TwiddleDee you're looking at the entire question from inside the box of your previous experiences. "What if stats were determined primarily by gear."
Is what the OP asked, what you read is: "What if stats were determined primarily by loot."
There's a big
difference. When you think of a game like WoW, and where gear comes from, any gear worth it's salt is loot, even the crafted stuff is primarily loot that a crafter just happened to be required to throw it together. Loot from instances. A player's stats while not entirely
determined by their gear, is for the most part thusly determined.
To think that FFXIV will be an exception to this rule, or that FFXI was an exception somehow, is actually a bit of an ill-conceived idea. Perhaps gear was not quite as
important, it still made a huge difference on your effectiveness.
To return to my original point though. I was actually hoping that when the game was first talked about, (this game that is) and how much freedom we'd have with our gear and skill choices, that gear would almost entirely determine our stats
Not in the way that you're thinking though. Not in the "I can only wear cloth, and since I'm wearing this cloth robe that's better than your cloth robe so I'm better" way, but in the "I choose to wear a robe to raise my magic potency, and leather boots to raise my evasion" way.
If gear had a class
of its own that determined base attributes based on the level of the equipment and the type (leather, mail, plate, robes, etc) and then any bonuses for that specific gear was applied on top of that, it would allow for more customization, and I think accomplishing what the OP was originally attempting to get at. What if your equipment determined your role.
Now would this work with the direction they're taking FFXIV nowadays? No, it really wouldn't, they've forsaken the idea of a classless game, and are working on implementing jobs. Gear will shift back to a more standard MMO itemization route, with a lot of ridiculous SE quirks.
But this is a hypothetical thread, and if they had taken that classless route with more commitment, and uncoupled weapons from skill progression, or rather divided it up further, this approach to gear could have been excellent.
Set a bunch of magic skills and wield a staff, but equip plate armor? If the gear had a huge impact on stats you'd be a very survivable magic wielder. Wield a sword and set a cornucopia of different skills, then equip a mixture of leather and cloth and you've made a Red Mage.
The key is that the gear would have a huge impact on your stat as a base, gear with rare materials (and dungeon loot) would give you slightly larger bonuses on top
of that base armor class and rank bonus.
And now, after a small white space for the sake of clarity, a different topic: How a Decoupled Progression System Could in Fact Work
There is one truth that some of you have already mentioned, entirely doing away with levels or ranks would be a very bad idea, if you're attempting to remain within this genre. For various reasons, some of those financial, but other reasons just come down to organization and separation of content. One way or the other some sort of tier-ing has to exist, or things will just be too hard for the design team to wrap their brains around.
When all the FFXIV information was floating around, I had a lot of thoughts as I speculated about how they would accomplish what they said they were trying to do. The reality is they never accomplished any of it.
Sad, but true.
But I'll outline how I believe they could have done so successfully. (Not necessarily easily, mind you.)
- Skills are unlocked through Weapons
For those of you who have played Final Fantasy IX, TA, or TA2, you are already going to know what I'm talking about. For those of you who haven't imagine that the new Materia system, and it's spiritbind stat, instead of being applied to creating marginally useful stat enhancing gemstones, was in fact how you mastered a new skill. You get your hands on a Thunder Rod, while equipped you have access to Thunder II, once you've reached full spiritbind (I'm just using this term because it's easier, SP is fine too) you have the option of crystallizing that weapon into magicite.
Magicite is then a permanent key item in side your Magicite Grid (Or whatever other fancy name, sphere grid, license board, you get the idea) and can be set for a number of set points, not unlike the current skill system. SP or spiritbind gained increases linearly or exponentially with the level of the target. So while you may gain 1 or 2 SP a kill off of a level 1 mob, and level 70 you may be gaining 70 SP. This means that as your character level progresses and you're killing stronger enemies, going back and learning low level skills won't be an enormous time sink. But learning those low level abilities at a low level will take a while.
Weapons need not have a hard level requirement, but a required rank to start generating SP, and use the ability associated with the weapon. If there's a sword called "Defender" and it unlocks "Cover" and it's a Rank20 weapon, at Level 15 using that sword you'd have scaled down stats as in the current system in FFXIV, would not generate SP and would not have access to cover until Level 20, thus making the use of low level weapons counter productive. Rare weapons, as well as end game raid weapons could for the most part, be devoid of skills, thus not limiting the mastery of those skills to a tiny fraction of the player base. Instead, those weapons would be meant for players doing difficult content, and who want the absolute greatest edge, not those who are looking to learn new skills.
- Equipment has a large role in determining Stats
I basically already talked about this in the first section of my post, so I won't go into too much detail, but instead I'll provide some examples. Here we go... Iron Cuirass
Defense: Rank A
Attack: Rank B
Speed: Rank D
Magic: Rank D
Resistance: Rank C
HP + 45 VIT + 15
Defense: Rank A
Attack: Rank B
Speed: Rank D
Magic: Rank D
Resistance: Rank C
HP + 100 VIT + 20 STR + 10
Defense: Rank D
Attack: Rank D
Speed: Rank C
Magic: Rank A
Resistance: Rank B
MP + 35 INT + 10
Defense: Rank B
Attack: Rank B
Speed : Rank B
Magic: Rank C
Resistance: Rank C
Acc + 10 Eva + 10
Please note that these are in no way perfectly balanced, they're just examples, in a vacuum. Now, on top of the usual stat bonuses that come afterwards, and are exclusive to that piece of gear
, you'll see the various Ranks listed for some vague stats, these names are by no means the final names, but they show the general distribution of how that armor is going to affect your stats. The leather is balanced, the robe is magic heavy, and the plate is defense heavy.
