Most games have pointers built in. A player starts the game and immediately there are several quest givers. Those quest givers will sent them on tasks, and when you finish those, they will point you to the next series of quest givers. This continues on all the way up until max level (well, in Wow this continues until about level 20, takes a break, then picks back up in Outland).

In a game like mine, I was planning on doing generated starting experiences. The player can either fill out background information about their character, or just have some random bullshit filled in for them if they can't be bothered to do it themselves, and then the game generates a starting experience for them which covers all the basic points from controls to interface and its parts, and other game systems like combat. After this, the character decides to go out into the world and their pointer NPC, which could be family or a friend or a lifelong teacher (whatever the generated scenario comes up with) would maybe give them a map to the nearby town or major city (depending on where the player chose or the game chose to start them off at) and tell them that their dreams could be realized there.

However, after that the game becomes freeform and sandbox-y. Players can go wherever they wish to once they leave the beginner area. If they want to become a druid, where do they go? How do they get there? How would they even find out this information (assuming you couldn't just go look it up on a website)? These are daunting problems that could be game breakers if not dealt with carefully.

I had two ideas to dealing with the problem, both of which would be explained by NPCs before leaving the starting area. If a player wanted to know something about the game, there could maybe be a menu where the player could construct a question.

Option 1: Where can I find/Where can I learn / What is / Who is / some other question starters.
Option 2: (Name of a person from quests you are on) or (Game feature such as Auction House) or (Specific place mentioned in a quest text) / (Person, Thing, or Concept mentioned in quest texts) / (Person from Quests) / (Other question endings)

This way, players could construct a question (either during conversation with an NPC or save a question ahead of time to be asked later) to find out information. This could also be used as a quest mechanic for quests which require investigation or interrogation. But by doing this, every NPC becomes a potential pointer towards whatever the player needs to know. Granted, not every NPC is going to know what the player asks them, but a lot of them would at least have a general idea of who to go and talk to that would know the answer.

The other idea I had was a Fortune Teller mechanic. For a small fee, players could step into the fortune teller's shop and have their fortunes told by expert psychics. They will be told to focus on a crystal ball and think about that which they want most (or some other relevant text). The game would then directly ask them what they want, and the player could input what they needed to know. If they need help with a quest, or if they want to learn a new ability, or whatever, then the game would tell them exactly where to go and what to do, but leave it a slight bit cryptic. This would of course, be recorded in any quest text (or as a new quest if the thing asked didn't apply to a current quest) so that the player could reference it later.

The fortune teller could also be used to select people for specific quests important to advancing the overall world plot if they meet the necessary criteria.

I'm still trying to think of other ways that can be used to point people towards quests and other places, because since I was planning on having quests be one time use only, I can't very well have chains which point players around and lead them on a tour across the globe.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 1/29/2010 10:49:00 PM | 0 comments

Enchanting and metal

Just a random thought that's been running through my head:

One of the things about WoW that constantly disappoints me is the professions. Nothing below max level is remotely useful to anyone. You get better equipment and items through quest rewards than you can craft at the same skill level. You can power level your skill up to the max and craft things which are sort of useful, but by the time you are high enough level to use the equipment, the quest rewards and drops are once again better. They merely exist for raising your skill in the profession.

Since I'm planning out a level-less system, obviously the level of the equipment is of no consequence. As crafters become able to make stronger weapons and armor, the old weapons and armor become obsolete very quickly. I would prefer to have a system where all items that can be made have use to people.

What if, as materials get better for crafting, the amount of enhancements one can put on them shrink? A bronze shortsword could have the capacity to hold maybe three enchantments, but an iron shortsword could only hold two. Perhaps the more powerful materials could hold more powerful magics, but the lesser materials could hold more weaker magics which offer more total benefit? The iron short sword could hold two +5 damage enchantments. The bronze short sword could only hold +3 damage enchantments, but it can hold three of them for a total of +9 damage. The iron short sword could have other benefits such as more durability and then the player would have to choose "Do I go with the Bronze Sword which could do more damage after it is fully enchanted, or do I go with the Iron Sword which doesn't have to be repaired as often (making it cheaper in the long run)?"

There could be other benefits to different materials as well. Maybe some materials can't hold some kinds of magics. Iron could hold +holy damage enchantments, while Bronze could hold +nature damage enchantments. A Paladin would prefer the iron sword over the bronze if they have talents which depend on holy damage dealt, while an Assassin would favor the bronze if they had abilities which amplified nature damage.

