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Griffin_Kemp

Generation: Character (The Next Generation of MMORPG's)

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This is my first post here. The following is an article that I wrote up on the future of MMORPG's. I plan on writing a few of these over time and finally getting some of these concepts out in the world since I'm not actively engaged in the industry anymore at this time. ---so it starts--- INTRODUCTION In the next three to five years, a new generation of MMORPG's will begin to emerge. This new generation will accomplish an age old problem that still exists in online role playing games today. This is the problem of how to immerse a player into a role of a character while still allowing the control of what that character is defined as mostly, or completely, up to the player. MMORPG'S TODAY Modern MMORPG's are designed with amazing accuracy in the science of the Pavlovian experience, and the common player is capable of feeling great moments of satisfaction with the achievement of the goals that have been laid out in front them. A player can select a type of character format and pursue it with a passion only stopped by reaching the fullest level of advancement that character type is capable of attaining. In systems that are more open, the player is able to construct a character from building blocks to their hearts content until they run out of some form of currency (often skill points) to buy more building blocks with (often skills). The dynamic variety is achieved by placing systematic obstacles that act as character leveling virtual walls, pits, and swinging vines for the players to hurdle their character through in the pitfall chase to their ultimate aim; their completed and ultimate character...at least, mechanically. MMORPG'S MECHANICS STALEMATE The pursuit of the best mechanical character, in whatever Ken Doll variant a game has presented to a player, can only go so far until a plateau has been reached. At this point, that plateau has been reached. From the onset, MMORPG's had far more trialling issues to face down before they could begin working on any problem of role playing character immersion. Now, however, it is obvious that the developing industry has all but mastered the engineering feats to accomplish nearly any form of mechanics imaginable. The only challenge that exists in the realm of mechanics is in striving to achieve a newer and more dynamically alterable interpretation of the same mechanics while pushing the boundaries of efficiency in streamlined usability; allowing a player to express their desires easily and intuitively with such mechanics without compromising the game's integrity. It is obvious, and painful, to any frequenter of the MMORPG fare, that the cry from players for newer developments in mechanics isn't really about a newer method of the same mechanics existing, but really about a new approach to the game entirely; literally, new mechanics. As to what those new mechanics are, however, has continued to elude the industry and players. THE PROBLEM OF PLAYERS These "new mechanics" are actually the very thing that gets regularly ignored by developers when sounded against the other, more pressing, issues that arise on the table of the usual complaints and praises found surrounding the typical MMORPG. Of course we are referring to that of role playing. There are plenty of arguments between "carebears" and "player-killers" on precisely the issue of the developmentally unmarked territory of role playing. Of which are regularly dismissed since there is not a control function within the game's constructs for such a feature. Because of this we have pro-role-playing and anti-role-playing players who's arguments for and against role playing are as follows: Most pro-role-playing players are wanting more character role play to exist in the game because they want a game about character; some to the point of purism. Anti-role-playing players are generally content with the current construct of the games focus; that of the Pavlovian-mechanics-driven structure. Since role playing is something that the developers have not presented into the game for the players, it becomes a highly volatile passion of playing style (rather than format) and gets lost into the mix of debates on game playing ethics and etiquette. THE DEBATE THAT DOESN'T EXIST The developing industry is right to ignore this conversation, though, as there is nothing that they have been able to do about this issue. As such, it is not an issue that a developer can solve for the debating fan fare, as developers can only offer mechanics. Regardless of what everyone thinks, however, this debate regarding how or if to role play does not matter. It does not matter because it will occur naturally as an extension of the mechanics. It will not be separately inserted as a rule-binding code of honor, conduct, ethic, or etiquette as some suggest. Nor will it be sloppily inserted like a bastardized adoption of ye old D&D alignment system. No, it will be a natural extension of the mechanics that