Tobold's Blog
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Open Sunday Thread

Do I need to say more than the title?
Go Lakers!!!
In your perfect MMORPG, how would you handle leveling up?

I'm personally bored with either solo/party grinding, or pointless quests of killing 5 baby rabbits, then 6 young rabbits, then 7 old rabbits, then 10 fat rabbits, and finally big bad boss rabbit.

How would you do it?
This is kind of a random thought about the three archetypes, and the possibility for a fourth. What if, in addition to tanks, healers, and DPS, there was a buffer whose role it was to buff the DPS and restore mana? I know there are classes that live only to buff (especially in DAoC) but I mean buffs with similar pacing to healers. Like a buff that increases damage over 20 seconds, or a spell with a long cast time that grants an immediate critical hit for the target ally, or a channeled spell that restores mana lost during long fights. Their spells work by somehow increasing an ally’s output, helping their offense in the same way a healer helps their defense.

Raids would have a new mechanic to them. While healers have to pay attention to the tanks, buffers will have to focus on the DPS, who won’t be able to do enough damage for a sustained amount of time otherwise. So instead of having tanks and healers in one elite corner and the ragtag DPS left to their own devices, there’s more group cohesion happening and not so much “everyone else who doesn’t fit somewhere important gets thrown into DPS”. A lot of classes have elements similar to what I’m talking about, but on a more long term, less focused level.

It could be adapted to PvP since a buffer would act similar to a healer only increasing the outputs of him and his group instead of increasing the health of him and his group.

This isn't something I'd necessarily advocate for every MMORPG, just a thought that might spice up the current raiding game.
"6000 GS /w achievement of 100 mounts to enter naxx" mentality exists because those are PUGs, no other reason. There is no cohesion in that group, no prior knowledge of how every member behaves so that player's actions merge in a positive result.

Let me say that again: player's actions MERGE in a positive result. This is all that strategy is about in WoW. The fight goes like this so when "that" happens every player in the group/raid know what everyone else did. Player X knows when to pop that skill and player Y knows too what player X did and they work together to make that skill count.

Case in point, my guild have just started ICC and I'm the tank. Just before the very first boss, we have always done a LoS pull in one corner and it works for us. When last week I PUGed a rep run and told them (just to be sure) half of them did not get it and run in while half were outside waiting, wiping and then cursing one another.
What do you think of Warstorm so far?
@Hobonicus: In champions online, there is DPS, Tank, Support/Heal.

DPS gets more damage, less health, less threat, less ability in stunning.

Tank gets more health, less damage, more threat, less ability in stunning.

Support/Healers get less health, less threat, less damage, more ability to stun, more healing.

So it would be a frost mage/discipline priest, to get an idea of a good support build in CO.

There is much more planning involved in CO to be good at the role you want, and honestly it would benefit from being able to pick a 'class' or a 'complete framework for purpose X'.

Your idea has merits, if by buffing they would also be healing, or if they could dps while buffing.

Another game system that is interesting is D&D 4th ed. In there you get the Leader, the Defender, the Striker, and the Controller.

Leader does healing and buffing.
Defender is the Tank and keeps aggro (by making attacking them a better choice, or by punishing the enemy for attacking others).
Striker deals damage.
Controller deals damage, but their purpose is to punish enemies who group up, and control enemy movement.

I'd like to see the D&D4e roles or archetypes in an MMO that could use those kind of things, and an AI that could respond correctly to such things as a Rain of fire.

Imagine if in WoW, a Mage could cast Blizzard, not just for the damage, but to un-cluster enemies, and keep them at bay instead.
@Blaise: I'd redefine the meaning of Quest so that it fits in with what a quest truly is.

I'd layer the system so that you would have:

Errands - Small tasks like, go see Trainer Donovan, or Take this item to Lady Sinestra.

Missions - More complicated, would adapt to the flow of the mission. If you were to go into a cave to find out why the Kobolds are pissed off and attacking the town, and you find out that its because there is a demon crystal inside, instead of that being the end of the mission, it would update to destroy the crystal. Part of the mission may include killing 10 kobolds, but it would not be necessary if you find the crystal before you do.

Quests - These would involve the entire storyline of a zone, leading up to that zone's dungeon, and later on to that zone's raid. It would dynamically update like the missions, but the scheme or storyline would be grander, instead of being piece-meal through several boring kill 10 foozle quests.

What do you, or Tobold think of this idea?
The role of a buffer sounds like it wouldn't get a lot of credit for what it does.

