The Challenges of Guilds Design

I commented (and archive here) an article that Ubiq wrote on The Escapist about the next generation of Guild Design. Loved it.

To begin with you should have referenced DAoC when you made examples of games trying to take guilds to the next level, but then I don’t know how you could wrap it up in a line.

Summarizing your points:
1- Help players find the proper guild for themselves (information and accessibility)
2- Help *new* players integrate themselves within the game and old guilds to still remain open (accessibility again)
3- Do not neglect the UI and proper guild management tools
4- Keep the guilds integrated (in contact) with the rest of the community (?)
5- Give these games some ambition :) Massive crowds and persistence

This is one of those design topics I really care about and where I have many ideas on how to do it “better” (my point of view). After my guild project I can say that the major difficulty I found from the player perspective was about your first point (and the third, to an extent). But then there are problems outside the game itself.

The guilds are almost always something independent from the game. They grow by association but they usually start from the outside. You have consolidate groups of players existing outside the game and then putting the premises for good guilds inside the game. A small group of RL friends has already hundred more possibilities to survive and consolidate in the game than a guild starting from zero.

It’s somewhat easier to build a guild during the first days the game launched, it becomes then really hard to do the same on a brand new server in an already released game and it’s nigh impossible within a consolidated community on a old server.

Everyone is *already* in a guild, in most cases even BEFORE creating the character. You just cannot do anything about this if not inviting level 1 to 10 characters that you probably won’t see for more than a week and, in the case they stick, will ultimately jump on to a more efficient and already productive guild as they need to.

Guilds are like light sources and players like swarms of flies. Everyone is attracted by a few consolidates points and these points are almost always independent from the actual game. The reasons why long lasting guilds are created and survive is almost always something completely external from the game that then shapeshifts in something different. But the origin is always elsewhere. The tribes aren’t native, they are portable.

This from the point of view of the player. From the point of view of the designer I wrote long ago a (half obsolete) guild system that still addressed many important points.

For example I structured the game so that beside the hardcoded PvP factions, the players have the possibility to detach themselves and build player-made organizations that have the same “dignity”, gameplay-wise, of those hardcoded. The goal was to give the players a type of “tool” to just show and model what they want, so that the game is completely malleable to their needs and ambitions. Even the actual guilds are structured to be rebuilt from the inside. Basically I belive they should be designed (from the outside, as developers) as scripted languages, as customizable “objects” that can then be rebuilt and recombined directly by the guildmaster as he wants. So that the final organization of the guild is completely subjective to THAT guild and its needs.

Then my project meets your last point, the most relevant. It’s the *gameplay* that needs to shape up the role and function of the guild. I had recently some heated discussions about the guild system in WoW and one of my strongest points and critiques is that the guilds in WoW just have NO FUNCTION. The game itself isn’t aware of the fact that a guild exists, there gameplay is completely isolated from a guild.

I strongly believe that this is a major weak point and if you follow that link you can see how I completely share your points. That’s the very special trait of these games that we AREN’T USING. Raph would say:

Does your game NEED it? No. But given that it is one of the axes of gameplay that makes use of persistence, and persistence is one of the key things these games offer that other games cannot, well, leaving it out may be considered to be at least underutilizing the genre.

Massive crowds and persistence. That’s exactly the same type of mmorpg I dream about and that I blandly plan from a couple of years. This is why the importance of a guild goes way beyond the actual organization to finish right in the gameplay. To become the CENTER of your game instead of something on the background. Which brings to that sort of slogan that I built: “Give back the world to the players”

Meaning that the players need to finally live within the world and shape it. Conquer cities and castles, conquer and administrate territory, build farms and the resource system at the RTS-level. Finally arriving at the commerce (that is completely detached from the personal power treadmill so that you can only trade and craft resources that have a weight in the conquest system -communal level- and not your personal loot).

The actual goal is to remove the idea of a guild as mostly like an OOC system and give it an active role within the game. Make it the backbone of the game structure. And this works better in a PvP game and in a truly massive environment where you share a persistent space (competition, the land is a finite space).

So, what I believe is that your points must be creatively exploited as paradoxes. They shouldn’t be directly addressed. But I also can see how all this is a distant, unrealistic dream.

