Friday, December 21, 2007

The Future of Content in Wyvern

For a number of years now we've been pushing the boundaries of what came before. The graphics have improved, the design of our maps have gotten better, and our overall standards have skyrocketed. There was a time when an area like Florina was considered good (minus the unbalanced updates that came later). Now you couldn't get promoted with something like that if your life depended on it.

Why is that? Well, we've had some very talented people come in who have pushed the boundaries of what once was and made us see that can do better and therefore we have expected more. People like Binyamin, Legolas, Raeden, Teshuvah, and Zifa. Some were great right out of the gate, others took time to build their craft into something amazing. The point is we have a lot of expectations these days and so I thought I'd take some time to share some of the ones that are most important to me with you all. You may have seen hints of some of these things in the game already, others have yet to be released. But, in the end, the game will move more toward these visions of the future and older areas that do not hold up with be phased out.

Cities

Let's start out by discussing cities. There was a time when, to make a city, you would create this really big box of a map and just fill it in with houses. Then you would fill those houses up with monsters because the idea of making houses with NPCs that had interesting things to say was more work, required some originality, and because your main goal was to attract lots of players to your area (the aim  to find bigger and better ways to get your content viewed by people and that meant more experience and more gold). However, they looked and felt nothing like real cities and some of these things would get too big, to the point where the solution was to split it up into two maps, like you see with Coran. It's basically just the same thing, only you cut and pasted the bottom half into a new map. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it was just a quick fix to a crumbling system that kept being repeated by every wizard that came around. Including myself.

The solution and now requirement for all new cities and villages is that you design it with multiple maps to begin with and never limit it to just one or two. Now you should have districts and paths between them that are made up of farmland, woodland, a simple city street, or whatever you think best fits. We see this in areas like Amita, Bura Shaan, and Glacier Point.

While doing that you should create areas around the city where you can place monsters while limiting their exposure within the city. If you're going to put them inside of the city be creative. For example, Alaria is by no means perfect in this department and still needed to be split up into a lot of different maps but, in the final product, one thing will remain and that is the random house near the hospital. Sometimes you will go there and you will meet a nice family, other times it will be infested by Orcs and Ogres who locked the family in the attic.

But don't try to do everything with monsters. Find ways to make these houses interesting. Give all your NPCs detailed conversations that include important plot points, have them get angry at you for breaking in, (again, in a creative way) or add mini quests/special items. Someone could be angry that their neighbor stole their good silver and they want you to investigate. For which they will reward you once you have returned their property. Another alternative is to let players find special things in these houses only, like my hydra food, gizmos, and bags that generate random prizes. Bottom line, wizards should do things to encourage players to go into houses and never forget the importance of these places as they are of extreme value for making you feel like you're exploring this massive fantasy city and not just wandering around looking for things to mindlessly kill.


Dungeons

One of the big mistakes that people continue to make involves creating monster maps. Okay good, we got people to move monsters out of cities. But even though it may make more sense, it's often just as easy to kill monsters, minus the easy access to healing fountains. Generally what you see is a single ruins map, off to the side, that has a half a dozen structures or more and each has only one map to their name (which then has a few of the same monsters lined up for you to kill). We've been getting rid of them, but you still see it in Varak and in the Minath Ruins. Make no bones about, this is a dressed up zoo. It allows people to pick and choose which creatures they want to fight and always gives them easy access to treasure.

Instead, each of those structures should be a dungeon with at least 3-5 maps, but hopefully more. Each dungeon should have puzzles and traps. You should have to work to get keys or find levers to get to the next level. Further, there should be mini bosses throughout and a final boss at the end. Make your monsters challenging and be sure not to forget the plot. You can add some monsters that are good against archers here, some that are good against fighters there, etc. You can even make it look like monsters are fighting for control of a level which, by the way, will allow you to make sense of using a wider range of monsters and give you a plot to build on. Also, one should make sure that the really good treasure is a reward for completing the whole thing.