I prefer the idea that you'd get buffs through teamwork:

* Ability to combine spells with other players which add a debuff to the boss.
* Special buff given for timing a perfect taunt that saves the other tanks life (or something to that effect)

Then throw in some form of diminishing returns for the buff when triggered by the same 2 players so that your group needs to interact with other players.

Then change up hybrids to change roles mid fight or something.
@Pangoria Fallstar:

I agree! Missions need to update on their own when the player discovers something. The 'quest-giver' shoudn't give a you a detailed goal, but a problem to solve. Your character should then think for himself, like: Let's go to the cave and have a look. Kill a few of the kobolds, perhaps this gives some clue. Explore the cave..

Important: It's not the player who should do this. That were very hard with todays players. Your charcter should think or 'talk to himself'.

This way you get into a good flow.
I don't think the buffer idea is good. I wouldn't spread abilities even more. I'd rather combine them a bit more. Within the context of WoW a buffer most certainly wouldn't be fun. Blizzard is reducing the importance of buffs more and more and I think that is a good decision.

I hate to not be able to do something in a group of friends, because a tank/healer/dps/buffer is missing.
Here's the sad thing about my Mission idea, I got it from doing a trial of Everquest 2.
Why is that sad ?
I think the biggest regret is that getting XP no longer matters at level cap.

I think it would be neato, neat, interesting, compelling, etc. if XP could still be gained through conventional measures, quests, or raids, PvP and then spent to improve your character. It would be progression through playing rather than strictly through gear upgrades.

I guess what I really long for is more specialization or character customization, AKA an alternate advancement at 80, or basically what I hope path of the titans turns out to be.

I like that theirs 30 different specs, but I think it would be neat if their was something to set me apart from all the other identical Fury Warriors - changing glyphs, gear, talents, etc to be suboptimal sets me apart only in that it makes me weaker.

I want more interesting talent/glyph/path of the titans choices!
Its sad because I didn't like EQ2, even though I liked that small part of the quest interface.
@Zode: Like upgrading your class to a super class?

"Yeah, I'm a level 85 Prot Warrior, but now I'm a Defender of Stormwind, which gives me access to exclusive skills and abilities."

Personally I preferred it when we just went out into the world and killed stuff. If there are a few guards around who like to give some bonus xp or gold for the ears you cut off wolves, so much the better. I'm more than happy to provide my own backstory and I'm confident that anything I think up will please me more and motivate me more than any quest text I have ever read in any MMO.

Fundamentally, I'd rather feel I was in control of what my character does rather than feel he's nothing more than a piad employee of NPCs.
@Pangoria: Your idea is somewhat similar to what I had in mind. My idea is actually probably be more extreme (though can be more convenient too).

However, what I'm interested to see is how you implement your idea of using quest, mission, and errand in relation to the EXP and leveling up. For example, to get to max level of say level 60 in an unamed MMORPG, how many errands, quests, and missions are the players expected to do? Do they need to repeat the errands, quests, and missions many times before they reach level 60? If yes, how to prevent players from being bored? If not, how to keep the errands, quests, and missions fresh? Are there still grinding involved in your system? How efficient would grinding be in your MMORPG? And so on.

My biggest problem with quests from NPC as a system to gain EXP to level up (the typical one, not your idea btw) is that often times they feel very repetitive just with different monsters and NPCs. Kill 10 skinny giraffes! Give me 20 frog legs! The monsters involved might be different. The locations might be different. The items required might be different. The NPCs involved might be different. But they are essentially doing the same thing. It's boring.

@Bhagpuss: Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you mean you prefer to simply grind (may it be soloing or with groups) all the way to max level in an MMORPG? If yes, do you prefer solo grind or party grind? Which one would be more efficient in your MMORPG?
Why can't rogue be more like the TF2 Spy?
@Blaise: The idea would be that they would do 1 quest per zone, perhaps 5-10 missions (don't forget they would take more work, and would replace 4-5 WoW quests), and as many Errands as necessary to link zones together.

Additionally you'd get Class Quests, Faction Quests, etc.

I posted a more detailed concept on my blog here:

As an example to post here, the Durotar Quest would be helping Thrall uncover and stop the Burning Blade that is infiltrating Orgrimmar. Missions would provide some of the other storylines, and errands would tie things together (get you to the next zone, or get you to go talk to Thrall in the first place). A zone might have more than one quest, but typically you wouldn't have more than one quest at a time in one zone.
One more thing, if some one adds something to a mission or a quest (some quest givers in LK say things like, "I heard you were headed there, while you're there, could you...") it would expand your mission, and not add a new one per se (it would depend on how different the mission was).

