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Let's talk merchants...


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#21
Sedrefilos

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What I hope for merchants in DEADFIRE is consolidating the duplicate items. I don't want to sell 100 Xaurip Spears and then have to scroll through 100 Xaurip Spears to get to other stuff in the merchant's inventory. They should just show a single spear with x100 next to it.

Stacking trash loot is confirmed.


Edited by Sedrefilos, 29 March 2017 - 09:25 AM.

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#22
darqleo

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The Deadfire Archipelago needs a junkyard/recycling center island.


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#23
Gregorovitch

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Most RPGs have a problems with balancing what you can buy in shops with loots and drops and the overall amount of gold you get in the game. Unfortunately it's a zero sum game whether found items are or are not better than those you can just buy in a shop. In the one hand stuff in the shops is devalued and on trhe other loot and quest rewards are devalued.

 

One of the best balancing acts in IMO was Dragon Age origins. There you had a fairly large selection of uber-items around the shops sold for exhorbitant sums of gold. In general they were better and there where more of them than you could afford to buy with gold earned In normal gameplay, you had to choose between them, and you only got a few top quality items from looots or drops IIRC.  You had to quest hard to make enough to get any of them, and you had to pay close attention to dialog options/quest solutions that might make you extra gold.

 

Then for some inexplicable reason they put in the Lyrium Potion exploit that allowed you to mint as much gold as you wanted easily. I guess it may be Bioware worried people would get upset not being able to buy all the good stuff, so felt they had to put in a back door to it.

 

Many games have made a mess of this. Witcher 3 for example. Outside of the first hours of the game there is nothing in the shops, except a few runes and Gwent cards perhaps, that you have any interest in at all. There is tons and tons of fancy gear to be bought, looted and found in the game but all you are intersted in is Witcher diagrams to craft Witcher gear, i.e. the best gear, which in the scheme of things in the game is cheap as chips to do. You have no interest in loot or shop inventories and no need of money for anything.

 

Another problem I believe bedevils this issue is that playing first time blind the whole question of gear looks very different to what it does on a second or third run (or if you make etensive use of Google to guide you shopping expeditions). I think it is reasonable to say it is best practice to design and balance quipment availablity for the first time blind playthrough having no idea what equipment is available where as you progress. However that almost necessarily means that the a player on their third run who bee-lines preferred specific items, as you do, will end up with a) a mountain of useless gold and b), overwhelming disappointment at the stuff offered in the shops.

 

A final issue which I think contributes to people who play a lot of a game feeling the equipment available to buy in the shops is distinctly lacklustre is the necessity of scaling the power curves of equipment and ultimately capping them at some point to balance end game challenges. Let's face it if a piece of equipment is not significantly more powerful than what you already it is by definition lacklustre.

 

Personally I think Pillars did a pretty amazing job on this front considering how hard it is to get right. There are a lot of exiting loots and drops to be earned. There are also a number of excellent items available in most shops. I typically use both over the course of a game. There is no one piece of equipment of any type that is demonstrably and indisputably better than all others of that type in the game but they do have very different attributees and charcteristics and suit different approaches. I still find myself mulling over whether I want to use this or that items for a character, and the decision is sometimes pretty tricky. Which to me is saying Pillars has done a pretty good job equipmewnt-wise on the whole.

 

The one thing I would say is I would like to see some sort of solution to the mid-to-end-game gold mountain problem. In the end the need to make a bit of coin is a good reason to get out of bed in the morning and go questing, and if there's nothing to spend it on, well, a bit of the magic is lost somehow. Yes, you can put in "gold sinks" (such as a few things that happen along the way at the Stronghold for example) but the fact is, and here I agree with the OP's general drift, this is not the same as unexpectedly finding a fanatastic weapon, suit of armour of ring to spend 100,000 of yopur hard earned on. Not the same thing at all.


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#24
firkraag888

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Excellent post by OP couldn't agree more.

This topic has been discussed numerous times in the other forum where posters where complaining about lackluster special items.

What really pissed me off in pillars 1 was the merchants in the elmshore area came right at the end of the game so you had hardly any time to use the items you could purchase from there anyway.

But you are 100% correct. Nearly all the items you could purchase at merchants made virtually no difference at all to your overall gameplay effectiveness so there was no point buying them.

Les hope the devs are reading this thread because it is a really popular one with all the likes.

