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Bookie
02-10-2009, 09:51 PM
I love playing games, but what I love more than playing games is studying and really analyzing them. TS is loaded with smart folks with tons of gaming experience, and I'd like to tap into that to further my hobby (and hopefully someday profession) of game design. So, for anyone who is bored / has a great idea-

What are your thoughts on game design for online multiplayer games? As a starting point:

What is WoW's best characteristic?
What is WoW's worst characteristic?
If you could deliver a message to WoW's design team and have it implemented, what would it be? (Big or Small!)
What is one element that more online games should use?
What is one element that more online games should avoid?

And finally, what are your 3-5 favorite games of all time, and why. This helps me to better understand the perspective from which you approach games and your expectations.

Answer any of the above questions you wish, or make your own and answer it. I am curious what the clever lads and lasses of TS have in store!

Klimpen
02-10-2009, 10:12 PM
WoW's best characteristic: The movement engine. Seriously. WoW feels very crisp. Responses in game happen when I press the button, not after some latency, like some MMO's I've played. [Also: Achievements are cool]

WoW's worst characteristic: [Note: I havn't thought about this hugely] Probably the buff system, specifically extremely short [See: Battle Shout] or extremely expensive [See: Righteous Fury] buffs. They reduce the pace I play the game, which is rather annoying. LFG's also rather bad.

Idea: I came up with an idea a while ago, a organised mass of small group's in BG form. Basically 20ish groups of 5 players each go into a relatively large bg-instance searching for a 'something', where the number of somethings less than the number of teams. Have some cool random events, which could help/hinder your team. Possibly some type of 'x team has the item' and have a pointer to them.

The two MMO's I'm most familiar with are Puzzle Pirates and WoW, and almost nothing translates from one to the other. Probably the biggest one would be having more World Events in WoW. Specifically, PvP World Events which although wouldn't change the world itself, would motivate people to go there to kill eachother. 'PvP HotSpot' type thing. Get people motivated to do TM vs SS style fights again.

Favourite Games: Dungeon Keeper, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup, Warcraft3, FlashFlashRevolution/Stepmania/Mungyodance3.

Bookie
02-11-2009, 12:56 AM
Interesting. You've piqued my curiosity on a couple of points, specifically concerning the pacing issue and the idea about PvP hotspots.

Some follow-ups for Sir Klimpen (or Madam Klimpen):
On pacing, what would you consider the ideal dungeon length (assuming no wipes)? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour?
Also, how much downtime should there be between each skirmish or pull?

Concerning PvP, what sort of rewards do you think the PvP hotspots should offer, and what sort of scheduling should they follow? Maybe a different hotspot each week that is only active every fourth hour of the day? I.E. every saturday from 12:00 - 1:00 am, 4:00 - 5:00 am, 8:00 - 9:00 am, 12:00 - 1:00 pm, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, and 8:00 - 9:00 pm; the intent being to schedule players in groups, similar to Wintergrasp, but only one day each week to promote high interest levels.

I can personally envision unique achievements for participating in each battle. That would be 52 possible achievements in a year, with only one chance to complete it. (i.e. Swinetusk Veteran: Participated in the Battle for Swinetusk farm on July 7th, 2009)

That would allow players to develop a more personal relationship with the going-ons of Azeroth.

Alent
02-11-2009, 01:31 AM
Best characteristic: gonna agree with klimpy, the movement is pretty tight.

Worst characteristic: Global cooldown. There are far, ~far~ more eloquent solutions that eliminate button mashing ~and~ spamming. I used to manage a 36+ ability rotation in Everquest 2 and I can't imagine going past 12 in wow's engine simply because global cooldown is so clunky that it ignores 20/21s of the commands that you send.

Message to the dev team: Stop ruining wow by trying to make everything ~too~ unique. Paladins and DKs need charge. All tanks need proper interrupts becuase DPS can't be trusted. ~All~ classes need some form of active aoe damage mitigation like the rogue feint does presently. healers need the ability to cleanse all 4 schools of debuff, all specs of healers need proper group heal mechanics. You are holding your own game back and insulting our intelligence by denying the players the tools they need to function at the basic most level, let alone at higher levels.

More games should use: Universal rules with no special exceptions. it infurates me to no end I have to ask if something works in wow because of all the special cases, unique exceptions, etc.

More games should avoid: Slow development cycle methodology. WoW is a great example of this, they utilize techniques and server resources that have to be setup for every single dungeon and every single freaking thing has to be tested. With proper preparation and setup you could have a basic editor to make it much, much easier to release routine content packs so that we're not clawing at the walls waiting for ulduar, only to be clawing the walls waiting for icecrown citadel not even a month after ulduar.

5 favorite games: Fire emblem: thracia 776, Berwick Saga, Crystalis, Final Fantasy 3j (famicom or ds versions), Megaman X2. My expectation is for Polish, Fluid play and puzzles with many diverse solutions.

Klimpen
02-11-2009, 03:27 AM
Some follow-ups for Sir Klimpen (or Madam Klimpen):

Sir.


On pacing, what would you consider the ideal dungeon length (assuming no wipes)? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour?

For a 5man, half an hour is probably about right upto 45mins if there are some complicated events during trash/bosses. Basically, if there's a point where you say to yourself 'I'm bored of this trash', there's too much. An instance can be 10h long, if those 10h are interesting.


Also, how much downtime should there be between each skirmish or pull?

Little-None. 2seconds of buffing, we're back into the pulls. PvE-Only water would be awesome, 100% mana/tick magewater. Basically, 'Downtime doesn't make PvE more fun'.


Concerning PvP, what sort of rewards do you think the PvP hotspots should offer?

Something good enough to motivate people to go and do it, but not so good that it's all they want to do [limiting people's ability to do something zomg!good is an interesting tactic]. Having non-PvP specific objectives is a good idea too. Things you can get people to do, while they're waiting for Hordies to come along which will get them a significant but reduced benefit compared with actually PvPing.


What sort of scheduling should they follow?

I'd like to have it inserted on alternate weekends with BG's.


I can personally envision unique achievements for participating in each battle.

Unlikely that they'd have event specific achievements. I could def see achievements for the idea as a whole. Not for the specific week though.

Alent
02-11-2009, 09:28 AM
Little-None. 2seconds of buffing, we're back into the pulls. PvE-Only water would be awesome, 100% mana/tick magewater. Basically, 'Downtime doesn't make PvE more fun'.

I would much rather see ~all~ resource pools designed to stretch over the length of an instance, rather than the constant "full -> pull -> empty -> regen -> next pull -> etc." model that wow uses.

EQ2 had ~obscenely~ long regen times. Took forever to go from 10% mana to 100% mana, it was even longer in EQ1. Players learned to get around this by never going oom. They throttled their spell use if they were low on mana, emphasized regen in their gear, built parties around regen buffs, etc.

End result, an EQ2 party (of ~six~ people) could pretty much go from the top to the bottom of a BRD sized dungeon in about 15 minutes... then go back up top, killing respawns en route... then back to the bottom killing respawns en route... back to the top... back to the bottom... and the only reason they'd ever stop was for bio breaks.

WoW doesn't even have the fundamental basis for "mana endurance" because it's intentionally set up a mana cost on healer abilities to where you ~have~ to be raid geared to have any kind of endurance at all.

kolben
02-11-2009, 10:38 AM
What is WoW's best characteristic?

Compared with other similar MMO games it is without question the movements in the game. Not just character movement, but that movement is required. This makes the game play a lot more like an Action game than it's compeititors. In fact a lot of my habits come directly from games like Halo/Quake/Doom, and WoW plays a lot like those considering the genre difference.

What is WoW's worst characteristic?

Most of the problems in the game that kind of ruin it for me is created by the attitudes/behavior of other players.

Aside from that I think worst characteristic is the repetitive nature of newer instances. The WoW classic instances had some variety in the form of summoned bosses, quest bosses, rare mobs, dungeon-specific loot, class quests etc. Or unique modes to the instance, like Dire Maul Tribute runs. This made these places a little more enjoyable for me after the umpteenth or so run.

Put a twist in them now and then, something unexpected or random. By the end of Burning Crusade I could talk a group through any instance in the game over vent without being there. I knew the patrols, mob packs, what they do etc so well not because I have an amazing memory for detail, but because almost without exception there was no variation to it. By your 2nd time through a place, you had seen it all.

If you could deliver a message to WoW's design team and have it implemented, what would it be? (Big or Small!)

Re-use old content. Some of their very best work was from WoW Classic. AQ40 is simply an amazingly awesome epic raid zone when done at level. If I could get one thing only, I'd ask for level 80 heroic versions of all instances and raid zones. Some of the best places in the game are virtually abandoned.

What is one element that more online games should use?

The action game feel. WoW has deep and interesting lore, interesting mechanics, challenging encounters etc. but I think the seller is that it appeals to people who like games where just the act of playing the game is fun.

What is one element that more online games should avoid?

The e-sport mentality. That could work in it's own genre just fine, where players did not have gear/spec/class concerns that limit or prohibit their participation.

I also think that the game was best when players raided for PVP gear. My first raiding guild that I went through WoW Classic content with (MC through AQ40, and ZG/AQ20) was a "PVP Guild", that started raiding to gear up for PVP. Think about how different that is from now.

Bookie
02-11-2009, 07:40 PM
Good stuff here!

It seems that one major trend that is showing itself is an affinity for immediate response to commands, similar to action titles. As a general question, if you were offered a tradeoff of action-game like response with the drawback being less PCs in a zone (phased environments, etc), would you make the trade?


More games should use: Universal rules with no special exceptions. it infurates me to no end I have to ask if something works in wow because of all the special cases, unique exceptions, etc.

I think this is an important specific point with a very important general principle behind it. The rules of the game should feel intuitive. The advanced details should stem naturally from the basics. That's my personal opinion, but I expect many people would agree.

(Side note for Alent: Crystalis!? Nice.)

There seem to be two different preferred models for pacing so far, one where regen is near-instant and you go all out every battle, and one where you don't use your full power every battle and have to pace yourself through the dungeon.

I am personally biased towards the instant regen model, since it leaves the door open for more challenging "trash," but the other idea is interesting, too. I need to give that some thought.



The WoW classic instances had some variety in the form of summoned bosses, quest bosses, rare mobs, dungeon-specific loot, class quests etc. Or unique modes to the instance, like Dire Maul Tribute runs. This made these places a little more enjoyable for me after the umpteenth or so run.

Put a twist in them now and then, something unexpected or random. By the end of Burning Crusade I could talk a group through any instance in the game over vent without being there. I knew the patrols, mob packs, what they do etc so well not because I have an amazing memory for detail, but because almost without exception there was no variation to it. By your 2nd time through a place, you had seen it all.


This is something I've given a lot of thought to as well. It seems as though both story and gameplay can be enhanced by embedding multiple storylines into each location, with a random chance to encounter one set of dungeon inhabitants or another. Throw a variety of additional rare spawns in the mix and you never play the same dungeon twice.

There are some interesting thoughts here so far. Keep the ideas coming!

Alent
02-11-2009, 10:32 PM
It seems that one major trend that is showing itself is an affinity for immediate response to commands, similar to action titles. As a general question, if you were offered a tradeoff of action-game like response with the drawback being less PCs in a zone (phased environments, etc), would you make the trade?

In a heartbeat. I despise the way that nothing I do takes effect. I'd be down for switching the game to 6 man normal dungeon/heroic dungeons, with 12 normal raid/24 heroic man raids, also, so that they scaled better, while I'm thinking about it.


I think this is an important specific point with a very important general principle behind it. The rules of the game should feel intuitive. The advanced details should stem naturally from the basics. That's my personal opinion, but I expect many people would agree.

Yes. It makes no sense to have half your abilities work on ~this~ mob but not half of your abilities work on ~that~ mob.

Similarly, as much as wow taunting is cool for strategy and such, I prefer a true threat swap like that Be called "rescue" and be a 2~5 minute cooldown. bad tanks should not have an 8 second get out of jail free card. This, imo, is how you should balance "taunt immune" instead of arbitrary immunity. etc.


(Side note for Alent: Crystalis!? Nice.)

I own both the NES cart and the Japanese famicom cart of the game. I also regret to own the hideously shameful GBC remake that belongs in the same desert hole as ET. They completely ignored some of the more mature overtones in favor of "ZOMG NEOLUDDIETE QUSET!!! ITTA BE KEWL!!!!"

Satrina
02-12-2009, 08:50 AM
In my opinion, WoW's biggest problem is that its combat mechanics are not internally consistent. This breaks into several areas:

1) They don't balance for 1v1, which is a mistake. If two of any class (assuming equivalent gear and skill) can hold their own against each other, that would translate well into both PvP and PvE for class balance. Would it be perfect? No, of course not. If you start with this as a premise, though, you remove silliness like long cast times on spells, probably in favour of cooldowns with perhaps a small cast time. Immediately, you resolve one of the biggest inconsistencies in the game: front-loaded vs. back-loaded damage. Sure, a mage blasts something for 8k. That helps how much when the melee have reduced it to 7k in the cast time? Way to make casters feel like an integral part of the team!

2) Block and dodge/parry are backwards in their implementation in WoW. If you read historical battle accounts, or even take up an armoured combat sport, it becomes evident pretty quickly that a shield is a binary device. You blocked the attack, or you did not block the attack. Block should actually be avoidance. Given that, you then move dodge and parry to be mitigation stats, and when you dodge/parry an attack you reduce the damage it does by some amount - you turn out of the attack enough to lessen its effectiveness, so to speak. This opens the door to actually letting the avoidance tank exist as a viable option, and allows specialists in light armour with high avoidance as their main mitigator as an alternative to Tanky McTanksalot who stands in layered steel and soaks it up. You can now have different pros and cons for heavy vs. light armour (notably, caps on avoidance as you wear heavier armour,) while keeping mitigation levels similar. You also give migitation to everyone, so that your mages aren't completley screwed when something looks at them in their 2500 armour robes.

3) The many versus one model of encounters. While "heroic" if you look at it sideways through a soft filter with a healthy dose of suspension of belief, completely defeats consistency in the combat system. Love it or hate it, the idea of 25 people with 20-30k health attacking a single creature with 10 million health should be the exception (hi dragons) not the rule. Nothing breaks your game faster than having to create encounters with contrived scenarios (why did Supremus not just step on us?), and contrived mechanics so that there is a way for the players to win. Why do none of these oh-so-powerful evil guys not have charisma enough to get some minions that will hang out in the last room of the batcave with them (or, why do they banish their minions from the last room of the batcave?) Why do the minions that do exist not mount a spirited defense - together - in the areas before the last room, instead of keeping going on their pre-assigned patrol routes - and even more silly, their pre-assinged "you stand here and DO NOT MOVE" spots?

Imagine fighting Rage Winterchill if he had come in behind all of the minions in one go, rather than nice digestible waves, that were all level 69-70 creatures that under equal gear and equal intelligence circumstances could hold their own against any player. But, not every bad guy has the resources to kit out all the minions, so you have a few trusted lieutenants who are tougher than the average bear, er, ghoul. And of course old Rage himself is tossing spells from behind the lines while you battle through, targetting the healers (Remember that Rage, while somewhat tougher than his lieutenants, is still bound by the same rules players are, so he isn't throwing around 15k frostbolts while the players are shooting 5k). Finally, you have defeated enough minions to clear a lane to Rage, so some of the team pushes to get to him...

Or maybe running around, keeping out of instakill blizzards and death & decay is more heroic than that.

kolben
02-12-2009, 09:46 AM
I think mounted combat would have been cool as well. If I'm not mistaken, for most of the past few thousand years the heavy-hitter combatants were mounted. Dragoons, etc. I don't think Knights actually did the sword and board thing on the ground except in honor matches vs. other knights. I could be wrong, it's not something I've looked too deep into.

The idea of blocking as avoidance is an interesting one. Warhammer did this, at least into chapter 2 which is where I quit. I don't know if it would make good "game mechanics", but it's entirely unrealistic to lift a heavy shield repeatedly, or even very quickly. After a few dozen blocks I can imagine those guys were pretty sore, and gettting slower and slower to lift their shield. Take a shot from a furious cow from behind a fence to re-create the effect lol.

Satrina
02-12-2009, 11:19 AM
but it's entirely unrealistic to lift a heavy shield repeatedly, or even very quickly. After a few dozen blocks I can imagine those guys were pretty sore, and gettting slower and slower to lift their shield.
Having used an steel shield up to 45 minutes nonstop in practices, I can tell you that this is not the case. Even a steel shield only weighs about 10 pounds or so if it's constructed well (If you're using a tower shield, yes, it weighs a lot more, but you also do not have any need to move it much!) Sure, the first time you pick it up you are pretty much dying after about two minutes. After about a month of practicing with it, you don't even notice the weight difference from a wooden shield. As with all martial arts/sports, one of the artifacts of improving your form is that you train yourself the most efficient way to do things. One of those artifacts is that you do not "lift" your shield, which is a common newbie mistake. Rotate your arm slightly at the shoulder, a bit more at the elbow, while twisting just slightly at the waist and you'll cover your head plenty fine with the point of a heater or square shield. You need to go a bit further with a round shield, but they're lighter anyway because of less surface area so it tends to even out. Rotate downwards to cover legs; you do not cover below the knees - use movement to not get hit that low.

If you're doing punch blocks with a shield, that requires more effort, absolutely. However, you tend to use a smaller shield for that anyway since pushing your shield out to block is like coming out of the net to defend against a shot - you are reducing the size of the attacker's window of opportunity to begin with, so you don't need quite as much surface area.

