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The fall of civilization

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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.

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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)?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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).

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