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MMO's and morale

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I was thinking of the following system, and while it sounds like an interesting idea to me, I'm wondering if it would be a worthwhile addtition to an MMO. Morale: The happier/more motivated you are, the better you are capable of performing. Each player has a fluid morale attribute. The longer a player is away from home base (i.e. town, their housing, etc.)thier morale drops. As players become de-motivated from morale drops, skills execute poorly, recovery times increase, and generally make life harder. Players are able to set up camps that allow players to increase their morale, but say only to a % of maximum that falls the longer players are away from home. Players also have certain (chosen at character creation, and changable very slowly) activity that will raise morale. This can raise morale back to max, but the results fall faster than normal. This opens up a door for "drugs" that can raise morale well over max, but become addictive, leading to dramatic moral decreases when off of them. The extra high morale leads to skills executing well above normal etc. I'm worried that this may create forced downtime that doesn't actually add to a characters experience. On the plus side (for me) it makes exploration and (in the case of a game based on expansion) a bit more complex of a thing to do, since not all characters will have an activity (such as possibly hunting) that allows for a morale increase while exploring. What do you think.

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-- beware, rant ahead -- (sorry about this one, just got started and couldn't stop >__<)

this is actually really interesting, and I think if implemented well could be very strong.

I'm just wondering how severe morale deficiencies should be, as you then punish the more 'hardcore' players, unless of course you have a variety of interesting things to do in their home towns. This is quite good in a sense though, because it essentially creates reward for the non-hardcore players making it slightly easier for them to keep up. I just don't know if the experience bonus of WoW is as far as you should take it.

For example, for end game raiding leaders may necessitate full morale, ie. not playing you character much apart from raids.

I also think that with a fairly simple algorithm you could alter morale, based on combat. I also think in some ways that it's unrealistic to say that you will lose morale for not being at home, most people are exhilarated by traveling unless it is forced upon them.

I would then base morale on performance in combat, and if in combat you are excelling have a boost in your capabilities, or vice versa, and have the majority of the effect end with combat. Good performance over a long period of time would then lead to a generally higher morale which takes a long time to build up, and perhaps the more extreme ones morale is, the easier it is to change. If you have been doing exceptionally well over a period of time, a poor performance will result in a serious knock in your morale. Likewise if you are performing poorly in general, struggling to stay alive, a strong victory will seriously boost your morale.

Death I imagine would also result in a decrease in morale, both personally and in a group.

The greatest concern all in all would be getting stuck in a vicious cycle of bad morale, and this is where your idea of towns or camps raising morale would be a good idea. the way I would utilise this is that while in a town/camp players with morale greater than neutral will maintain it, and players with morale less than neutral will regain morale. By doing this you don't punish players for spending time in town if they have strong morale, and you help those of low morale. I know that if things are going terribly for me in an MMO in general, I'll head over to a town and bum around for a while anyways, so a restoration of skill while doing so may be encouraging to players.

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You mentioned travel as being exciting, while this is true, spending days in a harsh environment fighting for your survival does not exactly enrich morale.

Concievebly travelling from city A to city B wouldn't cause a big loss of morale.

Also one thing I didn't mention is how much of an effect location will have on your morale.

Trecking through a wooded/plain area might not drain you so fast, however spending a week in a misquito ridden area where the water is chest deep 1/2 the time and it takes hours to find dry land to set up camp.....that might drain your morale rather quickly.

In some ways this idea is similar to the cantina set up of Star Wars Galaxie. I don't believe that it should take too long to regain morale in a morale generating place such as home, a tavern, house of ill repute etc.

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Totally agree with a 'morale' factor for PC's in a MMO. The trick is implementing it.

Let's face it, morale is based upon the observer.

Sure, being away from home may be bad, but if you're wife/so is a real b** then being away from home is good. As you put it if a character spends a bunch of time in a mosquito infested swamp...morale is going to drop unless that is the norm for the person i.e. the person is from the area and used to the status quo.

Here's another one: The PC's spend 2 months adventuring in the wilderness...how important is a real bed to them. To answer that question, as a programmer, you would have to have to have an answer and stats for many different criteria.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you.

Just how would you implement it?

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It's interesting, but not viable in most situations for an MMO. By implementing morale, you're separating the character from the player. In my MMO experience, the players' own morale reflects in the way they control their character.

So I don't think morale is viable for the standard MMO. However, if you have an MMO with mostly RTS elements and you control multiple units, morale can work. Each unit can have his/her/its own set of attributes that determine what causes morale to increase/decrease, how easily they're affected by those factors, and possibly attributes that they use to help keep up the morale of other units (minstrels?).

