Tuesday, March 20

Psychochild--Weekend Design Challenge

Brian Green is a game designer that runs a blog under the title of Psychochild. Green helped develop the MMO Merdian 59 back in the day, and currently maintains the game at Near Death Studios. His blog focuses on game design and development. One of his reccuring posts is the Weekend Design Child, that asks readers to tackle a hypothetical game design issue. This weekend, Psychochild poses a very interesting challenge called Feedback Loop.
We'll go practical this week. Let's say you're working on a typical combat-focused online RPG. One feature requested on the forums is that players that take wounds should perform worse than a fully healed character. Your job is to design this system to work within a game. Don't assume anything special about the game. Assume it's a typical sword-and-sorcery type game. Use WoW as an example if absolutely necessary.
Think about these issues:
What are the potential problems with this design?
How do you work around these problems?
Bonus: What is the motivation for players for asking for this change?
Good question, Brian. Lets think about this.
There are plenty of ways you could handicap a player based on how much damage they've taken, or other factors, like being poisoned and such. Lets just talk about damage taken exclusively. Damage taken could mirror damage dealt. If you've lost 50% of your health, you could deal 50% of regular damage. Another factor could be movement, the more damage you take, the slower your character move. Eventually perhaps the character could stumble every few steps. Another effect could be limitations of ability. For example, a Warrior couldn't use bash past a certain health point. The advantages to this system are several. One, its more realistic. Two, it promotes a careful play style with effective tactics?Cons. As Stephen from the official post points out, a big disadvantge to implementing a damage system is that it possibly handicaps the losing player to the point where its impossible for them to win. Another flaw is (assuming we are working off a basic MMO design) that high-damage, faster characters will have an intrisinc advantage over other characters. Rogues would automatically be better characters.

How would a damage afflictions work in your MMO?
What are the pitfalls and oundits to such a system under the basic MMO design (like WOW)?
What things would you change about the basic MMO to compliment a damage system?

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