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Zummy

A different method of item progression for MMORPGs

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Here's an idea I've been working on, I'd like to hear critiques, be as harsh as you please as long as it's constructive.

Goals:
~Keep player customization as high as possible
~Make progression non-linear
~Make progression more about strategy than about getting that "better" item with higher stats.


The overview:

I will take examples from World of Warcraft, one, because it is popular and it works, two because it mirrors many other games.

In World of Warcraft, for those that haven't played, you kill things and level up. They drop items which make you stronger, you fight harder things, they drop items which give similar stats but with higher numbers, making the older weapon inferior.

Many games include a system such as this, and I find it limits customization because looks are attached to stats, you can't look how you want to because once the new tier of progression becomes available you have to upgrade or get left behind in content. This also dictates which stats are best for you. There have been times when a class has become overpowered or suboptimal because of an item's particular stats.

My plan:

Separate stats from looks.

Assume a game where you kill monsters and instead of them dropping items they drop a fictional unit called a Core. Cores possess stats, like + damage, + speed, life drain, + defense, etc. Your level dictates how many cores you can place on items. There would also be a crafting system where you can combine, disassemble, custom make certain cores and trade them on a market.

This means that you dictate what stats go on what item, which makes progression in a player's control, instead of having the game dictate what stats you want.

Item looks can be found by completing dungeons/doing quests/etc. This keeps the "I'm good because I can complete this, and I can show it." Under this system it could be easier to distribute these looks too. For those that have raided on World of Warcraft, on the same raid for weeks to have a chance for an item to drop, and then fight over who gets the item knows how painful it can be. I could propose that item looks/skins be unlocked for all players after completion of the task, and its up for the player to decide if he wants that look.

Cores and skins would have their own inventory that doesn't have a cap, so you can collect everything without worrying about making space in bags for them. You would have to see a special NPC in town to combine cores and skins for a minimal fee.

Under this system:

Players dictate progression, not the item. You can build how you want and explore different avenues.
You can replace Cores and change stats around to accommodate specific encounters ahead of time, making it a game of being prepared and smart and how to counter bosses instead of just being overall stronger than them.
Opens up the world to be less linear. While certain camps would have tougher enemies, your choice among camps would be greatly increased. Think of having two or three or four dungeons that drop potentially great things instead of just the newest and hardest one.

What I hope to hear from this community:

How feasible is this?
Do you think this is better than traditional methods?
Overall thoughts on implementation? Would it be hard to balance, would it 'not matter' because there will always be a desirable stat causing builds to be similar anyway?

I appreciate the time you take to discuss this with me, I'm hoping for some good conversation.
Thank you

~Zummy.

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Seems perfectly feasible. Earth Eternal had a mechanism by which you could combine to pieces of gear to keep the looks of one and the stats of the other. Maplestory and Perfect World have systems where a piece of cash shop clothing covers up the looks of the gear being worn for stats. WoW, Two Moons, Perfect World, and probably several other MMOs have some kind of jewel which can be plugged into a slot in a weapon to grant bonus stats to it. So all the pieces of this idea exist, just not combined the way you propose. Personally I really enjoy a game where I can customize my looks and collect many items of fashion, so I'd say make sure this game also has abundant storage space, and ideally mannequins where players can store 'trophy outfits' and these can be viewed by other players.

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Well, I first want to say I don't think it is a terrible system, but I feel what World of Warcraft does is better.

One problem that would occur with your method would be that people wouldn't even have to go out and explore/complete dungeons if they wanted the best stats. They could simply buy the cores from other people. If you then say that you have to go defeat bosses for certain cores, then the system is really no different than what World of Warcraft does, except you get to choose how your weapon looks. That alone can be argued to be a good or bad thing. It doesn't make sense for a cheap looking weapon to be just as powerful as a legendary looking one, but it can be a good thing to have added customization. Either way, it is a relatively insignificant change, and could honestly be done in World of Warcraft if they weren't concerned with how strange it would look to have a weak weapon be super powerful (allowing people who get a new item to transfer those stats onto another weapon), which would also be the same case in your suggestion.

Another problem with your method is that it seems far too easy to min/max, or maybe balance may be the better way of approaching this. People will eventually find the best stats (best ratio of stats perhaps) to have on a character and they will always have those stats. It's easy to assume that when you think of something like this that people would each have different preferences, but in the end if you--for example--want to do the most sustained dps for a certain amount of time... there will be a calculation for that. People would have to switch cores so that they could do max dps on a certain boss.

Let me go a bit more in depth with that. Lets take a boss that takes about 5 minutes to down. You could optimize your cores so that you have enough mana on a mage class to dps very well for 5 mins and then run out of mana. That means that many groups/guilds will expect you to always stay on top of your cores and make sure they are optimized for each fight. Personally I don't find that ideal, and I wouldn't want to have to look up what my stats should be for each boss to make sure I am optimal for it.

