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19 December 2007 @ 03:22 pm
I think a tiered system of unlocks, while simplistic, is also ingenious. Battlefield 2 does this very well. If you’re not familiar with the system, you gain ranks through accumulating experience. At each rank, you gain points you can use to unlock weapons. Essentially, you level your character to gain access to more versatile and different weapons. A player can also choose between classes each time they die, changing out weapons or switching between unlocks.

Any unlock a player gains should not be more powerful than an existing weapon. It may be more useful in different scenarios than a starter weapon, but not necessarilly be more powerful.

To make this work as a MMOG, you’d need conquerable outposts and cities. A player, upon creating a character, would then choose a faction to align with. Each faction would have headquarters that can be attacked, but can not be conquered. To conquer a city, your faction would need to gain control of say.. four of the five capture points within the city. If you’re within the area when your faction captures a city, that counts as a win. Players would build profiles online where their stats can be accessed and gain ranks and unlocks in-game.

Throw away death penalties and time sinks. I know there are masochists out there, but ultimately, you want the game to be fun the minute the player logs on. I think it is important in any PvP game, to be able to log on and get into a battle immediately. Players could form fellowships, or squads, and squad leaders could create moveable spawn points. Battle commanders could be elected in each area, depending on who is at a command station. If someone is commanding and a player with higher rank comes along and wants to command, they could force the other player into battle.

To summarize, I think a PvP MMOG should play much like a multi-player first person shooter. Emphasis on teamwork and tactics, without overly-complicated spell, item or skill systems. Don’t try to fit a FPS into the MMOG mold, but create a FPS in a persistant world.

People pay thousands of dollars, every month, to maintain FPS servers. Create a game that is appealing to them, give them thousands of other players to play with in a persistant world and add content regularly. If you don’t screw it up, you’ll do very well.

People like to compete. The learning curve is small. Some people will naturally be better than others. No one needs to be completely equal. There doesn’t need to be solo content, or NPC content, if there is always a battlefront. There doesn’t even need to be NPCs. But if there is, allow players to form squads and recruit AI soldiers to take into battle with them. This would allow players to form groups entirely controlled by them.
 
 
06 July 2007 @ 04:51 pm
I brought up an exploit on the Asheron's Call forums earlier this week. Eventually, someone stepped up to challenge whether this was an exploit or a feature. His argument was that this is something you could also do in real life. However, games do not have the freedom of play that you would find in real life. In a game, you are governed by different rules. This is a gap I hope we one day bridge with realism, rather than taking extreme measures to limit exploitation.

Perching: This is by far the most widely used exploit. There is some version of it happening in almost all MMOGs. The argument here is that you're simply using your enviroment to gain an advantage over your opponent. However, if a creature controlled by artificial intelligence can not take that same advantage, you're exploiting the game. 

Lets take for example a human player, fighting a humanoid creature. The player can use something as simple as a cliff or large rock to protect themselves. That creature then needs to be able to attempt to climb to that location. If I can get up to a branch on a tree, a creature needs to be able to do the same. It doesn't necessarily need to be able to do that one hundred percent of the time, but it needs that option. And if a creature can't climb, it needs to do more than run in place and accept it's fate. If I can defend a castle with archers, a humanoid creature needs some way to siege that castle. There should be some element of challenge to every fight. I'll gladly hop up in a tree and fight a creature when the AI of games finally catches up to us.

Water: Most games that allow players to swim, also allow creatures to either swim or walk on top of the water. In this scenario, I think the exploitation of water needs be looked at on a creature by creature basis. If a creature is taller than a player, it should be able to wade deeper into the water to attack. But it should lose that advantage immediately when it needs to swim. A creature should not be able to easily attack a player while swimming, unless it is accustomed to swimming. Nor should a player be able to attack a creature that can not reach them, because of water. That creature should almost always be able to swim to the player and attack, even if they suffer an attack penalty. And if you have a creature that can't swim that a player drags into the water to fight, let the creature drown and erase any benefit the player may have recieved (i.e. experience, loot, etc.)

Obstacles: Some older games allow you to attack through obstacles like doorways or walls with certain attacks. My solution to this would be two fold. One, you need to check what is between a player and a creature when it attacks to see whether or not they can hit. Two, if a player is on the other side of a doorway and making a lot of noise, a creature should be able to open that doorway or break through it. Even in some relatively new games, players can use things as simple as a door to keep a creature for reaching them. Again, this should only apply to creatures who would have the ability to open a door or break one down.

