SKAAVVEEK

Adventurer
Royal Guardian
Characters
See Signature
Platform
PC
Player retention is one of the most vital metrics of any MMORPG. The goal is to attract and excite players, and once drawn in, keep them engaged and invested for as long as possible. However, this is a difficult balancing act. Players need to feel like they are making progress and unlocking new experiences while growing in power. On the other hand, if players advance too quickly, they will outgrow content and become bored. Content needs to be unique, challenging and rewarding - yet all of this involves time and resources to develop. My proposal below is my best effort at achieving the balance by focusing on repeatable and expandable content.

Realm System
The backbone of this proposal relies on the Realm System. Each Realm is based on a geographical location and follows a thematic design - such as the lush foliage of Greenhaven or the dark dungeons of Pyrron. These Realms consist of specific zones, monsters and materials of a certain level range.

Ardent (Levels 1 - 15)
GreenHaven (Levels 16 - 30)
Stormhold (Levels 31 - 45)
Traven (Levels 46 - 60)
Pyrron (Levels 61 - 75)
Blighted Isles (Level 76 - 90)

Capital Cities
At the heart of the Realm System are the Capital Cities. These cities serve as a central hub for the region and are designed accordingly. They are monster free areas that are equipped with amenities such as vaults, crafting stations, village portals, and gathering nodes corresponding to the level of the region. The Capital is home to the Realm's native species. So if you were in Pyrron's capital you would see Brindles. Capital Cities are meant to be places where players congregate, craft, gather and coordinate runs.

Branches
Each Capital City contains the portal to the starting point of a Branch. Each Realm has 3 Branches, these Branches contain 5 combat zones as well as an Elder Boss zone. Since each Realm contains a range of 15 levels, then each of the 3 Branches is worth 5 levels of content. Below is a diagram depicting the concept.

Note: The image below only shows 2 zones per branch rather than 5 due to limited room



Below is an example of what the main story content could look like using this system.

Ardent Realm
Branch 1: Ethos Island

This is the tutorial portion of the game. It consists of 5 zones level 1 - 5, and ends with the Level 5 Elders.
Branch 2: Black Thrush
This is the introduction to the Black Thrush quest-line. It consists 5 zones level 6 - 10 and end with the level 10 Elders.
Branch 3: Journey to the Minotaur Lair
This is the continuation of the Black Thrush quest-line. It consists of 5 zones level 11 - 15 and end with the level 15 Elders.

This pattern repeats for all the Realms. 15 zones + 3 Elder zones per realm. This does not include the plethora of additional scaled content which will be detailed later on. Once players have completed the main quest-line in their current Realm and are ready to move onto the next, they have to embark on the Hero's Path.

Hero's Path

The only way to enter the next Capital City is with a key, rewarded from completing the main story quest from the previous Realm's main quest-line. Once this key has been acquired, players need to embark on a journey through the Hero's Path in order to reach the next Capital City. The Hero's Path is a sequence of zones that connect each of the Capital Cities. There is only one zone in between each Capital, but it is a very long and dangerous one. This is a zone that tasks players with traveling from point A (The portal of their current Capital) to point B (The portal of the subsequent Capital). The path itself is linear, narrow and packed with enemies. It is also a no-mount area so players cannot just zip through all the enemies. Imagine a snowy mountain-path or a cavernous tunnel. Here is sort of an example of what the path would look like:



Players can only travel on the Hero's Path with a Caravan. A Caravan is a mobile NPC group that will slowly travel from the beginning to the end of the path every 30 minutes. Players who decide to travel the Path without a Caravan will slowly lose increasing amounts of health until they die. The Caravan has an aura around it which will protect players from this debuff. Players will need to congregate at the Caravan and journey together to make it through the path. It is long and arduous, with very few breaks from constant enemy spawns - but the experience is unlike any other. Traps, such as the ones in Zorian Marshlands, can be scattered around. If triggered it will result in a debuff for those nearby, such as temporarily slowing their speed, or inflicting some poison damage.

