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NPC Merchants

Everquest NPC Merchants

Today’s EverQuest Next Roundtable question asks:

If a player sells an item to an NPC merchant, should other players be able to buy that item from the merchant?

I say absolutely yes.  I actually like NPC merchants — even in a player-driven economy.  In fact, I think merchants should sell decent gear and items to players.  Early Dark Age of Camelot handled this quite well.  Players made the best stuff, and occasionally a good item would drop from dungeons, but players more often than not sold and marketed the best items.

If the weapon sold by a merchant was lower quality, maybe it breaks quicker or does slightly less damage.  Maybe it can’t be repaired fully, and slowly loses permanent durability over time.

The idea of merchants can really be taken further.  What if certain merchants allowed players to put up items on consignment depending on that player’s crafting or merchant status.  Star Wars Galaxies’ merchant class had great tools to utilize both public and private merchant and auction services.

One of the best things about the original EverQuest was being able to find hidden gems on merchants in town.  I would always do a quick check of the merchants in my class training area.  Sometimes you’ll find bone chips, bat wings, and other spell or quest reagents.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!  There’s even the rare occasion where I was able to find magical dungeon drops just sitting on a vendor because someone just sold it to the vender to get rid of it.

So yes, merchants are awesome.

New and Interesting Crafting Professions

MMO Song CraftingI was thinking about MMOs the other night while trying to fall asleep, which rarely is a good thing for me to do. What first popped into my head was how could players make a name for themselves among their server community. Eventually I got around to remembering back to Star Wars Galaxies and how different crafters of weapons and other knick-knacks essentially created name brand recognition for themselves. The ability to experiment and  find higher grades of materials allowed for some variation in products so if you found out that Guy A made some great blasters then you would make sure to always swing by his shop first because you knew he made good stuff. This in turn got me thinking about tradeskills in general and how there isn’t really much variation nowadays. You have people that make weapons, armors, gems, potions, etc. It’s pretty much the same for all games.

So I tried to think of some possible new trade professions that incorporated the same kind of experimentation as SWG while keeping in mind my original thought of making a name for yourself. The first thing that popped into my head was Composer, like somebody who writes music. Imagine utilizing resources like creativity and inspiration to help you craft songs for bards. Maybe you could experiment around with them to increase their potency or tweak what they did. Then you name your piece something like “McNubbit’s Aria” or whatever and put it up for sale. Then players would actually be able to purchase your song skill and use it. I think that is a pretty appealing idea.

Obviously that profession is a little narrow in its scope and would really only work for a small percentage of classes like Bards and Minstrels but you get the idea. You could easily do the same thing for spell crafters. The first thing that popped into my head was Melf’s Acid Arrow. I mean, why the heck not let players craft at least some spells and skills? It doesn’t even have to be just spells either. Maybe there could be some kind of Swordmaster or Battlemaster profession that designs martial moves for melee classes. Same general concept and maybe you could even select from and combine any assortment of animations for your technique. I just think it sounds like a cool concept.

The hardest part in all of this is developing a system that can’t be abused by players while still allowing the wiggle room for customization. Spell making has been done in single-player games before like the Elder Scrolls series. Maybe that isn’t the best example, but I think that through a combination of different types of rare materials you could easily limit the potency on crafting combat abilities. To be honest, when it gets to this level of design it is quite beyond me. I’m just the idea guy who is kept up until 3 a.m. coming up with this crap.

Bring Back Character Customization!

EQ Character Customization

Graev and I were having a discussion the other day about character creation in MMOs, and we’ve come to the conclusion that it pretty much sucks these days. Yes, there are exceptions, but almost every new MMO released limits the player to just aesthetics (usually swapping faces) and a few basic choices like what class you want to play.

I enjoy character creation that lets me truly customize how I’m going to play.  I don’t like to be overwhelmed with meaningless or complicated customization, though.

SWG had a really good customization process where the player could choose their character, fully customize his or her looks, choose a starting skillset, and then allocate their stats to determine their Health, Action, and Mind.  You could never truly break your character because stat alteration was easily adjusted with an image designer (or I think you could wait it out via real time) and you could always pickup and drop skills.   Other than amazing options to customize the character’s appearance, nothing felt lasting or permanent.

UO had very similar customization in terms of character skills and stats.  If you messed them up, or even wanted to change them, it was a matter of pointing arrows up or down then just playing the game.  Choosing your skills mattered though because you were given starting items to help you out.  Ultimately, UO also falls into the same category as SWG with not a whole lot to care about later on.

A more hardcore approach is the oldschool EverQuest stat allocation.  Messing up your stats in EQ was definitely a horrifying experience.  I remember dinging 50 on my Necro, and all I could think about was how much I regret not having min-maxed my stats properly.  Eventually people figured out the ‘ideal’ way to build a character and it became less about customization and more about checking the right boxes.

I think striking a balance between the SWG and EQ style is ideal.  I want to ding level 50 (or max a character out, etc) and be able to still be affected by choices I made when I created my character.  I don’t want those choices to be game breaking or something that makes my character perform less than someone else — after all, we have to be friendly to newbs.

