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Short-Term MMO "Rounds"?

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Years ago I read a novella called "The Game", about a dystopian future where unwitting candidates to settle a habitable planet are trained and tested via a survival scenario, and each time they have the same starting conditions. The "Winners" to go "Level 2", which consists of getting dropped on the planet and left there to form a human society that the Earthling population can eventually emmigrate to as Earth dies. So what if an MMO was developed that "reset" once a month? Eliminate the grind, because it's retarded, and instead have players build and develop a sandbox environment. At the end of each "round", vital statistics about performance are tallied and perhaps some kind of peer review or voting process governs the distribution of awards, prizes and superlatives. But nothing carries over. You don't keep your technology, or your resources, or even, perhaps, your character. It wouldn't capture the attention of the mainstream MMO community, but God knows NetHack is a successful game without any of the earmarks of traditional grind role-playing. Currently, I'm envisioning this as a 2D "Clonk-alike" sort of 4x game, with a punishing tech tree and the ability to advance from primitive rock-throwing and berry harvesting to irrigation and bronze within the allotted game time, if you get your act together. Bug fixes, content additions, balance changes etc. can be implemented between "rounds". Players might get bored and quit, but it'll be eternally accessible to new players, without falling into the rut of newbs getting steamrolled by vets. Actual gameplay is not particularly relevant to this discussion, but what do you think about the fundamental model? Feasible?

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I remember reading that book. [smile] I think it was actually called _Invitation to the Game_ though, unless there's a novella with a different title than the juvie novel. By Monica Hughes, right?

Anyway, I think that might be interesting; it would totally depend on what the game played like - how hard to learn, how much of a disadvantage if you only play half as much as some other players, what encouragements there are for players to socialize with each other, what is fun about it. I'm thinking multiplayer competitive Harvest Moon, but that's isometric and nothing like Clonk, so it's probably not at all what you had in mind lol.

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Oh, you're right, that was the title. I just remember them getting the card that said, "You are cordially invited to play The Game".

And you're right again about the gameplay issues. I'm thinking character development would be almost totally nonexistent, in the sense of levels and strength increases, and the game would be wholly based on cooperation and complementary skillsets. A complex guild system, maybe even an RTS-style interface, where "units" are produced, used and expended in place of player avatars would be an appropriate style.

Since you read the book, you probably remember that they spent their first few instances trying to get on top of that rock mesa thing in the desert. They'd try it and fail and say, "Boy, if only we had that rock-climbing guy from our physics seminar here," and the government would find that guy, get him fired from his job and "coincidentally" assign him to the team's housing unit.

What if achievements like that were the awards and objectives and scorecard for the game? You get a little pin for getting one of your guys to the top of the mesa, or for building a stone structure, or for amassing a year's supply of grain, or for crossing the ocean. So every time you start a round, you get to try a new resource allocation. You spend your starting resources on different assets and professions, stage your HQ in a new area, etc.

New players would rake in little achievements, and it would be like a tutorial for them. "Gathered fruit" and "Climbed a tree" and "Formed a party with another player" would provide newbies with positive feedback while they learn the ropes, and once they've exhausted the simple tasks, they can chain them together into "Built a teepee" and "snared a rabbit" and "killed a man in a duel". You only get each award once, so if you run around dueling, you can't collect scalps. Once you've got the badge for each task, it ceases to be an objective and becomes a means to a greater end.

The really big tasks would naturally require multiple players' worth of characters and assets. Maybe everyone gets a five-man "tribe", which is enough to build a seafaring canoe and get to the islands with the high-calorie fruit, or you can use the same guys and effort to make a tin mine and produce some ore within the first couple days of the month. This is where it's like Clonk, you queue up tasks and the little guys pretty much take care of themselves, maybe even working while you're offline, hauling and mining until their quota is met or the operation is interrupted, while the fifth guy on the team is out picking nuts and carrying water for "dinner". I'm not sure how to manage that.

Another player (or a second account, inevitably) can spend their effort getting a copper mine up and running. A third player can customize each of his guys for a different small miniprofession, smelting bronze and making plowshares and building plows and domesticating wildebeasts or whatever. Then, by the second week, they're all set. The noobs who gave their guys swordsmanship and kung fu powers have all starved to death and are rerolling and complaining in the forums by now, and the veteran players who know what's what are harvesting grain and making bread and starting to work on their phallanx, because this round they want to get the "Conquered a Continent" badge.

