Leah Ruben: The Socket System idea was born on a cool evening in late 2010, in a game mechanics discussion over root beer on a patio with a KingsIsle Designer you may know as Decius Duelmaster, from Pirate101. What’s cooler than being able to customize your Wizard even more? The more and more we talked about it, I knew a feature like this would be a huge hit. I was super excited and started talking it up to folks around KI.
However, after looking at the effort involved, we had to face reality. This is going to be A LOT of work. It would take a good chunk of the team months to do what we wanted to do as spec’d, and we had other cool stuff in the hopper first. So, we added things like Gardening, Mega Pets, Tournaments, Shadow Magic, Multiplayer Mounts, Fishing, Dungeon Recall, and Team Up (plus a lot of behind the scenes important keep-the-game running things) first. In the background, I worked with our Lead Designer (Nathan Sumsion) over YEARS pitching him the idea and working with him and refining what our goals were and how we wanted to accomplish them with this system.
Things changed through various discussions. At one point, sockets were going to be completely random (for example, you might get a Robe of Awesomeness with no sockets, with one tear socket, or with four circle sockets—it was up to lady luck). We went away from that because we felt it was a little too punishing. Imagine playing through a difficult dungeon like Darkmoor EVEN MORE times to get the perfect sockets on the already rare-drop gear? That would be really mean of us.
Also, at one point, we were going to make the jewels more permanent. In our current version of the socket system they are one-use only. We discussed making them a little less consumable, but we tend to think of them similarly to crafting reagents—once you make the recipe, you generally can’t get the items back. We also decided that if they were going to be more transient, we should make them more available, so it won’t be so hard to bedazzle yourself up.
Finally, when putting together the 2015 plan, it fell into place. It was time to focus on a new system milestone (where we add FUNCTIONALITY to the game rather than just new sights to see, spells to get, and loot to grab). As we’re looking beyond level 100, we want to provide ways for you to seek out great power, but on your own terms. We want YOU to fine tune your Wizard to the way that YOU want to play. And, of course, we decided that it would just be more fun to extend that opportunity to more than just our Promethean Wizards, so we figured if you could own a house, you were also responsible enough to socket gems to your accessories.
I’m going to turn this little history lesson over to Matt Fahey, the main designer on the Socket System, to discuss the system as it is now, and pop back at the end to talk a little bit about the future.
Matt Fahey: With our spring update, we will be introducing the Jewel Socket System. This was implemented as a way to allow players to enhance equipment with unique stat bonuses that cater to their individual play style.
Starting at level 15, players can visit Katherine RockHammer in the Wizard City Shopping District to learn more about this new system. She is so excited to share her knowledge of Jewels that you’ll be rewarded with your first set of items and new Jewel Crafting Station housing item.
Wizards throughout the Spiral will notice a new in-game item called “Jewels” which are magical items that can be affixed to Amulets, Athames, Rings or Decks. Jewels can be acquired through questing, minion and boss drops, fishing and crafting. Each Jewel comes in one of four shapes and can only be put into a Socket Item that has the same shape.
Jewels can be socketed to an item from anywhere in the Spiral through the backpack, provided the Wizard has a Jewel and an item with the corresponding shape. You simply need to affix and equip to gain the bonus!
One of the biggest hurdles that I had to overcome during the implementation was how we would retrofit existing items to become part of the Jewel Socket System and how we would handle determining the number of slots and shape assignments that would help maintain balance but still be rewarding to the player.
The solution was to develop a very in-depth ruleset for items and then work closely with our Tools and Engineering team to implement it across the thousands of items. QA had to examine and test each item documenting any outliers while I ran through a spot-check adjusting for balance.
We designed over 1,200 Jewels ranging from stats like Accuracy or Critical Rating to new enhancements such as Flat Damage Bonus (just like Colossal) and “Give Card.” The Give Card Jewel is also my favorite new feature. Wizards now have the opportunity to affix a Jewel that will provide a specific card (of their choosing) to their spell deck when that item is equipped.
Jewels will provide 16 stat enhancement choices of values depending on the level of the Jewel. With some items having over 7 BILLION potential combinations of Jewels, I’m excited to see what you decide to affix to your items. (Yes! I said billion!)
Leah Ruben: 7 billion is a lot, everyone. I was shocked myself, and we double, triple, quadruple checked the math, but I assure you, it’s accurate.
Let me close this journal out with a bit of forward thinking. I’m sure the second question everyone is going to have (after “where do I get the best jewels?”) is this: ”Why just rings, athames, decks, and amulets?” There are multiple reasons. First of all, this is one of the biggest updates we’ve ever done, touching almost every single piece of equipment in Wizard101 is not just a massive undertaking to do the work, but it’s also a heck of a lot of work for our Quality Assurance staff to have to test.
However, we’re not scared of a challenge. The biggest reason is that we want to make sure that the Spiral stays more or less in equilibrium. The other effect of such a sweeping change would make a lot of game balance considerations, so we effectively decided to start a little smaller with this first go ‘round.
That’s not to say that we’re stopping here. We’ve definitely discussed adding sockets to other equipment. When we have determined that it’s in the best interest of the Spiral to continue down that glittery road, and, of course, we have the time and resources to dedicate to the quest, we certainly will consider that option. We’ve talked about new types of gems for the future. Also, we’ve been talking pretty seriously about adding an all new type of equipment slot for players to make shiny, so, the possibilities for expansion are endless!
I certainly hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor over the years, and when available, make sure to log into the Test Realm to check it out for yourself! Soon anyone level 15 and up will be able to get started bedazzling their gear and customizing their Wizards even more with the Socketing system.