The Daily Grind: Should MMOs eliminate ‘soulbound’ mechanics?

    
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This morning’s Daily Grind arrives from Kickstarter donor jackfrost, who phrases his question in the form of a rant:

Why do almost all rewards in current gen MMOs have to be some form of soulbound? I hate it.

Me too, frankly. I suppose it got started back in EverQuest with the advent of “no-drop” items, but over the years, themeparks especially (but some sandboxes too) have adopted the mechanic as a way to stifle player trading and keep us returning to the well better known as the dungeon-and-loot-drop-grind (and in recent years, to the well known as the cash shop). It makes the economy easier to manage for the developers, but it also makes it far less fulfilling for the players. Plus it makes no sense! Not being able to pass down old gear to alts and newbies is beyond irritating.

What do you think? Do “soulbound” items and mechanics annoy you too? Should MMOs dump them post haste and return to more engaging and realistic ways of churning old gear out of MMO economies?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Predy
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Predy

Soulbound items are a very lazy and unimaginative way to balance the economy and it takes out a huge fun factor.
Imagine finding a super rare wand that is really amazing but as a barbarian you can’t use it. Imagine selling that wand after haggling with other players and using the earned “input currency/resource here” to get something that you can actually use and have enough resource/currency left for something else. To me it’s a major fun factor.
Take MU Online for example, it has a very healthy economy due to the Chaos Goblin mechanic and item upgrade. You can upgrade the items to +6 with Jewels of Bless, to +9 with Jewels of Soul and to +12 with a Bless a Soul and a Chaos with different % of success rate. If you fail to upgrade your item in the higher tiers then it drops back down to basic +0 item. You have to also use unwanted items to create Chaos Weapons that are good in the middle of the game and later that Chaos Weapon can be used to create LvL1 wings for a random character… It’s very complicated in other words and the items keep being used so much that the top tier items drop like junk from higher tier monsters. 
I’m still hoping to find another game that’s a bit like MU Online as the engine is more than 13 years old and the game is a bit boring after over a decade but I guess it’s too much effort and not as profitable as the new “Log in to win” business model aimed at the very young..
I’m very upset about D3 removing all forms of trade as the main reason I bought the game was because of the Auction House.

AntagonistWizard
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AntagonistWizard

c71clark I love your comment, most people who does not get “decay” in these games, probably have no idea how economy works.

FyreyEnigma
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FyreyEnigma

blaaznar I have this mental image of Obi-Wan giving Luke his father’s lightsaber, only to say “No wait, this would ruin your growth as a character, so take this crappy training sword your father used instead” from your statement.

c71clark
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c71clark

I just scanned the first full page of comments and say the word “decay” once. There has to be something that moves items through the game if you want to have a healthy economy. All of these methods can be loosely collected under the term “decay”. Soul-binding is one form of decay: New gear is generated, it is used, then it is discarded when it is no longer useful. The game using levels of gear is another: You reach a new level, get the best gear you can use at that level and use it until you level again, then the gear is discarded. The most hated version of this system is actual “decay”: As you use an item, it wears out until at some point it no longer works and get’s discarded. The advantage of the true ‘decay’ system is that you don’t need stupid soul-binding mechanics. But so many people hate ‘decay’ unreasonably….. even though it is the same freaking result!

AGx
Guest
AGx

Pepperzine Why do you care of people “pay to win”? The first MMO I played was FFXI and I can’t remember there being any “soulbound” items in the game (at the time). Everything could be sold on the auction house when you were done with it. Like many MMOs, there were bots and gil-sellers and some people even bought gold but the fact that you could sell any item you wanted had no effect on the game or the economy (inflation occurred but this wasn’t the fault of the auction house as much as the gold sellers in general as this has occurred in many games w/ soulbound items). 

Gear only carried you so much in that game. No matter what your level was or how good your gear was you could still get your a** handed to you if you ran into the wrong mob. It was very team oriented. What’s more, skill was very important and there was no cross-server matchmaking system. People had reputations on the server and if you were geared but terrible, no one would play with you and this would be something you brought on yourself

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

carsont Pepperzine That seems like a more reasonable alternative compared to completely removal of the soul bound system.

carsont
Guest
carsont

Pepperzine What about just account bound? That way you cannot trade it to others / buy to win – but you’re overgeared toon can still gain benefits from (ultimately helping) lowered tiered raids by getting some pieces for their alts.

wjowski
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wjowski

Goronmon Veldan 
The only way to do that is to make a game with no economy and no progression.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

I think there absolutely should be soul bound items.  Removal of them can lead to a pay-to-win environment, because some players will be selling best in slot gear (or other top-tier endgame gear) while others will buy gold from gold farmers or by items available in cash shop that generate gold to purchase gear without actually having to earn it.  You should have to earn the top-tier endgame gear from actually killing a boss, and not from emptying your wallet.  Also, by really good gear not being soulbound players are more likely to ninja gear for an alt versus allowing the person who can actually use it and need it in a group/raid from obtaining it.

Zuleyus
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Zuleyus

Werewolf Finds Dragon 
Yeah, because constant chat spam of “wts <Sword of Uber +5><Helmet of Stuffiness +3> pm offer” is so much better.