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Soldarith

Persistent goals in a persistent world?

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(long-time reader but just recently registered) I have been toying with the idea of persistent goals within a persistent world and looked at the past major MMOs to find whether or not it has been a focus of their games. It turns out that a majority of the best-selling MMOs contain short-term or long-term investment goals in their persistent worlds; however, truly persistent goals (outside of perhaps some small PVP controlled areas) are nonexistent. Before I begin diving into details, allow me to copy into this post a piece of an MMO concept I’ve been working on. The concept goes into some high-level details regarding the game’s proposed persistent goal system: The primary over-arching goal of the game is never-ending: influence and gain control over the earth and its inhabitants. Players fight the constant battle on earth, and in the underworld, to tip the balance of power in their favor. This delicate “balance” is always visible to the players through their screen and can affect how the world’s inhabitants’ regard the player’s faction as well as provide additional beneficial or negative effects on the player. The battle for balance is lost and gained through each and every player’s actions: conducting quests for your faction, defeating opposing faction players, influencing earth’s inhabitants, and through other means – for example, successfully completing a quest will gain your faction balance, however, failing a quest will cost your faction to lose balance. I will digress momentarily and say that Horizons had one of the boldest ideas behind persistent goals within an MMO, which was a constant battle of players vs. non-player character armies. However, as many of you may know, Horizons has not exactly succeeded in the MMO market (and that is a whole other topic, to say the least). So what exactly is a “persistent goal” within a world that is “always on” anyways? Well, I am sure each of us have our own perspective on what each of those words, “persistent” and “goal”, could mean. However, I will describe what I feel the meaning of this term is and how it should affect the game’s world (and more importantly its players within it). A persistent goal is a goal that requires constant upkeep from players in order to remain in effect, in play, or within the game’s world. Just like the name hints, a persistent goal, needs two opposing sides (not necessarily being both controlled by players – perhaps one side can be game-controlled) for the persistent goal to be truly persistent. Perhaps the persistent goal will fade if not enough of a particular action has taken place within the world, or the persistent goal will benefit a player faction depending on which faction has conducted the required actions. Many popular MMO worlds today contain what I call “semi-persistent goals”, most of these are faction or reputation based goals or point goals (such as PVP points). However, unless the player does something to lose those factions, reputations, or points, there really isn’t any true persistence to them (i.e. they do not possess an opposing side/force to decay the player-earned points or goals). So, for the most part, these goals are short-term or long-term one-time goals that the player works towards then forgets about because they do not require any upkeep. So my question is: Do you believe that the MMO player community is ready for persistent goals in their persistent worlds?

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I have trouble understanding what exactly the concept encompasses. For instance, the War of Emperium in Ragnarok Online seems to correspond to your definition: people fight each other to control areas of the world, which provide many goodies (equipment, NPCs, special monsters). If you cease to fight, another guild will take over your land and your benefits. And the activity is nothing minimal: aside from the grind (PvE to gain experience and items), most medium-to-high-level characters in a guild will engage in the War of Emperium. So, what is it about this that doesn't correspond to your concept?

Also, open-ended MMORPGs (where RP means "role-playing" as in "playing a role") such as Kraland have nearly no short-term goals: it's all about players forming governments, controlling land, edicting laws and forming virtual civilizations.

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How will you avoid the problem of griefers deliberately failing quests, losing battles, and generally destroying their own faction?


Not to put words in the OPs mouth, but if you can only positively affect your guild's status, then this would be eliminated from the list of worries while still retaining the fight.

Also, you could easily be kicked out of a guild for your actions.

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Not sure what you mean by "persistent" and can't quite tell how your ideas are different from the faction battles you mention, but I would like to see more interesting goal-oriented design in persistent games. It seems like you are describing something where you have to constantly do "x" or "y" will happen. Persistent to me means a goal that is always there, just how a persistent world is always there. The only true persistent goal should be the overall advancement of your character or faction, or just having fun however you see fit as a player. Other than that, ever changing goals are better to keep games interesting; and more than this, ever more complicated or challenging goals are what we should be looking for.

