I'm coming at this with years of RO experience, and the advice of friends who play at the top of WoE, PvM, and PvP. I have also been a GM on 3 servers and an admin on one, and asked for advice from two friends who have been admins on their own successful low rate servers. Additionally, I have some experience with editing the source files and redesigning the game a bit, not that I will get much into that, but I do know what is and isn't possible. I also have experience from other games such as WoW (as a world and arena PvPer at the highest levels), and from political and economic games such as EVE and bloc. Finally, I have some real life knowledge of economics (though I wouldn't call myself an economist) due to being a FOREX trader.
All of that and more has lead to my understanding of game design, some of which I can apply here.
I realize that this is a long post, but that's because I got the input from several people and put (a little bit of) effort into explaining the reasoning. If any of these things are being discussed in other threads, pardon me and just let me dump all of my opinions into one place, as they are largely interconnected.
Most of my suggestions are based on sustainable gameplay
, sustainable economy
, rewarding players for their decisions
, and giving players more freedom
. I tried to keep the changes, for the most part, quite vanilla. I have some much better ideas that require customization, but most players recoil at the thought of customization in RO.
I'll start with the unquestionable and move to the debatable.
No donor or normally unavailable items with unique stats.
This means there should be no items with dex on mid or lower. No upper headgears with more than 3 dex, etc. Basically, no overpowered donor items or ones that disrupt normal player balance. Adding a single dex to a build can be incredibly imbalanced, which is why I used dex as an example, but this applies to lots of stats.
Not only can it be imbalanced, but it causes item inflation as well. When players no longer need to hunt for gear (because they replace it with donor or custom quest items), lots of gear becomes either worthless and thus overupgraded to abnormal degrees or obsoleted.
On the same token, this means not allowing BG items to be used outside of BGs, including in WoE or anywhere else
. It's devastating to the economy. WoE is a competition between guilds, not just to conquer castles, but to acquire enough resources to do it.
IMO the only items players should be able to donate for are cosmetic, and perhaps things like battle manuals and maybe
bubble gum, which have no direct impact on gameplay other than to reduce the grind. But really, cosmetic items should be enough if you're clever. There's one suggestion on this down in the zeny sink section.
Set strict rules for GMs to follow, and don't give them more power than they need.
- First of all, the rules for the players should be plainly laid out. If a player doesn't break a rule, they can't be punished. I have been on servers with no clear rules and arbitrary punishments.
- Exploitation should generally be handled by patching the exploit, not punishing the player. The game is full of accepted exploits. If a player happens to abuse one you don't like, you need to at least warn them to stop before punishing them, and ideally just fix the exploit. My entire 30 man guild has been banned from a server without warning for soil farming. Don't be like that.
- Each GM should have specific responsibilities, and not overreach them.
- GMs should always give the minimum punishment that might remedy a problem. For example, in the case of player harassment, a player should be asked first, human to human, to stop. Then warned. Then a 1 minute mute. Then a 30 min mute, etc. I have seen GMs on servers skip all the steps and go straight to an hour mute or jail or something retarded like that. If you can defuse a situation by respectfully asking a player to stop, that's the best option.
- GMs should never punish players for being disrespectful to them. GMs don't deserve respect. No one who is power tripping should be a GM. Again, I say this as a person who has been a GM on 3 servers and an admin on one. GMs should never do anything to players for something the player did to the GM, period. The GM only exists to solve problems in the game and between other players, not to start trouble by existing.
- All GM actions should be logged, and ideally an alert system set so that if certain high level GM actions are taken (stat changes, item creation, etc), the admins are notified.
- GMs should report and explain every action they take, in a thread in the secret GM-only section on your forums once you make them. They should also be required to post evidence to support decisions to jail or ban players, if they have to poweresponsibility to do such things. It's not that much work, and this is how it worked on Rapture.
If all of that sounds paranoid to you, then you're going to end up with GM problems. Even if you trust your GMs with your life, you need to set guidelines. You can't read their minds, even if they are your best friends. They are going to use their own discretion, and that might vary widely from your own decisions, unless you give them strict guidelines.
Not only will this make the GMs better, but it'll give you more confidence in their decisions when players complain, and allow you to handle the inevitable drama better, thus preserving the playerbase.
I have seen a GM go on /vg/ and talk shit to the players there, unbeknownst to the admin.
A PvP room where consumables (with the possible exception of conc/awakening/berserk pots) are disabled, and where all buffs are removed upon entering.
The main interest of many other players, is PvP (not GvG/WoE). Unfortunately, PvP is often woefully underrepresented in server design decisions. PvP is incredibly disinteresting when using dex food and potion spamming, and when getting SL/Assump/etc from outside. Leave the consumable spam and buff stacks to WoE and PvM. Also, please don't use a shitty map for the PvP room.
