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Emotionless MMO's?

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Greetings, I have been working for a couple years now on the design of an MMO project, and though I now have a very firm grip on what I want in terms of classes/factions/backstory/mechanics I still have a large hurdle that I can't seem to overcome. Nor have I seen any other MMO's successfully handle this issue either, and after much thought it seems to be simply due to the nature of the current design mindset. The problem I am referring to is the seeming inability of games in the MMO genre to emotionally connect to the player. While it is possible to connect to other players within the game itself, the actual game itself seems singularly incapable of having a deep emotional impact on the players. I say this as someone who has always been an exploration/story type game player, who read every single quest text in every game I've ever played (starting with meridian, and including almost every major MMO made). I have listened to songs, seen paintings, read books, watched movies, and even played single player video games where I have had strong emotional reactions of fear/anger/sadness/joy/relief/happiness etc. But I honestly cannot think of a single moment in an MMO where a quest or event or anything of that nature has illicited an emotional response of any measure from me. Some of these quests and encounters are very well written, and I get the feeling that if I were to encounter these stories in another setting I might very well have been impacted. But for some reason I find that something about the nature of the MMO genre, a game genre supposedly built around the idea of strongly identifying with your character and immersing yourself in another world, prohibits this kind of strong reaction. I have many of my own ideas as to why this is the case, but in an effort to not color the discussion too much with my own opinions and see the uninfluenced ideas of others I would very much like to know if any of you have had the same experience with the genre. And if so, why you feel the genre fails to interact with us as deeply as others, and what could be done to solve this (in my mind) pivotal but seemingly hidden problem.

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I think the main hurdle is trying to include story based gameplay without it feeling tacked on top of a multi-user gaming experience. Another issue is killing off actual player characters (would you want to play a game where your character could die for good? I think it would get you emotional, but it would be the wrong emotion).

I can't think of a good way to interactively provide narration into an MMO. If you change some part of the world, what does that mean for players who haven't reached that point? Can you still play with them? Will more advanced players ruin the story? If you kill off NPCs, would anyone care? If they were important (i.e. AI party members), then maybe, but it would be pretty scripted.

The more narration added to the game, the more difficult it will be to ensure it is told in order as much as possible and that it makes sense if different users play the game different ways. Also, is it confusing for players who repeat objectives? If something important happens (i.e. someone dies) does it make sense that it can happen again?

I think emotion and connection to story will be part of MMOs' evolution, but I don't think it's the most important step right now.

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I have had some moments in MMOs where I felt very emotionally immersed in the game. They were usually when the graphics and music of the game combined to make the world seem very real, whether that meant scary, or beautiful, or lonely, or hot/cold/wet, whatever. I'm not a big fan of WoW but I thought this was one thing it did very well - I haven't played that game in a year but several of the locations are still clear in my head.

When I do have difficulty taking an MMO seriously I think the problem is often that the world makes no sense - internally inconsistent, lack of cultural development, rigid character classes, absurd motives/psychology of both cultures and individuals, lack of sex, romance, and families for players, lack of much gameplay besides combat and very mechanical gathering/crafting.

I'm in favor of adding dating sim and faction-relationship building elements to MMOs to increase their emotional involvement. It would also be good to design a game so that the player sees the same NPCs many times (and they say different things) rather than having thousands of throwaway NPCs or NPCs which say the same 2 sentences forever. Replacing mechanical/grindy crafting systems with good minigames, perhaps also adding pet-training minigames or farming minigames ala Harvest Moon, adding more interactability/puzzle-like mechanics to the world, making classes a descriptive result of the player's in-game actions rather than a permanent pre-game choice, and making clothing a personal choice rather than linked to stats, would help too. Basically, develop the idea of "MMO as opportunity for the player to enter a novel and be the main character."

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I am not trying to plug my own threads, but the discussion that took place in this thread might be of interest for what you are considering:
http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=536424

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MMORPGs are about attainment first and foremost. That is a major reason people are not going to get that emotionally attached to a story. What they are emotionally attached to is the pat on the back at a job well done.

