Psychochild's Legendary Evaluation

Friday, September 11, 2009

Psychochild, a game developer named Brian Green, has put up a blog post evaluating the Legendary item system in LOTRO and what could change to make it better. I thought I'd point it out and respond.

He points out two problems with the system. First, its randomness, and second its negative affect on crafting. I whole heartedly agree with his assessment visa-vie crafting. Lucky for us, Siege of Mirkwood will expand the current craftability of legendary items. Depending on what is implemented, this could be a moot point. On the whole, I feel the randomness is generally well balanced, especially with the most recent changes to allow the choice of legacies (out of two) to add or upgrade. In essence, legendary items as a system actually aren't that bad right now. But I do think I would have preferred a different approach, one that would have required implementation of legendary items from launch. Such wishful thinking, however, is futile since the past cannot be changed now.

Despite the system being "not that bad", could Psychochild's suggested improvements help? First he advises to make legacies slottable instead of inherent to the weapon. Like the relics. This immediately eliminates any difference between relics and legacies and therefore should become one and the same - slottable stats. I like the idea but there needs to be a way to keep the current level of randomness present. If we can choose our legacies out of a pool like the relics, then we have too much freedom to create "uber" weapons. Now, of course legendary weapons should be some of the best weapons in the game, but not to the point where freedom to customize will lead to them being overpowered. Psychochild doesn't have any ideas on keeping the randomness, but that's because he thinks there's too much randomness at present. I would suggest that once you slot your legacy, it cannot be removed - only leveled, like present. There is mention of removing the legacy, but I think that keeps the pool of legacies too powerful and perfect. Perhaps removal is permanent - you lose the legacy. This is really only delays the inevitable super collection of legacies. Players will eventually quest enough to get any legacy the want. And since it's not random on the weapon, they will gain the "perfect" weapon relatively quickly.

Honestly, I don't think changing the legendary item system in this manner will bring about any improvement from a game mechanic perspective. From the player's point of view, they'll certainly like it better because they can now really get the weapon or item they've always wanted. But because the grind is virtually eliminated (aside from collecting legacies/relics and leveling) it has less utility for keeping players engaged.

This of course begs the question - is a grind with this system the best way of engaging the players? I would argue no, there's got to be a better, more fun, way. And I think that way can be in part linked to the crafting. Incorporating more playstyles into the legendary system will help it, regardless of the grind. If we can get crafted legendaries to speed up the grind a little, we'll see a little bit more fun.

The root problem, I think, is the dichotomy between randomness and an actual legendary weapon you would keep with you, like Sting or Glamdring or Anduril. With as much randomization as we have, it necessitates burning through legendaries we don't want to find the one that will suffice. Retaining a weapon for a long period of time, as a truly legendary weapon would, requires it be less randomized to ensure desirability on first acquisition. The latter isn't good, as I said above, for retaining interest in the mechanics of the system beyond leveling.

I think the ideas would be good to put on hold till we see how exactly the legendary system improves (or doesn't as the case may be) with SoM. Still worth thinking about though.

4 Responses to "Psychochild's Legendary Evaluation"

Brian 'Psychochild' Green Says:

Your post is related to the question that Toldain asked in a comment: can it still be a good system without the grind? In Toldain's case, he was asking if the items would still be rare. Here you're asking if the system would still engage people.

As a designer, I think it would. I think that upgrading the base weapon is something that would appeal to people, just like getting +2 more might on a weapon is interesting to people before legendary items. Honestly, I'm not overly eager to get a First Age weapon for fear that after all the work I put into obtaining one it'll just suck for legacies. I think a bit less randomness is called for here.

I think another thing to consider is that not all the legacies are created equal. My better half, playing a Captain, has found legendary items that have been really good for her. It seems that she has gotten items that give her a slightly different flavor to her abilities. Champions, however, don't seem equally blessed with a wide variety of bonuses. Perhaps part of the problem is the exclusive nature of the stances: if I'm in Ardour bonuses to Glory don't help me at all, etc.

Anyway, I don't dictate Turbine's design. Just throwing in my two cents from a professional developer's point of view.

Have fun!

Anonymous Says:

Well, about having a "perfect weapon" really depends on the pool of legacies.

If there weren't so many "make or break" legacies like:

Champion's Fervour Legacy
Lore-Master's Tactical Direct Damage
Minstrel's Healing and Motivation
Guardian's Threat Up

But instead there should be a pool of lesser legacies that wouldn't be game changing but would reflect specialization.

Scott Says:

What I would really kike to see is a system that is set up much like our characters. Legacies could be equipped and slotted much like out virtues are. If they really are legendary, then we will NEVER want to get rid of them. They should actually grow with is. Legacies can be upgraded and acquired in much the same way as we get them. For orc-slayer tier one title, you kill 1000 orcs for example. And they can get legendary legacies as well in the same way we do. There are ways to mitigate possible OP situations. Just tone down the bonuses.

Jaxom92 Says:

I really like your idea Scott. I'd much rather see a weapon we never got rid of. And while it would be best to see that weapon from the beginning of the game, post 50 isn't all that terrible. It would be a radical change to the system.