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Turd Burger

Hypothetical idea for multiplayer gaming.

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Firstly, a few people are going to be scared off when I mention MMORPGs. Don't be - I am not going to rabbit on about how cool it would be to make a totally unoriginal clone of a non-indie-very-commercial MMO game. Instead, I am going to suggest how online games could work in a way that eliminates the need for gross amounts of hardware (servers, maintenance etc...) and that builds on a sense of community within an online game. -FIRST THINGS FIRST- My understanding of how your average MMO works is as follows, the world in which the characters exist, essentially lives on a server usually miles away from any of the players. The world is part of the client that the users own, but all of the thinking and pulling power is done by the servers. They literally 'serve' (send and receive) information to the individuals who live in the MMO world. The characters basically live on the server. (This idea varies wildly depending upon the game, Runescape for instance is entirely self contained within the browser - so everything is the same, except the client is really just housed online instead of at the users end of the wire.) -MY IDEA- My initial idea started as a simple 2D avatar chat, where you could download the client and use it to customise your avatar, maybe build an environment (A small custom map?). The interface I visualised was similar to those common in 2D RPGs like the old Zelda games. The user could then connect to the internet and search for other users online (Through some sort of local lobby perhaps?). Three or four friends could connect up to the game, play around in the room that whoever was hosting had made, and ultimately interact online. The idea thrives on the fact that so few users would need less internet pulling power, and the whole thing could be hosted from a PC instead of a server. -THE IDEA EVOLVES...- After tossing the above mentioned thought around in my brain for a few hours, I had a thought that could make the experience a little richer. If you could introduce a currency/trading mini-game of some sort. Like this: ----- Player #1 hosts a room/map/whatever Player #2 joins P#1's room Player #3 joins P#1's room All the players have a game of poker (for example) Player #2 wins the game, as a prize - he gets to keep P#3's red hat. Later that day... Player #4 hosts a room/map/whatever Player #2 joins P#4's room The two play poker Player #4 wins this time, as a prize - he gets the red hat that P#2 won earlier. ----- You see, this way - the item in question changes hands without the end owner and original owner ever having met. Your characters inventory is stored with your client on your PC and stays the same, regardless of what room you log into. -THE REST OF THE IDEA- Once I had the trading idea in place, the rest seemed to sort itself out. Simply add the core elements of an RPG (Spells, dragons, machine-guns, fridge magnets - whatever theme you choose) and you have something really interesting. The players can mod their rooms, throw out griefers or anyone who they don't like - but their power is limited to their own rooms/maps of course so they can't go mad with power. The players have total control over the design of the environment. In a sense, the environment is infinitely large (An IMORPG!?) and at a fraction of the practical cost of a server based MMO. The only limit to the idea, is how many people a hosting PC will allow in any one room at a time, but even this opens the door to something new: If someone with a big server decided to get the client, they could host a massive world that players could join at their leisure anyway - and that itself would be an MMORPG within this 'IMORPG'. Please let me know what you think of my idea - BUT... ... I am only a pixel artist, so please answer with small words my little brain can understand. I know nothing about programming. If you have ANY feedback, let's hear it - point out any flaws you can see (because you devs are more in-tune with the practical workings of this sort of thing) and hopefully we might be able to think-tank our way around it. TURD BURGER [Edited by - Turd Burger on November 15, 2008 1:18:23 PM]

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Re:

That is how multiplayer games worked before there was the term "MMO". It is not "thriving" because the model does not make money.


Dungeon Siege (2002) was a 3D Online classless hack&slash RPG that includes a free full level editor that allowed the players to mod and create their custom worlds. (There were official online maps and I think it had the largest continuous seamless map at the time.) Players could connect to an official game matching site (Zonematch), where they can host games or find games. The max number of players allowed in a hosted game was 8.

Players can duplicate stuffs by saving and loading files on the client side. Basically after player #3 lost the red hat, he could reload the file and get back all his items. If player #3 knows the structure of the data file, he could just edit the file and get any amount of money, stats, or items as he wants.

There could be lag everytime a player joins a game and lag/end of game when the host need to quit or crash. Since the monsters in the game do not respawn, after sometime there would be nothing to kill in the world and the host needs to reload. There were mods where the monsters do respawn.