This could be displayed to the player via a graph of some sort, or via ranks like this, it really doesn't matter. Anyways, let's first take a look at Iron Cuirass vs Templar's Cuirass. Let's imagine the first is crafted, and the second is from a dungeon boss. The second has better bonuses, but both are the same type of armor, so they have the same rankings otherwise. These rankings would be thrown into an equation with player level, to determine the character's end stat.
If you imagine for a moment that they are both the same rank (level) of equipment, and let's say a level 50 character is wearing them, you'd get something like this for their defensive stats... Iron Cuirass wearing Lv50 player...
Defense Rank A grants... + 500 hp + 45 vit
Gear specific bonuses grant... + 45 hp + 15 vit
while the Templar Cuirass wearing Lv50 player...
Defense Rank A still grants... + 500 hp + 45 vit
Gear specific bonuses grant... + 100 hp + 20 vit + 10 str ** I'm not including any stats for the other ranks like attack, speed, magic, etc.
The iron cuirass is relatively easy to obtain, anyone who saves a little money can buy one, and now their stats are focused on defense (for their body slot at least) the end game raider with the Templar's Cuirass is also focusing on defense, but they have a slight edge, the gear specific stats (what we normally equate with gear in MMOs) are slightly better.
In both cases, the player's choice in what kind of gear to equip altered the way their character played, the main difference in quality is just a small edge (so gear type as a choice affects us greatly, the rarity of the gear determines an edge.)
Now, keeping in mind that they are not in fact the same rank, one is 45, and one is 48, let's discuss how optimal ranks could work. It's not complicated, and not too different than the current system. Below the optimal level, it scales based on your level, at and above the optimal rank you would essentially gain a small bonus, like +10% stats contribution, for using something that you are optimally ranked with, but the stats the armor provides no longer increase after the optimal rank. So for instanced, at Rank 47, that (Rank 45) Iron Cuirass may only give +500 hp +45 vit from it's Rank A defense rating, while at the same rank, the (Rank 48) Templar's Cuirass may only grant +480 hp +42 vit, and at rank 48 when the optimal rank is reached, it may grant something more like +550 hp, +50 vit. (Not exact numbers.)
If you've actually read this far, you may not be convinced - after all, how does leveling work? What does leveling impact? I briefly hinted at it in previous sections, but level is still very important. The player still gains EXP, still gains levels, but instead of directly granting stats, or skills, it's merely a gating system.
We gain access to new skills we can learn via weapons, and we gain access to new optimally ranked equipment, and any equipment we are wearing is multiplied by our level to grant us more stats. The reality is, this is a far better option than allowing a player to choose our stat growth.
If you don't agree, I would like to see you argue that point.
If we can freely set our abilities, but gear matters little and our stats are determined by allotting them manually, we have very little freedom in reality. We must choose to either excel at one thing, or be okay at everything, or constantly reassign stats. Or have some kind of system of saving sets of stats, which is convoluted.
Instead, our level multiplies by the gear rank for each stat distribution. If we choose to set all magic spells and wear all robes we are very specialized and focused magic users. Our magic is more potent, and we have access to more spells than someone who sets a mixture of skills and wears a mixture of gear types. That person is however, more versatile. The reality is, with a system like this, we can choose to prepare ourselves differently for the challenge ahead, without having to worry about resetting our stats or any convoluted "stat save" systems.
If we're about to go out on a solo adventure, setting a mixture of skills, heals, nukes, melee attacks, defensive skills and wearing hybrid-focused leather is probably our best bet. And this should be the path of most solo adventurers. If we're going into group content, we can focus on a role we want to perform, throw on some plate armor and stack as may defensive abilities as possible to make a tank.
Regardless, what skills we have access to and how much that gear adds to our character, is still determined by our level. Our level is still a good metric of our power! We just have a lot more freedom.
- Okay so there's some Caveats
The astute among you will already be pointing out how open to exploitation this system really is. You're right! With no regulations on this system, a player could set a perfect combination of skills and gear, and exploit broken parts of the system, and make absurd character builds.
I do have an answer to this though... Skill-linking.
What the **** do I mean? Okay, so if you're going to give a character a limited number of points, and tell them that every skill has a certain point value, and that's the end of it, there's lots of problems. For one thing, before I talk about how this leaves your skill system open to exploitation, I'm first going to talk about how it weakens the sense of accumulation and specialty.
A player who is essentially attempting to create a Black Mage, who focuses solely on black magic, and wearing robes, is going to be limited in the way they set spells by this system, as much as anyone else. What I mean by this is, while in a game without set points, that caster if they had access to Stone IV, will also have access to Stone III, Stone II, and Stone I.
With set points, why would that mage ever set those spells if they're taking away precious set points from spells they'll use more regularly? They wouldn't, unless... Setting spells of a kind gave discounts on set points, and stat bonuses. Say you set Stone IV and Stone III together, the set cost of Stone III goes from 4 to 2, and for linking the spells the player gets a +15 INT +50 MP bonus. Skill-linking!
Not only does this reward players who want to focus on certain skill by giving them an edge in that direction, it also makes the system more complex, forcing players to think more about what they set, and how they set it. If you just cherry pick all the skills that are amazing by themselves
, the likelihood that those all link in a helpful fashion is very low. Thus you lose out on a lot of bonuses to the effectiveness of those skills, and you also have to spend more set points to do so.
In this way, you give players freedom to create a character the way they want to, without creating a situation where some kind of weird mash up of the game's best skills, cherry picked onto one character, will always create the absolute best build. You have to look at the bigger picture. It's not just about choosing the best skills, its about choosing the way you want your character to play. I'd love to put a TL;DR here, but the reality is, it's just too complex of a topic to do so, I haven't edited this post yet, so I apologize in advance for any grievous spelling/grammar errors. Now, off to do things! Edited, Aug 30th 2011 5:17pm by RamseySylph