The following article lists possible solutions and suggestions on how to enhance an On–Line Game. My background is in Role Playing games and most of my suggestions and ideas center around this. Many of the problems I see with On–Line Role Playing games are listed with possible solutions. Since I have done a lot of work on Legend Weaver: The Making of Heroes role playing game, many of my suggestions and solutions relate back to it and how it could be used to make a better On–Line game. Even with the suggestion that you take everything here with a grain of salt, I feel there is a lot of good material that if used (or taken into consideration) would enhance any On–Line Role Playing game.
Not All Are Created Equal
I love the idea of a game with a variety of races. It is great when you can pick that lizard or cat race. Or maybe be a fairy or gnome of some type. EQ gives you lots of races but fails because your race has very little bearing on game play. In EQ a gnome fighter is equal to an ogre fighter since strength has no bearing on the damage a character does (the only impact it actually has on game play is the amount of weight the character can carry). Makes me want to shake my head. I have always felt that certain races would just be better at certain things and so what if they are. The Trock in Legend Weaver, the Making of Heroes, edges out as the best fighter available in the game. Why? Because he is a big huge bruiser! His size and power just make him a better melee fighter. Now the Trock, like any other race in Legend Weaver, can develop any skill he wants. The thing is, it is very hard to use those big huge fingers to pick a lock or a pocket. So the Trock gets bonuses to his fighting skill due to his size, but then his size makes it very hard to learn those skills that take small fingers and great dexterity. I like a system that encourages class options while not forcing you to pick a class (i.e., you want a fighter so you pick a Human, Lazinar, Dwarf or Trock because they are all on the large size) but still allows you to do what you want (you can actually make a Trock thief, it just takes a lot longer). All the races should have their own distinctive advantages that almost correspond to a “class”. So the Elf and Fairy make the best magic user, the Gnome and Calt the best thieves. No one race is forced to be any one or set of “Classes” but what they are make them well suited to specific roles and not so well suited for others.
As a last note, systems that say humans are the best really need to make sure that humans are the best. I tend to dislike systems that use humans as a base line, saying they are the best while giving other races advantage after advantage. Some systems tried to use bogus restrictions to make up for this obvious shortfall. For example, in the older version of D&D elves could see in the dark and have a natural resistance to paralysis. They are listed as living for incredible lengths of time, are magical in nature, and basically think the same as a human but can only obtain level 11 as a magic user. Why? Well the reason stated by the designer, Gary Gygax was that no one would want to play a human. Of course, I think this whole problem came about by making humans the base line race. Don’t do this. Make the baseline some imaginary non–existing set of figures and adjust everything around them. Makes it a lot easier to give humans the bonuses they need to justify the reason that they are a viable and a great race to play.
In Legend Weaver I gave humans bonuses to learning (oddly enough, EQ's manual states that humans have an advantage when it comes to experience, but it has come to light that the only race that has an advantage is gnome... why, I am not sure). Elves may live a long time, but no one learns as quickly as a human. In effect, a human can learn skills to a level that far exceeds what you would think possible due to his short life span. This is one of the reasons humans excel and dominate Panjere.
Using Stats to Describe a Character
In Legend Weaver I went away from a set of stats to describe a character. I did this because stats force you to compare things that should not be compared. When you have an Elf and a Human and each have an 18 intellect, you are implying that they are equal and the same. They may not be. Lets take three obvious examples:
Example 1:A troll with an 18 charisma is treated the same by human merchants as a human or elf with an 18 charisma. A troll’s charisma should only apply to another troll. By the same token, a troll might view a human who is beautiful to other humans as hideous to the troll.Example 2:The Trock has a Strength rating of fifteen on a scale of 1 to 20. He is 8 feet tall and weighs in at around 500 pounds. In walks the gnome who also has a strength rating of fifteen (which we will say is max for this example). The gnome is 3 feet tall and weighs about 80 pounds. Are they equal? Sadly enough, in most game systems they are. A real world example is EQ. In EQ, a gnome with an 80 strength is identical to the Troll or Ogre that has an 80 strength, and in actual fact there is no difference in the damage a gnome will do at level 5 with an 80 strength and a Troll or Oger will do at (say) level 8 with a 120 strength (this assumes they are using the same weapon).Example 3:You decide that what you want is a magic user so you max out the character's intelligence. Looking over the skill list you realize that intelligence affects 80% of all the skills in the game. So by maxing out the one stat, you give yourself a bonus in nearly every skill you will ever want to use! A real world example is AC. In AC Focus and Self are your primary magic using stats. But as you look down the skill list you realize that Focus and Self directly affect 22 of the 35 skills in the game. Most of the skills they do not affect are weapon skills and if you take out weapon skills (i.e., sword, bow, axe, etc.) then these two primes influence 22 of 26 skills in the game. This, to me, is a problem...
Since the game comes down to what a character can do, turf the stats and concentrate on the skills. Race will determine how easily a character can learn a skill so let this be the player’s guide to what he wants to play. When I start to build a character I always start to think of him in terms of what he will eventually do. I picture that big beefy fighter with the huge two handed axe hacking away at a monster. Or perhaps I think of the elf mage weaving his spells, or, oddly enough, maybe I have this mental image of the huge hulking Trock that slips over to the sleeping guard and picks his pocket dry… everything in the game must be possible, even is some race / skill combination are harder to get than others. The hardest ones to get often turn out giving the people the most satisfaction and end up being the most fun to play.
If you Must Use stats to describe a character!
If you are going to use stats to describe a character, then you must keep in mind one of the basic problems that I see with all systems that use stats. There are a few basic stats that seem to be pretty universal, strength, intelligence and dexterity being among them. On nearly every game I have seem, the stats you need to become a successful magic user are used in the stats you require to boost your trade skills. For example, pumping your intelligence helps your jewel craft and pottery and a whole host of background skills. Strength will boost such things as smith skill. What this normally means is that you can boost your primary stat and be good at all, or nearly all, the background skills in the game. Not only that, you can great bonuses to all the adventuring skills you are going to need.
First, this leads to a character being good at everything at once, or that every gamer that has played more than one character will pump one stat because that one stat will modify 20 out of the 24 skills used in the game. I myself dont think this is a good thing. People are not good at everything at once (and this is purely a personal preference). If you do use stats to describe a character then break out or include a set of stats that have to be high for the character to excel at the trade skills. For example,
Depending on the value range, this can make it hard for the character to excel at all things. Break the trade and adventuring skills out so that a character is not automatically good at them by virtue of the class or primary abilities he is trying to develop. A magic user should be a master of magic, not of magic and 84% of all the trade skills in the game because his primary stat is used as a basis for determining how good he is / can be in the majority of trade / adventuring skills.
I would love to see GMs with the ability to set a flag that records the actions for a specific player. Once people complain about a player, then a flag could be set to record the actions of the player. If the player does something else within the next while (up to a month if he/she has had people report him previously) the GM could review the log file. The log file would contain things like fights he was in (started or were a part of), the loc of the fight when it started and what / who took part. The loc of the fight when it finished (the mobs lost interest in the character), what is said by the character and what actions the character performs. If you are going to have GM’s mediate player disputes, give them the ability to find out what the hell is going on!!!
A house, a house, my kingdom for a house
It is very odd to me to see how much real money people will pay for virtual items. But even as it amazes me it confirms what I believe. Many people measure how good they are doing by what they own, even in a virtual world. This is one place where Ultima Online excelled. You could own a house, a keep or a castle. Do well enough in the game and be a virtual landowner!
