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10 'New' Things My MMORPG Will Have

Posted by grimfall Friday November 23 2007 at 6:25AM
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 Let me preface this by saying that I believe this ideas are all my own, though certain aspects of them are probably seen in other games. I certainly haven't played every MMORPG out there, though I have played the big American ones.

1. It will be a role-playing game

I think that the game mechanics in the majority of popular online RPG's today tend to detract from role playing. I don't necessarily mean the 'Well met. How art thou?' roleplaying, but I do mean interacting as your character to other characters and playing a role in an adventuring group. An emphasis will be placed on encouraging interaction with the context of the game world in mind. The auction houses and mail boxes are two common conventions that will be shown the door.

2. Character Creation will be fun and meaningful

I disagree with the basic premise that users won't know enough about the game to make a character that's fun to play if they're allowed to choose stats and or powers for themselves when they 'roll up' their character. If they can do that, it's more a flaw of game design and balance, than of anything else. Sure if you make a warrior type character and max his intelligence and wisdom at the expense of strength and fortitude he may have difficulty functioning as you may expect, but if you choose a little more intelligence or quickness instead of maxing out your brawn then you'll be able to do some things than the walking brick houses can't.

3. Character Statistics will be meaningful

When you choose to put points into one statistic over another, there will be consequences. This ties into #2, of course. In the character generation system, if your more wise your brow will furrow more. If you're stronger you'll be more muscular and if you're more dexterous that muscle will be leaner. It won't just be cosmetic differences, however. There won't be gear for the most part that gives you increased wisdom and hit points. Conversely, there will be a difference between 15 and 16 mental strength. The higher the ability score, the easier it will be for you to perform actions, or those actions will be more powerful, or more easily repeated. This will apply to 'crafting' and adventuring aspects of the game, whether you're aiming a gun or hammering out a shield. 

4. No leveling

This applies to adventuring and crafting. In both realms of endeavor the only idea goal will be to explore and conquer for their own sake. To adventure to some areas and defeat some foes you'll need to be equipped with good gear, but you'll start at level 1 and remain there for the life of your character. Likewise the crafting system will be based on steps, where you will have to have completed one task before you can do a more difficult one, but you won't need to make 16 short bronze swords before you have the skill to make one long bronze sword.

 5. Separation between crafting and adventuring

All the crafting skills won't necessarily be to support adventuring. Some will but some will there just because they're cool. Being an artist or a historian will be just as rewarding as an engineer or beast trainer. All of the crafting game will be represented by mini-games which will, in an entertaining fashion, try to replicate what the real life crafter would have to go through.

6. The end of Groundhog Day

The end of undying deities will arrive. Players will start young, mature, grow old and retire. There won't be permanent death, but each resurrection or certain game situations will have a chance of causing your character to age. Some of this aging process will be physically evident as the character's skin and posture change, and some of it will be reflected in statistical changes, as you grow older and wiser you also grow weaker, slower and less hearty. Eventually the player will not have the physical requisites to adventure any more, though they can retire to a life of crafting or trading, and maybe get together with his old cronies for one last ride into t he sunset.

7. The end of Groundhog Day Part 2

The world will age and change itself. After a month, each of the servers will be different, depending primarily on how the players use and are manipulated by the existing factions in the game. When a new server is launched, it will be in a pristine condition and a large enough, determined group of individuals can set it's history on a course completely different from an older server they played on. Monsters will respawn, of course, but they may mutate so that one strategy that the previous adventurers were using may no longer be workable. For example, monsters that are susceptible to sword blows will gradually grow immunity to that type of attack. They may become more or less sociable or more intelligent as they evolve.

8. Player guilds will be part of larger game organizations

Players will be allowed to and encouraged to form guilds or cells, but each of these will be subservient to a game-wide organization. The cells will then be given objectives to further that organization\s cause and will be rewarded or punished based on their ability to meet these objectives. The guilds and individual player actions will tie closely in with number 7.

9. GM Interaction

The Players will actually get service for their monthly fee. Expect GM's to take over the role of NPC's on a regular basis. GM's will also drop in on adventuring groups to add a little spice to a dungeon or adventuring area they are working through.