I dunno, it would be almost impossible to balance, and some jackass will find a way to make hunter-gatherers with sharp sticks and Zerg Rush anything and everything for the first week until someone learns to ride a horse, but since the whole world resets once a month (or at whatever interval) and you only get the "Butchered fifteen peasants" badge once, that sort of thing might not be rampant. Take away the motive to grief, incorporate it into gameplay.

Really, I want it to be possible for this game to play out a scenario of "The Magnificent Seven", with every character being played by a player who is having an enjoyable and fruitful game experience.

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It could work. It might be good to add trophies as well badges for outstanding feats towards a task. For instance gathering a years supply of food before the end of the first week give you the golden chipmonk trophy rather then just stockpiling food badge. Or it could be that the trophies are award to the most successful player at that task.

Some form of progression would be useful as well. Maybe completing certain tasks unlocks new starting options. Building a canoe and crossing the river allows you to start in the jungle or plain. Finding the oasis in the desert allows you to also start in that desert. Completing a full set of bronze tools allows you to start with bronze tools.

Those could all be balanced by giving all players the same number of setup points. The difference being the more experinced players have more choice in their starting options and thus in game development. Thus encourging players to play longer, and giving new players something to aspire to.

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I am always interested in designs like that.:

A persistent realm that allows the players to socialize, and a periodically resetting realm that drives the actual game.

The rewards of from the game realm should be something in the social realm (something that cannot benefit the player in another game period.)

It would be interesting if the game realm is so hostile that it is normal to have no survivor at the end of the resetting period. I don't mean that the game has to be a pvp deathmatch, I mainly mean that the environment adversaries (mobile or immobile, weather, resources, etc...) tend to kill all inhabitants by the end of a month.


An equivalent model I can think of goes like this:

There is no difference between the game realm and the social realm. For example you can have a world where an adversary comes periodically. The point of the game is to deal with this adversary and to survive. At the same time, some components in the game can be developed and carried over to the next game, but those components have no effect on combating the adversary:

The Plague

The game can feature a plague that periodically come to kill everyone in town. At the same time, the player can develop the town and build houses and buildings, but these structures are for the sake of roleplay, and enjoyment, and do not have any effect on the plague.

In this design, perhaps the game world doesn't need to reset, perhaps the plague just need to migrate/expand from one town to the next. A game world like that would support a few types of players.

1) players that just want to build. these players would migrate from one place to the next to avoid the plague. (these can be the usually crafters)

2) players that 'fight' in plagued cities to clear the area of the plague. (When a city is conquered by the plague, its buildings degrade, and perhaps monsters would start spawning or something.)

3) players that spread the plague to healthy cities. Perhaps some players do that intentionally, while other players carry the plague to healthy cities unknowningly. The way plague usually work is that the more populated a city is the more vulnerable it becomes.

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Periodically resetting the world is a very good idea. And collecting badges as the only real rewards is even better. It's so good I've had the thought myself. :) It can even be combined with some form of perma-ish death system so that if you see someone with all badges up to and including 'beat Chuck Norris in one on one combat' you really know that that player is badass, unlike meeting someone X levels above you in normal games which just means that that someone plays a lot more than you do. And if the old character is accessible via some hall of fame you'd still retain the bragging right from having had a character that out-badassed Chuck Norris himself even after the character has died. Hmm, well it would kind of suck to have to collect the same badges all over again with the next character, so maybe not such a hot idea. I don't know.

Also, when resetting the world it could still change depending on the previous round. Say there was a lot of mining the first round so there are less mining resources round two. Still doesn't skew the balance between players since they all begin fresh, but the world feels like it is progressing. Worth a shot perhaps

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I would really like MMO style games that were less persistent. That said, there's some flaws with games that I've seen do such things (Puzzle Pirates primarily).

Even if no ingame stuff carries over, skill carries over. Worse yet, player relationships carry over. In many games, it's not so much the in game stuff that sets people apart, it's manpower. A large clan/guild/tribe will simply reform after the reset and proceed to stomp people due to sheer manpower.

The idea of the reset then looses quite a bit since players (and clans even) don't start on any sort of even playing field. In fact, quite the opposite often occurs since the largest group will have monopoly access to things until the rest catch up.

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Quote:
Original post by Wombah
if you see someone with all badges up to and including 'beat Chuck Norris in one on one combat'

that player is obviously cheating and should be banned.

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