Originally posted January 2007

Applicable To: Any massive multiplayer game with abilities (especially buff/healing potions) that need to be put on some kind of arbitrary timer so all challenges can’t be overcome by spamming a button/item. This has probably been implemented before, but I don’t have an example so I’m putting it here for my own memory 🙂 .

All consumable healing/buff items display a colored background that defaults to green. This may also include powers/abilities with a negligible resources cost to the player that are normally limited by hard cooldowns.

Each such item can be either diminishing or damaging. Diminishing items are never harmful to the character, but become increasingly less effective when used repeatedly in a time period. Damaging items may or may not damage attributes with the first use, but they become increasingly damaging with each additional use in a time period. Damaging items may or may not be diminishing (particularly potent buffs should probably diminish and damage).

Each such item has a percent effectiveness/damage rating, a use modifier, and a recovery rate.

Diminishing items start at 100% of their full potential. Their use modifier is the percentage reduced with each use, and may be a compounding percent (e.g., each use may remove a flat 20%, resulting in 5 uses to 0%, or a relative 20%, resulting in 80%, 64%, 51%, 41%, 33%, and so on, never actually quite reaching 0%). Their recovery rate is expressed in percentage recovered per second until returning to 100%, and may also be a compounding percent (with a flat recovery rate, there is a chance of a sweet spot where it’s advantageous to use the item every second rather than waiting for it to return to 100%, with a percentage recovery rate it may be harder to visually track how much time is left to return to full potency.).

Damaging items that are safe on their first use start at 0 damage/cost to a specific attribute. Damaging items that exact a penalty even on the first use start greater than 0. Their use modifier is the percentage the damage is increased with each use, and may be a compounding percent, or may need to be an actual number if starting at 0 (since it’s not useful to increase 0 by a percent). Their recovery rate is expressed in a percentage reduced per second until returning to the original percentage, and also may be a compounding percent.

For diminishing items, the colored background for the item begins green, and shifts to yellow and then red relative to the current percentage effectiveness. There may be a WoW-style visual clock-wipe timer to indicate when the item will return to a higher level of potency.

For damaging items, the colored background for the item begins green if there is no initial penalty or yellow if there is a small initial penalty. After the first use, the background becomes yellow or red, depending on the severity of the second-use penalty. The item then goes in the red to indicate that continuing use will have continuing penalties. As with diminishing returns, there may be a clock timer to indicate when the penalties will be gone.

Disadvantages of this MGI:

  • Harder to code than a simple cooldown period for items, and requires the server to track cooldown at a variable rate (however, WoW already does most of this for every character power with a cooldown, so it’s probably not that intensive)
  • Players may feel obliged to use more consumables, since there’s no hard cooldown to indicate how frequently a consumable is supposed to be used
  • Inattentive players may wind up seriously injuring their characters by using damaging consumables too frequently in a period
  • It may be less intuitive to balance the effects of cooldown items/abilities than with a hard cooldown; does the 100% effect need to be reduced to compensate for more uses in the period, or can the same effect be achieved by tweaking the modifier and recovery rates?

Advantages of this MGI:

  • Players are not arbitrarily limited by a bad timing choice with a consumable (e.g., a healing potion can be used at reduced effectiveness as a last measure to cheat death even if it was used for a big heal recently)
  • Players (like me!) that are disinclined to use consumables/cooldown abilities for fear that they will be unavailable due to cooldown when they’re really needed can risk a diminishing return instead of total inability to use the item/ability.
  • Players gain an increased feeling of choice regarding their use of cooldown items/abilities
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