I don't think goals that are always there are all that great. How many times do you have to fight over the same chunk of ground before you realize your just doing the same thing over and over? Which seems like what you are describing actually. There should be goals, quests, etc, that have a way to pass, and a way to fail. They would need to be set up so that you must actively pass, or passively fail. What I mean by this is, if nothing is done, the goal will most likely fail; whereas if enough people try hard enough, the goal will succeed. It could be something like building a protective wall around a city before the neighboring army arrives. If the wall isn't built in time, or isn't build strong enough, the invading army will take over the city and set up their government, selling the citizens of the city into slavery where they are forced to work in a slave labor camp, unless they can escape. In this situation, there is no way for a grieifer to say, "aha, today I'm going to foil the cities plans!"

It's not really a persistent goal, because it has a time limit, although a similar situation could happen again. I'm not sure if this is exactly what you are after, but it's something I would like to see more of. For the unfortunate group who fails and winds up in slave labor camps, they have a new goal - escape the camps, regroup, and plan a retake of the city.

There would be some ebb and flow to this set of events, but it would be more than just holding a position to make faction points go up.

The downside is, what if not enough people log on during the event to succeed? It could be weighted by the number of active players, but in the end, it's still going to require players to be fairly dedicated. Judging by the amount of hours some of my friends play mmo's though, this isn't that much of a problem.

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Persistent worlds are of course possible in a single players RPGs. (It's one of reasons why I often say use fixed size whole numbers as data types if you would like to have it fast.) However you said MMO. Why? It's quite bad for MMO, because you can't offload work for player computers, and some players might decide to create a nice picture of a vagina on a somewhat visible hill. Thus create quite interesting law problems. Of course if you would be able to sent lawsuits to players, and avoid any damage, it might be interesting.

Imagine situation like that:

Player: what do you mean by year in prison for destruction of reputation of that company, damage of moral education of young children, and violation of license terms? I just played a computer game.

[Edited by - Raghar on March 10, 2007 10:53:14 AM]

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There are some very good replies here, and I appreciate each of them to spur the discussion. However, I feel like I should follow-up to my original posting with some additional thoughts/information, if for nothing else, to clarify my original idea.

The thought of having a persistent goal solely by way of PVP strikes me as a semi-persistent goal and not truly persistent - If players can choose to not participate in the goal then I do not believe it is truly persistent.

Let's take my example for the MMO story I've been working on (just for simplistic sake and because it is something I can describe without trying to fall victim to "that" MMO or "the other" MMO).

The goal of balance is never "winnable" by either side. If each side does nothing, the balance stays neutral and neither side benefits (and the side effects of this carry on into the game's world in ways like how the NPCs regard both sides). But in this case, is it truly possible for a side to "do nothing"? My answer would be no, simply because the idea behind the persistent goal would be to (for lack of a better word) force the player into participating in the goal through their own natural actions - "hardcore" players could further their side's cause by engaging in optional PVP, grinding, etc. The whole premise thus becomes an all-player encompassing community goal that everyone, on every level of play, participates in.

Keep in mind, however, that just because a persistent goal is within a game does not mean that it is the only goal in the game. Like many have mentioned in this discussion, there need to be pass/fall goals within the game in order for the player to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement (and I totally agree with this). But would it be attractive if a player could continue through all of those pass/fail goals (long term and short term) while at the same time know that they are somehow contributing to an even larger goal?

I used MMOs in the context of my thoughts because the (my) primary thought behind persistent goals are for many people, across all play styles and habits, to participate, engage, and share in a common goal; if for nothing else because I just don't believe enough MMOs embrace this concept (another topic, I'm afraid :p).

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Original post by Soldarith
The thought of having a persistent goal solely by way of PVP strikes me as a semi-persistent goal and not truly persistent - If players can choose to not participate in the goal then I do not believe it is truly persistent.
...
The goal of balance is never "winnable" by either side. If each side does nothing, the balance stays neutral and neither side benefits (and the side effects of this carry on into the game's world in ways like how the NPCs regard both sides). But in this case, is it truly possible for a side to "do nothing"?

Quote:

The battle for balance is lost and gained through each and every player’s actions: conducting quests for your faction, defeating opposing faction players, influencing earth’s inhabitants,


So, if a player chooses to not do quests or kill opposing faction members. Is this also like not pvping?

