DrunkenGamer’s Omerta (January 2011)

Happy New Year to all you Gangsters from Omerta, hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas break and are looking forward to what this year has to bring.

Obviously as I was also enjoying a well deserved holiday, there is not a lot to report on the design front this month (not that I feel is at a level that can publicly be discussed anyway) so I thought I would instead take a look back at some of the stuff that I added to the game last year.

One of the first changes that I tried was randomized events, little weekend long events where I changed certain factors in the game. These varied from vastly increased in-game profits to reduced travel times. The lesson I learnt from that one was interesting, the players like randomization but only to a certain point.

Some of my random changes went a little too far for them, causing complaints from the players that I was interfering too much in the gameplay. This was a fair point, change is good but without stability you can’t plan, and as planning is a such a key element of the game I put the weekend events on hold.

These were shortly replaced with a scheduled weekend event, now every weekend the players on Deathmatch receive a bonus to their rankpoints on a Saturday & to their profits on a Sunday. The bigger events will be making a return this year, but they will not be simply based in weekends.

However so that the players will be able to plan for them and enjoy them fully they will be announced further in advance, I hope to be able to announce a whole months events in advance.

The second thing that I changed was the Risk:Reward ratio on killing. It was a few months into my time running Deathmatch that I discovered something surprising. When in a earlier version another designer decided to remove Killing Skill (KS) from the game, due to its overall flawed nature, he removed it in an equally flawed way.

You see despite being completely flawed in the games back end, KS had a visual element that the users counted towards their characters progression. No thought was paid during its removal to the players loss of this visual element, the perceived loss of a reward for a killing other players.

This lead to a reduction in the number of kills, because the players believed that the risks no longer outweighed the rewards. So to attempt to redress that balance, I added a new reward to killing. Now kill attempts reward the player with extra rankpoints for kill attempts and to reduce the risk slightly I removed the family witness statements.

The overall outcome was a small increase in killing, which is what I was aiming for. I may be re-evaluating other elements of killing this year but for now I think its in a good place.

Obviously the biggest thing of the last year was the full rewrite of the family system, this proved to be a very complex monster to work on. It all started in answer to a previously made change to the family system, where the expanding system was replaced with families of static size.

This took away another large element of player progression. As a family got stronger in the old system it would get bigger, it would have to buy new HQ spaces to manage its members. In the earlier version however they were locked to set sizes which meant that a family never felt the growth that it had before.

So to add that feeling back into the game, I retooled the system to include a levelling system similar to the one experienced by the players themselves. For each action a family member now does the family will receive an amount of family rank-points based on that action. This will cause the family to grow in strength and as they pass each level they will unlock new features, such as headquarter size increases or better car crusher.

But it wasn’t the smoothest of starts, there were issues during development that caused the systems launch to be delayed and then after release there were balance issues. But after a few months of tweaking the system was in a state where almost all the player-base are happy with it.

There are still further plans for it, but they needed the system to settle in and show how it would work.

So it was an interesting year, but now its time to look to improve on those. Next month I hope to be able to explain exactly how I intend to do that.

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