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Humble Hobo

How does an 'Exploration MMO' sound?

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Humble Hobo    255
Hey, they did an MMO exclusively for the 'killers'. (Fury) A 'socializer' MMO would be a RP chat room. Every other MMO is pretty much for the 'achievers'. So, how does an MMO for the explorers sound? Obviously the long and short-term goals would be discovering. What would you discover? Here's my suggestion: (1) The world is basically a vault or maze, (single server like EVE), where your exploration is limited by puzzles. Some are easy, some are difficult and lead to entire cities. The community might not discover all the puzzles and secrets. The key would be developing content faster than the players could access it. (2) Expansive magic system. Possibly a rune-combo or something that allows for many possibilities. Hidden scrolls that reveal unknown combinations. (a) obviously the system can't allow for people just randomly trying every possibility, it has to be learned in-game. (3) 'Blueprint' crafting. Such that there are many combinations of interchangeable parts that make crafting 'explore-able'. Obviously coupled with parts that are hidden or rare in the world. Yes there are problems. It's really complicated, so it's likely to be unbalanced. Either (2) or (3) would undoubtedly be cut from the launch, and added in an expansion. One server would be difficult to implement (technically and theoretically), but this is a niche game, so there probably wouldn't be too many players. My question is: Is this a viable niche game? (if done well, of course) Second question: If it is viable, do you see it being done in the next five years? ... next ten? ... because I really want to play this game. -Humblest of Hobos

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Humble Hobo    255
I have a solid idea for the world as well... It's not just a 'dungeon', but a mine/excavation.
And the great thing about a mine is you can always go further down. (No new landmasses or worlds).

It wold be a very different development system, trying to pump out content faster then players can discover it.
I think it would be more enjoyable, to hide secrets instead of just painting that lvl1 wolf blue and calling it a 'dire wolf'.

It might also encourage a strong community of people working in-game and in the forums to solve the big puzzles.

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razoorsharp    132
it's a good idea and a new one..
Only creating more puuzzles and faster than the community fixing them.
I bet you thats not possible and puzzle based MMO's are not done.

Why?? imagina you have a 100.000 people server or even 1000 for that matter , as long as 1 guy fixes a puzzle it will be online on a forum somewhere and everyone already has a solution.

If you have 20 out of hundred brainiacs on your server you have to outsmart people who probably do nothing all day long than fix puzzles.
Good luck keeping that up..

But it's a good thing.
Make puzzles random with the same algoritmes and you got yourself something new .

As i have been saying for a loooooong time .

MMO's NEED TO CHANGE!! they are just been repeating concepts for a decade now

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pinacolada    834
Sounds great. I love that genre so I would definitely play it.

Have you played Myst URU? It's an MMO where all you do is explore and solve puzzles. Sadly I just looked at the website and it looks like they are being shut down (again).

The biggest problem (I think) that URU had was not enough content. Altogether I think they had about 20 hours of content, which is great for a single-player game, but for an MMO it doesn't really make sense. Once you ran out of stuff to explore, there wasn't much to do. All their content was hand-created (and very beautiful), so the speed at which they released new content was nowhere near the speed at which an average player would consume that content.

So, for this kind of game to work, it's almost required that you use some kind of procedural generation to spin out new levels and new puzzles. Creating everything by hand is never going to be fast enough.

Also I kind of worry about your (2) and (3) things. Just creating an exploration & puzzle solving game on its own is a difficult and noble goal. Trying to create some crazy magic system on top of that, might not be wise. Unless those extra features are really vital to your core vision, I would think about cutting them. Maybe stick them in a file called "for version 2.0"

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Humble Hobo    255
Quote:
Original post by razoorsharp
Only creating more puuzzles and faster than the community fixing them.
I bet you thats not possible and puzzle based MMO's are not done.


Yes, that's definitely the big challenge. There would definitely have to be some procedural generation thrown in.
However, remember that this game is an explorer MMO, not a puzzle MMO. The whole game should not just be about solving puzzles, but exploring aspects of the game instead of just places. (hence crafting, magic...)

Quote:
Original post by razoorsharp
Why?? imagina you have a 100.000 people server or even 1000 for that matter , as long as 1 guy fixes a puzzle it will be online on a forum somewhere and everyone already has a solution.


Again, this is the point. That 1 guy is going to get some serious recognition among the community. This means that you have an impact on the world. Hence the 1 server world.

Of course there may be darker reasons to keep a secret to yourself. If you've figured out the combination to an NPC bank safe, you might want to keep it down, and get the cash for yourself. It's cool, but it might lead to too much deceit and forum drama (like EvE).