You may say that some people might not care, but at the end of the day when you are wiping on a boss, people will be expected to fix their cores to help with the fight. Also, having to swap them out to be the most highly optimized for each fight would get especially annoying.

The other problem would be balance for things like PvP. Some people could go for something like mass + attack while being very squishy. A ranged class may be able to burn someone down so fast because of all their stats that they won't even be touched by a melee class, even though they might not be able to take a single hit. Mix that in the fact with many unique spells change things up, and you have a very difficult game to balance. They already struggle to keep WoW balanced, but your example would be significantly worse. You need base stats on items to direct people down a certain path. In other words, most items in WoW have stamina, thereby forcing them to have a decent amount of health. Another PvE example would be the difference between ranged and melee dps. Maybe a boss has a close range AoE. This would force melee dps to get more health, while the ranged could just stack all their points into +attack, therefore being more useful. There are just so many factors without at least some base stats to go off of.

If you then choose to include base stats, well then your method is nothing more than enchanting and jewelcrafting at its core (no pun intended).



Under this system:

1) Players dictate progression, not the item. You can build how you want and explore different avenues.
2) You can replace Cores and change stats around to accommodate specific encounters ahead of time, making it a game of being prepared and smart and how to counter bosses instead of just being overall stronger than them.
3) Opens up the world to be less linear. While certain camps would have tougher enemies, your choice among camps would be greatly increased. Think of having two or three or four dungeons that drop potentially great things instead of just the newest and hardest one.


1) I don't know what "players dictate progression, not the item" even means. If you would like to clarify that then that may help. If you mean that they get to choose how strong their weapons are, well then that would have to be through getting good cores in raids (which is essentially item progression), but if they can just buy everything then there is no point in doing a raid. People wouldn't spend hours trying to down a difficult boss just to get a prettier looking item... they just wouldn't (of course for all of my examples, there are likely to be exceptions, but I am focusing on the large majority; the large majority is obviously important when it comes to sales and the success of the game). Also, if it drops and everyone can then use it, then less people need to reenter the dungeon to try to get it, and then less people are raiding. That is an issue for a few reasons such as less pug groups going on (which encourages more people to raid) but arguably most notably... less people will be playing the "main" part of the game and therefore not paying you as much money when they find the game boring.

2) I already addressed this above. It sounds like it would just be a pain to have to keep calculating everything for every boss.

3) I assume you are referring to different raids having different looking items. That actually seems like a bigger problem, and one I touched on earlier. People may find a really cool looking item in a dungeon and get it. Then if a new dungeon comes out, even if there are many cool items in it, if none of them are as cool looking the one they have at the moment they may skip the entire dungeon. Of course not everyone will, but if you are making an MMO you need as many people as possible going through the content.

As for your final points at the end... I think I touched on all of them above. Feel free to ask me questions on my views. And once again, while I don't think your method is awful, I simply think the WoW system is better for many elements of the game. It is easy to see where WoW's method has flaws and try to make changes to improve those areas, but you need to make sure you don't break other parts of the game by doing so. Either way, that is just my perspective. You among many other people may disagree.

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About the PvP: I envision doing something similar to Guild Wars, where each spell/core would have a set of numbers in a PvP environment and a different set of numbers in a PvE environment. That way, while balancing for one, you don't mess up the other. How many times have you read on the Blizzard forums "PvP patches ruined PvE!" Or something similar to that.


1) I don't know what "players dictate progression, not the item" even means. If you would like to clarify that then that may help. If you mean that they get to choose how strong their weapons are, well then that would have to be through getting good cores in raids (which is essentially item progression), but if they can just buy everything then there is no point in doing a raid. People wouldn't spend hours trying to down a difficult boss just to get a prettier looking item... they just wouldn't (of course for all of my examples, there are likely to be exceptions, but I am focusing on the large majority; the large majority is obviously important when it comes to sales and the success of the game). Also, if it drops and everyone can then use it, then less people need to reenter the dungeon to try to get it, and then less people are raiding. That is an issue for a few reasons such as less pug groups going on (which encourages more people to raid) but arguably most notably... less people will be playing the "main" part of the game and therefore not paying you as much money when they find the game boring.

2) I already addressed this above. It sounds like it would just be a pain to have to keep calculating everything for every boss.

3) I assume you are referring to different raids having different looking items. That actually seems like a bigger problem, and one I touched on earlier. People may find a really cool looking item in a dungeon and get it. Then if a new dungeon comes out, even if there are many cool items in it, if none of them are as cool looking the one they have at the moment they may skip the entire dungeon. Of course not everyone will, but if you are making an MMO you need as many people as possible going through the content.