Progression System
How do we keep players from completing the game within a few months? Drawing out content will increase the grind and quickly burn players out. Increasing progression speed will waste a lot of zones as players reach the end too fast. Stop-gaps such as medallions and bottlenecks such as bloated EXP requirements have been used in the past, but requiring players to repeatedly slay the same enemies day in and day out until they can unlock the next zone is not the ideal route to take. Before we can answer that question, we need to review how the current system works. Right now the Realm progression system is set up as such:
  • Ardent: Open world, main quest not required
  • Green-Haven: Open world, main quest not required
  • Traven: Medallion-locked, no main quest
  • Pyrron: Medallion-locked, required main quest
  • Blighted Isles: Daily Quest & Main Quest Locked, no Medallions
It's great to have variety, but there should be some form of discernible consistency here. Nothing is explained, players pretty much have to figure it all out for themselves, which can lead to frustration, and the entire setup can be a bit messy, with keys overwhelming inventories, and various form of currencies scattered all over the place.

I propose a simple content progression mechanic.

Level Locked: Anything 10 levels or more above you, you will not receive credit for. This means that players will need repeat zones a few times before being high enough in level to progress to the next Branch.

Quest Locked: Each Realm has a main story quest-line. This quest takes you through most of that Realm's zones. Once complete, it tracks to the next Realm's Capital City and provides you with a key that will allow you to enter the portal of that Capital City.

As for character progression, we currently level our characters using the following means: Bounty runs, quests or Dungeons. My proposal is to remodel and rebrand the bounty system. Zones nowadays are peppered with bounties. So much so that I believe it takes away from the experience when players just run through, slash a bounty down, zip to the next and so on until they finish and port out. Zones should have a lot more to do than just killing bounties, as that task can become very stale and monotonous over time. Not to mention that it is a poor use of such vibrant zones when players only visit them once or twice for 10 minutes at a time. Rather than bounties, in this system, players will gain experience via Branch Quests.

Branch Quests

In each Capital City, near the starting portal of every Branch, is an NPC called the Branch-master. These Branch-masters hand out a daily quest for their specific Branch. This quest is where players can earn the majority of their combat experience. Completing a Branch quest is not just defeating bounties though! Rather than having side-quests, the usual side-quest objectives and tasks are thrown into these Branch Quests. In order to complete a zone for the daily, players need to do the following objectives. The latter 2 objectives are randomized.
  • Bosses: Slay all of the bosses in the zone
  • Zone Boss: Defeat the Zone Boss
  • Loot: Slay monsters and loot X from them
  • Collect: Collect X items from a certain part of the zone
The amount of experience gained for completing and turning in a Branch Quest with a single zone done is equivalent to doing a single bounty run in our current system. It will take around the same amount of time, or slightly longer. While there are more objectives, the number of bosses in all of the zones are significantly reduced. Players can earn bonus experience if they follow the sequence and complete these objectives in each of the Branche's zones.

Players that complete 1 zone in the Branch will earn 1x the experience from the quest.
Players that complete 2 zones in the Branch will earn 1.25x the experience from the quest.
Players that complete 3 zones in the Branch will earn 1.5x the experience from the quest.
Players that complete 4 zones in the Branch will earn 1.75x the experience from the quest.
Players that complete all 5 zones will earn 2x the experience from the quest.

Remember, these are daily quests - and there are 3 Branches in each zone! That is plenty to keep players occupied while leveling up. In order for these Branch Quests to work however, zones and enemies will need to be redesigned a bit.

Zone & Enemy Design

Currently most zones are packed with enemies and bounties. In this proposed system I recommend thinning the herd substantially. Confrontations should be about quality, not quantity. Players should spend more time defeating each boss, but overall there should be less bosses. The enemy hierarchy would be as follows:

Grunts: Grunts are regular monsters. They are located in pockets of the zone and travel in packs. Grunts always congregate around a Boss.
Bosses: Renamed from bounties, bosses are the main enemies of the zone that players attempt to defeat. They are surrounded by grunts. Bounties each have a unique aura that will power up the minions around them. Likewise, each bounty has one of many signature mechanics.
Zone Bosses: Each zone has a Zone Boss. They are essentially powered up versions of regular bosses, with a larger health pool and greater damage. It is recommended to have a group of 2 -3 to defeat these - but they are possible to solo with difficulty.
Elder Bosses: These are a trio of powerful foes (toned down from 4) that are in 5 level intervals. All 3 of a specific tier's Elder bosses reside at the end of a Branch, in the Elder zone. They are challenging and possess many mechanics. It is recommended to have a group of 6 - 8 to defeat these. The Elder Zone is scaled so higher levels will find them just as challenging!
Realm Bosses: There is only one Realm Boss for each Realm. They are scaled and are the most difficult bosses to defeat. It is recommended to have a team of 15 - 20 to defeat these.

