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At what level should multiplayer ability customisation stop?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Serinx, Dec 23, 2014.

  1. Serinx


    Mar 31, 2014
    I've been thinking about customisation, particularly around character abilities and attributes, and to what level of detail a player should be able to make changes.

    I started thinking about it after playing Lichdom: Battlemage. For those of you who haven't seen it, you have unlimited mana, you pick your elements, you have 4 different types of attack (projectile/beam, aoe, blink, and block). You can swap between your selected elements at any time and you can also apply modifiers to you abilities to give them different strength/weakness e.g. status duration, damage, crit chance.

    While playing I found that I could throw down an aoe ice trap, freezing all enemies caught into it, then use an aoe fire strike, dealing massive damage and killing most enemies instantly. At first I thought this was amazing and I was glad to find such an effective combination, I felt like a master of the elements. Then I started to think, would this work in a multiplayer game? Could it be controlled an balanced, while allowing the player to customise their spells without feeling restricted?

    I was thinking of making a game where you could drill right down into the spell customisation. You would be able to choose things like mana cost, cast time, cooldown, damage, damage type, effects (like freezing, homing projectile), and many other things.

    Obviously there would be scaling, for instance you would choose massive damage, but have a longer cast time and mana cost.

    I really like the idea of everyone using these unique spell builds against each other online, but I don't really know if it would be feasible when thinking about balancing. I can imagine someone finding this ridiculously overpowered build, that everyone then copies and then there is no originality, just look up the best build online.

    I want to see someone with their super quick, high damage, but fragile caster go up against a massive slow attrition battler but have a balanced battle without one person feeling like "That's so OP, I'll just do that".

    Appreciate any input on this, positive or negative, also examples of any games that do something similar would be interesting :)
  2. cranky


    Jun 11, 2014
    Well I think the idea would be really fun. I've been tinkering with a similar idea in my head for a couple years (albeit not as much customization as yours), but never really tried it. I think it would be fun, but balance would be impossible. But honestly, you don't want the game to be balanced. If every single build was perfectly balanced against every other build, customization would become a gimmick and you really couldn't min/max your character like most people enjoy. There would be no thought behind your build -- just roll the dice and it's just as effective as the next guy's. The idea is to make a set number of things slightly overpowered and comboable in their own way. Again though, this would definitely lead to complaints of things being unbalanced and players unable to play their favorite build due to balance. There will always be some numerically superior build, and no matter how minute the advantage, lots of players will gravitate towards it and complain about it.

    Not saying it's impossible -- but it would be very difficult. I think if it were done right though, it would be a very fun game.
  3. Gigiwoo


    Mar 16, 2011
    Reminds me of the Paradox of Choice. The paradox is that we need choice, and yet, too much choice leads to frustration, deferred decisions, and often, buyer's remorse. As true when buying a house, as when picking a class to play. Rift went really far, like you are suggesting, and it suffered for it.

    The idea sounds great in theory, and in practice, I predict most players won't enjoy it, even if they predict that they would.

  4. Rangoric


    Aug 17, 2014
    The MMO Ryzom did this extensively and it was a lot of fun. You don't have unlimited mana, but adding things to an ability would increase it's cost. Then there was also cost reduction, mana healing. Good spellcasting was making sure you customized your abilities right for what kind of group/content you where doing.
  5. Serinx


    Mar 31, 2014
    I agree, I wouldn't want any old random build to be just as effective as one with a lot of thought put into it. I want people to think about it and create unique builds and battle them against each other. Their build may not win every battle, but they can go and tweak it when they find a weakness, rather than just copying the OP build that beat them.

    That thought had crossed my mind, too much customisation can definitely get frustrating. I was thinking of possibly having stock builds e.g. tank, agile, long range for those players that just want to jump straight into the action with builds they might be familiar with from other games. Then those players might think "Hmm, It would be good if I had a little bit more health", then they can slowly get into customising their build, rather than starting with a blank slate.

    That's an interesting point, I hadn't thought much about teamwork aspect. However in multiplayer you wouldn't really know what you would be up against, but you could design a team with synergy that is built to handle any situation.

    Thanks for the input guys, given me a lot to think about :)
  6. Atmey


    Nov 3, 2012
    Yeah, as suggested I think you start with a preset class and you customize the rest 30% or so of passive skills and few active ones, but also make a room for a surprise, like "did that berserker just heal me?"

    But beware of "noob trap", some games like MapleStory (back in the day) you had to distribute attributes but pretty much every class uses 1 stat only, and there is no reason what so ever to raise another, but the game gave you the option to raise another,

    Archeage has the concept of have the skills of 3 classes at the same time, which is interesting but I cannot tell much about it's balance as I didn't play the game much.

    As for looks customization, I say up to setting the diameter of the nipple, but seriously many MMORPG lets you heavily customize the face just to cover it with helmet anyway.