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I am not a developer, computer programmer, or graphic designer of any sort. I am simply a gamer dreaming of the possibilities. Comments are appreciated.
I have named my dream game Clockworks Hearts. It is unfortunately just a concept idea and not in development anywhere.
I've played a lot of free MMORPGs including Conquer, Runescape, Maple Story, Grand Chase, Allods, 9 dragons, DC Universe Online, Dragon Nest, Tera, Vindictus, Eden Eternal, Mabinogi, Flyff, Grand Fantasia, Roblox, and more. I see a lot of potential with MMOs as well as a lot of downfalls.
I’ve also played a lot of RPGs and other games (Final Fantasy, Golden Sun, Spore, Zelda, Assassins Creed, and more.)
Common Complaints of MMORPGs:
Repetitiveness(grinding, go-fetch quests), thin story-line, leveling rate, gear, customization options, class balance, fixed classes, stat-issues, other game mechanics.
Innovations on the horizon:
Action MMO instead of tab-targetting, options to use game-controller, games that offer the ability to create your own levels/ quests, customization of characters down to the cheekbone in detail, free-form classes.
(1) I believe that creative energy is a great community driving force that can push MMOs into the next era. We create and innovate because we want to see something better; a game for the people, by the people.
(2) Community powered MMOs exist and are successful to some degree eg: Roblox, Neverwinter Foundry to create your own quest, Minecraft, etc.
(3) People love choice and should have the right to choose the way they want to play a game. I think Runescape is successful is due in part to the vast array of skills and professions it offers.
(4) Repetitiveness is killer, making gaming feel more like work and less like entertainment.
The Game Idea: Clockworks Hearts
Action MMORPG with platform, puzzle elements. a vast array of customizability, free-form classes and memorable story/quests/ npcs.
Customizable character, costumes, clothing, landscape, quests, npcs, weapons, armor, clothing, monsters, mounts, and pets.Those who want to create can. Those who want to play will have a vast array of options to choose from.
Overarching world/ plot:
The world has experienced a great war known as Apocalypse. In desperate times a mystery genius created humanoid robots as Emissaries to reclaim peace. The player plays as a newly awaked Emissary in a world beginning to heal. Obstacles such as war-machines and mutated creatures roam outside safe havens. Greater threats such as those who have been corrupted new-found power from chaos also exist.
There are three main areas: one on land, the second under water, and the last in the skies.
Inspired by Dragon Nest, Vindictus, DC Universe, and Tera.
Action MMORPGs should feel fluid. You should be able to run, use skills, use items, and use potions while in motion. A blocking or dodging mechanism is very important and should be responsive. An equalize option should exist in PVP so that equipment is not as important as skill. A non-equalize option should also exist.
Dragon Nest did a really good job in incorporating i-frames or moments when you cannot be hit during dodging and certain moments in skill casting.
Free Form Class System:
Inspired by Eden Eternal.
People are more likely to be engaged in a game world if they have one character they can connect with instead of an array of alts. So instead of fixing a class, various solutions have been presented.
The first is the trial-run. This is where in tutorial you can try out a higher level character and all of its possible skills. The second solution presented in Eden Eternal is two separate levels: one overall character level and a secondary class level. I think this is an interesting idea and can be improved on. The third is to have no classes at all as presented in The Secret World where you are simply limited by the number of slots on a hotbar to the skills you can access.
I do like the idea of classes since each class has a different feel and different weapons associated with it. I think the idea of specializing a specific weapons and weapon-armor combinations could be explored further. I think the idea of classes, skills, and abilities can also be tied to story-line.
In Clockworks Hearts you would start off as a general class. Each weapon would come with one or two default skills. After using a certain weapon, you can gain access to other options such as armor (including possible shield) or adding a secondary weapon. As you specialize in using this combination of weapon and armors, you get access to certain classes.
For example, if you pick up a sword you would get access to two skills (slash and stab). You would also get access to the class Warrior. If you decided to wear heavy armor you would unlock the class Knight. If you equipped a secondary sword you would unlock the class swordsman. If you equipped two swords and light armor, you would access Sword-dancer.