If one takes the time to create a particularly complex dungeon, they can consider making something totally unique. It doesn't have to be something that's hard to code. It could simply be an item given for bragging rights or you could find a key that unlocks another dungeon. Better yet, there's one key in each of those half dozen dungeons and only when you collect all 6 can you unlock the mega dungeon. You don't want people just doing the first level or two and leaving, you want to encourage them to go all the way through and you want to make it hard for them to do so. Take the Gauntlet in Alaria as an example. There are hidden keys in each room (in more complex ones you can actually make the keys move around) and little tricks that you have to learn to get to them. One might be hidden behind a wall that you can walk through, another might be guarded by a thief that steals your items, another yet might be impossible for you to get without locking yourself in and seemingly needing a partner who will let you out. Creativity is your friend when it comes to designing a good dungeon.

Also, group dungeons are very important. Someone making one should do all the things said above, but they need to find ways to make it unsolvable, nearly unsolvable, or more difficult... if done alone. This can be achieved by adding monsters that target certain players. For example, Black Dragons are hard for mages to beat since they have a chance to block their spells and they are hard for fighters to beat since their acid does a lot of damage in close range combat. But archers can easily clean their clocks. Higher level players have no problem with them, but a version can easily be designed that does the same thing to them as mid-level players currently experience with this version.

Further more, a good wizard should utilize tricks that force you into combat with those types of monsters. You might need to kill all monsters in the map to move on or the monster may be holding a key you need. The latter allows you to make a dungeon that isn't just a straight forward level based dungeon. You can have one that branches off to the side where players then have to defeat various different monsters and collect their keys in order to get to the end. An advantage of having a group would therefore not just be that you need them to defeat these different types of monsters, but that you can split up and collect your keys at the same time and then meet up at the end. This is something players can't do if you just have each monster one floor down from each other and you have to get past each one to reach the next. While that's fine for a standard dungeon, the point is that by being creative, you can create more interesting scenarios for players.

Anyway, another method one can utilize are signs and random paths. For example, if you're a dwarf, you can read a sign that tells you which of 5 paths to take to move on where as if you're not a dwarf and don't have one with you, you have to randomly go through them all and risk extreme danger. This also adds a huge amount of flavor to the game. Finally, the reward at the end should either be something players can split or something that is worth it for players to go back time and time again to help their friends get after they've done it. If done properly these group dungeons could be large events that clans and players in general plan for weeks.

In the end, things like the elf houses and these one map monster areas should be non-existent. If you want to fight elves, you should have to go through a forest dungeon filled with traps, elves waiting to ambush you, and various other dangers before reaching something good at the end or you should have to fight your way through something like an armed elven keep. Right now, people can almost fall asleep while training in certain places. They just click, run right through the monsters that they are willing to handle, and then they run right out. Dungeons that keep people on their toes with hidden dangers and puzzles will make a huge difference in keeping people "awake." Especially once monsters are able to travel between maps. Right now you can run out of a map to heal or make quick use of the apply key and your spell aliases to "fight" monsters from the safety of the previous map. However, once monsters can follow you throughout an entire dungeon, the game will be much more like a war.

Randomization

This is a great concept. It makes it possible to create interesting mini-games and more exciting areas, (as I mentioned a bit in discussing dungeons) but it really does wonders in quests. All quests are now required to be randomized. Secret words will now change, paths that you thought were safe can now be dangerous, key items will move around, objectives will change, traps will appear in places you didn't before see them. It really sucks for cheaters. You may have been told to look in that general store on that exact spot for the Orb of Goxii and then hop on one leg, but suddenly it's not there. Where did it go? It may be in another part of the general store, another building entirely, or you may not even need the orb this time around and need to talk to that NPC all over again to find out what to look for.

It's great, but best of all it makes quests interesting again for people doing them on multiple accounts. With it, you can no longer run around and mindlessly do what you did last time to solve it in a few minutes flat. If you try without taking the time to check, you'll probably end up having to wait a half hour so you can start the quest all over again. As time goes on, we're going to find more ways to use this which, in turn, will make a more challenging and interesting game for the players. If you ever can metaphorically fall asleep at your computer because you're going through simplistic motions over and over again, you should quit because you're no longer playing a game, you're doing a choir... something Wyvern will be anything but in the future.

