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Core Mechanics, Content Gating, Sandboxes, and Radical Change


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#1 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 927

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 01:03 AM

In the mmorpg I am attempting to make I am going nuts with sandbox features. I want to have role play and mainly player driven content and no set story line. At most the game provides some mainly singular possible plot events for players to integrate into their personal in game story. I think that in some cases sandboxes are hindered by rpg conventions that were often technologically mandated or simply never questioned.
I want to remove the distance=danger equation from games where there is a starting point and as you move further from it everything gets harder. Higher level monsters, better res spawns, finding powerful items and spells.

My game utilizes as some may now a system where by whenever a player first enters a given world they have 2 possibilities. Either a new "rift" spawns or an existing rift levels up. Which effect happens is determined randomly and rifts are placed randomly in the world on creation with a few restrictions that aren't incredibly relevant here. Creatures spawned from the rift move away every time cycle by an amount based on their power. Weaker creatures move away much faster. Creatures have a chance to nest every time they move based on factors like creature type, creature power, terrain type and number of creatures of that type previously nesting in the area. This creates a situation where there are loci of powerful creatures but the majority of the world, depending on the number and level of rifts and player actions are mostly areas of low to medium danger. This means that players may travel the world mostly freely and establish towns anywhere. Ideally players will spread out settlements although I expect the largest "city" to be based around the starting area. Further based upon dynamic events, nesting, and new rift spawns, as well as resource spawns and some dynamic events involving uncovering ruins and caves and the like no area will ever be the same. Even when you travel across old well known establishes paths you may find something new or interesting. There is no instant travel for humans in the game, except maybe maybe about high high level mages who are lucky enough to find words of power related to relocation, but maybe not at all. There is a system of faster item transit and possibly a mount system, again this is restricted to powerful mages who can summon or trap mount worthy pets, and people who can afford to rent or buy those travel services. In some cases guilds may be able to afford these services by pooling funds. The idea is to have all areas of the world be relevant to all levels of players and to create journies, and also to facilitate possible player quests, like maybe a far away player city or guild will hire someone to defeat a powerful creature and what not. It also stimulates a local economy and transport system for traders and merchants.

The game will also posses some possible special event systems which can reward certain participating players with Epithets for their achievements, these come with a prestige value as well as small bonuses and effects in some cases, or in special cases large and powerful bonuses, although nothing that can break the game.
In one example a player might find while exploring some ruins, instead of the standard tomes containing words of power or average finished spells, an item called a book, which contains a ritual, for this example the Ritual of Storms.

This ritual allows a players the option of exchanging permadeath of their character for a powerful and meaningful effect. In this case the Ritual of Storms uses the players soul, aka a value derived from their total skills/magic power, to release a Soul Storm which can deal powerful damage to a pve army. For instance a single city may be man's last outpost on one of the worlds and a Demon Army might come to exist as part of the game mechanics and the army will attack this last stronghold and attempt to remove mankind from the world. Assuming the world and possible allies are not sufficient to stop the army, the player with the ritual may give his life to weaken or destroy it so that his allies may prevail. The player will lose all of his skills and his possessions will revert to his guild. He will be reincarnated with an epithet, that provides a cool title and some small bonuses relevant to the storm theme, and his guildmates which were nearby will receive this epithet also, but possibly a weaker version.
That is one example of the type of collision of circumstance that could produce a special short story line. The player would of course have the option not to do this, we don't want to force anyone into permadeath.

Does anyone have other possible ideas to remove things or add things to the game to make it easier for sandbox players to construct a fun narrative? It might be a possible accessibility tool to provide small helper mechanics for less hardcore or experienced sandboxers and RPers to get into the game.

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#2 All Names Taken   Members   -  Reputation: 416

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 03:41 AM

From my limited experience of MMO's theres little you can do to 'force' your playerbase to roleplay ... some will come to the game with the intention of it and will find it fun, others wont and possibly don't want to (Usually its that majority that quelshes the former attempts). But perhaps you actually do have a 'story' or at least a 'history' as the players succeed or fail their deeds are recorded for all to see "Merlin defeated the mighty dragon of Fire Mountain in a titanic clash" "The Knights of Arthur guild established on this day their fortress in the city of Camelot" etc ... one of the things highly spoken of one MMO was that not only where you rewarded with loot, territory, experience from questing but you also got more and more of the story of the world (Asheron's Call?).

#3 ImpossibleDream   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 11:23 AM

I'm considering a lore system comprised of books and maps which are found as loot. I control the release or the rarer ones that progress the story of the game.

A player finds an uber rare ancient map that shows some sort of building in a certain location by obvious landmarks. If the player checks it out, it's hopefully obvious that the building on the map has been buried. Digging in the area turns up artifacts to encourage more digging, but to unearth the building requires the effort of an entire guild or public work project where anyone can join in. So a group of players eventually unearth the buried building, figure out how to open it, and out pours a black mist. The building was a prison to contain the smoke creature which is now loose to effect the entire game world.

At the same time, pages of ancient books are being found, some of which mention or give clues about the giant spreading shadow creature, it's history, and that it has a weakness against fire and light spells.
Some players will find these things and sell them to the Library for all to see, others will hoard them in their personal libraries for themselves and their guilds. One player may find a scroll on how to perform an ancient ritual, while another player finds a page for a book that mentions where the ritual must be performed, and another player finds a journal that mentions when it must be performed.

Not only does it create the scenario where a group of players can unwittingly unleash something that negatively effects the game world, but it also creates the opposite scenario. Where a player discovers a potential threat and works to stop it. That could involve some detective work, who's building what where, what guild just buying up all the death monks required for the massive ritual.

Of course if a player doesn't eventually trigger these events, larger and larger groups of monsters are going to keep trying until they pull it off.

Players could always dig something up at random without any maps or lore, but that would be unlikely due to the project size required to unearth something of that sort.

#4 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 927

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 12:17 PM

From my limited experience of MMO's theres little you can do to 'force' your playerbase to roleplay ... some will come to the game with the intention of it and will find it fun, others wont and possibly don't want to (Usually its that majority that quelshes the former attempts). But perhaps you actually do have a 'story' or at least a 'history' as the players succeed or fail their deeds are recorded for all to see "Merlin defeated the mighty dragon of Fire Mountain in a titanic clash" "The Knights of Arthur guild established on this day their fortress in the city of Camelot" etc ... one of the things highly spoken of one MMO was that not only where you rewarded with loot, territory, experience from questing but you also got more and more of the story of the world (Asheron's Call?).


You can't force players to roleplay. And I don't want to. I want to give people who want to roleplay some stuff to put in their stories. If people don't want to roleplay they don't have to. In any case there is more to the game than that. However players that expect to come to the game and get to high skill levels as a solo are going to be in some trouble. You have to socialize in this game because there are no npcs to get items and quests from.

#5 Caldenfor   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 01:03 PM

Perhaps instead of having "Rifts" you could just have enemy encampments/strongholds that spread out if not contained? Unless these rifts have strategic value to the world that you create it can be quite the nuisance. I originally thought it would be fun and entertaining in Rift, but sadly I just found them to be repetitive and annoying scattered randomly and without reason around the world. They became obstacles to walk around rather than a force I felt I must destroy.


Start with the basics and add to that. Please don't try and make a list of all the features you desire and then cram them in. They either fit or they don't, don't force it. Anyone working towards creating a deep sandbox game with an indie team should seriously consider orthographic/fixed camera 3d view.

#6 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 927

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 03:41 PM

Perhaps instead of having "Rifts" you could just have enemy encampments/strongholds that spread out if not contained? Unless these rifts have strategic value to the world that you create it can be quite the nuisance. I originally thought it would be fun and entertaining in Rift, but sadly I just found them to be repetitive and annoying scattered randomly and without reason around the world. They became obstacles to walk around rather than a force I felt I must destroy.


Start with the basics and add to that. Please don't try and make a list of all the features you desire and then cram them in. They either fit or they don't, don't force it. Anyone working towards creating a deep sandbox game with an indie team should seriously consider orthographic/fixed camera 3d view.


Okay so a rift lowercase is no the same as the Rifts in Rift. Firstly an encampment means that the number of monsters is limited. A dimensional rift allows for a continuous flow of creatures. My rifts are permanent for one thing. You cannot "close them" at least not in the way you close one in Rift. Rifts are there to provide the persistent monster eco system and not the dynamic portion of the game. Instead of hand placing monsters and lairs and dungeons and raids they are generated by the program which is also used to assure that the composition of monsters in areas changes overtime and that as players progress in time through crafting and exploration and fighting and organizing the world becomes more dangerous to compensate.

