Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bind On Pickup and Bind On Equip

Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic reintroduced me to a concept I had pretty much forgotten about playing Eve Online: Bind on Pickup and Bind on Equip.  For those who are either new to MMORPGs or have just played a sandbox game like Eve, most MMOs I have played have a game mechanic in which an item is bound to a character when the item is picked up or when an item is actually placed in an equipment slot.  For games in which item progression is important and the items persist forever (or until disenchanted), BoP/BoE is an important game mechanic because the developers don't want to make life too easy for players.  If players can just buy more advanced items from other players, then those tagging behind are saved hours and hours of slogging through a game because questing becomes easier and raid zones don't need to be run for hours on end.  That slog is called content, and developers can never keep up with players as things stand now.  Think about the situation if slower players could advance faster.  More players would get bored with the game faster, leading to people leaving the game faster.  Since MMORPGs are all about keeping people playing the games for months and even years, anything that reduces the time it takes to get through content is bad for the business model.

I understand the business reasons for BoP/BoE and I wouldn't have a problem with them if the developers would just give a lore explanation for why items are BoP or BoE.  They don't and I find the fact irritating.  A lot of people talk about the importance of immersion in MMOs.  Well, BoP/BoE breaks it for me.

BoP/BoE does not have to break immersion.  In fantasy MMOs, a game developer could explain to new players about items having mystical properties that bind an item to a character.  That would be find and add to immersion.  Bound magical weapons are cool.  However, I don't know how you could explain that in a science-fiction game like SW:TOR.  BioWare didn't even try.

Eve Online doesn't have this problem.  No items are Bind on Pickup and only three classes of items I know of, implants rigs and planetary interaction command centers, are bind on equip.  And those three classes of items make sense that they are bind on equip.  Implants are, as the name suggests, implanted in your head.  Getting them out destroys them.  Besides, would anyone want a used implant anyway?  Icky!  Rigs make perfect sense because they are installed into the fabric of a ship and removing them destroys them.  And planetary command centers?  The cost of moving something that massive out of a gravity well is cost prohibitive.  Easier to just buy a new one and then build onto it once the center is on the ground.  Of course, why you can't sell colonies between players is beyond me, but I never bothered to read the treaty that allows capsuleers to own property on planets in the first place.

Now, CCP is able to get away with that because of the nature of the game and the harsh death penalty and looting of other players' ships when they are destroyed.  From the comments I see on other sites, most people are put off by the death penalty and don't want to take that much risk.  But for me, I don't mind the death penalty if I don't have to put up with unrealistic and immersion breaking game mechanics like Bind on Pickup and Bind on Equip.

1 comment:

  1. How to explain BoE/BoP in a SF setting? Easy: 'smart' items. The concept of items (usually weapons) being tied to the DNA or life signs of their current owner is a pretty old staple in SF literature.