Addendum: Matt’s Idea

On the last blog post, commenter Matt proposed a fairly clever hybrid solution to the death-loot problem that should work well. It uses the “invisible bag” plan, with a clever proxy add-on.

I’m going to go ahead and pencil in this plan. Because my tech for items is pretty fancy, this should be a straightforward implementation, and it combines lots of the benefits of both approaches. It’s also rather elegant in how it lets people be sociable and helpful without a lot of extraneous inter-communication.

(There’s a stray thought in my head that there might be a way to abuse this system to get extra inventory space. But I’m not seeing an exploit that’s substantially better than mail-muling, which I have no problem with. If anybody sees a vulnerability I don’t, let me know.)

Here’s Matt’s post. Thanks, Matt!

Allow your friends to interact with your corpse; when they do they won’t be able to loot your actual stuff, but will instead get an item that will sort-of proxy your stuff. This bag of “Matt’s Stuff” (for example) wouldn’t be an actual bag or container of any sort; your friends wouldn’t be able to open it or use any of the stuff that’s ostensibly “inside” it, but they would be able to give the “bag of stuff” back to you, put it in guild storage, or whatever.

You could then get your stuff back by either looting it directly from you corpse or by acquiring the bag that someone else “looted” and brought back for you. This second option would allow a few additional benefits:

1. It means you don’t need to completely trust other people with your stuff. Anyone who “loots” your corpse can only help you, not hurt you. While it’s interesting to require trust as a prerequisite, I think it’s more useful to use death and “corpse runs” as a way of building trust.

2. It would allow multiple friends to loot your corpse. While rationally silly, this sort of capability makes a lot of sense for a virtual world, where you don’t know where or when you’ll see any specific friend again.

3. You could still do the corpse run, and get your stuff back yourself (should you enjoy that sort of challenge, or if you’re next online when your friend’s aren’t). Once you’ve acquired your stuff, you may even be able to get the game to do something silly with any remaining supposed bags of “Matt’s Stuff” laying around.

For example, “You swear there was something important in here, but it’s just a goblin’s dirty laundry,” or “It’s a bag of rocks. Why are you carrying around a bag of rocks?”

 

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25 Responses to Addendum: Matt’s Idea

  1. It would be nice if giving you back your stuff got the person who did it something, even if its something small.

  2. David says:

    I assume that more than one identical bag of your stuff can be generated from one of your corpses (else someone might “grief loot” to prevent other such bags from being made) and that once you receive one of these bags yourself, the bags that other friends made from your corpse in the interim will be disabled/destroyed. If so, be extra careful to avoid item duplication bugs, especially cases like “10 characters give you the same bag of loot at the same moment” race conditions.

  3. Alan says:

    Agreed with David.
    Have a value that changes when you die, then changes back when you open “Matt’s Stuff”, or loot your corpse.
    Any other Items would be destroyed.

  4. Eric says:

    Yeah, the “Matt’s Stuff” item is actually just a key that unlocks the virtual bag containing your corpse loot. So there’s no danger of duplication bugs, the extra keys are just useless. (Though I’ll make them give you a junk item like “Matt’s Left Sock” or something, so that it’s still kinda-sorta “stuff”, just not the stuff you cared about.)

  5. Xhi says:

    The thing that makes corpse-muling better than mail-muling (providing mail is only available at mailboxes) is the ability to access it anywhere. You might make a separate corpse for different sets of gear or have one corpse that is full of all your food or somesuch to leave lootable inventory space free.

    I’m not saying that is a bad thing necessarily though since I always want more inventory space! Plus, I think corpse-muling is way funnier than mail-muling.

  6. Xhi says:

    I had a followup thought. What if you could only access your corpse-bag at graveyards and near an actual corpse of yours? That brings it in line with mailboxes.

    Somehow you should try to tie all this into a Grave Robbing skill! It would be fun and encourages people to grab a “bag of stuff” off every corpse they see, although I suppose it might cause people to make alts for corpse-farming.

  7. Rauxis says:

    hmmmmmmmmm……. a nice option for another kickstarter: you get extra inventory space :P

    apart from that – I don’t see any reason why it should not be possible in a game to have the (not necessarily cheap) option to get as much inventory space as you want. Server capacity over the last 10 years grew a LOT, especially after changing from 32bit to 64bit.

