Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

The Single City MMORPG - A Discussion

This topic is 4947 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Afternoon everyone. As my first post here at the GameDev.net design forum, I hope to start some great discussion on what might be a difficult yet intriguing feat. I've played my fair share of MMORPGs, ranging from the epic high fantasy to the futuristic cyber to the modern day superhero. All have had their pitfalls and high points that have lead to their amazing success or a not-so-graceful fall. One constant that is present in all MMORPG I have played is a community center where merchants can hack their wares, hunting groups take shape, weddings (and divorces) are held, and where role playing is found to be the strongest. This community center has always been the city/starport/port/whathaveyou, so it is with this community center in mind that I wish to explore as a potential for a completely city-centric MMORPG. To explore all the facets of my idea right now would take much too long and I only have a few hours this afternoon to have a good solid discussion without extended breaks between posts. What I would like to do is throw a number of pro/cons out there and see what you agree/disagree with, what pros and cons you have yourselves, and any insightful thoughts you may have on this matter. Let's get started: Pros - Massive city with near-complete freedom gives player hours of unrestricted roaming and exploring of streets, alleys, buildings and underground. - City "sectors" for various activities/classes (i.e. Port/Market, Commericial, Art, Religion, Royal). - Potential to have dozens of professions catered to city life, ranging from cobbler (shoemaker) to militia guard to apothecary. Cons - Massive city may disorient some players due to closeness of buildings, unfamiliar sections of town, etc. - City "sectors" may give way to hot spots, leaving other sectors of city near-abandoned. - Broad range of professions may leave some desired professions (i.e. doctor, goldsmith, cleric) in short supply. These are just a few of the dozens of pro/cons I can produce, but I would like to open this up to the GameDev.net community to hear what you think as well, whether in a pro/con style or in open dialogue. I look forward to some great discussion, and I'll be sharing more of my ideas with you all in the coming days/weeks/months. Edit: As people contribute their own Pro/Cons, I'll gladly add them to the list above so others can see a compiled version. [edited by - Acoustica on May 19, 2004 3:46:03 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is an MMO game, City of Heroes, which is set inside just a single city, but I think it's more of an action game than an MMORPG. I've read several fantasy books about fascinating cities, and I think having a game set fully inside a city would be a good idea, but you will have several important problems to overcome:

1) Dealing with the scale. You must make the city large enough that people can actually go exploring and find new things, or hide, or really feel like they're in a different part of town when they cross into another sector. It should take a significant amount of time to get from one edge of the city to another. This means a few dozen times bigger than existing cities in MMORPG's, I think. Thus it will take a lot of work to design every part of the city, since you can't just run a terrain generator or create large flat plains like in a standard MMORPG.

2) Providing enough goals and excitement. Players in an MMORPG usually have big goals, like joining some guild or getting to level X to kill monster Y, basically becoming famous and important in some way. Thus you will have to have a great amount of dangerous monsters, rare items, etc all within one city which, being a city, is supposed to be just a place where people can live normal lives. So you'll have to design a pretty complicated fantasy world to explain how a city could have become this interesting, exciting and dangerous. There are books that do a very good job of this though, so it's possible.

3) Providing some place to obtain "raw resources" for crafting. Perhaps the city can have a port where NPC's randomly disembark and sell various goods. Perhaps some can be harvested in various ways. But since it's a city, realistically most of the resources have been obtained already by other people.

4) Adding realistic NPC's. A city is full of people, and they won't all be players on the same server unless you have a very small city. The NPC's can't be dumb rats and chickens and goblins either, they should be people who live there, go to work every day, interact with the players, etc. This could be very difficult to simulate in real-time, although it would be an awesome feature if done right.

