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sanscrit

Bloodline system for a MMORPG

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I realize that ideas for MMORPGs are somewhat cliche at this point, but if you will bear me a bit of patience I would like to present my idea for the implementation of permanent death within a MMORPG. Having said that, I present these ideas fully recognizing that I do not have the time, resources, or expertise to intregrate these ideas into a project of my own. I express this only in the hope that it will be positively received and restated in a time and place that would garner the attention of persons capable of using these ideas. That being said: PROBLEM: All major MMORPGs use a death system that revolves around a persistent player-character system. A player's avatar within the game world is an indivudual that persists in a cycle of constant death and rebirth. Upon death, a character is "respawned" at a point and continues forth. Different games have justified this in varying ways, however I would argue that none of them are satisfying. None of these are able to create a suspension of disbelief that allows one to play and say "ok, that makes complete sense." I would even go so far as to argue that this type of system is the single most important reason why these games fail to capture a real sense of roleplaying. In contrast to these games, many pen-and-paper RPGs have used permanent death systems. However, applying a similar system to a MMORPG seems problematic. Primarily the fact that death would result in the loss of everything worked for to that point would lead many potential players to quit. Therefore, a departure from current MMORPG death systems must be made that would allow permanent death without completely stripping the deceased of all they have worked for. We must create a system that neither trivializes death nor simply penalizes it. To satisfy this need I have created a bloodline system for player advancement. SOLUTION: In order to create a world in which death is permanent the player must not entirely dread the idea of their character dying. Instead, a system must be in place such that death is at worst an inconvenience and at best a means to an end. In order to accomplish this, a player must be removed from a single character and instead be put in charge of a family. In this way a player will be able to carry on despite the demise of their current avatar. Whats more is that this system enables players to progress as a bloodline rather than progress simply as an individual. Any system of experience or levels would be bestowed upon the entire bloodline. DETAIL: The bloodline system would create a family tree. In this tree family members would show a relative age. Age would be generalized rather than specific. For instance, characters in a family would be given age classifications rather than numeric ages. An example would be a system in which character are classified as immature, young, mature, aged, and elder. A scale would be determined to correspond to real life time to determine exactly the rate at which in-game characters would progress. Immature characters can be assigned names and professions/classes but not directly played. Any classification higher than this would be possible to actively play in the game world. The advantage of playing a young character would be that one could more directly control which skills and attributes are developed and subsequently affect the development of future generations. The advantage of choosing a mature character would be that this character would be more fully developed and ready to venture out. Advantages given to playing aged and elder characters could be given in a game system in which magic is wisdom-based. A wisdom based system could rely on the notion that wisdom is gained through age and experience. If wisdom is cultivated with age, then aged and elder characters could wield this power. The drawback to this power would be that characters possessing it would be old and therefore physically feeble and easilly killed in a physical confrontation. Subsequently this would accomplish a feat that few other games have; to make magic in the game world both powerful and somewhat rare. Not only could lifetime accomplishments be considered toward bloodlines bonuses, but so could the way in which characters died. If a warrior is killed in combat his death could be considered honorable. If a mage is killed while attacking a group of innocents his death could be considered dishonorable. A system of bonuses and penalties could be established to enforce benefits and accountablilty. One could also extend upon this progression framework to allow players who have specialized in a profession to unlock training for their future generations. An example would be for a family of warriors to gain favor with a warrior faction such that future generations of fighters could be schooled in the fighting arts while immature at a presigious military academy. This would grant bonuses to the player when this character reached maturity. This would enable a player to specialize their bloodline to create strong, single-minded characters. Conversely, this system could grant flexibility to players. They could diversify their bloodline into numerous professions. They could possibly have family members of differing professions so that should they get bored playing a particular class/profession they could switch to another family member that was a different discipline. I have specific ideas as to how a system such as this could be implemented logically, but I fear I have dragged on for too long as it is. I thank you for making it this far. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. [Edited by - sanscrit on January 13, 2005 5:17:53 PM]

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Hay sanscrit, welcome to Gdev :)... I like the bloodline idea a whole lot, its sunk in as a fine plan. There are a few things that don't work for me though...

The idea is that this is to fix the MMORPG death system, but with -MMORPG- in mind a few things jumped out at me as problems.

1) Social interaction, I like to meet up with friends and be recognised for the hardcore ruler I am, when playing. I suppose if the family name is displayed instead of the usual that might work, but it would always be clear to people when i've died. That could realy cramp my style.

2) What about all my special items of killing+5? My beutiful robes of lordeyness?
Presumably everything left on my corpse is lost, either to my dusty grave or a load of players?

3) I supose its clear you'd have to tone down the frequency of deaths, its common for an inexperienced mmog player to die more than 5 times in an hour. Thats quite a strain on the bloodline, and if they have to re-equip, travel and gain skills again, seriously boring.

