I recently read an article about how weapons in modern MMOs are all starting to look identical to each other and how unrealistic and uninteresting this is. I tend to agree with most of the author’s points, in days of yore the developers tried to make the weapons different in order to allow players to be different, now developers try to make the weapons as similar as possible in order to allow the player to make the choice. The newer method is extremely problematic for many reasons, but also very understandable why they have decided to go that route.
The dilemma that is prevelant with making realistic differences in MMO weapons that was mentioned in was Asheron’s Call. What ends up happening is eventually players do what players do and figure out which weapon does the best overall damage and sooner than later all players in the game are using that weapon. This is highly problematic, especially if you allow players to choose their weapons freely such as AC because all of a sudden you as a developer are charged with balancing each individual weapon type AND all the other stuff you had to balance as well.
On the other side of it, if you make all the weapons the same players could realistically choose the weapon that best suits them and they feel looks “cool.” On the surface, this seems ideal, underneath you really end up in the same situation where most players are using the same type of item anyway.
This happens for a couple of reasons. One, “coolness” is a social term. Meaning that what is cool is never what is cool for you, it is always dictated by what the society you are in deems cool. Thus, even though the iPhone may not be the most functional or even best looking cell phone around, it is deemed “cooler” than others largely because this is what society has deemed is cool. Thus everyone is trying to get that weapon that everyone deems cool.
In MMO terms, these weapons that everyone chooses comes with a number of factors but ultimately comes down to two. The first is class, since most newer RPGs are class-based players really can’t choose whatever they want, they are forced into whatever their class has. This has been the primary way that devs can justify having different weapons at all. The second still runs down to stats, that uber dagger that you get out of X raid instance is the one that you should use. There is usually a class of weapon that is just above what everyone uses but only a few can, and this is as it should be, but these guys who get those weapons tend to keep to themselves so few care.
If all weapons were truly equal and everyone could choose whatever they want. I would wager that most everyone would still use the same weapon. It would probably become a graphical choice mixed with rarity. It’s going to be that pretty one down in that dungeon that is sort of difficult to get, but still somewhat attainable.
I also think this whole situation is a problem with the fact that developers have chosen to just give the dps to the player on the weapon. No longer do weapons have a damage rating, no the dps already factors in the damage and the speed of the weapon and thus, yes in the long run they all should balance. The problem for the player should be what type of damage do they want to do, do they want to do a lot of damage slowly or small amounts of damage quick. Unfortunately I feel that this is the choice that has been largely taken away from players.
Personally, I don’t like doing the typical damage. It is the reason why I liked being a Warlock over a Wizard and a Defiler over a Priest in EQ2. I also liked the Shaman’s damage type in DAoC. It’s that idea that yes, up front someone will do more damage than me in the first minute, but I will do more damage over the course of 5 minutes is what I like. I’d like to do more damage overall and I think this really should be the choice that we give to players largely because I think more players will choose the quick damage but we need to be making it more profitable for the longer damage periods.
If we want to continue down the route that we are currently on, I think we might as well just save our effort on the graphics. Imagine the amount of money that is wasted on these alternate graphics like spears that no one will ever use because it isn’t cool? We could actually end up with more content that counts!