Good vs Evil

This is a big thing for me. The idea is to make two different games. One you can experience if you make a character that follows the path of good, the other you experience if you follow the path of evil. As a result, whole new worlds open up to you. There would be different quests that can only by solved by either type of character, different advantages when doing dungeons, different monster training areas, unique items, and different risks.

Of course, the game is very limited in the way of that right now, but imagine if certain cities would arrest you just for being so evil that tales of your villainy as reach them or if you're a certain race which they consider to be naturally bad and, in traditional simple thinking, they aren't willing to give you a chance. If you want in, you'd have to sneak in, wear disguises, etc., and always risk being caught. Same with good players. You think those drow are just going to let you, a human paladin, walk through their city without a fight? No chance. What about the cities belonging to a dark empire that threatens the cities of reason and light?

But it's so much more than this. I could go on, but a lot of this involves ideas that I have which aren't things we've started pushing for yet, so I'm just giving you a glimpse. However, one thing that will absolutely be important are good and evil items that you wield/wear depending on your alignment. Unfortunately the code doesn't work right now, but once it does you will have to decide... be evil and wield this new powerful sword you found in a dungeon or continue to be good and miss out. Sure townspeople won't flee from you on sight (another idea that you may one day see) but training will be harder. It's things like this that extend gameplay in a way that is fun for the player. We already have it to a certain extent with players making new characters just to experience new characters, but we can do a lot better.

Originality

You know how everything is basically a take off of the medieval village concept? There's a dragon to fight, an angry dwarf in a tavern, and a keep just up the road? Well this is all well and good, but we also want new things. We have a few in the game right now and Binyamin is a great originator of them. His flying pig area, the blue moon, the under the bed nightmare, toys in the attic, or my dinosaur area. Imagine if you could walk down a New York City style street and be attacked by a tank because the city is under martial law after monsters from the past begin entering the city through a crack in space time or you can use the Well of Time to reach the future of Wyvern which is similar in nature to Shadow Run. Only instead of orcs and elves appearing after humans have established themselves, you find a world where orcs, elves, and humans have developed into a technological world. Although this world has modern cities, it is a very dark, warlike place... with guns.

In short, the sky is the limit. If you can dream it up we want it. A lot of people think of Wyvern in very limited terms, but it has always been the goal of this game to be a little quirky and expand into extremely creative content. The only thing that has been stopping us is that areas like that need entirely new graphics and most map makers cannot make them so they make do with the medieval style ones that already exist. But, we want wizards to wow us and you're going to see a lot more wow as time passes.

Anyway, I really could go on and I would like to expand on each one of the things I mentioned, but I don't feel like it would flow together if I did. Something like that is better for a manual (which it already sounds too much like one as I often seem to be addressing the reader with things they should do and not things that would be done) and so it doesn't work in a friendly attempt to introduce people to semi-new concepts that they will be seeing more of.

Regardless, there are also a lot of things I'd like to see on a personal level which may or may not ever happen. Some examples;

-New races that are unlocked within the game. After doing a very special high level quest you are bitten by a vampire or werewolf and your character wakes up to find it is level one with nothing it had before, but you get to run around as this new race which is a step up from the characters you can pick from when you start the game (inspired by something just like this which Zifa once suggested). In addition to expanding the game in a fun way, it's also a status symbol.

-Quests working like alignment. If you do Shrouded in Darkness you get -20 quest points. If you do Demon Hordes you get +20. Both give you the same bonus where the high scores are concerned so if you have the same exact xp and gold, but you have -122 quest points and the other person has +120, the one who has negative points will be higher. This also serves to punish you for doing every quest even though they may go against the ideals your character holds and will factor into the game in more ways then just the high scores - NPCs will treat you differently, areas will be locked/opened to you, etc. Some quests could even serve to offer two paths so you can do something like steal the item for someone rather than give it to the monk to get negative quest points rather than positive.

-Npcs that talk to you differently based on race and alignment. If you're a drow, you could get screams from simple villagers, but if you're a human they could talk to you about what a fine day it is.