I don't think players will ever stop trying to exploit design flaws in games. But the technology needs to advance so that how they're exploiting is realisticly approached.
 
 
02 July 2007 @ 05:42 am
Interactables: The more interactions available to the player, the more a world comes to life. If there is an empty, run down cottage on the landscape, let a player pull open the door and look inside of it. Perhaps they'll find the scene of a gruesome murder or the home of a long dead hermit. Or, maybe they'll simply walk by. The idea is that they have the option if they want to choose that option. Ladders you can climb. Doors you can break down or pick the locks on. It is always a good idea to allow multiple interactions too, because it lets a player build their character's personality. I might play a fighter and rather than attempt to pick a lock on a wooden chest, I can break it open with an axe. There could also be a ship in the harbor and you have the option to climb the rigging and get a bird's eye view from the crow's nest.

NPC Shops: I'm not quite sure how it could be made viable, but I've always thought it might be interesting to have stops in-game that work sortive like a modern-day retail store. Rather than browse items in an NPCs inventory, you can view them on shelves and walls. Armor would be set up on straw mannequins so you can see what it looks like before you buy it. You could then drag an item to your inventory and if you walked out of the range of the stopkeep without paying, the item would then be removed from you inventory. If you're browsing swords, you can pick it up and look and it. See if it is something you'd like to have. Then, if you want to put it back, simply right-click and select the option to do so. You could even have sections of shops devoted to player sold items that might have more of a unique look and feel.

Mounted Warriors: I don't think this is an unrealistic hope for MMOGs. I'd love to be able to fight a top a horse or even be able to have jousting as a form of PvP. I enjoy medieval fantasy, but I enjoy things to be a little more medieval than fantasy. A simple medieval tournament field would make for a very cool PvP zone. You could have mounted players, archers, etc. And of course, make armor a little more realistic. Use things like these beautiful designed medieval helms we already know about. Great helms, sugarloaf helms, etc. You have so much choice because in the genre of medieval fantasy, you don't need to consider the burden of historical accuracy. You have hundreds of years worth of armor to choose from.

Even a tournament arena where you fight AI controlled enemies would be a great idea. Make it get increasingly harder with each round until a player's team wins the tournament.

Castle Sieges: War is part of an evolving world. You don't need to be an ogre to fight a human, humans do a fine job of fighting eachother themselves. Let players create their own kingdoms and claim land under the rule of a monarch. Build castles, or rebuild ones they've laid siege to and claimed. Create and play engineers build siege equipment to destory fortresses or protect their own. I enjoy free-for-all PvP because it lets players create their own kingdoms. But, I think the easiest way to do this would be to let players join warring kingdoms. And leave the fate of that kingdom in the hands of it's players. Kingdom PvP is meaningless unless you have something to fight for.

Not just small forts, but intricately designed castles that dwarf players in their shadow. Something you can feel proud to fight for. Something you want to fight for. And put NPCs in these castles to make them feel like communities. Villagers, knights, shopkeeps, taverns.

Creature Armor: A lot of the times in fantasy settings, you'll play and character and you'll fight things you're not given the chance to play. However, these creatures almost always wear armor or some form of natural protection. As a player, if you kill a creature wearing a full set of armor, you should be able to craft it into something you can wear. Strip the gear from your enemy and use it as your own. Even if it is something that has natural shell for protection, you should be able to use to create chitin armor. Aside from being offered random loot, allow the player to make use of what was previously readily available to the creature he has defeated. It is a worthy award that has been earned.

Character Creation: One of my biggest pet peeves is games that lack character customization that can set them apart from other players immediately when entering the world. Players need to be able to choose between different pieces of armor and/or clothing to make their character feel unique. Another thing I dislike is the lack of facial options. You should have as many facial hair options as you do hair options. And atleast as many options for things like eyes, noses and mouths. If I'm trying to make characters that are unique to their story, it is frustrating when they look like they've all come from a cloning facility.
 