DAoC tried to weakly address some of your points. They added a clunky LFGuild command noone uses (point 1), they added merit points to spend on bonuses and encourage old guilds to accept new members (point 2) and the RvR does better than every other game when it comes to the fourth point (and fifth), despite things are going downhill quickly and the communities are now completely closed and with an elitist attitude to focus exclusively on arranged 8vs8 encounters. Screaming like mad cows when someone else in the game passes by to distrurb their limited toy.

What DAoC did badly is point three. As of today I just cannot know who the fuck is in my guild. People going /anon not only disappear from the /who command but they disappear from the goddamn guild chart. And I AM THE GUILDMASTER. I just cannot know who the hell is in the guild and who can hear what I say and I cannot perform actions (like promoting or demoting and even kicking out) on those who aren’t currently logged in. There’s a clunky “/gc autoremove playername” that sends a request that is then processed someday in the future if you need someone out of the guild. This just to say that we can dream all we want but almost always these games are broken at the very basic level and they don’t really need fancy designers. Just common sense.

Between you and Dave Rickey that’s all I’m looking forward in the near-mid future because I can share the direction where you are going and those principle. Just remember to deliver and not build a game that works wonderfully on the paper but that then has an half done implementation that ruins the original design in all the most foundamental and trivial elements (controls, UI, client performance, lag, stability, graphic attractiveness etc..). Because we have already enough products on the shelves with those features.

It seems that today the key for the success is at 99% about making things work as they were originally designed, and 1% about having also good ideas to actualize.

And to conclude, most of the times the *players* do not share your principles. They want to be full time /anon and block group invites, they close general chat channels and feel the head exploding as they enter in contact with someone they do not know in a range of 100 miles. Some players just don’t want to be part of larger communities and have their guild open and integrated with the other “tribes”.

From a side I believe that the design should promote and teach more “positive” (and fun) forms of gameplay, from the other I also believe that it’s good to give a proper role to everyone with a different attitude and have an overall enriching and varied community.

Chinese food (and sake) does not good to me

I was writing a reply to a thread on QT3 (sorry for the general derail) and so re-reading the few lines I stole from Darniaq. Every time I read those I go: “Ouch!”. His rants are harsh and strong in an effective way that I can actually feel for SOE. From a side I grin and from the other I read those and think I wouldn’t like to be in their place and receive so precise and effective critiques aimed straight at me. Painting targets is rather easy but watching a big target being painted on you it’s different.

You can usually escape from the rants by putting the situation under a different light and offer a different point of view, but sometimes the critiques are so much direct, honest and absolutely true that they reveal something you cannot negate and cannot counter. Any reaction would be just inappropriate. It would just make things worse because some arguments and critiques need to be admitted, considered and accepted. They must trigger some thoughts and not just a direct reaction to negate and dismiss the same arguments.

This just to say that sometimes it happens that you develop and somewhat more intimate relationship with a game or a company. You become so much passionate and involved (and dedicated to it so much of your time) that you build a more intimate, love-hate relationship. With the result that you know rather well how to stab in the right spots. Something like: “Just say or do anything and I’m ready to dig that in no time”.

Lum wrote in a comment:

The quickest way NOT to be hired at a game company: show up at the interview and tell them how badly you think they failed and how you’re ready to start fixing things. If you don’t understand why this is counterproductive, go work in the real world for a few years and then get back to me.

None of us is actually writing on a blog to hunt for a place in the industry (as I wrote in my replies to that comment). We just share a passion and write about what we subjectively think is interesting and useful. The actual use of what we say is not even our responsibility or worry.

But going back at the starting point, when I read Darniaq’s rants or critiques I always think how the games would benefit of those observations if they were actually accepted, considered and discussed by the developers, instead of being ignored or dismissed. From my point of view they are important and help to focus on what matters. Harsh or not, they can be useful. And it’s again not Darniaq responsibility to put those in practice. The following thought was that Darniaq is so much more effective when he writes about SOE. He can write good rants or observations even about other games or companies, but when it comes to SOE he just shines. I believe this is the result of the dedication and I somewhat identified myself with him when it comes to Mythic.

