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What is Parasitic Design?

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Redlynne
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What is Parasitic Design?

Recommended viewing for any and every game developer.


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Terwyn
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Thank you.

Thank you.

It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of community.

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Redlynne
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Terwyn wrote:
Terwyn wrote:

Thank you.

We make every pretense of competency around here ... ^_~


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Yes this was an interesting

Yes this was an interesting vid. The only quibble I had with it was the implication that a "parasitic system" could only happen when a game designer was effectively "lazy" and didn't put in the effort to fully integrate a new "feature creep" type feature into the core game. Instead I would contend that a "parasitic system" could also more generally result from any feature that ends up not being used as intended by the Devs.

Using TOG as the obvious example I could cite both the supergroup base raiding system and the mission architect as two examples of systems that the Devs put HUGE amounts of efforts into that ended up (for various reasons) barely used by the playerbase.

Remember the supergroup base raiding system in particular was always meant to be the foundational keystone of the entire CoV expansion. Unfortunately (as many of us know) that entire sub-system never worked well enough to be used and consequentially screwed over the Devs' expectations for how the supergroup bases were going to be used in general. It essentially became a "parasitic system" even though the Devs always intended/planned for it to be a core feature of the game.

The mission architect also suffered from a huge amount of Dev effort that didn't get used by the playerbase as intended. Due to relatively poor design the MA got forever mired in the "power leveling" farming controversies. It ended up being another case of Devs spending a large amount of "non-lazy" effort to make a new feature that didn't pan out as intended.

So I wouldn't say parasitic systems only come from Dev laziness to plan properly. They could also arise when the Devs spend large amounts of effort on something that (for whatever reason) don't end up working as intended and thus get sidelined.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Tannim222
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One of the questions I ask

One of the questions I ask when evaluating a system or mechanic is, “What other systems or mechanics does this impact or interact with?”. Usually this is followed by, “is this useful?”.

What follows is a series of other questions that help me wade through design decisions. I can’t tell what will happen far into the future for this game, but for now, I’m doing my best to make sure all of our systems and mechanics benefit from interactions with one another that are useful for the game as a whole.


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Redlynne
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Tannim222 wrote:
Tannim222 wrote:

I’m doing my best to make sure all of our systems and mechanics benefit from interactions with one another that are useful for the game as a whole.

Which is exactly what needs to be happening and is the best we can ask for, honestly.


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Being a player of Magic for

Being a player of Magic for like 25 years now, I can say that parasitic mechanics like Splice onto Arcane have, at least for that game, been pretty harmless for the most part. You took an existing card that was ok, then added a splice bit to it, made it cost a little more mana, and you had a brand new card. The times when MtG invented new cards and mechanics that were too overpowered and ended up getting banned were usually things that were evergreen and just too efficient for their mana cost, or interacted with existing cards so as to allow very OP synergistic plays that were never intended. One of MAgic's biggest problems, for designers, is the fact that eternal formats exist and every new card made might end up in a deck with cards made 20 years ago that were made for an environment where the new card didn't exist and was never even conceived of.

For MMOs, I think it's ok to make parasitic content if the intention is to mobilize and motivate the players to play the game for a while. Like, if this year's big new DLC is "stop the giant monsters from destroying the city" and you have to do quests and Task Forces and raids to do that, and they introduce some new thing that's like the kryptonite you need to defeat those particular monsters, for as long and that DLC is live and playable, then fine. Then next year there will be a new DLC and you'll have to stop the crazy robots from destroying the city, and you'll need to do the new DLC content to grind for whatever you need to stop them.

If that's happens, fine. You don't have to integrate every new DLC's mechanics into the game is such as way that taking it out will be impossible or problematic.

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Radiac wrote:
Radiac wrote:

One of MAgic's biggest problems, for designers, is the fact that eternal formats exist and every new card made might end up in a deck with cards made 20 years ago that were made for an environment where the new card didn't exist and was never even conceived of.

