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Niphty

MMORPG vs Stand-alone RPG

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Ok, here''s another good question that comes to light. In a single-player or at least non-massively multiplayer RPG, the players are considered heros.. people who''re above the rest, better and the best Yet in a MMORPG that cannot be. Not everyone can be the best, the top! So you run into the problem all the games have now, everyone merely spends their time leveling! There''s no real questing aspect, there''s no fun in it. So my question is, how would you go about balancing a MMORPG to make it fun, yet fair? And how would you deal with the problems of minimaxing players, and supernewbies who simply tag along with more experienced peoples to raise levels without actually gaining any knowledge of the game system? These seem to be very important questions to me, as they''ve been lacking in almost every MMORPG there is today. Is there a way to solve the problems? I personally think there must be, but it''s not easy. The other aspect is creating a true-to-life MMORPG based on a medieval time setting or future setting, meaning you have people who''re peasants to lords. How do you balance it so that people don''t constantly complain about not being a lord and how unfair the game is? One way would be to work your way up the ladder of success, but that would mean people would spend hours skilling like in every other game! So it becomes self-defeating to that point. The only way to foster community that I could think of, and still be in-game and in-character would be to have their guilds deny them the ability to advance levels unless they have aged a certain time. Society deems this appropriate, with the age of driving, minority, majority, and drinking. There''s even an age of retirement! So is this the best sytem to follow, as it''s the system currently used in reality? or is there something that can transcend these problems and be a panacea? Thanks! J

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I was playing with this for a while myself, and I had a few contraversial ideas... Mainly, don''t have levels or EXP. People apply to play a certain role (hence Role-play) and they stick with it. The focus shouldn''t be on gaining power, it should be on playing the character and surviving with what you''ve got.

Here''s why it works.

1. in the setting you describe, only HERO-like figures do the dangerous adventurous stuff. The rest of us do the socialite/political intrigue thing, or find some other entertainment rather than mass slaughter of the malevolant goblins who somehow exist in invincible numbers in our fragile ecosystme (check out THAT rant!). If you don''t reward just killing stuff, fewer people will want to do just that.

2. Replace leveling and EXP with an gain-by-doing skill system like in the first Quest for Glory. Combat gets you combat exp, climbing gets you climbing exp, etc. (read on...)

3. Attrition. Have individual skill levels constantly falling at a slow rate, so that you need to keep doing something to have it at an optimum level. Ideally, this would be done on a curve. This makes hack/slash exp gaining possible, but it gets garder as it goes along. In order to maintain top level fighting skills, you have to fight all the time. And you will suck at everything else. (like in reality)

4. Allow mastering of skills. Once a skill has been over a certain level for a certain amount of time, it is mastered, and can never fall below that point. This should be hard, but attainable.

Personally, if I were asked to apply for either a peasant or Nobleman role in a RPG with no upward mobility (read: glass ceiling) I would be a peasant. Personal preferance, I think peasants make much more interesting and unexpected heros.

I''m just getting started. Where are you HQed? I would love to help you if this actually becomes a project.

