Sunday, September 9, 2012

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.

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