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Archive for the ‘Skippy’s Dream MMO’ Category

Skippy’s Dream MMO 3.1

Monday, August 4th, 2008

I didn’t get a chance to respond to everything on my last ‘Dream MMO’ post. But people kept discussing game mechanics for the next week. So I figured “Why not keep this discussion going?”.

So evidently online game economy is a subject that the readers of my site have an opinion on.

Now, I still take the stance that inflation is inevitable, but can be mitigated from the design, although a lot of my readers disagree with that assessment. Or rather, in an ideal situation for an MMO there will be inflation. Because ideally there will always be more players, adventuring away and adding more virtual money to the economy.

One suggestion I saw come up a lot was to remove things from the economy. Which is true, if players are constantly having to replace their gear that would have a net effect of keeping their stockpiles of money down. Since that was the majority suggestion, let’s run with that tonight.

Of course, players get kind of cranky if you take their stuff away. I’m not saying that you should take players toys away on occasion, just that games need to be cautions about how they go about doing it. So here are the ideas I saw suggested last time, plus a few others.

Ways I think would be good to remove items:

Reduced Effectiveness With Use – It doesn’t force the player to ever give up a piece of gear, but it encourages the player to switch out as often as they can, in order to maintain peak effectiveness.

Damage – The equipment has it’s own sent of hit points, that are reduced by use. Eventually the equipment will break. Many games have systems similar to this. The best example I have seen was in the game Arcanum. If an item gets damaged, you could repair it. But instead of going back up to it’s maximum health when you repaired it, the current health and the max health would be averaged. So the more frequently you repaired you equipment, the longer it lasted. But that would make it cost more, and no matter what it will eventually break.

Binding – Once picked up, customized, or equipped, the item becomes locked to it’s owner. WOW made good use of this, as nearly all of the equipment from the first third of the game onward is binding in some way. Guildwars also did a neat job here, by making weapons customizable. You spend extra money on the weapon, to gain a bonus to it’s use, but then no other player can ever use it. They’ve basically found a way to get the players to pay extra for having their equipment bound.

Scavenging – WOW has this as enchanting, Auto Assault had a version of this. Basically you allow the players to turn the items they posses into the raw materials that they use to create new objects. As long as the player crafted items cost more resources to create than they yield when destroyed it shouldn’t be abusable. Especially is you make a separate set of resources that are *only* available from scavenging. If you link this to a damage system for the item, it could be rigged up that the less health the equipment has left, the less salvage it has. Which encourages the players to break their own toys as fast as possible.

Obsolescence – If the player has the best sword in the game, he will never spend money on another. So make a sword that is better than that. This is what every MMO would probably like to do. But there are practical limits to how many new areas, and new equipment the development team can get into the play-space. And they will never be able to make it fast enough to keep up with the ultra-hardcore players. Don’t get me wrong, I like this idea the best, and it’s part of the point of MMO’s. At least it’s part of the justification for the subscription.

One possibility to use obsolescence without breaking the developers backs, is to supplement it with a procedural one up system.

Let’s say that the best sword in the game is the Longsword of Leetness. It’s only available by doing a long and expensive quest, and at first, only the absolute most dedicated players have them. But months pass and more and more players have found the time to complete the quest. Once a certain percentage of end-game players have the sword the game determines that it needs to ‘one-up’ the Longsword of Leetness. So it releases the Battle-axe of Leetness. Which statistically is pretty close to identical to the Longsword in every way. Except that it has a bonus when used against a player who is using the Longsword. When enough players switch to the Battle-axe, it creates a super-powered mace, that has a bonus to take on the first two, and so on. It think a nice money sink could be developed by giving the end-game players a permanent arms race against each other.

So any comments on the ideas I listed? Any other ideas to remove stuff from the players?

Skippy’s Dream MMO Part 3

Monday, July 21st, 2008

This time I want to talk about in-game inflation. So its a discussion about economics, as applied to an imaginary fantasy kingdom. I’m such a huge nerd.

In a real economy, the government prints money, ideally with some sort of backing to it. And if they just start printing more money then all of the money becomes less valuable.

