07/08/2017

Character or Legacy?

Last week, Keith announced on the forums that Bioware is planning to make a lot more currencies legacy-wide in the near future, which will even include credits. Ted and I talked about this on the podcast, and as I said there, my main reaction to this news was mostly curiosity because I'd quite like to find out just how many credits I have spread out across my legacy. But what was even more interesting to me was to read players' reactions to the announcement. Mostly they were positive, but a few people were grousing about losing another piece of their characters' individuality. Others immediately clamoured for Bioware to make even more things account- or legacy-wide, including social rank, valor rank and more.

I think it's interesting to ask why we want certain things to be legacy- or account-wide but not others. As a general rule, I'm probably more in favour of limiting a character's achievements to that one character than most.

First off, there is immersion. I can already hear some of you groan at the mere mention of the word. It seems to have fallen out of fashion to care about a virtual world's internal consistency unless you're a roleplayer, but I do. People always love to bring up random game features that aren't immersive while arguing that therefore nobody is allowed to care about anything being immersive. But immersion isn't a binary switch, it's a continuum, and just because there are aspects of any given game that work against feeling immersed, that doesn't mean that I don't care about having others that allow me to perceive the virtual world as more "real".

As a general rule, focusing on the player behind the keyboard instead of the characters works against immersion. Of course, everyone draws the line in different places. For example I've never had an issue with characters trading gear. SWTOR's legacy system in particular also supports this lore-wise because your characters are supposed to have a connection to each other. But when I last dipped my toes into World of Warcraft during its Mists of Pandaria expansion for example, I was rather put off by the way pets and mounts had been unified into account-wide UI panels. Being able to pull out the rare bear mount I had once earned on my troll priest on my almost newborn worgen just felt wrong.

But immersion aside, there is another important benefit to limiting certain things to individual characters: being able to start over. If I just had a ton of fun levelling a character to 70, I can go right back to the character creation screen and roll up another one, starting the journey all over again. Imagine if levels were legacy-wide, and once you'd hit max-level, any alts you created automatically started at max level too. I imagine some people would even like that idea! But I would find it abhorrent. Starting over from scratch is one of the great joys in an MMO for me, and immediately having things marked as "done" on every new character limits my options. To be honest that's also my only slight reservation about the legacy-wide credits: It means that if I ever want to feel like a nobody who has to earn every credit again, I basically need to re-roll on another server, because any new character in my existing legacy will automatically have a bulging wallet that will be hard to ignore.

With that in mind, I cannot help but read most requests to make this or that feature legacy-wide as the poster saying: "This might have been fun the first time, but like hell do I ever want to do it again." That's certainly the impression I got when datacrons were made legacy-wide for example. I kind of have mixed feelings about that to this day. On the one hand I can't deny that it's made it faster and easier to level alts without feeling like you need to detour for this kind of stuff or miss out on something important. On the other hand, I pretty much never do datacrons anymore. My guild used to host datacron hunting events fairly regularly, and they were interesting to both new and old players because even if you'd gotten them all on your main, there was almost always an alt or two that didn't have them yet and would benefit. Nowadays anyone who's been playing for any amount of time has got most datacrons at some point and - since they are legacy-wide - never needs to do them again. There is no incentive to help out those who are new to the game and might still need them. I find that kind of sad.

So most of the time when I read requests to make this or that legacy-wide, I can't help but read them like this: Make GSF legacy-wide please! - I hate it and I want to know that once I max out my ships once, I'm done and will never have to think about it again. Make social rank legacy-wide please! - I just want the social rewards on all my alts without ever having to run another flashpoint again. Make valor rank legacy-wide please! - I don't want to have to spend time PvPing on yet another character just to get that cool title; it's such a horrible grind. And so on and so forth. If you enjoy a given type of content, repeating it on alts is fun, and making it legacy-wide to discourage repetition is basically giving in to those who say they don't like it and don't want to feel like they "have to" ever do it again.

That said, there have definitely been times when I felt like making something legacy-wide has been a good thing. For example I really liked the way you could trade warzone commendations among characters pre-5.0. This wasn't about spending less time in PvP, but about redistributing resources from characters who had more than they knew what to do with to those who still needed to buy gear. Likewise, making the new Umbara currency that has been talked about by the devs legacy-wide sounds like a good thing to me because if you can use it to buy a stronghold and strongholds are legacy-wide anyway, why shouldn't different characters be able to pool their resources to work on it together?

