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Ideas for next-gen games

In this blog, I'm trying to give some of my ideas to make the next generation of games innovating and fun.

Author: Drolletje

Player Skill: twitch and tactics

Posted by Drolletje Sunday November 25 2007 at 3:14PM
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As you can see in upcoming mmo's, the emphasis is slowly moving from character skill to player skill. So it will matter more how good the player behind the computer is, and not just how much strength/agility/intelligence his in-game character has. I think this is a very good evolution. But now my question is: which parts of current mmo's can be improved by involving more player skill?

A first thing I can think of is the character build: give the player a lot of choices, so he can build his own, unique strategy and there will never be two players with exactly the same build. The general rule here is: the more choice, the better, as long as the different choices are properly balanced.

Another thing where player skill should definately be more involved is crafting. I've seen a lot ideas about crafting mini-games. But I think that there should also be the opportunity for players to experiment with new materials and different proportions of those materials, instead of having fixed recipes for everything.

The most important part however, and perhaps also the most difficult, is combat. I think everyone agrees when I say the time of auto-attack-->afk-->loot is over. But what is coming in it's place? There are two ways to involve player skill into combat. The first one is twitch: the player with better reflexes, will win. Some upcoming mmo's are trying to implement this with an fps-like combat system with manual targetting and no auto-attack. The second one is tactics: the player who makes the better decisions, will be the better player here. For this system to work, there obviously have to be a lot of non-trivial choices during combat. Choices that have a lot of different possibilities that all have an unique outcome and have an impact on the combat. But for such choices to be made, the player has to get a little time to think before he acts. This goes however head-on-head with the first possibility: twitch. So when making a game, there has to be made a choice: what kind of player skill do we want to reward: fast reflexes or good decisions?

Now this is I think a matter of personal preference: it's the reason why some people play shooters, while others prefer strategy games. I will give my personal preference however. That would easily be the second one because I think in order to win a battle, you have to adapt to your enemy and try to counter his decisions. This can only be accomplished when the player has time and, more important, opportunities to do this. This is simply not possible when everything depends on the speed of the player.

To sum it up: Involving more player skill in mmo's is good, but it should be more in the form of meaningful decisions with maybe a bit of twitch. Please keep the pure twitch for shooters. I'd like to hear what you prefer: more twitch, or more tactics? Or do you rather have the old system, where the player with the most time spent in-game will have the strongest character?

A system to replace hit points

Posted by Drolletje Friday November 2 2007 at 6:43AM
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Hit points (health) are used in nearly every game to date. RPG's, FPS, RTS, in all of them you have a certain amount of hit points and when you run out, you die. Their history goes back all the way to the invention of dungeons & dragons, as a system to prevent players to be one-shotted by an unlucky dice roll. Now I was wondering, why are we still using a system that was invented for a turn-based tabletop game in our modern, next-gen online computer games? Why does hit points remain that popular? Doesn't there exist no better, more realistic and more fun system?

So I was thinking and I thought of another system, I'm not sure whether it was never used before, but I think it could be very fun when implemented right and it could actually offer a more natural feel of the game. The basic idea is simple: whenever you enter combat with an enemy, there is a bar with a marker on it. At the beginning, the marker is in the middle of the bar. When you make a move against your opponent, the marker will move in his direction, representing that you have gained an advantage over him. An advantage could be anything like an opening in his defences, a move he didn't expect to a succesful hit on some body part. Most of these advantages are temporary, so you'll have to make use of them fast before they disappear. The ultimate goal is to push the marker all the way to the other side, allowing you to disarm your opponent (or silence him, if he's some kind of magic-user). Important to this system is that dodging and blocking attacks is active, since it directly helps in winning the fight.

Accompagning this system, there could be three main combat stats: focus, concentration and energy.
Focus is the defensive stat, representing your character's ability to anticipate and dodge or block incoming attacks. However, every time you do get hit, your focus stat is lowered temporary. This to prevent battles to be never-ending.
Concentration is the most offensive stat, higher concentration will allow you to attack faster.
Energy is also an offensive stat, but in a different way. Higher energy will allow you to use more powerful attacks. Your energy goes down a little every time you use an ability.
Of course, there should be a lot of attacks that can increase or decrease these stats to make a rich and varied gameplay.

I hope a similar system will be used sometime in a game because I think it will offer very intense and long battles, especially in an evenly matched fight. So, let me know what you think about my ideas, and what kind of combat system you'd like in a game.