Programming is getting me down, though some actually is getting done. To cheer myself up I’m going to revisit the original feature list for Shattered World. I’ve learned quite a bit over the last year, and some of my opinions have changed, while others wound up never being clearly defined. Without further ado, here we go:
A game without skills or classes, but still maintaining character progression built around mostly open ended PvP, player built cities, powerful guild management and communication tools. Shattered world also attacks the problems of PvE and end game raiding head on, allowing players to observe real change in their environment that they initiate. Crafting will also be meaningful and challenging.
Characters begin in Shattered World, not looking much different from a typical humanoid. However, when you collect Biomass, the basis of all in-game crafting and creation, you can absorb it and devote it to a mutation. These can be anything from denser muscles to growing two percent larger. What mutations you select will change the appropriate character statistics, your level is the average of all your statistics.
I decided to keep those two together since while the purpose statement covers a wide range of topics it opens with perhaps the strongest statement I’ve ever made about the design. No classes, and no skills. Saying no classes is easy enough, hardly a leap there, but no skills needs a certain amount of definition as to what I consider a skill. To put it most simply, a skill is a proportional measure, between 0 and maximum, tracking a player’s ability and bonuses to performing an action successfully. Or in other words, I think of a skill system as following the model from UO, or as you see in EVE.
My thought was that when these two are used in practice, they are layers on top of your base statistics. In other words, from a design perspective, the fundamental point of a class would be to control the growth rate of say strength as compared to stamina, or speed as compared to endurance. From there you would grow that into the creation of abilities that function along synergies of the basic statistics, mages have higher mana pools and mana regen so they get spells for instance. Skills approach statistics from a secondary angle of competency, for instance if our skills are a range of 1-5, then at 1 you can leverage 20% of the underlying statistic, and at 5 you leverage 100% of the underlying statistic. It wasn’t a hard leap from there to say, “why not just play around with the statistics directly.”
From there I later decided that the best approach for abilities was to simply have them ‘unlock’ at certain statistical gates. In this way, the player is responsible for building their own character’s abilities and style. However, not everyone is a class designer, and not everyone can run around min-maxing at all times. While not the entire reason, that played a large part in my decision to work off the morphing system rather than a straight point buy. The great hopes were that it would simplify the decision making process for players, ease balancing somewhat by creating decisions between things rather, and that players would go with things that they preferred the look of over whatever the strict min/max is.
The brief mention of levels at the end is actually a very important distinction. The way levels are handled in every MMO that has them, that comes to mind, is that you are progressing towards the next statistics gate. In other words, any particular level is more or less a plateau of base statistical progression until you fill the XP bar. In ShW on the other hand, a level is more similar to a weight class. Two people with a level of 5 in the same gear are not likely to be perfectly equal, one could be towards the high end, the other towards the low end. Which leads to…
PvP is allowed for anyone within five levels of you, without setting any flags or doing anything at all other than walking up and attacking them. You may select from two factions to begin with, Purist and Carnalist. While aligned with the Purists, you will be fined both scrip(currency) and biomass when you kill a player without a bounty. When aligned with Carnalist, you will not be fined for killing a player, however the bounty placed on your head for pking will be doubled. While in the starting city, guards will defend players without bounties when they come under attack.
The first part has to do with this new concept of levels. Basically, by limiting people to fighting relatively speaking within their weight class you almost entirely disassociate the level carrot from the stick in terms of PvP. And in retrospect, I think I would make that just “cannot initiate combat with players over five levels below you.” I know from Neveron that there were plenty of people who held their empires at the point at which logistics became nightmarish, simply because they preferred to stick to more tactical combat. In WoW I held myself at level 39 for a long time, just because I had more fun with BGs and the occasional instance run than I was having leveling. By designing PvP bottom up with this weight-class style of mentality, you leave openings for those who don’t want to become “all powerful” to still be useful.
The segment on bounties though has been pretty much completely removed. Between the obvious abuses of simply having carnalists kill each other all day, I’ve also realigned my views of the main island being more or less 0.0 space. On the other hand, the area right outside Ventrair’s gate is one of my biggest concerns. Much like low security space in EVE, it’s simply the most fertile zone for pirates and griefers to occupy. That area where you’re still close enough to the safe zone to abuse it to your own advantage if needed. I don’t have a solid answer yet, but it is constantly on my mind.
Players may build their own cities in the wild. Though any building may be placed anywhere, if you find a wide enough space of open ground you can build a Town Hall which will give your guild the ability act as planning and zoning within the effected area. You may set certain areas to be marked as road, residential, or commercial only, and/or require the appropriate guild officers signatures on any potential building sites. Buildings are destructible, and will need to be guarded, as such the Town Hall also creates an area in which members of your guild may PK any non-guildmate player without acquiring a bounty. Towns also leverage taxes, taking a percentage of all sales and trades involving scrip or biomass in the area.
My mental image of cities changed forever after playing SWG and wandering into a player built city. I took one look at the sea of shanties, the total lack of direction and terrible planning and said, “ye… no.” From then on I kind of came to the conclusion that player built buildings should always be within the confines of a city. I’m certainly greatly in favor of giving people all the tools they need for easy and efficient city planning, and certainly in favor of setting aside space in and around Ventrair specifically for players without guilds. At the end of the day though, I’d rather that housing be to some extent a social decision, something to build a community up. My problem with the shanty town is that for those not “initiated” to the communities, the lack of order and organization acts as a barrier to interaction with a cities respective community.
The rest of it is still pretty spot on except for the complete removal of bounties.
The Chat System in Shattered World is actually a separate client that is automatically started anytime you run Shattered World, if it is not already running. After exiting the game, the chat will minimize to your quickbar, but can be opened to chat with guild mates, friends or any other player just as you would were the game running. The hope is this will free you from feeling the need to be at all times, since you can easily find out if you are really needed. It’s powerful guild/player relations tools, should also allow you to contact your in game friends without needing the game running and manage guild functions, friends, and ignore lists without having to enter the game world.
This honestly hasn’t changed hardly at all. In large part, I just don’t see any reason to make people open a hugely graphically intensive game with insane load times just so they can ask if anything’s going on. On top of that, a lot of the time guild management and officers will have plenty to do just shuffling around text without really needing to be in-game at all. And finally it all comes back to keeping friends connected even if they may not always have time to play with each other.
An additional advantage though, is that it allows me to purposefully blur the line between game and meta-game.
The player versus environment dynamic is turned on it’s head by giving the enemies strategically located spawn in points, and a real time strategy level AI. This means that the AI will intelligently attack player owned towns as well as the starting town. The friendly AI will give quests that work towards it’s goals of defeating the enemy nations. You may see an increase in fetch style quests as they prepare to repel an attack or launch one of their own. During the actual attacks and defenses you will be given kill quests and raid targets based on what will actually help your side’s agenda most.
Making the PvE game play fundamentally dynamic is actually a key point in the entire design. The point of PvE is that it should be, to my mind, a fundamentally cooperative endeavor. With the large dynamic shifts, you can get players across the level spectrum to work together both in direct grouping, as well as in a more indirect fashion of smaller objectives that contribute to larger successes.
The environment on Shattered World is, well shattered. You can take on the roles of farming, gardening, foresting, breeding, and a host of others to attempt to repair to the broken landscape and turn the barren desert into a flourishing paradise. Farming and Herding can greatly increase the aggregate Biomass in the world as well, making your guild more powerful and allowing your craftspeople to build heavier arms and equipment.
This also hasn’t changed at all. I want the game to be, in many ways, a teaching tool. A sort of primer in ecology and resource management, along with a chance for a society to use that primer effectively or otherwise. Of course, I also don’t have any one set vision of how it “should” turn out, I’m just far more interested in watching what actually does come out of it.
Crafting is not a matter of merely gathering components, you must also combine them in the correct proportions. Beyond a few simple recipes all others are found through trial and error. The properties of the various metals in the world will have a direct effect on the final product depending on how they are combined. For instance, when creating a sword, you will need to balance the blade and pommel to increase damage dealt, but using too dense of a material for the blade and to light of a material for the hilt will still result in a product that is overly heavy for the amount of damage it deals.
For this I’ve been thinking of the machining equipment that my dad maintains for his work. Their really isn’t a way to prevent the “most bestest” items from having their production secrets leaked out over the internet. What I can do is make it so that making those items, and in fact even determining what really is the “most bestest” a difficult task. For instance, if we were to take a plasma rifle for instance, getting it about 85% of the way would be fairly easy. Get the metal and the biomass, find the right measurements, and start machining the pieces on some lathes or CNC machines. But then comes the hard part, those machines all have a small amount of built in inaccuracy, differing based on how they themselves were built, and also take wear increasing their inaccuracy. So now you need to decide if it’s worth it to replace nearly brand new parts because of a very small loss of accuracy. Of course, the inaccuracies in individual pieces accumulate into the final assembly. Even then, there are going to be differences based on the metals you picked, harder metals being undercut, especially if you have one of the weaker metals trying to cut them. On the other hand you have softer metals which can be cut to much greater accuracy, but are naturally going to wear out faster.
A sword will be an order of magnitude simpler, of course you’ll want some nice hard metals and a good weight ratio. However, I suspect there will be a market for custom swords. Those who prefer a particular fighting style and want something more specialized for their needs.
Going beyond weapons you always have furniture, clothing, and tools. All of which have their own process and their own specialties.