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The WuXia Project - A Theoretical MMORPG Design Discussion - Magic and the Elements

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Previous WuXia Discussions: - Skills and Attributes Magic, by its very nature, implies a chaotic element in an orderly world. However, in many different fictional worlds, magic usually follows a set of strict rules in terms of when it can be used and how it can be used. Unfortunately, in MMORPGs, most of the time magic is reduced to a set of elemental damage types and some bad explanations behind combat skills. The goal of my design, and goal of this discussion, is to generate ideas for a magic system that is based on a set of rules that make sense philisophically, and to incorporate this system into an entire game world instead of character combat exclusively. This is a new addition to my design, so please excuse the lack of detail. However, I'm excited enough to want to get feedback on it, so please unload all the critique you want! Here it is: *note: actual skills and pool properties are included in an appendix.
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Magic and the Elements At the heart of the magic system in WuXia is an elemental system, which is based off the traditional Greek model of 5 elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Aether. The first four elements represent power, intellect, ardor and emotion respectively, and a higher level of elemental control can be attained through a higher understanding of its human representation. This is the key to WuXia’s elemental system, as the elements in WuXia are not the elements that construct the world, but rather the elements which come together to form the substance of a person, or what makes a person human. In this way the elements become more than different damage types, and every element can be important to every character. Aether The 5th element, aether, refers to a heavenly or celestial source, and is generated by living things. Aether does not have a physical manifestation, but can be converted to elemental power which gives it a high value. Aether is constantly being produced and used, but can also be stored and saved over time. With the right techniques, aether may be gathered in massive amounts and used to perform high level techniques. When a player killers another player, the aether stored by the defeated player can be taken. Aether may also be shared between players and pooled to cast Channeling Channeling is the process associated with converting aether into elemental energy, and also controlling the flow of that elemental energy throughout the body. There are many specific skills which make up the philosophies and methodologies behind channeling, and it is by achieving high proficiencies in these complex concentrations that characters can truly begin to differentiate themselves from others. - Only a certain amount of aether can be converted to elemental energy over a period of time. Magic Pools Once aether is converted to elemental energy, it can be channeled out of the body. Elemental energy that exists outside of the body will form magic pools. Depending on the element, or the combination of elements that form a magic pool, the pool will retain certain properties. Spells can only be cast using magic pools, and magic pools may be formed by more than one character. Pools can be moved around, and the amount of energy stored is slowly leaked. Sometimes magic pools can also be volatile to certain types of attack, or might be dissipated. Elemental Manipulation Casting spells in WuXia is not a click and forget experience. To cast a spell or execute certain special techniques, players must form a series of seals through a special game feature involving a mouse and timing of clicks. First, after a magic pool has been created and the player is ready to cast a spell, he/she must lock the game into seal mode and manipulate the pool using a set of preset mouse movements, certain combinations of mouse movements will create a spell, and in some cases rolls will be made to determine random results. The purpose of this system is to increase tension in combat and to put in yet another chaotic factor. Also, depending on the skill level of a character, certain spell sequences may be saved into a click and forget hotkey at the expense of spell power.

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For Aether, you say that its the elemental form of life, and is a heavenly or celestial form. Yet a player may steal another's Aether by killing him? At the very least, the player's own Aether reserves should drop everytime he makes a kill. Then the player could steal the defeated enemy's Aether reserves. I think something like this would fit in with the feeling of chaos in your game, but you can make that call better than I.

As for the Manipulation, it seems similar to the gesture system in Black and White. I like that you allow a weakened keyboard shortcut version of spells at later levels, because making all those gestures could become tiresome in Black and White, and I ended up resorting to keyboard shortcuts whenever possible.

It seems like a neat idea to me. I assume that the psychological aspect of the elements is important in becoming more powerful? I'm not sure how it would work in a MMORPG. How do you may your character more emotional? Perhaps reward the use of character gestures in conversation? [lol]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I would recomend not useing the word channleing, because it is used exstensivley in the Wheel of time books by Robert Jordan.

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Numsgil, in the scheme of things aether is supposed to represent a life force, or soul. What makes life valuable is not that it is needed to do many things, but the fact that it can be taken away completely. If I've read what you wrote correctly I think the issue you are referring to is one involving players continuously killing other players for the sole reason of gaining resources (ie. the aether). Preventing players from killing each other for this kind of reason is something that definitely needs to be done, but one of the key design concepts in my doc is that of "realistic restrictions". I'll just quote it here:

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Realistic Character Restrictions

Although it is necessary to balance a game, it is not always the case that actions taken to balance a game are beneficial in the long run. One way to avoid this, and a theme that is stressed throughout this document, is the concept of ‘realistic’ restrictions. To explain by example, a realistic restriction would be setting up social consequences for murdering another player (e.g. through a bounty system), an unrealistic restriction would be penalizing the offender with a direct intelligence modifier (representing murder as having a flaw in logic). Both methods implement a restriction on players and acts as a deterrent for them to commit rampant killing sprees, but the realistic restriction does so in a way that makes sense, and because it makes sense it is less likely to cause problems (i.e. murder is not necessarily representative of lack of intelligence). In many MMORPGs, it becomes necessary to place restrictions on players in order to maintain a balance; doing so realistically not only prevents future problems, but also makes sense to everyone, including the player.