Anyway, just a few thinking points which will help strengthen the idea. If they can be worked through!

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Well, it'll be rather difficult balancing this. As DogCity has said, deaths would have to happen a lot less than they do right now. The point is, if you added this to a current mmorpg, the problem is that you'd be very much discouraged to take any risks at all. In these games, the whole point is to advance in the game, and if one wrong move means that I have to start from scratch again, I probably will only do things where I can absolutely be sure not to get killed. Or not play at all, even...

So, certainly, the game would have to be built around this system. As you have said, your family would have to have some way to advance in the game, in a way the accomplishments of a now-dead member must still matter for the rest of the family. They could inherit his items and what-not, but would that be enough? Probably not.

At least as important would be that playing a new member will be a new experience. If you look at current mmorpgs, in the beginning you'll probably be doing the same things again, fighting the same mobs etc. If you don't manage to keep your character alive you may never get to see the later content at all, which isn't a good situation.
So you'll want to make playing each family-member something that'll be different each time, while still picking it up where the now-dead one left off.

In my opinion, this system certainly won't work as long as there are levels and these levels are the main focus of the whole game. Sure, each family member may have different skills and they may improve in these over time, but these should not be the focus.
Even with a new member you should be able to plunge right into the game without too many penalties.

It could actually work just by making it some kind of power struggle between families, and each member sets out to improve its power through whatever means are open to them.

EDIT: A concept such as the family one is obviously going to influence gameplay a lot.. To make perma-death feasible, it might already be enough to make sure that each try you make with a new character still stays interesting even if he should die at some point. Think of nethack, kinda, I never really got too far into the game but each try was a lot different from the ones before. Maybe something like this would already be enough, not sure.

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Slightly off-topic, but what about the concept of no death at all. Why does an MMOG have to be about creatures in life-or-death battles? How about a corporate MMOG where you have to get rich and powerful? Or a sport MMOG where you have to become better, win tournaments, go to the Olympics, etc? Then you wouldn't have to involve death at all. The competitive aspect would revolve around non-fatal scenarios, and there wouldn't be any need to suspend disbelief.

shmoove

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I personally feel like death in a game should be an inconvenience at worst. A game to me is not a simulation of reality. It's entertainment. If you lose your character for good because your healer ran out of mana, then you would be seriously pissed off.

The only way to make a system of permadeath acceptable would be to make dying nearly impossible. The punishment should fit the crime. If you can die because you get in a fight with one creature and two others spawn behind you causing your demise, you'd be seriously pissed off if that was the end for your character.

Even P&P RPGs sidestep the whole permadeath thing. There are resurections. In Dungeons and Dragons there's the whole negative health thing. They realized that permadeath was no fun as well.

With your idea, you've essentially removed permadeath from the game by simply giving them a new avatar each time they die. I do think you had some good ideas, and I think they would be a perfect fit for a guild system.

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I dont think perma-death will ever be a big feature of any mainstream MMO. Part of what keeps people playing is their attachment and time invested in building their character. If this is lost, chances are alot of people will flat out quit, I know I would.

On the other hand, I think it's a better idea for MMO games to provide an option to players on character creation for only allowing 1 death, just like Diablo 2 has Hardcore characters. Additionally, give these hardcore characters some quirks, like perhaps accelerated xp gain, higher level cap... To provide some benefit to it. This would at least let the normal people play like they want, and the hardcore have their perma-death. The problem with this is that it's relatively easy to get someone else killed in most MMO games, so idiots could possibly ruin it for hardcore players.

[Edited by - DrEvil on January 6, 2005 9:23:54 AM]

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Well, a more in-depth discussion on this topic could be found around this site:

www.realmsofkrel.com

They are trying something very close to what you're suggesting, almost a complete copy..

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I like permadeath in certain scenarios. I am not sure if it will happen, but it might appear in a popular MMORPG, if they manage to pull it off nicely.. but it's easier sayd than done..

But honestly, I don't get why people are trying to get permadeath into MMORPGs so hard. I mean, the only games EVER that I have played that have permadeath are puzzle games(counting that permadeath means to start a game over from the beginning just like before because you lost) and some rogue-likes. Most games don't have permadeath, and then why is it a such a big deal that MMORPGs have it? Is it because hardcore roleplaying fans saw a change to make roleplaying less boring with the help of MMORPGs and want to turn them into their own playground?

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I came up with an idea earlier today: Soul/spirit/anima/essence whatever you call it. I decided to write a few notes, but it practically became a novel as it continued to grow as I wrote [smile].


Not So Perm Perm-Death (But Still...)


You play the soul of the character, and if the character dies you have to "possess" another person to do physical things. When you try to possess someone or something you have to do a battle of the wills with the soul currently inhabiting that character.

