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Morkai1

Ponderings on uniquity among MMO players

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I've been thinking about this ever since I put down World of Warcraft and have summarily heard about it every other day from a die-hard player friend of mine with much more time on his hands. Is there the potential, given certain immobile tenets of MMO gameplay, for players to truly be unique, in both accomplishments and fame? As it stands now, fame in MMOs comes from player-base knowledge...and usually the "bad press" kind of fame. "Zabrox kills everyone that tries to quest in Dungeon 3," or "L33TD00D47 is a scammer, I'm his 200th victim!" I've been entirely unable to find any fame that came from an accomplishment of mine that was mine alone. Due to the nature of fair gameplay, a quest finale, even a grandiose one, is at its core a scheduled laser light show that awes the receiver, but will play again next week. I've played Anarchy Online, SWG, and WoW extensively (AO for 2.5 years) and completely lost touch with actual empathy for my damsel in distress/needy farm family/corporate sponsor. Since I could see 5 people in a row returning Farmer John's long-lost journal, getting the same heartfelt thankyou, and happily dancing around with their much-needed +4 demonslaying axe reward; it debased the characters and story elements to an assembly manual. I sought out good loot on database websites, traced what I would have to do to get it, and quickly skipped through dialogue I had heard in local chat channels 10 times already to receive the "now go get [x]" part. What I think would truly revolutionize MMO gameplay comes in two parts, and they're certainly a difference from the norm. 1: Instance your game world I don't know how feasible this is in practice, but bear with me. In concept at least, you design a persistent game world that is partitioned for each "group" that applies for their own experience. This could vary from 6 friends who bought the game at the same time, to a clan of 50 hard-core gamers, to a "pick-up" group tag that allowed in so many people and then cut off. Obviously this hasn't been thought through to completion, but give me a minute yet. In effect, you've eradicated the greifer contingent that plagues most mmo's. Your group of friends knows everybody, and probably sees eachother on a regular basis. Your assassin-playing bud isn't going to ninja the awesome loot that three of you worked towards for 4 hours because he isn't protected by internet anonymity. As a second, possibly more desirable effect, you've given true uniquity and role to each player. I remember when I first picked up AO on a week free trial, the ads described the Fixer class (aka theif/hacker) as an example, and I immediately wanted to be that well-known-in-hushed-circles fence: the guy that could get you what you needed. As I continued playing, however, I was in competition with 200 other aspiring gophers, and they all had my same skillset. The prevalent "role dictates interaction" problem with any MMO. Tank classes are called upon to get hit, DPS are told to fire on command, and healers are brought on only to heal. While function is nice, there's no room for stylization or individuality. No matter their elaborate back-stories, Aleshre and w33dz0r and hacker-dude and Cora were ALL run-buff machines and moderate DPS in combat. That was their extent of purpose to the community. With the instanced world option, you could very well be the ONLY jeweler in all of Mainport who's willing to take a skiff out to the ring isles to collect the necessary stones for someone's bracelet of healing. You become a name, role, character, and necessity in a multitude of others' play experiences. And so does everyone else in your world. 2: Give your world a dynamic and conditional regenerative property So your players (from the band of 6 that are always together, to the clan of 50 that split up into smaller adventuring groups to play out all sides of the drama) are completing quests, or hunting down certain breeds of dragon for material components, whatever your situation. Your mob population will by nature begin to drop as more creatures are found and killed, and quests will be used up over time. Some element of the game world and underlying code needs to be able to recognize what is lacking and create situations to repair the holes. Maybe your world in general is designed that dragon egg clutches are time-delayed capsules encased in ember deep within volcanoes, and over time the clutches eventually come to the surface or somehow break free and create a new populous location. Maybe some faction can gain power in a hub city after so many jobs are taken for specific npcs, which spawns a whole host of new jobs ranging from small-time work for your low level players up through 20-man tasks that take a week to complete. I guess what--in essence--I'm describing, is a persistent co-op game. A multiplayer online rpg. Of course, if you wanted, you could play along with 1000 other people and wage wars among eachother for the fate of the game's nation; but at the same time you could find 10 or 20 like-minded people and play together carving out personal roles in the world, working together to reach notable fame in the NPC audience, own a section of downtown, etc. -------------------------------- My question for anyone here is, is this even a feasible idea? As far as I've considered, the MMO gamer wants to be recognized for their RPG deeds, even if that's just "woah, nice armor, I haven't seen that before." In a world of 4000, where you're all trending towards a cookie-cutter character sheet, notoriety is nothing more than being at the top of a list or being the first crafter on a scene (and even that is very short-lived, see SWG). Maybe some other permanence gimmick can be a stop-gap towards this. For example, from what I can tell Huxley will be offering physical and exclusive realty ownership, meaning one specific player "lives" at the apartment on the corner of Main and 33rd street in downtown. (A far cry from the "housing" in AO: 300 people all used my front door, but I never saw a single one of them in my apartment) Has anyone else brainstormed anything they'd want to share on the possible advances for online RPG experiences to come? Last minute edit: I just realized what I'm proposing sounds just like a MUD, except you'd need to employ a whole host of game-masters and mods to run anything not controlled by the player. I definitely tip my hat to the imaginations and perseverence of MUD admins, but this is a different beast entirely.