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I like the ideas you''ve stated, but.. for a roleplaying game to remain entertaining, it has to have qualities which go above and beyond reality. Remember, we''re working on a game.. not virtual reality (although a realistic medieval sim is in the thought process..).
The need to level is one based on the sheer ease of game design aspect. Skill based systems ARE a great way to allow people to do things, but unfortunately.. it''s rather difficult to try and code a pure skill-based game system. I''m shooting for something easier to work out for a begining project of this magnitude, but i''ve got ideas for others which use pure-skill systems (one''s a cyberpunk.. which a friend and i had ideas from afte rplaying cyberpunk 2020.. For now, though, the level based system works in the place we''ve created. It''s got a very good background in terms of story and mystery.. i''m just hoping to make the best of what the players will do, and not have people required to skill 24/7 in order for it to be fair.
One reason I like the graduated system of age is that it allows those with more experience out of character to advance. This means people who know the realms, who ARE the true heros.. those will advance! The ones who simply wish to minimax, etc.. they''ll not get very far along. I admit, someone who''s dedicated could very well increase faster than others.. but that should be something relating to in-game Role-Playing. If GM''s see the person roleplaying in a serious fasion, they may choose to give the person a boost. Kinda like a blessing from the gods Although the gods certainly can''t watch everyone.. I think everyone who works seriously will get noticed in due time. This, however, could only be a known in-house thing.. cause we''d have people emailing us over and over "i''ve been roleplaying, here''s a snip of it, now i want an exp bonus!"
Sad, but true. As for location.. we''re based in Tenn, USA right now.. although we tend to travel a lot I''m currently head coder for both client and server and partner in overall design along with my girlfriend. Several of our friends are contributing designers in terms of guilds and such (rangers, warriors.. all the basic stuff, plus a few bonus suprises!). I am also the lead writer for the design docs as well as lead writer for the story, and my girlfriend the editor of such. now as soon as I can figure out how to.. i think i''ll go ahead and be president while i''m at it
Feel free to contact me privately with any questions or comments.. if you''re interested in joining, i think we''ve still got some places we need filled. If you can program and work for jelly beans, then we''ll hire you right away hehe. I''ve got two machines here about to be turned into linux servers. So i guess i''m the networking guy as well.. lol Goes well with my name though.. cause in the game.. once running.. I''ll be Lord Jack, lord of the lands.. hehe. jack of all trades

J

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Here is my COMPLTELY unqualified, incomplete, and VERY LONG thoughts on the subject.

I think the problem with most MMPORPG’s is that they don’t make up their minds rather they are simulations/virtual communities or role-playing games.

The draw of MMPORPG’s in general is the ‘alternative life’ aspect – getting to, in a way, live in a life or time that you obviously can’t in real life. But I think RPG’s and Virtual Communities offer different types of alternative lives.

RPG’s are about being something more powerful and capable than you can be in real life. People play RPG’s to be heroes (or anti-heroes as may be the case). If you take that away or try to limit the pursuit of power in some way you are removing one of the big attractions to playing an RPG.

Simulations and virtual communities don’t focus on the hero and power building aspect so much. People participate in virtual communities for the interaction aspect. To have a successful virtual community requires players with the motivation to provide interesting interaction. Simulations also require that player accept the fact that not every one is equal. Not everyone can be king. Simulations also need to have a broader set of available player actions, since the quality of player interaction will depend on how varied the players actions can be (for instance, PVP).

Back when the player community was small and MUD’s where the only MMPORG offerings, you could have both a power building focus and a virtual community focus in one server. That was because the players on MUD’s tended to be people who had a strong role-playing background and thus were more conditioned to pursuing both. Also since MUD’s were more closed everyone felt part of a community and had the motivation to balance their play to provide community interaction while building their power. The sense of community was further enhanced in many cases by MUD server software that would allow players to participate in building the world. The smaller community and close nature of MUD’s (they were kind of like virtual club houses) also had informal pressures that ‘kept people in line’ (if you have never had the ‘pleasure’ of accidentally breaking the informal rules in a MUD community let me tell you, your punishment will be swift and unconditional). So in a MUD type environment there were lots of ways to keep people from taking the power gaming approach even if the rule set of the server allowed or even fostered it.

In the environment on commercial servers none of that exists. The number of players are huge and that sense of community doesn’t really exist. Players in many cases have no motivation to alter their play in any way to benefits the game world at large- there are no informal rules to punish playing in a ‘wrong’ way. You may have a small population of ‘traditionals’ that take the approach that playing a certain way makes it more fun for all, but they are overwhelmed by a larger number of players who just want to play powerful hero characters (many of whom don’t realize that their is even a need to modify their play and avoid power gaming). Most of the games are not designed to handle a world full of supermen. The administrators notice that power gaming is upsetting the balance of their game rules and that player interaction has gone to pot. Their response is to start trying to implement anti-power gaming techniques to encourage more ‘adventuring’ and role playing (Player to Player economies, anti-macro code, etc...). The result is that those looking to find an interesting virtual community end up complaining about the lack of ‘role-playing’ in the game, while those interested in the power building and hero-play get annoyed by the increasing number of hoops they have to jump through to build their characters.

