Sign in to follow this  
stormwarestudios

The fall of civilization

Recommended Posts

This evening I was thinking about a list of contingencies that would occur in a multiplayer game, if the player-base decided to overthrow the ruler. Some definitions: - The game is a roleplaying game, geared toward more socially oriented players. This is not to say that PKers, achievers, and explorers will be missing from the game scene, just that the game's features are more geared toward the former. - Both citizens and rulers are played by characters. - The game has a many-to-few rulership. Many characters swear fealty to a very small number of rulers. This fealty gives characters some benefits, such as protection inside kingdom borders, protection of property, the right to own a business and prosper with it, the right to marry (see below), and other minor benefits. - Marriage gives characters the ability to bear progeny, for the purpose of continuation of lineage. Since characters eventually die of old age, this means that political titles, some wealth and property, and infamy carry on in children. - Rulers similarly pass on their title (and power) to children, in a fashion similar to history: upon death, the King passes his title down to Queen or children, then any relatives if Queen and children don't exist. If the King has no benefactor, then divine intervention (e.g. server admins) must determine the best course of action for assigning a new King. - Any King may accept Exile, and offer his crown to another in declaration of a new King. For example, if the King is threatened with death, he may opt to give up his title in exchange for his life. This nullifies his family's inheritance of the crown. The idea here is that civilization (in the letter and the spirit of the word) is upheld by the existence of a King who rules the land and fairly manages its income and trade, and offers benefits to his subjects to keep the peace. If a King is greedy and raises taxes for the peasantry, they might certainly revolt and supplant him. Likewise, in order to benefit from *being* a citizen, peasants must accept the idea that things like taxes are inevitable, and that there's someone higher on the food chain then themselves who is living life differently than they are. (In game terms, this means that a King is likely busier doing things like discussing trade and taxes and income with his advisors, rather than picking potatos from a garden or baking bread.) So the thought that came into my head this evening as I was coming up with the list of title-contingencies is, given all of the above factors, "can a game developer honestly trust in the civilization and maturity of players to allow a few of their peers to play the game as rulers?" My answer, of course, is "hell no". I'm interested to see what discussion arises from this, however.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can a developer? Probably. Will players? No way.

What's the point of playing a game if you're never going to see 50+% of the content (because they're never to be king)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Players ruling over other players only works if all the players have the choice of being a 'ruler'.

A system like that really needs a dynamic world, basically a world simulator for economics where populations and settlements can be changed in several ways.

As a player, I should have the option to walk out into an unpopulated part of the world and declare in my loud booming, in game voice, "This is MY kingdom! I claim dominion over this area!" and found my own kingdom.

Of course, once I've founded my own kingdom, then I either have to have other kings accept my rule, or appear as just an outlaw to members of their kingdoms. If I don't have the power or political clout to keep other people from doing the same thing in 'my' lands, then I'll quickly lose my kingdom to someone.

Players would need to work together, and the ruling body of a kingdom would have to attract NPC citizens to populate and actually work the kingdom's lands. If the NPCs are not happy with the ruling body, it will be easier for another human player to usurp your crown.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Talroth
Players ruling over other players only works if all the players have the choice of being a 'ruler'.

A system like that really needs a dynamic world, basically a world simulator for economics where populations and settlements can be changed in several ways.

As a player, I should have the option to walk out into an unpopulated part of the world and declare in my loud booming, in game voice, "This is MY kingdom! I claim dominion over this area!" and found my own kingdom.

Of course, once I've founded my own kingdom, then I either have to have other kings accept my rule, or appear as just an outlaw to members of their kingdoms. If I don't have the power or political clout to keep other people from doing the same thing in 'my' lands, then I'll quickly lose my kingdom to someone.

Players would need to work together, and the ruling body of a kingdom would have to attract NPC citizens to populate and actually work the kingdom's lands. If the NPCs are not happy with the ruling body, it will be easier for another human player to usurp your crown.


This actually sounds like a pretty fun game! Of course if it were MMO you might be hard-pressed to find unclaimed territory.

Would be cool if you could claim a chunk of land on another kingdoms territory, and perhaps the only way the ruler would know that he had squatters would be if someone saw them and reported to the king/territory manager. Then the king could deal with the squatters as he saw fit... threaten them, kill them outright, ask them to pay for the land or rent it to them, or make them swear fealty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The ruler would have to have some way to enforce his or her laws; and to deal with those nibbling at their territory as well as other rulers.

