Monday, June 20, 2016

Things to reverse the long time player advantage

One of the problems that SOE eventually realized was the advantage that players that played longer have over those that are new to the game.

To a certain extent this was deliberate where it applies to incentives for staying subscribed. So things like only accruing time toward veteran rewards based on time subscribed and not time since account/character creation was intentional. (First a quick update for those that feel I am wrong about this. SOE intended veteran rewards to be earned based on days subscribed. A bug caused subscription time to be ignored and for it to be totally based on account creation time. Eventually this was fixed and the bug acknowledged along with an explanation about the bug and what people would see in a change when it comes to veteran rewards. For the purposes of the SWGEmu project since there can be no paid subscriptions, the correct implementation is to base veteran rewards off original account creation on the server.)

Advantages to veterans are also inherent any time you use a Random Number Generator (RNG) to determine if a character gets desireable loot. The more time a character is played the more chance that the character has to collect these items.

But there was also created an unintentional advantage for veteran characters when it came to some of the mini-games. After creating TCPrime, which was the first new clean server since the original launch of the game, SOE development was able to witness the problems that the resource mini-games causes.

But I will not talk about potential fixes to any veteran advantages. I want to talk about how to add advantages to newer players that veteran players need to overcome.

While I enjoy MMORPGs I also play what is best described as MMOEconomic games. The two that I play are from INNO games of Germany. They have had some interesting features in their games. For example, their Forge of Empires game has PvP in the form or raiding other players for items. There are restrictions on this to keep it somewhat in check. First you have to defeat the defender. In this battle a player allocates defenses that will be used by the computer to oppose a player attacking your empire. Even in defeat the defender does not permanently lose any units. The attacker's losses are permanent though. The attacker if victorious can only loot one building and can only attack each player once every 24 hours. But there is a way to prevent attacks completely. If you go to their empire and provide assistance they can not attack you for 24 hours. I really find this use of proactive assistance to avoid PvP interesting. It is also a concept that would be interesting to incorporate somehow into redesigned Player Bounty System for the SWGEmu.

Another of their games is younger than FOE and is having considerable new functionality being added. The interesting effect concerns the interaction between new skills in the skill tree and accessing resources on the main map and how it places veteran players at a disadvantage.

When I started playing you took control of resource zones to gain access to other players to trade with, boost production of some trade goods and finally to gain more buildable space in your city.

The skills are grouped together with each having a starter skill and a final skill in each group. The first change was to require a minimum number of captured resource zones before you could train the starter skill box in each skill group. This was sort of neutral when it comes to veteran vs. new players. A veteran would have a fair number already captured and a new player would have plenty of time to capture the needed number of zones while they trained the prerequisite skill boxes for the entry box where they needed a certain number of zones captured.

The most recent change added buildings that give desireable bonuses to your city. To be able to build these buildings you have to unlock them with items earned by capturing resource zones. Inno very deliberately did not grant these items for zones captured before they added the feature. So a starting player who gets to the 4th skill box will have earned enough items to build the first four of these buildings while a veteran player in the 4th skill box will have none of the buildings or items. Going forward there will be four more buildings so they will stay behind the curve unless they go the route of micro-transactions to get caught up with the new players.

I really found this interesting.

To a certain extent SOE came close to this in the NGE when it came to traders, combat characters and pilots.

While you were limited to level 10 in the Tansarii Station new player zone players could jump start their situation when they got to the main game. Crafters could kill mobs for cash and use the cash to purchase resources to grind some of crafting after you left the new player zone. Pilots, Entertainers and Combat professions could stockpile credits before leaving the station. Crafters also got a free personal harvester for their character. I remember doing missions to get enough cash when I first created my character to earn enough to get my first personal harvester. Things would have been a lot easier if I zoned in and had one.

But these changes only helped new players. They did not put them at a disadvantage going forward. If new players got a ring, for example, that was No Trade and gave a +20 to resource stats or one additional experimentation point to all crafting experimentation then new crafters would have an advantage over veteran crafters going forward.

So my thoughts and question is simply, what could be done to new players to balance some of the veteran advantages? What could reasonably trigger adding something like this?

I start with the resource mini-game since it is an ongoing problem, but I am not sure what could be done that would not create a new problem going forward. Also while I also see accumulation of wealth as an advantage for veteran players, I also see no reason to help new players catch up. So not every advantage that veteran players have should even be considered as needing to be addressed.