• Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  

MMORPG as RTS

This topic is 4680 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

I've been thinking recently about MMOs and all the aspects I don't like in the many I've tried (via trial periods / beta tests), and some of the top things that bother me is the lack of dynamic content. For example, in many betas, some item will be vastly more popular than its stats call for because of some human factor (often visual appeal). This will cause great demand for that item, but shops will sell it at a fixed price so players that want to sell the ones they found while adventuring will have to do so for a lower value. Another example is that in City of Heroes, you can save the world indefinitely, but you can't fail to save the world. If you die in a mission, a few penalties are applied and you get to try again. If you die, more penalties and another attempt indefinitely. It seems that the problem is that such worlds have no real driving force, no automation of any kind, and instead are hand crafted static art. It seems to me that a simple solution to this would be to apply a very basic model of the world as a kind of RTS, with resources and factories and other RTS-esque things. If a simple wargame model were applied to the world, both NPC and PC factions would have something to actually DO, and a small thing (like 'Evil Empire Q' capturing 'Small Weapons Factory #132' when 'Squad 94F' failed to fend them off) could have real effects in the world (suddenly 'Evil Empire Q' is slightly better equipped and has more weapons of all grades). This could all be done procedurally, so that once everything was placed, a simple RTS-AI would control NPCs to take advantages of whatever bonuses and attempt to capture more resources, and the PCs could fight for themselves taking advanatge of whatever reduced prices or improved equipment they had. It also makes quest generation easier, since you can just say "Warning: Small Weapon Factory #132 Under Attack!!!" and have an interest combat situation (presuming combat mechanics are fun). Is there some reason such a model has (as far as I am aware) never been applied in an MMORPG?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
I love your idea of putting an actual driving intelligence behind the AI hordes, and being able to actually lose ground to the NPCs and creeps would be awesome, but I'm not sure how balanced it could be. It would, for one thing, reduce the ability of one character to really do anything, since you'd need a fighting force to take land and hold it (imagine a lone firebat marching into a zerg base). For another thing, how do you make sure that the battles are reasonable? If it's just an endless pattern of overwhelming forces crushing lightly defended outposts while the defenders are all attacking a different lightly defended outpost, it'll suck.

I think it's a good idea, and I'm interested to see other posters respond.

A question, though: How will players know what's happening in the world? In a static game world, you always know where everything is, but with borders fluctuating and enemy presences shifting, you'd need some kind of mini-map to keep abreast of where the front is and how you're doing.

To be honest, I keep thinking of this as a Starcraft world, because I've been playing a lot of Brood War lately. I've got to tell you, I think this is awesome. Make the Terrans and Protoss playable, with AI Zerg swarms, and you could have a really good time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:

If it's just an endless pattern of overwhelming forces crushing lightly defended outposts while the defenders are all attacking a different lightly defended outpost, it'll suck.


Planetside, anyone? I think your idea is quite valid, OP. The biggest failing in MMO's today, I believe, is that the play has no real ability to DO anything in the world (unless, of course, you consider the grind doing something). Purpose is what would make these games awesome, and lack of willingness to do anything outside of the EQ norm is what makes them lame within the first month of play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's what I didn't like about Planetside. It seemed far more pointless than games like Everquest because it took away the roleplaying elements and minimized character development. As for progression outside of your character.. all that happened was that you'd win a continent and then lose it soon afterward. The game went nowhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
very interesting idea, i came also about it a few times ago and from time to time again. But there are a few very basic problems:

You cannot program real thinking AI, you can only program patterns, on how AI reacts, or acts randomly if it is not reacting (for example sending some scouts around). Therefore, if players find out how your AI is acting or reacting, they can easily "cheat" around your AI, unless you build a very heavy AI with a lot of pattern which can be very time intensive to achive.
You have to update the AI from time to time to keep it up-to-date, as the environment is changing due to player actions (e.g. alliances formed, areas opened / closed) so the AI isnt going to act blindly (sending 5 paladin to a fortress of 50 canon turrets).
You need to regulate the market (e.g. rising price to weapons and ammos on big conflicts) and maybe even build in a social/political struture, which would make it a lot more difficult.

Altogether it make a simple strategy game (e.g. starcraft) ten or hundred times more complex with those features, and even this can only hold a while till it reaches its limits. Thats why i think starcraft and games like c&c are not build for long (persistent worlds) games, as their mechanics are good only for short games (try a money BGH with almost unlimited resources on a starcraft map, which of course can takes even more than 3-4 hours, but after 45 minutes everything is just repeating and again and again as the AI complexity is exhausted).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think this is part of the answer to giving MMO games more of a "point", and makeing the world less static. One problem however is that this idea is usually paired with the idea of making both sides of the conflict playable. When you do that you need to make the game fun for players regardless of which side they choose. This means both sides must be balanced, and the battle must be in equilibrium. No one can ever "win".

