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J0VE

Player hierarchy (it could work!)

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Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I posted here. Been busy making a career which has more chance of succeeding than game developing ;) But this idea I have has kept on haunting me, so I’m giving it another try with you guys. Be it with a new twist. All those months of thinking about it has made me change my mind about what’s important and original and what’s not. In short, the game is an online multiplayer space empire building game. I know, there are lots and lots of people who have ideas for online multiplayer games, and there are also lots of people who have used this excuse for posting yet another one. But I hope you can nonetheless appreciate my idea. Previously my focal point was all about decentralizing the server side application for the game to increase the continuity and the overall capacity. I won't go into it right now, but although it still could have potential in some situations, I now don’t really believe this could make the game’s experience unique. I also abandoned the browser based character of the game. I think stand alone client applications have infinitely more possibilities, and the advantages of keeping things within the browser are negligible. On to what it’s all about! This was actually already a part of my initial idea for a game, but like I said before, it was not the main focal point. I now believe that this concept has far more potential to make the game unique, because I don’t think a concept like this has ever showed up in a game (really). Impatient folks can start reading here. In short, it’s all about hierarchy. Player hierarchy. You see, up till now, players in games are essentially equal. Ofcourse, people can distinguish themselves by mastering the game, or having superior insights into it. Still, from the application point of view, they are all the same. This however is not how it is in the real world. For example: sitting in class, I could realize I’m smarter than my college professor, but that doesn’t mean I can take his place right there and then. I have to work my way up there by making a career for myself. But how to translate this into a game? This is the essence of my idea: player hierarchy. One player having more power than another. Picture this: in the beginning there is an empty virtual universe, full of planets ready to be colonized. Then the first player joins. He gets dropped onto a random planet and starts building his empire in a more or less classical way (although I have some other ideas about how to make this more original). The same happens for the next few players. After a while, when a new player joins up, he’s presented with a choice. He can start a new empire on an empty planet somewhere in this virtual universe, or he can apply for a job at one of the existing players. The player who receives the application, can decide to accept or refuse his new employee on his own terms. He can have as much subordinates as he wants, and his subordinates can have subordinates for themselves as well. This presents an enormous amount of possibilities:
  • An empire leader can delegate certain management tasks to the subordinate player. He can for example assign command over a planet to someone else, or maybe just the command over a squad of combat units.
  • This gives the leader an extra set of eyes. When he’s busy waging war, the subordinate can watch over things on the quiet end of the empire
  • Subordinates can be promoted, which simply means their superior gives them more power, or demoted, when power is being reduced. This all happens in the way the leader wishes it to happen.
  • Leaders can create their own structures of ranks and communication channels
  • Subordinates could decide to break away from their master. Taking everything they have power over, and create a new empire for themselves, or join up with another faction.
  • Maybe, subordinates could perform a military coup. Trying to take over command over the empire from their leader. I don’t know how this would eventually work, but maybe it could be done using an in-game minigame.
  • When a player quits the game overall, everything he commands is either signed over to his superior, or -when it’s the empire’s leader who’s quitting- divided over all subordinates, breaking the empire apart into smaller pieces, which could join up and restructure all over again.
There are lots of other possibilities, which I won’t mention because I think you get the idea. In short, my point is that there is no higher motivation for players than to become better than another player. This will create competition between equals in an empires hierarchy. The theory behind this is essentially sociological. Another important sociological concept is the concept of belonging. the concept of in- and outgroups. You belong to one group of players (one of them being your leader, perhaps others being your subordinates) and that makes another group of players your enemy. It is teambased play in a whole new form. I guess this is it! Let me know what you think, and don’t be too hard on me please :)

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I think the primary flaw in this would be getting players to join civilizations that others have created. Essentially, players want to control other people, but do not want to ve controled themselves. They want action, not to sit back while another player goes and fights a war. So in the end you'll most likely have alot of one person civilzations with maybe a few with more (like a group of friends or something). You can fix this by somehow giving more incentive to join others, or something like equal command, etc. My 2 cents.

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Two games (mods) immediatly jump to mind: Natural Selection (Half-Life) and Iron Grip (Half-Life 2). And I'm sure there are a few others as well. These games had one player play as a commander and the others as first-person soldiers/aliens. And it seems to work just fine - as long as that commander is actually behaving as a commander.

And of course, clans. Although the relationships may not be defined by an in-game parameter, they are established. Perhaps not as far-reaching or as strict as you intend your system to be, but the system exists. Created by players themselves.

Anyway, I think it really depends on what game you implement it in. I think it's an interesting thing to explore, but it also seems like a difficult thing to get right.

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I can't see this working if you're presented with the pop-up window of being someone else's toady during character creation before you've even played the game. "Welcome to Star Empire! Do you wish to start your own empire, or be a toady for [KouNt-d00k1E]?" You have no idea who that person is, and I can't imagine why anyone would think it would be fun to work for someone they don't know without knowing what they'd be doing, when they could just be their own boss. Similarly, d00k1E is sitting at his computer and gets a pop up saying "A new player has joined! Do you wish to give up some of your hard won land to [s3phir4th-pwns]? (Remember, this player can decide to leave with everything you give him whenever he wants!)", there's no way he's going to trust someone he's never met to take over part of his empire. I'd imagine most people would decide they don't like their new boss within a day of playing and just leave with all the assets they were given, making "hiring" anybody a losing situation.

Instead, I think you should check out EvE Online. It's a MMO space empire building game, and it's got some very interesting gameplay ideas that separate it from other MMO's. There, you can start your own corporations, and you meet people within the game, and there are various incentives to starting corporations and handing out roles. It's a much more solid system than the outline you have so far.

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i know a few games that do this to an extent, but the problem with your idea and i'll porbably get tons of hate for this. players are extreamly stupid and extreamly manipulative, it takes a rare group of people for you game idea to work the closest thing game that i can think of that offers something simular is A Tale in the Desert though the hierarchy is formed from the gameplay in the need for limited resources

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@makeshiftwings:

I can appreciate your sarcasm. I forgot to mention some important details about this whole idea which would have clarified why i don't share your view.
My intention is not that leaders "give" a part of what they build up to someone they don't know. They just give the subordinate "rights" to some of their assets. They will always have the final vote over what this subordinate can and cannot do. If this subordinate orders a unit to go this way, the leader can always tell that same unit to go another way. In other words, the leader never loses his influence, he just shares it with someone else. And he can monitor the subordinate's every move.
And apart from that, like you said, the leader will only "hire" a subordinate when he has reason to. Ofcourse this will mostly be the case when the subordinate and his superior are friends in real life, or will have shared experiences within the game, or maybe the leader is just desperate for some help and he has lots op people apply for the job.
And a leader could always just hand over the control to one insignificant freighter to you don't really trust.

@Axiverse:

I totally get your point. This is one of the arguments i came up with myself. The game's dynamics have to be tuned in such a way that it becomes more profitable when more than one player manages a single faction. For example because a faction can have multiple things and places managed and watched at once. Imagine a game of battlefield 2, you can kill a hell of a lote more North Coreans when you have some troops to order around then you could when you are on your own.

So, from an evolutionary point of view, factions controlled by more than one player have a higher probability of survival. Factions controlled by only one player will have a high risk of losing the competition with factions controlled by a whole hierarchy of players.
Maybe they would even feel so vulnerable, that they would rather join up with one of their multiplayer-controlled competitors. Especially if this doesn't really mean they have to give up control over what they already have, and furthermore, increases security because you have the protection of the other parts of your new empire, and it increases your chances to "move up in the universe".

I hope i've clarified why i still believe this thing could really work.

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Quote:
Original post by J0VE
@makeshiftwings:

I can appreciate your sarcasm. I forgot to mention some important details about this whole idea which would have clarified why i don't share your view.
My intention is not that leaders "give" a part of what they build up to someone they don't know. They just give the subordinate "rights" to some of their assets. They will always have the final vote over what this subordinate can and cannot do. If this subordinate orders a unit to go this way, the leader can always tell that same unit to go another way. In other words, the leader never loses his influence, he just shares it with someone else. And he can monitor the subordinate's every move.
And apart from that, like you said, the leader will only "hire" a subordinate when he has reason to. Ofcourse this will mostly be the case when the subordinate and his superior are friends in real life, or will have shared experiences within the game, or maybe the leader is just desperate for some help and he has lots op people apply for the job.
And a leader could always just hand over the control to one insignificant freighter to you don't really trust.


The reason I said that is because you said:

Quote:

Subordinates could decide to break away from their master. Taking everything they have power over, and create a new empire for themselves, or join up with another faction.