Obviously Darniaq is thousands times better than me and I’m sorry that Mythic has to suffer just a mediocre version. Or maybe they are lucky because a Darniaq would be way more direct and effective, without even the need to kick and scream all the time. He just doesn’t need that because what he writes is so much sharper and deadly without being loud :)

Posted in: Uncategorized |

Final Fantasy XI: A new expansion and a vague “expiration date” set

I always try to follow this mmorpg because I consider it one of the best, despite Square then breaks it on a good number of core features. One of those games that I classify under the “what if?” category. Potentially awesome games that could reach and expand on their success but that are then only sinking because of very bad decisions and inappropriate development.

In particular I was curious about the announce of the next expansion because it would have given me more precise hints about what Square wants to do with this game world. Everyone knew already the title (“Treasures of Aht Urhgan”), that it was going to be announced at the Tokyo Game Show and even a few guesses about a possible new class, the blue mage. All three were correct. And I’m not rejoicing. In fact I’m rather deluded. As I said, I believe in the potential of a game and it’s disappointing see the game moving in a direction that I really don’t find interesting or useful for the game. I was expecting (hoping for, actually) something interesting, some new ideas and developments, the developers becoming more self-conscious of the actual problems and needs of the game, addressing them properly. Instead we have an expansion that pretty much repeats the same, consolidated pattern that I don’t really see leading anywhere noteworthy. We have more zones, new missions and one new class that the game doesn’t really need considering its already critical LFG problems. More of the same without anything really important and relevant for the health of the game both in the short and long term.

Beside these few confirmations of suspects we already had, I find more interesting an interview that was published on a german website, which I believe complements the other informations:

– How many users Worldwide are playing FFXI now?

There are over 500,000 subscribers world wide. Also the number of active FINAL FANTASY XI (FFXI) characters total over 1.6 million, so on average, each player has 3 characters.

The subscription numbers are one of the most quick and direct ways to figure out the health of a mmorpg and that line pretty much confirms the same situation we had in March, which is already surprising considering that the game isn’t really moving from where it is and not trying to get more people interested. What is to underline here is the good retention of old players.

In fact I believe this data plays a strong role on the plans Square has about the game:

– The FFXI Graphical Engine is now 3 years old. Will you update the engine for PC users after the release of Xbox360?

We will keep working hard to improve and expand the game’s quality as much as possible, but we’re very careful to choose what to do regarding upgrading at the same time, as this might affect our development speed sometimes. Until now, we’ve improved our engine to accept wide-screen displays, 3D display function, options for upper spec PCs on the Windows version. But currently we do not have any plans to use next-generation technologies which may require re-creating all graphic data. If we chose to do this with FFXI, it would take a few years to complete upgrading. So we’ve decided to use our development powers to create a new, next-generation MMORPG. Until then, we will keep having version-updates and expansion packs for FFXI as we’ve always done.

Have you ever considered about doing this constantly and progressively? The reiterative development is what could make online worlds stronger.

If you usually follow what I write, you may know how much I hate the announce of new mmorpgs to “replace” old and obsolete game worlds. I always consider this the biggest failure possible and I just refuse the hype for a “sequel” as something good. It’s unacceptable how these game worlds are made to be disposable and get wasted as junk. I just cannot and will never accept this. It’s another game world sinking because of horrible marketing and development decisions and a huge potential once again choked.

I said I believe the data about the subscription numbers plays a role. In fact we have probably another expansion aimed to offer “more of the same” to that mid-to-high level players that are already subscribed. It’s just my personal estimation but I believe no more than a 10% of the subscribers has seen more than half of the previous expansion and I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual percent is way below that one. That’s my point of view. Maybe it’s good to try to retain those subscribers that keep the game active but this is also an implicit decision to NOT DEVELOP the game. Not appeal to new players, not grow it, not believe on the project and invest on it if not to confirm the consolidated pattern to rinse and repeat (exploit) till it’s commercially viable. And till the game is completely “dry” (draining life as from a set “stock”) and has nothing anymore to offer, compared with a game world that flourishes over time.

