Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Guild Wars Rex Would Have Looked Like

I've been slacking off on finishing off my three part series on the professions I dreamed up for the next expansion whilst playing Factions. I find them to be eerily similar to what was actually put in place but I also find it incredibly tedious to piece together my notes and translate them into something other than “Skl – 1 eat 5 resch cond (? high progression? - Nyet, lo bro) Frzy lite.” You know, something that other people have a chance in hell of understanding. Basically, that sentence is saying “Skill – New mechanic (See section #1) and it can sacrifice new mechanic (check #5) to renew the skill's effect. (Do I want this skill to have the highest level of attribute progression for duration? -No, I want it at the lowest now.) this skill will be a less powerful version of Frenzy and correspondingly priced.” If this was a Dervish skill then you'd have it briefly increasing attack speed while under the effects of an enchantment say, and renewed every time an enchantment ended. And that, by the way, was one of my more detailed notes. So, I'm having trouble making them all presentable. And, more importantly, finding the time to do so. I've got the profession I swiftly abandoned, the Champion, up, but that's it. And, you know, it's starting to bother me.

Worry not, though, that project's just been on hold (While, you know, I actually look into the future not the past), not forgotten. So, we're going to jump ahead in the schedule and talk about the environment those new professions would have been made for. That's right, not only did I putter around with new professions I – entirely as a mental challenge to myself – decided to go ahead and plan out a whole new campaign. You know, just for kicks. Factions opened up a lot of possibilities that I thought could be expanded upon and I had some ideas of my own about what the game needed. Along with the typical new series of missions, skills, and equipment, I had plans. Here's the bullet points:

  • Two new professions: Ascetic and Tinkerer
  • Player run tournaments.
  • Continuously run tournaments with varied settings.
  • Quest reward options. The player could select from a few choices about what they wanted to earn when completing certain quests.
  • "Unique" titles that only a set amount of people could hold so if you wanted the title you had to "beat" someone already holding it. Either by getting a higher score or fighting them directly.
  • Make more use of titles. Did this with ClotH (my fictional video game I've “developed” for some novels of mine) and it's sort of like what's done with Sunspear titles in GW - restrict content based on the title a character holds. In my ClotH version there are 15 tribes - each representing an elemental affiliation - and earning the friendship of that tribe would let you into quests in that area that you otherwise couldn't do. I'd just have given that out when players completed quests, not earned a set number of points (And you can see an example of how I'd do that in my Design Challenge series, by the way.) . Some would be easy to get and others would be difficult but they'd all have some interesting stuff to discover.
  • Hub design to map layouts. One central city with a lot of branching quests and areas around it. By using sliding difficulty and scaling of spawns and such, players of all levels could adventure around. Get rid of outposts that only serve as warp points. One important place would be the "Proving Grounds" where the ongoing tournaments would be launched from.
  • A storyline based around the conflict between science and magic. Or logic and faith. The Tinkerers would be paragons of technology while Ascetics would represent the philosophical, spiritual side of things - with handy NPCs sprinkled throughout.

Okay, so the basic plotline would revolve around the tension between the Ascetics and the Tinkerers. There would be various factions within the game but rather than warring nations as with Faction they'd be more like opposing philosophies (Why, yes, I did play and love Planescape, thank you very much.) existing uneasily within one nation. Various parts of the land would be strongholds for one faction or the other but no part of the game's map would be closed off because someone was following the wrong path. What would change, though, would be the reaction of various characters to players based on their choices. Just branching paths all over the place. Most merchants wouldn't care because they'd be out to make profit but the people handing out quests, say, would and their dialog, their options, and even their rewards might change depending on what a player was doing. And in the case where a quest offered a choice of rewards, that would be one of the ways to influence which path a character was walking down.

It's a pretty basic plot but I wasn't trying to get fancy. Just trying to find something that wouldn't involve a cataclysmic war to the death or nations at war – but a different, subtler way of presenting the conflict. Since this is a video game we're talking about it would, of course, end with the players saving the world from a horrible fate. My twist would be that it was magic - through the titans and whatever nasty stuff is on the other side of the rift - that unleashed something horrible on the world that the players had to stop while the Tinkerers scrambled to find a way of containing whatever ancient evil was unleashed by a rash Ascetic. Rather than the usual frankenstein of technological paranoia that would cast the science users as the bad guys. To overcome it, the players would have to find a balancing point or middle ground between the two. And the various factions they'd have to ally with would have different ways of getting to the series of quest that would cap off the game and lead onto the end-game dungeons (They could just run with one group or hop between tracks or try and do them all, I always liked the idea of giving people a lot of options). I pictured opening up a new area in the mists – some place of chaos and uncertainty beyond the mortal realm that was tied to the goddess Lyssa the same way the Underworld is to Grenth and the Fissure of Woe is with Balthazar.

