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Behind this mysterious title I'm hiding some hard work that might be published someday ;) The purpose of this blog is to share thoughts with you who love/hate MMO.

Author: Deewe

Time to get a decent HOME!

Posted by Deewe Wednesday February 9 2011 at 7:25PM
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Housing, while a great concept housing was never, even in SWG, implemented flawlessly.


Let's take SWG and LotRo systems as a base of comparison as they cover mostly every other concepts that have been implemented so far.


In all the housing discussions I've been following, MMO wide, people keep saying how SWG system was good. Well it was indeed an interesting take but as a former SWG: house decorator, city planner and finally mayor I can tell you it had major flaws too.


First setting up a city was a mess as we had no in game tool to really plan cities layout. Also we weren't able to level the ground, stones here and there, hills and so made it a pain to end with something looking good. Then we lacked what would have transformed the wilderness looking villages in cities: road or street  floor textures, city walls. Cities never ever ended looking like cities.


Then there was the issue that too many ended in ghost towns hit by a guild disbanding or players leaving the game and locking their houses. Another not much thought about problem was they removed the players from the main social hubs. Would there have been few players cities it would not have been a problem but it dispersed the players in more social hubs, not less.


Finally allowing players to set houses where ever they want to was immersion breaking and made the planets  look messy. It was especially the case as the players were allowed to set their home name with stupid entries things like "In your face $OE"


We'll discuss about the good point of SWG system later on.


Now if we look at LotRo's take on housing, setting them in separated and instanced neighborhoods made them look great but they ended as ghost towns too. Also it wasn't that easy for guilds to reserve spots and stick together. The other issue was they weren't that close enough to the main hubs too. Finally housing in LotRo is mostly used as more room for storage.


=> So what's to do with housing then?


One core rule should be housing should not remove players from the main social hubs at all. Creating others hubs is nice, but then you would need to remove as many hubs as you created new ones. Do not split the player's population with housing more.

Then do not allow player to build anything anywhere they want. The developers need to stay in control of how the game's world look like. For the best of everyone players need to sacrifice a bit of their freeness. 

Would you allow players to build cities, first the possible locations have to be very restricted and non instanced. Either they are part of the world or don't waste your time creating them. Then do not allow players to actually build messy cities. Either run an online contest with submitted plans or design a pool of dev cities layouts and have players choose one among them. Then you need to connect these cities to others major hubs with transportation system: taxi, portals and so.


With a city growing in size it would unlock special features like bank, auction house, and transportation connections. Also the bigger the city the bigger would be the fees (money sink) collected by the city to maintain itself. This money would simply disappear from the game, not go into any player's pocket.


At this point you can implement a voting system to elect a Mayor for let's say a two/three weeks period. This person could take some decisions like spending the taxes in increasing the local police force, or adding elements like a garden in a specific neighborhood, or building city walls to protect form NPCs and player’s (PvP) attacks.


Still before even implementing player cities, let's have a look at player's housing in NPC cities. Setting a

player city will always be kind of tricky and can seriously unbalance the player's population dispersion in the world. Also it would mostly make NPC cities a waste of development's time and a waste of $$$.


The idea with using NPC cities is you're bringing life to all the closed doors in NPC cities. Also whatever the server's population there will always be NPC wandering around in the cities, making the world feel more alive. There might not be enough houses for every player so you might want to go with instanced interiors too. It's a deal breaker for some but either you add around 5000 houses in players cities, and imagine the size of the cities or you have to instance them.


What you can do with implementing player's housing in NPC cities too is to make player's "only" neighborhoods. All the houses and apartments would be owned by players and a local mayor can be elected too. This mayor could even, through a vote and $$$ funding, have the look of the neighborhood changed: upgraded raising the taxes or downgraded lowering them... for example a lower setting would allow to have "illicit" gambling houses and least regarding city patrols when you are wandering around with weapons out or fighting in the streets.


About housing decoration: LotRo hook system is interesting for changing the house interior look for walls, floor, ceiling and so. Still for really furnishing a house SWG free for all system placement does the trick.


The best addition to SWG system was to be able to roll left/right an item. it really topped the move left/right/up/down & rotate left/right commands. Still there was 2 things missing:
- The first one is being able to put as much part of an item in a wall/floor/ceiling as you want to let players only display the part you'd like.
- The second one being having a one button all in one housing inventory button, displaying everything that's been put in the house. It allowed players to recover items conveniently.