/derail

Bookie
02-12-2009, 12:07 PM
Satrina, how did you enjoy the Delrissa encounter in MgT? There tend to be strongly divergent opinions on the fight's design, and I'm interested to know your take on the matter.

Additionally, do you guys think that an alternate hit detection system would improve the gameplay of WoW? I am referring to a system in which tanks tank by physically standing between enemies and their targets. Do you think this sort of design would be better or worse than a threat-based tanking system, and why?

Alent
02-12-2009, 12:19 PM
Satrina, how did you enjoy the Delrissa encounter in MgT? There tend to be strongly divergent opinions on the fight's design, and I'm interested to know your take on the matter.

I'm not satrina, but I would like to say Delrissa was the worst fight in wow history. Tanks were useless in it, since it had no consistent threat table and our DPS at the time was incredibly subpar. In effect you'd just put 4 people up against an arena 5's team emphasized on ~burst damage~ that didn't have to obey the same rules as the player... and the tank stood there and tried to do damage and hoped to hell his ~one~ stun was going to be enough to turn the tide.

Further complicate this with the fact that you had to do it once a day every day until you got the stam + avoidance trink that was basically manditory all the way to the ~end of sunwell~.

I'm somewhat bitter about that fight, because Timbal's focusing crystal has a 96.8% drop rate and I farmed ~two~ of those stam trinkets, one for each of my tanks.


Additionally, do you guys think that an alternate hit detection system would improve the gameplay of WoW? I am referring to a system in which tanks tank by physically standing between enemies and their targets. Do you think this sort of design would be better or worse than a threat-based tanking system, and why?

it wouldn't affect it too much, I don't think. EQ2 has player/npc collision and it slows down the mob but they can just go around the player.

it would be an interesting mechanic for some kinds of enemies... imagine you're fighting a giant caterpillar/worm with a vulnerable tail and rather than tanking him you just get in the way of the head to stop/slow him down while they beat the crap out of his tail. (why yes legend of zelda, I'm looking at you.)

But, I don't think it would work at a trash level.

Satrina
02-12-2009, 12:40 PM
Satrina, how did you enjoy the Delrissa encounter in MgT? There tend to be strongly divergent opinions on the fight's design, and I'm interested to know your take on the matter.
I read this part as I walked by on the way out to get a sub, and was framing the response in my head as I was out. What I was going to say is that the Delrissa encounter is one of the best that Blizzard has come up with, except that you need entity collision to make it perfect.

Of course, the second part was asking about entity collision, so here we go:

A game without entity collision is incomplete, and the EQ/WoW/etc. threat model is silly. You can't do away with threat completely, of course, unless you want all creatures to be basically random. Sure, a reasonably intelligent opponent is likely to go after whatever is harming it the most. A more intelligent opponent will likely target the healers first. An ooze may well be random on who hit it last. So, you need some sort of hatelist because at the code, it's all just math. It's the taunt mechanic that I have the biggest problem with. How and why does this work on an ooze? Why would an intelligent foe turn to someone who isn't the biggest immediate threat just because they said yo mamma? There is an argument for a taunt ability, if the opponent can understand you (no oozes!), is intelligent enough to comprehend the taunt (apes? not so much) and is not so intelligent that they ignore the ploy (though the stereotypical badguy ego can play into a weakness that makes them subject to taunt!)

With collision, you can give opponents varying levels of cunning and tactics, and now the tanks have to block them off. DDO did this to an extent, and it was awesome how a trio of kobolds would bounce to move around the tank blocking them from who they really wanted to hit (or if the tank was the threat, jockeying for flank position to get that +2 to hit!) Tanking takes on a whole new level here as you adjust to moving yourself and moving in concert with others to protect the clothies. There is so much potential in this direction, but we will probably see games with universal taunt mechanics for some time to come. Ah well.

(we've lost an hour or two from our pen and paper gaming sessions for about two years discussing "the next MMO's mechanics". I have an alarming amount of ideas for mechanics and notions in my head and written down :D)

Satrina
02-12-2009, 12:41 PM
Heh, suffice it to say I disagree with Alent mostly. However, Alent: If the mobs in the Delrissa encounter were consistent with player power levels instead of the retarded elite mob system - would you still hate it?

kolben
02-12-2009, 12:49 PM
Not Satrina either :P

Personally I like the "Offensive Lineman" style tanking that games like Warhammer might have had a potential on paper to be. Blocking enemy players/NPCs from harming your team mates by obstruction is just more interesting to me. If I understand Satrina's response, then yeah I'd prefer to tank things by pushing them out of the way and "physically" preventing them from doing something. This rarely worked out in Warhammer, but when on that rare occasion that you could keep a melee DPS off a healer by pushing them out of the way that was pretty satisfying.

The princess fight was kind of neat in that it more or less required me to use skills like Intervene, Disarm, Pummel (I wore DPS gear and Dual Wielded in that fight btw...), etc. Of course with a group of good traditional PVE WoW players, but poor PVP survival skills it was more than challenging :P

Alent
02-12-2009, 12:52 PM
Heh, suffice it to say I disagree with Alent mostly. However, Alent: If the mobs in the Delrissa encounter were consistent with player power levels instead of the retarded elite mob system - would you still hate it?

My sole reason for hating the fight was based on how unfair it was. If put on a level field with them, it would've been great. The problem was simply that if you got warlord salaris, he would charge, intimidating shout and oneshot your healer.

Bookie
02-12-2009, 05:17 PM
I'm not satrina, but I would like to say Delrissa was the worst fight in wow history.


Not Satrina either :P

Your thoughts are definitely welcome, I was just asking Sat since I had a hunch that perhaps there were parts of the encounter he may have enjoyed. Call me post-modern, but I'm a believer in the idea that the more points-of-view you have, the more of the truth you will see.


(we've lost an hour or two from our pen and paper gaming sessions for about two years discussing "the next MMO's mechanics". I have an alarming amount of ideas for mechanics and notions in my head and written down :D)

This is the perfect place to share some of them if you want! I am always interested in new ideas, especially those that have a great deal of thought behind them.

I want to recap quickly some of the highlights thus far for the sake of organizing my own thoughts. If I leave something important out, let me know, as there's a lot of good stuff in this thread. These are some of the ideas that I am tossing around on the basis of this discussion (in no particular order):

PvP Hotspots
Varied Dungeon Encounters in a single location
Responsive Control as a major priority
Uniform and Intuitive Rules
Two competing concepts for mana management in a dungeon: fight by fight management versus entire dungeon management (J-RPG style)... I'm still pondering this one.
An alternative threat / hit detection system that allows for more emphasis on physical positioning
Less Army versus Dragon fights, more even odds encounters

Shifting gears a bit, I'd like to throw a couple of additional topics out for comment (though I am not attempting to close old points; if you have an idea concerning them or something not yet mentioned, please let 'er rip).

Which would you prefer: item drop system, item buy system (whether badges or gold), or a combination of the two? If you believe a combination is best, please give some indication of what you believe the ideal balance would be.

Also, what sort of art stylings do you find acceptable? Obviously, WoW is quite stylized, but would you prefer a more realistic appearance, a more stylized appearance, or do you think WoW has a good balance?

One interesting thing I have noted so far is that a lot of the elements people have interest in are very much "action game" elements. It is interesting how hazy the line can be between a responsive rpg and a deep action game.

Satrina
02-12-2009, 05:36 PM
I'd need weeks to write out everything :)


Which would you prefer: item drop system, item buy system (whether badges or gold), or a combination of the two? If you believe a combination is best, please give some indication of what you believe the ideal balance would be.

Item drop is retarded from the outset, unless the items dropped make sense for the dropper to have had. Since that's not a good way to entice warriors to come help slay wizards, we have the dumb system we have now. I was highly disappointed when WoW perpetuated it. Evil archmage Xabzab dropped plate again. Seriously - WHY?

Also: why do things that cannot possibly have a conception of money drop coin?

Suffice it to say that while this:
http://fohguild.org/news/gemslotsjan09.jpg
Is somewhat satirical in nature, it's closer to what I would call the ideal loot system than just about anything I have seen so far. Somewhere I have a writeup of what I would call the ideal magic item system.

Argamasilla
02-12-2009, 06:23 PM
I spent all last summer designing an RPG and barely scratched the surface of requirements. One of the things I realized very early on is that although its easy to discuss ideas individually, the answers have an iterative effect on previous discussions.

Basic themes like 'Reality vs Functionality' can completely change the direction of a game. As in WoW the functionality of a Taunt is a button press that causes the mobs to attack you, any external action is just the players perception of that event; like assigning name calling to the taunt just because the action is called "Taunt". It is better to just determine the functionality that you need to make the mechanic work and leave the rationalization as an exercise in refinement at some later date, or you'll never get out of the initial design phase.

This applies to your question on drop vs. token loot. First determine the itemization of the gear and the level of dependancy on said gear. You can always adjust the process of providing the gear.

That said however :) the idea that I was moving forward with was all gear was player created, sort of working of Satrina's reality model, and assuming if you really beat a creature to death any equipment would be ruined *or fried in that fireball*. Each tier of equipment had an item level, meaning you could enhance it with x amount of stat increases. Higher quality crafted items could be enhanced to a greater degree. This method really reduces the "OMG I just got XXXX last night, not I'm replacing it with YYY". The methods of crafting and enhancing are things I spent a lot of time on and you probably have your own ideas of how it should be done, so I will leave those for discussion.

Roana
02-12-2009, 07:09 PM
What is WoW's best characteristic?

The very elaborate and detailed content that appeals to a broad playerbase. That includes graphics, sophisticated encounters,

Runner-up: Having a customizable UI.


What is WoW's worst characteristic?

Level-based content (I'm not joking). We have around 60-70 levels worth of content that are essentially ghost towns. A new player joining the game will have to slug through all those levels essentially solo just to get to a point where the actual game is played. Well designed game mechanics could keep the entire content reusable, too. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do an atmospheric instance like Shadowfang Keep at level 60, 70, or 80, too, if things scaled properly. PvP doesn't really work with a level 10 vs. a level 80 player. Too much content is at the end of the level range, encouraging players to skip a lot of the good parts to get to it faster.

Aside: There are three basic reasons for a level-based MMORPG. (1) Everybody has done it. (2) It lends itself to a very straightforward reward scheme. (3) It provides players with guidance what to do next and where to go. You don't need (1), and there are alternate solutions for (2) and (3).

Runners-up are the very ad-hoc game mechanics (which need to get tweaked and overhauled every few months) and the extremely narrow class/spec roles.


If you could deliver a message to WoW's design team and have it implemented, what would it be? (Big or Small!)

In terms of what is practical, I would suggest to them (tactfully), that they might benefit from having their UI subjected to some usability review (specifically, but not only, those parts that are privileged and that players can't fix, such as the LFG interface).

I would also suggest to look into the accessibility of their content. There are generally too many people killing time in Dalaran (or elsewhere) who would be happy to indulge in some actual play. Getting into a battleground takes a couple of minutes and practically zero preparations. Doing anything with other players in PvE at level 80 is an entirely different story.


What is one element that more online games should use?

Being able to customize your UI.


What is one element that more online games should avoid?

Other games should learn (unlike WoW) to plan ahead and consider growth, room in the game mechanics for new content, and expansions at their inception so that they don't constantly have to fix problems with ad-hoc changes.

Runner-up: If loot-based, they should devise a better way of handling loot.

Roana
02-12-2009, 07:27 PM
I'm not satrina, but I would like to say Delrissa was the worst fight in wow history. Tanks were useless in it, since it had no consistent threat table and our DPS at the time was incredibly subpar. In effect you'd just put 4 people up against an arena 5's team emphasized on ~burst damage~ that didn't have to obey the same rules as the player... and the tank stood there and tried to do damage and hoped to hell his ~one~ stun was going to be enough to turn the tide.

For what it's worth, the threat mechanics of the Delrissa fight seem to be that mobs zero the top player's threat every few seconds. If you knew that, you could at least control a single mob for most of the entire fight.

That said, what I liked about the fight was that it wasn't farmable. Every run was likely to be different.

The underlying problems that you spot aren't with the fight so much as with the narrowness of Blizzard's class system. There are many more things that you could do, but Blizzard's vision is that you can only do one thing well, and if anything else is asked for, you're much less useful (they seem to be breaking out of the mold recently -- e.g., death knights -- but are still pretty timid when it comes to making characters more versatile). Consider, for example, what it would be like if tanks had strong debuff or control abilities (which would also make it more reasonably why mobs consider them threatening despite doing little damage). Similar notions apply to DPSers and healers, of course.

Satrina
02-12-2009, 08:35 PM
That said however :) the idea that I was moving forward with was all gear was player created, sort of working of Satrina's reality model, and assuming if you really beat a creature to death any equipment would be ruined *or fried in that fireball*. Each tier of equipment had an item level, meaning you could enhance it with x amount of stat increases. Higher quality crafted items could be enhanced to a greater degree. This method really reduces the "OMG I just got XXXX last night, not I'm replacing it with YYY". The methods of crafting and enhancing are things I spent a lot of time on and you probably have your own ideas of how it should be done, so I will leave those for discussion.
This is, in essence, exactly what I have in mind. Arthas has Frostmourne - and so can any player by building on a base sword that has sufficient magical capacity and takes the time to gather the appropriate reagents and find the crafters who can put the appropriate enchants on the sword. The difference between Frostmourne and the player's sword is that Frostmoune's tooltip says "Frostmourne". Of course, the player has the option to start from an unenchanted sword that looks completely different, too!

Bookie
02-12-2009, 08:54 PM
That said however :) the idea that I was moving forward with was all gear was player created, sort of working of Satrina's reality model, and assuming if you really beat a creature to death any equipment would be ruined *or fried in that fireball*. Each tier of equipment had an item level, meaning you could enhance it with x amount of stat increases. Higher quality crafted items could be enhanced to a greater degree. This method really reduces the "OMG I just got XXXX last night, not I'm replacing it with YYY". The methods of crafting and enhancing are things I spent a lot of time on and you probably have your own ideas of how it should be done, so I will leave those for discussion.



Arthas has Frostmourne - and so can any player by building on a base sword that has sufficient magical capacity and takes the time to gather the appropriate reagents and find the crafters who can put the appropriate enchants on the sword. The difference between Frostmourne and the player's sword is that Frostmoune's tooltip says "Frostmourne". Of course, the player has the option to start from an unenchanted sword that looks completely different, too!



The idea of customizable items, with more powerful items allowing you more freedom to add attributes, is actually something I haven't considered before, and I think it could be a great system. The main challenge would be in balancing gameplay around the large variety of player strategies that would be devised. That said, intuitive and uniformly applied rules would go along way to assisting in balance.

What are your thoughts on upgradeable items? I have long thought it a shame that Thunderfury cannot be upgraded to level 70 and 80 versions. I think that a player who puts in the effort to earn such a high quality weapon deserves the opportunity to upgrade it as the game advances.

I agree completely with the complaints about irrational drops; I see enemies dropping materials (i.e. hides, etc.) which can be sold for money as a better solution. Furthermore, a think a simple economy could be created that would encourage players to hunt in one area and deliver goods to another for profit. At the same time, players could by materials that they are not lucky enough to find from the same merchants to whom they sell.

One thing that I have noticed in a variety of games is that systems where weapons / armor are damaged or destroyed tend to annoy me. This is a personal preference, of course, but I tend to value the convenience of not having to worry about such things, even if it is not realistic. However, that is a personal preference, and I imagine there are many players who enjoy the added detail.

Along the same lines, one issue with J-RPGs that irritates me (Final Fantasy Series, I'm looking at you) is that items trivialize content. And at the same time, a player is never likely to use their best items for fear of wasting them. I prefer the idea of items that can be used a limited number of times per zone, but are recharged when you exit the zone. One limitation that must be put in place to make this work is a limit on the number of usable items a player can carry. I prefer to think of usable items as equipment- do I carry an extra health potion, or a sword with a different set of attributes? These items, in turn, could be upgraded rather than replaced over time.


Too much content is at the end of the level range, encouraging players to skip a lot of the good parts to get to it faster.

Agreed 100%. The traditional view of leveling is a system of limiting player strength and allowing development. I favor a system that uses leveling almost exclusively as a way to customize your character as opposed to a method to lock players out of content.

That said, my visions of both character and equipment design are based on an incremental improvement model, where small changes are made over time that eventually have great effect on gameplay.

I think this ties in well with your idea:

Other games should learn (unlike WoW) to plan ahead and consider growth, room in the game mechanics for new content, and expansions at their inception so that they don't constantly have to fix problems with ad-hoc changes.

I believe that uniformly applied rules built around incremental changes can provide this.


That said, what I liked about the fight was that it wasn't farmable. Every run was likely to be different.

This is definitely becoming a recurring theme in this thread. I am envisioning modular dungeon design with random elements as a solution to this problem.

Satrina
02-12-2009, 09:06 PM
Weapon damage and destruction is only a problem in systems where items are rare and hard to come by. Upgradeable items are a gimmick, and the cry for them is artificially created by the combination of the mindset created by items that are rare and hard to come by, made even moreso by ridiculous lengths that are needed to get the item.

Alent
02-13-2009, 01:07 AM
That said, what I liked about the fight was that it wasn't farmable. Every run was likely to be different.


This is definitely becoming a recurring theme in this thread. I am envisioning modular dungeon design with random elements as a solution to this problem.

Chopped the rest as this is a hugely important note: Fun = farmable. An instance you cannot farm is an instance you do not run. It's a waste of development time to make something that cannot be farmed. The question becomes, what is there to farm, how is it farmed and what time controls do you have on it?

