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Is a new age of bad design coming? (MMOs)


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#1 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 755

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 10:59 AM

I hope to create some controversy, with probably wrong and biased ideas, to produce a nice debate :) So it seems to me that MMOs are going the wrong way, and that's because we are being able to reach the "massive" part of it. I'll explain in sections:

Too massive for so few content

The designer will never be able to generate enough content to cope with the population of the game. For example if you are supposed to destroy some computer terminals, but some other people are there and destroyed them first, you are forced sit there until they rematerialized, so you could destroy them again. Bottlenecks.

Procedural scramblers

Procedural generation could help the designer. But the problem with this content is that the designer is limited with a given set of parts that match together. Basically he is just scrambling pieces of terrain, buildings, characters, items, quests, dialogs, etc. After playing a few times the player will find out that the game is always the same, just things are placed in different positions. And the player will focus on finding where did the useful pieces fall, like in a hide and seek game, making the game repetitive. If you go to the extreme of procedural generation, the world will become too weird for the player to understand.

Perpetual tutorial

So to avoid bottlenecks there must be more roads, then the complexity of the world increases. Now, the designer is required to ease the gameplay with guided tours thru the world, but in increasingly complex worlds this is being taken to the extreme of transforming the whole game experience into the longest tutorials. Basically you get a message that tells you to go somewhere and do something. You do this, you get a pat on the back, then you're told to go do something else. Ad infinitum.

Solutions?

Is people actually interested in seen an overcrowded game? Maybe having overly crowded games just make them real in all the wrong ways. Maybe it's the ambition of game designers that actually turned into bad design, something that we are realizing until now that technology is capable of taking us to this extreme. And maybe MMOs should be more single-player. Even if the game is an MMO, you should be able to play alone and affect your own copy of the world. You could still invite your friends to play in your copy of the world to socialize, which to me it's the important feature of an MMO.

Thoughts?
 

 


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#2 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3747

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:17 PM

And maybe MMOs should be more single-player. Even if the game is an MMO, you should be able to play alone and affect your own copy of the world.

Sure, but what for? If you want to play alone, why not play singleplayer games which will ALWAYS be superior in terms of playing alone?

It's sounds to me like trying to make an elephant out of a rabbit. Sure, both have 4 legs and one head and one tail and even the colour is similar but... :)
The strenght of multiplayer games is in playing with others, the strength of singleplayer games is in playing solo. Not following the natural strength of a genre/game type is a recipe for designing an inferior game.

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#3 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 755

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:57 PM

Thanks for contributing Posted Image

The strenght of multiplayer games is in playing with others


The question is if we really need "massive", toward infinite amount of players, or "massive" can be something moderate that allow us to enjoy the game. How many people do you need in a MMO to fulfill the "play with others" feature? Isn't balance always better? Maybe technology is taken games too far, to a wrong reality.

It's sounds to me like trying to make an elephant out of a rabbit.


I'm having fun with an apocalyptic scenario for game design, but at the same time I trying to realize if the player would be happier playing alone and inviting his friends to his game whenever he wants, instead of an actual massively world in which you practically don't know anyone, and you also aren't allowed to make changes in their world, because that is not nice.

Edited by cronocr, 27 November 2012 - 01:05 PM.

 

 


#4 SuperVGA   Members   -  Reputation: 1118

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 01:36 PM

I believe there is a sweet spot for "social" in games.
(Disclaimer: I don't know squat about psychology)
Like in real life, a densely populated area tends to have people ignoring oneanother,
while being just two persons in an otherwise deserted lands are more likely to connect.

Of course the more challenging the environment (as in urban vs. wilderness), the more need people will see to team up.
I understand your "be more singleplayer" idea, although I think it's a balancing issue.

#5 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 02:00 PM

Not all MMO's are like this. For instance CitiesXL and SimCity 2013 have/will have an MMO planet where each player gets their own city site to construct on. Each city is able to interact with the world, and decisions in one city can have an impact (albeit tiny impact) on other cities.

