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[Game Design/Rant] Emergent behavior and griefing in sandbox MMORPGs


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#1 JoshNet83   Members   -  Reputation: 137

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 09:10 PM

Although this is more of a 'rant' than a design post, I think the future of MMORPGs is monopolizing on 'emergent behavior' and encouraging community-based interaction. Everyone suggest this is a pipe-dream, and I would like to hear your thoughts.

In a true sandbox MMORPG, the developers shouldn't have a lot of control over 'emergent behavior'. In online games like Ultima Online, the development team constantly strived to 'balance' the world against 'griefers' and other disruptive players. Instead of providing the community with proper tools, the developers continually eliminated or restricted features of the game until it was no longer a real sandbox.

Players are often working together to protect the world against great evils. These great evils are usually represented by NPCs in 'raid encounters' and other such mechanics. Video games will have you believe that 'good always prevails'. It's a comforting feeling to know that heroes will always come out on top. However, life in a fantasy sandbox world is not what it's cracked up to be.

Emergent behavior is a powerful force in an online game, and it is oftentimes negative. Many games with PvP and open-worlds are plagued by problems because things snowball and get out of control. Griefers and 'trolls' intentionally use their freedom to disrupt play for others. They ruin it for everyone, and game developers choose to punish everyone by creating more and more gameplay boundaries and restrictions.

My development team is working hard to create a game world that encourages players to work together for a common good. A community is always more powerful than it's individual parts. In our game, we have provided players with the tools to not only create their own content, but also to autonomously aid in enforcing certain behaviors. All creatures in the game are controlled and programmed by the players.

However, these tools will be used for evil. We've accepted and welcome that. In this game, if you do not work together for the greater good, not only will your character die, but the entire game world can potentially collapse. The server dies because no heroes rose from the community to maintain balance and order. This isn't about griefing or hackers, this is cause and effect in a game world that is not governed by the developers.

When this happens, we will relaunch a new server, giving the community another opportunity to create a world worth living in. The new world will be procedurally generated, and mankind will attempt to stand the test of time once again.

I present to you, the Slimepocalypse:
http://i.imgur.com/L32Rs.png

And ive provided a code snippet that will allow griefers to rampage in the game, consuming everything they can. My final question to the GameDev community: What will it take for players in gaming communities to truly cooperate? If griefing is prevalent, can the community as a whole stand together to stop it?

Sponsor:

#2 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4860

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 09:38 PM

Are you familiar with the elections and laws in A Tale In The Desert? I never liked that system, but, it's one of the only systems I've encountered in which the players in an MMO legislate solutions to play problems like griefing, and the developers enable their solutions.

But, it's a fact of human nature that at most 80% of people may want to work for the common good, while the rest don't. It would be dysfunctional to let that minority screw everything up repeatedly.

Edited by sunandshadow, 16 December 2012 - 11:34 PM.

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.


#3 Inferiarum   Members   -  Reputation: 732

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 08:09 AM

But, it's a fact of human nature that at most 80% of people may want to work for the common good, while the rest don't. It would be dysfunctional to let that minority screw everything up repeatedly.


Well I guess most people want to work for their own good. which brings us to the following point:

A community is always more powerful than it's individual parts.


This has to be implemented the right way, such that working together in a group yields a larger benefit than doing stuff alone. I mean, how do you actually make the community stronger?

#4 r1ckparker   Members   -  Reputation: 396

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 08:53 AM

If you have a completely open sandbox game, griefing shouldn't be a problem, your players should always have access to a solution which should solve the problem. For example, if there is a guy blocking a doorway and nobody can get through, do your players have to tools to move him? To kill him? Teleport him somewhere else?

If not then you may need some kind of moderation where he can be reported and a 'power player' who may have the power to do something about it.

Eve Online is a good example, there is very low moderation and this actively encourages piracy and villainy (you can see some of their exploits on YouTube) however the Corporations in the game can always take steps to deal with them, if they get too big. So the problem never gets out of hand.

I agree with Inferiarum, your players should be well rewarded for playing together and completing goals. If the reward for killing 500 monsters is a teleport scroll, you have just solved the griefing problem, no? Lets say a greifer gets hold of a teleport scroll, he blasts you away to another continent - then what? He has only trolled one person out of however-many completed the 500 monster kill quest.

However, cheating, by using glitches, scripts, aimbots etc is something entirely different and is much harder to deal with.

#5 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2012

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 01:14 PM

I can't help but think that effectively treating griefers and cheaters as antagonists to be dealt with by players that have the means or the ambition to try might be the way to go. I don't know enough about existing MMOs to know if that sort of thing has been tried already though.

#6 ShiftyCake   Members   -  Reputation: 526

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 07:12 AM

Have you played Guild Wars 2? great game, great game. But that's not the point.
Do you know how innovative Guild Wars 2 is?
Well, probably. But one of the things Guild Wars 2 has done for its genre, its the concept of players working together rather then working against each other. You all remember that guy who was waiting hours for that one boss, and you walk over and hit it first, oh how they screamed at you for stealing their monster. Yet in GW2, your actually happy that the other players are helping you since everyone gets their own loot. While this itself is not innovative, has been done very rarely before, how they implemented it was. Being near players when fighting monsters and such automatically adds them to an "invisible" party of sorts. Your not actually partied with them, but helping them out and them helping you out benefits everyone. Not only that, but GW2 has many instances in the world your in, where large fights break out. In these, anyone in your world has suddenly become your ally, and your attempting to push back invades from other worlds.

All of these things add an immersive feel of a real community, real people, who are working together in order to achieve a common goal. THIS is where the mmo genre is heading.

If, at any point, what I post is hard to understand, tell me. I am bad at projecting my thoughts into real words, so I appreciate the knowledge that I need to edit my post.

 

I am not a professional writer, nor a professional game designer. Please, understand that everything you read is simply an opinion of mind and should not, at any point in time, be taken as a credible answer unless validated by others.

 

I do take brief bouts of disappearance so don't worry if I either don't reply to you or miss certain things. I am quite a lazy fellow.


#7 lithos   Members   -  Reputation: 413

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 10:01 AM

You need someone who is an antagonist have greater risk than someone who isn't.

In a normal MMO an "antagonist" has virtually full choice of who they're fighting with mechanics like stealth, not being bound to static spawns, and whatever other mechanics. Then to make things worst the antagonist knows what they're going to be fighting the PvEr taking armor/mods that put them at an advantage against X, forced to take gear designed for a long haul(full supply/kit for 30-40 mins vs. PvPer kit for 2-3 mins). Next the antagonist has a concentration advantage since the target is going to be doing something else. to seal the deal and make everything worse you have no way to get revenge since everything is going to end up in 100% safe storage.

When you say PvPer/sandbox that's what you're fighting against in the normal players head, they probably won't even bother to read your other mechanics and just assume you made "not enough changes".
_______
Even in your cases where you've made changes like a flat advancement system, no safe banking, and your characters being logged in even when you're not on. A normal player won't ever get far enough to even realize those mechanics or if they do realize what it means.

#8 BoredAstronaut   Members   -  Reputation: 121

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 01:13 PM

One possible issue with expecting players to police themselves is whether the act of policing is rewarding. Either it has to be fun, or it has to provide some other reward that they can use to find fun in the game in some other way. Like, getting in-game credit to buy things to allow them to split their time between policing and adventuring. On the other hand, if volunteering to police destructive players has no rewards, there is no incentive.

It is in the interests of the developers to find any and all ways possible to assist members of the player community who volunteer their time in this way. In the real world, police get paid and get respect, and are part of a kind of fraternity. They also (hopefully) get a personal sense of righteousness from their belief that they are doing the right thing, and a sense of accomplishment from doing a good job and keeping people safe. In real life, protection of life and property is very important. In a game, this is less true, since it's all imaginary.

Another approach is to reduce the cost of doing damage. For example, if players build something and it takes a long time, they will be unhappy if it can easily be destroyed. Unless it's easy to re-build it. Perhaps by saving the blueprint of their creation, and letting them assign virtual workers to re-build it.

All-in-all, emergence is a really exciting idea, but it's also highly risky. It comes down to providing a toolbox and/or sandbox and hoping that sufficiently creative players find it and help make it an interesting and lively environment.

#9 Maclav   Members   -  Reputation: 140

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 02:34 PM

You need someone who is an antagonist have greater risk than someone who isn't.

In a normal MMO an "antagonist" has virtually full choice of who they're fighting with mechanics like stealth, not being bound to static spawns, and whatever other mechanics. Then to make things worst the antagonist knows what they're going to be fighting the PvEr taking armor/mods that put them at an advantage against X, forced to take gear designed for a long haul(full supply/kit for 30-40 mins vs. PvPer kit for 2-3 mins). Next the antagonist has a concentration advantage since the target is going to be doing something else. to seal the deal and make everything worse you have no way to get revenge since everything is going to end up in 100% safe storage.


And to top it off, most current offerings have almost zero mechanisms to escape or defend your self. You are left with a feeling of complete helpless victimization. No one wants to feel that, so they quit.

So the wolf has all the advantages, few or trivial risks and wonder why the sheep are so few? This is the current open world paradigm and its so broken beyond hope. I guess all those "carebear" sheep can go find a different game - but isn't the idea to find some sort of system that can fit both needs? For that, the "carebear" segment MUST feel like they have options when confronted with a wolf, despite all of the numerous advantages a wolf brings. A skill full "carebear" should be -really hard- to prey upon.

It's not just about making it hard to be a wolf, that still doesn't fix the feeling of being a helpless victim. It's about empowering the sheep, giving them options. Stuff they can do that will have meaningful impact on surviving the encounter. Loosing my lunch money feels a lot better when it was du mistakes instead of someone taking advantage of a huge amount of mechanics essentialist rending whatever I do moot.




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