(There are also sickos who like to play serial killers, people looking for a massively-multiplayer version of Quake, but I don’t know what to say about them).

In an open environment you can’t mix the aspects of a virtual community and an RPG.

RPG’s

-Class based characters don’t work (no elves, trolls, etc...). Every one just complains that one class is more powerful than some other. Character development needs to be skill-based.

-RPG’s have to let EVERYONE be equally a hero. You have to let everyone be supermen. This will work just fine as long as you design your rules and game world around the assumption that this is true. Its OK if every player is a super man if there is an equal or greater number of Evil Supermen bent on the players’ destruction.

-It makes no sense to allow general PVP in an RPG. You may have some who will use it as a role-playing tool, but far more will simple use it as another means of power building (man kind has been using violence to acquire power for thousands of years, why should it be any different in a digital world?). If there is any player to player conflict players divided into two or three teams. PVP would only be allowed between factions (UO is heading this direction).

-Your rule system must take for granted that players will pursue building power as fast as possible and that no matter how hard you try to keep adding new abilities and new content player will find ways to level faster than you can keep up.

A good idea might be to have to have a system of age-based player death. Age-based death serves as a way to prevent characters from becoming master of all things, since they would have to focus on certain related skills to become good at those skills before they became too old and died. Player could only be resurrected from non-age death. Most players should find that their character ages and dies before they can completely max out even one set of related skills. Particularly creative or persistent characters may be able to max out one area of skill development and even gain some proficiency with another, but would die soon afterwards.

Story line and background is critical to a succesful RPG, because you have to compensate for the large number of powerful characters. As an example: The story could be set in a remote space colony, but off from Earth by interplanetary war. The citizens of this colony would have to fend off the attacks of whatever alien Earth is at war with. The colony could be constantly attacked or infiltrated with spies. The danger would have to be real and constant.

Virtual Communities

-Virtual communities can not try to be fair to every player. Some people get to be peasants, some kings.

-Virtual communities can not have increasable powers. Characters have to be assigned a role with a fixed, non-increasable skill base. Systems for allocating the roles could be set up on a random allocation or a merit basis to set up some kind of ‘food-pyramid’ with few powerful characters on top and many weaker ones on bottom (Asheron’s Call tried something like this with the allegiance system).

-Virtual communities can not have arbitrary restrictions on character interaction – for example limiting PVP to factions or some other basis. You can not build a rule set that would be flexible to take into account all of the types of interaction that players would come up with. For instance, what if a player joins a faction but really is a spy with the intent of assassinating the faction’s leader?

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Niphty, I think you may have misinterpreted my Idea a little...

Attrition would have to be VERY balanced; on a curve, actually. The more badass you are at something, the faster it goes down. Also, it tends to go down VERY slowly. I think this is better than leveling because it requires the EXACT same amount of effort to stay on top. To stay the best combat character in a leveling system, you have to constantly fight. Same here.

What it adds, however, it the ability to lose a little of that skill. If you stop fighting for a week, it''s gonna take you a couple of fights to get back into the knack. Mind you, I had noted that you can never fall below a certain level once you have learned something.

I should also note that this system is not murder-centric. You get those skill exps immediately, during combat. So if that first fight lasts a long time., you might be right back where you were before. But you don''t necessarily actually have to fight. You could raise your sword skill simply by practicing alone, or sparring with someone else. Or, the skill could go up by being taught.

As for coding a skill system for things like combat... you can''t do possiblities for player skill, but you can control attack speed and accuracy. And that makes all the difference, right? There are ways to do this without pissing off the player, too!

The most important (and relevant to your original question) thing is this: Everyone is now in almost the same ball park. You don''t have to be thirtieth level to take part in the central plot, because there are no levels. People who fight often are going to be badass, but this system opens up for a new kind of character in MMOPRPGs; the guy who doesn''t fight at all.

As I kind of made this point in the other forum of yours, I''m thinking of a world with NO hack/slash element. Preferably no goblins... but if there are they have gawddamn souls, instead of being 45 second gestate experience fodder. (That makes me sick, thank''s for telling me =) )

But, don''t take my word for it. I''m gonna be using this system in some of my projects... We''ll see how it works.

Where does the Landfish live? Everywhere. Is not the Landfish the Buddha?

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Landfish, The system we''re going for will not feature decreasing skills. This becomes a hassle over time, and too many games have poor implimentation of this, so we''re choosing to leave it out for now. However, in a future game we might include it.. most likely in the realistic games. But for a false reality fantasy world.. we won''t force people to go through climbing walls they''ll just beat their heads on the wall, instead!
It''s all what we''ve based the world around now.. the leveling system. My friend and i also have a skill-based system in the works, but that''s for next time Right now, we''ve got a great story and better ideas and we want to lay out one project afore we start another.. hehe I plan on trying all of the types of systems if at all possible.. lol
I didn''t misunderstand the attrition part, it''s just not going to apply here at this time. After thinking a lot on this, I see what you mean, and the follow-up post helped to clarify even more. it''s deffinately a good idea on the subject.. and does induce a leveling-like state without the levels. It''s a very cool thought, let me know if and when you get a working example, I think it''d be nice to see. I also agree with the mastery part.. when you get above a certain level, you never really fall below that level. it''s the point where it becomes instinct almost. And i''d really like to see it in action when you''re done
I also agree on the whole monster aspect. If there''s monsters, they have families. If they''re in a group then they''re social and they''ve got friends. They''re gonna care if you slice their friend in two And killing hordes for nothing is also uncool with me. Mindless killing is what parents THINK games are about.. and i''d like to make it so that games are NOT about that. hehe at least not my game.
Also, i''m conferring with my girlfriend on a reply to your email.. just to let you know i didn''t forget about ya

As for the annony.. yeah, i agree that games sometimes don''t pick a side. However, it can be beneficial to ride the fence for a time. In the end, however.. a choice has to be made to some respects. Most just make the choice to go on being like doom.. mindless killing for nothing much. I think you''ve got some nice thoughts on the subjets, although they seem a bit devoid of psycological aspects in some respects.. while purely psycological analysis in others.. lol

I do believe that a happy middle ground can be reached in MMORPGs to have a social element and a war gamer element. It''s all a matter of using those war gamers to make your design plans come into action. I''ve incorporated the fact that some people will be solely on the warpath.. and let them. But they''ll find out quickly that my game is much more realistic and as the course of events unfolds (we''ve got plans covering two years worth of real time) they will play right into my plot hehe. damn, i''m smooth.. could this be the begining of designers actually anticipating the wargamer aspect in a MMORPG!? hehe!

J

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Ok, here is what I think. You have to start out as say.. A peasant. During the time you are a peasant, you can''t fight, adventure, etc. But you CAN do the things a normal peasant would do (walk around, clean, etc. :-)) As you age and gain more experience about the world around you you can slowly choose your path as an adventurer or perhaps you could be a merchant, blacksmith, etc. SO what I''m trying to say is, don''t have ANY NPC''s. Let the community provide the services for the other community members. No blacksmiths, no swords. =) This allows for a more realistic world where the player actually serves a purpose rather than hack and slash.

--m0rpheus

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As much as I like the idea, I have to disagree Morpheus. Allowing upward mobility in a social situation where it wouldn''t occur naturally, (say from peasant to minor lord in a medival caste system) tends to make players think there is a "better" thing to be.

