# MMORPG Construction Sets (research)

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Wait! This isn't a n00b topic asking for the best way to start writing an MMORPG. Instead, I have this idea: to provide MMO players with a Construction set to add new quests into the world and other world expansion (ie adding dungeons). The concept of a CS is like the ones in Morrowind, Oblivion, or NwN. In MMOs this should solve the problem with repetitive quests and worlds where there's nothing to do except for endless looting and PvP. And maybe even help create a true DM'ed mmoRPG. For there are too much games that are just a big big world populated by mobs to kill and nothing else. It's boring and it's not roleplay. IMHO. The process is like: you design a quest in the construction set, test it out on a test server (which is used only for quest testing purposes), then submit it it gets added to the real world - or scheduled for addition. It gets announced on in-game BBS, then stays active for some time (a week? a month?), then gets replaced by some other quest. This way the quest set for the world is highly dynamical, which is kewl. Obviously there should be some moderation system, so the world doesn't get flooded by low-quality quests. I'm looking for some kind of list of existing mmorpg construction tools/developer kits to get inspiration. Since I've never used one, I don't even know where to start. :) I know they're supposed to be lame, but hey, they may be inspirational anyways. :)

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Here's the question I would decide:

1) "Hail A Questgiver."
2) "Deliver this note to the guy who stands right next to me. He will reward you."
3) "Hail A Recipient."
4) /give Note Recipient
5) "Ah, the note I've been waiting for! Please accept this jewel-encrusted +5 Vorpal Blade with my thanks!"

In other words: where would the rewards come from, and how could the game know it's a balanced quest? Most of the problem in designing an MMO is in things like level progression, class balance, quest fairness, etc -- not in just coming up with what the quest is. The parts that make it hard is that it's an integrated system.

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Quote:
 Original post by hplus0603Here's the question I would decide:1) "Hail A Questgiver."2) "Deliver this note to the guy who stands right next to me. He will reward you."[you receive a note]3) "Hail A Recipient."4) /give Note Recipient5) "Ah, the note I've been waiting for! Please accept this jewel-encrusted +5 Vorpal Blade with my thanks!"In other words: where would the rewards come from, and how could the game know it's a balanced quest? Most of the problem in designing an MMO is in things like level progression, class balance, quest fairness, etc -- not in just coming up with what the quest is. The parts that make it hard is that it's an integrated system.

I agree with hplus post. Players will create quest giving them hard-to-find items, powers they can imagine. You can make this with team that you trust in, who will make quest on a day/week basis.
Personaly I think that idea is great, but I would make a slight modification in. When you complete the quest, you close the quest, so noone else will be able to finish that quest again. This will give players a chance to be remebered as "hey this is Feran the Strongheart who defeated Senegard a great red dragon!" and not as "yeah I found that puppy too in the forest". One shot quests!
You can achieve same effect with lot of work. A database of possibilites with quest creating programs. Think of it! Like program make several quests on random basis, you preview them and as GM you modify anything you need, and then put quests in game. In this method you can create severeal BALANCED quests for players of different levels.

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Providing a construction set for a MMO is a wonderful idea, but it brings up a lot of issues (twinking, powerleveling, bloated economy, etc). There would have to be a dedicated team just for verifying player made content, and then approving it for the game world.

The MMOs I played, it didn't take long to get tired of the content. I enjoyed exploring and doing the quests....the first time around. The second, third, fourth, etc times around (with new characters) it became a grind. The whole "new" feeling was gone. No surprises. No thrill of exploration. Introducing a construction/tool set into the MMO community would greatly increase the replay value of a MMO. The game would literally have new content available for download everyday (new items, new quests, new areas, new NPCs).

An idea like this isn't too far fetched. As with everything else, careful planning and testing would be needed before implementing something like this. I'd like to see a MMO take a chance and try it out.

As far as existing construction sets for MMOs, I haven't heard of any that are available to the public, but I haven't bothered to look either. :)

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You could use a combination of personal moderation and rating limiters:

1. All quests MUST be verified by a human. This is both to stop exploits/power gaming and to stop people from putting homophobic/racist/sexist content in

2. Why delete quests? Surely it's better to have 50,000 quests than 500 ones that were added in the last month? If you want to keep it a small set, you coukd CYCLE the available quests (so the entire database is available, and every week it cycles out least popular 1/3 of the quests and randomly 'opens' up another 1/3. from the dataset)

3. Users are notified when their creation is open, and can check statistics (number of people who start it, finish it, average level, etc). Users can submit new versions of old quests (need moderator approval again), so that they could expand on the story-line, tweak bugs, and adjust difficulty settings.

4. Your personal rating (could be an aggregate of an Avogato trust metric (like gamedev), a rating from your quests (so users can rate how much the liked the quest after completing it, and your rating goes up based on positive feedback), etc) limits what you can do. So at a Rating of 1, you can spawn monsters at a low level, and give away rusty dagger of -1. At a rating of 500, you can spawn mid-level monsters and give away l00t worth XX gold. At a rating of 1800, you can spawn The Lord Of Darkness, and give away the above-mentionde vorpal blade. The assumption is that, having earned the privilige, you'll be more carefull with it. You still have moderator approval process in case you sold your account to some n00b on ebay.

Anyways; good luck and have fun

Allan

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Quote:
 As far as existing construction sets for MMOs, I haven't heard of any that are available to the public

It'll cost you fifty bucks to get one.

Quote:
 All quests MUST be verified by a human.

If these people are volounteers, there will be 'sploiting. If these people are paid, then who pays these people?

I think a better idea might be to have the quest-making character actually donate the drops from the quest. If I want to give away a "+10 Flaming Sword Of Meh" from the end boss, then I have to put that sword into the quest (or some amount of resources that equal the value of that item). The quest will be available once per such sword I put into the quest.

OK, so why would anyone create quests, then? They would have to get something out of it, more than just recognition -- perhaps score, or gold, or whatever for each player that does the quest (depending on how far they get in the quest, to avoid the worst kinds of cheats).

With a lot of work and careful attention to detail, this might work. However, you will find that only 10% of your users will create content, and only 10% of the content that's created will be any good. You'll need a very efficient system (like a marketplace) to weed out the nuggets of gold, and put them in front of as many people as possible. It is, after all, the goal to make as many players as possible experience as good content as possible.

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I've been admin on a MUD years ago. Checking submitted areas for balance was tedious, even with the handful automated scripts we had designed. "Moderating" submissions would likely require an amount of time and skill comparable to designing the quests in-house, if not greater, considering the amount of garbage that would likely be submitted, and the risk of letting a malicious design through.

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Quote:
 Original post by streamer...Personaly I think that idea is great, but I would make a slight modification in. When you complete the quest, you close the quest, so noone else will be able to finish that quest again. This will give players a chance to be remebered as "hey this is Feran the Strongheart who defeated Senegard a great red dragon!" and not as "yeah I found that puppy too in the forest". One shot quests!...

The amount of effort that goes into making a quest (balance and testing) makes it inpractical for most quests to be one shot quest.

Maybe certain epic quests that changes the storyline, quoting your example after Senegard is slayed the quest to kill Senegard will be finished for that server. New quests will appear like gathering materials to rebuild the town Senegard was terrorizing or exploring the it's lair to find a certain powerful artifact.

Epic quests shouldn't be too easy and it's rewards must be on par with the difficulty of completing it. Like a few powerful and unique swords or a new spell available to the mages who completed the quest.

Of course that will add more complications into the game making balancing the game much harder. People will start whining on forums about how unfair the system is when only a few people can finish such quests and getting the rewards, well just another day for MMO customer service :)

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Quote:
 Original post by FrunyI've been admin on a MUD years ago. Checking submitted areas for balance was tedious, even with the handful automated scripts we had designed. "Moderating" submissions would likely require an amount of time and skill comparable to designing the quests in-house, if not greater, considering the amount of garbage that would likely be submitted, and the risk of letting a malicious design through.

Indeed. You can cap the potential risk by resticting what they can do.. but then where's the fun. If it's not powerful enough to do something wrong (for example through scripting), it's unlikely to be powerful enough to be of any real interest.

The alternative is to get away from the Grind; if the core goal is not to amass loot and twinkies, powergaming would be less of an issue. Sure, you could be sitting on a throne made of vorpal blades (which sounds faintly painfull), but if the game isn't about grinding for +10 swords of ubern3ss, that's not really a problem.

How do games such as Second Life handle the ROI cycle? How do they deal with exploits? Surely the goal would be 100% user-generated content, with the company operating as a fascilitator rather than as the primary producer.

Allan

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Quote:
 Original post by hplus0603Here's the question I would decide:1) "Hail A Questgiver."2) "Deliver this note to the guy who stands right next to me. He will reward you."[you receive a note]3) "Hail A Recipient."4) /give Note Recipient5) "Ah, the note I've been waiting for! Please accept this jewel-encrusted +5 Vorpal Blade with my thanks!"In other words: where would the rewards come from, and how could the game know it's a balanced quest? Most of the problem in designing an MMO is in things like level progression, class balance, quest fairness, etc -- not in just coming up with what the quest is. The parts that make it hard is that it's an integrated system.