In an online game, players are constantly creating more money in the game world. They’re solving quests, and killing monsters, and looting dungeons. All of this is going to cause new money to be created out of thin air and handed to the players. And if the game has any sort of auction house, or trading going on between the players, this will cause prices to start skyrocket.

The time where this starts becoming really evident, is when a new player comes into the game. The low level monsters and quests aren’t keeping up with the rapid inflation. The 5 silver coins that was a good reward last year is basically worthless now.

If you really want to see how out of whack it gets, take a look at any item that players want for sale from an NPC vendor, vs how much for the exact same thing from an auction. Its not uncommon for players to purchase things from an NPC vendor and sell them for several thousand times what they paid.

My proposed solution to this problem is to set the game up in such a way that it can adjust itself to take inflation into account.

My idea is that the game tracks the sale of certain staple items that the players tend to trade a lot. In WOW, a good staple item might be copper ore. Lots of players need it, and piles of it are always trading hands through the auction house.

So every now and then, maybe once a week or some such time, the game tallies up the average price of a stack of copper ore. For the first week lets say this price is 1 gold coin on average. And on the next week the price has creeped up to 2 gold coins on average. At this point the game will have determined that all money is now worth 50% less than it used to be. So it will now double the quest rewards and the treasure from monsters.

I know that is won’t actually prevent the inflation problems. But it might mitigate them a little. Plus it might help to make the world feel a bit more alive and dynamic to the players.

Any gamers or economists have any thoughts on this?

Skippy’s Dream MMO Part 2

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

So it looks like I may be turning this into a regular weekly thing.

Because I am hardcore about being a geek like that. Plus I like finding out about which games are already doing ideas similar to mine.

Player Interaction

First and most basic thing: Universal Friends List. If you ever wind up making an second character, it can be a huge pain in the ass to have to re-enter all of your friends into a new list. City of Heroes has already done this, so there really isn’t an excuse for every new game that comes out to not include this.

Ditto for the ignore list. The idiot RoxUrSoxor, who is filling the newbie chat full of Chuck Norris jokes didn’t get any more interesting just because you decided to switch characters. In fact you should be able to select the guy, and put his whole guild on ignore with one or two button clicks. Because if there’s one thing you know, its that no one who would admit him to a guild has anything to say that’s worth listening to.

To avoid any problems from these universal lists, give the players the ability to “Opt Out”. Maybe a player has a character that they don’t want everyone to know about. Along those lines, perhaps a player just wants to play without his friends for a while. So make “Lurk Mode” an option. That way if you don’t want to hang out it tells all of your friends that you are offline.

Another related idea is an enemies list. Every game on the market provided options to keep track of all of your buddies. But so far I haven’t seen any that help you to keep track of all of the people who have ticked you off. To prevent this from being used as a tool for griefing it shouldn’t show certain details, like their location or even whether or not they are online. But the characters could be marked with an icon to help remind you that this is a player who has annoyed you in the past. This has the potential to actually be combined with the PVP mechanics to make a whole “blood-debt” system.

Yet another idea that I haven’t seen yet is Character Notes. The ability to basically make a little in-game post-it note and attach it to another player. Not physically in game, but just an icon, visible only to you, that showed that you had some notes written down about that player. Maybe another player was gracious about settling a dispute. Or maybe he sprinted past you to steal your treasure chest. Either way, now you can check your notes on how he acted in the past. I predict this turning into a great big pile of fun when combined with the enemies list.

Another problem area is quest tracking. Every one of these games has a either a journal or a log to track what quests you have available, and what your current progress is. And some of them even let you see if any of your teammates are on the same quest. But most don’t let you track your friends progress on their quests. I think you should actually be able to open up the quest log of any of your member of your team, right next to your own. This will make it far easier to keep everybody organized. Also, I think the whole “quest sharing” feature that many games already have should be mostly automatic. If you’re in a party with a guy who’s going to get a magic sword for rescuing a princess, then the king should just pass out blades to everyone at the end of the adventure.

