Ideas need complexity, commitment and some attention

Here below my ideas were questioned again, and I expected that. As I commented, the purpose of that article was to present my ideas, summarize some of the basic points and underline what there is different in them that is not directly present in the mmorpgs on the market. From my perspective each single point written comes from months and years of thoughts, discussions and further developments. Each one is an important point with a long “back story” behind and solid reasons why I believe it is important.

The fact is that the pattern is always the same, and I know it well. If I summarize one of my ideas in one line everyone tells me that it’s trivial. Everyone is able to write that a game must be “fun”, or have this and that, but the point is to figure out how. Find a way that actually works. So I agree and after the critics I write down various pages full of text where I finally explain how I plan to achieve that precise goal. To show that I didn’t simply put together a list of goals without delving but that, instead, each point was already planned carefully, in all the minimal aspects, anticipating all the problems and figuring out in detail how to fix them.

But the point is that everyone visiting a blog just offers it a very little span of his attention. If the blog is able then to tickle an interest the reader could even decide to dedicate to it some more time. Now… NOONE is interested in raving ideas that will never reach an actual implementation. If I put together a small list of goals, *maybe*, there will be something reading them and “nodding”. Sharing them. Maybe a discussion over those points will be encouraged, because as I said many times, ALL my ideas come from crucial points of the design that are common to ALL the mmorpg out there. So they are all actual. Fresh. So they can be considered interesting and this is why, in this case, I decided to put that post on the site instead of leaving it to the PM to Jon.

Now the fact is that I *hate* when someone agrees on my ideas and then doubts about them. Doubts that they are solid, they I thought about them for some time, working and delving in them. I hate this because I decide to spend some time to explain in detail those points that were vague or weak and then noone reads them. Or they are dodged in a similar way. The argument is dismissed. So it’s not that I’m not interested in a less superficial discussion, to write and analyze these core points in detail (because they are important not just for a “dream” mmorpg, but for each, *real* one out there). It’s simply that it’s not a possibility, that it’s often a dialogue between me and myself and because everyone else may be interested more in a short article listing a few, shareable goals, that can tickle the imagination and suggest what the genre may miss, than an endless design document hard to follow and understand.

I know that behind every single point I listed there are pages and pages of reasons, consequences and more goals. I know because all that already passed through my mind, all passed through a careful study. I know that a “realistic inventory system” has strong purposes in the gameplay. It is the result of a design at a low level where the mechanics are all tied one to another. Planning caravans, planning the transport of the limited resources, planning the different types of terrains, planning the micro-management, considering how the players find always fun to manage things beside their character, managing complex and realistic inventory, managing their tools on the environment (think to the managment of harvesters in SWG), take care of pets, organize and prepare expeditions for a real “journey” and so on. Behind a little goal there is a whole world of intentions, of solid purposes that will require pages and pages to go in detail. Pages and pages that are somewhat requested (because people obviously doubt of my ideas) but then ignored (because noone is really interested if not to argue on a superficial level).

Quoting myself:

Because it’s about breaking a model. This is gameplay that has been completely cut away but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be fun.

In Guild Wars you have to select only eight skills even if your character has 20 available. This to develop a strategy. This idea is here applied to something different. It’s obvious that you cannot take WoW and remove all its bags and expect to have something more fun. Because there’s no gameplay aside “being able to carry stuff or not”.

The limited inventory is there to develop the “world”. On the wargame level you’ll have to move around resources. This is why caravans will have to travel between places and will need protection. If you raid a town you cannot simply pick up all you find in your way. You’ll have to organize an appropriate convoy (and have it exposed to further attacks/counterattacks) or leave the stuff where it is.

In general I want the equipment to have an use. No use = no equipment. In the current games this model doesn’t exist. You need space to accumulate junk to sell to vendors. This isn’t *equipment*. The junk has no value for the gameplay level if not being goods to transform into money (that you need).

The economy is probably the part of the game where my ideas are less defined in detail. It’s the part that I never wrapped up completely so these points about the “inventory” are strictly about the inventory and use of items themselves. No need of equipment slots to carry junk because I do not even plan to have junk in the game. At the same time I don’t want the players to loot stuff they do not need. It’s not like you’ll find a sword by killing a turtle. A realistic equipement system also means realistic loot tables.

So my idea should be seen from this point of view. You cannot carry around six swords because that limit is supposed to give a depth to the system. A choice that is required like in Guild Wars. No cookie cutter equipment. Instead choices and specializations (plus the “affinity” system will prevent you to be effective if you keep switching stuff at will). Carry an heavy armor and you’ll be slower in the combat. Use a light armor and you’ll be able to hold more bags. Drop the bags on the ground (and risk that other players steal them) and you’ll move even faster.

It’s obvious that “less inventory” alone isn’t fun. But if there’s gameplay depending on it, the situation changes.

I love to fiddle around with the equipment, move stuff between bags, organize them. It’s fun. It’s not something I wouldn’t try to cut from the game.

The same about the classes. There are years of “work” and discussions to at least acknowledge most of the problems in the current systems and try to move on a positive direction. There is so much that I wouldn’t be even able to put together all the reasons and goals that brought to my idea without leaving out a good part. Exactly because everything was being though on an arc of time, built progressively through my “experience” and different discussions. I know for example that a CORE problem that I have to face EVERY single time I log in EVERY mmorpg is the “healer problem” (“lack of” and “requirement of”). A problem that if it is so frequent must also deserve some consideration. Or not? So I gave it. To explain the whole process that brought to my idea I’d have again to write pages and pages, from the analysis of how the multi-purpose classes in WoW are way more fun than the strictly specialized versions in DAoC, how in the first game is way easier to build efficent groups (and ease the LFG problem) and so on (more != better). The solution I propose is to create dynamic roles. The class system is rather complex but the essence is to allow the players to fill temporary roles in the case they are missed (and required). Maybe you aren’t an healer, but you can temporarily fill that role in the case you cannot find a player already specialized doing that. And this without considering the ideas I have to not make the actual gameplay boring and dull for the healers, which is another *core* problem and not just a detail.