Unfortunately, there is no single right answer here. For example I could see someone arguing that the requests to make GSF legacy-wide also fall into the second category, because it's about having your characters share their fully kitted-out ships. But I think that levelling up in GSF can be a fun activity by itself (though I'm sure many would disagree) and something that should be preserved for the individual character.

Where do you fall on the spectrum of wanting things to be bound to character vs. bound to legacy (or even account)?

17 comments :

  1. I agree with all of the above...but I have a solution. Make it optional.

    I'm hugely in favor of making just about everything in MMOs optional - put a toggle on it! Just because I might want to play every character on my account as though none of them has ever or will ever meet any of the others doesn't mean I think everyone else should do the same. It's not as though I even feel the same way about all of my characters; some of them are individuals and some of them are part of a team; some need to do everything on their own while some are very happy to take advantage of the hard work of others. That in itself is part of their characterization.

    And, of course, there are times when I just want a new max-level, fully geared character of X class because there's some specific role I want filled in my roster to do something specific. That character will develop his or her personality in that role - she doesn't need to do 100 levels to get there.

    And so on. Put a toggle on it; let me decide - preferably at character creation - if a new character is going to be Account Based or Character Based. Put toggles on different aspects even - let me choose whether the character inherits Faction standing, Heirloom rights, Bank Access - you name it, it needs a toggle on it.

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    1. That's an interesting idea, I just suspect that it wouldn't be at all practical. I'm not a programmer myself, but my impression has been that how to store information about a character (such as what stats, items, currencies and achievements they have) is a very core thing and not easily changed. I'm guessing a dev team would have to be very dedicated to this toggle idea to put the work into building a database that can handle it. Also, would you be able to "join up" a separately created character later on if you changed your mind?

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  2. In my opinion, Social and Valor Ranks cross the border of "should never ever be Legacy" - whilst it is an absolute pain to go through all 100 tiers of Valor in particular both of these give the greatest impressions of how much experience a Player has had on that character.

    Valor should have more 'weight' than Social Rank in this aspect; More often than not, this person has seen enough PvP, where things are unpredictable, on that character to translate versatile skills across to other areas of the game. The downside to this (which also affects Social Rank on a much lesser scale) is that the character in question may only be Valor 23 but is an Alt to an Elite Warlord of the mirror Class; their skill level will then be completely open to misinterpretation.

    As for other things:

    GSF is an... interesting one.

    I absolutely do not want them to create a Legacy Hangar. This removes virtually all incentive to play since you can upgrade nothing more once you're done on one character alone; whilst it may be fun to play and destroy people on all your Alts endlessly at first, eventually it will get tiresome and will eventually be stopped. Similarly, we're back to the pertinent issue raised elsewhere; there's no reason to even start that Alt if you're someone who likes starting things from scratch and are in this exact situation because you already have access to all the upgrades.

    I don't think they can really make Ship Requisition Legacy-Bound in its current state, since it of course only affects one specific model of Ship. Making it Legacy without reformatting it to be a 'generic' Requisition would limit it to only being on that exact model of Ship, restricting what people can upgrade and almost defeating the entire point in some people's eyes; whilst getting Alts' ships upgraded is slightly easier, the core 'problem' of not having ease-of-access to upgrading other Ships in of themselves still exists.

    On the plus side, this limitation would at least create some incentive to keep playing the other Ship types due to the need to get their own Ship Requisition pools up even if people's attitude is more of "so close and yet so far".

    They could counter this by making only Fleet Requisition Legacy. This would certainly make people happier since they can use it for all ships and it also ensures that there is still some form of incentive to keep playing on other Ship types since of course every Character and Ship earns Fleet Requisition.

    However, this then opens GSF to being truly pay-to-win in terms of Alt potential. Ship:Fleet Requisition Conversion could lead to wealthy players literally fuelling their Alt GSF Fleet with an injection of cash, therefore returning to the first point about it being too easy to gear up.

    They could finally do as they did for PvP Commendations and add a box to be transferred across your Legacy with x amount of Commendations within. However, this then falls victim to both of the previous issues; that Ship Requisition in of itself is currently too limiting for this to be a viable manner of transferring, and if this transferrable Requisition is entirely made up of Fleet Requisition then we're right back to "Pay-to-Win" territory.

    Additionally, compared to everything else potentially going 'full Legacy', a clicky-box would be seen as vastly outdated and unnecessary.

    Basically, it's a very confusing situation, and no matter what BioWare do it's going to be wrong on so many different levels.

