Independence Day: Freeing My
As we get ready to celebrate the birth of America, we at Ten Ton Hammer
are thinking about another type of independence: we're setting our
imaginations free to think about the perfect massively-multiplayer
online game (MMOG).
I started out by thinking about Dungeons &
Dragons Online: Stormreach (DDO) as my basis of comparison. DDO is not
a perfect game, but it is the only MMOG to which I subscribe at this
time. DDO definitely does things I like. I like that DDO taps a
familiar and thoroughly tested core system in Dungeons & Dragons. I
also like that DDO offers a mechanic that allows players to have very
different character builds even when picking the same class. Finally, I
like that DDO prevents most forms of griefing. So, as I sat down to
think about my perfect MMOG, I had three key points with which to start:
- familiar, tested core system
- character customization
- prevent griefing
Now I just needed to identify which core system I'd like to see make it
Sanctuary: World of Diablo
When Ten Ton Hammer recently reported that Blizzard
could be dreaming of taking its other big franchising into the MMOG
, most people were excited about the idea of a World of
Starcraft. I was more jazzed about the prospect of a Diablo MMOG. While
many people believe that Diablo is little more than an overrated
loot-fest, I have always enjoyed the building of characters in the
Diablo universe. With the dark setting of Sanctuary, avatars in Diablo
are not the "chosen" elite. They are ordinary men and women who
undertake great peril in order to save the world from demonic
influence. And though my paladin may have chosen to focus on auras to
be group-friendly, your paladin could be a combat specialist able to
dish out a lot of damage.
World of Diablo (WoD) would certainly be built upon a familiar and
tested core universe, and Blizzard has shown gamers it can build an
MMOG with a ton of customization options. The folks behind WoD would
have to work a little more to reduce all forms of griefing, but I'm
sure it can be done. So, what else would be needed to make the game
perfect? To start the process of creating my perfect MMOG based on
Diablo, I tried to divide the game into pieces: , the story, the world,
the quests, the character building, and diversions. Other gamers will
key in on different design aspects, but these 6 are big for me.
Building off of the conclusion of Diablo II (the Worldstone has
been shattered in the process of defeating Baal), WoD has an easy time
fitting into D\Diablo lore. The shattering of the Worldstone has
weakened the barrier between Sanctuary and hell. Demons spill into the
world from every crevice, and soon all of mankind is subject to the
rule of hell. Players are charged with helping turn the tide against
For WoD to work, Blizzard would need to stay true to the dark
atmosphere of the world that is Sanctuary. When players arrive in Lut
Gholein to find the city under siege from demon hordes, we need to see
squalor in the streets and terrified non-player characters (NPCs) in
the pub.The cartoony graphics of World of Warcraft won't cut it for
WoD. To capture that essence of the battle between heaven and hell for
the souls of the people, Blizzard must use a darker color palette.
would justify a large overworld that could be divided into zones based
on the areas surrounding major cities or important sites (think
Tristram or Kurast). A lot of dungeons would take players underground
or into buildings, though. These would demand the necessary detail.
Sewers need to be dank and oppressive, cathedrals grandiose, and ruined
temples dusty and disused.
Part of the fun of Diablo is getting swarmed by a small army of Fallen
only to slaughter the lot of them and leave behind only bloody debris.
To recreate this feature in WoD, Blizzard would need to create a
perspective similar to their 3/4 view and allow for point-and-click
movement and combat. Additionally, minor enemies would need to be weak
enough and numerous enough to keep the frenetic pace of combat Diablo
fans love. WoD would need to mimic the behavioral patterns of the
monsters found in Diablo as well. The Fallen will need to be
temporarily frightened into retreating when one of their brethren meets
hasty end on a barbarian's axe. Likewise, sand maggots will need to
burrow and hide when they take too much damage.
Diablo II did a decent job of giving us overarching goals with
subplots to keep us going. WoD would need a ton more quests, though.
Lore would likely be a great place to begin. Barbarians could start in
Haragoth and need to complete certain quests for the tribe before
earning his rights to be a full-fledged barbarian. Perhaps each
starting city would have its own problems to deal with in the battle
against the minions of hell, or maybe Blizzard could incorporate the
authorized Diablo novels and give players of different regions unique
problems, such as defeating the reanimated form of Bartuc the Bloody.
Plus, there are tons of lesser demons vying for dominance or favor
within the ranks of hell. In short, Blizzard would need to put the
writers to work. Fun quests involve story, and fetch quests get old
quickly. Not only that, Blizzard would do well to include more
puzzle-like quests, such as activating the runes to open a portal to
rescue Deckard Cain.
If Diablo II had a failing in its many options for character-building,
it was that some skills were vastly overpowered while others were next
to useless. For instance, few necromancers found a use for Bone Wall,
but nearly all necromancers saw the value of Corpse Explosion prior to
the patch that changed how its damage was calculated. Blizzard would
need to work hark to ensure that skills came with better balance at
launch and with a good distribution of availability. It's not cool for
the sorceress to start owning monsters with a Static Field at level 6
while the amazon has to wait until level 30 to get the Valkyrie summon.
This category includes those things you do when you're tired of the
grind. This includes crafting. The Horadric Cube was a nice way to
craft in Diablo II, but Blizzard would need to go farther. Players will
want to create weapons, armor, jewelry, and potions. WoD should provide
all of that. A main reason Diablo games didn't require much diversion
was because the pace of the game was so quick and character milestones
came every few minutes. WoD would never be able to survive if players
could hit the level cap in a week, so progress will need to be slower.
As an alternate form of keeping players in the thick of it, WoD would
have to introduce other milestones to mark achievement. Perhaps players
could earn ranks
for kills or deeds. Or maybe Blizzard could introduce new gameplay
elements into the world of Sanctuary, such as helping rebuild a town
devastated by demons or razing a sinister temple.