First!

Warning: This post is about World of Warcraft.

Like the other 200 million people who play the game, I’ve got ideas on how to make it better. Since reading the official forums just makes me sad, and since there are at least a couple of people who read this blog who are interested in videogames, I’m posting my Genius Plan here.

My biggest problems with the game are:

  • Permanence: Nothing you do has any permanent effect. Enemies respawn, zones stay the same as they were before. The best you can hope for is to give a one-hour boost to people on your side, or inconvenience the players on the other side. The solution is to make your actions as a player have some lasting effect that isn’t instantly negated but also doesn’t ruin the game for other players.
  • Fiction: The game’s good on gameplay, lousy on story. Even if you take the time to read the quest descriptions, there’s not much point because they all pretty much devolve into “Kill ten murlocs and come back here.” Instances and dungeons make a better attempt to tell a story, but you never get the chance to really be involved in it because the people you’re playing with have already done this dungeon (or battleground) dozens of times before and want to get right to it. The solution is to involve players in the story instead of just the mechanics, but without just adding a dozen long text descriptions of the Amulet of Riz’Fal’Ptah that don’t really matter to anyone except the guy who wrote it and imagined it was going to be so wicked awesome.
  • Differentiation: No matter what the whiners say, the classes and races are all pretty well balanced. This means that you end up doing basically the same thing with every character, just in slightly different ways. There is some strategy involved when you’re in a big party in a dungeon, but for the most part you’re just killing monsters and grinding. The solution is to have things that only certain classes can do, while keeping the game balanced.

Plus, it just seems like the game should be more like Warcraft and less like Diablo. Just because that’s its name and all.

So here’s my Grand Vision, presented for free on the internets: emphasize resources and control points. They do this in the Alterac Valley battleground, but that’s a cordoned-off area that doesn’t have any relevance to the rest of the game. I’d like to see that concept carried throughout the whole game world.

The game world kind of looks like Warcraft but doesn’t function like it — there are already big cities, smaller towns, and then resource areas (farms, mines, lumber yards, barracks, ports, etc) all around, but the resource areas are just free-for-all places where you kill monsters and turn in quests. I say leave the areas around these the same as they are now, for general-purpose monster killing. But the area itself is a control point.

Control points give supplies to nearby towns and cities, but only when they’re controlled by your side. Say Orgrimmar, for example, requires four farms to supply food, two mines to supply metal, a lumber yard, and one support village. Controlling everything gives bonus items (available from vendors) and rewards (buffs from the warchief) to people in the city. Losting control points reduces the bonuses, then eventually starts giving penalties.

If all farms are under control, everyone gets a stamina buff just for entering the city. If one farm is lost, then the city works as it does now. If two farms are lost, then the supplies of all the NPC vendors is cut. If another farm is lost, some vendors and trainers disappear altogether. If all farms are lost, the flight path is shut down because there’s no food for the animals. If one mine is lost, none of the vendors can repair your weapons & armor. If both mines are lost, the auction house closes because the horde can no longer issue coin. If the support village is lost, the mailboxes stop working because the mail can’t get through. And so on.

Each control point has buildings or areas, at least one for Horde and one for Alliance, where you enter an instance battle. The battle is to gain control of that resource. You win the resource for your side by completing a set number of objectives, or by killing all the enemy players in that instance.

Each instance has a set number of slots, kind of like the vehicle positions in Halo. Each slot corresponds to a specific class and has a specific objective that can only be accomplished by that class. If you enter the battle and don’t correspond to one of the slots, then your objective is just to kill every enemy player. But the smarter way to play is to assign the right player classes to attack or defend a control point, because it’s easier to complete the objective.

Say you’re on the Horde side, and you’re trying to take over an Alliance mine. The mine has four Horde slots: rogue, shaman, and two warriors. The rogue’s objective is to find the mine foreman and assassinate him using stealth. The shaman’s is to find the main mine train out and destroy it using fire totems. One warrior’s is to kill 10 mine workers, the other’s is to kill five overseers. (I’m sure there are more clever warrior-specific objectives that can be done, but stick with the basics for now). For the Horde to take the mine, they have to complete 3 of the 4 objectives.

Alliance players have their own “defense” slots with their own classes: a priest that has to heal and resurrect the mine foreman, a warlock that has to kill the enemy shaman, etc. For them to defend the mine, they have to complete 3 of their 4 objectives, at which point all Horde players would be expelled, and they’d have to start over from the beginning if they wanted to try to take it over again.

I just think that having a real objective to do, that only someone of my class can accomplish and that will have some relevance past the point where I turn in the quest and everything resets back to normal, would make the game a lot more compelling for me. It’d better involve players in the story — you’re no longer just clearing out a dungeon, but you’re a rogue assassin closing in on a target — without requiring tons of new long-winded content that’s mostly ignored and has to be constantly updated.

From what I’ve heard, Dark Age of Camelot and Final Fantasy XI had the same idea going on with contested zones and world-wide rewards for PVP. I haven’t played either one of them long enough to see it in action.

My gut feeling is that World of Warcraft is fun enough as it is, because it’s got a solid game mechanic underneath it all. It’s just dull and needs something to revitalize it, and nothing I’ve heard about for the expansion sound like they’ll do the trick. Adding control points and class slots would give everything a purpose again and keep it from just being a pointless grind for random drops, without significantly breaking the game that’s there now.

I’m skeptical that something like this could ever make it into the game, but it’s kind of fun to think about.

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