Vitality: EQ2’s iceberg

After release, one of the common gripes people raised when comparing EQ2 and WoW was the slow level grind of EQ2 and the difficulty in playing “catch up” to buddies who’d gotten ahead. If you played with a group and took a few nights off, it was very difficult to catch the group by soloing or other measures.

Eventually, Sony added “Vitality”, which is like a trust fund for experience. Once an hour, the game adds a little vitality to everyone’s balance (online or not). While you have vitality, every NPC kill draws bonus experience from your vitality pool – in short, as long as you have vitality, you get double experience.

There’s an upper limit on vitality, but if you don’t play a character for a while you can build up a couple of levels worth of vitality, allowing you to play catchup really quickly. And you’ll have a few hours of vitality after logging for the night and playing your next day’s session.

EverQuest2 is a complex system of time and resource sinks: experience, achievements, status points, tradeskills, housing, decorating your housing. Many of these loops are well designed to be self-perpetuating – your decorations will lead you to buy a bigger house which will lead you to want more decoration to reduce the cost of the housing.

This gave it a vigorous and healthy economy in the early days, the economy was a truly vital part of the game’s immersiveness.

Admittedly, some of that has been ruined by farmers and by SoEs attempts to hurt the farmers (c’mon guys, just bite the bullet and sell the gold yourself; don’t go all Brad on us, telling us how rich or poor our character should be).

But Vitality changed gameplay rather drastically. One of our first time players is nearing level 50 after just slightly less than 4 weeks. I wouldn’t exactly call the way he plays “power-levelling” either.

So these days levels fly by. And that reshapes the economy. A year ago people might have spent gold on making a +1 stat change at level 35 – but not today. It’s hard to sell “adept 1” spells and even harder to sell masters, because until people break 60, they’re just not worth the investment.

I suspect Sony are currently working on a Planar expansion (I hope they are working on some world events to open up more druid rings) and introducing more varietous content is good, the game drinks up content. But I hope it will be accompanied by an, and I hate to say it, “audit” of the existing pre-existing pricings and money sinks.

For instance: the cost of changing house decor – especially since you can’t see it in advance; the layouts and prices of the accomodations in the cities, perhaps adding brokers to each Qeynos/Freeport zone and making it cheaper to buy from a broker in the same zone as the merchant without the hassle of finding the right doorway.

I can’t help but wonder if vitality doesn’t make EQ2 too fast, while its been a blessing trying to get our group co-levelled, its also been a bit of a curse because we just can’t “do” a level bracket before we’ve greyed out all of the quests we’ve picked up.

The factors:

. We’re going too fast to tend to the spectrum of quests neccessary to equip 5 different classes (plate/cloth/armor/chain/leather)
. 80%+ of the loot we receive is irrelevant to us
. Most of that loot is difficult to sell because other players are ‘making do’ as they warp thru too
. The ‘good stuff’ (masters, etc) hasn’t red-shifted yet, there still being enough old-money in the system that they remain largely the domain of twinks.

13 Comments

Just an update; dinged 30 yesterday. I also bought EoF, so I’m *still* updating that.

Last weekend I could play I went from 13 to 22 in two sessions, but I’m stuck without EQ2 time until next tuesday :)

You touch on one of the most difficult issues in MMO developer: how to keep the economy in check. I’d vouch that EQII has done a better job than most of keeping it in check, but there’s just some point when money becomes easier to obtain (high levels) and people start rerolling and spending that money at the low levels, which causes some nasty increases in the price of goods. That increase in the price of goods then means that real newbies to the game can sell things for more money, so they get more money, and the money from the upper level players gets distributed among others.

I’m not really offering solutions, but it’s something that I’ve never seen done perfectly well–most developers have it in their mind that people should have X amount of coin at Y level, and never plan for people to have more than that in the future.

The main issue you raised is leveling speed, but I’m going to go ahead and not comment on that. ;)

A couple clarifications too:

EQII has always had vitality. It was changed in beta to just be bonus experience from a bit more of a complex system (which in effect made death harsher), but it’s been there for a long time. Additionally, it’s interesting that you didn’t mention WoW’s rest system, which is the same as EQII’s vitality system except it requires you to be in an inn or major city to regain.

With the latest expansion, Echoes of Faydwer, the EQ2 game designers thought about how the desirability of lower level items could be increased. As you rightly say, Ol, levels can fly by so fast it’s not entirely worth the effort to gear/skill up your char because by next week those improvements will be obsolete.

So they came up with the Transmuting tradeskill. A transmuter can take a world object of a certain level and value and “transmute” it into several components.

These components are used by tradeskillers to make adornments which are attached to armour/weapons for imparting stat/skill bonuses.

