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Under The Hood: The Ouroboros System

James Murff

In most MMOs, once you hit a certain level, quests from before you hit that level turn useless and defunct. This sort of mechanic keeps players from going back and experiencing old stories because they leveled too fast, and really detracts from the overall feel of a game. What if I wanted to go back and play old quests (World of Warcraft, I'm looking right at you) and get some reward for them? Well, thankfully, City of Heroes/Villains has just implemented the Ouroboros System to allow you to go back and play previous missions you couldn't. But how is this going to affect the industry?

Anyone who has played World of Warcraft for the story knows the feeling. Maybe you reached the next level a little too fast, or you didn't have access to an area before you were too high. This is a problem with all MMOs that cut off quests at a certain level. And was a problem in CoX. At least until Issue 11 came out. Simply put, the Ouroboros System is a way for players to go back in time and earn badges and perform story arcs they couldn't before, either because of choice or because of level.

In CoX, when you choose your initial contact, it affects a lot of the story arcs available to you. People were missing out on certain badges or souvenirs they either needed or wanted. The Ouroboros System gives them the chance to get badges and souvenirs for certain story arcs they couldn't access previously by instancing the story arc and having the players play the missions in linear order. And you don't play them at your current level either. You play them at the level they are for, thus ensuring both more of a challenge and the ability to gain far greater infamy (cash) and work off debt incredibly quickly.

This new mechanic also introduced new challenges for players in the form of "modifiers". They are challenges you can tack on to the mission to increase the difficulty level and obtain other badges specific to those modifiers. This adds a whole new level to the system, giving it much more replayability. Some challenges are only reasonable in groups, too, so it does encourage group play.

This is a system I'd like to see in more MMOs. It's fun, easy to use, allows players to revisit quests that they missed, and helps to highlight CoX's excellent grouping system. Keeping in line with what I said in my very first article ever, it most importantly helps players to experience the story and the setting far better than just about any other mechanic.

As far as how it affects the industry, well, that's a no-brainer. If the system is a success, it will help pave the way for more MMOs to incorporate a mechanic to allow players to revisit the past story that they, through some way or another, missed.

So what are your thoughts on this sort of system? Want to see a widespread revival? Or is it just a load of garbage?

Each week James Murff writes Under The Hood, a deeper look at game mechanics and how they affect players, games, and the industry

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