Implementation From A Player’s Perspective
In order to introduce any mechanic into an MMO, I imagine that developers must make sure what they are introducing meets certain criteria. I am not a dev or anything but amateur, but below I have some sample guidelines that I consider good for development.
First of all, it cannot be exploitable. If a team or player can exploit it, then there needs to be conditions to prevent it or moderate it. Hugh Norfolk said there was a system in place to prevent stomp trading (you get 1-3 points per stomp with the Buff).
Second, it cannot be overly complicated. The more complicated and complex it is for the player, the less newb friendly it is. It also should be friendly for programmers! Keep it simple stupid so it can be implemented fast and polished.
Third, it must be fun. Fun comes in many forms, but in the design sense it must have a limited amount of ‘unfunness’ that causes people to quit or stop playing. For example, if a player humiliates one player then it is fun for one player, but not fun for another. However, in some games the death sequences are drawn out with hilarious ragdoll physics or explosions etc when a player dies.
Fourth, it can be modified. If a mechanic is introduced, then it should be introduced with the notion that it can evolve or be easily changed for more versions down the line. Easy renovations are good renovations.
Fifth, it must fit the design philosophy of the system. This means what you are introducing fits the correct gametype (no PvE in WvW etc) and meshes with the community’s opinions. Believe it or not, the community can make or break the whole game.
Sixth, it must be worth the time to develop and implement over other potential features.
Seventh, it must not introduce large technical issues or cause large problems in the backend or frontend (hard for devs to know beforehand I think). The server stress needs to be as small as possible to keep costs down.
These are just some criteria that I whipped up for this article. I know that people have probably written books on how to make things fun and enjoyable, but I just wanted to put out some basic tenants so people can see how it might apply to the design of the Bloodlust Buff. I also left out criteria that might be about financial criteria because I don’t know how much it affects development (up to the publisher’s control I guess). There’s probably a huge list of technical limitations that developers must abide to also.
Bloodlust Buff meets the criteria? But is it fun enough?
Arenanet designers are not stupid, and they definitely tried to create something that fits most of their criteria. If you think about the buff and go down the list that I made above, I think you will see how it fits most of the criteria. However, the community has been rallying against the buff for two main reasons:
1. The Buff isn’t fun. The buff does two things, it gives a stat increase across the board and it allows players to give a point to their server for stomping a player. The stomping part is fairly fun and was praised by most of the community on the forums and reddit. However, the straight stat increase is boring.
2. The Buff helps the winner win and it creates a spiral. Players like an even game and things like this buff feels like one more thing an enemy has that your friends don’t because your enemies are numerous and you are too few.
One of the challenges for the designers when they made this buff is that they couldn’t make it too powerful so that it felt necessary for everyone, but at the same time they couldn’t make it too weak and have it be totally ignored. In that sense, they were successful in creating something that gets the ‘right’ amount of attention from players because zergs should only rarely go in the center of the map now to cap points. However, players argue that they simply want even fights because they want even fights. In one sense, this is a really good thing for Arenanet because it means their combat system is successful in that it is so fun that people go out of their way to disregard the set scenario and fight the way they want to fight. In another sense, this is troubling for players that percieve a disconnect from Arenanet and themselves because they see a player vs. scenario gameplay emerging instead of a player vs. player meta. In the current meta, players fight each other as a consequence of the objectives set before them, but the objectives themselves are giving players stat increase benefits so the fights incurred are all uphill battles.
I am talking about players that are unbuffed fighting buffed players. The uneven playing field is a common gameplay technique in games to make players feel more accomplished after they prevail against a stacked enemy, however when the stacked enemy wins over and over- then it causes players to get bored or frustrated. This technique is tough for developers to implement because they can’t have these buffs last too long or too short in order to retain players during their play session.
But the largest problem occurs when there are uneven teams. The crux of this issue is not whether these techniques are successful or good for the game, but whether it should be implemented when teams are far from even among the server groups. I am sure that developers are aware of the issue of small servers having only miniscule forces to work with, while larger servers have more players to retain the buff. But this is not acknowledged on the forums or anywhere else, possibly because they don’t have a solution for it yet. Simply put, this sort of gameplay is failing to reward people that play against larger forces because the teams are too stacked against each other and it is causing the people that lose to feel more frustrated than before.
Possible Changes – A Brainstorm
Decreasing the Power of the Buff
In order to decrease the magnitude of power that the current bloodlust buff has, it could be simply nerfed so that it has less effect for pvp interactions. Note: I am not talking about removing or changing the stomping part of the buff here.
Possible non-stat increase buffs for players and/or NPCs that can be combined or mismatched in conjunction with each other:
- Increases speed of friendly Dolyaks.
- Increases speed of workers.
- Increases world experience gain.
- Increases damage to supervisors, tower lords, and keep lords.
- Bloodlust buff only for friendly NPCs.
- Bloodlust Buff gives 150 stats to those around sentry points.
Making the Buff an Unlock
Instead of having Bloodlust give a buff, we make it unlock certain abilities for the server. Here are some suggestions:
- Allows for Veteran Supervisor’s Righteous Indignation timers to be seen on the map for your team.
- Increases the rate of capture on capture points in towers and keeps for your team.
- Reduces the size of capture points in towers and keeps for your team.
- Hostile creatures become neutral or friendly for your server. (okay, this one is kinda lame and is PvE kitten)
- Allows for all enemy siege in a keep to turn friendly when keep is captured.
- Keeps and towers captured while under Bloodlust retain their reinforced doors and walls.
- Temporarily unlocks all siege WXP upgrades to everyone on your team, regardless of their level.
- Enemy groups of 25 and over can now be seen on the map with new markers that move as they move.
- Various traps unlocked and only useable for your team. (needs the most work for implementation and design, fairly gimmicky, but sounds fun).
Stomping RNG In Addition to Server Points
Upon finishing a player, you have a chance to:
- Gain supply.
- Gain karma.
- Gain wxp.
- Gain bonus xp.
- Gain 5 extra points to the server.
- Receive supply trap. (because, it’s underused in current meta)
- Gain short term booster buff (magic find, wxp, karma, exp).
- Receive bonus champion bag. (common, rare, exotic with appropriate chances).
- Receive wxp vial, karma jug, or bag of coins.
The Bloodlust Buff has potential, but at the moment it is boring and is causing frustration amongst the community. It should be something to help people attack the bigger servers, and not something that helps the bigger servers attack the lower servers. There are several different things the Bloodlust Buff could be that I listed, and I hope that developers can take a look and get some ideas. The current meta is getting harder and harder to keep track of because there has been less and less people playing from my standpoint in tier 1, and I fear that lopsided matches will only be more common in the days ahead if the League System takes root as planned with this Bloodlust Buff in place.