Monday, February 15, 2010

Of Stats and Gear

Early screenshots of World of Warcraft included pics of a window with lots of stats. It was obviously a hold-over from pen-and-paper games, namely Dungeons and Dragons, where the game was centered around dozens of stats to follow through the course of character development. For many years, these lists of stats was essential to the core gameplay of all pen-and-paper and even computer fantasy role-playing games.

The developers for World of Warcraft decided that the stats would be too cumbersome for the type of player that they wanted to attract. The solution to character growth was found in the gear. Where older games added very limited bonuses to gear, WoW relied heavily on it.

In older games, a single weapon with a single bonus stat (ex, +1 to damage) might last a character for several levels, even through the course of the majority of the game.

But in WoW, a starting weapon would be inadequate within five quick levels, even sooner for less-experience players. You begin receiving upgrades from quests immediately out of the gate. In fact, the very first upgrades can arrive for a level one character from just the first few kills of level one beasts. This sets the stage for the remainder of the character's life. Without the quick upgrades, characters would find themselves outmatched very soon.

By now, most players are familiar with characters who have gear with thousands of points in stats and hundreds of bonus points on top of that.

This is also why there is so much gear in the game, and why Blizzard must spend so much time on gear creation and testing. So much time is spent on gear now that Blizzard has been forced to limit the unique physical features. Characters of different classes have to wear the same gear, but in different colors.

In the end, it appears that by removing the standard stat window with stat-laden gear has caused many headaches for the developers.

What if they were to remove most of those stats and put in that old stat window? Would that give the developers more time to design more unique gear? Or would it just move the headache to a new place rather than removing it all together? Would the artists even be able to design more gear or are they pretty much stuck with their current level of output?

There is so much gear in the game and so much to be added still. I would love to see more interesting designs rather than the oft-hastily slapped together items that we normally get. If moving those stats to a separate window would allow the team to create fewer identical pieces with all of those class-specific stats, and also allow them to focus on more unique designs, would it be worth the effort?

No comments: