Game Design Snippet 2: Companions in World of Warcraft

This was inspired in part by Ultima VII*, but mostly by Warcrafts I-III.

Disclaimer: I haven’t played WoW hardly at all, mostly due to the fact that until recently I didn’t have a computer that could run the game and connect to the internet at the same time. Instead, I have simply played Warcraft I-III a lot. However, I have been keeping up with what people have been saying and I did buy the revised WoW guide. (In part because I collect game guides for games I don’t own. But that’s another post.) Anyway…

In WoW every Hero is essentially independent from the rest of the World. Yes, there are guilds. Yes there are raids. But let me ask you this: do raids in WoW look like missions in Warcraft III? What’s missing?

SUPPORT CHARACTERS. Let’s get rid of Professions altogether in WoW (or WoW2). Yes, you read that right. Let’s get rid of Professions and delegate out the abilities that Professions give you to other characters. I mean seriously: Paladin Miners? Huh!? Let’s change that to “Paladin And His Miner Buddy”. Now that’s more like the world of Warcraft that I’m familiar with.

Companion Characters would be NPCs that become attached to you through quests early in the game. There would be a “rescue the peasant/peon” quest that gets you the option to recruit that Peasant Companion. There would be a “Try my new potion out in battle” quest that gets you the option to recruit that Alchemist.

There would be Companions based on Warcraft III units, such as the Soldier Companion. Soldiers wouldn’t be as good as Warriors, but they’d be there to help heroes that are weak in close combat abilities. Likewise, Healers wouldn’t be as good as Priests, but for heroes that have no healing ability, they’d be invaluable. These Companions wouldn’t go on Raids, but would be there to provide an alternative to huge raiding parties.

Having Companions as separate characters allows you to tell them to do things while you’re not bringing them along. You could tell your miner to “Go mine nearby” and he’ll do it. However, if you happen to be in an area that has good mineral veins (or however it works in WoW) and you bring him along, you’ll get more minerals than what he’d likely bring back otherwise. You might have to fend off wandering monsters while he’s doing your dirty work, but it’s worth it for the silver, right?

You could also have your Companions team with other heroes’ companions (maybe within the guild structure) with your miners automatically passing their minerals onto the group’s blacksmiths and engineers and everyone getting a cut of the profit. These teams would also take Crafting Requests for specific orders, though exactly how this would work in an NPC-team- working-for-heroes dynamic might be tricky.

For those that really love to do a particular profession themselves, we could split the difference: allow Heroes to have ONE Profession each, and one or two companions at a time. It keeps the mini-team dynamic and still allows the heroes to have a hobby each.

When I first heard of Professions, it just seemed weird that Hero characters would have to do NPC jobs in WoW instead of getting NPCs to do them. You don’t see Arthas mining in WC3, right? Well this is the way I would have done things if I was in charge of WoW.

*Specifically, the fact that U7 is a game where you play an awesome hero, but not so awesome a hero that you don’t need and appreciate the usefulness of your companions. (Which is the biggest reason why U8 and U9 pale in comparison to U7)

All Game Design Snippets copyright (C) 2008 Matthew Mather. World of Warcraft used for illustration.

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