Content

Now for the overview of all the content in each Realm, along with what will keep players engaged for the long-term. Right now, players who have finished everything in Ardent or Pyrron have no reason to return. This proposal will change that by introducing side activities and an alternate progression system in each Realm. Each Realm's Capital City has the following content:

Main Content

Branches: 3 Branches, each consisting of 5 combat zones (15 zones per Realm). Each Branch has a daily Branch Quest that involves completing objectives for between 1 - 5 zones in the Branch.

Main Quest: The very entertaining and thrilling main story quest-line that we all know and love.

Elder Zones: These are scaled zones, one is at the end of each Branch. Since there are 3 branches per Realm, there are also 3 Elder Zones. Each Elder Zone contains 3 Elder Bosses. These are powerful foes that drop high quality loot but require a team in order to defeat. Elders are separated by tier. Each tier has a 5 level interval - so Elders begin at level 5, and then continue at levels 10, 15, 20 etc.

Hero's Path: The difficult journey from one Capital to the next. 7 of them in total, each with a unique setting.

Side & End Content

Factions: I mentioned Factions above when describing Capital Cities, and will elaborate on this a bit. Each Capital has a native species (Like the Mara, the Brindles etc.) and these species have faction vendors. Vendors sell neat things like boosts, appearance packs, house styles, furniture, gear and exclusive recipes. Medallions can be spent on these faction vendors for unique rewards or alternatively converted into different currency such as charter tokens.

Medallions: Each Realm has 1 type of Medallion. These are earned from completing daily challenges, achievements and scaled content. Scaled content is available in each Realm, to all players who have access to that Realm's Capital City. The various types of scaled content will all be detailed below.

Monster Arena: A Monster Arena is a scaled zone available in each Realm that tasks players with surviving against an onslaught of enemies while defending their position. Monsters will spawn in waves, each more challenging than the previous. As the wave count increases, the types of enemies that spawn will begin to rank up. From grunts, to zone-boss levels of difficulty. Eventually zone-wide effects such as poison smog or lightning strikes will occur to truly challenge those that are still around. Players will earn more medallions the longer they survive.

Survival Tower: A Survival Tower is a scaled zone available in each Realm that works similar to the Ladder in the Twilight Vale Event Zone. It is a series of Elder bosses, each within its own chamber. Players start at the first boss, and upon its defeat, they are teleported to the 2nd. This process continues until either all of the bosses have been defeated, or the players have been wiped out. Each subsequent boss is also more challenging than the previous. The bosses for each ladder are the Elders of that Realm. Thus, there are 9 total bosses as well as a 10th unique boss for each Tower. The further players make it up the Tower, the more medallions they will earn.

Scaled Zone Rotations: Every 2 days, one of the 15 zones of each Realm is selected to have a scaled version of itself appear in the Capital. This rotation will go through each of the 15 zones one by one, so by the end of the month, each of the 15 zones will have had a scaled version available. These scaled zones are much harder than the original, with randomized chests appearing throughout the zone similar to Zingara. This zone will also increase in difficulty for the more players that are in a group. Players can team up to defeat the bosses and search for this rare loot.

Realm Bosses: Every week one of the Realm's will activate a portal to its Realm Boss, which is a scaled zone. These bosses are gigantic, and insanely difficult. They require the effort of 15+ players to defeat. If the boss is defeated before it vanishes, the whole server will receive medallions for that boss's Realm. Those who partook in its defeat will earn extra.