Some attributes that could affect morale:
*Unit's home town - how far from it are they? do they prefer to be far away or close to home?
*Unit's prefered environment - what kind of environment are you in currently? how comfortable is the unit in this environment? are they properly equipped to be in the environment (e.g. if you're on a tundra, are they equipped with thick fur coats? if you're in a desert, are they protected from wind and sand - do they have light armor to reduce energy used?)
*Preferred entertainment - what does the unit like to do with his down time? card games? music? pub brawling? do you have a unit naturally inclined to entertain other units as a special talent?
*Units' relationship with companions. How long have they known/been with each of the other units? Do they get along?

Also:
*What's the rations situation like? Do you have enough food/drink to keep units satisfied? Do you have the preferred food/drink for each unit?

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Quote:
Original post by aganauton
Totally agree with a 'morale' factor for PC's in a MMO. The trick is implementing it.

Let's face it, morale is based upon the observer.

Sure, being away from home may be bad, but if you're wife/so is a real b** then being away from home is good. As you put it if a character spends a bunch of time in a mosquito infested swamp...morale is going to drop unless that is the norm for the person i.e. the person is from the area and used to the status quo.

Here's another one: The PC's spend 2 months adventuring in the wilderness...how important is a real bed to them. To answer that question, as a programmer, you would have to have to have an answer and stats for many different criteria.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you.

Just how would you implement it?


While I do agree with you that there are way to many possibilities for modeling true morale for every player. There are a few things we can do to tailor it such as the before mentioned "activity" that raises thier morale. This could be hunting, sparing, cards, games, drinking etc.

Also we could impliment a preferred terrain where on the terrain, that player drops morale 1/2 as fast, and his max morale drops 1/2 as fast and never falls below a certain percentage.
-However with this one we have to be careful not to have one terrain be too common or that will be the one that is chosen, from a min max situation.

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What I don't understand here is why you're penalizing the player for playing the game. From a gameplay standpoint, this sucks - if I really enjoy a game, but then through no fault of my own, I stop doing as well, then I'll stop having fun. Every excursion from the town has a time limit set on it, after which point my character sucks enough that I'm not willing to play him any more.

It seems to me you'd be better off finding a way to reward players for spending time at home rather than penalizing players who don't. The distinction is subtle but important.

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Derakon, I believe I also mentioned the potential negative impact upon certain groups of players,

and that's the main reason I would like to see morale being dependent upon something like combat, or at least have combat have a stronger effect on your morale than your location. I would however agree that a slight morale decay depending upon location may be appropriate, and perhaps a slight morale boost when you're in town for the first couple of days would be acceptable. I just think that this morale boost should be marginal in comparison to the morale boost you could gain in a similar amount of time in combat.

Perhaps morale wouldn't be boosted by being in a town, but just maintained, so you effectively let players maintain their advantage if they log off in a town, whereas logging off in the wilderness would lead to a gradual decay of your morale, to a fixed point that is.

I would then also offer a service for players to restore their morale through meditation or something of the sort, where they pay for a service and their morale can be restored to par if it is under par, or lead to a very temporary boost in morale. I see this being an advantage as you would allow players with low morale to restore their morale in a fairly short time-frame, at a cost. You would then have to dictate that they can only use this service once in a given time-frame, ie. once per hour.

but then again, on some levels I'm not sure if this is an improvement upon the rested system of World of Warcraft. But simultaneously you're giving more skilled players a slight edge, which is only fair to be honest, as MMORPGs are constantly criticised for rewarding only time spent, and not skill, and I think players would generally appreciate this acknowledgement of their skill.

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Maybe, instead of it decreasing the longer a player is away from home, have it decrease the farther a player is away from home. This way, you're not penalizing your players for playing your game, but you are making it more difficult to travel to distant places.

I'm picturing the morale equation as having three sorts of terms:

1) Distance from home. The further you are from home, the lower your morale.

2) Location. Some constant depending primarily on the sort of place you're in. You'll have higher morale in a friendly town than in the middle of nowhere than in a hostile town. This is different from (1) in that it doesn't depend on distance from home. You could say this is the background value from which (1) is subtracted. It would also depend on political/race/etc. relations (e.g. for typical fantasy races, elves would have higher morale than dwarves in a forest, but the reverse would be true in caves).

3) Time dependent effects. This would be where your character's morale-boosting activity or drugs would come in. Play a friendly game of cards and you'll get a bit of a morale boost that'll decrease with time. These are essentially "buffs" (do people still say that?) in the same category as temporary boosts to strength, speed, etc.

I like it because it makes it less of a punishment to those who're out playing your game since the only downside to being out longer is your buffs wearing off, which is an accepted mechanic. It still acheives the safety of towns (since they'll have a higher "constant" term than the wilderness or dungeons) and the adventure of leaving home (since your morale decreases with distance).

I like the idea of being able to set up a camp, but I don't know if that should be more like a location (adding a constant to your morale so long as you're within a certain radius) or more like a temporary home (where the bonus depends on your distance from the camp). I kind of like the idea of the camp as a temporary home, possibly even replacing your home so long as you have a camp. However, morale decays faster as you move away from your camp than it does as you move away from home. Something like:

Morale without camp = A - B*(distance from home)
Morale with camp = A - C*(distance from camp)

with B < C. The thing is, setting up camp would have to be fairly costly in this case to keep people from always being "at home".

