Monday, April 14, 2008

Enter the Shadows

I had read several posts by Keen last week about stealth in Warhammer Online that inspired an idea for implementing stealth in an MMO. So in the spirit of “wouldn’t it be cool if” and the unlikely event that some random developer reads this blog, I wanted to talk about the idea.

One of the new patch 2.4 dailys takes you up to Bashir’s Landing in the Blade’s Edge Mountains. The quest starts by having you kill Ethereals until you get a Phasing Device. Once it drops, you can activate it to see the Smuggled Mana Cubes that you need to loot for the quest.

The neat thing is that the Ethereals that you have been fighting disappear when you go “out-of-phase” and the screen gets dark and blurry. The cubes are instead guarded by these mana wyrms you can’t see in the normal phase. Also – anyone else that is running around “out-of-phase” is also visible to you and not visible to anyone in the “normal” phase. Likewise, you are no longer visible to the normal phase and you can’t see people killing the Ethereals.

I read a book years ago (maybe this one?) where our assassin/thief/hero could enter into a Shadow World in order to enter buildings and such unseen. In this Shadow World, he was unable to see people in the real world. He could, however, see other people visiting this Shadow World and the horrific creatures that made the Shadow World their home. I can’t help but think of this Shadow World every time I complete this quest.

So I started thinking about this Shadow World and also a bit about Keen’s complaint about stealth in a PvP MMO. The biggest issue with how unfair Stealth is in PvP is because they can see you and you can’t see them. But what if it were more like this Shadow World? What if they couldn’t see you either?

Imagine that you don’t stealth, but phase into a Shadow World that has it’s own horrors and exists in the same physical space but not in the same plane as the rest of the MMO world. You could travel through it, but not see any other players or creatures that existed in the real world until you exited the Shadow World. Instead, you could only see other players traveling in the Shadow World and the nasty creatures that live on that plane.

Take it a step further and say that the Shadow World is somewhere between the normal game world and the realm of the dead. The horrors that exist are often the undead and you can see other players running around in ghost form after they have died. Perhaps players in “ghost form” even have some limited power over those that use the Shadow World to try and camp them (like a nasty debuff called “hex of the dead”).

The neat thing here is that a player could enter into the Shadow World and see not the real game world but something similar yet different entirely. Some classes could maybe enter the Shadow World temporarily (15 seconds) while others may enter it and exit it at-will. The “stealth” class would need to continually exit and enter the Shadow World to locate another player and would be visible while he came out and his ability was on cooldown.

And perhaps instead of stuns, we have the ability to bring people into the Shadow World with us. And some classes have the ability to toss them out. Think about a battle where your healer gets kidnapped for 8 seconds to do battle in the Shadow World. Or alternately, your healer is getting focused and you act to protect him by bringing him into the Shadow World with you. You then get “chased” into the Shadow World to deal with the threats that exist. And of course, some items or talismans could grant limited power to allow people enter into this Shadow World that didn’t have class abilities for it. After all, the Shadow World would be a lonely place if the Rogue types were the only ones who got to visit.

Oh well.. I think it sounds cool. :)

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