#6 BCullis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1813

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 02:38 PM

On the topic of procedural content becoming bland:

I got into MMO's with Anarchy Online, and one of the primary xp grinds were procedurally generated dungeons (called "missions") you could request from mission terminals. The room palette was only like 4 or 5 rooms large, with 4 hallway types and 2 or 3 themes to choose from for the interior as a whole. That content rapidly became stale background noise, but the fights against the npc's IN the missions were the focus because they took everyone's attention.

I think this is a key element that a lot of mediocre games forget: if your player is going to spend a lot of time doing X, make X inherently fun! Combat in AO was tedious once you knew what you were doing, the standard "stand still and responsively hit skill buttons" fare. Occasionally things would get crazy with accidental add-on enemies and your utility class with the calm/sleep/mind-control skills would save your bacon, and THOSE were the fights everyone talked about after. Not the 200 went-like-clockwork encounters.

That's the kind of fun that needs to be harnessed, then. Tons of content doesn't make up for bland gamePLAY. How many shooters fall flat because firing the weapons doesn't feel right? That was a major gripe with the Planetside2 beta before release: the guns felt too lightweight. They reworked that with response rates, sound and graphics, particle effects and damage rates and now, even with the game being a repetitive slogfest, it's fun to catch an enemy in your sights and unload a clip. I don't care if I've done it before a hundred times that day.
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#7 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 02:46 PM

Too massive for so few content
The designer will never be able to generate enough content to cope with the population of the game. For example if you are supposed to destroy some computer terminals, but some other people are there and destroyed them first, you are forced sit there until they rematerialized, so you could destroy them again. Bottlenecks.

That's because MMOs are designed like virtual theme parks. Quest lines are like a series of rides.

#8 BCullis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1813

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 03:24 PM

Is people actually interested in seen an overcrowded game?

I'm interested in seeing crowds where I'd expect to see crowds. Adventuring off the beaten path, I expect to be pretty much alone with the wilderness, and running across other adventurers would be something to take note of. I don't want to see a queue 300 people long for the entrance to a remote cave. Unless they're all there because someone's hosting a great party. Emergent gameplay, yay.
Similarly, I expect crowds in a metropolis. An idea in a "if I had a million dollars I'd make this" sci-fi mmo design I have is to phase crowds based on player population: if you're the only player in the downtown area, you'll see lots of npc's milling about. If there are hundreds of players running around the city, you need relatively few extras to give the sense of crowd, so the game tones down the npc numbers (gracefully, they'd all wander off to other business or something).

There's a sweet spot for population though. There's almost no chance for personal significance in a crowd of 5000 heroes. If there are 10 or 20 avenues for greatness, that changes things. Likewise, if there are only 500 people on a server, almost everyone has a shot at being a known name, even if there's only really one path for gameplay.

I have lots of fun playing co-op games with just one friend, but MMO crowds are there to give you several things:
1) An economy to benefit from (auctionhouse content, sales, specialized crafters)
2) The chance to find similar peers (you know, the source of guild drama and whatnot)
3) An audience to show off to.

Of course, only points 1 and 2 really benefit from MASSIVE numbers, 3 works even in a small circle. Case in point: I always made Diablo II characters LAN-based, even if I was playing solo for the entire character progression, because it gave me the option to leverage that character's skills and "awesomeness" in a game with a friend if the opportunity ever arose.
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#9 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 06:18 PM

I hope to create some controversy...

We don't need any more controversy anywhere, let alone an internet forum.

But to answer your question, one of the biggest things you hear about MMO's is the complaints of Blizzard's World of Warcraft players (as WoW is the longest running MMO to date, although Runescape probably is older, but has less of an audience) who say that "the original (vanilla) WoW was so much better than the new ones." A big reason people say this is because a game, especially a social game like an MMO, is so much more fun and adventurous when you and your friends go on a new adventure and play a game where everything is new and you are all newbies, and you go on adventures discovering the world with them. If you look at WoW now, although it still is a great MMO and game in general, the game itself is better, but the players now complain about how the game is an antisocial stat fest. If by some stroke of genius you find a way in game design to make someone a perpetual newbie, encourage unscripted social adventure, maintain positive feedback from your audience, and still deliver a great end product, please tell us.

