Category Archives: Game Design
Thoughts on certain game design issues.
Alright so everyone’s been going crazy playing Diablo III since it’s release over a week ago, and everyone’s been having loads of fun myself included. Instead of talking about how awesome it is (and it is pretty awesome) I want to talk about how it could be a lot better if certain things were maybe different. I’ll mostly be talking from my own experience playing a demon hunter (lvl 45 in nightmare at the moment) so I might be wrong about some things, so feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments.
Lets start with the skill building system. So far I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with different builds and I like how the skills and runes are gradually unlocked, but I think some things are a bit off with that system. first of all, why isn’t elective mode explained anywhere!? elective mode (which can be turned on in the options) enables you to put any skill in any slot you want which allows for more advanced builds. Sadly u’ll have to figure it out for yourself. the second problem I have is with skill switching. Why are there increasing cooldowns on abilities once switched depending on the difficulty you’re playing? Is it because they want to make switching skills in the middle of fights more risky and difficult ? is the fact that you have to open a skill window that blocks most of your screen not enough to make it dangerous to switch in a fight? Why does the system not allow you to save builds to switch between them more easily then? it seems that having long cooldowns and having to pick out each skill is just redundant.
Next come the difficulty modes and multiplayer. The fact is, Diablo III’s campaign is not long at all, so the game relies on replay value with 4 difficulty modes and a hardcore mode to add challenge to each play-through, not to mention that playing each class feels different and gearing up your character takes a while (I’m not going to mention pvp because that’s not out yet). While all of the things i mentioned are awesome and to be expected in Diablo, I can’t help but feel that the difficulty curve just shoots up through the roof when it comes to elite mobs. Nothing is more surprising than being suddenly one-shotted by an elite after spending hours trampling through normal mode. So I go to the auction house and buy myself some better gear to cope, while my friend points out that on inferno people are assholes and item prices are too insane.
My follower (the templar) who was quite useful in normal mode, turned to a complete moron in nightmare mode. the fact that I can only equip him with a few items makes his damage less than insignificant and he seems to have lost the ability to taunt anything, not to mention that he is usually unaware that he is standing in poison clouds… its embarrassing to watch. I decided the best thing to do since im nowhere near my friend’s level that I’ll simply open my game to the public, and together we will destroy all evil! It seemed to work when I did it the day before.
… Not so much. I kept soloing for about 30 mins before I was joined by a barbarian! “the minions of hell grow stronger”. He stayed in town for about 15 mins while I struggled with the demons before he left the game. Next I got a wizard that kept dying because he doesn’t know that it’s best to keep a distance between himself and elite packs. regardless we kept on going until we reached a boss. He died instantly for the same reason as before, but I managed to do some kiting and revive him. He died right away again, so I ended up soloing the boss with increased difficulty. Templar doesn’t look so bad now does he. At least he gives me increased regen and the minions of hell don’t grow stronger when he’s around…
I love Diablo III but I just wish some things were different. Why do I have to leave my game and lose some progress if I realize that maybe soloing is better right now (after the 3rd moron that joined my game). Why does the game have to turn to a grind fest when you simply reach a point where your gear is suddenly not good enough? people will argue that, this is what Diablo is, grinding is the only thing on the menu. But I thought there was gonna be more multiplayer co-op fun and pvp mayhem… NOPE! everybody has to grind fast to the top! we must reach max level asap and get some gear! maybe its partly our fault as players. Maybe Blizzard didn’t want this. Maybe they wanted us to take our time, play together and enjoy the game before they released pvp. What do you guys think? Are we part of the problem? I’m gonna go back to grinding, I mean playing… it’s still fun!
- Diablo III is a hell of a game (todayonline.com)
- Diablo III sets record for fastest selling PC game ever (slashgear.com)
- Diablo III – A journey through Act IV and the endgame (geek.com)
- Review: ‘Diablo III’ will keep players coming back for more (mercurynews.com)
- Five top tips for your first few days of Diablo III (massively.joystiq.com)
- Player finishes Diablo III in 12 hours 29 minutes (and others in 7) (slashgear.com)
- Hack’n’Slash Fic: On Diablo III Difficulty and Dumbness (rockpapershotgun.com)
- Why is Diablo III still a work in progress? – Ars Technica (arstechnica.com)
As I mentioned before, I had access to the Guild Wars 2 beta last weekend since I pre-purchased the game. I have to say I’m quite impressed with the way the game is shaping up. Throughout the weekend I mainly played a Charr Ranger up to lvl 16, a Norn Engineer to lvl 6 and a Human Mage to lvl 7. Now today I’m mainly going to talk about the game’s combat system and what makes it different than your run of the mill MMO.
In essence the game’s combat system is about the player’s choices and skill. The player has a 10 slot skill bar that’s explained in the diagram below.
The 1st five skills can be switched out in combat instantly by switching to a secondary weapon set for most classes (elementalist can also switch elements using F1-F4). Since these skills are determined by the weapon, the player’s choice becomes also about play style and not just the stats on the weapon. Some skills can be charged for more power and some skills have a chaining quality to them. Chaining is when a skill changes after you use it the first time (Ranger’s Hornet Sting leaps back away from the target after striking, it then becomes Monarch’s Leap which leaps back into combat crippling your foe when you use it the 2nd time).
When you press a button on your skill bar, your character is going to swing the weapon. Whatever skill that button is, it’s going to fire off and go on cool down whether you have a target or not, and it is going to hit any viable target in its path. This means that if an enemy is standing between you and your target, that enemy will take the hit instead. Some skills’ damage is based on the distance to the target (such as a longbows long shot or point blank shot).
Some skills in the game have something called a combo-field quality to them, meaning that they can interact with other skills. The simplest example of that is a Ranger or a Warrior shooting an arrow through an elementalist’s Flame Wall, imbuing the arrows with fire as they touch it (check the video below at 1:20 to see this in action) . This emphasizes the importance of movement and positioning and adds another layer to player interaction and cooperation that goes beyond each player just doing their job in the “holy trinity”.
The game also introduces a dodge mechanic. Double tapping a direction key will cause your character to dodge roll in that direction to avoid damage. This uses up points from an endurance bar that recharges overtime, which means that you can only dodge about twice in a row before having to wait.
All these mechanics -and others that I didn’t manage to get into during my time in the beta weekend- help create a very engaging combat system that keeps you active all the time and gives a feeling of satisfaction in a good fight. My experience with the ranger left me quite satisfied when I was switching from a longbow to a sword and axe when an enemy gets close, Dodging out of strong attacks when I saw them coming, using “Hornet’s sting” to leap out of combat when things got too hot to use my heal and leap back in to finish the job. The bottom line is, it never felt stale. Like a breath of fresh air after all the “WoW clones”.
There’s a lot more to it than what I just talked about and I’ll probably return to the subject later when I’ve gotten to experience it more. I’m out!
- Guild Wars 2: First Impressions (dbzer0.com)
- First Look – Guild Wars 2 (godisageek.com)
- GW2: The game Mythic tried to make (syncaine.com)
- A Gorgeous, Living World Sets Guild Wars 2 Apart [Guild Wars] (kotaku.com)
- Guild Wars 2 Beta (oldgamereviewer.com)
I checked out the Diablo III open beta weekend last week and here are a few thoughts I’d like to share about it what I thought.
Right off the bat, it was impossible to login for the first few hours. Now I know this was the first open beta of a highly anticipated game (not to mention that it was meant as a stress test), but it made me think about Blizzard‘s decision to force online connectivity for Diablo III. This brings up the discussion about the game being mainly a single-player or multi-player game, and people usually start talking about Diablo 2, duping and so on. What people seem to miss is that while this is a sequel, it’s still a new game and blizzard is trying new things and it shows in other aspects of the game. During the beta I started playing alone but at some point I noticed I could open up my game to the public. Within a few seconds I had a bunch of people running around in my game destroying shit as they went along. It was certainly a quick way to go through beta area, but at times I felt it didnt let me experience the game well since I didnt want to fall behind. I could definitely see myself having fun with a bunch of friends though.
Blizzard also implemented the auction house that should allow players to use real money or in game gold. Now there’s a lot to say about that and it deserves it’s own post, but I just wanted to mention it since it’s another motivation for the online decision. Without dragging this on let’s just say that while I can see this being an issue sometimes when you don’t have internet access or servers are down (knowing Blizzard this wont be too common), it probably won’t be a reason to not buy the game if you’re a fan.
On to gameplay! controls were pretty simple; click to move, right click, left click for main attack skills, 1 2 3 4 for other skills and Q for potions. You unlocked skills as you leveled up and every skill slot you have has a few possible skills you can assign it. This limits the number of skills you can use at any given time and allows for different builds and character customization. each of the skills also has runes that enhance which you also unlock as you level up which adds even more customization. I enjoyed trying out different combos and I hope that all options will be viable and that no builds emerge as the “Best” the same way it often was in WoW.
Loot was abundant. I used the stash a lot to gear up all the characters I made, and it’s obvious that this game makes it easy for someone who is usually lazy when it comes to alts. The crafting system seemed a bit too simple. one thing I didn’t like was that some classes could equip weapons that they couldn’t use, and the only benefit would be from the stats. It seems a shame to turn some cool weapons into simple stat-sticks. I mean come on, a demon hunter can’t swing a sword to save his life? not cool…
Art style is great as expected from Blizzard. Same goes for story, dialogue, music and voice overs. I saw a lot of people complain about the graphics not being that good. I thought the graphics were as good as they needed to be to support the art direction while making sure the game runs smooth on most machines.
