- Posted: Mon, 31 Jan 2011 10:48:31 +0000
The good doctor would like to weigh in on a few ideas that he's got concerning the stale gameplay in zOMG! and how he believes some elements of that can be rectified. Before we get started, he'd like to cite Valheita for inspiration concerning at least one idea.
zOMG! isn't nearly as robust as other MMOs when it comes to its metagame. The zOMG! metagame is really and truly an exercise in executing routines. As a toy example, I'll refer to the SS/EB list of things to do:
-Get the majority of the buffs on a full crew of six players
-Rage up either on the beach or on the first group of clams
-Get the chests
-Clear the switches
-Activate the switches
-Stay out of Sealab X's physical proximity during Phase 1, etc. etc. et al.
It's almost like playing an adventure game. Of course you encounter the traditional MMO caveats of rebuffing, healing the group and optimizing for maximum damage, but that's really just about it.
I think we'd all appreciate a little more variety in the gameplay. I don't want to turn zOMG! into World of Warcraft in terms of prep time and metagame, but zOMG! could stand a little more depth. My solution to this is twofold:
Firstly, the implementation of an Element System across all rings and all enemies.
Second, the inclusion of a true Class System, more advanced than the Ring Sets, that the provide a player different incentives.
Element System Proposal
An Element System in zOMG! would serve a variety of purposes:
-Creating real contextual changes between the difficulties of any dungeon aside from the superficial changes from amping enemy CL, damage and HP values.
-Providing a means of Ring customization
-Providing the devs with an excuse to create brand new buffs
Every enemy would need to be assigned an Element. This Elemental value would work within a Pokemon-esque Rock-Paper-Scissors string of relationships. Some suggestions for Elements include the usual Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Additional, more off-beat suggestions include Light and Dark/Void as well as Charge/Null (which could be used for bosses in future areas that, for story purposes, may have something to do with the Chamber and the Orbs) and Neutral.
Elemental strengths and weaknesses may vary between enemies. For example, a Brain Clam and a Coral Fluff may share the same weakness to Wind, but the Brain Clam takes less damage from it due to its hard shell. Perhaps these changes in power could be dictated by a simple numerical tag (Water I, Water II, Water III, etc.).
Elements should not be known by the players upon first contact with an opponent and should never be visible to them without the aid of an item or ring. A 'Scan' or 'Analyze' ability would be needed. Furthermore, should any player in a full crew of be passively 'scanning', the data should be visible to all crewmates (eliminating the need for all six crewmates to carry the ring/item and the logistics nightmare that would follow).
New attack, buff and passive ability Rings that take advantage of these elements could do the following:
-Magnifying super-effective damage done to an enemy
-Reducing the players' elemental weaknesses by a percentage for a limited period of time
-Passive buffs that increase a stat (Will, Luck, etc.) at the cost of giving an elemental weakness or two
-Reducing an enemy's elemental strength
-Imbuing elemental attacks
I mentioned reducing players' weaknesses; This implies that players would have them. That is also something I want to occur, but not in a way that the player can't turn on or off. This could be achieved by giving the players' attack Rings elements that give strengths and imbue weaknesses (as a 'weakness index' that the player can view in their Target window). For example, one could find an item that imbues Fire III benefits to a Mantis Ring. Since the Ring is connected to the player's Ghi Energy, it enchants the player with a mild fire property, giving him a weakness equivalent to Fire I. Up to three 'weakness indexes' could be stacked like this, granting the player a maximum of Fire III weakness (for balance issues)
Players may opt, instead, to not use items that enchant their attack rings in this way, and would not suffer any backlash to their defenses as a result. As an incentive to experiment with elemental mods, the power granted from them would need to be significantly greater than any buff ring or passive ability ring.
Additionally, multiple Element types could provide a means to create enemy variants for harder difficulties. For example, let's say that, on Easy Difficulty most of the enemies in SS are Water I-III, and the Anchor Bugs are Earth II. Grunnie Subs, Labtechs, Seacycles and Robofish all have unique elemental values between II and III. After that, on Hard Difficulty, new Wind I variants of the Coral Fluff show up, the Spout-based minibosses have unique elements, all the Lab enemies have their elements swap and change values and the Sealab X is Neutral (meaning your elements can't help you). The instance changed just enough that you absolutely cannot run the same strategy all over again and expect success.