Maybe I’m just a silly idiot but I believe that these game worlds have their own dignity and a potential to respect. I refuse to consider them as disposable and I strongly believe that these stupid “life cycles” are a deliberate choice of a blind development more than an unavoidable destiny. Game worlds should never be replaced and they can grow along with the technology and their commercial success (instead of relocationg the resources elsewhere). This choice to build them with defined lifecycles is just an heritage of an obsolete attitude coming from single player games. It works but it doesn’t really tap and develop the potential of online worlds.

But who cares? This is once again just a subjective point of view without any concrete foundation. And I’m once again ranting against the wind mills.

Beside this, it’s interesting their position on RMT and gill sellers:

– Do you think SE will ever be able to stop Gil, Item and Account Seller and Buyer? Do you think it’ll be possible to stop them or will you go the way like Sony EQ2?

We don’t think it’s illegal to trade virtual data when there’re buyers and sellers. However, we think the problem is that there’re many criminal acts happening in the real world during those transactions. Also, FFXI is not created based on real money trading (RMT), thus, we believe this will make our title less enjoyable. This is why we forbid RMT with FFXI by user agreement. It will be easy to eliminate RMT completely when we remove economics from the game, meaning removing trade functions and making all items non-tradable. But this will also remove amusement from the game itself. As SOE has done with EverQuest II, there is a way to create a game considering trading virtual currency or items with real money. However, FFXI chooses a different way. Even by choosing different ways, we believe both EverQuest II and FFXI have the same purpose of protecting users from crimes in the real world such as fraud or scamming.

And a final note about the crazy backbone of the game. I suggest them to buy a Lum and spare on those resources:

– What kind of Servers are you using in background?

Each FFXI world has about 20 multi-core processor front-end machines (Solaris OS). As we now have 32 live worlds, there’re totally over 640 servers. In addition to those servers, there’re huge backend servers including DB servers, file servers, and log servers as well as billing servers, PlayOnline type servers, and monitoring facilities, using large-scaled data centre.

Oh, and it’s also sort of fun how the Xbox 360 seems to not be able to handle this four years old game that still runs okay on a Playstation 2 and on PCs:

Visually, Final Fantasy XI seems to be gradually making itself home on the 360. The characters look good; the environments the players moved through were predominantly dry, rocky canyons, flowering cacti, and stretches of deserted beach that the chocobos trotted through. One thing we did notice, though, was that the game’s frame rate took a noticeable, large dip when there was a lot of onscreen action. For example, certain areas on the Buburimu Peninsula blow up dust storms that drift across the arid landscape. These dust storms, in conjunction with a number of enemies spawning or popping into view, made matters sluggish during certain points in the gameplay. The draw distance didn’t seem to otherwise get in the way of matters too much, though, and seemed to occur at a reasonable distance out from the characters.

I mirrored the video if you need it. It’s not really that good, even Promathia’s video was more interesting.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Good Night, and Good Luck

George Clooney’s last movie (“Good Night, and Good Luck”) is simply awesome.

“The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

“The line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one. The Senator from Wisconsin has crossed the line repeatedly. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.”

It’s not a stretch saying that the speach is even more actual and strong today than how it was back then (1954). Just in a more subtle way.

We seem to never really learn anything.

For those interested in the argument I suggest to hunt down “Red Hollywood”, a movie by Thom Andersen made completely through “found footage” (some marginal infos here).

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Old school

I have less and less to say, so I’ll keep making other speak:

The realplay value for those who want replay value.

That’s another thing I think veterans miss. We want a perpually replayable experience befitting of the $14.95/mo. Others don’t feel they need to arbitrarily extend their enjoyment of a game just because they’ve provided credit card information. The newer gamers are growing up in the Content On Demand era where people jump from one experience to another because they want to. This isn’t even about having game loyalty because the very idea of loyalty is old skool. Putting up with a crappy code base, buggy experience, and unresponsive development staff is yesterday’s news, interesting anecdotes from the folks who’ve been there to the folks who wonder why we bothered.

The old days are gone, and with them their concepts. Some will try to tap that well. WoW meanwhile was almost specifically designed for the expected length of an account, which was six months. Here it is 10 months and people wonder why they’re bored.

They’re bored because they weren’t expected to play past six months :)

I believe this ties back with the old threads discussing the instancing. About how games hit various obstacles and are now going back to a territory where they know better what to deliver and how. At less risk.

