Sunday, September 9, 2012

If I were to design an MMO... Part II

Part deux go. (No I didn't expect to write this today but I've got time so whatever)

Ok so, so far my imaginary MMO I'd design so far is f2p, has a hybrid of EE's and DoMO's multiclass system, a level cap of 30 and is built on the backbone of micromanaging goals to carrot on a stick people into going further and further, thus making themselves more attached to the game and likely to spend into the game and to remain there.

I could decide to go on about classes, but those aren't really that important - they'll mostly be cliche, honestly. The one exception is that there will be a musician/bard class, that's the only class that matters as far as I care. So instead, let's talk about combat, combat dynamic and the planned "grinding" scheme.

First, from experience in TERA, "action oriented combat" seems to be the new thing now and for a good reason - it's a lot more immersive, you feel like you're actually doing things. It's also not very hard to design around, at the end you're really just making every skill a limited range self-centerpoint AOE and setting in a limiter on how many targets it hits(and its preference in proximity or via cursor tracking), the only con with this system is you lose out on targeted area AOE's unless you turn them into an enemy centric targeted AOE or you have it fire a set distance in the direction you're aiming. Well, actually, I suppose it's possible to have it run on seeing through everything and landing exactly where you aim at the floor(think of it like how a rocket launcher functions in an FPS), so I guess that works.
So with that, we now have that this will be an action oriented MMO. Neat. But let's move on to that whole grinding dynamic. DoMO did one thing amazingly well - it was an entirely party centric grind for a very long period of time, and it made the game so much more than it was originally for that. For those not versed in how it worked, your party would be made up of 4 different types of roles within 6 party slots. There'd be the tank, there'd be the support, there'd be the AOE  classes and then there'd be the puller - of course, pending skill level some players functioned in more than one role. Mobs in the game had no set run distance, if you pulled aggro on them you'd have aggro the entire way until you either changed map, "trapped" its tracking into running into a wall where it couldn't follow you further, killed it or died yourself. This system made the party dynamic that much more since you could actually have some gigantic mob pulls, which meant more XP by the end of it. Now, clearly, I'm enamored with how this worked, so I'd definitely run it similarly. Only real difference is unlike DoMO, there'd be more than a single channel for areas if it weren't entirely instanced.

Ok so, we have action oriented combat and extremely party intensive grind. What about mobs? Well, I think I'd honestly take the non-lazy approach and have unique values for every mob type. In terms of HP, stats, XP payout, etc. DoMO did this and when it worked well it worked amazingly, but had a flaw in area design. Primarily, while regardless of whether you copy/paste values between mobs of each level or make them unique per mob type, there'll always be a "best" place to grind. There's a way to counteract this with proper design - if there's a mob type with a lower XP value, there should be tons of them in a clustered area and a slightly increased respawn rate, while larger XP value mobs would be slightly more spaced with a slightly slower respawn. If nothing else, it would create the dilemma to players to figure out which is faster, which is fantastic for community cooperation.

And with that, part two is done. Part three whenever I'm bored enough.

If I were to design an MMO... Part 1?

I said I was going to maybe think about posting more on here, so hey, two posts in a row works I guess.

Oh, right, warning, this is going to be really fucking long probably.

Anyway, I've been thinking. People love to bitch and complain that an MMO's direction isn't going the way they'd like, but... I've got a pretty good feeling that if they were in the designer/developer view they'd be completely hopeless. They'd do stupid things and likely fuck things up more than what they were even complaining about due to not taking all situations into account. But this is to be expected, it takes a pretty specific mentality to be able to do that efficiently and in an appropriate manner. Shit is hard, man.

But I digress, all that thinking turned to "well, what the hell would I even do," and eventually then progressed to being pretty unsatisfied with almost every MMO's system in some way or another. Some games get them completely right in some areas but fuck everything else up. Others get them half right while not fucking everything else up quite that badly. And some are just plain bad with what they do.

Now, I'm going to preface this thought with stating I actually don't have that much MMO experience. I've never been much of an avid MMO player, despite that it may seem to the contrary. I can actually name all the MMORPG's I've played legitimately relatively easily; Dream of Mirror Online, Grand Fantasia, Eden Eternal and TERA. Yeah. I've only "really" played 4 MMO's to any real extent that I can claim I know how it goes. I've "tried" a few others, sure, but I don't count that as really playing.

Carrying on, the most important thing is to actually run the game on an f2p platform. Yeah, it makes running and marketing it a lot harder, but it also allows the largest possible audience, which is key. If you don't have a large playerbase, no one is going to play to begin with. Beyond that, it would follow one very simple philosophy, and really, I have no remorse for saying this; The entire game would be designed around pushing the player to want to do more than they wanted to begin with. Yes. I just said the entire point of the game would to make the player an addict and shovel money in for virtual items. And I'll repeat, I have no remorse. Why? Because ultimately, not only is that the most successful way to build an MMO, it's also satisfying for the player, even though it doesn't sound like it is. But that's the basic concept, I  could go way more into it but I won't - it'll just take way too much time and effort.