About the “conquest system”. It is complex. It has many different layers all interconnected. It is the main structure of the game, the main purpose, the “endgame”. Every other system is supposed to converge there because I always wanted a game with many different layers of complexity (and interactions) but without making all independent and unrelated. This is why it’s a “world”. All the elements have a purpose and are not there to be just “fluff”. Whatever you do in the game will finally arrive at that point.

I already vaguely explained some concepts about how I plan to keep the conquest possible without one side “winning” the game. The conquest is open to the whole world but the system isn’t based just on combat but on an “emergent” resource system built to add an RTS layer. So gathering and managing resources, moving them, defending them or steal them, building nodes, improve the power of the guards and structure defence and so on. The game is again not just combat, the combat is an aspect, the most direct, always available. But there are choices to deal with the rest, at least to manage the situation.

Conquering (adiacent) zones depends not only on the military power but also strongly on the resources. These zones (or better, the villages, outposts, castles and so on) need an upkeep. A maintenance cost. Some of the resources that a faction needs (three factions in the game hardcoded – Order, Chaos, Balance, plus player-made factions) can only be produced by the other faction and then transfered through commerce (mostly through the “balance” faction that works as a tie between the other two). The more one side expands its domain, the more the upkeep costs go up. If the other faction isn’t able to product anything the warehouse of resources in the prevailing faction will decrease, till the faction won’t be able to hold that type of expansion anymore. This is a first aspect that makes hard to maintain a control of the whole world.

The second aspect is that one type of the resources needed (mostly about the power of the defences, the possibilities of upgrades, guard costs and so on) is fixed. A fixed pool that cannot be changed in any way. Hardcoded. These resources can be spread around in order to support a high number of zones, or consolidated in a few in order to keep the defence at a very high level. So the more you expand your domain and the more you offer weaknesses, like the possibility for the other faction to attack you from the flank, in an undefended zone, where even a small strike-team can quickly conquer an outpost and force all the resources on that point. This would create a powerful node that the losing faction can use to disturb and progressively weaken the expansion process of the prevailing faction. So gameplay dynamics and tactics.

Finally, there’s a third system in place. There are three main hubs-cities (one for each faction) that cannot be conquered (and so managed and transformed as a property like it happens in the other cases). In this case you can think to the dynamics in WoW. The Alliance never held Orgrimmar for hours, not the Horde was able to do the something similar with Ironforge. These three hubs are strongly defended and while the mechanics won’t be based too much on continue respawns, it will be still extremely hard to maintain a presence in these places. The best you can do here is a permanent siege.

Now there’s a system applied even here. Think to the RvR dungeon in DAoC interconnecting the three realms. I carried over a similar concept. In the case the main hub of a faction is under constant siege, the players can still organize to use a system of tunnels to sneak behind the enemy lines and coordinate attacks to the supply lines of the opposite faction. As I wrote above they’ll need to move resources constantly in order to maintain the upkeep, so the players can organize attacks to these caravans in order to disrupt the supply lines and weaken progressively the defences of the other faction.

This guarantees that noone “wins”, that there’s still a huge role for the persistence and that there’s a space to develop tactics and interesting dynamics, involving even politics and diplomacy. That depth that I claim back and that is missing currently in other mmorpgs. The essential (philosophical) design is that the three factions are dependent on each other. One can decide to wipe the other but ultimately it will fail in the measure it needs the other in order to exist. So a balance (also impersonated by the appropriate faction) always exists as an inner need of the system. There will be strong shifts in the overall situation, but never definitive, never permanent. The ultimate risk here isn’t the possibility to “win” everything. It’s the opposite, the fact that through diplomacy and politics a realm could settle down and reach a perfect balance (which is definitely a new concept for a mmorpg and something I want to test to see if it can be interesting).

I don’t fight this possibility directly. The game is supposed to be fun and compelling *beside* the combat. This is my goal. A paceful realm is a possibility that I contemplate. Why not? There’s always space for politics. You can try to get what you need with your strength, so you can conquer a zone in order to reach a resource node that you absolutely need. Or settle down an agreement through the diplomacy and the commerce in order to “buy” or “exchange” those resources without fighting for them. For sure there will be “baits” in the game. Both at the personal and communal level. So there will be needs to satisfy that will require to get precious resources (RARE, but not as grindy-rare, just as gameplay-rare) that are deep in the land owned by the rival realm. And you’ll definitely need a way to get there.

There are all of these elements. Reasons for the conflict, alternate paths thorugh diplomacy and politics and interconnected systems to give the whole structure a depth. The real goal is again to “give back the world to the players”. The goal to finally develop a complex world where the players, together, have an impact, where they “care” about what happens and get entangled into an enriching system not “sterilized” in a pointless grind to transform the player in a robot hitting endlessly the same key. Where the actions have consequences and where the lore and the backstory exist at a radical level and not as useless, detached words on a website.

I want to give back importance to all those elements that are now being systematically removed from this genre. To not forget that it’s there the strength. And that we are losing all this to chase arid models.

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