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Making online game chars persistent


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#1 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:30 AM

I have been discussing with friends and other people, and wanted to bring this discussion here. If online games are persistent, with the game world always there, why not your character always there like in The Sims?

I realize this will require some backward thinking like changing how we log off characters at the end of a game session. We will need to have to use a fairly detailed menu of what we want them to do when we are off line. I figure if we can have characters with multiple skills, tie in decision tree's with specific skills in mind. So if your character has a cottage woodworking industry, then menu's would allow you to during your off time to do woodworking. I am using the game The Guild 2 as a basis for many idea's here.

So as you log off, you would tell your character to start its routines, including making products, checking its inventory of materials, and going to buy materials if needed. Minding the store would also be important as players and offline characters would also patronize your store. Plus your character would likely need to patronize other stores for tools, nails, finishes, or material.

I feel this would make games feel more alive, similar to how it felt to walk around Skyrim, or other games with players bustling around.

But your asking, how would this affect combat players? First, this wont work for full pvp games, but with for games like SWTOR, Rift, Vanguard, Warhammer, then as PVE it would work ok. As you log off your character, you would have several options for your character to do. From returning to your house and sitting quietly, to finding a trainer and honing some skills you feel need work, to defending the local city by returning to the city barracks and earning civic points.

I realize this still has many holes, but I would like to discuss this with other people.

Sponsor:

#2 Platinum_Dragon   Members   -  Reputation: 162

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:49 AM

You should make two separate inventory: (1) as an NPC (2) as the player. Have it so that players could move things between the two inventory, but the game server cannot access the player inventory when the character goes into NPC mode (log off). There should also be two separate currency counters, of course with similar restriction. The player has access to both sides, while the server has access to only the NPC side of things.
I use QueryPerformanceFrequency(), and the result averages to 8 nanoseconds or about 13 cpu cycles (1.66GHz CPU). Is that reasonable?
I though that the assembly equivalent to accessing unaligned data would be something similar to this order:
  • move
  • mask
  • shift
  • move
  • mask
  • shift
  • or
So it seems reasonable to say that it takes 14 cycles for unaligned data since we'll have to do the series of instructions once to access and once to assign?

#3 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5056

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:30 PM

Characters in offline mode need to be visibly marked as such so other players don't get confused trying to chat with friends who aren't actually online.

Phone game idea available free to someone who will develop it (Alphadoku game - the only existing phone game of this type is both for windows phone only and awful. PM for details.)


I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#4 Dragonsoulj   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2126

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 02:16 PM

As for the "honing your skills" bit, you could do a time ratio for learning skills. Say you have a skill tree, where you have to use or learn or wait so long to gain the skill you now have the level for. You could have offline time in that skill be a fraction of online time where either way they could unlock that skill but it takes longer offline than on.

#5 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2635

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 02:19 PM

I think you should have a decision tree or something like you would do with normal AI's

o3o


#6 Iron Chef Carnage   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1840

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 07:56 PM

It would be a lot of active characters for the server to track. It would amount to every character owned by every player in the whole game being online at all times. They wouldn't eat up bandwidth, but the server would have to run all their automated tasks, eating server resources at all times of the day and night.

From a player perspective, it would be weird to see a friend's character in "zombie mode", offering robot responses to stimulus and not remember the great dick joke from last time you quested together. You'd never see your own guy in the game, unless you were playing on another character, which might be vaguely gratifying, but not terribly productive.

Also, if the benefits of offline training or commerce were substantial, it would encourage players to build a stable of automatons, setting their drones to work leveling up or farming resources or upgrading in-game assets, rather than actually logging in and playing the game. I know that when I played EvE online, there would be months when I'd log in a few minutes a week to update market orders and skill training queues, never so much as undocking my battleships. Not the most engaging gameplay model.

How much of your game's infrastructure would be tied up with this? If the best alchemist in town sets his character to level up archery for a week while he's on vacation, will the potion market be seriously impacted? Will an NPC take his place? Will it be easy for another character to fill the gap? Will my automatic work when I'm offline be an oppressive duty, or a meaningless bit of roleplay?