I love the idea of saving up and buying a virtual piece of real estate, a place in the game world that is mine to use. It is even better when I can fill it up with objects and actually make it more like a real house. UO did this and it was so cool being able to walk into a house with pictures on the walls and candles sitting on the tables.
Where UO was poor was in its house placement rules. It allowed the players to place houses anywhere there was room and because of this people immediately got stupid. Place houses to trap people and create killing zones. Place houses to block passage to this or that area. There was no end to the tricks. I myself would love to see the following way of dealing with houses within a game world.
You have to buy a piece of land before being able to buy a house. Land and houses would be purchased from an existing town’s city hall. When you purchase land you are buying a lot. You get the area and the lot number and can go there and see it and what is around it. The land purchased would determine what you could build on it. Land would be divided into “Town Lots” and Independent Lots”. Some lots would be given away if your reputation where high enough (i.e., as a reward – more on reputation later).
Town Lots would represent areas within existing towns as well as areas of land that would allow for player owned communities. In any given “player owned community” there would be a limited number of house lots, a limited number of business lots (set up that blacksmith shop), one castle lot and possible a lot for a mage tower. Every property owned would pay tax to the “central” king (that nice drain on the money supply if you want it).
With player cities, the style of house would be based on the overall location of the player owned community. For example, you have a player owned community that is near a hobbit town and is considered to be in hobbit “territory”. Any house erected here would be the same design as the hobbit houses found in the rest of the area.
Some areas would allow for the players to build mixed communities (say gnome, human and Trock). The player could go to the hobbit “town hall” and buy a house and set it up on the lot. The player who owned the next lot over could go to a human city town hall and buy a house and have it set up right beside the hobbit hovel.
You could set up a series of caves for building a dwarf community, or a section of forest that could be modified to include a tree house for the flying races. Some races would not have houses at all. The Calt race springs to mind, being desert wanderers and traders.
Independent lots are similar to town lots except they do not have adjacent lots. These lots can be open for development (i.e., put any building you want there) or could be for a single type of building (want to be that magic user that actually has that mage tower in the middle of nowhere). One concern with lots that you would keep in mind from the start; monsters should not spawn on house locations. Nothing ruins your day than logging into greet that enraged critter that spawned in your house. Also, monsters that remain in houses for more than an hour or so should de–spawn (helps stop people from having that pet monster to practice on). It would also be neat for a person to own a flock of some type of animal (even if it is a small one). The animals would have to be kept in a pen of some type and fed in a semi regular fashion or they would go away (de–spawn).
As a last note, you may want to limit the number of lots a player could buy (or you will get scalping) or at the least, you have to buy a lot, and place a house on it before being able to buy a second lot. Basically, the King would expect that you would “develop” the land that you buy before buying more. I like the idea of one or maybe two houses per account because it means that more people will eventually work their way into land and house ownership. If you do allow two houses per account, a person could sell a house and still own one as he looks for a second bigger house or lot. The other way you could balance this is to tax those with multiple houses. Take the number of houses you own, and square it. Thus if you own one house, you pay normal taxes, if you own two, then it is four times the normal tax, three means you pay nines times the normal tax. Puts a cap on things really quickly.
Forges and work areas
The character can eventually buy a smithy. My own preference is that all shops of one type are available for sale in a given “city” except for one. This means that if a city has 2 or 3 smith shops, then a player character can buy all but one. The NPC smith would keep regular hours and do all the work a human smith could do, although the NPC would be of average skill.
When enough of the lots in a community have buildings, then a town hall is erected. The town hall acts as a focal point in the community and from then on lots and building are sold through the town hall. Once the Town Hall is built, the property owners pay local taxes. If the tax is not paid, then the house is “repossessed” by the state, the building destroyed (optional) and the lot is sold off to a new player.
The amount of tax gathered over time would be used to supply the town with a wall (the more money that is collected the better the wall) and town guards. The town guards would actually be able to help defend the town should it be attacked in a war (against monsters or against other players; more on this later). One option for a town is to build a town trophy that could be put up for ante when the town goes to war (i.e., a banner or flag of some type).
In any given “player” town you could reserve one or two lots that would become NPC owned shops at some point. These shops would be there to buy Loot off of players and to offer repair services for players. You may require these shops if you find that players are not filling all the roles needed by the players. For example, if the town lacked an Armor Smith, an NPC armor smith would set up. The one thing to realize about trade skills– people will become trades–people if it is worthwhile. If it is a waste of time, then no one will do it on a long term basis. If the players can make money, become popular and have fun they will perform trade skills and will set up shops and become “merchants” and “trades people” within the game. This is not a hard concept. People will go where the money is, even if it is virtual money. The trick is getting the balance (and this only comes through play testing), if it is too easy, then everyone will be doing it and if it is too hard, not enough will do it.
Player services would be more complete but you would still have the option to deal with an NPC once the shops have been set up (which could happen anytime after the town hall is set up). The NPC shops may come up for sale from time to time, but would not always be available for sale. If you wanted to buy the shop, you would have to check back from time to time to see when the shop was available.
In addition, it would be neat if the town’s outer areas would grow after each expansion. New land would be marked with pegs allowing towns and communities to grow in size.
Many viable trade skills are only viable if you have decay built into the system. The rate of decay is all a mater of balance. How fast you want to have the Plate Armor wear out will determine the demand for armor smiths (more on decay later).
Doors, Locks and Thieving
I think that if you give thieves that ability to break into a house, you have to give the owner the ability to protect at the least some of his property. The best way I have heard of doing this is make it so you can “bind” things to your house. This should be a spell that the players can get. Once cast on an item the item is “glued” in the structure. For myself, I think the item should be allowed to move anywhere in the structure but cannot be removed from the structure. I would also like to have the ability to hire guards that will protect the contents of my house. If a thief comes in, he will find that he is in for a nasty surprise. It should only be possible to buy guards if the house is in a community setting (the town hall has been erected) or if the structure is a mage tower. This would mean that certain single lots would not be able to enjoy the benefits of being able to hire a guard to protect their property. Magic uses should be able to build and sell golems. These are magical creatures of varying toughness (depending on what they are made from) that can be set up to guard houses and area.
I think a character should not be able to steal from another character. This is a skill that is best suited to PVP worlds. The character should be able to steal from NPC merchants and such, as well as the monsters that they are walking by or attacking. If you are going to do this, then give the monster two loot pools. One for the players or group that kills the monster and one for the guy using his pick pocket skill.
AI represents one of those gray areas in computer games. Most companies are quick to tell you that good AI is very hard to do. As a consumer I would like to give you my opinion on AI.
One of the last things a company works on is the computer AI and it is the one part they are most likely to skimp on. They skimp by giving the computer cheats to make up for the fact that they could not spend the time doing it right.
To be honest, even as a consumer I believe you have to build the computers AI as you build the game engine. Without doing both at the same time, you are forced to include machine cheats that would require actual changes in the game Engine to include. I will give an example of a very old game called Warlords. The first Warlords game was a strategy game of combating fantasy based armies and heroes. The odd thing about warlords was that the computer–run units did not cheat (the company took great pride in this fact) but that they were unable to make use of travel over water. The strategy used by the computer player did not incorporate movement over water because the game’s AI was the last thing that the game programmers worked on. The same company wrote Warlords II and in this game the computer made full use of terrain as it played its game and was considered one of the best computer opponents done to that point in time. The programmers said in interviews, that as they worked on the game engine they worked on the AI at the same time. The result was a computer opponent that was able to take advantage of the terrain as well as to what you were doing.