You can, of course, have two PvP rooms, so this shouldn't be a controversy.
On RaptureRO, there was also a 3v3 PvP arena tournament, which was incredibly fun. Takes some scripting though and isn't top priority.
A draw range of 18+, preferably around 20 to 24.
I'm referring to /conf/battle/client.conf area_size
. The default is 14, which is an antiquated value meant to reduce stress on PCs made back in 2000. There are actually mobs that can aggro from outside of your view range, which is quite dumb. There is no reason to use a lower draw range, except for artificial difficulty.
Successful servers like Rapture, ProjectRage, Destina, etc, had an increased the draw range without issue. Newer players won't even notice a difference.
If you are afraid of client lag in WoE (there shouldn't be any, but just in case) you can simply script an NPC to automatically change the area_size value before and after WoE. It doesn't require a reset of anything, not even an @reloadscript.
Turn up the party exp bonus.
Simple enough, makes it worth leveling as a party instead of leeching yourself with a hunter (the normal method for leveling most things as fast as possible).
Take proactive steps to limit zeny inflation and promote a player-driven economy. Zeny inflation is one of the biggest problems for the longevity of any RO server.
The game was not designed in a way to have a stable economy. You must tweak a few things to get something workable. I'll talk about item inflation a bit later:
- Marginally reduce the sell price of some high value drops, such as Witherless Rose. Don't completely destroy the value of certain farming spots. Balance them with others instead. If you ask, you can get opinions on the best spots to farm zeny.
- Do not put SP items (grape juice, blue pots, etc) on a vendor; these items need to be sold by players to promote an economy.
- Make the healer and warper charge a moderate amount (say, 5k zeny) at level 79+. Do not make it 99 only or players will be incentivized to stop at level 98 (yes, this happens on some servers). You can also make the price of this scale with level instead.
- Put an NPC next to the healer NPCs that gives rank 10 Bless/Agi. This one might sound questionable, but any good player will make an acolyte alt just to buff themselves. If you make an NPC to do it instead, you can charge a reasonable cost to eat up zeny.
- The warper NPC should give free warps to towns, a moderate charge for dungeons, and a heavy charge for quest-gated dungeons. Say, 2k zeny for normal dungeons, but 50k or 100k for dungeons that require a quest. Giving players an advantage for bothering to clear quests is a good way to allow players to make choices about how they want to level, rather than simply picking the unquestionably best method to do it. If they have to choose whether or not it's worth doing the quest first, then you get players being rewarded for making choices.
- Include a stat/skill reset NPC with a moderate yet flat reset cost (say, 1mil to reset both). This allows players to switch builds regularly for PvP, PvM, and WoE, and will promote use of the feature, which will eat up their zeny. Otherwise they'll just make multiple characters of the same job just for different parts of the game, which is obnoxious. The lower the cost, the more people will use it, to a certain point. Try to strike a balance of maximal zeny-wastage, which I think will be around 1mil.
- If you do implement a PvP arena, you can add betting to it. Make the betting negative-sum, and you've got an easy zeny sink.
- Sell tradeable costume hat boxes for a high price. Basically a box that has a random costume hat inside. The better looking ones should be rarer. Here's a huge list of hats, some of which aren't even on ratemyserver: http://nn.nachtwolke.com/dev/viewlist/ You can also change the drop table of the boxes periodically, so that the hats in the boxes have a limited time availability. Many players will eat that shit up. You can also sell these hat boxes for IRL money to fund the server. You can also have weaker MVPs drop the hat boxes to promote competition over them, which works with the PvP on MVP map idea which I'll discuss in a minute.
Roll out content in waves
It's a suggestion I heard elsewhere and it's a good one. Start with trans disabled and less dungeons available. Gradually release more as the server grows and people hit higher levels. This is a good idea for a few reasons:
- Reduces item inflation (antiquated items become useful if they are the only ones available. No one wants a chain if they have a lunakaligo. That's bad.
- Reduces player stratification. With less content available, the better players won't be able to skip the leveling phase as easily. e.g. I won't be able to just leech myself in Thor or nameless if the dungeons are still unavailable. Older dungeons have lower exp per hp ratios.
- The previous point has the added benefit of allowing newer players (later into the lifetime server) to catch up faster.
- Allows for more competition. RO has an exponential growth of power, and by limiting that growth, it keeps players on a more even playing field, economically and otherwise.
- Makes a healthier economy. The items that lower level players acquire are more likely to be useful to the higher level players. (e.g. the chain).
