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Lessons Learned - What Not to do


Pathfinder Online

Goblin Squad Member

This might get ugly fast, but it might not. I thought it might be helpful to hear complaints people have about existing systems, to try to avoid similar pitfalls in PFO.

My own contribution is something that makes me livid every time I run across it in LOTRO. It might not be a problem in PFO, since it's really related to the LOTRO being a Theme Park.

Basically, in any given area, there might be three different mobs that can spawn: A Bear, a Pig, or a Wolf. The problem comes in that, any time any creature spawns, it has an equal chance to be one of the three, regardless of how many are already spawned. What happens is that characters go through questing, killing every Wolf because they need Wolf Tails. Over time, if no one is killing the Bears and Pigs, eventually you get to where there aren't any Wolves spawned at all.

This system is so perverse because I have to kill Bears and Pigs in order to make room for Wolves to spawn, but if there's another player running around only killing Wolves, he is getting all the benefit, and I'm getting royally screwed.


This is a problem that seems to be common in Theme Park Games. It's one of the reasons I have lost intrest on them . It has not been an issue in most of the sandbox games I have played though.

I think part of the issue is rooted in the fact that static spawns are primarily designed to support static quests and to maximise the amount of content in a theme park game, these have to me packed in to small areas to ensure there is enough space in the game world to support lots of these static quests, to ensure players don't get bored. In the end it becomes matter of content density.

Now in other games I have played which were sandbox based this is rarely an issue as these static quests either do not exists or are strategically placed so as to not over saturate an area with competing spawns. Since Pathfinder Online is being designed a a Sandbox with Theme Park elements I think this will be less of an issue.

One of my bigest dislikes about the current crop and past MMO's is related to yours, but may be directed more at the underlying mechanism. Static quests in general drive me crazy and kill any sense of immersion the game otherwise is able to generate. To put it the context of Pathfinder, think of the following scenario:

'I am wandering across the countryside and happen across a farm being harassed by kobolds. Now since I am a nice guy I rush over and dispatch the little yapping beasts. The farmer thanks me and asks if I would be willing to track down their lair and take care of them which I do.'

Now if I see another person later doing the same quest or find the farm under attack by the same kobolds again, any immersion that the quest just built.

I do not mind quests that can be repeated by myself or other players if there is a logical reason to repeat it such as resource gathering quests or if I failed to finish the quest, but any other static quests just break my interest in a game. I much prefer the little non-story quests to be dynamic like is used in in Skyrim. Their radiant story engine seems like a better solution then resting static quests.

If I killed the kobolds and the next guy can too, then the world is not persistant and dynamic, its static and just a theme park.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Illogical random drops.

I've said it before in other posts on these boards, but I REALLY hate random drops that make absolutely no sense. Why does the bear drop a shield? Why did the ghost drop magic pants? Why does this elemental have schematics to a weapon? *sighs*

Just... please, drops that make sense. That is all I ask. Oh, and an Artificer class.

To the above, I agree that logical spawning and non-repetitive questing would be huge boons to PFO's ability to stand out against other MMOs. I mean, hell, Pathfinder and D&D are the kings of generating adventure hooks to get player characters engaged in the world; why not use that knowledge to make PFO engaging and awesome-sauce?

Goblin Squad Member

2 people marked this as a favorite.

My top 10 worst game designs:

1. Instances - PvE, PvP and housing, takes players out of the world.
2. Graphics - Developer resource hog, less unique game mechanics and features.
3. Zone Levels - no need to revisit zone after you out level.
4. Set Gear - Forces you to play a certain way, everyones a clone of each other.
5. Global Auction House - Killed crafting as a profession.
6. End Game - Creates mmo of the month, no long term success.
7. Full Loot - Segregated the gaming population, no more need to PvE.
8. Small Worlds - No exploration
9. Large Raid Bosses - Created Elitists, content for only a small minority.
10. Questing - No need to use your imagination, developers RP for you.

Goblin Squad Member

While I agree with all of your points, there is one I don't fully suport.

2.) Graphics

I'm not a graphicswhore, I still play Baldur's Gate and whatnot. Nevertheless there are many games that benefit from good graphics. MMORPGs belong to this type of games. It's a lot more immersive, a lot more motivating to walk through a beautifully crafted world with GOOD character animations than an empty, grey shell. Take DarkFall for example. Just horrible.


I think when BlackUhuru mentions graphics he means graphics instead of meaningful game mechanics.

Its one thing I see time and time again. Developers investing too much time in developing the looks of a game before they build a solid and timeless gameplay mechanic. At this point I still do not feel that anyone has nailed the gameplay mechanic for MMO's.