Both swords are useful to someone and neither becomes obsolete.

Just a thought.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 1/29/2010 02:33:00 PM | 0 comments

Dynamic Worlds

The term gets tossed around a lot in discussions of MMOs. Persistent Worlds. A lot have taken that to mean that the worlds are Static and don't change at all over time. The term doesn't mean that at all, but instead is meant to mean that the game world continues to exist while the player is logged out as opposed to single player games such as Diablo 2 where when a player logs out of their game (when playing on Battle.net), the world stops existing entirely and a new instance of it is created when the player logs back on. The world is fresh and reset, ready for the player to go and kill all of the boss characters again and again.

I'm wondering about Dynamic Persistent worlds as opposed to the Static model most games follow now. They would be worlds where players can change almost everything about them. A world like that would have several qualities to it.

A. Content is not repeatable. Once something dies, it's dead. This only applies to content like dungeons and raids where things must die to beat them. This can be gotten around in several ways depending on how the content is implemented. For example, Virtual and magical recreations can be made in worlds where technology or magic are sufficiently advanced enough. Things like PvP and other forms of competition can be re-staged over and over again.

B. Quests change depending on the nature of the world around them. To take WoW for example, When you do quests in Icecrown, the game often phases to a different state. When you complete the quest line to take the Shadow Vault for the Ebon Blade, the area phases and the Shadow Vault becomes populated with friendly NPCs. In a world where players change the landscape of things, this means that any quests which would have taken players to kill enemies inside the Shadow Vault would become unavailable.

C. Which player factions control different resources has a vast effect on the economies of the game.

D. Almost every action which players take has some meaning and has impact on what other players can do.

E. The amount of content necessary to make all of this into a believable grows exponentially as time goes on.

A monumental task, surely. But I think a world like this is the future of MMOs. This themepark stuff is getting old where you run through the content, and then poof. You hit a wall and are done.

This also allows roleplaying to have some actual meaning. When you show up to play a character, you know that your paladin can actually get revenge on the monsters that killed his family, destroyed his home and country, and then went on to try and rampage the rest of the world and not just stand idly by while some NPCs do it in canon.

On a side note, The post over at That's a Terrible Idea is what got me talking about this particular aspect because meaning is something that is necessary for games in my opinion. The post is an excellent read.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 1/26/2010 12:56:00 AM | 2 comments

On Deadly Consequences (Part 2)

A few of the other bloggers have been discussing how many feel WoW is too easy, and some of them are saying that one way to toughen it up is to make the penalties stiffer. Let me be clear before I start talking about this: Whether or not changing death penalties would actually be of benefit to the gameplay of WoW is completely irrelevant. A good portion of the WoW player base plays because they had friends who played who got them into the game. They have no real interest in playing to "beat the challenges", they only care about getting new shiny purple text to put in their equipment slot so they can show it off to said friends and say "My pixels are better than yours!" I used to be of this kind of mind, but this was back when having the purple text meant "I'm better at this game than you." Now it just means "I got my pixels before you did even though it required little effort on my part." If Blizzard was to go and change the difficulty of the game by adding new penalties, a good portion of those socially inclined players would quit playing as the game would no longer be roflstompable and Blizzard would then lose half of their profits. Players can whine and complain and moan all they want about how the game is too easy, but they are the minority of players now. Blizzard made the conscious decision to make the game easier and make raiding content more accessible because it keeps a much larger percentage of the player base playing than if they'd left it how it was, and if the minority of nostalgic players quit, then they would lose a much smaller portion of their income.

All of that is neither here nor there though, as I'm not in the business of what would make someone else's game better. I'm in the business of talking about my own, and all of this other talk has gotten me thinking about death penalties again. I'd considered having permanent death be an option. That would make sense, as when an NPC dies, an unnamed one anyways, they are dead forever. They are replaced by another NPC who is just as replaceable and disposable as the first, but the first one is dead. This wouldn't be such an incredibly awesome idea though for players. Even if you went through the entire game completing a good portion of content, as soon as you stepped into a dungeon, which is supposed to be harder than normal content by default, you run the risk of death. After playing through that much of the game, having your character die and having to start over would make people quit out of frustration.