- Allows for more server longevity by virtue of the fact that you have content to release over time.
Consider splitting the server into a pure-WoE server and a non-WoE server
This might at first sound unappealing by splitting up the playerbase, but it allows you to more easily design both servers to fit their respective playerbases. Also keep in mind that many of the players from each server will play on both servers. Only a minority will be exclusive to one.
- You don't need to make any concessions on white/blue pots for the WoE players on the non-WoE server.
- The WoE server can include BGs, leaving the non-WoE server blessedly BG-free to focus on world PvP and PvM.
- The WoE server can make consumables and gear either easily obtainable through BGs, or for free from NPCs for pure WoE.
- You can rebalance certain cards and abilities to fit each server. For example, Incantation Samurai card isn't quite as overpowered outside of WoE.
- You can put a short cool down on potions in the non-WoE server (2-10 seconds).
Potion spamming completely trivializes a large portion of the game's content and reduces the skill ceiling dramatically. It reduces the importance of healing abilities, eliminates the need for mana efficiency, imbalances PvP (asura spam is a lot harder when you can't just mash blue pots, for example. The same goes for SinXs and White Smiths with white pots, and so on). In PvP, abilities that are not 1HKOs become nearly worthless, due to white pot spam. This reduces ordinarily incredibly complex jobs like champ, to nothing more than asura-machines. Additionally, no pot spam means that if a champ wants to spam asura in PvM, he needs a Professor. This concept applies to other classes as well.
In WoE, potion spamming is necessary to survive. In the rest of the game, though, potion spam ruins much. No WoE means no need for pot spamming.
The rest of my suggestions assume that you aren't
going with this suggestion, so bear that in mind.
- Reduce the number of dialogue windows that common NPCs have. I shouldn't have to talk to a healer to get healed, nor a buffer. When I click on a warper, I should immediately see the options of Town, Dungeon, PvP, etc, not some stupid introductory box. The Kafra NPC has an unnecessary box or two of dialogue before you can get your bank open as well.
- Disable metamorphosis
- Be careful with nodelay. I have played on servers where their nodelay software prevented snipers from using double strafe above about 185 aspd. Don't break the game in an attempt to prevent exploits.
- Make white and blue herbs more abundant. The best WoE players have been playing WoE for years and aren't going to grind for hours every day to be prepared for WoE at the end of the week. You can work this into the PvP on MVP maps idea that I'll discuss in a minute, or you can just make the herbs drop from more high level mobs that players will want to kill for other reasons.
- Change or nerf MVP cards, or replace them on the drop table with another item entirely. Don't just reduce their drop rate. Making MVP cards incredibly rare does not make them any less broken. In fact, it makes how broken they are even more apparent when it's the only one on the server. A better solution is to change the card to have heavy drawbacks from using it, or designing a cool new effect from scratch (one time we made Osiris card allow you to cast a spell that summoned a zombie minion to fight for you, it was pretty cool). If you want a server that lasts a long time, you WILL eventually have people running around with Thanatos cards, GTB cards, and Ghostring cards. It happens faster than you might expect.
- Reduce the respawn timer on some MVPs. Ifrit spawns once every 12 hours, which is a long time on a high pop server. If you're going to enable PvP on MVP maps, then this is an especially viable change. You can reduce drop rates to compensate of course.
- Increase the spawn rate of regular mobs on maps except for a few (bio 3), then reduce drop rates, exp rates, and possibly total mob hp to compensate. I know there's a thread about this but I'm just going to dump my thoughts into here. This will A) Increase the difficulty of clearing dungeons and reliance on parties, and B) reduce the tediousness of trying to find mobs to farm on many, many maps. And IMO, AoE farming isn't overpowered in any case compared to alternative single-target farming strategies, so a blanket spawn rate increase is a good idea imo. I would actually be happy to see more AoE farming options.
- Keep drop rates generally higher than exp rates. 5x exp and 20x drops (including cards) is more fun than 10x exp and 10x drops imo. I say this because I think it's more interesting when gear is a tool to facilitate leveling, than when leveling is a tool to facilitate farming gear. I can explain that reasoning in more detail if you ask. Also, gear can break when over-upping it, so the inflation is less of a problem. Leveling is also less tedious than farming gear, and can be done while farming gear for that matter.
- Reduce the base def on some of the newer gear (think variants, diabolos, new world stuff, orlean's gloves, etc) so that it needs to be over-upgraded to be unquestionably better than older gear. That, or make the stats on the gear scale with upgrades (if possible depending on item). This will largely remove the problem of old gear being hands-down worse than newer gear, and also help alleviate item inflation. Think of it this way: older gear used to become better linearly with exponential increases in investment (due to over-upping), and that regulated item inflation. I.E. you always had a reason to over-up your gear. Contrarily, newer gear tends to be good by virtue of stats inherent to the item, and so players have no need to risk over-upping, and item inflation occurs more rapidly.