I am not saying that it cannot be fun like this. Just that this is how it was. You can still have a community that does not cheat and play nice, given that someone cloud host a decent game. It has only been 6 years but Microsoft no long support Zonematch because it is not raking in any money, since players with illegal copies could still connect to the Zone and play. You can still play it because there are unofficial sites that still do game matching.

The game was fun at different levels, and there is no limit to how many characters you could have. So for any game you could find one of your characters that suits the level of the other players and play. The game loots were also tuned such that there is no need to buy equipment or potions.


There is nothing wrong with the idea, it is more fun this way to some people.

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And Dungeon Siege and it's online functionality was pretty similar to the Diablo series which is the first thing I thought of when reading the OP.

(The OP also reminded me a bit of animal crossing.)

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Thanks for the replies.

I hear what you're saying, but the philanthropist in me wasn't really thinking about it from a financial point of view anyway.

I thought the model would be more like something to enrichen an MMOCC style environment, also as an antidote to some of the problems that go along with MMOs being naturally massive without losing the innate benefits.

I'm biased and I know that it is a naive assumtion to say that 2D works quicker than 3D, but in this case - could graphical simplicity not hurry things along?

Maybe a display in the client side lobby could read something like:

'Game room number 1234 | Players 4/10'

So that the strain on the host was limited (the limit could even be determined automatically).

Lastly - as you mentioned, players (usually the unpopular minority) will ALWAYS crack the client and fudge their own stats, but with any luck the players who are hosting environments/worlds/maps/rooms will start to form groups and circles of trust which in turn group together into trusting communities. This (paired with an in depth moderation system) could go some way towards banning/tagging shamed and misbehaving players.

I just can't help but feel that in this idea somewhere is a really juicy alternative to just having one world where - other than the odd update - the edges are too well defined.

[Edited by - Turd Burger on November 15, 2008 1:11:19 PM]

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As others have noted, you're basically talking about a structure like Diablo. You'll note that in Diablo, you couldn't just "reload your old save", because it was impossible (under normal circumstances) to exit an active game session without saving the state of that session.

Now sure, you could find ways around that, like killing the game via Task Manager or yanking your power cord or something. You could minimize that by updating the local save file regularly during play, perhaps without informing the player when you've done so.

Still, that doesn't address the issue of players reverse-engineering the save file format and then poking in whatever data they want. For that case I think you would design tools and systems that empower the community to police itself. Many online games have block/ignore lists, kick-votes, etc. for this reason. In your idea, perhaps a player who has been unanimously vote-kicked X number of times within Y time period gets a publically-displayed "badge of dishonor" or something, warning others to avoid the cheater/griefer. (This is an unrefined idea, but it's a start.)

Also, take a look at Metaplace. It seems kind of like what you're describing, at least in terms of its fundamental structure.

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The feedback so far is great.

Invicticide, I like the badge of shame idea you came up with - though I fear that the players could easily create a new character or find a way of clearing their own reputation (which is after all, just another stat).

The flaw in the plan is the fact that control and trust are handed over to the players, which is at the same time, the core reason it would be great fun.

I'm sure there's a way around this little hitch though.

It would be impossible to build an uncrackable security system - there's just no such animal. Perhaps if you could somehow take the emphasis of the gameplay away from the player stats - so any ill-gotten stat advantage would be less significant and therefore not much to cheat for.

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Don't do increments in power.

When you start that's as powerful as you'll ever be everything else is you trading off power for a different one.

So in the case of stats you'd end up trading HP for more Strength and whatever.

In the case of gear that piece of platemail prevents more damage while the other slows down shield/weapon swings less.

__________

Sure you lose a lot of RPGiness but people will still play whatever archetypes and slowly move stuff around(aka character build) because that's what most people are going to want to do. You'll also see that when players are playing in a style they want to they'll typically be a bit more powerful even if they aren't statistically so, or they'll atleast have a bit more fun.

you can 'mark of shame' anyone when they enter the game or force them to respec when they enter with bad stats.

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I have an idea for tightening the security a bit through relying on other servers and possibly other trusted servers.

Let's say the server you play on keep track of what you have given what you started with when you joined and what happened since then. When you leave the server the final character state is archived.

When the player joins a new server the server asks him to reference the last server he played on. Then the new server directly asks the old server for the character info from the player's last play session.

Server admins can have a whitelist of trusted other servers and just not accept info from unknown servers.

There are some obvious negatives here but I'm not sure how large they are.

