Sunday, April 28, 2013

Making an MMO Better

So I've been thinking on this topic for a while.  Specifically I'd like to apply these changes to Star Wars: The Old Republic; I feel that if the following changes were adapted to the game in its current state, it would make SWTOR the best MMO out on the market.  Granted that's purely my opinion, but I've brought up these ideas with other gamers both in and out of game.

First change: Allow for more character customization.  Bioware/EA already have several different varieties of non-human "skins" both male and female for bots/sprites.  It seems to me that it wouldn't require much more work to code those skins over existing PC models so that players could play most any race.

Allowing players the chance to customize their characters even more is only a good thing from my point of view.  It keeps people interested in the game, and it would make players want to stick around and roll up a new 'toon to play as some other race they encounter that "looks cool".

Second: Allow characters to use any weapon.  Sure it makes sense that Jedi have lightsabers.  Sure it makes sense that Bounty Hunters have blasters.  However, there are some weapons that just don't see a lot of daylight in the game world because they are too specialized.  Like the Techblade, or the Techstaff, or the Scattergun.  If I had the ability to have a Force user with a techstaff, I think I'd enjoy the hell out of that.  Same for a Bounty Hunter/Trooper/Smuggler/Imperial Agent and any ranged weapon.  You can keep things somewhat specialized in that regard for PCs - Force users have to use melee weapons, and everyone else has to use ranged weapons.  Keep the companions the way they are; nothing there needs to change.

Third, and this one is a biggie: Redo the advanced classes/skill trees.  Anyone can look at the SWTOR skill trees and see that it's pretty much a direct clone of Blizzard's World of Warcraft.  I understand the reasoning behind that.  1) It's a format that players are familiar with, so it won't knock players out of a comfort zone, and 2) the model is already there, so why not use it?  The problem with this is twofold.  Initially, the problem is that it is a WoW clone.  The other issue is that there are abilities offered on both sides of the "Healer/Non-Healer" spectrum that would work for either side.  Let me explain my idea here; if Bioware scrapped the current skill system and looked at either The Secret World or Path of Exile for inspiration, the skill system would be much better.  You could then allow your players to choose what areas they want to spend skill points allowing for some overlap.  For Force users you could have three tiers: Melee, Force, and Healing.  For non-Force users you could have three tiers: Assault, Covert, and Healing.  Here is a link to the Path of Exile skill tree builder.   The builder is currently set up for the "Witch" class.  As you can see the player initially has two paths open for assigning skill points, however the skill tree quickly branches off into multiple directions.  Additionally, the player unlocks both passive and active abilities along the skill tree.  This allows for much more player customization of their character and helps to prevent the "use this build for tanking/DPS/healz" mentality that can be found in just about any MMORPG.

And lastly: make PvP worthwhile.  The best PvP systems I've ever seen in an MMO comes from Pirates of the Burning Sea.  PvP is initiated among the factions by killing NPCs of an opposing faction (not just a "neutral" NPC faction) inside the territorial waters of that enemy faction.  This begins to build unrest.  When a certain level of unrest is achieved, PCs level 10 and up are automatically flagged for PvP in their territories where unrest is very great.  Now, before you put the cart before the horse and whine about high level PCs ganging up on "lowbies" let me explain something; if a PC attacks and kills another PC and there is more than a 5 level difference between the characters, the faction with the greatest amount of unrest loses unrest. To try and make that clearer: lets assume Britain has gone on the offensive against Spain.  A British PC of level 30 attacks a Spanish PC of level 10 inside an unrest area.  The Brit loses unrest for his faction and now has to work harder to increase the level of unrest against Spain back to where it was.  The same works for NPCs as well.  If a PC of level 30 sinks an NPC of level 10, the aggressor faction loses unrest because of the level difference.  This was done to prevent high level PCs from just going around to the "lowbie" areas and corpse camping.  To continue: after yet more unrest is attained, the aggressor faction can start attacking cities of the enemy faction du jour and have the ability to go ashore and run missions/quests when normally you can't go to any towns other than your own faction.  After all of this is done, and one faction emerges victorious from PvP, the unrest table resets and the factions can go at it again.  During all this hullabaloo, the defending faction can work to ease unrest through crafting, through mercantile missions, and through kicking the crap out of the aggressor faction.  Other factions can join in on either side, but they don't gain anything by aiding one side or the other.

All of this gathering of unrest and PvP action typically takes about a week (or more depending) to culminate in a victory for one faction or another.  It is, in my humble opinion, the best PvP I've ever participated in, in any MMO I've ever played.

So how do I see this applied to SWTOR?  Well, I see adding new space combat missions.  Allow PCs to start gaining unrest against the enemy via space combat against NPCs.  From what I've seen/heard, most SWTOR players don't engage in much space combat.  This would change that significantly.  Also I would open up new planets/planet areas that are PvP only - that being said there would have to be balance.  Add a level penalty like I mentioned above to keep high level players from destroying "lowbies".  Or just put a level cap on the accessible area.  If you are above/below that level cap you don't get flagged for PvP.  Allow for special missions to aid in PvP, both group missions and solo missions.  Add gathering missions to gain unrest supplies that can be turned in to your faction to help disperse unrest.  Allow an NPC faction to randomly attack the Empire and the Republic and send either faction (or both) into unrest against the NPC faction.

These changes would make PvP more accessible to players without the need to form groups; without the need to be max level; without the need to have special gear; and would allow all levels of PCs to participate in gaining/dispersing unrest.

"So what rewards", I hear you cry, "do the winning faction get access to?"  Obviously there are the "planetary commendation" type rewards that you can currently earn through warzones.  I would additionally allow for mission unlocks depending on the level of unrest (for both factions) to increase/decrease unrest.  Have the loot tables increased for PvP missions - make the players feel that engaging in PvP is worthwhile.  If I can run a space mission and get credits that's great.  If instead I can run a space mission, get some credits, increase unrest for my faction and get a rare reward?  Incentive man, incentive.  Maybe it's a schematic, maybe it's a gear mod, whatever.  Maybe it's crafting materials in large quantities or crafting materials of better quality.  The point is incentive to run the missions.  Then there is the option to allow for a faction-wide buff/debuff depending on how your faction is doing in PvP.  And since SWTOR is Free/Pay to Play, you could limit PvP actions for free players and allow unlimited PvP to subscribers.  Cartel coins could be used to purchase PvP tags.

Just some musing that I've been doing and I needed to get it all down before I forgot it all.  If any of this actually happened for SWTOR I'd be ecstatic.  And again, it would make SWTOR the leading MMORPG in my opinion.

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