Overall regarding the beta, I hated the lag, hated people rushing through the game, hated getting disconnected with different errors all the time. If we look past all that, Diablo III looks like a solid game as expected. Personally, playing with friends is gonna be a huge factor when it comes to when I get the game (yea I didn’t pre-order) and how much time I’ll spend playing it.
This weekend I’ll be playing the Guild Wars 2 beta with some friends on the EU-Underworld server if anyone out there cares to join us. I’ll post character names later. I’m out!
- Blizzard irons out Diablo III wrinkles as 300K simultaneous players participate in beta (digitaltrends.com)
- Diablo III teaser has fans pumped (slashgear.com)
For a while now I’ve been thinking about games using the free to play business model. When I read Marcus “Notch” Persson’s thoughts on the subject on his tumblr and more recently in relation to his new game announcement in which he states that free to play is a “scam”. He thinks that free to play should be called “as expensive as you want it to be” since it essentially puts no cap on how much a player can spend. Now all of that is essentially true, but I’m one of those people who think that free to play could be a good thing for both developers and players, IF done properly.
Now while gathering my thoughts on this topic I realized that it is too big to cover in one post, so I’ll try to break it down a little. So for today I’ll talk about the engine in the free to play machine, Micro transactions. Cause let’s face it, developers need to eat too. Micro transactions are those little payments you make in-game on various things like items, characters, extra content…etc (lets call them “items” from now on) . What makes micro transactions good or bad is what you sell, how it affects the game and how much it costs.
The general guide line for using micro transactions well is to sell items that are purely cosmetic and don’t sell items that give players advantage over others. You don’t want to split your player base into people who pay and people who don’t. Getting into a pay to win situation is something all games should avoid. Take Flight Control Rocket for example. The game offers you to continue your game if you pay for it, so you can get as high a score as you want provided you can pay for it. If you wanna read more about how that game tries to take your money, read this article by Ben Kuchera. Another pitfall is implementing micro transactions in a finished game by simply locking content and offering the players the option to buy it. What this does is give the entry level player -who doesn’t want to pay yet- an incomplete game, which makes them feel forced to buy something. That’s not a good way to get people into your game.
Lets take a look at a game that used this system successfully and see how they did it. League of Legends is the game I chose since it seems to be quite popular these days, and I’ve played it enough to understand how it works. for those of you who aren’t familiar with the game, League of Legends or LoL by Riot Games (I know it’s ridiculous) is a Defense of the Ancients-style online multiplayer RTS that uses micro transactions as a source of revenue. I believe they went the free to play way because they wanted to convert players of the original DOTA who haven’t payed for that game since they bought Warcraft 3 (DOTA was a custom map in WC3). Here’s a gameplay video.
The game uses two currencies: Influence points or IP, which you gain by playing matches (you get more for winning), and Riot points or RP, which you buy with money. What the game offers for purchase are 4 things:
- Permanent access to in-game champions.
- Cosmetic Skins for the champions.
- Runes that very slightly enhance your stats or abilities.
- Boosters that allow you to gain IP faster or to level up faster for a period of time.
Lets take the champions first. The fact that there are many champions to choose from is one of the game’s core features, but it is also one of the things that makes it hard for beginners to pick up the game. LoL makes a pool of 10 champions available to play for free at any given time, and changes them every week. This make the choice of champion easier for new players and allows them to get familiar with the champions. The player can then decide to buy any champion he wants to play whenever he wants for a certain amount of IP or RP. The skins can only be purchased with RP. This makes the paying players feel distinguished without giving advantage, thus keeping the free player happy as well.
Runes can be purchased for RP or IP, but their use is based on your level which is determined by the number of games you’ve played. What this means is that even if you can pay for them, you have to earn the right to use them. As far as the boosters go, they just help you earn the points or level up at a higher rate to be able to use the runes, but you still need to play the game to get the benefit of the boost.
Now this system works well for many reasons. The rotation of locked champions becomes a way to ease the players into the game without being a feature locked behind a required payment. It allows players to customize without breaking the balance of the game. Most importantly it unites the players by giving them the freedom to choose if they want to invest their time or their money in the game. I mean let’s face it the people who can afford to pay extra for games are usually people who don’t have much time on their hands to play, but still want to get a match or 2 in at the end of the day.
What “business people” sometimes fail to understand is that online multiplayer games rely on a strong community of players to keep it fun and appealing (Not to mention opening up the e-sport possibility). That’s where even the free players come in as an asset to the game and it’s continuity. You don’t need to make money off every player to turn a profit. I’m out!