[edited by - Matei on May 19, 2004 9:03:19 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
quote:
Original post by Matei
There is an MMO game, City of Heroes, which is set inside just a single city, but I think it's more of an action game than an MMORPG. I've read several fantasy books about fascinating cities, and I think having a game set fully inside a city would be a good idea, but you will have several important problems to overcome:


If you have the names of the books you've read I would love to take a look at them. I'm always looking for different perspectives on city composition and construction to compare and contrast with my own ideas.

quote:
1) Dealing with the scale. You must make the city large enough that people can actually go exploring and find new things, or hide, or really feel like they're in a different part of town when they cross into another sector. It should take a significant amount of time to get from one edge of the city to another. This means a few dozen times bigger than existing cities in MMORPG's, I think. Thus it will take a lot of work to design every part of the city, since you can't just run a terrain generator or create large flat plains like in a standard MMORPG.


How I envision a city is that it is contructed with a parent/child setup in mind, where city sectors are comprised of smaller districts; a very rudimentary example could be North Sector: Port District. Obviously there would be more than 4 sectors, as these different sectors would in theory be synonymous to the continents or countries of other MMORPGs. The scale of these sectors, and even their districts, would as you mentioned, have to be on a grand scale. One solution is to produce a city whose layout calls for wide avenues, parks, freestanding buildings and many streets dividing these buildings to increase the size of the sector. A drawback to this is that the city feels too prefabricated and lacks any signs of a naturally progressing, evolving city. It will truely be a feat, or even two, to have city scaling done right, but I believe it is doable.

quote:
2) Providing enough goals and excitement. Players in an MMORPG usually have big goals, like joining some guild or getting to level X to kill monster Y, basically becoming famous and important in some way. Thus you will have to have a great amount of dangerous monsters, rare items, etc all within one city which, being a city, is supposed to be just a place where people can live normal lives. So you'll have to design a pretty complicated fantasy world to explain how a city could have become this interesting, exciting and dangerous. There are books that do a very good job of this though, so it's possible.


Again, I would love to have the names of these books for insight into how others go about implimenting city dynamics. The city itself would require a large backstory supporting the current state, and such things as city lore, catacombs, abandoned villas, dark cults and political intrigue can all add to the livelihood of the denizens.

quote:
3) Providing some place to obtain "raw resources" for crafting. Perhaps the city can have a port where NPC's randomly disembark and sell various goods. Perhaps some can be harvested in various ways. But since it's a city, realistically most of the resources have been obtained already by other people.


My initial thoughts on resource acquisition are that the port and market districts would be the central resource areas, with a semi-random cycle of resources coming into the city and entering the economy. Resources such as common wood and iron ore would have a largely steady influx into the city, while more rare woods, gems, metals and other such things would be fewer and farther between and contain a high level of random influx. Something I have been tossing around is the inclusion of dynamic events that would stimulate the economy, such as shortages, surpluses and new resource discoveries.

quote:
4) Adding realistic NPC's. A city is full of people, and they won't all be players on the same server unless you have a very small city. The NPC's can't be dumb rats and chickens and goblins either, they should be people who live there, go to work every day, interact with the players, etc. This could be very difficult to simulate in real-time, although it would be an awesome feature if done right.


NPC AI is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of an MMORPG in terms of maintaining a sense of immersion. You don’t want to walk up to a butcher and have him introduce himself every time you select him, you want him to get to know you, know what you purchase, make suggestions and give you deals every now and then. I believe with the current AI we have things like this are certainly possible, but feasible and in a timely fashion is where I am concerned. I have no experience with AI though so I will leave items like this to the ones with knowledge in this field.

Great thoughts Matei, I encourage others to follow suit and share your thoughts with the community.

[edited by - Acoustica on May 20, 2004 5:25:44 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
- Massive city with near-complete freedom gives player hours of unrestricted roaming and exploring of streets, alleys, buildings and underground.

Define: near-complete freedom, unrestricted roaming, and exploring.

Who is your target audience with this project? What supports this audience?

When designing an MMO you need to know what your hardware is before you design too much. Many ideas for an MMO never got off the ground because they lack the technology.

James Dee Finical
MMORPG Designer

[edited by - James Dee Finical on May 20, 2004 7:06:41 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Where''s the Red Light District?! My MMO objective is to be a pimp - Huggy Bear, to be exact - and I want my hoes, dammit!

Here we have a quandry. Do you cater to my whim, or do you focus on yours? If the latter, which is perfectly logical and in fact the sane thing to do, then get rid of all "limitless freedom" ideas. It''s not going to happen for a good while to come.

Furthermore, mere locality does not a game make. What will players do in this "massive city"? If it''s essentially just "EverQuest: Metro Area," then wake me when it''s over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
quote:
Original post by James Dee Finical
Define: near-complete freedom, unrestricted roaming, and exploring.


What would be an ideal would be that as a character you have the ability to enter into hundreds of homes (risking surprised homeowners backlash), shops, and civic buildings. Many times cities in current games have movement-restricted areas using devices like locked doors, boxes and barrels in alleyways or walls/gates to confine players to certain parts of the city. Who is to say that if your character happens to have access to lockpicking ability and the proper tools, they can''t find themselves going into these restricted areas, but there would as well be the risk involved. If you climb over those barrels and find yourself in the hideout of a street gang, be prepared to answer some questions with either your purse or your dagger. The city should cater to the explorers, the ones who want to get into the muck of the sewer system and perhaps find secret passages and whatnot, not just have a city where everyone is on a level playing field in regards to access to buildings and other areas. If you have the skills necessary to jump that wall, then by all means the city should be able to accomodate you.

quote:
Who is your target audience with this project? What supports this audience?


The city would cater to nearly all the fans of current MMORPGs, as there would be elements of all the facets found today that appeal to those players. A few examples to support these players that come to mind: Crafting (smiths/clothiers/woodcarvers/jewelers/etc.), Combat (town militia/royal guards), Social (jester/street performer/musicians/dancers). There would be numerous "professions" to cater to the many interests of the players. The city as well should appeal to those that enjoy simulation games, as something that would be implemented into the city would be dynamic housing, something similar to how the FFXI housing system works, but with the ability to invite others into your home, customize beyond a single room, and other such things.

quote:
When designing an MMO you need to know what your hardware is before you design too much. Many ideas for an MMO never got off the ground because they lack the technology.


This is a great reason why I would want to form an exploratory team before pursuing any set features of the game. At this point, perhaps a city that has what I invision cannot yet be achieved simply because not enough processing power is available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Where's the Red Light District?! My MMO objective is to be a pimp - Huggy Bear, to be exact - and I want my hoes, dammit!

Here we have a quandry. Do you cater to my whim, or do you focus on yours? If the latter, which is perfectly logical and in fact the sane thing to do, then get rid of all "limitless freedom" ideas. It's not going to happen for a good while to come.


What I meant when I was refering to limitless freedom was more along the lines of where you could travel within the city as opposed to what you could be. There would be set professions and the like, we wouldn't want digital prostitutes on every corner begging the aristocrats for a sixpence.

quote:
Furthermore, mere locality does not a game make. What will players do in this "massive city"? If it's essentially just "EverQuest: Metro Area," then wake me when it's over.


Questing, profession advancement, exploring, trading, roleplaying, social advancement (more on this in a future discussion), PvP, quite a list, but how to provide the same amount of content that an entire world can provide in the confines of a walled city? The details of the aforementioned would be expanded and shaped to dynamically fit into the city. To elaborate more would require me to develop a number of in-depth examples, something I will gladly do this weekend if requested. Thanks for the feedback.

[edited by - Acoustica on May 20, 2004 7:40:20 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Con: Why can''t you leave the city? It may seem like it doesn''t matter, but if I was playing I would want an explaination for why I''m stuck in this city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
quote:
Original post by Ceoddyn
Con: Why can't you leave the city? It may seem like it doesn't matter, but if I was playing I would want an explaination for why I'm stuck in this city.


I myself when thinking of this city was wondering the same, just how does one go about having a city where no one can leave? I found the answer to this through geography. Whether the city is on a rocky island or at the base, or even top, of a mountain, geography would most certainly be the determining factor in limiting movement beyond the city. One possible outlook is that the city is nestled on a mountainside, where the city is a very vertical one with sweeping towers and buildings (think of Minas Tirith). There would be only one feasible exit from the city and that would lead down into perhaps a valley or such where agriculture is handled, the port is located, or other things. Beyond that, the ocean or some other boundary that restricts movement beyond the city. That's a great point to bring up Ceoddyn and it's something that will definitely be a focus point if further development is initiated.

[edited by - Acoustica on May 20, 2004 10:52:13 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
quote:
Original post by Ceoddyn
Con: Why can''t you leave the city? It may seem like it doesn''t matter, but if I was playing I would want an explaination for why I''m stuck in this city.


Outside the city is not a place where you''d want to be, because there''s :
- Nuclear winter (think Fallout vaults)
- Strange undestroyable monsters (think Final Fantasy Movie)
- Water, aka you''re stuck on an island (think Water World)
- Deadly phenomenons (think MTG "Tolaria incident" )
- Lack of necessary life energy (think Stargate:SG1, the episode where SG1 gets cloned into robots)
- Interstellar void (think "Central Point" of Valerian "The Ambassador Of The Shadows", a space station)


Victor Nicollet, INT13 game programmer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry for the late reply; one "urban fantasy" book I read is Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, which is set in a very interesting (albiet grim) city, with a corrupt government, inhabitants of many races, slums, criminals, mysterious ancient buildings, etc. The author also wrote other books set in cities; I think the latest one is called The Scar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hey all,


Original post by Ceoddyn
Con: Why can''t you leave the city? It may seem like it doesn''t matter, but if I was playing I would want an explaination for why I''m stuck in this city.

If you leave the city you are killed by some rading group of people or if your in the ocean you walk out to far and you get eaten by some monster or something.

I like the Zone and sectors idea as you could have a small load time. the way you make each sector not go dead is by having something valuble in each sector that is in no other sector.

oh and as to disorienting people you have a point, but adding wide streets and alleys between buildings would help alot too. Adding parks, several large buildings, having cleaner beginner sector and a dirty/dingier/cluttered sectors farther out so when you are more able you wont get so disoriented. And of course a a large map of the city in the players inventory showing were they are and were the major buildings and sites of interest would help. It would be cool to have a game like this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The article currently featured this week talks about just what goes into the networking aspect of MMOGs. It''s a good article, so if you haven''t read it, do so. It breathes a cold, harsh reality into just what it takes to make such a game work. It''s pretty flippin'' hardcore.

An MMOG in a single city could definately work, I would think. Design-wise you''d just put all the effort of creating an entire world into flushing out (to the fullest detail) your city. New York City is massive, never sleeps, and just imagine it as the center of an MMOG. Might not be very exciting if you''re from there, but making a virtual city effectively appear that size would take as much work as the whole of Everquest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
Games Workshops'' Necromunda would lend itself well to this style of game, offering factions (the great houses), safe areas for character interaction (hive central), exploring and monstor hunting (the underhive) with the deeper you go the harder it becomes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hiya folks, the following is an ammended post from: http://www.gamedev.org/yabbse/index.php?board=3;action=display;threadid=940 I''m not digging at any single idea here, just the general theory of MMOG development at the moment.

Your idea is good, but its easy to forget why we play games when designing a MMOG. They are not a new medium, but they are a blank slate with ample gameplay design opportunities. I would urge you to consider the experience you are aiming to provide and forge every aspect of the game to deliver that. Don''t get lost in the distopian Brave new World of MMOG''s.

First I want to break a mythology. The most fundemental statement we must accept for a strong MMORPG design is: Freedom is not fun without purpose. Vast open landscapes are not fun, absence of civil or ethical control is not fun, being rich and prosperous is not fun. These design aspects are built into MMOG''s because they are examples of a lifestyle many/most people aspire to, but without extraction of their base elements they are mearly clumsy design theories. Not tools and not empowering gameplay devices.