Quote:
Original post by razoorsharp
they are just been repeating concepts for a decade now


*applause*

Quote:
Original post by razoorsharp
The biggest problem (I think) that URU had was not enough content. Altogether I think they had about 20 hours of content


Hence the necessity of crafting and magic. I never played, but it sounds like it was a pure puzzle/exploration MMO. An MMO MUST be able to last you for years, and obviously you can't just make 2-3 years worth of content for launch. The cheap way is to make some repeatable grind that will last. Pure exploration is not a grind, and so it will not make a good MMO.

I'll have to look into it. Have there been any other attempts at an exploration MMO before?

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I'd like to see more focus on cooperation, and specialization. EvE's almost there with the exploration sites, where you need a scanning ship to find the site, a combat ship to secure it and a science ship to exploit the resources therein. If you could put together an expedition to have a look at the ruins on the northern island, consisting of survivalist, cartographer, engineer, archaeologist and cryptographer character types, with a jeep and some good hats and flashlights, then I'd be in heaven.

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Humble Hobo    255
Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
If you could put together an expedition to have a look at the ruins on the northern island, consisting of survivalist, cartographer, engineer, archaeologist and cryptographer character types, with a jeep and some good hats and flashlights, then I'd be in heaven.


Just that alone sounds so much more fun to me.

The possibilities for classes, mechanics, even how we play an MMO are all up for grabs. Nothing is pre-defined in an exploration MMO.

And I would so be a cryptographer class! Just imagine the skills.

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thk123    180
Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
(2) Expansive magic system. Possibly a rune-combo or something that allows for many possibilities. Hidden scrolls that reveal unknown combinations.


I think you may be on to something...
At the risk of sounding like a complete good.., when I was reading Harry Potter, stop laughing :P, one of the things that really caught my imagination in the latter books was the whole idea of studying deep parts of magic that few understand. However, I could not find a satisfactory way of recreating this feeling in a game. So, if you work it out so people feel like they are actually discovering something, I take my hat off to you. You would need to add new stuff to discover quicker than people can discover it, and keep doing that.

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pinacolada    834
Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
I'll have to look into it. Have there been any other attempts at an exploration MMO before?


Well, there's a pretty neat work-in-progress MMO called Love being done by Eskil Steenberg. He is focusing on pure exploration; no goals whatsoever. If you can navigate through his obtuse web site you can find some impressive work, and here's a video of it in action.

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Nypyren    12062
The only aspect that I actually like about MMOs is the exploration/learning phases. Once I've explored everything (or gotten stuck so that I can't explore any further), I stop playing. I have a few friends who share the same "play style" (I guess you could call it). So I definitely think it's an option.

So, you list magic and/or blueprint crafting. But what is the purpose of these? Is there combat in the game?

I think you could legitimately make a game that has no combat if it was still interesting enough in the exploration and puzzle aspects. If you did this, it could theoretically free up a lot of constraints on your server architecture as well.



My thoughts:

Procedural content creation has pros and cons. For example, the various Elder Scrolls games tried various balances of procedural-vs.-handcrafted with different results.


The game doesn't have to be the same for all players, and in my opinion it would be advantageous if it was not. Let's say your magic system has rune combos, but the combos are randomly regenerated for each account. This allows each player to experiment on their own without necessarily being able to look up a big list of them online somewhere.

Your target playerbase is more into exploration and discovery than instant gratification, so they will probably appreciate per-account randomization to avoid spoilers.

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Humble Hobo    255
Actually, the magic system I was thinking of was indeed inspired by Harry Potter. How amazing would it be to go off into some dark place and start messing with powers untouched by other players? How amazing would it be if you could run into another player who uses a technique you've never seen before?

Of course, that's a wee bit too crazy and abstract for implementation (even though it would be so cool).
Here's something a bit simpler, but at least it's a step closer to the dream:

http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=460571

(The part where I talk about removing the 'manna' bar)


Quote:
Original post by Nypyren
Your target playerbase is more into exploration and discovery than instant gratification


I'm curious as to how big this playerbase even is. This kind of playstyle seems to appeal to us developers, but do you think it will attract anyone else?

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yapposai    410
Sounds cool but it would be very hard to make new puzzles each time somebody solved the previous ones. I am also trying to make an exploration game. Here are my thoughts/ideas:

I really like the idea of a living labyrinth like in the death gate cycle (Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman). The labyrinth changes constantly and unpredictably. The challenge would be to discover all the towns/ruins etc. One player might take a few minutes to discover a town while another player might take weeks to find the same town. Perhaps once you discover a town you can use your own map to navigate but giving the map to another person will not work (The cartographer has a special skill that makes is map usable for a limited number of times to a different player). Only those players along with you can use the paths in your maps; A different party trying to follow you will have walls/pits appear (which are real to them) while you only see clear paths.