First of all, from the player's perpective, what happens if your old server is offline? You can't play (or at least you can't play with your saved character). I guess this could be avoided by saving a longer list of server history. If the most recent server is down you only lose the last session's data and you can simply backtrack to older session ends.

That brings me to the second obvious negative: servers will have to store a lot of character data for a long time and worse, they must be ready to serve it to anyone at any time. It is still not as bad as having to serve data to everyone continuously. From the player's perspective, some lag is acceptable for this connection since it only affects him at connect time. Further, given that servers are small, it is unlikely that a lot of players would need session-ending data at the same time. Storage space could also be combated. Say the data is stored client side instead and servers just keep some kind of hash of the data state. Whenever data has to be verified, the client sends his information (this would have to be relayed through the new server) and the old server hashes it and compares to the stored value. I know it's possible to break hashes but it wouldn't be easy.

Reviewing these two negatives they don't sound so bad. What do you think?

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Quote:
Original post by Turd Burger
I like the badge of shame idea you came up with - though I fear that the players could easily create a new character or find a way of clearing their own reputation (which is after all, just another stat).


Right. You don't really have a way to ensure that each unique account also represents a unique player. Having a subscription model mitigates this somewhat because it costs money to get a new account, but some people have money to burn, too.

That's why I think you have to enable community self-policing as much as possible. You can't control players' behavior, but you can enable players to control whom they play with, and under what rules.

I think it would be interesting to experiment with turning the concept of progress on its head. In a normal MMORPG situation, progress is measured by your experience level. If you're level 10 and you see a level 70, it's clear that he's progressed further than you. You might be inclined to think he's "better" than you... or at the very least, "more accomplished".

So we can say a player has some "units of progress" -- levels, in this case -- by which to compare himself to other players. More units of progress is considered "better". In an MMORPG, the units of progress are levels, and importantly, they are awarded by the game.

What if the units of progress were instead awarded by the community?

By way of example, let's say you're making a traditional RPG: you kill monsters and take their stuff, explore dungeons, form parties, and accomplish quests. But what if, instead of the game awarding level-ups when you've killed enough monsters, it was your party members who had to award you level-ups, perhaps via private ballot or something similar?

You still have to resolve what it costs a player to award something like that to another player; that cost establishes what a player needs to do to earn his level-up. But now that the gatekeeper is an unpredictable human, instead of a predictable computer, it becomes much more difficult to succeed by simply hacking a save file. Now, if you're really intending to cheat, you either have to build a network of people with whom to do so, or you have to engage in some clever social engineering. Either way, you participated in and contributed to the community, which is the fundamental interaction of the game.

This is all very hand-wavy and probably has a million holes in it, though. :(

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Quote:
Original post by anemian
When you start that's as powerful as you'll ever be everything else is you trading off power for a different one.


This is interesting, the player could start off with lets say 10 power points.

As they progress, they keep learning new attacks etc... - but must always take away some of their original power points if they want to substitute them with their new skill.

Eg:

A new player has:

Agility - 4
Speed - 4
Strength - 2


Total 10, nothing special about the player; these basic stats identify them as a beginner.

A more experienced player has:

Agility - 1
Speed - 1
Strength - 2
Fancy new skill - 6


The total is still 10, but the variety denotes a slightly more experienced player.

The 10 power points is just an example, it would be much more interesting to have something like 1000 to play with. Also, the higher the amount - the less people would notice that they are the same level as everyone else because the diversity between the characters would hide it so well.

The same system could be easily applied to items and weapons, not just skills.

Nice thinking Anemian.

As a nice decorative addition, your characters appearance could vary depending on the status of his stats: Someone with lots of strength but little agility could look really buff and clumsy, someone with loads of agility and nothing else could look really skinny etc...

This way - it is necessary to progress through the game as an RPG in order to unlock the diverse new items and skills, and anyone who chooses to hack their stats will only spoil the game for themselves - and gain no real statistical advantage.

It also means that 'Newbs' (What a wretched label) would be able to fend for themselves, and get into the game quickly - and customisation of every aspect of your character becomes a big part of the game.


Quote:
Original post by LockeCole
When the player joins a new server the server asks him to reference the last server he played on. Then the new server directly asks the old server for the character info from the player's last play session.

