Saturday, January 29, 2011

Verbs: Combat

As Eric of Elder Game writes in Picking Fun Game Verbs:
“Verbs” are anything a player can do at a conceptual level. Typical MMO verbs are things like attacking, running away, running around exploring, buffing people, taunting, and so on.
Ok, so we definitely need to consider verbs at some point. Let's see what else he has to say:

New verbs can make anything feel fresh. Want to make yet another fantasy MMO? No problem — just make sure it has lots of fresh new verbs! Of course, there’s a reason we’ve settled into the limited set of “traditional” MMO verbs: they’re easy to code and easy to balance. The more we break the mold, the more work we have to do. But that’s the difference between an amazing new game and another me-too game.

Cool, creative, new, or just plain fun verbs are the key to a fun game; ok then, let's do this.

Edit: Everything beyond this point has been discarded, and likely will no longer be implemented.

The current plan for combat involves melee players running forward, trading blows with their foes while largely stationary, and then disengaging to recover while less injured allies hold the line (if they're in a group effort). As part of the "trading blows" part, a player can use a variety of special or basic attacks with either hand, and can also attempt to parry or block opponents' attacks with either hand. If implemented right, battle should be about balancing when to defend and when to attack, attempting to hit an opponent that is off-balance or simply letting their guard down and finish the fight.

A first draft of the melee UI.

A first draft of the melee UI.

Basic Attack - Throws a basic attack with the equipped weapon. Recoil time: 6

Block - Raise a shield to block a blow. If you succeed, you increase your foe's recoil time by 1. Recoil time: 3

Parry - Attempt to parry a blow. If you succeed, you increase your foe's recoil time by 1. Recoil time: 4

In this case, a player can use either of their hands on either of the 6 zones. If they use a weapon on an empty zone, it launches an attack against the opponent, and the foe sees an incoming attack on their screen. If the zone had an incoming attack on it, then you attempt a parry instead. If you use a shield on a zone, it blocks any attacks in that zone. In this image, you see a player using a weapon and a shield fighting against another player using two weapons.

Ok, so far, so good. Basic attacking, parrying and blocking can be a good deal more interesting than they are in most games. We're not sure if it'll be fun until we implement it of course, and if it's not, this will have to be scrapped. But it's a start. So, next, let's add special combat maneuvers into the mix.

Feint - Throws a fake attack, but it appears to be a real attack. Recoil time: 2.

By feinting, a player can trick a foe into committing to blocking an false attack, potentially causing them to miss blocking a real attack. Of course, if you over-use it, your foe might figure it out and just bash you upside the head while you're busy feinting.

Kick - You throw a savage kick at a foe. If parried, you also take a hit. If blocked or connected, knocks a foe away from you and to the ground. (Falling down interrupts most spell casting, and casting spells from the ground takes longer. Getting up is a non-combat action and leaves you vulnerable while you attempt to do so.) Stops you from using both hands while kicking. Recoil time: 5.

If you find a pattern in a shield-wielding foe's blocking, or your foe is weaponless- such as a spell caster- you can knock them to the ground, granting you a strong advantage. However, if your opponent figures out what you're up to, they can attack your exposed leg. Good if your opponent is over-using block.

Disarm - You attempt to disarm your foe. If blocked or connected, deals minimal damage. If parried, you disarm your foe. If your foe attempts to disarm you after you have launched a disarm attempt, you are disarmed instead. Disarmed weapons fall to the ground, and must be picked up. (Attempting non-combat actions in combat prevents you from using the hand or hands involved, and increases your recoil times with your other hand. Additionally, you cannot dodge.) Recoil time: 4.

Similarly, a foe who parries predictably can be disarmed. Without a weapon, or at least, with one fewer weapon, you should be able to make quick work of a foe. Expect them to attempt a kick, or to disengage so they can find a new weapon. Foes with back-up weapons might draw them.

Disengage - You retreat a few yards from the foes you were battling, carefully covering your exit and breaking active combat. Cannot be used while attempting any attacks, although you can- and probably should- Disengage while defending. Recoil time: N/A.

Allows you to break combat to recover or preform other non-combat actions. Notably, if you try to move past an armed foe without using Disengage, they can make free attacks on you, which is what prevents them from just moving through the gap in your battle line; moving past your still-fighting allies would cause rather a few attacks on them.

Beyond these abilities, there was some notion that we planned to have additional weapon- and material-specific special attacks, however, I think we should leave that for another day, basic combat needs implementing!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spell Ideas

Now, for some of the random spell ideas, in the format Spellname (Level, cost) - Effect.

Detect Poison (Zero, 2) - Tells whether the target contains poison. (Designer's note: Spells like this and Mind Vision shouldn't alert the target unless they have a Sense Magic buff or a Detect Magic spell.)

Detect Magic (Zero, 2) - Tells whether the target is under the effects of magic, and reveals the name of one of the spells if so.

Detect Scrying (First, C6) - For the next 8 hours, the target can see and physically interact with scrying players.

Dispel Magic (First, C1) - Removes a magic effect that you speak the name of from a nearby target.

Cleanse Poison (First, C2) - Removes up to five doses of poison from the target.

