Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gordian Scimitarization

About a week ago, I discovered, that changed its format. Now it's like some kind of knowledge database about MMOs, I guess there are planned to be articles on different subjects of massive multiplayer online games, interesting discussions on this subjects and lots of other information on all aspects of MMO-world. Just a view from 360 degrees as it declared in the name. The first article was about MMO design. As I found out, it was a reply to a challenge, started by Brian 'Psychochild' Green as inspired by Patrick Rogers at I Maek Gaemz blog. This readings really inspired me, so I decided to express some thoughts of my own on this topic.

This article is covering basics on the situation around character design.

Design. Its everywhere. It permeates all aspects of development. From program design to design of the character and the World itself. It is a single system and without changing one part of it, there's no way to change another.

But let us start up with the Character.
Reading various blogs on MMO design and gameplay, I came to conclusion, that at this very moment most popular MMO games divide in three categories.

First: Itemized design - this is what has awaken the dragon. The world designed in the way, when all player's development depends on their equipment. You want to be successful? You need the best weapon, best armour and The Ring or The Staff, whatever it looks like and whichever story lies behind it. Your only way to "endgame" lies through infinite chase for better equipment. I had this experience in Lineage II. I couldn't play it after about 50 hours. I have played x100 server and a small x3 server. Maybe I have imprinted wrong thing and haven't experienced social part of it, but as I've noticed, on official servers everything is spinning around economics. You cannot have good time being poor. You have to earn enough money to equip well. You need enough money to maintain clan or castle, money is the power, power is the money. (I wonder, what would happen if there were no people, scavenging game resources for money.)

Second: Character-oriented design. The some kind of polarity for Itemized one. You have a character, you design it to the birthmarks at the left heel of the body. You may give it thousands of skills and abilities, you may do with this character anything you want in game environment. You challenge quests in parties with other greatly customized characters. You know this character to the marrows. You play social games, enter and leave guild and all you do in a game is having an alternative reality to play with. But the same toys make you bored sometime.

Third: Mixed types and outcasts. Under this category lie games, where design balances between the first two polarities, and games, which character design is so "weird" that no one even heard of it, and those, who've heard of it, dare not speak its name. What its name? Oh, I dare not speak it. :)

Sometimes, I'm even happy, that I have not played any Really Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing game. As I think, it makes me unbiased in some aspects of game design. I don't have hardcoded patterns in my mind about "what is the good style in game design", "10 rules of good game design" or "how to make people love your work". It's great as for me! I can experiment with the craziest ideas and let the Force/Hatred flow through me.

Crazy idea in the next article. I need to learn some maths for it.

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