Edit: As mentioned in a later article, it was suggested that the below-referenced "Willpower Points as Actions" system, similar to FaceBook games, would be no fun at all. I agree completely. While part of me wants to re-edit this article to reflect a revised perspective, this blog is about failures as well as successes. Hence, it stands, with revisions in later installments. Enjoy.
Not too long ago, I did a series of three articles about ways in which the various Disciplines might manifest in Themepark/combative gameplay. Today we'll talk about how they might manifest in the Sandbox.
Before going any further, I really have to give this caveat. There's speculation, and then there's speculation. It's one thing to make assumptions about how Presence mechanics might work in a fight. There're some basic forms and formulae that games tend to use when rough-housing comes up. It's a very different thing to make guesses about how Presence works in a system about whose structure you have no hard clues at all. Let me say up-front here we're talking about concepts first, and that the final product will almost certain look nothing like this, if at all. What we're going for is a talk about how they might utilize mechanics to capture the feel of being a vampire using her kewl powerz to take over a city, block by block.
In the Beginning...
Of the first seven Clans White Wolf produced in Masquerade, five had Disciplines selected from a pool of eight they shared with other Clans. The Gangrel and Tremere were by far the minority with their own special powers, and even there, it was strongly implied the Gangrel taught Protean to others sufficiently often it wasn't terribly rare outside their ranks anyway. (On the other hand, the Tremere would Wipe Your Brain if you so much as asked how many Paths of Thaumaturgy there are, but that's beside the point). By and large, most of the Clans picked the powers that best fit their flavor from a shared pool, and that's how it was.
I'll point out here something I find interesting. Those eight Disciplines are all pretty much human abilities, taken to an extreme. Hiding isn't anything supernatural. Kids do it all the time in Hide n' Go Seek. Obfuscate just makes you unnaturally good at hiding. Getting people to do what you want isn't all that hard. Managers, politicians and salesmen do it all the time. Dominate just makes you far better at it than any human being has a right to be. Put a pin in that. We're going to come back to it.
And then came those other people...
As White Wolf fleshed out the other six Clans, they chose to break the previous mold. For good or ill, for whatever reason, from that point forward, every new Clan or Bloodline would get one unique Discipline that no one else got in-Clan. They even ret-conned the Malkavians later to give them Dementation, whittling the number of Clans with all shared Disciplines down to four. (They also kind of implied these guys tended to be a bit more guarded about their powers. Maybe not as bad as the Tremere, but no where near as open as the Gangrel). I'm not going to argue the merits of that decision in the least. I will point out here, though, that in general, the powers strayed pretty heavily from things mortals could do. Potence was superhuman strength. Chimerstry was the power of illusions. Fortitude was being really hard to kill. Vicissitude let you shape living flesh. Animalism was just Animal Ken on crack. Serpentis was... well, Serpentis was a trainwreck, but you get the idea. Either way, these Disciplines let players do things they themselves had no direct equivalent ability to do. Again, we'll be getting to that later.
With that in mind, let's get back to the MMO.
Starting the Speculation with a Speculation
Here's where I take two things they've said, and make a huge leap of a guess, then assume it's true pretty much for the rest of discussion. Why? Bcause it's my blog. That's why.
We know there'll be a Willpower rating, because two of the four powers they kind of leaked to us utilize it. (See Chris' video) They'd also mentioned they wanted to engage casual players and casual gameplay. What does that tell us? Not much, but it did get me thinking about things like "Energy/Action bars" you see in a lot of FaceBook App-games and related persistent diversions. Yes, you can click on radishes to harvest them, but you can only do so so often before your character run out of steam for a while. (Literally in at least one Steampunk-themed game I think I recall). So. Here's a monstrous speculation for you:
Willpower = Action points.
You'll have a pool of Willpower points. You spend them, and get them back over time. (Possibly faster at your home/Haven?) Talking with other players probably won't normally cost points (though it might give you points back, as we've seen a ton of "social" games do with visiting neighbors and the like). Other actions, though, likely will. What kinds of actions, might you ask?
What mortals can do
There's going to have to be something for players to do when they first start playing the game, and it makes sense for it to at least somewhat map on to what they'll do when they get Embraced. Yeah, maybe there might just be a shallow-end-of-the-pool Themepark zone for mortals, mostly. It'll probably be sufficiently "safe" for mortal characters to practice their fighting skills without tackling the kinds of challenges that can threaten Kindred, while offering few of the rewards that would draw Kindred there, other than a desire to bully weaker characters. Time spent in this area might cost Willpower. Either a periodic cost to reflect the fear of being in a dangerous part of town, or a per-fight cost, reflecting getting tired by fisticuffs. Heck, maybe at this level, the kinds of fighting you do *just* costs Willpower, rather than actual wound levels. (Again, giving mortal PC's a chance to try out the combat mechanics, but dissuading Kindred who have better things to do with their Willpower points than swimming with the little kids).
What're Reputation points?
Reputation is (or would be) a mechanic that reflects the degree to which you're making a splash within mortal society. The things your character does will earn her the right to say she's accomplished stuff. Further, it would work eerily similar to the Prestige system referenced in this blog article over here... When you walk into a cafe area, you'll either automatically be able to see some visual representation of other players' Reputation or spend Willpower to actively try to do so (Developers' choice). As you build Reputation points, your word carries more weight (like Prestige, in that other article) and more social mechanic options open up for you. You might even be able to give other mortal players back some Willpower, giving them a reason to dote on you and earn your respect, et c.
Things to Do in Denver When you're Not Dead (yet)
That's the Cafe (which we've talked about), and the Theme-park Lite (above). Let's finally get to what Sandbox play will let mortals do to get their feet wet, keep them amused, and prepare them for their unlives to come.
Let's say you've done your daily email quest (or deleted it because it didn't sound that interesting). You've got a full bar of Willpower and nothing specific lined up for the night. It's time to hit the town. Note here: this is going to focus heavily around players interacting with computer-generated environmental elements. It's also, once again, pure speculation.
Another way to earn Reputation would be to interact with mortal NPC's. Leaving your home, and arriving in one neighborhood or another, you spend a Willpower point on the "Investigate" skill/action. Perhaps you walk up and talk with a random NPC to do so. Whatever. Story-wise, this is your character asking around to find out what's going on in the neighborhood. Depending on your successes, as you walk around, you might see certain NPC's highlighted, meaning they're the kinds of people to talk to. Let's call them "Target NPC's" for now. (On the back-end, by the way, three minutes ago, they weren't. They were like all the other NPC's in an area, but by Investigating them, you've made the system apply a different set of characteristics on them). Perhaps you get some kind of indicator showing you where to find the nearest Target NPC, who might have marked some distance away. And it may take a while, by the way. The system might only mark a small number of mortals as Targets, or place them a fair distance from you. Getting to them might take some effort.
Walking past a randomly-spawned cat, you decide to give it a little scratch behind the ears. You click the "Animal Ken" icon and succeed. The cat purs for a second or two before darting away. You get a little bit of Reputation. Good for you. It's also cost you a little bit of Willpower.
You pass a back-alley, where two players are in a fist-fight, burning Willpower points to earn/lose Reputation from/to one another. (For those of a more combat-oriented bent). You're also aware that beating up and even murdering other characters builds Reputation as well (especially those crazy MoFo's who got themselves the Notorious Murderer Merit, giving them extra Reputation for each murder they commit), and you figure you're in a space where NPC Police Officers are unlikely to spawn near you if you're attacked, the way they would in a more civilized part of town. You spend Willpower to Stealth your way past the alley, so as not to take your chances.
Finally, you find the Target NPC you were looking for. You interface with him or her through some new icons with social skills like "Subterfuge," "Persuasion," and "Intimidate." There might be a dialogue tree. There might be cool-downs. Action you're taking here will definitely cost you Willpower, by the way. Either way, if you succeed, you get some Reputation. If not, you'll have spent Willpower points to learn you need to get better at social skills. A bit low on Willpower, but with more Reputation points, you head back to a Cafe area to throw around a little bit of that Reputation you've earned, and possibly get a Willpower point or two back. And that's kind of what life as a Mortal PC might look like. Gives you something to do, rewards your behaviors, and gets you familiar with the mechanics Kindred will use. And next week, we'll talk about what that transition from Mortal to Kindred might look like. Thanks again for reading!
Edit (Thanks, JustFiyen) - Hadn't considered the whole "pay for the game *and* have your actions restricted" thing. Good catch there. We still have no *real* clue what players will do with Willpower points (Or Tokens, for that matter). For the remaining articles, please assume my speculations assume they're either going with the free-to-play model (using the above system or something like it) or Willpower offers a focused bonus of some kind, versatile, but limited and needing to be recharged now and then. Cheers.
86 days ago
I am strongly against having to pay willpower for basic actions, that would as others have mentioned make the game feel to much like some crappy Facebook game. It would be really boring to end up not being able to do anything just because you have run out of willpower. I feel that willpower should only be used for a limited number of things, such as disciplines or guaranteed success rolls.
285 days ago
If they want a willpower system they should only have it as a skill to put points into as opposed to giving someone '20 willpower points' to burn. It's really annoying. I'd like to another MMO that's as interactive as runescape; a dialog tree that actually effects the npc and secret quests that only come about with specific items in your bag. Scenario: You find a cane on the street and pick it up. Some time later you see an old man hobbling along looking for help. You decide you want to see whats up. The old man tells you he lost his cane and he cant walk well without it. Now you have a choice in dialog, "I know where it is." "I have it right here" "Let's go look for it together." Which you choose depends on your plan. 1st one allows you to demand payment for his cane. "I have it right here." You hand him the cane and the game gives you some reputation. "Let's look for it together." you lead him anywhere you want; which gives you a chance to feed off him or you can equip the cane and beat him with it. Depends on how 'evil' you wanna be. If any mmo comes out with the facebook energy bar or make you spend limited willpower points to achieve anything if foolish unless you can regen willpower by feeding. Anything else and the game might as well be on facebook. They should focus more on social points through the game; not outside of it. Love the 'daily quest' email system idea.
289 days ago
...Eww...I cringed when I thought of the facebook action points. I hate that. If I have to pay for a game, I don't want to be limited by that type of system. I really hope it's not so restricted as that...