Posted in Guild Wars, Warhammer Online

Transplanted Ideas

Every once in a while, I think about how a certain MMORPG had a really cool feature that we never saw anywhere else, and I deeply wish that other games would pick up the ball and run with it in new, exciting directions.  Here are two MMO ideas I’d love to see transplanted to other games, where they could be expanded, enriched and explored:

Guild Wars: 8-Skill Limit

Whether you think it ultimately worked or not, Guild Wars had a really unique vision for progression in their game — to have players hit “end game” (level 20) relatively early, play down the importance of loot, and limit the number of active skills at any one time while encouraging them to go out and find more.  Whereas other MMOs end up with scads of buttons and available skills at the level cap, Guild Wars has the same amount whether you’re a newbie or a vet: eight.  You could never expand the amount of skills active at any one time, but you could gather more of them to create different builds — kind of a collectible card game element mixed with the rest.

Weirdly enough, I love it when a game gives me a very strict limitation but a lot of flexibility and variety within that limitation to experiment.  If I had every skill for my classes available at the level cap in GW, it would both confuse and bore me, and I’d probably end up only using a handful anyway on a regular basis.  Limit me to just eight, and I’m forced to make tough choices and decide between a specialized build designed to do one thing well, or a generalized build that’ll let me do a little of everything.

Another benefit of this system is that the devs can continue to add new skills and abilities at the end cap without having to worry that they’re overpowering players — whether I have 10 skills in my book or 100, I can only ever use 8 at a time.  Guild Wars did kind of go overboard with too many skills, but it never broke the game even so.

So why not see this in other MMOs?  The limited number of available skills is tied in with creating builds, and I think it’s a terrific thing to get players out from only playing their class one way all the time to shifting between builds based on the situation (think WoW’s dual spec feature).

Warhammer Online: Trophies

WAR might well be a museum of great ideas given mediocre execution, but I’d urge us not to give up on these ideas just because they might be attached to a game you don’t like (or never did).  I loved a lot of WAR’s ideas, but the trophy system had me all a-twitter from the first moment I heard it.  It really is a brilliant little stroke of genius — transfer the importance of visual customization away from the gear itself to what’s on the gear: trophies and dyes.  Players could collect trophies by various means, and then put a few of them on various locations on their armor, ideally giving them a unique look from the rest of their class.

Unfortunately, two major problems kept the trophy system from really succeeding.  The first was that you didn’t get many trophies unless you were high level, so you’d spend most of your leveling days not enjoying trophies whatsoever.  The second was that most trophies were teeny tiny microscopic dots that you’d have to zoom your screen right up to it to see — never mind other players jogging by.  In short, they didn’t do enough to visually set you apart, because you didn’t have enough of them and they were too small.

But that doesn’t mean that trophies should be abandoned!  Players across all MMORPGs show great enthusiasm for collecting “fluff” gear and items and auras that do nothing for your stats, but help to create a unique appearance, and trophies mesh well with that.  Devs should like them because they offer another type of loot to collect (and hand out), and players always like having something on their avatar that makes others pull up short and notice.

What other ideas would you like to see taken from one MMO and spread to others?

15 thoughts on “Transplanted Ideas

  1. The skill system in Guild Wars is love. Too bad I keep trying to play it solo, so I don’t get very far due to the limitations of ordering henchmen/heroes around 😦

    The other big thing for me is Mabinogi’s combat system. It’s essentially a modified version of rock-paper-scissors, but it forces you to learn different mob behaviors and figure out what they’re about to do.

    For example, a bear that’s circling you is in defensive mode, so you should run up to it and use a smash attack. On the other hand, a bear standing up and roaring at you is in counterattack mode, so cancel your counterattack stance and wait it out or shoot it from a distance. And finally, a bear that starts walking away is actually faking you out and will immediately charge at you with a smash attack, so either wait in counterattack stance or interrupt it with a regular attack.

    The big plus is that it removes the emphasis on gear (so you can run around naked with a lute and still kick butt) and it really captures the slower pace of Asian combat, where you wait for your opponent to make the first move.

    Unfortunately, the magic-counter trick kind of ruins the whole thing. If you fling some ice at a mob, this tricks the AI into running at you with a normal attack, which is easily thwarted with a counterattack stance.

  2. EQ1 also had the 8 spell limit (though it only applied to spells and not “skills” per se, and not melee at all), and I thought it also created a kind of strategic mindset to the game. You could change out whenever you wanted by digging into your spellbook, but you could only have 8 spells ready at any one time. I agree, I think that can create interesting choices and differentiations within a class.

    I had forgotten about WAR’s trophies, probably because I think I only ever had 1, and like you say it was barely visible. But more MMOs should definitely consider the appearance customization or alternate appearance slots. There’s nothing worse than looking mismatched as a hero. WoW’s Burning Crusade was the worst for this. I think it is literally impossible NOT to look like a clown decked out in mid-60’s gear for any class in WoW. Whereas I loved EQ2 and LotRO’s secondary appearance slot idea – keep the stats from whatever the latest shiney that dropped, but hey – you get to look however YOU want! And this can open up a whole other minigame of crafting. More MMOs (*cough WOW cough*) should do this, please.

    One final game mechanic that I want to see more of – the mentoring-sidekicking mechanic from CoX, AoC, and EQ2. Nothing was more annoying than in EQ1, and to some extent WoW (though it was moreso in EQ1 because it took so long to level) than outleveling your friends and not being able to group with them. This should be a mainstream mechanic by now. It just makes sense in any level based system to allow your subscribers to play with their friends. Happy subscribers == paying subscribers.

  3. Eve Online’s buy orders. No more guessing on what the buyers would pay for a product, and suppliers can use the buy orders to help them decide what to do next. If the crafting system was comprehensive enough, there would be no need for “collect X items”-quests anymore.

  4. Guild Wars skill system is great, as well as their choice to downplay the leveling part with their early max level and just a few attributes tied to the levels.

    As for other good ideas I must of course mention City of Heroes/Villains approach to teaming and encouraging team experience. It is not a single feature there, but a whole bunch of features that play out really well together as a whole. Sidekicking is just one of those features which some has imitated.

    The CoH/CoV creatures with relative levels is also a quite nice feature, if the game is level-based.

  5. Global Agenda has a similar limitation to Guild Wars in that you can slot only 7 class skills and a “pick-up” skill for team equipment.

    Makes for some tough choices at times, particularly for a robotics class. I’ve been yelled at a few times in-game for not slotting someone’s favourite piece of support gear.

  6. I, too, liked the Guild Wars system (and EQ system) where you had to pick and choose what to use, when. It adds a lot of strategy to a situation… and strategy is FUN. Furthermore, it’s not so cumbersome that it takes away from the game… in EQ, for example, you can memorize different spell builds and find somewhere safe for a minute to load different spells.

    Another thing I really liked about EQ was the Alternate Advancement system – it was sort of like WoW’s Talent Trees, except you could pick and choose any of the “talents” you wanted (some did have prereqs — but it wasn’t done in trees and there’s no limit to the number of AAs you can have). AA’s were learned in place of Experience — so you could turn your experience meter off and gain AA advancement instead. Like talents, there were innate ones (ie higher chance to crit, higher intelligence score) or ones that were similar to spells, but did not count as one of the 8 spells you could use (for example, my druid had an instant invis AA that wouldn’t wear out).

    I only ever played SWG for a few weeks — and that was before SOE made the ugly changes to it — but I loved the Sandbox utility that game had… where you could make a build of your character that went in whole tons of directions. SWG, before the changes were made, was only modestly successful (indeed, SOE and LucasArts had to be disappointed with the results to make the changes they made when there were still over 200,000 paying costumers)… and I guess you could say, in that regard, it didn’t work… but I have to think another game could come out there, be equally customizable and have equal sandbox potential, and be a huge success. The “problems” with SWG, to begin with, was never the mechanics of how the game worked… the reason I stopped playing was because it was hard to even find mobs and SOE never gave players reason enough to stick around in the player-made cities… which would have been more aptly-named Ghost Towns. But the actual way the game worked, the system that it ran on, was equal parts fascinating and brilliant.

  7. I agree, sometimes I wish things would be more popular with other games.

    I always liked was clickies from EQ- A skill you didn’t have to load up, you had a clickable item that cast a spell. I love these types of items, may it be an illusion or a buff. Then again this goes along with having a more limited amount of abilities loaded up at one time.

    Another one that I absolutely love is the appearance tab EQ2 has. Oh how I wish I had it in other games!

  8. I loved the limited skill set from Guild Wars, as you can set up some very specialised builds and it offered some real dilemmias as to what skills to take with you.
    I liked the trophies from WAR, but agree that they weren’t really visable enough. As already mentioned, the secondary clothing set from LotRO is great too – anything that allows you to customise the look of your character to how you want it to look is good as you feel more attached that toon.

  9. Speaking of secondary clothing: Earth Eternal has a feature that moves stats from one item to another, overwriting any old stats but keeping the looks. Good stats and good looks don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

  10. After reading this post I fired up Guild wars again last night after not playing it for probably 2 years.

    It’s still a pretty decent game and all my characters were still there although I’m sure they looked different last time I was on, lol.

    I’m probably going to play it through from the start to level 20 and give the eye of the north content a proper going over as I didn’t really get that stuck into it last time

  11. To be fair, WAR recognized the complaint people had about trophies being too tiny. If you look at any of the new trophies introduced (since at least LotD), they are all considerably larger, and quite visible.

  12. I’m a fan of the “giant monster” code in CoX. That’s the bit that makes a mob deal and take damage proportional to “your level” no matter what level the PC is. So a level 20 player and a level 60 player experience more or less the same challenge.

    While I wouldn’t want to see it used everywhere (anyone who played Oblivion knows it removes all sense of character power progression), it does allow for “event” quests that are open to everyone.

    In Asheron’s Call 1, there were “story arc” quests added every month that advanced the plot of the world — another idea someone should try, with the new tools (instancing, phasing, etc.) that have become available since 1999. AC’s story quests were mostly designed for the content-hungry top levels, excluding the more casual players. If AC1 had had “giant monster” code, it would have been possible for everyone to participate in the story.

    Another idea I’d steal from CoX (and LotRO) is the handling of achievements, You do certain things — complete raids, kill X mobs of a certain type, spend time stunned, etc. — you get a badge and a title. Rather than a mere title, though, I’d like those achievements to have cosmetic options associated with them. You get the achievement for healing 100,000 points of damage, you get a “red cross” bandanna you can put on your PC’s arm.

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