Battle System – A design idea

Version 2.0 of my Battle System.
Less messy and more organized.

I’ll try to not be too boring like I usually am (and despite the horrible english). The idea comes from a long experience in DAoC, from its mistakes and what could be taken and developed from there to build something different but more *fun and compelling*. I’ll take an idea that went terribly wrong in DAoC: the Master Levels. Everything, from their achievement till their role in the game are seen by the community more or less as a disaster. What I think is that the idea is still awesome but with an awful implementation. Now I thought about “salvaging” what’s good and use it to “fire” my imagination and suggest a complete new system for WoW. With these goals:

+ Provide a good reward system/treadmill for PvP
+ Give the players a reason and a concrete purpose to fight for, avoiding to provide excuses to “host” completely faked and maningless battles
+ Develop a number of skills that will be used exclusively on -large scale- battles, leaving the PvE aspect alone
+ Add depth to the system so that it will involve a complex strategical gameplay and not a sudden zerg instant pointless battle
+ Develop this system so that it will be deeper than just access a set of determined skills. The idea is to build a battle system where everyone has a concrete different *role* based on the achieved rank
+ Epic feel, endless possibilities to expand the system (patches and/or specific expansions) and the sense of wonder that the current game misses

In DAoC the reward system is based on Realm Points. By killing enemies you earn these points and by collecting more of them you earn ranks and cumulative points that you can spend to gain directly new skills. This system works nicely because it gives you a concrete reason to go fight in a PvP environment. The “treadmill” feeds the fun as the levelling does in the standard PvE: killing monsters must be fun but you also need to provide reasons to excuse the gameplay and hook the players. Levelling and gaining skills are hooks. In PvP you need both the hooks and a reason to give depth to the PvP, like a conquest system where the battles have a purpose aside the single encounters.

Considering WoW, it’s obvious that copying DAoC’s system isn’t the best way to go. WoW will have “Hero” classes and they sound already a pain to design without destroying the game. Another new system that gives more skills to the players and that need to be extensively balanced isn’t a good idea. My opinion is that there should be a completely new “battle system” that will offer its own gameplay and rewards (and also define differences between battleground and a possible, different endgame). How to achieve all this?

1. Ranks, squads and generals

The PvP should be defined by “ranks”. These ranks will not only give to each player the access to new sets of specific skills (creating a specific treadmill, undependent from PvE), but they will also define the role of each player during a battle. Opening possibilities and setting specific goals depending on your role. These ranks depend on points you can gain during the PvP. And these points can be gained in two ways. The first is by killing opponents, the second is by accomplishing set purposes (like specific missions). This shapes already the structure of both the reward and the gameplay system. The ranks not only define the new treadmill with its own rewards (the “hooks”) but they define also the gameplay since both your goals and possibilities in a battle depend on your rank. Plus there should be a visualization system for them. There should be graphical elements that will allow other players to “read” the rank of a player just by looking at them. This should be done by just setting a zone on the armor (like a shoulder or the chest) where the ranks are graphically displayed.

At this point the players could organize in “squads” and each squad will be able to choose a player (between the highest ranks) to become a “general”. When a general is set, a big flag with the symbol of the guild will appear on his back and will vanish only when he’ll disband the squad. This flag is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantage because a general has access to skills that will produce bonuses for everyone fighting around him (bonuses to magic, resistence, defence, attack..). A disadvantage because a leader with a flag on his back is easily recognizable, enemies could just focus on him to kill him and wipe the bonuses he’s infusing in the allies.

To conclude this section a few words about how PvP points should be gained. As I said, aside specific missions and goals related to a whole squad (like killing a leader, forcing a retreat and so on), points can be gained just by killing opponents. How the amount of these points should be defined? This is a complex part that I define more precisely here. The idea is to reward group survival. If a group survives an encounter (51% alive) it will gain a bonus multiplier (with a diminished return softcapped at 2.5). The more a group survives the more the bonus builds up (and the same group will be worth more if killed). If the group flees from a PvP battlefield OR is defeated (only if 50% or more of it dies) the bonus is lost and resets to zero.