Mechanically speaking, say you have an axe. this axe drops off Bob the lumberjack. You want people to work for it, so either you make it a low % drop, tie it to a quest so that if they've worked through xyz quest steps they always get it. Either way, is Bob the lumberjack in a public or instanced place? In both cases respawn rate is a form of time control, Trash respawn can limit your access to the boss, instance lockout or reset timers can limit your access to the boss. Seasonal/daytime timers can limit your access to the boss. (Bob the lumberjack cannot be killed at night because he goes to the bar at 5:30 pm, in which location the neutral guards will oneshot you for making hostile actions. He takes an hour long lunchbreak from 11 to 12 during which he's in a different spot of the dungeon, Bob doesn't work during the winter, etc.)

You get the idea. Balance your dungeons with the idea that they're ~supposed~ to be farmed, but vary them in a behavioral manner.

Roana
02-13-2009, 03:05 AM
Chopped the rest as this is a hugely important note: Fun = farmable. An instance you cannot farm is an instance you do not run. It's a waste of development time to make something that cannot be farmed.

Different strokes for different folks. Repetitive gameplay, a.k.a. grinding (of which farming is an aspect), is what eventually kills the fun for me. Conversely, that doesn't mean that every fight should be an hour-long wipe-a-thon, but at least some variation that keeps the content fresh is good.

Farming instances in WoW is currently designed around it being means to an end, namely getting better gear for the progression cycle, and the entertainment value of the gameplay itself hits diminishing returns eventually.

Klimpen
02-13-2009, 03:25 AM
Puzzle Pirates is a game that does things very different from WoW, but is still financially a success [which is more than you can say about most WoW-clones].

Main Page - YPPedia (http://yppedia.puzzlepirates.com)

Even with the most expensive gear in the game, you can still be raped by a 2minute old character. Mainly because there are only two item slots that actually have any effect on gameplay. Different swords change the drop pattern during the Swordfighting puzzle. Lending themselves to certain strengths and weaknesses. Ditto for Bludgeons and Rumble. It merely enhances playstyle, it doesn't give you +1000 skill.

I'm personally a rounded Rumble player [Top10 Sage Ult], so I lent myself to the Rope Coils. Blackjacks were good for speed strikers, Chains for sprinklers, Hammers for 1hit KO's. All are top tier weapons. However, a Serverwide #1 wouldn't be as effective with a hammer if they were a sprinkler. Seriously. They'd get pwnt.

So, I guess my point is, I'd like to see MMO's letting you enhance your playstyle rather than dictating.

Edit: Hybrid strat video, there's text explaining it if you goto the actual youtube page:
YouTube - Puzzle Pirates: Rumble - Shaieran vs. Dilowan, hybrid style.

Taelas
02-13-2009, 03:43 AM
One of the things I like least about WoW is the static nature of the world. I want to be an influence! It ruins verisimilitude.

This is why I like the new phasing system. The way they implemented it isn't ideal, though. Right now, they are using phasing systems merely as a way to progress areas, similar to how you progress your character. The Shadow Vault is a city -- once you've done the quests necessary to make it so. It becomes less a question of whether you've done it and more a question of when you do it. Some of them are necessary check-points. The only quartermaster for the Knights of the Ebon Blade is in the Shadow Vault.

orcstar
02-13-2009, 05:34 AM
What is WoW's best characteristic?The fact that there's just so much to do. (and the movement engine :P)

What is WoW's worst characteristic?There isn't on thing so I name a few:
The leveling and grouping system. One of the things people are concerned with when leveling is the speed at which they level. One of the things you find out quickly as a new player is that leveling alone, solo, is what makes leveling more efficient. I've played another mmo where the way the game worked it promoted playing together. The groups are extremely static, it's always: healer 3 dps and a tank.
The slowness and being glued to the ground. Everything in WoW is ground based. Your running speed is extremely slow and even mounted on a swift groundmount it's still slow. Flying mounts and mounts in general are travel things only.
World of look the same-craft: in the end: everyone in WoW looks the same, there's just a few themes. All lvl 80 tanks basically look the same, all shamans doe all hunters etc.etc.etc.

If you could deliver a message to WoW's design team and have it implemented, what would it be? (Big or Small!)Be careful not to make things too easy.

What is one element that more online games should use?Building scaling into instances which do not only rely on a holy trinity to complete.

What is one element that more online games should avoidRepetetiveness.

And finally, what are your 3-5 favorite games of all time, and why. This helps me to better understand the perspective from which you approach games and your expectations.
-Starcraft: I always have been an rts fan and starcraft was the best of the best MULTIplayer rts I have ever seen. Blizzard kept working on balance balance balance. And they got it real good with 3 entirely different races it was possible to win. No clear "this is the strongest race".
-Warcraft: playing together conquering things with 24 others, while often frustrating is very fun.
-City of Heroes: quite the opposite kind of MMO versus warcraft: no gear to speak of and no endgame, but it DOES have: teamplay from lvl 1-max, loads of achievements, a sidekicking system, Arial!!!!! combat, and a fast fast pace. Also, that costume designer is just pure win.
And a lot of other good things I'd like to see in WoW. (but its repetetiveness is a major major downside.)

Argamasilla
02-13-2009, 12:44 PM
Oh, don't get me started on the phasing! *lol* Personally I think someone in my game design group leaked the idea to Blizz. Luckily they didn't, couldn't, implement it correctly because of the existing architecture of the game.

One of the things that always bugged me about MMO's was the need for discrete world servers. Even now Blizz has a hard time balancing horde/alliance ratios as well as just general population on servers, resulting in ques and/or uneven pvp.

You can't just have one big server for everyone, at least not with the current technology; not to mention the volume of positional data that would need to be sent to the client. But you can have one server coordinate activity (I say one, but of course I mean cluster for redundancy). The only job this server has is to track the gps (game positioning system) :) location of every player; in 3D of course.

Without going into 'wall of text mode' and describing how the actual hardware interacts, I'll just describe the user experience.

When you generate a character, you don't pick a server. All characters in the MMO could potentially meet and/or group up. No need for server transfers, but you will need to get an NPC or PC to transport you through Time to a different phase. Players will eventually be able to move through phases unassisted, but lack the power to do so when new.

Its possible that your current Time is has reached its maximum capacity, so everyone has to converge in a different Time if they wish to be 'physically' together. Directed chat can breach Time to allow cooridination of these meetings.

When you are in different Times and the same location, you are considered phased. You can vaguely sense others that are very close to your phase, and offer to pull them to yours to help with quests, or phase away from them if you are both going after the same quest mob.

Bookie
02-14-2009, 07:38 PM
Weapon damage and destruction is only a problem in systems where items are rare and hard to come by.

I dunno. To me, it is very irritating in WoW when everyone is ready for a heroic run, and then someone realizes they need to repair after a single wipe. It needlessly slows the game down. It is true that the player should have repaired first, but sometimes it just happens and it is a major annoyance to the other players who have to wait.


Upgradeable items are a gimmick, and the cry for them is artificially created by the combination of the mindset created by items that are rare and hard to come by, made even moreso by ridiculous lengths that are needed to get the item.

I disagree with this. They would be a gimmick in WoW (using the Thunderfury example) because of the ludicrous effort and time players would have to put in to get the item they want, but I can see a simple upgrade system that allows players to start with a basic sword, name it, and upgrade it over time. I think the advantage of this is that players develop a personal attachment to something they "grew." On the other hand, the system you outlined earlier could accomplish many of the same things.


An instance you cannot farm is an instance you do not run. It's a waste of development time to make something that cannot be farmed. The question becomes, what is there to farm, how is it farmed and what time controls do you have on it?

I do understand the point you're making here, but I'd like to offer a couple of additional points to consider.

First, randomized dungeons do not necessarily preclude farming, but they do mean that you have to pay attention while farming. Secondly, whether or not there is content in the game that cannot be easily farmed is a design decision. I can see arguments for and against, though I personally lean toward a mix of easily-farmed and difficult-to-farm content. The "unfarmable" content is a challenge to the players. The rewards from completing it (in my mind) should be solid, but not game-breaking. Players should want to attempt the challenge content because it is fun first and foremost. Finally- if players can find a way to complete content, they can find a way to farm it. Sarth + 3 being the en vogue example. That all said, content can (generally) be more unpredictable and more tightly tuned for small groups.


Different strokes for different folks. Repetitive gameplay, a.k.a. grinding (of which farming is an aspect), is what eventually kills the fun for me. Conversely, that doesn't mean that every fight should be an hour-long wipe-a-thon, but at least some variation that keeps the content fresh is good.

Farming instances in WoW is currently designed around it being means to an end, namely getting better gear for the progression cycle, and the entertainment value of the gameplay itself hits diminishing returns eventually.

This sums it up well for me- but it is certainly a matter of preferences and opinions.


So, I guess my point is, I'd like to see MMO's letting you enhance your playstyle rather than dictating.

I agree completely. And I'm looking into Puzzle Pirates- I never really gave it a chance before.


One of the things I like least about WoW is the static nature of the world. I want to be an influence!

Hmmm. I'm thinking about phased environments that allow for different settings to be displayed on each client. If the differences are cosmetic in nature, players who have had different in interactions with an area can see the area differently, but still interact with one another. That may be a step in the right direction, but it needs improvement to be sure.


Building scaling into instances which do not only rely on a holy trinity to complete.

I think this ties in with Klimpen's point about MMO's enhancing rather than dictating a style. I'm considering ways it can be done :D


When you generate a character, you don't pick a server. All characters in the MMO could potentially meet and/or group up. No need for server transfers, but you will need to get an NPC or PC to transport you through Time to a different phase. Players will eventually be able to move through phases unassisted, but lack the power to do so when new.

Its possible that your current Time is has reached its maximum capacity, so everyone has to converge in a different Time if they wish to be 'physically' together. Directed chat can breach Time to allow cooridination of these meetings.

When you are in different Times and the same location, you are considered phased. You can vaguely sense others that are very close to your phase, and offer to pull them to yours to help with quests, or phase away from them if you are both going after the same quest mob.

This is a creative method to handle phasing. If it is appropriate to the setting of the game, I can see it working well. The desire for everyone who plays to be able to potentially meet each other reminds me of Eve. I can see a variety of technical challenges, but I think you've got an interesting idea!

Sorry for the long post; I've been busy working on a project and haven't had time to make a good response.

Do you guys have any thoughts on in-game economies? Specifically- should MMO's have player-run economies, or should the game place some limitations on the economy? I'm also curious for the opinions of people who enjoy the social aspects of WoW; I rarely have enough time to do more than log on and raid for a couple hours at a time, so it isn't something that I've examined closely. Still, I know there are people who play WoW exclusively for that aspect. Maybe WoW's social appeal is partly a result of Metcalfe's Law. Thoughts?

Alent
02-15-2009, 12:35 AM
I do understand the point you're making here, but I'd like to offer a couple of additional points to consider.

First, randomized dungeons do not necessarily preclude farming, but they do mean that you have to pay attention while farming. Secondly, whether or not there is content in the game that cannot be easily farmed is a design decision. I can see arguments for and against, though I personally lean toward a mix of easily-farmed and difficult-to-farm content. The "unfarmable" content is a challenge to the players. The rewards from completing it (in my mind) should be solid, but not game-breaking. Players should want to attempt the challenge content because it is fun first and foremost. Finally- if players can find a way to complete content, they can find a way to farm it. Sarth + 3 being the en vogue example. That all said, content can (generally) be more unpredictable and more tightly tuned for small groups.


Different strokes for different folks. Repetitive gameplay, a.k.a. grinding (of which farming is an aspect), is what eventually kills the fun for me. Conversely, that doesn't mean that every fight should be an hour-long wipe-a-thon, but at least some variation that keeps the content fresh is good.

I guess we'll disagree. I kinda look at grinding and simple trash as the best part of an MMO. Some of the best times I've had in any MMO was farming Crypts of the Clefts (aka Crypt of Hekthur) ~before~ it had a drop table with useful loot. We simply loved farming it. It was long, it wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard. (well, it was hard when we found it, because it was 12 levels above us... and we kept trying to clear it.) it was just a good, healthy sized dungeon that we could clear at a reasonable pace and BS with each other in vent while we cleared it. It's a social experience. It has nothing to do with the drops.

We're talking about a social game here. True farming gives you a solid way to spend time with people and just relax. It's the same kind of bonding experience as working together on something that only takes 25~40% of your attention. Your mind naturally wonders and you talk to the people around you while working, and it's fun. every now and then you get a cool drop that someone can use and they're happy. It's not the reason for being there, it won't drop every time, maybe nothing will drop at all. You're there to spend time with your friends. If you want to go do something challenging, you run an instance well above your level. (Which you should and the game should encourage. Crushing blows as a tool to prevent you from doing so was an utterly retarded concept on blizzard's part.)

Randomizing the layout might help, might hurt, but above all something "farmable" doesn't have an end so much as it has a "loop point". a place where you've gone as far as you can go, and there's some natural segue back to a place at an earlier point in the dungeon that's already had time to respawn. Some dungeons capitalize on this notion and are, at basic essence, a large circle. there are quite a few different ways you can expand on these designs, but randomizing the layout would take away from familiarity and people have this uncanny knack for getting lost in dungeons that have any complexity. (Not to say you can't randomize dungeons, but randomized layouts are a dangerous tool.)

In some ways, Karazhan was an excellent instance simply because most of the trash, you could leisurely pull and chat and BS while clearing. Sure, you could roflstomp the place or blitz for a 2.5 hour clear or some such insane time, but the monotony and lack of size hurt the dungeon because about the time you got into a conversation you were at a boss and had to stop.

In the end, some variation is always nice, but a social farm group is always more fun than a "let's go get THIS ITEM and we're gonna RUN THE DUNGEON UNTIL IT DROPS!!!" group, no matter how much repetition. Guaranteed blue drops off bosses in wow (and later, guaranteed purple drops off end bosses) are counter to good dungeon design - you go ~for that item~ and run the dungeon as fast as you can as many times as you can to get it. in and out. No time to socialize, just get in, kill yer boss, collect your loot and go. It's a terrible play model.

Bookie
02-15-2009, 12:55 AM
Huh, it's interesting. I haven't really considered the social aspects of farming, which is odd, since my first month as a tank was spent with that sort of group chain-running SL, SV, Mech, etc., to gear for heroics and raids. And we DID have some good times. Spiritdancer, Rourk, Bulb, and Bathtub- we had some great times getting our asses handed to us in our first heroics.

At the same point, there's nothing I hate more than being forced to farm; it artificially lengthens the game. Surely there's some middle ground. Perhaps a set of easy-ish dungeons that drop quirky, but still useful, niche gear?

This is one reason I've been asking questions here. You learn a lot more when you discuss with someone you disagree with than someone with whom you agree. You've got a different perspective on farming than what I typically see, and, from a designer's perspective, it is invaluable to understand different perspectives!

Now, for the first time, I need to consider how to make good "farm" content. There's always another side to the coin :D

Petninja
02-15-2009, 01:12 AM
I remember probably the best time I had in kara I was drunk (we all were), and I was running without pants. To this day I can't figure out why I decided jumping off the catwalk was a good way to save the group, anyway, I'm not sure what I was getting at other than kara was pretty fun and I think I liked it more than I like Naxx.

Alent
02-15-2009, 01:12 AM
Huh, it's interesting. I haven't really considered the social aspects of farming, which is odd, since my first month as a tank was spent with that sort of group chain-running SL, SV, Mech, etc., to gear for heroics and raids. And we DID have some good times. Spiritdancer, Rourk, Bulb, and Bathtub- we had some great times getting our asses handed to us in our first heroics.

At the same point, there's nothing I hate more than being forced to farm; it artificially lengthens the game. Surely there's some middle ground. Perhaps a set of easy-ish dungeons that drop quirky, but still useful, niche gear?

This is one reason I've been asking questions here. You learn a lot more when you discuss with someone you disagree with than someone with whom you agree. You've got a different perspective on farming than what I typically see, and, from a designer's perspective, it is invaluable to understand different perspectives!

Now, for the first time, I need to consider how to make good "farm" content. There's always another side to the coin :D

I'll return to the Crypts of the Clefts example, to offer you a more complete picture of what our night was like:

Crypts of the Clefts was a long dungeon, in linear hallway fashion with several short dead end branches off the main route. We never saw the end of it. Sure we could've ~reached~ the end if we'd set our mind to it, but the dungeon was split up in such a way it would've been meaningless to simply reach the end.

#1: Entrance trash. A fairly brutal gauntlet of fast respawning trash designed to keep the solo artists, faint of heart, etc. out of the instance. Good exp, moderate chance of world drop trash greens.

#2: The villain's visage. At this point the cave turns into a mine/excavation, and a large floating image of Heckthur's head, Heckthur being the boss of the dungeon, appeared and watched you as you went around the bend... and yelled something about eternal damnation and such.

#3: The firepit from hell. the cave opens up into a large circular room that branches off in several directions, with a fire pit in the center surrounded by stealthed undead rogues. Around 22~24 in all. This room sucked while levelling, and the first time we cleared this room, when we were 4~6 levels below the level of the trash, we were ~ecstatic~. The fire pit also had another purpose:

#3a: The three aspects. There were three, rare spawn, named mobs that popped in the firepit room and the hallway to the left. To give you an idea of how rare, I saw one of them about four times in total, in the month and a half we farmed the place. I saw the second one once, and we never did find the third. Each of these drops a quest starter in the form of orders from Heckthur. To advance in the quest, one person needed to get all three.

