The Long History of Twinking & Soulbinding

Twinking is not really a thing anymore in modern MMOs, so I think it is worth explaining exactly what twinking is. Twinking is when you give lower level characters, whether your alts or friends, high level gear in order to give the lower level character an advantage in moving through the game.

In early MMOs, this was a big problem because higher level characters had more money, had more gear and had stuff to spare to give the lower level characters so this was easy for them. The problem for the game though is that it tends to ruin the power curve. Games are designed to take X amount of time to get from point A to point B and MMOs in particular are being designed to stretch out the amount of time it takes for players to get bored. They don’t want a player’s attention for a month or two…. they want it for a few years straight.

The initial method in which to stop twinking was actually the most effective, but not flawless. That was… the level requirement (and sort of class requirements… not that an item was limited to only certain classes, but that only 1 class could use an item). The level requirement is pretty simple… you have a powerful late game weapon, you make it have a requirement that it can only be used by late game players by adding a requirement that the player needs to be at the level cap in order to use it. This solves the extreme version of twinking pretty easily.

Now this method does actually kind of break immersion… if I know how to use swords, there’s really no difference between swords, they are all pretty much the same. This isn’t entirely true, of course… but the differences in swords are minute and have more to do with different types of swords than specific swords… for instance if you know how to use a Rapier, you may not know how to use a Great Sword… but that’s extreme. There are also minor differences to builds within the same class, but even so, you might have a minor disadvantage when first getting used to the sword but once you do, you’ll be fine.

It’s interesting to note that there have been methods to merge the level req with a more immersive and natural behavior. The first that I can think of is Dark Age of Camelot, which allowed players to use items higher than their level but the item was under-powered until you hit the weapon’s level… this actually kind of sounds like what I said in the previous paragraph, that was unintentional. I can’t remember if it was also DAoC or another game, but another concept has been to have durability go down faster if you were below the required level, which is a similar concept just done a different way.

The problem is, it doesn’t solve it completely. Not all items are the same even if the requirements are. If you have have 100 levels, and you are max level but want to help a level 5 player out so that they have an easier time…. it’s quite easy to buy them level 5 super rare super powerful items that aren’t easy for them to get due to rarity. So twinking generally still happens.

This lead to the birth of soulbinding. Soulbinding is when an item can only be used by the character it is soulbound to, and this soulbinding usually occurs on the character acquiring the item (though there are games, such as GW2, that has some items soulbound on use). This method instantly takes away twinking… because… obviously you can’t give the powerful items to other players. I believe (though could be wrong) that this idea originated with EverQuest, but was expanded upon with newer MMOs and even within EQ. Originally, it tended to only get done on super rare items and quest items, but the idea of soulbinding has expanded exponentially. There has also been an addition of Account Bound since its inception, meaning that you can trade it between characters within the same account.

I do think that the idea of soulbinding has been expanded upon for a reason other than to stop twinking to be honest. It has become a staple largely to help deal with the high level economy. The problem modern MMOs have is that because there is no durability and no death penalty in most games, there is no way for items to be removed from the game. Raising level cap fixes this issue… but that creates an issue of forcing developers to create a lot of in game content in order to appease all the players at a now higher level. The problem here is that players tend to move faster than developers. I know in WoW… players tend to reach the new level cap within a week (oftentimes days)… now it may take them a month or two past that to start getting the best gear. But once they get that gear they can start twinking other players with the best gear who now also can start twinking other players when they start getting duplicates and so forth. Soooo soulbinding to the rescue. A hardcore player may be able to get the best gear in the game rapidly, but they are going to punish themselves instead of the developers for that so that other players will still need to work for it, giving the developers far more time before the remaining 95% of the player population starts receiving their max gear.

There is, of course, a negative side to soulbinding gear in this fashion. And that’s player interaction. While twinking, overall, is a negative when done prolifically, it isn’t necessarily all bad. Players generally don’t just give each other their best gear, they sell it more often. Generally, straight up giving is held for guildmates and friends. And in reality, this is what an economy actually is… buying and selling things. By soulbinding everything, a game is getting created where the level economy and the boredom economy is taking precedence over the actual economy. And if I’m going to be honest, there are actual players out there who are more interested in the actual economy.

There is also the case for gold farming… by making items soulbound, gold farmers cannot farm high value items and sell them as easily and thus flood the market with those items. But there are better options at dealing with gold farmers and the reality is that game development companies just don’t want to. As evidenced by the fact that gold farmers still very much exist and are as prevalent as ever, and game developers stopped dealing with them completely outside of adding more and more soulbound items.