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I'd say you're talking about NeverWinter Nights on your first point. Not only that, but NWN allows people to build their own worlds and manage them as they see fit. It does fix the problems you mentioned, but I like meeting new people in a MMORPG, because it's just a MORPG if I don't.

For the second point, that's my dream RPG. Ultima Online was originally envisioned this way, but a lot of that got axed before the game went online. Then, a lot of the stuff got axed afterward too, to keep the emergent economy from imploding.

I'll be honest, I don't like instancing at all. To me, that defeats the whole purpose of MMO-style games. I do like dynamic content; personally, I think that's the Next Big Thing™. You can double polygon counts all day long, but people aren't impressed by it anymore. If your world ACTS real, it doesn't matter how it looks.

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Instancing - Neverwinter Nights as mentioned before. They did it, and did it damn well. The only thing I think instancing should be used for is combat since it prevents people from hijacking kills and/or loot.

Instancing fixes the 'griefer' problem, but if you have ever played UO in the early days that heart pounding excitment was fun almost every time. =) At least for me.

Dynamic World - I'm sure people have tried this, but none have done it well enough to be known for it. Even MUDs do not really have this on any scale.

This will rock once it is done well, but the effort nescesary makes it not cost effective in the view of alot of companies. Especially when people are willing to pay for virtually the same thing with a few upgrades, primarily in the graphics engine.

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I certainly see the NWN parallel, but what I see as a major difference is the persistence aspect. There's an inherent difference between saving a game and turning it off, and things happening while you're away.

The way I see it running, you could log on at one point in your day, levelling your character and completing tasks alongside 20 other people, sometimes grouping sometimes solo. Later that evening, you log back in and take jobs that only your class is offered, or that are based on your particular interaction with npc's earlier that day.

Maybe I'm just trying to find a way to make the MMO experience a little more exclusive. There have been attempts at simply trying to broaden the skill base so as to reduce copycat density, but you still end up with your playerbase filling up with the "best possible skillset" sheets. My thoughts could simply be heading towards a "co-op experience for 50 people" idea. I'd just like to see some kind of meaning to player action in an rpg setting. If I have [Farmer John's Father's Burning Axe], no one else should have that, because I found him his long-lost beer stein and I got the credit. Likewise, while I was getting that axe, Player 34 went and defeated a local crime boss in the alleys of Mainport and was rewarded 4000g by the royal family. I should never get the chance to have won that same pot.

I'm sure this all borders well on the conceptual and argumentative, and less on a specific game design. Just thoughts, at any rate.

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I think players have come to expect some measure of fame for their individual accomplishments. When you play single player RPG's or adventures your often the grand-puba savior of the entire universe, but when dealing with a large number of players this kind of mentality and framework just doesn't work since a few players would have to be the hero's and the others not. This kind of experience tends to be built around the players individual Ego, so MMO's often cookie-cutter it so everyone has the chance to be the hero with quests, and that just invalidates the whole thing since its a Caned, static experience. MMO's are large scale, and they're stuck using small-scale frameworks of the adventuring party with the wizard, the fighter, and the healer, that doesn't make proper use of large scale MMO communities.

But this is where i think Planetside got it right, no players the grand-puba hero of the universe, but the collective battles of the whole empire determine if they succeed or are defeated. Its the random and not-so random small and large scale battles that happen between my team and the enemy players that, to me, make it all worth while.

