I hope you don’t mind a wall of text - but this is something I’ve focused on for years - I don’t know how old you are or what your MMO background is - but what you describe (almost every single point) is what the original Ultima Online offered (it was the ‘first’ MMO, if you’re not familiar with it - you should really, really read about it - I recommend reading anything UO related you can find on Raph Koster’s website (he was the principal designer) raphkoster.com, you could also search for things from Richard Garriott who created the Ultima series.) I’m going to give you some point-by-point information, and I want to say up front that I hope I don’t come off as preachy, but bare with me and see where I’m going with this. I like a lot of your ideas and I hope you might like to hear my input.
The problem boils down to a few facts - 1) the majority of people who play MMOs dislike open PVP and full loot (I will back this up more later) 2) MMOs have gradually moved away from almost every single model you list here BECAUSE of player feedback (again I’ll give examples later, stay with me.) Just so we’re clear, I played Ultima Online from beta for about 6-7 years. I played the original Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, Lineage 2, Shadowbane, World of Warcraft, Asheron’s Call, Warhammer Online - I’ve played a lot of MMOs, and my favorite thing in the world is open PVP and full loot.
- Full Loot
As I stated, Ultima Online was the first real MMO and when it launched it was full loot - anyone or anything who died was fully lootable - the game was designed around this concept (rabbits can be harvested for meat when they die, so wolves eat them, and bears eat wolves, and dragons eat bears, etc etc), if a skeleton has a halberd - he drops it when he dies. If you saw a player in fancy rare armor, you could murder him and take it from his cold dead body. This was a HUGE complaint as the game got traction. People would claim (whether falsely or not) to lose connection (and to be fair it came out when dialup was the most common internet access, it happened) and be furious that they lost all their equipment, sometimes thousands of real life dollars of things - to either dying to a monster (or a person) and then being looted while they were disconnected. There was griefing (purposely hitting someone with a denial of service just to loot them). In my opinion there was a lot of tactical thought that went into it and I loved it - even when I lost things that were immensely valuable. There was a certain hubris to wearing your best items and gear outside of town, you could lose everything - if you were going out to look for trouble most people had a set of gear just for that - run of the mill but still good, wouldn’t break your heart if you lost it.
This was thwarted in two ways - 1) they mirrored the entire world calling the original Felucca and the new copy Trammel - trammel allowed NO PVP and NO LOOTING of players, period and 2) insurance - you could pay a small amount (say 300g per item) to insure every item, this amount was automatically deducted from your bank everytime you died, and assuming you had enough to cover it - it was all automatically reinsured. This worked also in Felucca, meaning you could just insure all of your items and never drop anything. This was done in response to overwhelming complaints about full loot. I hate it, but it’s the truth. This is why pretty much no game does this now, the vast majority of your players are carebears who aren’t interested in fighting or looting other players so it becomes a huge negative to them, they can be attacked and ‘robbed’ while wanting no part of that, that’s not the game for them.
Now I’m going to continue that to say I hate the way they handled it, I love PVP and I loved looting people, I think this was handled unfairly (if you don’t want to lose all your stuff to someone else, don’t play an MMO - instead they changed the rules to suit the people who didn’t want to fight.) Every game that has attempted this (both Open PVP and Full Loot) has failed, Darkfall is the most recent example I can think of. The vast majority of people for some reason don’t like this idea. (I’m sure other things play into it, but I can’t point to a successful one at all.)
- PVP Flagging and Guards
Again, UO had this when it released in 1997, this is old hat. It’s almost identical to how you described it (except guards wouldn’t automatically attack criminals, only people who commited crimes within the town limits or outright murderers - people who’d killed at least 5 innocents.) While the system was a little janky (if someone pick pocketed you or attacked you even 1 inch within the town limits, all you had to do was type ‘guards’ and the guards would teleport to them and instantly kill them with one hit. If the person was flagged PK (murderer) or criminal, they were openly lootable by anyone (if an innocent died within the town limits, looting them would flag you and the guards would respond to a call of guards to instantly kill the person who looted them.) We used to do a sort of leap frog - use a trapped box to kill someone, have someone with nothing on them loot the item or items you want as quickly as possible, if they can get away - great, if not, they will be lootable and a criminal so you can loot their body (what you wanted from the first person) and get away scot free, all you did was loot a criminal.
