I had a moment a few nights ago when I was waiting for something that kicked off a cluster of neurons deep in my brain and a lot of things started coming together awfully quick. What I’ve come up with is a rough framework for a game world and some mechanics that it would use in place or alongside a traditional leveling system. Something about the influence bars from Warhammer that went along with each chapter of the game must have spurred it. It’s a long read, get something to eat first.
So let’s say you have this huge open world, like most MMO’s (this could totally be done non-MMO I would imagine). In there you have dozens of towns and camps with small communities based around them. In the nearby area there’s plenty of enemies to be fought and problems to run into. Naturally each of these quest hubs would have some pretty thematically similar problems that they run into, namely opposing factions. The quests for the area would be a mix of daily/weekly events and balances out so capping the influence for an area would take a full 7 days of clearing up all the problems.
This all sounds fairly ho-hum, but it takes a twist here. Completing these quests grants you specific influence at this hub, it also grants you a similar amount of infamy/renown with factions (allied and opposed) involved in the questing. All the influence and infamy that you acquire decays over time, at a rate that would take being maxed out 3 months of real-time to drop back to 0. This would allow you to balance the amount of hubs and enemy factions based on the time that it takes to keep them all farmed up around 100% influence. This also solves the problem of starting areas going unused over time. You would still having thriving communities towards the end-game as players would always have reasons to come back.
This would work by having the challenge (or leveling system) be based on how much influence you have in a hub. The more influence you have there, the more geared up you would need to be in order to fight against it. Naturally someone who has been tearing up enemies for a week would be recognized and not be offered that low-level Kill Ten Rats mission. You’re a badass in this city! The quests you receive at higher levels of influence can reflect this without having to move on to another area entirely. This also alleviates the problem of “starter towns” going quiet after a game launch by keeping more experienced players engaged in the management of a towns problems, but on scale relative to how often the player is in the area, or fighting a common enemy.
This creates a problem in giving players that move onto new territory challenges that are far too weak for them, however with the infamy system it can be partially averted. Basically, if there are quests in a brand new area a player would be starting at 0, but with infamy against a specific faction, they would be elevated to the average of the two. If the new area has 0, and your infamy against a faction is 7, it would throw you into the 3+ bracket for quest difficulty. Okay, so I haven’t really gone into numbered specifics yet, so here goes…
Hubs belong to factions, in my mind they work on a hex-grid system in that each area connects to 6 other areas politically. Politically, I say. Not physically, it would look stupid to have physical zones set to hexes, really. Some of the political factions connected are their own, some are opposing factions, some are allied factions. You could visualize this as seven interconnected points of interest. Three human towns connected by the same road (FactionA 1,2,3), Two nearby orc camps (Faction B 1,2), One mine controlled by Lizardmen (Faction C1), and a captured farmstead controlled by Lizardmen (C2).
Now everything that transpires between these seven zones as far as scripted content would be determined by connected interests. The human hubs would be interested in ways to cull the nearby orc camps, or fight off their advances. They would also be interested in reclaiming the mine and fields captured by the Lizardmen. Because these are more than just points of interest through there’s the opportunity to write all sorts of quests that have to do with minor incidents in the area related to those points of interest.
The mine, camp, and farm would all be just as hard to take by the humans as it would be for the others to capture a whole town. These would be zone events that would take place at by the higher tiers of influence. The natural progression of the game would be to start leveling by making a name for yourself in a town, finish the quests there, move onto another town that is either a connected faction, or shares a common enemy, so your renown and infamy carry over and you’re not starting from 0 in new areas. As you get influence at each hub you are rewarded with special items, weapons, armor, unique to the faction, but only awarded once.
Influence – Hub based.
- 7 tiers. Cap of one full tier of influence earned per real-time day.
- Each hub rewards faction specific gear at each tier, but only once.
- Half of influence earned becomes renown for that faction.
- If your influence is greater than your renown, then it determines challenge level.
- Influence decays over time, a full 7 tiers will go back to 0 after 3 full months.
Renown – Faction based.
- Earned by completing quests for each faction.
- Earned by defeating faction enemies in connected hubs.
- Renown is capped at
- If renown is greater than Influence in a city, then it determines challenge level.
- Renown can be used as a currency to pay off Infamy and return it to 0.
- Renown does not decay over time.
Infamy – Faction Based
- Earned by committing crimes against a faction. Murder, theft, and treason primarily.
- Earned by completing quests from an opposing faction.
- Infamy reduces the effect of Influence you have on a hub. 1 tier of infamy would lock you out of the top-tier of Influence.
- Infamy increases your challenge rating in quests regardless of the hub.
- Infamy can be reduced by paying cash or renown.
- Factions may have different reactions to Infamy.
- Infamy decays over time at a rate of one tier per week, or double the speed that Influence decays.
Challenge Level – Quest Based
- There are 7 levels of challenge,
1-2 would be starter quests with little or no impact.
3-4 would be more challenging with significant rewards.
5 would be Hub related in impact and may require grouping to accomplish.
6 and 7 would also be Hub related, but would be public quests assigned to the area and may flag a player for PvP.
- Each quest giver will have a faction assigned to him, if that faction does not match the current hub, Renown is used to determine difficulty and treason Infamy may be noted by current hub faction.
- Infamy towards the quest givers faction would lower the cap available. An Infamy rating of 2 at a hub would mean the level 6 and 7 challenges would be off-limits as they cannot trust you to represent the hub, even if your Influence is high enough.
- Not every quest-giver would have all Challenge levels available. Public quests (C5-7) might not always be available, keeping people checking on previously visited towns and travelling.
So yeah, that’s the level of crazy my brain starts leaking out at 2am instead of sleeping. I’m pretty sure all of this hit me like a ton of bricks and immediately demanded that I at very least scratch out the main points and then clean them up later.