What I’m trying to say is that, switching to a system that relies heavily on soulbinding in order to stop twinking, keep players interested because they have to actually get their gear, and help prevent gold farmers… is yet another system that is going into place that interrupts player interaction in a negative way. And ultimately, the genre is COMPLETELY built around player interaction. There’s a ton of systems that have been added to the modern MMORPG that has disrupted player interactions, and this one is actually rather minor unless taken to an extreme. But it is an avenue all the same and does have negative repercussions that, I would argue, are actually MORE difficult to fix than the actual issues you are trying to fix by adding in soulbinding in the first place. You could, theoretically, just add another way to force players to interact in its place, but it would likely feel more forced and players resent being forced to interact. And really, nobody is doing this because it feels like more and more in the genre, all they are trying to build are single player games with a built in chat room.

Few games have gotten even close to UO in terms of tradeskills

Even past the ‘interactions” concept, making the most powerful items in the game soulbound, completely borks the idea of tradeskills. It continues to amaze me that game development companies continue to include tradeskills in their games while putting in such low effort into making them work, and more often then not making them specifically not work. Instead, because of something like soulbinding, we often end up with generic tradeskills that must be done by players themselves, rather than buying a tradeskill player’s goods as is supposed to be the case.

I will say that, I am not against soulbinding in general… and I’m certainly not against level requirements. I actually think a lot of early soulbinding usage was appropriate. If game devs build in a system in which to get legendary gear that takes a character a long time to acquire and these items are supposed to be the hallmarks of a character’s life… it’s totally appropriate to soulbind that item. I also have concepts in my brain to allow the player to choose soulbinding as a way to pay off positive attributes on their items, which I may or may not get into at a later date. I feel like soulbinding has its place, but it needs to be considered when it is used as it really does take away fun from the game to do it.

So I want to go into a little more how Guild Wars 2 is addressing this because I think that GW2 is proving to be an extreme case of soulbinding in particular. I also want to go into some thoughts that I have on what I would do in order to combat some of these issues without delving into the usual methods. But I feel that this post is long enough, so I’m going to split these into two other posts that will be released in the future. I think this is actually going to be something I do going forward… I will have one post giving a background of a concept and give arguments as to why I like or dislike certain aspects, follow up with a case study of the concept (good or bad), and then followup again with my thoughts on what could be done in a potential game.

MMO State of Mind

MMORPGs are really the genre of my heart. While I do love RPGs and strategy games, I always want to return to MMOs and hope to find something to sink years into and find new friends to chat with. It is a genre I feel so strongly about that for over 15 years I have been designing my own MMORPG in my head and on paper just for my own mental play and have even written articles on this blog about my thoughts. I have considered at many points creating my own on my own and have made minor attempts at it through the years in various ways.

Yet looking at this blog, I haven’t mentioned MMO’s for 3 years… an article where I talk about FFXIV… before that… 2012… where I talk about upcoming MMOs that looked interesting (only Elder Scrolls Online really worked out and I never played it)…. and it has seemingly been about 10 years since I really talked seriously about MMOs from a design/analytical standpoint.

Part of this, I realize, is that over the last 5 to 10 years, I really just have vacated the blog sphere entirely. Life etc… The other part of it is that I have also almost completely vacated the MMO genre due to the WoWification of it. The FFXIV spurt of articles that I wrote came because I was really jonesing for the genre so I went to the best available game, which fortunately or unfortunately was FFXIV.

Since about… August… I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2. I have played this game periodically on and off since near launch. I think the most the game has ever hit for me previously was the 3 to 4 month timeframe. I did take a break from GW2 for about 4 to 6 weeks over December and January, but I seem to be back in… We are now sitting at probably… 8 or 9 months of play which is fairly substantial for me these days.

So this coupled with the recent announcement that GW2 will get a third expansion and so I’ve been contemplating things I’d like to see in the game for that expansion, coupled with a lot of downtime due to Coronavirus… and I’ve contemplating game design for MMOs again of late. To add to it, last year about this time, I got a promotion at my job where I am developing programs with Java, and while i’m still new at it… I think I’m pretty freaking good at it and so the concept that I could program my own MMO is resurfacing as a very real possibility.

So… short story long… I kind of want to get some of these mental discussions back into blog form with the extra time that I have been granted. The one thing doing this really does for me is that it helps me focus. Because I can take a single topic. Talk about it and my ideas on it. Really dig in… and because it’s getting written, i don’t circle around it quite as much.

Who Did I Used to Be?

