Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Exponential Growth

A player messaged me to on the forums to thank me for the recent Thanksgiving event, saying how his wife, guildmates and himself have had the most fun they can remember in a long time with it. He was hoping there would be more of this type of simple, quickly put together event in the future. It made me giggle because this event broke every rule of proper design procedure.

So this started off with Mesanna asking if we were turning the champ spawns into turkeys again for Thanksgiving. To which I replied the turkeys are kinda lame. They're just way too small and are more griefy to see during champ spawns than anything else. So we decided to go bat our eyelashes at the artists and see if we could get them to enlarge the turkeys. When they accepted, being my usual shameless self, I asked if we could also get a cornucopia for the players who don't do champ spawns. And they agreed to squeeze it in their schedule! Since we didn't have much time, the plan was simply to spawn the cornucopias in the players' backpack on log in and do the champ spawn thing.

Then I saw the finished version and I was like "dang Grimmy (GrimmOmen), those be some fine looking turkeys!!" They were just too nice not to allow everyone else to enjoy them. So from there I told Mesanna I would make them just randomly spawn overland in Britannia and strut their stuff.

Famous last words...

So I'm thinking hmmmm they can't just walk around and do nothing else! Let's make them mini-bosses! Now to figure out what their AI will be. When that was nearly done, it was hmmm but what are they going to drop as loot? Lets make them drop the cornucopias!! Then hmmm the cornucopias are kinda lame just as is. They should drop food! Hmmm maybe they should have something special, I mean seriously who cares about a slab of bacon?

So Mesanna asks me if I'm done with the Turkeys and I'm like eerrrr yeah? But she knows from the look on my face that my evil wheels are still turning. She gives me the look of death and says "cut off date is..." to which I interject "yes, yes, I know! It will be done!" (with some more shameless eyelashes batting to which she's completely immune! Wise woman she is!).

But that event is just too short. There should be a little something more to it and not just a random grinding on turkeys. So I get a bug from QA regarding some issue with the Halloween costumes and my mind wanders back to it and to the Hag and "ting!" the light comes on!! My buddy Zeef!! I always thought those little maps were cool so after a bit of tinkering (and lots of running around to choose locations) I put in the nests and maps, but it didn't really make sense for turkeys to give maps. Hell, it didn't really make sense to have giant turkeys to begin with! How do you justify that? (You know some players will go wtf is that?) Well while trying to come up with the turkey's attacks, I had been reading a bit on the Internet about turkeys and stumbled on an article about the father of American ornithology, Alexander Wilson and I suddenly had my quest back story and the moon grass as the fall guy!

But could I leave it alone? No, because I'm hopeless like that. Then came the: a) I need to come up with a "useful" reward for the deco haters (enters harvester's blade), b) bards are going to complain again that they've been neglected (more tweaks to turkey's AI), c) crafters, crafters, crafter, why the heck do they think they should be able to do everything hunters do? gah!!! (fine, lets have map fragments and give stuff to top 20 attackers), d) PETA alert!! (chill people! I got it covered! *adds non-mutant eggs and prevent players from abusing them*).

Now the real fun begins. QA >.<

The problem wasn't so much functionality issues (though there were a few of those). It was mostly things like: if you do 4 back flips with a red ribbon on your right pinky toe while holding your right ear with your left hand you will be able to nuke 10 turkeys in 3 seconds while also looting other people's nests in Trammel.


In the end, a few bugs still managed to slip through the cracks, but overall it was well received. Frankly, I was happily surprised people didn't complain about doing maps. I think they're wonderfully challenging and a good way to get people to explore lands they have neglected for far too long. But this is a bad way of designing. It's too easy to let yourself get carried away and things grow so far out of proportion that it bursts at the seams. In this case, it worked out, but careful planning before implementation saves a lot of headaches and bad surprises.

PS. We made cut off date :)


Airmid Cecht said...

and this is why the community loves you guys. *group hug* Truly some of the best comments since SA came out. Thank you ^_^

Gheed said...

It really was a lovely event. I have a couple rl friends that got me snagged on this game many years ago. We play UO together like I think everyone should.

We all play for each other, never squabbling over loot. In the end everyone gets what they want and we are happy to help each other out. In nearly 10 years playing together not one ill word over who gets what or what we are doing has ever crossed our lips.

It's really one of my favorite reasons to play UO. This event was no exception to that rule. Very good time frame and a perfect drop rate for us. We ended up collecting over 400 maps between 4 accounts (I dual boxed my archer and one of theirs).

We all got a harrow from the event. I was thinking how well suited the event was for a small group like ours.

I know you say the design process was wrong. But sometimes doing things the wrong way turns out a better result. Mistakes and poor procedure has done harm to UO in the past. But it has also turned out some very unique systems special to this game. A great part of its charm is that it is flawed.

Anyway very good work and stick to the path you are walking. Even if you have to shoot from the hip from time to time.

p.s. I always thought the harrow was a rabbit trap :) It kind of looks like a spiked pit w/a stone on top. I had never clicked on it to see the description… and they were always around farms so…