 
01 July 2007 @ 01:57 am
Instruments: Something about being able to create your own music in a game is a lot of fun. Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings had an interesting music system, in that all it took was a simple command to start playing. You could also get some interesting melodies going. Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar took this one step forward. You can actually compose and play your own music. The downside to this of course, is it that sometimes you get people playing two chords over and over again in a public area. I ended up using a Windows hotkey program to write music scripts for it, because it is very hard to coordinate the notes with a set of keyboard keys. It is a very cool idea though and I hope more games pick it up. I think it is one of those "must-have" things in a game once you've done it.

Transportation: I like Asheron's Call's transportation system, in that you get instant travel, yet it is explaining. I've never been a big fan of having landscape zones, similar to those of EverQuest. I enjoy seemless travel and if I'm going somewhere on a boat, don't take me a hundred yards, then magicly portal me somewhere. Lineage II did something that I personally thought was great. You're able hop on this ship, and rather than be portalled at some point, it is a thirty minute ride to the mainland. I thought that was pretty cool, although I can understand why it would bother some. In beta, you could also hop on the ship has it was leaving port, so you didn't have to buy a ticket. It is also only a trip most people would need to take once or twice.

Another game that has an interesting transportation system is World of Warcraft. I'm not a big fan of the game as a whole, but one of my favorite things in the game was the gryphon transportation system. Here you have these beautiful, diverse landscapes and you're able to get a bird's eye view of them. I know this also got old for some people, but I always enjoyed it, even taking the same route a good hundred times. And like the ships in Lineage II, you stay on that gryphon for the entire ride. I'm an explorer at heart when it comes to my gaming habits and it is things like that that really get me into games. I'd love to see more games incorporate interesting travel systems.

Character Actions: Some games will limit you, in that you wont be able to jump. This is very awkward for a lot of people and it leads me to believe we're advancing in the wrong direction. Dungeons could be made more interesting if we looked at a game like Tomb Raider and gave players the option to crawl, run, jump, grab ledges, etc. Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach does a great job with their dungeons, but it starts to feel like you're doing the same thing over and over again. You lose a lot of the aspects you enjoyed from table top, like the ability to use rope. Which brings me to my next point of discussion.

Realistic Caves: For instance, a cave that can get narrow, have crawl spaces, etc. The walls of a cave are more often than not, very generic, if not flat and open. There should be areas where the cave feels like it is closing in on you. Perhaps to the point where you need to pass through an area sideways. You might enter the cave from a horizontal access point on a hill. Inside, there could be a small area you need to crawl through to get to rest of the dungeon. Or a whole in the ground, surrounded by brush, that might lead to an underground cavern. The ability to then use a rope to climb down. Once inside, you should need to carry a torch in your off-hand to see. No personal light auras. Make people carry torches. As you go through the cave and make your way through, maybe you run into a stream that is an underground water source.

I think aspects of dungeons lack a lot of depth in most MMOGs. Have moss near the entrance and maybe rock formations and water holes as you go in deeper. I'd love to see an MMOG that makes a cave.. feel like a cave. And no more dungeon instances. Large open worlds are a lot more interesting than being portalled into a random dungeon. Let people enter dungeons from the landscape and use a different means of entry for things that may require it.

Physics: In Asheron's Call, projectiles had physics. In most new MMOGs, even if you step out of the way, you'll still get hit. There is no collision detection to see whether that arrow passed by your head, or killed you. This translated very well into combat that is more interesting, even though it is extremely limited. You're able to dodge spells jumping out of the way. You can evade a creatures arrows or hide behind a tree. At one point you could even recollect arrows from the landscape. And you very seldomly hit parts of objects you couldn't see. You could also jump onto almost anything and invisible walls were very seldomly used. The only thing I might change is the ability to swim, both underwater and above water. Asheron's Call loved using invisible walls out in the water, because there was no swimming.

Monthly Patches: There are hundreds of online games out there that don't require a monthly fee. When we pay to play an MMOG, we're paying to fuel development, not make money hats. In the same way that we pay for the development of an expansion or simply a game, by buying that game. MMOGs cost an average of $15 a month. That means every three months, you could have bought a new game. Obviously part of this goes to maintain the servers, but it also needs to go into development. Not many MMOGs have monthly storylines that continue to change throughout the year, but it is one of the greatest things an MMOG has done. My biggest grief with Blizzard is that they have so much money they could use to fuel the development of ongoing stories, but patches are few and far between.