MMORPGs work because they make the player feel like they have accomplished something and when put in a social setting it makes them feel good.

If you want to encourage additional emotional attachment then encourage individuality as well as patting them on the back.

You can use loss to create emotion in the character but that works against the "pat on the back" approach. Such an approach works with some players but it is a much smaller segment of the MMO playing population and leads to burnout faster.

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There are several reasons why there is no emotional connection. One thing is that the games/movies/etc that elicited an emotional response were story lead, meaning that we were lead by the hand through the story. In MMO's part of the appeal is that you are creating your own story. Well, it is really hard to get emotional about your own story.
The other thing is that the vast majority of the characters are everyday people. They aren't the perfect villain or hero, they are just people. Some you find annoying, some you like, but most will not create a strong emotion and even if they do, it only detracts from whatever world the authors of the game tried to create.
Another thing is that MMO's do not provide a background story or any kind of motivation for your character. The motivation and story of your character is whatever you make it to be. It is like trying to illicit an emotional response from yourself. I know that sounds a lot like my first point.
Probably another big reason is that an MMO story is not designed to end...ever. It is designed to drag on forever. Any good story has an introduction, conflict, climax, resolution, etc. An MMO story is like a telling of the events of the day. It usually has none of the elements of a story, instead it is just a series of events strung together which have no beginning and no end.

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Original post by Stangler
MMORPGs are about attainment first and foremost. That is a major reason people are not going to get that emotionally attached to a story. What they are emotionally attached to is the pat on the back at a job well done.

MMORPGs work because they make the player feel like they have accomplished something and when put in a social setting it makes them feel good.

If you want to encourage additional emotional attachment then encourage individuality as well as patting them on the back.

You can use loss to create emotion in the character but that works against the "pat on the back" approach. Such an approach works with some players but it is a much smaller segment of the MMO playing population and leads to burnout faster.


I disagree with attainment blocking emotionality. Consider a romance novel: the typical romance novel is a wish fulfillment fantasy where a woman obtains a good mate, sometime also a child or wealth or a title or her dream job or the freedom from needing to have a job. Yet, romance novels are one of the most emotionally powerful genres there is.

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Original post by landagen
The other thing is that the vast majority of the characters are everyday people. They aren't the perfect villain or hero, they are just people. Some you find annoying, some you like, but most will not create a strong emotion and even if they do, it only detracts from whatever world the authors of the game tried to create.

I interpret that as the problem being that the authors aren't trying to make the player strongly like and hate characters. Why haven't game developers in general tried to create popular characters audiences want to see more of an buy merchandise featuring, the way almost every other medium of entertainment has? This fits in with my point about an MMO benefiting from having a few recurrent characters rather than many throwaway ones.

Quote:
Another thing is that MMO's do not provide a background story or any kind of motivation for your character. The motivation and story of your character is whatever you make it to be. It is like trying to illicit an emotional response from yourself. I know that sounds a lot like my first point.

Games can and should provide more structure aimed at helping the player construct their own story in an interactive way. Characters could start at a point where the character's background would logically be a blank slate (like they are a newly-hatched creature or a human from modern earth suddenly transported to a different world where their earthly life is irrelevant.) Or, the game could give the player a few choices about what their character's background was like, then work these into the game using dialogue with blanks filled in from these choices, or generate some footage of a child version of the character illustrating the choices and use that footage for flashbacks and/or dreams.

Even more importantly, an interactive MMO could subtly ask what the player's motivations where at various points and then the game could build on that information and feed it back to the player, which would add replayability and make the game feel personalized.

But, I disagree that people don't get emotionally involved in their own stories. Writers get deeply emotionally involved in what they are writing, as do people playing with Sims. Games just don't generally facilitate this kind of play, and often accidentally obstruct it.