Want to go even further? Here's some tricks:
- Lighting management: Make the house interiors dark, totally dark during the night, and during the day let the light come "through" the windows. Then have players drop down lighting the way they want it, either hooked to the ceiling, on the walls or standing lamps. Have each light have its on/off toggle.


- Open the windows to the exterior: obviously you can't let players from outside see inside the houses, both  because there might be multiple instances of a house at the same spot and because you don't want the server  to send all the data regarding the item seen in the surrounding houses to all the players passing around.  However what you can do is let players inside the houses see outside of them.


- Exterior furnishing/decoration: that's the most tricky one. It can really give players a feeling of ownership but how do you do when there are more than one person using the same house exterior as entry to his/her instanced house/apartment? We already know, by experience, that lotRo's way of instancing the whole neighborhoods doesn't do the trick. We can discuss quite lengthily here but let's say the main idea is you  can do minimal changes to the exterior of your building, like choosing the walls painting among a preset palette or maybe even choosing an ensign or a trophy display. So how about a token/veteran system? If here's a tie between players then one of them will be chosen by the system randomly as the main owner of the house for the next period of time, period being around 2/3weeks.


- Instanced players housing in (mostly any) NPC houses: this is the trick. Even with player cities some players either don't like to be obliged to live nearby others players or some simply drool at NPC houses set in remote locations. Then why not allowing players to use these houses as their home base? But don’t  allow them to tweak the exterior at all.


- Storage with access lists: it's a pain for the database administrators but it's a must to have for players. Even better it would be great to have access lists to locked doors inside the houses.


- Rate the houses: allow players to rate other's houses with let's say a 1 to 5 system after visiting them. And then let players see the ratings. It would help directing players to the best decorated houses and also promote the housing system.


- Pack up your house: when players wants to move from one spot to another you want to allow them to do so  easily, provided they use the same new house layout at their destination.


- Interior housing revamp: welcome to the sims online! It's the dream for any house decorator. Just give them an empty shell, with unmovable windows as the exterior has to be set, and let them play. No MMO so far allowed players to move/add/remove walls/ceilings/floors/stairs/ladders. However this is kind of tricky as not only the devs needs to publish a simple tool for the players but it would really be a pain for the database too.


Let's finish on the housing money sink. Having a house being locked/packed up due to the lack of maintenance is more hurting the casual gamers than else. Paying for a house should be a one time money sink only as not to make it a hassle to own a house. However the house interior would only be accessible as long as the subscription linked to the tied account is paid.



In the he end one thing to remember is, whatever the way housing is implemented in a MMO, there will be trade-offs.


Time to get rid of RESTRICTIONS

Posted by Deewe Thursday August 12 2010 at 9:47PM
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Unless you have been living in a very remote galaxy for the last 10+ years, you certainly have heard about BioWare and their next flagship: SWTOR.
As a SW fan I have been enjoying most SW video game up to Kotor I & II and also, you can guess the very controversial SWG. Of which I still have the collector’s edition displayed on my desk, 3 feets away from me. Yes I have a huge desk! It helps to organize all geek stuff we can gather through decades of hardcore gaming.
As TOR details are being slowly, chirurgically delivered by BioWare buzz machine we, are starting to be able to draw a more accurate picture of this expected MMO
Without denying it shall be a well polished game, and certainly a FUN experience, there’s something that’s been tickling me regularly about this game, the last strike being the “announcement” of a space on rails or tunnel shooter:
=> The overwhelming usage of restrictions.
Without having yet the chance to try out the game it seems, from an external view, that as BioWare loves to say so “choices will matter”. But to what extend do we really have a choice?
Among many other:
  • You would choose either your specie or your class
  • LightSaber types are class restricted
  • Species are factions and even more class restricted
  • Space ship chassis are imposed depending on your class
  • Companion races aren’t selectable nor you will be able to customize their physical body
  • You choose either your story line type or your combat game play (class)
  • Your class will decide how you will look
  • You will either choose your look or the gear stats
  • You are “required” to use companions for PUGS and PvP
One can argue all this is normal for a theme park MMO, however I tend to disagree. While we can see restrictions on some MMO it seems SWTOR is the apogee of it.
Once upon a time MMOs, while not perfect, were virtual world in which players could venture around a nicely laid out world and that was mostly it.
The idea to make everyone feel a hero through very delimited storylines and perfectly smoothen out experiences, sets everything on rails. The player isn’t anymore in control of his character at all.
Sometimes it makes me wonder if some designers think they know better than the players themselves what’s fun for them. Didn’t we already see the results of such mindset in other games?
Now instead of obliging players to live with restrictions, wouldn’t it be more fun for everyone to deliver a fully fledged world, theme parks quests too (so none can say I’m a sandbox lover ;) ), but let players enjoy all this great content the way they want to?
For example I ask this very question where’s the fun in restricting players to combine class A with race D? Or why obliging all Class Z players to wear skirts? In virtual worlds, and so MMO, we can find almost limitless reasons to explain why an almost naked warrior using a stone knife can efficiently tank against a 100 feet tall dragon. So why obliging tanks to wear heavy armours either?
I’d say it’s time to get back to the roots and have the devs giving the players tools to enhance their imagination, not restrict it.