What if, as a player, I wish to craft all day... sit in town and sell/resell items.. walk around the world to look at stuff. Purposely avoiding the same boring old prototypical mmo quests? Does the 'persistant' all encompassing goal change with my play style?

Or, what if I log on to chat with people all day?

I just don't see much of a difference between not pvping and not playing other elements which effect the 'goal'.

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Original post by drowner

So, if a player chooses to not do quests or kill opposing faction members. Is this also like not pvping?

What if, as a player, I wish to craft all day... sit in town and sell/resell items.. walk around the world to look at stuff. Purposely avoiding the same boring old prototypical mmo quests? Does the 'persistant' all encompassing goal change with my play style?

Or, what if I log on to chat with people all day?

I just don't see much of a difference between not pvping and not playing other elements which effect the 'goal'.


Good questions.

If a game wishes to succeed in having a persistent goal, these considerations would have to be taken into account. You're correct, not every player plays the same way or for the same reasons. Creating a 'good' persistent goal would encompass every aspect of the game (or a majority of them), truly forcing the players to somehow contribute to it.

In regards to crafting, the crafting system is character level based not skill level based - Breaking away from the typical MMO crafting "grind". Without going into too many details:
"The game’s crafting system will take a slight step away from the MMO mainstream of creating large portions of needless items in a skill-based pyramid system. Instead, crafting will be regarded as a true natural skill that the character possesses and uses to better themselves and others in their cause, as their character levels. As an example, there will not be any of the “create 25 of <this> useless item to gain a skill of 25, to create <that> useful item that requires a skill of 25”. To create an item, a player must possess the appropriate character level; there will not be any skill levels within the crafting system. Characters will acquire new knowledge (patterns) of their chosen tradeskill through game inhabitant interactions, quests, exploration, and from other players – Players as well as game inhabitants can impart their knowledge to players. "

Therefore, with this understanding, the character would have to interact with the game's world in order to progress their knowledge in their chosen crafting skill. The crafting materials needed to create items are found naturally throughout the world as well as gathered from foes (non player characters). Summary: Players must venture out into the world to gain crafting knowledge, crafting potential is based upon player level, there are no crafting skill levels, you could not sell/trade without having the funds or items to barter with (thus the need to interact with the game's world in some manner - thereby leveling your character somehow in the process).

You always have the option of really doing absolutely nothing in an MMO - total unconditional non participation. Of course IRC is a cheaper program but let's say we happen across a player who wishes to have a nice graphical version of IRC. You would typically overcome this issue by creating "zones" for your chat channels and then creating the zones to be separate from one another. For example: Upon logging into the game for the first time the player is in "newbie" land. In "newbie" land there are no crafting channels to buy/sell just a local channel where only those in close proximity to one another can hear and chat together. As the player completes their newbie quest (and levels!) they are propelled into the hostile world...etc.

Try to keep in mind that many of the game's aspects are in fact optional to the player, however, when you put them all together they form the basis of the game.

PVP - optional
Questing - optional
Crafting - optional
Exploration - optional
Chatting - optional
Combat - optional

And if you could take a majority of these aspects and put a shared goal across them, you have created a persistent goal. If the player does not engage in any of those aspects, or at a minimum two...why are they playing? And in the end, the goal is: If they are playing they are somehow affecting the persistent goal through their actions.

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Hey Soldarith I get exactly what your saying. Too many of today's game's provide features and options for play without binding them together towards a cause or event that would require them to be doing what they are doing in the first place.

Its my opinion current MMO's leave pretty well everyone to their own devices but forget most people will poke and prod at various aspects of a game but truely not tackle those gameplay scenario's with passion or purpose because they serve no collective purpose.

I've had a similar concept idea about gameplay which would require a player base to work together to advert complete a disasterous in-game event or catastrophe that would have far reaching implications.

I dont know why most game's feel as if they cant throw a punch or two at the player for fear of repercussion, I myself would enjoy playing a game where eminent world destruction and my characters very "Survival" depended on how well the community could come togther to advert it.

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