Great minds have mused over the creation of Utopias for centuaries, and in making a classic MMOG you are doing just that. The classic MMOG ideals (vast land, build anything, do anything) can NEVER be fully realised, a distopia forms, and players are loosely interested for a few months etc...

The MMOG world and its evolving ideas are an open forum for development of new social mechanisms and exploration of cultural and physical bonds. They are pastures rich with the possiblity of breakthrough designs and draw developers into over-complication of design. Until MMOG''s break through this child like exploration of their own purpose we will continue to see promises of 20km view distances and 10,000 people living in online cities. Not to say there is anything wrong with these features but if thats your advertising campaign, i''d wager the game would be seriously lacking long term playability.

So what''s to be done?

I think the first wave of ''breakthrough'' MMOG''s are on the way. Gulid Wars strikes me as an extremly mature design. It merges small scale, highly focused game objectives with continuing character development which seems beyond stagnation because it does not use limited skill trees or exponential experience increases. Guild Wars demonstrates crystalisation of the design ideals of freedom and fun beyond simple extractions of our industries desire to be bigger and better.

I''m guilty of it myself, but to evolve new ideas in MMOG''s we must look beyond the mirage of vast worlds and infinate systems of choice to create a friendlier game. A modular, controlled, fun experience, which supports every players progression into the game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I appreciate DogCity''s comments. Interestingly, I''m participating (or will be) in the design of a single-city MMOG myself, so I''ve also put some serious thought into the topic.

I think Acoustica has some great ideas. But the theme of DogCity''s post applies as much to Acoustica''s designs as any other MMOG.

Freedom of exploration and freedom of gameplay are crucial to MMOGs. But without some kind of focus, players quickly grow weary of the gain-getting treadmill. Exploration in itself isn''t necessarily a valid focus either, since most players can explore in a day what took the developers a month to build... they''ll run out of things to explore before long.

The Holy Grail of MMORPG design, in my opinion, is simply giving the players something important, and meaningful , to do. Random "quests" in most games feel as contrived as they are.

I think the solution is for the developers to create a large (but not inexhaustible) number of scenarios that are specific and detailed enough to be interesting, but general and open-ended enough that a thousand role-playing opportunities can be enacted within the scope of the scenario by the player himself.

... On a completely unrelated note, I think one element that helps to make exploration in MMOGs interesting is danger. It''s not just the Unknown that makes it exciting, it''s the legitimate Fear of the Unknown.

****************************************

Brian Lacy
ForeverDream Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?


"I create. Therefore I am."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My brains fried, but im gonna try!..

Perhaps MMOG utopia can't be obtained through NPC's as we know them. Perhaps we need a new, far more random way to interact with the world and its inhabitants. The only thing I can think of is multiple versions of the same universe - sold seperately as seperate online experiences, but where everyone logs onto the same universe... Its an impossible feet and unless EA misplace their vast minds and pump cash like gas into development, its unlikely we will ever see it. but here it is:

n00bs listen up, this is the big one!

How about n versions of the game? Each made as well as a well made game!

International Pilot Online!
Train Driver online!
Taxi Driver online!
Sales clerk online!
Data entry assistant online!
Insane Time warping killer online!
Oil Tycoon online!
Mafia online!
Government Online!
Police Protection online! (because police arn't for anything but protection... right?)
Media Guru online!
Prison escape.. prison guard.. etc etc ONLINE!
Coffe House Mofo Online!
Monster hunter online? (seems kinda limited doesn't it?)

All these people, all playing different GAMES in the same WORLD. they can interact but clearly not do each others jobs... Endless possiblities because its essentialy Humanity Online (or whatever sci-fi fantasy extraction floats your boat).

Problem solved. Where's my cheque?

edit - maths added.

[edited by - DogCity on May 28, 2004 2:56:54 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Remember players expect more out of an MMO.

If I have the option jump out of a moving taxi going 90 in real life I want to be able to do it in a game!

DogCity,

I''ve seen that idea a thousand times now but haven''t seen it attempted. I would love to see it work out! Thinking in terms of development and live product enhancements eek!

James Dee Finical
MMORPG Designer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites