WOO II - An exploration in design
Started March 2012 - Published February 2013
By stoneghost: dalaran
One night I was in World of Warcraft playing my hunter in order to upgrade my leatherworking skills. I was killing and then skinning some buffalo-like animals for their hides. 'Round and 'round I went: kill, loot, skin ... repeat ... hours at a time for days until I had enough leather to go make the items I needed.
Along the way, I thought to myself: "either there is a game designer somewhere who thinks this is FUN, or this used to be interesting but has somehow evolved into an utterly boring activity." In either case, I began to think about how crafting/gathering could be made into an enjoyable aspect of the game.
And that led to some interesting speculations. I present the results here as a design prototype. I understand that it lacks operational details and may have internal conflicts, but if you take it for what it is ... an outline of a new game mechanics, I think it will provide fertile ground for discussion.
the game design
This section outlines and summarizes the key elements of the WOOII design. Use the links to the right to go to a more detailed description of each element. To read my commentary as to why certain choices were made instead of others, read the notes section at the bottom of the page.
If it is to succeed, the game must be profitable. Design choices must seek the largest audience at the lowest cost. This implies a high quality gaming experience and good customer service. The business in this case is similar to the running of an amusement park ... people pay money to have fun ... the customers' opinions matter, but not as much as many of them might think.
Players are people who use their game accounts to create characters. The player, not the character, is the focus of the game design.
The game provides tools that let players manage their stable of characters. To that end, all items and enhancements, such as weapons, gear, potions, gems, enchantments and the like are "account bound" and can be shifted from one character to another at will. Bank slots are attached to accounts and accessible from all characters in an account. Experience, titles and ranks are account based.
Levels and Releveling
Experience is an account attribute that measures time in game for the player. It serves to denote seniority, and it may be used to generate periodic rewards for long term account holders. Experience has no effect on leveling.
Level is a character attribute that measures progress in the game. Characters begin at a training level and move up as they accomplish various achievements. There are no points given for experience or kills, only for achievements. As a character rises in level, it gains access to new game play experiences and to new skills and talents.
A "level" is a collection of activities and options. Each level is complete in itself. Players should enjoy each level of play and not feel that they need to use lower levels as a ladder to get to a higher one.
A player can relevel a character as needed, and characters automatically relevel when they enter an instance on a given level. Each character has a skill and talent template for each level which is loaded when the level is invoked. The template is saved automatically and updated whenever the player changes a character's attributes at a particular level.
Rewards gained at lower levels are still effective at higher levels. Thus, releveling permits new experiences to be introduced at any level, greatly greatly expanding game play and reducing the pressures created by the "level cap."
Gear, Items and Enhancements
Gear consists of basic items - weapons, armor, jewelry, etc. All gear contains slots in which enhancements may be inserted. Attributes: such as damage, mitigation, healing, speed, and so forth, attach to characters. This means that gear functions by modifying the attributes of the character who wears it.
All gear relevels with the character to which the gear is attached. To facilitate releveling, gear effects are expressed as percentages. Because gear relevels, there is no need for "levels" of gear. A basic sword, for example, will rise in power with the character, and as enhancements add to its utility, these, too, will rise with level - and the same sword will drop in power when the character enters a lower level instance.
A Life Path is a choice, made very early in the life of a character, that defines the character's activities within the game. "Life paths" replace "classes" and provide for variation in character design and play.
A character may only have one Life Path. But a Player may have many characters. Players explore the game by creating multiple characters.
There are three Life Paths to choose from: Raider, Fighter and Crafter. Within a Life Path a character may specialize in "occupations", such as "tank" for Raiders, "flag carrier" for Fighters, or "farmer" for Crafters.
Leveling happens within a character's Life Path and is based on the accomplishment of achievements. Some achievements may take the form of quests; others are milestones; others may be "daily" tasks. In general, leveling happens as a more or less natural side effect of playing within the Life Path. Releveling permits achievements gained at any level to increase the character's level (up to the current maximum level of the game).
Raiding is a PvE group activity. Its venues include Fun Houses and dungeons. Fun Houses provide a central transportation sites for Raider teams as well as PvE activities that give Raider leveling achievements and other rewards. Dungeons (used here to mean to any type of raider instance) occur at many levels. When a team enters a dungeon, its members' levels are adjusted to that of the dungeon. There is no way to enter a dungeon without matching its level.