So, basic and completely vague design principle out of the way, next comes the primary structure and planned update pattern. This is quite possibly the most important part of the entire design process. Fuck this up at any stage and your game dies. I'm not joking. It just dies. You'll bleed players and only bring in one new for every 2-5 you lose, which is extremely bad math.
I may not have played WoW, but from what I understand it did do something slightly right. It casualized the grind over time with every new release. Which I'll be blunt in saying this is so important now it's unbelievable. So unbelievable I can't believe that a lot of people seem to be missing it. I mean, really. This is something you cannot not do anymore. So how would I do it? In a pretty simple way, actually.

First, the initial level cap would be extremely low - but it would be a deceiving number. EE started with a level cap of 50(on Aeria, that is) and did extremely well at the start; and for good reason. It was easy to hit cap. True, it took a chunk of time to get their initially, but it was easy.
My plan? Level cap initially of 30. Level 1-20 would take, in total, maybe 5 hours. This is important, because no one wants to be stuck in the lower levels. It's not fun, you're locked to having very little variety. Once you reach  20, however, things jump drastically. It'll start off slow, 20-21 would take half an hour to 45 minutes, 21-22 would jump to 45-60 minutes, 22-26 would be around the same as 21-22, once you hit 27, though, it'll jump again. The planned time for the last 3 levels of cap would take 2 hours, 3 hours and 4 hours.
By the point they reach 27, they'd be involved enough into the game that it would be safe to say they're enjoying it - so they'll want to keep going regardless. And to a lot of people, those times actually aren't that long. You could legitimately hit cap from level 1 in a weekend if you're dedicated. Though, then there comes up with a problem - what do people do after that? The answer?

Multiclassing - I cannot stress how great multiclassing is. It artificially increases grind time, creates further  player dedication to the game and their characters and combats the artificial population problem of multiple characters per player. And so far, I've played two multiclassing games - DoMO and EE, neither of which really nailed the system "just right." EE's problem was that it wasn't true multiclassing, you just had access to all classes on one character - DoMO's problem was that it was proper multiclassing but it limited what you could do via skill points, which limited player interaction. My version would combine the "global" character level with class level idea that EE had; with the base class+two sub-classes that DoMO used. As for why, I'd have it set to allow XP calculation on whichever level is the closest to mob level - this means that you could have a level 30 "base character" level, use a level 12 base class and kill level 12 mobs and not receive nerfed XP; or you could kill level 30 mobs in the same setup and neither receive buffed nor nerfed XP(however, class levels would be designed in such a way to prevent abuse in this function).

Ok I'm done typing this  for now.  Stay tuned for a part II to come up... Whenever it comes up. There's a ton more to design, though - this isn't even half the basic systems it would involve. I told you this shit would be really long.

Current state of Grand Fantasia

Man, I've totally more or less abandoned this blog. Maybe I'll start posting on it more, with non economics related things(because seriously I'm kind of stopped caring, everything is deflating with the exception of a few  niche items that demand surged for - and even those aren't very high).

Anyway, recent there's been a specific patch. The biggest concern that players seem to have is, obviously, involving +18. I personally think it's absolutely stupid to bitch about, since it ultimately is a "virtual" increase in content for the end game players, which is what everyone and their mother bitched about not existing before. And yes, I realize I'm being slightly hypocritical on this statement - I fought against +15 existing quite hard, but my views have changed a decent bit since then as well as realize that there'd be no hope in fighting for the removal of +18 anyway.
I also find it absolutely hilarious that everyone vocal enough to shout "I QUIT!" will inevitably return anyway. Well, 95% of them at least. As for why, if someone is attached enough to a free MMO to regularly use its forum and complain about things, they're not going to just quit and never return. It just doesn't work that way. The only people who are really quitting are the ones who don't say a word about it, they don't care enough to say "I'm out" or complain otherwise - which clearly means they aren't attached much to the game itself.

Now, if I had my way, I do admit it would have been done differently. S Scrolls would have a req equipment level of 80+ and... Actually that pretty much solves everything. With that in place I would actually be 100% ok with fortification items for them flooding the game. Not only does it entirely niche the audience size, it also prevents the degradation of lower brackets. The only real drawback is that it would be that GVG weapons wouldn't be able to be fortified +18, but there wouldn't be a real feasible way to fix it. Requiring a player level to use S scrolls wouldn't work; you'd have to autobind the equipment to prevent the resale, but even that doesn't work due to the archive - they can just +18 a piece of equipment, archive it over to another character on the account and then proceed to curbstomp a lower bracket. But hey, that's just my take on it.

As for everything else, the update actually did some tremendous things to help the players "just starting." Crafting rates on gear 66 and below was increased dramatically. Like, brute forcing 60 yellows isn't that unfeasible anymore dramatically. It also added a quick teleport system as well as removed death penalties from all maps below level 36~ish(I think black swamp is the highest levelled map it was removed from).

Ultimately, this was a pretty great patch. It has some things that need ironed out in the form of bugs, but that's to be expected.

As far as the future of the game goes, I'm supposedly working on events, or something. I also hear that there's going to be some neat changes coming down the line that I can't really mention, but I'm sure everyone will get to find out about that soon enough.
Oh, right, also there's some arena things that might be happening, but hey, you didn't hear that from me.