Monday, 14 October 2013

NBI - Armchair Game Designer

[Part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative: Talk Back Challenge]
[Part of my MMO Design Folder] 

Armchair Game Designer: Take the parts of current games you like, listing the specific features. Make a game out of those features, any type of game, any genre. You could also mention features that you would never use under the same criteria.

Lyledark has a neat little list that he'd like to see where as Liore specifically targetted designing an MMO player economy. Some good ideas on both, and for kicks I decided to make a list of my own... which turned out to be quite long... :P

I might be doing this wrong because of the "current games" section of the brief given most of these come from either Ultima Online, Mabinogi, Knight Online, Wizardry Online, Neverwinter Online and Guildwars2 with some original ones thrown in the mix. Anyway this would be my (undoubtedly incomplete) list of things I'd want to have, starting with the ones that need little to no explanation (or I've talked about them previously):

- No Pre-determined Classes, no over-all levels. Each skill gains through individual study and use.
- School to learn combat and life skills.
- Exams to attain higher levels of skills.
- Gear will break, ammo runs out, hunger must be catered for
- Text bubble above the head of who is talking, not disembodied chat window
- Emote window for ease of access to all character animations and dancing
- Typing a smiley face would actually put that expressions on your character's face
- Crafting and skill mini games
- In-game supported voice chat in a party or squad channels
- Musical instruments, freedom to compose your own music and jam with other players (possibly using MML)
- Open world Ship travel, people can join for the ride and you manually steer where to go
- Non-territorial Enemies have no leash, they'll chase you to forever.
- Mounts! - Shared mounts (two people on a horse)! Flying mounts! Mounts (and pets) that can fight!
- Customizable and useful housing/homestead items.
- Interactable furniture. I like chairs I can sit on.
- Dangerous Traps can be avoided by just knowing what to look for, or disabled temporarily via minigame
- Open world quests / Dynamic quests - anyone in the vicinity can join
- Open world dungeons with "boss" chambers instanced (long cool-down per player to prevent spamming).
- Foundry, player made content!
- Guild Management Tools that let you see the last time someone was on, and lets everyone leave short messages
- In-game Calendar so people can see when the next releases are due, what events are on and for how long they go.
- Magical gate travel to cities only. All gates travel to one target city which changes based on moon cycle.
- "Summoning" Spell/Scroll to summon one party member to caster's location (lengthy cool-down).
- No return to town spell, or return to wherever unless a mage is summoning you.
- Blacklist feature. Always handy.
- No auto maps/radar. Cartography as a skill can make map items for the local region you are in.
- Story Instances. Can be added by patch yet are "permanent" in that all characters can then run them once.
- Content geared primarily for solo play. Scales up (instead of gearing for group and scales down).
- Each character can only join one guild at a time.
- No auction House. No gold. Barter system all the way. Even with NPCs!

And now for the ones that need more text...

- Not so Diverse races.

This is more of a money constraint (I'm designing on a budget :P). I like Neverwinter's races where a dwarf is a short but stout human, an elf is a slender human, a tiefling is a human with red skin and a tail etc. Apart from minor facial differences (horns/pointy ears and what have you) the bulk of each character is basically the same, just scaled differently. Why? It's easier to release new armor and clothing items for just one model. Compare it to Guildwars 2, where the races -are- quite different. Ever wonder why most of the living story rewards are either weapon skins or back items?

- No voice actors.

Again more of a money constraint. While I can put near limitless text on the screen, if I then need someone to read out the lines that's going to be painful on the budget. More so if it's multiple VAs doing the same lines (numerous protagonists). If there are no VA's the development staff will get more money to produce more content, and it will be slightly faster to roll out (and be a bit smaller file size too). To compensate, must have a fantastic music score (that can be reused more easily). Age of Conan level or better. :D

- Dangerous combat relying on Player skill over Character skill.

Isn't all combat dangerous? Well, Mabinogi takes the cake for me here and I'd love a version of their rock-paper-scissors-shotgun combat system in my MMO. Most battles are very short but not in the fast paced way. Either you use the right skills and curb stomp your enemy or you screw up and get curb stomped in return. My character is over level 2000 yet a regular skeleton can still kill me in 4 hits (or less) if I mistime my moves or use the wrong counters. In comparison a skilled player can beat the same skeleton with a week old character, if the player behind the screen fights well. It just may take them longer to win.

- Death is to be Feared

Upon dying you become a ghost who can no longer see the living (or undead) nor interactable objects like levers, doors and buttons. You can only see other spirits (dead players), NPC healers and statues that will ressurect you if you manage to run back to them. If you make it you have a 100% chance to be revived. Wait, -if- you make it? What's stopping you? 

One of the most terrifying NPCs in all my MMO adventures.

Yep, the reapers from Wizardry Online. They chase you and will try to permanently end your existence - the only thing you can do is run. Each time you are "caught" you are returned to your body and the chance of your revival drops by 10%. If you fail your revive roll then your character is gone (seriously, they become a tombstone).

That's in Wizardry Online, but I know most people don't like permadeath so in my version - the % is how much of your skills are retained on revival, so if you got caught 3 times then all skills drop by 30%. You'll have to go retrain them. Oh, there's also still a "roll" on the % too. A fail means all your equipment is obliterated, but don't worry - there's no character elimination whatsoever (though losing 100% of all their skill puts them back as a newbie anyway). See, I can be a nice guy. ;p


  1. This list is hardcore if I've ever known it, lol.

    I'd never have flying mounts in a game I make unless there will be content in the sky which can give the same core experience of traveling on ground. Otherwise, it's really *too* convenient. I've enjoyed flying mounts as much as the next person, but all the games I've played weren't better for having them.

    And a barter system would never really remain barter. I had these suspicions before Path of Exile confirmed them. Players *will* find objects which give great relative value for multiple things and they'll trade on that basis. Which is the same as having a useful purse of gold. I would, however, mitigate the importance of gold by boosting the importance of crafted materials and materials that can be gained from adventuring (ie, bring in the kind of things players enjoy bartering with).

    The death scenario sounds awful and awesome at the same time. I'll have to try Wizardry online :) I do like the idea of death not being a mere setback of the clock, but an adventure in itself. I just may have to join this challenge with my own game design. FEAR IT.

    1. Haha bring it on Doone! :P

      I disagree about flying mounts needing the same experience as ground travel (after all, you -are- flying) but I'll agree that you need some huge (super huge) zones to warrant their existence, around the size of Mabinogi's Iria.

      Just to be clear, I didn't say air travel is faster. Some of the fastest mounts in Mabi are ground based (but they have some weird mounts... like, flaming horses and Vespas). :P

      With the barter thing, yeah. That's what people would do, but it would be up to the game designers to really balance it out. Current thoughts are each NPC values different items more than others and each zone drops different trade goods.