Fighting is a PvP group activity. Its venues include Theme Parks, arenas and battlegrounds. Theme Parks provide continual free-for-all PvP activities that give Fighter leveling achievements and other rewards. Arenas host permanent teams that fight in their personal gear. Battlegrounds host random and permanent teams. In order to deemphasize gear and emphasize playing skill, characters entering battlegrounds will have their gear adjusted to a "standard" template. Battlegrounds and arenas occur at various levels; when a character enters one of these venues, it is releveled accordingly.
Crafting is a PvE solo activity that includes production and refinement of materials, and the manufacture and sale of items. Each crafter has access to a personal instance, a Holding, which contains a farm, a factory and an office. With the proper recipes and materials, the crafter farms materials, makes items, and sells materials, items and services to NPCs or other players. Each Theme Park and Fun House has an attached Farmer's Market where Crafters can offer their wares to the public. Many Crafter items are unique and unavailable elsewhere, and Crafters are the primary source of most goods and services.
Questing is a solo PvE activity that provides entertainment and reveals the mythos of the game. Questing offers rewards but does not contribute to leveling. Quests occur at all levels and can only be obtained by a character of the proper level, though players may relevel a character at any time in order to take on a given quest.
Parts of quests occur in the world, but the key moments are instanced to preserve the solo nature of the activity.
It is understood that some players may be disabled or otherwise disadvantaged in ways that require assistance while playing the game. Special "Companion" accounts allow caregivers to enter the game with their charges and play with them in areas that would otherwise be restricted to solo play. Companions are automatically linked in groups and transit, and companions share a private chat line with their charges.
Talents and Skills
Talents are abilities that are available to all characters. These are arranged in an organizing tree. As players rise in level, they acquire access to a wider range of talents. Some talents are of particular use in Questing.
Skills are abilities that are available to the characters within a particular Life Path. These also are arranged in an organizing tree. As players rise in level, they acquire access to a wider range of skills.
Talents and skills do not apply to levels below the level where they became available. When a character relevels, his or her talents and skills adjust accordingly.
Because higher level characters are not able to enter lower level instances without "leveling down", the rewards at all levels can be standardized. This makes the reward payoff from a low level event just as desirable as the one from a high level event.
Rewards can be in the form of currency, passive enhancements, active enhancements, items, titles, leveling achievements and the like. Active enhancements attach to the character or to gear and have an effect on game play. Passive enhancements do not affect game play and provide cosmetic or other "fun" effects.
The design is intended to:
WOO II is an exploration of how the game might evolve in its next incarnation ... WOO II is not intended to be a recipe for "fixing" the current game in any way.
These links go to pages with details for the design elements summarized on this page.
THE guiding Principles
This section lists the principles that guided the decision making process whenever conflicts came up.
The business must succeed.
The game cannot do everything that every player wants. Furthermore, in order to keep the game running, the company must make a profit. If the company fails, the game disappears. Decisions about game design have to balance all the relevant factors and may not satisfy the players.
Solo and group play are equally valuable.
Groups are fun for some but not for others. Even those who like to play in groups sometimes enjoy getting away from the hassle of group play and going solo for awhile. The game needs to provide equally good play for singles and groups.
Boredom is not fun.
If you have to kill 100 blunt-nosed antelopes and skin them to get enough leather to make 20 items that you can neither use nor sell for a profit ... you are probably not having fun. Similarly, the same dungeon over and over again time after time becomes a bore, and the 500th capture-the-flag is not very interesting. Multi-player online games need to provide a a great deal of variety to keep their customer base involved.
Each level is complete unto itself.
A level should be a collection of activities and experiences that are interesting, entertaining and fun to play. A level should not be something that a player has to pass through on the way to somewhere else. The game should have a fairly small number of fairly expansive levels.
Life paths are mutually exclusive.
Do not ask a Crafter to run a dungeon. Do not ask a Raider to fight PvP. It's one thing to make alternative game play easy to explore ... it's another to force players to do things they don't care about in hopes that they'll decide to like them. A character should be able to complete everything that is asked without leaving his or her Life Path. A player who wants to explore alternatives can do so easily by creating new characters ... and the character management tools are designed to encourage and support this.
THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES
These links go to pages that illustrate the goals.
These links goes to a set of pages that provide more detail on why some of the elements of the design came out the way they did.