Moo Tang Clan: July 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

design challenge: specialist guilds?

In most MMOGs, a guild is more a company of adventurers, a band of brothers, (usually) united in some purpose (usually raiding, often social, sometimes RP).

But rarely specialised by skill. Where's the Potters Guild, the Enchanters Guild, the Guild of Tailors, the Warriors Regiment, the Thieves Guild of Old Town, the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union?

Set aside for the moment of whether this would be a good idea, game-wise, for an MMOG. What game mechanics would you design to encourage a proliferation of specialist guilds?

My first thoughts are three-fold:

  1. A hierarchical tree of additional benefits unlocked by specialisation (eg. think WoW talents, but for guilds).
  2. A rationing of resources used to unlock these additional benefits (ie. more benefits than what points can buy), with various feedback mechanisms to encourage focussed spending.
  3. And support for inter-guild support/collaboration/alliances.
Points (1) and (2) work together of course. Feedback mechanisms could include compounding buffs, tiered talents/abilities, or unlocked content such as guild quests. Point (3) would be necessary because if you don't the pressure will be huge to go for a mediocre but self-reliant hybrid guild.

The principle of unlocked benefits could be applied in many ways: through specialised guild bank tabs, guild wise auras, specialist NPCs, and more.

Guild Bank tabs could be specialised for different purposes, with discounts for additional tabs of the same type. For example: instead of paying 500G for the first tab and 1000G for the second tab, the bank could be designed such that the guild could select their first tab to be specialised (eg. enchanting) and thus get a discount (pay only 400G), and the second enchanting tab would only be 750G .. vs some guild buying a generic bank tab for 500G, and then an enchanting specialised tab for 900G. Buying one of each kind should be expensive, buying all generics/multipurpose should be outrageously priced, and buying all of the same type should be really affordable.

Guild wide auras could be things like all members of a guild specialising in alchemy could have an increased chance of bonus procs on crafting, all members of a warriors guild have 20% off all repair costs and some kind of bonus in melee.

What game design elements can you think of to push a game world in this direction?

Monday, July 14, 2008

player driven pvp policies

The guards on the Isle of Quel'danas are severe in punishing pvp within their territory, but they could be more severe in policing: they could punish all the participants of the pvp action - both attacker and attacked. The only way to remain safe would be to not flag at all. (Incidentally, this will also get rid of the asshats that flag and stand on top of the NPCs.)

Such a determined design would be immediately decried by players: some would say it's too harsh (and should be softened), some would say it's too carebear (and made even harsher), and some would say it was fine before so why change it. There's no satisfying the mob.

Consider though if the devs put their effort into designing self-balancing systems, where players can, through their influence and reputation with the local government, determine what the security policies are for the area. Some servers might drift towards a harsh anything-goes climate, while others would reflect a prevailing carebear attitude.

If the world was big enough to support multiple towns/villages acting as alternatives to each other, rather than the token civilisation centers along a linear progression path (a la WoW), then you might well have different policies evolving on the same server. One town might drift towards a carebear crafting utopia, while another might be a lawless den of iniquity, home of the quick and the dead.

Will simply flagging bring down the the wrath of the constabulary, or even entering town with your pvp flag already on? Maybe the guards will take action if you've recently done pvp outside of the town. On the other hand, maybe the local warlord is a sadist and hands out candy and gold to everyone that does pvp .. if you can stay alive long enough to talk to the NPC, that is.

As to game mechanics, consider if PvP deaths result in two tokens dropping – one into the killer's inventory, one into the dead player's inventory – either of which could be handed in to various NPCs to influence the local policy (or just trashed if the player doesn't care). Different NPCs, and different options at the same NPC, would determine which local policy gets voted on.

If each town/village had it's own reputation faction then your vote could also be weighted by your current faction standing, which would make it difficult for an outsider guild to zerg the vote.

Would such a design make open free-for-all pvp viable, or at least tolerable?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Saturday, July 5, 2008

some hunter tips

Here's a small skill I've been developing just recently: while casting Fear Beast I select my next target in preparation for my next action - I don't wait until the casting is complete to change targets. Especially if I don't want my next auto-shot to break that fear.

When in WSG and you're on defense duty, and you have a cat pet: pop down into the tunnel, about where it has that side branch to the roof, tell your pet to stay, be aggressive, and also to prowl. Then high tail it back up the tunnel and park yourself in that little room, and select your pet as your target. Now, when your pet jumps on the next sneaky rogue coming up that tunnel you'll see your pet's target under his faceplate, and you can easily target them too. Commence fire. Laugh maniacally. Sometimes they come in via the ramp, and then take the tunnel on the way out. Hit intimidation but leave your pet parked and prowled, it's quite the nasty surprise.

tying skill to gear

It's an ancient debate: gear vs skill.

My idea: make it such that better gear provides value, but only in the hands of a skilled player. One way to do this is by making gear which has situational uses, instead of a simple +bonus that applies at all times.

Some ideas: instead of a helmet giving +25 magic resistance, make it provide +50 resistance for 30 seconds on use, with a 30 second cooldown. Instead of simply boots of swift striding (slight speed increase, some resistance to slows), make them boots of muck walking (some resistance to slows, roots, and snares, and extra speed when walking in watery terrain). A shield of spell reflection that only works on spells that hit you from the front/left. A cutlass of shredding, with damage bonuses against cloth wearers but no bonus vs plate. A two-handed mace which puts a debuff on the mob which causes extra damage from pets (note: hunters can't use maces, warlocks can't use two-handers, so this is also a team-play skill opportunity).

This could be extended to longer time frame strategic use, such as with resist gear sets, however it would be better to have lots of tactical time frame usage options .. otherwise the main skill that gets developed is how to read a website to look up what's the best gear to equip for a given dungeon. And that's no fun.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

wresting control of a zone from mobs

Imagine if Halaa was controlled by NPC mobs instead of the other faction. Imagine if that basic design was extended to an entire zone. Lethal mobs would spawn constantly .. but only while certain locations remain uncaptured. If the number which has spawned exceeds a base level, they would group up and move to attack other locations. Locations deep within hostile controlled territory would have more terrible beasts and demons being spawned. Once an location is captured by players, mobs would no longer spawn from that location. Mobs would still travel to that location from other locations, putting it under constant threat.

Control of the zone would ebb and flow throughout the day and week - 3am would see it overrun by hostile NPC mobs, while during peak player hours more of the zone would be under player control.

There could even be more than npc faction in play here. In Nagrand, there are two ogre factions, some occult worshippers, the demons, and two factions of space mummies. Probably even more factions. Each NPC faction would have their preferred territory, but specific locations could well be in contention between more than one NPC faction. Some of these might well form temporary alliances, some might viciously fight each other given the right provocation. Players could thus factor this into their broader strategy - instead of fighting tooth and nail for objective A, they could go attack objective B (weaker due to fewer reinforcements?) .. and then stand back as many of the occupants of objective A issue forth to capture objective B. Now would be the time to strike at objective A, which they might now willingly retreat from.

Locations could include quest centers, grave yards, repairs, mines or other resource gathering locations, vendor centres, etc. The entire zone would have one final objective, being a major instance - the entrance to the instance would be guarded by elites that spawn from nearby locations, and opening the gate may even require the assistance of an NPC from another location .. thus you won't be able to just rush in on your fancy flying mount.

Logging off in the zone wouldn't be a safe thing to do. More exactly, logging back on wouldn't be safe .. you might find yourself totally surrounded by elite hostiles, where you were previously surrounded by friendly NPC guards. It would thus be sensible to have the base camps for Horde/Alliance being located on the edge of the zone.

This zone would be interesting for casuals who could enter the fray at any time to do their small part, perhaps doing a daily quest or two. It could also be designed to reward group efforts, with deeper locations controlled by an elite boss with massive loot drops - a guild group could thus conduct an hour long (or longer) campaign and thus be in position to be the ones to capture a strategic location and claim the loot.

(The backend infrastructure of WoW doesn't really support this style of design at all - they have very minimal server side status/AI going on at all. The zone-wide progress measures at the Isle of Quel'Danas is peanuts compared to this. More the pity.)