10. Realistic Combat Effects

If a player throws a grenade or a fireball next to you, it won't just selectively hit the targets that she wanted it to, it will hit you. This will apply to shooting a gun, swinging a sword or using an AOE healing power.

singsofdeath writes:

Wish it could be, wish it could be...

Fri Nov 23 2007 7:51AM Report
Slovenc writes:

well i must say that you would be a good mmorpg maker :) but i have to disagree with the ding thing thats kind of a turn of for players if you play with a character for that long and then die or cant fight well i would stop playing the game from frustration and probable many other people would do so the sam and i also dont like no lvling  but i reakly liked al the other points if any mmorpg maker is watching this thread you could take some advice from this guy

Fri Nov 23 2007 10:42AM Report
JB47394 writes:

I love the fact that you put together this list.  I'd love to see more of them posted.  I hope that you get the game you want, but here are some comments on your 10 points.

1. Roleplaying is a niche motivation for MMO players in unstructured settings.  To generate broad appeal for roleplaying, the game would have to be designed to invite players to fill certain roles in the world.  That means, of course, that roles have to exist.  I like the idea, but it's a tough thing to create.

Note that auction houses and mailboxes exist to permit players who don't play at the same time to interact with each other.

2. You're talking about irrevocable decisions by players, which is something that I abhor in MMO gaming.  Through the years, game designers have come to realize that players make mistakes and they want to fix them, which is why features like 'skill respec' have come into being.

3. Use caution here.  If statistics are too significant, they will produce the same stratification that levels create today.  If my permanent statistics are structured wrong, I may not be able to join in with friends who are structured a radically different way.  I'll have to create a new character.  If I can create many characters that never grow more 'powerful', what is the point of having fixed statistics in the first place?  I can just build another character and go do whatever my other statistic-combination characters can't.

Note that I'm not suggesting that characters should increase in levels.  I'm only pondering the consequences of the system that you're hoping to get.

4. I love it.  However, I favor a crafting system that uses player skill, not character skill.

5. Agreed.  I'd like to hear your comments on exactly what players will craft.  Who will consume their goods and why.

6. This will likely be a feature with niche appeal, given that it's a roleplaying mechanism.  Players coming from the world of levels will see an aging character and feel that they're losing fractions of the one level that they had in the first place.  I can imagine the aging technique used, but not in the game that I see described.

7. I'm a fan of changing worlds, but not of player-run worlds.  Game companies are interested in entertaining their customers (even if they're sometimes not very good at it).  Players are interested in pursuing their own entertainment.  So I want the company employees running a changing world.  Players would have minor influence, but not control.

8. No comment.

9. Consider the notion of NPC Wranglers.  They have a realtime strategy style interface to direct NPCs against a large number of player characters.  The AI of the game handles the actual interactions, but the wranglers get the NPCs to where they need to go in order to constantly bring a different experience to any given encounter.

The wrangler idea ensures that the ratio of players per employee is high.  However, it does require an interaction of many player characters with many NPCs.  They need not be in the exact same place, but they should all be part of a general goal, such as capturing a fortress.  One or two company employees can use the available NPCs to defend the fortress, while the player characters can try many different approaches to take the fortress.

That technique can be reversed, of course, with the players defending and the two game employees managing the assault with their NPC forces.

10. Agreed.  Things like that are particularly important for PvP.

Fri Nov 23 2007 12:41PM Report
Ackbar writes:

So when are you gonna hurry up and make this game.

Fri Nov 23 2007 3:18PM Report
2k7baseball writes:

What game

Fri Nov 23 2007 5:54PM Report
vazzaroth writes:

This sounds like DnD, Online. Not to be consused with DDO.

 

I mean the table top... Online.

 

Seriously, almost everything mentioned would be what a faithful DnD translation would be. ESPECIALLY #9. The only thing that's not is the no leveling thing, which I disagree with. I would prefer a system where you level extremly fast, in a series of non-parallel (In other words, you don't necessarily gain something every other level or other predictable, repeating formulas) ranks. Perhaps this is even dictated, to a point, but world/quest participation.

 

Say it takes 10 kills of equal level to get to level 2. Then it takes 11 to get to level 3. When you reach level 10, you reset to level 1, rank 2. Then you have to kill 10 more equal level creatures. At this rank, of course, each kill would be harder, smarter, and longer. Eventually, when you are, say, Level 9, Rank 20 (209 seperate levels), each kill would require something akin to a world boss encounter.