Time to get rid of QUESTS!

Posted by Deewe Monday July 12 2010 at 1:17PM
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Ever heard or the Holy Grail, Beowulf or the Twelve Labors of Herakles?
Once upon a time the word “Quest” meant something, it really did.

Lately quests became a must to have in all MMO. The developers identified that the players have to be driven through the content, taken by the hand from the start to finish.

Quests and, in some extend, instances are the chosen solutions.

The need embark the player on a guided tour and keep him busy watered down the epicenes of quests. You don't really feel that special anymore when a lord asks you for a load of pig's tails, right?

It's funny to note that the idea is to make players feels heroic, unique.

The other issue is not all the pigs have tails; so much that you can wonder if some genetic experimentation hit their population badly.

When you finally embark on a quest, that makes senses and feel epic, you soon discover that you're just a peon among clones that done the same exact thing as anybody else around: the guy/girl standing next to you showing off with a replica of your epic reward.

Out from the shadows WARhammer tried out to bring some needed light in these dark times. Good on paper, the public quest idea fell a bit too hard on his back with the reality check.

Maybe it's time to get back to the roots. Instead of providing generic content and watered down quests, how about having the developers provide a living world before anything else?

Interacting with the world would have consequences.

You killed a few wolves wandering in a forest? Well you might have made the villagers safer and maybe someone noticed. Your next visit in that village might be rewarding. Maybe you angered the dryad protecting the forest and it would be dangerous to venture alone in the surrounding forests anymore.

Stopping by a tavern, a bar fight starts: do you choose to try to stop it, to participate or you don't even take notice? Your actions will be noted.

Ok, so far nothing epic [insert yawn]. We just replaced quest givers by events triggers.

Whatever you write it, no quests ever will be as epic as player made content managed by a few dedicated players/GMs. It's surprising how with very little some are able to create epic moments. Most of the time players enjoyed just being there, even if they didn't get big loot bags no were THE hero.

The magic of live events encompasses the supposedly epicenes of quests, always.

Now there's a new baby about to see the light in a few months: Star Wars The Old Republic. Their idea to bring some sort of class biography quest lines is interesting. It's still quests, but somehow writing a decent story next to your character.
Would once again a good idea turn badly? The issue there is your class dictates your main story, so you either choose a storyline or a combat style game play. And to what extend is following your story line optional?


Time to get rid of the ICONIC LOOK

Posted by Deewe Wednesday June 23 2010 at 1:16PM
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In nearly every MMO out there, the environments are beautiful, the gear neatly designed and  NPC looks cool.

Since some time now, with gear stats that matters, a lot, and even more tiers discrimination, it's getting more and more difficult to have a nice looking character. Most of the time either all maxed out characters look alike or worse: mismatched walking clowns.


Seriously, who never drooled at NPCs or even dream of begin able to put their hands on their clothes?


If you have been following one of the next big AAA MMO: SWTOR there's now another layer on character customization, through gear, that's getting a huge emphasis: the iconic look. In short, you're going to look like the class you are playing.


For some (most?) PvPers, they do want opponents to display their skills and maybe even their power before eventually engaging in combat.

While understandable, it's a proven fact it does not really impact the general output of combats, well maybe on 1vs1 and that's dueling not PvPing.


Thing is this Iconic look game design, greatly hinders players choices and takes away imagination from them. The RPG part saying you play YOUR character, takes a back stab from start, that gets you stuck with a poisoned dagger in the middle of your ribs forever.


