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Voice commands are they coming?

Posted by ghstwolf Friday January 16 2009 at 4:03AM
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Let's face it talking to a computer is an old dream.  The thing is, the technology is here today, we can dictate and the computer can write our musings (it would be so much better if I were using 1 of those programs right now).  Ok so it does take some time to set up, and I'm sure there's some overhead.

But let's not fixate on a full recognition package, we don't need all that for an MMO.  Instead, we need a fairly short list of commands, as few as 20 and certainly under 200.  How do I come up with such a range?  Simple 20 words should be plenty for controlling a pet, 200 words would leave room for 180 spells (or any verbal abilities) + the 20 I'm using for the pet.  If you had the time/resources you could make the list more dynamic, players could each have an individual list (saved client side) that draws from a larger pool.  At this point you can shrink the client's active list way down again because it is unlikely any class would use more than 75 words.

Under this, the 20 pet commands would be simple recognition, that is the computer would know the word and execute "attack" "flank".  Spell casting (and any vocal skills) would go 1 step further, it would use the % match to determine the effect.  The game would have the "ideal" file it matches against, and the closer you get the better.  Low matches are very likely to be resisted and high matches are more likely to crit, in addition other penalties/rewards could be used (mana usage or longer cooldowns come to mind).

Now as selling points, it's unique and fairly intuitive. The user is only required to buy a mic, something far cheaper than any other "non standard" input device (and something most people have anyways).  It's something of a guess, but with a short list to match against I can't imagine it would be all that CPU hungry.  It should add to the immersion.  There is also a lot of code already written to do this with, which should cut development time and costs.

The biggest question is would people find it fun and play it?

Making questing a new experience

Posted by ghstwolf Wednesday January 7 2009 at 5:58PM
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Let's face it questing today is terrible.  Games either load up on a million "kill, collect, deliver" and FedEx style quests or they do their best to avoid them all together.  Where did it go so wrong?

Face it even the developers know the current quests are terrible.  They offer some combination of gear, gold, XP and reputation for every quest because that is the only way anyone will bother with their simple and uninteresting efforts.  Quests are now nothing more than a slightly quicker more rewarding grind built to direct you to where you should be.  How do we fix that?

While not a new solution, divide quests into 2 classes missions and tasks.  Tasks would be the kill/collect/deliver "quests" so familiar to players.  Ideally they would be more random (how many mobs to kill or items to collect) with a reward structure that scaled.  These tasks could on occasion include gear, but at most 1 piece that may or may not be something you would want.  Missions would become the epic "quests".  These would offer open objectives plus they would offer some temporary change to the larger world.  Disabling another faction's factory would be a great example: you could clear the factory of all it's workers (super advanced games might allow you to cause a strike, otherwise just killing everyone would be good enough) or you could destroy enough equipment to force a shutdown.  If the system was really dynamic, the defending faction would offer a mission to stop the attempt after the attack began.

There are some things this system needs that are not commonplace in MMOs.  A dynamic server that responds to what players are doing (even if it is only in the limited way presented) and ideally destructable enviroments.  One other thing that could be handy would be a system for removing quests if the quest goes inactive (factory was protected, or the attackers move to a different target/truce).  Even for tasks, a dynamic server could spread people out by generating quests to under populated areas.  Ultimately, you could destroy the "you should be here" feeling in many games by cycling how hard an area really was (not including starting areas).  So you didn't do an area before, oh wait right now it's really hard and a challenge to even the highest lvl/skilled characters.  Sounds like fun to me.

Edit: oh yeah I sort of forgot about games where there are few to no quests.  They often seem to suffer from "nothing to do" or a total lack of immersion.  They rely on the community to make the game fun, unfortunately that rarely happens.

New games or same old junk

Posted by ghstwolf Tuesday January 6 2009 at 8:22PM
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I've got a confession, I'm bored. I look at all the up coming games and I'm still pretty bored. Sure there are games I hope will entertain me for a while, but really I'm bored of this stagnant genre. <you: Great another bunch of QQ> Not really though, because I started thinking about why I'm bored. I started listening to some pretty bright people with some unique ideas that would really change the genre.

My conclusion was the reason I'm bored is that no matter the game they all play the same. Classes-hard coded or built by selection in a skill system, Progression- tied to an XP system or repeatedly performing an action, and often mind numbing and pointless game play. I want some new options, and not just retreads of these old ideas. I want a game that makes you adapt on the fly. <PvPer: that's why PvP is awesome> Not at all, PvP is still built very mind numbing. You already made the small changes (gear and hot bar/ key mapping) ahead of time, and the only changes are in kill order. Thing is everything becomes a routine, you have a list of who/what to kill first and odds are you have an unchanging rotation of skills to do it with.

Instead I want to do something rather dangerous, trust players to get better on their own. Design a game that in some way forces players to draw on and improve their own personal skills. The real trick to this is to make in nearly impossible to wiki the game, so normal investigation is out. Puzzles are ok but become an nuisance if used constantly, same for most mini games.  As such only very specific tasks would use either of those and nothing that would be used daily.  I picture lockpicking, hacking and decyphering as such tasks.  Any in game growth would simply make the mini game faster or in some way "easier": for example Maybe hacking firewalls is presented as a breakthrough style game.  In game improvements might give you more misses or a slightly higher "superball" %, these would help only marginally keeping the primary focus on a player's skill.  I would stick to familiar games and do my best to have them make a bit of sense in relation to the task.

Combat would have that same ideal.  "Crowd Control" would be about controlling the battlefield, not stuns, roots and what not.  I want the battlefield to matter, for heavy jungle undergrowth to make long range combat impractical if not impossible, for deserts to make stealthy movement difficult to impossible.  I want outcomes decided by who can use tactics and the enviroment most successfully, not levels or how much grinding you did on that skill.

Ok I'll stop before I bore you completely <as if you aren't yet>.  Next time I'll try to deal with some "exciting" ideas, or maybe just focus on one "game changing" idea.