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Adding plagues/diseases to an MMO or RPG.


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#1 Randel   Members   -  Reputation: 326

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 02:16 PM

I recently heard about the corrupted blood incident that happened in World of Warcraft (basically there was one boss that could hit players with a damaging status effect that infects other players on contact, someone teleported out of the boss battle and started infecting people outside that dungeon and it spread all over the game world).

It sounds pretty cool and was quite an event (I understand they did a more official thing later with a zombie disease).

So, I was thinking how would it be if there was an MMO where diseases were more common and kind of built into gameplay? Or what sort of diseases would be interesting to have without making the game unfun?


Disease ideas:

Base zombie virus - Players are infected by contact with infected zombies (attacks or lingering around their corpses). The disease results in a minor reduction in some stats. If the infected player is killed their corpse will rise up as a zombie (with stats similar to their original level). The disease doesn't really seek to kill the player, just infect them so that when they do die they leave a zombie who can infect and kill others. The disease is cured upon respawn. The zombie takes a while to rise after the hosts death, and during that time other players can burn or destroy the body to prevent it from rising.


Food Mold - A disease transferred through eating tainted food. Tainted food grows molds on it which spread the disease and lowers their healing properties. A person infected with the disease finds that food in their inventory slowly become tainted and moldy (thereby reducing their healing value). Potions tend to be immune to this due to preservatives and being bottled. It basically destroys alot of the various food items/vendor trash one finds laying around. Tainted food may eventually deteriorate into lumps of mold which could then be crafted into something else (like converting all the moldy food into a sort of penicillin compound).

Base Vampirism - An infection spread through biting attacks made by vampires or infected people. Slowly gives the infected undead properties (lower healing from magic, vulnerable to things that hurt undead, etc) and they gain a bite attack that lets them drain health. However, they also register as undead and many mindless undead will be nonhostile to them unless they attack. Stays with them after death but can be repeatedly cured with the right medicine/quest. May also have various items that can cure the disease during its initial stages (like the first few days after infection nothing major aside from stat reduction but the undead properties show up later on) or to outright prevent infection (things like charms made of garlic or silver).



Just a few ideas, I'm curious how one could add diseases to a game that enhances gameplay and might give people ways to interact/play that don't involve just fighting monsters. Also, if some diseases have beneficial side effects then they might be better if they can't be cured with normal magic and require special potions. Basically, if someone intentionally gets vampirism or the food mold in order to fight undead or turn food into crafting stuff then you don't want other players to just zap them with spells to take away their bonus.

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#2 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 751

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 05:35 PM

You could add these to your list:

Leprosy - increases the attraction of feral animals or monsters that seek rotten meat (scanvengers). The character could look more intimidating to human enemies.
Therianthropy (a general form of Lycanthropy) - makes the character transform into a given animal. The player could eventually learn to control this disease.
Addictions - like in Fallout, the character can get addicted to certain food or ingredients, and will suffer withdrawal symptoms only when he runs out of supplies.

This is a very interesting topic to me since I'm working on my own design, and I'm building a tree of skills for one of the sub-roles of the Mage class that allows creating diseases.
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#3 jefferytitan   Members   -  Reputation: 1642

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:24 PM

Hmm, interesting topic. A few factors to consider:
  • Ensure the disease doesn't become endemic (a la corrupted blood). A disease is only a disease by contrast with health.
  • Ensure it can be lived with and eventually cured.
  • Ensure the infected version doesn't become the overwhelmingly preferred version, e.g. "vampires are so kewl!".
  • Consider how visible the disease will be. Do you want people to run away? Kill the infected? Be shocked when it arises in their midst?
  • What are the disease vectors?
  • What is the source of the disease? The disease could be seeded by rare events, e.g. find a unique cursed piece of loot, get bitten by a wolf, etc. Perhaps a quest could be to find and destroy the source of the disease, e.g. an ancient artifact, the original vampire, etc.
  • Maybe set players at odds with each other. For example a vampire starts out weak (but visibly vampiric), after time x they get their full powers and must kill y people a day to survive. This would encourage hiding, vengeful mobs, etc.