Maybe some sort of special traits or abilities (that aren’t worthless once per day novelties).  I’m trying to remember which game it was that let me choose a bunch of ancestral/heritage information.  Having those types of choices impact where your character can live, or what towns you’re welcome in, or play a part in factions would be cool.  Deities in EverQuest were a great idea, and I think the same type of customization should allow for cosmetic abilities and alternative paths of progression later on.

Race choice should also matter a lot. If you choose Dark Elf, you should expect to be evil and have to work hard to be accepted places.  Races with a natural affinity to magic should have higher intelligence and ultimately make better casters, but sacrifice in other areas.  Overcoming these shortcomings should be possible, but it should require you to sacrifice something else in order to one day achieve that status.  For example, if I wanted to be a Halfling Wizard, I may have to progress my character throughout his entire life away from his sneaky heritage just to one day be accepted by the master wizards who will teach me to hone my skills.

I’d love to hear about any ideas you folks have about customization.  I still believe you shouldn’t be able to break a character, but living with consequences that are meaningful is part of character progression even if those choices are made at the beginning.

My Ideal MMO: Ultimate PvP Sandbox Virtual World

Ideal MMO Combat

Combat would be real-time twitch based like Chivalry. Magic would be rare, and come with a huge burden.

Occasionally I come up with ideas for what my ideal MMORPG would be like.  Here’s a MMORPG I want to see made.  It’s very similar to a game I wrote about a few years ago.  I don’t even know what to call it.  It’s more than a sandbox, more than a virtual world, more than a PvP game.  It’s like the ultimate PvP sandbox for virtual world enthusiasts.   It’s not about grinding, it’s not about beating the game, it’s about living in the world and fulfilling a function as part of a greater community of players.

  • SWG Crafting, Skills, and Housing
  • DAoC style RvR
  • Elder Scrolls / Mount & Blade: Warband / Chivalry real time combat

The whole game would take place in a massive open world that players can colonize, create their own Kingdoms, and begin governing.  Settlements can be constructed around massive castles, and some pre-made settlements would exist with NPC governors.  Players could choose between living in the NPC Kingdom, or venturing out to create their own. Players could attack each other, take over other Kingdoms, and live within a sandbox world where players govern themselves.  The further out from the NPC kingdoms you go, the more you have to rely on the player-driven world.

MMO Desert environment

The world would be so large that desert, snow, corrupted, plains, and other environments would be inhabitable.

The goal of the game would be to continually develop your character to make a living.  Crafting would be at the center of the game because everything would degrade.

Players would have to take on the role of blacksmith and other crafting positions in order to have anything made. The best crafters wouldn’t be able to specialize into combat, so this creates a real sense of specialization, importance, and uniqueness for crafters.

Combat would be the hardest part.  I think current tech doesn’t allow for ideal real time twitch combat, but some day it’ll get there.  I think Darkfall shows we’re fairly close.

Vast MMO World Governed by the players

The world be be enormous. The further out you go, the more you witness the effects of a player-governed world. Players could find an area and begin their own settlement.

Gear would be important, but dieing would mean losing your gear and using it would degrade it anyway.  It needs to be like the medieval times when there could be a special sword you value, but if you lose it you can pick up most any other sword and still be able to fight because YOU are the weapon.

The world would have to be ginormous.  I mean literally huge.  Economies would develop in certain regions that would make economies in other parts of the world feel entirely alien.  There would be desert regions, regions dominated by water, grassy plains, tainted lands, and all sorts of environments.  This also plays into the crafting, as certain resources are only available in certain parts of the world.  Players would have to adapt their skills to the region to help them survive.

I know it’s outrageously ambitious and likely impossible, but this is the foundation for my vision of an ideal virtual world.  I welcome your input on how you would improve or change the idea to be more ideal for you.

Adventure Log: In a galaxy far, far away

Returning to SWG

I think my character’s face says it all.

I delayed last week’s adventure log a few days because I decided to do it on my mini-adventure back into the galaxy of Star Wars.  No, not the Old Republic.  I’m talking about An Empire Divided.   Some of you are still probably going “wtf is he talking about?” — SWG!  Star Wars Galaxies.

The urge to go back and play was overwhelming when I heard the news that SWGEmu is almost getting to the point where the long beta is over.  SWGEmu is a SWG emulator  recreating the game at the point it was at before the infamous combat update.   Since the real SWG was shut down, just about everyone who still wants to play the game is playing on SWGEmu — about 3,000 people online at any given time.

Entering such a vast galaxy as a completely new player is overwhelming.  A few of my friends were totally lost as to how to actually play the game.  SWG was never very good at taking the new player and getting them started down a path.  It’s really up to the individual to figure things out, or have another player guide them.  Sometimes the most confusing part of SWG is the best part: Crafting.

Crafting comprises the vast majority of SWG.  The entire game revolves around the player-driven economy.  Players craft literally everything, and everything has a use.  It’s such a complex system that I can’t do it justice here.

The key to understanding SWG, and understanding how to play, is knowing that combat is not the emphasis.  Did that blow your mind?  An MMORPG where you can literally never, ever, engage in combat and still have one of the most enriching, immersing experiences possible in a MMO actually exists.  The trick is understanding that you’re not progressing towards beating something.  The goal is to live and survive in the galaxy while hopefully creating a more comfortable existence for yourself while building relationships and enjoying the community.

Okay, so less about SWG and more about me.  Read on. [Read more...]