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MMORPG Methodone

First post explains the reason :)

Author: tupodawg999

Class or skills

Posted by tupodawg999 Tuesday December 30 2008 at 1:59PM
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Of all the games I've tried the best part of leveling up has always been the AA points, talent points, perk points type bit. Having a choice how to grow your char is just more fun than the stuff you get automatically from your class. It's partly wanting to have an avatar that's exactly how you want them plus also it adds a strategy game element in trying to judge what will work best. So my perfect game would have to be skill based however levels are such a simple and straightforward mechanic I'd have a hybrid system. There'd be levels but when you levelled you got a skill point to use in one of the skill trees.

Currently i'm thinking along the lines of something like max level 50 with therefore each character having 50 skill points and the proportions being something roughly like:

Warrior tree, 30-40 skills, some of these being simple improvements e.g dodge1, dodge2 etc set out in in tiers.
Scout tree, 20ish, outdoorsy stuff
Rogue tree, 20ish, indoorsy theifly stuff
Priest trees, 12-20ish, different trees for different Gods
Wizards, lots of different magic schools with 6-12 spells/skills each
General tree, unknown number of odds and ends like first aid
Crafting, multiple trees, 6-12 skills for each craft

Specializing would have benefits as the skills would be in tiers and you'd need to have
spent a lot of points in a tree to unlock some of the most powerful skills but being a
jack of all trades would be an interesting and tempting option and certain hybrids
would be natural e.g ranger would be a mixture of the scout and warrior trees. You'd
want it so every time a player levelled up it took them ages to decide what to train in
because there were so many possibilities.

I also like the idea of class being more like faction i.e if you joined a particular temple as a guard then that would be your temporary class / faction in a way because as you levelled you'd pick your skills from the ones available from your faction's trainers. If it was a dwarf blacksmithing type temple/God for example that favoured heavy armour, hammers and shields then those would be the sort of skills you could learn there. If it was the Royal Scouts then the list of available skills would include things like bows, tracking and light axes.

Also you'd have elite sub-factions so I wouldn't have a Paladin class I'd have a
particular temple that had Paladins. You could join the faction as a guard but could
only join the Paladin sub-faction of the temple if you met their requirements e.g 20
warrior skills and a big quest showing dedication to that temple. Joining the Paladins
of that temple would unlock the option of choosing certain elite skills and spells when
you next levelled up. Ranger would be an elite sub-faction of the Royal Scouts faction
with some elite options to choose from but require maybe 12 skill points spent on the
scout tree and 12 points in the warrior tree plus a big quest. Apart from the unlocked
skill and quest options becoming a Ranger or Paladin would be more like a title change
as you went from "Stormhammer Temple Guard" to "Stormhammer Paladin".

I'd want crafting skills to use up some of your total skills so it would be a hard choice that would only appeal to crafter type players. On the other hand not so many skill points that you couldn't be a master blacksmith who was still a decent fighter or an jeweller-enchanter who knew a enough magic to go and fight stuff when they were in the mood. They could never be as tough as players that specialized completely in fighting / magic but they'd be ok.

My kind of newbie zone

Posted by tupodawg999 Tuesday December 30 2008 at 1:59PM
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Immersion is a big thing with me. I want the world to feel like a real and dynamic world. I doubt it could ever really be that way but certain bits of design help create the illusion that the world is real and some bits of design erm...don't. For example you leave your starter city, enter your race/faction's newbie zone with nice farms and villages and it's swarming with monsters, bandits and wild beasties. It makes no sense. You find a farm with lots of aggro beetles, the farmer says "help", you take the quest to get the beetles, the farmer says "thanks the farm should be safe now" but nothing has changed, the beetles are still there respawning happily as thousands of players "save the farm" one after the other but nothing actually changes. Didn't bother me when i first started these games but now it's really annoying.

What i'd leave your starter city and enter your newbie zone. let's say it goes east-west with a north-south river down the middle and the newbie bit is on the near side with some guards by the bridge. Some guards wander back and forth along the roads. All very peaceful. No monsters. That's the point of all those guards and of your character being an adventurer / warrior / priest / whatever for your faction. This peaceful farmy area is what you're defending, what your char is supposed to help protect.

There'd be villagy type quests (i'd call little tasks, tasks or jobs or something, save the word quest for epics) for newbie type characters like harvesting hay from the fields or finding a lost sheep. The main point of these would be to add to the sense of it being a real world with NPC's doing their individual jobs. Of course there'd need to be stuff to fight as well of but what I'd do is something like:

1) Three farms each with a granary building. Each of them would have an NPC outside and a portal with a mission to kill some big rats that have got in amongst the grain but only one would be active at a time and the NPC would wave at you if the task was active (no exclamation marks). You'd take the task, zone into the granary and fight the rats -- there'd be a condition for victory i.e all the rats need to be dead at the same time e.g 6 respawning rats but if you have them all dead at once then you get a win). You come out and get your reward and that mission is now inactive for a while at that granary. You did it. You stopped the rat problem. The world changed slightly. The guy doesn't just beckon over another player/group. There's a timer and after x amount of time one of the three granary NPC's goes active again and the same task becomes live again. The immersion is still ok because this is the kind of problem that could recur in a fantasy world but your actions would have made a temporary change. Small thing in
a way but i'd really like it.

