Monday 17 March 2014

MMOs: Fame and Influence

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Astalnar asked yesterday how to make quests feel like quests while still remaining useful to the players no matter how many or few quests they do? This is part of my answer. The other part being the removal of levels.

Gold (and other collectable currency from enemies) has been a main stay of adventure games for a long while now, but I think it's time for it to go.

There are a few reasons why I want it gone or phased out, the most basic being that sometimes it just doesn't make sense that you find a bunch of coins on every flying rodent, flaming snake, and sometimes crazed chickens you kill. Really? If you lived in a world where everything eats your currency, you'd think that people would look into changing what it is made from. Secondly, farm bots are annoying pieces of scum that stain the very soul of the planet but they are encouraged to exist through the often repetitive nature in "harvesting" gold.

But it's so shiny!

Instead, I'd like to see it replaced by Influence and Fame. Yes I've talked about it before (but the idea has been a little more refined now), yes it's another "currency", and yes there could still be pay walls but at least this one would make more sense. I know I'm pretty outspoken on getting rid of levels too, but Fame will require a level tracker. In fact it would require a level tracker per "zone" in the MMO world, meaning someone can be very famous in their home town but relatively unknown in the next village over. You gain fame by doing quests in the region. You LOSE fame if you don't do quests in the region (every day maybe). It is a fleeting thing after all.

Influence will also need to be tracked per zone as each level of fame gives you some level of influence in that area, and influence will be the main "currency" you have to purchase goods and services from NPCs. Everyday you start at your maximum level of influence for your level of fame. No need to go farm it. Once spent it is gone with no way to recover it until the next day ticks over at which point you will again have the maximum influence for your fame again (in that region). This also means you cannot "save up" influence and if you want to get that pricey mount or use the expensive repair shop, you have to earn it.

What about trade to other players? Sorry, barter system only. I'm a big fan of the barter system actually as it increases player interaction, and will take it over the non-personal automated trading posts most games offer any day.

Quest wise this still sounds like its mandatory to do all the quests - well not really, unless you are a completion-ist. You just have to do the ones you like in the zones you like (the ones that give whatever gear you are after) to build up enough influence there. I'd definitely want to see item deterioration too which means that after gaining the ultimate suit, you cannot just sit on your laurels as eventually they will be destroyed.

What do you think? Is it a step backwards or a step in the right direction? I'm eager to hear how you would improve it.


  1. I can tell you an MMO that already uses something like this - DinoStorm. It works quite well there but much as I like DS I'd hate to see that particular mechanic used in other MMOs.

    I'm strongly opposed to anything that moves away from the direct character-on-mob dynamic. I don't like any systems that replace searching the body of the creature you killed for valuables with getting meta-game credit in a UI field. It's the antithesis of virtual worlds and of RPGs.

    I do, however, agree equally strongly that snakes should not be dropping gold coins and and rats should not be dropping armor. The obvious and correct solution is for snakes and rats to drop bits of snake and rat respectively that either have a use or a value that makes sense in the context of the world.

    It's so NOT HARD to do it boggles my mind why it isn't the default. Seriously, how hard can it be to devise a loot table for a rat with bits of rat in that average out, when sold to NPC vendors (who buy them to make lucky charms, magic potions etc), to the same amount that coin would? Even if you listen to whingeing players who find it too much of a trial to carry rat parts back to a vendor in a camp fifty meters away you could still implement a "sell from backpack" option which, while it would require a little suspension of disbelief, would be one hell of a lot easier to swallow than the 6-foot long Greatsword was for the 2-foot long rat I just pulled it out of!

    1. Yeah I'm not sure what's going on with those loot tables either. Also, I'm not against getting rat guts and what have you (or actual gear from sensible gear carrying opponents) but the gaining credit part I'm describing only comes from doing quests.

      Simply killing a dragon gains no fame - sure you can harvest it's bits for crafting or bartering but you need people to know you killed a dragon to gain fame. :P

  2. I came to the same conclusion myself. If you do not have levels, there is no need for experience, and thus no need for grinding. I imagine in such world a reward for completed quest would be as you describe some fame, and maybe a piece of armour or clothing that fits you, or gold. You get the fame for done deed and then choose between the gloves or gold, whichever you prefer.

    I think that we still need actual currency in our games. Armours are not going to get repaired by itself, and fulfilling your local blacksmith's fantasies might not be the most efficient way about getting things done.

    That leaves me with a question though, how does one progress, where is the progression system? Do some zones contain better rewards than those at start? What is the incentive for the player in your MMO to go and explore the world instead of just staying in that one zone where he is relatively well known and loved?

    1. Gear. Not all equipment should be available everywhere. The best shoes might be in your home town, the best long bows might be with some forest folk, crossbows at the castle town over the mountains and the best swords can be found at dock town. Just an example. :P

    2. Forgot to add: same goes for player crafted gear. You can only build the best long bow at the forest folk town for example, if you have enough influence to use their best workstation.

  3. Barter WILL fail. In better case, players will find an item which will fill the role of monetary unit (Stone of Jordan - like). Worst case is trade volume close to zero.

    1. Depends on how it is designed. Too often I've seen shared loot tables across weird critters and various zones (like a magic ring can drop from anything). No.

      Done properly barter can succeed. Just haven't seen any games do it well.