Monday, March 7, 2011

Call of Warcraft

As you know, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are two major franchises of Activision Blizzard. And if you play both, you notice some similarities: Scripted events, challenge based on execution, gameplay where if you fail you can try again armed with a better knowledge of what will happen. I’ve been playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare this weekend, as well as World of Warcraft. And on my blog my proposal to split the leveling game from the raiding game was answered with the question of how exactly I would create a pure raiding MMORPG. So I came to the conclusion that maybe a solution to make such a raiding MMORPG would be to introduce elements from Call of Duty, and produce a new game: Call of Warcraft.

As raiders hate the leveling game, that part of a MMORPG in Call of Warcraft would be reduced to a tutorial, of just a few hours length. Players would “gain levels” at a very fast rate, basically receiving a new skill or ability, getting one “quest” or objective to do using that new ability, and being rewarded with a “level”, which gives them the next ability. At the end people would be about as competent in playing their class as they are currently after 200+ hours of leveling to 85, but without the boring kill ten foozles repetitive bits.

Thus quickly arriving at the raiding “endgame”, we can find a solution based on what we know is problematic in World of Warcraft, and see how Call of Duty does it better. To quote Jean-Paul Sartre: Hell is other people. Or to summarize some of the comments in the blog posts of this weekend: Having real people as your guild mates is a problem, because in a raiding game you are looking for performance, not friends. In Call of Duty in single-player mode that is beautifully solved with you being member of a squad of AI-controlled non-player characters. Thus Call of Warcraft should work the same way, and present us with a “guild” of non-player characters, which we can take with us to raid. No more problems with different people having different schedules and real-life obligations and interruptions. And the performance problem can be solved with a bit of clever AI: Your NPC “guild mates” will be programmed to be as good as you are. If you stand in the fire, so will they. If you improve your moves and do everything right, they will play better as well. Especially for the dps (and frankly, who would want to play anything else in Call of Warcraft), one important algorithm in the AI would make sure that *you* are always on top of the damage meter, with the NPCs closely behind. Thus the better you play, the better the whole raid group becomes, without the NPCs risking to outshine you.

Call of Warcraft would have a challenging raid progression via gear. All bosses drop loot just for you, and your AI guild mates will “gear up” in the background without stealing your loot. You will need the loot from the first raid dungeon to successfully tackle the second, and so on. But to prevent you from getting stuck, you can repeat the first raid dungeon and gain additional advantages in the form of enchants and gems from bosses you already killed before.

Just like Call of Duty, Call of Warcraft would effectively have two games: A single-player and a multi-player game. Thus if you don’t want to play with NPCs, you can also via the internet connect to a server where with a ladder system you can find players of similar skill levels working on similar content as you do, and raid with them.

Call of Warcraft would have the advantage that at least the single-player game would not require a monthly fee, you just buy the box for $60. The multi-player game might or might not be free; Activision Blizzard would have to calculate the cost and whether they can afford to offer the required servers and bandwidth for free. But they could certainly charge for downloadable content (DLC), additional raid dungeons released several times per year, both in parallel and in extension of the existing raid progression.

Thus taking all the best parts from Activision Blizzard’s most successful franchises and eliminating all the bad parts from the raiding game, Call of Warcraft would certainly be a smash hit. Or what do you think?

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