Weather Effects: Sometimes it is simply all the little things that make the biggest difference, not breakthroughs in technology. A handful of MMOGs out there have seasons. Some them also have weather effects. The idea would to combine these, but also take into account natural disasters. Maybe it will rain for weeks in the spring and cause a local lake to flood in an area. Or maybe there will be a drought and some of the vegetation will die or fires will break out. Things that people need to deal with that make the land feel more like an active game world.
 
 
30 June 2007 @ 09:47 am

Server Population

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 180
Harvestgain - 140
Leafcull - 136
Morningthaw - 184
Solclaim - 115
Thistledown - 177
Verdantine - 54
Wintersebb - 116
Darktide - 360

Concurrent Players - 1,462
White Server Average - 137

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 6:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 201
Harvestgain - 173
Leafcull - 164
Morningthaw - 224
Solclaim - 135
Thistledown - 205
Verdantine - 53
Wintersebb - 119
Darktide - 415

Concurrent Players - 1,689
White Server Average - 159

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 10:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 250
Harvestgain - 189
Leafcull - 224
Morningthaw - 246
Solclaim - 152
Thistledown - 253
Verdantine - 63
Wintersebb - 139
Darktide - 433

Concurrent Players - 1,949
White Server Average - 189


Friday, May 18, 2007 2:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 170
Harvestgain - 128
Leafcull - 153
Morningthaw - 189
Solclaim - 103
Thistledown - 188
Verdantine - 48
Wintersebb - 102
Darktide - 372

Concurrent Players - 1,453
White Server Average - 135

Friday, May 18, 2007 6:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 224
Harvestgain - 151
Leafcull - 169
Morningthaw - 238
Solclaim - 130
Thistledown - 197
Verdantine - 59
Wintersebb - 112
Darktide - 397

Concurrent Players - 1,677
White Server Average - 160

Friday, May 18, 2007 10:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 257
Harvestgain - 186
Leafcull - 209
Morningthaw - 257
Solclaim - 137
Thistledown - 232
Verdantine - 64
Wintersebb - 133
Darktide - 415

Concurrent Players - 1,890
White Server Average - 184


Saturday, May 19, 2007 2:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 233
Harvestgain - 168
Leafcull - 187
Morningthaw - 248
Solclaim - 155
Thistledown - 246
Verdantine - 68
Wintersebb - 126
Darktide - 415

Concurrent Players - 1,846
White Server Average - 178

Saturday, May 19, 2007 6:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 258
Harvestgain - 186
Leafcull - 202
Morningthaw - 252
Solclaim - 153
Thistledown - 246
Verdantine - 67
Wintersebb - 141
Darktide - 422

Concurrent Players - 1,927
White Server Average - 188

Saturday, May 19, 2007 10:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 269
Harvestgain - 201
Leafcull - 233
Morningthaw - 267
Solclaim - 172
Thistledown - 255
Verdantine - 71
Wintersebb - 124
Darktide - 434

Concurrent Players - 2,026
White Server Average - 199


Sunday, May 20, 2007 2:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 258
Harvestgain - 173
Leafcull - 208
Morningthaw - 230
Solclaim - 166
Thistledown - 221
Verdantine - 60
Wintersebb - 137
Darktide - 454

Concurrent Players - 1,907
White Server Average - 181

Sunday, May 20, 2007 6:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 268
Harvestgain - 186
Leafcull - 228
Morningthaw - 263
Solclaim - 164
Thistledown - 260
Verdantine - 68
Wintersebb - 152
Darktide - 439

Concurrent Players - 2,028
White Server Average - 198

Sunday, May 20, 2007 10:00PM EDT
Frostfell - 281
Harvestgain - 194
Leafcull - 251
Morningthaw - 279
Solclaim - 156
Thistledown - 268
Verdantine - 69
Wintersebb - 139
Darktide - 432

Concurrent Players - 2,069
White Server Average - 204



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I don't play DDO anymore, but below is the life and death of most my characters, however insignificant they may have been.

Prelude: Artifex Naroqeen was born to nobility and held claim to land in his father's name. After his father lost his life in a tavern brawl, the Naroqeen lands were seized. Artifex was forced to become a beggar and his mother turned to prostitution. As the years passed and times only grew worse, Artifex turned to theft, piracy and smuggling.