For supposedly *cough* realistic *cough* reasons some players want tanks to wear heavy armor, mages giggling in clothes, and rogues only using short weapons.  Who said imagination was of the essence in an MMO?


In the end would it not be FUN that, once for all, the job of the devs goes back to design and provide beautiful worlds and nice items to the players, and let the latter use their imagination to create characters that looks cool for them?


Posted by Deewe Sunday April 5 2009 at 10:33AM
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Sometimes you are a few feet from a mob ganking another and it doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

You might have been playing MMO for so long that you find this behaviour normal: you aren't in it's aggro range or it isn't a social creature.

Too often challenging mobs does not mean smart ones, but high or even insane health and resists. Add timed actions and windows of opportunities and voila.

Also have you never been frustrated not able to heal NPCs or creatures? Doesn't it breaks your immersion?

We all know this is due to the fact most of the MMO game play is kiting walking exp/loot bags.



==> Don't you think you deserves a bit more than that?



Would you spot an armed specie or a dangerous looking creature, in an unsafe place, wouldn't you either shoot or run instead of waiting to what will happen next?

In the FPS, you have a gun, they do and well when they see you they shoot first ask questions after. I agree sometimes they even see you way before you are able physically to spot them.



I think it's time to improve MMO game play in terms of AI.


- I'd replace the aggro zone with sight/smell/sense view. As soon as a mob/creatures spot you it reacts either:

  • fleeing
  • chasing you
  • calling for help
  • keeping a safe range from you
  • ...

Mobs could even lure you into a ambush.



- A second change needed is the detection system.

Hiding in plain sight in front of a mob without magical or electronic devices is just plain stupid. Same thing for animals not even able to smell you 2 feet away.


- Another change would come with the level ranges.


Levels are supposed to represent the combat expertise of characters and mobs. Too often it makes the high level untouchable.

For example even the most experienced and armed warrior will have no chances of survival against a few peons ready to die against him.




I agree this system could make venturing alone really dangerous. But it could also improve socialization and knowledge of the game.

Wile wandering you would learn what which to avoid, safe routes to take, tricks to lure creatures.







Posted by Deewe Wednesday December 3 2008 at 1:03PM
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I'm not really an hadcore PvPer but lately PvP is boring and mostly a gank fest: no more real challenge, no stress of dying or loosing something, no fear of the opponent.

Now on a perma-death server not only you have to be careful but also you should avoid ganking people. This because ganked people have friends and well, things can turn really bad very fast if you play like a jerk.

On a perma-death server you know people by their names and there comes respect, feeling of being part of a community  and so socialization.

I saw Dofus implementing that and the server queues are always full (what I'm being said).

They where very clever in their implementation because:

  • Leveling is faster
  • Drop rates are increased
  • In case of death, the opponent can take the victim’s items, Players or NPC alike!
  • They display the ranking on their web-site


On these ruleset servers the real PvPers will gather.

I would add even for casual gamers it would be interesting and fun to make an alt here.

Another solution would be some huge death sickness, like you can't play your character for a few hours. Still you would be able to play your alts.


Time to let it go... R.I.P. MMO

Posted by Deewe Wednesday November 26 2008 at 3:04PM
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TR is dead.

How strange... I was about to buy the CE edition just the exact day it was announced.

Immediately my memories brought me back to SWG. The precious moments, great people... the community that made it special.

Projecting it into TR, I thought about all the players who are still there till shutdown and I was sad for them. How about all the people who worked for years to bring this to life? 

We all know these are virtual world, so why is it so hard to let it go?


Maybe we enjoy dreaming awake, venturing into these neatly designed worlds.

Or maybe because behind these tiny pixels there are also others human beings.






Time for a better LOOT & RAID system

Posted by Deewe Monday November 10 2008 at 2:28PM
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Aren't you bored of having to kill flying pigs to find out only 1 over 20 have a "decent" pig leg?

Is that fun to spend 3 hours in a RAID and get out hands empty?


Before anything else, could we just stop having non intelligent species from dropping gold, weapons, clothes? It's pointless and kills the immersion.

Not that I'm against a huge mob, having eaten a few npcs, being stuck with some equipment inside...

How about, in MMOs, when you kill a mob/npc the looted gear is more scavenged from it than looted?

If a NPC was bashing you with a sword don't you expect to be able to get it out of his, still hot, body. As you would get teeth, hides, claws, scales from monsters.