#4: No clue. We never got all 3 quest items. Presumably, it entailed figuring out who Heckthur was, going through the right exit from the firepit room, which opened up into this ~huge~ elaborate Dwarven crypt that was absolutely ~breathtaking~. For several weeks we farmed the place ~just~ to explore the crypt proper because it was so beautiful. I truly regret losing the screenshot folder that had all my vanguard beta screens because I would've loved to see this room again.

Mechanically, the firepit and left branch were designed to farm. You cleared the hall, came back to the firepit, re-cleared the firepit, cleared to an empty spot in the crypt, rested to get all your mana back, and then went back to the (now respawned) fire pit and tried to get the rest of your orders.

We didn't know what was at the end, and maybe that was why we were compelled to farm the cave until beta ended. We'd shift to other dungeons for a level or two then come back to the "undead cave", hoping to figure out the mystery.

It was just great fun.

Satrina
02-15-2009, 01:12 AM
I disagree with this. They would be a gimmick in WoW (using the Thunderfury example) because of the ludicrous effort and time players would have to put in to get the item they want, but I can see a simple upgrade system that allows players to start with a basic sword, name it, and upgrade it over time. I think the advantage of this is that players develop a personal attachment to something they "grew." On the other hand, the system you outlined earlier could accomplish many of the same things.

If you don't like durability and breakage and you want to give everyone items that they upgrade as they progress, how do you ever remove items from the game world/economy?

Bookie
02-15-2009, 01:37 AM
Alent, I'm gonna examine that more closely tomorrow when I'm awake / sober.


If you don't like durability and breakage and you want to give everyone items that they upgrade as they progress, how do you ever remove items from the game world/economy?

Sale. Actually, the items that would drop in dungeons and what not would be materials that you could use to create / upgrade gear, not actual gear itself (with perhaps a few exceptions).

Imagine you start with a basic sword. You obtain another item (let's say an Ore) that allows you to reforge it to a higher level. In so doing, it becomes slightly stronger, but also enables you to include an additional item during the upgrade, perhaps a Red Gem (for the sake of this example, let's assume that a Red Gem increases strength when added to equipment). Now, you have a slightly more powerful sword with a Str bonus (say +1). When you find the next level ore, you can reforge the sword again, making it more powerful, adding an additional bonus (via an additional item), and retroactively increasing the strength bonus (say +2 now).

One important key that makes this click is the idea that every player of every class will want multiple gear sets (this is influenced by other design characteristics that I'm too out of it to detail for now). So, when you find a Red Gem, you could either use it to make equipment for yourself, or sell it on the market or to a vendor. Equipment that you don't need on you can be banked, or vendored if you feel you just don't want it.

Odds are I haven't explained this very well right now. If it doesn't make any sense, let me know, and I'll try again when I'm in the right state of mind :D

Actually, I'm curious now as to how the economy works in the magic item system you had devised. I assume that breaking items is an integral part of that overall design?

Roana
02-15-2009, 05:29 PM
I dunno. To me, it is very irritating in WoW when everyone is ready for a heroic run, and then someone realizes they need to repair after a single wipe. It needlessly slows the game down. It is true that the player should have repaired first, but sometimes it just happens and it is a major annoyance to the other players who have to wait.

That is really separate from weapon damage and destruction and more about managing consumables. You will have situations like this as long as you have perishable items (reagents, ammunition, potions) in the game.

Weapon damage and destruction is more about the anguish of (hypothetically) Brutallus stepping on your Thunderfury, breaking it cleanly in half so that it becomes vendor trash. Sense of accomplishment, character progress, and game balance are too much tied to items for Blizzard to allow them to go away. However, that need not be so be in other games. Of course, it would require a change in how gear is acquired (if at all).


I disagree with this. They would be a gimmick in WoW (using the Thunderfury example) because of the ludicrous effort and time players would have to put in to get the item they want, but I can see a simple upgrade system that allows players to start with a basic sword, name it, and upgrade it over time. I think the advantage of this is that players develop a personal attachment to something they "grew." On the other hand, the system you outlined earlier could accomplish many of the same things.

The bigger point here is that World of Warcraft (and it's ancestor, D&D) relies on items as a primary tool for evolving a character. This is not necessary. The HeroQuest-based (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeroQuest_(role-playing_game)) game that my husband is running does not favor items over abilities, one way or the other. Whether your swordfighting ability comes from having the descriptor "Blade Dancer: 1w+5" or "Red Sword of Courage: 1w+5" is largely irrelevant. As a more extreme case, in City of Heroes (as a superhero-based game, where most characters won't have weapons), weapons and shields are 100% props, and you improve your abilities, never your weapons. (Though power enhancements are abstract enough that you can also rationalize them as weapon upgrades.)

Satrina
02-15-2009, 05:45 PM
Actually, I'm curious now as to how the economy works in the magic item system you had devised. I assume that breaking items is an integral part of that overall design?

Before you can ask this question, you have to make a fundamental decision about your universe: High magic or low magic?

In a high magic universe, magic is plentiful and everywhere. Items come, items go, it doesn't matter. You replace items as you get better ones and do whatever with the leftovers. Your economy settles magic item value pretty low because there is lots of it to go around. Items leave the game because they're destroyed, vendored, or just tossed in a corner somewhere. Edit: Or you can also do a disenchant style system and plow old into new

A low magic universe (what Roana describes above), magic instilled in items is rare, and not often powerful except as artifacts that players (should) never get their hands on. Items come, and they give you some benefit, but the primary benefit comes from your character's development. Your economy could settle magic item value very high but since they are not strictly speaking necessary, it's less of a big deal. Items don't leave the game, but there also aren't very many to begin with.

WoW is in the middle. Magic is plentiful, but the item that you actually want is probably rare. Worst of both worlds, really. A majority is disenchanted, but you don't want anything to happen to your precious that took weeks or months to get. That is, of course, as designed. The treadmill must roll on. It can be done better. Soulbinding is the devil.

Roana
02-15-2009, 05:47 PM
At the same point, there's nothing I hate more than being forced to farm; it artificially lengthens the game. Surely there's some middle ground. Perhaps a set of easy-ish dungeons that drop quirky, but still useful, niche gear?

One of the problems with Blizzard's reward system from instances is indeed that they can't seem to quite hit (not that it's easy or that I'd have a good idea how to do it much better) the right point between "it is useless to do an old instance" and "need to farm the old instances for stuff we actually need, such as badges, because that's the easiest way to get those rewards".

One way to make farming an optional, but still useful activitiy is to tier rewards appropriately. Right now, running normal instances after you're geared for heroics is pretty useless. Reputation will come for a while, even if at a reduced rate, but once you've maxed that out (to the extent you need it), the instance runs can even be net losses for you. Even before, reputation is something that you want to earn quickly (like XP at lower levels), so increased reward rates are disproportionately attractive.

Obviously, you don't want normal instances to give the same rewards as heroics, even at a strongly diminished rate. But that doesn't mean that they should totally be lacking in tangible rewards.

In short, a well-designed rewards system can make a lot of a difference.

Rustik
02-15-2009, 06:46 PM
Someone earlier in the thread mentioned they don't like the level based system, due to "abandonment" of the lower level content. I agree, but I also have a question:

How would you work it on a non-level system? EVE-online is a skill absed game, but your ship has so many different stats and functions, and you have a choice of so many ships, it works.

In a fantasy combat setting, in what way could you work a skill based system, rather than a level based one? I like the idea of a skill based system, where you work on getting all of your small multipliers together to make a big difference. Items would then work off those multipliers, with their own very small modifiers, or flat values. I'm just having trouble figuring out how you'd do it in fantasy combat.

In EVE, you could switch ships to perform a different role, and gear that ship in different ways to further grant sub-roles. In a fantasy game, you don't switch ships (unless you're a shapeshifter, I suppose.) And there is a smaller selection of "roles."

Basically: In what ways could you vary the gear/skill system so that a player can specialize on specific skills for specific roles, without being overly simple, such as "Melee," "<Element X> Spells," etc.

kolben
02-15-2009, 08:08 PM
Some of the ideas aren't bad. I wouldn't think that having a game be too realistic would be fun at all. It might appeal to a certain very narrow group of gamers who are so bored with the genre that they need that level of challenge.

For the most part realism doesn't help video games very much. Take for example a real Navy F/A-18 flight simulator, very few people could do much with that except crash the jet and "kill themselves" over and over. Challenging? Sure. Realistic? You bet. Fun? Maybe until you realize how terrible you are and that you really need the 3+ years of training that nugget pilots get before heading into the fleet to be able to fly the damn thing.

I don't think I would be attracted to a game that attempted realism in a "fantasy" genre. It kind of goes against the point. Put the fun into the mechanics of cooperative group play, the encounters, the places - quests - and stories.

As for the old content. I have no idea what it would cost to do, but I would suggest simply making heroic versions of them. Maybe some congruent quest lines that do something interesting. What did the threat of the Silithid just vanish from Azeroth? Of course not, so why can't I participate in the battle to save a bunch of elves from bugs in a meaningful way at level 80?

Rustik
02-15-2009, 08:12 PM
The theorycrafting behind the mechanics and what gear to wear and what skills to use is probably half of the fun I find in this game. having it be as simple as "You tank, here's your lewts." would get a bit boring after a while.

Bookie
02-16-2009, 02:48 AM
We're really getting to the heart of things here. If something is useful, its value is greater. If something is rare, its value is greater (generally). It's all about balance in the end. In WoW, better items make you stronger, period- they rarely change your basic tactics. Additionally, you are put through hell and high water to get the good stuff.

The demo I'm currently working on has items that are easily acquired, and, instead of greatly increasing your powers, they give you access to additional tactics (they do increase your strength incrementally, but this is a perk more than a requirement). Combat is not necessarily about swapping attacks with the enemy; there are numerous status ailments and buffs that you can cause (and counter), as well as summons, elemental advantages, traps, etc. But, in order to emerge victorious, the player and the player's allies need to have a variety of abilities at their disposal. Having a powerful sword that can kill the enemy in a single blow won't help you if you are frozen in place with no way to break the ice.

In other words, while there is a large supply of materials available to the player, there is also a large demand for them. Players can obtain powerful items fairly quickly, which enables them to contribute to their groups, but, in PvP and the more difficult dungeons, they will quickly find that their strength is situational. While having diverse allies will cover your limitations to a certain extent, the player will have many opportunities to develop new strategies and acquire the gear needed to support them.

Levels are quickly gained and abilities are quickly leveled. This is offset by the fact that there is no option to "respec." Players are encouraged to play more than one of the same class, because the player character and his / her allies can choose to grow differently every game, granting different strengths, weaknesses, and even different spells. As a result, each class is capable of performing in a variety of roles; while perfecting your strategies is a good idea, min-maxing for a specific role won't serve you as well as having good flexibility.

Much of the design work for this project is "completed," but it is under constant refinement. I haven't done much design-oriented work recently because I've been working the art assets for a training level as well as working on the basic game engine. It's tough to tackle a project like this solo, doing design, art, and programming, but it is just a demo for my portfolio... though I would obviously love to be able to complete it :D

This thread has been great so far. I've seen some interesting ideas, and I've gained new perspective on my own designs. If anyone is interested, I may be able to post a screenshot of the training level next week. Hopefully, I will be done with the art assets by then. And if anyone here is an asskicking whiz with XNA, hit me with a PM. I'm a passable programmer at best.

Getting back on topic, these are the three ways I see that players are able to develop characters in an MMO:


Customizing attributes during leveling (absent in wow)
Customizing abilities (talents / glyphs in wow)
Collecting gear / items

Some games eschew one or more of these, as we've already noted a couple of times. In the end, I'm not sure that it makes much difference which is used, but I prefer a combination of the three.

Roana's mention of HeroQuest manifested oddly in my brain. I just had a vision of a WoW character sheet that read:

"Heroic: The Twilight Zone. With all three Twilight Drakes still alive, engaged and defeated Sartharion the Onyx Guardian on Heroic Difficulty. Health increased by 1000."

If anyone here remembers Vagrant Story, you gained stats in that game by defeating bosses. Grind all you want, you would never level up. It was a gimmick though, because your WEAPONS would increase affinity against the type of enemy you attacked with them. In other words, you still needed to kill random enemies to power up your weapons.

I'm at a bit of a loss for a positive direction for the conversation now, though. Perhaps we should look more closely at reward scheduling, in terms of reward quality, time to receive reward, and reward rarity, rather than worrying over the specifics of items versus levels versus attributes?

One thing that I constantly struggle to wrap my head around (coming from a J-RPG background rather than tabletop) is the re-donkulous life span of an MMO. Especially granted that there are usually multiple breakdowns in the target audience. Hardcore vs casual, while a tired topic of conversation, is still a major issue. Two weeks ago, I logged in to WoW for the first time in 2 months having only run a few heroics (as in 3-5) on my warrior before taking a break for the sake of grad school / projects. In ten minutes, I was wearing a T7 chest. I shit you not.

While that's wonderful for casual players, my neighbor has finished Sarth + 3, Maly, etc., and now has nothing to do. His priest is sitting on 30k+ gold with nothing to buy. The unwashed masses are still in Naxx, but more hardcore players are bemoaning the lack of content / ease of the current content. If there was more content available now, the unwashed would be falling even further behind the game. If you were in a Blizzard brain-storming session, what would you say on this issue? It is a moot point, since Blizz is obviously making the financially beneficial decision, but is there a way to please both audiences?

As easy as it can be to come up with great game ideas, implementation is always a challenge. Ask me and I'll tell you, I love / hate Blizzard for the job they are able to do with it.

Roana
02-16-2009, 06:54 AM
Someone earlier in the thread mentioned they don't like the level based system, due to "abandonment" of the lower level content. I agree, but I also have a question:

To be clear, abandonment of lower level content is just one problem and you can actually work around it, for example with a sidekick/mentor system. For example, in City of Heroes, the Katie Hannon Task Force works for the 30-34 level range. If you are, say, level 50, you can still participate: your level will just be lowered to 34 for the duration as part of the mentoring system. Conversely, if you're a level 38 wanting to do the Imperious Task Force with a group of level 50, they can make you a sidekick, which will raise your effective level to 49. (Other MMORPGs have also picked up that approach since then.)

So, this CAN be worked around. The question is more: What exactly are the benefits of having levels that makes them worth having, and are they actually worth it?

The primary objective reason to have levels is as a reward system. As you play and gain levels, you get rewarded for that by unlocking new abilities, items, and so forth. Instant positive feedback loop! Especially as there's a number somewhere on your screen to constantly remind you just where you are. It's the good old carrot method: If you level, you'll get new shiny toys and be able to defeat monsters that would currently kick your butt.

As an aside, in WoW this doesn't quite function anymore. Leveling has largely become a punishment, not a reward. This is because the game is top-heavy, and the little rewards along the way are really just means to an end, which is to get into the endgame and get the real rewards. There are workarounds around this, such as distributing the "endgame" over the entire level range rather than just keeping it at the maximum level, but they're still workarounds. Leveling-based rewards really only work if leveling is the main focus of your game.

Second, leveling eases players into the learning curve of the game. Rather than having a ton of abilities dumped on you (see deathknights), you are gradually growing your skillset. On the other hand, the deathknight starting zone also shows that this can be done differently.

The primary reason why we have level-based systems is, of course, because everybody does it (even when not necessary), and because customers kinda expect it.


In a fantasy combat setting, in what way could you work a skill based system, rather than a level based one? I like the idea of a skill based system, where you work on getting all of your small multipliers together to make a big difference. Items would then work off those multipliers, with their own very small modifiers, or flat values. I'm just having trouble figuring out how you'd do it in fantasy combat.

Look at just about any tabletop roleplaying game that is not called D&D. Heck, look at WoW at level 80, where you don't level anymore, but are still playing an MMORPG, and where many players have more time /played at the maximum level than at all other levels combined.

You're also drawing up a duality of level vs. skill-based systems that is entirely besides the point. The two main questions you need to answer are:

(1) How do I reward players?
(2) How do I teach players the game?

If you can answer both, you have a replacement for levels. This doesn't mean that you require a skill-based system (and skill-based systems are the antonym for class/archetype-based systems, not level-based systems, anyway).

As an existing example from the MMO world, consider a hypothetical level-free version Guild Wars. Guild Wars has both levels and classes, but levels are pretty much superfluous if you take a closer look. "Progression" in Guild Wars is story-based: as you progress through the main story arc, you unlock new zones that you have access to. (Levels in Guild Wars basically limit you -- you cannot survive a zone that you just unlocked by completing the mission prerequisite if you aren't high enough level.) Aside from seeing something new, new zones also reward you with new item drops and skills and access to new crafted items.

Now, the linear story-arc based progression in Guild Wars has its own pitfalls, and I'm not recommending it. I'm just providing it as an example of how things can be done very differently.

kolben
02-16-2009, 09:03 AM
The theorycrafting behind the mechanics and what gear to wear and what skills to use is probably half of the fun I find in this game. having it be as simple as "You tank, here's your lewts." would get a bit boring after a while.

In WoW we fill our time not playing with theorycrafting and pining over choices between two equally good gems, or two pieces of gear with neligible differences in overall stats. Why is that fun?