Remove Curse (First, C2) - Removes one curse from the target.

Cure Disease (First, C2) - Cures one disease from the target, and grants immunity to that disease for 72 hours.

Sense Magic (First, C3) - For the next X minutes, the target can cast Detect Magic at will without paying the mana cost. Additionally, the player can see magic effects on mobs, and can see otherwise invisible spells when they are cast. If stacked, the durations add.

Wave (First, C2) - Pulls water from a nearby body of water, throwing it at a target location, pushing things out of the way and moving the water.

Control Weather (Second, CC5) - For the next X minutes, if you say something containing 'wind' 'rain' 'sun' 'cloud' 'clear' 'hail' or 'snow', the weather will change to match what you've said in a huge radius around you. (Designer's note: Allow this to function from Mind Vision, Scry, and the like, at the location being viewed. Also: Allow the creation of tornadoes via multiple players trying to alter the wind.)

Mind Vision (First, C4) - Allows your consciousness to hide in the mind of a living, non-mindless target. Your body is helpless while you do so. Short range to cast, does not break if the target goes out of range, lasts until dispelled or canceled.

Scry (First, C10) - When you speak the name of a player that is logged in, you teleport your essence to them, and remain there invisible and incorporeal for 3 minutes, after which you return to your body. You can hear what players in the new location say, however, you pass through players and cannot move physical objects. If you speak, the sound comes out of your body at the original location. Things you see while Scrying count for the purposes of having seen them (for mapmaking, for example.) Scrying players can see and physically interact with each other. The spell will break or fail if the target is effected by a Hide spell.

Crystal Ball (Second, CCC12) - Enchants a large sphere of glass, a body-length mirror, or a small basin or bowl to allow any player that touches it to cast the Scry spell at will without paying the mana cost for up to 30 seconds after touching it. While that player is Scrying, no additional players may use the Crystal Ball. If you enchant a vessel in this way, it may only be used when filled with water. Lasts until dispelled or destroyed. You may only enchant one Crystal Ball per 3 days.

Scrying Seal (First, C5) - Protects a target from Scry effects. Scry effects targeting the subject fail when cast, and otherwise, the object is invisible (interacting normally with Detect Invisibility-type effects) to players scrying on other nearby things. Lasts 2 hours, the duration stacks to a maximum of 24 hours.

Pass Wall (First, C3) - Allows your target to pass through walls for 5 minutes.

Water Walking (Zero, 5) - Allows your target to walk on still water as though it were solid for 30 minutes. If cast on a player that rides a mount, the mount is unaffected (you can cast it on the mount, however.)

Swiftness (Zero, 5) - Allows your target to run 40% faster for 10 minutes.

Haunt (Second, CC12) - Curses a foe to be haunted by an evil spirit, after 10 seconds of the host being in combat, or after 10 minutes of the host being out of combat, or when the curse is removed, Haunt damages them, heals the caster of this spell, and if the target has any allies within a short distance, begins haunting them. This effect does not alter the in or out of combat state.

Damp Magic Field (First, C4) - Dampens the magic in an area around the target location, causing all spells cast from inside the zone to cost an additional 1 unflavored mana. Lasts ~30 sec.

Empowered Magic Field (First, C4) - Amplifies the magic in an area around the target location, causing all spells cast from inside the zone to cost 1 less unflavored mana (if a spell would cost a negative amount of unflavored mana after all modifiers, it costs no unflavored mana instead.). Lasts ~30 sec.

Living Statue (First, C4) - Creates a stone statue of yourself in front of you. Until the statue is destroyed or stripped of magic, casting this spell again will allow you to switch positions with it.

Blindness (First, C7) - Inflicts blindness on a foe, rendering mobs unable to "see" anything more than a few feet away from them, and reducing players' view to a very short range. Players are also greatly more likely than usual to trip. Lasts 1 minute. (Players can still detect mobs and other players by sound, it displays as little ripples emanating from the sound source.)

Deafness (First, C3) - Inflicts deafness on a foe, rendering mobs and players unable to "hear" all but the most extreme of loud noises. Additionally, players will be unable to see chat (except for telepathic messages) and will randomly slur their speech (20% chance per phrase, 20% chance of double casting time on verbal spells).

Berries to Bombs (WIP) (Second, CC12) - Enchants up to 10 berries that you hold in your hand to explode when struck. Being thrown will lead to a sufficient impact to explode, as will being stepped on. If you speak within 5 seconds of enchanting the berries, the first word you utter will imprint on them, and they will detonate if anyone speaks the same word within 200 feet of them. Deals fire damage in a large burst, and can ignite flammable materials. If you enchant a new set of berries, any remaining berry-bombs you have made lose their magic.

Seeds of Life (First, C7) - Enchants up to 10 nuts or seeds that you hold in your hand to heal anyone that eats them for a fair amount. A mob or player cannot benefit from more than one Seed of Life within 2 minutes. If you enchant a new set of seeds, any remaining Seeds of Life you have made lose their magic.

Dimensional Anchor (First, C8) - Enchants your target to be immune to teleportation effects, such as portals, waypoints, summoning, and teleport. Lasts 3 hours, or until dispelled. If stacked, the durations add.

Sniper's Bane (First, C8) - Enchants your target to be able to see where the 5 nearest hostile ranged fighters are aiming, and marks the paths with a red beam. Lasts 10 minutes. If stacked, the durations add.

Ventriloquism (Zero, 1) - Anything you say or yell will be heard at your target location instead of at your self. If the first word you speak is the name of a player, your speech is telepathically projected to that player instead. Lasts 2 minutes, or until canceled.

Firefly Swarm (Zero, 4) - Summons a firefly swarm around you, slightly illuminating the area, and clinging to objects, revealing invisible things. Lasts 30 seconds, or until you take damage from a magical AoE attack.

Douse (Zero, 5) - Douses the target with a bucket's worth of water, soaking it. Extinguishes flames, destroys many types of ink, and of course, leaves the target all wet. Can also be used to create water. (Soaked players electrocute themselves if they attempt to use lightning magic.)

Quench (First, C4) - As douse, but also causes all fires within a 20-yard sphere to gutter and die out, and summons rain, making further fires less likely.

Bind Undead (First, C4) - Binds the three undead nearest to target location, rendering them unable to move or make physical actions. Bound undead are marked by glowing holy runes around them. Lasts 30 seconds, or until dispelled, or until a target takes damage. If you Bind more undead, the originals are freed.

Telekinesis (Zero, 5) - Summons an incorporeal and invisible hand that does your bidding. You can click on objects to have the hand interact with them, doing things like carrying light items to you, opening doors, operating levers, etc. Allows you to interact with things from up to 40 feet away. If you summon a second hand, they can carry more, and can be ordered to clap at a location, tricking mobs into thinking something invisible is there. If caught in AoE, the hands have extremely little health. Maximum of two hands, lasts until dismissed, dispelled or destroyed.

Rally (Second, C9) - Rallies all allies within 100 feet of you, immediately refilling 1/3 of their spent Dodge points, (rounding up,) refilling 30% of their morale, and granting them +10% attack speed for 20 seconds. A player or mob cannot benefit from Rally again until 20 minutes have passed in combat, or 3 minutes have passed outside of combat.

Grim Repose (First, C2) - Your target appears to be dead, requiring no breath, having no warmth, having no pulse, and showing as 'dead' on the UI. If you cast this spell on yourself, you fall to the ground as part of the spell, appearing as though you were slain. Players and mobs affected by Grim Repose may still move (however, that will be a dead giveaway if you're faking death against a player.) Undead will consider players under the effects of Grim Repose to be one of their own, and ignore them, even intelligent undead. This spell will break if the subject damages any undead or attempts to cast a first-level or higher spell. Lasts 3 minutes.

Lesser Invisibility (Zero, 2) - Renders the caster invisible. Lasts until cancelled, or until the subject damages a foe or begins casting a first-level or higher spell. This invisibility does not apply to any worn or held items other than tight clothing.

Invisibility (First, CC4) - Enchants target object, player or mob to become invisible. Lasts 24 hours if you enchant an object, and the duration stacks. If cast on a player or mob, this effect also applies to any held or worn items, lasts 30 seconds, and the duration stacks to a maximum of 5 minutes. (Note: you can still be detected by your footsteps, blood spatter, splashing, etc.)

Bind Aperture (Zero, 3) - Sticks a target openable object, such as a door, lock, gate, chest or jar, either preventing it from being opened if it is closed, or preventing it from being closed if it is open. Lasts 24 hours if cast on a lock, or 5 minutes otherwise.

Secret Passage (First, C9) - Creates the illusion of a section of solid wall, floor, ceiling or an illusionary bridge over a short gap. The illusion is completely passable, and objects pass through it unhindered, although it does obstruct line-of-sight. Lasts 72 hours, or until dispelled.

Ironwood (First, C4) - Transforms up to 5 pounds of wood that you hold in your hand (including wooden tools, weapons and shields) into ironwood, a very light, flammable substance with other properties similar to steel. Ironwood weaponry has a unique set of special attacks. (Ironwood trees can be naturally occurring, but are very hard to harvest or shape.)

Compass (Zero, 1) - If you speak the name of a player or settlement within 10 seconds, a glowing arrow appears at your feet pointing towards the target. Otherwise, the arrow points north. The arrow will last for 2 minutes. The spell will break or fail if the target is effected by a Hide spell.

Levitate (First, C1) - Allows a target player or mob to float a foot above the ground, enabling them to avoid triggering pressure plates, making noise from footsteps, leaving footprints, splashing in puddles, being ensnared by mud, slipping on ice or marbles, damaged by caltrops or coals, and allowing them to float safely over water, lava and other liquids. Lasts 10 minutes, or until canceled.

Counterspell (First, C2) - Counters the spell that your target is casting, allowing them to finish the cast time and spend the mana, only to find that nothing happens. If the target was not casting a spell when you use Counterspell, then Counterspell has no effect. 30 second cooldown, if successful.

Spellsteal (First, C6) - Forces a spell your target is casting to target you, instead of whatever it may have otherwise targeted. If the spell has no targets, then the spell behaves as though you cast it instead. If your target was not casting a spell when you use Spellsteal, then Spellsteal has no effect. 2 minute cooldown, if successful.

Remand (First, C6) - Forces a spell your target is casting to target the caster, instead of whatever it may have otherwise targeted. If the spell has no targets, or your target was not casting a spell when you use Remand, then Remand has no effect. 2 minute cooldown, if successful.

Lightning Bolt (First, C4) - Fires a bolt of lightning at the target, dealing heavy lightning damage, melting small metal objects, and igniting flammable objects. If you are soaking wet or in fairly deep standing water when you cast this spell, you electrocute yourself and those near you instead. (Rain makes you soaking wet after 5 minutes.)

Stormstrike (Second, CCC7) - If it is not currently storming, functions as Lightning Bolt. Otherwise, lightning from the sky blasts up to five foes in front of you, and you gain Fury of the Storm, allowing you to cast Lightning Bolt at will and without paying its mana cost. Fury of the Storm lasts 2 minutes, or until dispelled. Dispel resistant. (Remember that if it's storming, you're likely to be soaking wet before long!)

Track (Zero, 5) - You can easily track a creature that you speak the name of, valid targets include wild animals or players. You see a glowing trail where the target has been within 2 minutes. The spell will break or fail if the target is effected by a Hide spell. Lasts 10 minutes or until you damage the target.

Conjure Food (Zero, 3) - You conjure food from thin air, creating three servings of any food you name. Liquid or messy foods, such as soups, stews or pies, come in an appropriate conjured vessel, which will disappear when empty. The food is fully cooked, and, although bland, it is mildly nutritious and filling. The food is unstable, and will vanish if not eaten within 30 minutes. Otherwise, the food functions exactly as its normal counterpart. Dispel magic and similar effects cause the food to vanish immediately. A player may not consume more than one serving of conjured food within 24 hours.

Enchant Weapon (First, C4) - You enchant a weapon, or up to 5 small rocks you hold. Weapons- including ranged or thrown weapons- enchanted this way deal 10% extra damage. Rocks enchanted in this way may be thrown as though the user is firing a short bow, and deal similar damage. If you cast this spell empty-handed, you enchant both of your fists. Any item enchanted this way glows with a faint blue light. Lasts 10 minutes, and the duration stacks. A dispel magic effect targeting a player wielding enchanted weaponry can be used to dispel the weapons.

Leprechaun Gold (Zero, 7, rare to learn) - You create 10 gold coins in your closed fist, or 100 gold coins at your feet if you cast this spell while under a rainbow. The coins are 3% lighter than normal gold, and will vanish after 2 hours of their creation or if effected by a dispel magic spell. NPC traders are likely to figure out who paid them in Leprechaun Gold if the do no other business before they vanish, and particularly wealthy merchants (those with scales) may notice immediately. 8 hour cooldown.

Hide in Stone (First, 5) - Allows you to walk into one stone wall, cliff, or block. While in the stone, you are blind, mute, unable to attack and cannot suffocate, but you can hear what goes on outside the stone, and may walk back out the way you entered at any time. Lasts 30 minutes, or until you leave a hiding place. Attempting to Dispel Magic on the stone can end this effect. (A player embedded in stone without a spell that allows them to be there is trapped, and will suffocate as normal, after the usual 30 seconds.)

Grim Phantom (First, C7) - Summons a Grim Phantom to stalk a named player that you speak within 15 seconds. The phantom spawns somewhere out of sight of the player, and takes the form of the most dangerous monster that the player has fought recently, or the form of a wraith if the player hasn't fought anything dangerous within 72 hours. Only the spell's target can see or touch the phantom. The phantom stalks the player from a distance, attempting to remain on the edge of sight. If the player gets close to the phantom, enters combat or attempts to log out, or if the phantom's duration falls below 5 minutes, the phantom will attack, fearing them for 5 seconds, and then fighting using melee attacks. The phantom is very weak, and will vanish if damaged. Lasts 3 hours, or until slain. Cannot be dispelled, although banish/exorcism effects work. Only one phantom may stalk a player at a time, if someone attempts to summon another phantom before the first has expired, the caster will unknowingly set a phantom upon themselves, if they haven't already got one stalking them. If you cast this spell with no target, the phantom will be summoned upon the next creature you attack, in the form of a wraith.

Polymorph (First, C7) - You transform the next player or mob you touch or attack into a named animal (default: sheep). The player or mob gains the movement, combat, and language abilities of the animal, including, but not limited to: claws, teeth, flight, water-breathing, and venoms. If transformed into an aquatic animal, the spell will break if the target would take suffocation damage. Lasts 1 minute if cast on a hostile target, or up to 1 hour otherwise. After 1 minute, players can voluntarily end the polymorph spell. If a polymorphed target becomes the subject of a new polymorph effect, the new effect replaces the old effect.