The main purpose of the change in the mission is to allow for A) more dynamic decisions in finishing a mission, and B) less running back and forth just to kill another kind of harpy or foozle.
Having rolled a Bard in Dungeons and Dragons Online, I can definitely say that buffers do not get much credit for what they do. Far and away the biggest problem with how DDO handles the buffer role is that once they've casted/refreshed their buffs (and refreshing is after a few minutes each time) they have nothing to do besides being a subpar copy of another role. I think the design would work better if you had some kind of "buffing rotation" during the fight that was about as helpful as one character of any other role, instead of these long-term buffs that are easily ignored since they more-or-less always on. An example of the idea of noticable buffing from WoW is Bloodlust or Power Infusion.
@Pangoria Fallstar.

One advantage of the simplistic current quest system is that you can easily abondon a quest and restart it. Thus, quests never ultimately fail.

I'm sure it is also possible to do this with the 'mission' system, but it may require special effort.
@Nils: The idea of the mission system is that failure IS an option.
At least it would be if I could design it.
@Pangoria Fallstar:

If I designed a game just for you and me I would include failure as well.

But you don't want to know the customer service costs or forum complains about 'bugs'.
How do you feel about the current state of beta testing in MMOs?

Most MMO betas these days are used more as a demo instead of an actual beta test. Participants in the beta expect the game to be content complete with all the features in place. Most people don't even leave feedback for the developers.

I like being able to try out a game before buying it just as much as anyone else. So maybe they could combat the problem by making free game trials available on release day and returning beta testing to an actual testing phase.

I'd like to hear your take on betas being glorified demos.
@Pangoria: I read your idea on your blog, but now I'm even more confused. Is "quest" simply a collection of "missions"? I'm not sure there's a point of separating quest and mission if that's the case. Your example finished the quest and mission too after you beat the boss. But to get the objective of killing the boss, you gotta go through a bunch of missions of killing the underling first. So why need the term of "Quest" at all? Just to differentiate between main storyline and additional storyline about the zone?

The main purpose of the change in the mission is to allow for A) more dynamic decisions in finishing a mission, and B) less running back and forth just to kill another kind of harpy or foozle.

While I would love to see B more often in MMORPGs, I'm not sure that there's much point for A with your example. Dynamic decision IMO is much more than just making the decision whether to do the additional task or not. "Expanding the mission" is essentially the same as "adding another mission" because the additional task is the same and players still have the same option of whether they want to do the additional task or not.
I think a buff-focused class could work well if it was given active tasks to perform. Casting a spell on the boss that raises X isn't very interesting, it's just part of the rotation; plus the class gets "punished" for providing the buff. If he or she just put buffs on other players, it's nothing but another "healer" class who does nothing but play with the UI.

What if instead the buff-class had more of an active role? Like a spell that linked yourself with 2 other players, boosting all three's damage? Or putting a spot on the ground that reduced damage taken for a few seconds for a number of players? Then they'd be more active in the battle, deciding when to use defensive cooldowns strategically (tanks or during AoE damage?); or linking the group's strongest DPSers.

The problem as some others said is that Blizzard is against pigeon-holing classes. The only way it could work is if this "buffing" system was spread out amongst multiple classes. So warriors and warlocks could provide Buff Y, and priests and mages DeBuff Z, etc.
@Blaise: I apologize if my example was misunderstood, thats why I added the 2nd example here in the comments.

No, the quest to help around the Abbey was accomplished by killing the boss defias, the missions also happened to lead that way when stopping the defias from attacking. Note, that routing them in another manner (defeating enough underlings) would have accomplished the mission, but the quest would still require finding the leader.

The dynamic part of the mission/quest structure would be to allow for more than 1 way to finish it. Including failing to do so (opening up additional missions or ending a zone in a losing state). A quest would normally be win-able since it would result in attacking the local dungeon, but by having such an overarching reason for going, instead of several million quests doing minor things. Technically, you'd be able to skip all missions in a zone, and quest through each zone instead. The missions, make finishing a zone easier (by giving more exp, and therefore leaving you at a higher level when finishing the zone).

I don't know if I just confused it more or not.
Is World of Warcraft truly a virtual world?

If all World of Warcraft servers were suddenly unplugged and permanently terminated, with people being unable to ever access their online avatars, would this be considered genocide?
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