In recent weeks, I find myself very interested in a woman that I am somewhat friends with. She is beautiful, funny, and very much the most intelligent person I have ever met. And more important than anything, I have a great time sitting and talking to her. She’s not perfect but, she’s the first real interest I’ve had in a few years.

I am in a situation where I find myself contemplating how to cross the gap and ask her out. I actually think there is a possibility she is somewhat interested in me, but am extremely scared of the rejection, I’m scared of losing another friend, and I don’t know… just scared. This is really a culmination of a few really bad experiences over the last 7 or 8 years which have left me frightened, depressed, and with an extremely low self esteem.

But it occurred to me tonight… I used to be able to attract women who were, in my opinion, much better looking than me. Just much better than me in many ways. I can name in particular 5 women 10+ years ago, 2 of which went beyond just friends (the other 2 I wasn’t really interested in, 1 the timing just never was right). These girls were gorgeous, varying levels of intelligence and really good people.

But then the last 2 serious interests happened and really those 2 were doomed from the start. They were both married, 1 of them didn’t even live in this country. Yes, I was a bad person for being interested in married women, no I didn’t have a choice in the matter, I didn’t want to like them. On top of these doomed relationships I had bad video game dynamics with both of them in the fact that I met them both playing video games which had very toxic environments where back stabbing friends was promoted and desired.. and well I kind of entered a perfect storm of bad where my interest in women was being coupled with a paranoia perpetuated by games.

But then… I return to the thought… what was I before this period of my life where I could attract women fairly well and I had the confidence in myself to go after them and how do i get back there?

To figure this out, I kind of wanted to go back and look at the words of how I talked even if it was casual, but alas, trying to find 10+ year old emails… that shit ain’t easy. I used yahoo (I believe) at the time, and they only seem to store 1 year’s worth of emails unless you purposely save them, and It looks like my gmail account only went back to 2007 (I also recognize, that even with the first of the two women, I didn’t use gmail, I used a secondary email account for privacy). Sooo I think back on my personality as my flawed memory can go…

Sarcasm… I’ve always been a sarcastic fellow with a quick wit. I do think this has been one of my primary assets in life as I have always had a capability to make people laugh. And I still can. I do think that due to my job with 12 other men in a call center that my humor has gotten more juvenile as I have gotten older (weirdly enough), and consists of a lot more sexual jokes and that’s what she said jokes. Easy to make people sort of smile, but they are cheap laughs. Maybe I should lower those more as I don’t think they are a great look for me (also they aren’t good for flirting, I used to be able to better direct the sexual vibe into real flirting in a way I’m not good at anymore…

Flirting… I think it’s worth moving onto flirting… I never was spectacular at flirting, not going to pretend otherwise, but I did enjoy the flirt, and it’s something I don’t do almost at all anymore, especially with girls I am interested with… it’s really bad. The girl I am into now for instance has on multiple occasions has gone into a sexual place and I have basically stopped it in its tracks not really knowing at all what to say, but previously if a girl I was into said something even remotely sexual, I would very quickly apply my wit in a quick and powerful way and with a slight grin on my face and it would start play… In particular I remember one girl where we would flirt with each other in regards to sticking your tongue out meaning that you were interested in kissing.

Self Esteem – Ok Look… I have always been very self deprecating and there have always been a lot of things about me that I have been self conscious about (weight in particular). If I am going to be honest, I was pretty self confident before despite that. I didn’t think I was perfect by a long stretch, but I was smart, funny, hard working, and I even at times felt like I was pretty good looking (looking back at pics from that time… I disagree I ever was lol). Self Esteem took a DEEP dive in the last 10 years… I don’t think I’m anything other than funny (I don’t even think I’m particularly smart anymore). And I don’t really know how to get back there. All I can really do is work on improving myself and hope that it helps with my self esteem. And… fake it…

Intelligence… Yeah I still think I am smart…. I don’t think I’m as smart as I used to be. I don’t remember things the way I used to. This may actually have led to my biggest self esteem drop as this was the thing I liked the best about me and so to see myself as less smart has definitely hurt. I have absolutely no idea on how to improve brain functions but this is something i need to look into badly. I think I’m going to start by actively reading books, something I haven’t really done since college. I think this will at least help get my vocabulary back into shape…

Anger… Finally anger has been an increasing problem in my life. I was a very nice guy, and really in my heart I know I still am extremely nice. I tend to think well of everyone even if I understand they will likely disappoint me. But between terrible jobs, terrible friend experiences, and growing pain…. I am quick to anger. This was actually something first noticed by me due to the customer support job back in oh 2009. But I think with the other bad things that have started happening in my life this has gotten worse. I need to fix this first and foremost and I have started going to therapy. I think if there is one thing that I fixed that could potentially help me get women and friends again, it’s fixing this. I think I can be the kind soul again who will do anything for his friends, and give freely to anyone who asks again.

