Author Topic: Game Design  (Read 44619 times)

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Offline Kvetch

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Game Design
« on: September 13, 2011, 09:40:35 am »
Molly suggested that maybe this deserves a topic of its own, so here it is along with her original post on whatever board it was under:

One of our main problems is, that the gap between new players and oldbies already is too big. It makes new players despair about ever catching up, and it also makes the game harder to balance.
And any additional 'remorting rewards' will just increase that gap.
We'll have to figure out something else, to keep oldbies interested enough to leave Recall.

Let's just all take a deep breath, take a step back and consider the subjects of Game Design and Balance, instead of constantly asking for new patches that, although they sound cool one by one, potentially might cause more problems than they solve.

Let's start out by asking ourself the following questions:

1. What kind of the game do we have presently?
2. What are the things that we specifically like and specifically dislike with our current game?
3. What kind of game is it that we want?
4. How do we get from step 1 to step 3 without disrupting any of the things that we like in the process?

So far I haven't seen anyone draw up the goals and frames for the design we should aim for. And by design I mean the total package, because everything hangs together - balance, races, classes, equipment, skills and spells, fight code, zones, quests, trading, code features...
And because everything is so convoluted, every change we do affects a lot of other things - usually a lot more than was expected from the start.

Understand me right;
- I'm not against changes, as long as they are not so totally fundamental that we lose our 12 year old identity.
- I think it's wonderful that we actually for the first time in 4D history have more than one competent coder.
- I think that changes usually are positive, because development in a mud is one of the things that keeps the player interest up.
- I think many of the ideas that are being tossed around or already implemented are promising.

I just want someone to present the full picture of what we are aiming for, before we start running in one direction or another.
Once we have defined the long term goals that we are striving for, all changes - even the small ones - should work together towards those goals.
And that means both Coders, Builders and Players.

Offline Jaros

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2011, 09:45:25 am »
Pin this.

Offline Calypso

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2011, 12:24:14 pm »
It seems to me, this game has a few different aspects to consider when thinking about its overall design and purpose. And all of us players are fortunate enough right now to not only have a lot of interest in coming up with great ideas, but also have a number of coders willing to work on it.
So far, as I see it

-----------------------------

1.   Newbies-  Goal : Get them the help they need when they need it, and create a game that will allow them to advance quickly as to encourage their returning and becoming part of the 4D family, so to speak.

     a.    -There is talk of creating a toggle of some sort to allow older players/helpers to see when a newbie signs on.
 
     b.   -Suggestions have been made to create a list of easy leveling zones, good eq that is easy to get and where to find it,  etc

     c.   -Updating the hint channel so that newbies get the information they need efficiently.

2.   Oldbies- Goal: Keep the game interesting for those who have maxed out their character and have done the quests the want to do

     a.   Challenge system: Xeriuth and others are talking about creating a challenge system that would be mostly for the oldbies who have seen and experienced just about everything else.

     b.   -Revamping artifacts: By creating artifacts that re useful and interesting to olbies, Oldbies would be encouraged to continue roaming the realms  and play the game. This is good for newbies because this provides the oldbies with continuing education about the set up of the Realms and the different quests, especially since things change from time to time. They can impart their knowledge onto the newbies as appropriate.

3.   In-betweenies- Goal: Have a mud that provides the players with control over what happens to their character as it fits within the theme of time travel, so they can enjoy all that the Realms have to offer regardless of their specific interests

     a.      -The game already provides interesting zones and quests. Builders are constantly creating new zones and building upon the ones already created. We have a very unique mud that, imo, is the most fun to play out of all the other muds.

     b.   - Along with other ideas given by other players, Jaros has come up with an idea to  allow players to switch around their eq slots and create a whole new Cyborg race. This can be as complicated or as simple as each player would like it.  It give the player more control over what s/he wants for her character and, as Molly points out,  fits within the theme of time travel.

-------------------------------

This is the way I see it now. There have been so many great ideas lately. I like how this mud provides a little something for each kind of player. We have a lot of different players, coders, builders and imms to thank for the success of our mud! And because of the teamwork, our mud seems to have a close-knit-community feel to it. I think as long as we keep this structure in mind, this is bound to create an atmosphere where newbies feel welcomed and encouraged to come back, oldbies hold interest in the game and enjoy helping newbies, and those in between find the adventures they are looking for.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2011, 12:28:45 pm by Loria »
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Offline Once

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2011, 02:00:28 pm »
Hey guys,

Glad Molly got this topic rolling, and Kvetch thanks for giving it the attention it deserves. I think it's important as we build this system out that we do think about the Game Design as a whole, how things are architectured, and what the general purpose of each system is and how it works into a grand goal. These are all very good endeavors.

I think we also need to bring some planning and calculation into the picture for large scale changes like combat, and player skills such as the skilltree system that people have been talking about for a couple years. We had a skilltree system on my previous mud, and I can say although it's pretty nominal to change from Percents to Ranks in terms of the practice structure, the real difficulty is in coming up with ways to give each skill values based on rank when currently values are based on a percentage success rate. This is usually accomplished by having increasing power to the skill as your rank goes up, but leads us to the touchy topic of game balance as a whole.

Horus, I believe you had/have a lot of insight and research into this when you were working on the previous system. Would you be willing to post it here in another thread for us?

This sort of centralized planning is a worthy endeavor, and I support the idea. That said, my personal take on this is that 4d's central folly is that it's fallen into a state of persistent "Analysis Paralysis" throughout the years. There's a real resistance to change, and you need to have a very good balance between planning and implementation. What I mean by that is it's easy for things to get stalled in planning, for people not to be clear when it's time to act on a plan, etc. It's always safer to wait. That feeling of resting on the safety leads to a situation where things don't get done because there's always a little bit more planning you can do. I've seen this in my day job many many times, and I'd honestly say that analysis paralysis is often what causes a lot of once successful businesses to fail.

Another topic to bring up here is that I've never seen a planned system actually work out to be the best solution. Often times it may be what makes the stakeholders involved the happiest, but it's usually got some level of inferiority in some areas but someone's ego is invested by that point and it'd require a massive conversation and "new plan" to change things, which with analysis paralysis and the lag in creating a plan you're back to square one and the path of least resistance is to do nothing. I've seen this particular one happen time and time again as well. We need to be diligent in avoiding this, doubly so as this is actually entertainment/recreation for the coders involved and I don't think any of us want to actually work this as a day job. If that happens I wouldn't be surprised if the other programmers interests disappear, I'm sure mine would.


The way I've solved this in my own personal business, is to move with a more "agile" development model. Agile is a rather recent invention in software development methodology which essentially boils down to: Have a rough plan. Implement it quickly. Test it. Change it based on testing. Continue testing it. Continue changing it. Once you love it, it's done.

This is the model that I personally think we should adopt. Centralized planning is going to work about as well as it works for governments. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have an idea of how a piece fits into the bigger picture. We should. We also need to put our heads together on the real mathematical pieces like mob vs player balance and exp growth curves as that should just be an issue of math and more heads are better than one to identify any problems in the model. What we need to avoid though is detailed planning of every single feature because we will almost certainly miss something, something will sound better in writing, and we're going to create a slow moving development culture which is going to be onerous. We must find a happy medium in order to make this work.


That's my take on the issue. Would love to hear others. Let's work together towards improving this place, and let's make sure all that we're doing to improve it is adding value to the picture as a whole. At the other end let's avoid over-planning and excessive bureaucracy. I'm sure we'll find some way to make it work. ;)


-Once

Offline Riley

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2011, 02:40:47 pm »
1. What kind of the game do we have presently?

Honestly, IMHO, one that isn't newbie friendly.  Either xp from mobs need to be increased for the lower levels, or the first 5 remorts need to be reduced some.  I know I have a GM, but also have alts which I tend to shy away from because of the xp tnl.  And trying to find places to level and actually get gear to be able to go to harder mobs is lacking to.  I try to help out newbies with a few decent pieces of gear, but it's like those few pieces for a newbie trying to get themselves would take so long or they'd get one shotted.

I think newbies need to be better educated about how to quest.  Even with perhaps adding to the questing pamphlet 2 aliases that would help them out greatly in questing.  At least they would have to read the pamphlet.

2. What are the things that we specifically like and specifically dislike with our current game?

I like the fact that the game never ends... ie you can remort forever.  Love the Grand Master aspect.  Love the quests though I despise them dearly.

What I dislike about the game? I don't like all the currencies that we have, gold and only 1 other type of currency for all the extra special stuff is needed.  We already have gold, tokens, Trade Points, RP award Points.  And if I had to chose 2 from all that I'd go with the Trade Points.  Because if we still see people roleplaying we can still award them Trade Points instead of the RP Award Points.  And it might actually encourage more people to RP, knowing that there is a chance that they will be able to get something more useful to them to use.  Or they could just use the TP to purchase the login/logout message feature, or the other features currently with the RP rewards.  But would still be nice to be able to trade the points like the tokens.