[qoute]Probably another big reason is that an MMO story is not designed to end...ever. It is designed to drag on forever. Any good story has an introduction, conflict, climax, resolution, etc. An MMO story is like a telling of the events of the day. It usually has none of the elements of a story, instead it is just a series of events strung together which have no beginning and no end.[/quote]
Absolutely a problem. It would make more sense to build an MMO out of lots of optional, smaller plots, through which the player was led more or less by the hand (maybe the story would branch at a key point due to a dialogue choice by the player). Each of these small plots would have a clear and personally meaningful ending where the character obtained some kind of wish-fulfillment thing, which could be anything from an NPC falling in love with the PC to the PC gaining a pair of wings or other appearance customization, to the PC gaining a social rank within the game world.

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Original post by sunandshadow
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Original post by Stangler
MMORPGs are about attainment first and foremost. That is a major reason people are not going to get that emotionally attached to a story. What they are emotionally attached to is the pat on the back at a job well done.

MMORPGs work because they make the player feel like they have accomplished something and when put in a social setting it makes them feel good.

If you want to encourage additional emotional attachment then encourage individuality as well as patting them on the back.

You can use loss to create emotion in the character but that works against the "pat on the back" approach. Such an approach works with some players but it is a much smaller segment of the MMO playing population and leads to burnout faster.


I disagree with attainment blocking emotionality. Consider a romance novel: the typical romance novel is a wish fulfillment fantasy where a woman obtains a good mate, sometime also a child or wealth or a title or her dream job or the freedom from needing to have a job. Yet, romance novels are one of the most emotionally powerful genres there is.



A spouse would just be another thing to get in an MMORPG.

Ohh you completed quest X, here is your spouse. Grats!

Ohh you killed a dragon and have a dragon head as a trophy! Grats to that too.

The canned story made by the devs doesn't matter that much. What could really get the player are the two things I talked about before. Individuality and loss.

Loss is straight forward, threaten to take that spouse away and you have an angle or an emotional hook.

Individuality in an MMORPG setting is harder to come by because in the end the spouse is just some programmed part of the game. If the player is allowed to express their own individuality enough that they build an attachment to their character or their spouse or whatever they will be more emotionally attached to it.

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Some interesting feedback so far, some of which agrees with thoughts I've been having. Attainment being one, but the problem with that is not the Attainment itself, but I believe it to be that the short-term attainments of completing a quest or something of that nature seem so weak in comparison to most people's desire to simply reach the end of level grinding so they have their player at maximum. I think perhaps if something is added that makes players focus more on the journey instead of the final destination they wouldn't ignore so many of the early quests.

Another problem that I believe contributes to the ease with which players seem to move through quests that should and could be powerful with no emotional attachment is the ADD factor. Too many quests at once basically. In most games you grab 5-15+ quests from your major quest hub, then go out into the world to finish off as many as you can to get those xp bumps and quest rewards, then go back to grab more. Is it possible that giving LESS quests at once, but perhaps the same amount of quests overall would lead to the player being able to focus more on the actual story of each individual quest. Instead of just finishing one off and just moving to the next area to do the other without actually taking the time to consider the emotional impact of the first?

Also, I think part of the issue could perhaps be the feeling of not being able to permanently impact the world around you is an issue, and one of the major thing that MMO developers struggle with. Phased zones ala WoW's WOTLK expansion are a step in an interesting direction, but in a way weakens the players experience because you simply cannot group with other players for quests if you're on different steps of the quest.

Is it perhaps that so much of the interaction with NPC's is simply either they give you a job to do, or you are killing them. There really is not much other chance for interaction, especially with the enemy. Perhaps dragging out encounters with enemy mobs, which could force you to interact with them, but maybe increasing the rewards for each interaction accordingly so leveling time doesn't increase, could be a step towards removing the feeling of breezing through the world to get to the end that most players have.

I'm just kind of throwing out a few of my ideas of what could be done, not neccesarily how it could be done, but I'd be curious to know what you think could be the impact of each of these possibly solutions: Making players while leveling not have such a long-term view of attainment, getting rid of quest overload and making players able to focus on one storyline at a time, allowing players more interaction with NPCs, perhaps grouping with them in a "squad" type setting, as well as much deeper interaction with "enemies" besides simply shooting spells/bullets/etc. at them.