Which probably means mercenary forces; paying lower class players to fight.

Then how does the 'King' get his gold? What is the split if additional territory is conquered. What's to keep players from breaking their contracts and fleecing both sides?

Interesting concept, but there are a ton of questions to be answered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Very true, by no means a simple concept to actually implement.

A vassal system in an online game will likely be rather self balancing. If you are playing all alone, you don't have much of a kingdom. At best you'll have a small farm or mining village. This means just about any other player will be able to walk in and sack your holdings.

If you are playing as part of a huge, massive kingdom, chances are many other players aren't going to like the king (Or simply dislike being under the rule of someone else), and they'll try to split off to form their own kingdoms.

The land itself should be open to whoever wants it. After all I can take a map of the real world, shade in all of Africa, and call it my own Kingdom and get myself a crown. The world will laugh at me, but I can still claim it as my own land. I just have no way to back up those claims.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
The ruler would have to have some way to enforce his or her laws; and to deal with those nibbling at their territory as well as other rulers.

Which probably means mercenary forces; paying lower class players to fight.

Then how does the 'King' get his gold? What is the split if additional territory is conquered. What's to keep players from breaking their contracts and fleecing both sides?

Interesting concept, but there are a ton of questions to be answered.


Perhaps, as you say, a player can be assigned with the task of collecting a late debt. Perhaps there is a ledger of vassals who have not paid their fee, and a player can sign his name as a guarantee that he will collect this debt (whilst taking a portion for himself). The player might then receive some form of official documentation identifying himself as the debt collector, so that the ower of the debt will not be swindled.

If the collector does not return with the fee, then the king knows who to look for.

It might sound complicated, but it's not really different than a quest that gives you an item that you need to take to someone else.

----
Another question though... is whether this is even fun for the player, to be a kind of tax collector...

It could be a task of an NPC to collect on debts. And the King has to hire enough of these npcs to ensure that debts are collected in a timely manner.

Or maybe both... the king has hired NPCs as well as hired PCs to do this task.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the grand scheme of things, players should be playing the "extraordinary" characters in the game. General of an army, merchants, heroic warrior leader of the king's personal guard, lord of the land, governor of a city, bandit lords, etc.

No one wants to play the peasant peeling potatoes in the game or the guard walking the rounds on the walls of the city, unless there is a reason to do it.

In real life, these are also the people who supports and keep a king in his position or the people that makes a king loses his position.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think I agree Si Hao.

One question is how can a person (and a few loyal subjects) start their own outpost (eventual kingdom, they hope) and hope to defend it and keep it growing whilst they are not logged in.

It seems like NPC guards would be an idea. But then again, if you need to attract NPCs to your place, what could you possible offer unless the local kingdom is just becoming a terrible place.


In real life, it's a bit simpler because the leader of this small band can just go far off from the kingdom, in seclusion, and slowly build their budding empire (or so they hope). There is less chance that they will be noticed. They will always be there (they don't log out from their lives, heh) to defend.

In a game, the distance will be much shorter, and the outpost has a much higher chance of just being seen by any random passer-by on some quest.


Also, how can everyone be a warrior or merchant unless there is a constant battle somewhere?

----

Might be veering a bit off topic though, I apologize, since DarkHorizon's initial post was geared towards a more social game. He never even said that kingdom's could be dynamically declared in the fashion I'm discussing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would have all players as Nobility or Royal. Let all them have a claim to the crown, but only the ones that can defend that claim have the right to hold it.

If battles are held by AI/NPCs only (not direct player involvemnt beyond telling them to go fight at that location) and defence is automaticly handeled by AI/NPCs, then the problem of not being logged in is reduced.

Quote:
can a game developer honestly trust in the civilization and maturity of players to allow a few of their peers to play the game as rulers?

My answer too is "Hell No!". But you can use that to your advantage.

If you design the game around a civil war due to the rightful king dying and there being no clear line of succession (or have it more like the aincient Germanic societies where the strength of a leader determined kingship, not inheritence).

You can have the players who become "Robber Barrons" (these would be greifers) and just attack anyone that is not their vassels. And you can also have the players that create more formal alliences and act in concert to suppress the robber barrons.

