With 25 years of experience to draw on, the Warhammer IP is a rich, luscious world full of a wide variety of diverse content. Each race is visually distinct -- from the lewd and crude Orcs to the proud, lofty High Elves. Even the careers within each race are uniquely different – no one would ever mistake a spanner-totin’ Engineer for an in-your-face Ironbreaker. So, one of the great design challenges in WAR is to provide players with as much opportunity to customize the look of their characters as possible, while also protecting the silhouette of each race and career. It’s really important in WAR to be able to identify a player’s career with a simple glance – orangey robes, big staff, and hair on fire, that’s a Bright Wizard!
Most MMO players understand how armor works visually – when you wear it, it changes the appearance of your avatar. Everyone loves that moment when you try on some new armor loot for the first time and see how different it makes your character look. That’s cool, but we wanted to take this kind of customization to the next level!
For WAR, we decided very early on in the design process that we were going to do something extra special. We wanted to give players something to aim for, reward players for being heroic, hand out great armor, allow you to look different and protect the silhouette all at the same time. How will we do that? WAR Trophies!
In most MMOs, once you’ve decided on the armor you’re going to wear, you’ve pretty much exhausted all the options for your avatar’s look. The idea behind trophies is to create an additional level of visual customization for your character. For example, let’s say you kill a badass dragon. Some MMOs will make sure the dragon drops some great loot (we’ll do that, too). In WAR, if you kill the dragon, we’ll give you a trophy you can wear that shows you killed the dragon!
When the concept of trophies was originally pitched to us, everyone was very excited about the idea. Being able to attach objects to your avatar to show off all the awesome things that you’ve done: How cool is that? Then everyone became slightly less excited when they realized that it was going to be very, very, hard to implement.
Early on, we identified two key concepts that the trophy system absolutely had to nail – Diversity and Badassery.
We already have lots of different ways to give players visual “diversity” – different armor looks, armor dyes, character customization, etc. So, what exactly do I mean, when I say “diversity”, especially with respect to trophies? When we thought about allowing players to attach objects to their avatar, we had to ensure that the player not only had choices as to what trophies to attach but also where the objects could be attached. Otherwise everyone’s trophies would all be in the same old places and we’ve reduced diversity instead of increasing it a gazillion-fold.
Diversity Decision #1: The number of places that a trophy can go has to exceed the number of trophies that you can wear. There must be a very large number of permutations and combinations when arranging your trophies. Coders started whimpering and being willful after this decision was made.
Diversity Decision #2: Trophies can’t have stats. We considered it for a nanosecond before realizing what would ultimately happen. If they did have stats, there would naturally be a combination of five trophies that was “the best”, and these trophies would be “chased” by power-gamers. That is OK for normal loot, but if a large chunk of our player base all end up sporting the same five trophies, then we’ve killed diversity instead of radically increasing it. When this was decided there was a great disturbance on the interwebs, as if millions of power gamers suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Diversity Decision #3: Custom attachment points have to be created for each piece of career armor in the game. A career’s attachment points have to make sense for that career. The art department burnt images of me in effigy after they heard this news. For example, Witch Hunters have trophy slots on their bandoliers, while Orcs will have lots of slots on their shoulder-pad spikes, etc.
Then we started asking pesky design questions, such as “Where do the trophies actually go?” and “What happens if you switch out your armor? Do all the trophies fall off?” It became clear that the next decision would have to be …
Diversity Decision 4: Trophies don’t get attached to specific bits of armor, they get attached to the player. The UI team left bags of flaming dog poo outside my front door when they discovered this.
When we started implementing the system and worked out the details of the many restraining orders, everything came together very nicely. In fact, trophies are awesome!
You can drag a trophy onto a trophy slot, and cycle that trophy through all the available positions on your avatar’s body. You can do this for up to five trophies. If you remove a piece of armor and replace it with another, the trophy stays equipped and you have a new look. Diversity Accomplished!
Now let’s talk about Badassery! Badassery is a very-technical development term used to describe the concept of being able to look at a character and immediately tell if he or she is a badass. We do this with armor – the better the armor looks, the bigger the badass. We’re also doing it with trophies.
One of the first decisions we had to make when designing trophies was "where do players get them?" Since we want them to be as "Badassery-compliant" as possible, they need to be associated with having done really, really badass things.
For example, you earn trophies for killing 100 players, 1000 players, a million players (OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit), etc. It is up to the art team to make sure the million-players-killed trophy looks much cooler that the 100-players-killed trophy. Applying this thinking to every type of trophy awarded will ensure that Badassery is accomplished.
Trophies are one of those systems that involve the work of many other strike teams. It would not be fair to talk about trophies without acknowledging the colossal amount of work done by the Art and UI departments to date. They kick ass!
Someone who died a long time ago once said "a picture tells a thousand words". While true – reading is hard – presentational videos on You Tube are even better. I did a presentational chat on trophies back in November which covers most of the salient details. The star of the presentation is Mr. John Luu, my awesome embedded QA tester, who keeps me on target like a Dylanesque Luddite. Don’t be put off by all the boring stuff at the beginning – toward the end, he starts to disrobe. Dressing up a QA guy like a dolly is also immensely fun. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance.
2006 Aug 29 22:11 GMT