Monday, October 01, 2007


How do y'all feel about gameplay changing dramatically half-way through a game?

MMOs usually do it at the high end. In EQ or WoW, the player is expected to focus on raiding. In Shadowbane, the high end switches to RvR.

A number of successful single-player games have done it, too. Half-Life switches from human and humanoid enemies to strange alien enemies. Halo switches from the Covenant to the Flood.

In MMOs, I don't want my game to be narrowed to a fine point at the end, much less a sort of gameplay that bears little resemblance to what I've been enjoying for months. In Half-Life, I didn't like the alien levels. In Halo, I didn't like the Flood levels.

The thing is... I don't believe a game must stay the same the whole way through. I'm not against new goals and new gameplay elements emerging late in the game.

I think my problem with this sort of U-turn in a game is that what I'm given and enjoy in the beginning is later taken away. That's what shouldn't happen. It's alright to broaden the players' options and experiences, but don't force players to give up the elements they've become attached to.

In the case of Halo and Half-Life, the problem wasn't just that my old enemies and environments disappeared; my combat options were reduced. The Flood are always rushing toward you, and they don't let their guard down. The Flood levels included fewer weapons, fewer vantage points. As a result, fewer tactics worked against them. It's alright to reduce options sporadically, such as a particular tactic being useless against BossNPC#22 but being useful in the fights shortly following that one; but gameplay options shouldn't be reduced continuously.

In MMOs, early options and avenues almost completely disappear. In particular, the games are designed so that levelling and skill progression is the primary focus, then that progression stops entirely until the next expansion.

In an MMO, I think a better model is to encourage goals to change but never cease to offer familiar content and gameplay. In a level-based game, that's near impossible to apply universally. But I'm going for a more SWG/Halo type of power system, so maybe I can do better.

Anyway, what do you think? What am I missing?


  1. Totally agree. Expanding options at max level to include raiding-- good. Forcing you to switch to a new style or quit--- bad.

  2. Okay, I took a moment and thought about this Aaron. Implementing ever changing goals is definitely not a bad thing.

    Involving the player in a story arc that immerses them in a changing world would give reason behind evolving the goals to fit the environment. Im going to use Vanguard spheres as an example here because the systems are a known.

    Immerse them in a peaceful area with Diplomacy. Give them basic armor through parley and knowledge of another zone. Adventuring comes into play now and then the region is peaceful once the hero completes said quests. Diplomacy begins again and another avenue opens for the player. Full circle?

    I guess it also depends on your environment. Take youre earlier post about the Nova and Warg. Yeah, I could see something with this in where you face those same wargs throughout your earlier adventures in close combat, but later the vehicle opens up and missions become available to locate resources across the zone. Suddenly the more you use the car and progress in that area, the more options you have for enhancing your car (Mad Max).

    Let me know if I am way off base here.

  3. Your last example is kind of what I mean about expanding options. Initially, the car is just transportation, but it becomes a whole new path of gameplay when you flesh it out.

    Going "full circle" can be alright if it's done quickly, I suppose. Players often spoil their own fun. One way they do is by sticking to habits and never exploring. It's alright to strongly encourage the player to explore some different, but the new gameplay shouldn't force them away from the old gameplay for long.

    So it would be ok to force an Adventurer to have a brief Diplomacy experience, but the choice to continue or discontinue that experience should be given to the player quickly. If it happens that the Diplomacy content just isn't the player's style (even if it's good and enjoyed by many others), then the player should be able to get back to enjoying the game fully.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.