2) Instead of permanently respawning beetles on the beetle farm quest you get a dynamic thing where there's a timer and when it goes active a model of a big hole spawns on one of the fields and beetles start to spawn on a farm. Farmer waving and shouting. Get quest to do something about it. Killing beetles maybe gets you some faction or something, or killing them all before one has respawned sets a flag that stops them respawning for a while (timed) and you get a better reward. Third option get into a group and go into the hole for a mini dungeon with a beetle queen mini boss. Kill the queen and the hole despawns and the beetles stop respawning. Get nice reward and the world is changed a bit for a while. On a timer again so after each time a group kills a beetle queen there's say three game days clear of beetles then a random chance each game day of another eruption on one of the three farms (random) and only one at a time.

3) Semi-remote section of road a little bit away from the safe farmy area where some bandits spawn. Same as the beetles they'd be a dynamic event where three would spawn in a little camp in some nearby trees and three along the road robbing travellers. You could get a task to deal with them -- could even make it so you could go tell the guards and they'd come with you to help get the bandits and you'd get a small reward or you could deal with the bandits yourself / grouped and get a bigger reward. As before, the trigger for winning would be having all six bandits dead at once, they'd respawn normally until you had all six dead at once and that would stop the spawn for three game days and then every game day after that there'd be a random chance of it starting again.

Win all three of these in your newbie days and get title "defender of newbieshire". Titles are fun.

Obviously the problem with this sort of thing is the content is not available to everyone all the time but I'd still like it anyway. You'd need something else that was always available but which didn't make your supposedly well defended farmy area look like it was a monster convention.

So on top of the dynamic bits I'd have a couple of newbie dungeons attached the safe area. So maybe in the section to the south of your safe farmy bit there'd be some low wooded hills that leads to a portal to the "deep forest" zone. Bit like the Old forest in Lotro, setting up a foresty area like a dungeon. Setting it up that way keeps the illusion of your main area being safe and defended. In the north section of the newbie zone i'd have a little wall with gate guards leading to some goblin caves. Again keeping the illusion of your faction actually defending it's terriotory from whoever they consider the baddies.

These two newbie dungeons could actually cover a large level range just as long as there's a good-sized section for lowbies. Blackburrow and Crushbone were two of thebest bits in EQ1 from a design point of view imo in the way they drew all the newbie players from the nearby starter areas and got them all forming groups etc. I'm very much a solo explorer type player by inclination but even I ended up grouping a lot in those dungeons and all my long-term socializing in EQ1 started there. It was easy to solo but it was also easy to slip into grouping too and you sort of switched from one to the other. Very good examples of the sort of zones that spark off the social aspects of these games, especially early on with new players.

So in a way my ideal newbie zone would include a lot of wasted space from a normal MMORPG point of view but the point of it would be to make the world feel more real. I think the immersion of that would be a good trade. You'd come staggering out of the newbie dungeon or deep forest zone with your loot and you'd be back in safe terriotory, not constantly dodging bears every 100 feet until you got back to the village.


Posted by tupodawg999 Tuesday December 30 2008 at 1:58PM
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When you play MMORPGs I think you subconsciously start designing your perfect MMORPG in your head. From the game you're playing you keep the bits you like and imagine alternatives for the bits you don't like. You put up with the bits you don't like for a while, possibly for years, but eventually they put you off the game. Then you try a new game but you take that partial design with you in your head. If it includes things you disliked from the first you start to dislike the new game faster than you did with the first. If it includes things you like then you unconsciously add those elements to your perfect game design.

So all in all, unless your perfect game design fits the games that are being made you end up getting more and more frustrated. Not only do you dislike the games you try much faster than before, but even worse, the longer you play these games the clearer your perfect game design becomes so you can picture it easier but can't have it.

So what to do.

Write your own.

In a lot of ways this is a pointless idea as you'd almost certainly never finish it and
even if you did you'd never be able to produce all the artwork and even if you did that
it still wouldn't be perfect because you'd made it and therefore knew everything about
the world and there'd be no fun exploring.

But... for me I'm thinking working on something like that might stop me craving the
perfect MMORPG. I could tinker with it for a while then go play an "ok" game until it
started annoying me and then go back to tinkering for while, rinse and repeat.

Also, to make it easier...instead of writing it as an actual MMORPG you simplify it a bit and write it as a single player game that is designed like a MMORPG (sort of like daggerfall). And what would be easier still maybe be to write a prototype single player game that was like a MMORPG that was just one zone but which included all the elements needed so you could test it.

For example, you'd need to decide your race/classes, character creation, character staring point etc--all that code would need figuring out and writing whether it was a fully working MMORPG or just a single player test zone. Leveling, class or skill trees, combat, magic etc -- all these systems would need to be done for a full game or a one zone single player test. A method of creating and validating quests, creature AI, NPC AI -- all these could be done in a single big zone in a non-networked single player
test bed.

So I was thinking of doing this as a hobby. I'm not expecting to ever finish it. It's mainly to see if it helps get rid of the "perfect game" craving. And I was thinking that step one would be writing down some of the things i'd want in my perfect MMORPG so i thought I'd post my thoughts here as and when they came to me--a kind of notebook for how I'd design my perfect online game to act as a kind of MMORPG methodone for my craving.