Graphics capability of game systems advance so fast it really should be left for last to ensure it is as current as it can be. While building a solid gameplay mechanic can be developed without fancy graphics and will not diminish, in its relevance over time, to the same degree as graphics do.

My only real beef with graphics is they they pick a style and maintain that style throughout the game and interface. Timeless and relevant graphics do not nee to be realistic, just look at shows like CloneWars. Flat shaded and angular can be just as striking photorealistic.

Goblin Squad Member

@BitPhoenix

That's exactly what I mean!

Goblin Squad Member

I agree that graphics are really secondary. The most engaging, immersive experience I ever had playing an online RPG was a text-only mud. If I could talk my wife into playing it with me, I'd probably still be playing it to this day.

Goblin Squad Member

Earning tokens to buy gear. I didn't mind this system when it first appeared in games but its been overdone.

In SWTOR you pvp for commendations you use to buy two other commendations that you use to buy bags that have another type of token that you use to buy gear. Blarg!

Also, I'd like to bring back the old EQ rare drops from named mobs with rare spawns. I know it can be annoying but when i play games that don't have it....i miss it.

Goblin Squad Member

As far as graphics go, I could live with average enviroments if they can make the avatars look good.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Here is another...

Better gear is always more flashy or obnoxious. Why is it that good gear always have to more and more over the top. Why do the looks and power of my gear have to be linked? Why should my appearance give away my power?


BitPhoenix wrote:

Here is another...

Better gear is always more flashy or obnoxious. Why is it that good gear always have to more and more over the top. Why do the looks and power of my gear have to be linked? Why should my appearance give away my power?

THANK YOU!

This is especially evident in world of warcraft. When I imagine a rogue I often imagine someone totally unasuming and well, sneaky. End game gear for rogues in WoW is overt and in your face. Really nothing that says "sneaky".

I do admit that sometimes I like ostentatious gear- but not all gear (and especially not all good gear) should look elaborate.

Goblin Squad Member

Here are the top few dislikes for me

1) Linked mobs that come in bunches. Split pulling was an art at one time.
2) Mobs that give up after you run a few feet. If you hit one it should not give up until one of you is dead or leaves the zone.
3) Non-social mobs. If I am killing something, its buddy/mate across the road should notice and come help if its close enough.
4) Locked encounters.
5) Games you can solo all the way through.
6) Lack of LARGE raid content scaled for all levels.
7) Non existent death penalties or corpse runs.
8) Lag. Old games with 72 man raids didn't lag as much as some do these days with less than 6 people in group.
9) Teleporting.
10) Radar and mini maps that show everything.

That will do for now. =)


Gameplay and mechanics trumps bling. I don't care how shiny the bling is, if your combat sucks ass, your game sucks ass too. [AoC] It could have been so much better, but they dumbed it down. There was talk of using a mouse movement for swinging swords and such, but I guess Mount and Blade style combat is too hard. Even the mounted combat in Mount and Blade makes Two Worlds look like a joke in progress. And the archery!! No more click and hit, actual timing and aiming. FAR superior.

Click and hit is for kiddies. If they design PFO for kiddies, then it's no different than WoW, so why bother? Because it's a sandbox? Big deal. If it's too easy to play, it's going to get boring FAST, and will end up with stupid long fights just for the sake of stupid long fights. YAWN...

Goblin Squad Member

Misere wrote:

1) Linked mobs that come in bunches. Split pulling was an art at one time.

...
3) Non-social mobs. If I am killing something, its buddy/mate across the road should notice and come help if its close enough.

How do you fix one without breaking the other?

Goblin Squad Member

Nihimon wrote:
Misere wrote:

1) Linked mobs that come in bunches. Split pulling was an art at one time.

...
3) Non-social mobs. If I am killing something, its buddy/mate across the road should notice and come help if its close enough.
How do you fix one without breaking the other?

If I'm understanding him correctly I believe he wants pulling to be possible but not extremely easy. IE you have to try to get one monster out of sight of the others to get it alone.

He is disliking the 2 extremes where, 1. You kill a baby 2 feet from it's mother and it just watches unconcerned, and 2. Enemies are hive minded and you hurt one and the group comes no matter what.

Personally when it comes to 3. I think the greater issue is how common non-agro mobs are in games. Seriously especially in the case of humanoids when you are killing a sentient being that only fights in self defense... how on earth do the games view you as the hero, and them as the psychopath.

Course I also do have some distaste for the non-linked mobs also.. It never really occoured to me when an enemy who knows his friends are within 15' who gets shot in the ankle, is overconfident enough to run around the corner to attack a group, without taking the .5 seconds to shout "Hey" to his buddies. To top it off his buddies turn around 5 seconds later and their friend has vanished, and think nothing of it.


Nihimon wrote:
Misere wrote:

1) Linked mobs that come in bunches. Split pulling was an art at one time.

...
3) Non-social mobs. If I am killing something, its buddy/mate across the road should notice and come help if its close enough.
How do you fix one without breaking the other?

Some games have had hard coded encounters in which that group of 3 mobs will *always* come as 3 (early Vanguard Beta, early days of EQ2, Swtor I believe as well) regardless of skills or abilities used, I'm assuming that's the situation he's referring to, while other games have managed to have groups of mobs that would only come as the full pack if they were within a certain radius of each other or possible to split off with skills/abilities.

For example, if I let that ogre roam 30 feet from his friends, he'll come single and the others won't notice, however if I misjudge and he's actually within 25 feet of his friends, and within their aggro radius, they will notice and join in.

It's possible to allow for mobs assisting each other without hard coding them to always come as a group, and I've always found that to be an enjoyable mechanic to master.

As he mentioned, in EQ, split pulling was an art, a good puller earned reputation as there was skill involved. It may sound like a small mechanic, but it had a huge impact on how the game played as a whole.

I was more proud of the pulling tricks I'd mastered on my ranger over the years than I was of any gear he had. I've really missed that in recent games.


I for one would prefer something along the lines of click and hit. I suppose I'm a 'kiddy'. :)


Split pulling was necessary in EQ because crowd control was scarce. It might be fun to see split pulling return as an interesting mechanic, but I would never want to see it become "the strategy" ever again. An option, sure. Required, no.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Hudax wrote:
Split pulling was necessary in EQ because crowd control was scarce. It might be fun to see split pulling return as an interesting mechanic, but I would never want to see it become "the strategy" ever again. An option, sure. Required, no.

It wasn't required in EQ, either. Clerics had the Calm/Pacify spells, Druids had Harmony, and the entire Enchanter class was dedicated to crowd control.

Crowd control did exist, and most classes had some form of it, it just wasn't easy to use without communicating with your group. Which is as it should be.

I would personally kill anyone you pointed to if it would bring us a crowd control, buffs, debuffs and utility class like the EQ1 Enchanter.

Goblin Squad Member

Nihimon wrote:
Misere wrote:

1) Linked mobs that come in bunches. Split pulling was an art at one time.

...
3) Non-social mobs. If I am killing something, its buddy/mate across the road should notice and come help if its close enough.
How do you fix one without breaking the other?

Linked mobs were different than social mobs. You had to get too close to another mob to aggro it with social mobs. Linked mobs you couldn't pry apart with a wedge. The whole bunch came no matter what you did and retreated together when aggro broke. Also, the mobs were highlighted. When you clicked on one in the linked bunch, the whole bunch lit up and blinked for you.


Probitas wrote:

Gameplay and mechanics trumps bling. I don't care how shiny the bling is, if your combat sucks ass, your game sucks ass too. [AoC] It could have been so much better, but they dumbed it down. There was talk of using a mouse movement for swinging swords and such, but I guess Mount and Blade style combat is too hard. Even the mounted combat in Mount and Blade makes Two Worlds look like a joke in progress. And the archery!! No more click and hit, actual timing and aiming. FAR superior.

Click and hit is for kiddies. If they design PFO for kiddies, then it's no different than WoW, so why bother? Because it's a sandbox? Big deal. If it's too easy to play, it's going to get boring FAST, and will end up with stupid long fights just for the sake of stupid long fights. YAWN...

I'm so with you on this, to an extent. I'd be satisfied even with NwN 1 style controls/camera in this sort of game.

As long as something *feels* smooth, the controls are snappy, and combat is too complex to optimize down to a "skill rotation" I'm good.

I don't expect "BOOM HEADSHOT" in a P&P based game. However, making things such as movement and positioning of vital important (with collision) would be a huge step towards making combat enjoyable instead of boring. I think GW2 has found a happy medium between player and character skill.

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

One thing of concern to me when I think about it with PFO is the time/skill based Eve-like system. It somewhat works in Eve because a character can achieve the skills necessary to successfully participate in nullsec fleet battles within a few months of starting. With the caveat of course that they will be filling a specific role (like tackling) that doesn't necessarily require a huge investment of skill points and they are being bankrolled by an existing corporation.

How do you allow a character whose combat utility (is themselves) instead of their equipment do the same thing? If you can't facilitate someone getting into the sandbox elements within a few months once the game is mature, how do you attract new players?

Lets say (for instance) the game has been out 1 year. Joe joins, attempts to join his friends in their player run settlement in the wilds. Can he expect to just be dominated by everyone and their brother forever because they will perpetually be in front of him?

I know the thing that turns many people off of Eve is the fact that they will "never catch up". As in, most everyone I've ever had try it has given me that reason for leaving a few months later.

Eve is the best game on the market nobody plays. Everyone leaves with a relatively fond impression of what has been done, but they don't actually want to engage with it because of how it has been done.

A new player in Eve is looking at weeks or months (depending on playtime) of running agent missions, unprofitable relatively safe trade routes, or mind-numbing mining before they have the capital and skills necessary to do anything exciting. That is the major pitfall of Eve, and I would hope it's not replicated in sandbox successors.

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

Another thing that concerns me is that in Eve unless you are tackled with a bunch of scrams and whatnot it's relatively easy to run from the majority of battles. Don't want to fight that pirate battleship? Good, warp away to a random asteroid field or somewhere in dead-space if you have a bookmark before it gets within range. This has the effect of making the game less "ganky" by allowing very paranoid and responsive players to avoid most battles against opponents that would obliterate them.

Without such escape mechanisms present the wild areas of PFO will look much more like Darkfall than Eve nullsec, which if that's what the devs are going for...is fine I suppose. Only, unlike Darkfall if you are a come-lately character (time=character power) you'd have no chance to survive unless the combat is extremely "twitch" based and you're hella good at it. Meaning the "civilized" areas would have to have tons of great quasi-sandbox types of content to fill the gap of... 2.5 years was it? That's a tall order.

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

For the record, I've played Eve off and on since it's closed beta. The thing that always leads to me deactivating my sub for 6-18 months at a time is that I hit a wall where in order to do more of the stuff I want to do I'm waiting 3+ weeks on a skillset to finish training.

Maybe I got bored with driving around in my battleship in lowsec with occasional skirmishes and agent missions and I want to try a stealth bomber to see if I can pirate some of those multi-boxing miners. Keep sub active and offline train for 5 months so I can pilot the version I wanted and kit out how I desired? Nah...I'll just go play something else.

Time-based skill training turns a world of possibilities into, "I can only do 2-3 things really well and suck at everything else." So, there may be a million things to do in game, but your account can only do 5 of them.

Goblin Squad Member

Misere wrote:
Nihimon wrote:
Misere wrote:

1) Linked mobs that come in bunches. Split pulling was an art at one time.

...
3) Non-social mobs. If I am killing something, its buddy/mate across the road should notice and come help if its close enough.
How do you fix one without breaking the other?
Linked mobs were different than social mobs. You had to get too close to another mob to aggro it with social mobs. Linked mobs you couldn't pry apart with a wedge. The whole bunch came no matter what you did and retreated together when aggro broke. Also, the mobs were highlighted. When you clicked on one in the linked bunch, the whole bunch lit up and blinked for you.

I see the distinction you're making, and I agree. Hard-linked groups of mobs aren't a proper solution. For my part, I'd really like most intelligent mobs, and all humanoids, to call for help.

Goblin Squad Member

My 2 cents re: Graphics vs Mechanics

Its can be much much more time consuming to build up the art assets for most games than to implement the mechanics, and the mechanics by the very nature of a living game (as MMOs are) will be changed and tweaked and rebalanced ad infinitum. To that I'd say aim high on the visuals, because its going to be what you're looking at for the duration of the game. Revamping and renovating a graphics engine and all the textures is rarely if ever actually done due to the dramatic timesink/costs.

my list of top No-No's in no particular order:

-- Boars with axes as loot (and other non sequiter loot). Immersion breaking to be sure, and just kinda lazy feeling on the design side.
-- Un-changed repetition of starting area experience. I tend to try to play a number of different character types before i settle on one to advance, and nothing is as boring/irritating as having to so the same thing each time.
-- Un-customizable controls. I have a particular way of using mouse/keys to do my thing, and if I have to completely relearn the basic interface because trying to use my mouse makes me kill a villager (DDO i'm lookin at you), I'm gonna get grumpy.
-- Narrow method of play focus. Some are PvP focused, some games PvE, some group dependent, some Solo focused. I want PFO to have all of those facets, but not be overly devoted to one over the other.
-- Over dependance on instancing. Some can be useful, but too much is 10 different kinds of hassle, and all that hassle means less time for fun.
-- Exploitable collision physics. I love bumping into people, I hate not being able to move through a crowd. If acrobatics can get you through an Ogre's square in the tabletop experience, I don't want to have to bounce off his hitbox in PFO.
-- Significant time-lag between log in and adventure. I'd love to have the option of sitting down and not having to drop 15 minutes of my life just to get into the game. Maybe that means solo-buildable hideouts that i can dump in the middle of nowhere, or maybe that means i can camp out without significant penalties to my gameplay, or maybe the "adventure" is closer to where i do log out.

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