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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

The MMO concept gestating in my head for the last few years

Posted by BadSpock Thursday March 12 2015 at 1:46PM
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As the title says - the following ideas have been rolling around in my head for the past few years. I've been playing MMORPGs for a very long time, there are aspects of the 1st generation I do miss, and aspects of the "modern" MMO that now I couldn't imagine living without.

I have come to realize that for me, and likely many others, the component that really creates a connection to a game, and directly correlates to the longevity of the game - how long I will play it - is the social element. 

I think co-dependence with other players is really the defining characteristic of this genre, the one that truly set it apart from other games types before, and is the thing that has changed, for the worse, more so than anything else over the last 15+ years.

TL;DR - a summary (from conclusion):

This obviously doesn't cover every aspect and detail of a full-fledged MMORPG -but is more of a rough outline of systems and intentions in order to reach the general goal of creating a MMORPG that is fun for a variety of play styles, and yet also encourages and easily persuades players into working cooperatively through real community building, inherent danger, and dedicated group roles that are more interesting and dynamic than the typical tank/healer/dps setup.

Multiple server types allow the same world, the same content to be tweaked just enough to provide unique experiences to players seeking different levels of involvement and player conflict.

Itemization, player stats and attributes, combat and characters are designed to foster cooperation and inclusion, not competition and segmenting the player base. 

Finally, crafting, home/business ownership, and the importance of trade between localized economies creates a true community where positive interaction and cooperation are built right into the systems and will occur naturally. 

 

If you take the time to read all of this, thank you! Please leave any comments, and I'll discuss whatever you'd like to!

*warning - incoming very long post*

1. Basic Character Attributes and Systems

Let's just say it is a fantasy MMO. You have levels and XP, and leveling up unlocks traits to improve your characters stats, like "strong" gives you +5 strength, "ingenuity" gives you +5 crafting success. etc. but in general, your "primary" stats that give you health, stamina, and mana don't change very much - kind of like how SWG did it, your race and some traits would make you more hearty or have a larger pool of mana, but like UO/SWG you didn't gain +5% HP/MP every level so you don't have a level 10 character with 100 health and a level 50 character with 5000. All characters, regardless of level, fall into like a 1,000-1,500 max range or something.

Stamina would be used for physical abilities and such, mana for magical. Health is your HP pool.

Combat and crafting is handled with skill trees, on use leveling up (again like UO/SWG). Certain combinations of skills create archetypes, and these archetypes would grant you a title and perhaps access to special cosmetic items. Like if you leveled up your skills in swordsmanship, heavy armor, and holy magic you could have the title Paladin and gain access to a Crusader's cloak cosmetic item. That kind of thing. You could of course create your own skill set up, and have other means to access special titles and cosmetic items (achievement, reputation, crafting, etc.)

2. Combat & Characters

This world is a dangerous place. There are a few major cities, some larger towns and some smaller villages, but because the world is so dangerous the people tend to stick together to form larger communities. There really aren't any really small camps or outposts with a dozen or less NPCs. They are all decently sized communities, with all or most of the vendors and town resources that are standard in today's MMORPG game. Mailbox, bank, blacksmith, inn, etc.

Outside of the cities, powerful monsters and creatures can be found, as well as NPC pirates and bandits and undead etc. At night, it would be even more dangerous as more powerful enemies come out and in greater numbers. 

Combat in this game would be challenging. Taking damage would have a good chance to "wound" you. Your HP could be regained in combat via spells and abilities, but wounds could only be healed outside of battle. As your HP bar fills up with wounds, like you are 30% wounded, when you took damage in combat that %30 of your health pool would be lost much faster, and there would be a higher chance to be struck with a critical hit and gain additional wounds.

Wounds could be healed outside of combat via bandages, potions, herbal remedies, magic, the usual means. The best way to heal wounds is to make camp, allowing for faster use of said methods, as well as allowing players opportunity to repair equipment and armor, sharpen blades, and trade items. Food can only be eaten at camps or at Inns in town, food provides long term buffs to secondary stats like Recovery, Alertness, Concentration, etc.

Because combat is difficult, and healing inside of combat is limited, adventuring alone is very dangerous. Due to the way the stats work (limited ranges) you really can't out-level any content in the game to make it easy. If you get sloppy, take unnecessary risks, etc. even the lowly Goblins you were killing around level 5 could kill you at level 30.  Soloing is certainly possible in the open world, in some mini-dungeons, and early levels of public adventure zones. (see below)

There are distinct roles in combat. Every offensive spell or attack does damage in a similar range, and every character has access to offensive attacks. In short - there is no DPS role, as everyone is capable and responsible for dealing damage to defeat enemies. 