You may think that is out to lunch since it is an old strategy game and not an RPG. As a consumer, I honestly look at how the monsters work in an online RPG game to get a feeling about how much effort the company put towards the games AI. The more cheats and advantages the games monsters are given, the less effort the company put into the AI.
Monster Monster Everywhere…
That said I would like to list what I would love to see in a game. I would love to see a game in which the monsters had the exact skills (and penalties) that the players had. This means that the skill set the players choose from is the exact same as those that monsters could be given. There can be exceptions to this where it makes sense. A giant might have a “Step on Someone” form of attack due to its size (or even better, kick someone like a football form of attack).
Monsters must move around. Some monsters should actually act and travel as groups. This means that you could see a half dozen Orcs moving around as a single unit.
Creatures that are supposed to be intelligent (i.e., things like Orcs) should be able to see as far as a human. Which means that if they see a fight between a human and another of their kind, they should run in and join in. But this would be the tip of the iceberg. Given the Orc example, we can say that 1 in 20 Orcs are generated with a tracking skill. If this Orc sees a fight off in the distance, it might run in the opposite direction, gather up a little army or fellow Orcs and then lead its little band back to the group using its tracking skill. Nothing would be so cool as to have a group of monsters jump your group, especially, if the monsters where smart enough to stand behind a building and wait for you to start a fight with something else. Intelligent acting monsters would be totally great in an online RPG.
Unintelligent creatures should not have the same attack characteristics as intelligent ones, and the ones they are given should be reasonable. To give you an example of how not to do it I will describe a common situation in EQ (EverQuest). The mage sits down to meditate up and gain a bit of mana back. He is level 25 and a fifth level wolf comes along. The wolf ignores six other party members, to run up to and bite the mage. In EQ it is very common to see all creatures do a beeline to the meditating magic user for the sole reason that the magic user is meditating. A mage can get a fleeing Orc to immediately turn around and come back by sitting and hitting the meditate button (Quite the psychics those Orcs). It is ridiculous and every time I see it happen it’s a big slap to the games realism. At the least, make animals act like animals. Don’t have the bear ignore the fighter and chew on the magic user that just cast the spell at him. The bear shouldn’t know where the spell just came from, especially if the bear has 5 people beating on it and the magic user is casting spells from behind it. By the same token, having a spider or beetle attack a cleric that just healed the fighter is about as cheesy as it gets. Put some work into the AI and have the intelligent critters act intelligent, keep the dumb ones dumb.
By the same token, a town guard does not know you are evil until you perform an evil act unless you put in a guard that can read aura’s and can tell who is evil and who is not. You could give some cultures a class of character that wanders around town and is trained to look for such things. The character could be called an Inquisitor. You see one and you run if you have done anything wrong because he has the spells and abilities to root out the evil and "see" whom the heretics really are. Another possibility is for the town to have wanted posters. Once your face in on a wanted poster (i.e., enough people report your name) then the town guards would come after you upon seeing you.
It should be possible for characters to "Wear" their religious and guild symbols in plain sight. Some guilds may require this with the character risking reprimand should he / she approach an NPC guild member without the proper sign in display. By the same token, you may have to remove the symbol if doing a job that requires you to be in "enemy" territory.
And there would still be a character’s reputation...
Most of these comments are in response to how games currently treat death. The three games I am referring to are UO, EQ and AC. Of the three, the way EQ treats death is the biggest turn off to me as a player, but what must be said with EQ is that the designers do not want a lot of people getting to level 50 or higher. You see one and feel in awe that they were able to do it (or at least that is the way it is supposed to be).
When you play EQ, it is like playing three different games. You have three complete play styles, one for when you are level 20 and under, one for those that are between levels 20 and level 35 and a third for those over level 35. Many players start a new character when their current character approaches level 20. Why? Because the game changes! The game becomes very repetitive and the rewards for leveling are to spread out. It just takes too long to gain the level and the penalty associated with death becomes too severe. Besides, apart from the leveling there is not much to do in EQ. IMHO after you reach level 35 it becomes an exercise in determination to gain the next level. A single death can set you back 6 to 8 hours of play and that does not include the time it takes to get your body back. So what it means is that there are very few people reaching level 50 out of the population playing.
I really don’t think this is such a bad thing in and of itself. In EQ you don’t really have much else to do. All the secondary skills in the game are designed to take money out of the economy; even the game itself has poor role–play support. Although this can sometimes be hotly contested I believe that the little things show this up. For example,
Games like this come down to internal consistency. The more consistent they are, the easier it is to feel you are part of the world and are not playing a game. That is when role–playing can bloom. Each time your brain hits an inconsistency within a game, you are given a jolt that takes you out of the games world.
Of the three games mentioned above, the way EQ treats death is the least internally consistent. The penalty increases as you gain levels. Thus, death for a 5th level means virtually nothing. To a level 15 it is an inconvenience. By the time you are level 40, it is a huge set back. By level 40 you are looking at hours of work to regain what you had. In addition, it can be far harder for a fighter to get back to his body than a magic user since there is a far greater chance that the fighter will have a good distance to travel once he is dead.
AC handles death a bit better. With the use of the binding stones, you always know where you are going to end up and everyone has the same ability to pick a location that is close to where they are playing. The fact that you suffer a temporary penalty means you do not feel like the last 6+ hours of play have gained you nothing. Leaving some things behind still does not really make a lot of sense to me and I have to wonder why this was done.
UO treats death very well in many ways. First, you die and become a ghost. It is consistent with the game world. It is a pain but you rush off and look for a healer of some type to bring you back to life. With luck one is nearby. You’re brought back from the dead and rush off to where your body was. Once you find it your discover that the Orc that killed you took some things off of it when you fell. Argh! But at least it is consistent and makes sense (as much as raising the dead and Orcs running amok can make sense).
You have to realize, I play these games to have fun. Not to be frustrated by arbitrary decisions that do absolutely nothing to enhance the believability of the world. If you assume that people can be brought back to life, great, but don’t do stupid things with it. Try to make death something that can be fun as well, not a total exercise in frustration. That said, I must mention that I am not a fan of Player Versus Player. In some ways UO is too realistic since anyone can come along and loot your fallen body. I myself think that it would be a huge boost up to the game if only you could loot your own corpse. I have no problem trading realistic for less frustrating and in actual fact I would always trade fun for realism and frustration.
Loot that Makes Sense
I really like it when loot makes sense. Killing a skeleton and finding gold and silver on it does not make sense unless you also find the small belt pouch that held it. If a monster has a major piece of equipment (i.e., a piece of armor or a weapon) then you should see it wearing the item or wielding it as you come up to fight it. The world is so much more believable when this stuff is put in and it makes me wonder why it is not done.
A problem may well develop on the amount of armor and weapons that is found as loot. Legend has a certain built in mechanism to control this called Relative Size. You can only put on a piece of armor if it’s relative size is fairly close to your own. The armor built for the ogre will probably not fit too many other races. Ogre sized armor would have some residual resale value but not nearly the value a set of armor fitted to a human would have (or any other piece of armor that is capable of fitting one of the character classes). I like the idea that weapon and armor are sized. It means that the weapon you get off the giant is pretty much useless to any but a giant (and in all likelihood is going to be the size of a small tree). This is probably the single biggest thing that you can do to control the influx of huge piles of weapons and armor into the system.