Every character has a list of physical abilities, like str, dex, con and perception (or sense). I'm a bit in doubt wether the you should be able to change these stats a lot like in some mmorpgs where you can increase the values with 5 each level and end up at 500 or more, or keep them more static and only increase 1 ability 1 point each level or so. Your soul contains all the knowledge and skills, so you don't loose your swordfighting abilities when you die. But since the new body might have less strength and dex you might not be so good as you were.

How powerful characters you can possess is primarily determined by the level of the your soul, so in some cases it might be advantageous to letting yourself be killed, and take the body of the creature that killed you. But generally it should be advantageous to stay in the same body for a long time, and there's no guarantee that you'll be able to evict the original sourl. I envision that after a failed attempt the creature will be more aware, and subsequent attempts will be harder.

One way of encouraging players to stay in his good skin, is to give the physical abilities a big multiplier, and also make them expensive to increase when you level. My though is that the player has probably spent some time customizing the body to his play-style. Maybe the skills should be slightly diminished temporarily, so you have to use the body to get the "muscle memory" in place. Contrarily, the new body might have a little muscle memory of it's own so you'll get a slight bonus (less than what's diminished) on some skills, until you've regained your own. This makes sense in a case where you decide to possess a bird or a four legged creature after having walked around on two legs for a long time.

Of course, it should be possible to possess almost any creature in the game, and some characters might play (for a while anyway) as an eagle or wolf or bear or something. These creatures can't use weapons, and probably not armor (maybe they could get another player to equip a piece of armor though [smile]).


PvP:
I'm not sure how this should be handled. It might be cool to let the players steal each other's bodies, but I imagine some players might get upset by it. One option not let the player try to take the body of anyone else than the one that killed him (if he was in combat with several players, then he should be allowed to try with the last 2-3 that did damage). Makes a nice little payback [smile]. Trying to take over another player's body would be done with a battle of the wills. A failed attempt might stop you from trying again for a few minutes, and there might be a time limit for the attempts (10 minutes perhaps). Perhaps the foul murder engrages the player so much that he get's a bonus in the battle of the wills.


Battle of the wills:
This battle takes place in the mind of the defender, so he's at an advantage. The purpose of the battle is to determine who's most fit to occupy the body. This means that it will not always be an "imaginary" swordfight or magical contest, but it can be a flying contest in the mind of an eagle, or a sheep roundup in the case of a border collie [smile].
In case of PvP, the you can create his own "castle of the mind" with various traps and obstacles. At the center of the castle the id resides ready to tackle any intruder (or so is the hope). I'm not sure if the defending player should also be in the "castle", since he then would be unable to control his real body. Perhaps the defender should get the option of entering the mind-battle and let his body rest, or control his body and let his "id" do the battle, in which case he might suddenly be faced with being outside his body.


After being evicted:
I'm not sure if the evicted player should be allowed to try to retake his body or not. It's annoying to lose a body you've spent a long time in, but without any restrictions the two players might continously evict and counter-evict each other. Perhaps he should get 1 try.


Bodily remains, and items:
The only logical thing I can think of is that the body drops where he dies, and all the items are lootable. In a game such as this however, I think most items should have a similar value. A sword is basically a sword - it's what you do with it that matters. Most players would probably think it's unfair if they loose a set of armor or armor that they spent a month scraping together money to buy. Of course, a lot of the fun in rpgs, is to get better weapons and equipment, so another option should be found. Perhaps it could be as easy as making it fairly easy to find equipment, but you have to be a certain level to be able to conquer the owner. Money should also be easier to come across as you gain levels, so you can simply buy new stuff if you loose it. Money and items not in use could be stored in a bank that's easy to access, so you can store everything you don't actually use in there.


Without a body:
When your body has been killed you exist in a non-corporial form. You can levitate some distance over the ground, go through some walls and objects (not ground though), and cover ground at a much larger pace than you could with a body. You can't do anything in this form however, so you have to posess a being to interact with the world.


Voluntarily leaving a body:
Only a chosen few (players) can possess other beings, and when someone is possessed their soul just gets pushed down into the darkest crevices of their mind. If you leave their body (if that even should be possible), then they'll return to an alert state, and wonder what happened and where they are. The more wild beings would flee in a random direction until they find a place where they feel safe. Sentient beings would try to return to where they came from (uncertain on how to do this in a realistic fashion - they'd have to have an extremely good sense of direction to just start walking).
I'm uncertain though, if it even should be possible to just return the body to the original soul. Another option is that they just drop dead where they stand.


Villagers, and non-combatant sentient NPCs (Body-pool):
I'm a bit uncertain if it should be possible to just take over the body of any NPC you meet on the street or in stores, or if it should only be some NPCs that can be possessed. The main concern here is that if the players take over the NPCs and continously gets killed in the woods, what happens to the general population in the cities and willages. Not to mention if the store-keeper suddenly decides to leave the store.


