Making a Reward Rewarding

I am wondering whether or not I will be able to come up with a topic each day. This is actually pretty fun to do. I hope I will be able to keep up with it.

A rather big set of change is coming to Ultima Online. Bigger than perhaps anything else in the past 3 years. For those who don’t follow UO, there has not been an expansion since August 2005. So this is no exaggeration. (I am purposefully ignoring Kingdom Reborn)

Publish 57 brings three new things to the game. There is the Scroll of Transcendence which will accelerate skill gain. There are decorative rewards being added to all champion spawns. Then there are the powerful new replica artifacts being added to champions as well. I am going to focus on the new item drop rates more than anything else.

When you add something permanent to a MMO, it needs to last. If you add a boss, there should be a reason that players need/want to defeat it over and over. At the moment there is no reason at all to do the champion spawns in Ilshenar facet because they drop no loot at all. This is not a joke. In fact none of the champion spawns added with Samurai Empire or Mondain’s Legacy had special loot either. I can’t imagine why this happened. Why would you go through the trouble of adding a boss and forgo a reason for players to defeat it?

Felucca facet champions are different because they drop highly desired Power and Stat Scrolls, unavailable anywhere else in the game. This draw is so great that all group PVP in UO has shifted to revolved around them. Massive guilds have been formed to fight rival guilds over this bountiful resource. The best scrolls, boosting you to 120 skill, used to only drop 10% of the time. After 5 years, that was changed to a 20% drop. Each champion could give out up to 12 power scrolls. The Harrower can give up to 16 stat scrolls.

Okay, that should be enough explaining. What I am getting at is these special rewards were added in summer of 2002 and are still sought after to this day. This is due to their very low drop rate, difficulty in obtaining them and being a one-use item. Our guild still spends virtually every night acquiring them unless there is something else interesting to do.

Instead of a 10% or 20% drop rate, the new rewards are designed to drop 90% of the time. Not only is the drop rate so insanely high, but some of the best rewards are shared among all the champions. There are 24 champion spawns located throughout Britannia. Unless the developers plan to swap out the decorations and replica artifacts every 6 months, this has no hope of lasting. We saw it with the Minor Artifacts, once insanely popular but now players throw them on the ground. Heck, we even see with the recent Halloween event. After the first 2 weeks, participation in the graveyards went way down. Once you own a piece of equipment in today’s UO, you own it for life.

Unless the reward is a desired consumable, then you can’t have a high drop rate. It only leads to disaster once every player has what they want for life and the market has so many that they are sold for less gold than it takes to gather in 15 minutes of hunting. The drop rate of 90% should probably be cut by 90%. A low drop rate also means when you finally get that item you want, it is that much more meaningful.

My take away strategy is you can always raise a drop rate which is found to be too low, but you can not easily reverse one too high as the items will be too numerous by the time you realize it.

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