Sunday, February 11, 2007

On Spell Customization

Saga of Ryzom had an interesting spell customization system, in which spells could be created to cost more or less mana depending on range, power, area of effect and others. While the idea is noble, it had serious flaws in it, not the least of which being that you could have a mana-restoring spell which costs less mana than it gives back, making it essentially a free mana heal spell. In large groups, people didn't have much use for spell diversity, instead relying on the much-praised casting of the heal-health-and-mana-on-a-large-area bomb spell, so that after a few seconds, everyone was effectively ready for battle, at absolutely no cost.

While the implementation is arguably flawed (Though I'm sure there is no lack of players who would argue otherwise), the idea is a practical implementation of the concept of spell customization, which had been asked for numerous times before. Fix the flaw in the healing system (If you can hide long enough for fanboys to let you call it a flaw) and you actually have a quite decent magic system.

Regular role-playing games usually offer spells that are simply more powerful version of a previous spell - for example, the Final Fantasy series has Cure spell from 1 to 3 or 4. This could be worked into a spell customization system; spells have a base effect, say, heal, fire, poison, sleep, whatnot, on which is applied a power ("Fire 3", or perhaps "Greater Whatnot"), an area of effect ("Greater Fireball" or "Long Firebolt") and possibly modifiers (Damage over time burning, longer cast time for greater power, shorter cast time for higher mana cost, perhaps a bouncing ability or pierce-through effect). With careful consideration, you could have your Magery and Healing skills become quite customizable; and you can always decide to only apply customization to certain skills, so that perhaps Elementalism, Holy and Nature Magic would have only fixed spell effects.

As I seem to often say, there's nothing bad with giving players more freedom; they will often surprise you with ingenuity, if you simply let them use their full potential.

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