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robert4818

MMO Concept Problems

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This is just a little rant type of thought. I've seen alot of MMO Concepts where someone says I want to make an MMO based around the theme of Pirates/Mobsters/Superheros/etc. And while the idea may sound good, I've noticed one overarching flaw in them, and this is true even in games that have gone into production. There is this thought that they want to make the individual players "Special." The reality is that this is very immersion breaking. The reason for this is that if you theme a game around a certain concept, then that concept will be what most players see most. Other players. If players are special (and by special I mean the rare exception to the rule) Then the players should not be common. What do I mean by all of this. I'll throw out a tangible example. Someone once mentioned wanting to design a game around Mobsters, where every character played a mobster. The idea sounds good, but the break comes when you realize that if everyone is playing a mobster, it will break the games immerssion if everyone (npc) reacts to you as if you are the first mobster they've ever seen. For a game like this to work, it needs to be designed in such a way that the world is used to mobsters, and that they are, if not common place, not the exception to the rule. Another example is City of Heros. In this game everyone plays a Superhero. According to Lore, superheros have been around and common (as common as say a police force or so) since world war 2. However, The game world is desgined with the standard superhero concept in mind. That Superhornet, or whatever you want to call your guy is somehow special compared to other superheros. What breaks it's immersion is that these super powered people have been visible, and around for over 60 years, but yet very little has changed to adapt to them. You would think that sports, reality tv shows, competitions etc would have evolved in the world. (Note they did add this in much later updates) But the world was just not designed this way and made a very large gap in concept.

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Everyone wants to be special. If there's a problem with everyone being the hero in MMOs, then force some players to be peasants with no fighting skill and one ability: Grow Vegetables.

Most MMOs counteract this naturally by making everyone think they are the hero. They entice you with sayings like "Become the greatest warrior", or "Kill the legendary Monster". However, it would be unbalanced if you actually COULD become the greatest warrior, or ACTUALLY kill the legendary monster. You shouldn't be worried about the players being too special. In an MMO, NPCs are the heroes.

I would happily give up immersion if I can impact the game world permanently.

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Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
Everyone wants to be special. If there's a problem with everyone being the hero in MMOs, then force some players to be peasants with no fighting skill and one ability: Grow Vegetables.

Most MMOs counteract this naturally by making everyone think they are the hero. They entice you with sayings like "Become the greatest warrior", or "Kill the legendary Monster". However, it would be unbalanced if you actually COULD become the greatest warrior, or ACTUALLY kill the legendary monster. You shouldn't be worried about the players being too special. In an MMO, NPCs are the heroes.

I would happily give up immersion if I can impact the game world permanently.


I think I wasn't able to be clear enough...

The problem isn't that the players are "special" Its that the design world continues to treat the player (1 of thousands) the same way that a game would treat a single player hero.

Also the world is designed in such a way that even though there are thousands of people like this floating around an area, they are still somehow individually unique in this world.

That is the problem. A story can be made around any of these themes, but unless care is taken the world falls apart.

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That's exactly what I liked about Mystery Men. Superheroes were all over the place and no-one was really super (save a few characters, namely The Invisible Boy, who could only be invisible when no-one was looking, The Spleen, who was cursed with amazing flatulence, and Carmine the Bowler, who was dead), and nobody ever became that special without corporate sponsorship, but everyone had a unique theme and personality. This concept would really work well in an MMO, because players would be unique because they have a quirky theme, not because they're the most powerful character in the game. I'm not familiar with MMOs because I don't play them and don't know what the players like, but the cynical mundanity of it all seems like it would play so well.

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Sorry, a bit of me carried over from that last thread.

Reading more carefully, I see your point. The reason for this is that any designs that can be copied from a single player game have been copied into the MMO design. It's easy to design an MMO using the standard rules and play as a single-player RPG.

It's been mentioned before somewhere on this forum, but the idea of not starting out as a hero, but instead starting out as a nobody. That way you don't come out of the gate bustling with all the magic powers that everyone else has. It would be a little easier on the suspension of disbelief, and I think add a little more of a sense of accomplishment. It's facilitated a little bit in MMOs, but I think it can go a lot farther.