Another aspect of loot that I would like to mention is keeping the number of loot items to a minimum. If you kill a rabbit, then the items you loot from it (fur, eyes, ear, tail… whatever) should have a use in the game. They could be components needed to make items. The ears can be used in spells that deal with hearing, the tail in items that bring luck. If you can’t tie the item back into something within the game, then don’t bother with it.
Selling Loot (charisma)
I have mentioned charisma before under stats, but would like to add a bit here in regards to selling loot. To me, charisma has always been a joke prime. Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder. The beautiful young woman that walks into a store filled with young single men can expect better treatment than if entering a store of ugly old women. How can anyone imaging a troll with a 50 charisma is the same as the human with a 50 charisma. A beautiful woman would be hideously ugly to a male troll (except maybe as an quick snack). If you are going to include really ugly races (which I see as great) then have the ability to make racial adjustments to the price you get. If the elves hate the dwarfs then there would be a 20–point penalty to any dice roll made when trying to sell to them or perhaps there is a chance that a given merchant will never deal with a specific character (that would be neat so long as it was not overdone).
In the real world, when you go to sell something, what you know will help you a lot more than what you look like. For this reason, charisma should have nothing to do with the price you get when selling. You will get a better price when you know what you are doing when you sell an item. This means, knowing who wants it, when they want it, and how much they will pay for it, will allow you to maximize the money you get for an item. I have been in retail for a lot of years and am amazed at the number of assholes that make good money selling things because they know their market and the people they sell to.
There are several selling related skills that the character needs if he / she expects to get the best price for the items they have. The normal minimum price you get for an item is 20% of its retail value (ignoring racial adjustments). Those who have the following skills may get more:
If you have any one of these skills and make you roll, then you get 40% of retail
If you have any two of these skills and make your roll, then you get 60% of retail
If you have any three of these skills and make your roll, then you get 80% of retail
If you have all four of these skills and make your roll, you get 90% of retail
If I ever get Legend Weaver onto the computer then I would make all skills adventuring skills (the skills listed above are Life Skills). The main reason I have life skills now is the number of times they are used in a human run game and keeping them as life skills makes it a bit easier on the Legend Weaver.
That said, a character would take his loot to a merchant and try to make a sale. Each merchant would have a modifier based on the character race and the race of the merchant. For example a human approaches a troll merchant. Generally, Trolls don’t like humans so there would be a 20–point modifier to the dice roll to represent this. This would mean that the character would have to roll under his base skill level on d20 while adding 20 to the dice (not going to happen). But advanced knowledge in the skill (i.e., if the character’s skill were 18+12) would mean that only part of that 20–point penalty would be applied to the roll (20–12 = an 8 point adjustment). With enough training in a skill, the character could pretty much sell to anyone and get a good price. He would be someone who knew how to sell… come on, say it… he would be a professional: one of those guys that could sell a fridge to an Eskimo.
To sum up, you would have to deal with the following things when selling loot
Location of Vendors
Some dungeons should be within easy access of places to sell. The odd one will be hell and gone away from the nearest sell point. In EQ the idea of gypsy camps is good as far as it goes, but the camp locations should not be static. They should be on the move and would in fact set up for a short period of time in a specific location. They would then break camp and move on. A character could sell to a camp on the move by hailing one of its members but the deal that could be struck would not be as good as the deal stuck when the camp were set up.
It would be great if not everyone in the world new the same language. In most role–playing games a “common” language is done for ease of use, but not “everyone” has to know it. When you enter a town of Trocks, then a certain number will be able to speak common, including a certain percentage of the merchants. If you are not a Trock and try to sell to a Trock that knows how to speak common, then you Will Not get the best price. You will get a better price if you sell to a Trock and are speaking his native tongue. You can only get the best price possible if you are a Trock selling to a Trock.
You must offer the players a variety of ways to get good magic equipment. Character’s that accumulate skill can build many good items. Those that accumulate money can buy them and those that love quests can go on quests for them. I believe that each method should have its own unique set of items. For example, it may only be possible to get Boots of Wall Walking from a quest, killing a creature could only get the Nose Ring of Fearlessness and the Cloak of Invisibility must be made by a player. This would mean that you would “reserve” the three powers listed above and be consistent. This means that you would go so far as to say that any item that makes a character fearless (i.e. immune to fear based magic) could only be obtained through quests.
Players themselves should be capable of making some of the best items in the game. With Legend Weaver this is fairly easy to “Police”. Advanced items take bonus synergy. Thus an armor Smith can make a full set of plate mail for a fellow adventuring at the cost of 150 points of bonus synergy (just a number). This bonus synergy comes back at 1 point per minute so the rate of speed for this armor being introduced into the system would be over two hours per set (if you decided that synergy would come back at one point per minute and that it would cost 150 points to make the armor).
Player Owned Merchants
People need some way to sell what they have. A merchant belonging to a shop owner could be set up in any player owned shop. In addition, there should be places in every city that are designated as market places. Set up a sign (or a table or a small tent) and then a hired merchant will stand there and sell what you make (for space considerations I love the sign and vendor approach). You will have to supply him with the product, type in your own descriptions (flavor text only) and set prices. You should even be able to list items you WANT TO BUY, how many you want to buy and the price you will pay for them. If your merchant has the money, then he will buy them. If this were available as a list (e.g. a form) for buying and selling that would facilitate the use of the vendor.
Limits to magic items
First, I would like to say that many game systems suffer problems because the characters end up with a near infinite amount of magic equipment. Every mob that drops an item will eventually give every member of a group the item it drops. This is not an easy problem to solve but I do think there is a neat way to deal with it. The solution is not simple and requires more than a couple things to be in place.
Ideas for Magic Items
One of the problems with any type of weapon found in the game is that most people will gravitate and use the weapon that is perceived as the “best”. This may or may not be a problem with you since historically this is exactly what happened. With the development of the halberd, most troops, including normal castle guards and sentries were outfitted with one. As a weapon it is far superior to a long sword, but through popular culture you think that the long sword was far more popular. It wasn’t. In a game, most people will tend to gravitate and use the weapon they perceive as the best. They will figure out which weapon has the best damage versus time ratio and will use that. Add magic to the mix and you find that certain weapons will always be clear winners. But you can increase the number of winners very easily.
First, any magic weapon can have a speed bonus, damage bonus or synergy bonus or a defensive adjustment bonus. A weapon can have any or all these bonuses in any amount that you wish. But weapons can have “special” powers. These powers may be the ability to fight longer or the ability to heal the wielder. You should give each weapon or class of weapon a unique set of bonus powers that no other class of weapon has. For example:
Swords, small (short sword, long sword)
Swords, Curved blades
Swords (Large 2 handed size)
Mauls / Hammers
How do you justify this? Well, I hate to admit it but magic is magic. The shape of a weapon, that materials used in it determine what “type’ of magical energy it can hold. Thus, each class of weapon has its own unique set of powers. I myself would not put in any “special” weapons for at least three months. Gather statistics on the most popular weapons and spells. What are the most common spells being cast? What weapon is everyone using? Try to match the most powerful spell effects to the weakest weapons. The reason? To give people a choice! It should not be a no–brainer as to what weapon a person wants. It should be a choice between cool alternatives. In Europe the argument raged for hundreds of years. The argument? Which was better, a slashing weapon or a thrusting weapon. If one were clearly superior, there would have been no argument!
