Let's face it; MMO developers make a lot of bad game design
choices. From offering lifetime subscriptions only to
cancel the game a few months later (Hellgate London), to welcoming
players to log in on launch day only to wait in a
2,800 player queue to kill trolls (World of Warcraft), developers keep
making silly mistakes and fudging what seem
like the simplest of concepts. Although we often criticize them, let’s
face it…being a developer can’t be easy. So we're
going to turn the tables with a little empathy exercise that empowers
you to create your game using a WoW-like talent tree. It's
up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each talent to
develop your ideal game spec.

If you're not familiar with the concept of Talent Trees, you
have a set
amount of points to divvy up between these unique skills. Not all of
them have positive effects, though--keep in mind that your favorite
concept might cause your
neighbor to uninstall the game in a fit of rage!

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gameplay is unforgiving, like locking you in the boss's room after it

The Gameplay Tree

should people
play it?

Tier 1

Imitation -
Copy the traits of an existing MMO to woo the
subscribers over to your game. 3 point maximum.

Effects: +10%
chance of attracting a
current player's attention, +1% chance for a player to subscribe after
the game. Randomly causes people to call your game a '___ clone',
forcing you
to keep up with what you're imitating or los e the
bonuses permanently.

Death's Embrace - Align yourself
one of the factions of players
it comes to your game’s death penalty, be it
brutal or highly forgiving. 1 point talent.

Effects: Greatly
increase your chance
to attract players of that faction, and lowers your chance of
attracting the
opposite. Has a high chance of spawning Internet Rage on forums, and
may assign
the term 'carebear' to your game. This term has no actual effect on
besides an internet forum.

Bend the Curve - Taking the role of
God, the developer control s how fast or slow players can level
compared to
expectations. 3 point talent.

Effects: Increase
or decrease the rate
of experience gain by 20% per point
spent, with the first point determining the positive or
negative factor. This talent can be realigned by the talent Balancing
Taking three points in this talent in either direction gives the game
Lineage or Private Server Syndrome debuff, which may cause players to
after a few months when the end is nowhere in sight, or they peak out
too soon.

Brave Concept - The current
in the industry are boring drivel. Your idea for a gameplay system is
like anyone has ever seen before! 1 point talent.

Effects: Increase
Hype for the game
pre-beta by 50%. Effects
are doubled if
talent Flashy Trailers is taken as well. Applies Cautious Interest or
to each player, increasing or decreasing their chance to buy the game
by 20%
respectively depending upon the player's interpretation of your system.
cause Backlash upon players seeing actual gameplay, applying a debuff
'What the hell is that!?' ,
which lowers their interest to the level of The

Tier 2

Leveling Specialization - Making
journey to the maximum level rewarding and interesting, the game
players to try new characters and reroll when bored, as well as entice
players. 3 point talent.

Effects: Increase
the new player
acquisition rate by 5% per level. Has a chance to apply Bored Reroll to
players of the game, giving a 3/6/10% chance to create a new character
of canceling their account.

End Game PvE Specialization - The
journey to the maximum level is only the beginning of the game. 5 point

Effects: Devotes
teams dedicated to
raising the ceiling even further on players. Lowers PvP and Leveling
development by 8% each talent point, but increases subscription
duration by 8%
per point. The increases are doubled if players are Hardcore.

PvP Specialization - The journey to
the maximum level is only the beginning of the game, and that game is
to kill
each other. 5 point talent.

Effects: Increases
the effectiveness
and interest generated by PvP areas in the game by 50% per point.
Internet rage generation by 10% per point. Cannot
be taken at the same time as End Game PvE
Internet Rage generated by this is tripled if Balancing Act isn't taken
well, as players will make hundreds of forums posts a day about how
Death Coil
is overpowered, nerf Paladins, etc.

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complaining about grinding in your game? Tell them that they grind
every day at work.

Tier 3

Balancing Act - Dedicates a team to
listening to the community and reacting accordingly to problems
to game
balance. 3 point talent.

Effects: Increases
subscriber retention
by 5% per talent point, and lowers balancing patch development time by
33% per
point. Has multiple synergies across the talent trees. May cause
bouts of Forum Rage, but they are less potent than the Forum Rage
over time without a patch.

