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MMO Gear Breaking Opinion

Something I had never seen until World of Warcraft came out (yes, I was playing MMOs long before this game was released or even heard of) is the aspect of gear breaking. It is starting to become more and more popular, and I really dislike the way it works. Through this article I am going to look at the theories behind why it should be good, as well as why it is not. While I am on the side of disliking it, I will be taking a neutral stance when it comes to sharing information about what it is designed to do and how it actually works out. As such, your opinion may very well differ from my own. That said, there is still some bias so keep that in mind as you continue reading.

How Gear Breaking Works

Generally, the gear breaking system relies on items having a health, much like your character does. The more you use the items, the more damage they take. Over time they will become damaged, which requires repairing them. If you want to view this as you would in real life, it really works the same way. If you keep using your hammer to hit something, for example, at some point it is going to break due to becoming weaker and weaker with every swing. While there is no way to know exactly how long it will take to get to this point, games just throw a health amount to each item and let that be used (which, if you really want to sit back and run the mathematics on, you can tell how many attacks you can get in before you have to repair if you wish).

So what happens if you decide you do not want to repair your gear? This again works just like in real life. If your gear is destroyed, you can no longer use it. In the game's terms, this would be allowing you to use them but just lose effectiveness (meaning less damage done, less chance of hitting, etc.). So while you can technically still play the game, you become so inefficient that it is not worth trying to avoid doing the repairs as they are needed.

Economical Effects

The main reason for having gear break is that it costs money to repair it (in some way or another; even if it requires materials instead of gold, that is still a form of money, though indirectly). This removes money from the economy without giving it to another player. In essence, the money paid for the repairs ends up being destroyed. While this might sound like a bad thing (when do we like things to be destroyed, right?), it is there for a reason. When you play a game, you earn gold. This may be from killing players, mobs or doing quests. In some way, you will be earning some more money. Think about this happening with millions of players, and them having to choose what to spend their money on. This adds more money in to the economy, which ends up raising the prices of items. We call this the act of inflation (and if you are used to normal economies, such as our real world, you should already be familiar with this, being that we have inflation every year).

Without working to curve the inflation and slow it down, items would consistently raise in value and cost. While this is not a big problem for players that have been in the game since the beginning (we would presumably already have more than enough gold stashed away, considering we have been farming and earning it), you have to take in to consideration what the new players are going through. We want a flow of new gamers to join our games, and for that to work they have to be able to play effectively. If they spend more time trying to farm gold just so they can get caught up with all the existing players and buy the items they need, it causes complications. Either people are going to be without the good gear for extended periods of time, they are going to quit the game due to being irritated, or they are going to resort to buying gold from farmers. Each of these things is less than preferable, and this is why fighting off inflation as much as possible is important.

I do want to stress that sometimes the cost for repairing is way above what it should be. The goal should be to keep inflation down in games; not to completely bankrupt players. If you are playing a game where you can not even spend anything on necessities like potions due to the cost of having to repair gear and the lack of being able to earn the gold, you might want to look elsewhere. In situations like this, the developers will almost always make changes later on that allow you to earn enough to keep afloat. Rift, for example, used to offer up almost no gold for taking part in PvP, but still had soul healing requirements. It was to the point where you had to take part in PvE just so that you could go back out and fight other players through PvP. This was a very inefficient system. Luckily they made the changes later on that removed soul damage (repairs) from PvP and then later on again increased the amount of gold earned through those play modes. This created a system where you only have to worry about costs for doing PvE, and you can earn more than enough gold to cover these costs without having to worry about it too much.

Break Periods

I am not sure if this is an intended part of why gear breaks but it causes you to have to take breaks from playing the game. Most games require that you go to certain NPCs, and you simply can not get to them within dungeons or your leveling areas. As such, you have to leave, go repair, and then return to where you were. This creates a break period, because it is a stopping point. The reason why I am not completely sure whether or not this is the intention is because with some games, there are ways around having to visit that NPC, and also because often times the repairing takes place as part of the game's lore. What says “medieval times” like being able to just repair right where you are standing, right?

Some games also take a route that I find a little iffy. This is when they allow you to buy an item from the cash shop that allows you to instantly repair (in Guild Wars 2 this would be the Instant Repair Canister) without having to go out of your way to do it. This is seen as a non game breaking item, but I find it a little annoying when companies try to nickle and dime you for an item that has a lot of uses when it comes to saving time.

My Dislikes

I have no problem with games where the repair system is handled how I would consider as being properly. This means that the effect on your own wallet is at an acceptable amount, and you do not have to go too far out of your way to make the repair happen. Spending an hour just because someone has to repair is beyond annoying. Spending a few minutes, on the other hand, is not such a big deal. After all, I fully support the idea behind cutting down on inflation, and I think it is a pretty important thing. The only bad part is that most games do not handle it right.

Conclusion

Gear breaking and repairs in MMOs are becoming a more and more popular way of combating inflation within games. They help by destroying money that would otherwise be held by members and be thrown out in to the economy. At the same time, however, they can also cause a lot of problems if the cost does not match up too well with how much a player should be earning. It also causes problems if the cost is too low, because this minimizes its effect and in some cases pretty much neutralizes it altogether. Finding the perfect balance between cost and accessibility is key, and while some games handle it pretty well, others do not. I hope, though, that more games will start paying attention to what is working and what is not, and alter their systems according to the data. It is important to realize that each game is different and what works out to be a perfect solution for one could very well be the wrong one for another. Being open to changes and evaluating the data that is available is key to ensuring that the game is flowing in the right direction and that everything is working out well.

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