#4 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 08:45 PM

Yeah. If a disease is actually beneficial or even just something one would consider, it would have to be so rare it shouldn't be a disease. Perhaps a condition you get which turns you into a monster where you're somewhat stronger but available to be player-killed without penalty (which would also be encouraged if the disease let the infected commit player-kills, as normal people would become afraid) and hides the name of the infected to others. Also, there's the issue of death. If you could get rid of a disease by death, then diseases are easy to get rid of, but if they aren't then killing one is silly because they'll just respawn later. Perhaps a secret weapon that, if deals the landing blow, deals extra damage and cures the disease?

#5 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4577

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 10:25 PM

Dofus, and probably some other MMOs, have a couple of methods by which a player gets temporarily turned into a monster or skeleton, and gets a different combat bar and stats with this transformation. In that state you were really weak, but it was great fun to pvp or fight low level monsters you hadn't looked at in weeks. I'd love to see this sort of thing as a humorous disease. Not 100% sure I remember correctly, but I think that one was cured by losing in pvp and spread to the opponent if you actually managed to win despite being weak (more commonly they let you win so they could be a monster).

Gaia Online has holiday events where you "get infected" by letting an NPC bite you, but it actually means joining a faction, such as vampires or zombies or werewolves. If you earn all the rewards for that faction or just don't like it you can get cured and go get infected by one of the other ones.

Edited by sunandshadow, 10 September 2012 - 10:39 PM.

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#6 jefferytitan   Members   -  Reputation: 1642

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 11:04 PM

Hmm, interesting points sunandshadow. I'm a fan of a disease meaning a new gameplay mode, for example something like Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones where the dark prince must maintain a killing spree to stay alive. Such mechanisms would allow the game developer to enforce the player acting somewhat in character when transformed.

#7 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 17060

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 11:25 PM

I think the pyschology of the players is really interesting in this type of thing. I liked how certain players delberitely infected NPCs with really high health, so the NPCs wouldn't die, but sat around infecting other players who came near. Other players got infected and ran to the enemy races (Horde vs whatever, I haven't played WoW so I don't remember) to try to inflict damage on their player base.

In a small ORPG with about 10-20 active players that I was on the team of several years back, one of the developers (inspired by the corrupted blood incident) created a plague for the world we were running, scripting it using the scripting hooks only. We spread it around several times for fun, and the players really enjoyed it.

I think we did it like this:
  • Anyone who got infected would be broadcasted publicly: "PlayerY has been infected by the Blood Fever Plague!"
  • Every 30 seconds or so, anyone who was infected got hurt seriously, but also coughed up blood on their immediate surroundings (point-blank range). Anyone they coughed up on also got infected: "PlayerY has infected PlayerZ with the Blood Fever Plague!"
  • After five minutes of infection, if you're still alive, your Blood Fever fades away. While infected, you can't be re-infected, but you can be infected once it fades away (or once you die and respawn).

The players made this kind of a game (since there was such a small user base*, people mostly socialized or fought micro wars between guilds). They would run around, and try to time their coughing to infect other nearby players, since the other players had to be only one tile away to catch the infection. The uninfected players would try to dodge them. Since they did this just a screen or two away from spawn, people would get killed and return rather quickly to try dodging again.

*We didn't finish the game, so we never actively promoted it.

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#8 Wrongfellow   Members   -  Reputation: 165

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 04:48 AM

Kingdom of Loathing did this:

http://kol.coldfront.net/thekolwiki/index.php/The_Gray_Plague

#9 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4505

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 09:15 AM

To make something like vampirism work, one would probably have to implement it similar to the Interview With a Vampire movie, i.e. you have to be almost completely drained, and then you have to drink the vampire's blood, which greatly weakens the vampire. Otherwise, I can see armies of vampires running around all day, biting every random person they see... just for fun, just because they can. Other than that, it sure is a funny idea.

If you are a vampire, should you be allowed to respawn? Technically you are already dead, so dying really means destruction, not death. Respawning into being dead does not make much sense either. So, as a vampire, you should probably have strict perma-death.