    Credits, the new to-be Umbara Currency, and Unassembled Components are the only things for now which I can think of which 'need' to be Legacy. Maybe the Iokath Shards as well, but then they are so pointless outside of Iokath and once you have the Achievement for certain missions your expenditure is either refunded or non-existent, so I can't really see these being crucial to anyone.

    Still, it's certainly going to be interesting seeing what they come up with.

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    1. I may have spent about an hour writing this and gone over the character limit by about 500 in initially doing so. :P

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    2. I feel like I'm stealing your blog post mojo by making you pour so much time and energy into leaving comments here!

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  3. I never quite understand when people talk about immersion in MMOs. I don't think there is any immersion to be had in them. They are the least immersive of any game genre for my money. And I'm always pulled right out what tiny speck of immersion I might find the moment I see some idiot jumping up and down on a table, parking their gigantic speedboat over the mailbox or if I read General Chat for two seconds.

    I don't know how I feel about this whole thing, really. My only worry with legacy money is that I don't somehow get screwed out of some of the money I already have. That kind of thing can happen when there are conversions, because designers seem to like putting caps on them. Other than that I don't really mind what they do.

    I do sometimes think it would be nice if Social Points were legacy wide, but I thought the same about Datacrons, and like you I do actually miss the guild events we used to run to get them. They were fun, and that fun has gone from the game now.

    PVP is only something I have dabbled in, don't really feel qualified to speak about it. I think I would feel a bit of a fraud though if all my alts had the same valour level as the one character I have that has actually done a lot of PVP. I became rather disillusioned with PVP because the very moment that I managed to get a character with a full set of reasonably good PVP gear was just right before they did away with Expertise PVP gear altogether, and I just went "Well fuck" and couldn't bring myself to go back.

    As for GSF, I don't care what they do with that, as long as I never have to play it again. :)

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  4. Yay for immersion!! I'm a big believer in immersion in a video game or tabletop game, because immersion is what sucks me into the game world. Sure, it can be a pain in the ass at times, but I'll gladly trade that over the fun of exploring a class story or mixing it up in low level instances.

    "Imagine if levels were legacy-wide, and once you'd hit max-level, any alts you created automatically started at max level too. I imagine some people would even like that idea! But I would find it abhorrent."

    Amen to that. And while the money is nice, I've found that starting over has its own rewards, too. My experiences in Rift and TERA have taught me once again the value of in-game money, something I've forgotten about in LOTRO and SWTOR. (And, to be honest, in WoW once I got my first main to then max level of L80.)

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  5. I've always had mixed feelings with the legacy wide credits. Still not sure which I prefer, so I'm fine either way. ^^

    Now levels and valor, those are things I enjoy 'achieving' (and I'm not even that much of a achievement hunter!). It would take a lot of incentive to play away for many players, so I don't see that changing anytime soon (especially levels).

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  6. You make some good points. Here's how I look at it:

    This needs to be split into two things, I'll elaborate a bit following this:
    - Progression indication (Valor, Social ratings)
    - Purchasing power (credits, components, tokens, etc.)

    Progression indicators should, IMO, remain per-character. For Valor, they are an indication of how experience playing your class in PvP. Not an indication of skill level, mind you, but there are other things that could contribute to that (MVP votes, matches played/won, etc.). All that stuff needs to be per-character, as valor obtained on a Shadow tank doesn't really translate into experience playing a Sentinel or Combat Medic. At best, it shows you've seen a lot of matches and may have picked up on things, but you may not know how to best use your class in PvP.
    Same for Social points, they are an indication of how much group content you have participated in, showing whether it's reasonable or not to expect you to know how to play your class in the PvE segment of the game. Granted, this number can be high just from playing through the planetary quests in a group, but how many people really still do that (not including you :D )?

    Now, currency that is used to purchase items is a whole other story. With legacy storage existing now, the ability to send mail between characters of different factions and a lot of gear becoming bind to legacy, it only makes sense to have the currency with which those things are bought pooled into a single "wallet". Your example of WZ Comms from a while back is the perfect example of a patchwork solution to essentially implement that, this would just be a change that would make such feature integral to the rest of the game, rather than slapped on as an after-thought. Bhagpuss' suggestion above is an interesting one though, having it optional could be as simple as one additional entry for the database for each character: "Share with Legacy? Yes/No". That doesn't mean that introducing it is easy, as it will likely need a lot of work to have everything still work together properly.

