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Persistent Objectives

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Hi, I am fairly new to posting on the boards but I have been reading everything here for quite some time, hopefully I won't make any offensive mistakes but since it is possible I apologize in advance. First off: This is theoretical. I just want to discuss the possibilities involved and hear some ideas, even if you just want to let me know it can't be done please try to explain why. I'm not trying to make an MMO. A little background: Various teams of players compete on FPS maps to control them, these maps are linked to a persistent state world and the status of the maps affects the overall game as well as other maps. The players can go to these maps at anytime and try to control them by eliminating defending players and taking control of objectives or structures. I do not classify this as an MMO due to the lack of "massive" amount of players. Also due to the limited amount of players on any map at one time there can never be a massive multiplayer experience. It is however most definitely a multiplayer online game. The problem: When players control a map and then leave persistent state world what keeps another player from simply waiting until they are gone to take control of the map? Should players be allowed to simply wait out the enemy and then claim the map without a fight? Should there be defenses that the player can leave behind? Should the map have a limited access time? Basically the question is: What should be done regarding player control of objectives in a persistent state world? Obviously players can not be online at all times, and even if they could have at least someone on at all times that requirement would have, in my opinion, a negative impact on the game. It would be a throwback to the MMO model of time over skill. This problem could apply to any persistent state world with player controlled resources or objectives. There are a few solutions and non-solutions however I am interested to see if there are other ideas out there that have a more graceful solution? Solutions in basic form: 1.) Allow the player to set up a defense of some sort. 2.) Do not allow competition while defenders are not available. 3.) Allow the enemy to take the objective while the defenders are unavailable. Problems with those solutions: 1.) The defenses will either be too hard or two easy for an attacker. The possibility of one chance to take the objective comes to mind, but then you are simply diverting to solution 2. 2.) This is hard to justify and a defender could simply remain unavailable and maintain control, which is certainly a negative impact. 3.) This is somewhat of a non solution. It does not encourage in game competition and becomes and issue of who can spend more time in game. Those are my basic thoughts on the matter. Anything else becomes too specific and situational. Feel free to pick apart the problems and solutions I have already listed, but if possible try to include your own solutions as well. In any case, thanks for reading this far and I hope to see some good discussion.

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I think you should have a look at Planetside, which is a pretty good model for your theoretical idea. All area's are open to any player at any given time, even if no-one is there to defend a base. So a person can sneak in and capture it, in this case its also a feature since people can perform "covert-ops" and disable the facility by destroying respawn tubes or the Generator to deprive the enemy of benefits and to make it easier to capture the facility.

Enemy's can leave defenses behind, though as you had guessed their a mere formality to actually taking the facility. However when a friendly piece of equipment or unit is destroyed or engages the enemy, a "hot spot" is generated which is broadcast on the map to every player online, so if you take out the generator every enemy unit will know your there, and if there's 1000 people online, someones bound to come crash your party eventually. ;D

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Ok. Dont worry. Im going to use MMO and persistent state world interchangably, but we wont get flamed or thought badly of I promise.

What you are describing is one of the basic problems posited by players of the Shadowbane MMO. For those of you who didnt play it, the main game mechanic was for players to build cities, then defend or destroy them for territorial control.

Shadowbane's answer to this problem is a very weak NPC guard system that requires players to be online for any sort of real defense. It also lessens the vulnerability of each town by a) offering protection/invulnerability based on a weekly in-game fee of gold b)total asset destruction (seiges) are scheduled by the defender.

Of course there were always the time when a group of people "camp" your town and make life hell until you can get help - as well as the seiges at odd hours.

To be honest, I think that actually works pretty well. Im not trying to derail the thread because Id like a better seige mechanic myself, if its out there.

What should be done regarding player control of objectives in a persistent state world?

The right mix of vulernability and auto-defense is pretty subjective I think. But what do I know :P

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Well first off, thanks for the replies. I had looked at both Planetside and Shadowbane as well as some other games and while their methods are in some ways good there are still problems with them. I think most problems would be situational, such as guard balance issues. The main problem that both of these game’s solutions pose is that they are MMOs with many people on at a time. When a hotspot in PS is created there are many people who can go there and take up the fight, also in Shadowbane there are many people who can be called on to defend the city. Those two examples use the three solutions I mentioned in the first post to at least some degree of success. (I didn't actually play those games so the player opinion is something I'll have to look in to.) Since the theoretical game I am talking about is not an MMO the amount of players fighting for control would be much less. So if a call went out for help there would be no one to help and aside from the AI defenses there would be nothing to stop the enemy. Some combination of the three solutions might work best depending on the exact situation. Is there a fourth option maybe?

In any case thanks again for the replies, I am going to try to make a specific set of rules for a game idea I have and perhaps I can get more specific situational opinions and thoughts on that.

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Quote:
So if a call went out for help there would be no one to help and aside from the AI defenses there would be nothing to stop the enemy.


If you aren't planning on having very many players in this game-world, why bother with such a large area to control in the first place? It seems like these two points are self-defeating, which may be part of the reason you're having trouble reconciling them.