Shortly after release of EoF almost every adept1 spell and treasured piece of armour had been snapped up from the market on our server by prospective transmuters eager to level their skills up to maximum. Sony endeavoured to make the skilling up process for transmuting as lengthy as any other tradeskill.

Similarly they found a way of making harvested resources extremely desirable in the newly created Tinkering tradeskill.

Don’t forget you can also choose to turn combat experience off.

The games need a Treasury:

Control of money supply, where points/skills/levels are limited. These items are added and subtracted based upon subscriptions going up or down. This causes only heavy players to level up the most.

Interest Rates are needed. The immediate cost of something is like a cash only society, with the banks printing any cash as needed. Make the price/cost/effort be based upon number of people in-game at that moment and broadcast the market price as well as historical price data. People can log on in lighter player times for better rates.

All sales/upgrades must be publicly posted and the good/skill available at that price to any bidder. Information is too limited. Players cannot bargain for their best. If a dealer gives a certain price for an object/skill – he is bound to that price for a certain period, and if a higher bidder arrives – he *must* give/sell that to the higher bidder.

Welcome to the economy. Because that is what it is.

Well I have played my fair share of MMOG’s with a “running” economy. Maybe I am just niave, but if a game’s economy was a closed one….I think you would get what you want.

For instance, quit dumping money into an already inflated economy. It just makes it worse. Example: At the highest level, each shard/server has a money ceiling. Under that, each zone has a money ceiling. This money is circulated through quest rewards(Quests would not be repeatable), player markets, NPC markets, and money sinks (housing, equipment, etc.).

The GMs could keep an eye out for market-economy “stress” and add more revenue streams (along with more/different sinks when the need arouse.

It just takes some effort…imo.

Easting: what server do you play on?

Ryan Schwayder wrote:
EQII has always had vitality. It was changed in beta to just be bonus experience from a bit more of a complex system (which in effect made death harsher), but it’s been there for a long time. Additionally, it’s interesting that you didn’t mention WoW’s rest system, which is the same as EQII’s vitality system except it requires you to be in an inn or major city to regain.

Am I mis-remembering the introduction of a visual system for vitality? Or was I just in EQ2 beta? And I didn’t mention WoW’s rest system just because I haven’t played WoW in forever(see *) nor did I want to open up the “copying” debate :)

I seem to recall levelling being slower at some point during my Paladin’s lifetime – and my memory of the timeline was that vitality was added or somehow changed somewhere between DoF and KoS. It’s hazy tho: I only played EQ2 for a few months after launch because my two groups of real-life friends wound up on different servers and then lacked critical mass to put together a group so both groups kind of bled-away. Eventually I got suckered into playing WoW for a bunch of months (Hunter and Paladin to level 50) before taking a long break and deciding to return to EQ2 to start my Paladin.

But you’re right – the key fallout of the vitality system is an extreme rate of levelling. Perhaps I’m bringing my own seasoning to the sauce: I enjoy the advancement through the world more than I enjoy end-game play, and I’ve never been entirely certain whether thats one of the dividing distinctions between EQ1 and EQ2.

I have actually been playing with Combat Experience disabled a lot, so that my buddies could catch up (I seemed to get overmuch experience while mentoring). In the end I wound up doing just-grey quests to avoid getting any exp while still getting the odd bit of AA exp.

The levelling speed is both a boon and a curse – it could be argued it opens up replay value, because any character going through the game misses out on an awful lot of content, but there is no “rudder” to that gameplay experience so that the player is left feeling very unfulfilled by their questing on the way up – which quests should you focus on?

Our “success” in progressing has been hit and miss. We’re just not getting “stuff” that is meaningful to us, or stuff we can sell to allow us to participate in the economy (i.e. buy stuff that’s meaningful to us). There was a spike in our money around level 20ish where we started having a few plat to our names, but we’re at level 50 now and we still barely have more than 3-4 plat. Which would be ok but, as Laccy points out, “our stuff” was made appealing to higher level players for the purpose of destruction, pushing up the prices of the stuff we don’t get.

My overall impression, my gut instinct, is that vitality isn’t being properly factored into the spreadsheets. If you solo-play a first-character through the game, taking quests as they come, you’re going to out-level a good 15-25% of your quests (unless you regularly disable combat exp), you’ll probably have acceptable equipment since you’ll prioritize your quests with suitable rewards for your character, but whether you can afford luxuries (ad3s, masters, adornments, fancy food and drink) will depend on your luck at getting ornates – which will be limited by your ability to take on only very-green ^^^s.

When you group-play, it seems you wind up killing less mobs/level overall – but there doesn’t appear to be a corresponding bump in loot drops.

So you have to go questing or named hunting. Questing is a little more profitable since if you all complete the quest, you all get a reward – though there is an increasingly annoying tendency in the areas we’ve been lately for quests to not be group-completable (anti-farmer I guess).

