I just bumped on two (popular) blogs suggesting ideas for World of Warcraft. Both of those writers are way more near to the possibility to become actual developers than me (the second guy is supposed to work somewhere), so the fact that their ideas suck greatly reassured me a bit :)
The first two ideas come from here. And they are both out of place and not directly relevant for the game (I believe he doesn’t know that WoW runs great in a window or it’s another failure from myself at getting bad sarcasm).
The other two ideas instead at least make sense. Still they are poor. The first is a database hog and again a work on fluff that doesn’t add anything. I still think that an archive where to browse the completed quests would be easier to implement and more useful to have.
The other idea is better even if poor in the proposed implementation. He basically suggests to shift some of the treadmill progress on the equipment. So that the use of a weapon makes it improve and “grow”. This idea is actually the reason why I’m writing. To begin with it’s nothing new. Just the last example (with another awful implementation) is about the artifacts in DAoC, but it’s obvious that the concept has been used many times even if it failed to become a major system (for all I know).
The fact is that this idea is also the origin of one of the systems on which my dream mmorpg is built. It’s between those ideas that I haven’t already fleshed out and written completely but, at least in my head, I have already all the basic elements organized.
A few details are described in the piece where I started to shape the combat system:
Each type of attack is obviously based on a weapon, assuming that even a fist is a weapon. Usually the player will have a different skill for every weapon type, but this isn’t directly true because there will be also a side-skill that will measure the “fondness”. So a character loosing a short sword will have the “fondness” reset to zero even if it will grab and use another very similar short sword. The weapon skill is the skill of the *weapon type* (short swords, long swords, axes, 2h swords, etc..) then the skill is modified by the “fondness” that is instead dependent on that specific weapon/physical entity.
Here you have already the proposed idea fully implemented, with the use of a specific weapon slowly improving, but it’s just the bottom of the system I built. The “fondness” just regulates the behaviour of ALL the weapons. While the advancement system that I have in mind will apply only to magical items, with the possibility to transform a normal item into a magical one.
The idea is that you can start with just a normal weapon and make it not only special but also unique. The first problem I had to face is that the original plan was about transforming a normal item into a magic item through the use. But this means a pure form of grind, so something to dodge. The consideration of this problem brought me the core system that I explained on the link I pasted above. All the progress related to a character (skills, magic, weapons etc..) is *strictly* goal-based (and here I’d be interested to know if Turbine came up with the idea before me because I discovered they “stole” it months after I wrote about it). In general (but not only) the progress is based on quests, never on the repetition. So you can grind the quest system and find the best path but you cannot sit in a place, killing the same mob over and over and expect something to happen (aside rising the “fondness”).
So, moving through special quest lines, you can transform a normal item into a magic one. Now my game detaches itself from the current games. The magic system is one. Every magic item in the game (with the exception of the artifacts, that are lootable in PvP and extremely powerful), dropped, player-made or quest related, is equal in power and possibilities. This means that nothing is directly more powerful in potential than something else. A rusty dagger has the possibility to become the most uber item around (again with the exception of the artifacts).
As per the idea above, the “magic” items aquire and provide new skills. The fact that they are “magic” is simply to define that they have access to a dedicated advancement system. This system is very complex to explain with words but will be straightforward and clear in the use, retaining a lot of depth and producing unique items. The progress is based on “skill trees” similar to the talents in World of Warcraft, but where each step is always directly connected to the next one, if the connection misses you cannot move on that point. The complexity depends on a few factors. The main one is that these “skill trees” are three dimensional. Concretely not only you can move horizontally (in the 2D space of the graph) to unblock more powerful skills, but you can jump also “up” or “down” to parallel skill trees (think like overlapping different sheets). Each overlapped layer will correspond to a school of magic (think like “fire”, “ice”, “shadow” etc..).
Now the movement of the progress along these graphs is, in general, casual. The player will have a limited control in two ways. The first is about fighting (and solving quests) that are linked to a particular sphere (each school of magic corresponds to a skill tree and also to a physical plane that the players can access, as I hinted here). The second is about blocking the way in a direction he wants to avoid but considering that there are always more than two possibilities, so offering only a partial control. Doing so the item will grow and gain power in a semi-random way. At the end the system will be deep enough to create many unique items. Things like graphical effects (items glowing, fire effects, usable skills etc..) will always be the direct consequence of the progress of the item through particular schools of magic.
There’s also a last element that will affect the progress of an item. It’s about an invisible DNA code unique for each item. This code will affect the % of possibilities for an item to move in a direction or the other. It represent a “destiny”. The players will be able to drive the progress with the tools I explained above but at the end the possibilities of movement will always be restricted in the “space of possibility” given by the hidden DNA code. Something that the players will have to discover through the observation and research.
What happens to the mechanic of dropped items? Nothing in particular. Dropped items are no different from player-made magic items. The difference is that the dropped magic items are in a “frozen” status (so they have an “history” already set that cannot be changed). This means that a dropped magic item is an item that already had a progression through the skill trees. It could have just started or even be near the end of its path. These items can be “unfrozen” but then they’ll move only “onward”, with their previous skills already set.
I guess it’s all. I just took the occasion to write it down before someone else steals me the idea :)