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MorganE

Balancing MMOG for Hardcore and Normal Players

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I''m just a design newbie so forgive me if someone has posted this before. Question: How can we create a massively multiplayer game in which you can capture both the hardcore players who want to play 40 hours a week and still keep it interesting for players who only want to play 5 hours a week? Example: In Star Wars Galaxies it will be possible to become a Jedi but it will be really difficult. So most casual gamers will probably never obtain this rank. How would you still keep these casual gamers playing? Comments: Please try to keep your post focused on the topic and not why other people’s ideas are wrong. Try not to focus on the Star War Galaxies example too much.

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as a casual gamer, I would love to have my own house or store. and with a store even when your not online, your NPC merchants can do the work for you, which is great, like in Shadowbane.

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If they are self-proclaimed casual gamers, then they should have no problems in realising that it takes more effort to achieve more, just as with anything else..however, you could tailor the game so it adjusts its difficulty or hardcore-ness to the players, for example something as simple as a player level (or rank) could work -

* The good (hardcore) players wouldnt want to play the lower level players because they gain only a small amount of rank, and would lose a lot if they lost to someone with lower rank.

* The weak (casual) players wouldnt want to play the players with higher rank because they know they will probably lose.

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You can create two paths to development, one for each type of gamer. Give the hardcore gamers a chance to obtain a long-term goal, with lots of character development and various tasks to achieve it. The casual gamer should be able to find a quick and simple ( well not necessarily simple, but nothing too time-consuming ) task to complete and be able to finish it in a few hours or so.

Another thought, similar to this, is to have hardcore players recruit casual gamers as they join, and bring them along on whatever mini-quest they are doing at the moment. The casual gamer can finish the quest in a short amount of time and then move on, while the hardcore gamer continues on with another segment of his quest. This gives the casual gamer a chance to find something to do quickly when signing on, and it also allows both of the groups to work together and socialize, without isolating one or the other. An example of this would be some kind of hero going into a local tavern and recruiting some men to help him kill a monster. The hero would be given the quest by a king or a lord of some sort, which would lead into a more involved quest, while the local warriors can just join for a quick dungeon raid.

Adam Sheehan

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The answer may be in what Cokeman said. One of the dominant themes in single player RPG''s is that the player is the center of the universe. They start small and grow in stature until they are champion of the town/nation/world. By the end of the game they are shaping the destiny of an entire group of people and are known throughout the land as mighty heroes or evil villains depending on how open-ended the game is.

Deep down when people play MMORPGs I believe they have the same desire, to carve out a name for themselves in the online world. Have people know and recognize them (whether in fear or high regard). The casual gamer realizes he will never be the greatest warrior in the land because he would have to compete with the 40+ hr a week power gamers. But he would like to be able to set a modest goal of becoming the best loved shop keeper/blacksmith in the town where he makes his home.

You see this in other games, where users go out of their way to build trade bots, or portal bots to service their local communities. These are the folks who don''t have time to play hours and hours but still want to be able to make a name for them selves in the game.

My suggestion would be to provide means for both styles of gameplay. Naturally the power gamers are going to want to be the "Strongest" in the land. Allow them to do so and make it a fair contest so that the best man wins. But for those who are less interested in that type of competition provide a lot of other roles like shop keeping and trade skills so that they can make their name in other ways. Like the only tailor to be able to make black cloaks or other things that will set them apart.

It''s a lot more effort, and it would take a lot of time to balance the economy, but in the long run I believe you could generate good mass market appeal by satisfying both types of gamers.

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quote:
How can we create a massively multiplayer game in which you can capture both the hardcore players who want to play 40 hours a week and still keep it interesting for players who only want to play 5 hours a week?

Or the reverse question:
How can we create a massively multiplayer game in which you can capture both the casual gamers who only want to play 5 hours a week and still keep it interesting for hardcore players who want to play 40 hours a week?

(in the difference between the two questions my answer can be found )

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Simple solutions are often the best.

What ThoughtBubble said.

This will keep both the casual and hardcore gamer happy. If someone has a problem with this(if it''s done right), that person is just being too self centered.



If you love your job, you''''ll never work a day in your life.