People with good maps might choose to ferry people from one place to another. Reusable maps with a lot of reusable paths would be valuable commodity. This gives explorers incentive to explore and make try to make their maps the most complete maps. Imagine seeing your name on the most requested map list :D

Add more passive skills like tracking (to find good hunting spots, hidden treasure), terrain skills (rock climbing to access steep places) different
weather and environments (avalanche, rock slides, floods)would be awesome. A highly skilled explorer would not need to carry heavy furs for cold areas since he is used to harsh weather while a new explorer needs different clothes, supplies. some areas need teams of explorers (to setup a ladder/rope chain in chasms, etc) or to fight off monsters while the others clear a path through the terrain. Even if you did not implement permadeath, the risk of dying and wasting time to find the path again (or the path might not exist anymore when you come back) adds a psychological pressure for explorers to avoid dying, I think.

The changing landscape also allows lucky explorers to control access to resources without fear of other people stealing his knowledge of the location. Although another explorer could stumble into the resource area by accident. This could lead to one explorer to hire thieves/assassins to destroy/steal the map of the other explorer to keep his monopoly.

The random changing landscape makes it pointless to post your map on the web (outside the game)and balances the old players and new players. Old players probably have more known paths and will have an easier time going from place to place due to higher skills available to them but anybody can discover a great place and keep it a secret from everybody. Even rediscovering old places using shorter/easier routes will by allow a new player to "surpass" an old player at least on some aspects.

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DarkZeal    122
Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
I'm curious as to how big this playerbase even is. This kind of playstyle seems to appeal to us developers, but do you think it will attract anyone else?


This. And yes a game like this will take much more effort to keep updated then a average "go to point x kill a" type of mmo. Also I assume there will be some kind of gratification, I mean does your char get better the more puzzle he solves or something?

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small_duck    294
Some of the concepts here remind me of the Cube movie! You had this changing universe, without clear boundaries, and with puzzles to pass from a cube to another (safely). There was teamwork involved (the mathematician girl, the mental computation guy...).

Anyway, I definitely like the idea of an exploration MMO, and I'd certainly play that :)

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Mephs    354
It sounds like an interesting idea. I've had similar ideas for a game of my own, though my own ideas did not extend as far as an MMO.

As for the content issue though, I would agree with the thoughts of procedural content.

Take Puzzle Quest for instance. A bejewelled match-3 and RPG combo of a game. You could quite easily have the world randomly generate challenges such as these so you would have less work generating content. You would then have access to almost limitless numbers of puzzles, though they would all have the same base gameplay. I think the challenge then would be to introduce several different puzzle types to keep things fresh, which is more achieveable than having to generate hundreds/thousands of unique puzzle ideas which would probably be used once and then thrown away.

You could even get more reuse of content by having puzzle elements rely on one another. Perhaps you could play a puzzle once, trying to earn item x to proceed, then a future puzzle could require you to revisit an older puzzle and acquire item z to proceed, which may require a different approach to the older puzzle.

I like the comparisons with the movie Cube, but I think having an eternal maze would feel a bit depressing... what is the point in continuing to play if you know you are eternally trapped? It seems like the goal should be to escape.

Perhaps that would make an interesting twist. Allow players to eventually "win" and escape the maze with players being ranked dependant upon how long it took them, with different approaches yielding varying amounts of time to escape the maze. As you expand content in future you could then add different zones of play, such that a player may "win" in one area, but they can then go an take on another maze zone, so gameplay isn't over.

Just a few thoughts anyhoo...

Cheers,

Steve

*EDIT* Actually, whilst I remember, another idea I had on the exploration theme was a game solely based around speedrunning a level of some kind, just like how people try and complete Mario levels in as fast a time as possible. I wonder if a speedrunning element could be included in your own idea. That would promote the exploration of an environment to discover any last little hidden benefits in your quest to reach an exit as quickly as possible.

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Humble Hobo    255
Mephs, I really like your suggestions on content generation.

With an MMO the problem is always going to be, how to keep you playing for years instead of just days. You have to stretch out the content, and your suggestion sounds a bit nicer than the standard grind method.

Another game that I found recently was the Secret World. I have no idea how they intend to deliver their promises, but it sounds like a kind of exploration MMO.

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Merluche    136
Either I have misunderstood your whole purpose, which is of course possible, or something is eluding YOU...

Exploration is all about being on your own reaching a place or a position FIRST. Being second is absolutely useless to exploration. Does anyone know the name of the second person to reach the New World? The third? The sixteenth? So, either exploration has an unheard of twist in your concept, or it's just wrong.

Or you're just not exploring, but WANDERING? which is something different? If so, then an MMO with puzzle elements which is all about exploring already exists, and it's named YoHoHo! Puzzle Pirates, by Three Rings company, and it's both pretty fun and active so far. New players come in daily, new content is added on a semi-regular basis, and I enjoy playing it. Not because I occasionaly get to discover a new island, because it has already been colonized by some other players, but merely because discovering it may allow me to come back there later. It is added on my map, and that's more than enough for me.