BTW, rewarding players for using emoticons = interesting place to put a mini-game points system ^_^

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Original post by PinFX
Numsgil, in the scheme of things aether is supposed to represent a life force, or soul. What makes life valuable is not that it is needed to do many things, but the fact that it can be taken away completely. If I've read what you wrote correctly I think the issue you are referring to is one involving players continuously killing other players for the sole reason of gaining resources (ie. the aether). Preventing players from killing each other for this kind of reason is something that definitely needs to be done, but one of the key design concepts in my doc is that of "realistic restrictions".


I was thinking more about the philosophical implications, but you have a good point too. Since you've already explored yours, let's explroe mine:

Killing is bad. Well, that's rather general. Killing deprives another of life, and I think we can all agree that life is good. (Except the suicidal among us. But let's exclude those for the sake of argument [wink])

Now, you define Aether as:
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The 5th element, aether, refers to a heavenly or celestial source, and is generated by living things.


We see that you define it as a heavenly and celestial force. Assuming that you're using a more Judeao-Christian sense of the word, as opposed to perhaps a greek philosophical form, Aether could be defined as a force of good. Like the light side of the force in Star Wars. This is most likely the life energy, or Aether, that a creature would store up in life.

When someone kills something, they commit an act of violence against the very force which keeps them alive. So their Aether should drop in accordance. Later they can absorb the enemy's aether to increase their own.

An interesting 'fix' might be something like a positive and negative Aether. Perhaps undead creatures and players have negative Aether values. By defeating an undead thing, a living thing is decreasing the death of an object, or increasing it's life (it's negative, remember). The player can harvest this change in life level to absorb Aether.

Conversely, for an undead thing, killing a life form decreases it's life level, thus increasing it's death level. The undead thing could thus harvest the change in life levels, gaining Aether.

You'd have to decide if something like this would work. In the end, you could just change the idea of Aether from a celestial, pure etc. source to a raw state, something which increases with time. Then killing a creature just means causing the cessation of growth of this raw energy, which can then be harvested.

Just pointing out the philosophical idiosyncrousies. Ignore me if you want [wink]

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BTW, rewarding players for using emoticons = interesting place to put a mini-game points system ^_^


You could do something like this with the other emotional equivelant of elements. Intellect could be increased from doing something smart in-game. What it would be, I have no idea. Power could be increased by rising in rank among PC organizations. Ardor could be increased by obedience to PC organizations, or perhaps some kind of kamakazee ability to help other PC's. You'd have to figure it all out and balance it, but it could add an interesting element to your game.

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Numsgil, you make a lot of interesting points. If it wasn't for your definition of good and evil, I would have to agree with you. The traditional good vs. evil balance as defined by things such as "the light side" or positive/negative energies is something that I have always viewed as full of flaws. In the world, the concepts of "good" and "evil" don't actually exist, in the end it comes down to the value of life and social-political philosophy. From an objective perspective, moral codes are simply formed to make living together easier and more efficient for people. On the other hand, if you are at all spiritual, moral codes can connect to any one of numerous belief systems.

What most sci-fi or fantasy media lacks in this area is either a an explanation for the existence of the belief systems in place (good explanations that is), or an acknowledgement of the fact that different belief systems lead to different interpretations of moral code, and that morality cannot be defined to a linear scale since it doesn't actually exist.

What I'm saying is that good and evil don't exist like people think they do, we don't act out of our own evilness or goodness. We act out of self-interest, and to help/protect what is important to us. How our actions affect the world or a larger group of people is what determines if it is good or evil.

Making it so that killing another person decreases the killer's aether also automatically defines what is good and what is evil, and it affects a character directly. It just doesn't work that way, the real results of good and evil come from society, not from a heavenly source, when any person commits an act, it is not considered good or evil until viewed from the perspective of an entire society.

Obviously we're digging kind of deep here considering the original topic, but I believe understanding these philisophical concepts inside and out is the key to MMORPG success, because previously we dealt with worlds that could react as we programmed them to, but to control human action we must first understand psychology and social-political philosophy. Good discussion, and I'm sure this will continue into next week's discussion which involves PvP and death systems.

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