Willing hosts:
Some temples and sects draw people who want adventure but are too afraid to "do" it themselves. Some want enlightenment by welcoming a "higher" being. Some want money to lease their body to you (paid in advance + deposit to their family of course). I'm not sure if there should be a battle of wills (they might not be so eager as they thought), or just do a level-check to see if they're compatible. In some cases the temporary skill boost of the body might last much longer with a willing host. This way you can "lease" a warrior body if you want to do battle, or a rouge's body if you want to be thieving. Of course, your own skills will be more important than the bonus you recieve from the body, so even if you decide to lease a different class than you originally had, you won't be as good to it as you would with the things you normally do. The temples and sects have priests and other people in touch with the realm of the "dead" and can act as mediums to the potential hosts.

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Quote:
Original post by DogCity
Hay sanscrit, welcome to Gdev :)... I like the bloodline idea a whole lot, its sunk in as a fine plan. There are a few things that don't work for me though...

The idea is that this is to fix the MMORPG death system, but with -MMORPG- in mind a few things jumped out at me as problems.

1) Social interaction, I like to meet up with friends and be recognised for the hardcore ruler I am, when playing. I suppose if the family name is displayed instead of the usual that might work, but it would always be clear to people when i've died. That could realy cramp my style.

2) What about all my special items of killing+5? My beutiful robes of lordeyness?
Presumably everything left on my corpse is lost, either to my dusty grave or a load of players?

3) I supose its clear you'd have to tone down the frequency of deaths, its common for an inexperienced mmog player to die more than 5 times in an hour. Thats quite a strain on the bloodline, and if they have to re-equip, travel and gain skills again, seriously boring.

Anyway, just a few thinking points which will help strengthen the idea. If they can be worked through!


Thanks for the feedback.

You are dead on. In a perma-death system you have to make it more difficult to die. I would say that most RPGs actually make it too EASY to die. Take the ever popular EverQuest. In EQ you can attack a "large rat," run out of hitpoints, and poof you are dead. Do you think that a rat really would have stuck around to finish you off once you collapsed? Would you have stuck it out in a fight to the death with a rat? Would he have pursued you in a retreat? I think not. In Ultima Online, the guards are known to insta-kill any lawbreakers inside a town. Thats a little ridiculous if you ask me. My point is, there are certain situations that players have grown accustomed to dying in where I don't think death is appropriate. In a perma-death system you have to have non-lethal combat. The threat of death has to be there, but defeat must not always result in it. Sure, in certain situations, failure in combat would result in death. If you and your party attack a band of orcs then it could be quite possible that you would die as an orc would be quite likely to finish the job.

As a solution to this, death of characters must follow a progression. The progression could go something like this: Healthy, Wounded, Badly Wounded, Incapacitated, Dead. The Healthy and Wounded stages would allow characters to function completely. Badly Wounded would show characters with visible wounds, whether it be a limp or holding one's ribs... maybe a lame arm. Incapacitated would be when a character is unable to stand. Of course death would follow this state. At any point prior to incapacitation a player could Yield. Depending on the foe, yielding could have different outcomes. An animal might take the chance to flee, switching from fight response to flight response. A city guard could stop attacking and take you into custody. An orc could decide to finish you off or to take you prisoner to become a future meal. Another player could rob you blind and disappear. Unsavory players could take the chance to kill you.

This brings up another aspect of the family tree system that creates features not found in any other game. A character can be taken prisoner or jailed. This would keep them in your family tree but make them inactive until they are freed, released, or have served their time. Can you imagine guildwars where instead of simply seeing who can kill the most of the other side you actually can take prisoners? Similarly, law breakers and murderers can be incapacitated by guards and taken into custody. What better way to discourage misfit behavior than placing offenders in jail? Perhaps repeat offenders could be placed in the stocks or even executed. In order to make this palatable by the players, a player's family tree would have a number of other characters that can be played while others are being held. At such a point where the captive is freed the player can switch back to that character as active. There are endless possibilities.

I have more, but I dont want to write a book about this... :)

Oh, and as far as items, I have never been a fan of item-centric game worlds like EQ where items are pretty much god. I don't like a system where a single item can be the deciding factor in who is going to win. I think a game should rely more on an exciting game world and stong combat mechanics than simply an addictive game of camp and sell. Items should be relatively cheap with the exception of some magic items. I like the D&D style of magic items. Something like a short sword +2, while not being "uber," is still something that would be sought but by itself would not be the lone deciding factor in a conflict. Also, 2-3 items could be tagged as family heirlooms and be kept by the bloodline following the untimely demise of a family member.

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