Well said OP

#25
Ninjamestari

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stuff

Dragon age origins had it's flaws, but it did many things right as well. The merchant inventories are a prime example. By far, many of the most powerful items were found in merchant inventories; this gave gold value. I remember KotOR being rather similar on this, especially the PC version that added those Yavin space-station items (although they arguably broke the game a little bit due to being way too powerful, and the super merchant that paid about 2.5 times the amount of money other merchants were willing to dish out for any items you sold him kinda broke the economy too)


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#26
algroth

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Most RPGs have a problems with balancing what you can buy in shops with loots and drops and the overall amount of gold you get in the game. Unfortunately it's a zero sum game whether found items are or are not better than those you can just buy in a shop. In the one hand stuff in the shops is devalued and on trhe other loot and quest rewards are devalued.

 

I don't entirely agree here. I believe that a good set of purchasable items at a very high price can act as an aditional incentive to questing and adventuring, and justifier to rewards and "lesser" loot. For one, one of the usual rewards you get upon completing quests or tasks is, quite simply, gold, and if that gold isn't useful for something then it is ultimately a pointless value. If stuff in shops is devalued, then gold is devalued and so is every item that isn't up to par or better than your current equipment. A good arquebus may be useless to a team with a preference for other types of ranged weapons, but it might be useful as cash to then purchase a really great sabre: so long as it's necessary to invest gold somewhere, it and anything that is sellable will be more worthwhile. On the other hand, good loot is always worthwhile for the sheer sake of being good loot.

 

Of course, gold will eventually become redundant either because you'll get enough of it to not worry about it running out, or because you'll have exhausted every significant means of spending it, either by purchasing all you want to acquire, by running out of ways to improve your stronghold, or else. And of course, if good items can also be acquired at too low a price, it'll detract from the value of loot if only because it's too easy to equip yourself with superior gear early on... But all of this is where price balancing comes into play, to delay or diminish that situation as much as possible, and provided prices for unique and powerful items are kept reasonably high, there should be no reason why one aspect should negatively affect the other.

 

 


Another problem I believe bedevils this issue is that playing first time blind the whole question of gear looks very different to what it does on a second or third run (or if you make etensive use of Google to guide you shopping expeditions). I think it is reasonable to say it is best practice to design and balance quipment availablity for the first time blind playthrough having no idea what equipment is available where as you progress. However that almost necessarily means that the a player on their third run who bee-lines preferred specific items, as you do, will end up with a) a mountain of useless gold and b), overwhelming disappointment at the stuff offered in the shops.

 

I do agree with this largely, inasmuch as a player will handle his gold more efficiently the more experienced they become with the game... But even so, in my playthroughs of Baldur's Gate II I still find myself buying certain items and using them to the very end, the likes of the AC 3 Bracers of Defense, the Girdle of Hill Giant Strength and the Robe of Vecna (this is a ridiculous item if there ever was one). I don't think the Adventurer's Mart or even the occasional other merchant wares (the likes of the post-slaver Copper Coronet or the Underdark for example) grow any less impressive the more I play the game, though I would argue nowadays that along with the very easy-to-abuse reputation discount system, these items could all use a raise in price. But again, the issue for me was that *even in my first playthrough* the Pillars merchants seemed pretty underwhelming, which is why I would argue for closer attention to be given to them in Deadfire.

 

In terms of the overwhelming majority of items in the merchants' shops, I don't mind it being fairly ordinary or "underwhelming". I think they if nothing else help further elevate the three or four expensive items that *are* actually good.

 

I'll reply to the rest of the post later, ran out of time unfortunately. :p



#27
Ninjamestari

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I don't entirely agree here. I believe that a good set of purchasable items at a very high price can act as an aditional incentive to questing and adventuring, and justifier to rewards and "lesser" loot. For one, one of the usual rewards you get upon completing quests or tasks is, quite simply, gold, and if that gold isn't useful for something then it is ultimately a pointless value. If stuff in shops is devalued, then gold is devalued and so is every item that isn't up to par or better than your current equipment. A good arquebus may be useless to a team with a preference for other types of ranged weapons, but it might be useful as cash to then purchase a really great sabre: so long as it's necessary to invest gold somewhere, it and anything that is sellable will be more worthwhile. On the other hand, good loot is always worthwhile for the sheer sake of being good loot.

 

Of course, gold will eventually become redundant either because you'll get enough of it to not worry about it running out, or because you'll have exhausted every significant means of spending it, either by purchasing all you want to acquire, by running out of ways to improve your stronghold, or else. And of course, if good items can also be acquired at too low a price, it'll detract from the value of loot if only because it's too easy to equip yourself with superior gear early on... But all of this is where price balancing comes into play, to delay or diminish that situation as much as possible, and provided prices for unique and powerful items are kept reasonably high, there should be no reason why one aspect should negatively affect the other.