C dominates the world of linear procedural computing, which won't advance. The future lies in MASSIVE parallelism.


#10 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18723

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 10:18 PM

as WoW is the longest running MMO to date

Not even close. Off the top of my head Ultima Online, EverQuest, Age of Conan (EDIT: much newer, my apologies!), and RuneScape have all been running for at least a few years longer than World of Warcraft. I think what you might have meant to suggest however was that World of Warcraft is the most popular MMO -- I don't know the latest statistics, but that would quite probably be true. Posted Image


Interesting topic, and I think you might be right that the majority of people aren't really interested in a massively multi-player experience: they do want to be able to play with friends -- some of whom may be new friends met within the game -- and they want to have an audience they can show off their achievements to, but realistically they don't need thousands of concurrent players for that. This is perhaps an area where instanced content helps to reduce the crowding.

//Sorry, I've got more to say, but I'm currently on baby duty and she's started crying!

Edited by jbadams, 28 November 2012 - 04:05 AM.


#11 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 11:02 PM

as WoW is the longest running MMO to date


The Realm Online is the longest running.

#12 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7567

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:14 AM

I've played MMORPGs since Everquest I and I must say that I had lot of fun. But I think, that a MMORPG is already bad design by definition. The problem is quite simple:

When playing a RPG, the player want to be the hero, saving the world of commons while experiencing unique adventures.

The barrier are
1. The player want to be THE unique hero,
2. The player want to live through adventures experiencing unique stories,

Storytelling and being the unique hero is possible to some degree in a single player or small multiplayer game, but a massive multiplayer game is the anti-pattern to this design.

After more than a decade of MMORPGs available you can see different approaches.
1. WoW:
They stay true to the RPG thought, trying to deliver lot of customization features (being unique) and story (in form of content).
=> This lead to the content-racing, even blizzard will fail to deliver more interesting content at some point here.

2. GW I (never played two):
They deliver a small coop-mutliplayer RPG experience, added PvP and a feeling of RTS (you feel like a soldier executing unique missions to fight your war in a greater war scenario).
=> This is not only one of the most cleverly business models, but although delivers a good single player experience and a RTS feeling.

3. Ultima Online (though never played it):
Unique in the sense of having a very high degree of building and crafting.
=> Player want to be creative and giving the players the ability to create something world changing is a great idea (->minecraft), though UO have some really hard issues with it.


To be honest, WoW is leading the MMORPG into the wrong direction and most other MMORPGs (take an existing brand like StarWars, Lord of Rings and put WoW on top of it) try to herd after them, eventuallly leading down the cliff. The design is a content pyramid scheme and will eventually collaps with a lot of people being frustrated and never touching a MMORPG again.

I personally like the single player aspect of GW and I think that more MMORPGs should go MMORTS. There's nothing wrong about being a single soldier in an massive conflict (all the CoD like games proof this) , being the hero for only a single session. RTS approach is screaming for MMO, but the industry is cautious about MMO+RTS, most likely seeing only a literal implementation of the RTS genre instead of integrating RPG parts into a weakened RTS implementation.

And finally the creative aspect of content creation is a very important factor, though it is in conflict with modern AAA design and art.

#13 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18723

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:57 AM

And finally the creative aspect of content creation is a very important factor, though it is in conflict with modern AAA design and art.

Realm of The Mad God took an interesting approach to this by having relatively simple content and then providing a simple and restricted method by which players could contribute. I think player-generated content is an area worthy of further investigation -- and RoTMG is a good (albeit simple) example of it being done right.

It's also a good example of different game-play -- it's more of a bullet-hell shooter than a traditional RPG.