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Original post by Ultenth
Some interesting feedback so far, some of which agrees with thoughts I've been having. Attainment being one, but the problem with that is not the Attainment itself, but I believe it to be that the short-term attainments of completing a quest or something of that nature seem so weak in comparison to most people's desire to simply reach the end of level grinding so they have their player at maximum. I think perhaps if something is added that makes players focus more on the journey instead of the final destination they wouldn't ignore so many of the early quests.



Max level is simply a long term goal. The game basically sets a bar for the player to jump over and they know they can jump over it, they just need the time. Along that journey they are encouraged with other minor victories. This creates a stream of positive feedback from the game to the player that the player enjoys and becomes emotionally attached to.

When that goal is out there the focus of the player is on that goal and not story. Especially if that story is just something that the devs made.

Emotional attachment to story is possible but like I already said it really starts with the players feeling like it is their story AND it is ties into that stream of positive feedback.

MMORPGs are easily one of the most emotionally manipulative types of games. While it is far more subtle than other genres the feelings tend to run very deep.

The ability to change the world would be great and an obvious extention of how the player changes their avatar.

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So are you suggesting then that it's possible the problem with not emotionally attaching to current game is the opposite of what people seem to be suggesting? As in that it's perhaps too MUCH hand-holding and leading the player through the experience, which makes it harder for them to "create" their own story within our worlds? I still think that too much freedom in a game makes it so too high of a percentage of players simply become lost and confused as to what to do next, but I do agree that the strongest memories players create in the MMO genre are usually ones that they themselves build using the tools we give them. The problem then seems to be that we're either giving them too many or too few or simply the wrong kind of tools, which then goes back to my last post, and how those tools might be used.

But yes, I think the feeling of needing to reach the long-term goal of max level is too distracting for many players, and serves to distract them from the world you're trying to give them, but the question is how to get them to buy into the world you've created, and see that as just as important as the end game. I think one way to do so is perhaps moving to a more skill-based system, similar to SW:G, but then that runs into the issue of grinding for skill points, because you don't have a definite leveling path where you know the "con" of the mobs in comparison to your own power.

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No, I wouldn’t call attainment a distraction, it is the game. It not only drives the decisions of the players but it is why they play. People do not pay so much and play for so long for a story that they can get in another game. They play for the ding, whether they want to admit it or not.

Attainment is like the bones or the foundation in which everything else is built upon. Story is there to make the game more interesting.

You need “story” or the game will be boring. For example killing a dragon is better than killing some non specific sprite. That said if the sprite drops better loot than the dragon then players will be killing that sprite more than the dragon. Although they are likely to quit the game because sprites are such a lame thing to be fighting.

With all that said the player would love to own a castle, own a dragon, own an entire kingdom. There is really no limit to what the player would want to attain, the problem is when you have 3000+ players all wanting everything.

Of course players want to change the world but it is easier said than done as I am sure you know.

As for leveling, I think the future is in flexibility and flat progression. For example the Paladin class in WOW can be a tank, DPS, and healer. The Mage is really just DPS. So the end result of character development has to have that in mind because players will be playing for a long time and want flexibility. Plus they will need to get different items to be a tank, dps, and healer which will take them time which will result in them playing longer.

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I have an idea -

How about designing the MMO more like a single player experience?
For instance - instead of having a quest hub, make the game seek out the player in some way and make them pursue quests. Quests should also be generated so that no (-isch) two same players experience the same quest, unless invited by a quest-holder.

Shouldn't be too hard to do, just some random locations, random names, random villains and you're set.
The reward could be based on how long the quest takes to complete, how well the player does and what the outcome was. If the quest takes you, for instance, to assassinate a king - that king dies for the rest of the world as well. That in turn generates another set of quests i.e "find the heir" and so on..

That would make each quest longer and more meaningful, and in its true form - a quest.

If there's a great need for a quest hub, make it like a bulletin board - i.e if a quest is taken, it's gone from the board.
Players could also post their own "help wanted" a.k.a "join-this-quest" notes.