 

 

It's a zero sum game because if the item on the merchant isn't the relative *best* item of that type for that part of the game, it won't get bought, and if it is and gold is plentiful, it will be. Why would you buy incredibly expensive items if you can get a better one from somewhere else? This is where the limited gold comes in handy; you can't simply buy all the best stuff, you need to make choices on which items you buy and which slots you'll depend on drops to fill. So: there are only so many inventory slots to fill, and the ones you can fill with drops, you won't fill with vendor items, and the ones you fill with vendor items will prevent you from fully enjoying their weaker drop-based counterparts. Hence, a zero sum game between vendors and drops.

 

The point is, gold becoming so abundant that you'll be able to afford everything isn't something that just happens automatically. Dragon Age Origins for example had a very limited supply of gold and you would never be able to get everything you wanted, considering that there were those 'mandatory' skill and stat books and back-bag extensions that already devoured a huge chunk of your treasure. Unless you exploited that double-sell glitch of course. That glitch was way too easy to do for my liking, and I found myself struggling not to use it on every single play-through.



#28
rjshae

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I'd like to see a scruffy-looking individual selling a very rare banned curse. Speaking sotto voce he says, "Psst... hey buddy. I've got something here you'll want to see...!"

 

It could be, say, a particularly grotesque spell of flesh rending, or some other such gory abomination. The price for the curse spell is exorbitant, and the PC will be asked to buy it sight unseen.

 

Being witnessed casting the spell in a civilized place may mean you'll get an unexpected visit from the magi inquisition. :cat:


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#29
FacesOfMu

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I found the biggest problem in PoE was having money to spend but not remembering WHO had WHAT and WHERE they were. I posted a suggestion in the PoE threads once suggesting a NPC for the fort who would give you access to all merchants you've visited before and for a time delay plus additional fee you could order anything from across the land. For the conditional merchants (accessed only at night, etc), then the NPC can just remind you of the condition and that you will have to go see them yourself or pay an even higher fee to their access. Frugal players will use it as a reminder of where the stuff is and will go travelling for it, less frugal players will just order in. Win/win.


Edited by FacesOfMu, 06 April 2017 - 07:57 AM.

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#30
injurai

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It would be neat of there were entirely different tiers of equipment. Perhaps it doesn't make sense for PoE, but in WoW it was neat that you had PvP and PvE gear essentially being separate domains. You earned them in different manors and used them for different things. Having context sensitive stats and attributes might violate the spirit of infinity-like games. I'm not even entirely sure I'd want such a fracture of gameplay features within essentially a single player game. But I think it's a starting point in considering how equipment could be differentiated based on how one acquires it. It does seem remiss that entire classes of equipment ends up as essentially padding to make the world more believable. But you know, I'd rather have that junk padding than just a preset progression of equipment.

 

Given that Deadfire is supposed to be less linear, maybe that will naturally solve this problem. I think if some vendor gear was made a bit more affordable it could be viable to pick up a new set of armor more often, until the next fantastic dungeon gear is acquired. But as of now the investment in vendor gear often doesn't seem worth it. Especially given that the stronghold/ship is made out to be the preferred gold sink in the game.


Edited by injurai, 06 April 2017 - 08:48 AM.


#31
Heijoushin

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I found the biggest problem in PoE was having money to spend but not remembering WHO had WHAT and WHERE they were. I posted a suggestion in the PoE threads once suggesting a NPC for the fort who would give you access to all merchants you've visited before and for a time delay plus additional fee you could order anything from across the land. For the conditional merchants (accessed only at night, etc), then the NPC can just remind you of the condition and that you will have to go see them yourself or pay an even higher fee to their access. Frugal players will use it as a reminder of where the stuff is and will go travelling for it, less frugal players will just order in. Win/win.

 

This is not a bad idea. One perk of being nobility should be having someone to do your busy work for you (like running around to every merchant in every city). On the other hand, it would have to be handled tastefully, since Caed Nua already feels too much like a convenient cell phone app.

 

It would be neat of there were entirely different tiers of equipment. Perhaps it doesn't make sense for PoE, but in WoW it was neat that you had PvP and PvE gear essentially being separate domains. You earned them in different manors and used them for different things. Having context sensitive stats and attributes might violate the spirit of infinity-like games. I'm not even entirely sure I'd want such a fracture of gameplay features within essentially a single player game. But I think it's a starting point in considering how equipment could be differentiated based on how one acquires it. It does seem remiss that entire classes of equipment ends up as essentially padding to make the world more believable. But you know, I'd rather have that junk padding than just a preset progression of equipment.