This is the problem other posters mentioned regarding planetside. Gains made in battle are so easy to reverse, and give no real advantage to the winning side. This means the world is constantly changing and then changing back. Players still have no impact, just as if the world was static.

However, what if one side in the conflict was NPC only? Now the requirement to keep the game balanced and fun for the "bad guys" is reduced. There still needs to be some balance of course in order to keep the game becoming too hard or too easy, however the designers are free to alter the playing field as needed to keep the players challenged.

This system would be similar to the ongoing storylines employed by the Asheron's Call games. Each month the designers could present the next chapter in the story, and adjust the game balance to keep the proper challenge level. However unlike AC and AC2, the results of each month's story arc would not be predetermined. For example the enemy might build up a force in a certain part of the game world to attack a friendly city. The players are given a mission to stop the attack. (This wouldn't even need to be explicit, they could simply stumble on the enemy in the context of the game.) If the players win then the enemy is driven back and the world is changed, if the players lose the city is overrun and the world changes. Even if next month the enemy attacks somewhere else or the city is recaptured the world should reflect these events. (The use of a regular patch cadence such as once a month is not required by this system, but it can simplify development and release issues.)

There should be in game rewards and penalties based on the actions of the player base as a whole and the way the war is going, however the developers should balance these automatic pressures with scripted story events to keep the game on track. It would be tricky to keep the players from feeling like the devs are thwarting them, or allowing them to win, but if the story is good enough the should be avoidable. The "war" should end eventually to be replaced with a sequal story.

There are of course a few problems with this system. First the requirements on the live team would go up. Even with the ability to provide procedural content in the form of natural reactions to the flow of the war, effort will be needed to keep the story in balance and provide new content. Second, most MMOs have multiple identical "servers" each with a seperate copy of the world. Allowing the players to affect the world in any meaningful way will inevitably cause the servers to diverge. That would make providing custom content to each server difficult. A more procedural approach to content creation might help with this, but it's probably going to lack the flavor of a hand crafted story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Actually, you're right, this sounds a lot like planetside. The one big difference I think is that in planetside (as far as I could tell in the beta and a short trial period), the bases didn't really do anything except let you start a little closer to the next raid target. In addition to that, I don't think I'd have respawning the way it works in planetside, so a battle is going to be to the death and not a constant barrage of the risen dead. I'm not talking permadeath, but something a lot closer to permadeath than planetside's "respawn 20 ft from the battle" system.

Also, I'm not thinking of something with only 2 sides. I think you need at least 2 player controlled teams, plus at least one computer controlled team to keep things interesting. 4 or 5 teams total would probably be best. Maybe 2 PC and 1 NPC 'regular team', and then another PC team that acts as bandits and merchants and the like that is more concerned with profiting from the confusion of war..? Also, you'd definitely have to be able to change sides and maybe even start a new team (perhaps players join player-made guilds and guilds join to form factions?), though of course changing teams needs to take some work so you don't have people that take a look at the stats before they login and then join the winning team each day (though maybe the bandit teams could do exactly that?).

JoeDB: Your point is well taken, BUT we already have RTS AI that works decently, and also there could be some kind of interface for a GM to make up plans and give suggetions ("Treat Base X as 3 points more valuable for the next 5 hours" kind of thing). Also, Since this would be an MMORPG and not an RTS, making units and the like shouldn't be as easy as it is in games like starcraft, so you don't have to worry about controlling millions of units. I computers from the era of starcraft could control 75-150 units, 1000 units on a modern computer should be doable (especially when you can ignore graphics, and sound, etc), and I'm envisioning each base best suited for no more than 50-75 players from each side in a fight. More would be possible, but would also get croweded and would mean more death and thus the number would be reduced quickly. This combined with the 'no instant respawn' feature would mean the AI would get a lot more breathing room.
One thing that would be nice to do but possibly not feasible under current limits would be to give all human teams 'mooks' that would take the place of player characters in defending certain bases. They wouldn't be able to hold off a real attack, but they could buy you the time you need to get actual players there.

Now, obviously this isn't meant so that single players can make a big difference. For loners, the game isn't much different that current RPGs. The difference is for teams of any size. A team of ~4 players could maybe take small, undefended bases and that could have lasting implications if it doesn't get taken back fast enough. Larger teams of ~16 players could take small but defended bases that will make a larger difference, and guild battles of 32+ players could be the epic war stories of fantastic history.

