Progression and the future and why it matters to everyone

TL;DR : VR allows us to expand so much in new ways that old leveling systems are a limitation, how do we fix that? What else can be done to make Orbus playable for a very long time? I suggest a lot of stuff.

Hi everyone Emb3rfyre here, I’m rather new so I expect for people to disregard much of this post.

The reason i’m posting this long obnoxious read is because I feel that I can truly make a difference in the minds of players and developers alike here, I truly want to take a moment and really throw my personal research on game mechanics and methodology out there for people to think about and I’m going to pull ideology from from about 14 years of experience from network engineering, minor coding and my personal experience with the age of MMORPGs including some really good points from the creators of Extra Credits

As a preface I want to briefly add a disclaimer: I am not a developer of video games, merely a Network Engineering student with way too many hours spent with video games and shadowing dev teams when I was trying to figure out what major I wanted. I currently very much enjoy OrbusVR in it’s current state and am in awe of the vision the developers have for it’s future. I love the community and how open and inviting you all are both in game and out. With that said let’s dive in.

Here are links to a few sources that have influenced my understanding of progression:

Progression Systems and Skinner boxes (Extra Credits)
Power Creep (Extra Credits)
There is way more here but I’m new and have a 2 link limitation

-VR and the Open Horizon-

VR is a huge game changer, literally and figuratively. It goes without saying that you all understand this far deeper than anyone who has never put on a headset. So why the hell am I starting with this?

Because we can now approach games in ways that have never been possible until now. For VR we are in new land and can completely toss old game design strategies out the window, nothing is tried and true and everything is new again. Skill is now literal rather than figurative APM on a mouse or the efficiency of bound macros.

So how can progression change when introduced to a VR environment?

VR allows us to change how we tackle progression by utilizing muscle memory and game knowledge instead of relying completely upon the leveling platform where we are given power over time for just playing the game.

-Orbus and the Future-

I really have to hand it to the developers, pushing minimum viable product out before anyone in the market can develop an actual VR MMORPG is a huge boost for this game. It also gives them a really cool power to influence the landscape of MMO’s to come on the VR platform if it receives enough attention. However that is truly up to the designers and what they want long-term for the game.

Currently Orbus uses a two part progression to give players a good place to play and a good place for them to test ideas. First is leveling and random stat loot, the other is memorization of patterns and the execution of those patterns with situational awareness which currently make the game fun, if you are a mage or play in a large party.

While it’s a novel idea to have players execute combos for damage rather than whipping a sword back and forth or the fact that you have different arrows and orbs and symbols. This may truly realize itself into a fantastic system as the game grows but for right now lets address the problem I see looming forward.

How do we perceive repetition, and what can we do to mitigate monotony?

I’m going to split this problem into two groups because more people and larger situations fundamentally change how we perceive repetitive actions. In group play there are larger involvements as we have layers of information to distract us from executing memorized combos or waiting for orbs and arrows to appear thus making simple actions a godsend and not a pure distraction. some of these layers involve: Positioning, awareness, aim, and co-ordination. We lose a lot of that in solo play. So how to we make solo play enjoyable while refraining from bloating and over complicating party play?

Making individual actions distinct is my best guess, the creation of a simple modular system allows depth within simplicity.
For Warriors cutting left is different from cutting right and up and down. Tying effects to each of these distinct moves would allow a player to mix and match and experiment based on play style.
Ranger could draw with an arrow to activate skills rather than having a limited arsenal of using 2 skill arrows and regular arrows with a power shot.
Muskets are way harder but I simply think they should take the role of a combat alchemist where they mash different orbs into the gun to change it’s bullet effect over a duration that way it takes time to load but when you fire you are not waiting on orb cool downs and pulling the trigger over and over. They could also play with weapons with different trajectories for added depth.
Mage could use glyphs as a language to mix and match spell effects rather than just casting them in sequence, then use the super bar as a resource for casting a signature “cantrip” spell so mages are not super exposed in solo play.

I want to reiterate that this really is just an opinion, I love the game and will enjoy whatever the devs do. I also know these ideas would be all rather difficult to implement and detract time away from what really should be addressed because of balancing and adding new systems and making sure tracking works well, so I just expect this to be a cursory opinion with not much weight.

A more future oriented problem I see going forward is power creep and the invalidation of old content.
Leveling systems inherently have this problem and is not a problem of Orbus itself. The nature of bigger and bigger numbers means that say 3 years down the road a new player who plays the game to say the new cap of 60 will be able to go back and blow through the old dungeons and raids without a party eliminating the scale and grandeur of those events that are at this moment some of the best content this game has to offer. It also means that older players and the core population will no longer be playing old content making it hard to get a group together at low levels to take that content on at the level it was designed for.

Currently the world bosses we are all super hyped to take down will be trivial as the game development progresses in this system.

(side note this means that new players who come in the game later on can’t experience the same wonder and awe as much of the population would have moved on to “current content”)

How can we make all the content always worth playing?

The answer to this question relies on alternative progression systems, scaled level zones could be an answer but that defeats the purpose of getting more powerful through better gear.

In my opinion I think levels should be handled by some sort of achievement/goal system so the advancements of a player can still be recognized and maintain a cosmetic effect while leaving the player’s true skill an enigma. Meaning you can have the best artificer still be “Level 10” because instead of achievement hunting he focused on learning rune patterns. The best case scenario is to hide outward levels all together so players can’t discriminate against each other for having lower or higher scores, but I feel in the case of Orbus that it would be better to show an cosmetic representation so new players can reach out and ask high “level” players for advice.

So where would the power go?

Upgrade paths and rarity tiers. This allows diversity of weapons and progression other than random weapon drops, by making weapons do different things with the modular system I explained above.

You can still have weapon drops because it is still super cool to get that drop and freak out because it’s amazing, but you also want to give a player a chance to overcome randomization because farming for 3 hours at a slim chance to get that awesome drop sucks and if they need that to go do harder content it makes it infuriating.

Stats would also have to change so skill is allowed to be a higher factor of growth, I propose a talent board and weapon’s and equipment would unlock certain universal talents instead of adding numbers, then you can re-roll these talents for a chance of something different the price getting progressively higher and requiring materials. That way new items are always interesting instead of getting trash gear all the time then when an expansion comes you can just add new effects and talents instead of more numbers and having to balance algorithms giving you more time to make greater content.

For Classes instead of adding more just make specializations that change access to unique talents designed for that unique spec. Like mages can switch over to a shaman, or Warriors to barbarian.

If you set up the system to just augment a base class then you are able to expand user choice over having to make a whole new class. We already can use a single character to play any class on a whim by swapping gear and because of this I feel it would make the most difference.

The future of Orbus is so promising, so full of potential and it’s already an awesome game that it can only get better the more we think hard about what potential we can show and looking further than the novelty of waving our hands around. I understand that Orbus isn’t big and sure this post will die in obscurity but I really just want to make you all think about what could be and how we can help each other through conversation and ideological disagreement.

Seriously, thank you for reading my thoughts it means a lot to me.

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Hey Emb3rfyre, I enjoyed reading through your well written thoughts on the game! Welcome to the community!

To get the conversation rolling it sounds like you have a few primary issues you are looking to address here (please correct me if the following isn’t accurate):

  • Repetitiveness of combat gameplay
    and
  • Power disparity / Content rot as the game matures

And your proposed solutions/changes are:

  • Branching hybridization/specialization as opposed to static classes
    and
  • Wider pool of comparably powered gear with various effects as opposed to progressively more powerful gear

Please let me know if you feel that is an accurate summation… I don’t want to give a bunch of thoughts if I’m misrepresenting your positions.

(As a side note, and not to be antagonistic but it kinda looks like you replied to yourself to bump the thread because of a single reply to another thread, which is generally considered kinda tacky)

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Thanks for replying Draven! I’m super excited you commented.
Yeah, small oversight on my part I’m rather new at posting forums so thank you a ton for letting me know.

So let’s address those thoughts.

My solution to repetition was the addition of making every move part of a modular system that allows people to utilize actions as chains of effects rather than pre-programmed recognition as a chain of inputs. Meaning people can come up with attack styles and play with attack theories. (This is then compounded by the weapon/gear changing what those effects are or how they work with other effects)

Content rot was in my mind my most pressing issue, as that’s kind of what I see when we have a leveling system and end game pushing us gear wise to 21. (This is what happened to Destiny 1 and when they expanded all the old raids were trivialized not to mention WoW and many other games)
The solution to content rot was change how stats work, change the leveling system, weapons don’t need a larger variety just how they are used is what should be addressed, I like breaking down the weapons and how that plays into other crafting disciplines but it would be far greater to player value if numbers didn’t decide immediately what was the best. Leaving that to rarity and the talents the items come with.

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While this all sounds cool and complex I don’t think any of this would be put into effect as the game goes live in a week

Hey Logan!

Exactly! But the game is going Early Access, and therefore is still subject to change, not everything is in the game and there will always be more to add.

I wanted to put my thoughts out there so people can think about it. I am already lamenting I never found Orbus Sooner because this game is already pushing boundaries in the genre and moving forward the big picture of VR games needs to have good examples of forward thinking so we are not stuck with simple pvp shooters to play in VR. We have the ability as a community along with the devs to really make a change in how VR is perceived. Early access is the start, the Oculus home is a start and it’s visibility will only increase if we the community push it outwards.

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The game has been in development for over a year. The stages were pre-alpha (testing class ideas), alpha (building core game mechanics), beta (building secondary mechanics and adding content), and now EA (adding more content, polishing and finishing current content). We’re waaaay past creating new systems.

Hey Corbin,

You’ve got some really great stuff mixed in there. You look like you put a lot of effort into this post, and I only have one suggestion about it all - I’d do as much research as I could on the game you’re specifically addressing as possible to assist in the suggestions/advice you give. Looks like you are missing some important bits of info on Orbus and it’s future, for example how Shard Dungeons will work based on your mention of trivializing older content like Destiny raids. The blog posts from the devs are a great read, and you can watch 2 interviews with Riley and Master Shadow on YouTube :slight_smile:

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That’s a pretty fast development time, and I suppose I can only shrug and say that I was rather late to the party.

Thanks for putting the timeline into perspective, I really had no clue that it really was in the finalization phase.

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Thanks for letting me know Luv, I thought I knew as much as I could about this game and I suppose I’m finding more every second!

I’m now looking forward to look up those interviews

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I’ll save you some searching, if you haven’t already looked it up.

It’s all good. “Early Access” can feel misleading because of the wide variety of quality in recent early access games. Some people feel they should be AAA quality going into EA while others think of them as more of a proof of concept. The spectrum is really wide I can understand the confusion.

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I’m honestly amazed at how well they’ve done with just a year of development. Thank you a ton for the clarification.

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A few general thoughts on this discussion to toss into the mix:

Combat Repetitiveness

  • They moved runemage to be an unlocked class due to the complexity and practice needed for players to get up to speed with it.
  • The overwhelming general feedback regarding the new player experience for all classes was to focus on the basics.
  • With the challenges of getting players up to speed on the existing mechanics, any type of dynamic player-defined ability customization system would almost definitely need to be an end-game system, and for the launch of the game, their focus has been on the new player experience, which makes total sense.
  • They’ve said on a number of occasions that they are planning on exploring additional progression models for end-game players in the long run, but haven’t wanted to give many specifics at this point for good reason.
  • The higher level you go, the more complex the monster encounters become, which is the other half of the combat repetitiveness equation. The difference in combat between Fighting world bosses vs fighting each type of aberration vs various dungeon bosses, vs various overland trash is often pretty immense, and helps keeps thing fresh and interesting.
  • Weapon Affixes are very close to what you are describing, and help change things up further. (More on them below)
  • The runesmithing system, is something the devs have spoken about expanding to allow players to customize their bonuses based on their gameplay patterns. Right now runesmithed tilesets only increase damage, but this could easily be expanded to affect pretty much any and all elements of gameplay in a player-driven dynamic fashion, and I suspect get you a lot of what you are looking for.

Content Rot
This is a really tricky one which countless games, MMO and otherwise, have tried to tackle in a number of ways. Some games have absolute values of progression, where once you level past a piece of content, it is effectively mechanically worthless to you forever, whereas other games have scaled everything everywhere no matter what level you are. There are critically and financially successful games following both extremes of this model as well as a number of hybrid approaches, which suggests to me that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, as much as making sure it makes sense for the game as determined by the developer.

I do believe that things like the shard dungeons will help keep things fresh, as will the PvP wilds for players to go up against each other. Personally as a player, I strongly prefer power progression over having a ton of different builds as I enjoy getting more and more objectively powerful compared to various enemies. I do realize the challenge this introduces for keeping content relevant, though my preference to handle that is to have a small percentage of aspirational content (like raids) so you can get the majority of your progression relatively quickly (through the standard content) and then you need to work at for a while (on raid progression) to get that last bit.

That being said, I think their approach to having epic Affix weapons provides a lot of that lateral itemization and gameplay you are looking for. (Affixes are special powers/enchantments epic and legendary weapons can drop with that can radically affect how you play your class. They are intended to be roughly comparable in power, so it comes down to your play style, preferences, build, rotation, etc).

At a fundamental level, I do agree that it’s important to keep both combat and content fresh and engaging, but I don’t know that the right approach for the game is to introduce robust player-driven ability modularity (especially before end-game) or to dramatically limit power progression.

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