At any rate, if the game does involve a large number of "areas" that can be fought over and controlled, yet there are a limited number of players available to fight in these areas, maybe the game-play should be more strategic rather than full-on FPS. Make it more a game of sneaking and espionage, ala Splinter Cell. Set up traps for the enemy while trying to sneak into their base unnoticed. Plant bombs, steal enemy plans, slip past defenses and automated security systems...

By having the players act in more specific and strategic roles, you'll want small teams rather than larger battles.

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What about making it mission based? So an engine in the background chooses a map and creates two or more missions to happen on that map. The engine might generate several dozen missions an hour depending on the number users you have online. So the engine might create an scenario like this:

Map - Artic Lab
Primary Mission 1: Defend the lab for 60 minutes.
Primary Mission 2: Plant explosives and destroy the lab.
Secondary Mission 1: Steal research data.

Players select one of those missions to perform when they join the map, and can't change missions, or reqjoin a scenario if they leave. The scenario ends one of the two primary missions is completed. The secondary missions would impact the persistant world in some way.

In this way the persist events can still occur, but they don't linger around forever. Players can pick and choose what missions to particapte in and you keep things fast paced enough to appeal to the FPS crowd.

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A possible solution would be to have undefended areas initially invulnerable to attack, but become vulnerable if they're not actively occupied for a set amount of time. To maintain a claim on a given location, you'd have to spend some set minimum amount of game time there continuously every so often.

There're obvious problems with people seeking to game the system by scheduling their caretaking visits at odd times, and issues with balancing the durations involved - and the boredom issue - if you're required to occupy a given map for an hour to maintain ownership, and no-one challenges you during that time, how are you going to occupy yourself?

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When I heard of this some sort of Counter-Strike esqe persisant world. As I see you should be able to create a character, which is the looks and name, as well as holds the "rewards" of a persisant world (objects, money, etc.). The player enters a lobby for his side, from wich spot he can join a conflict - Be it in the artic, or on a desert. The server automatically pairs him with another group of waiting players from both sides (lets say its 10 vs. 10) Once this room has been filled, the game commences. You could choose to have a number of rounds, or for a factor of re-spawn. The game should take about 30-40 minutes, and at the end one side will have reached a condition for victory. On a global map it could show the change that happened in this instance, and a number of victories could equal a change (like 50 victories for the blue team instance in the artic region gives them control). I believe this could be a fast paced, but fun persisant world where a player accumlates wealth and a name for himself by playing in these fun scenarios. Additonally, clan support could foster clan vs. clan battles on maps at designated times. The issue I see with a game like this is hosting the servers while trying to avoid the montholy (Players from places like CS will play this, but only if they dont have to pay monthly for it).

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Once again thanks for the replies, I thought I would post my solution that I have decided on incase anyone feels like picking it apart.

The first thing I want to address is the issue brought up by Taolung, the size of the world being too large for the amount of players is something I did not consider in depth. I think that the solution to this problem could be a scaling game world. The number of maps to fight over would be proportional to the number of players or teams playing the game. This way there would always be a significant value to each map as well as competition for them. (Thanks Taolung)

Another thing that needs to be cleared up is the team based aspect of the game; I was assuming that the players would be in established teams as opposed to randomly grouped together. While it would be possible to ask the same questions about a less team based gameplay I think the solutions would be quite different.

The stealth suggestion of limited objectives is something I was looking at and of course that would only make sense with defenses. I ended up going with the defenses route and the stealth idea fits very well into that model.

TechnoGoth's idea of generated missions fits into that stealth objective model as well, although it does not require defenses per se. I think the game should be mission based however the missions should be chosen by the players as opposed to the computer. The player should decide what is important and then allocate resources towards that objective (that being the RTS part of the game)

The invulnerable idea has always bothered me however I think I found a way to apply it that will be reasonable. It's more akin to a partial solution since absolute invulnerability does indeed make for a problematic gameplay situation. If the area is controlled by an enemy the location on the map where the player can enter will be limited even if no one is present.

Talonder's idea isn't too far off from the game concept, however since the game would have established teams and the missions would be chosen by the players it would be a slightly different situation.

In presenting my solution I may make reference to things I didn't mention in the original post, this is due to a more specific incarnation of the idea being presented now than the original.

Aside from the scaling world size to reduce the amount of un-contested area I think that a combination of solutions based mainly on the defenses solution would work best. Players would be allowed to go to any map they choose at any time and depending on the status of the map they would either start in a defending or attacking position. Defenders would have the opportunity to set up defenses that would remain on the map to help defend or defend on their own. Additionally a call would go out once the attackers were detected to allow the defenders to come to the defense of their territory. It would be the defenders choice and if they chose not to defend then the installed defenses would be the only obstacle the attackers would face. This would also allow the use of stealth or limited objective missions. So the solution is not something revolutionary nor is it a fourth solution. It is simply going to be a matter of tailoring the "right mix of vulnerability and auto-defense" (Thanks Vanquish) to the game at hand. While the defenses may be only a formality the fact that players can set them up will hopefully make it somewhat of a challenge and provide an advantage or stalling device for the defending players should they decide to show up. In the real world you can not always be awake or everywhere at once. Leaving a location undefended is just going to be a reality of the game and hopefully the mechanics of the world affecting map properties can be implemented in a good way.

Thanks again for the replies!

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