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My Thoughts of Soul Binding Gear in Games

Introduction

I have found that I am usually in the minority in feeling this way, but I am very against the idea of having items in games be “bound” to a single player. For me this does not even matter if it is bind on equip or pick up, it is the same principle; I believe that the gear should always be trade able, regardless as to if you have ever used it or not. Sadly, all of the latest games have bound gear, so I have had to deal with it, but I would like to voice my reasoning for being against it like I am.

Myth: It Limits Item Value

A myth I have seen surrounding why items should be bound is that it helps add more value to items. There is the thought that if you could trade every item you have, even after you have equipped it, that the items would be flooding to the market to the point where none of them would have any value any more (think about it as supply and demand). When you think about it like this, it makes sense in theory. But this is also only when we compare it to the drop rates and the number of items we find in most games today. If we compare it to a past game, Lineage II, we come up with a different result.

In Lineage II, there were many sets of gear and different types of gear, but the good stuff was somewhat rare to come across. The items required a lot of materials or some really good luck in getting full drops, which led to items having some great value. While items could always be traded at any point, the value was kept afloat because people needed everything pretty much. There was not a single item in the game that did not retain its value, nor was there anything that could not be sold to another player. The concept of “trash” items or “vendor” items was non existent to me until much later when I got involved in other games.

Because every item had value and the good, full items were tough to craft, this helped each item retain its value. Even if there were, say a thousand of an item out in the game, you would have many more people than that that need it, so it was still not an issue.

Then again, Lineage II also did another thing to help preserve the value of items; have a nice enchanting system. When you enchanted items to boost their power or defense, you had a pretty decent chance of success of around seventy percent. If you failed the enchant, however, you would be rewarded with nothing but some crystals (a material used to create things), which were not going to be worth nearly as much as the item that broke was. With each additional enchant that was successful, the number of crystals that are rewarded if it breaks went up, but the value of the item itself would have gone up significantly, so even though more crystals were given, the amount of money lost as a result of the failure was still going to be increasing at a faster rate.

This did two things: it allowed enchanting to have some actual purpose, in that if you managed to get items up to really high numbers, such as +16, you were ridiculously powerful, and at the same time it also helped to cut down on the number of items on the market as people were always breaking their items while trying to enchant them. While there were constantly new drops and crafted items being added to the market, this helped keep everything in a state of equality, so the prices remained pretty constant; even through multiple months and years.

The key to preserving the value of items is to limit the speed at which they can be obtained. In the case of Lineage II, for example, the top items would take a couple weeks to get, and that was with entire groups or guilds of players working together to get them crafted. This is much different than the “instant gratification” we see now in games where you can run a dungeon or kill a boss once in a small group and have your top items. With things like that in games, it would be too difficult to limit the rate at which the items are added to the market. Along with this, the few games that do have enchanting to not have any way to break the items, meaning that once an item is out on the market it is out there for good. The result of this is that over time the supply finally catches up to the demand and surpasses it, so the value from the beginning to the end is usually on a downward slope. When everything is done properly, however, there are no problems with keeping the value of items up!

Myth: It Kills Progression for Alts

This is another thing that is pretty wrong. The items you have on your character are often seen as being indicative of your progression in a game. For example, if you have the top gear, you are seen as being an excellent player at that game, with the experience to take down the hardest obstacles. If you are on an alternate character that does not have these items, though, you are often seen as being sub par, because if you were really that elite you would have the same things on each of your characters (or, put another way, you would have gone through the same progression on each character).

This is often pushed forward by the feeling that if you could trade your items from one character to another, or sell everything you can get off drops and craft, that proof of progression is killed. But when it really comes down to it, this is very false.

Take, for example, the way most games already work. You can trade most normal drops (usually off of trash mobs) and things you can craft. Once you equip one of these, it is bound to you forever. If you do raids and quests, you get items that are usually bound to you as well. This is so that only the “best” players can get the top gear, and they are supposed to work for it (that is the theory, anyways). Well, where this goes wrong is that top guilds and farmers alike both sell these items still. While you do have to be present in a raid to get the raid drops from bosses, for example, these guilds and farmers have found a trick around the system; you tell them what item or items you want off what bosses, you come up with a price, and they will let you join their raid and leech your way to the end. If the item drops, you pay for it and it is yours. If it does not, you can keep doing that time and time again until it does.

