MMO grind

I’m seeing several posts on MMO sites making laments regarding, well, grinds. Two general problems with the same underlying issue – people are just shooting through to get to endgame content, and people are stacking up to do the same quest. (Anyone else have the absurdity of 60 or so people in the garden “hiding” while Lescovar and Marzon finish their discussion? yeah.) Worse, there are the generous souls who know of a chokepoint mob and kill it just to grief everyone. But at bottom the ‘problem’ is that it’s the same old thing done the same old way by EVERYBODY.

I am still pretty well convinced that my solution would work – and at the same time make the game radically different. If you don’t recall, it was make a player the target of quests. Not necessarily random; sometimes you could make it a player who had done something relevant.

For example, say a goblin requested JoePaladin take out (npc) Target. JoePaladin does so. This starts a “hatfield and mccoy” exchange, and a gnome asks a playercharacter to get revenge – kill JoePaladin. Of course, that player becomes the new Goblin target. Yes, there have to be safeguards built in. For example, if a PC kills then logs out the game has to be able to give a change of target. Ways and means of hunting other PCs have to come into play. (Generic NPC question choice, “Have you seen [myquesttarget]?”)

Alternately, make the player the ‘destination’ for information. Say for example player Targetme, while exploring the Old Godlets instance, got bathed in a strange chartreuse light. Nothing happens, of course, and so he goes on. Meanwhile over in OldTown, player “SeeknHide”, following a questchain to find the Great Garnet Socks, consults an oracle and is told “Seek Targetme.” When (eventually) SeeknHide finds Targetme, Targetme has an uncontrolled cutscene seizure as the little godlet’s message is spewed out. (This could be bad if it’s in the midst of a dragon attack or such, but them’s the breaks, right? nah – good game design works to prepare for these small errors.) Oh, and it’s quite possible as a programmer for SeeknHide and Targetme to hear/read completely different messages. Two quests, one event, and maybe they talk of it and maybe they don’t.

Does it have to be done with balance? Oh yes. But it does create a great deal of opportunity for things like achievements. Achievements?

You, JoePaladin, killed Bastidge the Gnome. The Gnomes put out a contract on you, and you successfully defeat five, ten, and even 20 bounty hunters before being brought down. Kudos, you get the “Hard Target” achievement. Perhaps it’s several dozen hours of play before you’re brought down. Perhaps you cross the ‘statute of limitations’ affect.

Or perhaps you’re outstanding AS a bounty hunter and take down several PCs who are ‘targeted’. Add some rewards for succeeding solo, some for successfully taking down an ‘assisted bounty’ (The other player has a guildmate or ten or perhaps some NPCs nearby providing assistance.)

Yes, there are times you’d have to ‘pop’ a new target NPC – the PC has logged off. On the other hand – JoePaladin is level VERYHIGH and trolling the lower levels (killing newbies). Congratuations, a high-level bounty is issued.

Does it add a sense of adventure? A challenge above the same old “grab the wiki, check out the target, use the map coordinates, grind, grind, grind” routine? heh.

For those who may be dropping in, let me also add that I’d allow PCs to ‘steal’ from other PCs. If you drop a PC – at least as a quest target, POSSIBLY as a “free PVP” attack – you get some of his stuff. (If you camp the PC you get nothing – you already took from him. And again, camping could make you a bounty target.) Of course I would let NPCs carrying gear to be using that gear – nothing infuriates my GM soul more than seeing (for example) an allegedly reasonably intelligent mob who was using a wooden trident is actually carrying a Big Magic Sword. (And BMS carrying grunt suddenly becomes a short-lived quest for players who hear of it and are sufficiently geared and skilled to take the grunt down.)

Another thing I’d like to see worked in is allowing PCs to control instance bosses. My gut-level feeling is that once you’ve defeated a boss you go on the eligibility list, and when a group with which you are NOT associated reaches a certain checkpoint in that instance you and a random group of people are given a “do you want to run BBOSSSS?” message – first come, first served.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I suspect this will be a generational change in MMOs. It may not be the next, but I think it’ll happen. And when it does it’ll be highly amusing for everyone.

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