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Considering The Turn-Based MMO, Part 3

By Guest Writer on November 25, 2008 | Developer Journals | Comments

Considering The Turn-Based MMO, Part 3
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We have heard comments about Atlantica's combat system like, "How can we play a MMORPG with a turn-based system? Won't turn-based be tedious and time consuming? Why did you choose an old-school style rather than the modern real-time action?"

We believed that a turn-based MMORPG could be fun, especially after considering the pros and cons of such a game, which I discussed in the last developer's journal.

Here are some of the issues that factored into our thinking as we tried to maximize the pros and minimize the cons during the development process.

  1. A player's turn needs to be limited so that he or she doesn't needlessly take up too much time. Long, drawn-out battles, where you're constantly waiting for your opponent to finish his or her turn, would be unacceptable. Limiting a player's time to shorten battles has another effect: it adds pressure on players, adding more excitement to the action.
  2. The time it takes to complete a whole battle needs to be limited as well, so that battles don't drag on. We thought the average time for most battles should be two to three minutes, and up to 10 minutes for really tense battles. Long battles can be taxing on players. If there are a lot of battles, it becomes even more draining on players. And the longer the battles, the more it would take time away from a player to be involved with the game's community activities.
  3. Atlantica Online Screenshot

  4. With the pressure and excitement that the turn-based action can generate, it's also possible that someone might be more prone to getting fatigued from playing, especially if he or she is playing for many hours. The strategic element of the turn-based battles might also add to some fatigue. Therefore, we would need to provide players a variety of other things to do besides battling. Systems for crafting, the markets, guilds and other community-related content must be deep and exciting, so players can get immersed in other parts of the game other than fighting turn-based battles.
  5. Since the number of turn-based MMOs is very few, and some players might not be used to a turn-based game, other elements in the game must be familiar or simplified, so as not to overburden new players with many things to learn. In addition, we would want to minimize the stress caused by players having to figure out other aspects of the game. For example, some players might get annoyed if they are unable to find a specific NPC or location. To help with that, we could just provide a function that simply takes a player to the location or NPC he or she needs to go to. Another option is to have a function where players can access information relatively easily, rather than forcing them to search out some website or game magazine for the information they need.
  6. Watching a turn-based battle could get dull, if it's as if players are looking down on a chessboard, waiting for their opponent to take a turn. Therefore, we would need to have interesting camera movement and camera angles that heighten the excitement of the action. Once players become familiar with the turn-based combat and how much fun it can be, how the action is displayed won't matter as much. However, that's not the case for first-time players. We still need to make a positive first impression, which is important when it comes to people choosing new games to play. Exciting visuals must be included to highlight the action of the game.
  7. As I mentioned last time, there can't be large-scale party activities in a turn-based game, since it would be difficult to coordinate many people taking their turn. But as a MMORPG, this is not a game to be played alone; cooperation and competition with other players is a must. Therefore, other ways for players to party must be found. One such way is to implement a system where both allies and enemies can join a battle at any time, even during the middle of it.
  8. Atlantica was designed with e-sports in mind even before it went into development. Games are more popular than ever, and competition among gamers has never been fiercer. Atlantica's combat allows for great competition using a system that manifests both skill and strategy. It also captures the intense showdowns that progress gaming into a spectator sport. But to be successful in e-sports, the game has to be well-balanced. So we implemented a system using divisions to ensure fair matchups to optimize both player and observer satisfaction.
  9. A player gets a short break when their opponent takes his or her turn, and that time could be spent doing other things in the game, like community-related events. Of course it's not enough time to participate in anything that requires complicated communications. But there could be enough time for players to engage in some informal, quick conversations with friends, guild mates or similar level players via a chat window.

Atlantica Online Screenshot

These are some of the issues we considered as we decided to pursue a turn-based game, which guided us as we designed and developed Atlantica. We had very few models to follow when producing a turn-based MMORPG, so we had to learn on our own, through trial and error. And we had to execute it right the first time. We didn't want to be one of those companies who introduce something new and groundbreaking, but then fail and lose out to the second and third companies that come into the marketplace later, after learning from our mistakes. That is why we are keeping a development-oriented attitude and focus on Atlantica, even after launch. We plan to keep the game fresh by supplying more content, but more importantly, by responding to players' feedback to make the game better. So please feel free to share your thoughts here in the MMORPG.com forums. We hope you give Atlantica a try, and keep coming back again and again. You will be rewarded.

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