Now, I don’t claim myself to be an expert on game design – and for that matter, no one should. However, I have been reviewing and analyzing MMOs with Lore Hound for the last two years, have taken some game design classes, designed my own games, and given the fact Sephalon and I are essentially designing an MMO for Amalos, I have a bit more insight than usual.
I’ve gone over and over in my head this past month all the elements and design choices studios have made to create MMOs since we’ve had numerous launches this year. What I’ve come up with, as a designer and a player, is the list below.
They’re not hard set choices, either, so please, give feedback in the comments below. It’ll allow me to become a better designer, and who knows, if I do end up using this, you’ll have had input in the creation!
- Payment Model
- Initial Purchase
The initial investment should, and will, be low. One of the major set-backs I’ve had about jumping into a new MMO is the $40-60 dump I have to pour into just the first month of play. Since I’m married to another gamer, double that, and you see why we’re hesitant.
I’d set it no higher than $45 with one month of play free.
Each expansion would only be $30. Period.
There are different types of models I’m considering, but all are open options.
- Subscription Models:
F2P – Micro-transactions:
It’s a valid option, but one I’m never fully privy too. It’s probably from the fact that I’ve never used the market systems because of lack of money, so I always played the basic game as-is.
This option would give more room to grow, and is easier to manage. Jagex uses this model for Runescape, and it seems to work pretty damn well for them. I’m more open to this model versus straight F2P as it provides a steady, stable stream of income to the development and allows for regular development cycles.
Ah, the feature of all “AAA” titles. The system works; not as well as it used to, but it still does. Star Wars: The Old Republic, TERA, and The Secret World all use the model, and the same price tag. I think the days are gone, though, for the $15 tag.
If I was to use this model, along with Premium version, it would be no higher than $10 and no less than $5 a month.
I honestly don’t know what the content would be at this time. There will definitely be PvE & PvP in the game, but in regards to art style, theme, or franchise. There isn’t one right now.
Creating a new franchise is a very smart move – less chance of retconning lore, and room to not step on your own toes – but it’s harder to build up because it’s new; while a well established franchise already gives you a player base as your audience.
Along with the standard PvP / PvE content of MMOs today, we’d include Minecraft mechanics into our game. Allow players to move outside server protected zones to build whatever creations they want with certain “blocks” and “furniture”. This is all shown to every other player, just as in Minecraft.
We’ll craft our own open world dungeons sort of like in Runescape, with mobs roaming. That’s where the best minerals and crafting materials will be found.
Questing will be done similar to TOR’s fashion with choice options and voice acting. It was the one thing they redefined: How people quested. Quests will add vehicles and other styles of questing than the generic “Talk to person x”, “Kill x y”, “Travel to this location”.
- Character Generation
One of the aspects of MMOs that I’ve taken to heart is the ability to customize my avatar the way I want to convey my character to other players. Some games excel on this (APB), and others give limited power to the players (WoW).
Personally, I would want to invest a fair amount of time into character generation, allowing small changes to individual things, such as: an earing on one ear, but not the other; one, two, three, or no scars on various parts of the body; hair style; hair color for various parts (facial vs. head); etc.
The pedigree would be closer to Second Life, than it would to WoW.
There will be two very distinct and independent teams that work collaboratively to make the final game, the PvP team, and the PvE team. Neither will cross over. This will allow for the PvP team to design some great battlegrounds, arena maps, and work on the PvP aspects, while PvE can create some epic boss mechanics and fun gear.
Artists will be stuck with the team. More artists would be on the PvE team, as more art assets are needed there. This will allow for different art styles and creativity for the two different play styles.
- Gameplay Balance
This is the element I’ve wrestled with for almost a year now, the constant struggle of balancing PvP vs. PvE. I’ve had the decision made up to one of two options:
- Balance PvE around PvP
Instead of nerfing a class because of a boss fight, and then buffing it elsewhere for PvP to compensate for the unintentional survivability nerf, just buff or nerf the boss to compensate for the class change(s).
There’s also the option of trying to incorporate PvP tactics into boss fight mechanics. Why struggle with the dynamic variable, when you can mess with the environment they’re interacting with?
- Two copies of each class – PvP and PvE versions
This idea is the one I’m more privy too, but it takes a lot more development time. When players enter dungeons or raids, their stats are buffed or nerfed where needed, and their abilities and talents are changed to how their class is designed for PvE.
In battlegrounds or arenas, their stats are buffed or nerfed where needed, and their abilities and talents are changed to how their class is designed for PvP.
It’ll look similar to dual specing in WoW, but they’re two variations of the same tree, and you get to spec how you want for PvE, and for PvP. While outside of either environment, you get to choose which spec you’re in. The minute you go into one or the other, the game switches your talents, hotbars, stats, etc. to the correct one.
This allows balancing one, without affecting the other.
- End-Game content
At launch, there will be at least 6 different battlegrounds, and 4 different arena maps. The Battlegrounds will have at least 3 different types of gameplay with 2 maps each. Preferably only 1 type will have 2-3 maps, and the rest unique.
Things like Huttball, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley, and Alderaan Civil War will be used as inspiriation.
Arenas will incorporate MOBA or other battleground mechanics into their matches, with limited respawns (only 2-3 per person), so dying isn’t as punishing, but it still can be. If, during development, it doesn’t seem to work, we’ll continue with the gladiatorial style.
- Dungeons and Raids
Dungeons will come as player level, with heroic modes, and raids with hard modes. Each content patch will bring 2 new dungeons, and 2 “new mini-raids” of 4-5 bosses. The final raid will have 10-12, with 2-3 new dungeons.
- Player-made Content
Players will have an SDK to develop their own dungeons and raids as player-content. Even if we went with the subscription model, there will still be a player-content market where players can release them to play. They’ll be able to award players with gear of their choice (that we control and limit, of course).
Players will be able to sell them – and we get a cut, like Apple’s App store – and rate them.
If we go with a F2P/Premium model, only Premium members will be able to release them on the market.
- Game Systems
Players will be dealt with by their peers, very akin to League of Legend’s Tribunal system. All judgments will be made final by a select company group.
Similar to TERA’s vanarch system, players will be able to run government for the server. However, it’d be only a few positions, and their decisions affect the whole server, not just one zone. The length of time of their “rule” would be for each content cycle (about 3-6 months).
Things will be set such as sales tax, auction house taxes, housing taxes, and others as we would create them. All gold gained by this will go to the guild the leaders are joined in.
- Player housing
It is considered, but may not make it in. If it’s to happen, it’ll borrow our system from Amalos, requiring you to register a location of your house portal, and then purchase the property. I haven’t thought more on this, but it is considered.
This is something I thought of recently that might be interesting, but not necessarily a huge deal. Players have the ability to store gold in their bank. At the end of every month, interest is paid to players based on what’s in their bank account.
This will also allow for loans. Need 15k gold for that new mount? Take a loan out! But be careful: Each time you loot, the bank gets a 10% cut of what you looted until the loan is paid off, with interest.
This robust list is by all means not final, and is very open to discussion. This is the original design points I’ll be holding on to for my company, Spellbook Entertainment, if we ever decide to attempt an MMO.