Money Caps, and Background Knowledge For High Level Players

Hey guys! A very long post here, and mostly it’s for the old-timers who’ve been playing a while. You guys have been amazing testers and very helpful, and I haven’t done a great job of keeping you in the loop with where things are going. So I want to address some of that today. And we’ll start by talking about the new NPC feature.

NPC Money Caps

Months ago, I mentioned that I’d be adding limits to how much money each NPC could spend each week, for each player. There are a lot of good reasons for this, but the biggest one is that it keeps people from ignoring all but the one best-value shopkeeper in each zone. If I’m going to spend the time to implement lots of NPC shopkeepers, they need to be worth using, for at least a decent number of people.

Before this change, most vendors were actively bad: if you raised your Favor Level with lots of different vendors in the same zone, you were playing poorly! You were spending your time and money very sub-optimally. This … sucks. This is bad design. I want to encourage people to befriend lots of NPCs, not just as “something to do if you’re bored”, but also because it’s a smart way to play the game. And I can’t afford to have lots of the game’s content (which, remember, is tied into befriending NPCs) be useless.

But as I said in that earlier blog post, I never intended to make this system as annoying as the shopkeepers in Skyrim, where you couldn’t even sell one dungeon’s worth of loot to a shopkeeper. That’s too tedious. So I set the caps pretty high — the average vendor can buy $20,000 to $60,000 worth of stuff from you each week. According to my spreadsheet, this is several dungeon-delves’-worth of loot, even at the highest level. So you should be able to run a dungeon, sell everything to one vendor, and then repeat several times per week before they hit their purchase cap and you have to move on to someone else. You’ll need a small stable of vendors to cycle through, but it’s not really that big a limiter. (Keep in mind that their cap goes up as you gain Favor, so the $60k number is based on having the highest favor level.)

At least, that’s what I thought. But that’s not how it’s worked out, because of how badly I was off. On the one hand, I knew my spreadsheet was off — I’ve seen some broken-looking items, and I know that a bunch of the cash-values for craft skills are just placeholder values. But I figured it wouldn’t be that badly off. If people complained a lot, I figured I’d double the cap.

According to high-level players, I’m insane, because they can easily make $50,000 an hour. This is… not good, for a lot of reasons.

I just didn’t think the values were that broken. I keep forgetting that people are not mind-readers. I figured if you suddenly went from making a few thousand an hour to making $50,000 an hour, you’d report that as a bug. But it doesn’t look like a bug to people.

The bug isn’t in the spreadsheets, but in the code: when the game adds enchantments to an item, it increases the value by the wrong amount. The more enchantments, the more wrong the value is. I’m usually testing with a set of Uncommon (green-color) loot, and I could see that it was a little off. But for epic loot, it’s insanely far off. There should almost not be any item in the game worth more than $3000, yet people are routinely reporting finding items worth $5000… even $8000.

So I’ve tracked down that bug. But that isn’t the whole problem. Lots of craftable items have placeholder cash values which I need to fix, too. A while back I decided everything craft able was too low-value, so I just went through and tripled everything across the board, to keep people who were trying out crafting from being too frustrated. Players seem to have quickly honed in on the most egregiously overvalued items, and just do those forever, never reporting them as being particularly borked. Rule of thumb: if a cash value looks borked, it’s borked.

In addition to fixing that issue and some of the crafting-item costs, I’ve also doubled the caps of all vendors, to make it less of a pain in the ass at the moment. (The updated build of the game is compiling as I write this, and will be live later this afternoon.)

You Won’t Be Twiddling Your Thumbs

The game is in alpha, and shit happens. The game is changing every week — I’m still working out how combat will play out, so I hope nobody expects the economy to be well put-together at this point!

But I’ve heard people voice concern that they will literally use up all the money in the world. The caps are currently so low compared to the amount of money being made, that a hardcore player could easily wipe out the entire world’s NPC economy, and then have to wait a week for it to reset. This is especially easy right now since there’s only three zones in the game.