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Stangler - I do agree that flat leveling progression is a problem, which is why I'm leaning towards more of a skill-based system, similar to what SW:G used to have, but as I stated the major problem with that is simply the fact that the player often doesn't know where they should be leveling, and it's hard to make quests and storylines for players at varying level of powers depending on where they are skill-wise. Distinct 1-___ level ranges make it much easier to create content for specific levels of player progression, and allow you to guide them better so they don't feel they just need to randomly grind mobs (which of course gets boring).

And yes, attainment is important, but what I am suggesting is that perhaps there can be a method found that allows us to force the players to look more strongly at short-term attainment, and live more in the moment, instead of focusing so much on the end-goal of hitting max level or something of that nature.

Rasmadrak - While the idea has been discussed and desired many times over, no one has been able to come up with a reasonable method to do so that doesn't require billions of man hours of developer time creating content, or make new players feel like they missed out on all the cool stuff. The amount of time that it would take to develop a moving quest-chain system like you have suggested is so formidable that no developer has even attempted it, because even if you focused your entire team on that one objective you will still never be able to create enough content.

That is what concerns me about so-called story-focused games like Star Wars: TOR that are in development, no matter how fast you create content, players will always consume it faster than you can create it. There needs to be something viable and fulfilling for players to do once they finish the storylines you put into place. Which is why I don't want to exhaust too much time on building immersive stories, because eventually players will move past them, and then what? But I still want them to create powerful memories and feel strong emotions as they do create these stories using the tools I give them, which is why this discussion.

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Original post by Ultenth
Stangler - I do agree that flat leveling progression is a problem, which is why I'm leaning towards more of a skill-based system, similar to what SW:G used to have, but as I stated the major problem with that is simply the fact that the player often doesn't know where they should be leveling, and it's hard to make quests and storylines for players at varying level of powers depending on where they are skill-wise. Distinct 1-___ level ranges make it much easier to create content for specific levels of player progression, and allow you to guide them better so they don't feel they just need to randomly grind mobs (which of course gets boring).

And yes, attainment is important, but what I am suggesting is that perhaps there can be a method found that allows us to force the players to look more strongly at short-term attainment, and live more in the moment, instead of focusing so much on the end-goal of hitting max level or something of that nature.



I guess I wasn't clear.

Leveling is fine. Specifically for the reasons you stated with regard to creating content ranges.

When I say flat progression I mean that the character gains flexibility but not necessarily power. This tends to happen at max level. For example the WOW Paladin who has the best tank gear but just got a breastplate that will help the Paly be a better healer. As a tank the paly is the same.

Another example would be if you could pick 6 buffs out of 10 buffs. If you gain another buff so you have a total of 11 to choose from but can still only pick 6 you are progressing but it is a flat progression. (assuming the buffs are balanced)

A skill system versus a class/level system is not really as important as having a system that offers this kind of flexibility. The last thing you want to do is pigeon hole a player. The more they can do the better. The more they CAN do the more they WILL do, and the longer they will pay you to do it.

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Hi again,

I'm thinking more in the line of making the game create quests that doesn't require that much man-made components. For instance, Ysaneya and his team are developing a space-mmo game that relies on procedural techniques and is generating a playarea that one could never visit entierly in your lifetime. Now that may be overkill, but if that amount is possible surely a "simple" quest can be made as well?

Most current-quests rely on simple things such as,
A) find item X
B) bring item to SOME_DUDE
c) kill monster WHATS_HIS_NAME
d) etc...

The mission may change from "bring the mighty wizard some thunderleaves" to "bring me my lost amulet", but essentially they could easily be generated to be unique.
Player experience could also affect the generation of quests so that high-level players won't get bored by simply expanding the grandeur of the quest.

Diablo's weaponsystem works in a similar way, and no one that I know of have complained about their weapons.

Hopefully people won't be standing in line to kill the same monster with such a system.