So instead you have the "Control" role which excels and directing the enemies attacks towards themselves, and restricting the enemies movement. Collision detection system is very important for Control players. Body blocking is key. These players tend to have a variety of defensive attributes - be it heavy armor, a strong shield, or excellent agility and mobility. Many of their abilities use Stamina. They tend to favor traits to increase their survivability and martial prowess. Example archetypes include Knight, Paladin, Bladedancer, and Summoner.

Then you have the "Support" role which provides the limited in-battle healing available, but also focuses on providing buffs for themselves and their allies, as well as removing debuffs from their comrades. Many of their abilities use Mana. They tend to favor traits to increase the efficiency and potency of their spells, both offensive and defensive. Example archetypes include Cleric, Priest, Shaman, and Bard.

Finally you have the "Disrupt" role which excels at debuffs on enemy targets, as well as removing buffs from enemy targets. These players specialize in harassing the enemy, can utilize some crowd control methods, and have excellent escape options. They tend to favor traits to improve their mobility, as well as the potency of their debuffs. Example archetypes include Berzerker, Warlock, Wizard, and Assassin.

3. The World - PvE

There are a variety of activities outside of the safety of town. Wandering monsters/patrols, enemy camps, and powerful Elite monsters (BAMs) can be found roaming about. There are a large number of mini-dungeons like crypts, forts, and mines that are phased (dynamic instancing) to you and your party. There are also a fair number of traditional instanced dungeons designed for a tight group with all 3 roles present. There are also many large, open world "adventure zones" similar to the public dungeons in UO. They are not instanced/phased, have multiple levels that get more challenging as you go down/up, and are designed for everything from solo to full group.

The adventure zones are designed for farming for XP, skill up, and loot. Every enemy you kill has a chance to drop a token. Combine X number of tokens to spawn an elite mob for your group. Each elite mob drops another type of token. Combine Y number of these tokens to spawn a mini-boss for your group. These mini-bosses drop a third type of token. Combine Z number of these tokens to spawn a boss mob for your group. The chance and quality of loot increases as you move from regular, to elite, to mini-boss, to boss mobs.

There are also a series of instanced Raids designed for a larger party, and are on a weekly reset. These are tiered, generally requiring completion/gear from lower tiers to compete in higher tiers. Due to the nature of stats and the limited ranges, trait system, etc. you do have a chance at all tiers if your group is coordinated and skilled enough. Crafting can supplement all tiers, and high quality crafted gear is just as powerful as raid or dungeon drops

There are a few very powerful world bosses in the open world that move about and require a very large group to even attempt to defeat.

4. Travel & Community

There is no looking for group tool. Each town/city/village will have an Inn with a tavern space. This tavern will contain a bulletin board for players to advertise LFG/LFM for dungeons/raids/adventure zones etc. near the town. A player must be in the tavern to invite others to the group. Players will be able to set a tavern/inn as their home location, and will have a spell to return home once per hour. Players on friends/Guild lists will be able to invite/join their friends/guildies from any location at any time.

Summoning stones, requiring one group member present to use, will be outside of each instanced raid, dungeon, and adventure zone, but not the mini-dungeons out in the world.

There will be fast travel options between the 3 major cities only. Players can purchase mounts at any level, which are very effective on established roads/paths and open terrain (plains, tundra, etc.) but considerably slower on rough terrain and in forest/jungle/swamp as well as heavy snow, etc. You will not be able to use a mount in town or in any underground/indoor space.

Movement speed differences should be more dramatic. In a "normal" MMO, your base walking speed, the base "jogging" speed, and mounted speed are way too slow. 

Walking is a crawl, jogging is barely faster than a normal person walks, and mounts are barely twice as fast as a person slowly jogging. 

In town and dungeon etc. walking speed is a much more lively pace. Open-world jogging is more of a cross-country style run, think Scottish highlanders or the pace Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn travel in the opening of The Two Towers as they are tracking the Orcs.

Mounted speed is an actual gallop. Easily 2-3x speed of unmounted free running.

5. Trade, Crafting, Housing

Trading between towns/villages/cities in important. Caravans taking goods between communities, or from mines/lumber mills to communities, must be safe guarded at all costs. Players can carry goods as part of a caravan to trade for profit, or they can be hired by other players and NPC caravan parties as escorts. 

There is no auction house. A commodities market is available to buy and sell resources for crafting, and each market is specific to the town it is held in. 

Resource gathering for crafting is handled in a variety of ways. Some resources, like some foods, herbs and mosses, can be found out in the world, and some can be grown in a garden. Most food must be cultivated or bred on a farm. Other resources, like animal skins/furs and other animal parts like bone/venom etc. must be gathered from slain creatures. 

