Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Building a Better World... of WarCraft

In my previous post, I mentioned some ideas that I have some ideas to improve World of WarCraft. Well, improve it in my eyes at least.

Improved Itemization

My biggest problem with the itemization in WoW is that it is so linear. Especially in armor and weapons. Everything you get tends to be better or worse than what you already have. Occasionally you'll stumble across an item where you aren't sure which is better. But that doesn't happen nearly enough. And once you hit the level cap it seems like everyone is using the same items. Everyone is trying to get the same items, basically.

There are a few things I'd like to see changed. The first is equivalent items. There need to be more items which are basically equivalent, but look different and have different stats, or better still, abilities. (Oh, and in sets too... it would be nice if it were easier to run around without looking like you got all the family hand-me-downs.) For example, perhaps there is a quest reward where you can choose between a fire and ice sword. Both do the same amount of damage, they proc the same, identical DPS. But one does fire damage while the other does ice. Now you suddenly have an interesting choice. Players wouldn't just choose the one they want based on which does more damage. Now they are wondering which element type they want. Or with armor, which resistance do you want?

The second thing I'd like to see is different damage types. Basically the same idea as in WarCraft III or the upcoming StarCraft II. Currently, every weapon type is basically the same. Sure they look different, but other than stats and possibly a talent, they are the same. An axe is just a slow sword. A dagger is a fast sword. A staff is a two-handed sword is a two-handed axe. But if there were different damage types then staves could be blunt weapons. Swords could be slashing. Daggers could be piercing. And then your armors could have different resistance types! Cloth, leather, mail, and plate would suddenly be different than just the amount of damage mitigation they provide.

Another thing that needs to be changed is that resistance types need to be used more. They already have them in the game, but usually you only build up resistance gear if you are raiding, or maybe for arena PvP.

Finally, one change that I think could work pretty well is if each item had a slight range of randomness to its stats. So for example, one Spinal Reaper might have a slightly higher DPS than another. These stats would be finalized for the specific instance of the weapon upon creation (i.e. when it drops or is made). If the stats for items overlapped a little then sometimes people would be using weapons which are typically worse because they got lucky and it's better than usual.

More Classes (Or Maybe None?!)

Adding more classes is pretty obvious and has been called for across the board. There are still a lot of good ideas out there. I can understand that it's hard to flesh out a full class, especially for level 70 or 80 characters. But when you're Blizzard raking in tons of money and have a history of incredible creativity, it seems like you could figure something out.

But perhaps a more interesting idea would be to get rid of classes altogether... or at least how they are currently implemented. I think it would be awesome if you could mix and match class abilities. So you could be a warrior with healing abilities. Or a warlock who can wield a two-handed axe. Or a healer who can polymorph! There would have to be some rules of course; some limitations. Maybe each level you choose what class you want to level in (similar to D&D). Or perhaps you can train the various abilities, but you can't be good in all of them. Maybe the more you train in warlock-type abilities limits how much you can train in priest or rogue abilities. I won't go into detail about how I'd implement it, but it would be awesome!

Under that system, there wouldn't be whining about "my class has worthless abilities," or "class X is overpowered, class Y needs buffs." You could choose how you want your character to turn out! And you'd still need different types. Guilds would need some specialists (like tanks and healers and DPSers) and they'd need some hybrids. Ideally there would be a way to change your abilities over time. Not just a quick stop-at-the-trainer-and-respec, but something where you can change it over time. Maybe based on what types you use.

Meaningful Professions

First off, there need to be more professions in the game. Secondly, they need to matter a lot more. It would be great if you needed crafters to create the weapons you get in dungeons. The drops would be components (many of them quite simple) and you'd need to take them to a crafter to get forged or otherwise assembled. There has been some of this in WoW, but there needs to be much more.

Also, crafters should be able to create better, more useful stuff. I played for 70 levels as a blacksmith, and for most of the time the stuff I could create only was useful in order to skill up. Going questing was how I got gear, because it was almost always easier to get and better in stats.

One of my favorite ideas for crafting is for these professions to be able to improve existing weapons. And I'm not just talking about adding an enchant, or a gem, or weapon chain. I'm talking about re-forging the item. For example, let's say you got a sword from a quest. You could take it to a smith and have them improve it. It would take mats of course, and to make it interesting there would be a chance the item could break permanently in the reforging. At first the risk would be low, but it would get higher each time you reforge the weapon until a max of 99% or so. So after a few times reforging, you'd be questioning if you want to risk improving its stats again.