I was considering the lore of the world I've mostly created and realized that when someone dies, their soul is sent to be united with the supreme goddess of the world. That is the overall purpose of the world, after all. Mortals die, their souls go and join with the goddess, and she is then replenished. After enough of this, she is completely rejuvenated and able to go about her business. However, there are now threats in the Goddess' world which would interfere with and possibly stop that from happening. When a person dies they are taken to the Otherworld, which is a specific section of the Astral Plane where the Goddess resides sleeping and all of her minions are scurrying about collecting souls of the departed and doing their job.

What if, when a player dies, they could be taken to the head of the minions and he could say "Hey, I've gotten several messages from the lesser gods about you. They say you've been doing a lot of good work lately, and you could be useful in the fight against these threats to our world. Go through this door. It will lead you to a series of hallways. Through each hallway is a portal that will lead you to a temple for one of those lesser gods, where you will be instantly resurrected. Talk to the priests and ask for an audience with the God of that temple. If they agree, they can make you one of their champions. This will allow you to resurrect from death as long as you are under their protection, and if you do work for them, you can be granted blessings to help you in your battles. If you go through the door at the end of the hall though, you can meet your final fate if you feel your work here is done."

There would be hallways that each lead to a temple, and the last door would lead to the Goddess where the character would join with her, and the player could then make a new character. Of course, after going into the portal and arriving at a temple, a player could just leave without speaking to the resident deity. Players who do this would have their next death be permanent, no questions or exceptions. Players who do go would gain the ability to resurrect from death, provided certain conditions which I haven't decided yet. Perhaps they would have to perform quests for the deity once in a while. Maybe it would require them to visit once in a while. Maybe the quests would be a death penalty. You die, and you have to go do some task for me within a certain time frame. (This also would tie into my other idea about how players could choose a god to worship and gain benefits such as increased stats, changed or completely new abilities, and so on. Losing reputation could be a death penalty.)

This would allow players to have a hardcore option if they so desired. They could just leave the temple once they take the portal. This could also allow for certain NPCs to gain these benefits as well. Generals of armies, and other warriors who fight against the threats to the world could come back to life if they so desired and it would lend a bit of credibility to them respawning after being killed.

I also like the idea that when a player dies, there should be other penalties. Armor durability seems to be a well regarded penalty, though I'm planning to have players be able to repair their own armor. The cost would be in the materials required to do so. Cloth armor would be fairly cheap to repair since you just need a bit of cloth and thread. Leather, Mail, and Plate would work in similar ways in that the higher an armor class is, the more expensive the materials become to repair it. There will be vendor NPCs who can repair armor as well, but I'm thinking of having the price of a repair be based on the player controlled market prices of the required materials.

There were some ideas that I didn't like as well. The experience loss idea didn't seem like it was incredibly great. In a game like Everquest or WoW, the main point is to advance your characters through the levels through quests, dungeons, whatever. Losing experience would be a fair penalty under this kind of system (though it wouldn't have to be as large as what is being suggested by many of the other bloggers. Maybe 2% or just the value of the last 10 mobs killed or something). In a system like mine where there are no levels and experience is spread out over different abilities, that becomes much more complicated. Which abilities would lose experience? How much would they lose? How long would the experience be lost for if it's not a permanent loss? I think this would be much better handled by simply changing the mobs.

In a system like this where there aren't any character levels, there naturally aren't any mob levels either. As players become stronger, learn new abilities, and get better stats, the mobs learn new abilities. Each mob would have a set of abilities that it could have at maximum potential, and the higher up a player gets, the more the mobs can use their ability sets. For example, an enemy NPC mage could have an array of different spells similar to a players, and the higher a player's stats and ability levels, the more of these spells a Mage could use, or the Mage could get specific spells to counter different player abilities. Each mob would have a strategy to defeat it and the more the player rises in power, the more they have to start strategizing kills and the less they can just run into combat and burn the enemy down. There wouldn't be a need for a penalty in this case. There would be the option of grouping to defeat the mobs, but the mobs would adjust to any new players in a group and balance that out, but if the player doesn't grow in skill then they hit a wall and must become better players to continue to advance.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 1/22/2010 03:34:00 PM | 0 comments

On 2010

A Happy New Year to everyone who reads this! May your 2010 be much better and less swine flu/crotch bomber filled.

I didn't have so many posts in December as I did in previous months, mostly from trying to reorganize all my files. My game ideas as I have them stored became very unwieldy and sometimes contradictory. Some files made references to other which had old and outdated information in them, while others were rendered completely unnecessary.

I'll be putting up some new stuff shortly.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 1/01/2010 01:27:00 PM | 0 comments