Capital Defense: Capital Defense is a scaled mode available in each Realm. This zone is an exact copy of the Capital City it is available from except it is a blank slate, devoid of any NPCs and other amenities. The goal of this mode is for players to defend a relic located at the heart of the Capital from waves of enemies that will spawn outside its borders. Enemies will travel via one or multiple lanes that will lead to this relic and attempt to destroy it. (Think of a MOBA). Players need to set up fortifications by crafting, gathering and collecting hidden items scattered throughout the zone and dumping them into pre-set project boards. Once the boards are complete, they will activate a fortification such as a trap or barricade to slow enemies down, or an NPC vendor for players to utilize. Every few waves a zone boss will also appear, who is very challenging! The longer players are able to defend the relic, the more medallions they will earn.

Capital Siege: Capital Siege is a scaled mode available in each Realm. This is the opposite of Capital Defense, where players are tasked with attacking rather than defending an objective. The goal is for players to breach and capture the Capital. Players start outside of the borders, in ring 3. (Think Minas Tirith in LOTR). They need to work their way into the inner rings by capturing certain points, king of the hill style. Players must defeat enemies while standing within a certain area as it slowly transitions from enemy territory, to ally territory. They do this for several points before moving in to the 2nd ring, where this process repeats against harder enemies. Once all of the points in the 2nd ring have been captured, players move on into the 3rd and final ring, where they slay the Elder Boss. The further players make it in the siege, the more medallions they will earn.

Dungeons: Dungeons are randomized scaled zones that are available in each Realm. Each Dungeon has various modifiers that groups can select, to effectively customize their own dungeon run. This includes aspects such as enemy type, enemy difficulty and timers to other features such as zone-wide effects, speed toggles, ability / potion restrictions etc. The dungeon will automatically calculate a difficulty rating based off of their choices, and players earn more medallions the higher the rating is. Players can set up their own unique dungeon experiences for some truly exciting and innovative game-play.

Campaigns: Every month a campaign within one specific Realm begins. These Campaigns are server-wide missions that will reward the entire server if completed. Every week in a campaign is a different assortment of assignments. For example, for week 1 the server's population may be tasked with defeating 300 zone-bosses, gathering 15,000 materials and gaining 20,000,000 EXP. If the goals for one week are complete, the entire server will earn a temporary buff. If all 4 of the weeks' goals are met, then the entire server gains a rare item.

Achievements: Achievements are rewards that players can earn by hitting certain milestones such as slaying 100 Elder Bosses or completing 50 Survival Towers. They are high quality items that reward players who remain invested and participate in content.

Challenges: Every week a new rotation of challenges become available for scaled content. This will encourage players to return and attempt to complete them. Challenges are optional objectives and tasks that teams must try and complete. For example, a Survival Tower Challenge could be to complete the entire tower with 0 deaths. A Monster Arena challenge could be to hit wave 10 with only a team of 4 players. Those who are able to complete these challenges gain additional medallions.

These are my ideas, I would love to hear feedback as well as your own ideas.
 

Littlenymph

Squirrel
Characters
Layla Littlenymph
Platform
PC, Steam
That is a great post that deserves more than being answered with what some might consider a criticism, but I have something of a point of disagreement with some players over a certain mindset and it happens to be a mindset that I believe the devs share as well. I'm going to take the opportunity to address it and will return to delve into the aspects of your thread that I do like, and make no mistake, there is a lot to like there.

I get the fact that you consider end-game content to be important whereas side-content, while also important, is more of a side issue [pun intended]. I believe there is a huge divide in what people believe side-content to be. In another post, on the old forum, you correctly identified what true side-content is. It is for that reason I was a little disappointed to see you include the term in your thread but not listing anything in particular that meets that definition.

When it comes down to it, all activity in V&H falls into one of three areas, combat, crafting, and gathering. Many consider the Wellspring project to be side-content. I see it as more gathering and crafting. Many see the dungeons as a form of both side-content as well as an early form of end-content. I see it as more combat. True side-content might incorporate existing aspects of the game, but they have to be different enough to come across as unique. Side-content is what I do when I am bored with the main aspects of the game, so anything that relies primarily upon combat, crafting, and gathering, simply does not have the feel of true side-content to me. Why would I have any desire to go do more combat because I am bored with combat?