One feature I have seen under-used is side-kicking. CoH did it first, Age of Conan has it now (they call it mentoring) but for the most part I haven’t seen any other games adapt it. I have no idea why not. The whole point of an MMO is that you are playing it with other people online. And unless all of your friends have exactly the same amount of free time, discrepancies in levels will develop. Anything that will allow players to overcome this sort of obstacle is a good idea. And since this feature has already been used in a well-known game, its kind of stupid that everyone doesn’t have it.

And the last idea I’m going to jot down tonight is my way of dealing with spammers. Especially the guys that sit there and send private messages to every person on the server, trying to drum up business for their slave labor gold farm. One relatively simple way is to charge in-game money for sending tells out to people who have not friended you. Losing 2 copper coins to send some random guy a private message about his cool armor would probably be inconsequential to you. But if you are trying to send out 1000+ messages an hour about your awsome power leveling service, your character mights start running low on funds. I’m pretty sure that Eve Online is doing this one already.

But to take this idea to its logical conclusion, make a simple addition to the end-user agreement. If a player advertises out-of-game commercial services, then the game company will charge that player $100 per infraction. Plus their computer should explode. But I’m not sure how to do that last part.


Skippy’s Dream MMO Part 1

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Over the years I have played many online games. I have current accounts on City of Heroes and Age of Conan. I experimented with Pirates of the Burning Seas, Auto Assault, Eve, and Lord of the Rings, and D&D Online. I was on the Star Wars Galaxies and Tabula Rasa betas. I had a World of Warcraft habit that lasted for years. And in fact it was when I was introduced to Dark Age of Camelot while I was still in the Army that I decided that I want to make video games for a living.

So basically I have spent a lot of time thinking about how large scale online games are put together, and how to make them more fun.

So for this installment, I want to talk about crafting, and how I think that it could be improved.

At the moment, most crafting systems worked in one of two ways.

1) Static Recipe System

The player has access to recipes, and by providing the exact components the recipe calls for they can assemble an item that is identical to every other item created from the same recipe. This is how most of the big MMOs have handled it. It has the advantage of being very easy to understand, but it is a grind based system, which can get boring quickly.

2) Varied Recipe

The player has access to recipes, and the ability to create experiment with small parts within the formula. Star Wars Galaxies had a system like this, where there was a large variety in the stats possible when an item was generated. Various factors ranging from character skill level, the the quality of the materials, and even a certain amount of luck could effect the end product in a variety of ways. This had the advantage of being a lot more interesting for the crafter. But many players found this to be too complicated, and it was difficult to predict how any particular item would turn out. Player would frequently have to make several items in order to randomly generate an optimal one.

So the biggest complaints that I always hear is that every crafting system is either too static and simplistic to be fun, or too dynamic and complicated to be fun.

My solution is a system which I call the “Assembly” crafting system.

The idea is that the player still has recipes. But the recipes aren’t for completed items. The recipes are for the individual components that go into into a finished item.

To demonstrate I have made this quick example, using a retro sci-fi theme

Each ray gun is made up of three components. A Firing Mechanism, A Power Supply, and an Emitter.

Each component has a variety of ways that it effects the stats of the final weapon.

Firing Mechanism
Repeater – The pistol gets an increased rate of fire, but reduced accuracy and damage.
Charger – The pistol gets an increased damage, but reduced range and accuracy
Phaser – The pistol gets an increased range, but reduced rate of attack and damage

Power Supply
Heat Bank- Weapon does 5 points of heat damage per shot
Atomic Battery- Weapon does 5 points of Atomic damage per shot
Neutron Compiler- Weapon does 5 points of Neutron damage per shot

Beam- Weapon gets increased range and armor penetration, but reduced damage
Blast – Weapon gets an increase to damage, but a decrease to accuracy
Ray – Weapon has severely reduced range, but gains area of effect attack

ray guns

A player would be able to make 27 different weapons from the sample components I’ve shown so far. And in each case the weapon would be significantly different, both in game use and appearance. So if we had an expanded list of components, say 20 in each category, we’d have 8000 possible combinations. This would give the players who want to craft more than enough options to be able to make weapons optimized for the needs of any other player. And it has the added effect that players can also craft to get a specific desired appearance, in case they are more into the role-playing and dress up elements of the game.