Playing a peasant is actually sometimes cooled than playing a lord. It should be that you would have to seek out opportunities for upward mobility, not have them AT ALL supported by the game''s design structure outside the terms of the social system in the game.

I think that applying for certain roles is the way to go. That way, you know what you''re in for. However, it should be made (IMHO) clear that nobles have certain RESPONSIBILITIES that go along with thier title, and they can lose their status if they shirk those responsibilities.



Where does the Landfish live? Everywhere. Is not the Landfish the Buddha?

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I have to agree with Landfish on this one. As tempting as it might be to simply make people rise up, that wouldn''t gel with a medieval game system, simply because we know it wasn''t possible. The only feasible way is to actually make the people apply, since random pickings would oft result in the wrong choices.
It would be an interesting idea, and something to attempt at a later time, but it is very risky since it''s never been done before and has the potential to make people unhappy. Plus it would put some time on those running the game to review and accept people to certain positions. Some MUDs follow this rule of private entrance into the MUD. Apocolypse is one of those.. or at least it used to be, haven''t heard much on it for a long time
However, Another point made is that of no blacksmith, no fighting. This is something i''m actually working on.. a design which supports players and allows players to actually take on the roles that life would have to offer. Kinda like how in UO you can become a blacksmith and such, except on a much more intricate realistic scale. No constant hacking in a mine to get ore or constant pounding on a sword, unless that''s your job. It isn''t a way for players to make a start, and then change to something else. LOL But even the blacksmiths have the ability to go out and do things. I personally plan on allowing people to build buildings like in UO, except not costing three arms and a leg! I mean, heck.. in there you pay for server space, which is totally aside from the roleplay aspect! If houses costed that much in reality, and people didn''t have the ability to simply chop wood and build a house.. society''d be screwed! Oh well.. enough raving.. I''m just hoping to make something good where people of all walks can actually be a part of. Like I said, i''ve got things planned out for a couple years.. where I''d like to have the game world going. Which is why My girl and I both plan on playing a very active role in the game as Lord and Lady of the civilized lands. I''ve already got applications for Evil high bossman.. sorry

J

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Random thoughts:

Housing costs so much on UO because otherwise, there wo
uld be no wilderness due to it being covered with houses

You can''t perfectly support a true wargame and a true social environment. Or more accurately, you can''t please all of the people all of the time. If I give one person the right to hack apart whoever they choose, that means taking away someone else''s right to chat undisturbed.

In large MMORPGs, guilds etc help to form sub-communities and give people a sense of identity. This is what you''ll have to look into if you want social interaction on any kind of large scale.

Oh, and going the ''world-simulation'' route is fun as a programmer but almost totally pointless for the player. You spend way too long (as does the server CPU) calculating things that no player ever sees or cares about. Does the average player care that the dragon made the deer extinct? No. The average player complains that his character starves because there is no deer. We have enough ''unfortunate realism'' in the real
world. When people play a game they hope for a little more idealism

Instead of allowing a skill to be ''mastered'' such that it
doesn''t deteriorate any more, one alternative is to remember
the maximum a character has ever attained in each skill, and if the maximum is higher than the current score, make it easier to gain skill. This reflects the fact that it is easier to remember techniques than it is to originally learn them, and helps provide a degree of ''mastery'' (you just need a little exercise/practice daily to keep in shape) without eliminating the fact that neglecting any skill will have a negative effect.

One nice middle-ground between a level-based system and a skill based system is to use multiple levels for one character. They could have a magic scale, a combat scale, a knowledge scale, whatever suits your game. This allows a greater degree of specialisation for each character, not locking them into a single class, while keeping your game reasonably simple.

To be honest, I am seeing a lot of unrealistic expectations from people who post about making MMORPGs in particular. Largely from programmers who have played UO or Everquest, see a few things they consider to be problems, and still don''t really appreciate all the issues involved in fixing them. The MUD world has been dealing with virtual communities and multi-user games for a long time now and yet the lessons learned there are being ignored by many.

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