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A new book “Two Massive Online Game Blueprints: RPG, FPS”
by Dan Bress on 07/08/13 09:48:00 am   Expert Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Let’s start with the basics. My new book is “Two Massive Online Game Blueprints: RPG, FPS” available on Amazon. In it I lay out the complete blueprint/framework/bible for two niche Massives, including the secret sauce. I believe that a team could take either of these blueprints and start work on one of these games today. As I describe the two games I include comments as to why I made some of the design features I use.

The two games are niche games. They won’t appeal to everyone, but they will appeal to enough players to be viable. The working titles and elevator pitches for the two games are:

“Codex of the Lifegiver:” A Massive that maximizes player community and player gameplay choices while minimizing unwanted gameplay and social interactions. The game story is inspired by the prolog of “Code of the Lifemaker” by James P. Hogan and a short story by everyone’s favorite author Phillip K. Dick called “AutoFac”.

“Away Team:” A Massive that maximizes exciting edge-of-your-seat gameplay in scheduled “Missions.” The game world is alive and constantly changing based on the results of player “Missions”.

Why write a book? When I went out to pitch these games, people would agree with me that niche games are viable. They would agree with me that niche games need to be different. I would lose them when I started describing features that would not work in current games. Before I could show the inter-relationship of key features, they would lose interest. For example, in “Codex of the Lifegiver” gear can break permanently. The better the gear, the more quickly it may break. Thus you can have a “sword of two-shotting” that breaks after one use or an “eternal butter knife” which is unlikely to ever break. Certainly that would not work in WoW or a host of other games.

My experience was that I was not going to get my message out in a pitch meeting. After reviewing my options my best plan was to write this book. I figure there are four possible outcomes to writing this book: 1. No one cares; 2. I inspire a few of you and you make games I want to play; 3. I get to work on the games I describe; 4. I get to play games similar to what I describe. So I’m sending this book out in the world and wishing it well. Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on smaller projects coming soon to a Kickstarter near you.

Codex of the Lifegiver (sorta RPG)

My goal in designing Codex of the Lifegiver is to allow players to self-select what meta-game they want to play and what type of individuals they want to play it with. Next I want to present players with gameplay choices of only meaningful activities (in game terms). Finally, I want to let new players have access to all content while retaining some elements of RPGs.

The first step is to separate the players into different “City-States”, with each City-State in its own “zone”. I anticipate there will be a City-State composed primarily of crafters who only tolerate polite chat. Next to them might be a City-State composed primarily of PvPers who enjoy themselves some “Barrens” chat. “Diplomats” from each of these cities may make (game enforced) treaties with each other. Thus in exchange for crafted gear the PvPers may guard the Crafters.

A feature of all Massives I have every played is that there is a “rat” problem. In WoW you may choose to go on a quest to kill some rats. There are no consequences for not accepting the quest. In Codex if the rats are not controlled in your City-State the rats will eventually eat your stuff. This makes rat killing a meaningful activity and it makes it much more likely for some random player to help you, as you are working for the common good. In WoW the majority of gameplay enhances the individual. In Codex the majority of gameplay enhances the community.

We all know the problems associated with having gear that is tradable, and yet in Codex you can trade gear. In Codex a new player can get some borrowed gear (from a friend or City-State) and jump right into a raid on her first day. This requires that content not be gated in any fashion, such as gear-checks or number of participants, so the new guy is not taking up a precious raid spot. Now to make tradable gear work there has to be a way to take gear out of the world. In Codex gear can be permanently broken, the better the gear is, the more likely it is to be broken upon use.

Having gear that can be broken opens up new problems, as no one likes to lose their “precious”. The solution is to have gear much easier to acquire. This will lead a player to have a wide variety of gear to choose amongst. This introduces new gameplay choices as a player must decide whether to take out one’s good gear to go rat hunting or save it for an upcoming raid. In Codex the RPG element is maintained as the more challenging encounters a player participates in, the more likely she is to get great gear.

Before a new player enters the world of Codex of the Lifegiver they will go to a City State recruiting area, much like a “job fair”. There they will be able to choose a compatible city for their play style and play time. 

Away Team (sorta FPS)

My goal in designing Away Team is to give players a fun, intense, meaningful game experience in a 30 to 90 minute game session. Away Team is centered on “Missions” where a group of players are given an objective and are given choices as to what gear (load-out) they will bring to the Mission. The key to winning a Mission is planning and bringing the right load-out.

Away Team makes use of mobile media to accomplish various tasks without logging into the game. In Away Team Players can:

  • Schedule a game-play session in advance, as a group or individually
  • Choose the maximum length of a Mission
  • Receive a Mission description in advance
  • Plan the Mission with other Team members
  • Review a Mission after it is over and discuss it with your Team members
  • Browse current (game) events, back story and other player’s Missions

Schedule. Log in. Play.

Missions. Away Team’s combat system is based on bringing the right load-outs, weapons, armor, ammo, sensors, etc. to the fight. You don’t want to bring heavy weapons and armor if you are facing a long mobile fight. Away Team’s missions are not simple kill-quests or capture the flag, they are more nuanced. A simple example:

  • Your team lands on the planet on point A.
  • Your team needs to get to point B in less than 60 minutes and blow a bridge which is
    defended by the enemy.
  • A major road links point A and point B, but is patrolled by the enemy.
  • The road cuts through a forest, which provides cover, but slows movement.

So in this simple example you have two choices. You can attempt to fight your way up the road to the bridge, or you can try to avoid fighting by traveling through the forest. In both cases you need to have enough force to overpower the bridge defenders and place your explosives.

Log in at the time you scheduled and play. That’s it. You have planned your mission over social media at your convenience. You have assembled your load out (what you are bringing with you) over social media at your convenience. Away Team has found your opponents (who suffer significant penalties if they are late). All that’s left is for you to sit down and enjoy your game session.

Scheduling missions is just one method to play Away Team. You can log in and join a pick-up-team and head out on a mission. There are training (think holo-deck) missions available. There are occasional special missions offered to players who are logged on. The key is that players who choose to schedule and play just once or twice a week will not fall behind in any fashion. They will have access to the same gear and missions that everyone else has.

For things to be different they cannot be the same.



My web site: www.YutaniGameDivision.com 


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