Moo Tang Clan: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spellborn Chronicles - one to watch

Reading the FAQ for Spellborn Chronicles, and I'm obviously intrigued...

Here's a new twist on death penalties - provide a survival bonus instead:

We intend to put a system in place which rewards good play and not dying. This system will provide benefits over time for those who play in a skilled manner and who are capable of surviving. A short period of time will provide minor benefits, while a longer period of time will provide greater benefits. In general it will be quite desirable to survive and to be cautious, as the benefits gained will be noticeable.

Five factions, sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing, and a hint of environment impact:

In addition, TCoS is a world which a rich storyline, ripe with opportunities to live inside an evolving world. Players interested in making a difference will find themselves at home in the struggle to forward their High House. Those wishing to take up arms for their cause will be able to make an impact on their environment. While members of other Houses may be friendly in general, all bets are off once Houses come into conflict. This mix of cooperation and competition makes for a complex, yet exhilarating combination. No longer are you stuck with being "good" or "evil" . . . you will be a member of one of five differing factions all working together yet apart in order to bring peace to your civilization.

Windows only though, I suspect.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

what kind of name is Fggfdfggrdgf anyway?

Here I am in AV, trailing the O zerg pack so I bear left when crossing the Field of Strife. This way I can run slap bang into any laggard Alliance passing west of Balinda. I spot a warrior, all alone and trailing his pack, I ride right up and Wing Clip. He stays mounted but is slowed, I stay right on his tail, repeating Wing Clip and Raptor Strike, working a pattern of running just wide enough to get off an Arcane Shot and side-stepping back in to Wing Clip again. It took a while but down he went.

I mount up, and ride on. About the time I reach Stormpike Graveyard I get a tell from a someone named named Fggfdfggrdgf - "WHAT THE *^% ARE U DOING!?! IF YOU LEAVE ALLIANCE O ALONE WE GET A FASTER GAME AND MORE HONOR, YUO *%#!"

Guess I hurt someone's feelings there.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Leveraging Cognitive Bias in Social Design

Now here's an interesting slide deck presentation on Leveraging Cognitive Bias in Social Design. I mention this because, obviously MMOGs are inherently social environments, and rational behaviour isn't actually the norm, despite the vocal domination of the min/maxers and others.

They've listed a few sample cognitive effects that bias behaviour...

  • Lake Wobegon effect
  • Self serving bias
  • Optimism bias
  • Not invented here
  • Hindsight bias
  • Prediction bias
.. and they later mention a few more in the presentation (eg. Loss Aversion). I would also add the bystander effect as something to consider when designing.

Add yours to the list =)

quests with alternative objectives?

The typical quest mechanic I've seen is (1) get the quest which states the objective, (2) do some activity resulting in (3) completing the objective, and (4) hand in the quest.

As a thought experiment, imagine an MMOG with a quest engine which allows for multiple alternative objectives. For example, the quest set up might be "The red hill ogres keep raiding our vineyard and stealing our wine. Do something", where "something" is (a) kill the ogres, (b) kill the dragon camping their beer stash, (c) open trade with the ogres, offering wine in exchange for furs, (d) help the dragon find its mate, thus scaring the ogres out of the red hills for good, (e) help the ogres raid the dwarven brewery instead (they prefer beer, y’see), or (e) simply steal the wine back again.

The typical MMOG quest engine system would offer just one of those as the quest objective (although the RP crowd might do something with the rest). You could implement the alternatives as additional separate quests, but that would just be a hack (and confusing when doing one quest invalidates the others, and irritating if you pick one objective and then find out on the way there it would be easier to do one of the others because [eg] you just found help). Much more interesting would be you pick the one quest, and then head off to confront the ogres ... and whichever objective you manage to accomplish first marks the quest as complete.

In the quest UI I don't believe I'd list the specific objectives necessary to complete the quest, certainly not in the TL:DR bullet point summary. I'd like to think that clever players would figure out what some of the options could be, knowing full well most players aren't that clever.

I know that traditional quests with an ambiguous unstated objective are usually regarded as a content development bug by players ... but mostly arising from the frustration of trying to guess just what exactly is the One True Objective to complete the quest. However, offering multiple alternative objections might ameliorate that, especially if the players are re-trained to expect the possibility of alternative objectives (instead of giving up at first glance).

Naturally, in a static content game the various approaches will all soon be discovered and documented in some online wiki, and the wisdom of the crowd will be applied to determine the optimal solution. The next step in this thought experiment is to consider what basic game mechanics and plumbing would be necessary for such a quest with alternative objectives to arise dynamically.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

MMOG design anti-patterns?

Some quick background, lifting from Wikipedia:

A design pattern is a formal way of documenting a solution to a design problem in a particular field of expertise. The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander in the field of architecture, and has been adapted for various other disciplines, including computer science.

A pattern must explain why a particular situation causes problems, and why the proposed solution is considered a good one.

Alexander describes common design problems as arising from "conflicting forces" -- such as the conflict between wanting a room to be sunny and wanting it not to overheat on summer afternoons. A pattern would not tell the designer how many windows to put in the room; instead, it would propose a set of values to guide the designer toward a decision that is best for their particular application.

In software engineering, an anti-pattern is a design pattern that appears obvious but is ineffective or far from optimal in practice. [...] Some repeated pattern of action, process or structure that initially appears to be beneficial, but ultimately produces more bad consequences than beneficial results
I've cross posted this to the Nerfbat forums, where there is already a healthy discussion, mostly focused on whether crafting interdependency is an anti-pattern. What other MMOG design anti-patterns have you become aware of?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Exalted with Zandalar Tribe.

'nuff said.

As an alchemist, this now means I can craft Living Action Potions, which turn out to be very handy in PvP. They don't share a cooldown with the PvP trinket, giving me an extra escape mechanism. It's also not the same as the trinket, being useless against mind control and polymorph, for example .. but it does confer immunity to stun and movement impairments for 5 secs.

I'm a lvl 70 hunter with Kara+ gear, so taking on the trash mobs in this 60's raid instance so getting to exalted was challenging. I had to pull out all my hunter tricks to take on 4 packs, and learned a couple of tricks along the way.

One trick good hunters should know is that when casting Scare Beast, its not only not necessary to keep your target selected, but detrimental to do so: once you're done casting an auto-shot might go off, hitting your now scared beast, and breaking said scare effect. Instead, the non-huntard will target the one beast they want to scare, begin casting, and in the 1.5 seconds they have now select the next beast they will unleash DPS onto. Not only do you avoid breaking your fear, but you don't waste time acquiring your next target.

Another tweak I picked up was to put

into my macros for Steady Shot, Multi-Shot, and Arcane Shot. Although it does cause my gun to make lots of superfluous cocking sounds, it doesn't appear to reset the auto-shot timer .. and importantly it clears any lingering Raptor Strike from blocking my auto-shot. When you're taking on a pack of elite mobs, you need every point of DPS.