Friday, December 28, 2007

Advanced Item Enchanting

When enchanting an item, you typically only decide on a single enchant - say, additional strength; yet, you will find items in your quests that bear multiple powers. I suggest that item enchanting be more open to the player's choices.

Item enchanting should be limited by two things - one, how many enchants an item can take, and two, how much power the enchants can have. The first is mostly self-explanatory - items cannot take an indefinite amount of enchants, although some items will take more than other, depending on size, material, shape, craftsmanship and whatnot.

The power of enchants an item can take plays a much more important role in determining what someone can do with it, however. Typically, more powerful enchants would take exponentially more power. If running out of power, one could 'use up' an enchant slot to place a negative enchant, which would allow more power for positive enchants. Such negative enchants could include penalties to stats, skills and peripheral attributes (vision, speed or regeneration are a few), which would mostly be the counterparts of positive attributes; other, less common negative enchants could include added weight, penalties under certain conditions (cold, evil, wet...) or even soul binding - the first person to equip this item is bound to it, and cannot trade it. Powerful artifacts could be custom-made for a particular customer, who would want it soul-bound so they could fit a few more precious points into their prized possessions.

Additionally, enchanting would require components, with components of different quality having different ratios of enchant-power to enchant-consumption. The scales of Queralyx, the Great Black Wyrm, who was slain in an epic battle to be told for generations to come, will give more powerful enchants than the eyes of Robert the Newt Who Happened To Wander Too Close To Town - and whose slaying didn't generate as much as a haiku, much less a ballad. More advanced players will get more advanced enchants, though the difference isn't such that using an item a few notches lower in the power scale should prevent a player from achieving anything worthy of Bardic Tale status; they just won't mention the rather bland spear he used to pierce the bad guy's cardiac locations.

Should an adventurer wish to acquire an item worthy of legends, which they could pass to their proud offspring as a powerful family heirloom, however, they would need to get lots of work done; most likely, they will require help, presumably in the form of loyal guildmates, ready to climb the highest mountains for their beloved friends. Great beasts must be slain, rare resources be found and harvested, great care be placed in growing only the best ingredients for such a creation. Or I guess they could buy the items at the market, but where's the fun in that?

Finally, when all the ingredients are carefully selected and you know exactly what enchants you want, you have to pick an enchanter. The enchanter you pick must be able to create the enchants you want, of course, but should ideally be powerful in the type of enchants you want - a priest enchanter would be better at creating a holy weapon than a necromancer, after all. That enchanter would also be someone trusted, for he would be in possession of an item of great power. Finally, you must pick someone with a renown for creating great items, because enchanting isn't easy, and should they perform poorly at the enchanting game, the resulting item would be much weaker than it otherwise could have been, effectively wasting much of the resources used in the process.

When all this is done, however, and you have your shiny new item, you can parade around town, showing off your new-magic-item smell to the ahh-ing and ooh-ing crowds. Because in the end, we know you're not doing it for the killing or the bonuses - you really just want more pretty lights and fancy colors around your character; and don't we all?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What You Do Matters

So often, in MMORPGs, you see dozens of people killing the same creature over and over. You see them forming a line or entering instances just so they can slay the same boss. What happened to causality? It seems like doing something does not have consequences; if that is the case, then why bother?

Wouldn't it be much better if players could have an influence in the world? If slaying an evil beast would essentially mean that it is gone, no longer to plague the world with its taint? Of course, the players coming second will find only a lair largely devoid of opposition, but at least it would make a certain amount of sense. If you are worried that the world might become unpopulated, simply instill a rule of less killing, more reward; each opponent becomes a challenge, and players are forced to use their tricks much more efficiently, rather than continuously using the same skills over and over.

By giving players the opportunity to change the world, you give them the chance to make a difference. Players will feel special after successfully completing a rescue mission, because they know that, had they not done it, the would-be rescuee could very well have been killed, permanently affecting the world in a negative way. Likewise, players deciding to go on a rampage, killing innocents left and right, would find that not only are they now permanently hunted everywhere, but they have had an effect on their fellow players that could most likely be felt for a long time to come.

If more MMORPG developers were trying new things, pushing back preconceptions that have no room in a modern game, then we would see a real revolution in gaming. For now, we must live with revolutionary games that do things the way they've always been done.