Also, I feel if implemented properly it could aid character development by making interesting and meaningful quests possible. For example, if a base is being attacked and you can't defend it, you might still be able to make an impact by holding the base till the more seasoned warriors arrive. Or, maybe you were the one that owned the magic carpet/space ship/whatever that helped the real heroes get there fast enough. Obviously most people want to be the main heros, and that can be facilitated through the epic battles, but there are other roles to play also. If that isn't enough, well there is much more than combat possible with a simple simulation. IME, every aspect of MMORPGs is lacking and a simple wargame simulation was the first fix to mind. Throw in a (very) basic economy, political, or whatever other kind of simulation you want and you have other directions to expand in.

Solias: Exactly. I'm not saying this would replace the whole system of GMs and the like, but I am saying it would provide a background for more meaningful thing without much direct intervention. While servers might diverge depending on what happens, there should also be more time for each GM to work on the big important facts since they don't have to create all the unimportant quests and they can probably allow the general simulation to act as some of the small-medium quests as well (tell the AI to attack a certain place at a certain time then give out an in-game warning via whatever mechanism).

This has gotten pretty long so I'll stop here for now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
/Agree, planetsides greatest failing is the feeling of pointlessness, at least in the long term. Planetsides gameplay and world shifts so rapidly every day that it imparts a feeling of pointlessness, then again if people weren't to get anywhere after a week of fighting they might sooner complain that the game doesn't move fast enough. Recently, they've been adding to character development (such as bonus's, more levels, medals of honor for things, etc).

The key is to balance it properly enough to allow people to feel like their making headway, while at the same time having the game change gradually to not make it feel like its moving and shifting to fast (thus erasing any short term accomplishments and making them feel more like stepping stones to a more long term accomplishment).

I've often wondered how fun an Alien Vrs Predator MMO game built in the Planetside model would be. 3 different factions requiring different tactics/methods of play on a world that shifts continously. Something to dream about anyway. ;D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When I played planetside, the problem wasn't only the speed at which things were taken and lost, but also the worst of FPS and MMOs combined - FPS and lag just don't go together. I never once felt that it was player skill that mattered, in which case why would I want things completely random when they can be only partly random with play time improving your chances (experience of some form or another).
Another problem was that, as far as I could tell, the sides were practically identical. This could work in my system since the initial conquests of various types would differentiate the teams automatically (ie team A captures lots of armor factories while team B captures lots of weapon factories on a reset and suddenly the two teams have different things to offer), but planetside didn't really have any system for such a thing so in the end it was just boring.

Hrmm, another interesting idea I just had: Any ever play the HL mod Science and Industry? It'd be interesting to introduce some kind of research and development system into the game as well - team leaders could vote to have factories put their effort into creating new kinds of things instead of making old things less costly, and use some kind of interface to pick some new features for the new item type (the way you build powers in the Champion RPG system perhaps). The number of abilities, how strong it is, etc effect research time and if you can hold the factory long enough your side gets a new item (enemies can't buy it from NPC shops, but they can steal it from corpses etc). If you made it take long enough, it could help rally the enemies for a large attack deep in controlled territory to prevent the super cannon from being created. A regular weapon might take a week of realtime, while a very powerful weapon might take a month. It could start out way overpriced and slowly come down in cost to a reasonable price. Also, there could be options for starting research to duplicate an item you stole from the enemy, and each captured one that you turned over to the factory could reduce the amount of time it takes you to copy their item (but of course since you turn the item over, you can't use it yourself, or you can have longer research times but be well armed).

[Edited by - Extrarius on March 30, 2005 7:11:56 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, you've got one or more playable races/factions in the game, and one or more unplayable enemies. It might be neat to have AI running the battles and such for the unplayables, but for overarching strategy and motivation, I think there should be some kind of human moderation.

I'm going to stick to StarCraft terminology, because I think just about everyone understands it and it's easier for me to use it to communicate my ideas.

So the game takes place on a handful of planets, each with a few continents, important resource locations etc. Terran and Protoss forces share an uneasy alliance against Kerrigan's new Zerg Swarm. Players, then, choose to be rran or toss, and can advance through levels or gain certs or whatever. They are generally fighting the Zerg, though.

The Zerg themselves are unplayable. They don't ally, they don't negotiate, they don't do anything but fight and hold ground. Behind the Zerg is some kind of administrator. He sets primary targets and strategies for the Zerg, and more or less information about these events is communicated to the community via "intelligence reports" that players can access. If the administrator decides to prompt a zerg invasion of Mar Sara, then some messages will appear at in-game locations or over communication networks informing players about it. The admin sets the size and strength of the invasion, or uses a difficulty heuristic that takes into account the encountered resistance, and the battle takes place. The result of the battle determines the status of the area invaded. If the zerg lose, they leave. If they win, they set up a few hatcheries and that area becomes hostile territory for players.