---

That brings me to the second obvious negative: servers will have to store a lot of character data for a long time and worse, they must be ready to serve it to anyone at any time. It is still not as bad as having to serve data to everyone continuously. From the player's perspective, some lag is acceptable for this connection since it only affects him at connect time. Further, given that servers are small, it is unlikely that a lot of players would need session-ending data at the same time. Storage space could also be combated. Say the data is stored client side instead and servers just keep some kind of hash of the data state. Whenever data has to be verified, the client sends his information (this would have to be relayed through the new server) and the old server hashes it and compares to the stored value. I know it's possible to break hashes but it wouldn't be easy.


This is also a great idea, you summed it all up pretty well. I particularly like the idea of the server verifying the players account of his character.

It adds great integrity to the system, there's also something appealing about the idea of having 'trusted server lists', which would doubtlessly add yet again to the sense of community for those who played on them.


Quote:
Original post by invicticide
So we can say a player has some "units of progress" -- levels, in this case -- by which to compare himself to other players. More units of progress is considered "better". In an MMORPG, the units of progress are levels, and importantly, they are awarded by the game.

What if the units of progress were instead awarded by the community?


Yeah, this could tie in quite nicely with what LockeCole had in mind. On one hand you could have stats which always ammounted to pretty much the same thing - on the other hand you have your buddy points, perhaps unique to each server?

All it would need to do would be log your IP and associate it with a figure.

So it would read something like;

Turd Burger - (Number) - 678 buddy points
invicticide - (Number) - 800 buddy points
LockeCole - (Number) - 567 buddy points

(Those numbers a purely random by the way!)

Then again - your reputation is either in the hands of the server owners (who may occasionally be untrustworthy and press DELETE), or in your own, which again means hackers can diddle their own stats and wrongly come across as upstanding members of the community.

Maybe pair it with LockeCole's strategy, so that the server cross references your numbers?

Keep these ideas coming folks - they're really contributing to this system.

Also; be ruthless - any problems you can find, mention them - it will only spurr on more discussion, and may eventually prove the thread to be a nice game theory resource.

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Slightly off topic, but reading the OP made me think of this. Building on the rooms idea, what if everyone (with the technical know-how) could create their own rooms, rules and items. There would be a core set of rules that EVERYTHING would have to abide by, but other than that freedom would be granted to the players. They could create their own items and make "challenge" rooms to get them. If the system was robust enough and the community dedicated enough you could get rare items developing as the person who made it only made say 5 and then left...

Entire user made quests could emerge as people went from server to server, following clues that would be woven in to the history of the room.

Another benefit of it being text based is that anyone could get involved, no artistic skill required.

Give me a day and I will have this idea more fleshed out - but user generated content can certainly save money.

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Might want to check out .hack//Fragment (which was never released here in the states). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.hack//fragment

It gave the users ability to host their own or upload their own dungeons. Then gave them more stuff to customize their dungeons with based on popularity.

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Quote:
Original post by thk123
Slightly off topic, but reading the OP made me think of this. Building on the rooms idea, what if everyone (with the technical know-how) could create their own rooms, rules and items. There would be a core set of rules that EVERYTHING would have to abide by, but other than that freedom would be granted to the players. They could create their own items and make "challenge" rooms to get them. If the system was robust enough and the community dedicated enough you could get rare items developing as the person who made it only made say 5 and then left...

Entire user made quests could emerge as people went from server to server, following clues that would be woven in to the history of the room.

Another benefit of it being text based is that anyone could get involved, no artistic skill required.

Give me a day and I will have this idea more fleshed out - but user generated content can certainly save money.


Thanks for the extra replies

This was actually part of the original idea anyway, the plan was to have the hosts able to change room themes too - so they became more like different time dimensions in a sense. One could be fantasy, another futuristic, a third steampunk.

Things would improve even more as players from one theme world visited a different one.

The possibilites are endless, imagine it to be like a 'Where's Wally' book, where the characters from one page would feature in another (Like a Martian wandering around ancient Egypt).

I never intended it for a text-based game, but since you mentioned it - it would make item creation much easier.

This idea is simply a system for games to use as a means of improving online play - I originally planned it for application to a 2D RPG style interface, but when you think about it; any format could apply from text-based to FPS.

Also, I'll check out that game you mentioned WierdoFu

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It may even be possible to have it setup in such a way where you have one room as text-based, another as 2D and yet another as 3D....
Then each created item need 3 things, a text-description, a 2D sprite and a 3D model, but it would be possible.

I am definitely liking the idea though. If you are going to go through with it, give me a shout and I'll be happy to help make it work.

Oh, and on another note....
We might even make this into a GameDev community project.... Haven't seen one of those in a while. All it needs is a few decent coders to make it work. I'd be more then happy to help out with the whole organisation of the development process.

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Oooo, community project, I like the sounds of that. I am good with Flash although not sure how far that could stretch online (having said that, I have seen some impressive stuff done with it) can also do a bit of C#/XNA. Would anyone else be interested?

Edit:
I am in the GameDev IRC if anyone is on to chat about this, screen name: thk123

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Quote:
Original post by Turd Burger
Thanks for the replies.

I hear what you're saying, but the philanthropist in me wasn't really thinking about it from a financial point of view anyway.

I thought the model would be more like something to enrichen an MMOCC style environment, also as an antidote to some of the problems that go along with MMOs being naturally massive without losing the innate benefits.

I'm biased and I know that it is a naive assumtion to say that 2D works quicker than 3D, but in this case - could graphical simplicity not hurry things along?

Maybe a display in the client side lobby could read something like:

'Game room number 1234 | Players 4/10'

So that the strain on the host was limited (the limit could even be determined automatically).

Lastly - as you mentioned, players (usually the unpopular minority) will ALWAYS crack the client and fudge their own stats, but with any luck the players who are hosting environments/worlds/maps/rooms will start to form groups and circles of trust which in turn group together into trusting communities. This (paired with an in depth moderation system) could go some way towards banning/tagging shamed and misbehaving players.

I just can't help but feel that in this idea somewhere is a really juicy alternative to just having one world where - other than the odd update - the edges are too well defined.



You might want to look into a game called Neverwinter Nights which supports player run servers (besides the single player game). You could create fairly complicated worlds and the players even hacked ways to connect servers to enlarge them (single server could only support 64 players and usually ran well with less than half that number).

Unfortunately most servers were just copies of sections of the single player game terrain or clones of a few good player created worlds. It was too much effort for most playesr who thought they wanted to run a server to actually create something of their own (let alone good). The company never built servers to tie together a web of player run servers and didnt bother to develop features that would have made it easy for players to do that on their own.

Game worlds with a decent plot or cohesive pattern of terrain were too few and the few well run (as in lots of dedicated GM time) games were hard to get on with the low player limits.

Unfortunately even with alot of premade stuff it takes a great deal of effort to create game theme and plot and interesting mechanics variations to be done by a few people (or a group of people).

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While I see where you are coming from Woodinoneeye, the right community can take staggering results. Sure, the worlds wouldn't be cohesive - but given the right background (say time travel) anything could make sense. Look at what people have done with Forge, with Half Life and with Civ. Sure, there are hundreds of examples of games that feel on their face because of over reliance on the user, but I don't think that the idea of user generated content is floored by definition, just doesn't always work in practice.

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I agree with both of you actually.

Whilst the potential chink in the armour is relying heavily on the user made content, it is easily remedied.

I would do this by:

1) Supplying the game with LOTS of consistent, inspiring pre-made maps and environments.

2) (For this example I will humour my 2D RPG take on things, but the analogy can still be applied elsewhere) Supplying the users with an extensive BUT consistent tileset with which to construct their own maps.

This way - the users will have to try pretty hard to build stlyistically irrelevant content.

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Good idea, I still think that users should be allowed freedom to the people as some people may be turned off, knowing that their room will never look that different from everyone else's.

Supplying tile sets and inspiring maps I think would be key. Going back to something like Forge, when I see what people have done I always want to log on to Forge myself.

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Yeah, you wouldn't even have to make things as strict as the tileset.

If you could somehow breakdown the components even further, without going all the way down to including a basic pixel-level sprite editor (which I imagine would completely submit ALL creative direction to the users - not neccessarily a good thing)

Simply offer enough planned diversity, that people don't crave more...

...an impossible task?

_

The imaginary 2D RPG style game I keep battering on about is starting to evolve into something. For some reason, the idea of loads of different map rooms with one or two different people in each is starting to remind me of the space ports from the original 'Star Wars' movies. The appearance of people travelling between areas like this would definitely have the feel of commuting and tourism.

Hmmm...

(EDIT)

Just going back to thinking about this;

Assuming all of this was logically applied - what would you say the maximum amount of players your average PC could host for a 2D RPG (porbably with a limited map)?

[Edited by - Turd Burger on November 22, 2008 2:59:25 PM]

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