Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Sell All Grays" Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Georg Zoeller was back in full effect on the forums, continuing to respond to the discussion regarding Companions being able to sell off lower quality items.

Georg said:
We're really looking more at this as the movie equivalent of a menial task. 

If it doesn't matter to the story at hand, movies rarely show people doing the boring tasks of their daily routine (brewing the coffee before drinking it, searching for the remote in the couch before turning on the TV) in real time. Why? Because they focus on the heroic, interesting stuff, they focus where the action is.

Same for us - we want to you focused where the entertainment is, not held up simulating repetitive tasks for the sake of simulation.

Now, don't get me wrong - a certain amount of simulation is often helpful to ease the player into the world and make them feel at home ("Hey, I know how this works - it's just like ....!") - but we are definitely focusing a lot more on the not-so-standard, action, romance or story heavy elements of your experience.

In this specific case - your companion is a vital part of your character. Without her (or maybe a group member instead), your combat effectiveness and options are reduced, your downtime lengthens and, well, you are without a companion. 

Example: As a Shadow, your enemies' position relative to you is of tactical importance in battle. Without a group member or companion to distract or engage an enemy, it is very hard to get into an advantageous position behind the target during battle to use some of your more devastating opening moves. 

So, to counter your suggestion that this should take more time - we don't see a good reason for that. Making the less interesting parts of MMO game experience (like, eh, selling grays) take a long time at the expense of the interesting parts (like introducing fleshraiders to your lightsaber, shooting first or even dancing with your companion next to the sarlacc pit) is not the design philosophy we're going for.
Hey, Sarlacc dancing is something I can get on board with!  A fair number of people have expressed concerns that many traditionally social interactions are going to be supplanted completed between our Companions and our Ships.  Well fret not, because Georg is on the case!
You are right, players need a reason to return to social hubs from time to time. 

Here are some reasons why 'selling grays' is not that reason in The Old Republic:

- Players have no incentive to interact with other players when selling grays. You're just forcing them to return to a hub. There are better reasons (e.g. trainers, turning in quests, etc.) that reward the player for doing the same thing, which creates a much more positive attitude to begin with.

- It's something you have to do with high frequency and creates implicit dependencies, that we then have to balance. In TOR, whenever you go into combat, you usually fight a substantially larger number of foes than in other MMOs. As a result, your inventory fills up quicker. We obviously can adjust drop rates down to change that, but that also means that if we address drop rates for any other reason, we implicitly change the frequency at which you have to return to town. 

- Frankly - nobody has ever told me "Man, I went to town to sell grays, it was soooo awesome!" 

To address your concerns, here's a small list of reasons for you to return to a social hub in TOR, and as a bonus, how we view each reason from a player perspective:
  • Various vendors. Positive: I get to buy stuff.
  • Crafting benches. Positive: I get to make stuff.
  • Banking access. Positive: I don't pay bills there? 
  • Trainers. Positive: I get to learn new stuff.
  • Quests / Follow-up quests. Positive: I get rewards.
  • Meeting friends (much easier at a known location than randomly in a snowstorm on Hoth). Positive: I meet friends.
  • Spaceport access. Neutral.
  • Medcenters. Neutral, arguably negative (I failed).
  • Speeder Transportation Service. Neutral.
  • Your inventory still fills up with items, so it's not like you never have to return to town. Probably Neutral: since I get a lot of credits for the non gray stuff.
Lastly, adding a feature to the game ('companions sell grays') and then balancing it in a way that it becomes undesirable to the player by the meas of penalties ('can't use companion for a long time') would be bad design. When you create a feature for a game, it is either strong, stands on it own and has been designed to account for potential issues, or you don't do it. You don't add it and then try to balance it out with something negative.

Ultimately, it's not like this is a super ground breaking feature. It's just different from what other MMOs do and I can see how that is out of the comfort zone for some. That's fine - every once in a while someone needs to question these kinds of conventions, or we'd still be stuck with 'lose half a level' XP death penalties as the genre standard.
Well, has he soothed your fears sufficiently, if you were worried about this?  

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