This leads to quite a bit of confusion for me. If the entire point of allowing bound gear is to keep people from trading items and to force people to actually do content if they want the best items, why does that matter anymore if there are already ways around the system? Now it is the gold buyers and such that are getting the benefits, while the legitimate players are being punished. Essentially, if you do not want to risk being banned or getting caught while doing it, you can get any item in the game without having to work for it at all. If you are dealing solely with in game gold, you are removing the risk of being banned, so now you are able to legitimately purchase anything you want (as long as someone is willing to sell it). Since this is the case, it does not really make sense to make these items bound on pick up; it does no real good except for keeping at bay the players who do not think outside the box.

Because of how easy it is to exploit this system, there really is no prestige with having the top items anymore anyways. You never know at the end of the day who got the items because they worked for them, and who got them because they paid for them. Even with the achievement system that tells what you have done, it is based on your character and you can buy your way through those too!

Truth: Soul Binding Creates Problems

I can not even count the number of times I have read posts on various forums about players who accidentally equipped their item on the wrong character or gave it to the wrong person during a raid. Because these items are bound, that means that the person who has it, and can not really use it, has just wasted the item. There are times when game support staff will jump in and help people if the logs show that what happened was not done on purpose (for example, you were trying to give the tank his new weapon and you accidentally clicked the wrong name), but this ends up creating a hassle for everyone. Now the players have to go through a delay to get the problem solved, support has to take some of their time to go through and verify what was said is true and then make any necessary changes to fix the issue, and other players that are waiting on support for different reasons are put on hold through the process because now the queue is being held up by a problem that should really not exist in the first place.

It is cases like this, where things get very inefficient, that make me wonder why anyone would want a soul binding system to begin with. After all, the only thing that it is doing is hurting everyone, without really solving any problems. This makes it a negative thing all the way around.

Truth: Soul Binding Adds Extra Grind to the Game

This is the worst part of the soul binding for me. If you have more than one character you want to play that can use the same types of items, or you have friends that are upgrading their gear, you can not benefit from those situations at all. This adds a massive grind to the game to get better gear, when really it could all be handled by just allowing everyone to trade their stuff back and forth. This would enhance the journey of leveling up alternate characters by quite a bit, and would remove a ton of the “grindy” feeling we all experience when we are gaming.

If we got rid of the soul binding, we would still have to level, but you could already have all of your gear ready and waiting for you when you hit the maximum level. What would this result in? A bigger reason to level! Instead of looking at it as being another job where you first have to level up and then you have to figure out how you are going to be getting all of your gear, you can work on getting it during the entire leveling process. It could still be in a tiered fashion, too. For example, in Lineage II, gear was separated in to tiers based on a lettering system in this order: No Grade, D, C, B, A, S. As you leveled up more and more you were able to unlock the next tiers, and at that point you could start utilizing any gear you had that fit in to those tiers.

One of the ways the game handled the job of keeping people from having entire sets of gear wiating for them at each tier on their own was by having the gear available while killing mobs of the next tier up. For example, C grade gear (for levels forty through fifty one) was not available off drops until you got to mobs of level fifty three or so. This was not a big problem, though, because you could use earlier tiered gear while you worked on leveling, so even if you did not have stuff that fit based on your current level, as long as you matched up with or were above the level requirements it was okay to wear.

Conclusion

What I would love more than anything is for games to move away from soul binding gear. Allow players to equip and then unequip and trade any items they want. Quit forcing players to keep having to evaluate whether or not an item is worth using at the moment because it can never be sold off or given to an alternate or someone else. These should not even be choices that we need to consider while we are playing the game; it should be about always using the latest and greatest stuff, and being able to pass off our progression items to our new characters or loan them to friends. There is no reason to keep having to go through the same progression path, such as raiding, on many different characters just so that you can try to keep them all competitive and on par with the current content. And this is not even coming from a casual player; I am considered as a hardcore gamer, but this is one thing that really bothers me. I am sure that if I am bothered by it as a hardcore player, more casual players also have similar problems with how it works.

I do think that if we went through a change, players would need to adapt to the new system of crafting and farming items, being that the drop rates and craft rates would need to be slowed considerably. At the end of the day, though, I think that most players would be more than happy to see something like this implemented and would not have that many problems with it being harder to obtain the items solo since you would have a pretty thriving market that could be used to obtain things from as well. More options are always a good thing, and limiting markets based on what can and can not be traded only works to cut down on this. Along with this, it also works to limit the number of players that are willing to play new characters for the purpose of end game content, as most people do not wish to go back through the entire leveling experience and then go back through and keep farming for a second set of gear when they already went through all of that work once.

Games


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