Wood can be gathered by working at a lumber mill, which are important NPC controlled resources that must be defended from attack by monsters/bandits. Raw metals and ores can only be found in NPC controlled mines, which must be defended from attack by monsters/bandits. Gathering materials at lumber mills and mines requires the player to purchase a license which allows them X amount of time to gather. The foreman then takes Y% of the players haul as a fee, or the player may sell the entire load to the foreman. 

All other trade is handled by skilled crafters. Weapons and armor can be bought, sold, and repaired by skills blacksmiths, potions and herbal remedies by skilled alchemists, etc. Players can learn these crafts by apprenticing under an NPC tradesmen. By working in their shop, they gain skill points and learn new recipes. The goods they create are then sold by the NPC tradesmen.

Players who gain enough skill and reputation with a tradesmen can have the opportunity to buy the shop from the crafter. Players may only own one shop. This player well then gain a percentage of profit from all transactions, and can create work orders for other players, the NPC tradesmen, and manage the purchase of resources for the shop from the commodities market or directly from NPC/player suppliers.

Players who accumulate enough wealth can buy a home from the NPC owner in town. There are a limited number of homes available in each city/town/village. Players may only own one home. Players who buy a shop will also own the crafter's home/hovel/apartment attached to the shop, and are thus unable to buy another house.

Woodworkers can build furniture for homes, but also improve a home or shop's appearance and value. Woodworkers can also work with farmers to build and improve fences, and work with a town/cities office to build and improve and repair defensive structures like guard towers, and walls with masonry.

Towns and villages/cities can and do get attacked by NPC raiders/monsters, requiring defense but also repair/rebuilding if damage is done. Home and shop owners in a town/village/city get a vote on city-wide spending measures for things like guards, and payment to builders for improvements to defenses and structures, as well to provide armed player/NPC escort for trade caravans. 

6. PvP

There will also be PvP servers, in which 3 factions fight for control of the various towns/cities/villages, as well as resource locations like lumber mills and mines. On these servers, monster and hostile NPC aggression against towns/cities/villages is reduced. Player woodworkers will be able to craft siege weapons like battering rams and catapults.

7. "Hardcore" Servers

Finally, there will also be "hardcore" and "hardcore PvP" server options. Enemy NPC/mob stats will be increased, in-combat healing will be less effective, and wounds more likely to occur. Soloing will be extremely difficult. Skill and XP gains will be slower. Death in PvE will result in resurrection sickness, slowing down skill/XP gain until it is worked off. Weapons and armor will take more damage, especially on death, and will eventually break - greatly reducing the item's stats permanently. 

On the hardcore PvP servers, there will be a chance on PvP death for an equipped item to be lootable by enemy players.  In addition, on hardcore PvP servers players may opt out of the 3 faction conflict and will be able to become a PK by attacking/killing any other player or faction NPC. PK's are attackable by any player/faction NPC or guard. PKs will accumulate a bounty for every lawless action, redeemed by whomever kills the PK. PKs will have a higher chance to loot equipment from other players, and will suffer increased resurrection sickness. 

On these hardcore servers, crafting resources will be more plentiful, and enemy NPC/mobs will have a better chance to drop higher quality loot.

8. Items and Loot

Generally speaking, gear caps out from a variety of experiences, instead of progressing from dungeon -> harder dungeon -> raid. 

 

So there is still a progression of gear across tiers and quality, but in the case of weapons and armor - not restricted by level or skill. A noob character could still equip a high end set of armor and weapon, they just wouldn't be very effective in combat due to not having skills or traits unlocked.

Passing down gear to alts, to low level guildies, should definitely be encouraged. With stat range between min and max much lower, twinking isn't a problem.

Additionally, all gear can "level up" along with the player - up to a certain point based on quality. As you gain experience and skill up, your gear will as well - assuming you keep it well maintained. Damaged gear doesn't gain XP as fast.

The idea here is that if you don't get lucky with drops or have the funds to purchase higher end gear - you equipment can still get better and help you catch up. It's still always better to get a drop or buy/craft something better, as you get to skip ahead a chunk in item power.

After all, power should come from the player/character, not the item. Super rare, high quality or "epic" gear is a status symbol, a visual show of accomplishment. Once you've attained the highest quality of gear, the rest is all just for show/looks.

But then why chase the carrot? Why raid when you could get just as good of gear crafting or just slowly leveling up your existing, high quality gear?