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I put on the original post home base. While the players Home is definitely one home base, they can switch their home base fairly easily. This is basically whatever town they have themselves set to.

The concept isn't really to "Punish" them for being away from home, but to give them another strategic resource to manage.

Your morale is not going to plummet as soon as you leave town, but if you stay out of town for 4-5 play hours you will really begin to feel the pain. Most players will eventually head back to town, and after spending 30 min in town just shopping/selling etc they'll be back up to par, or just a few minutes if they go to a bar or other area.

Now in some areas where there is great loot, but perhaps a large inconvenience to return to town, then you run into the problem of actually having to manage your parties morale, keeping it up etc. Then you might need to set up the camp, and start working on some activites to keep yourself and your team going.

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Quote:
Original post by robert4818
Your morale is not going to plummet as soon as you leave town, but if you stay out of town for 4-5 play hours you will really begin to feel the pain. Most players will eventually head back to town, and after spending 30 min in town just shopping/selling etc they'll be back up to par, or just a few minutes if they go to a bar or other area.


From this description, I would never notice the effects of it. Not only did I rarely do any task that took more than a couple hours, but spending a few minutes in town was pretty routine.

Quote:

Now in some areas where there is great loot, but perhaps a large inconvenience to return to town, then you run into the problem of actually having to manage your parties morale, keeping it up etc. Then you might need to set up the camp, and start working on some activites to keep yourself and your team going.


Maybe you can tell me if things have changed to the point where my understanding is no longer relevant since my time with Asheron's Call. Basically, all you're adding is another button to press now and again to maintain your meters. Health meter, stamina meter, mana meter, when one gets low, push the appropriate potion button and you're golden. I'm simplifying it a bit, but not by a whole lot. Now you just add a morale meter to the list. It's a new strategic resource, but it's the same as the old strategic resources, so there's no new strategy (even worse for me, it sounds like I wouldn't even have to have bothered using the old strategy on it). That's one reason I suggested making it the way I did: it was an attempt to add something new, to add adventure, to make the world more exotic, to add something that would have to be handled differently from the other resources.

And what's hunting? How does it differ from the goblin genocide? Why not just choosing that as your morale raising activity? Why not choose something that can be done while exploring?

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Lots of great ideas in this thread - keep it up, folks!

Quote:
Original post by Way Walker
And what's hunting? How does it differ from the goblin genocide? Why not just choosing that as your morale raising activity? Why not choose something that can be done while exploring?


Indeed, if your character has chosen to become a goblin slayer (think of prestige classes in D&D), hunting down goblins should raise his morale. On the other hand, would the same character suffer from morale loss if he doesn't follow his profession or "destiny"?

Would solving quests raise your morale? What about a quest about finding a woman's missing husband where you find out that he has been slaughtered by wild boars - would it raise your morale once you report back to the woman and tell her about her husband's death? If not, should there be another kind of reward, like prestige points?

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I think that similar idea was incorporated into Lord of The Rings Online. Turbine made some areas and adversaries "scary" to the players character. The more "dread" around character the weaker he becomes. It's also true to Tolkien’s lore.
Characters in game are generally "adventurers". This means that they enjoy being away from home. I don’t think that adding time based resource is good idea. Some terrains or characters could make your character uncomfortable to the point of weakening his abilities, but it should not be based on time.

Also players don't like if their characters are weakened because of no apparent reason. They will come up with hundreds of RP reasons for it. It's ok if character is weaker because of his actions (like dying in Guild Wars) or because of abilities of their opponents (Nazgul is scary). There should be semi-accessible ways of countering this effect. Some variation of this idea could be used as money sink. Players know that the terrain they are going to is "bad for them" and to keep their performance at 100% they need some kind of protection. Buying and producing "anti-depressants" can be good if you want to draw money from characters pockets.

EDIT:

I think that we are all thinking here about standard MMOs like WoW or LoTRO with 3D graphics and all the buzz. But there are other types too. I think that implementing some kind of morale or similar meter can be great for browser based games. Many of strategy/trading browser-based games are implementing some kind of action points systems. It's quite easy to think about variation of morale system to prepare more realistic system for this kind of games. For instance: Let's think about game where player controls "hacker" character in futuristic internet. He hacks servers like he should. But we want to limit his ability to hack 24/7 in order to include some action pacing or other balance things. We can implement the "tiredness" meter to stop him from "working" all day long. It seems like penalizing player for playing game but in reality we need to balance players who are able to sit in front of computer for 12 hours a day and those who can just log in for hour or two. It's quite important in browser-based games so I think the idea is viable in this context.

[Edited by - Koori on October 31, 2007 3:00:04 AM]

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