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quote:
Original post by ThoughtBubble
The answer is simple: Lower the bar of effectiveness. Set up the difficulty and the ascension curve so that twice the hours into the game isn't twice the effectiveness.


Would you care to elaborate on this, i'm not sure what you mean.


[edited by - Ironside on September 2, 2002 7:42:25 PM]

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quote:
Original post by ThoughtBubble
The answer is simple: Lower the bar of effectiveness. Set up the difficulty and the ascension curve so that twice the hours into the game isn''t twice the effectiveness.


Uh, like Ironside said, please elaborate, because the way it sounds, I think the hardcore players are going to be very angry when they get killed by a newbie. (In other words it will alienate the hardcores because there won''t be any benefit for their hard work and dedication.)

The other approaches, like
Cokeman''s(some work is done for you by NPCs when offline),
stevenmarky''s(adjust difficulty and set up benefits for each type),
Sethius''s(use long and short term goals for each type and design it so that the two types can work together), and
Ironside''s(let both types of gamers impact the game world)
seem to be the best.

TheHermit''s response(let experience points diminish over time) seems a bit like ThoughtBubble''s but is very interesting in and of itself.

Finally, it should be difficult to become a Jedi, they''re pretty powerful.

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Sorry about the brief reply before, mbut was in a rush...

To elaborate: ( and even change a little due to thinking more along this track and quite liking the idea )

A player has base stats, say 15 strength and 10 intelligence.

A Player receives exp pts for whatever reason, say 100 pts for slaying a slobber monster with the flashy spear spell. These 100 pts would go towards his experience pts which grow his overall skill, and also towards his intelligence because of the successful use of a spell.

So now his base stats are slightly increased overall, as well as the intelligence recieving a boost too.

In time however, both of these bonuses diminsih, say at the rate of 1000 p/hour or some other exponential model if you''re feeling fancy.

So now to the pros and cons as i see them:

+++:
Players receive credit for that skill which tey use most - thus increasing the roleplaying element by having the player more skilled in any given area they use most.
If a skill remains unused, the player loses it. A preferable model would be for the player to slowly lose it at first, then gradually increase the rate of diminishing the skill, whilst still keeping a small amount of the skill as ''unlosable'' so each skill becomes like riding a bike, once you know how, you can get back on, but not be an x-games pro after 10 years off.

---:
Players lose skills if they don''t use them.
I haven''t fully theorised this but it seems to me that a cap could be reached where it is impossible to increase a skill through lack of oppurtunity. This could be a - because ongoing play gives less reward, but by keeping a small amoun of exp. as permanent this may be avoided. Also, it makes players participate, and try to kill things, (or bake bread.) so as to keep the exp high.

In closing, this is more random directed thought, but with careful implementation i think it may just be a viable system to balance pros and amateurs...

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Bear with me, as this is the product of a lot of thought, resarch and writing on my part, and I have a tendancy to forget that everyone else doesn''t have all my thoughts on it.

To start with, Accessability.

To do something in a game requres certian resources. The resources may be money, equipment, stats or something else. For example, the minium level to make a profit fighting sand spiders may be 5. Any less than five, and you''ll lose more than you win.

Let''s keep a standard of measure of a situations challenge by the character level required to have a chance of surviving it. Most MMORPGS start with low level requirments, and add increasing amounts as you proceed away from towns and into dungeons. The requirements bar those too low level to go into some places.

Now, if half the world requres level 20 or higher to use it, you''d best make sure that the majority of your players are going to get past level 20. If you want to bring in more causal players, make sure that the majrity of the world is reachable in ''casual'' amounts of time. While it''s a good idea to put in some neat stuff in the high level dungeons for the hardcore people, be sure to put some neat stuff in for the rest of the people as well (keeping it accessable).


The next thing you can work on is teamwork.
In most MMORPG''s I''ve looked at or played, lower level people are looked at as a liability in groups. While it''s true that sometimes people do hurt more than they help, it''s not quite so regular, expecially with someone who has a decent amount of skill. You can bridge a lot fo the gap between hardcore and casual by designing your game system so that they can play together at the same time, and the hardcore character''s increased effectiveness doesn''t totally eclipse the use of the casual character''s presence.