Rest assured that this will not be possible in the final game! (Well, nigh-impossible, anyway.) If you play 20 hours a week you may need to wander between 5 or 7 NPCs throughout the week, and if you play like the game’s a full-time job you’ll need a bigger stable of vendors. But in any case you will always be able to sell your crap to somebody, somewhere. The number of vendors in the game now is tiny compared to the final game.

I realize that some players just don’t want there to be ANY cap. They just don’t like it. They want to be able to stay in the same place and do the same thing all week if they feel like it, and the idea that the game would artificially keep them from doing that is upsetting. I respect that, but I can’t help it: this is too important. But it’s not going to be nearly as restrictive as it seems in the game today.

Bottom line: In terms of cash, if you are making more than $10k an hour, you’re way off my cash chart. I’m not saying that accusatively. Not at all! Just understand that the amount of money you’re making is not the amount of money I intended you to make. That will change, one way or another: some values are going down, while other values will become the “right” value.

(And of course, this will mean lots of other things that I’ve kinda hand-waved at so far will need changing, too. The biggest one being the price of abilities and recipes.)

Also Broken: Max-Level Combat Skills

It occurred to me that since you guys seem pretty bad at reading my mind, I should give you some more background info, so you can see where we’re headed.

Combat skills are, for the most part, brokenly powerful. Lycanthropy and Mentalism are particularly egregious, but Fire Magic, Sword, even Psychology is brokenly powerful with certain equipment builds I was trying out — I believe every combat skill can be insanely overpowered with the right equipment right now.

And because of the free-form nature of the game, there will always be big imbalances. That’s okay. It’s actually good: that means there’s reasons to explore different builds, because you may find a crazy powerful one. That’s part of the fun of this game.

To maximize that fun, my plan is that, after the game launches, I won’t do rebalancing more than once every six months. I’ll let players find fun crazy builds, enjoy them a while, and then roll out a new batch of changes, so you can start all over again. (Kinda like how Magic: the Gathering rolls out card expansions.) If you find crazy broken stuff, you’ll have access to it for a good long while, and by the time I change it, hopefully you’ll be bored of it anyway and ready to try something new.

I figure that after launch, a super-broken character build might be twice as powerful as my baseline character. That’s a huge power difference! Which is fun. But right now the power difference between baseline and optimal is… hmm, let’s say 500%.

That is to say that some players in the game are literally 5 times more powerful than I expect them to be on paper. They are like five players glued together. They’re their own hunting group of one.

This imbalance has been obvious for a long while, before Kur Mountains was even added to the game, and I’ve mentioned before that this is temporary. The day I realized how broken some builds are is the day I watched the old-timer tester Avila farm the “placeholder boss” rhinos, which were supposed to be nearly invincible. I thought “Wow. Well, that’s cool for a while.” Those bosses are a great way to get lots of high-powered equipment to test with, and it was great to see the handful of testers experimenting with new builds at a rapid pace — it gave me lots of feedback with only a few players online. So I haven’t been in a huge hurry to fix it, since there still aren’t enough players to group up with very often.

But the problem is, not all players were around the last time I explained that this is temporary. More than a few assume that the current overpowered builds are intentional.

So, an important rule of thumb: if you can easily solo the werewolf den in Kur, you are overpowered. It should take 3-4 well equipped level 45 players to clear that dungeon… maybe down to 2 players if they have optimal gear or lots of consumables, and work carefully and slowly. Soloing it at level 50 should be… well, not quite impossible, but a damned impressive feat!

(Before I get the impassioned “you should buff instead of nerf” talk: I’m very amenable to buffing in general, and I’m not planning to raze the current equipment stats to the ground or anything — I’ll also be buffing monster stats to compensate. But let’s not kid around about how big a difference this is: it’s literally impossible for me to make a dungeon that can defeat the most broken characters on the server. To do it, I’d need to extend my monster spreadsheets way beyond where they cap out right now! There’s just a ridiculous power disparity, and since this is alpha, I need to fix it in the most efficient way possible.)

The biggest problem is that I’m not communicating what you need to know — at least, not often enough.

I think most high-level players are well aware that this is alpha — you know that lots of stuff is going to change, and you’re okay with that. But you don’t know WHAT is going to change, and I don’t mean to throw so many curveballs at you.

I’ve been assuming that players realize how overpowered they are, and are okay with it, and are thinking accordingly about how the game will play in the future. But that’s a fallacy. You don’t know what I’m thinking, you only know what the game is like now.

Fixing these imbalances just hasn’t been a huge priority, because so few people are at high level with these broken sets of equipment. And to be honest, this won’t become a high priority for a while. I’ll soon be tackling some of the most egregious equipment, but not anywhere near a full balance pass. It’s premature before I even have all the combat skills implemented!

But this does skew how high-level players perceive the game. So that’s why I’m trying to explain it here.

The Intentions

And hmm, maybe it would be helpful to give you some guidelines about where I see the game when it’s done (which, remember, is a year away, assuming the Kickstarter is successful).

  • Players will not be able to fully solo most dungeons their level. They’ll be able to solo the “front” of many dungeons, and if they’re good, maybe one of the sub-bosses, but the deeper in you go, the less soloable it is.
  • Many dungeons go up in intended level at the back, and are designed for you to come back later when you’re higher level.
  • Income is supposed to scale almost linearly as you level up. So if you go from making $400/hour to $500/hour and then suddenly to $2000/hour overnight, it’s not intentional!
  • Power scales a little faster than linearly, but not a lot. A level 30 and a level 40 player should be in the same power range and able to fight the same monsters and have fun together. Same with a level 40 and a level 50 player.
  • Some combat-skills are INTENTIONALLY easy to level up at first. That’s because they’re not unlocked from the start of the game. For instance, Necromancy is MUCH easier to level for the first 25 levels than Sword. But that’s because it’s hard to get: you have to kill a boss to get it. So you won’t be using Necromancy from day one. When you finally get it, I want you to be able to rather trivially bring it up to replace one of the skills you were using before that. But this “accelerated advancement” should stop by about level 30, if not sooner.
  • The “soft cap” for all combat skills will eventually be 100, not 50. After you hit 100, you can still raise the skills by up to 25 more points, by raising OTHER skills that synergize and give you extra levels, or by doing unique difficult quests.
  • There will be “advancement gate quests” that unlock your ability to go from level 50 to level 75, and then from level 75 to 100. These will be unique quests for each combat skill. So when you hit 50, you’ll need to seek out the trainer that can guide you to the next chunk of the level curve.
  • As you advance past level 50, it will become cost-prohibitive to “know all the skills”. Eventually you will need to pick three (or maybe four) combat skills to level up. You won’t be able to level ALL of them up without a ton of grinding. Same with craft skills.
  • PvP is only going to be a small part of the game. We’ll add some more PvP-centric stuff like an outdoor area and some arenas, but this will never be an open-PvP game. This is quite intentionally a care bear game! PvP brings out the asshole in a lot of people, and the community needs to remain friendly and helpful, because otherwise it’s just way too hard to figure out how to play. So PvP will always be a side-thing for the high-level players to do. (Unless of course we get enough players to support multiple servers… then we can consider a PK death fest server if there’s enough interest.)
  • There won’t be a player wipe. But there will probably be partial wipes, like resetting certain skills, wiping out some equipment, maybe even resetting everybody’s cash to a predetermined amount if the existing economy just seems unsalvageable. I’ll be as careful as I can about taking things away from people, though. If you’ve been here a while, hopefully you’ve seen that in action.

I’m sure there are a lot of other things I should tell you, but those are the big ones that jump to mind.

Kickstarter: July 31

And all this is predicated on a successful Kickstarter. That will give us the funds to keep going for another year, and “officially” launch in fall or winter of 2015.

If the Kickstarter succeeds by more than the expected amount, I’ll be using the extra money to bring more people on board (a QA person would be amazingly useful, for instance), but the target launch date will remain the same.

If the Kickstarter fails… I dunno. Let’s just not let that happen!