Zombies or Werewolves are similarly difficult, or maybe even more so. Should zombies and werewolves be playable, or should they mean loss of the character? A werewolf, when transformed, has no control over his actions, he attacks kills anyone in sight. Allowing a player to control his character (which will mean not attacking friends except for the 0.01% share of ultra-hardcore roleplayers) kind of destroys the werewolf's prime character trait. Likewise, a zombie has no mind of its own. It is usually either "controlled" by some greater undead (say, a Lich), or a mindless eating machine (as in all zombie apocalypse movies).

Having a character that you cannot play is no fun. One solution might be to have a character transform into a werewolf only when the character is logged off. But then again, logging back in only to find that the werewolf has been slain by an angry mob of pitchfork-and-torch swinging people is no fun either.

#10 Randel   Members   -  Reputation: 326

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 02:26 PM

My experience with playing vampires in video games is limited to Vampires the Masquarade: Bloodlines and the vampirism disease in skyrim.

I think the skyrim disease would be decent, in it then vampires cannot regenerate health, magic, or stamina when out in the open during daylight. If that means their normal skills and attacks don't recharge normally it would give non vampires a huge advantage over them in the daylight (depending on access to skill-replenishing items).



I'm starting to think of this as a decent way to make monster fights more interesting. As in, normally its players against AI controlled monsters and players can easily outsmart them and it turns into a case of who brings the biggest sword, armor, and stats to the fight. If there are human controlled 'monsters' then it makes things more of a challange although it runs the risk of letting trolls and jerks mess with everyone.


My thoughts on the vampirism, werewolf, etc.


Vampires: Cannot regenerate magic, health, or special attacks while out in the open. Not sure if it would be full pvp or they can only use a few "vampire only" attacks on other players. They however can be targeted by all other players (including other vampires). Their bite attack replenishes health for them and spreads the disease to those bitten, the disease itself can be easily cured during the incubation period (I'd say an RL day or two or a few hours to guarantee that they can get access to a cure to avoid vampire apocalypses) and provides no bonuses during that time. Once it activates, the player gets a bite attack, the full pvp, and some other bonuses that increase as they get older to a maximum. If a vampire dies then they get their vampire bonuses reduced to that of a freshly-turned vampire and have to 'age up' to get stronger again. On the other hand, as vampires age they get some bonuses but also increased weaknesses, including getting harmed by healing magic and only being able to be healed via drinking blood (or they can slowly replenish health by waiting in the dark, but blood is the only way to heal in combat). Also, can get ignored by undead and maybe some undead controlling abilities.

Vampirism basically turns a single player into a slightly higher level 'monster' version of themselves where the weakness to sunlight and dependency on blood for in-combat healing encourages them to stick to certain dark 'dungeon' places where they can hunt and maybe influence the undead there. If they go about during sunlight then they glow with a light that lets people instantly tell them apart from other players (Hmm... so this game lets you kill sparkly vampires?). While it would be possible for higher level vampires to kill low level players easily, even in the daytime, other high level players could take it on themselves to hunt down the vampires.

I suppose the whole 'vampires populate dungeons' thing could require a new mechanic to make dungeons both fun to attack or defend while not letting the vampires just go into a dungeon, pretend to defend it, and grab all the loot for themselves.


Zombies: Zombies are AI controlled monsters. They would be made up of generic zombie monsters (maybe with various types like hunter zombies, mage zombies, or whatever) the zombie disease simply infects a person and guarantees that when they die they leave behind a zombie of their own level.


Werewolf: I'm thinking the werewolf curse would leave a person normal except for during the Full Moon at which point they turn into a werewolf monster. In werewolf form they are in full control but have increased attack and maybe some special attacks (like howling or eating corpses or whatever). I'm thinking that becoming a werewolf also conferse certain bonuses when they join a 'pack' (like packmates cannot harm eachother in combat and get bonuses when a packmate howls in their vicinity) so its kind of like all werewolves can join teams (or guilds) for bonuses.

