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Cooperative MMORTS (purely theoretical)

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I am currently developing a simple rogue-like RPG set in the stone age (Maglemosian period, but that's not set in stone) and I've been daydreaming a bit about future installments of the game. It looks to me like it would be the perfect setting for a cooperative MMORTS. Now, for the idea itself. I'm envisioning a game somewhat similar to Settlers, but with more control over the people and less buildings (craftsmen instead of buildings would be in charge of producing stuff). The player would be in charge of a tribe of humans (either cromagnons or neanderthals) and the main challenge would be in keeping the tribe alive (and possibly prosperous). Every tribesman (I'm estimating 20-ish to be the standard tribe size) would be a multi-purpose "unit" and would have stats similar to those found in RPGs (only not at superhuman levels) and skills (flintknapping, basketweaving,...). The stats would be influenced both by character's lifestyle and by genetics. This brings me the second part: reproduction. Unlike in pretty much every RTS you'd be unable to simply click on a button to produce units. Children would be born and would have to be taken care of before they start being useful (say, gathering berries at the age of five). This would obviously mean that women and children would be a very valuable "resource". But it also brings us to the fact that interacting with other tribes would be crucial to long-term survival of the tribe as too much inbreeding would unleash tons of recessive diseases. Another important reason for interacting with other tribes would be trade. Resources would be evenly spread on the map to encourage trade (for example, a tribe living in inland mountains would trade high-quality flint for a coastal tribe's salt). And that brings me to the fact that resources wouldn't be handled in the traditional abstract way most RTSs do; instead all resources would be items and some of them could be processed to other items (for example: flint -> spearhead + pole + sinew -> spear) and the quality of items would be influenced by quality of raw materials, skill of the craftsman and wear and tear (items would diminish in quality over time and foodstuff would spoil). For the reasons mentioned above it's clear that cooperation between different tribes would be very important, but I'm not ruling warfare out. Raiding other tribes for resources and possibly slaves would certainly be doable, but would be a risky action that would need much thinking out because losing tribe members would be a huge blow to a tribe. I'd say that few players would try to eradicate other tribes because it would generally mean huge losses, so raiding when the enemies men are out hunting would probably be the main for of "combat". Anyway, this game ought to take place on a huge seamless map to enhance game immersion. I'd say that 2D is good enough for this game (I honestly can't see what would 3D add) and this might reduce the strain on the server. Speaking of which, I guess that a dozen tribes per shard (is that the word for one "world" in MMO games?) would be more than enough, but I'm not sure how well would even that number be handled by servers as I'm completely ignorant when it comes to multiplayer programming. Sorry if this post seems a bit undeveloped, but I had to see if there are other people who would find this idea as cool as I do. I'm nowhere near implementation, but I guess I could start working on it in five o six years when I acquire sufficient skills and assemble a small team of like-minded hobbyists (I've already talking some friends from Uni into making a sidescroller with me). I appreciate any comments and critics. Thanks in advance for pointing out glaring holes in my theoretical concept.

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Well, to me, (and don't get me wrong... my oppinion is of little conciquence I'd think... I've never played Settlers) it seems like a somewhat decent idea. The idea of RTS units being spawned from procreation using a seemingly pretty complicated genetics engine sounds interesting. Cooperation between tribes (each player, I presume?) being almost forced by the need to trade and procreate without genetic defects sounds interesting... there's only a few things I could see people complaining about if this made it to a real game.

1. What's the point in the game? If it's to simulate primitive tribes and their interactions, well sounds like you have it down. I don't really see keeping a tribe alive and prospering being the most 'fun' task to do in a game.

2. Micromanagement issues. With a somewhat complicated economy (even with just cromagnons or neanderthals) and procreating working off of per-unit stats, (this is what the description sounds like... I may be wrong...) it may be more of an exercise in frustration to even play the game, let alone prosper. To me, this sounds like a big issue. If a game isn't fun, noone would play it. All the sim games are essentially micromanagement, but for the most part, they have systems so that this micromanagement is mostly self opperating, so the player can focus on the big picture. All in all... this really goes back to how is this game fun? If it is to be managing the tribes and getting all the interactions, it would be very difficult to keep it shy of frustrating. If not, then I guess there has to be another goal!