I think a lot of your ideas are awesome but it's going to take something I have yet to see in V&H to get me excited for it again. I'll continue to play this game for a long time to come because I like the game, the community, and the company. That said, I have settled into a routine that while comfortable, fails to deliver the excitement I had as a new player. More combat, crafting, and gathering, is not going to restore that sense of excitement, no matter how well designed it may be. Repeatable and expandable content is an admirable goal that would greatly improve the game, but it is repeating and expanding the content that I have already grown tired of.
 
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SKAAVVEEK

Adventurer
Royal Guardian
Characters
See Signature
Platform
PC
I believe there is a huge divide in what people believe side-content to be. In another post, on the old forum, you correctly identified what true side-content is. It is for that reason I was a little disappointed to see you include the term in your thread but not listing anything in particular that meets that definition.
For sure, this thread is definitely combat and progression focused. In the initial stages I was planning to include some activities that do not involve combat, or only to a minimal degree, however decided to omit that as the post simply became too bloated.

When it comes down to it, all activity in V&H falls into one of three areas, combat, crafting, and gathering. Many consider the Wellspring project to be side-content. I see it as more gathering and crafting. Many see the dungeons as a form of both side-content as well as an early form of end-content. I see it as more combat. True side-content might incorporate existing aspects of the game, but they have to be different enough to come across as unique. Side-content is what I do when I am bored with the main aspects of the game, so anything that relies primarily upon combat, crafting, and gathering, simply does not have the feel of true side-content to me. Why would I have any desire to go do more combat because I am bored with combat?
I agree that the game does need elements that do not involve progression. Everyone needs a break from constant character advancement, be it skills or combat levels. I plan to eventually write up another thread that consists of these types of activities, and there is a lot of potential for them in V&H.
 

Nadiria

Adventurer
Royal Guardian
Platform
iOS
I know I am in the minority here, but I have long wished for a game where Priests/Healers can level up "organically" - by learning spells, improving their Villager skills and completing Quests that are designed to help other players, and reward the toon accordingly. Hunters could perhaps be their allies; allowing those who truly wish to be Villagers to still have a path forward (and a set of quests that allow them to advance, but in a different fashion) Higher level Priests and Hunters would still be integral parts of the game - after all, Healers would needed during battles, and Hunters would be valued for their accuracy in battle.

I don't have @SKAAVVEEK's ability to lay out an entire new world - just sharing my little hopes and dreams!;)
 
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Littlenymph

Squirrel
Characters
Layla Littlenymph
Platform
PC, Steam
Thanks for the response SKAAVVEEK, I honestly did not intend any criticism in my comments, I just wanted to get that out there before delving into other aspects. I'm glad to hear you are planning a companion piece to this thread and look forward to reading it.

The structure and progression you laid out remind me somewhat of a few long-running, classic, old-school games. I'm not going to mention which they are because yours is different enough that I regard it as unique and do not feel it would be fair or constructive to waste time comparing your ideas to the ideas of others. V&H is itself something of a unique game and I feel you have done a good job of tailoring your ideas to mesh with the current game theme and structure. I enjoy the fact that V&H remains in a state of active development, but some of that development has left the game a little disjointed. It would be nice to see it all tied together along a logical line of progression that the average player can understand. While I could nit-pick over trivial matters, I do not really see anything in the overall design that I can take issue with.

When I comment here, I'm not going to try and address your entire post with one of my own, but simply focus on one aspect that happened to catch my attention. For today, it would be the topic of repeating areas in order to accumulate the xp needed to progress once the area tasks had been accomplished. Repeating zones is one of the more common complaints that I hear, but it's not something unique to V&H. I have never played an MMO of this nature that did not require at least some repetition of content. I think one thing that could diminish that to some degree would be to implement a little optional content in the area that would introduce an alternate means to generate a little xp.

A random example of that would be to introduce collections. Collections could be assembled from specific areas and could be anything from a set of 24 rare flowers or gemstones found only within a limited area of the game to something more exotic and difficult such as a set of monster parts that can only be harvested from rare Zingara. You could pick up the collection quests from a Collector or Merchant NPC located in the last Capitol area you unlocked, with the requested items located in the area you are about to advance into. Completing and turning in the collection could award xp, game coin, and perhaps some unique reward only available from that task for more difficult collections. Because they are tied to a specific area, players could get in mob kills while filling collections, thus, accomplishing two tasks at the same time.