    I guess the main reason for limits in games like WoW is more “thinking about the next 5 expansions” then technical. But would that be a real limitation in Project Gorgon?

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

  8. Curtis says:

    This is a solution I can stand behind great post.

  9. Jason M says:

    Neat idea. Reminds me of old-school MUDs and granting someone permission to recover your corpse for you.

    @Rauxis: The main reason in my experience is general management for gameplay. Expansion of inventory by levels (and requiring bags most often) is a good coin sink. Though one might also suggest that RAM usage per player could be a concern since that is more finite than drive space.

  10. Eric says:

    Yeah, the size of items on disk is pretty irrelevant, but while players are online, they all have to fit into RAM (on at least one sub-server), so there’s not infinite room.

    Compared to other MMO’s, Project Gorgon’s items are pretty large (in terms of memory consumption) because they’re so dynamic. Almost aspect of them can be changed — their name, their stats, etc. — via the random-treasure system and the crafting systems. Each item is stored as an ID (say, a Goblin Sword is ID #543), plus a list of deviations from the “norm” for that type of item. So if your Goblin Sword has been inscribed, renamed, blessed, buffed, sharpened, and baned against cattle, that takes up a fairly large amount of space.

    A more traditional Diku-style MMO like WoW has very small items because almost everything about a given item is static — everybody’s Goblin Sword is almost identical to every other, aside from a few things that can be changed via crafting. So they just need to store the ID of the weapon and those handful of changeable things. WoW’s items might be a fifth the size of Gorgon’s items, on average.

    Of course, WoW was made eight years ago and we do have more RAM these days, but it’s still a concern.

    The other factor is that inventory space is a great reward item, both in-game and for cash. So even if I could let you have a million items, I wouldn’t want to just give that away to beginning players.

  11. Rauxis says:

    I never said it was necessary to have it for a “beginner player”. Point being I doubt all items of a player need to be in memory all the time – most of the inventory space would likely be in form of a bank (or housing). That part would only be in memory during actual access. What I’m going for is the possibility for a player to get almost infinite bank space without the need for “cheats” like mailing and dead bodies. Because if you allow that – you HAVE to store the information somewhere. Then why don’t store it directly in the bank? Even if it takes me as player time/money/… I’d always prefer bank-space over “ingenious use of game mechanics”.

    And have you thought of adding bank space into certain skills?

    Achievement: Master Psychologist….as added benefit the director of your bank now gives you 10 additional storage spaces

    happy new year
    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

  12. Xhi says:

    I’m not sure that I agree that inventory space is a great reward item. It’s certainly an easy and widely used one, but I think part of what makes it one of the more common cash shop items or free player limitations is that it doesn’t add to the fun of the game, it removes annoyance so it feels like more of a necessity to keep playing which prompts more sales/subscriptions.

    When I get a new skill of some type its fun to use, and then I keep interacting with and thinking about it for quite a bit of gameplay. The skills you had were fun before, and now they are fun in a different way.

    Inventory space on the other hand is annoying when you don’t have enough, but then not really thought about once you do have enough. Inventory space was not fun before, and now its something you don’t have to think about.

    Have you ever thought to your self, “Man, its going to be fun to mail all these items to an alt, then switch characters and cycle them in and out of my inventory to mail them back?” (or drop them on the ground somewhere isolated, or own two accounts, or whatever option worked for that game).

  13. Jason says:

    The problem with a very very large (or unlimited) inventory/bank from a player’s side of things is that it encourages hoarding. Games are all about choices and having a more limited inventory forces the player to make them. Sometimes hard ones even. Do I keep Item A or do I toss it to make room for Item B? Or do I spend the coin to upgrade my bank/inventory so that I can store both Items A and B? Players weight the return on investment (RoI) of the coin outlay versus the gained benefit to determine if it is a worthwhile expenditure.

  14. Xhi says:

    More limited inventory does force you to make choices, but I usually feel like it makes me make them at the wrong time. I have to start sorting my bags to throw away the least valuable trash when I’m in the middle of a dungeon or way out in the wilds away from town and just trying to kill stuff. Or as far as gear, I can’t decide if I need to keep this fire resist armor set for now, but in 5 levels I won’t need it anyway.