3. A well opperating genetics engine, and a solid MMO economy are very hard to come by. Maybe I'm invisioning the genetics more complicated then need be, but if it's to have implicative ingrowth defects, I'd think it would take more then just an inter-mingling of stats, and perhaps more then a straight up dominant/dormant 'gene' splicing deal... forgive me, it's been a long time sense I've been in biology of any kind!
But more the economy then a genetics engine. It sounds like you want to take actual, physical presence of items after 'gathering' to be taken into account. This can lead to a drastically more complicated economic model then if it was simply a statistical trade. Although I've always looked at it like this: It works in the real world, give the players the tools and resources and they'll manage their own damn economy (with proper adjustments)! But then I'm no econ major. ~.^


As a side note, I'd just like to say servers and communication for an MMO due to come out in several years are essentially mute compared to the restrictions these days. All the new tech coming out along with the ever rapid growth of broadband services will make a very network heavy MMO possible, so long as your code is smart enough to manage that data wisely!

I guess the whole point, next to specifics of the game working, is what would make this game fun for the rest of us? I don't see a large portion of the gaming populus playing a tribal sim, especially if it's 2D. Not meaning to offend, but gamers are DEFINITLEY drawn to flashy graphics and gameplay.

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Seems nice idea, i agree with the aim problem them, people like to concure others and i think that may happen. Ganking of lone tradsmen or hunsmen weakenign and then overrunning could be the tact.

As for micro management i like it so heres my surgestion on how to make it not oever whelming.
Say if u do flint working u get better over time same with hunting, when u come to say i want 50 spears making maybe it lists all your flint workisn on teh right hand side of your screen with their skill (and linked skills) and it tells u what each of them is currently doing then u cna choose which u want to switch to go flint work. that way u dont go loosing units not distinguishing them from others or sending the wrong guy.
i would definatly use a skill modle that if u do it u lean rather than u got 20xp go spend it.

hope that helps a little :)

oo and what about defences of villages :) and theirs always a problem of getting wiped out when not online. Ogame got over this by making attacks take alot of time and u can c them comming

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had few more thoughts :)

womone and children can do resource carrying, also maybe children could do like apprenticing e.g little jimmy helps bob the flint worker gains basic flint skill and bobs work gets done faster, but little jimmy cant do anything with flint on his own.


Also i like the idea of diverse spread of resources, and it could lead some quite kewl tribes who use what they have for difference purposes. e.g tibe buy woods build wooden shacks, those by mountains use caves.

also have u thought of herbalist/appothicay/healer for diseases and wounds?

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Well, the game is intended to appeal to a very specific group within the gamer community, that is the kind of people that enjoy playing tycoon/citybuilder type of games. Ideally it'd be freeware, but I guess that server costs have to be covered somehow. Anyway, I don't think it would be all that boring because from what I've seen all MMO games boil down to tons of grinding. Quests in MMORPGs tend to be dull and when you're done with them all you have left is grinding and PvP, and I think that grinding in an RTS-ish game would be less boring as you don't need to do everything manually. And I'm predicting that diplomacy would be more important here because death in this game would have far greater consequences than in MMORPGs.

That being said, I don't think that an extremely complicated genetics engine would be needed. There would be a single gene for every stat and a single gene for every talent (affinity towards a skill) plus miscellaneous genes for stuff like inheritable diseases. Each person would get a pair of all genes, one set from mother and one set from father. The genetics system would follow Mendel's laws of inheritance and steer clear of more complex stuff (well, a mutation every now and then would be OK, I guess) because I think implementing realistic genetics would take years and would be a massive overkill.

I'm well aware that the economy model I propose would be a nightmare to micromanage with traditional RTS system. The best solution I can think of is massive automatization of production process via AI. That is, each character would have a set of goals which they would pursue when they're left idle (for example, if there's nothing to do make spearheads) that would depend on their skills and on availability of items (so, if there's a shortage of baskets the idle character would make them instead of spearheads, even if he's better at flintknapping than basketweaving). Offcourse. these priority lists could be overridden by player and, to further ease the control, the player could set up a global list of priorities (ie a queue of things that need doing). Being able to make custom "jobs" (templates with different lists of priorities) as well as having pre-made "jobs" would further ease control over the tribe. All this automatization would also mean that the player could log in, play for a while, make a big to-do list and log out and the villagers would continue to work.

This brings me to the problem of attacking offline players, which I still don't have a solution for. Entire tribes blinking in and out of existance would kill the game immersion for me (it's the one of the two things I hate about MMORPGs), but I can't think of a good way to protect a tribe while offline other than hiding in an easily deffendable location (and that is a lame and hacked way to do it).