The basic rundown is that during the Full Moon then a whole bunch of players suddenly turn into werewolves and can go running around on hunts and boosting eachothers power in battle. I don't know if the PvP thing should activate and let them mow down civilians or bystanders (I'm pretty sure lots of people would become werewolves and we don't want half of a city suddenly turning into beasts to devour the other half... and have everyone respawn to get mauled again). Instead the werewolves should be running around in packs ripping through other monsters, packs fighting other packs, and hunting down vampires or zombies.

Heh, imagine clans of vampires using undead controlling skills to bring about a zombie apocalypse until the full moon comes at which point lots of non-vampires turn into werewolves and start chewing their way through the hordes.


Though actually this is starting to feel like a system for turning players into various monster teams rather than a disease of sorts. It could just as likely involve various guild having access to 'vampirism daggers' or weird alters that let their members become vampires and then wage pvp wars against other groups. Basically bands of vampires, werewolves, necromancers, and then hunter groups dedicated to fighting the other members.


I suppose having 'real' diseases that spread and cause actual problems would be more like status effects that can show up anytime and could rampage through cities without lots of medical care. Unless the diseases were noticable or interesting in some way, it could just become annoying like "Wait, why aren't my spells working? Did I get Mages Burns from some asshole in the city again? I bet it was the guy spamming armor buffs in the market place. Now I've gotta get a Cure Disease Potion before we go any farther in this dungeon."

#11 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4505

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 03:35 PM

the werewolf curse would leave a person normal except for during the Full Moon at which point they turn into a werewolf monster. In werewolf form they are in full control but have increased attack and maybe some special attacks

So why would anyone want to play anything different? A werewolf has a lot of advantages, and no disadvantages, so if you play a "normal guy", you're basically a loser. I don't think this would work.

#12 jefferytitan   Members   -  Reputation: 1642

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 04:33 PM

As I mentioned earlier, have major debuffs if people don't act in character. For example a vampire is debuffed in sun or if it hasn't drained another player recently, a werewolf is debuffed in cities, if it stays still too long, or if it hasn't PvPed recently. Maybe monsters are considered hostile to all, can be killed by anyone without karma downside. Perhaps even the character auto-attacks anyone in range if in monster mode or it's hunger is too great. Plus I'd assume limits on equipping weapons and armor. The key should be that you are forced to either act poorly (causing later revenge) or to avoid other players entirely.

#13 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:48 PM

I think that vampirism doesn't always match what we're talking about. We would be more on track if we referred to it as Swine Flu, as vampires are seen as more of faction than a crippling sickness.

#14 Jastiv   Members   -  Reputation: 146

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 03:41 PM

If you want to play a game with diseases, you can play my game, (still an alpha) wograld, or the game it forked from (crossfire). Some of the other game mechanics in crossfire are not too appealing and we are still working on to fix some client user interface and performance issues in wograld.

Anyway, the game has diseases you get from touching door knobs, opening chests etc and, poisoned food drops from monsters sometimes. There are cursed items you cannot easily remove once you put them on.

#15 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 08:05 PM

In this case, the enjoyment would be limited. You are (yet again) limited by those players that are dead set on ruining the experience for everyone else. Imagine that a player with high health/resistance to the disease contracted the disease and then went and infected the entire starting zone full of beginners that don't know what they are doing or what is happening. They just withdrew their subscription, because on top of the hostile NPC's, they also have to worry about players on their own team that are trolling them. The game would end up as just a troll-fest and people would try to stay away, but the whole thing would just be pointless.

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#16 Jastiv   Members   -  Reputation: 146

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:38 AM

A lot of the diseases in games don't kill you, just temporarily effect your stats, like a debuff, or curse. Besides they don't have to be communicable, or maybe communicable only in certain circumstances, like say, just party members in the same dungeon.

#17 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 04:57 PM

@Jastiv He was talking about diseases like the WoW Zul Gurub disease, which was not permanent, but damaged armor and was communicable everywhere. They changed it to be only in the instance, and now you never hear about it.

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