Many years later, he came into possession of the merchant vessel, Goratu Syien, shortly after the ship's captain had been slain by an assassin. Eager to escape a similar fate, Artifex set sail. It was on the Goratu Syien that Artifex turned from piracy and became an explorer. His cabin soon cluttered with maps of the different continents of Eberron.

After acquiring a small amount of wealth on his adventures, Artifex set off for the corrupt city of Stormreach. Here, he tries to eclipse his deeds of the past with his willpower to do good, though he is short tempered and easily angered. He travels on his own and is quick to trust his own instincts, rather than those of his party.

Conclusion: Artifex spent much of his later years on the continent on Xen'drik. His bones grew weak and his days of exploration came to an end. The once great fighter who wielded a greataxe now hid behind a tower shield to battle his foe. The time had come to return to Khorvaire and use what little wealth he had accumulated to retire to the countryside. It is here where he spent his final days in peace.

Prelude: Deldrim Naroqeen came to Xen'drik on the Goratu Syien, a merchant vessel owned by his brother Artifex. Little is know of his past prior to reaching Stormreach port. However, for the last twelve years he has been studying Divine magic under the priests of the Silver Flame. It is in their chapels that he finds solace in such a corrupt city.

Conclusion: Deldrim was never much of an adventurer, but he swore an oath to protect all that was holy to the Silver Flame. An oath that would be the death of him. He set off for the Jungles of Khyber, but never returned. Though his brother lead two search parties to find him, all that was found was an old trinket that had been in the Naroqeen family for centuries.

Conclusion: Galladrien Theta was an old halfling paladin. He died one night while sleeping in the Rusty Nail. It is believed he was the owner of an item of great importance to the Coin Lords, but the possibility of foul play was never investigated. Gold has a way of quieting tongues. 

Conclusion: Tiax Draconis, a dwarven barbarian, let his rage drive him to madness. He was last seen charging ahead of his party, straight for the mouth of the red dragon, Velah.

Conclusion: Fadsahil al Tashbi was an aspiring wizard. He made the mistake of becoming the apprentice of a strange old hermit. One day, the cottage in which they studied Arcane magic burst into flames. No one escaped.

Conclusion: Arakae Thedan didn't last long in Stormreach. He was caught trying to steal a coin purse off of Lord Gerald Goodblade's sash and was forced to walk the Butcher's Path. Adventurers can still visit his rotting corpse to this day. 

Conclusion: Shombay Sentwali was an old man of colored skin. He lived in the Wilds outside of Stormreach Port. He hasn't been seen for months, but an adventurer came into the Wayward Lobster with some items from his backpack recently.
 
 
30 June 2007 @ 09:07 am
Voice chat is steadily becoming the next form of online communication, with good reason. You can infuse words with meaning, outside of definition. I can use sarcasm, without having to worry about it being taken the wrong way, because I didn't convey sarcasm with what I typed. Sure, I'm a okay typist, but that doesn't mean everyone is. Heck, I know people who can't even type without looking at the keyboard. This gets people killed, when they don't need to be.

The biggest part of MMOGs are their community. Opening new forms of communication within a community is not a bad idea. When forming a group, I expect nothing. If someone doesn't know what they're doing, they'll learn. If someone is acting like a jackass, I'll kick them out. But there are just as many idiots in games without voice chat as there are in games with it, if not more. The only downside is it is harder to ignore someone talking to you, than it is to ignore something typing to you.

I think a lot of people don't like it, because it is like a bee buzzing in your ear. If someone decides to randomly go on about their dog throwing up, you get to listen to it. If Tim the Enchanter wanted to talk about how he cybered with a girl he met online, you get to listen to it. And sadly, squelching someone you're grouped with isn't a viable solution, because it can effect the group if someone doesn't know what's going on.

I remember back when Starsiege: Tribes was released in '98. I still play it from time to time, for nostalgia purposes. And while I agree that in a game where you are in direct conflict with others, it brings out the worst in most people, this isn't true for all online games. The idiots are usually a vocal minority, but can still ruin the game for people. And of course in a game like World of Warcraft, where you have millions of subscribers, that vocal minority in increased immensely.