Each class should have its own unique set of skills as well as main storyline along with side-quests. The player should be able to set skill and stat points at will for each free-form class change. Previously gained skill points should be easily resettable to be used for each new class unlocked.
The player should be able to save various stat/skill builds along with corresponding weapon/armor in an easy-to access menu area. Thus changing classes is as easy as putting on a different t-shirt and can be done anytime except in battle or in the middle of dungeons.
The player will experience the main storyline of the class they first unlock and will unlock other storylines as they unlock other classes.
The available classes and weapons/armors should be decided and voted on by the community before the game is released.
The player will also have an option to customize their own class with its own unique name and combination of skills of any class they have unlocked. The only limitation would be the number of hotkeys and passive ability slots.
Skill points can be gained by skill usage, leveling the main character, or soul cores (explained below)
Soul Core System:
MMORPGs should offer more than just monster-slaying and questing. It should offer puzzles, platforming, and creation.
Since some activities may take time, especially creation, a different form of experience should be offered. Soul cores are in essence credits given to those doing actions in game such as writing a quest-line or building a new platform area. They can be traded in for either money or experience or skill-points.
Various contests to choose the best creation should also be held with prizes including greater amounts of soul cores.
Customization Out the Wazoo:
Inspired by Spore.
Why are Mods so popular? People are unsatisfied with the choices available in-game and in the cash shop. There is a simple solution. Provide easy to use, intuitive software to allow players to build their own stuff.
Players should be able to access software to build customized buildings, creatures (monsters, mounts, pets), npcs, skills, weapons, costumes, armor, clothing, landscapes, and cities. The customization engine for creatures and objects will likely be similar to the one used in Spore where simple shapes can connect together, resize, and rotate with ease to create a unique look. The customization for characters and npcs will resemble standard character creation software. Skills will pose a unique challenge. Although most mods, I believe, are made in Photoshop, I think a Spore-like engine can also function to change the shape and color of animation frames.
Players should be able to sell designs on marketplace as well as offer their services to other players. These will function as skins similar to cash-shop gear.
Quest building should also be interactive. Beyond writing a storyline, players should be able to create npcs, create instances, customize rewards, and even add in voice-action.
Puzzle/ platform elements:
Inspired by Prince of Persia, Assassins Creed, Golden Sun
Many action-RPGs include heavy puzzle and platform elements. Part of this allows the player to explore more of the new world. The other part is either saving the world or gaining incredible treasure.
I believe that there is a severe lack of these elements in MMORPGs. Most MMORPGs consist of a few elements: monster grinding, gathering grinding, crafting grinding, quest-grinding (which is in essence monster-grinding in disguise), and PVP. Do you notice the excessive amount of repetitiveness?
Some MMOs have incorporated a small portion of these puzzle-platform elements such as the infamous Maple Story Jump Quests. The beauty of having a great customization tool is that you can never run out of possible puzzles or platforms. A few starting ones will be created and others can be added on by voting in the community. In the mean time players can make their own and play others.
In Clockworks Hearts, I dream to include an elemental affinity to each created character similar to the powers in Golden Sun that would aid a character in various puzzle elements such as traversing terrain that was blocked by a large rock. By enlisting other players or hiring mercenaries, more complex puzzles can be tackled. This is also the case in Monkey Quest where sometimes you need two people to jump off one another to reach certain areas and switches.
Community activity is severely lacking in many MMORPGs. Guilds often function as nothing more than an aid in leveling. Things like Guild-wars are often attended by a handful of wealthy, well-established guilds. Guild raids are in essence grinding for better equipment in certain dungeons.
I believe that a community that has a part in creating a game will also be more likely to play the game, and try out other created ideas. I also believe that having system in place to easily find people to play the game with is also essential to an MMO (otherwise you would just be playing an RPG).
An easy to use party-search function is absolutely necessary. A specific chat along with an interface to look for parties in the nearby vacinity is possible to implement. When the party search function is turned on, party leaders should be highlighted nearby. Party leaders who have an opening and are looking for other members should also have an option to search for non-partied players looking to join.
Guilds should function as a social gathering center for like-minded people. This means that any guild should be able to join in any guild events (including PVP ones).
I believe the Equalize option from dragon nest is also very important in this case. Guilds participating in something like Guild Wars with Equalize should be rated on the members who attend and matched with a similar guild with similar levels. If a match cannot be found, characters will be averaged out in terms of their hp mp and overall level. Gear will also be averaged out so the outcome is based on the overall skill of the players in the guild. The option to turn Equalize off should also be available.
Guilds should be able to build guild bases and guild banners with a vast array of customization options. Guild bases should be affected by actions in Guild Wars. Just like other equipment, it needs to be maintained and can accrue damage from battle.
Other guild events such as hunting rare monsters or going through hard dungeons should be available on a first-come, first serve basis. Dungeons are easy to manage since one guild can enter one instance. Large monsters on the world scale are a different story. These can also be created to be instances in that the monster only appears or can only be attacked when the guild has activated a quest or something similar.
I believe that it is also possible to do guild-wide puzzles and even platforms. It will take a lot of teamwork and coordination, but it is possible. And I believe the challenge will be part of the fun.
The community will also take part in the creation of various themed landscapes. Again voting will play a large part as to which landscapes make it into the final product. In some sense, the game will start out as a blank drawing board with just a simple skeleton waiting for its future community to fill in the gaps.
A living storyline:
Actions should have consequences.
Many MMORPGs suffer from standard issue quests. These include “go-fetch”, “kill monster”, “save npc”, “talk to npc”, “Escort”, and “Locate”
Some quests do try to give you a good reason and situation where these actions seem important. However, if you decide not to do these actions, there are no real consequences. Some quests are indeed timed but you can always quit and restart.
This creates many odd situations like “The princess is surrounded by monsters, you must save her immediately. The player decides to do 10 other quests before remembering the princess is in trouble. Hey, even though it took a week, the monsters have not yet decided to eat the princess. You’re a hero!”
Actions should have consequences.
Part of the draw of Fable was that everything you did and everything you said could alter your alignment, your appearance, and your storyline. I believe some of these elements are important to incorporate into an MMORPG.
Some MMORPGs create an RPG such as Diablo and Guild Wars and allowing players to join in the fray.
In Clockworks Hearts you are only a single Emissary. It takes more than one to mend a war-torn world after Apocalypse. You can’t save everyone. And you can’t do everything. The player has to choose how many tasks to take on. Tasks can be failed especially if they are left alone for too long.
If a task is failed, there are instances where you cannot restart it. This means that it is gone forever unless the player decides to create a new character. If you start a task, you cannot decide to disgard it without consequences.
Many tasks will also decide how the storyline unfolds such that each storyline is fairly unique. We are also adding in the option to write your own storyline and create your own npcs.
This may make walkthroughs difficult but I believe the vast array of possibilities is more important.
In Clockworks Hearts, I dream of an instance where a friendly character that becomes more important as time goes on to the Player. However, if a certain quest is failed this character will in essence disappear forever. The storyline will also need to change abruptly to compensate for this loss.
The choice of quests you take on also decides the unfolding of the storyline. This is similar to a “choose your own adventure” story-book with many layers of possible choices, outcomes, side-quests, and loop-backs to a main story.
Player made-quests can be played through, voted on, and added to specific sections.
I was also thinking that npcs should have relationships to each other. If you decide to help one npc, another may feel slighted and this may influence storyline as well as prices of goods.
An alignment system is also an interesting idea. I have not yet thought out fully how this would work in an MMORPG.
Crafting/ Gathering Mechanics:
In most games this is another example of grinding.
Grand fantasia has overcome this by adding in a pet system that can gather needed material for you. I think this is an interesting system that can be improved.
Players should be able to hire workers to gather materials. If they invest resources and some time, their workers will gain experience and in a sense level up their gathering and crafting potential. Materials and armor made from better material could be then sold on the market place.
People should be able to play the game how they want, when they want.
Those who want to create should be given the tools to do so. Those who want to monster grind against large mobs should be given the option to do so. Those who want to face off against a single monster with slightly improved AI should be able to find one. Those who want to solo a big monster should be able to find one. Those who want to take quests, dungeons, or monsters with other people should be able to find other people easily. Those who want puzzle and platform should be access these with ease. Some of these areas may contain monsters as well to create an extra challenge.Those who want a meaningful storyline should be able to find just that.