I want to support optional ways to play the MMO. I think these add a lot of depth and replay value, and for little effort on my part. Here’s what I have in mind at the moment (but as always, these ideas can change easily, and your comments are much appreciated).
Optional Challenge: Not Killing Sentient Creatures
One of my first thoughts was “wouldn’t it be great if the game supported pacifism?” But it just isn’t practical. Too much of the game is about killing. A “pacifist” character would inevitably end up being just a trade mule or pure crafter. It’s not hard to be a pacifist if you never leave town…
But how about this: you can choose not to kill sentient creatures, instead only killing animals and beasts. That way you’re not “murdering” — you’re just “hunting”.
If you want to take on this challenge, you just do it. The game keeps track of everything you kill, broken up into sentient and non-sentient enemies. As long as you meet a certain threshold (say a 100:1 ratio of non-sentients to sentients), you’ll gain access to a special title, and players who examine your character will see that you’re a non-murderer. Hmm, I need a good name for that.
And maybe there’s a few other little bennies for doing this, like access to a special vendor with a handful of random rares for sale. Nothing big. Not being a murderer is its own reward. (Or not, as the case may be.)
Also, all undead monsters are sentient, but they aren’t really alive, so it doesn’t count as murder when you “kill” them. (This is a cheaty technicality, but I think it fits with the spirit of the idea pretty well. Nobody considers it murder to destroy these vile creatures, and anyway they can just be re-summoned, so they really aren’t dying.)
Alternate Version For Druids
For druids, we turn this idea on its ear. Druids vow to protect nature, which means they get in trouble if they kill too many non-sentients! They’ll have a lot of slack, though. Perhaps they need to maintain a 2:1 ratio of sentient to non-sentient deaths. If their ratio is out of whack, they can’t train from NPC vendors or gain other special perks.
But it’s not as punitive as it may sound — even if you can’t buy training books because you’re a dirty Bambi-killer, you can always ask a different druid player to buy them for you, since training-books can be traded. Mainly, this rule is there for flavor, to give druids a little something additional to worry about. But not to make your life a living hell because you accidentally stabbed too many spiders. So I’ll have to play with it to make sure it works out. (Druids won’t get implemented for a while, so there’s lots of time to refine the ideas.)
An Aside: Hats For Mantises
If you want to avoid killing sentient creatures, it’s pretty important to be able to tell them apart from animals! This is usually pretty easy. Goblins are all sentient, tigers are all animals, etc, etc.
But mantises, well, some are psychic mantises gifted with extreme intellect. But they look like regular mantises. What to do?
I pinged Anthony Cook (who made the mantis for me), and we came up with a solution that fits the game vibe well: hats. Lore-wise, sentient mantises were created by a mad wizard. They’re pretty insecure about their place in the world. Giving them hats seemed to reinforce that idea: they’re using the trappings of other sentient races to validate their identities.
Optional Challenge: Harder-Core Death Penalty
After play-testing a while, I’m convinced that a certain segment of my target audience would benefit from a more punitive death system. (The default death penalty is “you get sent back to an inconvenient location”, plus some money sinks.) For some players, the game will just be more fun if there’s a little bit more danger involved.
I’m thinking that there’ll be a shrine that you can visit and enable harder-core death. It’s not really hardcore, but it’s a bit more punitive: you will drop a random assortment of items on death. They’ll appear in a special loot box that lasts for a certain number of hours.
If you choose to enable hardcore mode, there’s a minor benefit — perhaps 6% faster XP gain or something like that. I don’t want the reward to completely make up for the penalty, but I do want a little gesture to show that you’re not completely insane for taking this on.
A common fear with this sort of idea is that it will split up the population. The idea is that “norms” won’t want to group with “hardcores” because if the hardcores die, they’ll be more inconvenienced by the loss of equipment. I think that’s a very reasonable fear in a game with randomly-assembled pick-up groups, but I really don’t think it will be a big problem here, in communal dungeons with people you’ve probably seen around before. Hopefully in this game, people won’t look for any tiny reason to kick you out of the group.
Another thought: once you turn this on, you can’t turn it off very easily. And that’s not just me being a jerk. It might seem like something you should be able to turn on and off easily, but players will actually enjoy it more if it feels like a permanent decision. That’s due to a psychological phenomenon where we rationalize unchangeable decisions and are generally happier with them. (Even though consciously, we sure don’t think that will be true.) That’s why hardcore mode is permanent… unless you send me $50 to turn it off. Mwahaha! Okay, fine, I’ll think of something else.
Yet another thought: if you don’t make it back to your items before they disappear, the items will go into a special pool and be distributed to vendors throughout the world. So your lost sword might show up in a second-hand weapon shop.
Optional Challenge: Vegetarianism
Not all challenge modes need to be super dramatic or difficult. If you want to be a vegetarian, you can. Just don’t eat anything with meat in it.
The game will remember if you’ve eaten anything with meat, and as long as you’re clean for 30 days, you’ll get access to a special title. Players who examine your character will also see that you’re a vegetarian.
Being a vegetarian is easy for some people, but for others, it can be a real challenge. Werewolves get benefits from eating the corpses of their foes. But guess what: that’s meat. Necromancers have a power that is activated by eating a raw heart. And again, hearts are meat. So this challenge will vary in difficulty depending on what skills you focus on.
All vegetarians are lacto-ovo, meaning they can consume milk and eggs. Why? Because there’s just not enough recipes in the game to support more restricted diets. I don’t want to have to add 200 vegan dishes here — the idea is that these challenge modes are supposed to be easy additions.
But hmm, you know what, if you want to roleplay a vegan, feel free. The game will recognize when you do this, but I won’t add extra recipes for it. So don’t expect it to be an easy challenge!
What other challenge modes would you like to see in the game? Hit me with your ideas.
For now, I’m most interested in things that don’t require a lot of new systems. So the best choices are things that you could already do on your own (like take a vow of silence, or promise never to buy arrows from a shop, or something like that). Those sorts of things are pretty easy to add: the game can just track to see if you’re doing it or not.
(I’m also interested in challenges that require new systems, so feel free to suggest those too! But they’ll probably end up getting added after the game launches.)
Progress Report: Necromancy and Staff Fighting
I’m still implementing these two combat skills. Staff fighting turned out to be more entertaining than I feared. But that’s damning with faint praise, since I was afraid it would be unbearably boring. It’s about half-fun right now. I think it will become fun when I add the secondary support skills, though.
It has a 50-50 mix of offensive and defensive abilities, making it a solid second choice, rather than a primary fighting style. The same staff you use for Fire Magic can also be used for Staff Fighting, so these two skills are naturally synergistic, giving the blast-happy wizard a bit of defense and threat-management ability. (But lots of other secondary skills make sense for Fire Mages too — Combat Psychology gives them more crowd control; Necromancy gives them dangerous pets; Psi-Warrior gives them some survivability and a backup attack method against fire-resistant foes…)
Necromancy is further behind, and not playable yet, but the design is fleshed out. I have some very cool necromancer powers planned, if I can manage to implement them in my game engine.
Most of the necromancer’s skills involve raising the dead, but there’s a few attacks, too. Here’s a screenshot of me working on the Life Crush attack (which rips part of the soul out of your enemy). A cloud of smoke erupts from the target, briefly forming a death head before disappearing.
An interesting quirk is that the necromancer’s blast attacks have no effect on undead — so it’s actually a little difficult to use necromancy to kill enemy undead. (They can still have their pet undead kill them, but they can’t blast ‘em with dark energy.)
- More updates coming soon! I’m way behind on getting the next video diary up, maybe I’ll do that this weekend.