will progressively become more intuitive and nearly invisible as time goes on. THE SHIFT OF FOCUS Presently, the gaming world at large is still working off of the same principles founded at the end of the 19th century when pinball machines began to emerge. This principle is that the player bounces off of the world. Players will bounce off of players, but as far as this is concerned this doesn't much change the way the player bounces against the world. Consider basic systems like Mario: a simple two dimensional world that does not change; it is the same level each time it is played. Changing Mario's superpowers seems like the world changes how it interacts with the player, but it really just changes how Mario bounces off of the world. This concept exists in MMORPG worlds via mobs, quests, missions, computer characters, the character look and feel staying the same unless external objects or services are applied, to name a few. What will happen, as the new generation of MMORPG's emerge, is that the world will instead begin to bounce off of the player. This will mean that Mario will make a choice of where to go on the level and find that his superpowers shift accordingly to that choice, on a basic level. More appropriately, the world, character, avatar, and other players will react to a players choices accordingly. This is by no means, a small shift of focus. This is a shift that changes everything about how a game is played. For the player, this will mean that choices of statistical gain and general ethical conduct will be one in the same set of choices, or at least incredibly linked together. The concept of a chivalrous knight stepping up to any possible chance for combat will not be an option for long for that player, as doing so will result in an eventual shift from being a chivalrous knight into a more brute warrior standard character with less chivalry. This, of course, will result in a change of options statistically and mechanically as well as socially. THE MECHANICS OF ROLE PLAYING Usually when people think of role playing and mechanics they cringe at the idea of being forced to speak in bastardized Elizabethan English and being confined to behaving certain ways according to their character archetype. However, games such as Fable and Spore have shown that such a concept is not only not necessarily true, but flat out wrong. The ability of a game to allow a character to evolve continually and dynamically in every respect of the character will simply be done by anchoring actions, activities, speech (to computer players at least) selection into a continually tracking system that constantly tabulates the points that each of these choices are worth in the evolutionary direction the player is taking the character. As this is done, the world and players will react differently to the player and the player will react differently to the world. Even the physical appearances will be evolving based on these choices. A character will grow more muscular as they increase their hard labor, or battle involvement choices. Counter to this, the character will lose muscle mass as they increase choices that are not involved in hard labor or battle involvement. In some games, the look of regrown broken bones and scar marks may emerge on characters, and contain memorable information about a point in time that such things were gained (creating a time-line connection between the player and the character, similar to the concept explored in Spore). Different material to wear, use, and own will cease and become available accordingly to these choices as well. A player may find certain groups of players, missions, or computer players attracted to them for one reason or another involving their continual choices (similarly seen in some respects in Star Wars Galaxies). On a smaller scale, even with in the example of a warrior form of character, the evolution of the character's choices in combat may push more options in training skills and weapon/armor choices that lead from a short sword over to a halberd. Again, completely based on choices that the character is making inside of the combat arena and mixed with all of the other choices as well. The character will literally form around the player's choice of playing style and evolve with any changes in the player's playing style over time. The world will dynamically interact with the player, and the player will look less like a player and more like a character. GAME (never) OVER The advent of highly efficient and well oiled MMORPG systems like World of Warcraft have succeeded in pushing the classical Netonian mechanics of MMORPG's to their fullest potentials. It is because of this and the demand by players for a more full exposure to a truly immersive environment that a pioneering in Metaphysical mechanics in MMORPG's will be the next explosion in the revolution of the genre. The day of this new intelligent and rapidly evolutionary reactional game is inevitably close. Look to the offline games and see for yourself tomorrows MMORPG's. And then step back and smile at the potential. The future, is wild.

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In terms of role playing I think that City of Heroes demonstrated that if you want to encourage role playing let the player dress up the way they want. The only problem is that people also like the status symbol that certain items come with, plus offering rewards is a major part of MMORPG design.

So I think that eventually games will have a COH type system in terms of control over the player’s look but the player will have to unlock new costume choices over time.

A designer can only do so much to create an environment for RPing because one of the most important parts of RPing is that the player is being creative themselves. So IMO RPing should be thought of as opportunities for the player to express their creativity.

Another way to bring in RPing is to offer the players more freedom like they do in EVE. A game like WOW is so different from EVE that they are almost in a different genre IMO.

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I agree that player variety choice is definitely important; as they are consumers and just look at the variety of options with something as simple as an ipod or cellphone skin.

This said, however, variety alone won't pull out character role play from all players; just players that wish to role play and enjoy the variety.

The difference of the newer generation of games, described above, is that the desire of the player will mold and shape the external surface of the character, in part, as well as change the manner in which the world reacts to the player.

Simply put...if you really like just killing everyone, then some computer intelligences may very well run away from your character because well...you "look" scary as hell.
(on the back end, the system contains a database history that "remembers" that your character has many, many continuous unprovoked killings)

Or you would see that you have spent considerable amounts of efforts helping people stay alive, perhaps in a spiritual character architype of sorts, and begin to see another dimension over time that others simply do not see, as well, your body would slowly take on affects consistent with that type of character pursuit.

It means that your character is always adjusting...you are not in a fixed form and that's it.

Your character changes based on what you do, and not what you select from a list.

If you want a mean looking killer character, then take the actions of one and your character will develop more in that concept.

Equally, the statistical concepts follow suit, such as abilities, grouping options, clothing, armor, weapons, skills, attributes, etc...

These all fluctuate over time as a result of your choices of interaction, as well as your spending of points selectively.

This doesn't mean that you won't have the usual control systems you are used to (character appearance, character archetype, character race, etc... at character creation).
It simply means that if you pick...let's say... a race reputed for being violent and big and you end up deciding you really like helping people out and being a softy, that the character will shift appearance, skill options, attribute options, clothing/armor/item options, according to your actions and progressively make the character into a more "nice" and passive version of that race...sometimes...even the most "nice" version will still intimidate some others...let's face it, not all races look kind no matter how hard some may try.

The opposite is also possible, and all areas in between.

It's somewhat inevitable considering how game database intelligence is moving in the offline arena, that similar functions will start to occur in the online arena.

Many may not even think of it as role playing since it's just choosing to do the things you like to do with that character.


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This actually isn't how to make MMORPG's better; let me be clear on that right now.
This is a forecast of what will happen in MMORPG's.

MMORPG's will still have all of the faults and successes as they always have.
This is just the next avenue that will be approached.

This is determined by examining what players are demanding (immersion), and by what offline games are doing (examples: Fable, Spore, the latest installment of Civilization).

Character growth in an evolutionary environment is quite naturally the next step, just as three dimensions was naturally the next step after two dimensions.

Offline games are essentially a controlled petri dish from which you can imagine that once the success rate of that testing environment reaches a respectable threshold that one can expect to see the application surface in the "real" world (online).

Evolutionary systems are in their last stages of testing, thanks to pioneering by folks such as Peter Molyneux, William Wright, and Sid Meier (to name the three biggest names). At this point, the concept is showing evidence of marketability with reasonable production cost.
As such, a little more time and refinement and it will catch the production eye of the MMORPG's highly volatile development that has largely adopted reliability as a standard of determining developmental direction and risk.


(btw...that link didn't load up any posting; just the site with an unfilled content body)

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You can't make everyone RP. It just isn't what they want.

Plus forcing anything like you are suggesting is not what the actual RPers want.

You are basically trying to make a story for these people when RPing is actually about the players choosing to make stories themselves.

Freedom is the key to RPing and your method is far to contrived and forced.

I have actually considered similar ideas myself but after actually talking to players and seeing where RPing tends to happen I have come to the conclusions I have.

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First, I want reclarify that I'm not suggesting this as something that should or should not be done, but instead suggesting that this will be the next development direction in MMORPG's.

Second, I have to disagree on the premise that the above described does not actually force a player into anything.
Instead, the player forces the game into what they want.

Meaning, if you want to do something then go ahead and do it.
The more of that you do, the more the game will tailor around your actions.

It's not exactly or strictly role playing, but instead character driven.
By that I mean the character of your playing style, not necessarily character in the sense of a role.

For those players that enjoy role playing, doing so will be enjoyed through this medium more robustly than previously.
For those players that do not enjoy role playing, then they will simply see the system reacting to their actions statistically as it does now, only in a more advanced format that conforms to their playing style.