 

Given that Deadfire is supposed to be less linear, maybe that will naturally solve this problem. I think if some vendor gear was made a bit more affordable it could be viable to pick up a new set of armor more often, until the next fantastic dungeon gear is acquired. But as of now the investment in vendor gear often doesn't seem worth it. Especially given that the stronghold/ship is made out to be the preferred gold sink in the game.

 

Some people complain about having too much money and nothing to spend it on. I regularly upgraded my equipment, so I didn't have that problem. The trick is to convince players to stop being gold hoarding packrats, but I'm not sure how. We already have equipment divisions in the form of fine/superior etc. Perhaps there should be a more distinct difference between those levels? (in terms of effect and price tags)


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#32
Regggler

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I have a question about this NPC giving access to all merchants: Would this be an Amazon Warrior? (sorry, sorry, couldn't stop myself)

 

I like the idea of an Adventurer's Mart style gold sink - being able to afford a pricey and powerful item after a longish period of saving up is quite satisfying.


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#33
FacesOfMu

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I have a question about this NPC giving access to all merchants: Would this be an Amazon Warrior? (sorry, sorry, couldn't stop myself)

 

An Amazon Amazon! Stretchgoooooooooooal!


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#34
algroth

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I don't entirely agree here. I believe that a good set of purchasable items at a very high price can act as an aditional incentive to questing and adventuring, and justifier to rewards and "lesser" loot. For one, one of the usual rewards you get upon completing quests or tasks is, quite simply, gold, and if that gold isn't useful for something then it is ultimately a pointless value. If stuff in shops is devalued, then gold is devalued and so is every item that isn't up to par or better than your current equipment. A good arquebus may be useless to a team with a preference for other types of ranged weapons, but it might be useful as cash to then purchase a really great sabre: so long as it's necessary to invest gold somewhere, it and anything that is sellable will be more worthwhile. On the other hand, good loot is always worthwhile for the sheer sake of being good loot.

 

Of course, gold will eventually become redundant either because you'll get enough of it to not worry about it running out, or because you'll have exhausted every significant means of spending it, either by purchasing all you want to acquire, by running out of ways to improve your stronghold, or else. And of course, if good items can also be acquired at too low a price, it'll detract from the value of loot if only because it's too easy to equip yourself with superior gear early on... But all of this is where price balancing comes into play, to delay or diminish that situation as much as possible, and provided prices for unique and powerful items are kept reasonably high, there should be no reason why one aspect should negatively affect the other.

 

 

It's a zero sum game because if the item on the merchant isn't the relative *best* item of that type for that part of the game, it won't get bought, and if it is and gold is plentiful, it will be. Why would you buy incredibly expensive items if you can get a better one from somewhere else? This is where the limited gold comes in handy; you can't simply buy all the best stuff, you need to make choices on which items you buy and which slots you'll depend on drops to fill. So: there are only so many inventory slots to fill, and the ones you can fill with drops, you won't fill with vendor items, and the ones you fill with vendor items will prevent you from fully enjoying their weaker drop-based counterparts. Hence, a zero sum game between vendors and drops.

 

The point is, gold becoming so abundant that you'll be able to afford everything isn't something that just happens automatically. Dragon Age Origins for example had a very limited supply of gold and you would never be able to get everything you wanted, considering that there were those 'mandatory' skill and stat books and back-bag extensions that already devoured a huge chunk of your treasure. Unless you exploited that double-sell glitch of course. That glitch was way too easy to do for my liking, and I found myself struggling not to use it on every single play-through.

 

 

The thing is that item quality isn't necessarily a linear scale, more so than a pyramid of tiers: many items offer different abilities which may or may not seem better to the player according to the use and strategy they give to these weapons, as well as their own preferences. Yes, there may be the occasional Carsomyr or Celestial Fury that is simply better than any other weapon of its kind available, but then which is a better set of armour, Shuruppak's Plate, Red Dragon Plate, or maybe just the Firecam Full-Plate Armour? Those are some Baldur's Gate II comparisons, but Pillars of Eternity has also made it so that it is easier and more convenient to carry several different types of weapon as primary, secondary or terciary sets, since not only do weapon use bonuses apply to a gamma of weapons instead of a certain specific kind, but with weapon-type resistances (which, granted, were a thing in both games) it is also strategically convenient that you should keep sets of different weapons that are of similar quality as well. In the end, it's true that there are so many slots to fill, but this doesn't imply a zero-sum game if nothing else because how to fill them up may differ wildly from player to player. What's more, if one side or the other is entirely underwhelming, then there is definitely a loss: why explore, why sell things at all or accept to do things for money?