    Finally, a point that was raised in the comments as well regarding GSF. I am really on the fence on that one. On one hand, it'd be good for new characters to need to go through the grind; on the other hand, there is nothing that individual classes add to the game mode, so no different thing to learn between a commando or a shadow. Which brings me to the other side of the fence: Sharing among your legacy makes complete sense here if you look at it from a group effort point of view. It might even boost participation if players can play GSF on any character and have the same progression regardless.

    In summary, I think some things should be made legacy wide, others should be kept per-character, and yet others I don't know yet what I would prefer.

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    1. I like your approach of separating features into different types. Though I'm sure some people would disagree with your description of valor and social rank as progression indicators. I'm sure there are players who just view them as a sort of achievement that rewards titles and access to special gear sets. If you've achieved it once, why should you have to achieve it again? Etc.

      GSF really is a tricky one. Republic and Empire have different ships though and I'm not actually sure whether they are exact mirrors? In any case I would find it weird if my Republic character maxing out her ships would automatically result in maxed-out ships for my Imps too.

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    2. Yeah, I meant to add that but I guess I forgot in the end. GSF should be split by faction for the very reason that they have different ships. We may be allies now, but who knows what direction the story will take in the next years.

      As for Valor/Social as a progression indication, it's kinda sketchy. I guess in this day and age, with players grinding that content for an achievement, title or companion, it detracts from the value somewhat. I remember in the earlier days, when I would actually play more actively than now, that a look at someone's valor rating would be a true indication of not only experience but also interest in the PvP content. Still, having it on a per-character basis at least shows the amount of time spent playing PvP, so it's not 100% useless.

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  7. I think GSF should be legacy wide. Maybe it's changed since it first launched but the gear gap was significant and slow to level. Getting facerolled by better players in better ships wasn't fun so I didn't want to fly on my Alts.

    If it had been legacy wide then I could have queued whilst farming mats or leveling another toon. Instead I only queued on my main which was infrequently because queue times were long and I usually had scheduled guild activities. When my main changed I just stopped playing GSF because I didn't want to go through the pain of being a target drone until I'd built up my ships.

    For currency all they need to do is allow you to deposit to your legacy bank. Having access to all your credits on all your toons all the time would be scary. I've been caught out with the GTN scam in the past and now store credits on my banker toon who never goes near a GTN terminal.

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    1. They've sped up the level-up process in GSF considerably over time. But I do understand your point.

      The credits going into a legacy bank has been suggested, but who knows if that's what they'll go for. Increased risk of getting caught by a GTN scam is one aspect of it I hadn't considered.

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  8. If there was a PvE component to GSF that you could grind out to level up your ships (the way you can grind out whatever to level up your characters), that's be one thing. But GSF is a PvP bolt-on that you can't increase except by doing GSF, and the rewards that come out of it affect your main-game advancement, and the currencies granted (but for the GSF currency itself) are effectively legacy anyway - see below.

    All currencies are all-but-legacy anyway, since you can transfer almost anything you can buy through a legacy armor shell, and you can directly mail credits. May as well make them legacy-wide anyway.

    Valor, I don't care about one way or another, but the below would apply as well, because I don't use it; but social rank is a bear to raise if you don't do PvE group content regularly. And I see Social as something the player does, not the alt. As it is, if you're grinding out social rank, you have an incentive to play that character, especially if you've capped Social on the character your group would rather you play. GC works like that as well, but at least you get a benefit from adding GXP to a capped character.

    Valor and Social I could take or leave making legacy-wide, the benefits thereof are pretty minor.

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  9. Another thing you have to take into consideration is the credit cap, for both free-to-play, preferred, and even subs.

    F2P and Preferred are capped at 200k and 350k per toon, respectively. If they make credits legacy-wide and keep the same cap on the legacy credits, they're further restricting the already poor F2P model. If they choose to open it, they are significantly increasing their spending power.

    There is also the matter of the theoretical subscriber credit cap - 4.3 billion per toon. This is hardwired into the game because they use an integer to store that data, and it can only store so many figures. Some people have hit this cap on multiple toons; making credits legacy would cause them to lose a great many of their credits unless they changed the data type to a float or a double, which I do not believe they could reliably do.

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    1. I hadn't even thought about the credit cap; I didn't even know there were sub players who had reached the absolute cap! I can't imagine there's very many of those though...

      As for free and preferred, Keith has hinted that their caps might be looked at later in the year - what exactly that means remains to be seen however.

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    2. I turned up around a million in a couple of hours of medium-intensity heroic farming one night; a billion at that rate is 3 years of play; but a)there are subscribers with 3+ years of play, and b)I wasn't being all that efficient about it.

      (I couldn't have kept the pace, but I can see people hitting cap)

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