While the system was a littly janky (with the 1 hit wonder instant teleporting guards) it worked - it made cities safe, you didn’t have to worry about it as long as you weren’t AFK at the edge of the city limits or anything, there was even a town (Buc’s den) that had no guards, it was the only town that PKs could bank at, but it was a free for all and there were constantly PK hunters there, it was a very, very dangerous and exciting place. I spent a lot of time there, to me it was insanely fun. I never understood why this wasn’t enough for the carebears - if you want to go into a dungeon shouldn’t it be dangerous? If you want to explore the wilderness shouldn’t there be bandits?
The problem with PVP (open or otherwise) and Full Loot was, is, and always will be two specific things 1) New Players and 2) Noncombatants
- No matter how you turn it, it’s extremely frustrating to get killed by (and potentially lose all of your things) someone who is way, way better off than you. Not necessarily better at the game - but has played it for longer and has more resources than you. Imagine that every game you played you always were half as powerful as everyone else, you did half as much damage, took twice as much, had half as much health etc. Now add to that the ability to lose all your things, and the fact you can be attacked anywhere outside of town (and you can’t level up your skills or get loot in town…) Some games have tackled this with things like low level invulnerability - but that doesn’t change the fact someone who has played for 6 months has way more money to invest in way better items than you, even if you are max level - sometimes it’s just not fair. Ultima Online used to handle this fairly well because there was only so much you could get as far as items went, the best stuff was crafted by grandmaster blacksmith players, it wasn’t prohibitively expensive - so if you were max skill and had GM equipment, you were on a pretty level playing field. Some have handled it with things like ‘noob islands’, where PVP is not possible and once you hit a certain threshold you have to leave. Either way it’s a very hard problem to solve.
and more importantly 2) This goes back to the carebears, the bane of my existence. The fact is, if you look at the dichotomy between who plays what games, you’ll see that massively popular games like WoW manage that popularity by being accessible to everyone. Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad, your 6 year old nephew, the guy with no arms. They can all play and if they don’t want to deal with fighting other people (who are much harder than any computer opponent no matter what), they don’t have to. You should look around, there were some articles I read some time ago about how much time people in WoW spend just sitting in town looking at how awesome they look. Those people would be crushed if they could lose all of their items, and in a game like WoW which is so item dependent, you could become useless if you lost your gear (that took you LITERALLY MONTHS to get.) With Full Loot you simply cut out a huge part of the audience of gaming now.
I hate #2, I feel like games have gotten ridiculously easy compared to the games I grew up with (why is it that original nintendo games are still harder today than almost anything you can play on a ‘next-gen’ console, okay except maybe Dark Souls). But the thing is, unless you can get the not-so-hardcore gamers to play, it’s very hard to become popular. Absolutely every single person I know that still plays WoW only plays because that’s what their friends still play. People like playing with their friends, and if Betty won’t play your game because she gets murdered and loses all her equipment, then Betty’s friends aren’t going to play, they’ll just stay where Betty is and keep their group together. If you can come up with a clever solution to this, one that works - you probably have a multi-million dollar idea.
I really like this idea, it’s got some things in common with slots we’ve seen before (as you said), like gems in Diablo 3 (and other games, even old school Final Fantasy games.) I’ve thought of similar things (only mine were to give resources different characteristics, so that you could create your own custom alloys/mixtures and craft items and weapons from them imparting specific characteristics on them permanently). I liked to imagine this as a kind of thing where there may be some super rare materials (that randomly spawn when all of another very rare material is gone), that have unique properties and exist in limited quantities, meaning different crafters/vendors would be able to create unique items or to work towards a master work that would be unique - the resource itself would be very valuable, and what you did with it could either ruin it or make it powerful and expensive. I liked this idea because to me it gave a throw back to UO. In UO if an item was crafted by a grandmaster (maxed skill) it would be tagged as crafted by that person. Several people made a name for themselves not for being the most powerful warrior, but for making quality reliable gear. I imagine this would be sort of the same thing, maybe Omynys is a blacksmith, and you’ve happened upon a few rare minerals or metals that have allowed you to sell very powerful weapons, people would seek out your work, and would seek you out to sell you their rare materials either because they know you want them or because they want an item in return. I like the slots idea, but I think it could be tweaked to add more power to the crafting side (which would make the carebears happier) while still retaining the uniqueness and flexibility for the user of the items.
I’ve always thought that the most powerful items should be crafted by players. I’ve never in my life been a fan of things like WoW’s system of getting drops from high end bosses, especially when they make it things like a super small drop %. It relegates it to people who have an ungodly amount of time to grind, and I hate grinding. I completely agree with you here that except for reliable good quality items, anything better than that should be player crafted and sold by them (even if they sell them to NPC vendors). UO only had one currency, gold. No silver or copper or anything else, just gold - it worked fine and it made it easy to know things relative worth. Although it never had anything like an auction house (if anything back then ebay was UO’s auction house), it was not hard to find the market price of anything. You could make money selling bulk resources (like spell regaents or bandages), or unique items (rares from dungeons whatever), or armor/weapons.
I think most games do this to varying degrees - but again I like UO’s system a lot (I know other games use it, and probably did before it.) In this system every item (Based on the quality of materials used and the skill of the person who created it) starts with a durablity, maybe 60/60, or 200/200. If the item decays down to 0/60 (for example), then it starts losing permanent points on the right, also everytime you repair it you lose at least one point on the right, meaning no weapon or item lasts forever. I personally used to use a mace in PVP in UO because it caused a lot of armor damage, yo ucould literally beat the armor off of people and kill them. Breakable items in my opinion are a required sink for a sustainable game, I find it boring and counterintuitive when, again like WoW, you grind for months for an item and then everyone just has the same item until the next expansion comes out and something better comes along. There shouldn’t be one ‘best item’, there should be many of a similar power level but varying stats that would suit a plethora of different playstyles, and giving all items durability enforces a constant flow of items. Like in UO you’d have things where eventually someone retires a weapon to mount on the wall of their house because they don’t have the heart to use those last few points of durability and lose the item forever, just having it as a memento is a wonderful thing.
I couldn’t disagree with you more on this. First, you make a point about making multiple toons - which I’ve always been disgusted with. I’m a proponent of the one character per account way of thinking, and I can’t imagine switching through different characters because I’ve used my cooldowns up. I also have always hated the idea of ‘alts’, this discourages interaction between players. If you can have 1 character who’s a fighter, 1 who’s a mage, 1 who’s a miner, 1 who’s a tailor and 1 who’s a blacksmith - why do you ever need to talk to anyone? I believe in 1 character per account, pick what makes you happy and play it. I like the financial disincentive that if you want alts you have to pay for every single character. Let the people who really want to be a blacksmith be a blacksmith - if people focus on the type of gameplay that makes them happiest then you end up with a happier playerbase in general. Anyway, cooldowns. Have you played a game like League of Legends? (It’s the most popular game I can think of with annoying cooldowns.) Yes, I completely agree that in a sense spamming an attack repeatedly is not desireable - but this is focusing on a problem that is created for no reason. The reason cooldowns exist is to balance the power of a spell, a move, whatever. If you can only use a spell once every few minutes, or once an hour, or god forbid once a day - that ability is WAY too powerful!
I much prefer, and I think it’s a much more elegant system to be resource bound instead of cooldown. This would mean that spells use things like mana (which rebuilds over time) and reagants (items that are consumed, depending on which spell you cast), and attacks/moves use things like stamina/endurance (again that rebuilds over time) and are based on your dexterity. I think cooldowns limit your ability to play your character how you want them to. If you relate it again to a game like League of Legends, you end up with a ‘best rotation’ in order to use your skills and manage their cooldowns. The thing is how many of those champions have skills that no one likes, or that’s a waste of space? I like the idea better that you manage the resource (like mana) and are able to use whatever ability/spell/action you can as long as you have the soft-resource it requires. If you want to launch a flurry of fireballs at someone you should be able to, not have to wait 30 seconds because you already casted one fireball.
Anyway, we can agree to disagree on this point, but I think you should consider it more - as a player I hate cooldowns and would shy away from any game that had multiple LONG cooldowns enforced (especially if the idea behind it was to make you have multiple characters of the same type…)
- City Takeovers
I also have to disagree with you about player structures. I think it depends on how it’s done, as a guild member back in the day there was much, much fighting out of player houses (guild houses), and frequently spots where multiple enemy guilds lived were more lively than dungeons - it’s a fun thing to camp some guild you don’t likes headquarters and try to catch them returning with all their loot. However one of the big letdowns of most player housing (which UO was VERY guilty of) is that it tends to not be in cities. What you used to have is cities with big expanses of forest/desert/jungle/whatever between them, however the ‘empty’ spots would inevitably get filled up with houses, which meant it felt like you were always in a ghost town - thousands and thousands of houses you never saw people at or around. I’ve yet to see an elegant solution to this. I don’t really like instanced housing, and I don’t really like the wilderness being full of random houses. Shadowbane had a fairly nice system (you could have a house in a player owned city, player owned cities were destroyable/attackable as were your houses, you couldn’t just place them anywhere), I always hated empty buildings in NPC cities - why can’t I rent this building for a shop or my own house, etc. I think a mix of the two is probably the ideal situation. I think big cities (whether NPC or PC) should not only allow houses/shops, but multiple-dwelling units like apartments, a building that may house 50 or more small places players can buy.