Check out this video: http://www.marcopolo.me.uk/PSMovies/PS_AD_SMALL.wmv

You may get some idea of what i mean. ;D

One of the downsides to the game however has been that players often complain if there isn't enough accomplishment (taking continents) on a global scale, and if there is they often complain that it gets boring because things change overnight. :p

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A few ideas that might help:

Eliminate classes. Have a large number of skills. (I would also eliminate leveling and have skills advance based on use, but this is less important.) This way there are no specific skillsets suited for specific jobs. People will of course tend to specialize. But they will have very different overall abilities. For examle, you can have two strong, heavy weapons fighter types. But one has also given considerable study to healing, and the other has some thief abilities. So to choose between these two, you don't just look for the highest stats one as your groups fighter. If your party is weak on healers you choose the first guy. If you need to sneak in somewhere, you choose the second. With a large set of skills, player's will have more unique abilities. It won't be limited to a primary and secondary ability either. You could be mediocre all around, or pretty good in two areas, or whatever.

Have some sort of large scale conflict/competition. This can be a war between nations. It can also be guild conflicts, house rivalries, or business competition. Maybe player created groups can even play a role. This conflict is dynamic, and sometimes it erupts into large scale conflicts. You have a chance to make a name for yourself in this conflict. In addition, leaders of the different sides frequently give new, one-of-a-kind quests based on the situation of the dynamic conflict.

Titles or Ranks. Players may hold military ranks, be knighted, become nobles, etc. Those who distinguish themselves are rewarded with titles and in game power.

Player created quests. If someone wants something done they can accept offers or set a reward for the first person to do it.

More unique items. Most special items are just cool sounding names, a bunch of stats, and a short simple history. Anyone can come up with a list of these in no time. So keep adding more to the game. Maybe even allow highly-skilled crafters to make their own occasionally.

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What the previous poster said is true, about removing the class based system and have a large set of skills..Ultimate Online for example. That you did have identity with. I remember when I got grandmaster smithing when I would walk by some people they would stop and ask me if I could make them armor because with that level of skill, your name was branded on items. Hence you became more known by your skill and your title and the amount of customization you could do to your character.

That is something else that seems to be lacking in MMO's is the lack of customizing color/shape and general look of your character. NWN with the CEP added alot more detail and individuality in a character.

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Quote:
Original post by Morkai1
I certainly see the NWN parallel, but what I see as a major difference is the persistence aspect. There's an inherent difference between saving a game and turning it off, and things happening while you're away.

The way I see it running, you could log on at one point in your day, levelling your character and completing tasks alongside 20 other people, sometimes grouping sometimes solo. Later that evening, you log back in and take jobs that only your class is offered, or that are based on your particular interaction with npc's earlier that day.

Maybe I'm just trying to find a way to make the MMO experience a little more exclusive. There have been attempts at simply trying to broaden the skill base so as to reduce copycat density, but you still end up with your playerbase filling up with the "best possible skillset" sheets. My thoughts could simply be heading towards a "co-op experience for 50 people" idea. I'd just like to see some kind of meaning to player action in an rpg setting. If I have [Farmer John's Father's Burning Axe], no one else should have that, because I found him his long-lost beer stein and I got the credit. Likewise, while I was getting that axe, Player 34 went and defeated a local crime boss in the alleys of Mainport and was rewarded 4000g by the royal family. I should never get the chance to have won that same pot.

I'm sure this all borders well on the conceptual and argumentative, and less on a specific game design. Just thoughts, at any rate.




Ive been looking at these kind of things for a while. To have a mores personalized experience (versus the same quest sequence the other 100000 players all go thru) you need to have a much larger world with enough combinations of situations so that each specialized player has a space to shine in (and unique achievements). This would be done with a world mechanism more like StarTreks holodeck where the world areas can be generated on the fly as needed (even to the point of every player being in their own 'bubble'). Next ia content mechanism that will generate the data for that large world space. Ive been looking into hierarchial parameterized templates to generate unique quests for the next generation of games -- where monsters/npcs/scenery props are autoplaced in an area the player moves into and are adaptable enough to adust themselves into a coherant/cohesive situation, and higher structures (world entities) would coordinate those areas to make the world likewise coherant/cohesive. Initially Im looking for it to be used as a content creation tool for DMs to prebuild world content (and to facilitate tapping into players to do this task as well to constantly expand new territory in a MMORPG world).