EDIT – I also updated/reblogged/archived another comment from Darniaq about SOE here. One stab here and another there :)

Posted in: Uncategorized |

Why solo?

From QT3:
I like grouping, but unfortunately due to my real life committments, have to solo in these type of games quite a bit.

If this rumour is true, there is no doubt in my mind that I will not be playing it, despite the fact that I am a huge fan of D&D.

From Chris:
Mythic, you broke what we liked about DF. You broke it, and you probably broke our desire to return to your game. You raised our level of frustration, and didn’t increase the rewards commensurately. Don’t assume everyone is ML10, RR5+, and is in the best possible gear and ideal group–we’re not, and we feel that you broke an unspoken contract with us, that as casual players, people who enjoy your game but don’t need to catass it, have now found a barrier that we can’t cross. And that barrier ends up being the end of the game for us, because it isn’t porous. It requires a particular group to get through, and I’m sorry, but on a server with a peak population of 350 people, we’re not going to be able to assemble that effective group to penetrate that barrier, and we still won’t be achieving our goals (cash for respecs) by spending our evening grouping with strangers.

From FoH:
I’m kind of itching to go back to EQ2, I’d want to start over I think, maybe a Summoner?

Would it be fun? Could I solo? I work nights.

Too often games aren’t played under the perfect conditions the designers assume. This is why the possibility to solo and to have fruitful short play-sessions are becoming increasingly important selling points for a game.

It’s not so much a choice of a playstyle, but often the impossibility to choose. An accessibility problem. A wall that cannot be overcome.

This isn’t just about how PvE and PvP content is created and balanced. But also about how the server infrastructure is handled, the LFG tools and the communal objectives. And more.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

[WoW] itemization formulas

I’ve been toying with the idea of how WoW items are balanced on creation for the last few weeks. Here is something I’ve come up with that seems to consistently represent things pretty well, and after posting it up for some guildies I decided to put it here as well.

Blizz Reps, please take a look at some sections of this, especially the part about the drape of benediction, so those poor souls can get it fixed or at least see what it really is. Also, if you have access to the actual balance formulae I‘d love to see how close my numbers are to the real thing. There will be some rounding errors due to trying to reverse engineer a system in which I have to take items as they are given. However the errors I point out aren’t off by just a few points, they are off by an entire quality lvl or 10+ ilvls.


Some people have been asking me about my work on these and I promised I’d put up something so here it is. So far these calculations only work reliably for armor, trinkets, rings, necks, shields, etc… Weapons are a different beast entirely and they sometimes modify innate dps in ways that defy logic (or at least I don’t have enough samples yet to get a reliable figure for), and scaling seems to be different for them. You can try to apply these scaling routines to weapons, but don’t be upset if they fall short on the high end things (they should work fine for most of the greens and blues below ilvl 65 though).

First, some basic concepts/terms

All numbers in this examination are in arbitrary units, they depend heavily on the values I give to each StatMod, and they aren’t pretty and round because I didn’t use the same absolute StatMods that blizzard does (they should all still be in the same ratios though).
So even though the numbers aren’t pretty, they should still give correct results.

Ilvl – the effective level of an item, this is intimately related to its stats bonuses, armor and dps. The minimum level to use an item is ilvl – 5. If that value is above 60, then the min level is 60.

ItemValue – the total value of stats on a given item, this value scales predictably based on item type, quality and ilvl. It is normalized to be linear with increasing ilvl for a given item type.

StatValue – the amount of a given stat on an item, if a ring has 12 int, then it has an int statvalue of 12.

StatMod – the weighting given to a specific stat, this is how stats are compared in value; in my system everything is compared to the base stat value of +healing, which is assigned a StatMod of 100. Really any value could be used and set to any standard; it is the ratios that are important, so if done properly any standardization should give the same overall results.

SlotMod – Weighting for predicting the value of an item based on equipment slot.

The Stats

Items have stats, sometimes many, sometimes few. Sometimes these stats are well thought out, other times they are absolutely worthless. All items share from the basic pool of stats, these are:

Strength, Agility, Stamina, Intellect, Spirit, DPS, Attack Power, Ranged Attack Power, +%To Hit, +%Crit, Armor, Defense, Damage Shield, +%Dodge, +%Parry, +%Block, +BlockValue, x/5 hp regen, x/5 mana regen, +%SpellCrit, +%SpellHit, +AllSpells, +Healing, +Fire, +Frost, +Shadow, +Arcane, +Nature, +Holy, Fire Resist, Frost Resist, Nature Resist, Arcane Resist and Shadow Resist.