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Eww at the mention of generated quests - those tend to be anything BUT meaningful and emotionally involving. -_-

It's pretty much an accepted fact that any player-leveling system is bad for roleplaying. Even outside of computer games, comparing dice-based and diceless RPGs immediately shows that players in the dice-based game are thinking about efficiency, profit, earning money and EXP, while players in the diceless game are thinking about emotions, psychology, socializing, possibly solving a mystery. A levelless MMO would also have the obvious benefit that any two people could play together, instead of both being restricted to level-appropriate areas and tasks. The only reason I didn't suggest removing levels from MMOs to improve them is without the level grind there is no motivation to repetitively kill tens of thousands of monsters, which is the core activity of current MMORPGs and the only reason one can play them for months.

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Original post by Stangler
MMORPGs are about attainment first and foremost.

So far...

This is not a new issue at all.
It's been around since RPG's began, and mostly, it is something that continues as an extension of quest-for-item-reward systems; which do happen to be the large base of systems in all formats of RPG's.

It's also the base for most point-A-to-point-B-based games, as at some point a power-up, level-up, item, etc... is granted for attaining some point in the game.
The difference is in linear and non-linear graphing of the level design.
MMORPG's level design is non-linear and optional; not mandatory.


This all said, not all RPG's out there work on this method.
The second (Vampire), fifth (Werewolf), and sixth (Shadowrun) most popular major RPGs do not use this method at all.(Source: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/wotcdemo.html)

You have ambitions, quests, and missions to go out and accomplish something, but your primary rewards in these systems are a handful of points (not much by comparison to other systems)to spend on building your character up some more, and to get some money to spend on items yourself.

So attainment is still there, but not in a direct method as seen in systems where items are the point of doing a quest directly.

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I interpret that as the problem being that the authors aren't trying to make the player strongly like and hate characters. Why haven't game developers in general tried to create popular characters audiences want to see more of an buy merchandise featuring, the way almost every other medium of entertainment has? This fits in with my point about an MMO benefiting from having a few recurrent characters rather than many throwaway ones.


I am not referring to NPC's. I am actually referring to other players. They themselves do not "stay in character". Bringing up real life stuff I think detracts from the story and the emotional bond.


A lot of people have suggested generating random quests, but if quests follow the same pattern that in themselves makes them boring. It is not the detail of the quest that makes it boring, it is the whole pattern.

Here is what I think should be done to help improve emotional connection:

1. Make quests more of a story than a task.
2. Have NPC's join your character on this story.
3. Along the way, introduce their characters personality
4. Have you interact with those characters by choosing dialogue (like in Final Fantasy games)
5. Have your choices dictate how the characters will react and thus treat you (ie some characters could fall in love with you, some could be jealous and stab you in the back, some could become evil and kill the girl you love, etc).

One issue would be the amount of content that would need to be created. Some of this may be able to be alleviated by making some of this formulaic but you would have to be careful to not make it too predictable. It must be convoluted enough to be unpredictable, but yet it must make sense to the player. This in itself will be a very difficult challenge.

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Interesting thoughts everyone, I appreciate the discussion. I apologize for misunderstanding your point Stangler, and that does make more sense. But to me it seems all the more reason to stray away from level based MMO's into skill based, because you can transition your character as you wish, and mix and match skills that you desire. One of the major obstacles to this type of character development is class balance, because many players will ALWAYS try to find the most powerful combination, so making sure that none are too weak or too strong is a constant struggle with this game design. The other problem is, as I stated earlier, designing content and making sure that players know where they can find the optimal places to go to progress their characters, so they don't feel lost or bored.

I personally think generated quests would never work, because they would always seem shallow and meaningless, and become just another grind to hit level cap with. In addition I think that in general developers seem to have become too enamored with quests as a way to alleviate the grind feeling, to the point that they have turned "quest grinding" into something very similarly repetative and mind-numbing. This leads to the quests blurring together and becoming muddled, with the "quest overload" that I discussed earlier. I think that if you were to create longer quests, and create them in a way that the player is only working on one quest chain at a time, it would allow them to more easily follow the narrative and give them a greater chance of having an emotional response. Give a player too many quests to do at once and the narratives blur, and any power they might have had becomes lost.