9 thoughts on “Money Caps, and Background Knowledge For High Level Players

  1. Sup boss, I’ve understood since I started delving into the end game that I have made massively over powered decisions. I also knew that it was wrong and tried to help you bring it into line, it just ended up not being “enough” for what you wanted it to actually be.

    I also know that nearly every skill in the game can stack to be as powerful as any other (with a few variances) but the real problem is the EASE of getting specific bonuses for some skills is MUCH! easier than getting some for others…

    you changed the loot weight of the treasure hunter bonus, it seems like your scales need some balancing in the “combat skill bonus” area. so that they are just less common to appear together, not change/remove them entirely

    getting a ring with +30 armor dmg on 1 attack, +30 hp dmg on same attack, and +30 dmg on a 2nd attack PLUS a 24% chance of +100 dmg on a THIRD attack.. that’s a little wacked and I think you can agree that just bringing the slot machine in to the “houses” favor would change that.. make a jackpot nearly impossible. it should still exist.. but it should be the most prized item on the server and be an economy equivalent of say.. the worlds larges uncut flawless diamond.

    You really cant stop the economy.. once you blow to large player populations, there will be little npc merching. especially if you facilitate a market with something like an AH or high quality barter system..

    I think most games have made a mistake in that they only create a gold market for the AH..

    If you created a system where a player could list item X for nY’s instead of listing item X for 90k.. but still have both options.. you could create an economy that is thriving, without all the hassle of spamming chat 24/7 for 6 months to unload 1 great item

    You will try and try and try.. but I can tell you with near certainty.. if you ALLOW me INSIDE any dungeon.. I will find a way to solo it.. that’s the kind of person I am. by simply giving me the slightest glimmer of possibility to do so. I will find a way, and there are others like me.

    we will tear apart your design to a latch-key science and execute. you cant balance for people like us. it will be a “feat” the first few times.. then it will be routine. while others spend hours clearing a dungeon with a group and struggle. so changing anything to counter the adepts will butcher your client base.

    locking out solo players isn’t really a good option either..
    if you own a night club, sure, put some big bad bouncers at the door, lets the group of hot women in no problem.. I’ll just slip in the back
    (really if you added a secondary entrance to most dungeon like you did goblin dungeon and set up structured challenges like… if too many players they hear you and sound alarm.. or not enough players to silence the guards quickly…)

    back on balance.. you really wont be able to touch balance on the monsters end until you implement a few things..

    * better healing skills that dont require tons of gear to maintain a group

    * Defense.. I’m waiting on a tank.. seriously.

    * More crafting options.. being able to make metal armor will, on its own.. increase your ability to flex your monster muscles because more people will be able to get higher armor totals.

    * other option is change your curve for armor ramp higher faster at the high end (that will probably come with + level cap I know)

    right now there are too few people who have the skills to group effectively, and swinging a bat at the damage monkeys will shatter content access.

    right now this game is diablo 3 pre RoS expac… dps EVERYTHING before it kills you, because building a tank is stupid and you’ll die more as a tank than as an aoe dpser

  2. The money cap is an interesting implementation. I have never seen a such thing in any game I’ve played. I like it.

    It gave me an idea:
    Let the players’ actions affect the vendors. If people buy a lot from a vendor, he or she may be willing to buy more. Should the players then change and only buy few things from the vendor, then the vendor will not buy as so much from the players.

    Also, what about a marketplace? A vendor selling and buying everything, but as the players sell the vendor lots of salt, the price of salt decreases, but so does the pay for it. However, should the vendor be running low on potatoes, the price will increase and so will the pay for selling potatoes. There could be a haggling skill which, when used, had a chance of lowering buy-prices or increasing sell-prices.

  3. I would like to address something else in your post : Kickstarter. I am a bit worried about 2 things.
    First, marketing, it seems that this game is not well known or referenced in the most popular mmo websites (www.mmorpg.com or others). I don’t know how kickstarter can success if people are not aware of the game or can’t try it before.
    Second, date of kickstarter. A lot of people, at least in Europe, at on vacations during the first 3 weeks of august and are not going to internet or play mmos, so i am confused on the choice of this date for kickstarter.

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