Why not make the rewards random based on the characters level/skill/stats/whatever. In Dungeon and Dragons Online, every chest you open had random spoils in it. Sure a lot of the time you got crap, but eventually you would get something good. This wouldn't prevent players from making an easy quest where they can just keep spawning chests to open, but if you make it that a character can only do a given quest once, or so many times a day, that would cut down people doing this, as it wouldn't be time effective.

The flaw I see with this comes from the game Second Life. Unless you implement some sort of content control, things will get out of hand. In Second Life, you go from areas of great detail, to areas that look terrible. There is no consistency. If the goal is role playing, nothing takes you out of the role play when there are inconsistencies.

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Quote:
 Surely the goal would be 100% user-generated content, with the company operating as a fascilitator rather than as the primary producer.

True. Or at least 99.9% user content, considering the base quests that come pre-built into the world. :)
I suppose the users can be divided into players and gamemasters/dungeonmasters who add new quests. The GMs are people interested in creating quests and having fun this way. I'm totally sure there are lots of potential GMs (and pnp GMs) willing to do that. Basically, the gamers won't participate much in the process.

If players won't create quests just to get uber loot. In a user-controlled system left without moderation
Quote:

will become quite common over time, and the world will sink into infinite powermaxing. You could keep such players out of the game, but that comes near to roleplay/IC nacizm.

I've mentioned using a "test world". Maybe this is the solution? People stuff anything they want into the test world, then the worthy quests are added into the actual world. And the former is wiped each N days, so it doesn't get too flooded with content.

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well I'm still beliver of one shot quests. You should think of one epic quest, then slowly introduce small quests that on the end lead somehow to epic quest. Personaly I don't like quests that everbody can fullfil. After finishing same quest 10th times you are bored. You could and should repeat some quests that are normaly believable. Like, local mage need some ingredients, players search for them [smile] get payed, and after mage have all ingredients he make potion of exploring. Program on this point close the quest. After some time mage deciedes to make a new potion, request new ingredients and offcourse new quest is opened. That may be for old potion (same ingredients) or for a new item/potion with new ingredients. This method gives you world with perpetual changing, and world is much more beleivable. Not anybody is allowed to be a mage and not anybody can be alchemist. If everybody can be fighters, mages, priests then you could find yourself with buch of fighter/cleric/mages who destroy your world.

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The Primogen library my company is constructing is basically an MMO construction kit.

That said, it's best to consider as more a production environment, since 'kit' implies that it prepares a complete product. We take NO interest in the balancing of game specific quests.

The issue of game-specific balance can't really be approached if you want to allow any flexibility of gameplay in your kit's product.

In our top-end library, we have a simulation layer that can be used to generate standard 'pickup / delivery / recon', 'manufacture', 'attack' quests, with monetary or non-unique (system craftable) item rewards. Basically, it just generates 'work' for players and NPCs. It works for 'stuff to do', but it doesn't loan itself particularly well to story-based quest generating, stories that it can generate (through its random events pools) are fairly obviously pieced together, but again, they work for the situation they're instanced for (and they are generated on the fly). All this stuff can be automatically balanced to some extent - by tweaking the input values to the system (spawn and decay rates, event tables) which is a nice subtle way of shifting the economic balance of the game world. I have to stress that although this system works to generate 'chaff' quests (disposable adventures!), it shouldn't be relied on exclusively - instead it can be used to provide an unstable backdrop to the game world and to regulate that game world if required.

Epic feeling stuff is something that ends up having to be carefully scripted, or it just doesn't work. Unique items, again, really have no place in a random system - a +1 longsword quest may be random, but the +5 Holy Avenger quest certainly shouldn't be. It would only feel cheap. Such items and events really need a special environment that isn't just a humdrum part of the world - the quest has to interact with the environment in a more complex way than a treasure chest buried under a tree.

I agree with hplus - player driven quests should be IN GAME. Bloodspear (our MMO project to be developed with Primogen) has a very complex player quest and social system. I'm really quite proud of it. However, for many games this won't work - Bloodspear's a relatively small community platform, and it's very much a social experiment. I don't envisage taking any instance of the game world over around 750-1000 concurrent players. There are two ways we deal with quests - through the social system (which I won't go into, but it's basically a cascade), or through a quest broker. Quest brokers are NPCs that allow you to specify a quest, and provide a reward. On receipt of the item (or 'appropriate' confirmation of the deed - it IS possible to cheat them - some more easily than others), the broker provides the reward, taking a cut. Because of the small community size, well-regarded quest givers gain a reputation as such - particularly important for those wishing to maintain their status on the social tree.

