Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ask me

Some readers sent me emails and a few others commented on the last post that they would love me to write a bit more about MMO design again. Well, so would I. The problem is that I have only very abstract things to blog about. I don't play any MMORPG seriously for half a year now.

So, I decided to give you the chance to suggest topics. In the comments of this post you can leave questions and topic suggestions. Anything you want me to write about. There's no guarantee, obviously, but I'll try to write a post on what you suggest.

Make sure that you make the topic/question look interesting, please. Also, I have no desire to repeat some of the too frequent topics of the MMORPG blogosphere.


  1. I was actually gonna suggest the same! well, I won't make it easy for you, but I'd like your take on this. ;)

    - player power vs. dev power. how big should each be, what's the correct balance, when are they too high? Or: when is player impact still positive, when does it become negative / where should devs keep the ultimate say.

  2. I'd like to see more development of your very interesting ideas on hauling goods over trade routes. You touched on it when discussing travel here, and developed your ideas here, where I pointed out that the actual hauliers would get ganked by bandits, or bored by repetition, or both. You followed up on that here, pointing out that the repetitive nature of travelling trade-routes could be soothing rather than boring.

    All the same, I think there's some fun missing, from the haulier's point of view. I understand that you may not want "action", but some other enjoyable or interesting activity has to take its place (I like your idea that just building tension can keep hauliers interested).

  3. Ok, developing something I posted somewhere else (I don't really remember where).

    Several MMOs have been criticized because they turn into "two games packaged at one", i.e. the leveling game (quest-based, mostly solo) and the endgame activities (raiding/pvp), which don't share much in common.

    My idea would be to recognize such difference and REALLY make it so that two games are coexsisting, instead of the current approach where someone wanting to raid needs to go through the leveling game even if he doesn't care about it. Also, I utterly dislike levels, since I find that they separate players more than joining them, so the idea goes as follows:

    - levels don't exist
    - at creation time, you have a "functional" character, where not all the abilities are unlocked.
    - unlocking abilities is done through a quest-like approach, which introduces them with a context (a fine example being LotRO's warden class quests requiring you to "tank" for some NPC).
    - the total time for a newbie to go through all the quest to unlock abilities should be short: 20 hours MAXIMUM. An expert would do it a whole lot faster.
    - you're NOT required to go through all the unlocking quests before you do anything else: even if only with basic abilities, at creation time the character is functional (even if not optimal), so the starting gear is reasonable and it's not crap. You can already group for the easier content.
    - when wandering around the world you don't get NPCs providing quests, in order for that to happen you have to enable "storytelling mode" in your character screen. This makes the quests available.
    - quests are presented as flashbacks, your character enters them with a standardized set of equipment and they represent actions your character has done in his past, choices during these quests affect your character's properties (unlock abilities, add titles, etc.). Alternatively, they represent historical events and they can be repeated to have a different PoV (in this case they reward gear which your character can use in the grouped content). Some "historical" quests can be group-based, and they all provide multiple difficulty levels (as DDO's dungeons).

    I could go on more, but I think you get the idea. :)

  4. I think sometimes it's ok just to chill out on the blog for a while. Sometimes you just don't have much to say and forcing yourself to write something isn't a recipe for quality.

    But since you asked...

    Take a popular TV series and discuss the design considerations around making a MMO of it. Say, Game of Thrones, how would you design to make a game that maintains the low magic, cynical atmosphere and fast pace?

    Doesn't have to be fantasy - if you want a real challenge design a Big Brother MMO that would be fun. (Actually thinking about it Big Brother probably already is a MMO).

  5. Take a look at this comment from Azuriel:

    The WoW raiding challenges the weakest link. This is not fun if you're the weakest link and it is not fun either if you're hold back by the weakest link. In addition to that it means that you have to group with people of equal "strength" and not with people you like.

