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Hrothmund's random ramblings.

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Author: Hrothmund

I have been thinking about this for quite some time now, and have come to the conclusion that there definitely is a way to create a game that draws on the strenghts of the instant gratification provided by DotA and Demigod and the character development and the social aspects of MMORPG titles. You may think that my first sentence is a paradox in itself. How can a game provide the 'instant leveling and itemization' of DotA and still give us that  same attachment and prolongued character development we've come to expect of MMORPG titles? The answer is not simple, but the final result lies in the creativity and courage of the development team that would set their sights on such a hefty goal.

The risk involved in developing a game that would not fit the norm in terms of what MMO-gamers have grown to expect is of course much greater than developing a super-polished EQ 4.0 with whatever niche 'would make the game unique'. The developers would really have to be driven and work arduosly to find an open-minded publisher to publish and market their game. This is a monumental challenge faced by anyone in the MMO industry who decides to champion a truly unique title. I could go on forever about this, but I won't as I do not want to discuss the business side of things, but the gameplay mechanics and design that would make a 'DotA MMO' possible.

The greatest challenge for a 'DotA MMO' is how character development and general gameplay mechanics work. One of the main appeals of DotA is that you can simply log on to battle.net, join a game and in thirty minutes control a stupendously powerful hero with the best equipment possible. An other hook is that you are playing against a team of five other players, and in DotA you truly do need teamwork to win a game against a similarly matched team. The design is quite wonderful in my opinion. What sets DotA apart from WoW battlegrounds, open-world pvp and Guldwars, is that at the start of every game every hero starts off at level 1 without any items at all.  Its quick to jump into and easy to disengage from.

In an MMO setting, we are faced with the opposite premise. When you go out to engage in PvP, be it a battleground, scenario or just open-world pvp, the way you have developed your character and the items you possess are 'constant' and in many cases the most important factor in deciding the outcome of the bout. I understand many of us think this is perfectly fine and want to keep it that way, but what if there was a way to weave the strenghts of both approaches together? I think there is, and the solutions in large are already live in currently released titles. However, a successful MMO also has to include a solid PvE experience, so balancing the PvP game is not enough.

To create my 'divine blend', I would utilize two main tools, the setting of the game, and two seperate game modes that are interconnected and in some cases interdependent. I would whisk the setting away from the murky forests and pointy ears of the fantasy genre to a scifi 'space-opera' setting, where two or more powerful, space-faring factions would exists in an everlasting galactic war. The two game modes would be 'avatar' and 'character' mode.

Think of avatar mode like this, it is an option that enables level one characters to instantly jump in to PvP and PvE content and play against or together with the high-level, maxed-out characters, or anyone to take a break from playing their character and just jump in for some instant fun. In short, there are vehicle spawnpoints throughout the game, in PvP and PvE areas that allow you to jump into a level one vehicle, which you can then quickly level up to a point where it is on par with charcters at the designed level range for the zone. Naturally, as an avatar you could not explore all of the content,(This is to promote character development.) for example end-game raiding could include avatars but the spawnpoints for the vehicles could be level restricted. This would make it great for real life friends and communities to play together without having to worry about being geared up or at the maximum level.

I mean how many times have you introduced a friend to an MMO to have them quit a few weeks later once they find out how much work they have to put in to play the same content as you?

The real challenge is balancing the avatars. My original concept was to have avatars be constricted to a single task only. You are either a damage dealer, tank or possibly a shield/platform/transportation for player controlled characters. In any case the amount of abilties and development directions an avatar would have would be extremely limited. Also, the same sort of 'from zero to hero' development as in DotA would not be possible. Avatars would most probably need to be restricted to around ten levels of development with two to six upgrade slots.  There are too many things that would need careful consideration for me to go into; do players get experience from avatar play, can characters gain perks to their avatars through characater development, how will itemization work for the avatars, etc.

What I really want to know is what you think of the basic concept; human controlled avatars that are not restricted by character level fighting alongside and against 'normal' player characters. I think that with the proper attention and a lot of love from the developers, a game like this could be a humongous success.