I dont see why most of a would could be built using a sophisticated implimentation of 'infinite universe' mecachanisms guided by DMs who shape the flavor/high level plot lines (setting control parameters that the templates then use to adapt/shape themselves to). If done right, a system that count allow very large world could be made 'in the fly' such that one player going his own way, may visit places never been in before (complete with unique scenery and game situation) and possibly never again AND with content that is NOT just a clone of many other places.

The most significant part of the design is that hierarchical templates allow reuse (conserving dev $$$) and multiple levels of sub components allow combinatorics. The parameterization allows localized (seed) flavoring to be incorporated into the creation (the control data itself would be hierarchical -- regional to local). An analogy would be 'splatting' used to vary terrain mesh texture be applied to world area themes...

The system is also scaleable, allowing new templates to be added to expand the combinatorics (again allowing tapping into players and their imagination to get past the $$$ limitation at most companies).


I hope that game companies start moving to use such mechanisms, as I too am sick of traveling thru game worlds that are too small and fighting EXACTLY the same mob yet again (and going to a new place just to find another mod all too similar).


Another aspect that this methodology could address -- eliminate the huge 'pretty' world that is effectively a desert -- interesting interactive details far apart. Auto generation could fill in local detail recursively as far as needed. An evil wizards workshop should contain as many weird/interesting possibilities as an entire huge island elsewhere. There could be something interesting for a player under every rock.


One more idea -- who says that the logic built into these templates I speak of (the script logic being the real magic of the whole thing) cannot have a bias toward creating game situations of particular interest to the specific player ??? If the player is a thief, put more resources into creat a situation with things to steal (and coordinated 'quests' oppirtunities).
Obviously with multiple players passing thru the same game space you cant have the entire world be 'a thieves paradise' but who says you can add into the mix (dynamic adjustments) the required NPCs (who can walk in and out of town)and props that come and go (a more changeable/mutable world in general) AND adaptations to the consequences of players actions (world plot dynamics at both local and regional levels).












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The above post is lovely. Completely infeasible, and not really the basis of an MMO at all, but still, it has some nice ideas.

First I'll point out the primary problem: Content generation of that type would require a break in the immersion - a loading screen between the instanced content and the world at large. You could explain this by magical portals, transport to a spaceship (as for the corvette in SWG) but such linkages are kludgy at best.

Secondary problem: Procedural content is also a complete bitch to regulate to maintain a 'cohesive' world. If your content seed specifies that, when generated, a certain location will have a certain item, that item will always be spawning there. There is no easy method of calculating a new seed to remove the item because someone has already completed the associated quest. The only way to preserve cohesion would be to store the entire procedurally generated world on the server (albeit seed and state alterations rather than complete descriptors).

This works well for 'static' content creation like laying out forests or generating a mountain heightfield (I use similar techniques) but it doesn't work well for procedural expansion of a seamless world or allow fine tuning of what the world should look like.

Generated quests within a designed, complex system DO work, and I am implementing systems to allow this both in my library base code for release, and the showpiece game(s) built on it. Uniquity of action is pretty much guaranteed for every single player, should they look for it. Rewards (when items) are also unique - there may be many similar items, but once a quest is complete it cannot be done again. NPCs may or may not be quest-specific, if they are, they will spawn out shortly after the quest is completed.

Quests are also under competition - someone else may fulfil the quest requirements before you do. If so, tough luck! Quests also propogate other quests (resource aggregation) and generally cause the whole system to tick over.

This sort of complex system doesn't work very well in on-the-fly generated worlds. The system requires a known route from resource to consumer at every stage, or the whole thing grinds to a halt, thus we have to at least have known geography before the system can start.

Character uniquity, as has been mentioned, is often best assured with a skill system in which you cannot max-out. UO had the problem in that templates arose in which you'd max out certain skills (at the skill cap) and certain stats to support those skills. Effectively you ended up with a character class of sorts, it was just work to get there - but those classes were defined by (mostly) combat. Having more complex puzzles, or requirements of skills made common in the game world could help encourage players to develop different templates.

My opinions anyway.



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You basically are whining because you don't have the time to be 'uber' and feel special, so you want to do away with everyone who is more uber than you, so you can feel uber again.

Go buy NWN please.

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