I chose Lyssa because I was going to make the Ascetics very complementary to the Mesmer class. And to the Elementalist, as well, but Mesmers are very clearly associated with Lyssa. I'll get around to detailing them eventually but, in basic, I wanted a caster who'd be capable of delivering pressure. They'd have a number of stances and enchantments that would buff their ability to cast spells and would as a secondary let, say, an Elementalist throw out a lot of skills and they'd also have a lot of energy transferring skills that would let them shunt energy around within a party (Not quite e-denial and not quite e-management on the level of, say, Blood is Power, but they'd have ways of, well, casting without using energy and be able to throw that energy they weren't using to someone else on their team.) so there'd be a way of constructing a viable offense that didn't rely on a) melee or b) the spike. Tinkerers, on the other hand, I wanted to complement the Rangers and Warriors. They'd be a ranged profession (with summoned pets) who'd concentrate on buffing their allies as well as being able to contribute offensively.

If I had my druthers the game would have a very Grecco-Roman setting and the themes of mystery and deception (As well as their counter-points of truth and clarity) would play a big role in the campaign – signified by a motiff with something like Greek dramas and the masks that players in those would wear. So Greek philosophy, mechanical contraptions like the Archimedes engine, and the like. The players would be like heroes from Greek mythology – larger than life figures whose legend grew by the day (Which, I thought, would provide a nice way of getting established characters into the story. Starting characters would go through a series of quests that would create their claim to fame.). And they'd serve as champions or representatives for their chosen faction.

And, in that role, they'd travel to a place called the Proving Ground which would be something of a gather place like the ancient Olympics or something and participate in tournaments to, well, prove their worth. That's right, I expected everyone playing the game to dabble in PvP to advance the plot. This would probably result in no end of gnashing teeth on the forums but, basically, it'd be like the snowball fights – whatever faction you signed up for would come with a set skill bar and you'd engage in quick battles where you'd gain some points towards your faction's title for winning. Win enough games and you had your title and could move on. It wouldn't be a very high number but, of course, if you wanted you could earn a lot more. I didn't really have the mechanics worked out very well but I like the no-DP, quick rez format of, say, Aspenwood or the Alliance Battles and it'd be a nice way to introduce PvP to people who might otherwise reject it based on their experiences in the Arena or Tombs.

Anyhow, that would be my next mad idea – unique titles. I like the idea of titles but wanted them to do more. Not just provide bonuses like opening up content or increasing the faction cap but also to be a prize in and of themselves. Like with items, I'd give some titles rarity – blue for slightly special, gold for something that people would rarely get, and green titles could only be held by a limited number of people at any given time (Either in the whole game or in each region). For example, let's say there was a special title in the gamer track for the person who had the most gamer points, period. Not just a set level like they are now but you'd get a gold title “Ultimate Skillz”, maybe, if you had more gamer points than anyone else. If anyone managed to play more festival games and get more points than you, they'd get the title and you'd lose it – a sort of “king of the hill” type reward. Just like the special borders given to the capes of guilds that won tournaments, I'd pass that sort of thing out as an incentive for people (And it would also fascilitate the creation of any number of ladders).

The Proving Grounds would be the place where you could get a lot of those titles because it'd host daily tournaments (In addition to the faction competitions). Every day, the game would create and run PvP tournaments for various types of teams. 4v4, 3v3, 2v2, whatever. Not only that but players could create their own battles and even tournaments, too. Setting up the rules – the number of players, professions and skills allowed, and anything else that they could be given control over. Guilds could, for example, set up a tournament and offer prizes. Or someone could just log into the game and create a challenge. It would be user-driven content. Like the whole Dodgeball phenomenon. Allowing people to mold the game and its rules and come up with any number of things. Leagues of teams who'd compete, for example. Or restricted formats where certain skills were disallowed. It'd be thrown to the fanbase for them to explore (And, of course, the developers would keep a close eye on it and turn any format that looked promising into something a bit more permanent. They could host their own “special rules” tournaments, say, or even do something like the Dragon Arena.).

Bolt on an auction house and that'd be a game I'd want to play. I'm not sure if it would be for everyone, though, but I think if the rewards and titles were handled right, it could be.

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