I actively played Magic for its first 5 or 6 years and even in that time span it started to seem that every new expansion provided several new cards that somehow "broke" the existing set of cards enough that special rules and/or exemptions were having to be made to account for them. Frankly even though I still like the game overall it was the constant periodic expansions that proved to be one of the key reasons my friends and I eventually grew out of it. Just took too much effort to stay "up-to-date" with it. I still have maybe 15k cards (including several unopened expansion boxes) securely stored in a closet somewhere that haven't been touched in the better part of 20 years - I'll bet some of them are actually worth some serious money now. ;)

Radiac wrote:

For MMOs, I think it's ok to make parasitic content if the intention is to mobilize and motivate the players to play the game for a while. Like, if this year's big new DLC is "stop the giant monsters from destroying the city" and you have to do quests and Task Forces and raids to do that, and they introduce some new thing that's like the kryptonite you need to defeat those particular monsters, for as long and that DLC is live and playable, then fine. Then next year there will be a new DLC and you'll have to stop the crazy robots from destroying the city, and you'll need to do the new DLC content to grind for whatever you need to stop them.

If that's happens, fine. You don't have to integrate every new DLC's mechanics into the game is such as way that taking it out will be impossible or problematic.

One could easily make the case that a game feature could be both "parasitic" and "fun" at the same time. Just because something might be labeled parasitic by definition doesn't automatically mean it has no value or is universally "bad" for everyone.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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[/quote=Radiac] For MMOs, I
Radiac wrote:

For MMOs, I think it's ok to make parasitic content if the intention is to mobilize and motivate the players to play the game for a while. Like, if this year's big new DLC is "stop the giant monsters from destroying the city" and you have to do quests and Task Forces and raids to do that, and they introduce some new thing that's like the kryptonite you need to defeat those particular monsters, for as long and that DLC is live and playable, then fine. Then next year there will be a new DLC and you'll have to stop the crazy robots from destroying the city, and you'll need to do the new DLC content to grind for whatever you need to stop them.

I personally view the difference between say, a seasonal currency, and a currency required for improving a character which can affect how it plays in the entire game, but the only way to gain it is through end game content to be very different “parasites”.

The first can be ok because it is there for that time, adds something unique to the season of play, may come back around again at some point, and can get players into playing the game in general.

The second though, to me, is truly parasitic in that it funnels players into a very small portion of the game but the effects can be experienced game-wide. Which can be unhealthy for a game. It might get a few more players into your limited amount of “end game content”, but the majority will not and then disparity of performance can have a negative impact on your player community.

Not to mention, players will chew through pve end game content in an MMO faster than a dev team can crank out more of in order to keep if fresh and interesting. So what to dev teams do that use this method of design? Well, the video touched on it, like in WoW, make the next expansion require a new currency or mechanic to improve your character that has nothing to do with the previous. The results of which has been each new rxpansionnlosing players instead of keeping them engaged or adding new ones.


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Lothic wrote:
Lothic wrote:

stored in a closet somewhere that haven't been touched in the better part of 20 years - I'll bet some of them are actually worth some serious money now.

I thought the same of my collection and actually just recently checked. Outside of one or two, you probably won't see any worth more than 5 or 6 dollars.

In a 15k collection, you might get a few of those 5 dollar ones, that's about it.

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Isn't that the problem with

Isn't that the problem with something that is inherently collectible? Everyone's got mint specimens stored somewhere. Show me a 1980 printing of Dieties and Demigods with the Cthulu mythos in it, that nobody thought needed to be collected, and I'll show you something with value.


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Lothic
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warlocc wrote:
warlocc wrote:
Lothic wrote:

stored in a closet somewhere that haven't been touched in the better part of 20 years - I'll bet some of them are actually worth some serious money now.

I thought the same of my collection and actually just recently checked. Outside of one or two, you probably won't see any worth more than 5 or 6 dollars.

In a 15k collection, you might get a few of those 5 dollar ones, that's about it.