PS: Yeah you can't upgrade Orlean's gloves, but it could at least become a decision between +1 dex vs. +2 dex and -1 vit or -1 def, or something, instead of just "yeah these are better than or equal to regular gloves in every way". There's literally no reason to farm gloves because you don't need gloves to farm Orlean's gloves. That's how it works for a lot of older gear, and it's not a good thing.
Ideally, newer gear should scale better than older gear, but not be better inherently. You won't be able to do it with everything, but every bit helps to stave off inflation and inevitable server death.
PvP enabled on MVP maps.
This is controversial, but hear me out. I think this can, by itself, increase the longevity of a server dramatically, while solving a plethora of problems as well.
MVPs are a scarce resource, and players often compete for them. Normally this leads to a meta of trying to out-grief other players. Instead, with PvP enabled, you could fight for the MVP. It changes the competition into a meaningful part of the game, rather than a rat race. This will be especially important on a high population server.
And remember the costume hat idea? Now people can fight for the boxes that low level MVPs drop, creating competition over the usually worthless MVPs, and reason to go out and play the game.
Particularly challenging content, like bio3, will be extremely difficult to clear if players are trying to kill you. This will encourage diplomacy and cooperation between players (as seen in sandbox games like EVE, DayZ, etc). Either you work with the other group, or you become rivals. This is good for the health of a server. The increased difficulty will also increase the longevity of the server by reducing the rate at which players clear the content and collect the gear.
There's the other added benefit of making it more of a challenge to reach max level in places like Abbey3. You might want to turn on PvP in Thor1 for the same reason. Again, players can choose to work together or make enemies while leveling in these high level zones. And, again, the increased difficulty increases server longevity by reducing the average rate at which players progress.
Finally, you can have mobs on PvP maps drop white and blue herb boxes, and spawn on timers. This way, players can compete for the resources they need in WoE, rather than grind for days. You can use regular white/blue herb boxes, or use WoE-only potion drops and have them drop in somewhat higher quantities. The more generalized the drop is, the fewer should drop, to have a smaller impact on the overall economy. Players who don't WoE can simply sell the WoE pots to WoE players, so they have just as much reason to compete for the mobs.
Since the WoE players need these resources to win WoE, they'll fight each other for the resources between WoEs, reducing the boredom. It also gives every high level player a thing to look forward to doing: world PvP. Something that pretty much never gets old. Just make sure that the mobs are scarce enough that you don't make it too
easy to collect herbs/pots. It's supposed to be a supplementation to normal farming, to make it easier in a fun/competitive way.
This change will have no impact on low level players. I have seen this done and it works beautifully. If you're imagining constant fighting between players on every MVP map, you're forgetting that there are dozens of MVP maps. Most maps are usually empty, especially at certain times of day.
You will probably need to turn off teleporting and memo on non-dungeon maps to prevent things like champs from running in with asura in relative impunity.
As far as players who are disinterested in PvP go, remember that there are instanced dungeons now. There are also dungeons in which it's highly unlikely that you'll run into other players due to quest requirements: Thanatos, Vesper, Ktullanux, probably a few others I'm forgetting. You could just turn PvP off on those maps for that matter.
You also have the option of disabling PvP on some other MVP maps if you feel that's necessary.
If you go with my last suggestion, I'd LOVE
it if you simply don't include BGs on the server. In my opinion, BGs are a terrible and trivialized bastardization of RO PvP. They're tedious and unfun, and unnecessary when you have world PvP, a PvP room, and WoE.
However, if you're going to include BGs, then:
- Allow players to choose which team they join, so players can actually play with their friends.
- Don't disable skills like body relocate in the BG.
- If you don't make whites/blues easier to obtain on the world map: Allow consumables for WoE to be bought with BG badges. I know this is literally 100% contradictory to what I said in the first suggestion, but you need to understand that there is a community of WoE players who have been going server to server for years, WoEing. If you don't add easy ways for these top WoE players to get white/blue pots, they won't play the server, period. So either you need to use my suggestion of making white/blue herbs easier to obtain on the world map (or from PvP zones), or make it so you can get them from BGs, or something else. But the bottom line is that you need to have an easier way than normal to get whites/blues for WoE. This is a consequence of an aging playerbase and is unavoidable. That said, don't make it trivially easy. That destroys the economy. You have to strike a balance, and especially make the resource TRADEABLE.
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