I am not just listing the features. The ideas for feature grow in my mind organically as I discuss and ponder the game and then I look at each idea and say, should I do this? Does it fit with my lore? Is it sandboxy enough?

#7 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3416

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 04:03 PM

I always though design is about removing features, not adding them. The perfect design is the removal all features that are not critical to the fun from the game, not adding all that fit. But some would disagree I guess :)

As for roleplaying, there is a general theory that the fewer players the higher quality of roleplaying (one of Ralph Koster's laws IIRC). So if you really want to go that direction you should make a niche game. But then everyone wants to have as many players as possible, so they should discard roleplaying to achieve this... A hard choice.

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#8 ImmoralAtheist   Members   -  Reputation: 118

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 05:13 PM

I always though design is about removing features, not adding them. The perfect design is the removal all features that are not critical to the fun from the game, not adding all that fit. But some would disagree I guess :)

I dislike both those versions. I believe it's more like shaping it. You "shape out" all the details of the game. The various ideas you have would then be up for evaluation. Some parts might be removed, others might be added. So it's a combination of adding/removing/shaping features.

As for roleplaying, there is a general theory that the fewer players the higher quality of roleplaying (one of Ralph Koster's laws IIRC). So if you really want to go that direction you should make a niche game. But then everyone wants to have as many players as possible, so they should discard roleplaying to achieve this... A hard choice.

Define roleplaying. It's all about having the right mechanics. It doesn't need to be about playing another character. I often like to be a more anonymous character (Link fits here. Geralt in the Witcher is to "defined") where I get to do the decisions I want to do. I want to play "myself", just in another universe. To accomplish this you need to create the world/universe as interesting as possible. The world also needs to change. Skyrim has a generally interesting world (particulary due to various creature behaviours), but their stories are linear and completely independent from one another. In Gothic 2 you had to join one of 3 guilds, and you really got a sense of belonging to them. A feeling I did not get while playing Skyrim.

#9 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 927

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 06:13 PM

I always though design is about removing features, not adding them. The perfect design is the removal all features that are not critical to the fun from the game, not adding all that fit. But some would disagree I guess :)

As for roleplaying, there is a general theory that the fewer players the higher quality of roleplaying (one of Ralph Koster's laws IIRC). So if you really want to go that direction you should make a niche game. But then everyone wants to have as many players as possible, so they should discard roleplaying to achieve this... A hard choice.


I know what you think, because you tell me constantly, its not necessary to post the same opinion in all of my threads.

#10 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 927

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 06:17 PM


I always though design is about removing features, not adding them. The perfect design is the removal all features that are not critical to the fun from the game, not adding all that fit. But some would disagree I guess :)

I dislike both those versions. I believe it's more like shaping it. You "shape out" all the details of the game. The various ideas you have would then be up for evaluation. Some parts might be removed, others might be added. So it's a combination of adding/removing/shaping features.

This, this, this.

As for roleplaying, there is a general theory that the fewer players the higher quality of roleplaying (one of Ralph Koster's laws IIRC). So if you really want to go that direction you should make a niche game. But then everyone wants to have as many players as possible, so they should discard roleplaying to achieve this... A hard choice.

Define roleplaying. It's all about having the right mechanics. It doesn't need to be about playing another character. I often like to be a more anonymous character (Link fits here. Geralt in the Witcher is to "defined") where I get to do the decisions I want to do. I want to play "myself", just in another universe. To accomplish this you need to create the world/universe as interesting as possible. The world also needs to change. Skyrim has a generally interesting world (particulary due to various creature behaviours), but their stories are linear and completely independent from one another. In Gothic 2 you had to join one of 3 guilds, and you really got a sense of belonging to them. A feeling I did not get while playing Skyrim.


I like this thought also. I don't think the player has to be the massive world saving hero in every game. Its a massive multi player game, not everyone can be the main hero. And honestly most people are fine with that. Having set stories with npcs as the basis is a problem because they can never interact. Players can interact.

#11 Caldenfor   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 07:35 PM


Perhaps instead of having "Rifts" you could just have enemy encampments/strongholds that spread out if not contained? Unless these rifts have strategic value to the world that you create it can be quite the nuisance. I originally thought it would be fun and entertaining in Rift, but sadly I just found them to be repetitive and annoying scattered randomly and without reason around the world. They became obstacles to walk around rather than a force I felt I must destroy.


