Category Archives: game design

Shallow Theme Park MMOs

How about these shallow theme parks games with tedious “quest” hubs? Quest my ass, these are nothing but copy/paste list of chores. It’s worst than being a temp worker doing menial jobs from a headhunter office. It feels more like players are oxen being led by the nose, doing these boring menial tasks, mindlessly being stuffed with fodder until you want to vomit.

Quests should feel epic, but these quest-based games have zero sense of epicness. “Go ten feet over there and pick vegetables from my garden.” wow epic quest. “I’m donning my legendary sword and armor…to go farming?” Quests don’t feel adventurous, meaningful any more. You just go from place to place to serve these forgettable NPCs. I did a bunch of quests in so many other MMORPGs, but I can’t tell you the how, what, or even why I did them. Because they told me to, like I’m their damn intern or servant. FFXIV even call them duties. Like it’s my duty as an adventurer to serve these useless NPCs.

This quest grind is more boring and lame than just camping. Which BTW AC2 had a very nice balance between quests and camping. Both types of gameplay are enjoyable in AC2. Really great liberty to play however you like.

Anyway, AC2 quest felt organic, had natural flow. It wasn’t all “do step one, return to me, do step two, return to me or go to next NPC.” Stupid choppy back-and-forth is disorienting, mind-numbing. No, instead, each part of AC2 quests flowed smoothly from step to step. Some steps were more involved. So devs allowed more freedom for players on how they want to pursue their goals.

Open-ended, organic, smoothly flowing, liberating, involved, mindful, purposeful–these are keywords to describe AC2 style of quests.

Suspense in Combat

I’ve tried dozens of MMOs, and still nothing comes close to capture the experience, spirit, and atmosphere of Asheron’s Call 2. Open, seamless world, dropping items onto the environment, unique races and classes, etc.

But the crucial difference for me why those other games don’t hook me: lack of suspense in combat. So many games’ combat is based on trite, mindless, repetitive action. But action by itself doesn’t connect deeply with the player.

What is missing from these games is suspense, which AC 2 somehow was able to evoke. Kind of hard to explain–it has to be experienced personally: a real sense of dread, of impending failure, of “oh so close, please don’t die!”. It’s an experience that cannot be emerged by endless action and quick reflexes. There has to be more than just action; memorable experience (in games, books, movies alike) has to bring about a sequence of strong emotions, like peril, fear, belief, celebration.

Alas, it’s apparently almost impossible to find the same feelings in other MMOs (the many that I’ve tried) as I did in AC2. An essence of human experience that is absent, forgotten; something that cannot be implemented, replicated or replaced with better technology, skill, and flash.

12 Jungian Archetypes

Mind Body Soul
Ego Creator Warrior Jester
Freedom Explorer Lover Rebel
Sage Caregiver Companion
Order Magician Ruler Innocent

The 12 Common Archetypes were conceived by Carl Jung to describe the common personalities and drives in all people.

This table attempts the fit them into my trinity mind/body/soul RPG system. This chart can help better define the roles and personalities of NPCs in the story.

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RPG Combat — Additional Victory Conditions

RPG Combat — Additional Victory Conditions

It seems just about every RPG combat feels the same and one-dimensional. It’s all about damage, damage, damage. That also means support and non-damage abilities and roles are underplayed and unappreciated. You can see this problem in MMOs where high damage classes can level faster and solo better than support classes.

My suggestion is to provide an additional victory condition besides reducing the enemy’s HP to 0. Let’s call this willpower (WP). You can win a battle by reducing all the enemies’ HP and/or WP to 0.

WP is mainly interacted with typically “support” and non-lethal actions. One method to reduce enemy’s WP is with debuffs (e.g. sleep, stun, charm) and to raise (heal) your WP with buffs. When a character’s WP is reduced to 0, it is removed from combat.

HP and WP can coexist to provide two different paths to victory and to balance the play styles. Whether you like to hack and slash, or you prefer to demoralize and paralyze your enemies.

What do you think about non-damage win condition? Can this work? How do hybrid classes fit in all this?

Fundamental Flaw of Civilization 5 & 6

Fundamental Flaw of Civilization 5 & 6

My insight on why Civ 5 & 6 are boring and shallow games as first posted on Civ Fanatics.

Post #1

These arguments about units per tile really miss the real fundamental flaw with Civ 5 and 6: lack of city micromanagement. Once they removed attention from the cities, all you’re left with is unit simulator. That would exacerbate any unit/tile system flaws.

In older games, including 1-4 and Civ Rev, I would give so much care and attention to my cities. Every turn I would fret if they have enough yields and the right amount. Whether I should have extra food or extra production. This seemingly minute dilemma made a huge impact on how much I care about my cities and my civ.

Unfortunately, they essentially removed all city management from 5 and 6. So that I no longer care about my cities, what their output is, what tiles surround them, etc. I used to spend over half the turn in the city screen in older games; now they’re just bothersome reminders. I just don’t feel the connections with my cities anymore. They’ve become sideshows to the tedious shuffling of units. 99.99% of the turn is wasted shuffling units like they’re so fragile and be stepped over.
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Hex vs Magic

Part 1

12/23/2015

Just got a hold of Hex: Shards of Fate. While the core engine is very similar to Magic, the mechanics and card designs and deck archetypes are so much more daring, complex, fun. Count it as my review after a few hours of gameplay.

For the longest time, WotC has been half-assing, half-stepping the creative possibilities of Magic. Partly because of limitations of physical cards (e.g. tracking complexity), and partly dumbed down to cater to the masses and new players. Thus progress and innovations are stunted. (Just look at the bare-bones mechanics in Battle for Zendikar.)

On the other hand, even the Hex starter decks, archetypes, and tutorials are so much more complex, yet grokkable and fun. Given the choice of 8 decks, I chose the weirdest one (none of that human, dwarf, elf generic tropes for me). This deck’s strategy is to put Spider Eggs into your opponent’s deck. When he draws it or puts in his crypt (graveyard) from deck (Hex calls this bury, cf. mill), you get a 1/1 creature unblockable. Fill his deck with so many that you get a bunch of free creatures and overwhelm him.

This and many more ideas are simply not possible with Magic. There are so many taboos and restrictions that forbid Wizards from fresh ideas. Such as putting cards into opponents’ decks, upgrading cards with equipment and gems during deck construction–thus reusing and customizing the same card for different strategies, permanent effects from one-time cards (Hex calls them Actions, equivalent to Instants and Sorceries)–even across zones, multi-layered tracking, etc. I’ve only played a few hours, so probably more that I haven’t seen yet.

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