It quite rightly received him a ton of accolades for his effort.
You can read his post below,followed by a word from The GrimmOmen
Lately there seems to be no end to the doom and gloom that entails discussing our beloved game of Ultima Online. The same topics are rehashed over and over until something new comes along. When that something new is good (Magincia Invasion) there is peace and happiness. But when it goes the other way (Holiday Gifts), the results can be quite ugly. Unfortunately this year the U Hall has been mostly dominated with discussions spiraling into rants and flames.
So today I have decided to do something I haven't done in a long time. I have done some thinking and come up with a whole big mess of ideas that could be a revamped item system for UO. "Big" changes to the item system were supposed to be coming with Stygain Abyss but no one seems to be discussing that right now. So I think this is not only something interesting to discuss but also very relevant for the future. This will be a multi-topic plan released over days, or perhaps even weeks, because I am definitely not going to sit and type for hours on end. Now on to the main topic.
Revamping the UO Item System - Introduction and History
If you had to make a top 5 list of issues in UO today, what would be on it? Well cheating would be up there for sure. Perhaps lack of new content. If it was not already on there, I would make a strong case for items in general. After all I am making a whole topic about it right now.
Every player in UO creates, buys, sells, trades, loots, moves, uses, interacts and complains about one thing, items. Items affect every single part of the game. You couldn't have a UO without items. There are many different types of items. From a potted plant to a sword to a potion. Each has a different function. In this case, I am going to be focusing on one type of item: Equipment. Equipment is defined as anything you can equip. It can be a sword or shield or cloak. If it fits on your paperdoll then it is covered in this topic. To get even more specific, I am only covering equipment that relates to combat.
There are at least 16 equipment slots which a player can utilize for combat. If you don't believe me then count them up yourself. Or let me just type them out for you: Left Hand, Right Hand, Head, Neck, Chest, Over Chest (Robe, Sash, etc.), Leggings, Belt, Sleeves, Gloves, Feet, Back (Cloak, Quiver), Earring, Bracelet, Ring and Talisman.
Most item problems stem from balancing magic properties in relation to all possible item slots. For example, if a player can't get 70 in all resistances, 15 Mana Regeneration, 2 Faster Casting, 6 Faster Casting Recovery, +30 Hit Point Increase, 100% Lower Reagent Cost, 40% Lower Mana Cost, and a few other properties on one item. It is the stacking of properties which causes players to go from acceptable to overpowered.
Original Release to Age of Shadows
To begin to understand where things went wrong we have to look back to how it was before the current system. The original item system lasted for over 5 years so something had to have been done right. Learning what it was could help in fixing issues faced today.
Trivia question: how many item properties existed before the age of shadows?
Five. They were durability, damage increase, tactics skill bonus, armor resistance increase and hit spell. Of course there were many different types of hit spell but since a weapon could only have one, lets count it as a single property.
A piece of armor had up to three properties. Defense, Guardian, Hardening, Fortification and Invulnerability for increased resistance. Durable, Substantial, Massive, Fortified and Indestructible for durability. It could also have a spell such as Bless or Curse. Now that is sort of an important note there. You could have an "Indestructible platemail helm of Invulnerability" with weaken attached to it. This was not such a big factor since you could find plenty of such helms without that property or even equip/remove it a certain number of times until the spell wore off. But I think such a tidbit could be useful in helping balance the current system.
As for weapons there were five properties. Ruin, Might, Force, Power and Vanquishing were the equivalent to Damage Increase. Accurate, Surpassingly Accurate, Eminently Accurate, Exceedingly Accurate and Supremely Accurate increased the tactics skill. There were also durability, slayer and various hit spells. Some spells which did not carry over were Clumsy, Weaken, Feeblemind, Mana Drain and Curse. One thing that could be learned here would be how little the damage increase property affected the weapon output. Vanquishing added only +9 to the total. If a Heavy Crossbow can do up to 56 damage before resistance is taken into account, the Vanquishing property only increases it by 14% to 65. That is a far cry from the 100% that is possible today.
There is even more that can be looked at beyond just the properties. Prior to the introduction of runics, the best items could only be acquired by looting monsters. Items could be lost at any time due to death or theft. Using items meant they would eventually wear out. Even more might be found with further digging, but I think this is plenty for now.
Age of Shadows to Today
Anyone who was there can tell you that one day you logged out and the next day, UO had changed into a completely new game. This change was so abrupt that many long time players I knew ended up quitting within the next few months. What did they quit over? Exactly what we are talking about now. Items had turned from something you used to something you obsessed over.
Prior to AOS you would grab your preferred suit of GM armor, a trusty weapon, some potions, etc. Today you have to plan out item properties, search through vendors, do figuring whether such-such works with what you already gathered and most of all spend a ton of gold. Once you have finally put together a "suit", spending countless hours, you're basically set for life. Item insurance is what enables all this to happen. I've been using the same leather tunic since 2003. Same bracelet (Ornament of Magician) and head piece (Hat of the Magi) since 2003 also. Unless something outrageously better comes along I will never have to change out those pieces. And they never wear out due to Powder of Fortification.
The whole item system has been turned upside down and I haven't even begun talking about properties yet. What does it mean using the same equipment? Crafters lose all their business. Most monsters don't get hunted for new equipment. The price of really good equipment skyrockets. Everything else (NPC, GM crafted and most magic loot) goes in the trash bin. The powerful item insurance and powder of fortification combination was a huge oversight when Age of Shadows was released. Item decay has essentially been turned off since 2003. Turning it back on will have to be a part of any solution that has a chance of working.
But that isn't even the biggest elephant in the room. Remember how I mentioned before that Vanquishing Heavy Crossbows only added 14% to total damage? Well now you can get 100% Damage Increase in item properties alone and 200% additional from skills and abilities. Monsters get the worst of it with Enemy of One and Slayers.
I'm actually out of time right now and didn't even get to finish the history part.
Part 1: Introduction and History - What your reading now
Part 2: Creating the New - New properties and abilities to make players want to upgrade to new system
Part 3: Revamping the Old - Tweaking what is currently implemented without making it obsolete
Part 4: Crafting - Afterthought? No, only place it could fit.
Part 5: Pulling it all together - Examples of how everything would work
- 2002 Stratics Magic Items Page
- 2002 Stratics Weapons Page
Great post JC. There's some great information there, and I look forward to reading your other posts on this topic.
JP "TheGrimmOmen" Harrod
Associate CG Supervisor, EA Mythic