These fights wouldn't be the entire extent of the game, naturally, but they would be the deciding factor in serious changes to the game world. With the human administrator in there, you'd never have to worry about the Zerg conquering the whole map or being beaten back to a tiny corner of Char. Planets could be lost to the Swarm when it's appropriate, and then gained back bit by bit, affording players opportunities for achievement. Add in the odd overmind or renegade brood, and you could have a lot of big events in a dynamic world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Starcraft MMORPG? OMGSWIZZLE! I'm a recent convert to the MMORPG fold - I've been playing World of Warcraft for two months, but I'd drop it instantly if there was a similar game but in the Starcraft universe... hmm... they've already got a lot of the artwork from the SC: Ghost project, and a fully stress-tested MMO engine from WoW... and they've hinted that they may be working on something further in the SC universe...

Persistant MMO games definitely need the evolving storyline aspect that Chef talks about. One of my biggest gripes about WoW is that it feels like no matter what your character does, it can't possibly make a difference to the online world. For instance, I jump through a series of hoops to get some special healing salve to cure the sickly gazelles, but sure enough, ten minutes later they're back again, wandering around smelling mouldy. I go and recover those sacks of supplies that was stolen by harpies, but as soon as the next PC walks past the goblin trader who lost the sacks, he'll be whining for more like a begger at a train station. If there was a feeling that, if I drove the Zerg out of Mar Sara, that they wouldn't just respawn in 10 minutes and get back to busily waiting for the next quester to wipe them out again, the game wouldn't get old half as fast.

Also it'd be nice for NPCs to have a bit more 'life' of their own. It always frustrates me to see hyenas walking around 5m from sleeping lions, where in real life the two should be fighting. Or a herd of deer bounding around and past a savannah prowler that completely ignores them. They do have wolves killing hares occasionally but that's the extent of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You know, i'm reminded of similar discussions in the past. Having NPC's control the monster forces usually isn't that fun, since you can eventually figure out how they play and beat them. In previous discussions we played with the idea of RTS vs FPS. By that i mean a RTS player would control an army of Zerg NPC's via RTS hotseat screen and all the other players on the opposing non-RTS team would run around in FPS as solo-soldiers. That system would breed unique combat situtions (since RTS players would try to outwit the FPS players and overwhelm them with the Zerg), not to mention entertain RTS players with FPS units that are intelligent and live for fighting off hordes, requiring strategy to beat.

[Edited by - Gyrthok on March 31, 2005 4:24:55 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
indeed a quite interesting idea, starcraft mmo :) maybe should consider this in my current project :) Also it should be quite funny for the administrator, to control the system species acting against or for all the players, a nice fulltime job a lot of people dream of :)

back to the problem of AI. Also there maybe a solution to make the AI acting quite intelligent to any type of player / team actions, unless the AI is given a superior support in some kind, it is going to fail to keep players away from control the whole game, as real intelligence always beats AI, at least below the level of deep blue :) Even if it requires a 1000 player team, and players WILL form those teams, if it is required just to see what happens if the last fortress of AI falls.

So unless the game is getting restarted / resetted from time to time, i think there is no real solution to keep a (MMORPG as) RTS game lasting quite long. And i think that also the reason why there is no game out there, which can completely satisfy both point to be persistent AND always to acting "inteligent".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Good point, JoeDB, but I think that if the entire community gets together and orchestrates a successful counter-offensive and manages to actually destroy the unending Swarm, you could torch the servers, demolish the buildings, fire all your employees and write a book on how to make the most spectacular role-playing community in the universe.

Hyberbole aside, I think you've hit on exactly the center of the problem with dynamic worlds: You can't really anticipate what the players are going to do to it. Some kind of human story-telling element is essential. I think that if the game is of adequate scale, the human moderation would be adequate to prevent total one-sidedness. If the players are showing extraordinary cooperation and dominating the AI beasties, then by all means bring in more beasties, or create an AI faction of Terrans to hassle the players from the homefront. Boost zerg AI in that region, claiming that Kerrigan is nearby and her proximity makes the cerebrates more effective.

If you can see the problems coming and have halfway decent writers and some nimble code, you could have all kinds of ways around problems.

On a side-note, I remember someone relating a story of an old MUD that was fraught with hacking and griefing. The administrators took it offline for a few weeks, and when it came back, they announced that a meteor had struck the gameworld. All the offending players' property had been annihilated, and the water sources were contaminated, and the world was generally boned. Many players quit, but the hardcore role-players stuck around, worked together to purify and replenish the world, and forged a new world and a new community for the game.

