Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dual-Spec Design and the Mirror of Reflected Achievements

I was amazed when I visited Tobald’s blog yesterday and actually read players argue in the comments section that the ability that World of Warcraft characters will gain in patch 3.1 to switch between two talent tree specs is a bad idea and should not be implemented. Especially since players in EverQuest II have had the ability for a while now and as far as I know have not had issues.

In EverQuest II players gained the ability to store an extra AA setup in a house item called the Mirror of Reflected Achievements when Game Update 41 came out in December 2007. For people who have played WoW, EQ2’s AA trees are the equivalent of WoW’s ability trees. So how does SOE’s system work?

Basically, a player purchases the Mirror of Reflected Achievements from a crafter or makes it him/herself if the character is also a level 75 crafter with 40,000 faction with the crafting society in the character’s home city. The item is no-trade, which means the crafter must use the commission system in order to make the item for another character. The key ingredient for making the mirror is a reflective smoldering shard, which is dropped by named mobs (aka “bosses”) in the group instances in the Ruins of Kunark expansion pack. With the release of the expansion pack The Shadow Odyssey in November 2008, pure crafters gained the ability to receive the rare drop when countering a Far Seas Innovation in the new tradeskill missions. The reflective smoldering shards are not bind on pickup, so players not needing a mirror can make a little extra cash by selling them on the broker, EQ2’s version of WoW’s auction house.
Once the player has the item, he/she places the mirror on a wall and can then load the characters current AA set-up into the mirror. The character can then go to an NPC to delete the current AA set-up of one or all the trees and re-allocate the AA points. After that, the player can swap between the two AA specs for free.

Pretty simple concept, right? But let’s examine what the developers accomplished besides allowing players to have two AA specs. First, the mirror became a must have for certain classes so they could switch between solo and group/raid builds, which encouraged more use of the Ruins of Kunark expansion pack's group content until adequate amounts of reflective smoldering shards appeared on the broker. And speaking of the broker, the reflective smoldering shard is still a valuable drop for adventurers with the added bonus that the developers do not need to pump additional gold into the game economy as other players are coughing up the gold.

The rest of the items I've noticed may have been a series of unintended consequences, but given that EQ2’s tradeskill developer Emily “Domino” Taylor was probably involved in some of the decision making, some of what follows may have been a well-thought out plan.

First, the Mirror of Reflected Achievements gave Domino a chance to re-introduce players to using the commission system. Introduced in the Echoes of Faydwar expansion pack, the commission system gives players wishing to have a crafter make an item a way to ensure that the crafter doesn’t take the rare and valuable crafting materials and run. The commission system also gave crafters a way to make rare and powerful items that the devs deemed should be no-trade (a.k.a. bind-on-pickup).

Second, what happens if a player spends the money to get the mirror and then figures out that the class (like my ranger) really doesn’t need to switch specs? From what I’ve heard of WoW, the player will be out 1000 gold pieces. In EQ2, you still have a really cool looking mirror you can hang up on the wall of your home. And it grants a status reduction of 500 to your rent, which always helps. You didn’t really think Domino would allow an ugly item not useful for decorating a home into the game, did you?

Third, for those characters who really aren’t into player housing, the mirror is another incentive for purchasing and maintaining at least a starter apartment. The mirror, added to other things players need a home for like broker boxes, a place to put your alter so you can worship your deity, and an additional way to port from your home village to your guild hall that has no cool-down, make the 5 silver pieces per week rent seem like a bigger value. And if you have a home, you’ll wind up decorating just a little, right?

Did I mention travel to from your guild hall to your home? Back when SOE implemented GU #41, guild halls were still just a rumor. For those of you who don’t play EQ2, guild halls come in three sizes, and are obtainable when guilds reach levels 30, 50, and 70. The requirement that guilds needed to be level 30 in order to get a guild hall came as a shock to many players. So where does the Mirror of Reflected Achievements fit in this situation? I mentioned earlier that to make the mirror required 40,000 faction with the crafting society in a crafter’s home city. So how does a crafter gain the faction? By doing crafting writs. Crafting writs not only gain crafters the necessary faction to make the mirror, but the writs also help level the character’s crafting level as well as his/her guild’s level. So not only did the quest to make the respec mirror help level the lower level guilds, those players also created high level crafters. I can tell you from personal experience that the fastest way to contribute status to a guild is to do the timed crafting writs. I know of a player on the Permafrost server who hired high level crafters to help power-level his new guild and the guild reached level 30 in two weeks. Or at least 2 weeks after the player approached me with an employment offer to work on the project.

As you can see, giving players in EQ2 the ability to switch between two sets of AA builds gave the developers a way to advance other aspects of the game. I'm curious to see how Blizzard implements the ability in WoW.

1 comment:

  1. very nice, but how do you gain the ability to make the mirror?