 

Just my own alternative to #4, since leveling is one of the most gratifying experiances for me in RPGs, online, off, and table-top.

Fri Nov 23 2007 8:30PM Report
Pepsipwnzgod writes:

I read this whole piece, some parts i thought looked fun and inventive, but the majority of this will never work

Gm interaction in gameplay is for private server's but GM's interacting too much leads to cheating and favorites, which as we all know = a ruined game, no one wants that

Ageing? seems pointless to me, if you age to the point where your weak in battle, what will the pvpers who have spent over a year of work grinding to do? nothing? they want to ravage the battlefield, not make a skirt for a new priest.

The fact that guilds will have a role is always evident in games, who can show me a game where they dont matter that has had the unbridled success of other guild based games?

Self effecting AoE? this will ruin your attraction for mages or a creator class, people love these things - and to make it a kamakazi ~ doesnt seem too attractive, but still im stuck on the ageing thing

 

In every game ive ever played ive been the Rogue, the Theif, the Assassin, the quick guy with the special skills to take out a guy/gal quick and run like a panzy, i dont want a cane in my way and to have to double pad my armor so that i dont have tinkle stains, Why impliment age?! Some people have played wow for years, what would they say to a game where they are nothing after dying a few times? and how do you impliment a luck system for if you might age? what about the new guy who is just starting MMoRpG's?? I know what i started MMO's with diablo, i died constantly - would i age within a week of gameplay? i bust out 7-8 hours a day, will i have grandkids before the next time card needs to be registered?

 

i think that majority of your perfect 10 are flawed, that's just my 10 cents though

Fri Nov 23 2007 9:22PM Report
Mequellios writes:

I kinda like the aging idea, but I don't think it should affect how you fight. Maybe give you the chance to earn gray/white hair? longer hair? I have been concepting for an MMO myself. I think I got some pretty break through stuff. But caution is advised. Some ideas may sound cool, but playing them isnt.

I might have a permenant death system in my game but, there will be gameplay beyond death as well. Maybe even a way to come back from the other world. Your life as a mortal also determines your afterlife. Although some people might find an afterlife for game characters a bit weird. I'm rambling, sorry lol.

Fri Nov 23 2007 10:43PM Report
grimfall writes:

 Thanks for all your comments, particularly the very in depth ones given by JB47394

A point of clarity on #1.  I should have probably called it 'player interaction and roleplaying' rather than just roleplaying.  as JB mentioned the mailboxes and auction houses serve a purpose, but there is a cost to them (besides better enabling gold farmers) which the game developers didn't seem to take into account.  You can play WoW to level 70, with a pretty nicely geared player without ever talking to another living soul.  Plus, working the bazaar can be fun and 8 million WoW players, for example, have never even been exposed to that game play element.

About # 6. I really found the comments on the aging to be a surprise, but I think that it's more an indictment of how online MMO's are made today, than any of the commentors.  To sum up the anti-aging argument that was made would seem to be 'That's not the way other games do it.'  I realize that's not the way the 150 other MMORPG's do it, that's one of the reasons for the title of the post.

So try to break out of the notion that Groundhog day characters are a basic necessity and I will explain in a little more depth how it would be implemented and why players would enjoy it. If players won't play games that have 'death' no one would have ever played PacMan or space invaders.

First of all, let me clear up one misconception. You wouldn't die  'a few times' before your player needs to be retired.  It would be a something that needs to be balanced and tested, but I guess it would be around 40 times, maybe one year for every death.  Now, think about playing that game, with the consequences for frequent death known and clearly visible (I also meant to say that the players would get scars as well, now that I think about it).  Say you make your first character and find that he wasn't well thought out  (you try to make him do things he's not capable of doing) or you have difficulty adventuring as you learn the game and die frequently (this is what I would expect happens to most players).  You've now aged 20 years and have explored 15% of the game content., this took maybe 80 hours.  You know this character is not going to make it to the deepest dungeon crawls and there are some things that you would have changed making the character knowing what you know now, so you re-roll a new character, effectively retiring from adventure the first one.  This second character is more successful, but due to some bad PVP run ins (which you were partially responsible for) he's in his late 40's but has only explored 50% of the world.  This character you retire with about 120 hours game play and make a new one.  Some of the nice gear you have on character #2 is passed to character #3, making life somewhat easier for him.  You also know to avoid PVP 'rages' and have learned some tricks of the trade.  This character makes it through 90% of the content in about 200 hours and now he's getting old, so you semi-retire him and make a new character.  You break out character #3 very rarely when the best is needed for a particularly tough dungeon crawl.  Essentially you're putting together a team of Indiana Joneses from the 4th movie, and your 50 year old melee fighter is leading it.

