Thursday, June 26, 2014

Incremental Improvements to Agents, MK1

Editor's note (hey, that's me!):  Been dealing with real life family stuff out of town. Things are looking up, but not been around much.

First in a Series, maybe. Probably.

CCP has dabbled in "quests" a few times.  Very early on, there were COSMOS agent missions.  They were kind of 'meh' (poor payout, as I recall) and quickly ignored by the masses.

Today we have the SOE mission arcs.  They seem better received, and the one time I've gone through them I found them enjoyable.  They did bring back some memories and make me wish COSMOS had gotten a refinement pass a lot sooner; many of the ideas and mechanics of the the SOE arc are found in the earlier/abandoned COSMOS.  (Said another way:  SOE arc is COSMOS done right).

But, I can only imagine that story arcs are a huge time sink for the devs, and as static content they really don't fit the game very well.

I'll sidestep the whole "eve isn't a themepark" landmine for now and say this:  as a designer, you want to invest in things that will get a lot of player use compared to your investment (call this the play-time to dev-time ratio).  Other game systems get constant replay and have a very high play/dev ratio.  Static content ... not so much.  Folks kind of run it once and then most never return.  So, fun ... yes.  Efficient use of dev time, no.

I do still believe that there needs to be some headroom in PVE content for some more advance gameplay; lvl4's as a game system are beyond stale and could use a good stiff shot of attention.

Keeping in line with the idea of Randomly Dynamic content, and as content that can coexist with Expert Missions, I'd advocate injecting some random escalations into the existing mission roster.  I guess they'd constitute "new" missions, which may be a nonstarter (dev time needed elsewhere).

The idea is basically this:

- You complete your mission and get the timebonus.  Let's say it's the Damsel in Distress.
- Similar to current Storyline missions, you get an evemail from the Damsel ; she'd like to thank you (queue porno music).
- During your dialog with her, she insists that you go back for her dog Fifi, and she offers a reward.
- This turns into a mini-SOE arc - travel to another system, do a mission or three, talk to an agent in space, etc.
- Add a carrot at the end for completion (maybe a faction rat or two to shoot at for a chance at a ship bpc or something); else some folks will see the travel time and simply abandon them.

Key ideas:
1. The escalation should be tied to some measure of your performance. In this case, timebonus (there could be other triggers).  We want the player to feel like he's got to play well in order to get a shot at the bonus.
2. The escalation should ideally get you out of your agent's station and force you to move around a bit; otherwise this is "just another lvl4."  Want to break up the grindy grind of lvl4s.
3. The escalation should be a good thing when it happens; i.e. rare enough that it's not viewed as being a hassle.

What's playing:  The Black Keys, Attack and Release, Psychotic Girl

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