You can do this with the dreaded expierence curve. It''s all about making things with diminishing returns. The better you are, the more work it takes to get better, the less it shows. So while the hardcore character is twice as expierenced, he''s say only 20% more effective. And a character who''s three times as expierenced would only be 25% more effective than the causal character.

Now, apply this to monsters. Apply this to items. Apply this to towns. Apply this to Dungeons. Apply this to the areas of the overworld map. And make doubly sure you apply this to player run merchants (otherwise only the hardcore people will have access to the finances needed to start, and will grow so fast the casual can''t keep up).

Anyway, I wanted to say more but I''m out of steam.
Let me know if I made sense or not.
Hope that Helped

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They dont need any balancing. Online RPGS are not made for casual gamers so not many casual gamers play them they play games like quake 3 etc.. If you made the efficency of the game higher in the game because people say they are not going to play it as much, everyone would play it using that setting because Im sure a game would not be made that kicks the player out for playing to long. So therefore they could level up faster etc... in half the time who would not play with that setting. People need to work on making Online Rpg''s for fun, because it is not fun killing goblin after goblin just to gain a level. That is considered work and I have enough work I dont need to work while I relaz to play games. Combat needs to be faster and it should not take that long to gain skill but make your skill peak extremely high so the hardcore players can be up there but the casual gamers can still be strong but still be limited for not playing that long. If a person wants to have the best character they need to play them what fun is a game if everything is handed to you?

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O.K. So I put a little thought to this and here''s what I came up with.

The basic problem is this. You have Hard Core (HC) players and Casual (C) players. HC players play a lot and leave C gamers in the dust. This is bad, so you need to balance out HC players and C players. The only way is to punish HC players, by making their levels harder to get, reducing their effectiveness, or giving bonuses to C players.

But is that the only solution ? Albert Einstein once said "You can''t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it" Now I’m no Albert Einstein but I''m willing to take a stab and solving the problem with a different approach.

What if you could architect an environment where HC players didn''t want to advance?

Seems a little weird but I thought up an O.K. scenario to describe it. What if in the game you made it difficult for players who were say 50% ahead of the average level in the game, not by capping them but making the game more difficult. What if these HC high level players would be targeted by the forces of evil because the represent the greatest threat to the dark lord. The game could spawn powerful demons that hunted these top level characters relentlessly. The further ahead of the average level the HC gamers got the bigger and badder the demons would be that hunted them. Eventually the high level characters would have to travel in groups just to survive. You could indicate how "market for death by demons" a player was by giving them a red aura for example. The deeper the red and stronger the aura the more "Wanted" they are by the forces of evil.

Admittedly some HC gamers would love this. But even so the difficulty of hunting with big demons after you would eventually wear on them giving them motivation to slow down on their leveling. Because a lot of HC gamers would rise to the challenge and feel good about their auras initially it''s not as much of a punishment as diminishing returns but it accomplishes a similar goal.

Yes, it''s pretty easy to punch holes in this idea. For instance what would HC gamers do when they retreated to town waiting for the masses of C gamers to catch up with them? You would have to provide them with something else to do. Better yet, reduce their aura when they hunt in a group with low level players. Because they get a break from big ugly demons they would be more likely to engage in this type of activity even though (or because) it wouldn’t level them as fast.

So my challenge is this, come up with a solution to the HC & C problem that doesn''t punish (or punishes less) the gamers like diminishing returns or level capping does. Doesn’t have to be perfect but try and make it creative.

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How is it that you people still don''t understand the difference between a casual and hard-core gamer?

Time has nothing to do with it. I know casual gamers that have been playing EQ since Beta 2 or 3 relatively non-stop and still don''t have a character capable of reaching the planes (46th level), regardless of the fact that they put in 25-50 hours a week, every week for over 3 years. I also know people who played EQ for a total of around 6 months and had a 60th level character, even though they only put in 15-20 hours a week.

Casual gamers are casual because they are just that: Casual. They play to play. Hard-core gamers play for one thing: To win. That might be hitting 60th level (in EQ), killing the biggest, baddest critter in the game, getting the best equipment, being the most powerful, etc... it''s different from player to player. The casual gamer doesn''t care about this stuff, he''s more concerned with getting into a group and having fun, whether he dies or not (though the death penalty can be extreme enough to make death take the fun out of the game).

You want to know how to make the game fun for either? Make interaction between players more important than anything else. Remove barriers which block player interaction. MMOGs are made to be as much of an interactive medium as a gaming medium for a reason. Role-playing is as much (if not more) of an outlet for people than gaming (killing, gaining exp, etc...) is. It is more of a stress reliever, since the goals of gaming can actually create stress and people get more satisfaction from developing relationships than they do from developing a ''character''.

If the game works well as both a communications medium between members of a community and as a cooperative (competitive) game, then it will be successful with both the casual gamer who just wants to have some fun and the hardcore gamer who is after the thrill of victory and competition.

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Well... there''s a subtle difference between an MMOG and a MMORPG. The ''RPG'' suffix implies a game with character progression, experience points and stats, all that business. By their very nature, players of these games expect time invested to give a reliable payback. You can''t change that really, any more than you can take the cars out of a driving game and expect to still call it a driving game and have driving fans play it.

So you essentially have 2 choices. The first is to keep the paradigm but reduce the differentials between casual players and hardcore players, or new players and long-time players. The second is to pick a new paradigm where time is not the essential resource.

The first choice will reduce the problem but can never eliminate it. On the other hand, you may still be able to attract all the same players and keep them longer, because you''re keeping your ''RPG'' credentials. The key here is to make the statistical increases slow down, so that there''s not a linear progression, ie. diminishing returns. A level 50 character should always beat a level 10 character, but there''s no reason why they should be able to beat 5 level 10 characters at once, as they can in many systems. The differences need to be kept large enough that time spent doesn''t seem futile, but small enough so that more casual players are not totally useless by comparison. It''s a tough one to balance.

The second choice would be to make sure that all or part of your game is not based on time. Perhaps the game could be based around player skill, or can be learned offline. It''s difficult to call such a game an ''RPG'' though, as it doesn''t match most people''s perception of the term. Anyway... perhaps the true strength in such a game is in numbers, not in time invested, so that a new character who teams up with 5 others can do just as well as someone who''s played for 6 times as long as any of them. Or maybe it could be a purely social game where you chat and create stuff rather than fight. Or a game solely about exploration - those who play longer will have found more, but they will still be finding things at the same rate as a new player.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost | Asking Questions | Organising code files | My stuff ]

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SOLINEAR wrote:
quote:
Make interaction between players more important than anything else. Remove barriers which block player interaction.

What are the barriers currently in place? Do you mean barriers between casual and hardcore gamers, or just between gamers in general?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Create a mutually benifical social dynamic. For instance allow hardcore players to be rented by the casual players ( either directly controling their characters , or by partying ). This allows the casual players to go deeper and experience more things than if they were go do it alone or with a group of low levels. While the hardcore player would get some "newbie" funds, which can only be gotten from newbies. Newbies then can be traded in for unique items. This is just an example, Im sure you can create many more of these mutually benifical cyclic dependices.

Good Luck

-ddn

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Silvermist:

There are many barriers in any number of games. DAoC has a relatively difficult chat method and it''s too fragmented between area chat and the other methods, making it where if you''re engrossed in a discussion with your guild you can actually never even realize that someone in front of you is even talking.

UO has the barrier of only nearby chat being visible. How do you chat with someone halfway across the world? You go to them. That''s a huge barrier.

DAoC also makes it largely possible to actually game non-stop. This might sound like a benefit (indeed, for many players it is), but it''s actually a barrier for communication because the players are fighting/pulling instead of chatting. The downtime in EQ was not designed to be a ''chatting time'', but that''s what it ended up becoming. If you''re sitting there for 5 minutes waiting for the cleric to recover mana, then you''ve got time to chat with your buddies or possibly make new buddies.

Allowing someone to actually achieve what they want without outside help is another barrier to communication. If I don''t need someone, then why should I bother to talk to them, unless I''m otherwise bored?

Get rid of the poor communications mediums (bad chat windows), give the players time to chat (downtime), make them depend on each-other (the blacksmith can''t kill that dragon to get the scales for armor and the warriors can''t make the armor or weapons they want, so they need each-other, the mage can''t stand against the giant and the warrior can''t beat a will-o-the-wisp by himself, etc...) and you''re well on your way to making a great MMOG that everyone will enjoy.