Anyways, hope this was more constructive.

-Humble Hobo

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I see what you mean, and like Humble Hobo said, you can't ramdomly give people "shitty" characters so the real heroes actually feel like heroes.


Personally, I think that a lot can change just by the way you look at an MMO. I only think of World of Warcraft as an MMO when I'm actually interacting with other people. Otherwise, if I'm on my own, I pretend that I'm the only person who has ever completed this quest or killed this boss.
Think of an MMO as millions of single player RPG's that millions of people are playing at the same time, instead of one RPG with a 10,000,000 man Co-op mode.


I'll continue to think this way until I play an MMO in which the players actually affect the game world.

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EvE Online deals with this fairly well.

The lore explains that "Pod Pilots" (players) are super-human in that their ship interface implants allow them to beat the crap out of a squadron of NPC ships with conventional controls and command structure, but even though you're awesome in that way, the world is built so that the NPCs know that you're just one of a hundred thousand pod pilots, and they treat you like an asset or a menace, but not as a demigod.

I think the problem lies primarily in making NPCs that look as though they're the equals of the players. There's nothing to really make my Orcish Rogue different from the 57 NPC Orcish Rogues that are wandering around the Orcish Rogue City, so in order to explain why I'm out slaughtering thousands of monsters and they can't just do it themselves, I am described as some kind of unbelievably awesome freak of nature, the greatest Orcish Rogue in ten generations. But then I look around, and in addition to the 47 NPCs, there are 53 other Orcish Rogues in the city, about two-thirds of which are tougher than me. When the leader says, "Thank you, you've done what none of your brothers could," he's clearly referring to the NPCs, and ignoring the players, many of whom not only can complete that same task, but already have.

What EvE gets right is the clear separation between players and NPCs, which is acknowledged by NPCs right in the game. They explain why we don't die, why weapons do more damage when we use them, and why we're allowed to get away with murder.

And, as with single-player RPGs, a lot of bizarreness comes from the fact that gameplay focuses on genocide to begin with. If you want to get into the Assassin's Guild, you have to--am I reading this right--kill ten assassins? How do you guys keep your membership up? Every mission results in no fewer than 500 enemy casualties, and if I work for the enemy faction, the same is true. These cities should be ghost towns. Why does every rat, bird and spider want me dead? Did that tree just take a swipe at me?

Developers seem to believe (perhaps rightly) that players want an escapist fantasy, a story they can inhabit where they are the hero. That requires the NPCs to speak to you as though you're some kind of awesome champion. What gets me is that I, and others, pretty much skip the dialog and meta-game after the first few dozen quests. I don't care about their sick sister or an experimental rememdy. I click, then I check the log to see that I have to kill 43 black spiders and gather their legs, then talk to NPC X in town Y. "Kill mission, 22 alligators in Upper West Sewer Duct #3" is enough to type into party chat.

I like story in single player. I thought it was touching when Palom and Porom petrified themselves to stop the crushing walls in FF2. I felt like a hero when I rescued the princess in Dragon Warrior and carried her back to the castle. In an MMO, players are rewarded with level ups and loot and new unlocked content. You don't need ego stroking.

Do you?

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ICC,
Ego stroking is fine. It really boils down to finesse. Take your ork example. Instead of saying "Your the only one who COULD help me" You can say "You are the only one that WOULD help me." This small change gives you a small ego boost, but at the same time acknowledging that you are not above and beyond your peers.

I prefer a story. FFXI does a decent job of balancing a "personal" story, and at the same time acknowledging that you are just one of many adventurers.

It avoids in its fluff praising you above all. You still get the feeling that you are out being heroic, and that the story going on is yours. But it still notes you as an "adventurer" among many.

While its not a perfect mmo. Final Fantasy XI by far has had the best atmosphere in any game I've played. If no other lesson is taken from that game, it would be that one.

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