If you keep the content fresh and exciting, fun to play, then gear really isn't that interesting at all. I'm taking a jab at theorycrafting yes, that's not to say that I don't value the work done by the few talented people in the community who actually generate all this information. But it's not *playing the game*, it's obsessing about it's minutia which frequently produces superficial results. I'm just being honest about it, don't lynch me :P

Make the game itself fun and replayable, put the skill into solid group play and monsters that are smart and don't just stand there and take a beating. WoW is a pretty good formula, I'm not suggesting that it needs to evolve. For a new kind of skill based PVE MMO, I think it would be most fun if encounters played more like the Princess fight in H MGT, not the absurdness of mobs like the Warrior, but the threat free-for-all, everyone has to cooperate to save each other/kill the mobs or die thing. That would require tanks that are more about harm prevention than standing in a spot and mashing buttons. That sounds more fun to me.

EDIT: To kind of qualify this thought, my brothers and I have been playing Halo 3 Co-OP on Legendary for the past few Friday nights.
Now that's fun. The monsters learn, seek cover, and will group up or spread out to out-flank you. I'd welcome that kind of play challenge a lot more than gear math.

Rustik
02-16-2009, 03:31 PM
I can certainly see why you might not enjoy the theorycrafting aspect. WHy I find theorycrafting fun, I find hard to explain. Let me put it this way: I like math. I do math for fun. Call be bat-shit insane if you like, but there it is. Theorycrafting is a way to actually implement said math.

When I played EVE-Online, I spent more time docked in a station designing ships in my head than I did flying the things. Yeah, it was superfluous, but it was fun to come up with cockamamy ideas and go try them.

Your "two pieces of gear, two equally good gems" is missing the point. I'm not talking about comparing two items together. I'm talking about breaking down the base mechanics of the game, figuring out how everything works, and THEN using that knowledge to develop a good System of abilities and gear.

It's extremely rewarding to disect the mechanics, build your ship/toon around what you've learned, then go out, use the knowledge you've learned and have someone send you a tell: "You're a damn fine tank, sir." Everyone says "Durrr, content is easy." Many of us have done the work to get to the skill level we are at.

Just about everything is easy once you've learned how to do it. It's the learning that takes time and effort.

kolben
02-16-2009, 04:24 PM
I don't disagree on any point Rustik, I think it comes down to each person's idea of what's fun.

I'm not unskilled at math, it's just my preference to learn by doing. I think it's kind of lame that we've come to a point of playing the game through the lense of post-raid WWS analysis. When you frame it like that, it kind of starts to lose it's appeal.

That leads me to another thought. The theatre feature found in games like Halo 3 and others has more sex appeal for carefully picking apart the after-action than WWS.

YouTube - Halo 3 - Killed by a cone

Kazeyonoma
02-16-2009, 05:10 PM
O_o, that replay ability is friggen awesome. lolconeofdoom.

Bookie
02-16-2009, 05:34 PM
Hm, a replay system probably wouldn't be difficult to develop, either. Store objects' positions and states each time through the game loop, and write the results to a file. For that matter it could be easily disabled for users with slower systems. Or maybe just maintain a small buffer (like the combat log) and save it whenever there is a death... there are probably a number of handy features that could be included to assist players. Damn you, now I'm going to be thinking about this while working!

Klaerth
02-16-2009, 06:04 PM
I will ask your forgiveness and indulgence right off the bat as I have not completely read the entire thread, I have merely skimmed it looking for pertinent words in regards to a point I want to make. Some of this may have already been said and I've skimmed over some specific points regarding this.

Specifically, looting.

One of the things that drives me absolutely bonkers about WoW is the fact that any given boss may very well drop stuff that absolutely nobody in the raid can even use.

Example: Heroic (or even normal) VoA dropping nothing but DK-specific gear when there is not a single DK in the group.

This happens to any group I'm in fairly regularly and I'd be willing to bet it's happened to all of you more than once.

So, for the sake of this post, let's assume that we are going with a system where Boss drops items, as opposed to tokens or some sort of crafting material that can eventually be turned into an item. We're talking pure gear drops.

So...let's say that Boss has an overall Loot Table that contains 20 total gear items. I'm not counting things like mounts or non-combat pets or other pure vanity items. Talking only about armor, weapons, etc. Things that will actually make it easier for you to progress through game content.

When you kill Boss, it drops 2 of those 20 items.

Now...how does the game engine determine what those two items are and at what point are they chose?

IMO, in an ideal world those two items would be determined the instant that Boss dies and they would be determined by the following logic chain that I know is over-simplified, but I hope it gets the idea across.

Raid contains class that uses plate as it's "highest" armor level.
Raid contains class that uses plate and is a magic-user of some sort (ie Paladin).
The 2 pieces of loot MAY contain plate items specified as being for magic using plate wearers.

Raid contains NO class that uses cloth as it's "highest" armor level and is a magic user (ie Mages).
The 2 pieces of loot MAY NOT contain cloth items specified for magic users.

Raid contains NO class that uses plate and is a pure melee class (ie Warriors).
The plate user that IS in the raid who also uses magic MAY also be specced where melee is the primary mode of attack(ie Ret Paladins).
The 2 pieces of loot MAY contain plate items specified for melee.

Etc., etc., etc.

Eventually a "mini" loot table is devised where out of the 20 original items, 2 items are chosen that, in theory at least, COULD be used by SOME member of the raid.

In the really ideal world, this way of choosing what loot is dropped would also include being able to determine whether or not the only cloth user is a healer or DPS and even what pieces of gear that Priest already has and the "mini" Loot Table would adjust accordingly. I will myself point out that going this far could very well make the engine too cumbersome and even too difficult to program. But I'm not a programmer so I have no idea how hard it would actually be.

Anyway. Just my two cents. I hope it is at least clear enough to understand.

Bookie
02-16-2009, 06:25 PM
As far as difficult to program goes, it isn't. The game could use a simple loop to determine each raid member's class and spec (based off of the number of talent points in a given tree). For each member, a piece of loot appropriate for the class / spec is added to the loot table. Furthermore, iLevels could be compared to the players' current gear for each slot, and if the player already has a significantly better item, they are skipped in this phase. At the end, the predetermined number of items are randomly chosen from the newly created loot table. If more items are to be chosen than are in the loot table (thanks to iLevel limitations), off-spec items are included up to the total number of drops. This prevents unusable items from dropping and increases the chances of a given item dropping if more people would have to roll on it. There could be additional considerations, but that is more or less the gist of it.

But that also reduces the number of times players have to clear a given piece of content, and that's probably why the current system is in place. I for one agree that something different should be used, though it is a matter of preference. In parts of the thread to this point we've discussed the value of farm content and item rarity, and I think this is related to that discussion.

If you have additional ideas, throw 'em on out there. Even if you say something that has been said elsewhere, your opinion is welcome. You never know when you might have the missing piece of the puzzle :D

Klaerth
02-16-2009, 06:28 PM
Honestly, I myself would actually prefer a system that uses some sort of upgrade system where you get a weapon you really like, slap a name on it, and then upgrade it as you progress with materials from the instances, rather than replacing the item altogether.

As an example, I for one would actually to be able to upgrade my StormHerald to something useful at 80 instead of having to craft a completely new 2H mace.

Roana
02-16-2009, 06:31 PM
There are two problems with this kind of "intelligent" loot system, aside from it being difficult to implement.

One of them is that it can be gamed. You can tweak your group composition to make certain pieces of loot more likely.

The second is that it is not fair (and cannot be). Assume you're playing a holy paladin in a group, but moonlight as retribution when soloing. You're interested in both types of gear. Either the loot system factors only in your current spec and never drops retribution gear unless there is a retribution paladin in the group, or it offers gear for both specs. If it does the latter, then the holy paladin who has not the least interest in retribution gear because she is a dedicated healer has to put up with all the useless retribution gear that is dropping for her.

That said, there are alternative solutions to handling loot that avoid the problems you're describing. I'll see if I can write something up tomorrow.

Klaerth
02-16-2009, 06:38 PM
What I was saying is that if a Pally is in the group, there is a chance that tanking, healing, or DPS plate could drop. But if there is NOT a DK in the group, then DK-ONLY gear would NEVER drop. If the group is composed of a holy paladin, a warrior tank, and three DKS, then cloth items would never have a chance to drop. Etc.

As far as being able to tweak the group so a specific piece of gear is more likely to drop? So what? How is this different or better from running Heroic Mechanar once a day for 32 days in a row in order to get Sun Eater (that's a true story, btw)?

As far as cases where a dedicated healer or dedicated tank or dedicated DPS has to deal with run after run where the only gear that drops is for a spec they don't use, how is that any different than running instance after instance where the only gear that drops is stuff NOBODY can or wants to use?

Alent
02-16-2009, 11:59 PM
What I was saying is that if a Pally is in the group, there is a chance that tanking, healing, or DPS plate could drop. But if there is NOT a DK in the group, then DK-ONLY gear would NEVER drop. If the group is composed of a holy paladin, a warrior tank, and three DKS, then cloth items would never have a chance to drop. Etc.

This is fundamentally flawed in that I believe there are several cloth pieces that are best in slot for resto druids. If not now, that were at some time.

Roana
02-17-2009, 03:20 AM
As far as being able to tweak the group so a specific piece of gear is more likely to drop? So what? How is this different or better from running Heroic Mechanar once a day for 32 days in a row in order to get Sun Eater (that's a true story, btw)?

You're looking at it from the point of view of getting your loot fast. A game designer also has to look at it also from the point of view (for example) of certain classes being excluded more than others because they are poor choices for the purposes of loot stacking.


As far as cases where a dedicated healer or dedicated tank or dedicated DPS has to deal with run after run where the only gear that drops is for a spec they don't use, how is that any different than running instance after instance where the only gear that drops is stuff NOBODY can or wants to use?

A few points here: First, you're overstating your point. If the Sun Eater never dropped for you (it didn't for me), there were perfectly viable alternatives. You were wasting too much effort on what was essentially a minor upgrade and a status symbol. You don't need any particular item. You need a set of sufficiently good ones that add up to the stats you need. Once you hit diminishing returns on your gearing opportunities from instances (i.e., you've got 90% or so of the drops and badge/emblem gear you need), it's time to reassess how much time you're really willing to spend on the rest.

Second, that there is only a moderate likelihood of the desired loot dropping is by design. If you got everything you needed on the first run, then you'd stop playing. Blizzard needs to string you along for that reason. If not with a probability-based system, then with one where you get loot only in smaller increments.

Third, you're probably dealing with a perception issue. If somebody drives through a town and encounters a similar number of traffic lights being red and green, they will generally report later that there were many more red than green traffic lights. The intuitive understanding humans have of probabilistic events is fairly poor -- our brains just aren't wired for it. Of course, it can also be that you consistently run only with plate and cloth wearers and have to shard all the leather and mail -- in which case you may want to think about also playing with rogues, druids, shamans, and hunters to see more items put to good use.

That is not to say that a purely random loot system is very good, but I'd critique it for entirely different reasons, and I'd go about fixing it in completely a different way.

Roana
02-17-2009, 05:20 AM
To follow up on my own post, I see two critical problems with using random item drops as a reward system.

(1) This way, loot is and needs to be generated in increments that are too big. If every boss dropped a suitable item for you, you'd be fully geared after just a few instance runs. Game over. There's no reason for you to play, because the game can't reward you anymore.

So, how do you award fractions of an item? First of all, you randomize drops. If you have a x% chance of getting what you seek, then over time that's approximately the same as awarding x% of the item, until the total reaches 100%, Atiesh-style.

Second, you drop N items for a group or raid of M players, where N < M. Again, this is equivalent in the long term of awarding an N/M fraction of an item to each of the players.

While this works out well mathematically, it does not translate equally well to user space. A primary reason for the existence of DKP systems is to manage these pseudo-fractional rewards (DKP systems also have other aspects, but that's a major one). The value of a reward system is also greatly diminished if it's an extended period of getting nothing and then suddenly getting a big item. Psychologically, a more steady flow of rewards would be much better.

(2) Random loot has diminishing returns. Let's say that early on you have a 30% chance of something useful dropping for you during an instance run (dungeon or raid). After you have geared up, that probability may have dropped to 10%. In short, not only does running the same instance over and over get less and less interesting, it also becomes less and less rewarding.

Alternative solutions have problems of their own. For example, currency-based schemes (Badges of Justice, Emblems of Heroism/Valor, Stone Keeper's Shards) solve both (1) and (2). They are truly fractional rewards with measurable progress that is little affected by diminishing returns. The downside is that currency-based schemes genericize looting, reducing the immersion factor and the potential for (pleasant) surprise.

Taelas
02-17-2009, 05:49 AM
The biggest problem with WoW's loot system is that it doesn't make sense! 90% of the time, a mob will drop loot that makes absolutely no sense for it to have, or it will drop something that would obviously have helped it if it used it against you (healing potions, a magic axe, etc.).

I'd love a system that is logically consistent. Make mobs drop the greatswords they're trying to hack your head off with.

Roana
02-17-2009, 08:35 AM
The biggest problem with WoW's loot system is that it doesn't make sense! 90% of the time, a mob will drop loot that makes absolutely no sense for it to have, or it will drop something that would obviously have helped it if it used it against you (healing potions, a magic axe, etc.).

You can blame most of that on D&D's random treasure tables (of which the WoW loot system is a thinly disguised variant).

Satrina
02-17-2009, 08:39 AM
Absolutely. Sure, a dragon probably has a random variety of junk in the pile from the various challengers that have come and failed. Arch-wizard Blexnak? But of course he has a set of +5 full plate in the corner :rolleyes:

I always tailor loot to the bad guy, which at the very least has lead to some memorable quotes around the table. Hey! Stop that! You're using up the charges on my loot!

Kazeyonoma
02-17-2009, 09:58 AM
That was one thing that I liked about EQ although it wasn't consistent always. But you could tell if a certain mob was holding a weapon that would drop upon death. Found this cool.

Bookie
02-17-2009, 11:04 AM
The completely illogical drops are probably one thing that everyone would agree on as bad design. I'm still looking for the sadistic bastard that removed all of the bears' tongues in Hillsbrad. If you want me to kill a thousand bears, please, just say, "Go kill a thousand bears."

Klaerth
02-17-2009, 11:14 AM
This is fundamentally flawed in that I believe there are several cloth pieces that are best in slot for resto druids. If not now, that were at some time.

I can understand this, and I remember a time in BC when some of the best Fury Warrior gear was actually leather. But I would also call this a flaw in the overall loot system.

If I can wear plate, why should I have to wear leather just to have the best stats? Give it to the Rogue or the Druid. Give me plate that is best for me.

Although I do see the point that unless you NEED the actual armor value from a "higher" grade of armor, then as long as the stats themselves are good enough, it shouldn't matter. IE...if I'm a DPS Warrior and I'm not tanking, then whether or not it's leather or plate should make little difference except how it affects my damage output.

I personally, though, don't want my Warrior running around in leather. It just feels...weird.

Satrina
02-17-2009, 11:19 AM
I'm still looking for the sadistic bastard that removed all of the bears' tongues in Hillsbrad. If you want me to kill a thousand bears, please, just say, "Go kill a thousand bears."
Amen!

Satrina
02-17-2009, 11:21 AM
I personally, though, don't want my Warrior running around in leather. It just feels...weird.

That's an artifact of a silly system that says "no" too easily. Mage wants to wear plate? Sure, go ahead; here's a 200% cast time penalty to go with it. Ditto my mage who can hold a sword, but not a mace... completley arbitrary with no rhyme or reason.

veneretio
02-17-2009, 11:22 AM
That's an artifact of a silly system that says "no" too easily. Mage wants to wear plate? Sure, go ahead; here's a 200% cast time penalty to go with it. Ditto my mage who can hold a sword, but not a mace... completley arbitrary with no rhyme or reason.
Arcane mages would be okay with that :P

kolben
02-17-2009, 11:24 AM
I don't know if I've ever played a game that worked this way, but my idea of "perfect loot" is much more similar to how the T2.5 gear from AQ40 or even T3 set pieces were done. Maybe throw in the concept of a "proof of kill token", used to purchase something extra.

NPC gives you a quest to go slay a boss in a dungeon, as a reward you get to chose a class-appropriate item. For example's sake lets' say that for a particular boss it's a nice shield if you're a sword & board tank, possibly a nice spell power sword if you're a mage.

In addition to that, special bosses, rares, hard-mode trash might drop special tokens you can purchase something of value with from the NPC, or one of his friends. It could be anything from health pots to rings/necks bags or whatever. This is a place you could easily introduce faction vendors as well.

The idea is that instead of killing a boss 30 times to get what you want, you kill a really hard boss once to get something that's a legit upgrade. Every party member benefits from the kill with something that improves their charactrer and prepares them for more challenging encounters.

There may be an opporutnity to make it replayable by levels of difficulty, and rewards that match. Kill a boss on "dont' hurt me" mode for a green, kill a boss on "Hell Mode" for a legendary. Another way to do that might be by party/raid size, and bosses that scale in damage and difficulty with group size. I like the idea of incremental levels from easy to pert-near-impossible personally.

Just what comes to mind, probably has it's own flaws but somehow seems more effort/reward based than what MMOs usually do.

Klaerth
02-17-2009, 11:34 AM
You're looking at it from the point of view of getting your loot fast. A game designer also has to look at it also from the point of view (for example) of certain classes being excluded more than others because they are poor choices for the purposes of loot stacking.

No actually I'm not looking at it from the point of getting my loot quickly. I'm looking at it from the point of running a raid instance that can only be done once per week and at the end of the raid, absolutely nobody has gotten any upgrades at all, because everything that dropped was specific for a class that wasn't even in the raid. I realize this may be considered an extreme example, but it DOES happen. Often enough to be a problem, IMO.

As far as the larger issue of loot stacking and some classes being left in the cold because the raid doesn't even want to take them, I agree that is something that needs to be looked at and I concede that my solution to the loot system may not be the best. But I never claimed it was the best. It was simply a starting point.