#14 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:38 AM


as WoW is the longest running MMO to date

Not even close. Off the top of my head Ultima Online, EverQuest, Age of Conan, and RuneScape have all been running for at least a few years longer than World of Warcraft.

Age of Conan is only 4 years old. WOW is 8. (Now if only we could get low fantasy / Conan in a Skyrim like game...)

You guys are only counting graphical MMORPGs. MMO type gameplay has been around since people had computers to play them on. An MMO is just a graphical MUD with a bigger playerbase. Even Everquest started as a near clone of DikuMud.

#15 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18723

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:10 AM

Sure, that's true -- but once again, a MUD doesn't really benefit from being massively multi-player either -- in most cases an instanced server with anywhere up to about 64 players would be just as effective, and a smaller number of players might help to reduce some of the common problems that larger crowds can introduce.

#16 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7567

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:13 AM

An MMO is just a graphical MUD with a bigger playerbase.

Most early MMOs has their roots in MUDs (Meridian59, Camlelot, EQ ?), what is quite interesting is, that MUDs had often world builders (limited to certain players/admins), a way to alter the world dynamically. This was almost completely lost from the transition from MUD to MMORPG.

#17 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:33 AM

When I said WoW is the longest running MMO, I was saying that it is the longest running while maintaining a solid playerbase and being somewhat mainstream.

C dominates the world of linear procedural computing, which won't advance. The future lies in MASSIVE parallelism.


#18 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4791

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:48 AM

That's because MMOs are designed like virtual theme parks. Quest lines are like a series of rides.

MMORPG is already bad design by definition [...] The player want to be THE unique hero,
[...]
To be honest, WoW is leading the MMORPG into the wrong direction and most other MMORPGs follow

So true -- at least from my point of view. However, the massive success that these games have proves otherwise. Well, admittedly Star Wars and LOTRO are not truly blockbusters (despite their huge existing fanbases, which should guarantee a license to print money!), but I think that's because of the implementations that lack "design love".

I've played LOTRO (at the time of Shadows of Angmar) myself and found it kind of entertaining for a week. However, overall, it was just badly designed in a purposely stupid, annoying manner. Plus, nothing interesting to be done after playing for a week, and nothing to be done at all (except raiding, which is really 90% waiting) after two weeks.

I remember reading a review when Rift came out (was it Rift? I think so...), of which the bottom line was that it's such a great game because after selecting the first quest NPC, you never even have to think any more. A big arrow shows you where you have to click next to "win".

All in all, my impression is that the vast majority of people doesn't really have too much interest in rich RPG and in fact enjoys a theme-park style of game, and even "grinding" (even while complaining, they enjoy it). I couldn't explain otherwise why such games are so massively successful.

Edited by samoth, 28 November 2012 - 05:49 AM.


#19 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 06:36 AM

When I said WoW is the longest running MMO, I was saying that it is the longest running while maintaining a solid playerbase and being somewhat mainstream.


Sorry again. NationStates opened 2 years earlier and has a solid playerbase and been mainstream since it opened. ;)

WoW is the most popular MMO, but certainly not the longest running mainstream one.

BTW, I was mistaken before. It's not The Realm Online, but Furcadia which claims to be the longest continuous MMO. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furcadia

#20 kuramayoko10   Members   -  Reputation: 386

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:29 AM

@OP
I agree with you. The classic MMORPG, Ultima Online, was all about how the players shaped their own world and interacted with others.
You could be anything you want, you had a wide range of skills to develop and you could build your own house to live in this world. PvP was also available, but not so mandatory.
Today, UO is very different and lost great part of that unique experience. New MMORPGs are just about how you should grind to a maximum level (which is stupid) and battle other players just to show off. I don't see the same motivation of the old players in the new ones... which IMO is very sad and very bad for the genre.

There is a cool interview with the designer of the Ultima RPG series. He tells a very interesting story at 18:30 I guess

Edited by kuramayoko10, 28 November 2012 - 07:30 AM.

Programming is an art. Game programming is a masterpiece!




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