Offline Xeriuth

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2011, 03:50:10 pm »
I agree with Riley, tradepoints should be tradeable. They are a currency so why can't someone sell or give tradepoints they have to another player?
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Offline Virisin

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2011, 04:31:17 pm »
I agree, we don't need award points. Trade points should be tradeable. Gold in the game should be all deleted so it can be used again normally.

I also agree that our experience curve isn't good enough atm, every time I try to restart as a newbie I give up relatively quickly. The first 10 levels are quite nice and you get good bonuses for them. But once you're past level 20 or so, it's slow, repetitive and boring. Newbie fights are some of the most boring things there are in this game. It's also a hassle not being able to go anywhere with 25 movement.

One thing I think would be nice for newbies is higher experience for quest rewards. Most experience rewards cap at about 50k, which is great for a level 2 newbie, but after about level 10 it's pittance for every other person in the game. If questing actually gave significant experience I think a lot more newbies would be encouraged to do it.

I will see about posting my own vision of 4d's future later, and people can rip into that as they please.

Offline Virisin

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2011, 04:51:41 pm »
It's hard to write about game design in this way, I guess all we can do is give our own general feelings on the way the game should be going.

I want to see 4d more enjoyable again, I picture a balanced mud in which someone can be any race or borg they like, any class they decide to try. Freedom should be essentially what we are going for. Text-based muds already appeal only to a small demographic, there's no need to pinhole ourselves to an even smaller demographic because we don't offer the choices some other muds do, it's all about CHOICES.

I want to go to shops and pay for things with a realistic amount of money, I want to be able to sell the things I find to shopkeepers for a reasonable amount of money.

I want to see Clan Wars actually happen because there are enough active players in each clan that are all willing to put it on the line.

I want to go trading or crafting and use experience gained from that as a slower but safer way of levelling.

Oh no maybe I want to go hunting, I want to be able to fight mobs without having to rely on skills or spells, spamming kick isn't fun, it's weird and just turns people off the mud. I would rather more weight be on the automated aspects of fighting with mobs and skills or spells allow for fun little tricks to slightly help yourself. No one should be able to kick 50 times in 10 seconds.

This brings me to stamina, stamina is a great stat it just needs to be used instead of movement every time. Movement is one of those pieces of 4d which provides nothing of value, but detracts from the experience a bit. Stamina is a far superior stat to use, I would love to see mana work the same way. Charge up a big fireball and it uses up all my mana, I'll probably only be able to cast that one spell for this fight, but my mana will have restored itself within the next minute or two, like stamina does if you just chill out for a second.

I want to be able to be a gunslinger, an archer, a swordsmith, a brewer or scriber, a tinkerer or woodsinger, a priest or dark mage, I want to be able to use psionic powers, I want to steal and pick locks, I want the choice to do anything, and the opportunities when I make my choice to be roughly even.

Experience gained from questing should match experience gained from levelling.

I basically just want to see diversity and freedom of choice available, with balanced but intriguing opportunities for whatever I decide to do.

Offline Prometheus

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2011, 06:01:49 pm »
If Molly doesn't object I wouldn't mind doing those type of exchanges of tp since immortals have a command to do that. Not sure how I feel on mortals having that ability. Maybe if we cap how much you can give a day or something I might see it working a little better.

Prometheus

Offline Jaros

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2011, 06:16:13 pm »
If Molly doesn't object I wouldn't mind doing those type of exchanges of tp since immortals have a command to do that. Not sure how I feel on mortals having that ability. Maybe if we cap how much you can give a day or something I might see it working a little better.

Why?  We can already exchange the others and it's not a problem, increases player interaction.  With all due respect that kind of immortal micromanaging is exactly what we should be getting rid of.

I will post properly now.

Offline Jaros

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2011, 08:06:46 pm »
What I like/dislike about what we have now

I like that there are no limits.  We have a theme that literally covers everything from the beginning of time to the most outrageous point in the future if we want it to.  I can wield 'a cool dagger,' put an Intergalactic Diplomatic Translator in my ear, and pull on a pair of sandals stolen from the tomb of an ancient egyptian pharaoh which a god then transformed into a pair of Armani boots for me as a christmas present.  It's great.  :)

I used to like the fact that this was an "intelligent," game in that you had to solve quests to be the best instead of just killing.  Now I'm not so sure.  I think quests are great for telling stories and giving us unique problems to solve, but basing an entire game on info that can't be shared or talked about, and items that can't really be traded?  I think that's a mistake.  Quests have their place, but their rewards shouldn't be monopolizing the game like they do.