There are other, less common stats that cannot be weighted, such as the chance to put an attacker to sleep, or of using the item to regain mana. While these don’t just out with an immediately obvious value this system can be used to see what the blizzard item designers think they are worth and translate them into a stat-equivalent format.

Armor Scaling

Armor values on item follow a simple linear scaling pattern within specific regimes. For example, mail armor scales linearly between certain ilvls, at which points the sloes of the linear increase change. One of these points is ilvl 45, above this point it scales more rapidly. Remember that an ilvl 45 item can be worn at lvl 40, and shamans and hunters get mail at 40. So they wanted mail to scale up fast for those classes just getting into it without raising the amour values of pre 40 warriors too high (don’t worry warriors, plate armor scales up even faster). An example of armor scaling is shown below.

Plate Chest Armor = (ilvl-44)*8.9+428

The values from this scaling are for green plate chests. The armor value of rare or epic pieces is also very easy to obtain using a simple multiplier. If you really want to go into detail, you will notice that there are plate chests with ilvls below 44. Due to their ilvl they should be equippable below lvl 40 (if any class could) and follow a different scaling equation (which is why jouster plate stuff has such pitiful armor values compared to many other starting plate item, their ilvls are all low).

For Items of the same armor type (cloth, leather, etc…) and the same ilvl

Rare Armor Value = Green Armor Value * 1.1
Epic Armor Value = Green Armor Value * 1.2

The exception to this is shields, which use a slightly different scaling

Rare Shield Armor Value = Green Shield Armor Value * 1.125
Epic Shield Armor Value = Green Shield Armor Value * 1.25

Now you are thinking, “But I’ve seen some items with much higher armor than others around that lvl!” And you are right, some items do have higher armor than these equations would predict. But those items are using that extra armor as an actual ‘stat’. Only this extra armor, above and beyond the predicted armor is considered in item weighting. So while the base armor level of an item is ‘free’, going higher will cost you other stats.

To find an expected armorvalue for a given item you will first need to know the scaling of that item type.

Do a search on thottbot for green items of that type, with lvl ranges of 44-46. Find the base armor they have. Then do the same for items of that slot at ilvl 61-63.

Then use

ArmorScaling = (highilvl – lowilvl)/(higharmor – lowamor)

this is the armor increase per ilvl for a green of that armor type.

Once you have that, do

ArmorValue = (Desiredilvl – highilvl)*ArmorScaling + higharmor

This will give the value of a green at that ilvl.

Then multiply it by 1.1 for a rare, or 1.2 for an epic.

Let’s try this on a stormrage helm, 183 armor, ilvl 76.

Green leather helms:
ilvl 45, armor 99
ilvl 64, armor 132

ArmorScaling = (132 – 99)/(64-45) = 1.74 armor/ilvl

(76 – 64) * 1.74 + 132 = 152.8

152.8 * 1.2 = 183.4 -> 183 armor

You can use this to find the ArmorScaling factor and expected armor for any item.

The Equation

Here is the result of testing many forms of equations to see what did the best job of representing the way WoW itemization was handled.

ItemValue = [(StatValueX*StatModX)^1.5+(StatValueY*StatModY)^1.5+ …]^(2/3)/100

There are a few things you should notice about this equation

1) It’s simple (I was dreading something ridiculously complex) but not so simple that it is just all the stats added together. This means that there isn’t some weird voodoo trick to balancing items, but it rather can be represented with a very simple value.

2) Each stat is taken to the 1.5 power. This isn’t too fast of a growth, but it does cause a single high stat to be weighted fairly heavily. For example, an item could have +29 to Str or +18/19 to Str/Stm, the ItemValue would be the roughly the same in either case (close enough to correspond to the same ilvl).

3) After summing the series of stats to the 1.5 power, the total sum it taken to the 2/3 power, this keeps the ItemValue from spiraling up and scaling with a power. After this modification the ItemValue scales linearly with ilvl.