I think this kind of idea works better int he context of a single-player game. What if I could get my guy in Skyrim leveled up in smithing, then buy a shop in Markarth, then retire to make sweet axes and cheap arrows? My next character could go there and purchase high-end gear from him, maybe get some training in the skills the older character had mastered, or barter for rare items that I had collected in my earlier travels.

What do you hope to achieve with this?

Ambiance? Because characters in online games are created ex nihilo, usually through a customization interface, it's likely that you'd wind up with cities packed with idle characters, at least a few of whom would have immersion-shreddingly horrible features and dress. As I said above, the inability of the drones to recognize friends or interact with active players in a meaningful way would seriously reduce the value of their presence.

Is it productivity you're after? Anything a robotic Character player model could do could be done--more cheaply--by simple offline timers. Tell him to build 40 leather backpacks. You get a progress bar and nobody in-game needs to see your little man pathing from the tannery to the leatherworks to the tailor for hours on ends, hanging up in doorways and staring straight ahead and ignoring my chat hails.

#7 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:02 AM

You should make two separate inventory: (1) as an NPC (2) as the player. Have it so that players could move things between the two inventory, but the game server cannot access the player inventory when the character goes into NPC mode (log off). There should also be two separate currency counters, of course with similar restriction. The player has access to both sides, while the server has access to only the NPC side of things.


That is a wonderful idea, I had not really thought of that, which is why I brought it here. I was planning on just flagging an inv. offline mode, so when in online mode, it is normal, offline would be where you can set a limit on what and how much of something you can move. I will have to play with both idea's now, and see how they work. Thanks

#8 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:06 AM

Characters in offline mode need to be visibly marked as such so other players don't get confused trying to chat with friends who aren't actually online.

Yes, I agree that having some sort of flag to explain that a character is in NPC mode would be useful, I was thinking of having their name Highlighted over their head fulltime and maybe a specific color or outline. My intention is also to have character names not be visible unless you know them, ask them, or you can click on the character and notate a name. More realistic then everyone having a name before you get to know them. Its an idea.

#9 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:11 AM

As for the "honing your skills" bit, you could do a time ratio for learning skills. Say you have a skill tree, where you have to use or learn or wait so long to gain the skill you now have the level for. You could have offline time in that skill be a fraction of online time where either way they could unlock that skill but it takes longer offline than on.


As for training, I am trying to tie in with the NPC mode and have characters that train others also gain by earning mastery points to specialize with or use in other ways. But back to your suggestions, learning skills offline is something I like and heard from EVE players. A majority of players are offline 13 hours or more a day, so learning skills and being useful rather then just popping out makes more sense to me. I agree that training offline should take longer then online, but when your online you want to use your character and their skills, not spend time making a character to use.

#10 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:17 AM

I think you should have a decision tree or something like you would do with normal AI's

I agree a decision tree is how it should be, with many questions ending in a drop down menu, and turning itself into an If/then setup. If a player asks for something, then I can make it or I can't, do I have the raw materials, refined materials, or the skill? If not then say" That is out of my ability, sorry"

I plan on this aspect of my game being rather long and arduous task. But, i am guessing that making SPORE was not easy either, and it was a great game with game-play we haven't seen before or since. And since MMO's really haven't changed much, I feel making something that pushes the genre a bit is never a bad thing.

#11 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:29 AM

It would be a lot of active characters for the server to track. It would amount to every character owned by every player in the whole game being online at all times. They wouldn't eat up bandwidth, but the server would have to run all their automated tasks, eating server resources at all times of the day and night.

From a player perspective, it would be weird to see a friend's character in "zombie mode", offering robot responses to stimulus and not remember the great dick joke from last time you quested together. You'd never see your own guy in the game, unless you were playing on another character, which might be vaguely gratifying, but not terribly productive.