When you design magic item make sure that you can live with the maximum bonus a character can have. For example (of how not to do it) EQ has 200 point max cap on intelligence. This means that a character that has 250 points of intelligence gets the same spell point bonus as a spell caster with 200 points in intelligence gets. This is a bad and cheesy thing to do. Look at each different item that gives intelligence and add the total together as if the character had gotten every piece of equipment that he could have gotten that would add to (at the same time) his intelligence. The total between all the items should give a character a 200 in his intelligence score. There may be multiple ways to give a character a 200 in intelligence, but the best he can do is to get to 200. This would assume that the character had his intelligence maximized when he created the character. This would allow you to put in magic items that would allow the character to get to 225 intelligence with items found in the 1st expansion and 250 by the 2nd expansion and so on. Although Legend Weaver does not have intelligence as such, the idea is basically the same. Put a cap on any single bonus that can be obtained by a character. For example, decide that in the initial release the greatest single synergy bonus you will give to any given skill is 25. Design all the magic items around this. This means that you list all the different items that can add to a particular skill and makes sure that when used together they do not cross the 25–point limit.
The character wants items that will increase his ability to detect a back attack (and hence not suffer the bonus damage associated with such an attack). The skill that is used is Sixth Sense. The base skill detects the incoming attack and the synergy bonus determines the chance of you avoiding the effects of a successful attack. Items that will increase the characters Sixth Sense skill include the following:This means that you can find rings with up to a 4–point bonus to the Sixth Sense skill, Cloaks with up to a 14–point bonus and Helmets with up to a 7–point bonus. When you have the best of each, you have your maximum bonus. Just make sure you can live with it!
One thing to keep in mind with Legend Weaver, the Making of Heroes is that there is no overall limit to the skill a character can gain. You just have to balance what a character gains to how long it takes to gain it and realize that as the skill gets higher and higher, it gets harder and harder to learn. Here is one example of how it could work
This is a starting skill. You know enough to learn more in it. Your attempts at the skill must equal your current base level in it multiplied by your bonus, if it is greater than one (the bonus before magic is added in). This means that you have to use the skill 5 times before the check is made to increase the skill. When you make the skill check for increase, you have to roll higher than your current base level in the skill. This means that you would have to roll 6 or more on a d20 and if you do the skill goes to 6+0. You now have to perform the skill 6 times for your next attempt to increase its level.
Now, lets say you have worked hard and the skill is now 18+10. You have to perform the skill 180 times to have a chance at an increase. There is a 1 in 10 point chance of the skill going up when you make the check. Now we see that the speed with which a skill will increase. Only play testing will show if this is too easy or too slow for the players, but keep this in mind. If the players are gaining levels, and those levels lead to points that can be used to increase skills, then you want the “due to use” skill increase to be very slow after awhile. I think this would do it. At 18+50 you have to perform the skill 900 times to have a 1 in 10 chance of it going up on its own. Only play testing will tell you what adjustments should be made to his figure.
Although I don’t think there should be an uber weapon, there can still be “class defining” weapons. Everyone in the world knows that a paladins weapon is the best in the game. I know that I would like each class to have such a weapon.
But before I say more on that I must mention this. Legend Weaver does not have classes. On the surface that is true, but when you look at guilds (explained fully below) you realize that Legend Weaver has something better than classes. Each character in the game can develop nearly any skill in the game. I say nearly, because some skills are reserved for guild members. For example, lets take rangers. The character starts out with tracking, a short bow, long sword and animal husbandry. Once these get to a certain point (18+0 in all four skills), the character can now join the ranger’s guild. Once the character joins the guild he gains a guild title (i.e., lets say he starts out with the title of Path Finder and slowly works his way up to Ranger). So long as the character remains in the guild he can learn the Long Bow skill. If the character leaves the guild, then his training in long bows will slow considerable compared to someone who is in the guild.
With that said, we can get back on the subject of Uber weapons. These are class–defining weapons. An Uber weapon for a paladin has traditionally been a sword. A Cleric would have a mace of some type. To use these weapons you would have to have an appropriate title. Thus, you could not use an Uber Ranger Long Bow if you had just joined a guild and you had a Pathfinder title. You are not yet a full Ranger. Your mind is still full of the corruption and garbage thoughts of all the other things you can be. In short you do not “think” like a ranger until you have the title. You have the title by working yourself up within the guild until you are in fact a ranger.
Why would an Uber Ranger Long Bow only work for a Ranger? Such powerful magic needs some connection to allow it to manifest itself in the real world. It needs something to grab hold of. The chaotic thought pattern of a pathfinder does not allow it to do this. Only the disciplined thoughts of a full–fledged ranger allow it to channel its power into the world.
But even with this restriction, it must be bound to the character’s soul. This means the character may have to give up half his soul points just to wield the weapon. But such is the price of Uber weapons. They are class defining. I always think of the characters in books that have one magic item. The item defines the character.
You have to be very careful on the magic you put in. Do not put in a spell or magic that completely negates an ability held by a class. For example, the thief is useless and can be replaced if you put in a spell that will unlock a door. Any spell that you put in should add to the thief ability, and the spell should be such that it can only add to the ability if the character has been trained in the skill (has some chance of doing the skill).
I would like to see permanent as well as temporary dungeons in the game. It is important to have both types of dungeons since it will help create the illusion that the world is dynamic and changing. The permanent dungeons are those that have static spawns; not static in the sense that a creature always spawns in the same place but static in the fact that the dungeon always has the same number of creatures within it (more on this later). The permanent dungeons would be in known locations that would not change. Their “level” would always remain constant, that is, if the dungeon where for characters of level 20 to 30, then it would always be for characters of this level.
I would like to see two methods of magical movement within the world. The first is gate stones. This is a huge stone block set atop two supporting stones to allow someone to walk beneath the resulting arch, much like walking through an open door. These Gate Stones would be permanent gates within the world, that is, one stone would actually connect with all the other stones in the system. The kicker is that you would not be able to use the gates unless one of two things happened. One, you had a gates activation stone. Two, you had the correct magic spell and had been “tuned” to the gate you want to reach.
An activation stone is linked to a specific gate. It might be a gate in the lower right hand corner of the continent. One stone is always linked to one gate and for lack of a more imaginative name we will say that the activation stone we have is linked to gate 152 (you must give the gates names however). Saying that there is a gate 152 implies that there are at least 151 other gates. For this example we will now use an activation stone for gate 152 on gate 140. Gate 140 and 152 are now connected. Walk through the arch in either gate and you instantly appear exiting the other gate. The "gate" remains open until the activation stone passes through it (i.e., the person with the stone uses the gate) or a set time limit passes (say a minute or two). Using a new activation stone on a gate that is “active” will not change the gates destination early.
You may want to say that should a monster pass through an active "open" gate (i.e., a creature without a soul) then the gate is disrupted and shut down for a few minutes. This should help prevent the situation of two character going through a gate trying to lead a single monster back through to be killed by a waiting group. This will also help prevent the problem of someone bringing back a hoard to disrupt an event at the other end of the gate.
The gate spell allows you to activate a gate as well. A magic user (depending on his level) can cast the gate spell on a gate and learn the gates “identity”. He can then get back to this gate from any other gate he enters (i.e., he must first cast a spell and activate the gate he is trying to use). The number of locations he can learn will be dependent on his synergy bonus (say 1 gate for each 4 points of synergy bonus) and he must physically get to the gates he wants to commit to memory.
Some gates are always active and are used for one–way travel only (i.e. gate 119 always links one way to gate 127). You could go to gate 119 if you wanted but that would require the proper spell as opposed to being automatic.
Teleport pads are very similar to gate stones, with one very large difference. Teleport pads tend to link with one and only one other teleport pad. Once on a pad, there is a set delay before the pad is activated. Stand there for 30 seconds and poof you are gone. Get off the destination pad and then back on for 30 seconds, and poof, you are back where you started.
Teleport Pads may require that an object be taken onto the pad to activate it and may even be keyed to a specific set of objects (each object takes you to a specific teleport pad within a group of pads). Only the object being held in the left hand is considered when activating the pad so having multiple objects in your backpack (and none in your hand) will not activate the pad. If this is the case, then the teleport pod will only transport a character if the character has the object in hand. This will aid in setting up those one character quests J as well as stopping some jerk from taking a dozen people into a sealed randomly generated dungeon and leaving them there (more on this later).
Hire (and I mean hire) players or people to run in game quests. Players can do it for game time. Players who follow the quests should have feedback forms to rate the people who run the quests. Too many poor quests would mean no invite back to do more.
I would love to see a system that randomly generates quests for a character. Some quests would have a number of rewards of which the character could choose one. Some would only give the character one reward. At any one time the character could only have 3 or 4 open quests and if not done in a set amount of time, then a quest would be deleted from his to do list with a note that he did not complete the quest (do this enough and you could affect the character’s reputation and the type of quests he can get). When going for quests, NPC conversation could give you hints about the type of quest you can expect to get (old man Harly needs some stuff done, but wow, hear it is just a brutal job). The harder the quest you do, the better the reward when you complete it.
Randomly generated quests go along with the idea of randomly generated dungeons. Along with the static dungeons, you could have randomly generated dungeons. Use a gate stone to get to the dungeon. Or, you could have a magic door that will only open when you use a specific magic key. The player gets a map to the dungeon and buys a key and then goes and looks for adventure. Or the player is given a gate stone that will link to a temporary gate that is within a randomly generated dungeon. The player can let in as many or as few people as he or she wishes. The real kicker is that if the character is after a quest item that is on a foozle then only he can actually take it from the fallen body of the creature once it is killed. Not even sure you need this restriction. If the quests are designed for the character asking for them, then so what if he brings an army to help him do it… who is he hurting by doing that?
Group quests should also be possible, with the random quest generator and random dungeon generator taking into account the number of players that will be going into a dungeon (i.e., if the quest is for 10 players (i.e., you request a quest while grouped) then the monsters and exp will be for 10 characters). You might want to consider only giving experience and looting rights to the people or person who asked for the quest although I myself don’t think it makes a difference if an extra fifty jump in and help.
The second concern I have is a technical one. If each person has up to (say) 5 quests and they are all dungeons, then that means that the system may have to track 5000 separate dungeons assuming a population of 1000 people. You could make sure that any one character only ever had 1 dungeon quest at most (and that a certain amount of time must pass before another dungeon quest is offered the same player) or that if there were more than 250 dungeon quests currently outstanding, that no new ones would be issued as quest options. The question comes down to what the system can handle (is it possible to have a dedicated computer that does nothing but randomly generated quest dungeons and if yes, is it possible to upload these dungeons to separate groups). The game Daggerfall did random dungeon generation and random quest and that was 4 years ago. One would hope that the systems would support for a multi user game that could do the same thing.
When quested to get items, those items would be found on a class of creature. Not every creature of that type would have the item, but there would be a chance that one could be found but only if looted by the character that has the quest. If a character got a quest to go get object X from a creature that he would find in dungeon y, then you could do it in one of two ways. The dungeon has a set number of creatures, of which all of them are in the dungeon when the character enters it. As they are killed, they are not replaced. If this is the case and the character is after a quest item then the quest item will be on one of the creatures.
The dungeon has so many creatures of which only a small number of them are in the dungeon. As these are killed replacements are generated in the dungeon. If this is the case, and the character is after a quest item, then one of the creatures (of the appropriate toughness) will get the item. It may not be the first such creature killed by the character, but then, it may not be the last one found in the dungeon.
Dungeons should be created with a narrow range of levels or creatures (not that I am supporting levels). None of this fighting a level fifteen creature then walking around the corner to be jumped by 4 level 25 creatures. You cannot have a dungeon crawl if the creatures are just crazy.
A character can build up a reputation, either for good or for bad. The higher your reputation the more it will affect how others (NPC and guards) will react to you. If you get to well known and you enter the wrong town, you will be attacked. I would like to see reputation with the following three factors:
Your global reputation would be based on all three factors. Global reputation could be expressed as "Your reputation precedes you". When your reputation reaches a certain level, then you will be known regardless of where you go. This works for and against the character. A good reputation can be developed as can a bad one.
Most people like to fight with no risk to themselves. This actually makes a lot of sense when you really get right down to it, but then you are always going to have the situation where a high level character is helping out a low level character. This help can take a lot of forms, from keeping the low level character at full health, or weakening the monster and letting the low level character kill it off. When this happens, it is generally known as "Power Leveling".
|First (and only point)
If you truly want to limit twinking and power leveling, restrict each player to One Character per server. If you are making a game that people are there to conquer, then give them a variety of characters ON EACH SERVER. If the intent is to create a virtual world, limit them to one character per account per server. Not everyone wants to go out and kill things. Not everyone wants to go out and conquer the world. A portion of the playing population will become blacksmiths, tailors, and jewelers. You want to reward the people who do, not punish them. A person that does such a thing will do so because he or she wants such a character, not because they have a ton of cash left over from another character and feel it is time to set up a merchant twink.
You have to realize that limiting a player to one character per server will not stop all the twinking and power leveling. You will have one person playing the game, liking it and talking his friends into taking part. Expect this to happen. When it does, the highest–level character is going to want to help out his low level friends. The natural tendency will be a desire to form a group and get everyone to the same level. This is power leveling and twinking as it should be.
|Multiple Characters per server seems to be the current mantra in the On–Line RPG world. Ultima Online started it and everyone seems to think that the playing public would totally reject any game that did not offer the same. I often wonder why there is this attitude. I think that most of the problems associated with twinking and power leveling come from having multiple characters per server. If you are going to create a game in which a character cannot be good at all things at one time, then people are going to use existing characters to help jump start the character whose skill they currently need. By giving people this option, they will use it and you are in fact creating a system that encourages anti social behavior within the game.
Legend Weaver allows a character to develop any skill he or she wants, but race, focus, strengths, weaknesses and the guild structure are all designed to reward the character that specializes, and you will only ever be a true master at a skill (or set of related skills) if you do specialize. This means that there is as much reward for the player that creates a master blacksmith as there is for the player that creats the master swordsman.
When you limit each player to one character, you do not have to worry about limiting experience or adjusting experience based on level. Everyone in the group gets an equal share. This means that a lower level character will catch up to his higher level friends (if you are using experience to determine level). Tell the players this and they WILL LIKE YOU and PRAISE YOU. It allows a player to get his buddy up to his level quickly and then to actually go out and adventure with him! It prevents group from looking at someone and going "We cant group with you, we wont get experience".
With experience being given to each party member in equal shares you will have the situation where a level fifty Giant Slayer groups with level one character. Each killed giant is worth 5000 experience points. This means that a level one character grouped with the Giant Slayer would get 2500 experience points for each giant that is killed while he or she is in the group. The experience from the first giant alone would probably be enough to get the character to level 3.
