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sunandshadow

Mount System Design

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Obtaining mounts seems to be one of the MAJOR motivating goals of MMO players across the board. So, seems like a topic that should interest anyone interested in MMO design. First, a general survey of mounts in existing games: A1. Basic Mount Appearance: a large animal which an avatar appears to be seated upon. --Alternative A2: Some mounts are mechanical or mechanical inanimate objects. Examples: broomstick, flying carpet, motorcycle, flying gourd, carriage, car, tank, ship, airship, and robots of assorted shapes. --Alternative A3: The 'mount' may be integrated into the avatar's body as a pair of wings, a jet pack, or an animal the avatar can transform into. B1. Basic Mount Gameplay: Although mounts are often thought of in terms of travel speed increase, there is player demand for mounts which affect nothing but appearance. Therefore the most basic gameplay property of the mount is the way it modifies an avatar's appearance. --Optional Gameplay B2: The most common effect of riding a mount in increased travel speed. --Optional Gameplay B3: Flying mounts may give players access to additional gameplay areas. --Optional Gameplay B4: Many mounts cannot be use during combat, or a player may not do anything besides traveling while mounted. This seems to be a result of the difficulty of making combat animations work properly with a mounted avatar when the possibility of being mounted is not originally included in the design. So designers, take note! Don't get stuck with combat-incompatible mounts! --Optional Gameplay B5: Mounts which are intended to be used in combat may give a stat bonus; it is problematic to link the stat type to the mount's appearance (such as all white horses give an INT bonus) and this should be avoided. In general principle players should never be forced to choose between making a good strategic choice and making a pleasing aesthetic choice. --Optional Gameplay B6: Mounts may be capturable, similar to pets. --Optional Gameplay B7: Mounts may need to be fed or recharged with magic, electricity, etc; this may apply to keeping the mount alive, or only to time spent actually riding, or only to time spent raising the mount to maturity before riding, or only to using an accelerated speed instead of standard speed, or mounts may need to be recharged in order to breed them more than once. --Optional Gameplay B8: Mounts may be breedable. This is quite challenging to design well, since breeding has to be a fun minigame, yet breeders cannot be permitted to flood the market, make ridiculous amounts of money, or make it unrewarding for new players to become breeders. --Optional Gameplay B9: Mounts may be saleable to other players. Personally I favor soulbind-on-equip, but mounts which are purchased from a cash shop or are extremely rare should be saleable after use. --Optional Gameplay B10: Mounts may be accessorized - equipped with fancier saddles and bridles, cloth barding, ribbons, and streamers, armor, or biological accessories like saber teeth, horns, different manes and tails. --Optional Gameplay B11: Mounts may be dyeable different colors - this may mean the mount itself, or it's saddle, bridle, barding, armor, etc. Or the mount's texture may be alterable - fur of different lengths, feathers, scales of different varieties, metal, crystals, ghostly transparency, body build of an animal. --Optional Gameplay B12: Mounts may die of old age or expire due to a time limit. Not sure I can say anything to this except EW. This demotivates players and discourages them from using mounts at all. If you want a gold pet time cost, use mount food or fuel for that; if you want a mount sink, make them required as crafting ingredients or as quest payment to an NPC. --Optional Gameplay B13: Mounts may provide additional storage space. The mount may increase the avatar's inventory size (probably the most convenient) or the mount may function as a secondary inventory, and in some cases stabled mounts function as storage space. Beware of the problem of transferring items from a mount's storage space to other places (banker, mailbox, other NPCs, other players), especially in combination with the fact that mounts may not be usable inside buildings. Animal Mount Types, from most common to least common: C1. Horse (variants: unicorn, zebra, skeletal horse, flaming horse, fanged carnivorous horse, winged horse(bird wings, bat wings, or butterfly wings)) C2. Big Cat (variants: Maneless or maned, various stripe and spot patterns, tail shapes of tufted, tubular, or bobbed, ear tufts, sabre teeth, winged cats i.e. griffins, domesticated cats) C3. Wolf (variants: domesticated dogs of various kinds, dog-like gargoyle) C4. Dinosaur/Dragon (variants: biped raptor, quadruped herbivore, horse-like european dragon, snake-like eastern dragon, apatosaurus-like D&D/McCaffrey dragon, lizard-like 'realistic' dragon) C5. Bird (variants: ostrich-type, rooster-type, dodo/turkey/pheasant/dove-type, hawk/eagle-type, songbird-type, crane/heron/flamingo-type, phoenix-type) C6. Elephant (variants: extra tusks, mammoths) C7. Pig (variants: Warthog/wild boar, domesticated pig) C8. Ungulate (variants: kirin, camel, llama, antlered deer, antelope (non-branching horns), goat, cow, musk ox, giraffe, moose) C9. Turtle (variants: land tortoise or sea turtle) So, please discuss. Any mount-related elements of gameplay I have left out here? Any comments on how to use mounts for best player-motivation? Many games restrict mounts to players above a certain level, reserving it until after players have used up the initial excitement of learning a new game. [Edited by - sunandshadow on August 13, 2009 8:21:39 PM]