Players who seek more formal alliences would end up createing a social structure that allows them to maintain a cohesion even if their current leader gets toppled.

The difficulty is that instead of forcing a particular social structure onto the players, you should give them the tools in the game to create and maintain their own.

Who knows, they might even develop a system better than the ones we currently have? :D

Allow them to create "Contracts" in the game world, and "laws" that other players can opt into. The only enforcemnt of these is what the players themselves can do.

Have a look at some of the ideas in formal "Game Theory", specifically: Prisoner's Dillema (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dillema), Tragedy of the Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons) and The Ultimatum Game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimatum_game).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not an MMO player so this may be off base, but it seems to me less an aspect of maturity than actually implementing in gameplay the "Great Chain of Being," that moral philosophy of obligation that held so many medieval societies in check. The players don't believe in it, so the gameplay has to motivate them toward acts of responsibility, magnaminity and justice.

I think you'll need a fairly good simulation of the populace to pull this off. The citizens need to hold concepts like legitimacy along with happiness, so that even if a usurper takes the throne and makes people happy there will always be those that see it as an offense.

Does in-game religion play any role? Maybe this could also be a motivating factor for getting players to behave a certain way, even if it's functional and somewhat hollow.

Finally, I wonder if you can make the social aspect somewhat secondary to the population management aspect in order to encourage more of that sense of obligation? For instance, those that do the most for the peasantry have the largest voices in the player-to-player social arena. A king, for instance, might rate a vassal player poorly, causing that vassal player's people to be harder to deal with; or, the vassal may be so popular (a war hero?) that the king has trouble in the social arena moving against him/her because it would cause unrest in his own kingdom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
While not quite what you are talking about, the MMO Eve Online has players who run corporations, which make them a sort of king with alot of power and wealth. The larger corporations are quite big and can take control of certain areas of space.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, EvE is a good example of this. In the fringes of space, it's a free-for-all, and yet for the residents, it's safer and more organized than the newbie zones, because the risk of loss and the complex politics make acts of random violence foolhardy, and the organized invasions are detected and responded to before too many peasants get ravaged.

It's also quite satisfactory to be a "subject" out there, because all your achievement gameplay is available and you can hang out with your friends and farm and do all that MMO stuff, and few players really regret not being able to participate in the high-level administration. To be fair, it probably has less to do with the social structure and more to do with the fact that high-level administration in EvE is six different flavors of boring bullshit, with a garnish of tedium and a side of deep-fried drudgery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
high-level administration in EvE is six different flavors of boring bullshit, with a garnish of tedium and a side of deep-fried drudgery.


That made me laugh. Do you often use culinary imagery, Iron Chef Carnage, or is this only a coincidence?

Oh, and to be more on topic:

If EVE can do it in space, then it ought to be workable in a feudal setting as well, wouldn't you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A game that might be good to have a look at is "Sword of the Samurai" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_of_the_Samurai). In this game the player plays as the Head of a Household and trys to advance their household's standing, eventually making it to Shogun. It contains many of the elements like marriage, family standings, etc that have been discussed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I'm not an MMO player so this may be off base, but it seems to me less an aspect of maturity than actually implementing in gameplay the "Great Chain of Being," that moral philosophy of obligation that held so many medieval societies in check. The players don't believe in it, so the gameplay has to motivate them toward acts of responsibility, magnaminity and justice.


I wasn't aware of this chart, I'll have to look into it. Thanks for the referral.

Quote:
I think you'll need a fairly good simulation of the populace to pull this off. The citizens need to hold concepts like legitimacy along with happiness, so that even if a usurper takes the throne and makes people happy there will always be those that see it as an offense.


Agreed. In the game, the population will hopefully adhere to some modicum of allegiance to families as opposed to individuals. Since the game mechanic of bloodlines would be in play, hopefully the populace will take severe offense if a long line of benevolent kings is abruptly brought to a bloody end by someone who "thinks" they can do a better job. No telling for sure, but it seems logical enough, particularly if the individual's motives include greed or megalomania.

Quote:
Does in-game religion play any role? Maybe this could also be a motivating factor for getting players to behave a certain way, even if it's functional and somewhat hollow.


