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#1 Syndic

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 05:37 PM

I'm not sure how long this has been around for but it wasn't there in EQ1. First time I started to come across the term was in HZ and now I find myself using it in all games whether they have it or not, the term "Tier".

HZ, EQ2 and WoW all have "clearly" defined tiers. A Tier being a chunk of content being for a designated level/skill range. Each tier quite often is a repeat of the tier below but with only a few variables changed. A good example would be crafting, in all these games you have a recipe that first gets made from one resource, then 10 levels later you can make the same item but from a different product. Adventuring can be a little harder to pinpoint so players generally gather them into groups of 10, although there will be some spells/skills which arrive every 14 or so levels leading to adventuring tiers to be more a level range than any meaningful skill progression.

I'm sure if you've played a recent MMO you'll have come across the term.

The discussion here is - Are tiers a good or bad thing?

#2 rysonue

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 06:49 PM

Well that is pretty complex. I think tiers are unavoidable because no matter what some characters will always be 1 level/skill/spell higher then others.

The real question should be, If tiers are unavoidable due to the fact that levels will always be different, how do we incorporate a feature to play off this to make it something more interesting, and have it form an enhancement not a level barrier between players?

Personally I can't think of anything off hand but I hope someone has ideas. I'll post if I have a bright idea.

#3 Syndic

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 07:58 PM

I thought I'd first put up the subject and then give what I think separately.

I think tiers is a bigger subject than given credit for.
Are tiers what is destroying the recent generation of MMO games.

Tiers lead to another form of repetition. This would then increase the burn out of players on whatever game your creating. Not only that other than the 1 or 2 things out of the norm there is nothing to be surprised about with leveling. "Oh look at that my Massive Swing I just turned into Massive Swing II, how cool is that!" I don't think I've ever heard those words too often.
Sure it could cut down on development time and certainly makes balancing things a much easier task, but does the player, and thus the developer, pay a high price for that reassuring balance (which is often not balanced).

On the other hand you have a world where anything can happen next, the next level can and would most likely be a complete surprise (unless of cause you use spoilers). I think EQ1 did a good enough job at this to start with, classes had different strengths and weaknesses and they fluctuated as they leveled. Could they have done better, most likely, but it was certainly a game that sticks in original player's minds. There was no I got my first fireball at 14 the next at 28 so the third one will be at 42. Spells had different names, they may have just been Bolt of Flame vs Bolt of Fire, but the names grew on you and were not some dumbed down I, II, III, IV. I'm glad even EQ2 stuck to this idea. Over time EQ has molded iteself into a Tier styled game as you get higher.
Tiers also seem to homogenize the classes so they all seem to progress with the same flow, not allowing for changes in pace between classes or even the waxing and waning of classes at different times.
Balancing would be all but impossible in this scenario, but would it lead to a more enjoyable play experience and a more exciting world.

I admit Tier's make balancing easier and this does have a very large impact on PvP, that is not an area I admit to having any experience in, does class balance outrank a more diversified play experience across levele and classes?

#4 dice

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 02:07 AM

I agree, Syndic - I think tiers are a bad thing.

Simply because, I'm all about the word Wonder. If I have seen it before, even if it is bigger and nastier and a slightly darker colour this time, I don't have the same sense of wonder.

The problem is that if you take away the "Ok, now lets have this section of content similar to the last section, but harder to do/get/fight/whatever" then you have the problem that you must generate a whole lot more _original_ content, or the game will be "smaller" than it should be. Note that I'm talking about "the experience (as in Jimi Hendrix) size" rather than "the physical size" although these two are often linked.

Here is an example: while Daggerfall is one of my favorite single player games of all time, it did have a problem in that the physical size of the game was massive, but the experience size was not linear with that. Rather, generic repetition meant that the physical size of the game was exponentially larger than the experience it provided. That was ok in DF, simply because the experience happened to be so huge, way better than any other pure single player RPG developed since, in my opinion.

But in MMO's, it is vitally important that this linear relationship is maintained. The best sort would be a 1 to 1 relationship, but yeah, that's pretty much impossible. However, with a good content creation team, and a bunch of people on the design team with a skewed perspective, it is very possible to come up with "new situations" that the player can be in as they get deeper into the game.

I think the "inverted pyramid" concept is an important one here. When players start out, their options should be _fairly_ limited. They can try a bit of this, and a bit of that, and read some of this and that, but not too much. You don't want to overwhelm them (but you also don't want them to become bored). As they get better, the ability to do more things (different/more tradeskills, the ability to research things for their family, perhaps the ability to try to design magic spells, the ability to enter arena contests, the ability to take work with the city guards, the ability....)

So, an inverted pyramid. I'm not talking about "At Power Level 0, you are able to forge only Bronze Daggers. At Power Level 5, you are able to forge Iron Daggers. At Power Level 10, you are.." because, really, what are you giving them? Nothing. No new experience, no new outcome; not really. It isn't even really a new experience if you graduate from being able to forge a dagger to being able to forge, say, a suit of mail. Because the principle is still the same - I could always forge.

But, I couldn't always fight in the arena, with real people betting on the outcome! I couldn't always research new magical spells for the mages guild, or a new way of quenching swords for my family! I couldn't always talk directly to my deity!

And so on.

The important thing is that, there must be no "And when you get to this powerlevel, you can/must-to-advance do these things"; rather, the range of options should _always_ be opening up as they play. The speed at which this opens up will be depending on how much content and design the developers can come up with :-)

Nice to see some activity on the boards once more; nice topic Syndic.

Cheers,
dice.

#5 Cyrus

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 05:57 AM

Tiers may in the past may have simply been a necessary evil in previous games for the sake of scope; that's not to say it's good or bad, but perhaps necessary.

What I'd love to see is a somewhat expanding scenario, similar to what dice mentioned; since crafting was mentioned I'll use that. What if the traditional step up to next material method was kept in place, but as you continued along in your blacksmithing career you found out (insert your favorite epiphany situation here) that you can add magical runes to the blades of your weapons that would make them more powerful? Cool, you've now got something new you can do to make your weapons stand out even more. Oh wait, those guard decorations could be more than just decorations, they could be magical jewels used to imbue your weapons with even cooler powers! You get the picture.

Point is, video games have shown us that if we're working at something, we'd like something new and shiny to come out of it. If we've been slaying evil demons for a couple of hours we'd really appreciate a new sword with a new power that lets us rip into them in a whole new way. People don't mind doing the same task more than once, just as long as the outcome isn't assured (a.k.a. BORING). After you've been crafting a while, you just can't fake being surprised when that steel dagger pops into virtual being.

#6 Syndic

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 07:41 AM

A small sidestep here, on the subject of crafting. One thing that amazes me is that players want crafting to be fun, exciting and a thrill to do. When you really break it down and look at crafting emulates jobs, and jobs are never really fun, exciting or thrilling. It is work, it is repetitive essentially tradeskilling really should be boring as anything. Look at all those movies and books which start out with a boy who is to become a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith and longs to go out adventuring where the real fun is - yet here we have thousands of players who can't wait to get their monotonous view of that forge so they can stare at it for thier 10 hour play session.

Anyway not sure where I was going with that, just a slight observation.

Back to Tiers. As above maybe in crafting it shouldn't be a case of make bronze things, then iron things the steel. I mean the player has made a dagger hundreds of times over the metal involved is only a minor change in their work. I think the real change comes from making something completely different. So if you really have to submit to tiers, instead of a player going - bronze dagger, bronze sword,(next tier) iron dagger, iron sword, (next tier) steel dagger, steel sword they would go - bronze dagger, iron dagger, steel dagger (next tier) bronze sword, iron sword, steel sword.
Personally I would rather see the process for making daggers change based on the material used, but of course some steps could not be learned until of the correct skill.
Anyone concentrating too much on crafting there.
With adventuring add diversity not just in content as dice pointed out but in character progression. Maybe the other threads before about spells not getting upgrades but just getting more powerful over time could be a possible solution. So rather than a player at level 50 having 400 spells but only 30 of them are unique (the rest are just ones they have upgraded from over the levels) a player at level 50 would have 40-60 unique spells where the spells never actually repeat.

Also things like why is it at level 10 I get to wear a bronze BP, and then a steel one at 20, are they really that different in design? Also why every 10 levels this miracle occurs. I'm sure there has got to be better ways to do progression than to group things in a monotonous way that leaves advancement predictable and lackluster.

#7 Cyrus

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 08:22 AM

A small sidestep here, on the subject of crafting. One thing that amazes me is that players want crafting to be fun, exciting and a thrill to do. When you really break it down and look at crafting emulates jobs, and jobs are never really fun, exciting or thrilling. It is work, it is repetitive essentially tradeskilling really should be boring as anything. Look at all those movies and books which start out with a boy who is to become a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith and longs to go out adventuring where the real fun is - yet here we have thousands of players who can't wait to get their monotonous view of that forge so they can stare at it for thier 10 hour play session.


Video games are supposed to be fun, if you substitute fun for realism you've made nothing more than a simulation.

As for the armor material miracle, who knows? I always liked UO's approach of being able to wear whatever you wanted whenever you wanted, but if you wore something before you were ready to you really wouldn't get the full benefit.

#8 Bruxail

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 01:56 PM

...As for the armor material miracle, who knows? I always liked UO's approach of being able to wear whatever you wanted whenever you wanted, but if you wore something before you were ready to you really wouldn't get the full benefit.


Exactly, which is what I would like to see for crafting. I don't want to "discover" someday that I can now put magical gems into a sword. I want to be able to always do whatever I am taught, though I may not be good at it. If I want to learn something else then go to a tradesman that knows how and learn it. I want to be able to learn it at any level, just not be good at it, even to the point of ruining the item if I am really bad. I don't want level or skill restrictions on trying to perform something, just a skill restriction on it's success or doom.

[EDIT] In this way, I guess I am saying that I do not want tiers on learning, just on performing.

#9 Cyrus

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 06:07 AM

Exactly, which is what I would like to see for crafting. I don't want to "discover" someday that I can now put magical gems into a sword. I want to be able to always do whatever I am taught, though I may not be good at it. If I want to learn something else then go to a tradesman that knows how and learn it. I want to be able to learn it at any level, just not be good at it, even to the point of ruining the item if I am really bad. I don't want level or skill restrictions on trying to perform something, just a skill restriction on it's success or doom.

[EDIT] In this way, I guess I am saying that I do not want tiers on learning, just on performing.


Okay, I could see your point. I'm coming from the "what if this is dangerous?" type scenario for the magical enhancements. Typically we don't teach our children about dangerous things unless they cause an immediate danger (bleach in the cupboard) because it creates curiosity. Maybe the blacksmith's guild doesn't want to tell you about runes on blades until they know you're smart enough not to put your hand in the molten metal.

After all, as funny as watching the new guy blow himself up is, clean up is just such a hassle.

#10 Grimmway

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 12:26 PM

Tiers..

Both a blessing and a curse. If they are implemented well, then they are not a hindrance whether they are very apparent or invisible.

If they are poorly done, no matter how well they are hidden, everyone will feel/know about the tiers and their deficiencies..

Case in point...

The original Legend of Zelda for the NES is tiered. But it is hidden!

With the exception of needing certain items, bridge/ramp/whistle to access certain dungeons, they could be done out of order (except the last one). This game, though, was heavily tiered!

In order to upgrade from the wooden sword to the white sword, Link needed 5 container hearts. To get the magical sword, Link needed 12 container hearts. Damage dealt was only based on the sword, and not Link. So progress here was tiered... But it was acceptable, because it was a desired goal to wield the magical sword.

Now, had the designers taken a short cut and reused the wooden sword graphic for all 3 swords with just a palette shift to differentiate them, it wouldn't have been so good. If the white sword was called the 'wooden sword II', and the magical sword the 'wooden sword III', then the magic appeal/formula of the game wouldn't have quite worked the same. Attention to the small details instead made it a genre-defining game that spawned many sequels and imitators.

When are tiers bad? When it is obvious that they were chosen
arbitrarily and players just have to 'slog-it-out' to get through. An example of this - the EQ post-50 game.

Post-50 is such a different game than pre-50. AA's, yard trash that can summon and quad for sick amounts of damage, etc...

Why don't AA's exist prior to 50? Why does it take a character 50 levels before he/she realizes... wait a sec... I can permanently train up my strength!!! This should be available much earlier in game play.

Additionally, this would encourage more diverse characters, with more choices to make in customization.

Another bad example of EQ tiers - collecting keys so that everyone can reach the certain raid-content foozle. Why a 7 day spawn rate for something to drop a key? Why not a questable portal you can open anytime, if you want to pay the price? A 7 day timer to gain keys is easily seen as a timesink, and therefore, a waste of the players' time.

Before I derail my train of thought - let me wrap up with - tiers are neither bad nor good. Their implementations can be bad or good, but usually they are bad. Carefully done, they are invisible, or better, eagerly anticipated. At their worst - they are turnoffs to the game experience.

Grimmway

#11 Cyrus

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 12:51 PM

<3 <3 <

*beepbeepbeep beepbeepbeep beepbeepbeep*

You make a good point though, anytime that a tier exists that's visible without a reasonable explanation the player base will make one for you.

They won't be kind.

So the real question is, can you make ones that either can't be noticed or can't be argued against? Good luck, game designers have failed in the past at this same thing. Does that mean you're bound for failure? Of course not, you've got past experience to consider when making your decisions, but it still won't be easy.

#12 Syndic

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Posted 18 May 2007 - 11:03 PM

Tiers and Progression are 2 different things.

A tier is a group of levels, and are generally a repeat of the tier below with only a few modifications. Each tier is not under the control of the player no matter what they do.
Progression is the way through the tiers, but not nessacarily a repeat of the tier below. A players progress through a tier can be very varied, or very closely directed by the game, thats up to the designers.

In EQ2 every 10 levels in crafting you change from using one set of resources to the next one up. The gear you can wear/wield goes in groups of 10 levels in line with that of crafting, generally meaning a matching suit of armour has pieces set in the range 51 to 60, you'll never find a set that crosses the bounds like 56 to 65. Spells are upgraded every 14 levels (I think in the first 20 levels this is smaller but this is due to a very small selection of spells given to you). Once your in your 20's there is no giving you a spell 2 levels earlier at one stage or holding back an upgrade, or even stopping a spell line altogether.

How a player progresses through this is up to them though.

As much as people complained about the progression through PoP and some later expansions, you wont believe what some people have asked for with the next expansion for EQ2 - yep a more defined progress path through the raid content.




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