The other big fall back in my opinion is most games that have player housing do it as a one time cost, that’s not how it works. Houses are expensive to buy, and expensive to maintain - I think this should be based on location (if you’re in a city, the more people who want your house the more it’s worth and the more it’s going to cost in taxes to keep it, especially if it’s a popular city), but if you’re in the slums near town, with no guard coverage, probably not so expensive. The simple fact is though, not everyone needs houses (this goes to #10)- generally it should be reserved for GROUPS of people, like guilds. But as someone who owned multiple houses in games, I always liked it - it’s a weird problem that’s hard to solve.
Many games do this, poison damage and poison resistance, cold damage and resistance, fire, energy, etc. I think this would play very nicely into what I was talking about with craftable items before, but I’m not a huge fan of it - it’s a balancing nightmare, I would consider them modifiers as opposed to the bulk base damage. Even with spells I think you should have Magic Resist in addition to individual elements, or with physical attacks I think you should have Armor in addition to any individual elements.
This isn’t really my cup of tea but I can see how it’d be amusing. I’ve always liked the idea of better AI - being able to convince an NPC to not attack you (or even to fight on your side), or hire them etc. I wouldn’t want to play as them though. Many times I’ve thought about having your own character controlled by AI. It’s a ratsnest of problems though, I like the idea because every player in your world could be in game all the time, but how ****** would you be if your AI died while you weren’t around, maybe in a way you personally wouldn’t have been. If it’s not when I’m offline though I can’t think of a reason I’d ever want AI to play my character, or that Id’ want to play a random NPC. Again though, whatever floats your boat if you can make it work.
I agree on some points, but mostly disagree with you here. I agree that they should be unlimited in size (if you can store everything you want in your bank, most people wouldn’t need houses - a lot of houses in UO were used solely for storage because the banks had a limit.) I do think it should be accessible between characters (as I said earlier, I think you should only have one per account anyway, but if you have more - they should share a bank account.) However your invulnerability period to me is a big problem.
There is nothing wrong with having as your motive the idea to rob someone. It’s a legitimate tactic and as long as you aren’t cheating or exploiting to do it, it should be allowed. If you’re going to do something with a high value item or a lot of money, you should HAVE TO BE very careful. No one goes to the bank and takes out 50 million on a cart expecting to be able to walk down the street with it. No one is carrying around 10lb diamonds. These things should be inherently risky to have. For the most part people aren’t going to know (unless you tell them) what you have or what you’re doing, so I think it’s a much better idea to say - if you’re going to move valuable things or a lot of money, get some friends to protect you (hope they don’t stab you in the back!), or do it as clandestinely as possible, get everything ready, come back later, grab it and either sprint or walk away casually, wait until the middle of the night. Moving high value items to and from your bank should be a risky proposition.
Yes, you should feel invested in your property, but when you put artificial limits like these (cooldowns with no reason other than time, periods where you can’t be attacked, damaged or killed, not being able to loot what you know someone was wearing - you WANT full loot right? Think about it) it drastically alters the mood of the game. If you believe in full loot than it’s counterintuitive to think you should be protected while banking. You should be CAUTIOUS while banking, and if you’re doing it in a town with guards - you should be and feel relatively safe. If you’re out and kill someone and take their stuff, and are rushing back to town to bank your super valuable items you just took - you should be in danger the entire time, that person or their friends should be able to catch up to you and take it back, not be forced to watch while you wave it around with impunity because you’ve invoked your invulnerability time by going to the bank.
Anyway, sorry that’s a lot - but like I said, almost all these are not only topics that interest me, but ones I’ve given a lot of personal thought to, and that I’ve either liked or disliked in the past, and that I have planned in some shape or fashion (and most of them working!) in my own game.