I'm sure some of the games will take the concepts of evolutionary environment in the wrong direction and practically force players into positions that they do not enjoy, but I see that today as well, so I don't see this error margin impacting the progression of this advent much more than it already does today.

Again, as outlined above, these evolutionary environment MMORPG's won't set out to force players into a given play style, but instead will force the system to adapt dynamically to the players playing style.

As stated above; shifting the focus from bouncing the player off of the world, and instead bouncing the world off of the player.

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Re: Griffin_Kemp

Hi, when I read your first post, I couldn't understand your point. So I cannot only comment on the part that I understand, although I understand that your might originally want to talk about somethine slightly different.

I think you could describe that as "Forced correlation between player's play style and the appearance of the character."

When you say it like this, it becomes obvious why there are people who will oppose it: "Do you mean that I can't be a healer and choose to be ugly at the same time? Why doesn't the game let me role-play a high level healer that is kind but with an ugly and scary face?"

And your standard answer could be, "I am just presenting a trend. It doesn't represent what all player would what. But it follows the observation that features first started in single player RPG continues to exist in MMORPG. And this is one of those trends."


The role of games in providing experience leverage

Imagine the set of experience that a player could get from a game. The set of experience comes from a few sources:

o intellectual/cognitive (where the player need to pay attention and shoot stuff or to solve problems)
o thematic/visual (where the player gets to dress like a zombie)
o physiological (where the player gets to get scared)
o social (where the player gets to win and earn badges to impress or to get a reputation)
o perspective (where the player gets to do something correct)
o progressive (where the player gets to do something that has a use to the world)

When you provide a role for the player, the player plays it because the player wants an experience from one of the sources. These sources are the attraction forces of the roles, and a player chooses to play the game because the game provides a better leverage in reaching the experience than the alternative activities that the player could do (in real life or through another game).

When you design a game, you make a decision to separate the sources that the player could readily draw, and those that require effort to reach. This depends on the player group, and also the presentation of the game.

The trend that you described would fit under the force of perspective. In terms of perspective, you observed a growth in an expectation that "one's appearance should reflect what one does." Since this expectation is not always met in real life, there exists players that play this kind of game because the game satisfies this expectation.

[Edited by - Wai on May 30, 2009 9:19:57 PM]

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Quote:
This is a forecast of what will happen in MMORPG's.

I didn't know you could predict the future.

Quote:
MMORPG's will still have all of the faults and successes as they always have.
This is just the next avenue that will be approached.

This is determined by examining what players are demanding (immersion), and by what offline games are doing (examples: Fable, Spore, the latest installment of Civilization).

Character growth in an evolutionary environment is quite naturally the next step, just as three dimensions was naturally the next step after two dimensions.

That is only just your opinion.

What I exposed is much more needed and actually useful than character growth and customization, which is mostly Spore-like eye-candy, in my opinion.

Also, people often do not realize what it is they want, and companies don't necessarily implement what people want or don't feel they want.

Quote:
You can't make everyone RP. It just isn't what they want.

That's because they think, and rightly so, that roleplaying in MMORPGs is simply ridiculous crap, that it's people trying to speak lyrically between themselves and make fake duels.
But in an actual single-player RPG, you really roleplay. You have a role in the world, a position, which you can change, you have a goal, you can interact meaningfully with people etc.
It's *that* kind of replaying MMORPGs need. And I can assure you even people that hate and despise roleplay as it is now want it.

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Wow, that's a long post.. Since I bothered to read it and lost what felt like a day of my life I might as well comment on it.

The post felt a bit abstract at some points.. but if I understand you correctly, you're preaching that MMOs of the future will be getting more real-life-like, where you at any given time has a WIDE range of choices (many more than in todays MMOs) that will affect your characters social and professional properties? That can probably be done, but here's the real question: Is it going to be fun to play?

If someone wants to create a huge world where the players can interact with eachother, the environment, and do just about anything, then by all means go ahead and give it a shot. Second Life and Project Entropia did, and I don't see anything wrong about that. However, I wouldn't be calling that a game. I would call it "yet another attempt at simulating reality".

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