Saturday, December 12

Game Mechanic Musings #1

In the interest of keeping this blog active thought it might be an idea to get the ball rolling on discussing game mechanics, talk about one mechanic that's interesting, inspired, confusing, just plain stupid or that you would like to see (get your imagination going and Lani can split his pefect MMO mechanics into bite size chunks). I'll get the ball rolling...

Atlantica Online - Stamina

Within the first few hours of playing I had random people send me money, initialy I was cautious, could this be a sweetener from an RMT company? I put my paranoia aside, accepted and sent my thanks, mostly people don't reply or they send a simple 'yw'. It was only on reading the above stamina information that it became clear that in AO you need to be generous to keep that XP and drop rate. The amounts I have recieved vary, I'm not sure how giving works, if theres a minimum involved or that minimum increases with level or the more you use this one way of getting stamina back? I've not been able to initiate sending a gift, I'm guessing my current low level doesn't allow it. I would think there is a bar on giving to members of your own guild, I also wonder if giving requires you to select a player or the players name is randomly generated, if the former then more care when choosing a name could be beneficial.

Grouping is rewarded by stamina regen, it is also rewarded by significant xp gain, in a world where a lot of MMO companies seem to like punishing grouping it's nice to see it rewarded.

Beyond encouraging grouping, helping, being generous and getting involved in PvP, why limit the XP and drop advantage? I recall at the beginning of this games life in CB loss of stamina meant no XP and no drops, speculation was heavy about stamina items being the biggest possible source of income from the item mall, yet my current search failed to find anything in the mall that restores stamina, the only possible reasons I can fathom are to either get you to play less and/or explore the other options the game has to offer, the options I'm aware of so far just seems to be crafting for a lowbie like myself, although I have discovered nothing more than the fact it exists. It seems a bad idea to limit peoples enjoyment of one aspect of the game, I wonder why they kept it? Further exploration of the game and forums (found no concrete answers on the forum so far) may shed some light on this one but at the moment what I'm seeing doesn't seem to provide any real 'justice' for something so limiting, what is the point ?


  1. It's not dissimilar to Allods Online and the Fatigue system. At their heart, these are antigrind mechanics. They provide diminishing returns for increasing time commitment, and the alleviation mechanics of giving to other players has a way of building community goodwill... even if it is ultimately selfish. (The Invisible Hand of the Atlantica markets?)

    I like these mechanics, as they tend to discourage long grindy play sessions. That delays burnout and is even a bit socially responsible, which is interesting from a game company. It may well feel a little Big Brotherish at times, being "penalized" for playing more than a few hours a day, so it won't sit well with everyone. That's understandable.

    All in all, though, the Stamina and Fatigue systems are a nice bone tossed to the crowd that doesn't play these games 20+ hours a week. In a microtransaction game, that's a higher percentile of your population than in a sub game. It's smart to cater to your player base.

  2. I am the kind of person that can sink 6-8 hours gameplay into a saturday or sunday easily, Atlantica's retro FF VII style battles got me hooked yesterday and I must have spent 6 or 7 hours playing and exploring the game a bit further. Progression contains plenty of 'kill ten rat' quests which started me wondering how long I could continue the story line before stamina ran out, surprisingly it was the need to get some sleep that stopped me playing, I had 19 points left. I started a new character got it to lvl 21 and I guess if you really must keep grinding you could set yourself up with a couple of alts.

    My initial reaction was positive towards this system because of the encouragement of good will between players, I had doubts about how it would frustrate some people and reduce a potential player base, turns out you would have to be pretty hard core to be affected by it, the kind of hard core that eventually isn't good for your posture, circulation and eye site.

    I've started to receive group quests and having grasped the basics now I'm confident to start grouping and getting quite excited by the thought of turn based, strategy PvP, both of which will improve my stamina pool. I got myself a mentor (a lvl 98 player whose mentor ship just means helping me along with my newb questions) and I received several gifts during the day, I honestly can't find anything negative about this system now.

  3. I will have to try it out to really form a proper opinion, but it feels wrong to me. Trying to force to play and act in a certain way makes me want to revolt. We have already enough silly rules in RL. My MMO shouldn't pile more of them on me. But I do have the feeling they thought this through quite a bit, and I can't think (yet) any loop holes in the system. The feeling I have with it is a bit the same as the new teaming features they added in WOW. It doesn't make for great team building, it makes for convenient quick grouping. Which gets into a bigger issue.

  4. I'm still a bit unsure on how the mechanic actually works, possibly due to the image being blocked at work) but it does seem like a good thing based upon the following realisations:
    A) It rewards rather than punishes as I understand it. Though a diminishing return on investment (of time) can be seen as punishment. I see it as the time you spend then is because you're enjoying yourself rather than for the carrot being dangled in front of you.
    B) It sounds like a mechanic designed and imagined from the ground up along with the game rather than what you see most of the time. A Diku MUD model (itself a grouping concept) molded into a single player game then some bandaids slapped on with usually some ineffective, if not downright counter-effective, XP tweaking alone.

    I'm intruiged by the Turn Based Nature of combat. I knew it was used in Wizard 101 (if I have the title right) but it seems almost inappropriate in an age where a four letter faction name needs to be abbreviated to a 3 letter ICA and other evidence of short attention spans or atleast go-go-go mentality abound.

