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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

Games new MMO's can learn from Part I: Warcraft III

Posted by Drolletje Sunday October 12 2008 at 3:07PM
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Hello everyone,

It's a long time ago I last made a post here. For those who are wondering: I've quitted WoW again and I'm now relatively enjoying WAR. However, I'm still waiting for tCoS , that should be released less than two months from now. But I will not be talking about WoW, WAR or tCoS here; there are more than enough people talking about them right now. My goal still is to provide ideas for games that are starting development now, and maybe even creating my own game, but that's for later.

In my next posts, I will be discussing games I played, games I liked and games I heard about. Popular or not, mmo or not, they share only one thing: they all have a really cool and innovative system that I'd really like to see in future mmo's. So forgive me if I'm just talking about one part of a game; It doesn't mean I love or hate the rest; it just means that's the part I want to talk about here. The first game is Warcraft III (no, that is NOT world of warcraft, it's not even an mmo), and more specific the Warcraft III World Editor.

Warcraft III is a game I have played a lot, and mostly for one reason: the unbelievable amount and variety of custom maps available free on the net. Tower defense maps, huge multiplayer rpg maps, and of course DotA, the map so popular it became a full game on itself. These maps are created with the Warcraft III world editor (afaik). I've tried creating a few (noobish) maps myself, and the possibilities for creating custom units and triggers are almost endless. Some people even created thing like shooting and racing games within warcraft.

That is something I'd really love to see in an mmorpg. A world editor, a tool that lets the player create his own world within the game world, with its own rules and its own custom enemies to face. A place where any gamer could enter to discover unique hand-crafted experiences. Of course a lot of these player worlds will suck, but that doesn't matter because as long as enough people are creating, some will be good at creating and in the end, a new DotA could be born.

Developers always have problems with players rushing too fast trough all the content. So the developers add a grind to keep the powergamers happy longer. But a long grind scares the casual players. So why not let the players create their own content? Is it too difficult to create a good world editor (like warcraft's) or is it that the developers don't like to give too much power to the gamers? Please tell me what you think about player created content in MMO's. Can it work? Would you like it?

Thanks for reading

I Have Failed

Posted by Drolletje Saturday February 16 2008 at 8:48AM
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I know. I shouldn't have done it. But I couldn't resist any more. I have committed the greatest sin: I have reactivated my WoW account.

Why, do you ask? Maybe because there are no other good games. Maybe because my friend asked me. Maybe because I'm too soft to l2p another game. Maybe because WoW simply was my first true mmorpg. Maybe simply because I missed my shammy.

Now you know, and now I'll start playing because I simply can't wait.




The Player's Motivation

Posted by Drolletje Saturday January 5 2008 at 10:23AM
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We all know that character progression is an integral part of today's mmorpg's. Some would go as far as saying that a game can't be an mmo without having it. But this time, I wonder what would remain if someone would make a game like an mmorpg, only without the character progression. No levels, you get access to all available gear right from the start, you can choose all the skills you want at character creation.  What would be the advantages? the disadvantages? the possibilities?

First of all, it would completely eliminate the grind. Everything the players would do,  would be because they want to do it, not because they get some nice xp or loot. I see a lot of people on this site demanding to eliminate the grind, and I think this is the only way to truly remove it.

Everyone could play together with anyone they like. There would be no more stratisfaction. No more level restrictions on grouping, no more "you must at least be level x to enter region y", no more "that guy beats me because he's higher level". It would set all players on an equal ground for both PvE and PvP.

Actual player skill and teamwork would be required to succesfully run through the hardest PvE instances and to beat the enemy in PvP. You don't win anymore because you're high leveled or have better gear. You win because you've played better or have more knowledge of the game.

But what would players do in this game if they can't improve their character? Well, virtually anything. Players would be able to pursue their own goals, not the ones the developers have set for them. Players could participate in faction vs. faction warfare. Players could gather materials and craft dispensable items like potions or bombs. Players could enter dark dungeons to kill monsters and steal their treasure to enrich themselves. Players could earn money as a trader. Players could just explore the world and look for adventure. And the list goes on. Everything that players can do in a normal mmorpg, would be possible, only the motivation would be different.

So what are the disadvantages? Many wouldn't play for a very long time, they could go very fast through all the content since it's all available from the start. Players without a goal will eventually get bored and quit. I think a solution could be to implement a system like the Ryzom Ring, where players could create their own content. We can all see how player-created content worked in Warcraft III (there was, and still is a large mapping community for Warcraft III). Take this to the world of mmo's and let the players create missions for their friends and arenas to fight their enemies.

So, do you think it is possible to remove character progression for mmo's and still create a fun and lasting game? Let me know what you think of it.


Creating your own class

Posted by Drolletje Saturday December 15 2007 at 4:13AM
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I'm writing this as  a response to a poll on the forums 'Skill based or level based in YOUR dream MMO'. I was (apparently) the only one to vote for a level-class based system. So I'm going to explain my choice here. Why would one rather have fixed classes than a freeform skill-based system?

The first reason is because it gives the player a clear role in group PvE and in PvP. I think grouping is generally less chaotic and more fun when everyone has a role. These roles can be very diverse and different in each situation, not necessary the holy trinity of tank-healer-dps. In PvP a class-system is good because you have to think of a different strategy against every class.

The next thing is that developers are much more free to add unique and powerful abilities to one class, without having to fear that everyone will have this ability within a week. Classes tend to be generally more unique gameplay-wise than what is possible with a skill-based system.

The next point is something that is important mainly from a roleplaying perspective, but that I find also imprtant even if i'm not a RPer. In a skill-based system, it is very difficult to make a character that has a clear style, like for example a priest or a thief, if you also want your character to be competitive. Let me give an example: you're roleplaying a priest in a skill-based game but for soloing, it would be great to have a fireball spell. That is however very un-priest-ish. So you have a dilemma: RP or being competitive? No such problems in a class-based system.

However, I agree with you if you say it is very dull to stick with a pre-made class for your entire career in a game. That's why I've worked out an idea, a sort of combination between class and skill. Call it 'create your own class'. When you first create your character, you would only choose a combat style for your character: things like 'priest of the light', 'frozen mage', 'wolfbrother', 'blademaster', ... spring in mind. There would have to be a lot of choices here. Based on your choice, you will be given a few basic skills. These skills shouldn't be very different from each other, apart from the grafical effect. When you reach a certain point in the game, you would be given the choice for your primary combat role. These are things like tank, healer, ranged damage, melee damage, support, ... Maybe some choices shouldn't be allowed for some combat styles, but everyone should have a lot of choice here also. Everyone who chooses the same combat role, will recieve very similar abilities, regardless of combat style. However, they would have different names and grafical effects. Then, later on, you would also choose two or three secondary combat roles. These could be things like pets, buffs, dispels, first aid, ... Both primary and secondary roles can be changed by paying an amount of experience. So what would the result be? You have a self-made class, yet all abilities are tied together by a combat style.

While writing this up, I realised this is a lot like the character creation in CoH/V, which I liked a lot, but the rest of the game was nothing for my taste.

Thank you all for reading this, and please let me know what you think about it.

Player Skill: twitch and tactics

Posted by Drolletje Sunday November 25 2007 at 2:14PM
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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 5:43AM
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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.