Another interesting component could be a time based risk element. For example, alchemists could create potions and then put them in storage. Over time the potion could improve. The longer you wait the more potent it could get -- but there would be risk here too. If you wait too long it would go bad. And you could check on it from time to time.

My final idea about professions is to have stores built into the game. There are many ways it could be done, but the basic idea is that players would have a way to show what goods they have to offer. They could list what items they can craft, and how much it would cost. Maybe they could put up items for sale. Buyers would also have a way to go to a store and put an item up for improvements. Leave an item to get enchanted. Leave some mats to be turned into an item. This way players could come and go from the store as they want and don't have to search so hard for people to do stuff for them. Also it would be safer, because the system wouldn't let you steal items. This would also be a cool way for players with high skill or rare patterns to gain notoriety.


One thing that would be nice if Blizzard made it so players of various levels could quest together more easily. There were many many times when I couldn't really group with my friends because I didn't play for a day or two and suddenly they were past me. Honestly I don't know how this would be accomplished though.

Dynamic Factions

It would be great if there were more player factions. Especially if your status could shift with them over time. First of all, I'd break Night Elves, Blood Elves, the Forsaken, and Dranei off into their own factions. Now the Forsaken might have a tendency (i.e. an easier time) joining up with the Horde. Same with Night Elves to the Alliance. But even within the Horde you might have a much greater attachment to Orc, Tauren, or Troll than the others.

As you quest and make choices your faction statuses would change. As some go up, it causes others to fall. It would be great if there was a way where you could even cross faction! So you could roll a human warrior and eventually be a champion of the Horde! But it would be a hard struggle to get there. Before you could be befriended by the Orcs you'd have to be outcast from the Humans. There could be language learning and all sorts of fun stuff. Role players, eat your heart out.

Battlegrounds and other faction-specific things would still be in the game. You'd just have to have a certain reputation level to access those things.

Improved Story Elements

To make the stories better in WoW is a difficult task. Each player still needs to have access to everything... it's not fair to miss out on killing Onyxia because some other guild did it first. With so many players, it's very hard to create compelling story that draws you in. I mean, not everyone can be the only person who can save the world.

But there are two elements which could really help things out.

First of all, decisions you make need to matter. There need to be consequences for your actions and choices. And for that to happen, there need to be choices to make! It would be great if quests gave you some choices. So when you find that gem the NPC asked you to recover, you'd have the choice of keeping it for yourself or giving it back.

Secondly, your character needs to matter. When you talk to NPCs it shouldn't just be a form letter every time. If you've killed certain bosses, you should have more respect or infamy, especially when talking to quest givers. Say you're talking to an NPC general or warlord. If you've killed Nefarian or Kel'thalas he should respect you more (and maybe give you different quests) than if you haven't.

One excellent idea that my roommate told me about could incorporate both of these elements. The idea comes from an article he read, and unfortunately I haven't seen it as he hasn't been able to find the link again. But basically the idea is to make quests lead into each other in webs.

An example may be best to illustrate the idea. Blacksmith O'Malley wants you to recover a sword which was stolen from him. But when you find the thief, he tells you that O'Malley is secretly helping the Black Hand cult. The thief belongs to a group called the Silver Sword who have sworn to fight against the Black Hand. Then you'd be able to choose to help the thief or take the sword back to the smith. Based on which decision you make, you get different outcomes. If you help the thief you can get quests from Silver Sword members. Maybe even become a member yourself. If you help the blacksmith you can get in with the Black Hand. But by choosing one you are denied the quests and benefits from the other.

These branching decisions would spread outward widely. Certain quests would be needed to get other quests, forming big web-like chains. Decisions you make early on could affect you for a long time thereafter. Now actually there is a little bit of this in WoW (like the centaur quests in Desolace), but it needs to be more important and affect you much more in the long run.

Wrapping It Up

So those are some of my ideas. Personally, I think they would make the game much more interesting -- much better. They would add a lot of customization, role-playing, and variety to the game. I've just outlined them here, but there is a lot of room to expand on these ideas.