Start with the basics and add to that. Please don't try and make a list of all the features you desire and then cram them in. They either fit or they don't, don't force it. Anyone working towards creating a deep sandbox game with an indie team should seriously consider orthographic/fixed camera 3d view.


Okay so a rift lowercase is no the same as the Rifts in Rift. Firstly an encampment means that the number of monsters is limited. A dimensional rift allows for a continuous flow of creatures. My rifts are permanent for one thing. You cannot "close them" at least not in the way you close one in Rift. Rifts are there to provide the persistent monster eco system and not the dynamic portion of the game. Instead of hand placing monsters and lairs and dungeons and raids they are generated by the program which is also used to assure that the composition of monsters in areas changes overtime and that as players progress in time through crafting and exploration and fighting and organizing the world becomes more dangerous to compensate.

I am not just listing the features. The ideas for feature grow in my mind organically as I discuss and ponder the game and then I look at each idea and say, should I do this? Does it fit with my lore? Is it sandboxy enough?


I didn't think they would be just the same, just saying I wasn't very fond of planar tears unleashing mobs randomly on a world. As I do not know the lore you intend to have for your game I was merely suggesting going towards having enemy strongholds that could disperse the creatures instead of random "rifts". I think it would be fantastic if there were say, an evil wizard or something, that could open up gates/rifts/etc randomly to flood areas of the world with creatures, but on a temporary basis not permanent.

If you can find a way to accurately describe and reason why these rifts would and should exist in a world, I would be more open to the idea, but that is key to anything put into a game. It needs to make sense.

#12 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 927

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 07:59 PM



Perhaps instead of having "Rifts" you could just have enemy encampments/strongholds that spread out if not contained? Unless these rifts have strategic value to the world that you create it can be quite the nuisance. I originally thought it would be fun and entertaining in Rift, but sadly I just found them to be repetitive and annoying scattered randomly and without reason around the world. They became obstacles to walk around rather than a force I felt I must destroy.


Start with the basics and add to that. Please don't try and make a list of all the features you desire and then cram them in. They either fit or they don't, don't force it. Anyone working towards creating a deep sandbox game with an indie team should seriously consider orthographic/fixed camera 3d view.


Okay so a rift lowercase is no the same as the Rifts in Rift. Firstly an encampment means that the number of monsters is limited. A dimensional rift allows for a continuous flow of creatures. My rifts are permanent for one thing. You cannot "close them" at least not in the way you close one in Rift. Rifts are there to provide the persistent monster eco system and not the dynamic portion of the game. Instead of hand placing monsters and lairs and dungeons and raids they are generated by the program which is also used to assure that the composition of monsters in areas changes overtime and that as players progress in time through crafting and exploration and fighting and organizing the world becomes more dangerous to compensate.

I am not just listing the features. The ideas for feature grow in my mind organically as I discuss and ponder the game and then I look at each idea and say, should I do this? Does it fit with my lore? Is it sandboxy enough?


I didn't think they would be just the same, just saying I wasn't very fond of planar tears unleashing mobs randomly on a world. As I do not know the lore you intend to have for your game I was merely suggesting going towards having enemy strongholds that could disperse the creatures instead of random "rifts". I think it would be fantastic if there were say, an evil wizard or something, that could open up gates/rifts/etc randomly to flood areas of the world with creatures, but on a temporary basis not permanent.

If you can find a way to accurately describe and reason why these rifts would and should exist in a world, I would be more open to the idea, but that is key to anything put into a game. It needs to make sense.


The game exists as a theoretically infinite set of game worlds in a universe ala multiple planes. Rifts are doorways from other worlds. Rifts are permanent tears in reality which allow monsters through from their home realm. The rift system replaces the hand placed respawning in most games like WoW. The interactions from the rift and nesting systems are what allow the game to by dynamic with shifting conditions in various areas, with making it possible to travel far away from the starting area and still be able to have content you can deal with. The rift system is what allows other worlds because we don't have to hand place all the game assets like lairs and shit which also would eventually run out of creatures. You have failed to explain how once you kill the camps or w/e you would deal with the fact that players would quickly slaughter all the creatures from a camp which has no way of obtaining reinforcements.




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