Sunday, August 7, 2011

EQ2 Dungeon Tokens Testing Need Versus Greed

Lyriana's slow and steady journey through the instances of Velious is continuing, and I'm learning a bit more about the endgame armor system than I knew when I had my first piece crafted.  SOE has made some unusual choices when it comes to having items crafted from account bound group dungeon drops.  The system seems to be working, but it also blurs the lines between the traditional forms of need and greed.

Verifying Need
A tier three armor recipe
As detailed in Feldon's guide to Velious armor, there are three tiers of class-specific armor that can be crafted using tokens from the current expansion's single group (six players) dungeons.  All of these have in common the Primal Velium Shard, which will be familiar to players who are familiar with dungeon currencies in other games.  Your typical dungeon run awards somewhere between 3-5 shards, which are account-bound (as is most dungeon loot in EQ2, so that players with multiple level 90's can be flexible in which character they bring), and your typical piece of loot from the first two tiers will set you back between 20-33 shards, while the third tier wants as many as 45.

(In tiers 1 and 2, finding a crafter to turn your shards into armor saves you 5-8 shards off of the vendor price, and also excuses you from any faction requirements on the vendor.  Because you are going to need to farm up shards no matter what, and because the shards can also be used for higher tiers or "adornments" - EQ2's version of enchantments - most players head straight for the second tier; I've very seldom seen anyone advertise that they're crafting the tier one stuff.)

In tier two, also known as the Ry'Gorr armor because the NPC vendor is part of the Ry'Gorr orc faction, the player must supplement the shards with a polished gem.  The rough gems, which are account-bound, drop in regular instances and are rolled as regular loot.  However, as I learned when I went to get my first piece of armor, you can trade these items once a crafter has polished them - perhaps in part to protect players from being screwed by the random number generator (and the prospect that the gem will be a six-way roll if it does drop).

This means that we have a standard need before greed dungeon drop that sells for over a hundred plat on the broker.  In principle, you could inspect the players who roll need to determine whether they already have the piece of armor that can be crafted with that gem (or better).  Then again, is it legitimate to roll need because you can sell that gem for the plat you need to buy the gem for the piece you don't have yet, when you have no way of knowing whether the other rollers are doing the same?

The situation in the third tier gets even more complicated.  Instead of gems, the tier three armor costs the standard velium shards plus ore that is obtained by disenchanting regular loot items that drop in those dungeons.  In the tier one and two dungeons, I typically don't even roll greed on stuff my character doesn't intend to use, because someone else might at least have an alt that will use the account-bound gear.  In the third tier, I would need to obtain some of those drops to get the ore for my own armor, and, again, there's no good way to tell whether someone is rolling need for the gear, for the ore, for the cash to exchange for other ore, or just straight up for the cash.

Good idea?
On the one hand, I see where SOE is coming from with this system.  For the slots where I can have class-specific armor crafted, it's very rare that I'm going to want a generic dungeon drop, and that does reduce the system to a pure token grind.  That said, I don't know that I'm entirely comfortable with what this model does to the incentives in loot rolling, especially with cross-server grouping coming to the game possibly later this month.

Overall, the problem is a shortcoming of the genre-wide need before greed mechanic, rather than anything specific about EQ2's armor system.  I'm just not sure it's a good idea to have a system that tests community agreement of what constitutes need versus greed. 

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