I don't like our fight code or skill/spell system.

I don't like things that narrow our options instead of expanding them, like race attributes and set classes.

I don't like how complicated and imbalanced everything is, with tiers and GMs and massive strength gaps and a hundred unnecessary numbers on my score all trying to hide the fact that our actual gameplay is shallow.

I don't like how hard it is for new players because of this ^^.

What to do.. what to do..

As far as skills and spells and fighting go, we need more to adjust to than: he hit me, better heal, then back to spamming my one sweet move.  Likewise with defensive shit, we need more to think about than just: spell me up bro.  I would like to see defensive skills/spells serving as tactical choices, wherein what you choose to cast on yourself depends on what your strengths are and what style of fighting you want to use in any given situation.  A poor choice of preparatory skills/spells should actually make you more vulnerable.  Aggressive skills/spells should likewise depend on how you've developed yourself, how you've prepared for this particular fight, and what kind of an opponent you're facing.  As has been said, skills/spells need unique values that depend on one and other, not just how much charisma or something you've got.

Horus I've talked to you about this and I like what you have to say about it a lot, but I don't think anyone has any idea how close we are to achieving it, what actually needs to be done, etc.

Beyond that, we have two major problems: newbies and oldbies.  How do we keep them playing?  From the oldbie end: We tried GM.  It made people bigger.  It didn't solve the problem.  The only way to solve it is to ask, what is genuinely worth earning that doesn't make you any bigger?  I think that's probably the single most important design question in the game, and I kind of have an answer, and it also solves the newbie question and the whole problem with our learning curve, and ties into what I was just saying about skills/spells.

I'm going to explain it in a new post.  I don't think it will take long.   :o
« Last Edit: September 13, 2011, 08:08:36 pm by Jaros »

Offline Virisin

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2011, 08:31:43 pm »
As far as fighting goes, I think there are a few things we can do that drastically improve fighting. Experience should be modded far more depending on mob - player level. If you're fighting something above your level, you should be getting a lot MORE experience for it, whereas if you're fighting something below your level you should be getting a lot LESS experience for it.

Grinding is never going to be all that fun, and it has to be relatively mindless. We should capitalize on this, fighting should by DEFAULT be easy for grinding. If you set yourself up and go kill things of the rough level you are - providing the base experience gain, without doing any skills or spells in battle you should be able to win the fights relatively easy just with your automated hits. Instead of making me type kick;kick;kick;kick and spamming it throughout battle, I should be able to achieve roughly the same thing just by typing 'kill mob' and watching myself fight it.

This means if I want to go through Punt with kill all on, and I am strong enough and of the same level as the mobs, I should be able to not think about it.

Now, as far as involvement in battle goes, it should be a way of altering the fight: eg, speeding it up, slowing it down.

If a Priest BUFFS themselves up and is ready to use HEAL, they should be able to fight stronger mobs, face a potentially longer fight duration, but be in for a larger bonus at the end for doing more than just fighting their own level.

A Mage can fight above their level by ending the fight much faster, they need to be able to supercharge spells to do huge DAMAGE and end the fights before they take too much damage, if any.

An Esper should be able to make it virtually impossible for the mob to know what to do, as well as making it very difficult to be hit.

The only way of making this work that I can think of is removing MOVEMENT and changing MANA. We can't have huge move and mana totals, and then just make everything cost a set amount of movement or mana, so that we can spam stuff in battle. We need to have STAMINA and MANA that deplete and restore very quickly, but prevent spamming.

A mage should be able to spend 100% of their mana on a fireball to do 10x the damage of a normal fireball. But that's all they can do, they'll have to wait 2 minutes before charging a spell like that again, and at least 10 seconds before casting another 10% fireball.

A priest should be able to put 100% of their mana into a heal to get a FULL HEAL, whereas 10% would only restore 100hp maybe, because 10% mana recovers in about 10 seconds.

This is already more well done with fighters and rogues because of stamina, we just need to make it fully dependent on stamina rather than movement, and we're away running.

Offline Prometheus

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2011, 09:13:27 pm »
If Molly doesn't object I wouldn't mind doing those type of exchanges of tp since immortals have a command to do that. Not sure how I feel on mortals having that ability. Maybe if we cap how much you can give a day or something I might see it working a little better.

Why?  We can already exchange the others and it's not a problem, increases player interaction.  With all due respect that kind of immortal micromanaging is exactly what we should be getting rid of.

I will post properly now.

And I'm starting to get really tired of this immortal bashing. I already read once about immortals not knowing anything about what mortals do. And now we are being told not to micro manage. I'm offering a temporary solution till we can agree to these changes. Don't forget we have veto power on things as well. Not only the MORTAL players. We as immortal / mortals have input as well. So please stop bashing suggestions because they don't "fit" into what "you" want. *mutters*

Prometheus

Offline Jaros

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2011, 09:16:00 pm »
Here is my solution to easy to learn but everlasting gameplay:

You start the game one, maybe two skills waiting to grow into trees.  A fighting one and a preparatory one.  What they are depends on your class.  As you grow, you climb your skill tree and your one or two skills branch out a little and get a lot more badass, so that by the time you reach the end of your first two trees you are as badass as they come, but only in a single style of fighting.  So very early on a relative noob can prepare himself for his chosen fighting style, enter battle and use a skill as powerful as any available to me, even though I've been around for years.

The difference between me and this noob is that I have more options available to me, more styles I can use.  So: Noob can run around slaughtering your basic mobs but only with his one style, IE whatever few moves have grown from the tree he began with.  That keeps it simple for him, but if he takes on more distant zones or a powerful mobs they might be more unique and less susceptible to his style, or have a wider range of styles it attacks with, so his one style--badass though it is against standard mobs close to home--just will not be flexible enough to cope.  From there, he gains more experience and invests it in new skill trees associated with other classes.  Maybe he actually remorts into that class, maybe not, I don't know.

In this way he gradually expands the options available to him and the complexity of his gameplay can increase, without any extra raw power being available to him.

How to make the game last for oldbies?  Make the cost of investing in these skills/spells increase exponentially, so that your first couple of trees are cheap and easy and you rip through them at a glorious rate, but by the end it's effectively impossible to master all possible styles.  So you can keep killing etc forever, and you will always be gradually expanding your character and collecting more options to incorporate into your style and becoming less and less defined by any one class, but again, no more raw power will be available to you than you had all those years ago.

This would require a massive amount of work because it implies completely revamping skills/spells, finding a way to make each tree powerful and unique in its own right, and balancing them such that just throwing on the preparatory skills/spells available to you doesn't do you any good--only carefully selecting the relevant ones does.  Also classes, levelling and pretty much our entire gameplay system would probably need a complete makeover.

I think that should be the direction we move in though.  Customizable races, augments, and elements are all designed to gradually open up options and character flexibility in line with this, and a complete system would factor in all of them.

To me, that's the direction we move in.  It does require thought and planning, which is what threads like this are for.  On the other hand, I've been through massive code changes before and I've helped to test a lot of new features, and in the end you simply cannot get everything right on paper.  No matter what it is and how much or how little has changed since it all began, such things take endless testing and tweaking ANYWAY before they can even get close to where they ultimately need to be.  Claiming that changing this or rebalancing that might throw off something not even being tested yet is ridiculous.

Fortunately we have a small, understanding playerbase who have hung around even with a code as shit as ours is.  We can't exactly go backwards.   :D

This post has taken longer than expected.  :P

Offline Jaros

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Re: Game Design
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2011, 09:25:06 pm »
If Molly doesn't object I wouldn't mind doing those type of exchanges of tp since immortals have a command to do that. Not sure how I feel on mortals having that ability. Maybe if we cap how much you can give a day or something I might see it working a little better.

Why?  We can already exchange the others and it's not a problem, increases player interaction.  With all due respect that kind of immortal micromanaging is exactly what we should be getting rid of.

I will post properly now.

And I'm starting to get really tired of this immortal bashing. I already read once about immortals not knowing anything about what mortals do. And now we are being told not to micro manage. I'm offering a temporary solution till we can agree to these changes. Don't forget we have veto power on things as well. Not only the MORTAL players. We as immortal / mortals have input as well. So please stop bashing suggestions because they don't "fit" into what "you" want. *mutters*

Prometheus

Get over yourself Prom.  I'm not bashing immortals, I'm asking why they need to be involved in something like this.  All it achieves is an unnecessary intermediary.