Natural play

After playing for years now, it seems like players don't like to have adventures. Sure some do. I'm sure at least a few who read this post do. Most, from what I read on forums and blogs don't though. They skip quest text, go straight to the quest objectives, complete them and turn in, moving on to the next quest. You aren't an epic hero on a quest to save a little girl kidnapped by a gang of thieves (who are holding her for ransom from her rich parents). You are a guy with a sword in search of XP. Is the little girl NPC unharmed? Is she being treated well by her captors? How is she coping with the experience after you rescue her?

Who cares? As long as you get your XP, she can be missing an arm or scarred mentally for the rest of her life and it makes no difference. Although this is a legitimate way to play a character (my own main would likely take this particular view, though it may secretly tug at his heartstrings just a tiny bit), it's not really in character for all characters. A friend of mine plays the selfless and noble paladin who would be generally concerned about the girl and her eventual fate. However, the game rewards those who disregard all that wishy washy RP crap and go straight for the good stuff.

This is a bit off topic from what I want to talk about, but it is loosely related. I wanted to talk about experience and the way it is earned.

I really want to make a game where the story is the important part. When a player plays their character, they should want to actually play the role of that character. These are called Role Playing Games after all. Most game mechanics seem to incentivize the player to disregard any hint of story elements and just burn through as much questing and mobs as their sword can slice through. The story becomes irrelevant as it is just a tl;dr version of the objectives from which the real goal can be extracted from a quick skim.

What if the game mechanics for things like XP punish those who try to grind through everything and rewards those who play in the story mode? Alternative methods of achieving objectives could award more XP than the standard "Kill everything you see method". This especially applies to stealth classes who would get a bonus for not being seen or for having a minimum casualty rate.

However, this doesn't seem to apply to just regular killing mobs. Players grinding 4 million boars in Elwynn forest certainly doesn't seem heroic. I had an idea to discourage that with XP gains being on a diminishing returns cooldown timer. You kill one mob, you get full XP. You kill a second mob, you get full XP. You kill X number of X additional mobs (the number of which should be tuned to a proper amount) and get full XP. After this point, a very short cooldown hidden from the player starts. Maybe 10 or 15 seconds. Killing a mob once this cooldown is up will award full XP. Killing a mob before this timer is up will award reduced XP and restart the cooldown timer with a slightly increased time amount. This continues until about 4 or 5 mobs killed this way (before the timer ends) when no XP is gained at all. Each of these additional timers you wait out will return to the previous XP level.

The main idea is to slow down the grinding player to it is more efficient to actually complete quests. Mobs which are involved in the quests you must complete would of course be exempt from these timers. Killing rats as a grinding exercise is on the timer. Getting a quest to kill rats will not trigger the timer until the quest objectives are met (at which point they kick in).

This could also be incorporated into the profession system for professions that require killing mobs like skinning or butchering. Killing additional mobs grants the reduced XP, but if you perform the profession actions like skinning the corpse then a large portion of the lost XP is returned in the form of XP towards that profession.

I've also been considering the inn mechanic from WoW. Logging out at an inn wouldn't give you a bonus on its own. You'd need to actually rent a room, at which point you would automatically log out and your character would be sleeping. The longer you are logged out, the more bonus experience you get for a certain amount of time (up to a maximum). The idea here being that players who play all the time can play normally, and players who have limited play time can still keep up so that they can participate in group content as well. The bonuses would be balanced so that if a player plays for 15 hours straight (something I don't recommend) and another plays for two, goes to work for 8, spends three hours with his family upon coming home and eating, and then plays two more hours, the player who only played four hours would gain XP from his play time enough to equal him to the 15 hours straight player and they can continue to play on equal level group content together. I think this is a much better way to do what Square was trying to do at keeping players on the same level of play as it doesn't punish the player who wants to play for 15 hours straight with no XP walls.

To sum up, the XP system I have in mind would:

1. Discourage grinding and incentivize playing in a natural story based way
2. Not punish players who are trying to use or level their mob killing related professions
3. Allow players with less play time to stay on a competitive level of play with those who have time in abundance.

This is all subject to balancing of course so that players who play in a natural way would never be affected by any of the downsides.

Thoughts? Does this system seem like it would annoy players if it's balanced correctly? Is there a better way to accomplish these goals?

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 11/20/2010 12:02:00 AM


SirFWALGMan said...

I know I have that attitude now but it is only because I have leveled like 9 characters to 80... I am sick of the same ole stuff.. I am sooooo looking forward to Cata and new quests, new starting areas, reading text, and the reshaping of the world.

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