Set This Up

Yesterday for work, I had to drive for just over 300 miles. It sucked, but it did give me a lot of time for thinking, and other than my normal listening to talk radio, and physically feeling my blood pressure rise at the ridiculous crap that goes on in government, I had time to think about my other favorite hobby: gaming. I was thinking about my DoK and my SW and the gear they are currently in, what gear progression I was working towards on them, and the cost/benefit of those items.

Particularly I started thinking about sets, and set bonuses. I know it’s hard for some of the WoW generation to remember, but there was a time before set bonuses. WoW was the first “traditional” MMO to make use of them, it really was a ported copy of a concept from Diablo II. Hell, the entirety of WoW was little more than an elongated, more complex version of Diablo II (but that’s a different topic all-together). I remember when I first started playing EQ2, I hauled my CPU over to my friend’s place with a buddy, and the three of us jumped into the game together. We were shocked when we got gear with stat bonuses on them from early levels! Set bonuses were never even in that game till much, much later (Echoes of Faydwer I believe).

So, what has led to this seemingly new staple of modern MMOs? Why are set bonuses used?

Most people seem to love them. This is in part because it gives a direct goal, a tangible increase in achievement to work towards. The concept of, “I just need to get one more piece of X to get this bonus!” is a strong driving force, that lets a player focus on the one mission. Giving players targets in a game keeps them playing and having fun, and I’m okay with this.  From a design perspective, it also gives an easier mode of dolling out incremental power. You know it’s going to take time to get one piece of gear on average, then it will take even longer for future pieces (repeat drops become more likely the more of a set you have). In a purely PvE game, this is one method used to slow down progression. The gear treadmill has been used to great effect as demonstrated in WoW, EQ2, and (reportedly) LotRO.

However, in a game like WAR, we don’t rely on only drops of the gear, and even the drops are common. Keep takes has people who can opt out of loot rewards, increasing your chances, and keep flips are very common. Enemy players drop some pieces, and there is the token system. In the current live game, just by taking keeps and playing in the RvR field, it is possible to gear up completely to conqueror gear without ever spending a single token. All of that is on top of the PvE sets you can attain by doing dungeons. In the game of WAR, these set bonuses don’t always give what is desired to the player, and frequently the final bonuses aren’t worthwhile, especially in comparison to mixed sets.

For instance, on my Shadow Warrior, I’m in a mix of 3 Dark Promise, 3 Invader armor, the bonuses that is given at that threshold is just far too beneficial when seen in comparison to the 4, 5 or 6 piece rewards. What was once a benefit and a method of rewarding achievement has turned into a stifling system of gear progression. In WAR, typically the best option is to piecemeal your way through the sets, and I don’t think this was the intention when designed. So, the logical next step, if you accept that premise is this: what can be done to incentivize people to where full sets, or to not see sets as a necessity?

For the first, an obvious answer is to spread the bonuses out over all the set pieces. It would be similar in that if they wore the whole suit, then they would have the entirety of the benefits, but the removal of each piece doesn’t result in a dramatic shift in viability, it presents the player with incremental changes and more choice (and options and choice are good!).

For the second, when can look at the old ward system. Mythic made a step in the right direction by removing ward requirement from gear, but it didnt’ change the gear that most people wore. Should they maybe do the same with set bonuses? Perhaps, make set bonuses unlocks, and include a vendor who can add and remove the bonuses to whatever armor you want to wear once you’ve opened it up. There, of course would have to be a limiting factor so that you can’t put six three piece bonuses on your character and have and extra 210 wounds and 210 toughness (or something similar). Still, it’s a possible method of implementation that would still require the player to strive to seek out set pieces for the unlock of the bonus, but give the player more control over what is actually used.

I’m not some old gaming curmudgeon who thinks that sets and their bonuses are terrible ideas, however, I think it’s time we moved past their current incarnation. More than before, it’s become a limiting factor that restricts freedom and choice, and I’m opposed to that as much in my gameplay as I am in real life. I like to end these kinds of posts with questions, so I’ll ask these few queries:

  • How do you feel about sets in regards to choice and customization?
  • Do you think that set-gear has a place in MMOs?
  • How do you feel about the portability of bonuses?
  • Do you have an ideas that would improve upon the notion of set gear?
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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

2 Responses to Set This Up

  1. Brian Inman says:

    I like the set bonuses to a certain degree, but I hate them too.

    My biggest gripe in WAR was getting higher ranked renown gear, but because of the loss in set bonuses you couldn’t really wear the better gear until you had at least 3 pieces. Also instead of earning your gear at the same time you had to wait a few renown levels for each piece. Once you were 64+ renown rank it meant you could play for a few weeks or months with your upgraded gear sitting in the bank until you managed to get renown rank 68 to wear your warlord gear.

    I think somehow the set bonuses should of worked between your upgrades, but not exactly sure how they could of implemented it.

  2. Alastriona says:

    The other sticking point for me with set bonuses is that often, the set bonus for the next highest set is kind of terrible. I know of several healers who are RR40+ and still running around in Annihilator because the bonuses are better than Conqueror. for me, I avoided pretty much all of the conqueror set except for the boots, because the bonuses were all geared primarily towards assault stance SW’s. (Because the stat I need in Scout stance is definitely Weapon Skill. 9_9)
    As far as a ward-system equivalent for set bonuses, I’d definitely go for it. I love my 3 DP, 2 Invader, 1 Tyrant set currently, but if I could switch some bonuses up? Heck yes, I’d be all over that. I think that you’d have to make some sort of checks and balances system – i.e., you can’t have more than one bonus of the same stat type, but otherwise, that would be great.
    I also agree with Brian’s point – I had all of my Invader pieces by RR40-something, but I had to wait until I hit 55 to switch so that I wouldn’t lose a ton of stats. It was kind of frustrating to not be able to use the 5 pieces of armor I was eligible for, because I wasn’t high enough rank for one…
    I’m just waiting for the armor design changes to come out. My DP belt looks the same as my Sentinel did, which looked the same as my Annihilator belt. Boring.

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