Enchant Hearthstone (Zero, 2) - You enchant a 2-pound stone that you hold in your hand to allow anyone to use it to teleport to a building that you own. This spell may only be cast while inside the building in question. If you re-enchant a hearthstone, the new effect replaces the old one. A player may only activate one hearthstone per 30 minutes, and doing so takes 10 seconds, interrupted by damage or walking. If a player activates a Hearthstone while riding a mount or holding hands with another player, the mount or player travels with them. Lasts until destroyed or dispelled.

Regeneration (Second, CC8) - You grant any players or mobs that you touch within 30 seconds regeneration, causing their Heath to refill over time, and reduces the duration and damage of bleeding wounds by 50% each. Health refills at a rate of 100% per minute, even if the subject dies. (Players and mobs may fall into negative health values, and can keep taking damage after death. At -500% HP, a target's corpse is destroyed.) If this regeneration brings a target's health back above 0 HP, they may continue to feign death as desired, but they are alive again. Lasts 30 minutes. If you grant multiple targets regeneration, the total duration divides evenly between them.

Hide Writing (Zero, 3) - You enchant a page, scroll, book, blackboard, engraving or other writing to be unreadable to those you would prefer not read it, appearing blank. Any names you speak while touching the item will be able to see the writing (and you can, by default.) If you speak the word 'blacklist', then everyone except the spoken names can see the writing. This can be canceled by speaking the word 'whitelist'. If the first thing you say is 'password' then the next phrase you say becomes the password for the writing, and any player which says it can read the writing for 10 minutes. Permanent, unless the item is destroyed.

Personal Disguise (First, 4) - You place an illusion around a touched player or yourself, making them appear identical to a named player, including the target's worn armor or clothing at the time of casting (but not weaponry or other gear). If you would take armor damage, the illusionary armor fades, revealing your true armor, if any. You can choose to unequip the illusionary armor, and donning new gear will cause it to appear on the illusion. If you name no player, a random online player is chosen (at random). If you speak while disguised, you speak in that player's "voice" (their name in chat.) Lasts until dispelled or dismissed.

Crushing Despair (First, C8) - Waves of hopelessness and despair radiate sluggishly outwards from you, sapping the morale of foes caught in the path. A raised shield pointing towards the source of the waves can protect a player, however it must be held in place for a full 3 seconds total while the waves wash over the player. Drains 70% of each effected foe's morale, making them more vulnerable to charm, fear and mind control effects, and reducing their luck slightly. When this effect ends or is dispelled, effected foes regain 50% of the drained morale. Lasts 3 minutes.

Shroud of Light (Second, CC12) - You enshroud yourself, and all players holding hands with you, and all players holding hands with those players, and so on. The shroud wards those players, preventing up to 100 damage each. Lasts 1 hour, or until dispelled or consumed. 10 minute cooldown.

Mass Healing (Second, CC4) - You heal a player you touch for X over 15 seconds, and each of that player's allies within 50 yards of that player for X/10 over 15 seconds, where X is the number of players effected. If that player dies within 3 minutes, then you heal the other players effected by this spell for X/10 over 15 seconds again. 3 minute cooldown.

Eternal Vigil (First, C8) - You grant yourself the blessing of the Eternal Vigil, allowing you to cast the Lesser Ward spell at will and without paying the mana cost. Lasts 2 minutes, or until dispelled. Dispel resistant.

Lesser Ward (Zero, 2) - You ward your target, preventing up to 40 damage that would be dealt to the target within 12 seconds. 6 second cooldown.

Vraiment (Second, CC5) - A blast of purifying light radiates out from target location, dispelling up to 10 magical effects within 10 yards. Dispels beneficial magic on foes first, and harmful magic on allies second, then neutral magic.

Veil of Light (Second, CC12) - An enormous veil of light descends on the battlefield, covering a 50-yard radius centered on you. All allies that enter or remain in the area take 10% less damage from all sources. Lasts 30 minutes, requires a Disjunction to remove.

Summon: Unicorn (Second, CC12) You summon a brilliant white horse with a mane of burnished silver and a large horn of solid gold. The unicorn can serve as a mount, or battle unaided. While the unicorn remains on the battlefield, every 6 seconds the unicorn passively and automatically heals your wounded ally with the least Health within 40 yards, and your allies within 40 yards are resistant to poison. The unicorn itself is immune to Curses, Poisons and Diseases, and has twice the Health and 160% of the movement speed of an average horse, and can attack quite effectively with its horn, which deals double damage against undead. When the unicorn is unsummoned, it explodes in a blinding flash of light, dealing damage to any undead within 10 yards, and blinding other creatures for 5 seconds. (Summoned creatures are unsummoned when subjected to a Banish effect, knocked unconcious, slain or dismissed.) Lasts 10 minutes, or until unsummoned. If you attempt to summon another Unicorn, the durations add, to a maximum of 30 minutes.

Rune of Oblivion (Second, CC10) - Enchants a 1-yard diameter magic circle of sugar, powdered silver, powdered gold, or chalk dust on the ground to become a powerful trap. Foes that wander into the circle become immobilized, muted, pacified and incorporeal. Lasts until the ring is disturbed. If you enchant a ring of gold or silver dust in this way, the dust fuses into a solid hoop, making it possible to place other enchantments on the entire ring, (such as invisibility,) and making it much more difficult to disrupt. If the ring is made of gold, the ring is dispel resistant. Players caught in such a circle can use spells or magic items to dispel the magic or break the circle, or to teleport elsewhere, or they are offered the option of being expelled back to port town. Much like the Hide Writing spell, you can specify a whitelist.

Forecast (Zero, 3) - Conjures up omens of approaching weather. Summons one set of omens every 10 seconds, each for 8 hours from now, 16 hours from now, and 24 hours from now. Omens include a faint glow for sun, a faint heat or chill for warmer or colder than now, a mist for precipitation, and static shocks for lightning. All players within 15 yards feel these omens. 10 minute cooldown. (Gives insight into the planned weather, not what will definitely happen. 30% chance of a bogus omen each time.)

Drums of War (Second, CCC12) - Enchants a set of musical drums to inspire great martial prowess in all who listen. When beaten for 5 minutes while outside of combat, all allies within 100 yards gain a stacking 5% bonus to movement speed, and a 5% bonus to damage done for 4 hours. When used in combat, the drum offers a random selection of three of the following beats, and whenever a beat is used, that beat becomes unavailable until it is replaced with another random beat after 3 rounds. Lasts until dispelled or destroyed. You may only enchant one set of Drums of War per 3 days.

Battle March - This turn, all allies deal 5% additional damage.

Shielding Stanza - This turn, prevents the first 5 damage that would be taken by each ally.

Discordant Beat - This turn, the first time each foe would take damage, that foe takes an additional 10% damage.

Energetic Rhythm - Restores 1% stamina to all allies.

Frenzied Tempo - This turn, whenever an ally makes an attack with multiple hits, that attack gains 1 additional hit.

Focused Pounding - At the end of this turn, the foe that took the most damage takes an additional 10% damage.

Shuffle - Immediately replaces this set of drums' set of beats with 3 new random beats.

Waterproof (Zero, 4) - Enchants a held item or touched player to be proofed against water. A player so enchanted cannot become wet unless immersed in water, but this protection does not extend to his or her items. Burning items so enchanted cannot be doused unless immersed in water. All other items cannot become wet under any circumstance. (Water can rust iron items.) Lasts 30 minutes.

Shadow Step (First, CC5) - When cast while standing in deep shadow, the caster and any players that he or she holds hands with slip into the shadow realm, rendering them invisible, incorporeal, and inaudible to players and mobs not in the shadow realm. A player in the shadow realm may leave at any location shadowed in the real world, and may also return to the point at which they entered. To a player mid-shadow step, creatures on the real world appear as blurry shadows, and somewhat-passable solids, such as doors and jail bars to do not obstruct them. Lasts 1 minute, until dispelled, or until the player otherwise leaves the shadow realm. If this effect expires, the player is returned to the point from which they entered the shadow realm.
3-turn cast time, being exposed to bright light during the cast time interrupts the spell.

Rust (Zero, 6) - Tendrils of corrosion spread over the surface of a touched metallic item that is subject to corrosion. Rusty items subjected to this spell will have the rust removed instead. (Rusty items have reduced maximum durability, reduced Hardness, and increased brittleness.) Permanent.

Alchemy (Second, CCCCC10) - Transmutes a bar of iron into a bar of gold. Alchemy may only be cast once each day.

Ignite (First, C4) - Lights a touched item or creature on fire. Non-flammable objects or fire-immune creatures will be wreathed in fire, but unharmed by it, and may set fire to objects they touch. Lasts 10 minutes, or until dispelled, destroyed or doused.

Conjure Tool (Zero, 5) - Conjures a small, ghostly tool that you name from the following list: knife, hammer, needle, hatchet, pick axe, bucket, cook pot, rope, fishing pole, chisel, lock pick, or grappling hook. The tools so created are equivalent to a similar item bought from the NPC traders. Conjured items vanish after 30 minutes, or when destroyed, dispelled, or discarded.

Disjunction (Second, CCC17) - Removes extremely powerful magic effects, as Dispel Magic, but does not fail on effects that are dispel resistant. Disjunction can also target large-area spells that are anchored to a location, rather than an object, and if no effect name is spoken within 10 seconds, Disjunction will remove the most powerful spell in the area.

Wildfire (Second, CC13) - You hurl a small bead of flame, which bursts and clings to an object on impact. Fires created by Wildfire are particularly hard to douse, as they sap moisture from their surroundings, throw many sparks, and can occasionally flare back up after being extinguished. Fire that spreads from a Wildfire is also a Wildfire, although dispelling any single fire will remove the magic from all of them. Lasts 5 minutes, or until dispelled, however, any fires already started continue to burn as mundane fire. 8 hour cooldown.

Random Spell Design

This is probably a first-level spell.I've been thinking about the magic system in the World. Lest I forget, here's what we have: Spells come in three "levels," indexed from zero.

Zero-level spells are utility spells, cost only unflavored mana, and can be learned directly from unguided research or when a mage attunes themselves to a nexus. (Aside: Nexi litter the map, and come in several 'flavors'. A mage can bind themselves to one nexus for each day that the current telling has run, and it grants them a new zero-level spell, and a new flavored essence of the same type as the nexus.)

First-level spells can be more powerful utility spells, as well as basic combat spells. First-level spells can be learned by preforming research guided by two zero-level spells, or a zero-level spell and a first-level spell. This research cannot be successfully completed without five bound nexi. First-level spells are drastically more powerful than zero-level spells, which is why they are limited by costing flavored mana, in addition to unflavored mana.

Second-level spells are extremely powerful utility spells, or more A second-level spell in action. I may be kidding. A little.commonly, advanced combat spells. Second-level spells are learned by preforming research guided by two first-level spells, or a first-level spell and a second-level spell. This research cannot be successfully completed without fifteen bound nexi. Second-level spells are even more powerful than first-level spells, and thus cost many flavored mana, sometimes in multiple varieties for a single spell, in addition to unflavored mana. Some second-level spells also grant a free zero-level spell when learned that is a lesser version of themselves that can be used far more frequently, via unflavored mana.

Mana comes in a small number of flavors, which have yet to be determined. Each flavor of mana is associated with several themes, and those themes imply mechanics. If a spell costs generic mana, you may use flavored mana to pay that cost, but you cannot use unflavored mana to pay a flavored cost. All players have a small pool of unflavored mana that increases by some means (as yet, undecided) as an island progresses, and refills fairly quickly after use. Mages also have up to X other pools of mana, one of each nexus that they have attuned themselves to, which are usually dormant. A mage can choose to tap one of their flavored pools (a free action in combat), at which point they gain access to a slow trickle of flavored mana for a short time until the pool is depleted, at which point they will have no access to that pool again until the pool has had time to recover (X minutes outside of combat to refresh all flavored pools).

When a server comes online, the game marks X% of the possible spells of each spell level as "learnable" on that telling. From the list of unlearnable first-level spells, each player receives a random "innate" spell. This spell functions normally, except that it can be cast with unflavored mana instead of its usual flavor. Players are not told what their innate spell is until they have a large enough unflavored mana pool to cast it.

For some spell ideas I have, see:

Update: All players have an "essence" stat, which determines the rate and cap of mana generation. A player's true maximum is 100 total mana, (important when considering the effect of mana potions), but if their essence is 5, (the base amount), then they will regain mana fairly slowly, and only generate up to 5 mana before their mana generation halts. Any mana held beyond the character's essence will slowly decay.

Essence can be boosted in a number of ways. Potions can give a 10-minute essence boost, well-made staves, wands, robes, shields and jewelry may boost essence while worn. There exist multiple ways to permanently boost a character's base Essence, once of which is being a subscriber, which would boost Essence by 100% or 20, whichever is smaller at the time. Being a combat mage would be balanced around having access to the subscriber boost, thus if you try to be one without it, you would be slightly less effective than a melee or archer (which may be worth it if you need the variety in your group).

When a player taps a flavored mana pool, it would convert 5 of this basic essence into 5 flavored essence for a limited time. In a long battle, a mage might "burn out" by expending all their access to flavored mana. This is intended to be similar to a physical fighter becoming fatigued. If a mage does not gain any flavored mana for 2 turns in combat, a random completely empty pool will become partially refilled, allowing to to be tapped to grant 1 flavored mana immediately.

Availability of flavored Nexi: Players should have no problem binding themselves to their maximum number of Nexi, but they also should have difficulty gaining access to that many Nexi that are all of the same flavor. Thus, they will need to choose which flavors to go for based on what has been discovered and whether those are guarded by hostile monsters or not.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Player Advancement and Power Levels

Levelupman activates his super power!I've been thinking about player advancement in the World, and I've been reading about how skill-based systems tend to be more difficult to implement and balance. I've also been thinking about relative balance of power, character permanence across tellings, and the effect of equipment.

But first, some light reading:

We've already established that the bulk of progression comes in the form of knowledge about the current telling, buildings, settlements, roads, equipment and friends. Of these, all save for equipment persist through death (and even that is recoverable/easily replaceable.) At the end of a telling, however, structures are reset, a lot of game knowledge that was relevant no longer is, and for the health of the next server equipment will likely need to be wiped. So what binds a player to their character between tellings?

I'm actually thinking of letting them keep their skill-ups... which runs contradictory to the view that server resets should be a good time for newbies to get in on the ground floor. It's fixing that problem that leads me to my current vision of the skill system.

Skills begin at rank one, and increase rapidly to near-maximum. These numbers have virtually no effect on performance at the skill. Instead, what you get from practicing a skill enough to level up is advice on how to proceed in mastering it. Thus, each skill-up unlocks the next few pieces of a tutorial in using the skill. Finally, we can offer players a tangible (but small!) reward for the final couple of skill-ups, perhaps a 2-5% gain in effectiveness for combat stats at maximum (compared to rank one).

An example skill-up table may be as follows:

Swordsmanship Rank - Effect
1 - Start, UI offers the first page of the swordsmanship tutorial, explaining how to get a cheap weapon and hit something, perhaps a dummy or a tree. Level up almost immediately.
2 - Explains how to do the first (of many) melee special attacks, and tells you to preform one. Level up almost immediately.
3 through 5 - Explains more melee special attacks, level up after doing a few of each.
6 - Explains the Block mechanic, level up after preventing X damage through Block, which should take only 1-2 appropriately challenging combats.
7 - Explains the Parry mechanic, level up after preventing X damage through Parry, which should take 3-4 appropriately-challenging combats.
8 - This is the "you know what to do, and the last two ranks are going to take some real time spent being a melee fighter to get" level. Leaves you with an explanation of the uses of various weapon types, how to do your "rotation," and when to disengage from combat if you find your defenses depleted. Level up after a day or so of doing melee fighter type-stuff (not a whole day of solid combat o.O)
9 - +2% Parry and Block regeneration rate and melee damage. Comes with some more advanced advice about more advanced situations, things that would be a bit more overwhelming to someone who just learned to fight (rank 8). Level up after about one telling's worth of playing a melee fighter.
10 - Bonus increased to +5%. May come with some final tips about engaging the most powerful of foes, or overwhelming numbers.

For non-combat skills, we may not even grant tangible effects, the value may be in revealing secret techniques, or explaining advanced tactics.

Popular addons should be baseline.

I was just thinking about how my youngest brother plays WoW, and how I introduced him to the game. It's my opinion that any advice that you would give to a newbie player, and any addons you feel are needed to be good at a game had ought to be built into the tutorial and built into the UI, respectively.

A simple thought on tooltips.

World of Warcraft (and many other games, I'm sure) has a list of different stats that you'll find on equipment, only about 3-4 of which are actually usable by the character you're currently playing. A simple thought on tooltips: gray out the stats that do nothing for you, and sort them to the end of the tooltip.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An MMO without the need for Healers?

I've been toying with the design for an open-world sandbox/PvE game for a while now, and one of the big traits of the game world so far is low-magic, meaning magic is more like that in Lord of the Rings than Arcanists. ...which poses a design problem: by default, PvE MMOs copy what WoW does, but without widespread access to magic, how can we have dedicated healers? How can the Holy Trinity survive?

Initially, I thought that perhaps non-magical healing would allow dedicated healers to exist, perhaps flitting about large battlefields, using potions, herbal salves and more mundane means to patch up injured soldiers that have retreated from the front lines. Indeed, if I have my way, that will be a viable build, and a useful function in a prolonged battle or siege, but what of shorter battles? Will healing even be a consideration, or should the fight simply be a damage race? What about small-group combat, that may not have enough members to spare a dedicated medic, lest the battle line crumble immediately? It is these considerations that lead me to a potential resource system that is akin to "Health" of other MMOs, but which answers my questions while remaining simulationistic.

As in other MMOs, depletes with damage, refills outside of combat via healing effects (or natural regeneration, but over very long periods.)

An extension of the health bar, refills only when repaired or swapped, swapping armor takes a long time, and should be unlikely to be used as a tactic in any but the longest of battles, and surely not in active combat. Also, most armor only absorbs X damage per hit, an

Although likely to be rare, wards function like armor, extending the health bar, but are considered much earlier. Damage is assigned to the ward effect with the least remaining health first.

Actively (based on player skill) prevents the first X attacks that would otherwise be hits on a player, refills in active combat up to Y%, as long as the player hasn't recently had an attack consider them. Has no chance to dodge an attack that you cannot detect. Refills fairly quickly to max when not in active combat.

Block & Parry
Actively (based on player skill) allows a player to prevent attacks with a shield or weapon. Prevents X damage before depleting. Both refill in active combat, even while being considered by attacks, however, both refill faster if a player hasn't been considered by any attacks recently. Parry should be more difficult to execute than Block, soak less damage before depleting than Block, and should fail on particularly massive attacks. Parry with two weapons should be slightly less potent than Block with a shield. It is my opinion that shields should not be breakable, except by special mechanics (or perhaps, not at all.)

When an attack "considers" a player, (that is to say, an attack's hit-box intersects a player's hit box,) the damage is assigned to a resource on the following priority table which is highest on the table and can apply to the attack in question:

1. Block
2. Parry
3. Dodge
4. Ward
5. Armor
6. Health

Healing magic is flavored as an infusion of "life energy" or "vitality," rather than "refilling your health stat." When a player is considered by healing magic, the healing applies to a resource on the following priority table which is highest on the table:

1. Health
2. Block
3. Parry
4. Dodge

Health is 1:1, 1 point of healing magic refills 1 point of health.
Block is 1:2, 1 point of healing magic refills 2 points of block.
Parry is 1:1.7, 1 point of healing magic refills 1.7 points of parry.
Dodge does not keep track of the amount of damage nullified, requires a constant X healing to refill a spent Dodge point. The time to refill a Dodge point naturally by time is constant.

What this all implies, is that by fluidly shifting a foe's focus, or cycling fatigued fighters to the rear of the battle lines, players can "catch their breath" and claim some fairly effective free healing in a situation without any "real" healers. Similarly, in a high-end squad incorporating dedicated magical healers, those not casting spells can use the same tactic to spread damage around, making healing itself less hectic, as well as maximizing the effects of natural recuperation, by ensuring that as many players are recovering at a given time as possible.