Saturday, May 9, 2009

Golems V2

I'll spare you the "boy, it's been a long time I haven't updated this blog..." and jump straight to the interesting part.

Building an MMO was a big task. Enormous task. There's good reasons why everyone is telling don't do this as a first project. I did it anyway because that was honestly the only thing I was interested to build.

The downside is that when you try to do a lot of systems at the same time, you obviously won't be able to make everything as deep as you wanted (unless you're ready to delay release like Duke Nukem Never... eh... Forever...

The golems in Golemizer were never quite what I had in mind in the first place. Well, yes and no. My initial plan was to go with something simple. Make something simple, easy to handle, update. I wanted my own small project to play with. At first I was aiming for something like Urban Dead. But I wasn't satisfied enough to build something too simple.

So I started going in various directions and ended up with systems not as complete as I wanted like the golems. It's kinda ironic because the game is named Golemizer but I could as well have named it something like "Sandboxer" since it was first a sandbox game in my mind.

So golems ended up like "fire and forget" weapons. Not all golems were of the same power so players ended up building the same golems over and over. I don't blame them, the game was pushing them in that direction. In a game where players are mad scientists experimenting on various devices, golems were pretty much just static beings. They all looked the same (on a stats level) with some differences on HP and bonus damages for golems such as rougarous and zombie horrors.

Building interesting combat content was becoming really hard because I the content was too hard to beat, it was pretty much like saying "build that one golem that can beat it and forget about everything else". So it was a simple system yes, but not a system I was satisfied with.

Another reason why players weren't interested to build other type of golems is that there was no reward for doing so. The only "reward" or way to measure success were the global points gained from combat (and now quests). Why bother having a hard time by doing the same content with a mechanical bull as you know the player with the zombie horror will always be ahead of you...

So that brings me to the golems update. In this update, players can customize the stats of their golems. Some golems can update X stats while others can update Y stats but in the end, golems of the same "level" of power can beat each other according you switch you strategy correctly. So while in the past a rock cleaner was useless, now it's able to fight a zombie which is of the same level of power.

So what's the point of having golems of equal powers? Aren't they basically the same golem with a different skin? They key is in progression and rewards. Before, there wasn't any way to improve your golems. You were stuck with the same stats until you got rid of your golem. The crafting process is also different to make it more interesting.

Mechanical golems like rock cleaners and mechanical bulls come with a number of experimentation points based on the quality of the parts used to craft them. With these experimentation points, you're able to customize them to your liking. Do you want a damage dealer? A tank? Do you want to customize it to fight a specific type of opponent? You now have the choice.

Bio golems like zombies and rougarous don't have any experimentation points at first. But their stats are set by the stats of the parts used in the crafting process. Will you use this arm with +5 damages or this other arm with +8 HP? Your choice.

So both type of golems can be customized, it only depends on which way fits more your playstyle. Some will hunt for hours to find the parfect arm, leg, flower... While others are ready to take a chance and go with mechanical golems (experimentation success is based on the number of points used for each experiment).

Of course, it doesn't stop there. When your golem defeats an opponent, it works its way to get more experimentation points. If you fight weak targets, it will take a long time to customize your golem. If you take more risk, you'll get experimentation points faster.

Ok, so why would I build a clockwork gnome while I could build a zombie horror? Well, rankings by global points are now "removed". The chart is still there because I know some players are interested to still check it but things like special titles on login and rewards are now monthly and per golem type based. So your clockwork gnome is the best gnome there is? That means you'll be at the top of the rankings for gnomes. At the end of the month the rankings are set back to 0, trophies are awarded to the best player for each golem type and we go for another round. The global rankings are now rankings by trophies.

Trophies can be earn if you are the best master for a golem type, if your city is the most active city (only for mayor), if you attend an event and the GM rewards you with a trophy, if you are helping new players and a GM notice you, if you have builded something amazing like a very pretty house, if you are the most popular quest builder and so on.

The trick here is to have various ways to be recognize. With the previous system of prestige points only, you basically had to be into combat to be top ranked. For a game claiming to be sandbox, that wasn't quite interesting. The point is that whatever you are doing well, this might make you a top player in the rankings. Plus you get trophies you can brag about and show in your houses or cities.

With this update, I'm getting a little bit closer to something I'm completely satisfied with. Of course, the question is can I ever be satisfied? ;) There's still another level of customization I want to add to golems. Players have suggested the possibility to add weapons/new attack to golems and Maple suggested some module system. I think that's where I'll be heading next for golems. Not just give the possibility to players to add new attack modules but also things for players less interested in combat like a "greeting" module (golem would say hello to people it's meeting), or other behaviors that would give more personality to golems and make each one a little bit more unique.

So much to do yet so little time! There's no lack of ideas here (and I won't even talk about the numerous other ideas I'd like to turn into MMO one day...).