Sunday, February 05, 2012

Player or Character as Central Entity

In WoW and most other MMOs, the character is the central entity in the design around which everything revolves. But players have multiple characters. And there are a lot of game play elements which are fun the first time around, but are not so much fun the second time around.

The quintessential example here is reputation grinds. Working on rep is reasonably interesting on your first character. But it's excessive on your second character, especially if the reputation is necessary for endgame. Right now, WoW gets around this limitation by making important items Bind-on-Account, which allows you to transfer them to characters who don't have the necessary rep yet.

But, what if reputation was tied to the player account, not the character? Once you're exalted with the Argent Dawn, you're exalted on all your characters. You could have the long reputation grinds and chains once again, because a player only needs to do them once.

There are a lot of other elements which could be moved from the character to the player. Reputation, AchievementsPet collections, and Mount collections are the straight-forward ones. But what about some less obvious elements?

Friends - We're already moving towards this with Real Id and Battletags. I predict that eventually the Friends Lists will exist at the account level, and consist of other accounts, rather than characters. Same thing with the Ignore List.

Gold - Gold could work at the player level. All your characters would have access to, and contribute to, a central gold stockpile.

Currencies - To extend gold, why not all currencies, including Valor and Honor points?

Inventory - This might sound a little odd, but does each character need a unique inventory? Could the same set of bags be used for all characters. There would be issues here, of course, but how necessarily unique are inventories?

Bank - A bank might work better at the player level, shared between all characters. Certainly would be easier than using the mail system all the time.

Guilds - There are probably a lot of objections to having players belonging to a guild, rather than individual characters. But there are also a lot of requests for being able to belong to multiple guilds at the same time. If we did have a multi-guild system, it certainly would be easier to have the account belong to the different guilds, rather than individual characters.

Attunements - I liked long attunement chains, especially for the first tier of content. But again, once you've unlocked something, it should be unlocked for all your characters.

PvP Matchmaker Ratings - Really, shouldn't a player's rating be consistent across all her characters? As far as I see, having ratings be character-based just allows people to game the system.

Areas like Molten Front - Similar to attunements, areas like the Molten Front would be better if you only needed to unlock it once. You could even make the process longer and more intricate, confident that each player only needs to do it once.

Lockouts - Possibly the most controversial element I can think of. But consider the idea of having 2 lockouts per account per week. You could do two raids on the same character, or raid with two different characters. There are also some shenanigans with alts at the very high end which this might cut down on.

When we look at the original design of most modern MMOs, almost all gameplay elements are unique to each character that is created. But I think that perhaps a better design might see the player as the central element, with all her characters sharing many elements.

20 comments:

Malchome said...

You hit the nail on the head. THat is the real issue and problem with all of the current and previous generations of MMO. We need to move away form Character centered systems to Player based systems. Blizzard appears to be moving that way with more Battle.net based functionality. It just can't come fast enough.

Stabs said...

People can still make alts using second accounts. This was quite normal in SWG where players were initially restricted to one character per server to prevent alting. I met several players who had one account for each craft skill.

Masith said...

I absolutely agree with some of these and completely disagree with others.
As an officer for example I don't want trialists to have every single alt in my guild until they have passed their trial.
With the PvP rating, I'm not a pvper but wouldn't this mean players wouldn't be able to pvp on their less geared alts with less skilled friends as it would break their pvp rating on their main?
Personally while I like the idea of having account wide tier 1 attunements I would love them to bring back attunements for later tiers but make them guild wide not just account wide.

Shintar said...

Like Masith, I agree with some of these and disagree with others. One friends list for the player makes sense, because they are the player's friends anyway, not the character's. Shared gold/other currencies... eh, could be justified and would be convenient in some ways, but would also rob players of the chance to roll on a new server and feel like starting from scratch again. And that's the main problem I have with some of your other suggestions: you assume that because some gameplay elements are "not so much fun the second time around", nobody would ever want to do them again, or otherwise they should pay for the privilege by buying a second account. :/ In the past I got a lot of play value out of tasks such as attuning all my alts to Karazhan. I'm not a fan of features that take away player choice, especially if there are viable workarounds that preserve them (like your BoA example).

Mike Moore said...

I agree with the above posters. Some of the things should be player-centric, but others wouldn't work so well in my opinion.
Firstly, I have over 10000 achievement points, 48 Exalted reps, 160 pets, 112 mounts and a number of Feats of Strength on my main. There have been times in the past that I would have loved to switch to play another class, but I have so much invested in my current main, that I really couldn't stomach losing that progress or starting again. Having the above things tied to the player (account) rather than the character would give me a lot more freedom in which classes I would play.
I'm not sure how currencies like VP/CP would work, sharing those between characters gives the folks with multiple alts a head start, and defeats the gating put in place by the weekly caps.
Gold/Inventory/Bank is a quality of life issue since you can share most things between chars at the moment through the mail system. This would potentially be a good improvement.
I'm not sure PVP ratings should be shared, this is something related to your skill on a particular class.
Guilds are another one that I don't think would work, or would at least take a lot of customisable options of which characters are visible by who.
Just a few of my thoughts...

Imakulata said...

@Shintar, the examples you named do not take away choices. If anything, they give more options - not all of course, but some do. I understand that the choices may not be liked by everyone but there is nothing that stops people doing the grind even if they do not gain anything from it.

Of course, I understand there are cases which do not take away from choices but force players into something I don't like instead of forcing them into things I like but it doesn't mean that it's something that can be agreed to be a bad thing.

spinksville said...

There are big advantages to tying the player to a single character, mostly to do with building a single in-game identity.

But I tend to agree, the way MMOs have now fractured into offering lots of minigames means it's more likely than ever that you might not want to do them all on the same character. I guess I've been arguing the same thing in a post today. But I did still kind of like logging on and people knowing it was Spinks because that's the character I was playing.

Mike Moore said...

@spinksville
In Vanilla through Wrath, the focus was on your single main character. The amount of time it took to get a character to endgame meant that few people had a lot of alts. Cataclysm basically promoted having a stable of alts, because that's where you got to see most of the new content.
Hopefully, the new battletag system will help with having a server identity for the player rather than tying it to a specific character.

Rohan said...

@Shintar, what I envision for attunements is that the quest chain would still be there for every character. However, the actual attunement reward at the end of the quest chain unlocks for the player.

Kara attunement wasn't very hard, and easy to do on alts, but what about something on the level of the original Onyxia attunements? Those crazy Horde/Alliance chains with multiple trips to BRD or to find Rexxar?

In some respects, a lot of potential gating gameplay has gotten watered down since Vanilla, because people with alts have a hard time with it.

@Mike Moore, if the currency belongs to the player, any caps or restrictions on the currency would also belong to the player.

Like, this is certainly not something WoW could really implement at this stage. It's a fundamental design issue, and would really be for new MMOs.

Bronte said...

Love all the ideas (except 3), and if they come true, I will find you IRL and kiss you.

The ones I have a problem with:

1: Inventory. Yes we need separate inventory. The workaround could be that you could access other character's inventory through tabs in your own. So the inventories are kept separate, but accessible without logging out one character and then logging in another. An altoholic like me would have 4,000 items in their inventory in a central inventory. Not fun!

2: Bank slots. Same as above.

3: Lockouts. Just: no. Again, if I have three characters, I don't want to be limited. Limiting lockouts just doesn't add any utility for me, it takes away from me. I would never vote for that.

Rohan said...

@Bronte, for banks, imagine something more like the size of guild banks, with multiple tabs.

For lockouts, isn't the point of lockouts to limit people? If the designers believe that those limits are important, why should they allow people to evade those limits?

Mike Moore said...

@Rohan
My impression was that the lockouts were there to limit individual character progression so that people with virtually unlimited time don't end up with a massive advantage over people with an 'average' amount of time to spend each week. A guy with 10 level 85 chars and no time limits can run a raid only once on each char to get some gear per lockout. This puts him at roughly the same level per char as someone with only time to play a single character. He is prevented from running the raid with the same character 10 times though, since this would give him a massive advantage in terms of advancement through gear drops.

If you put the lockouts at player/account level and limit them, the player with 10 alts isn't going to be pleased that you just reduced how much he can play each week. If you don't limit them, you end up with the situation I described above.

Logtar (@logtar) said...

The two things I see as issues are the lockouts and bags. A general bank makes some sense with some limitations for faction and realm, but lockout sharing would just hurt the current raiding system IMHO.

The thing that sounds the greatest to me is to have a pool of VP/JP etc. It would make it so you don't stop playing your main after you raid for the week and not just have to valor cap others... you can play whichever character you enjoy the most and benefit across characters.

Anonymous said...

as I looked over your list, I noticed that most of them will tied to the player in Diablo 3 (well it is beta so that might change)

a common bank, the shared stash
one blizzard $ account
a battled tag, so one would assume that the friend list is shared

RJ said...

The game you want to play is FF11, wherein there isn't multiple characters, you just have your one toon able to be all classes.

The main reason for most of these things to be tied to the character is to make sure that the player at least has some investment. How do you think things will go if ALL items can just be given to an alt, and you can kit them out with top tier gear without them even playing? There's a reason each tier only has a limited set of items that are BoE, after all.

Anonymous said...

Why not just go all the way and replace dual specs with dual classes? I for one welcome our new priest/warrior overlords.

Imakulata said...

@Logtar, I don't see a problem with the bags. It is uncommon, sure, but why not? I would understand keeping them separate if the bag size mattered - but the only consequence in WoW is having to go back to a city often, the characters' power doesn't decrease.

Rizla said...

Alot of these values are present in an MMO already on the market, and has been for some time now. FFXI had you make ONE player which could change jobs, shared inventory, ect.. This is a system I absolutley loved and wish to see more games incorporate. One player.. multiple jobs, multiple professions, multiple guilds (linkshells) ONE story line. The only thing holding this game back is the fact its built on the PS2 platform and cannot be updated in a way similar to wow with cataclysm. I'm just glad to see I'm not the only one who wants to see these features incorporated into modern MMOs.

Anonymous said...

I definitely would think some of the things would be nice, but with shared inventory it would basically mean you'd never even need to play a character and you could have all the raid drops you needed for that character by raiding on your main. I don't think that sounds good. Same with some of the other currencies. If you could just get all the best gear without playing the char that doesn't sound good. If you still kept the concept of things being BoP to a character for raid drops and Valor points I could see it being useful to be able to access BoE items from another character without logging and mailing.

Bronte said...

@Rohan, The point of lockouts is to limit characters, not accounts. If I have a mage and a hunter and a paladin. I don't want my paladin to lose out on gear simply because I chose to gear my mage and hunter first, and as such, I have lose out on my two for the week!