Bloodspear also has player-developed content, within very tight restrictions, as vetting everything (as has been mentioned) is impractical.

Any Guild, free company (approved player guild), Lord, Baron or Regent (all potentially headed by players) may develop their own heraldry - this is a choice of colours and motif. Heraldic rules are enforced, so nothing too garish results. Also there can only be ONE instance of any heraldic pattern in a kingdom.

Any player positioned world objects (building components, ground-rooted objects) on land allotted to them can be arranged as the player likes. This means a player can potentially create a labyrinth of hedges, or a castle, providing they have a large enough allotment. There is no option to build anywhere - players are forced to settle in towns and villages that WILL owe their allegiance to one of the kingdoms (balancing factors) in the game. We can therefore track an overall balance of power as players move around and tweak the economy and events to keep things interesting.

I see I've started rambling again. In terms of where to go in building an 'MMO kit'...

Well, I'd start with AD&D and a host of other PnP RPGs. GURPS is good as a basic concept, too, it's adaptable, and that's what you're looking for. Next up you need mechanisms to generate and balance some activity in the world. These could be simple spawn systems or a more complex simulation. You need to be able to counterbalance the effect your players have on this system. If it starts producing gold like nothing, you'll have hyper-inflaction in your game. If it doesn't produce enough, you'll either end up with players leaving because they can't afford kit, or a barter system arising (with items changing hands on ebay etc). Whilst it's fun and convenient to have rats and bunnies drop a few gold coins, it's not realistic, and you can eventually expect a non-realistic economic shift. Next you need a progression system. Skills or levels. Again you need to ensure your game world supports either appropriate difficulty beasties (somewhere) or *some* (appropriate difficulty again) use for the skills you're providing. 'Weapon proficiency - laser blaster' is not much use in a medieval historic setting. Killing the same dreary bunny rabbit is no fun when you're a lvl90 barbarian.

Scripting is an art, and designing quests that test (in a fun way) any character eligible to do them is exceedingly difficult. Experienced DMs / GMs sometimes have a knack for it, but even then often human moderation is required to either up the ante or lessen the pressure. These aren't really doable for the majority of quests in an MMO, where you have hundreds of people wanting to do hundreds of different things. Cycling one piece of shit quest in to replace another (although dynamical(?!)) would still result in shit quests. Quality checking is essential - you'd need to gather appropriate feedback from the test server, and I'd bet you'd find an awful lot of rejections.

I didn't ever bother looking at an MMO construction kit. I didn't want to waste my time learning a piece of software that might not do what I want, wouldn't be easily expandable, couldn't be licensed on if successful and otherwise might not measure up to what I could get produced myself, especially when I had such complex mechanics in mind.

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Nevrex are already implementing something like this. It should be realeased for their game Ryzom soon. Have a look at http://www.ryzom-ring.com/ and http://www.ryzom.com/ for more information on what they are trying to do.

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I think the average crap quest (as those abounds in WOW) can be done perfectly with a point cost system in an editor. Most quests are: read text (really and excuse), go X, kill/get Y mobs/items and go to Z to get reward, optionally unblock next quest. The rewards can be choosen from a selection based on how difficult is finish the quest (zone/creeps level). The only step that needs human interaction is text reading to ensure it not brokes any rules. But i dont see any appeal in making that kind of content.

Of course something more complicated than standard quest, cant be done in this way. Specially cause MMO philosophy, kill, gain level, items and gold. I think the only quest reward should come from the enjoy you get playing it. Trully, not very commercial.

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I never really liked the idea of quests. Quests are too artificial and just try to cover up the fact that they couldn't come up with an interesting gameplay.

Make your game interesting in other ways, so you won't have to implement quests, or at least not the "goto x, kill that, take item, go back, get reward and repeat" quests.

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[quote]Original post by ronkfist
...Quests are too artificial and just try to cover up the fact that they couldn't come up with an interesting gameplay.
[/qoute]
Тhаt only refers to dumb quests, not all of them. The fact that some quests are dumb doesn't mean that you can't create interesting ones. To avoid repetition (which does kill any fun parts of the game) I put the user-created quests to work. They won't be *all* brilliant, I do understand that.
Quote:
 Make your game interesting in other ways, so you won't have to implement quests, or at least not the "goto x, kill that, take item, go back, get reward and repeat" quests.

What do you mean? Isn't looting the same kind of quest you've described? Go kill a specific kind of mobs, gather loot, then sell it. The whole thing's about making quests that are *different*.

