible, it would just take longer (though some floor might be needed). I’m a little torn on the idea, though I think it might be nice to at least give us some reason to run those longer, more involved dungeons from time to time, and developers would probably love if the spaces they create weren’t automatically consigned to the scrap heap two weeks after their release for being “too hard.”

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