Pointless Irritation

| Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Melmoth has a point: Item durability is more or less a meaningless irritation at this point in MMOs.

Does armor and weapon durability make you play or think differently? Would you change tactics because of it? Strategy? Class makeup for an instance or raid? Would item durability make you go somewhere that you normally wouldn't? Well obviously this last one is true, you'll hit repair vendors more often, in the city that you're sitting in anyway. So did anything change? Nope.

Durability is a gold sink. That's the given justification. Makes sense. Or does it? I don't think so. If the purpose is merely to regulate the gold supply, why not work off the supply end of it? People might complain if quest gold went down, but would they notice or care about a few copper shaved off mob drops and trash vendor prices?

Repairs could also be WoW's version of a death penalty, a way to discourage dying. Except for that they are too low. And redundant. We already don't want to die. Proof? Battlegrounds. People avoid dying even when armor takes no durability loss (beside the combat damage, but no death damage). People still raid and wipe for hours, going through full durability cycles over a night. It's not the repair cost that makes them play carefully and cautiously, it's the time cost.

Repair costs simply are not adding anything worthwhile. The gold sink could instead be less gold added. They don't discourage death any more than already existing mechanics. They don't send us somewhere new in the world. Instead they send us to the same vendor across the street from the auction house to hand over some more gold. Sometimes they waste our time in a heroic when gear breaks, then we yell at the thoughtless idiot who didn't repair before joining. Repairs don't add any meaning.

This doesn't mean that they couldn't. Repairing armor could be a part of the player economy, using player crafters or even player materials. Is a cobalt bar any different from a few gold? Yes. Yes it is. A cobalt bar sends someone out into the world to find a node. A few gold sends them to the same daily quest they did before. Even worse, when we're saturated with gold and gold sinks, the devs think we're becoming poor, so they add more gold, and then we're inflated so they add sinks, in a round and round cycle of running the same daily so we can pay the same armor vendor from whom we never buy anything.

I suppose this is subjective. Maybe you think that repairs add nothing but irritation, but you also think that running to the black anvil added nothing either. And maybe someone else thinks that repairs make everything so much more real. But I suspect that last person isn't very common.


Dsj said...

Repair costs add an incentive to not suck... They are an irritation to good players but to less skilled players they put a limit on your willingness to endlessly wipe or brut force your way through an encounter. My willingness to wipe often is decided by the estimate of my repair costs.

Mhorgrim said...

@ Dsj ~ Agreed there. I know I won't try a high lv instance unless I am ready to deal with repairs and how much I am willing to spend. I know I am not an experienced raider or even a remotely experienced heroic so I won't waste my gold or others untill I am confident I have a reasonable chance of dealing with the challenges.

As to a death penalty, isnt really such a thing in WoW. The closest I ever saw to a cool death penalty was when SWG first came out. You died you took longer lasting damage to your stats untill you got them healed. They were not quite permanent but they made life hell on you to find people to fix them. EQ had the harshest death penalty, unless you could find exactly where your corpse died, your gear was gone and when the game first came out that really sucked. Especially when you think of the way you couldnt just teleport in. Also other players could loot your corpse, that was a penalty.

Nils said...

In fact, there is a surising number of WoW players who complain about repair costs. I never understood why.

Klepsacovic said...

@Dsj and Mhorgrim: Is gold actually in short supply for you or is it just the principle of the thing, not wanting to waste gold on idiots?

@Nils: I've complained plenty (not referring to this post), but let's be sure to separate those things which make us whine and those things which make us actually at differently.

*vlad* said...

Repair costs back in vanilla used to be expensive; now even a hundred gold doesn't matter. It's not a real problem unless you are raiding, and then have to hearth back to your home base to get a repair, and then people have to summon you back. That is a complete time-waster.
Just put repairers outside the raid entrance, and it's not a hassle.
On the subject of vendors, why do they sell all that shit that no-one wants? Crap grey weapons and armour sets that are not worth using even at low levels?

Mhorgrim said...

@ Klepsacovic ~ More to the point, while I have a decent amount of gold, a couple of hard wipes would in fact destroy the supplies I have. This is because I have spent more time instancing and less gathering, my work schedule will never allow for long runs at money making followe by serious instances. But on top of that, it is a pricipal issue, Why waste what I earned? It sounds cautious but the funding can better be funneled elsewhere in my opinion.

Tesh said...

The time cost is the whole point. It slows the players down. Ditto for respeccing (GW handles respeccing much faster). There are those who will argue either side of whether or not slowing the players down is good or not. I think it's bad form when you're paying for time, but there are design reasons for it as well.

...sort of like slow travel. Pointless irritation. If I want to explore, I will, and I do, more often than not. If I want to get somewhere *now*, it's pointlessly irritating to make me go through the intervening terrain at a slow clip and/or via a winding path.

DSJ said...

For me personally I no longer have to worry about the gold costs of repairs. My main concern any more is the amount of time an in-experienced group can cost me. As someone that is very experienced with heroics in all 3 roles my personal view today is to leave a group that refuses to change tactics rather than one that simply wipes costing me gold. The inability to learn from a wipe is a determining factor for me. I think in general repair costs are a form of feedback to the newer player. A large repair bill is an indication that you are probably doing something the hard way and need to adjust your spec or methods. It's a disincentive feedback whereas loot/gold are positive feedbacks. The system doesn't work as well without both.

As to a raid situation the repair cost is a minor factor. The costs of the consumables are the negative part of the feedback loop there. The guild perks you see seem strange sometimes until you consider that almost all of them in someway allow you to mitigate those negative feedback loops in the game.. For solo, group, and raid play.

Klepsacovic said...

@vlad: I think that stuff is to add a sense of realism to the world.

@Mhorgrim: If there were no repair bills, do you think you'd be more willing to run with difficult groups?

@Tesh: Maybe the problem with travel is that there's nothing worthwhile along the way.

Max said...

Main reason I think durability is required feature of game world is to allow economies and crafters to function properly.

You can do it with item loss (such as full ship destruction in EvE) but for many reasons I consider this overly harsh and detrimental for most players experience (player tend to "bond" to items ).

Repair costs are also realistic and fit well in simulation and world aspects .

Faeldray said...

Repairs in WoW might be more realistic if characters with professions that make said type of armor (LWers, blacksmiths, etc) could repair them instead of NPCs, or in addition to NPCs.

The only time where I've really seen durability affect game play is in DDO. Having never really played any Dungeons & Dragons, I once tried hacking one of those acid ooze monsters to bits with my sword. I was sad when my sword broke after about 3 hits.

Coreus said...

It's just one element of flavour in the game; one more interaction with the game world. WoW isn't supposed to be gameplay in a vacuum, it's designed to be a World.

...Or at least it used to be before a million crying idiots told the developers that the World was a pointless irritation standing between them and the actual gameplay.

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