    I sometimes keep things as well because I don’t yet know enough about the game to know how useful they are, but they look like they could be important. I usually play a number of alts also in order to see all that a game has to offer, which means I want to set aside good equipment. It’s nice when you have some stuff on hand to help out friends as well.

    I don’t mind bank space being a gold (or maybe even real money) sink at the high end as long as the increase in cost isn’t ridiculously exponential (i.e., 14 slots cost you 100 gold, but 16 slots cost you 10000), but generally because of the rate at which trash/loot drop, I feel the need for a similar amount of character inventory at both the beginning and end of the game in order to not be making constant town trips.

    I have to admit that it does feel like a huge relief to get bigger bags up to that “big enough” point, so maybe they are good rewards in the end provided you can get decent sizes early enough.

    Now I feel like a hoarder. =D

  15. Jason M says:

    Agreed about having bags fill up in a dungeon. Torchlight has a good solution for that, you simply send your pet back to “sell your junk items”. Of course, if you don’t have a pet maybe a better alternative would be for the game to simply convert “junk” items directly into coin instead of cluttering your inventory with useless items that you are going to sell for coin anyway.

  16. Xhi says:

    Yes, some method along those lines would certainly be appreciated if inventory is limited.

    Guild Wars 2 did something similar with salvaging items into craft mats and then being able to send all collectibles/craft mats directly to bank. That actually worked out quite well because by the time you started getting endgame items that you wanted to keep whole you had big enough bags to accommodate.

  17. Matt says:

    Neat, glad you liked my idea. :)

    Just to clarify (as much for the peanut gallery as anything), I did intend for a character’s stuff to remain on the character, just inaccessible. I presumed some limit on how much inaccessible inventory space a character could have (given your current conjecture), but didn’t specify one myself. You’re absolutely right, though, as I outlined things a player could trade deaths for virtually unlimited inventory space.

    With that in mind (and seeing that you have a pretty robust item system in your game already) I wonder if you couldn’t simply lock down any item that was on a character when it died? No magical, inaccessible, invisible inventory, simply typical, visible, but locked down items. Maybe you could overlay a little skull or padlock, and change the tooltip to something like “This item is on one of your corpses and must be recovered before you can use it.”

    I want to emphasize here that a death-locked item is the item, just (temporarily rendered) non-functional; it’s not a copy or a proxy or anything of the sort. If you gave someone your death-locked sword, they would own that sword. If you delete it, it would be gone forever and couldn’t be recovered.

    To put everything together, then:

    1. When you die, you leave a corpse behind. Your corpse will only remain in-game for a limited amount of time.

    2. If any character interacts with your corpse before it disappears, two things can happen:
    2.1. If that character has any death-locked items keyed to that specific corpse, they will be unlocked.
    2.2. If the character wants, they could create a “magical proxy bag of stuff belonging to ‘you’” that they can give or use on any character to unlock DLIs keyed to this corpse (without the target needing to visit the site of death).

    3. Death-locked items are real items in every way — they’re just temporarily rendered non-functioning.
    3.1. E.g. A death-locked sword is the sword, not a proxy, copy, or anything of the sort.
    3.2 If you give someone a DLI, they now own that item.
    3.3 If you delete a DLI, it’s gone forever (*poof*) and can’t be recovered.

    4. DLIs should know how to “unlock” themselves. For example, a DLI should know where it’s original owner “died” and if the current owner (whoever that may be) gets close enough they should be able to unlock the DLI.
    4.1. This should keep bookkeeping local to the DLI’s themselves, which is usually a nice thing to do.
    4.2. Magic bags wouldn’t necessarily need to know much of anything — they’d just have to be able to pass a key around. You could optionally do some occasional booking to see if any given key has any “locks” left for it, and then do something playful for bags that don’t have anything useful to do any longer, but that’s entirely optional. A key with no lock shouldn’t break anything. :)

  18. Matt says:

    Someone how 1.1 got knocked out during an edit, it should be:

    1.1. All of the items in your inventory, including equipped items get flagged as “Death-Locked”. Death-locked items are non-function (you can’t hit someone with a death-locked sword, for example), but are otherwise typical items.