-Holidays within Wyvern. Not real ones, but made up ones that are always automated. For example, right now when you go into Stensele you are told about a holiday that is going on. Instead, once a year you could enter it to find a party has overtaken the streets. Everybody is happy, everybody is drinking, and there are games/prizes that you can take part in during that day only. It gives people something to look forward to without offending anyone in this very international setting Wyvern is apart of and it just adds a great bit of flavor to the game. All the holiday maps would be made in advance and code would be written that takes you to those maps instead of the regular ones during a certain 24 hour period. There's a game called Dark Castle which did something like this. If the clock on your computer was ever set to Friday the 13th, you were in for a special treat. Minus being able to change your clock, it's an amazing thing to look forward to once you hear about it and even more amazing if you stumble on it by accident.

-Overhaul of Dragons. New graphics are drawn for young dragons and ancient ones. All the 2x2 dragons are turned into medium sized dragons which are about the strength of the current Red dragon. 3x3 Dragons are created to be major bosses akin to Riagors and are meant to be standalone monsters. Meanwhile the 2x2 Dragons of today are replaced with new 1x2 young dragons that aren't old enough to pose much of a threat. Most of the maps with dragons in lairs would suddenly make a lot more sense as the dragons we currently have piled together are too old to be living together, but they aren't dangerous enough to make it worth it to players if we split them up.


Well that's enough for now. In a future blog post I'll probably write an equally long post that goes more into this, but I've been writing too long so I'll end it here. Plus I don't want to give away all my blogging material all at once. Anyway, thanks for listening boys, girls, and circus freaks. I hope some of this generated some excitement and if not, I mock your pathetic attempts to cling to the past.

By the way, as you clearly see I changed the template on the blog. I think this one fits better with Wyvern's old look, but feel free to let me know what you think. If enough of you disagree I'll change it back.

3 comments:

King of Dragons said...

Agreed about the alignment deal. Lords of Evil shouldn't be allowed in just any city. But on the other hand, all the high leveled monsters, nay, most monsters are evil.

We need more good monsters to kill and an evil city for evil people.

IMO a necromatic floating citadel place. Skeleton NPCs etc.

King of Dragons said...

Actually, I forgot to talk about your group dungeon idea.

As long as the players in the party have their own area, I think it would be a great idea. Might give more use to healers (other then Paladins, hopefully) and call for more diverse population in the game if there is a big demand for certain classes. (40% paladin, 40% Caveman, 20% Other atm)

And it is the perfect oppurtunity for some really epic battles.

Anonymous said...

Wyvern has desensitized many players to the dangers of dragons in many RPG worlds. They shouldn't just be one-hit kill wonders. Dragons deserve the chance you described in the blog post; strength and life.

Now, when I fight a Demon Lord or Arch Dracolich, my melee hits always land on the opponent. I think higher end monsters need high levels of dodge, so that melee characters can't just walk through any area spam healing, you know?

After reading this one blog post, Arilou, I thought up of a system to balance out the dodge mechanics, and give mages a chance in PKing. Think about this:

Skill "Dodge" gives chance to avoid all melee damage.
Resist "Melee" always reduces certain amount of damage from each attack that hits you. It gets less and less effective with more dodge, since less hits you in the first place.
Resist "Magic" should grant chance to avoid all magic damage.
Skill "[Elemental] Attunement" should always reduce certain amount of damage from each time any sort of magic hits you.

To me, it only makes sense that there should be a way to avoid and/or reduce both magic and physical attacks. Higher skills levels in magics and weapon skills would both increase damage and accuracy.

Say you are fighting a frost wyvern, and it has been granted the qualities you suggested in your blog. I can fire off 5 level 20 Fire Magic Fireballs and hit about 2/7 times, but each one will do significant damage, say about 7-8% of the Wyvern's HP. This makes sense RP style because Wyverns are highly magical creatures, so their "Attunement" is high, while being based Frost beings, they are weak to fire attacks.

Not only would this cause more people to train elements like air and death for use against specific monsters, but it would also add some sort of randomization to each killing. That Frost Wyvern may not die after 50 Fireballs, or it might die after 5. As a player, randomization always scared the beep out of me, because when something takes too long, chances are I'm going to die.

That's my idea, with a little elaboration. Mages should also be able to destroy melee characters in PvP a little easier too. If someone has 90% resist fire, it means that when a level 25 Fireball does hit that player, it'll hit for some 150 damage, rather than 5 or 10.