You know going in that  your players are going to age and need to be retired. All characters are ephemeral, so the idea is that you don't become quite so attached to them.  It also promotes playing skill over playing time. Death is just a time sink in all MMOPG's right now, anyway. When you look at two lvl 100's from FF who have the same gear, which one is the better player?  You don't know.  Now if you look at two players of this new game both in a far off town and one is decrepit while the other is in his early 40's, then you know who is most likely more skilled (or had smarter friends).

About #3: JB said " If I can create many characters that never grow more 'powerful', what is the point of having fixed statistics in the first place?" One very basic thing is realism.  The game would be designed to encourage you to make more characters rather than re-spec.  The creation of characters would be so fun (hard to describe this without going into details which I'm not intending to reveal at this time), that you would look forward to making a new character.  The only reason that people dread making new characters today is that they have to 'level them up'.  You wouldn't have to level up a new character, though you would face the problem of transporting them to an area your friends are adventuring in.   Again, your basic premise is unlikely though.  The game will have a random character generator (not just random looks, random everything) and part of the testing and balancing element is that six characters pulled from that should, with proper gear and brains, be able to defeat the toughest non-raid encounters.

Pepsi said 'Gm interaction in gameplay is for private server's'.  That's not actually true. Everquest used to have fun  GM interaction and no one ever said it 'ruined the game'.  What SOE did realize eventually is that they could get by without it and they did, probably due to trouble staffing the positions.  Most games have followed suit.  I think you're confusing player game guides with GM's here as well.  These would be paid employees, not some elevated staff of a player guide system.  Ever wonder where the $80K monthly goes that a WoW server brings in?  I certainly do.

Pepsi went on to say: 'The fact that guilds will have a role is always evident in games, who can show me a game where they don't matter that has had the unbridled success of other guild based games?'  Well, WoW is a game where guild success has no impact on the game.  When Guild Dragonslayers kills the toughest monster, how did that change your gameplay?  It didn't.  What I am talking about here, for example,  is a group of guilds acting on behalf of a certain faction change the loyalty of a village from Neutral to their faction.  If you're of the same faction now you get better prices from merchants and different quests.  If you're of a different faction you get worse prices and fewer quests.  Now this same faction is so successful due to the efforts of a few standout guilds, that they create a new town, deeper into the adventuring area, which this faction is able to best take advantage of, but other factions can only stop at the saloon for a beer.  Things like that I don't believe are offered in any games today.

JB on crafting  " I love it." Thanks. "However, I favor a crafting system that uses player skill, not character skill."  What if the two were merged?  Let me give a basic example of the idea.  Ever played Soduku?  Say the skill is security cracking.  Two players try to take on the same security code.  Player one has an intelligence of 15.  Player two has an intelligence of 8.  When player one opens the mini-game, he has 25 (of possible 81) boxes filled.  When player two opens the screen he has 12 of the boxes filled.  Player 2 can do it, but it's going to take him longer (assuming that they both have equal RL brains).  If you're smithing as your endurance runs low (defined by stanima) then your timing to hit a moving target has to be impeccable, but a player with more stanima's target moves slower making it easier. etc...

And finally, Vazzaroth, 'This sounds like DnD, Online.'  That's really the idea, trying to move more of the cool features from PnP gaming to online gaming.  When EQ was made, which really was the first attempt to put D&D online some of the decisions were made due to technical limitations, budgetary considerations etc that really didn't have to be made.  The army of clones that have followed in EQ's footsteps used EQ as the starting point, rather than using PnP roleplaying as the starting point.  This, in my mind, is a mistake.