2. Battle System: skills and spells

Each rank you achieve gives you access to new skills and spells. This is a brand new system that will coexist with zero impact on the PvE. How? These skills and spells don’t affect a single character nor a single group. They are ALL area-based. They can affect: – The environment – Allies – Enemies. The three targets are general. This still doesn’t prevent the use of these skills in the normal PvE or PvP. The point is that the effectivity of each of these spells is extremely limited. Each of these skills and spells is designed so that it will have a radius and a *stackable* effect. If only one player cast one of these spells the effect will be nearly zero. But then more players could “add” to the spell and strengthen it, building up its effect and affecting more and more players. So these spells and skills are planned to have an “impact” and a purpose only during large battles or sieges. With a nearly zero role in small and fast encounters. This to leave unaffected all the PvE and group-based PvP. The system I’m defining is about creating a battle system with its own tactics and dynamics. Working toward building a depth where the game usually becomes just a pointless zerg clash.

To prevent balance problems the effectivity of each spell works again with a diminished return value and a softcap. So that the cap will prevent these spells to become too overpowering and out of control while the stack will give a sense to each player contributing to strengthen the spell effect.

That’s the general structure. To this I added a “spellcrafting” system working like alchemy. Each spell cannot be casted at players’ will. There’s a complex system below. The first “stage” is about creating a “recipe”. Recipes are general spells based on different “magic schools”. They define just the general “type” of the spell. Recipes can be casted only with a communal effort of the players (rituals) and they need to not be interrupted for a certain amount of time. When a recipe is ready the players will then be able to add “ingredients”. And these ingredients will just modify the final effect, for example by expaning the range, invigorate an effect, add an effect and so on. Recipes will only be able to affect the three targets, only one for each recipe (environment, allies, enemies), but they can still be casted for different purposes (you could define recipes that follow the leader of an army, recipes that will be casted on the ground to affect the zone and prepare ambushes or defend hotspots, recipes that can be used in sieges, recipes as divination to “see” what the opposite force is doing… and so on). While the ingredients define the concrete effect and behaviour (add effects, increase the power, increase the radius, increase the duration, add movement, boost effectivity in rushes etc…).

3. Resource system and geomancy

If you look at my goals you can still see that the system misses something. It misses a real purpose and something concrete to fight for. To achieve this I imagined a resource system linked to geomancy effects. I haven’t defined every single detail here because a lot depends on how many resources you can use to add and expand this part. My whole design is built so that it’s easily expandable and this section is particularly near to this concept. The general idea is about giving the players the possibility to fight and conquer “nodes”. These nodes not only are structures with defenses, creating the base of a siege system, but they also work as a resource system. Each node affects a geomancy power. If you control a node it means that various characteristics of that zone will change (and they can be monitored and regulated). These nodes affect directly the “recipes” of the previous section. So, each geographical zone will have a different effect (and gameplay) by boosting or hindering the various “recipe” spells. This both based on the location of the battle (so, naturally) AND on who controls the various nodes.

The system is really more simple than how it sounds. Each zone will have by default a “natural” specific effect on the “recipe spells”. But the players will be able to conquer and control nodes so that they will be able to “tweak” these general bonuses and maluses at their advantage (boosting a magic school for example). The effect is not out of balance because pushing a magic school will make another one weak, the balance is already *inside* the system. Who doesn’t control the nodes can still use the strategy, the difference is that they won’t be able to control those bonuses and maluses directly.

The idea is simply about adding a concrete purpose and reason to fight for. The system can be expanded at will, by creating a real siege system and adding more purposes to the nodes (you could extract resources to build defenses and different structures. Building villages and so on.).

Housing anyone? :)

4. War machines

Here I’m leaning even more toward the endless possibilities to expand the system. This idea is about creating more differences between “casters” and “tanks” during a battle: The reward system, then, isn’t limited to new spells. It should be planned with various possibilities, where casters will have a *prevalent*, but not exclusive, access to the “ritual/recipe/ingredient system” and tanks to a different one. What is this new system for tanks (but not exclusively)? War machines.

The idea is to plan a real battle system where tank classes will be able to fly or drive more or less large steampunk machines, from zeppelins and dirigibles to large motorized rams. Bringing back Warcraft’s soul to this game. Casters will use the “ritual system” described to produce collective spells, while the melee classes will have access to major engines to drive the sieges. Obviously to move one of these machines the players will need to organize, they will move as a communal effort (same as the ritual system), making sure that each players still has something to do (since sitting there just for “presence” isn’t good gameplay).

This is all. The result is that we can forget about a dumbed down zerg-combat and really create an epic scale war with strategical and fun elements. And, once started, the possibilities are endless.

I hope it’s not too late for suggesting some ambition :)

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