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Wavinator

Questions About Territory and Conflict

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Regardless of game goals, do you think that giving players the ability to acquire and control territory naturally generates conflict? Controlling real estate seems to be a natural way to bring about player interaction and conflict in almost any game. Even if players don't have a reason (read game goal) to conflict with each other, I'm wondering if the territorial imperative so prevalent in human nature can be a useful spur to get them to interact. Consider, for example, the annoyance of tolls. If players can own roads, and start charging each other tolls to use them for safe, fast travel, isn't there automatically an incentive to try and get around this? If so, it would inspire a sort of arms race of trying to cheat and stop cheating where tolls are concerned; or the making and breaking of deals for use of such. I was thinking of a never ending bidding system for controlling all resources and infrastructure in a game. Given such a system, would you interact with other players even if you didn't want to, just to avoid being locked out and having to pay through the nose for everything? (I'm using a space trading game as my model, with a sort of "Monopoly in Space" but I get the feeling that this could apply to anything, RTS, MMORPG, etc.) I'm also wondering if this can apply to other realms. For instance, monopolizing the favor of a powerful NPC? (The territorial imperative may apply more to males, but is there a social parallel among females?)

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It's not so much the territorial imperative as much as limited supply of goods. People want stuff. Territory is just an intuitive, common limited good. When demand outpaces supply there's going to be conflict. Shooting wars, price wars, diplomatic wars.

Personally, if I don't want to interact with other players and the game forces me to (or makes me lose if I don't), I'll quickly stop interacting with the game.

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I had thought about a sandbox mmorpg based on the same idea. Where the game provided little to no content but instead provided it to the players. One of the biggest conflict catalysts I was thinking about was a very open world but with "hot spots" for specific resources. This would trigger conflict areas amongst different guilds in an attempt to control that zone (to gather a resource you have to 'rule' the territory).

I do not know about girls, but if the players would grow from increased estate then players would definitely conflict over it.

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Original post by Wavinator
Regardless of game goals, do you think that giving players the ability to acquire and control territory naturally generates conflict?

*raises index finger and breathes in deeply* Yes.

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The weapon range of an army can define a controlled space, or territory for that army. It's movement (including supply lines/foraging) extends it's effective range, and therefore the size of territory that army can legitimately claim/defend from lesser armies.

This detail is often missing from 4x genre, and it might be related game pace. The use of warp gates might also have something to do with it, as they can confuse and confound the concepts of distance and range.

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on July 16, 2008 10:12:22 PM]

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The use of warp gates might also have something to do with it, as they can confuse and confound the concepts of distance and range.

In this case, it would be a non Euclidean space and distance would be the shortest time between two points.

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Given such a system, would you interact with other players even if you didn't want to, just to avoid being locked out and having to pay through the nose for everything?

You have to be careful of positive feedback loops or you will end up having just one player that dominates the entire game and no one else will be able to play.

Simply that if players can use territory to expand their army, and that army can help to conquer territory, then any player that gets ahead will be able to conquer more and more territory and thus become better and better at taking over territories.

The area a player holds is an area (simplistically Length X Breadth). However, what they have to defend is only a circumference. As the amount of territory they control rises faster than the amount of territory that they have to defend, this itself is a positive feedback loop.

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I'm wondering if the territorial imperative so prevalent in human nature can be a useful spur to get them to interact.

Only when there is a limited availability of a resource (territory) available. The resource might be renewable (territory counts as renewable in this instance because what you do with your territory does not diminish the territory you have) and don't have to be finite (that is can run out).

Also, even if a resource has limited availability, it does not necessarily mean conflict. If there is enough resource so that players are not in need. ie: they can get enough wealth (resources that they can do things with) from their territory to achieve any task, then there will not really be much conflict (only because some people are greedy, then it will only be those without greed against those with greed).

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If I was designing a territory based war game I would start by looking at the game of Risk. The map system of the Total War series is also worth looking at.

MMORPGs that want to incorporate a war game would benefit from borrowing from the good war games.

One challenge in incorporating these ideas into an MMORPG is that an MMORPG is usually based off of the assumption that there will be an stalemate and never ending progression.

"do you think that giving players the ability to acquire and control territory naturally generates conflict?"

Players will do a simple cost benefit analysis of the situation. AT some point they may decide to attack just to attack but providing them an extra reason or better yet a game reason to attack is probably a good thing.

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Players will do a simple cost benefit analysis of the situation. AT some point they may decide to attack just to attack but providing them an extra reason or better yet a game reason to attack is probably a good thing.


Some will, some won't. A some players will just attack because they can. Some players will attack to gain resources, even if it isn't in their best interest. Some players will seek to horde what they have. Some will in fact act rationally. (This is derived playing from various MMORPGs, and also a game-theory based RTS-like game mod I made.)

In a low player count and short game (eg: RTS), this poses an issue, as rational expectations break down. In longer games like Civ4, the political consequences can make it more interesting and add depth. In an MMORPG, it can be channelled to create the amount of conflict that you wish. Some will always fight, some will never fight, some will fight if there is something to gain (in absolute terms - it may have an opportunity cost higher than itself, but people generally don't all act rationally) and some will fight if it is in their interest.

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I think any form of competition (such as an economic contest between traders or corporations to which I think you are going for) will create conflict between players. It is only a matter of time before one player's claims or possessions expands to a size that makes contact with the border of another player's. When your map becomes divided like this, then conflict is definitely inevitable. Will they sign a peace treaty? How can you be sure that they won't start entering into your domain and swipe away your claimed resources when things are going bad on their side due to being attack by an enemy? Etc.

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