Choosing specific elements over others would actually allow some players to shine when the crew encounters large groups of an enemy that specific players prepared for. If the team grabbed a whole bunch of anti-Water and they encounter a Wind enemy, the Earth-using player is going to get to be the hero for a few minutes and be of great value to his comrades.
Additionally, elemental ring mods would lock into a ring upon use. Some may say that this sticks players into unfavorable positions until they find a new version of the ring they enhanced, but I believe that the opposite is true: This would give people something to do with the constant duplicates they find when farming instead of simply scrapping them for Orbs! Have you got four Guns, Guns, Guns!? Toss them enchantments into three of them and keep the neutral one left alone!
Would keeping multiple rings start to clog up the backpack? Of course it would. My solution? It's obvious; Expand the backpack!
A Class System like that found in just about every other MMO could create a metagame that has the potential to be woefully unbalanced due to class stratification or extremely unique. What makes classes more 'valuable' is the result of their interactions with the rest of the game environment. A Medic is universally valuable because players will always take damage and will always need to be healed. Avoiding stratification and creating relationships between classes and the environment are important to the success of this idea.
Classes should fill a variety of roles, allowing a crew to mix-and-match at their discretion. Front-line fighters, mid-line supporters, rear-line healers and buffers, classes should be able to fill a variety of niches. Medics for healing, Enchanters for enhanced Elemental buffs and attacks, Knights for enhanced combat prowess! Furthermore, all classes should have a drawback or two that other classes can fill in for! This promotes teamwork and communication during gameplay, which ought to be part of zOMG!'s design philosophy in the first place!
To begin, every player would need to select a Class. These Classes imbue certain permanent benefits and entirely-unique Ghi Buff paths that the player can take advantage of. To give players some control over their abilities, the Ghi buff paths could work in a variety of ways:
Prop 1 - Branching Paths
The Ghi buff path could branch at various points and allow the user to specialize in some abilities while neglecting to enhance others. All branches would need to offer enticing benefits that reward the player for advancing to the top of any branch!
Prop 2 - Single Path, Choice of Rewards
This sort of path would progress through a series of 'reward points' akin to 'leveling up' the path. At each 'reward point', the player is given a handful of rewards to choose from and can only pick one at a time. Early rewards must not tie into later rewards to prevent players from feeling like they '******** up' their reward progression!
Prop 3 - Pick a Path, Linear Progression
This one is is the simplest of the propositions; Have the player pick a 'specialization' and at ever 'reward point' they gain a pre-determined bonus or ability until they eventually reach the last point and gain the ultimate ability. The abilities at the end of any path should be, in essence, freaking awesome and unique! If you have three paths to choose from, each of the three 'ultimate abilities' should be distinct, useful, and enticing as a reward to the player for all the work it would require!
Prop 4 - Pick a Branching Path
A combination of 1 and 3, this would turn the Class abilities into something akin to World of Warcraft's Talent system. We don't need that level of complexity, however, and there should be no 'leveling up' or 'maxing out' of a talent; Picking it once should grant the ability in full and at its optimum, with lower points on a tree being weaker abilities and higher points being your 'ultimate' abilities.
As a general addendum, when I use the word 'ability', this should not extend much further than passive buffs and bonuses to stats. Adding +1 to Agility, Luck or Will as a reward for reaching Level 1 on a Branching Path is totally reasonable. Adding +3 is a fine reward for a later level. Passive buffs may include resistances to debuffs like Sleep and Fear, ending in total immunity or possibly even the ability to cast these debuffs on the foe as a reaction to taking damage.
Avoiding stratification, offering variety and customization and allowing each player a chance to serve a unique role in a crew should be the focus of any zOMG! Class System! An MMO hosted on a site as diverse as Gaia is in terms of personalization should always keep such personalization at the heart of its design philosophy!
Feel free to leave comments and criticisms. I can't refine the ideas if you don't point out the holes in my reasoning!