I remember joining a WoW guild that advertised itself as being mature. Once I joined, I realized that being mature, as they advertised, meant you talked about breasts in the guild chat 80% of the time. Now, this was not the greatest experience for me. But, I've also been involved with some incredible, helpful, mature guilds. No one is forced to group with an elitist. If you don't want to play with them, you don't have to. Having a voice chat server integrated into a game client gives you more flexibility in who you can hear. For instance, you could have a setting where only "allowed" players could use voice chat with you. So that, perhaps, a group leader could dictate what is going on, but others have to type.

I've had just as many good experiences, if not more, with voice chat than I've had bad experiences. The bad just outweigh the good because they're easier to remember. Now, I don't use it often, but it is extremely convenient, expecially playing any game involving PvP or an online FPS.
 
 
30 June 2007 @ 08:25 am
Most people cringe at the thought of having instancing in a MMOG. But the truth of the matter is, there are many different extremes when it comes to instancing. Take Asheron's Call, for example. Dungeons are shared, but they're off of the landscape and on a completely seperate server. This helps to cut down on server stress and isn't, by definition, a form of instancing. However, it is set up in a way where instancing could be introduced without effecting the core of the game.

Now, you have games like Guild Wars and Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, where every aspect of the game is an instance. There are numerous zones of the exact same landscapes and dungeons, split up to divide server stress. The advantage to this is that you get a single-player adventure, while still being able to interact with players online. The downside to this method is that there could be ten instanced zones of the tavern you're in. Players do not have a central gathering point and will always be seperated from the community.

To me, MMOGs have always been about alternate worlds in which community and exploration are encouraged. Instancing hinders the growth of both of these amazing aspects of a MMOG. Without a community, I might as well be playing that single-player game that is sitting on my bureau gathering dust. Being able to walk into a town and interact with everyone there is an incredible experience. Almost as much so as actually traversing the landscape and finding that town. It gives you the feeling of being a part of seperate world, rather than logging into a game to kill things and grind levels.

I think developers take for granted just how big an impact the community has on the growth and longevity of an MMOG. I've played Asheron's Call since 1999 and while I enjoy the lore and the world, the community is what keeps me coming back. Monthly updates have been stale lately, but I re-subscribed because a lot of my old allegiance members are returning to the game. Take out the community and exploration and there is nothing left to do except power game and grind. If I couldn't run across Dereth and explore every inch of it's alien, but familiar landscapes, it wouldn't have kept my interest for so long.

When I was playing the Guild Wars beta back in Q1 2005, I considered it little more than an expanded multiplayer game. Which of course, it was. While you have an instanced world to interact in, you never party with more than a select group of individuals. Now what Guild Wars did have was was a PvP endgame that kept people interested. You also had to explore to find new content areas to advance your character. Which of course brings us to Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, which has neither of these.

Set in the world of Eberron, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach took instancing one step further than Guild Wars. Exploration has been cut out and in it's place has been put a monthly fee. Because of the detail they apply to dungeons, they're unable to release content at a steady pace. This leaves people completely capped out, with nothing left to do except re-roll their characters or create new ones. Which is a shame, because it has an interesting combat system. It would have made for a great single-player game with a polished AI party system similar to Republic Commando. Or even a game where parties could be created over a LAN.

Without a world to explore and without a community to interact with in a online world, you simply do not have an MMOG. What you have is a cliche game that will appeal to a minority.

The bottom line is this: Instancing has it's place in the future of MMOGs, but it needs to be used wisely. Do not instance entire landscapes, which players should be able to roam freely. Do not instance important quest dungeons, but create them in a way where if more players are in a dungeon, there are more creatures. Use instancing for things like XP dungeons, that almost always need more room, but still allow 10-12 people to be in that dungeon at once. Running into people and interacting makes online worlds more interesting.
 
 
30 June 2007 @ 08:19 am
Most MMOGs lately are class-based, which means you have a set class and set skills to choose from for that class. These skills are generally predetermined, but you are occasionally offered a little bit of a variety.

I prefer skill-based systems, as they put the ball entirely in the player's court. It also gives the developer a scapegoat if people are complaining about balance. Which is both good, and bad. Every template wont be as viable in combat as the next, but there is a lot to choose from. This gives the player a lot to look forward to and plenty of customization options. It also encourages roleplay, by allowing players to create templates outside the box.

I've always felt that class-based systems take away the freedom of players.