However, it’s difficult finding quests that reward the entire group – the quest with a great cloth piece usually doesn’t have an equally worthwhile plate or leather piece. And if you can’t sell the unwanted items – because other players generally don’t worry about gear a great deal on their way thru the levels – then the items aren’t exactly rewarding.

On the nights when 2 of us go out hunting, we do pretty well – sharing loot between 2 of you works out pretty ok, and there’s a notable increase over 1 of you hunting.

3 of you gives noticably poorer pickings and doesn’t give you enough ‘oomf’ to really go after anything valuable.

Once you start getting up to 5-6 players, the loot drops start to seem scanty. We *might* get a master, invariably one that nobody in-group can use, we *might* get a sweet item – we’ve had more usability success there, we will probably get 3-8 ad1s each (which will sell over a few nights for 3-6g), and if we see 40 ad1s in a night, maybe 2 will match the classes of group members.

I’ve only sold one of the 4 masters I’ve picked up with Shoo – which I sold for 20g; the others I have listed for half the price my own (Fury) class’ masters are listed for, but they’ve been sitting there now for over 2 weeks.

Laccy wrote:
Shortly after release of EoF almost every adept1 spell and treasured piece of armour had been snapped up from the market on our server by prospective transmuters eager to level their skills up to maximum. Sony endeavoured to make the skilling up process for transmuting as lengthy as any other tradeskill.

Well, perhaps my perspective is more skewed than I knew. I burned myself out getting Straef up to the then-end-game bracket in time for KoS, and came back after EoF – so I may have come back during that spike and been given an over-generous concept of how much spells would sell for. Certainly, my Fae on Oasis was doing a healthy business in trade, so that when I started on Befallen it seemed to have a sucky economy. The market on Oasis seems to have died out somewhat similarly with the 1-50 adepts dropping down to the same 4-6g margin for ad1s.

The leveling speed in EQ2 has certainly sped up from its early release days. That probably has a lot to do with the tons of solo content that’s been added. I think the fact that it’s now almost impossible to do all the quests in the game and see everything on one pass through (without doing a lot of it after it’s grayed out and become trivial) is a good thing. That certainly wasn’t the case with my first toon. Now if I make an alt I can do different zones and see different things the 2nd time around. Something we’ve done a pretty good job of with our current group.

As for the economy I know I’m a bit of an exception with my views, but I’ve always found crafting, player item selling and the economy the grows up to support it to be at best an annoyance and worst a detraction from my game play. Give me enough money to pay for the consumables I need and enough items in drops to keep me competitively equipped and I’m happy. Most games however don’t do this and instead make me spend my time shopping if I want to be able to keep my character with the ability the content my level is designed for. I pay to adventure if I wanted to shop I’d play Sims Online or Second Life. I’ve heard all the “it builds community” arguments and well let’s just say I think that’s a load of crap, but I digress.

DDO gets a lot of hate, but I must say there’s much I like about what they did there. The game has very little equipment focus unlike WoW or EQ2. You can play and be completely functional with just the items you come across in your adventures. You can pick equipment based on looks and not just functionality and not vastly weaken your character.

Originally there was no auction house. There were special merchants you could sell items over a certain value to for increased profits from what you’d get at a general merchant. These special merchants would then list the item they’d just bought for sale. It was sort of a price controlled Auction House. Obviously there are problems with this system as well, but it was certainly a different approach than anything I’d seen before. It also worked quite well in making sure that a new player could find nice equipment for his level at a price the developers had deemed appropriate. Powerful items were expensive, but not out of reach the way they are in more open market economies such as EQ2’s or WoW’s. Now they have an auction house like everyone else and good luck being able to afford anything if you’re a new player.

I found out that to obtain some useable gear in EQ2 in one gaming session (let’s say you want some “achievement” feel after a session) you have to complete a good deal of quests, kill named mobs (no less than 4) and do random killing just to get maybe 3 useable items. Items that you would use instead of those you are already using.
For example, I started the AQ in Qeynos with a swash at level 22. He’s now 31 and I’m still missing two parts of the armor. Certainly, random killing and buying would have been faster.

Levels == design crutch
“Real” economics: hah! Bad idea altogether.

PS – I don’t mean to imply that I think EQ2 has hit this iceberg yet, I just think its looming there ahead of the next expansion ;)

I always like debating Granik on this, because he is more action oriented and less “role-player” (like there is true rp in video games anymore).

Crafting attracts a goodly number of people, it’s just too bad that they don’t restrict crafting to “non-essentials”, like food, drink, housing items, clothes, etc.

The leveling system in games today has more to do with ease of design then anything. No one wants to take a chance on something different so they stick to the same mold. They think leveling is the only way to hook someone in to logging in repeatedly and paying a subscription.

Cheezy, open ended “game” economics is a bad idea….it’s had many years to prove that point.

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