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Sneak Peek Someday02:09 AM -- Wed July 26, 2006

Yeah yeah, you'll get one someday.

In the meantime, I had some thoughts today that I thought were quite unique and cool. Skills in an RPG - MMO or not MMO, though the second idea could only really apply to an MMO. Both of these kind of work together to create a game system where skills are very important and widely varied and an integral part of the game's lore instead of just a bunch of ways to shoot things.

#1 - Local Learning. When the game begins, you're in NewbieTown and you can learn one of a couple really basic sets of skills. By the way, all skills in the game are broken into small related sets of maybe 5 skills. So in NewbieTown, you could learn maybe Basic Brawling, Low Magic, Slinging (considering that the bottom end of archery-type stuff), something like that. Once you've progressed through Newbietown a bit, you get the option to proceed outward in maybe 3 or 4 directions. From those new places, you fight along and can go to a few more. So the world would have a bunch of variety (I'm thinking of the wonderful world of WoW, where depending on your race, you have a whole new beginning to the game, which is something I really like), letting you proceed along the path you choose. But it's more than a path! Where you go also determines what you can learn, like in reality. If you head into the Northlands, where of course every game has Viking-style barbarian types, you can learn Berserker skills or Shaman skills (winter type magic, I suppose). Head into the coast and you can learn Pirate skills, Voodoo, that kind of thing. In the end, your character is limited to 5 or so skill sets total, so once you've gone through a bunch of these, you've defined your character based on your travels (though you could be a magical type, or a warrior, or thief, or whatever mix, but the flavor of skills would depend on your travels). I really like this idea, though it obviously takes a very large world to be functional. You'd have to have huge portions of the game that the player would never see on an individual run-through. Very appropriate for an MMO!

#2 - High Arts. This only works for an online game, I would say. Imagine if there were very advanced skills in the game, which we will call High Arts. Like in Kung Fu movies, there are super deadly techniques that nobody knows except the great master, or in RPGs, there's one wizard who can create the Great Portal. Stuff like that. To learn these skills, you go through an epic series of quests into very deadly territory, all of which is very well hidden so most people won't find it. Now, for game balance reasons, lethal kung fu strikes might be a problem. But the ancient art of opening portals to shortcut between certain places, that wouldn't be unbalancing. It'd just be really nice to have! Anyway, if you learn a High Art, you are warned about it - if you ever tell anyone the secret, then the art will be taken away from you! And that's exactly how it works: if the developers ever discover that you have leaked info on how to get the art or how to use it, they disable those skills on your character. A fun little mesh of reality and fiction, where you can pay the in-game price for out-of-game tomfoolery. And a way to actually implement some real secrets in the game. Sure, they'd still end up leaking out, and probably quickly, but maybe they'd change how you obtain them every so often (simple changes like moving the hidden guy who starts the whole quest series), so the leaks wouldn't be as bad. People wouldn't want to share if they knew it'd mean they'd have to start a new character to get the skills again, and maybe wouldn't even be able to, since it might change. A lot of the arts could become almost legends ("I saw a guy turn into a giant dragon!") since unlike other skills, they wouldn't be plastered all over FAQ pages. Okay, they probably would. Sigh. Weird idea, rather tough to actually implement, and probably one that would make players mad. My kind of thinking.

RPG stuff, that's what I think about these days. I just got Champions Of Norrath for the PS2. It's so much like Loonyland 2, it's weird. I keep noticing similarities. They even have the same ring of spells (although they implemented it the way I originally did in LL2, where you hold a direction to highlight one of 8 spells, instead of how it is now, where you rotate it). So don't think I ripped them off. I had all this stuff first! Now I don't recall what other similarities I noticed, but I swear there were many. It feels kind of similar, which is very odd to say if you look at it.
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