A few points here: First, you're overstating your point. If the Sun Eater never dropped for you (it didn't for me), there were perfectly viable alternatives. You were wasting too much effort on what was essentially a minor upgrade and a status symbol. You don't need any particular item. You need a set of sufficiently good ones that add up to the stats you need. Once you hit diminishing returns on your gearing opportunities from instances (i.e., you've got 90% or so of the drops and badge/emblem gear you need), it's time to reassess how much time you're really willing to spend on the rest.

I was using my experience with Sun Eater as a specific example to illustrate a larger point. Yes, I agree that it is important to balance the value of an item against how much time and effort is needed to obtain the item. For myself, it was actually worth it to make the run 32 times. Due to the fact that Heroic Mechanar was a fairly simple run to make. However, if I had not gotten Red Sword the first time I finished Heroic UP, I probably would never have obtained it. I personally hate Heroic UP and hope never to have to run it again.


Second, that there is only a moderate likelihood of the desired loot dropping is by design. If you got everything you needed on the first run, then you'd stop playing. Blizzard needs to string you along for that reason. If not with a probability-based system, then with one where you get loot only in smaller increments.

And so far I have said nothing about obtaining every single item you want the first time you run an instance. What I'm talking about is preventing items from dropping that absolutely nobody in the raid can even equip. I do agree that if you got every single item you want the first time you run an instance then it would not be nearly as fun or interesting. But the current looting system is a big part of the reason why "instance grinding" is referred to AS "instance grinding". Running the same instance over and over again only to see the same pieces of gear drop time and again is just as boring and even more frustrating than getting everything you want the first time through.

The problem is that they are stringing people along too much. And I guarantee that a significant number of people who do stop playing (and paying their monthly fees) is because they are fed up with NOT getting the pieces of gear they want.


Third, you're probably dealing with a perception issue. If somebody drives through a town and encounters a similar number of traffic lights being red and green, they will generally report later that there were many more red than green traffic lights. The intuitive understanding humans have of probabilistic events is fairly poor -- our brains just aren't wired for it. Of course, it can also be that you consistently run only with plate and cloth wearers and have to shard all the leather and mail -- in which case you may want to think about also playing with rogues, druids, shamans, and hunters to see more items put to good use.

Perception is absolutely part of it. You can throw the math at someone all you want that absolutely proves the overall total percentage drop rate of a particular item is 25%. But if that person runs the same instance a thousand times, they still may never see that piece of gear drop without affecting the 25% drop rate. And that is unacceptable, in my opinion.

And let me state again that my biggest problem with the overrall looting system is running a raid or even a 5-man where the loot that drops is loot that nobody in the group can even use.

Klaerth
02-17-2009, 11:38 AM
That's an artifact of a silly system that says "no" too easily. Mage wants to wear plate? Sure, go ahead; here's a 200% cast time penalty to go with it. Ditto my mage who can hold a sword, but not a mace... completley arbitrary with no rhyme or reason.

No, no, please don't misunderstand me...this was purely a personal preference on my part that has almost purely to do with RP (a holdover from the days of when I did play D&D all the time).

It just feels odd for me to be running around in cloth or leather as a class that can use plate.

Purely a personal preference. Which is in no small part determined by the fact that I think plate armor looks sexier and I am a blacksmith in real life, so I have an affinity for all things made of metal. :D

For the purposes of gameplay mechanics, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty...even as a Warrior (stole this from a WoW forum sig, don't remember whose) "I would wear the frilly pink tutu if the stats were right on it. I'd even buy the ballerina shoes for the set bonus."

Argamasilla
02-17-2009, 12:42 PM
Once you make the decision to move away from the mechanic of replacing items, i.e. loot drops, the discussion of the WOW system no longer provides a lot of value; the two methods are so different any comparisons are irrelevant.

Again, it is very difficult to talk about any single aspect of an MMO as they are all inter-related. If your instances don't drop loot they need another method of reward, and how will that reward encourage people to continue running that instance, and if they need to run it repeatedly do you need to make it interesting each time, or let them farm it so they can upgrade to run a more difficult instance.

Bookie, about phasing, calling it 'time' is just a place holder. You could describe it as different dimensions (even in fantasy time, dimensions, alternate worlds, etc. are all valid). Yes, technically it is more challenging and needs to be part of the core programming or it won't be feasible at all.


Edit: I forgot to mention, you only have 1 character per account with this method. One character per account also allows for a player rating system, i.e. Good or Evil, which again will change with your play style. Note: if you get a bad reputation you can't just swap to an alt, but then there are certain advantages also to being 'evil' and a group of 'evil' characters will have some interesting dynamics....
My idea for character development is a 'classless', morphic system. Like Roana pointed out, leveling is a left over reward system from D&D, and is basically expected by MMO players. In that regard there are levels to be attained, which allow you to track your progress, and are used to provide an overall skill total.

Skills are then improved by use, similar to needing to train up a weapon, but you can only apply this fixed number of skill points based on level (how to gain levels is a different discussion).

There is no class, that is you are not limited by a class to which skill you can use or train up. The best way to explain this is an example.

You have 100 offensive skill points at your level ( Off, Def, Magic, Trade, etc., each have thier own max skill pts, and then your character has an overall max total based on level, your total skill pts will always be significanly less then the combined max, meaning that you can't just max each group, but still allows for lots of customization). You choose to start leveling up your skill in maces, and you want to be the best mace weilder that you can be, so you get maces up to 100 skill (the benefits of each skill pt. is also a different discussion). You then decide to use a ranged weapon, the crossbow, so you start leveling that. As Crossbows go up, maces comes down, if all you do is use your crossbow, eventually crossbows will go to 100 and maces will drop to 0. Now however, if you start using your mace again, it will climb up MUCH faster. For instance it could take 1000 uses to get to 100 (rnd values), but could climb back to 50 in as little as 20 uses after it is already learned (so, skill will quickly resume to thier previous skill level after being achieved). Of course, CBow skill will go down, as your total skill level can never exceed your max skill in offense.

The benefits of say 95 pts vs 70 pts is not large, but can make a difference if someone is min/maxing, while the difference between 10 pts and 30 pts will be significant (think +1 at 10, +10 at 30, + 55 at 70, +60 at 95). So, a character will most likely have use one item enough to keep it in the 50pt range (based on the 100 pt example), but could switch over to a ranged weapon in the 20 pt range and still be effective with it (or vice vs it they want to be a ranged dps).

In a raid type run then you may see this scenerio.

We need a 4th healer for the 3rd boss. Joe, you healed last week so your max skill is 100, even though it is 0 now. Start healing now, so by the third boss your skill will be back to 100. We can afford to lose your dps until then, and the 1st and 2nd bosses are not healing intensive so your lower skill won't hurt us there. Bob, we need you to switch to using your shield, because we will need a second tank on the 3rd boss also.... etc.

So, as a group, you bring people, not classes. The higher level they are, the greater thier max skill will be. Loot drops and level balancing is again a different discussion.

kolben
02-17-2009, 01:18 PM
I diverge from the general MMO crowd on topics like skillups. They conjure up thoughts of auto-walking into a wall stealthed all night to build up my sneaking skill, or making a macro to pitch tents all day while I'm at work to buld up my survival skill. If it's something you would want to macro, it's boring and doesn't belong in a game. Skills could probably be implemented in a fun way, but if it's dull and grueling that's got almost no appeal except to the oddballs that want to suffer through some horrible ordeal for bragging rights.

On the subject of re-running instances. This is pipedream stuff we are talking about here... Mobs would not be static, they would have a sense of self preservation/cooperative, and would be fairly random in placement. That's to say that if you ran the place a 2nd time the creature types will be more or less from the same group (e.g. Nagas and Water/Slime Elementals), but their grouping and placement would be totally different. As for difficulty, let's say for example you wiped on a mob pack in a room. When you come back, you would find them pretty much waiting for you and alerted to your presence already. You could prepare at a safe distance, but it wouldn't be a completely reset encounter with the monsters like you get in WoW in a similar situation. I imagine their "smarts" as well as toughness and damage output being something that scales with the difficulty level your group has chosen. Easy difficulty level might have fairly stupid mobs that aren't too hard to kill, hell difficulty mobs might be both tough and hard hitting as well as cunning and outright dirty.

I like the idea of the dungeon crawl, these would not be places you zip through in 20 minutes and reset. Completing each one would be an achievement in it's own for the difficulty level appropriate for your group. It's a whole other subject, but I would do away with the leveling system entirely. An introductory area where you learn game basics and get some simple gear then throw you to the proverbial wolves with your friends or people from a queue.

Argamasilla
02-17-2009, 02:17 PM
Kolben; You make a good point with the skill system as it pertains to non-combat skills. Obviously it is difficult to portray depth of detail that the skill system has in a paragraph (I have over 30 pages of documentation and visio layouts on the mining skill alone). That said, I doubt that I have touched the surface on the ways that somenoe 'could' game the skill system; this is also why blizz is constantly nerfing/buffing skills as players find new ways to abuse err, I mean use, the game mechanics :)

As for instances, you are limiting your imagination to computer AI... think Player controlled instances. As you get more powerful, you can buy more mobs for your lair, increase thier abilities, and make them smarter. Just think how epic a pvp battle of 20 on 1 player controlled boss. Not everyone can be a boss, nor would they want to be... rewards? Again, think of the boss spamming the raid channel,

"I'm online now, dropping 100 gold and X mats if you can beat me, raid limited to 4 level 10 players max"

The player chooses the reward and the raid size/level, the groups can see what 'level' the player is and if the reward is worth the effort/challenge.

If the player beats the raid, they get pts to improve thier instance. Again, there just isn't room in this forum to go into how the 'boss' player gets rewards to offer and how the trash pays out etc., so please feel free to discuss how those systems could work, your ideas may well be better then mine.

Argamasilla
02-17-2009, 02:20 PM
Bookie, please feel free to use any ideas posted here, as I doubt that mine will ever see the light of LCD, and I would love to play a classless character against a PC controlled boss!

Bookie
02-17-2009, 11:15 PM
I like the idea of the dungeon crawl, these would not be places you zip through in 20 minutes and reset. Completing each one would be an achievement in it's own for the difficulty level appropriate for your group.

I think that there is certainly a place for dungeon crawls; actually I think this ties into some of Alent's earlier comments about grabbing a group and heading into the depths. We were discussing farm content at the time, but despite the difficulty issue, I sense a commonality here. It's the whole, "we're in this for the long haul," Samus Aran touches down on a foreign planet with the faint desire to travel to the deepest depths and genocide a species feeling.


As for instances, you are limiting your imagination to computer AI... think Player controlled instances. As you get more powerful, you can buy more mobs for your lair, increase thier abilities, and make them smarter.

Nice, I like this. This is a nice table top RPG concept for an MMO. I can see this adding a lot of depth and replay value if used well.

With regards to the skill-based system you just described, it could potentially be awesome, with players even needing to swap roles in mid-fight at times. The downside is that it would be extremely difficult to balance, since every character could potentially be a jack-of-all trades. Again, this is something I need to think on to work out the checks and balances that would be needed.

That said, I can envision a boss fight in which the more times that you allowed the boss to perform a certain attack in a row, the more deadly it would become, and the pressure would be on the players to force the boss out of its strategies. And that would be especially hectic if there were three or four "classless" bosses that could perform whatever role was needed, and would become better at it if allowed to continue.


Bookie, please feel free to use any ideas posted here, as I doubt that mine will ever see the light of LCD, and I would love to play a classless character against a PC controlled boss!

Sweet! The classless character balancing would be difficult, but I can really see player controlled dungeon areas fitting into the demo I'm currently working on. It would also provide additional incentive for players to replay dungeons- to earn the respect and assistance of various enemies for the player's dungeon. You could also give the player indirect control over the enemies via a Gambit-like system of tactic priorities (FF XII). And that opens the door for a system in which the player can only teach tactics to their monsters if they have personally seen them in action... more reason to replay. Good stuff... keep it comin' guys!

Oh, and as a side note, I've had a few folks ask me if I work for Blizz- I don't. I'm an MBA student with some programming experience trying to work my way into the game industry. Right now it's a hobby (albeit a damn serious one), but hopefully I will be able to make a career out of it. I'm not out to steal ideas, but things sometimes fuse together in my head and form the foundation for my own ideas. Typically though, I dig beyond specific design elements to the motive behind the element, and then evaluate my work based on that. Or at least, that's what I try to do.

Sometime this week, I plan on reading back through this thread some more and trying to organize things in my mind a bit more; there's a ton of helpful design info here, and I want more damn it! :D

The biggest obstacle to that right now would have to be my roommates and Street Fighter IV!

Roana
02-18-2009, 04:42 AM
No actually I'm not looking at it from the point of getting my loot quickly. I'm looking at it from the point of running a raid instance that can only be done once per week and at the end of the raid, absolutely nobody has gotten any upgrades at all, because everything that dropped was specific for a class that wasn't even in the raid. I realize this may be considered an extreme example, but it DOES happen. Often enough to be a problem, IMO.

Well, that does actually reinforce my point, namely that random loot (rather than intelligent loot) encourages you to bring members of all classes and if you leave one out, then you may end up with useless loot.

Also, the way loot tables are designed makes it impossible for all drops in a raid to be specific to a given class. Tier gear tokens alone make it impossible for that to happen, nevermind the rest of the loot table. And if that weren't the case, they could be designed to guarantee it. As a simple example, have the first boss drop loot for classes 1-5, the second boss drop loot for classes 6-10, the third boss for classes 1-5, and so forth. No matter what class you didn't bring, at most half the items can't be used. And, of course, you can still improve on that scheme. (After all, we're talking about future games in this thread, it's not a "what's wrong with WoW" thread.)


I was using my experience with Sun Eater as a specific example to illustrate a larger point.

The Sun Eater is, unfortunately, not a good example, because it had a disproportionately low drop rate (around 5% originally, I seem to recall) and because there were easier to get items that were reasonably close and which you could have gotten much earlier. You were either hunting the elusive last few percent of a diminishing returns scale or were apportioning your time poorly by investing too much of it in a single item.


Yes, I agree that it is important to balance the value of an item against how much time and effort is needed to obtain the item. For myself, it was actually worth it to make the run 32 times. Due to the fact that Heroic Mechanar was a fairly simple run to make. However, if I had not gotten Red Sword the first time I finished Heroic UP, I probably would never have obtained it. I personally hate Heroic UP and hope never to have to run it again.

And that there's really no problem with that (unless there are systemic reasons for people to hate heroic Utgarde Pinnacle that Blizzard wants to improve upon). It is quite possible to do content with 95% optimal gear instead of 100% optimal gear. In fact, some progression schemes encourage going for the next tier of content before you're even close to having gotten 100% from the previous tier, because you can do the content anyway (even it if it requires a bit more work), and you'll get bigger and more frequent upgrades from stuff that you haven't farmed yet, so that you have a much better upgrade value per time spent ratio.


And so far I have said nothing about obtaining every single item you want the first time you run an instance.

I didn't say you did. I was showing why Blizzard can't (or at least would be stupid to) go to a system of drops that are guaranteed (or even highly likely) to be useful. Useful loot has to be spread out to keep people playing.


What I'm talking about is preventing items from dropping that absolutely nobody in the raid can even equip. I do agree that if you got every single item you want the first time you run an instance then it would not be nearly as fun or interesting. But the current looting system is a big part of the reason why "instance grinding" is referred to AS "instance grinding".

I hate to break it to you, but this part of the game is not going to go away. Blizzard has a limited amount of content that they can offer players at endgame. No matter how they design loot, if players keep playing the game, the players will be replaying the same content over and over and over. Random loot simply incentivizes this (and, in fact, badges/emblems are a much better incentive for it, so it's not the fault of random loot at all).

If you want to fix the limited replay value of endgame, this is largely loot-independent.

kolben
02-18-2009, 09:49 AM
If you want to fix the limited replay value of endgame, this is largely loot-independent.

Okay, so just pulling this out of nowhere.

What if there were optional modes to a dungeon. Maybe those modes had say a special reward for completing them in their alternate state.

A really really good example of this is Dire Maul Tribute runs. Not only did you get access to some sweet loot and patterns, but 2 hour buffs from the guards. Sure that has limited replay as well, but we are talking mostly about scripting here, not new content as in models/audio/animation/environment.

What if you could do alternate modes to a dungeon something like the DM Tribute Runs, or something completley wacky and fun like a King of the Hill mode. The mode could even be completey non-serious in the spirit of Rayman's Raving Rabbids (Home | Rayman Zone | Ubisoft (http://raymanzone.us.ubi.com/)).

This leads me to another thought. We treat the game like a paycheck, it's how MMO's work. We kill the boss, then we get paid. Achievements have kind of swept over online gaming. What if some of these wacko mode things you did just for a ridiculous title or tabard, pokemon pet, more e-peen and bragging rights. It doens't always have to be a badass best-in-slot piece of gear does it?

Satrina
02-18-2009, 10:17 AM
I would love to play a classless character against a PC controlled boss!

Are you sure you're not in my pen and paper gaming group? :) Player controlled bosses are another idea we've batted around a lot.

Argamasilla
02-18-2009, 01:09 PM
PC bosses are just part of a whole "Meta Game" theme.

How about your guild. Wouldn't it be nice as the guild master to be able to grant your members special in-game abilities! A good example, but not the only application, would be finishing content then ascending to demi-godhood. You are phased out of the normal game, and must get player characters to join your cult/church/guild. The more that join, the more power you have, and the more abilites you can grant; of course the more minions you have the more spread out your powers can become, don't spread yourself too thin or you will be too weak to defend yourself or your followers from your rival gods.