As for your final points at the end... I think I touched on all of them above. Feel free to ask me questions on my views. And once again, while I don't think your method is awful, I simply think the WoW system is better for many elements of the game. It is easy to see where WoW's method has flaws and try to make changes to improve those areas, but you need to make sure you don't break other parts of the game by doing so. Either way, that is just my perspective. You among many other people may disagree.


1. I mean if you found a build centric to life-steal, you can continue to gear towards life-steal, instead of having a new item come out with stats that don't support it. I didn't plan for all cores to be traded, some could be not trade-able to keep the progression in check. The main motivation for doing raids should be to expand your options via more cores and items as well as to advance the story line and for the "fun factor" of the encounter itself. I was planning on more of a mission-based single player RPG feel. Surely you played a boss once that was just "that fun" that you had to do it again, right?

2. I agree, doing it for every fight would be a pain, but I don't think it would be that bad to do it per dungeon, with each dungeon having a couple puzzles and maybe 3~4 bosses. Only being able to change your equipment in town means that you have to gear for all of the bosses. Clever design would make this scenario work.

3. I didn't feel like explaining a full game filled with details about this and that and the other. I had some features in place to prevent those from not wanting the skin to pass the dungeon completely. For instance, a player may do a dungeon without wanting the skin because:
a) Achievements, dungeon specific and collector achievements. Highly suggesting players to do everything and get rewarded for it.
b) Storyline advancement. There have been times in FFXI where I didn't particularly need to visit any areas until the storyline took me there.
c) The experience. You would want to do a new raid that comes out just for the fights, the new scenery, a break from the old, for currency, core drops, and misc. loot for crafting, selling, etc.

Also keep in mind that while the items at the end may not warrant a visit, maybe all the unique cores would. Spreading the quality of good cores around several dungeons would force players to do them all, or most. The skins at the end are more of a "Look what I did". The real progression (cores) could be spread throughout many dungeons, which is why I opted to have skins drop for everyone since they really don't progress the character in any way other than aesthetics.

I hope this clears up some concerns and furthers my ideal in a bit better light. I'm a bit tired and I did double read, but excuse any mistakes. I'll re-check in the morning to make sure I don't sound idiotic, but it's late here and I need some sleep.

@sunandshadow: About your concern for abundant storage space, maybe you missed the part in my opening post stating "Cores and skins would have their own inventory that doesn't have a cap, so you can collect everything without worrying about making space in bags for them." I plan for there to be enough of both to where a separate inventory would be needed. There would be no cap, so you can have the max quantity of the max types of both without taking up bagspace for misc. loot and potions, scrolls, and other activate-items.

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I like the idea a lot and think separating form and function is the way to go. There is also room for items that are just about form.

Tying look to achievements makes a lot of sense to me.

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Actually, how are cores different from themselves? Are all of them only +1 to some stat, or have some gradation, like +1, +2, +5 (depending on rareness of the core)?

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I can work with this *steals the idea* =w=

On a serious note. If going for such huge customization options then why not abandon item drop completely? Make monsters just drop various materials that can be assembled into weapons by NPC and more cooler weapons by crafting. And you could make the cores to be actual cores of weapon types. Assign grades/levels to everything and then do some mystical balancing calculations to keep it interesting. Also you'd probably want to limit or add a penalty to certain combinations. Then you could go like..
Grade F Sword Core+Grade A Fire Core+Grade F Scales+Grade F Metal=Grade E Sword.
Graphic customizations could also go interesting ways depending on what you use for what. Killed a dragon? Want everyone to know? Make a dragonblade then =w=

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Actually, how are cores different from themselves? Are all of them only +1 to some stat, or have some gradation, like +1, +2, +5 (depending on rareness of the core)?


Of course, Core Alpha will be a bit weaker than Beta, all the way down to Omega, or whatever naming convention I decide to go with (I just like Greek letters)

I'm not in the game business yet, I still have a 6 year contract with the Navy to fulfill, but afterward maybe I can land a spot. Therefore I couldn't describe the intricacies of balancing yet, but I assume if a few play tests determine certain stats are overpowered, you can get a stat burden, or issue a cap per stat. There's literally a million possible scenarios for this honestly.

Misc. loot would of course be for crafting better cores. Why would anyone craft if you couldn't get anything good out of it?

An expansion on this idea:
I was thinking of breaking cores into four general types:

Form Cores: These are your weapon types: flails, swords, axes, staves, bows. You can use two one-handed form cores or one two-handed core. Armor would also be included, and one armor piece per slot.
Utility Cores: These would add special effects to your martial attacks, ex. Poison, Life Steal, Burning. Some, like burning would only apply one stack, and could only be afflicted to the same target every 10 secs or so, but that's just balancing.
Boost Cores: Increases stats. HP, MP, Attack Damage, Spell Power, Defense, etc.
Spell Cores: These are applied onto individual spells to give the same effect as utility cores, but on spells.

