DrunkenGamer’s Omerta (July 2010)

One thing I have learnt over the last few months of design is that balance is key. For example, the randomization of the smuggling values that I talked about in last months column. The balance there was making the increase in value worth the players effort to change routes, while at the same time not adversely effecting the overall economy of the game.

Now before I stepped up to design itself, I would just regularly assume that the designs being passed to me had taken that into account. However, I recently decided to take a look back over some of the design choices that had been made, and while most were fine, I did manage to find a flaw or two.The biggest of which has been a bone of contention between the crew and the players since it was done – the removal of Killing Skill from the game.

To explain what it was for those who don’t know, basically as the user progressed up the ranks of Omerta for strength, they also had the option to train their killing ability by shooting at bottles or each other. This skill was then used as part of the killing calculations and several other calculations throughout the game.

“But that sounds simple!”, I hear you cry, so why was it removed? Well quite frankly the whole system was flawed, not from the players perspective but in the back-end of the system. It was used as part of calculations that it shouldn’t be, missing in things that should have used it and all round had become a nightmare to work with.

From a design point of view it was a failure, so much so that the only option available to us was its removal. So that’s what we did.

It’s here that the flaw occurs. When we took away the killing skill all the calculations were naturally fixed and the back-end handled, however we forgot one aspect of the balance – the player’s side of things!

For them, when we took away killing skill, we took away more than a mere statistic on their account and an option on the crimes page. Without realising it we had also taken away a personal goal for the player. Most importantly, as the majority of their killing skill came from shooting other players, we had broken the risk/reward balance of killing.

When you make a kill attempt in Omerta, you are effectively putting your account on the line because of the ability for the enemy to shoot back. When they got rewarded with killing skill, there was a reason to risk your account – if you survived, your account was stronger for the attempt. Without Killing Skill, this was no longer true.

So the first thing I felt I had to do was return the reward for killing. Yet putting Killing Skill back would just take far too long when it comes to fixing all the issues that resulted in its removal in the first place. So I looked at what would give a sense of personal progression again, and the natural choice? – Rank Points.

So now, when a user risks their account, they get a reward again in the form of up to a 3% increase in rank. There is a discussion on Deathmatch, as always, about if this is enough to redress the balance or if there is still more that needs to be done. Why not come over and let us know your opinion?

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