Or ascend to Boss status, or Trade Guild leader and design and distribute patterns to only your trade guild....

Raids, instances, and combat are important, but the infrastructure that surrounds an mmo is what keeps the majority of the players coming back... of the 10 Million wow accounts, maybe 5%??? are hard core raiders... and I would guess that only 50% of the total player base are end gamers, could be higher now with Wrath, but I know in BC Kara was a huge block for a majority of casual (also those that just aren't good at combat/moving) players.

Satrina, I don't think I'm in your paper group... but then, maybe I am ; )

Rustik
02-20-2009, 12:33 PM
I like the idea of a player controlled boss. I would be all about running amok and smashing my guildies for fun and profit.

Problem is it could only be for fun. There couldn't be a reward to it, because it would be too easy for the player to just stand there idle and let their guildies kill him for loot.

Alent
02-20-2009, 12:34 PM
Guild Keeps.

Need I say more?

Erichilles
02-20-2009, 12:39 PM
Idea: I came up with an idea a while ago, a organised mass of small group's in BG form. Basically 20ish groups of 5 players each go into a relatively large bg-instance searching for a 'something', where the number of somethings less than the number of teams. Have some cool random events, which could help/hinder your team. Possibly some type of 'x team has the item' and have a pointer to them.

that sounds really cool... like a pvp instance..

kolben
02-20-2009, 12:49 PM
Only thing that comes to mind about player controlled bosses is the way people would carry on about the differences in the controlling player's skill Everyone knows iampwnunao can't circle strafe! Bad strafing is bad, no kudos for you! amirite

Yes guild keeps, and possibly some kind of trophies for your accomplishments to decorate them. Would love something like that. Like EQ2 housing, only not creepy.

Argamasilla
02-20-2009, 03:14 PM
@Rustik, If the loot drops from the boss where generated externally then letting your friends kill you would be profitable. I think I mention this every time, that each piece taken out of context and discussed separately leads to another discussion. In this case, the loot the player drops is not generated by the game. The PC has to go out and earn it to put it on their loot table. It would be like doing dailys and getting 10k gold, then telling your guildies that if they can kill you in a duel, you will give them 10k gold. You still had to earn that gold first.

For other things, like experience, they still come off your stats as the Boss PC. For instance, in WoW if you have an 80 horde friend, he could let you kill him repeatedly for honor pts, but then those losses show up on his character.

@kolben... LOL indeed, a bad player would be a bad boss! However the path of asecntion to become a boss is not an easy path, you don't just get it by showing up and putting in your time. Since its essentially a PVP arena, ascention to a boss would require you to top the pvp charts in some manner.

Also, the two tie together in that after you become a boss, not only are you a target for raids, but for other bosses. Although another boss can not attack you in your 'instance' lair, when you go out to earn your loot, you will either need to co-operate with other bosses, or battle them for resources.

@ Alent. Phasing and player configurable instances allow for Guild keeps. There would be a number of fixed templates that you would choose from, like Keep Beta model. Which would then become part of your instance. If you have ever played Second life, this is the level of customization that would be possible, which each instance like its own small 2nd life world. Your keep shows in your inventory, and you drop it where you want it.

2nd life also has a game engine, which would allow for combat inside the instances. I only mentioned 2nd life as an example that the technology already exists to produce this type of game, not that it would be based in 2nd life.

Alent
02-22-2009, 12:52 PM
arg - My insinuation was that your "player bosses" would be the guardians of your guild keep. You wouldn't kill your own defenders for loot, would you?

Argamasilla
02-23-2009, 11:41 AM
Alent,

Well, I could envision an evil guild boss killing his own men for a buff, but from a game mechanics viewpoint, it would be really difficult to play if you had to target around your own players; although it would be much more realistic that boiling oil dropped at the gate would burn both your defenders and the gate crashers.

I really like the idea that you can attack anything that you want, that guard in your keep looking at you funny, go ahead and attack him! The problem is accidentally hitting the wrong key when you have them targeted for a trade or something. So, while you should have the ability to attack friendly or neutral NPC's you have to manually flag them as a target. As far as PC is concerned, while I KNOW that some people would love to go around ganking people in their own guild, the majority of victims would find it unacceptable.

This discussion thread however leads to the Good/Evil mechanic of the game, and the repercussions of certain actions. For instance, lets say that your guild 'Boss' has a good reputation. All of the NPC minions in the keep will be aligned on the good side. As a side note, I use good and evil, but really under the hood it is a positive/negative scoring system which the game balances around, but does not favor ( -100 means the same as +100 for the game, the sign is only used to determine how npc/quests react to the character). Back on track, assuming that ganking much lower level targets and guild members is a negative thing, if you continue doing that, eventually all the guild NPCs will become hostile to you. Same holds true if you are in an Evil guild and keep doing good things. Now, its going to cost the Guild Boss resources to replace NPC's that get killed, either through raids or by guildies killing them for whatever reason. If having that player in your keep becomes to much of an issue, the boss may boot you from the guild, or make you go questing to adjust your status to align more with the guild.

Notice that the general theme here is that the game isn't trying to put limitations on the actions of the players, but is trying to provide a framework within which people can find the method of play that best suits them. You can think of it as a Social physics engine, where there are rules like gravity that keep you on the ground, but do not prevent you from 'jumping' or 'flying', but they are social rules like who you can interact with and how.

Machus
02-25-2009, 05:51 AM
Best of WoW:
By far the best characteristic of WoW compared to other games is quality. Yes, quality. In an entertainment experience quality is king, and Blizzard is clearly the quality leader. To give a few examples:

The client works reliably. I tried playing an NC-soft game and didn't get past the character creation screen, because the client wouldn't support my keyboard!
It works on PC and Mac. So does the in-game Lua runtime for plugins, and so does the website and the patch distribution.
The UI is usable and the key bindings work. I tried playing another game where it takes 5 clicks to switch between fullscreen and windowed. In WoW this is one key. Stuff like this matters!
The great majority of exploits are in fact prevented through game mechanics such as Evade, Soulbound items, lock-outs, etc. This preserves the value of gameplay and is extremely important.
For the most part, on a PvE server, nobody messes with your enjoyment of the game. Griefing is rare, and dungeons are instanced. Compare that with EVE where as soon as you go to a worthwhile (and dangerous) zone someone literally robs you at gunpoint.

The second-best characteristic of WoW is stylized design. Everything in WoW looks like art. The buildings are unnaturally large and look like toys. The landscapes are astounding (some of them are silly, in my opinion, like Zangarmarsh, but better to have the occasional bad art than lack of art). The characters are also stylized cartoons. Art and abstraction has to be everywhere, as it is in WoW, in order to immerse the player in fantasy.

Compare this to some other games: Some friends play a version of Battlefield (a modern warfare FPS). It depresses me to look at their screen, because I see realistic soldiers, and jeeps, and ugly concrete military buildings and frankly we could go join an army and have such a horrid, soul-destroying experience for real, but we don't want to do we? Or I look at other MMOs and see female glamour models as characters. Although they might look pretty, all that that does is break immersion and inflate the standard of art and beauty in the game. WoW uses this judiciously, as in Alexstraza.

Finally, consider the classic games Doom II and Quake. Doom II was created with early PC technology, which made necessary grainy low-res images of monsters, various constraints on level geometry, and generally a degree of non-photorealistic visual abstraction. This triggered imagination, and was awesome. Then came Quake, and especially Quake II which took advantage of the (then new) graphics accelerators. Suddenly every surface was crisp and looked like a cleaned up industrial kitchen. The whole FPS genre sucked for years, artistically speaking, until Half Life came along and figured out how to fit abstraction and imagination back into the new capabilities of the medium.

Worst of WoW
The worst point about WoW is Blizzard's treatment of the game as content. They approach it as if it was a TV series. First you consume the classic season. Then you consume the Burning Crusade. Then you consume WLK, and so on. Within each season everyone is shepherded to move along the tiers of content roughly at the same speed and without ever going back. Old content is considered dead, and is kept dead by goal inflation.

It should by now have clicked on Blizzard (and their competitors) that an MMO is not content. It is space, like Facebook. The value of an MMO is the presence of other players in it. The MMO needs to have a goal structure, so that there is a shared sense of worth driving the players, and it has to have good game mechanics so that you gain a sense of Flow (more of this later) through the game play. That is what matters. We care for constantly improving game mechanics and a well-designed, stable, goal economy. We don't care much about having new art for bosses and dungeons, and inflating the goal economy every two years is a bad thing.

The biggest thing that needs to change to fix this is to remove the concept of levels from the game, as others already said. New characters should start in Elwyn or wherever with the full bases stats, although still with 1-2 spells. When you kill a worthy monster you should gain points for the schools that you mainly used, and this should unlock more spells, talents, and stats. For example if you tank a mob, a mage kills it with frostbolts, and a priest heals you you should get some points in protection, the mage in frost, and the priest in holy, which they can use to get new spell ranks, talents, and raise the base stats tied to those schools (stamina, intellect).

If characters were re-worked somewhat like this, all content would be accessible to all players technically, and yet each player would have to invest and grow their character to tackle the harder content. It would also allow a skilled player to go further with a not-so-well developed character.

Having difficulty levels on zones, like we got in WLK, should be extended to all the zones, so that they all have replay value. Some zones might be the easiest in easy mode, but spawning say the super-heroic litch in SFK should give a reason for advanced players to go there and and enjoy both the instance and the surrounding region. The whole of the content in WoW needs to be revived and made re-playable in this way. Blizzard not doing so, and considering it dead, is just throwing away their asset.

The second worst thing in WoW is, I think, scripted content. When I play an MMO I invest in excellence of some sort. I may be building up my character's skills, my gear, or my own skill as a player playing that class in general. Then I get an encounter like Magtheridon, where I have to stand at the end of the room clicking cubes, or an encounter where I have to play on a vehicle and my whole investment and attachment to my character are negated. Whoever thought that might be a good idea?

There are lesser examples of this problem of scripted vs. generic. Delrissa in MgT was an example where, even though I take pride in being a good tank, if the group had any dificulty it was always more useful for me to relog as mage just to kill that boss. The boss didn't allow the tank role to use its strengths. Naxxramas seems full of encounters where you just have to learn to do a dance exactly right, and there are only a few encounters where you actually have to react to dynamic generic situations like waves of adds. I loved Shattered Halls because it required generic good play, and hated bosses like Murmur because all that matters is that you learn to do one arbitrary thing right.

Machus
02-25-2009, 06:20 AM
As an aside, here's how gear could work in a way that's not tied to levels:

Every item is tuned to some base stats. For example a tanking sword might be tuned to 800 stamina and 600 strength. When each of these are close to your character's base stats the sword gives you +5% HP and +3% AP respectively. These % increases from your various pieces of gear stack, and it's always a pattern of base stat + gear = % bonus on green stat.

Anyone could theoretically use the sword, but if your relevant stats are too low your character struggles and gets a -10% HP, -5% AP effect instead. You might still use it for its raw damage or some other reason, but it's not well advised. If only one of your base stats is weak, only one green stat is penalized.

If your stats are too high the sword is holding you back and you get diminishing returns to 0% HP and AP. This tells you it's time to upgrade, and that is key. As your base stats advance, you'll be better off with a green, or even a vendor white! This provides a better incentive for replacing gear than a linear progression to a numerically better epic.

The item quality (grey/white/green/blue/purple/orange) would affect the % bonus rather than the base stats it's tuned for. For example a green sword tuned to 800 stamina could grant +5% HP, while an epic also tuned to 800 stamina grants +15% HP. The higher quality item could also have more longevity. For example a green item works within +/- 5% of tuned base stats, while an epic works for +/- 20%. This system would allow epics to be itemized for many bands of base stats, rather than only at the endgame.

You'd also want to keep different gear for different circumstances. For example if you respec from protection to DPS and that has an effect on your base stats, you'll want to use gear matched to these new stats. Some of this might be gear that you had outgrown, such as something tuned to lower stamina.

kolben
02-25-2009, 08:38 AM
You make some good points. I'll add though that skill level for certain tasks is a major obstacle for most players in the game. Parroting a couple of your examples, I've known healers who simply can not move fast enough on Murmur in Heroic. People who simply can not get the box clicking down on Magtheridon, players skilled enough to kill Archimonde but not Princess Delrissa in a 5 man group. Blizzard nerfed the box clicking on Magtheridon for a reason, many guilds simply could not do it the original way with any kind of repeatable success. People can make snide remarks about people being idiots, scrubs, l2play etc. but in cases like this we are talking about a majority that has trouble with it. What sounds good in a forum discussion, is not necessarily going to make a playable game where it comes to some of the more korean'esque hard-mode MMO ideas.

Some very highly scripted fights are also extremely challenging, C'thun comes to mind as the most prominent example that I've witnessed first hand.

Players do care about new art and content. WotLK has the highest active subscriber level of any previous period in WoW. There are most likely other factors here, but I would guess it has to do with getting back to lore that people actually care about and that the game is simply gorgeous.

One point I strongly agree on is that my preference would be for old content to remain meaningful. Why can't a new group of level 80 players start at Molten Core and progress through content at their own pace? For one thing, new players are missing out on a lot of cool content simply because it makes no practical sense to go there. Not to mention the skills and experience those of us who started in classic have as a benefit to drawn on when taking on new content. Heroics and Naxx have proven Blizzard has the ability, whether they have the time or resources I don't know. I would love to go through MC, ZG/AQ20, BWL, AQ40, Karazhan, Gruuls/Mags, SSC/TK, BT/MH, Sunwell, Naxx/OS/Vaults with a group of shinys that have little to no raid experience at the start. That would be fun.

Bookie
02-25-2009, 09:20 AM
Everything in WoW looks like art. The buildings are unnaturally large and look like toys. The landscapes are astounding (some of them are silly, in my opinion, like Zangarmarsh, but better to have the occasional bad art than lack of art). The characters are also stylized cartoons. Art and abstraction has to be everywhere, as it is in WoW, in order to immerse the player in fantasy.

I definitely think that the art style is a major component of WoW's success. When companies take a realistic approach to graphics in an attempt to "wow" people, they build a shelf life into their games. Graphics are always improving, and today's "super realistic I can't believe it isn't real" is tomorrow's "oh yeah, it had good graphics at the time." (Not to mention the fact that stylized art lends itself to lower system specs and a larger potential player pool!)

The point about abstraction also extends well beyond the art aspects of a game. If you pitted Tetris against an Architect Sim game in terms of mass appeal, Tetris would win every time. On the other hand, most people play Tetris for about an hour total before they are more or less done with it, whereas the people who genuinely enjoy a super-detailed, realistic Sim game will put much more time into it.

I was thinking about character development in games the other day, and I always return to the idea that what isn't said about a character is more important than what is said. All the little details of a character's background that are left out provide an opportunity for the player to complete the character however he or she sees fit (and therefore enjoy the character more). I like to call it the Companion Cube Effect, where just enough details are provided about something to pique someone's curiosity.

Changing gears a bit, the item system you've described is pretty similar to the one found in the Disgaea series, where each class has an aptitude rating for each stat. Of course, Disgaea takes things to the extreme in the end, with numbers scaling into the bajillions.

It's interesting that you brought up the art aspect, as art direction and UI design are two of the topics I've been working with recently. I think it was Roana who expressed the opinion early in this thread that a customizable UI is a good UI. Right now, I'm trying to envision ways for improved community involvement in content creation.

Good post, Machus. I suspect there is still more to be said about the efficient and effective use of "old" content, as well as utilizing players' character development. From one perspective, designers want each experience to be unique and memorable, but at the same time you want as many people as possible to enjoy each piece of content in a variety of ways. I'd say it certainly requires balance, which is itself a mark of quality, just to bring things full-circle. :D

Satrina
02-25-2009, 10:01 AM
I was thinking about character development in games the other day, and I always return to the idea that what isn't said about a character is more important than what is said.

Somewhat related to this is appearance. As a player, I am probably the worst of powergamers (I run a 295GTX and have every setting set to low for best framerate, and I usually turn off sound in games). However, one of things that annoys me the most in most games is nameplates. In WoW, you pretty much have to have them because everyone looks the same more than less. A human female model looks like every other human female model except in the face. We all end up wearing the same armour and other pieces. Even if you have 4 sets of boots in your bag, they're probably that ridiculous steel mukluk graphic for all of them.

Going back to the build your own gear model I was talking about before, one of the big advantages is that you start from a base armour piece that you've picked because of looks as much as how much magic it can hold. Add to that armour dyes, a more varied tabard system, and the ability to change height/muscularity/fatness/etc. for your character, and you can make your toon look completely how you want - and unlike anyone else's. Now you can get rid of nameplates.

Sure, people will argue that NPCs "need" them, but they're just lazy. You don't remember your friends because their name is suspended in the air above their heads! You remember where the corner store is, and what your barber looks like just fine. Add a good "ask the guards directions" system like WoW has and you're set.

kolben
02-25-2009, 10:36 AM
I like that idea Satrina, but I believe it has technical limitations on hardware. How would your unique model be drawn? What would riding into the trade district in Stormwind, or the bank in Org require of your system to get 50+ unique characters drawn on screen? How close or far away would drawing just ignore your unique features to get your model loaded on screen?

As an example that offers more character customization than wow, whatever approach EQII uses is really really poor. Characters can look very detailed, and have a unique look up close. From a distance they are a shapeless stick with white wire-frame hair. The upshot to the way wow renders character models is that they can be recognized from a far distance for what they are, e.g. female night elf priest in T5 with long dark blue hair and no facial markings.