Again I bring on the idea of a human GM'ed MMORPG, where the gamemaster/player ration is around 1/10, not a bunch of GM's for the whole world. I'm implementing a human-controlled guild/governmental system, so it should blend in quite well.

@winterdyne: that's what you were talking about! A hierarchy of players doesn't get far, if the Lord player is just a high-level character. But if fraction leaders participate in developing game content (eg quests), so they practically gamemasters, it would be fun.

Ah yes, the term "construction kit" *was* misused by me. I didn't mean a kit for world creation - this brings up too much problems. The idea is to provide a publically available tool for world expansion with quests and/or other content. I've never seen such a tool in a MMO.

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yea that's what I meant with "making your game interesting in other ways", so that you don't only have to "kill, get drop and repeat".

Quests are basicly the same... instead of having the freedom of chosing what u wanna kill and where, they are even worse by making u kill a specific thing on a specific location. I don't see how you will change that by letting the community create their own quests.

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Quote:
 Original post by ronkfistyea that's what I meant with "making your game interesting in other ways", so that you don't only have to "kill, get drop and repeat".Quests are basicly the same... instead of having the freedom of chosing what u wanna kill and where, they are even worse by making u kill a specific thing on a specific location. I don't see how you will change that by letting the community create their own quests.

That's not a quest you're describing, it's a static spawn. I agree, static spawns are utter crap. But they're easy from a development and debugging / balancing point of view (they don't spawn anywhere near newbie areas, and / or have a constrained range of movement from their spawn point).

If you're responsible for tracking said beastie (perhaps only through the aftermath of attacks it makes on settlements) that kill the moor beast quest gets a lot more interesting, especially if it takes a different route (past different hostiles) each time.

@Cold_Flame: I purposely limit input from players to in-game mechanics. There's no 'dev tool' involved, everything is done from the standard client front end. We use (individually identifiable) 'superclients' for actual world editting, but these simply don't go to players, the reasoning being that anything a player does HAS to be counteractable by the system.

Allowing one side to 'win' in a warfare situation is untenable in most situations - the resulting misery for the losers is not fun, and will cost you subscribers. Allowing the balance of power to teeter (and using various social and economic tricks to keep the population relatively balanced across the nations involved) makes for an interesting and unpredicatable setting between two limits that cannot be reached.

The same is true of fixed epic plots for game settings - not really useful since by their nature they finish. If you plan to run the game for a set time and a set time only, then this is fine. For the relatively long period of time an MMO player life cycle covers this isn't practical without an army of scripters at your disposal.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there should be set mechanics for the players to be able to carve out a real, tactile history for themselves in the game world (and not rely on invulnerable cheesy NPCs to provide 'plot' in meaningless chunks of terrible dialog). Letting players set tasks for each other (and attempting to ensure this happens by deliberately crippling economies at key points) is a simple way forward to cause plots to be generateed at the player level, not the game. Of course, you have to make sure that everyone knows that a certain amount of lateral thought and *gasp* communication and *shock* socialisation will be required to progress through the game.

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@ronkfist:
Just a quick list of different quest types:

"logical puzzle/research" - find answer to some question, maybe through gathering info, searching and reading books, talking to people (and finding the people to talk to). Could be global (clues are scattered around the world) or local (like a "private detective" quest).

"exploration (puzzle)" - find your way through a dungeon/labyrinth. find your way using clues and navigational methods eg "go to the strange-shaped rock then turn north and head into the mountains". At the end of the path you get a reward.

"bounty competition/hunter-seeker" - seek a specific creature, rare but not unique, kill. Whoever kills most (for some period of time) gets the prize.

"collectables" - kill a creature of every kind in the world. Get something in reward. Collect all books (for a scholar/mage?). Gather all kinds of flowers. Gather ingredients for a magical concoction.

Different quest rewards:
*enjoyment and fun (most important!)
*loot
*acquire title (eg Slayer Of The Ancient Multi-Hued Wyrm)
*get into the game's Hall Of Fame
*receive a fancy decoration for the avatar (in any manner)

Yeah, with a static world quests get repetitive and not fun - generally. That's the main reason to have user-provided dynamic content.

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I think this is a good topoic to introduce the Ryzom Ring

Edit: oups sorry someone mentioned it already...

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see thread for more ideas along these lines:

http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=394160

other aspects of player created scenarios/quests :

More challenges in playing (for those who like challenges)

Exploration (for those who like exploring) more intricate situations can now be in game without costing the company impossible  (and more interactive details versus the virtual deserts most MMORPGs really are)

Creation (use of creativity of players -- for those .....)

See posting in the link above for ideas about having players take the roles of monsters (adding another thing to do in the game and to gain 'achievement')