I have been a longtime fan of Cataclysm DDA for years now, counting it as one of my favourite games. While I’m really enjoying the core game and it’s countless great mods and looking forward to every new release of it, there is one aspect of it that I don’t like:
The lack of a real end goal for my character’s journey that keeps me motivated.
I know that I’m not the only one thinking this way.
While I understand that Cataclysm is a sandbox game and lets players choose their own goals, there are definitive benefits of a long term purpose on the horizon that keeps you going, even when you are failing many times, to finally achieve it.
I am fully aware that this is my own preference and not binding for anyone else, but reading in this forum keeps me guessing that there is a number of players, especially new ones, that could be easily driven away by the fact that there is no real end goal besides surviving and no real obligation to scout and brave the more dangerous (and interesting) places of the game world besides curiosity, boredom and a deathwish.
Basic surviving can be done with absolute minimal risks and (from what I’ve read and experienced myself) often leaves players with not much else to do after a while besides setting personal goals for themselves.
Therefore I think the game would improve by a significant amount if there was a given end goal that a player can choose to achieve if they want to and simply ignore and do whatever they want if that is more to their liking.
This end goal should (in my opinion) encompass every major achievement in the game, so every player getting this far can be sure that they have seen and conquered every wonder and horror there is in their version of the game.
There was a mod that tried to do something like this: The Ascension Mod by trelatyraelis / tyrael93
This mod let the player build an altar out of the remains of the hardest enemies in the game (most of them from mods like PK’s Rebalancing) and some other rare objects that could be found in the most dangerous places in the game world.
Getting all this trophies without dying in horrible ways was a real challenge and it made looting, building, training skills and recruiting allies so much more rewarding because you always knew why you were doing it.
Leading a squad of mutants and cyborgs into a desperate battle against a giant hell-mecha-spider to get it’s radioactive brain (if I remember correctly) as the last piece of your altar-of-being-epic was something that kept me going for weeks with the same character without ever feeling lost or demotivated.
This mod was awesome!
I really can’t stress enough what a huge difference that one mod made for me.
The completion of the altar and the elixir that could be created with it did not even lead to an especially rewarding ending (it was more of a joke) but having a reason to prepare epic assaults on deadly monster lairs, with ingame weeks of work beforehand to improve the odds of coming back alive with the trophy, was a reward in itself.
Unfortunately the mod seems abandoned and broken in it’s current state but the idea behind it could make the game so much more rewarding and fun for so many goal-driven players.
My idea for this improvement would look like this:
Give the player the ability to build an altar or something similar, like the one in the Ascension Mod.
The altar is constructed out of different objects that I will call Ascension Keys (ACs) in this text.
There should be different types of ACs to keep it interesting and they have to be indestructible.
This includes, but is not limited to:
Trophies from very dangerous monsters or even unique bosses (drop chance of these should always be 100%)
Special objects from all the different factions in the game (can be obtained by completing their quest lines to the end or, if the player chooses to do so, by anihilating their base and leader)
Strange objects that can be found at different lab finales, strange temples, amigara vaults or similar places (as a reward for successful exploration)
Randomly generated artifacts as a foundation for the altar (maybe 5 – 10)
There should be no mindless grinding involved in obtaining ACs in order to keep a sense of adventure.
This system would be as modular as the game itself, allowing different mods to add their own ACs into the mix (I think of Magiclysm, Arcana, Xedra and other large modpacks).
The altar a player could construct out of their trophies would really be an accomplishment made out of accomplishments and it’s completion would indicate that they have reached every milestone there is (killing the mightiest foes, doing all major quest lines, exploring all special places and surviving all of that).
Considering the lore of the game I know that there is no real good ending for humanity in the cards, so the ingame motivation to build the altar should not be the reversal of the cataclysm or it’s effects. If I had to choose a reason for anyone even trying to build something like this while the world is going to hell, it would probably be something like creating a small pocket in time and space, where the cosmic powers at work have a kind of blind spot (provided by the altar), which makes the surrounding land more stable, secure and thus better for survivors to build a new home.
This would not stop the Blob or anyone else to continue with whatever they’re doing, it would just make hell a bit more bearable.
Or, you know, one could just show off with it.
This is only a draft of an idea, but I think it would be the most elegant solution to the afore-mentioned problem. The altar would be a checklist as well as a trophy in itself, providing guidance to newer players and preventing them from feeling lost or, even worse, bored. Neither the altar nor the ACs change the core of the game, so they can be ignored by freestyle players that don’t want them. Nobody loses anything, but many players, old and new, would have more purpose and motivation to use the countless tools the game provides towards a fulfilling goal.
I don’t have the knowledge or abilities to make this a reality by myself but maybe there are others that find this idea interesting enough to implement it into the base game or a mod.
Feel free to use and adapt it to your heart’s content.