Wow, that was longer than I had intended. Thanks again for all the comments.  Some time in the future I will post parts of the design doc.  Still wrangling out how to handle the IP issues.

Sat Nov 24 2007 4:15AM Report
britzban writes:

I agree with what others have said about the aging concept.  It sounds cool but it will not work as intended.  People spend a lot of time and money on mmorpgs.   Who is going to spend all this time to become a crafter at end game.  People play mmos so they can become powerful at end game not to be carted around in a wheel chair.  Most mmos with crafting allow crafting as an option.  Some like the casual world of crafting and some like fighting.  The only way aging would come close to working is that if your character did age in appearance although his abilities did not suffer and there would have to be an aging cap in appearance although end game in this game would look like a nursing home. Everyone with grey hair? wtf!   I guess aging still will work.  Remember mmorpgs are not Madden football.  Players in that game age and retire and lose their abilities because that is a real life simulation of football and that game has a new version come out every year so most Madden fans start a fresh franchise with each years release so aging and retirement is acceptable.

Sat Nov 24 2007 10:19AM Report
grimfall writes:

Well, you've definetly made me realize it will be a hard sell to many gamers, so it's something I'll take under advisement.  I really have to admit I am disapointed, though.  For example, when Middle-Earth Online died and was turned into LOTRO online, a huge cry went up because they took away player death, but when trying to implement an idea that merges re-incarnation with player death none of the posters think it's workable.

What I am trying to avoid is the concept of 'end game' and replacing it with realism and replayability.  When you zombie queue up for your end game raiding and faction grinding is that really how you want to be entertaining youselves?  I've done it and I can honestly say that it's not fun.

So, can someone articulate what is wrong with the idea without using the phrase 'end game', so I can be a little less obtuse about the problem.  The very idea is that you won't play a player for more than six months. There will be some mechanisms to mitigate PVP griefing, so please leave those to the side.

Sat Nov 24 2007 11:44AM Report
Pepsipwnzgod writes:

JB, you said you wondered where the 80k goes, it goes towards the staff members upholding the server, and attempting to up srever load acceptance, server boxes arent cheap, now imagine having to have hundreds of them able to hold over 5000 each? and with that, the creators need to be payed, look at pop tarts... then look at the creator, no changes in like 10 years, but the man that brought them to the table is still raking in millions

Sat Nov 24 2007 12:07PM Report
grimfall writes:

Pepsi,

If you think those severs have $80K monthly maintenance fees... At the very most you're going to have one full time person dedicated to server maintenance per server.  Unless you pay server admins and techs $720,000 a year, there's going to be a bit left over.  If you are paying that much, can I send you my resume?

Sat Nov 24 2007 12:22PM Report
JB47394 writes:

grimfall, you're slowly swinging me to the aging scheme, primarily because characters have no levels and are therefore throwaways.  It might be more attractive to players if you adopted a system that simply showing scars and such on the character in an effort to produce a 'beat up' look.  Accumulated over time, such things would serve as an interesting point of discussion.

"You see this?  Sharkbite, 2006."
"Oh yeah?  Notice the bump on my head?  Stone Giant, 2005."

Add in a haggard look, slight deformities, funny walks, etc, and you get that 'beat up' look.  Given players' penchant for customization, I could see people rushing off to dragons just to get scars.

"Yeah, this is my scar mule.  I just run him around to get him beat up."

The same would happen with aging.  Players will 'craft' old characters for the fun of it.  Then go doddering around town.

grimfall: "What if the two were merged?  Let me give a basic example of the idea.  Ever played Soduku?"

Yes, that's been suggested by others through the years.  Remember that how much player skill gets involved is intimately linked to the remainder of the game.  If the game is about progress, as in the case of most online games, then player skill must be downplayed or eliminated else players will hit a wall and be able to go no farther in the game.

If the game is mostly about the experience itself, as in the case of parlor games (board games, card games, Chess, Go, etc), then player skill is a key element of entertainment.  My blog article entitled "Depth" goes into some of that.

I think that some of my own designs use hybrid systems, but I tend to downplay the character skill side.  I generally use character 'skills' as more of a game of collecting things for variety than anything else.  But I'm not too interested in games of progression.

Sat Nov 24 2007 4:45PM Report

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