It''s not about casual gamers vs. hard core gamers. It''s about making a game that will get people hooked because they have developed friendships and such in the game. If people create guilds and have to cooperate to achieve different tasks then they become more than just a group of gamers, they become a community and if enough of these small communities occur within a particular game world they almost become a society in and of themselves and that''s what you want, players participating in a society of your making. From a business standpoint it''s the best possible result. From a game developer''s standpoint it is also, since what you''re trying to create is an engrossing, enjoyable environment for people to participate in.

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quote:
Original post by solinear
UO has the barrier of only nearby chat being visible. How do you chat with someone halfway across the world? You go to them. That''s a huge barrier.



Actually this is a huge point and there''s more to it that at first appears. Observation has shown that when players are able to chat with other players anywhere in the game world instantaneously a number of adverse side effects appear.

Locality suddenly doesn''t exist, much like the Internet. Everyone is accessible all the time. Communities that would naturally form around towns where people would call home so that they could always find their friends cease to exist. Now people just message their friend on the other side of the world and spend a 1/2 hour going to meet them for a quest.

Because of this people tend to only play in groups when their friends are on, instead of forming impromptu groups with other members of their local (local within the game world) community.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on this topic... there are arguements for the gloabl chat capabality as well, but you can''t just call UO''s "Huge barrier" a lot of time was spent considering the chat in the game. You can see UO''s designer speak out on alot of these issues at his site

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quote:
there are arguements for the gloabl chat capabality as well, but you can''t just call UO''s "Huge barrier" a lot of time was spent considering the chat in the game.

I guess I''m in the camp of non-global chat proponents. Global chat can be done in the lobby. In the virtual world, chat should be part of the virtual laws governing that world. If that world has some means of global communication (technology, magic, etc), then global chat can happen.

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I''ve seen this a lot on MUD''s.

Often a hardcore gamer is someone who has played before, was booted or banned and tries again anonymously. He knows the tricks, which monsters to kill for max XP, which quests to do. His aim is to not bother with anything not related to leveling and to just gain as much money and XP as possible quickly.

Just make your game friendly, social. Allow parties, where you can take lower characters to give them XP. This will make the hardcore players help the beginners. Flag experience/playing time and kill the ones that level too fast.

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the problem is that you are trying to balance two separately constructed spheres: survival and social standing. in the real world, interaction between these spheres is handled by differentiating the rules of survival for each individual and using a material system to decentralize social status (mostly). perhaps you could apply a similar principle by increasing the detail of the skill tree (eg sword skill with multiple subcategories) and equating rank with geographic familiarization only (eg lvl 10 for forested areas, lvl 2 for desert areas).

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quote:
Original post by Ironside
Because of this people tend to only play in groups when their friends are on, instead of forming impromptu groups with other members of their local (local within the game world) community.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on this topic... there are arguements for the gloabl chat capabality as well, but you can''t just call UO''s "Huge barrier" a lot of time was spent considering the chat in the game. You can see UO''s designer speak out on alot of these issues at his site


Well, there are ways to get some of the benefits of both (gamers able to form self determined communities and locality driven communities), that''s to simply have local chat also shown over the character''s head, just as in UO.

There is no reason for everything to go through the chat window exclusively and for the case of local chat (anything non-global), it makes more sense for it to be over the characters head also (in the chat window is also important, since you then have a log which you can reference to also), since then you don''t need to read the name (kind of like real life) and players will gain association of personalities to characters (as opposed to names) more freely. I think this would be even more effective in your 1st person MMORPGs than it is in the isometric ones. Players turn their heads to look and see who''s talking (a clever programmer would just make it where you could click on the text on the edge of the screen to turn and face the speaker).

Players are also less likely to ignore someone asking for help if they are running by and see the person''s plea for help... Text boxes are commonly so full of nonsense chat that players very commonly ignore it out of habit. You won''t ignore someone saying something because you know that it''s probably directed either at you or everyone.

Of course, I would say to keep global chat out of the UI simply because it''s kind of like making everyone say the words that they are typing into IRC or ICQ. You could technically have a button that overrides that to also make all global speech local also, but set the default to the opposite.

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