Also, if the benefits of offline training or commerce were substantial, it would encourage players to build a stable of automatons, setting their drones to work leveling up or farming resources or upgrading in-game assets, rather than actually logging in and playing the game. I know that when I played EvE online, there would be months when I'd log in a few minutes a week to update market orders and skill training queues, never so much as undocking my battleships. Not the most engaging gameplay model.

How much of your game's infrastructure would be tied up with this? If the best alchemist in town sets his character to level up archery for a week while he's on vacation, will the potion market be seriously impacted? Will an NPC take his place? Will it be easy for another character to fill the gap? Will my automatic work when I'm offline be an oppressive duty, or a meaningless bit of roleplay?

I think this kind of idea works better int he context of a single-player game. What if I could get my guy in Skyrim leveled up in smithing, then buy a shop in Markarth, then retire to make sweet axes and cheap arrows? My next character could go there and purchase high-end gear from him, maybe get some training in the skills the older character had mastered, or barter for rare items that I had collected in my earlier travels.

What do you hope to achieve with this?

Ambiance? Because characters in online games are created ex nihilo, usually through a customization interface, it's likely that you'd wind up with cities packed with idle characters, at least a few of whom would have immersion-shreddingly horrible features and dress. As I said above, the inability of the drones to recognize friends or interact with active players in a meaningful way would seriously reduce the value of their presence.

Is it productivity you're after? Anything a robotic Character player model could do could be done--more cheaply--by simple offline timers. Tell him to build 40 leather backpacks. You get a progress bar and nobody in-game needs to see your little man pathing from the tannery to the leatherworks to the tailor for hours on ends, hanging up in doorways and staring straight ahead and ignoring my chat hails.


Hello Iron Chef Carnage, the reason I am proposing to push the MMO boundary is that I feel it would enhance games. Not all characters would be out, some could be housed, or have the option to log off, but being online even when the player is offline allows for something else I was avoiding explaining. Then the character could be controlled somewhat through a smart phone app. And Texting the character would show up like texting a friend. So if your character needs help, you log on through your smart phone and alter what is needed.

As for a stable of automatons, give the player a limit to how many characters they can have online at once, and if they do nothing but level up,then so be it, but I don't plan to have characters that are WoW clones where they can master multiple crafts and not need anything or anyone else. If you make a resources region specific like real, make resource gathering, refining, and crafting its own game that requires interaction with many other players then if you do have the best baker, they are gonna need flour from someone who milled it, grown by a farmer, eggs from someone, pottery for bowls, and so on. Thinking that every game is like WoW will mean that we never advance the game society or the developers beyond expecting stale bland games.

#12 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:37 AM

What my intentions are, is to make a MMO where players matter, where there is a Themepark aspect where they can create their characters, make them diversified and unique as the player is. Then, allow them to explore, build and play in a game world that is sandbox in nature. Current MMO's give you a story, and then the entire game is leveling your character for gear, skills, and power, but then what to use them. No wonder players are jumping from game to game, nothing has changed since EverQuest. I ask players, they want something different, I want to give them that something.

#13 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 934

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:44 AM

if you go here:

http://lordofthedawn.../GameInsRef.php

there is a thread called Asynchronous Interaction and Faux NPCs that I made several months ago on mmorpg.com which has a pretty extensive discussion of offline characters.

note that the game discussed has no NPC characters, if we don't include monsters in that category. so no shop owners or inn owners and so forth.

but it might contain some useful ideas or theories about working with offline player characters.

Raph Koster even posted, but it wasn't that useful imo. cause he is a busy dude.

Edited by AltarofScience, 13 July 2012 - 12:44 AM.


#14 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2635

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 04:54 AM

Maybe the players should only get experience from doing new things, and killing low level monsters etc. just gets you resources and such.

The automated mode would only allow doing routines, like running a shop or gathering resources or shooting at intruders.

If you want to try something new or set up a new routine, you need to enter the game and do that routine so it becomes a routine you can have automated. Or do some fancy quest or anything else nonroutine.

It also might make sense to try to kill some of the offline time by forcing the character to sleep or maintain his home or something.

o3o


#15 Mito   Members   -  Reputation: 855

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:44 AM

well, get rid of the shitload of npcs that mmo's normally have and let the offline player characters fill their gap.

when the player go offline, his/her character can open their store and start acting like an npc shopkeeper.

i liked the idea of controlling the character using a phone, what if when someone sends a PM to your character you receive a push on your phone and can reply?

#16 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 12:48 AM

if you go here:

http://lordofthedawn.../GameInsRef.php

there is a thread called Asynchronous Interaction and Faux NPCs that I made several months ago on mmorpg.com which has a pretty extensive discussion of offline characters.

note that the game discussed has no NPC characters, if we don't include monsters in that category. so no shop owners or inn owners and so forth.

but it might contain some useful ideas or theories about working with offline player characters.

Raph Koster even posted, but it wasn't that useful imo. cause he is a busy dude.

I actually read it when it came out, I liked a lot of the things said. Now when I get a few minutes I will reply in more depth, but thanks for the info. I will let you know how things come along.

#17 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 12:57 AM

well, get rid of the shitload of npcs that mmo's normally have and let the offline player characters fill their gap.

when the player go offline, his/her character can open their store and start acting like an npc shopkeeper.

i liked the idea of controlling the character using a phone, what if when someone sends a PM to your character you receive a push on your phone and can reply?

Mito, that is exactly what I was thinking, if you make crafting more in depth, instead of hit button, make 20 chain armor, it should be time driven to make better stuff, time to get up to skill and time to make it. I have no problem automating things, but instant crafting I am very against.

Any how, yes getting rid of most NPC's except in starting locations and allowing players to become the master artisans and train others.

#18 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 08:10 PM

But, would it be possible to have the characters learn combat and keep the fighting more character based rather then player based. Take the button mashing out of it, so the character acquires the skills of dodge, perry, as well as reading the other characters it is fighting. This way you don't do the fighting, but sort of choreograph it, or over see how it goes.

So your character is fighting, and you tell it to when it gets a chance to attack with a slash, then when it can another attack, but it would learn your style of fighting and when you were offline it could be used and fight like you do?

What good would that do? One would be that just basic combat AI seems easy to figure out, but if you used certain maneuvers and attacks with a swordsman then the computer could keep track of it and use it when your not there to fight similarly to you. Not as good, but well enough that different combat characters you encounter would fight differently.

With over 100 pages, its hard to describe the entire idea of making a in my opinion a fully immersive and Generation 3 MMO. I appreciate all the idea's and assistance.

#19 lmbarns   Members   -  Reputation: 460

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 12:54 PM

I like the idea where offline chars become npcs or stores.

Some games offer offline skilling as a counter to macroing to save resources on the server, where you can put a budget of points to train in various skills while not logged in, but the player is not in the world.

One problem I see is how long do you keep logged out players logged in? Do people log in once per week? What if they don't come back for 2 weeks, or never? What about multi clienting? Will people make many accounts and login once per week to each to keep them going? Will there be a cost to offline training so you have to come back after x hours to keep him going?

Server resources seems to be a problem just keeping real players going smoothly is a problem, I can't imagine having hundreds of other players unless the server is distributing the Ai really effectively.

#20 Mito   Members   -  Reputation: 855

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Posted 15 July 2012 - 02:41 PM

well, first of all, don't make an AI for every player. period.

the AI would be one huge process that control EVERY NPC (be it a real npc or a player character), coordinating all their "interactions".

second, as a tax to offline trading, your character pays X amount of money per offline hour (obviously, needs to be balanced, so everyone can take a offline break...)

when you run out of money, your character is disconnected. you can also define a max fee to be paid before your character logs out.

(i'm very sorry for the poor english, i'm brasilian and sometimes just can't express what i really mean...)




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