The monsters and foes near the towns and trainers are weak. Unless it is a special event you do not have a giant Ogre camp six steps from the town gates. This means that the character will have some traveling to do to get to the really big stuff that gives mega experience (at least mega to a low level character). It think that any game world should have a full set of gates and teleport pads and that you do not want to give any character the ability to teleport anywhere at a whim.
There should always be a chance (albeit not a large one) of a monster going after the character that hangs back. The monster might well think it is someone being protected (i.e., a noble) and go after him or her just for the sake of it. This would be a function of the games AI.
Some of these factors should be built into the game anyway (i.e., the limit on teleports and the fact that weak monsters should be near the settlements). Despite these factors you are still going to have low level characters that enter the wilds and return some time later with a huge amount of experience. If you do not require the character to visit a trainer to gain a level, then the character will return many many levels higher than when he left.
The entire intent of the game is for people to adventure together and have fun. With only one character per server, there is little reason to power level a character if you are not going to be playing him.
Seeing group status when you fight is a real must in a group oriented game. Even in a game where you can easily solo, it is a huge help when you do decide to adventure together. I do not think that loosing half the screen view to see the information is necessary, EQ’s small red bar is a great way to see just how much health you and other party members have left. I would like to see the number of people that can group be in the range of 24 or 25 (what is the real difference between this and three or four groups of six clearing the plane of fear). If large groups were possible, it would help set up fights between fairly large numbers of people (i.e., large on the fly groups could actually challenge each other).
PVP switches are great as far as they go. I would love to see an options box come up with the offer to PVP. The options would allow a person or group of people to set up fairly complicated fight dynamics.
The fight should not have to be to the death. Before the fight you would choose damage to kill or damage to subdue. You should also be able to specify a time limit to a fight, be it till the proper person drops or until a set amount of time has passed. You may want to put in an overall maximum set limit of a week. In addition there would have to be a single death / multiple death switch and even a safe haven time limit between deaths if the fight will go on for a period of time.
In addition to multiple opponents you could offer an ante for the fight. If both sides agree to the ante, then the winner of the fight would get both items. Ante should be between two players only but must be based on which side wins (i.e. could be first side to have all of its members drop or first side to lose X members or combatants or the fight ends when X people drop with the loser being the side that lost the most number of people or the first person to reach a certain number of deaths). The items in question could be used during the fight and would transfer at the completion of the fight (once a winner is determined). The individuals that would "win" the items would have to have the ability to examine the items before agreeing to the fight, knowing that the items put up for anti could be used, damaged and even destroyed in the upcoming battle.
I would love to see a system that rewards and gives experience for using skills. For example, you could gain levels by actually working up your smith skill. Each time you gain a point in synergy bonus you gain some exp. Adventuring skills would have the highest bonus with the lowest bonus going to weapon and spell casting skills. With fighting and spell casting skills, you are interacting with things that give you the experience to make the skill gain equal to the gain you would get from using an adventuring skill (i.e., if you gave all skill use the same experience bonus then you would be giving a weapon skill twice the experience that you would a skill like blacksmith; you would get experience from gaining skill in the weapon as well as experience from the monsters you kill. It would be like saying you gain experience from gaining a point in blacksmith plus getting experience for each piece of metal you beat on to make into a piece of armor.
You have to become a guild member to obtain certain skills. At least one high level skill should come only after you get into the guild, but each class should have skills in and out of guild (i.e., you have to develop a certain set of skills just to get into the guild)
You do not have to become a guild member, but certain skills are only available if you are in one. You can only ever be in one guild. You do not have to start out with that many guilds to start with, maybe an 8 or 9 at most, but add more with each expansion!
I would not give a thief a damage bonus simply because they attacked a character from behind. Any character attacking from behind gets a damage bonus. The assassin would have the ability to kill in one blow but only when using the appropriate skill while attacking from behind.
Before Membership Would it be cool if the thief guild had to come to you with a membership offer? This would only happen if you were arrested for trying to be a thief… tough to do for how long and how often would you be arrested before an offer was made? What type of detention would you have? Would you need a court appearance and serve time? It would be dangerous to refuse the offer, but if you did, you would still be considered to be part of the guild and get the inner skills but it would just take a long time to build them up (much slower than being in the guild). There would always be a chance that someone would come after you (the guild would hire an assassin and send him to take you out since independent thieves would not be liked).
The traditional paladin is possible but only when the right deity is worshiped. This would give a lot of variety to the types of ‘paladins’ you could meet. For example, a paladin to a trickster god would not push weapon skills, but skills that allow you to fool your opponents and confuse them. Only a Paladin of a Healer Deity would have the ability to heal by touch.
- Two Melee Weapon Skills
- Minimum worship level to a Deity
- A number of spells associated with the deity worshiped (i.e., if the spell
- Special ability granted as based on the deity worshiped (for example, following a god of healing grants the healing touch… Following the god of hate would grant the ability to charm an enemy and turn it against its companion) each deity would give a special power… you are a champion of a specific deity. Not a generic fighter.
Mages would come in a lot of disciplines but basically it comes down to Direct Damage, Damage Over Time, Healing, Control, Summoning, Movement / Travel, Augmentation
If you did this, then you could have very specific spells. For example, Heal Animal, Heal Avian, Heal Reptilian, Heal PC, Raise Dead. The more specific the spell is, the more efficient the spell is (the more it does). A general heal will do 1–8 points while a heal Reptilian would do 3d8 (but would only heal reptile races).
- Potions and scrolls (potions can be taken by anybody, scrolls can be read by magic users that are not in melee) in your discipline.
- Creation of magic items that are based on your discipline.
- Specialization within a discipline. For example, damage over time includes Fire based damage, cold based damage, electrical Damage… etc. When specialized, one of these subtypes would do more damage, and have greater range (say by up to 50%).
Levels and experience is always a problem. First you have to ask yourself what a level is and if it really means anything. The biggest problem with level is that it is not an indication of equal power between the classes but is only really an indication of power within a class. Let me state that again: LEVEL IS NOT AN INDICATION OF EQUAL POWER BETWEEN CLASSES BUT ONLY A INDICATION OF RELATIVE POWER WITHIN A CLASS. There would be little argument if you were to ask who would win a fight between a fighter and a thief. Standing toe to toe, the fighter should chop a thief to pieces. It would however, be easy to imagine that in the right circumstances the thief could kill an equal level fighter. But lets face it. You are unlikely to see these circumstances every time a thief battles a fighter.
With this in mind you have to ask yourself, do you really need levels for a character, especially in view that you are able to develop any skill in the game you want. The resounding answer to this is YES! Levels give people an overall measure of how well they are doing. They give the player feedback and a way to compare their progress within the game (albeit an imperfect one at times). In the game it would also give the player bonus points that they would immediately allocate to skills when the level is gained (i.e., they get an immediate reward for what they do).
Level Exp. 1 1,000 2 2,000 3 3,000 4 5,000 5 8,000 6 13,000 7 21,000 8 34,000 9 55,000 10 89,000 11 144,000 12 233,000 13 377,000 14 610,000 15 1,000,000 (the nice progression changes here) 16 1,500,000 17 2,000,000 18 +500,000 exp per level
The skill points allow you to buy new skills for the character. The affinity points let you build up the skills that the character already has. You can only use one affinity point in a given skill and you cannot save them from level to level (personal preference only). You have to use them as you go.