    Etc. :-/

  19. Ken says:

    I like this idea too, and making it possible for anyone to return the items to the owner would prevent grief looting. If you made the corpses decay over time then you could avoid excessive use of corpse muling.

  20. Eric says:

    Going to need to talk more about this I think! But a couple quick comments during my dinner break:

    @Rauxis – I think the disconnect is that I had assumed I’d implement storage vaults as a special bag stored on your player — one that you can only open at a bank NPC. This is pretty common (at least as far as I know… since it’s the only way I’ve seen it done!). The advantage is that game systems always have access to everything you own. So for instance, if there’s a plot item that you should only be able to carry one of, you can put it in your vault and you still won’t be able to pick up another of that item. It also is much simpler, code wise, meaning there’s fewer special cases and things to test. But anyway it explains why most MMO’s storage vaults aren’t dramatically bigger than regular inventory.

    I *could* do banks as an offline storage mechanism… will have to think out all the ramifications of that, but it might be a good idea for this game. In which case I’d give away some, and let you buy a whole lot more.

    RE: managing items – well, items in general are a really big part of this MMO. There’s a ton of game systems and a ton of items to go with them. I’ve been doubling up (and tripling-up) on the usage of each item so that there’s not too much stuff in the world. But that means it’s *very* difficult to tell at a glance whether you should keep something or not. Even if I give you a full listing of everything you might want the item for… that’s just a lot of information to take in. I think that will just end up being a weak spot of this MMO’s design, because I don’t really see a good way around having a ton of items with various uses.

    So I expect it will take a LOT of pack space before people feel like they have enough. Possibly an infinite amount, if they want to be able to be really versatile in the field.

    I actually kind of enjoy managing my inventory, but I realize it’s not the most fun thing in the world. However I think it’s worth having, because it’s a key to a lot of other mechanics.

    It’s related to why I don’t want to give you too many ways to easily sell items in the field (a la AC2′s ability to turn anything into coins) because that’s trading short-term pain for long-term damage. In AC2 we lamented that feature after a while because it took away a key reason that people would come back to town. And on a world with low populations, you need every motivator you can get to guide people into communal areas. My game has other reasons to go to towns (like quests and such) but I still worry that I also need vendors as a reason to return home.

    Matt – another cool idea! I’m not sure if that’s too abstract, though… might blow people’s minds. (“What do you mean this item isn’t really here? I have to go WHERE to get it?!”) Will think about that for a bit. Fascinating idea though! With a good story explanation it could work.

    Sorry for the shotgun approach to comments!

  21. Xhi says:

    @Eric – You used the example of “a plot item you can only pick up one of” being hard to manage with offline bank. How would you handle that differently than being able to put it in a guild bank or drop 5 of them in a pile on the ground?

    Isn’t an offline bank closer to a storage device owned by some other entity (albeit one that is part of your account) that you have access to rather than something actually a part of your character.

    For that matter, is bank space shared between characters on one account?

    @Matt – I like the idea of the items just being death locked. It means your inventory management when you die and grab corpse is much more straight forward. If you leave your death locked items equipped then that’s where they will be when you “retrieve them” although you are pretty much running naked as a result, and if you sort them somewhere else in your bags then that’s where they will be.

    I hate grabbing a corpse and having all my gear mixed in with trash and loot at top of bags. Or even worse, ending up with “inventory is full” because you hadn’t left enough space.

  22. Rolan Storm says:

    Hmm… Very good idea, Matt. Most interesting solution I heard about.

  23. Mike says:

    I would think most creatures that killed you wouldn’t just leave your stuff lying there, whether it’s valuable to them or just shiny. Instead of having the corpse unlock the invisible bag, use whatever killed you. The glowing trail spell would lead you to the mob, or possibly to a chest somewhere nearby where they stashed the stuff. Actually, the spell would cause an new instance of the mob to appear (or flag an existing one) a little ways off in the vicinity of where you died and lead you to it. Personally, I always want to get revenge on whatever did me in. Having a taunt from them trigger when you get close might not be too hard to code (“Didn’t I beat you once already?”)

    If you wanted to weave it into a story, having the Orc Chief waving your Sword of +10 Awesomeness around (or sticking it above his mantle) would be good bait.

    If item count is an issue, some non-valuable items (food, non-magical clothing) could be flagged as “perishable” and not survive your death.