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Other game play elements:

Environment Specific Mounts: For example Underwater mounts that allow you to explore under water areas.

Experience familiar places in a new way: Having a mount changes the experience of an area. Probably the most simple version of this would be a different set of monsters appear in an area if you are mounted then appear when unmounted. So suddenly the newbie field becomes an exciting a place once again when you’ve reached level 30 and earned your mount.

Rent and run mounts: Mounts that are rented in towns and are lost as soon as you dismount. Normally used to allow players too safely and quickly travel to the dungeon they are interested in exploring.

PVP Game play: Competitive mount games such as racing, best dressed competition, and battle royal.

Also Mounts used as tools in puzzles could be fun, but probably not useful in MMO game.

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I've only ever played one MMO (Wonderland Online) and I didn't think much about mounts at the time but now that you mention it I think there is something to them. You could capture any critter that you fight so long as you were only x levels bellow the critter and the you reduced it's hp enough. It was fun riding around on little slimes or chickens. You'd see people riding around on wolves or tigers and you think, "Cool, I wonder when I can do that." So, you go looking for them, level yourself up, and try to capture one.

As it was implimented I can see it being a major factor in giving players a sneak peek at what lies ahead and giving them something to strive for. Even if a player doesn't want to ride a tiger, seeing one being ridden by a player makes you wonder when it's going to be that you'll encounter them. Great way of building anticipation.

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Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Experience familiar places in a new way: Having a mount changes the experience of an area. Probably the most simple version of this would be a different set of monsters appear in an area if you are mounted then appear when unmounted. So suddenly the newbie field becomes an exciting a place once again when you’ve reached level 30 and earned your mount.


All good suggestions, this one just particularly caught my interest. It fits in with my idea that an MMO world should not look the same to all players; if a player completes the quest to cure some plague, the monsters should stop looking plagued for that player. Perhaps each area should contain a limited number of each type of monsters for each player, and when the player has killed one, it stays gone; then after the area was peacefully empty for a few hours or levels, a new harder kind of monster could invade, and this invasion could be announced to the player as a new plot occurrence. It creates a puzzling issue of how players should see each other though; no problem in areas without monsters, but in areas with? If player A has eliminated monster type X and instead is fighting monster type Y, but player B is still fighting monster type X, what do the two players see each other doing? Is it possible for them to fight together?

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Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Experience familiar places in a new way: Having a mount changes the experience of an area. Probably the most simple version of this would be a different set of monsters appear in an area if you are mounted then appear when unmounted. So suddenly the newbie field becomes an exciting a place once again when you’ve reached level 30 and earned your mount.


All good suggestions, this one just particularly caught my interest. It fits in with my idea that an MMO world should not look the same to all players; if a player completes the quest to cure some plague, the monsters should stop looking plagued for that player. Perhaps each area should contain a limited number of each type of monsters for each player, and when the player has killed one, it stays gone; then after the area was peacefully empty for a few hours or levels, a new harder kind of monster could invade, and this invasion could be announced to the player as a new plot occurrence. It creates a puzzling issue of how players should see each other though; no problem in areas without monsters, but in areas with? If player A has eliminated monster type X and instead is fighting monster type Y, but player B is still fighting monster type X, what do the two players see each other doing? Is it possible for them to fight together?

This is one of the issues with MMOs. Not having any content that looks directly affected by the individual player will leave a player feeling like they aren't accomplishing anything in the world. Like when a player goes on an epic quest and defeats some boss who was invading a village, the player saves the day and the village should be safe... except it's still being overrun by monsters and nothing has visibly changed. As it needs to still exist for other players to do the quest.

The problem is that you can't just say "well now the village is safe for everyone, quest over!" and never let anyone else do the quest. You also can't just act as if nothing changed at all. There are several solutions to this problem, some have their own issues alltogether though.