One thing that might make it easier is to have the character go to a central location (i.e., a trainer) to gain a level. This way the character continues to gain experience and the program does not have to make constant checks to see if a level has been gained. Mind you, the program only ever has to check for a level increase when the character gains actual experience and it will be making constant checks to see if a characters skill’s increase through use. I do like the idea of having skill’s come automatically and levels come a central trainer. Think of this as more ceremony with the training acknowledging the fact that you are better (i.e., Welcome Joe! You are now a fighter to be feared! I would be honored to teach you how too…). If you want, you can have the trainer charge for the level. This is one of the subtle ways of channeling excess cash out of the economy.
A character should also gain skill levels when he uses a skill. In this case, the skill increases on its own independent of the character’s “Level”. I do think that a character should gain actual experience from the successful use of an adventuring skill. Doing this would let a character gain levels by doing NON–COMBAT related activities. I myself would love to see a game where a character could gain levels and not have to kill things to do it. The character could up his combat skills through the use of non–combat skills but then the reverse happens nearly all the time anyway. This would merely mean that all skill gain would work the same, whether the increases came from non–combat related skills or combat related skills. The problem comes when the player sets up a macro or sits at his machine for 26 hours straight hitting the Evaluate goods key (on the same item). This is a tough one to combat and would need a fair amount of policing to stop it. But is it so horrible? The bottom line is the character may gain 6 levels using the skill and have 18+100 in evaluate goods (although I think it would be much lower). Now the character has 12 new skill points to use and 30 affinity points he may place into skills. But he has had to use the skill points one at a time as he has gained each level (tough to macro in), so any single weapon skill he has is 6 points better.
First, if you are using Skill Base, Plus Bonus, then after 18, everything goes into skill bonus. This means the character gets better and better and is able to perform special moves, actions or attacks more often. But there is always going to be a limit to what he can do.
There is also a thing called escalation of power. In nearly any successful game system (i.e., not a computer game system but a tabletop war game or card game) there is an escalation of power. Each expansion gives the player the ability to be more powerful. Each addition to the Mech Warrior © Franchise, the Warhammer 40k © franchise, the magic the Gathering © franchise, the D&D © franchise has this factor built in. You go from the basic game to the advanced; you gain more power. Expansions are to add better magic items and creatures that will challenge the hire skill sets.
When you think of it, most of the fighting that happens is done by the use of opposed rolls or modified rolls. In the first instance your chance to hit your opponent is modified by how good your opponent is. In the second instant, most actions that take place in the game can be given a modifier. The lock on the chest is so good it requires a +5 on the dice roll. The lock in the chests found in the expansion is incredibly well made and require a +50 on the dice roll. Build the system to report the number of people who use a skill and what level it is and you have a way of modifying an entire expansion to take into account current level of all the players out there! For example, land area X has a base +20 modifier to all locks due to the superior construction. Or, more specifically, you can easily modify the difficulty level of an entire dungeon by changing a few appropriate numbers.
These last few points are going to be tough to explain. Not that they are complicated but that they are so obvious that they are often left out due to something called ‘game balance’. It is my personal opinion that the game balance excuse is often used when a company does not want to spend the time doing something right.
First, players and monsters should be on equal footing. If you want a player to become immersed in your world, then the ‘laws’ that govern the world have to apply equally to all within it. People can accept and learn to live with very much anything so long as it is internally consistent. This means that if I cannot attack through a wall then the monster I am fighting should not be able to attack through a wall (if all monsters can attack through walls and I can’t, then it is NOT internally consistent). It means that if I have to stop for 2 seconds before casting a spell, then monsters that cast spells should have to stop for 2 seconds before they cast.
Any book worth a damn is internally consistent. I want any game I play for an extended period of time to offer the same thing. Nothing (and I mean nothing) draws me out of the reality of the game quicker than seeing the monsters ignore the very laws of physics that apply and govern the actions of my character. Although I will say that it will generally make the game tougher to play I really believe (as stated before) that you can do the same thing by taking more time with the games AI.
The second point is how the world is set up. I really think you have to develop the world and the game system AT THE SAME TIME. If you want to have the characters working on and selling game items then you have to think the process through before you even start to think about coding. If you want a viable economy you have to at least make sure that the base upon which it is made makes sense.
Lets take raw material as an example. Ore is produced in mines. This means that the game world has to have working mines where the raw ore is brought out of the ground. The cost of the raw ore is fairly cheap near the mine but as you move away, its price increases. The table below reflects this.
|Cost of 10 raw ore to buy from vendors|
|Mining City||120 Claws|
|City 100–Miles away||180|
|City 200–Miles Away||240|
|City on Coast (400miles)||480|
This means that a character that wants the cheapest Ore has to go to where it is produced. This is as it should be but will be open to abuse when the character is able to sell the ore back to a merchant at a price of 90 percent of retail. It means that a character would come to the mine and buy 10 raw ore for 120 claws, teleport to a far away city and sell it for up to 90% of 480. I will come back to the amount a character can earn from taking the Ore to a city later, but for now I want to discuss the possibility of a character taking the Ore and smelting it into metal sheets. For this example, we will say that it takes 10 raw ore to make one metal sheet. The character decides to visit the smith shop and using his blacksmith skill he turns 10 units of raw ore into a metal sheet.
|Cost of 1 metal sheet to buy from vendor|
|Mining City||180 claws|
|City 100–Miles away||270|
|City 200–Miles Away||360|
|City on Coast (400miles)||720|
The price to buy metal sheets is more than the price to buy the raw ore. You (quite naturally) take into account that labor is worth something. This is as it should be but now you have the problem of the character going to the mine, buying 10 raw ore, heading to the smith shop and using his smith skill he converts it down to a metal sheet. He teleports to a costal city and sells it for 90% of 720 (he gets up to 648 talons for the sheet). This means that a character could make up to 528 claws per metal sheet (about 5 and a quarter talons).
With this in mind you have to ask yourself. When these skills are present (and they will come together even if it is the result of a group effort), can I live with the results? At this point you HAVE to look at the worst–case scenario you can think of and decide. For example, the magic user can cast a gate spell that will take him and four other Trocks between two world locations. One of the Trocks has all the business skills while another has the smith skills. This means the each Trock is capable of carrying 500 metal sheets. You teleport to the mine, buy the ore convert it to sheets and teleport off to sell it 2200 sheets at a time. This would mean that the group could make over 11,000 talons profit per trip.
So, now that you think you know the worst, how do you limit it? Legend Weaver has certain limiting factors built in. The use of gates means that there will be travel time to the gate and back. If you put in the ability to teleport, then make it weight restricted. The basic mage teleport starts out with the mage being able to teleport himself plus his free weight figure. Expanding synergy bonus points allows the mage to include others and their free weight figures. Make it hard for the teleport spell to allow the mage to teleport himself and 5000 tons of metal sheets. With the worst–case scenario in mind, you can work things out that you can live with it. To me, you can live with it once you work out how much the character can earn per hour. If this figure is reasonable, then you have your game balance. Just remember that all your hard work may be for nothing once people start playing the game and start coming up with all those short cuts and tricks that you were not able to think of! With luck, many of these tricks will be dealt with in beta.
In any game you have a grace period. You begin the game and tell people that things will change in the first little while, that you still have some game balance issues that could not be worked out with the test population. Problems are going to show up when you go live and your test population goes from 1000 to 20000 people. People will understand this and will (on the whole) forgive and allow you to make what changes you want to make with little or no complaining. After a time, the expectation will develop within the player’s minds that the game is set or should be set. Changes anger people because they have gotten used to things they way they are. If they like the way they are then they will feel cheated when you change them.