Mind-Machine Interface - Dedicates
team to creating an interface that doesn't cause headaches for the
player. 3
point talent.

Effects: Increases
player subscription
and retention rates by 2% per level. Additionally, has a very small
chance to make the game The Standard, causing a high chance of other
companies taking the
Imitation talent.

Tier 4 - Requires
12 points
spent in the Gameplay Tree

Nirvana - Players just feel “right
” when
your game. It satisfies their carnal desire to kill monsters,

obtain loot, and work for silly achievements. 1 point talent.

Effects: Playing
time of players
increased by 50%. May cause Addiction in players, causing them to
randomly fail
at relationships and/or
to choos e lang="RU">your game
over their spouse or significant other in the end.
Increases player retention rate and
new subscription rate by 50%, but causes the game to generate hype for
games in that they might be called ”_____ killers .” (The
“_____ killer”
effect has a 1% chance of actually occurring, and
even if
it does, the
effect is likely

The Community Tree - Fostering
the relationships between players
and developers.

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alt="I have nothing to say about this."

You look like an upstanding contributor to any MMO forum, Ssjvegeta.

Tier 1

Moderation - Sets up a a community
team that manages the forums and prevents spam to make the official
legible. 3 point talent.

Effects: Player
Satisfaction increased
by 1% per talent point. Game forums will still be overrun with stupid
conversations and off topic nonsense relating
to the latest episode of Lost.

Tower of Babel - Dedicates a
team that reads the forums and actually manages to figure out what the
people are complaining about in their broken English and poor grammar,
responds accordingly. 3 point talent.

Effects: Hardcore
Player retention
increased by 3% per point, but causes daily bouts of Internet

Rage in
these players after a balance member responds. No one else actually
cares until
the patch hits that causes the discussed changes to
take effect.

Overseers - A team of Game Masters,
overlords of the game, are assigned to help players in game with their
troubles. 2 point talent.

Effects: Increases
player satisfaction
by 10% per point. Increases player resilience to bugs and
problems by 10% per point. Both points must be taken in this talent if
it is
chosen, due to the training and creating of the respective systems that
allow the
Game Masters to do their jobs, which they
will still
fail at half the time after the
player waits
3 hours for any response at all from a
support ticket.

Tier 2

District 9 - Incorporates Player
Housing into the game, to much fanfare and rejoicing! 1 point talent.

Effects: Player
Satisfaction increased
by 15%. If PvP Specialization is taken as well, can cause massive
grieving from
players as someone steals the keys to their house and takes everything
them, increasing Hardcore Player satisfaction by 50% and negating the
bonus to the remaining players. Also causes people to reminisce about
Ultima Online did it better, even if you copy the exact same system and
use the same sprites.

GM Specialization - Adds additional
staff to the Game Master team, increasing response time and
availability windows.
5 point talent.

Effects: Increases
player satisfaction
by 3% per point, 5% if the game is still a buggy mess. Additionally,
makes Game
Masters available at all points during the day and night, increasing
Player retention by 2% per point due to being able to call a GM for an
reason at an hour that only they could be up at.

Tier 3 - Requires
9 points in
Community Talents

Developer Respect - Players realize
that the developers care about them and are working to make the game a
better place.
1 point talent.

Effects: Doubles
the effect of positive
word of mouth and lowers the negative word of mouth effect by 50%.
the likelihood of a sequel or expansion success by 20% due to loyalty
reputation. Players will think of you when they think of what MMO they
want to
play next, increasing hype for any future projects by 20%.

The Technical Tree

The game is only
good if it's playable!

Tier 1

Optimization - Players do not
a $3000 Alienware machine to play your game, or at least double the
specs that
the game should require. 3 point talent.

Effects: Increases
the available player
pool by 10% per point. Decreases the whining on your forums about frame
and stuttering by 25% per level. Unfortunately, this cannot be snuffed

Preparation - Upon launch or sudden
growth, create an optimum amount of playing area and servers for
400,000 new
players named a variety of versions of Drizzt and Legolas. 1 point

Effects: Gives a
20% boost to word of
mouth on release, due to the fact that players can actually kill
instead of disconnect, camp one spawn with thirteen other players, or
spam the
local chat with 'LAG' endlessly.