Two answers - looks, and item set bonuses. Player who dedicate themselves to a goal, to building a full set from a particular activity type, be it general PvE, raiding, PvP, crafting etc. should be rewarded for their dedication. Item set bonuses are like free traits, additional perks to further differentiate players and may give that slight edge over players who don't have set bonuses.

The greatest thing? These sets will never become obsolete. The next raid tier or whatever doesn't invalidate the set bonuses, as the quality is the same and dictates the base stats. 

9. Conclusion

This obviously doesn't cover every aspect and detail of a full-fledged MMORPG -but is more of a rough outline of systems and intentions in order to reach the general goal of creating a MMORPG that is fun for a variety of play styles, and yet also encourages and easily persuades players into working cooperatively through real community building, inherent danger, and dedicated group roles that are more interesting and dynamic than the typical tank/healer/dps setup.

Multiple server types allow the same world, the same content to be tweaked just enough to provide unique experiences to players seeking different levels of involvement and player conflict.

Itemization, player stats and attributes, combat and characters are designed to foster cooperation and inclusion, not competition and segmenting the player base. 

Finally, crafting, home/business ownership, and the importance of trade between localized economies creates a true community where positive interaction and cooperation are built right into the systems and will occur naturally. 

If you've read all of this, kudos! Please leave any comments, and I'll discuss whatever you'd like to!

noxaeternus writes: Program it and I'd give it a go. Fri Mar 13 2015 3:13AM Report
Dullahan writes:

Just a few notes and ideas regarding your well thought out blog.  Note: I probably missed or misunderstood some things.  You covered a lot very briefly.

I'd play this game.  Some ideas are great and in the spirit of old MMOs that which catered to immersion, role play and fantasy in general, and would be classified as "hardcore" by most yet others counter those features with unnecessary immersion breaking elements found in shallow themepark MMOs.

The dangerous world is most appealing, however I do not see a need for instances ever in an MMO.  If there are too many people in an area, displace them to another part of the world in the beginning.  If there are still too many people, you either make your world bigger or create more servers.  Instancing is bad.  It ruins immersion, removes competitive aspects of a game, removes opportunities for socialization and creates mudflation and other issues that developers must then respond to by putting artificial restrictions on items and other aspects of the economy.

I like your ideas for traveling and grouping, though making everyone run super fast kind of strange.  That seems to contradict your other ideas regarding travel.  I like limiting fast travel and maintaining the feel of a vast and dangerous open world.  I agree theres no need for utilizing external (UI) options to create groups.  However, I don't see the need to limit group creation to small areas.  There should be at least an ability to shout to areas to create groups.  I like bringing back communication and making use of inns and taverns. Utherous idea of having players use taverns to releave a stress stat is cool, but I don't see the need to force people into a tavern just to group.  Localized economies are great for so many reasons, its a shame

Crafting sounds great and I like the idea of both a dropped and crafted item economy.

The 3 faction system usually works well.  I'd make 1 of the factions a FFA faction, at least on one of the servers.

While its true that there should be a system of inclusion regarding progression, its necessary to create progression in such a way that there is exclusivity.  When you dumb down a game so that everyone regardless of skill or playtime is accomplishing the same things, many players find the game will lack a certain sense of accomplishment.  Social aspects and mechanics that promote inclusion are important, but they must be tempered with competition to keep players playing and striving to become the best.

Sat Mar 14 2015 4:05AM Report
Gedias writes:

It's a good amalgam of ideas from earlier MMOs and I think it could work. I particularly like the different rule sets for servers, the small power differential between levels and keeping old gear around for set bonuses.

 

The main thing I would be worried about is progression. If getting to max level or to max gear level is too easy then players won't have much reason to stick around (at least on a PVE server).  You could of course add more challenging dungeons and raids later or open up new continents or zones but I'd say in any game like this you would initially want to make a rather long leveling curve.

Also I don't see the benefit in limiting housing. Many newer players would probably quit when they found out they couldn't own their own home because they joined the game too late. Plus more housing equals a bigger market for crafters.  You could make two tiers of housing - prestige housing in the major cities that you buy and maybe a second group of phased houses in the "slums."

 

Guild halls would also be cool and again another way to create more demand in the economy.

 

Sun Mar 15 2015 5:30PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Thanks all for the comments!

Dullahan- instancing is a necessary evil in the modern MMO. The instanced dungeons and raids I propose only as it is such a popular form of PvE entertainment, it's pretty much mandatory. It's also why I included the public/phased mini-dungeons, for some of that solo adventure/exploration and opportunity for player interaction. The adventure zones are all public, as well as open world bosses, to create opportunity for that more old-school feeling.

