There was an interesting topic doing the rounds earlier this week, related to a post on TerraNova about the concepts of soul-binding, “trophy equipment”, and how different designs impact the general ability to gauge a player’s level of experience, at least, via a review of their equipment.  Raph also commented on the topic, and there was some significant follow-up commentary.  The impact and ramifications of RMT on this kind of situation were touched on as well.

For my part, I’d like to see more experimentation with other methods, many of which were mentioned in the commentary.  Badges, trophy items meant for the character’s “residence” as opposed to for wearing or use, rumor and reputation: it could be interesting to see a bit more of that brought into play.  Some additional conjecture after the fold…

Badges

The Badge concept has already been implemented a number of times, of course, with varying degrees of success.  Usually, the system is too diffuse and concealed to truly have the desired impact: it would not surprise me to find out that any particular game had a badge system that I was utterly unaware of, despite my having playing it extensively.

In order to anything approximating the desired impact, a badge system would need to have some method of display that was both immediately apparent and player-controlled.  An example would be the City of Heroes/City of Villains game: the option is provided to select a “subtitle” which displays directly beneath a character’s “floating name”.  The subtitles available are tied directly to which badges the character has earned.

Another option could be to add badges as a filter mechanism to the LFG/LFM functionality: only allowing requests to join from individuals with specific badges, for example, similar to how classes can be targeted and/or restricted at present.

Trophy cases

The concept of trophy cases  and displays in a character’s residence doesn’t really achieve the “knowing a character’s history at a glance” functionality first described in the TerraNova post, but it does have a vague allure to it nonetheless.  It grants yet another subtle functionality and layer of value to character and guild housing.  It also has the faint gleam of being a bit more “plausible”, drawing the interest of “simulationists” like me like a moth to the flame.

As a stand-alone concept, however, it really wouldn’t address the original desire of offering a type of “history at a glance” functionality, as I see it.  It’s far more of a “provide functionality to player housing” solution, only loosely related to the current concern of “communicate and validate a character’s previous experience”…

…Unless the game design is such that a fair amount of player interaction takes place in character residences and guild hall reading rooms?   I could imagine a zone-based product in a vaguely Victorian setting, loosely patterned after the Sherlock Holmes stories and/or Jules Verne fiction perhaps, which might work that way, for example.  PCs could gather in a player’s home, an “Explorer’s Club”, or similar setting from which each mission would commence.  In that kind of situation, trophy cases could serve the purpose…

Rumor and Reputation

This is another concept that frequently gets implemented in such a subtle, background way that it largely fails to achieve the goal.  City of Heroes/City of Villains again is one of the better implementation of this particular concept amongst recent releases, with random comments from “passing citizens” occasionally mentioning a previously completed mission set of a nearby character.  “I heard Sapphire Knight really laid into those Council hooligans over in Steel Canyon the other day,” is a possible example.

The problem with applying that specific implementation to the issue at hand is that it does not provide the desired information on demand.  To really meet the stated demand, there would need to be an ability to request information,  a more pro-active interaction, which would mean a game that placed greater importance on (non-combat) interaction with NPCs.  Again, appealing to sim-friendly people like me, but potentially of less interest to those who are more into the “game”-centric elements of such products.

A strongly interwoven “reputation display system” might serve the need… but that is, in essence, what the badge system postulated above already is, just by another name.

Any other ideas out there?