If someone could get just one-tenth of that sort of gameplay flexibility into a large MMO project, they'd probably get the Nobel Prize for Video Game Design.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Basically, we're just rediscovering and agreeing with what the pen&paper RP community has known for ever... a dungeon is no fun without a (human) DM. Not an online-game-GM who is merely responsible for fixing glitches in the automated game world. Someone who can change the rules, keep things interesting, add a certain amount of life to the world.

As for the defeating-the-enemy situation, there are plentiful solutions. My fav. approach would be to announce that, for instance, the Zerg have been annihilated on Char, but Aiur still needs cleansing... and if all else fails the DM can announce that we've discovered a massive Zerg fleet assembling on the dark side of the moon, and that they've used targetted meteorites to destroy the planet's starports... for the amount of money they get per month from WoW, they could quite easily employ a dozen people (at $200k/yr each) to make artwork/story updates.

Damn, now I wish I had the requisite millions to start up my own ubercool company and make teh world's bestest MMORPG. I think I should use HTML. With variables. *runs off to the Help Wanted section*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
umm, This was done with Wish, and the project got canceled due to unknown reasons (most likly monetary or not enough ppl playing). Simply put they had a system that had the following attributes:

1. A single shard so all players play on one world. This shard was going to be able to handle 10s of thosands of people at once (ie much more then 10 thousand, more like 30-40 thousand).

2. Economy was player driven. NPC shop prices were set based on supply and demand. NPC shops could run out of items, and could run out of gold. Players were encouraged to trade as well as produce their own goods for sale. Also anything sold to the shopkeeper is kept in the shop keeper inventory. Kinda like Morrowind, so that you could happen upon a rare item in a shop if another player happened to sell that item to the shop you were at. Shops also would get delieveries and gold to help balance out the possibility of shops being bought of all their goods or gold. This also simulated trade amoung the towns.

3. A skill system like UO was used instead of leveling like most MMORPGs. Also a player with level 50 in something was only 5 times better then a level 10. Most MMORPGs ahve level 50 exponential better then level 10. This linear level system was meant to help reduce grinding, and keep players on more even grounds. Though there was no PvP except in arenas.

4. There were a few simple errand quests that players could do if they needed money. this quests were the "fetch this" or "deliver that" type quests. None were designed to be something player would do often, in fact they were the side quests and were not even something you would do much of.

5. The meat of the game was the Live Content that was run by people hired to create content during the course of the game. They created quests, controlled npcs (including spawing monsters if need be, as well as communicating with players), creating items, etc. The live content would be quests that were unqiue and hand crafted by the "GMs". For instance stopping a plague, transporting a wanted criminal, killing a dragaon, etc. The quests could be completed by one group or player. This meant there was an actual changable world with a story. Players could decide to help an NPC that asks for help, actually talk with certain NPCs that were part ofthe Live Content (ie they were being played by "GMs" that were roleplaying). Players decided whether they would search for the cure to stop the plauge. Whether they would gather the ransom an evil overlord asks for, or find the cure on their own. The game also had a newspaper that described events going on (since quests could last multiple days depending on their scope). The newspaper would even mention players that helped with the quests when they were complete. Since only one player or gorup could complete the quest, they could become popular among other players.

6. There was also a social system in place to help players feel apart of a community. Basically it was three social circles players could belong to. The first was the town guild. Basically whatever town you start in would automatically make you apart of this guild. So right off the bat you were a part of a guild and had other players you could talk with that shared the same origin as you. great for roleplaying. The second are the society guilds, this are different organizations that were apart of the world such as: wizard, military, crafting, trading, religion, etc. These guilds have backstories, certain goals, and requirments for entry into the guild. Finally the third guild are the player guilds, which are like most MMORPGs. IE player run guilds that are totaly upto the players to create and run. The coolest part is that player guilds can alliance themselves with towns and each other so guilds can have political battles of controling towns and other things. This part was not fully implemented in the beta yet so I dont know how well it would have worked. Player run guilds can sometimes be elitist in who they select to enter the guild which leads to players not in guilds, or a bunch or small guilds. This is why the society guilds are important allowing players to enter a guild by completeing requirements and following what the guild goals are.

You should search goodle for interviews and articles on the game. The 3day beta was really awsome (yes the game was canceled 3days into the open beta). Probably the best MMORPG expierence I had. That game represents the future of MMORPGs, and eventually a company large enough will pull it off. Thoug hopefully they wont time their open beta during the first weeks of two major MMORPGs (ie World or warcraft and EQ2 in the case of Wish).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement