From reading the blog entry, I'm getting the impression that the game will have a 4:1 scale, is that correct? After all, if I walk 4x as fast as would be expected but my walk appears normal (i.e. the scenery isn't flashing past me), then if I walk for an hour to traverse the entire starting region top to bottom I will have walked past 3 miles of terrain, not 12. That means the size of the world itself is not 133 square virtual miles, but rather 8.3 square virtual miles.
There was a lot of interesting discussion of game world sizes in the thread for the Crusader Road blog post. Some sizes offered for comparison from other games were 80 sqm for WoW at launch, 16 sqm in Oblivion, and 10 sqm for Morrowind. I don't have sources for these numbers, I'm just repeating what was discussed there. At the time, 133 sqm for PFO seemed huge - however 8.3 sqm seems quite small.
That size may be perfectly fine though, with a small starting population and gradual ramp up of subscribers, plus the fact that you want people to come into conflict on a regular basis. Also, much of the perceived size of the world is affected by the design of the terrain. I'm expecting lots of rivers that make straight-line travel difficult.
Have I misunderstood what walking speed implies for world scale? Wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong. :)
As always, thank you for the blogs and the insight into your design process. I daresay I'm enjoying reading both them and the discussions here as much as I enjoy playing an MMO.
Count me as one who would like to keep the day/night cycle fixed to regular hours in the real world. If I've got an in-game reason for something to happen at midnight, for example, I'd like to know that midnight always happens at 12am, 6am, 12pm, and 6pm my time. That helps me plan it out. I don't want to have to do math each time along the lines of "Let's see, midnight was at 7:38pm today, so on Friday it will be at ... hm .... 8:12pm?"
Yes, this means if I only play from 8-10pm each night I'll always see dusk in-game. But my experience has been that even people with restricted schedules will sometimes play at different times (holidays, weekends, home sick, etc.). I'm willing to trade some lack of variety for predictability.
Ryan Dancey wrote:
Second to the idea of multiple guilds. Let the guilds themselves decide how they want to organize themselves, and get away from a guild just being another chat channel.
To that end, I'd also like my character to be able to hide his guild affiliations. I don't really want to walk around with a sign above my head saying I'm part of the Robber Barons. How am I going to get hired as a caravan guard like that? ;)
It would also promote more conspiracies and fourth-column type activities. Sure, I could do this outside of a formal game structure - but I'd like the game social structure to mimic what it is that we as players have formed. And that is liable to be much more complex than just a tag by my name.
There two differences from Darkfall that I see in this system. First, you don't get to take all of a players stuff when you kill them, so the reward for the behavior is less. Second, you don't lose anything you have equipped, so the penalty is less. Between these two, I don't think we'll see the same complete abandonment of any non-caster class.
In fact, most of the time in dangerous areas I expect to be wearing my best equipment (making it immune to loss), and not carrying very much else.
As always, thanks for the dev blogs, please keep them coming!
Here's an emergent player behavior in response to the looting system that you might want to consider. If I know that anyone killing me will get a random sample of things from my bag as a reward, then I will make sure my bags are always full of worthless crap ("rocks", for shorthand). As I find things I want to loot, I'll replace the rocks with the better loot; until I eventually get somewhere to sell my haul. This doesn't help me save any of my loot if I'm killed, but it does reduce the chance that my killer was rewarded for that behavior. It would also be very annoying having to constantly move the rocks around.
To combat this, consider making the roll to determine what you find in a husk based on the total size of the bags, not just what is carried. If I've just got one thing, I don't want my killer to be guaranteed that he will get that as a reward. I want him to have the same chance as if I'd filled the rest of my bags with rocks.
At least from the way I hear it, the skills will be trained, but you are still training for the next one while you earn the first one. So basically in both cases they will be training the skill to unlock the next one, the highly active player will just have more downtime between earning his badge and the next. Odds are at 19 before...
You could very well be right. I was assuming that skill advancement within an archetype path would stop until you had earned the merit badge that was currently available for earning. But there's no real reason for me to assume that.
I do think that the requirements for earning the merit badges will be much more difficult than people expect, especially at the high levels. I base this assumption on Ryan's indication that he wants capstone characters to be rare. I'm thinking level 20 will be something more along the lines of assembling a legendary weapon in WoW, as opposed to a short series of quests you could do in a few hours.
One slight clarification. In PFO, you earn skills over time, and those allow you to begin the process of earning the merit badges for levels. So, Goblinworks can set a minimum advancement time by knowing how fast the skills advance. But there is then some player-effort needed to actually earn the levels as they are available, and the power gamers will get that done faster.
I'm guessing they'll set the skills at say 24 months to get enough for a level 20, assuming that some players will actually hit it around month 30. And then find the power gamers hit it at month 25, because that's what they always do. :)
Vic Wertz wrote:
Remember, the whole goal here is to *level* the playing field. The character you describe won't be a better wizard than a character who's *just* Wizard 20, but he *will* have more options to choose from at any given time. The advantage "older" characters have is not power, it's flexibility.
But how much better will a level 20 Wizard be than a level 10 Wizard? That's something that will be quite a gap for "older" characters - does it also translate to flexability rather than power?
Obviously, its not either/or, and there's a curve involved. But what is the shape of that curve? If the design goal is "leveling the playing field", then I'm assuming it's not too steep.
3) Interdependency. A game like PFO should be focused on teamwork, group, faction and community play. A cornerstone of creating a strong dynamic in that regards is interdependency... i.e. The Wizard is dependent upon the Fighter who is dependent on the Cleric, etc.... By allowing all those sort of abilities to be concentrated in 1 player... you are essentially killing that aspect of interdependency in the game... and turning it much more into a solo-focused game.
Excellent point. I tend to think of things just in terms of my own character, since I'm more of a loner type of player. But a healthy sandbox game absolutely needs people to be interdependent.
I could see agreeing with a system that allowed you to work on anything, but limited what you could do at any one time. Selecting a subset of skills in town, or once a month, or however that would be coordinated. Just so that you couldn't switch between one pull and the next.
My personal preference would be for skills that aren't in use to decline. So, if a lvl 20 Fighter starts working on his Cleric skills, some of his top Fighter skills will fade. He could always learn them again, but the rate of decay would be set so you couldn't be lvl 20 in two things at once. He can do whatever he wants, and his skills will reflect what he's been doing, but he can't do it all at the same time. His character will be an ever-changing reflection of his playstyle.
From an in-game perspective, it also makes sense that if you stop training with the sword you get rusty. Not that I'm ever in favor of "reality" trumping game mechanics - but this is one time where they'd both mesh.
However, I'm betting I'm in a very small minority for being willing to have this mechanic. Taking things away is generally considered a big "no-no". :)
I'm not sure I like the..."off-line skill advancement" aspect....and I'm not sure what practical effect it has if it simply determines when you can start earning "merit badges" .... does skill advancement give you anything on it's own?
That's something I wondered as well. In EVE, the skills have ranks. So investing real world time in raising a skill both improves your character and serves as a gating mechanism to prevent people from getting everything on day 1. But here, the skills don't directly improve your performance, so they're left as just naked gating mechanic. "You can't be level 4 till Thursday."
From what I gather, the skills don't have ranks but they are tied to the ability to use a certain item. So, a Fighter might skill up short sword, then broadsword, depending on what type of weapon he wanted to use. Then I'm imagining the level merit badges will contain requirements like "gain skill in 3 melee weapons of your choice" or somesuch.
Long rambling here with no specific questions - feel free to skip. :)
When I first read this blog entry, I was thrown for a loop because it was quite different than what I was expecting. I was looking for real-time gated skill acquisition, with bundles of skills making up a class and no specific class levels. I had certain (perhaps unrealistic) expectations that a skill-based system would be more accessible and sandbox-friendly than a class level-based system. But now we see that the system does, in fact have class levels.
But on reflection, I see that the accessibility that I'm looking for does not depend on what character advancement mechanic is used, but rather on how it is implemented. There are two things I'm looking for in my mental image of "sandbox fantasy MMO" as it relates to character development:
These two things give me a reason to play a single character for a long time and continue to grow, while not creating such a high bar of access that new players cannot compete with the existing player base.
The progression potential is not unlimited - there are 20 levels per archetype and no more. However, the goals for the speed of skill gaining (2+ years per archetype) mean that it is effectively unlimited. So that's a check.
That just leaves what I'm calling "accessibility", though that term has other uses. Here I mean the ability to play with who I want to play with. To achieve that, the game will need a rather flat power curve. If a level 20 character can kill any level 15 or below character in one strike while remaining invulnerable themselves, then this will become a case of "first get to max level, then do the fun stuff". That's going to be very bad if it takes 2 years to get to that max level. Sure, you could be a merchant in town and be safe at a lower level - but we want to attract future players who are interested in all roles.
It applies in PvE as well as PvP. Can I go into a dungeon with people 10 levels higher than me and contribute? Or are all of the mobs impossible for me to hit? I'm not saying there should be no difference. I'm quite fine with the level 20 characters saying "Stay away from the dragon here - you don't have the skills to survive. You need to keep his orc slaves from attacking us while we fight him." In a PvP sense, as a level 10 Fighter I ought to look at a level 20 Fighter and think "There's no way I can beat him alone - he's far more skilled. But if I got five of my friends together we could probably overwhelm his guard." And I should look at a level 1 Fighter and think "All he knows how to do is stick me with the pointy end - but if he does it's gonna hurt."
This flat power curve doesn't just apply to the capstone ability, or lack thereof. It also applies to all abilities you gain as you level up a class. If the level 15 ability is important to my role, then I'm stuck for 14 levels. If it's "icing, not cake" like the capstone then it's fine. But that's a lot of icing, with all of cake packed in at the first few levels. It also means that the levels in PFO will mean very different things from the levels in PF PnP. You won't go from "rat killer" to "demigod". You'll go from "apprentice" to "grandmaster".
This type of incremental improvement, combined with a slow leveling pace, will hopefully serve to make the levels fade in importance. If I don't have to worry about getting the right level for a quest, or a dungeon, or an important skill, or to group with someone else or storm a castle; then I can stop thinking of myself as a "Level 7 Barbarian" or a "Level 14 Barbarian". I can just be a "Barbarian", and get on with playing the game. :)
I've been assuming you'd be able to have skills gaining on all your alts at the same time. This would be the benefit provided to the player who has lots more time to play. His Fighter wouldn't be higher level than a more casual player's Fighter, but he'd have more options because he'd also have a Wizard and a Cleric.
How will your hit points be determined? A level 20 Fighter would normally have many more hit points than a level 1 Wizard; but if he's a level 20 Fighter that just decided to start being a Wizard, does he lose his former "beefiness"?
It's been decades since I played D&D, so I may be asking obvious questions. But I'm still interested how mechanics like this will apply to a never-ending MMO. If my hit points increase as my Archetype level increases, will they stop growing at some point? Go down?
Once you hit 20 merit badges you will be unable to achieve any more "class" merit badges and by association you will not get any more "class" abilities.
I don't think this is what they are describing, based on this line from the blog:
And of course, reaching the capstone doesn't mean your character has to retire—you can continue training the same character with a different archetype if you like.
Now, they might be saying "You can keep training in a different archetype but you won't gain any of the abilities of that archetype", but I don't think that's what they mean.
I guess what strikes me most about the capstone abilities is this line from the blog: "Capstone-level characters should be unique, powerful individuals not commonly encountered."
You can't have that in an MMO. If something makes you unique and powerful, then everyone will eventually get it. Then they're no longer unique, and they're not powerful in relation to each other. They're only powerful in relation to new players who don't yet have it.
What must make you unique and powerful is you as a player, not your character. Your experience, your dedication and knowledge, your social network and allegiances, and your intelligence. Character development should facilitate this, but it should not replace it.
Great post, thanks for the detailed information on the game development and please keep it coming!
My main concern also relates to the capstone abilities, but not just the order in which they are received. I'm more concerned with whether they really fit with this design at all. It seems counter to the design goal of letting late comers participate in a meaningful way to have an ability that requires 2.5 years to learn. Either it's a powerful ability, in which new players are out-of-luck for the first 2.5 years; or it's a trivial ability, and then you wonder why you spent all that time learning it.
I'd much rather favor a system where specialization costs exponential time and gives linear rewards. So, any important ability to being a Fighter should be something you can learn fairly early. Additional time would make you a (slightly) better fighter, not a different one.
Ryan Dancey wrote:
I sense you have an idea in mind for how to handle this. Is it aggressive community management? Or is it to make the characters less disposable?
Frankly, I like the idea of less disposable characters. I like knowing my actions have consequences that will follow me for months or years to come. I like seeing that my character has a long tail of history behind them that would be difficult to recreate. If this also reduces griefing, so much the better.