Maybe that item would not be in premium condition, so you still could  improve it or at least get subcomponents.

Also when you are hunting for... flying pigs, would you not like getting at least one intact pig leg per mob, if not more? Don't you feel the devs are taking you for an idiot with the quest saying get me 10 legs when they know you'll need to kill 100+ mobs? How that's FUN?



Now about RAID loot distribution, how come people accept to spend 3+ hours in an instance when you know there are very real chances you'll get nothing for your efforts? This contrary to the guy/girl next to you who did nothing more.

I'm for a system that rewards all players for their participation:

  • Let's say at the end of a RAID each player gets randomly one or multiple tokens. (ie: from 1  to 3)
  • Each token as a base roll % (15%)
  • Optionally tokens can be spend to access to higher loot tables (3 token table +1, 7 tokens table +2)
  • A second option could be the token value decrease depending on the loot table. (table = base value, table = 50% base value, table 3 = 25% base value)
  • Tokens can also be stacked (4 tokens = 60% roll)
  • All used tokens are lost even if the roll is a miss.


This system would be rewarding both for the casual and hardcore gamer. High end items would still be rare but not anymore impossible to get in the long term for anyone.

The main difference is everyone gets something and the choice of the roll is now in the hands of the player. Plus it let players choose how much they want to gamble.


Time to get rid of HEALTH BARS!

Posted by Deewe Wednesday November 5 2008 at 4:01PM
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As you all know a few non MMO games tried to replace health bars without much success.

Both for PvE and PVP, being able to see them turns the combat into a statistical thing. It is even worse when you are able to know the exact amount of hit points.

The consequence is players tweaks their macros like formula one engines, removing any stress and hazard form the equation.

Still I think we need 2 systems embedded.

   1) Give a precise feedback to player of the actual status of his character.
   2) Give only a general feedback of the enemy status.

With the first one, the actual health bar system would not be changed. So the player still has the control of his character.

For opponents the bars would be replaced with general status icons/colors/txt. For example it could be Healthy, Lighly Damaged, Moderately Damaged, Seriously Damaged, Dead.

This would make combat and particularly PvP more appealing and challenging.
Still, there’s the question for allies and group mates. Maybe something in between would work, not sure.

What do you think?

Time to get rid of DECAY!

Posted by Deewe Saturday November 1 2008 at 3:57PM
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Some of you knew it would come so here we are!

Tell me, who really like the decay concept?

Supposedly in crafting economies it helps players have recurring income. It is also a money sink.

As a former SWG crafter, there are a few things I don't like in decay and I think the hassle is bigger than the benefits.

First of all, with permanent decay comes the issue of keeping your equipment. Players are writing stories with their items.

Then, where is the fun to be obliged to look for the same item again and again?

In a WoW like game play, without permanent decay, it's a bit like paying a tax each time you are hit. Guess the smart ones are playing ranged support classes...

There is the feature to make equipment less efficient with decay. Sounds an interesting concept till you realize you didn't pay for X stat equipment but for X minus decay.

A thing I totally disagree with is doing some random instance and finding yourself with worn out items. It is even worse if you have no way to repair them till you get back to the normal world.

For my part item decay is a poor design system to oblige players to spend their hard earned gold, creds... and eventually buy new stuff.

Now what I would think acceptable is specific decay. Few examples:

For a rifle / laser: you need ammos they deplete = replace them but keep the weapon. What you could also have is in the long term a trigger, muzzle, or lens could slowly decay. As a note the ammos would not add stress to the inventory so let them sit in specific free slots bags.

How about a sword? Well as any knife don't you need to sharpen it after some usage? So how about using some sharpening stones? In the long term there could be possibilities for the core to take damage but without diminishing the effect of the weapon till it finally breaks. Now you would take it back to a blacksmith and have it fixed. The wise would have their weapons inspected, by skilled crafters from time to time, to be sure there aren't any internal damages hidden.

For armors, I'd start saying you have to be really lucky to hit an already damaged spot, unless the armor is torn out. So I'm for sub decay that doesn't remove the efficiency of armors till they reach a certain amount. Then, the player being aware of the progression of the damage knows he needs to have it fixed. If he doesn't each time he's hit there is a chance the hit isn't fully absorbed by his armor. Still his armor is efficient when "not hit" in a weak spot.

What do you think?