 

Items sold by merchants are only easy to acquire inasmuch as the gold necessary to purchase them is easy to gather, but it doesn't need to be. You put forward the example of Dragon Age: Origins - that right there is an example on how both aspects can be strong and rewarding all of their own. If these unique and really good items are truly expensive, then they will be a challenge all of their own to acquire. Maybe they can be a little cheaper than Dragon Age, but all the same they would require work to purchase, and act therefore as another incentive for questing. I see both aspects as being enhanced here, not one or the other.



#35
Ninjamestari

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I have a question about this NPC giving access to all merchants: Would this be an Amazon Warrior? (sorry, sorry, couldn't stop myself.

 

I feel like I'm missing some sort of reference here? :D



#36
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I think that the main feature that causes money to play wonky is the income curve through loot. There are too many tiers of stuff to account for, and with unlimited inventory and stash access, it's way too easy to collect every single piece of loot. Enforcing carry limits might help with that, and could also lead to interesting new designs that could potentially add immersion, such as loot mules with saddlebags you can keep with you while adventuring and the like. And seriously, who didn't like finding a Bag of Holding back in the day ^^

 

That, and reducing the tiers of magic items. The more 'rare' magic is, the more meaningful is the economy you can create. Reducing the loot-income-curve would leave room for other kinds of methods in getting wealthy; this being a renaissance setting, I don't see why there couldn't be private companies you could by shares of, and perhaps even collect dividends. Investing your gold gives the currency a whole another layer of meaning, and it is also engaging as hell. If you can invest the gold of your character in the hopes of generating revenue, I guarantee that it will increase your engagement with that character and the game. So, primitive company shares, real estate, and now that we're going to get a ship, active trading and perhaps even smuggling could be added to play a role in the accumulation of wealth for our characters.

 

Then add in super-expensive by desirable items, such as a lmited number of tomes or potions that grant permanent stat-increases but also cost an arm and a leg (you could hide some of the merchants that have these behind quests or some obscure locations to also give neat rewards for exploration), super-powerful super-expensive equipment, etcetera etcetera. That would give the money value, and as a whole coupled with the versatile ways of player income, would turn currency and economy into an exciting little extra layer of game-play.


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#37
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Oh good lord, please no limited stash accessibility - I hate the "sword tetris" inventory minigame, it's just not fun.

There's more user friendly ways of balancing an economy, lots of which have already been mentioned, e.g. give diminishing returns on xaurip spears as the market gets flooded, and add interesting gold sinks.

 


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#38
Ninjamestari

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The "sword tetris" isn't that bad unless the inventory is ridiculously limited, like in the old infinity engine games. Overall, I think this current system is kinda silly, and if this is the way they want to go, I'd remove the stash and the individual inventories completely and just have a single unlimited universal inventory; we already have that in essence, the individual "inventories" don't really do anything in PoE besides adding needless hassle, as combat access to items is already limited to quick-item slots. I have no strong feelings on this particular subject, since while the limited inventory does add to the economic side of the game, I also do hate the hassle, especially if the volume of items you collect is so vast.

 

In essence, if not going for the hardcore inventory management, I'd remove trash loot completely, as it really doesn't add anything to a game where you can never lose your gear. If your character could lose their equipment via them breaking, getting stolen, being imprisoned or whatever, then the WYSIWYG approach to loot would be awesome, but that would require a completely different approach. I like how ME2 handled loot; they realized that the ME1 loot didn't really add anything to the game besides the hassle of managing a limited inventory of useless stuff, so they got rid of the inventory management completely. I don't think that approach would fit for PoE, but there is a certain philosophy there that should be adopted, and that is not being afraid to get rid of mechanics that don't really add to the game just because you've been used to these mechanics in past games that may or may not have had completely different contexts for them.

 

Removing trash-loot completely would also help to manage the games loot-economy, as then you could have a lot more control on how much stuff the player gets from a dungeon. I think the removal of WYSIWYG is still in the context of this game the right thing to do, but whether or not it'll be enough remains to be seen. I'd rather not have trash loot at all though.



#39
algroth

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I have a question about this NPC giving access to all merchants: Would this be an Amazon Warrior? (sorry, sorry, couldn't stop myself.

 

I feel like I'm missing some sort of reference here? :D

 

What website gives you access to many many stores and shops? :p


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#40
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... that's gotta be the first time I saw ME 2 mentioned in an RPG discussion as a positive example :D

 

I actually like the WYSIWYG approach to loot - I agree it is too "clicky" though. I found that Tyranny had a very elegant solution to this: Bent unusable armor, broken swords, all sellable for their bronze, all with flavor text. This helps immersion a lot in my opinion, and with a "sell broken items" at merchants, it's user friendly as well. And as I said, economy can be balanced in several ways.


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