Item Types

You’ve probably noticed that some item slots tend to have better stats than others. That is a helm for example will usually give a better benefit than a bracer. The stat value for each item corresponds not only to its ilvl, but also to the equipment slot in which it belongs. Below are the scaling factors by which the predicted ItemValue for any item of a given ilvl should be modified by to compare it to the actual ItemValue. That is, ItemValue = PredictedItemValue * SlotMod

SlotMod list

Head – 100%
Neck – 54%
Shoulder – 74%
Back – 54%
Chest – 100%
Wrist – 54%
Hands – 74%
Waist – 74%
Legs – 100%
Feet – 74%
Ring – 54%
Trinkets – 68%
Shield – 52%
Off-hand – 52%

These weapons aren’t guaranteed, but they are my preliminary numbers
1h Weapon – 42%
2h Weapon – 100%

The Weightings

After comparing thousands of items, these are some rough weightings I have obtained. Some, such as str, int, resists, +spell damage, etc… are pretty reliable since they occur on many items and in large values. Others, such as %crit, %tohit, %spellcrit and others are much rougher as they don’t appear much and then only in small values (1 or 2%). It is harder to get a solid value for them due to this. Also, items that have nothing else except for 1 or 2 of these less common stats sometimes wont fit in at exactly the ilvl you would expect because getting 1 more of that stat would push it far too high, or it was close and they just rounded when creating the item.

Another thing to consider, a few weightings seem to be different on different item types. This is certainly the case for weapons, but also some stats on rings and necks as well. For example, rings can get higher resist values than their ilvl would imply, so they have a slightly lower StatMod for resists. They have a higher StatMod for x/5 health regen though. There are a few scattered stats that are this way, but overall they make a relatively small impact.

Strength = Agility = Stamina = Intellect = Spirit = 230
Attack Power = 115
Ranged Attack Power = 92
+%To Hit = 2200
+%Crit = 3200
Armor = 22
Defense = 230
Damage Shield = 720
+%Dodge = 2500
+%Parry = 3600
+%Block =1300
+BlockValue = 150
x/5 hp regen = 650
x/5 mana regen = 550
+%SpellCrit = 2600
+%SpellHit = 2500
+AllSpells = 192
+Healing = 100
+Fire = +Frost = +Shadow = +Arcane = +Nature = 159
+Holy = 210
Fire Resist = Frost Resist = Nature Resist = Arcane Resist = Shadow Resist = 230

ItemValue Estimations

Now that we know how item values are figured, and having listed out hundred of items we know that they scale linearly with level, we should be able to predict them based on ilvl, item type and quality.

Green ItemValuePrediction = (ilvl * 1.21 – 9.8 ) * SlotMod
Blue ItemValuePrediction = (ilvl * 1.42 – 4.2) * SlotMod
Purple ItemValuePrediction = (ilvl * 1.64 + 11.2) * SlotMod

What does this tell us?

So now we have all the tools, let’s apply them.

First let’s try to see if we can predict an item’s ItemValue and then check it.

For this example we will use

Circle of Applied Force
Binds when picked up
Finger Miscellaneous
+12 Strength
+22 Agility
+9 Stamina
Requires Level 60

This item has an ilvl of 75.

If we do the prediction calc above we find that it should have an ItemValue of about 72.1. If we do the calculations with the stat numbers of the item we find that its actual ItemValue is 71.1. Now why is this a whole point below what it should be? That’s because if any of the 3 stats on the ring were increased by just 1 point it would go above 72.1 and wouldn’t be a valid ilvl 75 ring anymore (also I wouldn’t put it past rounding errors).

We can also try this on

Cloak of the Shrouded Mists
Binds when picked up
57 Armor
+22 Agility
+12 Stamina
+6 Fire Resistance
+6 Nature Resistance
Requires Level 60
Item Level 74

This case is a tigher fit, estimated value using this system comes to 71.8, while the actual ItemValue of the cloak is 71.7.

And just so you casters don’t think I’m forgetting you (I’m a healer too after all).

