So I bought Borderlands on Friday and then promptly lost my whole weekend to it.
It’s quite an addictive game. Take a first-person shooter, which I love, and glom RPG elements onto it, which I also love. As you defeat enemies and complete quests, you’ll gain XP and level up, giving you more hitpoints and making you more effective with any weapon you use.
But the thing that will really suck you in about Borderlands is the drops.
Borderlands uses the same drop system popularized by World of Warcraft – it even uses the same color-codes for drops, with weapons with white names being standard, green names being good, blue being superior and purple being epic. Every time you open a gun crate, there’s that palpable excitement – will I finally get that sniper rifle that sets people on fire I’ve been wanting? Or will I find a better shield that also heals me over time? Perhaps I’ll find a grenade modification that causes my grenades to simply teleport to their target.
And while I played it occurred to me that single-character RPGs tend to be very combat-heavy, because the single character needs to be able to fairly easily dispatch three, four, five or even more enemies at a time. The main character of Questron would gain a full hundred hitpoints on every level-up; within about ten levels he could walk into a town, kill all the townspeople, steal everything, kill the guards and walk out. JC Denton of Deus Ex routinely engaged multiple enemies, usually by turning invisble, shielding himself, or just popping their heads off with well-placed rifle shots. Your character in Oblivion gains power ridiculously quickly and becomes both the most skilled swordsman and the most skilled magic-user in the land. And don’t even get me started on Diablo.
If Inaria is going to be a single-character RPG (which it probably will be) then I’ll need to do something similar. That’s not the problem.
The problem is drops. Yes or no?
The pros: It’s a tried-and-true way to continually reward players as they play, instead of only rewarding them when they level. And even if they don’t get something they want, they can sell it for much-needed cash…and every once in a while something will pop up that will make the player really happy.
The cons: The drop system is basically tapping into the part of the brain that likes to gamble. That feels kind of weird to me, especially after working on casino games myself. Secondly, it’s…well, it feels too easy. A drop system would be almost trivial to implement. Take a weapon, put random stats on it. If the stats match what the player wants, the player is happy; if not, it’s vendor trash. Plus…it’s not very retro-RPG-ish.
So once again I’m polling the audience. Thoughts?