In crafting, to make equipment I would personally devise a system such as:

Form core being mandatory, determines the type of weapon/armor.
0~3 Utility cores depending on level
0~5 Boost cores, depending on level.

And then a skin mold to wrap it up.

Miscellaneous thoughts about this crafting system: Have a save page, where you can create sets and save them, for quick appearance changes, or switches between commonly used playstyles. Switching and crafting only in outposts/non combat areas. This is to plan ahead for several battles and to prevent min/maxing on single encounters. Have it be free, so you can experiment all you want.

Enough of an addition for one post, I say. Thanks for the feedback guys.

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What I hope to hear from this community:

How feasible is this?
Do you think this is better than traditional methods?
Overall thoughts on implementation? Would it be hard to balance, would it 'not matter' because there will always be a desirable stat causing builds to be similar anyway?


It is an interesting idea but when comparing the two (yours and traditional WoWish gear) I'd still prefer the old way of having gear. Why? because with gear you often(but not always) have interesting choices. Do I want to do more damage and resist fire or do I want to do reflect % damage and do a % knockback on counter attacks? Or sometimes they are tradeoffs with a substantial bonus but with a moderate penalty. With your applying cores to gear it sounds more like you are creating the character to the slightest detail instead of upgrading it. Playing a character and upgrading +1-5 to stamina and strength on each item at each level doesn't sound very fun.

But, with this lets say you have 50 character levels, and 10 pieces of gear including two weapons. Wouldn't that mean you 'd have 500 cores in your equipment. Or maybe only lvl 20 is the max, thats still 200 and would be very time consuming thumbing through all your infinate cores to swap. How many cores at the most would you have at max level? Also what would be the likely result of a dps or tank's gear look like?

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[quote name='Zummy' timestamp='1305473992' post='4811100']
What I hope to hear from this community:

How feasible is this?
Do you think this is better than traditional methods?
Overall thoughts on implementation? Would it be hard to balance, would it 'not matter' because there will always be a desirable stat causing builds to be similar anyway?


But, with this lets say you have 50 character levels, and 10 pieces of gear including two weapons. Wouldn't that mean you 'd have 500 cores in your equipment. Or maybe only lvl 20 is the max, thats still 200 and would be very time consuming thumbing through all your infinate cores to swap. How many cores at the most would you have at max level? Also what would be the likely result of a dps or tank's gear look like?
[/quote]

10 pieces sounds like an awful lot. One of the pros of my current system is that you can eliminate jewelry and accessories since cores do their job. I'd imagine a full set of equipment would be Upper and lower armor, gloves, boots, helmet, and two weapon slots. In the event of a two handed weapon, you'll have more core slots to make up for the lack of two individual items. For simplicities sake lets just say at max level each article of clothing and weapon have the same amount of slots for cores. So with 7 possible articles, each with 1~3 utility slots and 1~5 boost slots(numbers subject to change), simple math proves for an end-game functioning build, you'd only need, at most, 7*(3+5)=56. That seems like a lot, but let me bring up a few points:

1. Cores aren't only obtained by random and rare boss loot, like WoW equipment is. These can be found periodically from every encounter.
2. Once you obtain it, it's yours. You don't need to stack multiples, since you can use each one however many times.
3. While you can't trade cores, you can trade materials to craft your own. You can also salvage and synthesize misc. loot to get different materials.
4. Quests and story-line advancement could bring many to use for your disposal.

There are many ways to gather these, so 56 doesn't seem like such a big number anymore. Remember, that is end-game sets only. Beginners and beginner content can easily be scaled around collecting and having only a few.

As for DPS/Tank conundrum. I'm not quite sure yet, as many of these are pending, and I'm not actually developing this title presently.

My best guess is what I would have to rely on here, and using that, I'd propose these:
DPS: Utility cores would bring a mix of -threat on attacks, +Area of effects for crowds, depending on the fight, some status ailments would be preferred over others. DPS is pretty broad, rogues may also utilize a double attack. Mages could use spell mods to inflict burning, or slow speeds. They may also take more tanky stuff if they want to be more of a team player or if the encounter has a bit of area spells, or maybe a persistent damage aura fight.

Tanks could take +Threat, concussive blows so every x attack stuns. +Slows have more time if a dps tops the threat tables to chase. They can also utilize the defensive utilities like life-drain to be more self sustaining.

Most of the difference between tanks and dps would be defined by the skill set, which is pretty standard across many rpg games. Tanks have taunts and shields. Dps have more pew pew. etc.

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