Moo Tang Clan: May 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

guild math?

The math behind mechanics can be interesting.

Imagine if you could invite anyone into a guild, and the larger the guild the bigger a bonus to the power of the members. A mage in a smallish guild for example might do 1% more damage, while a mage in a larger guild might do 3% more damage.

A simple bit of math. Net result would be a game which encourages larger guilds, even your basic zerg guilds.

Add a twist - make the mage bonus be dependent on the number of mages in the guild. Now it's likely that there would be some tendency towards specialist guilds, but not that much. Consider: a guild with just 20 mages would have the same bonus as a guild with 20 mages and 20 priests, while the latter would have priests on hand to help out with healing.

One more twist then - divide the bonus by the total number of guild members, mage or not. Now, a guild of just 20 mages might have a 2% bonus, while a guild with 20 mages and 1 priest would get a 1.9% bonus, and a guild with 20 mages and 20 priests would only get a 1% bonus.

With this arrangement there is an active discincentive to forming zerg guilds, and active incentive to forming specialist guilds.

The same math might be available on other factors too - perhaps a guild of mixed classes might instead specialise in one particular form of crafting, and another guild specialises along racial lines.

So .. what ramifications does this have on the game world, what are the subtle ways this might change the way the game is played?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The eternal readiness of mobs to eat your entrails

In WoW, the difference between an unpulled mob and a pulled mob is simply their intent. The former just stands there, the latter want to eat your entrails. The combat capabilities of both are the same, there is no advantage to be gained by a sneak attack unless you have special abilities.

Consider though if mobs by default stand about in a relaxed mode, unbuffed, weapons in the rack, some are asleep, some are not even in full armour. Some might even be absent-mindedly grinding away at some craft-work like cooking or blacksmithing. The side door might be left open. A few guards keep an eye out but that is all. A sneak or rush attack here would be devastating, and would reward the well prepared adventurer group with easier kills and thus more loot for less effort.

Let the guards hear you approach though, let them see you from a mile off, and by the time you get within pulling range you'll find them fully buffed and armed to the teeth, spoiling for a fight. They won't necessarily race to engage though (why would they?). They will however keep an eye on you and if you are wounded or distracted by a tussle with some of the local wild life you just might find yourself on the end of a sneak attack to devastating effect.

Hunt the wolf?

Consider a quest like "find the bad wolf and bring back his head". This usually results in gameplay mechanics like: 1) check online to see where the mob spawns, 2) go to the exact GPS coordinates, 3) kill it. The only variation to this might be if there are multiple spawn points, and then it's just a matter of quickly cycling through each of them until you find the bad wolf.

Where's the quest where you have to track them, where are the mechanics where you examine the trail looking for clues, where are the dead sheep littering the landscape?

In WotLK there's at least one quest where you do have to go find some creature's trail .. only the paw print you find is a permanent fixture of the landscape, not dependent on the current location of the wandering mob, not even phased to the player in that quest. It's an attempt at colour, but nothing new game wise.

I want a game where I play cat and mouse with my prey, tracking it's spore through the forest, where NPCs along the way will give useful intel keyed to the actual location of the mob. And if during this time the bad wolf has circled around and is now shadowing me, waiting for an opportune time to pounce? All the better.

Of course, in a world where the average MMO player needs to ask where to find Mankirk's wife (a corpse with a fixed location), I despair in thinking how they might cope where the target is roaming.

Monday, May 4, 2009

in-game journalism?

A passing thought - instead of recruiting community management personnel to patrol the forums, hire some budding journalists to hang out in your game writing up daily dispatches. Get several in game, put them on various beats, and make their reports available in-game as well as out.

Beats could include various raid dungeons, being embedded with an attack force assaulting Wintergrasp, a suitable bimbo reporting on the AH shenanigans, some wheezy old geezer hanging about the starting zone, and so on. You probably couldn't afford to have people permanently posted everywhere, some would have to be roving reporters.

If the in-game element had a decent UI then this could become quite popular. The UI should include capability for decently sized graphics like screen-shots. They could be supported in-game by criers walking about shouting the headlines and directing those interested to the nearest inn at an appointed time.

This is a more proactive design to community management, and with a deft hand at the editorial tiller could be used steer the community in preferred directions (rather than frantically reacting to flamewars).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Achievements overheads

A few patches back Blizzard removed some of the statistics tracking from their new achievements system: the way it worked is that (e.g.) every time you do damage or take damage it looks to update the max damage statistic. That's a tiny overhead on every attack you ever do, and the tiny bit of cpu distraction really begins to add up, especially in a 25-man raid where you can afford it the least.

Why not just log everything, and then process it during downtime, such as resting in an inn? The character could even be notified in their system/chat log of updates, or possibly even some kind of emote visible to others.

You could even stage out the processing a little bit, so instead of it being a spam attack of statistics it trickles in over about five minutes or so .. just enough to have it prompt social discourse and the occasional /flex.