Emergent Gameplay is definitely something similar to what I am looking for, more specifically Emergent Narrative. But the problem of using that design in an MMO setting is the simple fact that you can't trust players to not ruin the experience for others (either purposefully or by accident), and if they do plan on having empty servers very quickly.

Another solution I am considering has to do with a pretty major shift in MMO thinking in both long term character progression as well as short term goals. I think in some ways it has a higher chance of success in the MMORPG/FPS setting such as I am working in, but it still has some major hurdles. I'm still working out a lot of the details, but as it seems people here are both helpful and insightful I may bounce the idea off this forum once I have it a bit more concrete.

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Emergent Gameplay is definitely something similar to what I am looking for, more specifically Emergent Narrative. But the problem of using that design in an MMO setting is the simple fact that you can't trust players to not ruin the experience for others (either purposefully or by accident), and if they do plan on having empty servers very quickly.

This isn't as large of an issue if, like the other thread discusses, the world reacts to the players.

I can't summarize the other discussion accurately, but in broad terms, the issue isn't about getting other players to react to players with more character, but getting the system to react to your character with more respect for how your character behaves.
This means the system has to keep track of what kinds of choices your character makes (meaning, choices you as a player make with that character) and that the system (NPC's, Quest options, market/shop options, mob reactions, skill/attribute options, etc...) reacts to your character differently than another character that has made other choices.

This means, as I did say in the other thread, that the system bounces off of the player, rather than the player bouncing off of the system.

In so doing, the players feel a connection with the system because it appears to recognize their character as an entity and not just a thing that they deliver content to the same way as they do to any other entity.

In short, tailored customer experience rather than universal customer experience; responding to your customer's actions rather than giving them a cookie-cutter product regardless of what they do.

That will achieve a more "emotional" contact with the MMORPG system by players.

Whether or not they will play more "in-character" by chat form is not really an issue (since you can't really get everyone to enjoy this).
It's whether or not they start thinking about how to get things done based on what they know the world will do in reaction to their character...to think from their character's options and not their options as a player.

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The main problem I see with that approach is that depending on how it is executed you can either end up with players changing the world too much for other players, and the players that didn't get to experience something because of another player are frustrated and disappointed. The alternative is to wall every player off with phased areas and mobs so they each have a "unique" experience without missing out on things they wanted to do because of another player, but at that point why even bother to make it an MMO?

A good example of this kind of design gone wrong would be Waking the Sleeper in EQ1, which on many servers caused horrible drama and tons of players being extremely upset, many of whom eventually quit. It was a great experience for the few hundred or so players that got to experience the event, but they irrecovably altered the world in a negative way for everyone else.

I think that the only way this works is if you create your world in such a way that everything is in constant flux (whether between multiple factions, or between players and a seperate NPC force), and so if you play long enough you'll eventually be able to see everything you want to see. At which point the "lore" the players create becomes more important to whatever backstory and storyline developers try to create. And I say that could possibly be a very very good thing.

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I think quests can be reworked a bit so that players are encouraged to explore instead of just going to the hub, picking up all the quests they can, and then looking at their quest helper add-on so they know where to go.

Instead the player should be able to explore and get quests as they explore. So if there is a quest to kill bandits the bandit will drop an item that starts a quest. The player can still hand the quest in at some NPC in town.

There can also be at least two types of quests. If you want players to enjoy some story then create a clear line between quests and missions where quests are epic and missions are the run of the mill stories that players stop reading after a bit.

I think that it would be good to have dynamic NPC enemies that will go away or be replaced over time if they are beaten up a lot. So a server can destroy an encampment of orcs but eventually those orcs will be replaced by some other enemy.

There can be an ebb and flow of NPC spawning that reflects what the players are doing. If this is the case there would need to be a quest system that also adjusts to the changes in the NPCs.

Another advantage to starting quests with the NPC enemy is that it allows you to create a more dynamic PVE environment that includes quests in a relatively efficient manner since the NPCs in town do not have to start different quests based on what NPC enemies are out there. Instead they just collect all quests at all times.

[Edited by - Stangler on June 10, 2009 9:50:16 AM]

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