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Humble Hobo    255
Quote:
Original post by Merluche
Exploration is all about being on your own reaching a place or a position FIRST. Being second is absolutely useless to exploration.


I would have to disagree. Simply being the first to do something doesn't quite cover an 'explorer'. That's more of an Achiever goal. Exploration is also about immersion, lore, and knowledge of game mechanics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_Test#Explorers

There are plenty of Achiever-heavy MMOs inviting you to rule the world, or be the best, or be the first to do something. If explorers only wanted to be alone, then there would be no point in the "MMO" part of "MMORPG". People who consider themselves 'explorers' might enjoy group efforts to uncover secrets, and I don't think that a new area loses it's savor to the explorers once someone has discovered it.

I take it you're more of an achiever then?

http://www.guildcafe.com/bartle.php

-Humble Hobo

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sunandshadow    7426
I don't really see how it would be possible to develop content faster than players could access it, but aside from that technical difficulty my main question is, would this be an mmoag (adventure game)? And if not, how would it be different from one? I did some writing about what an mmoag might be like years ago, if I dug up those posts I could probably improve on them now, having experienced several mmos since then.

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Humble Hobo    255
I'm not really sure I know what you mean by mmoag. If you find those posts, I'd be very interested about your opinions on the concept.

The idea of making that much content relies on two things (for now):

1. Procedural Content Generation (I know that makes some people shiver, but I think it's a good thing)
2. Much more Player-Made Content.

Not all content has to be 3D models and programming. Much of the MMO content is the experience with other players, in guilds, groups, people becoming famous (Leeeeeeroy Jenkins).

These two things should take a significant burden off of the development team, as all they have to do is design the big events, or things too 'human' for procedural generation to handle. I posted somewhere recently about effect-based event generation. It has a lot of potential, and if it's refined it could become a higher quality form of procedural generation.

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sunandshadow    7426
The basic concept of an mmoag would be as follows: The game has a linear (or maybe branching) storyline. All new players start at time zero and work their way forward in time by solving puzzles that allow them to enter the next level of the game. Each puzzle (or at least the main ones between levels) has multiple solutions to suit different playing styles. Players do not solve puzzles cooperatively and, as much as possible, are encouraged not to tell other players how to solve the puzzles. None of the content is procedurally generated, the strength of the game is its interactive story. This linear/story focus is what makes it different from Myst Online, an existing mmoag. The initial release would contain at least one story path from starting as a new player to an actual ending; further expansions instead of trying to go beyond the ending would add parallel story paths.

So, there's not actually any cooperative play going on in that idea, why is it an mmo rather than a single player game? It was in the rest of the design, which had rpg, dating sim, farming/crafting/economic sim, pvp, minigame, and forum-posting elements.

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Hodgman    51223
Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
(1) The world is basically a vault or maze, (single server like EVE), where your exploration is limited by puzzles. Some are easy, some are difficult and lead to entire cities. The community might not discover all the puzzles and secrets. The key would be developing content faster than the players could access it.

Allow players to create and share their own labyrinths/mazes/puzzles, once you've got enough players and hit critical mass you will be "developing content faster than the players could access it" with not much effort.

Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
(2) Expansive magic system. Possibly a rune-combo or something that allows for many possibilities. Hidden scrolls that reveal unknown combinations.
(a) obviously the system can't allow for people just randomly trying every possibility, it has to be learned in-game.

I like the idea of a rune system. One of my favorites is the system from Dragon Wing, which is a kind of hexagonal-grid based, non-directional language.
If you could make the rune-language complex enough, I don't see a problem of allowing people to simply experiment with it randomly.
You could discourage this by making lots of spells that simply burn/slash/hurt/drain the caster. That way you could only do a certain amount of random experimentation at a time (e.g. you may become wounded/fatigued/drained of "mana"/etc... and have to wait a while to try more random combos).
The remaining problem though is that the community would surely start a wiki to collect all of the good spell combos!

Quote:
(3) 'Blueprint' crafting. Such that there are many combinations of interchangeable parts that make crafting 'explore-able'. Obviously coupled with parts that are hidden or rare in the world.

Jagged Alliance 2 had a kid of explorable rare item "crafting" system. I'd be really exited in that game when I found a steel tube lying around, so I could combine it with a spring and some duct tape + super glue to improve the ROF of one of my weapons ;D. There were lots of (undocumented) random bits of junk that when combined in a specific manner would produce unique items.
This would be very time-consuming to design and implement though, and would suffer from the same 'community wiki' problem as I mentioned above...

Quote:
My question is: Is this a viable niche game? (if done well, of course)
Second question: If it is viable, do you see it being done in the next five years? ... next ten? ... because I really want to play this game.

Yes it's a niche game, but I think it could definitely be done!

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