That sounds like the subortinate can (and would) take off with everything you gave him. If that's not what you mean, and the subortinate essentially doesn't "own" anything of his own (like he's renting all of his troops from the master), and the master can yank out everything the subortinate has whenever he feels like it, then I can see even less reason for anyone to sign up as an employee of someone they don't know.

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Quote:

That sounds like the subortinate can (and would) take off with everything you gave him. If that's not what you mean, and the subortinate essentially doesn't "own" anything of his own (like he's renting all of his troops from the master), and the master can yank out everything the subortinate has whenever he feels like it, then I can see even less reason for anyone to sign up as an employee of someone they don't know.


True, i haven't exactly figured out how this should work. I mean the fact that master and subordinate have joint jurisdiction over certain units and buildings, but subordinates can decide to take matters into their own hands at the same time.
There is indeed a delicate balance between giving the subordinate enough power and free will, but also limiting the risks for the master. I think that is your point.

The solution i think lies in the way an empire leader designs his command structure. I hope a huge amount of freedom in the game gives leaders the possibility to organise things his way. He can create policies about how much a new low officer can command, when he moves up, what the leaders obligations are in return, and what happens when a subordinate breaks his rules.
After a while some leaders should become popular, and lots of players will want to join his team, because he has shown himself a good employer to lots of other players. Others, who have a more oppressive style of play may rule their subordinates with an iron fist. His subordinates have a higher probability to want to defect, because they lack personal freedom, but on the other hand, know that when they would, they would almost certainly be wiped out by the military forces of their ex-leader.
These 2 examples are like the east and west factions in the Cold War.

But ok, maybe this is just wishful thinking.
Maybe the game should have some rules to keep things from getting out of hand when i've missjudged the psyche of the players.
Perhaps it is not possible to "just" defect and get away with it if the former leader doesn't strike. Maybe a randomization algorithm decides what units and buildings remain under your command after defection, and what assets return to the former leader.

Another solution could be the use of contracts. When a subordinate and a leader agree that they should work together, they could choose from a list of restrictions and liberties that apply to the new subordinate. These conditions are binding, and cannot be broken because the game won't permit it.
The contract would say what the new subordinate commands (units 345 to 443, all units produced on Terra4, all buildings on Terra4). The contract would also contain wether the subordinate can communicate with other factions with or without the leaders permission, wether he can hire his own employee players, and what the risks are if he would defect.
There could for example be a type of contract with tremendous amounts of liberties, maybe even sole control over some assets, but that contract would probably also say that defection is impossible.

But i'd still hope that organisational structures would emerge by themselves if these binding contracts or algorithms are left out.

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I met an infantry guy here who had a similar idea. I felt that he was a bit hopeless though since what he described was very far reaching and would require a fairly complex engine, and he knew nothing about engines.

Regardless, the part that was similar was that in his idea you can own the empire or be the soldier on the ground fighting for it. The difference there was that it was the player's choice.

Both ideas have short commings however.

Forcing players to climb the ladder:

1) Newbs will have a hard time getting accepted and vets will tire of them quickly
2) Newbs will will not know anyone and will have a hard time finding a boss they want to work for
3) Being at the bottom may frustrate a lot of individuals
4) Some may actually prefer the lower ranks and may not want to go up past a certain point
5) Forced cooperation may not be the most effective way to garner productive cooperation

Letting players choose their own position:

1) Newbs will be at a great disadvantage as no one will want to work for them and no one will want to hire them
2) If there is an option to have AI work for you, then those with AI employees will be at a disadvantage (unless the AI "cheats" in which case everyone will go that route, balance is impossible since humans are smarter than AI)
3) Making every role equally desireable will be very difficult. There will likely be roles in which there is a shortage of interest in and roles in which most people want to hold.

Beyond those issues are some that will affect both solutions:

1) Ensuring that one Empire doesn't become "all powerful" will require some fairly cleaver checks and balances to not piss off players. Many web based games resolve this be resetting everything every so often. For a game with significant ladder climbing, resets may not be a good solution.
2) New empires will need some form of protection from more established ones. This is a fairly common issue in MMO's, one often used solution is to prevent battles between individuals of too great a rank difference.
3) (Similar to issue #1) Once dominant empires form, giving new empires a chance to get there too will be important. Again resets have worked in web based games but this may not be an option for your game.

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