Moo Tang Clan: February 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Would you cross the street...

Would you cross the street to gain a skill improvement that buffs your key performance metric by 1%?

Would you travel to the other end of the world to gain another 1% improvement?

Would you set off on a journey which would take you several hours of game time to get a 0.1% skill buff?

I'm pondering the design of a skill based mmo set in a massive world, one where there are a small number of common 1% skill buffs, available pretty much everywhere, and then a large number of 0.1% buffs scattered about the world.

A rookie warrior could stay in the one general zone and pick up all the skill training buffs for a total of (say) +50% damage, and then set off into the wide world seeking out 0.1% here, and 0.1% there ... all adding up to another 25% again. It would be like traveling from Paris to Tibet to learn the ancient art of mumble-fu from a secretive clan of Mountain Warrior Monks (0.1% buff to unarmed combat), and then deep into darkest Africa to track down a mysterious Zulu Exiled King to another 0.1% buff to berserker stance combat.

All without teleports or any other fast travel. And even then, the Mountain Warrior Monks want you to prove your dedication and virtue by [killing 10 rats], the Zulu Exiled King generally mistrusts everyone and doesn't give training away for free, and so on.

I would plan the design such that it would take several months to travel the world and gather the full 250 x 0.1% buffs. And all while you're doing this you're not in your home zone contributing to the development of your village/estate/guild/kingdom.

But it wouldn't be necessary to do so. The Big Bads would be balanced around players having only a total of 50% – 51% skill buff. That would be all the common training, plus a dozen or so of the nearest rare skill buffs.

The design intent is that there would be a lonely few insane individuals wandering the dusty roads of the world, perfecting their personal skills; and meanwhile everyone else is putting time and effort into improving the quality of the smithworks, securing high grade ore, and other activities which give players additional bonuses.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Measuring the quality of community?

Wolfshead writes in an excellent post:

Most MMO enthusiasts have noticed a sharp decline in the quality of the WoW community of late. Cursing, nastiness, bullying and other forms of rudeness have now become endemic in Azeroth.
I can imagine at least one prominent blogger arguing that "no, the community hasn't changed, it's just your nostalgic recollection of the past".

Here's a challenge then: how would one measure the quality of community? I'm suggesting quantitative statistics, not gut feel opinions. Do that on a monthly basis, and continue to do that year on year. Get some objective data.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just varying the difficulty adds difficulty

I played against an AI in a game of Reversi/Othello over the weekend. It had three levels of difficulty, and once I'd played for a while I could easily beat each of the three levels of difficulty. There was a distinct difference of difficulty amongst those three levels, by the way: the first level was utterly trivial, and the third mildly challenging.

Then I tried something ... before each game, I would change the difficulty level, either up or down, no particular rhyme or reason. The same three difficulty levels now became a whole lot harder, and I found myself actually sometimes losing on the third level.

Read into that what you will.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reputation design patterns

These Yahoo Reputation Design patterns are very interesting, particularly the table further down the page. They are specifically for managing reputations within online communities, like forums, but they could also be applied to game design on further thought.

On the community front, this suggests to me that CMs could do well to be proactive in managing their community, and not just reactive to posted comments. Something like a kinda-weekly wrap up of good posts, handing out the plaudits. This would be different from the case of a CM weighing in on an existing thread.

It also puts paid to the idea that you can't design community, that forums are fated to be terrible, and that designers/publishers are not responsible for a lousy community.