Yeah I'm aware that out of my big Magic collection that roughly 95% of it is probably not worth a penny each. Obviously thousands of those cards are just basic land and other commons that I have dozens of duplicates of.

But when I was actively involved in it I was a pretty big collector of rare cards. For instance I have Moxes and other rare dual lands. I have a handful of other random Alpha/Beta cards that are valuable just for being Alpha/Beta. As I mentioned I also have several completely un-opened boxes of expansion cards that have been out of print for decades - I'm sure I can get a good price for all of those.

So out of my entire collection I might only have a few hundred cards that are significantly valuable but several dozen of those are easily still in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars range. Besides it's not like I have to sell any of them right now so I could always wait until I find someone willing to pay a premium.

Huckleberry wrote:

Isn't that the problem with something that is inherently collectible? Everyone's got mint specimens stored somewhere. Show me a 1980 printing of Dieties and Demigods with the Cthulu mythos in it, that nobody thought needed to be collected, and I'll show you something with value.

I actually have TWO of those. ;)

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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Magic card prices spiked

Magic card prices spiked during the pandemic for some reason. I got a Metalworker for ~$12 like three years ago, they're selling for a list price of like $150 now. Anything that's on the reserve list is totally insane, white border Savannah is $300, Underground Sea is $900. Gaea's Cradle is like $1000, FOIL Gaea's Cradle is like $3000. Mox Emerald is like $2000. I can't IMAGINE who is paying those prices for that stuff, but those are the listed prices, ballpark, according to my cell phone app.

And back on the subject of parasitic MMO DLC. You've got two options:

1. Make new DLC and keep it and all of it's gear etc forever. This requires a lot of backward compatibility. Not only does the current new DLC being designed have to be backward compatible with the base game, but any additional future DLC will have to be backward compatible with the base game and all past DLC, which snowballs over time. This is like Magic's Eternal Formats, like Commander/EDH and Vintage/Legacy. Every time you make something new, it might make something old that WAS worthless a lot more valuable. Like when they printed Bridge from Below and all of the sudden people started paying big money for Lion's Eye Diamond and Bazaar of Baghdad. In an online game, there's the possibility of the new + old code = crash though.

2. Make new DLC that is designed to be rolled out, played for some amount of time, then mothballed or just deleted permanently. In this case, the base game will have it's current DLC landscape changed over time such that it's constantly evolving, but no DLC is ever permanent. This is like the Standard format in Magic. It always contains 2-3 years worth of the the most recent new sets, but nothing before that, so it's constantly refreshing itself. People hate that they have to constantly chase new cards, but in an MMO I think it works better.

Destiny 2, which is now on Steam apparently, has retired a bunch of content recently. The original Destiny 2 tutorial and main story, The Red War, is now gone, as are a few of the planets you could go to for that story. They also put the first two expansion, Mercury and Mars in "the vault" with it, so now only the newest three or so DLCs matter. I don't know how the people who spent time grinding for things like the Ikelos Shotgun feel about that, but it probably gives new players half a chance to not totally suck in PVP. That said, the story of the RPG PVE side of the MMO is really hard to grok now. On the one hand, The Red War story was really old and no longer really relevant to the main game, and on the other they replaced with with basically nothing. It is now as if City of Heroes had decided to delete all of the Outbreak/BreakOut missions and just throw every new player into a Death From Below from character creation. Newbies don't know what to do or where to go, and you have to buy the expansions to be able to do much more than just basic open world stuff. So for a Magic analogy, it's now as if they took away all cards more than 2 years old and the only format that can be played is Standard, and you need cards from the new packs that are in stores right now to be able to do anything fun with other players.

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Here's an idea:

Here's an idea:

Make a new DLC expansion every year, and only keep the last three years worth of DLC in the game at any given time. So like, every summer when you roll out this year's hot new DLC, you retire the one that would be 4 years old. Then, tell people that if they want to buy the current "on its way out" DLC, they can get a pre-order of the new DLC with the thing it's replacing as a freebie thrown in for the pre-buy of the new thing that isn't ready yet. That way you can play the old DLC while it's still in the game AND the new content when it rolls out and replaces the old thing. And of course the other two DLC expansions will still be a purchase to make. That and the Deluxe PAckage which contains EEEVERYTHANG including the pre-buy of the next DLC if it's in the Coming Soon (TM) state.

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This got me to thinking,

This got me to thinking, which hurts sometimes.

It has been said by MWM on many occasions that CoT will exhibit horizontal progression rather that the unlimited power advancement we see in most other RPG and MMORPG. So what is horizontal progression? And what does it have to do with parasitic systems?

    First, let's go into what's all included in character advancement:
  1. Character level
  2. Enhancements and Refinements
  3. Renown (how well known you are as a hero or villain)
  4. Reputation(with the various factions)

I'm not going to discuss Alignment because I think it is broken as MWM have introduced it so far. Until I see actual details about how the alignment system will actually work mechanically, I'll consider it still broken and defunct.

In order:
1) Character level. Will Character level continue to rise as more content is created? I'm going to go out on a limb and say "No." I think the game will be designed for an established balance at a certain level cap, and it will stay there for the foreseeable future. Having said that, however, I do see MWM perhaps using masteries as a way of adding character progression beyond level cap. So while additional levels of mastery will add some power creep (most especially in group content) it is more in keeping with horizontal progression.

2) Enhancements and Refinements. This is where MWM can perform much of their fine-tuning for balance. By introducing new enhancement sets and refinements, they can effectively adjust the balance of power between attack and defense, damage and resistance, controls and willpower, etc. Furthermore, with each new DLC, they can also add new ingredients that can maybe only be found in the new area. These ingredients may only be useful for new recipes, or they may be useful for any selection of recipes. Regardless, this would NOT be parasitic design, because enhancements and refinements are holistically interlinked with the entire game system from the first most basic powers we get to the highest most advanced.

3) Renown. CoT can continue to add levels of renown over the life of the game. High enough renown can get the attention of celestial or infernal entities, for instance; or grant eligibility to missions from a national or world level organization. Would content behind a renown wall be considered Parasitic? I don't think so. In order to increase the renown of characters, players would play existing content to farm their renown. A single character should be able to play content for all the renown levels merely by making gameplay choices going deep into one renown category and then back and into another and so on until they've done it for each. Missions and rewards associated with renown, therefore, would NOT be parasitic.

4) Reputation with factions. It is highly likely to the point of being assured that new content will introduce new factions with reputation to farm. These new factions will be able to grant new missions, new enhancements and refinements, new costume items, and new opportunities to adjust our characters' renown. They might even introduce new trainers for advanced mastery levels. Nothing about this seems like parasitic design.

Besides character advancement, there is also the introduction of new power sets.

It would NOT be parasitic if the new power sets were in addition to the existing power sets and used all the same enhancements and refinements (even if it introduces a new capability that necessitates a new flavor of enhancement). Any new power set like this would be integrated into the entire game by necessity.
What WOULD be parasitic design would be if new content introduced a new slate of powers/abilities that needed to be equipped by all characters in order to combat new enemies and only those new enemies. I think there is a fine line between a mini-game in which you have to gather a special resource in order to beat it, and a parasitic system that requires it to keep playing. A very fine line.

In summary, I think CoT's nature as a horizontal progression system just about precludes most parasitic systems from even becoming an issue. By its very nature, all "new" things must integrate into the whole.


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Horizontal progression is

Horizontal progression is pretty popular in the corporate world. Let me develop myself in Research, Consulting, Sales, Customer Care and Content, a few years in each. And you won't have to pay me more because I'm always learning!

Dammit, they're right tho.

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I don't collect MTG cards....

I don't collect MTG cards.... but I will admit that I still have my Pokemon cards from decades back, one of which is a 1st set Holographic Charizard.

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please, just don't add level

please, just don't add level syncing. i can't stand it and won't play games with it.