    What would happen if you died again before recovering your stuff?

  24. Mouse says:

    @Matt – I like the deathlocked, but still taking inventory space, idea. Unfortunately I see a few issues.

    Say overconfidence gets you killed. Your best stuff is deathlocked. You get together a secondary set of gear, go back… and die. Your best stuff and second best are both deathlocked. You get more spares, or borrow stuff from a friend. Go back… and die. Do this enough and your entire inventory is deathlocked. Now you cannot hold new items to equip even if you wanted, until your oldest death items (i.e. best) expire and are no longer available (permanently lost). Or you have to beg/pay people to rescue your stuff.

    It’s a potential downward spiral of pain.

    Or if deathlocked items are tradeable – I sell you my deathlocked Sword of +10 Awesome for a vast sum of money. I then sit on my ass and pointedly refuse to accept my Bag of Dead Goods until my death timer expires and the bags disappear. That Sword is either permanently deathlocked, or vanishes from someone else’s inventory!

    Customer service issue. Eric has to get involved (or have a Caveat Emptor rule). The faithless seller could acquire a bad reputation, but that won’t make the screwed purchaser any less unhappy that they lost all the rewards of the last thousand hours of play.

  25. Matt says:

    Matt – another cool idea! I’m not sure if that’s too abstract, though… might blow people’s minds. (“What do you mean this item isn’t really here? I have to go WHERE to get it?!”) Will think about that for a bit. Fascinating idea though! With a good story explanation it could work.

    It will also need a good UI to communicate what’s going on to the player. I don’t think I’d bat an eye at the concept, and it would quickly become pretty apparent what the benefits are (no post-corpse loot tetris, for example), but then again, I’m the one who thought of it. :)

    I think the capability could add some very interesting interactions, but I’m not sure I’d implement it if the exploit it short circuits isn’t a priority for you. :)

    It’s a potential downward spiral of pain.

    I don’t see how this is any worse than the “spiral of pain” that accompanies any sort of loot-the-body death system. Players have several options at their disposal, after all:

    1. They can delete less-valuable death locked items — unpalatable, certainly, but an option. :)

    2. They can store “death locked” items in the bank like any other item. Once they get the right key, these items would be unlocked automatically.

    3. You could have NPCs (or even player spells) who (for a modest fee) will summon a death locked item back from your corpse. (That’s a lore description of what happens, mechanically you’d just remove the corpse-lock attribute from the item.)

    Or if deathlocked items are tradeable – I sell you my deathlocked Sword of +10 Awesome for a vast sum of money. I then sit on my ass and pointedly refuse to accept my Bag of Dead Goods until my death timer expires and the bags disappear. That Sword is either permanently deathlocked, or vanishes from someone else’s inventory!

    Actually, that wouldn’t be an issue at all. The bag would need to be used on whoever currently possesses the death locked item, not the person who died. If I you sell me your sword, anyone who “looted” your body can unlock the sword for me.

    But that would only be one option.

    As I envisioned the system, every item would know how to unlock itself. If you give me your awesome death-locked sword, I should be able to interact with the sword and have it tell me what I need to do to unlock it myself.

    For example, I should always be able to get a death-locked item to tell me were it was “lost”. I could then go to that location and do whatever the game decides I need to do to get the item back. If your corpse is still there (Hello, Mr. Mouse!) I may just need to interact with it myself. If the corpse has faded, I may need to search for a cache of items, or (as someone suggested above) start killing monsters until I find the one who “has” the death-locked item. (I will avenge you, Mr. Mouse!)

    There’s some interesting role-playing possibility here, too. I immediately pictured rolling up a crotchety looking “grave robber” character who skulks around “looting” corpses when they’re fresh, and then offering to return “found” items to their rightful owners — for a modest fee, of course! This isn’t something I’d want to do full-time in a game, but it could be fun — and it’s completely benign. Players would only ever be exploited as much as they want to be. My grave robber would never actually possess the items he “finds”, only a bag that could be used to remove the death-locked attribute. If someone didn’t want to pay the “finder’s fee” they could go and unlock the item themselves.

    Regardless, I don’t think there would ever be a reason to for the game to delete a corpse locked item. A player can delete an item they have in their possession, of course, but I can’t see any situation where the game would need to do it automatically.