As my head is still spinning in full PvP mode, I realized most games, and perhaps most MMO gamers, ignore a potentially very interesting gameplay mechanic, which I will refer to (very likely unoriginally) as the ‘Sunday dress’ mechanic.
In too many games, and this is not just limited to MMOs, you always use your best gear at all times. The only time you switch gear is when you find an upgrade, or in the rare situational encounter, like a resist based fight. This is why in many games there exist a ‘best’ item, be it weapon or armor, and you almost always have a clear upgrade path. Encounters are therefore balanced on the assumption that players have X amount of said gear, aka the gear check.
I don’t understand why more MMOs don’t shy away from this mechanic, as it seems to limit the game far more than it adds to it. For starters, always using the very best gear removes an element of tactics. In both UO and EVE (both games that do not use the ‘Sunday dress’ mechanic) a fight is often decided by what you bring to the fight, and not what you COULD bring. In UO most players held their best gear in a bank/house, only bringing it out for special use. In EVE players are taught only to fly what they can afford to lose, and generally save their fully kitted ships for safer activities like mission running. The major advantage to such a system is that while more powerful gear is added, it’s kept in check by the player community. Just because someone has an ultra powerful sword does not mean he will use it at all times, so their power increase from that sword dropping is not a permanent upgrade, but at the same time does give them more options and potential power.
The need to replace gear, and also to have multiple copies, greatly stimulates both the economy and the demand for crafting. It makes common items relevant, instead of being vendor trash, and ensures that a crafting pattern stays useful long after an upgrade exists. A craftable item is now judged on its difficulty to craft vs how powerful it is, rather than simply on its total power compared to raiding or pvp items.
The variable flux in power also helps new players get into the game quicker. Instead of having to ‘gear up’ to join older players, new players can use loaner gear until they are able to provide for themselves, as well as stick to safer situations so as not to risk that ‘better than you should be using’ gear. Encounters could also be balanced around this risk/reward structure. Say the game uses a limited durability system, where each death takes a few points of durability off your gear, and the points are permanent, once you hit zero, item gone. Now let’s say we have a boss fight that, on average, results in 2-3 deaths due to somewhat random factors, but also drops fairly powerful loot. If a group goes in fully kitted in top gear, they might ‘lose’ more in durability than they gain in new items, or they might not take a single death and come out with a huge win. But that group also has the option to go in with more standard gear, and while the fight will be harder, the risk is a bit lower, while the potential rewards stay high. This method also keeps all encounters relevant. Even if you already have the sword that drops of boss X, in this system having another copy is beneficial, so in theory good gear will never be sold to a vendor or sharded.
There are more positive aspects beyond the few listed above, but their must also be negatives. For one, I can somewhat understand why people would not want to lose gear due to durability hits on death (or some other method of gear loss), but if gear was more common in general, I would imagine it would not be that drastic of a loss. What do you all think, am I missing some major factor here? And why don’t we see more MMOs with such systems?