Shroud of Pure Thought
Binds when picked up
57 Armor
+10 Stamina
+11 Intellect
Requires Level 60
Equip: Increases healing done by spells and effects by up to 33.
Equip: Restores 6 mana every 5 sec.
Item Level 75

The estimated ItemValue of this cape is 72.7, while the actual value falls into the window well at 72.5.

You might be wondering why I keep showing capes. It’s because of my next example of mishaps in item creation.

Also, I am showing some high end items to demonstrate that this system works, but many of my values and the scaling groundwork were obtained examining low – med lvl green and blue scaling. So it typically works well across all ilvl ranges.

Item Creation Gone Wrong – Mislabelling

Let’s use this to examine a blizzard blooper.

Everyone probably knows of the Drape of Benediction (ilvl 67)

It is a cape that seems horribly underpowered for where you get it from, Azuregos. Let’s see how it shapes up using these tools.

When you work out the numbers, the actual ItemValue of the Drape is 48.3, but an ilvl 67 Epic cape should chime in at 65.3 so something seems amiss.

Maybe its ilvl was too high? Lets see at what ilvl an epic cape should have an ItemValue of 48.3. This works out to be ilvl 48, seems a little low and random, maybe we are missing something….

Let’s see what the ItemValue of a rare (blue) ilvl 67 cape would be, maybe that will tell us something. This value is 48.9 (with a lower bound of 48.2). The ItemValue of the drape of benediction falls right into this window.

So now we have the mysterious ilvl 67 rare (not epic) cape, drape of benediction. All of you who said it shouldn’t have been an epic are exactly right. It was designed as a rare and flagged as an epic (a mixup like the snowblind shoes that are epic but originally tagged as a rare, though they fixed those).

Items Valued with unnaturally high ItemValue

There are also items that have been tweaked or changed by blizz that have item values far above what they should (and if you look carefully for discrepancies you will be able to tell which they are). But I’m not going to go into specifics as I was asked by people who use them not to get them nerfed ;)

Tier 2 Sets

Many people have voiced opinions that tier 2 sets are not any better and in some cases worse than tier 1. In some cases of practicality for the needs of the class they are assigned to that may be true, but they were not balanced as worse. People also said that they were intentionally created to be even with tier 1 sets because people already got some in molten core, and that their stats would be raised after bwl comes out.

However, taking a look at item values for items in tier 2, they are exactly where they should be as ilvl 76 items compared to the tier 1 sets sitting at ilvl 66. The item designers just made choices on where to spend those stats that many people don’t agree with.

So don’t expect an across the board boost of tier 2 armor. The most they would do is move some of the allowed stats around, but they will likely stay ilvl 76.

Patch Fun Day

Both World of Warcraft and DAoC patch tomorrow. The first also releases two new servers based on the fancy PvP-RP ruleset.

Here in Italy I plan to wake up at 20:00 (yeah, I’m odd) and download the WoW’s patch while I enjoy “Desperate Housewives” on TV (it started just yesterday and I love it). Then I’ll upload the two patches in my archive.

I may start one character on both server, both females and both priests. Take that. On Maelstrom I’ll be Alliance and dwarf, on Emerald Dream (but I doubt F13 accepts me) I’ll be Horde and undead.

That’s just the plan because the reality will go differently. The two servers will be completely inaccessible and unplayable even if you will suffer through the three hours queues. So, instead of joining the new servers and surf the novelty, I’ll just give a look to the new PvP BG on my home server and then log in the dying Lamorak server, in my dying guild on DAoC to give a look at the new epic quests and sit LFG in front of a task dungeon while I mourn my newest failure.

Come stalk me?

EDIT- If you are hunting for mirrors both QT3 and F13 have direct links. Mine will be up later.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged: ,

Players are smarter than designers

Just a quick note. I was skimming a pdf linked on a dead forum. Just skimming because I own the book already.

But what caught my attention is a few pages that really fit to describe WoW’s PvP problems:

Page 26: Players seeking to advance in a game will always try to optimize what they are doing.

Page 27: If they are clever and see an optimal path, they’ll do that instead of the “intended gameplay”.

Page 28: They will try to make the game as predictable as possible. Which then means it becomes boring, and not fun.


Then, beside WoW, go skim the pdf like I did. It’s worth the time. (even if you own the book already, I’d say)

Posted in: Uncategorized |