Obviously balance would be a big deal. Players always figure out the most efficient means to advance, be it XP or gear etc. players will always find the best way to optimize. I think having different sets available only from different activities would help provide incentive, yet the limited power curve would keep all of these sets competitive.

It's not "run super fast" but certainly faster movement speed over non-extreme ground both mounted and on foot. This would be balanced by the lack of fast travel options outside of some kind of ferry/coach/zeppelin service between 3 major capital cities. 

I envision a world without artificial borders, with much greater distances between towns/cities, regions full of many dangers, and a distinct lack of random mobs wandering around waiting to die like your typical MMO. (the adventure zones would of course have much high mob density and respawn rates to facilitate proper group-based farming.)

Marrying these design ideas without increasing player movement speed over open ground would only create tedium and pointless travel. 

I don't like /shout or even any global chat in general. It's a real immersion breaker to see tons of spam and LFG over public channels. I think a tavern system creates a good focusing point for socialization, just how it did in SWG in the Cantinas. I'm weary of creating some kind of debuff you'd have to remove by visiting a tavern. 

Guilds are vital to the social element in a MMO, in my opinion, and guilds would of course have in-game chat available across any distance, as well as group forming/joining etc. 

I see Taverns as a place for the un-guilded to find PUGs, or for Guilds to recruit members for a particular activity, or in general. I also see Taverns as a place for mini games, and as a place where the player could talk to NPC characters like the bar tender to get gossip/rumors - bread crumbs to content in the areas near the town/city/village.

Like "I've been hearing travelers speak in hushed tones about a haunted old crypt just south of town in the Marshlands..." kind of thing, that would lead you to a private/public phased mini-dungeon.

FFA would be an option for PvP on the hardcore - PvP server rule set. I would likely tie the standard PvE and PvP and hardcore PvE/PvP servers together. I think the Trammel/Felucca split in UO was one of the most ingenious ideas in the history of MMORPGs.

Variety is the spice of life. PKs would not be able to "hide" by moving to the PvE side on the hardcore PvE/PvP split. 

Gedias-

I envision the skill gain and over-all XP gain to be considerably slower than today's MMO, yet not as punishingly slow as the MMOs of old. The hardcore servers would have a slower, "old-school" feeling gain rate.

If a skill had a range of 1-100, the curve would be so that the first 40-60 would be relatively quick, giving players a good idea of what the play style is like, but then slowing down considerable between 60-80, and even more so 80-90, 90-100 etc.

Idea is that if a player decides to completely swap out their skill sets to try something new, they can get to ~60% effectiveness pretty quickly, ~80% with a good, solid commitment, and only 100% with persistence and dedication.

I have toyed with the idea of phased/instances "apartment" living for those unable to grab a house. With players only able to own a single residence, having cities/towns grow and/or new settlements pop up with future content release/expansion would provide opportunity for newer players to get an open-world house, or older players would have to sell their existing shop/home to move into a new one.

Players would be able to designate their home as a Guild Hall, enabling them additional customization options to improve functionality and visibility.

In general, I don't like the idea of opening up new lands as a game grows. It immediately invalidates the game's existing content.

I'd rather make old lands new again, expanding further in existing game space, adding more to do in these areas.

I'd see expansion to the game as being adding new skills, creating new options for archetypes and custom builds. Adding new adventure zones, instances, and mini-dungeons to existing game spaces with new item sets and models, new enemy types, etc. 

Increase content density in the available footprint. This would also create movement in the housing market.

Say at launch town A is close to 2 instanced dungeons, a low-end instanced raid, and a low-end public adventure zone. The town sees good trade and player movement, but measurably less than town B which is closer to more high-end content.

The game expands, and a new high-end instanced dungeon and raid are added near town A, and the nearby adventure zone get's a new sub-level with new content.

All of a sudden, town A is bustling with activity and the home prices surge. New homes would be added for sale, and existing owners could then sell and move to another town etc.

Homes would require upkeep, and players who fail to make upkeep payments for X amount of time would have their house foreclose and go up for sale. If the player came back to the game, they'd at least have the sale price of their foreclosure waiting for them at login.

Mon Mar 16 2015 8:05AM Report
Dullahan writes:

I still counter that instancing is absolutely not necessary in an MMO, but perhaps if you want to have limited points of interest, it fits your model.

The drawbacks still outnumber the benefits if you aiming for immersion, economy, and social aspects.  They work perfectly for the modern mmo because none of those things are the primary design focus.

Any time a designer comes to a place where an instance would generally be utilized, if they were to ask themselves whether it could be avoided by making dungeons larger, adding more content nearby, by spreading out the population more initially, or by creating more servers, I believe they'd never take the easy out making an instance.

Thu Mar 19 2015 2:54PM Report

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