    I think Tesh is spot on with saying the gifting is inherently selfish. I'd call it enlightened self-interest instead. it's the glue of civilization you know. And it sounds a bit nicer than selfishness :-)

  5. Bite sized enough for ya? :-)

  6. I'll make a longer post about Atlantica Online soon, I'm having a hoot with this game and even took my delicate carebar ass into some PvP last night, surprisingly I won, much to the annoyance of my opponant, his initial 'OMG WTF I should have pwned you' soon settled down into some friendly banter but I somehow couldn't resist rubbing it in by telling him he was pwned by a total newb :)

    Most F2P games have the less than subtle 'gonna make you travel a very long way for no real reason' time sinks, Atlantica isn't an exception BUT the stamina regen due to time spent getting there definately helps soften the blow.

    They must be doing something right, it's a very busy game.

  7. Most F2P games have the less than subtle 'gonna make you travel a very long way for no real reason' time sinks,
    and in which way does this differ from most P2P games these days? Travel time saves you having to create actual content you know. Cost saving is where the profit margin's at!

    No I'm not disgruntled about my job bein off-shored, much. :-)

  8. Atlantica also softens travel time by letting you autorun... on autopilot.

    As in, it's not just "hit NumLock and hope you don't get stuck", it's literally "tell your character where to run to, and they run there while you wander off and do something else". To be sure, if you're running through baddies, you may get snagged, but if you're running along highways, it's literally the best autorun I've ever seen. (You can't autorun *anywhere*, which is a bit of a bummer, but you can run to quest hubs, cities and NPCs, which is hugely convenient.)

  9. In Fallen Earth there are quite long distances to cross at times, and the only mode of transport is horse back or slightly faster bikes and ATVs. There is no way to speed up travelling or auto piloting. There have been many threads about this on the official forums, but the majority of the players (including me) actually like the way it is. It adds to my sense of the world. It has absolutely nothing to do with lack of content, but with a sense of big wide world.

    Almost all MMOs have travel shortcuts. In which game do you have to do any proper travel anymore? Vanguard's rift stones are the best example how killing travel times can spoil a game. Nobody cares about the world thy play in, they just need instant mobs to kill.

  10. @Tesh: that autorun sounds neat. A bit like WOW's original flightpaths but with a bit more excitement and, you know, no flight :-)
    Or the Rent-a-Horse system from LoTRO, which is the same except you're on a horse which you rented for the occasion and you can't go to any random spot on the map. Not sure I'd do that with Atlantica's system either, unless it's very easy to cancel autorun.

    @Phèdre: Hmmm, I'd have to partially disagree with you there Phè. The Riftstones of Vanguard were a square peg patch put in to fill up a triangular shaped flaw in the the basic design of the game.
    The results are therefore not typical of how instant transportation will ruin a game because the game was already ruined to some extent.

    Elaboration: The world of Telon (Telos?) was suffering from a major population deficiency for various reasons I'll not get into. The Riftstones were put in to alleviate that pressing problem. As a result the game changed its form, but it changed from one misshapen form to another misshapen form. Not from "as intended" to misshapen.

    Flying mounts, which were intended to be the 'ultimate' transportation came in after Riftstones were already established, boats/ships never did work properly either e.t.c. Vanguard's transportation/travel was deeply flawed at launch and the Riftstones a quick and dirty solution.

    The second (or third?) wave of Riftstones along with the changes to Harvesting did twist it so far beyond recognition that at that point it did ruin the game for just about everyone except the 6000-10.000 people still playing.

  11. Oh yes, Vanguard had a lot more issues, and the rift stones changes didn't break the game. I just brought up Vanguard as an example. I have the feeling all MMOs are more and more cutting out travel time and all go for instant whatever. In my view travel time is not a useless timesink to cover up anything, but one of the things that adds to the feeling I am part of a different universe.

  12. Oh I wouldn't know about that. A lot of MMO's don't have long travel times from one quest hub to another, but instead they have you travel 5 minutes to and from questlocation and back to the hub at one quest per trip. So add 10 minutes travel time to each Kill 20 Wolves which swallowed some gold coins each and some of which may contain tails to make each of your Quests a 30-45 minute afair so it all looks good on the design spreadsheet during development.

    It's more mixed up now, but travel time is still very much a stopgap to keep us spending time doing nothing. If it's done in a good way. A progressive Questline with a halfway decent stroyline behind it it's actually not a problem.

    I do like traveling and exploring myself though, so I too miss it. I fondly remember the times spent trying to keep Kettle upright on her camel while riding into the sunset on one of the three continents. Of course there was the 20-30 second delay at each zone-crossing to annoy me....
    On the other hand, CoX for instance doesn't have anyplace you can't reach in under 5 minutes after level 20 or so. And it never stopped you or me from enjoying that game either. In a city MMO near instant travel fits. In a Fantasy world or Post-Apocalyptic one less so.
    In some games/worlds travel is a more important part of it. Maybe Guild Wars' method of making you travel everywhere once and then allowing you to insta-travel to any Mission Start location you'd previously visited is still a good option?

  13. Yes, it's easy to cancel autorun in Atlantica. You can take control from the autopilot at any time. (Which is handy if you see your autopilot heading for a pack of baddies.)