To a certain extent; there's an all-around "good vs. evil" pseudo-religion with few opportunities for misconstruing one for the other. The "good god" granted peace, magic, healing, knowledge, and other cool stuff to the masses, whereas the "evil god" perverted those to his own liking.

Quote:
Finally, I wonder if you can make the social aspect somewhat secondary to the population management aspect in order to encourage more of that sense of obligation? For instance, those that do the most for the peasantry have the largest voices in the player-to-player social arena. A king, for instance, might rate a vassal player poorly, causing that vassal player's people to be harder to deal with; or, the vassal may be so popular (a war hero?) that the king has trouble in the social arena moving against him/her because it would cause unrest in his own kingdom.


I suppose this could be supported in game mechanics with a faction system that is directly controlled by heads-of-faction. For example, a mercenary who takes on a quest for Kingdom X has his favor/faction variable increased if he succeeds in the quest, and lowered if he fails. Since the faction variables could also be passed down to later generations (imagine being son of a hero, or daughter of the betrayer of the kingdom), cleaning up your ancestor's messes might become an important factor if a player, playing as the character of a well-known servant/tyrant of the realm, wants to live life differently than his parents did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sounds like a multiplayer, online version of The Guild where every character is human-controlled... Could be cool, and very-well could work if done properly.

In The Guild 2 (never played the first one), you start out with a modest home and some cash to get started on a business venture. Your basic goal is to take your family's name up to the top of the social ladder. All kinds of alliances, deceptions, rivalries, agreements, etc. are involved in this that would translate well to a multiplayer environment.

I'd take a ton from that game for this idea and mix in a lot of the concepts from Eve Online (every new online game should be taking as much from Eve as possible).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by domhnall4h
Then how does the 'King' get his gold?


This single sentence immediately caught my eye. The answer is simple - tie it to the in-game economy. All items bought from an NPC under the vassalage of a lord automatically send a percentage to the 'King' (or his financial advisor). The King could easily impose taxes upon non-NPC shopkeepers by threatening them with the mercenary forces you also mention if they fail to pay up (who will, if he picks the Killers that got into the game, steal the victim's possessions, money, horse, and wife, and probably burn his shop down for good measure). This is likely to upset people (rich merchants), leading to a high rebellion rate and/or other players splitting off to form their own kingdoms. We can assume that the 'King' would prefer to profit for himself than upset others (unless he's a Killer, in which case his reign is likely to be very short and bloody anyway), so the 'Tax Collectors' come in. All of this is perfectly implementable with just a few tweaks to the normal MMO systems of trading and titles - perhaps a king can bestow titles upon vassals, who can then spread any titles the king has allowed them to.
Let's show an example:

'Gog the Great' serves under 'Keiran the King' as the 'Commander of the Guard'. His majesty has bestowed upon Gog the power to assign the following titles: 'Sergant of the Guard, Corporal of the Guard, Captain of the Guard, Lieuteneunt of the Guard, etc.'.

The problem I see here is His Majesty having to create all the titles he wanted, along with titles they could assign. This could be solved by pre-defined titles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
So the thought that came into my head this evening as I was coming up with the list of title-contingencies is, given all of the above factors, "can a game developer honestly trust in the civilization and maturity of players to allow a few of their peers to play the game as rulers?"


If the game mechanics make it really hard or very punishing to abuse the power, then of course it's possible. If it takes a long time to build up your family to that level of power, how many would really be willing to risk it all to be tyrant? I know I would, but I'm a fairly sinister gamer to begin with...

Not sure how the initial game world could/should/would start, but as a new player, you could begin by working for another player in the fields or in a shop or inn... You character would gain skill in that trade, and that skill combined moreso with your social relationship with the owner and fellow workers could lead to a higher position.

To make things less boring, and to bring about some of the Eve elements, your character could become an NPC when you aren't logged in and go about his/her normal business - maybe you could set a schedule for the character to go by while you're away like some text-based web games use.

Increase your reputation and standing in the town/village/etc. and maybe run for a public office.

Not sure how you'd want to deal with PvP, but I imagine that combat skills would be tough to train without time and money-backing... So soldiers would likely only be viable if they were funded by another character, or group of characters that had a bit of cash... So that helps with griefing and protection at least a decent bit...

[Edited by - jesot on May 27, 2008 1:54:35 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this