Net Code Wizardry - Increases the
responsiveness of the game at all times to player actions, making it
feel more
natural and causing fewer rage
quits in PvP. 3 point talent.

Effects: Lowers
the server ping to a
player by 10% per point. Effectiveness and player reaction will vary
based on
location and how sensitive to lag they are, despite the fact that the
game is
built around having a certain level of lag at all times. Can't please
them all.

Flashy Trailers - The studio
James Cameron, or someone who wants to be him, to create epic trailers
and FMVs
using the studio's assets. 5 point talent.

Effects: Has no
effect on current
subscribers until an expansion is announced. However, generates bonus
hype for
the game pre-release equal to the percentage amount of footage that
actually in-game footage, per point. So in the case of most MMORPGs,
this is a
100% boost to hype per point in this talent. Effects carry over to
expansions, but
at half of the rate due to people actually knowing how the game will style="">actually look like. Causes some players
to complain that the trailers look like crap
, even if
they were produced for viewing in 1080P , because they watch everything
on YouTube.

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Does it
look awesome in the trailer? Guess what, it's not going to be in the
game, or it'll be completely worthless.
Guarantee it.

Tier 2

Location, Location - Adds servers in
various regions around the world to support the player bases there.
Each point
adds one additional region besides your initial target. 5 point talent.

Effects: Increases
player satisfaction
by 25% in each affected region. Decreases the reasons players have to
about latency by one, but this number approaches infinity to some

Overhaul - Enables the modification
of your game interface to the player's liking in all aspects besides
gameplay. (Unfortunately
for some games, you cannot mod out the gameplay. ) 1 point talent.

Effects: Similar
to Mind-Machine
Interface in the gameplay tree, this lower-tier talent enables the
developer to
throw in a garbage UI and let players develop an acceptable one for
them, thus
the lower ing cost in resources.

Tier 3 - Requires
8 points in
Technical Talents

My Mom Can Play This - The game is
optimized to the point that it can be played on a 10 year old Gateway
on a 56k connection, and by someone with the reflexes of a zombie.
net code, and latency are all in perfect harmony. 1 point talent.

Effects: Available
Player Pool
increased to the maximum, 95%. The remainder are playing Farmville or
Wars on Facebook and cannot be wooed, as they have lost their souls to
browser-based games. Until the studio can develop the /facebook
command, the
maximum player base will elude them.

Talents that didn't make the cut

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Behold the
importance of having secure and reliable business partners
for your account management system. Mythic and Electronic
Arts must've taken a point out of this, probably for Imitation.

Lore Whore - Makes the game as
accurate to the source material as possible, pleasing everyone. Or so
studio thinks. 1 point talent.

Effects: Doubles
the subscribing rate
and duration of Fanboys. Increases role-playing rate by 25% on all
Causes Hardcore Players to mock and grief those enticed by this
talent endlessly, and over the lifespan of the game this talent's
benefits will
erode due to ruining the lore to create new content and bosses to be
slain by
people named Dishwasher and Gflkjfj.

Christopher Columbus - The game
not include maps or methods of fast travel until very late in the game,
players to 'immerse themselves in the rich world'. 3 point talent.

Artificially inflates the time
necessary to reach the maximum level by 10% per talent point, with each
point putting travel methods off for another 5 days of game time.
eventually form two factions, one clamoring for a way to get around
early on, and another that calls them sissies and that they should 'go
back to
____' where they insert a more forgiving game there. Boosts hardcore
subscription rate and retention rate by 5% due to no one wanting to
give up on
all of the work they've put into the game already.

Now, think to yourself how many points most developers would have to
between these. Even the biggest studios might have 30 points. Smaller
may have little more than 10, and most free games have zero GM access,
worldwide accessibility, and their talent point pool likely falls in
the single
digits for gameplay alone. Everyone's tastes are different however, and
one of us places different value on different aspects of a game,
including the
technical and community aspects of each. With many of these choices
there is no
going back on them --no respecs are available here!

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016