1. You can let things have temporary changes to the world when a player does certain things. For example, a player beats a quest that stops monsters from attacking a village. The monsters would indeed stop attacking, but for how long? Eventually you could have the quest "respawn" to allow others to do it. This would seem more realistic as the player who beat the quest would most likely be long gone by the time the monsters came back. It's also not totally illogical to think that monsters would invade the town again.

The problem with this one is that you're delaying people from doing things in your game because of other people's actions. If there are ways to avoid this, you want to do so at all times.

2. Any change made to the world via the player will happen and then the player will leave and never be able to see the changes again, due to inability to return to the place where the change was made. An example of this would be to say the player defeats some underground mole men in a quest. Maybe after the player finished the quest, the hole they come out of is sealed off, leaving the player to assume the quest is "finished" and the mole men have been vanquished. Of course, that's not really the case, as other players can still go fight the mole men.

The problem with this is that you're denying the player the chance to revisit places they have changed. This isn't so bad if the players always have something new to go and accomplish, or if there are just a lot of things the player can do. If the game world is small and players revisit places many times, this can be a bigger problem.

3. Create quests or events that require a certain amount of players to complete before changes can be seen. But once the changes have been made, they are permanent. For example, after enough players have completed a certain mission given by an NPC, something in the game world happens. Some examples would be collecting wood to build a bridge, collecting enough gunpowder to make a big bomb, fighting off a boss monster x amount of times, driving it to the edge of a tall cliff where it will eventually fall off. Each player would contribute a little to the overall completion of the quest. The quest/mission could be repeated as many times as a player wants, which means the monsters will always be there as long as the quest isn't totally finished.

The problem is that there is no instant gratification of totally completing the quest. There is still gratification for completing a part of the quest, and there can also be reward. There is also the reward of knowing you helped to defeat some big monster or helped build a bridge that everyone uses, etc.

This allows players to not only have something to do, but gives them a sense of accomplishment and also lets the player change the game world permanently in some way.

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I enjoy mounts much in the same way I enjoy having other NPC followers that are usually animals, It is the rewarding feeling of having something that makes you look more important, it also shows status, having a mount in most games (including MMO's) is usually quite a hard thing to get and other followers like undead spawns or conjured beasts are usually reserved for the high end players.

I do think though that there is a lot of game play to be had with mounts that game designers do not tap into as of yet. Mounts should in my opinion change the game play, I think that most mmo's just change the characters model and perhaps increase the speed or allow flight, This isn't enough I don't want to just walk fast with a horse under me, They should try to come up with a new game mechanic for mounts in which you have to treat that creature/machine in different ways to get different results. Say for example if I had a nice war horse, I could ride it all day long on a trot, but what if I wanted it to go fast, It couldn't do that all the time, so I would have to flog it with a stick (Shown very well in most Zelda games) and if I flogged it to many times it would kick me off, wah la, you have changed mounts for ever.

But what about more interesting mounts like, a robot walker, Right I will assign the left mouse button to the left robot leg and the right button to the right robot leg or something similar using keyboard buttons, that way you have just changed the game and made it more interesting to use the thing.

Moving on from moving, I feel that owning a mount in most games is about status and wealth, fair enough, but there should be a slight amount of skill in it, perhaps I would like to raise my mount from birth rather then buy a fully trained mount from a shop or earning it through quests. How can it be fully loyal to me, it doesn't know me? It should take the right sorts of items (lets say for a dragon mount), for example You player has this dragon egg, It is probably not just going to hatch, because its a dragon and I want my player to do a little more then just buy/find it, I want them to find a dragon temple and stick it in the lava pit at the top of this heavily defended area. Then I want that player to talk to it or play a mini game with it to keep it happy (earning loyalty) and I want them to find the food that the dragon likes (randomly selected from a list so that you have to find out which it is). You could keep the young dragon in your inventory, at a house or owned property or you could let the player walk around with it following them with the slight chance that it might get hurt or die.

These are all things that could be considered, other ideas might be swimming creatures to get across water, flying creatures to get to places others can't reach, or even creatures with a special ability like dig to get to secret locations.

I hope I haven't missed the point here a bit, but I feel they don't put enough programming into mounts, they could be characters in their own right, not just an accessory, which opens up a whole world of breeding and a lot of gold pieces to be had but also might open up an emotional bond between the player and their mount. Sorry if I switched between "the player", "you" and "I" quite a lot it has been a long day.

Cheers.

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