Argamasilla
02-25-2009, 12:25 PM
Preface: Again I use 2nd life as an example only, in that the technology is already available to allow for unique item creation.

Lets use helms as an example.

There are 10 generic helm molds. Each mold has generic model that is used to display at a distance. For instance, a mold with dual protrusions (horns perhaps) or a smooth round dome.
Then a couple of generic properties, such as shiny or matte (metal or leather), large, med, or small... etc.

From a distance then, they are distinct enough but require very little data to be passed to the client in order to display them. Depending on how many parameters are used, it could just be 200 or so helm images, or 10 images with different parameters passed to the 3D presentation drivers.

The player would have the option of turning on/off customized gear display. If it is turned ON, then on a proximity basis, equipment model data would be downloaded to the client for display.

Its important to note that creating custom pieces would not be trivial, so unlike 2nd life where 100% of the content is streamed to the client for display, only a portion of the items viewed would be custom.

Also, only crafters can create custom items for themselves or distribution, and each created item is given a unique identifier, so the client only needs to download the image once. I call it an 'image' but I believe it is rasterized 3D rendering information, which is much smaller.

kolben
02-25-2009, 01:38 PM
I don't think WoW does anything at all with lower quality models in game. So if you see a troll hunter in full T7.5 with awesome-badass-bow and a giant worm named chuckles it's all the same models at 250 yards and 2 yards. Even the prominent shaders on models like the BBQ pits in Warrior T5 shoulder model are drawn really far out. Personal preference here, but I think that makes a consistent and more pleasing look than levels of detail that ratchet up and down with draw a'la EQ2. I'd have to check out the game your describing to compare. One of the most ingenious things (imo) about wow model art is that most of the detail is not in the model, but in the skin through clever use of shading and color. I suspect that they build/paint/light/render the skins on a 3D model before putting them in a skin file to pull off some of the tricks for beautiful skins on a low poly model.

Argamasilla
02-25-2009, 02:45 PM
I really don't know the mechanics behind the 3D modeling, in 2nd life you create a shape, and then apply a skin to it, which can be pre-shaded or let the rendering engine shade it.

The shape, I believe, is simply a vector based representation of a 3D shape which a skin image is then over-laid. Distance does not have an effect on the detail of the rendering, only the scale is changed to provide the illusion of distance, since its all on your flat screen. The amount of detail that you can see is limited by the resolution settings of your monitor and the scale that the item is being viewed.

The only reason to use generic images at a distance is to limit the customized image data being sent to the client. This is the same thing that WOW has now with the 'draw distance', which with my old video card made most of the world a grey smudge, but now I can see all of ice-crown at one time. Which makes it much easier to navigate btw.

Edit: And at the smallest scales, or objects at a distance, there are a limited number of pixels and you basically just see a colored blob of 100-200 pixels.

kolben
02-25-2009, 03:02 PM
WoW's draw distance does not appear to apply to character and NPC model details, only terrain details. This is a key detail in why it looks so much better than it's competitors at any distance beyond close up imo.

Argamasilla
02-25-2009, 03:14 PM
@kolben

WOW has a maximum distance at which it will draw a character.

The idea is the same though. as the Wyrmrest tower for instance, is simply scaled up as you approach it, to make it appear as if you are moving closer to it. Since all the terrain detail is already stored on the computer (as well as gear images), video card processing power is the limiting factor in the drawing distance, as opposed to bandwidth in transferring custom information.

kolben
02-25-2009, 03:35 PM
What you are talking about is done purely for perspective reasons. Models in WoW seem to be loaded in entirely, skins and all with no low-res substitute that I have ever seen. This is my point, which you seem to misunderstand.

Comparing the Wyrmrest Temple to drawing a character is not an ideal example, since terrain and structures seem to be handled differently than character models/NPCs in just about any game that comes to mind. In terms of draw distance and detail distance.

At that maximum draw distance that it draws a character, the entire model seems to get loaded including shaders (the glowy bits). The original point being that with a very large degrees of customization this would probably be very difficult to get right beyond a certain distance, and would be a big hit when you ride into a crowd of customized character models in a busy place like Dalaran or an AH/gathering spot of your choice.

Argamasilla
02-25-2009, 06:03 PM
Nope, I'm not misunderstanding you, but I think we are misunderstanding each other.

When I talk about scaling, I don't mean changing the resolution of the object; a low-res long distance vs. high-res close up. Scaling is just adjusting the magnitude of the vector distances, which results in the model appearing larger or smaller on the screen, and is used to simulate distance.

I suggest that you try 2nd life. You can enjoy the simulator with a free character. While in there, go to a sandbox and use the built in tools to create some custom 3D objects. It will give you first hand experience with what I am describing.

Later you can use an 3rd party 3D modeling program to create custom one piece shapes that you can then upload into 2nd life, the first things I made were couch cushions. Using photoshop then, you create a 3D skin in 2D space, which is really a challenge, then up load that image also. 2nd Life will then allow you to skin the object with the image you created.

You can then leave it on the ground and back away from it. The object will appear to shink in size. As it gets smaller, details get lost. Not because the object is being changed, but there are only a certain number of pixels per sq in on your monitor, and the just aren't enough pixels to show all the detail. Step back far enough and the object will eventually be rendered to 1 pixel, and then disappear from your view.

Technically, if you had one of those 110 inch LCD televisions as your monitor, you could see just as much detail on an image 5" high as you could on a 20 inch monitor with an image 5" high, but you would be standing 10' away from it vs 10" on the smaller set.

When you stand really close to something in WOW, the stylized drawing of the objects does not show a lot of detail. That is you do not see wood grain patterns, paint strokes, or individual fibers on a cloak. A good example is the glowing crystal in the middle of the Titanguard Shield. Up close you can see the diamond shape of the crystal, but from across the room all you see is a circular glow, which you then recognize as the shield.

WOW isn't doing anything wrong or poorly, that is they style and level of detail they have chosen. If I was making an MMO, I wouldn't go down to single hairs of detail either, because its not needed to allow customized objects.

The only challenge is managing the customized objects. WOW doesn't allow it because their world is highly stylized and they want to keep a consistent theme; and you know, someone would create a giant penis sword if they could.

Managing the objects includes not just monitoring what is created, but how it is distributed to the clients, stored, interaction with the character models, etc.

WOW is too far along in its development to worry about things like custom objects, but they will become more common place in MMO's; players will demand it out of new games.

Machus
02-28-2009, 06:55 PM
On the topic of loot, let's start by describing two systems that make great intuitive sense but in fact would work out horrible in actual group play dynamics:

A. When you kill the boss they drop a chest with every possible piece of loot, but only one item can be looted. That would eliminate all frustration and waste, but replace it with the worst possible conflict in the group.

B. The boss only has loot that's logical for them to have. A mage has caster loot, a warrior plate, etc. That's how Scarlet Monastery was actually itemized, and as a result it was hard to fill a balanced group to any particular wing except Cathedral, and that only worked because Mograine was a pally and Whitemane a priest, and that covered most needs.

So, can we learn something from these and construct a loot system that is attractive? Let me cheat by describing what characteristics I think a loot system should have:

Every boss kill should give something to every member of the party, assuming they want any loot from that instance at all. That means every kill should count, like badges, but only towards getting loot from that instance so that progression matters.
You should receive your item at the place where you kill the boss, after a boss kill. This gives the satisfaction of victory. Systems based on badges or tokens feel like working and shopping, and the items feel less good since they are after all in stock at vendors.
Each player's loot should be independent of everyone else's, not just to avoid conflict but also to keep pace. Needing an item never feels right, if it is of any value. Having to pause to discuss it is just as bad.
The loot should be unique to the bosses in the instance (like all boss drops and unlike badges) so that you run the specific instances. It should also be itemized to be plausible gear for the boss to have, because that's good immersion.
The loot should be randomized so that you don't get it in a single run, and so that you can't plan it exactly as you can with badges. You shouldn't be able to say "we do UK because I need exactly 3 tokens". However the variance of how many runs you need to get a particular item should be small.
The system should allow for rarer-than-usual loot, such as mid-level epics, because these are a great source of excitement. However they should never be wasted or argued over.

So here's my proposal. Let's use the Scarlet Monastery example again because everyone is familiar with that instance and its bosses:

When you kill a boss, everyone in the party gets a key fragment. Say you kill Arcanist Doan in the Library. Since that's a boss with loot desired by casters and druids at that level, all mages, warlocks, priests, and druids get Doan's key fragment. Key fragments go in your keyring.

Everyone else gets a random key fragment of one of the bosses in Scarlet Monastery who do have some loot that they may desire(*). So by killing Doan your helpful tank may get any of Herod's, Mograine's, or Ironspine's key fragment.

Bosses themselves drop only gold and key fragments. The way to get loot is to combine a set number of key fragments and open a chest that becomes accessible, separately to each player, where the boss is killed. So say that Doan's chest requires six key fragments. In our example run we have a happy mage who had 5 before the run, got their 6th, and opens the chest. They get to loot one item of their choice each time, and they pick the staff. If they do loot an item, they key is used up. Let's say there was also a warlock in the party first time in the Monastery. They would just pick up the key fragment and no loot.

The two warriors in the example party are also happy. Although Doan has no loot for them, one got Herod's fragment and the other got the rare Ironspine's fragment. The mage suddenly finds themselves busy, but the party finds another DPS and agrees to go to the Armory wing. The tank and the fury warrior both have enough fragments for Herod's chest (say this one takes 8) at the end of the run. The tank already has the shoulder, so both warriors loot the axe from their respective chests. The casters in the party of course get Doan, Whitemane, or Thalnos key fragments from Herod's body.

If a player already owns every item of loot from a particular boss, say a caster has both cloth items and both weapons from Doan, or if they have four complete keys, then Doan would start dropping random key fragments of Whitemane or Thalnos for that player.

In this particular example of the Scarlet Monastery we would still see a tendency for casters to go to the Library and melee to the Armory since this gives predictable key fragments and loot, but at least all wings would give incentives to all classes. In a large linear instance such as Karazhan the group would clear all bosses each time. A boss like Shade of Aran would be a loot opportunity for casters and a random Karazhan key fragment for melee. Moroes the opposite. A warrior could go back after the instance is cleared and loot Moroes' chest, if they happen to get the last key fragment from Aran.

As a further example consider an instance that has one caster boss and four melee, like Shattered Halls if I remember right. A priest in the party would get one loot opportunity at Warlock Nethekurse, but all five bosses would drop Netherkuse's key fragment so the priest could get loot after just 2-3 runs. A melee would see four different bosses with loot but they'd get one fragment of each at a time, plus the random one from Nethekuse, so there's a bigger incentive for melee but they need more runs.

(*) We've ignored for the sake of the argument that Doan can also drop an epic tank ring, presumably added to his loot table in the hope to attract tanks. Here's how this would be handled instead in the proposed system. Any of Herod's, Mograine's, or Ironspine's chests would have a small chance of containing the epic ring. Say Herod's chest takes 8 fragments, Mograine's 10, and Ironspine's 2 since he's a rare spawn. The chests might have a 8%, 10%, and 2% chance respectively of containing the epic tank ring. The player can of course choose each time whether to take the ring or one of the other pieces of loot.

Argamasilla
03-02-2009, 03:33 PM
The WOW loot drop mechanic is, in itself, a recursive strategy; I kill bosses to get items, so I can kill bigger bosses for better items, lets call it Kill2Kill, or K2K.

This strategy has been adequate for quite some time, because games had a limited scope/play time. WOW has tried to break the K2K cycle by introducing achievements, with some success.

To comment on your strategy however, since specific keys are required for those instances, you are forcing players to redo that specific instance multiple times, and then do it again for each piece of loot. After the first wave of players get all the pieces they need, they have no reason to go back. The next, slower leveling wave, of players will then have a smaller pool of players willing to run that instance; basically only friends and guildies will do it, and then only as charity.

This strategy increases the shelf-life of an instance, but most players would not find it enjoyable. Choice and lots of it is, I believe, what brings players into an MMO. Being forced to 'play-out' content, while good for the developers, is not a winning stategy for sustainable game play.

Random loot drops and badge type rewards can remain in a supportive role, but there must be better base systems that are highly scalable and non-recursive.

Bookie
03-08-2009, 10:35 PM
Shifting gears a bit, does anyone have any clever UI design ideas? I believe it was Roana that mentioned the customizable UI as one of WoW's better traits early in the thread; other than making user customization as open and simple as possible, does anyone else have some useful do's and don't's to share?

One thing I have been considering recently is the use of different fonts for positive and negative effects and numbers (ie healing vs damage). It's important that they do not clash with one another, but different fonts would not only make things more intuitive, but also would provide better accessibility for the color blind.

Currently, I'm trying to create a simplistic, streamlined UI that stays out of the action as much as possible while remaining visible when needed. One major challenge, especially in RPGs, is that there is often more information to display than is practical, and different classes (and builds) obviously need different info.

Another topic that we have yet to explore in this thread is offline solo content in online game design. Alent and I have touched on it briefly in the chatbox (and he's got a couple of great ideas about it, too), and I'm curious what the rest of the community thinks about it.

A third topic of interest to me right now that may strike a chord with others given the Ulduar PTR testing is content pacing through game mechanics such as gates and guild-killer bosses. Should users face unkillable bosses, sudden difficulty hikes, and time-gated content or not? And, if not, what should be done to occupy the hardcore in between content additions? In other words, is the Sarth 3d model the sweet spot (hard-mode achievements), or is there another great idea hiding out there?

Alent
03-08-2009, 10:54 PM
when designing a UI, occam's razor is your friend.

There should be no information that the UI ~has to display~ that cannot be accurately abstracted into a single tooltip.

Wow raiding is the antithesis of good UI design, because there's ~way too much information required~ to actually play some roles (but not others!). Ideally this information would be communicated visually in game but wow isn't complicated enough for that or has made it impossible with spell animation details. (Seriously. ever tried watching a mob to see when he's casting in a raid? Notice how you can't tell because it's vanished in a soup of particle effects? that is SERIOUSLY bad game design right there.)

So I guess what I'm trying to say is your UI has to be wholistic. You can't just have a GUI plastered on top of an animation. They're linked.

Roana
03-09-2009, 02:19 AM
Shifting gears a bit, does anyone have any clever UI design ideas? I believe it was Roana that mentioned the customizable UI as one of WoW's better traits early in the thread; other than making user customization as open and simple as possible, does anyone else have some useful do's and don't's to share?

I would recommend getting read up on the current state of the art of HCI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human-computer_interaction). There's a ton of existing research and information available, much of which is summarily ignored by modern application developers.

Roana
03-09-2009, 02:35 AM
A third topic of interest to me right now that may strike a chord with others given the Ulduar PTR testing is content pacing through game mechanics such as gates and guild-killer bosses. Should users face unkillable bosses, sudden difficulty hikes, and time-gated content or not? And, if not, what should be done to occupy the hardcore in between content additions? In other words, is the Sarth 3d model the sweet spot (hard-mode achievements), or is there another great idea hiding out there?

The underlying problem is that Blizzard constantly systematically phases out content. Not just by doing expansions, but also by how they implement progression: At any given time, if you raid, you focus on a minuscule fraction of the WoW universe for 90% of your play (downing 1-2 bosses, farming a raid instance or two). Whatever you do to ration new content, it will still remain rationing new content. A much better solution (but also harder to figure out how to do) would be to have a way to keep old content (re)usable.

kolben
03-09-2009, 07:43 AM
On the topic of pacing content.

There is a big difference in difficulty curve for someone who started raiding in UBRS/Molten Core when they were actually considered progression and someone who started raiding in say Karazhan or Naxxaramas 10 man. The farther back your own raid experience, no matter what role you played the better prepared you are for new and harder content.

In a perfect world where I could get my way, WoW would be level 60 and you and your friends (or hired hands if that's your preference) would progress naturally through classic content, then burning crusade and finally reach northrend content without leveling. In other words, what if the expansions had been released as *new content* for those that had completed the old raid zones. Gear scaling would be a problem maybe since T8 would logically be vastly better than T1.

Another way that it could have been done is to make heroic modes for the old content. Naxxaramas proves this is possible. How hard or expensive it was to convert Naxx40 to Naxx10/25 is something I don't know. But the idea would be to let people see some pretty easy bosses. Which brings me to the final point on this, and why I know I'm right :P

A lot of fights, and I mean a lot are re-used. Compare the following to bosses you are familiar with in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. Sulfuron, Baron Ghedon, Hakkar, General Rajaxx, Ossirian, Golemagg, Lucifron, Prophet Skeram, Jin'do etc. list goes on and on. What fights does Thaddius remind you of?

If you are familiar with classic fights, you can spot re-used mechanics in many others which you can draw on your experience to beat them. How steep is the curve for someone who is basically a good player but doesn't have the experience under their belt? That's really the issue here in my experience.

I do like the hardmode idea for additional loot and possibly an achievement. A hardmode HKM for example could be to kill him with all his adds up, which would be genuinely hard. I emphatically disagree with "gateway" bosses like Lady Vashj & Kael, that screws the 80% of guilds that can't get past the stuff until it's nerfed into oblivion or the requirement is removed. I won't pull any punches here, and say that I really don't care if the game is fun for the top 5% when the other 95% is stuck and frustrated as hell over a "hardmode" roadblock. Leave that as an optional mode for epeen, Blizzard got it right in my opinion. Too bad people who can't complete it don't realize it's meant to be done by the best guilds and instead they drone on about how broken their class is.