The apprenticeship idea is wonderful, as well as herbalism. I had some vague ideas about that as well, but nothing truly fleshed-out.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback and keep it coming.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by 95CKILMA
people like to concure others... weakenign and then overrunning...

heres my surgestion on how to make it not oever whelming...
...if u do flint working u get better ...workisn on teh right... tells u what... then u cna choose which u want... u dont go loosing units... if u do it u lean rather than u got 20xp...

... defences of villages ... theirs always a problem ... u can c them comming


Jesus Christ kid, take thirty seconds to look over what you just wrote. This isn't AOL.

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yes kid....
when im scribalign a quick message on a board i dont tend to look it over, but this isnt an english exam :/

anways back onto topic
the idea of a global priority list as well as a list for whats needed is a nice idea, maybe add in maslow list? (as in maslows hierarchy of needs) to help prioratise.
one thing i would do though is if the list is for example
make baskets
make spear heads
pick berries

and our native bob has 1 skill in baskets 30 in spear head making and 10 in berry and 70 in boat making maybe have a calculation that basicly makes him say well i know baskets are more important but hell im crap at them ill make spear heads.

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Quote:
Original post by 95CKILMA
when im scribalign a quick message on a board i dont tend to look it over, but this isnt an english exam :/
No, it isn't; but neither is it Yahoo Chat. You'll find that a lot of people here won't take you seriously if your grammar is that bad.

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Quote:
Original post by Sneftel
Quote:
Original post by 95CKILMA
when im scribalign a quick message on a board i dont tend to look it over, but this isnt an english exam :/
No, it isn't; but neither is it Yahoo Chat. You'll find that a lot of people here won't take you seriously if your grammar is that bad.


Indeed. English exams exist for a reason.

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Hmm, well if you're aiming at that audience, I could see it going somewhere if you worked out the micromanagement issues and all. Which it definitley sounds like you're already started on!

Aside from issues among micromanagement and genetics and all that, I'm still having trouble finding the real appeal. Granted, building a successful tribe and expanding out to trade, etc would be fun, but this is a never ending MMO, is it not? After you expand and become a large presence, what's there to do? I'm betting most people would try to start a war, even people that like sims and all to death!

I guess what I'm getting at is that it sounds like you have quite an evolution scheme (as far as expanding tribes, economics, etc), but to me, I'm not seeing much discussion on where things would head after everyone expanded and how the game would help it stay fun. It's one thing to manage a thriving town, but another to manage a war. Would there be tools to help this? Also, there's a lot to considder when the economics of war comes in to play... a lot of things are strained, including population. To me, it seems like a huge tribe, given the production method of reproduction, would still not be large enough (and stay managable, unless those automation tools are quite powerful =]) to sustain a war without eventually burning itself and others out in numbers, let alone resources... Or perhaps this is part of the fun. ^.~

If the tools were in place to manage this well, I could see expansion, trading, and war to all be very fun and challenging!

I do have two questions, though:

1. How are the skills to be facilitated? As in... basketweaving, masonry, (or similar... I know it's neanderthal etc) hunting, and all going to fit together? Is there really a tribe to centralize all of this? Perhaps it's my lack of knowledge on primal life that's limiting my visualization of this aspect of the game, but a lot of people that would be interested also may not know too much to think for themselves it to be interesting...

2. This is more of conceptual, but how easy is it going to be for people just starting among old players get a footing? Even if war would be difficult, a mean, large player could decide to simply wipe them off the face of 'their' land...

edit: Hmm... after thinking a bit about this... It seems to me that if a few issues are hammered out... this concept could be taken to a real MMORTS. As in something like Warcraft, or C&C, centered around war... not trying to deminish the concept... ~.^ Diplomacy would take a huge role in a war-centered game. Also, as players expand, fighting over resources is bound to happen, sparking wars anyways. If war isn't at least a little bit covered by the design, players will eventually lose interest, not having anything to do after getting a solid footing around the world. As what is in my head right now, it almost sounds like a primitive (litterally, hah) version of something like the Total War series, except obviously the campaign map is the real deal and it's real time... needing actual management and being a lot funner. Also with less war. ~.^

Am I getting these concepts wrong? I know saying it's like the Total War series begs assumptions about the 'tech tree' and diplomacy... but as of now, the specifics of how this works seems to be a bit wanting. =]

Tools and systems for micromanagement, genetics, and server issues are, at least to me, much, much easier to design then a fully working(complicated/challenging enough to keep players interested for a long time) and fun(semi-balanced, not too hard) game design.

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