Stellaris Rising Stars – Illithid Invasion – Episode 65

Thanks for watching my let’s play video! Don’t forget to subscribe!

Youtube description Below: Welcome to my Stellaris Rising Stars playthrough. In this series, I am emulating the mighty Mind Flayer from D&D fame to build a Hive Mind race that wants to devour all other civilizations.

To watch more videos in my Stellaris Illithid Invasion series, you can go to my playlist here: https://goo.gl/TsC2LN

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and ring the bell to make sure that you get alerted to all new videos: https://goo.gl/QUA2Nq

You can buy Stellaris DRM free at Humble Bundle: https://goo.gl/q6kBcD

Social Links

Youtube Channel – http://youtube.com/Razakius
Website – http://razaki.us
Google + https://plus.google.com/+Razakius/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Razakius

Twitter – https://goo.gl/6hYVHd

Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy video game developed and published by Paradox Interactive. Stellaris’s gameplay revolves around space exploration, managing an empire, diplomacy, and space warfare with other spacefaring civilizations.

This particular playthrough is using the following DLC:

Apocalypse
Utopia
Distant Stars Story Pack
Synthetic Dawn Story Pack
Leviathans Story Pack
Humanoids Species Pack
Plantoids Species Pack

You can buy Stellaris DRM free at Humble Bundle: https://goo.gl/q6kBcD

#Stellaris #ParadoxInteractive

Stellaris Rising Stars – Illithid Invasion – Episode 64

Thanks for watching my let’s play video! Don’t forget to subscribe!

Youtube description Below: Welcome to my Stellaris Rising Stars playthrough. In this series, I am emulating the mighty Mind Flayer from D&D fame to build a Hive Mind race that wants to devour all other civilizations.

To watch more videos in my Stellaris Illithid Invasion series, you can go to my playlist here: https://goo.gl/TsC2LN

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and ring the bell to make sure that you get alerted to all new videos: https://goo.gl/QUA2Nq

You can buy Stellaris DRM free at Humble Bundle: https://goo.gl/q6kBcD

Social Links

Youtube Channel – http://youtube.com/Razakius
Website – http://razaki.us
Google + https://plus.google.com/+Razakius/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Razakius

Twitter – https://goo.gl/6hYVHd

Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy video game developed and published by Paradox Interactive. Stellaris’s gameplay revolves around space exploration, managing an empire, diplomacy, and space warfare with other spacefaring civilizations.

This particular playthrough is using the following DLC:

Apocalypse
Utopia
Distant Stars Story Pack
Synthetic Dawn Story Pack
Leviathans Story Pack
Humanoids Species Pack
Plantoids Species Pack

You can buy Stellaris DRM free at Humble Bundle: https://goo.gl/q6kBcD

#Stellaris #ParadoxInteractive

Stellaris Rising Stars – Illithid Invasion – Episode 63

Thanks for watching my let’s play video! Don’t forget to subscribe!

Youtube description Below: Welcome to my Stellaris Rising Stars playthrough. In this series, I am emulating the mighty Mind Flayer from D&D fame to build a Hive Mind race that wants to devour all other civilizations.

To watch more videos in my Stellaris Illithid Invasion series, you can go to my playlist here: https://goo.gl/TsC2LN

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and ring the bell to make sure that you get alerted to all new videos: https://goo.gl/QUA2Nq

You can buy Stellaris DRM free at Humble Bundle: https://goo.gl/q6kBcD

Social Links

Youtube Channel – http://youtube.com/Razakius
Website – http://razaki.us
Google + https://plus.google.com/+Razakius/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Razakius

Twitter – https://goo.gl/6hYVHd

Stellaris is a 4X grand strategy video game developed and published by Paradox Interactive. Stellaris’s gameplay revolves around space exploration, managing an empire, diplomacy, and space warfare with other spacefaring civilizations.

This particular playthrough is using the following DLC:

Apocalypse
Utopia
Distant Stars Story Pack
Synthetic Dawn Story Pack
Leviathans Story Pack
Humanoids Species Pack
Plantoids Species Pack

You can buy Stellaris DRM free at Humble Bundle: https://goo.gl/q6kBcD

#Stellaris #ParadoxInteractive