I'm only mentioning that as an example. Some players do not care that much for optional quests, but I think they would be more inclined to do them if they could be done in conjunction with primary quests. The main idea is to give players a little variety in what to do in an area aside from killing X number of mobs to accumulate X number of xp points. I'm not wed to any particular activity to achieve that so long as it introduces a little variety to lessen the sensation of grind.
 

Ekimie

Hunter
Royal Guardian
Platform
Steam
Thanks for the response SKAAVVEEK, I honestly did not intend any criticism in my comments, I just wanted to get that out there before delving into other aspects. I'm glad to hear you are planning a companion piece to this thread and look forward to reading it.

The structure and progression you laid out remind me somewhat of a few long-running, classic, old-school games. I'm not going to mention which they are because yours is different enough that I regard it as unique and do not feel it would be fair or constructive to waste time comparing your ideas to the ideas of others. V&H is itself something of a unique game and I feel you have done a good job of tailoring your ideas to mesh with the current game theme and structure. I enjoy the fact that V&H remains in a state of active development, but some of that development has left the game a little disjointed. It would be nice to see it all tied together along a logical line of progression that the average player can understand. While I could nit-pick over trivial matters, I do not really see anything in the overall design that I can take issue with.

When I comment here, I'm not going to try and address your entire post with one of my own, but simply focus on one aspect that happened to catch my attention. For today, it would be the topic of repeating areas in order to accumulate the xp needed to progress once the area tasks had been accomplished. Repeating zones is one of the more common complaints that I hear, but it's not something unique to V&H. I have never played an MMO of this nature that did not require at least some repetition of content. I think one thing that could diminish that to some degree would be to implement a little optional content in the area that would introduce an alternate means to generate a little xp.

A random example of that would be to introduce collections. Collections could be assembled from specific areas and could be anything from a set of 24 rare flowers or gemstones found only within a limited area of the game to something more exotic and difficult such as a set of monster parts that can only be harvested from rare Zingara. You could pick up the collection quests from a Collector or Merchant NPC located in the last Capitol area you unlocked, with the requested items located in the area you are about to advance into. Completing and turning in the collection could award xp, game coin, and perhaps some unique reward only available from that task for more difficult collections. Because they are tied to a specific area, players could get in mob kills while filling collections, thus, accomplishing two tasks at the same time.

I'm only mentioning that as an example. Some players do not care that much for optional quests, but I think they would be more inclined to do them if they could be done in conjunction with primary quests. The main idea is to give players a little variety in what to do in an area aside from killing X number of mobs to accumulate X number of xp points. I'm not wed to any particular activity to achieve that so long as it introduces a little variety to lessen the sensation of grind.
Someone please set the max characters per post to 600 :oops:
 
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Dawnfire

Great Adventurer
Royal Guardian
Characters
Athon Stormborne
Platform
Android, PC
Let me be a bit personal first. Ever since I started playing since May and stalking the forums your suggestions were hands down the best. Whenever I saw you posted some new idea, it was a treat to read it. Maybe because we think alike, but I rarely found anything in them that I disagreed with. You have a really amazing vision for this game and a truly creative mind. Otters please hire him and make his suggestions come true!

On topic, I really like all of them. Maybe tone the numbers down for realm fights, but otherwise amazing. Not sure what else to add, would love to see it happen! Thank you for taking your time to write this
 

SKAAVVEEK

Adventurer
Royal Guardian
Characters
See Signature
Platform
PC
Let me be a bit personal first. Ever since I started playing since May and stalking the forums your suggestions were hands down the best. Whenever I saw you posted some new idea, it was a treat to read it. Maybe because we think alike, but I rarely found anything in them that I disagreed with. You have a really amazing vision for this game and a truly creative mind. Otters please hire him and make his suggestions come true!

On topic, I really like all of them. Maybe tone the numbers down for realm fights, but otherwise amazing. Not sure what else to add, would love to see it happen! Thank you for taking your time to write this
Wow thank you for the kind reply! Likewise your guides & charts are always very informative, organized and useful tools for many players including my self.

Glad you liked this idea :)
 
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