    Back in vanilla a single healer or a single DD could easily save a whole raid. And it was amazing to be the one DD who saved the day. And it was amazing to be in the same raid as this healer who continued to heal for minutes even after he was OOM and saved the day. It was amazing when a tank guaranteed a first kill by clever use of shield wall. Those are the battles you sing about.

    Another possible way would be to have lose grouping where everyone can participate (open groups) but that sounds more like a single player experience together with other players.

    There must be a way to create endgame content where you play together with other people, because you would like to play together with those humans, and everyone is challenged according to his skills.


    Something different.

    I know you don't like teleports. Actually, I think you hate teleports with a passion.

    But I think the problem is not the teleport, the problem is that the teleport is only available from and/or to specific locations which devaluates everything which isn't in the teleport network.

    Now imagine a world with teleporting. Teleporting without cooldown or cost. Everyone could teleport from anywhere to every place he likes (that he has visited before). Imagine an interface where you select any location on the world map and you're there. Imagine that you see a mammoth in front of you and to attack it you just teleport behind it, instantly. You could teleport during battle and use that strategically.

    That could/would/should have the opposite effect of normal teleports. You no longer have to log out in Stormwind because it has all you're portals. You could pick any place you want. It could be a flying rock in Nagrand. Because you don't have to port to the mage tower from there, no you could instantly be in the AH if you wanted to be in the AH.

    Of course the world would be designed to support this, you couldn't just add this to an existing world. Like Outland supports flying better then the old continents because it was designed to be flown over.

    I think that could be quite fun if implemented correctly. Because it would open up the whole world to you. Anytime, anywhere.

    I'm not saying that's better than a world without teleportation but I think it could be very interesting if done correctly.

  6. Kringe says:
    "Back in vanilla a single healer or a single DD could easily save a whole raid. And it was amazing to be the one DD who saved the day. And it was amazing to be in the same raid as this healer who continued to heal for minutes even after he was OOM and saved the day. It was amazing when a tank guaranteed a first kill by clever use of shield wall. Those are the battles you sing about."

    I agree that I have fond memories of moments when things went south and few or even better the whole team reacted quickly to an unforseen situation and used the full potential of their classes (even buttons that normally set dust on the hotbar) and got the situation under controll and where victorious.

    But this was neither exclusiv to vanilla nor is it true for complete vanilla. Long before the hard nerfs for the content kicked in it wasn't possible for a few lone heros to save the day in AQ40 or Naxxramas - A single player had the survival capabilities of icecube in hell in these places.

    But yeah even I had moments were 4 people (Tank, 2 Healers and 1 DD (me)) downed Onyxia after 36 Raidmembers died and we had done this the last 25% health or something similiar on Raggi. Or a Moment where I had to tank Nef in offgear & offspecc after our healers had failed to keep 3 def-warriors alive they were able to pull themselves together and healed me through the last 23% of the Encounter including the enrage.
    But still the greatest Moments where our 1stKills AQ40-Twins, C'Thun, Patchwerk, HC-Mimiron & Algalon.

  7. Perhaps this lies too far in the direction of topics that have been beaten to death elsewhere, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on how virtual worlds could be made more fun.

    Everything these days is all about advancement and achievement and I don't understand why more companies aren't trying to add things that are just fun.

    When I see a mountain of snow, I instinctively want to go skiing. If I'm wandering through the park, I might want to stop and toss around a frisbee, or sit down and play a game of chess with a stranger. There is no advancement, no achievement, its just fun for the sake of fun.

    So why aren't there more just-for-fun activities in mmos -- things that people might log on to do years after they've done every achievement, acquired every piece of gear, every mount, etc.

  8. Nothing wrong with switching gears for a while. If politics is on your mind, feel free. After all it is your blog.

    But if I may piggy back on Dacheng's idea, might I suggest a post on In-character functions that are performed by the system rather than the players, and what pieces would be feasible to make player-run? For example, in most games mail and transport of goods is done "behind the scenes". How much of that could be taken over by players and be made into interesting gameplay? It dips into your set of simulation posts, but I consider it an interesting topic.