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Can MMO games be the future of 4x space strategy?

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Normally when we think of a typical space strategy game we imagine it to be PC turn-based single player, especially if we're talking about 4x games. What if this is about to change? I decided to write this post to share with you my experiences playing space and non-space Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, check out my blog post here: Can MMO games be the future of 4x space strategy? It would be very interesting to get feedback from you guys, the space (and also the non-space) gaming community. Do you play MMO games? If so which ones do you currently play (or played), and which of these do you recommend to other gamers and why? Ultimately it would be very interesting to discuss here your opinion on if MMO games could be the new paradigm for 4x space strategy. Please post your comments here, or in the blog post above if you prefer. Cheers Adam Solo

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These games have been around since pretty much forever, before the Internet was cool and all that.

They are in the same position to single player 4X games than what MMORPGs are to single player RPGs. They share many similar elements, like territory control, ressource acquisision and army management, but they lack an end. New players must be able to jump in at any time. This causes design choices which makes the experience less powerful than the single player version.

I've played one game which had a closed universe with no new players allowed once it started(I forgot the name). This was a true MMO4X experience and was a blast to play. However, you pretty much had to have no life because the game was running in real time 24/7. You could lose the game if you decided to go get drunk one night because you were not there to give orders.

That's why there are still single player 4X games being made and the MMO wave will not make them obsolete.

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I saw a similar thing, the name of which I also can't remember because I didn't play it, where the game would restart every couple weeks or so with some changes and improvements, but instead of running 24/7 you could only issue commands every, say, 8 hours, so there was a manageable schedule you could plan your days around instead of devoting yourself completely to the game. There was some economy to it, so really if you stayed on constantly you would have an edge, but reasonably anybody could play and do well and still have a life.

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I think there is a lot of room in the MMO market for strategy components, especially in a space setting.

Some major design decisions.

Is the game open ended like WOW or does it have an end like Travian?

Is the game PVE centric like WOW or is it primarily PVP based like Travian?

Is there going to be stratification amongst the player base?

Personally if I was making a game like this I would make it open ended with a PVE starting game and a PVP/PVE end game. I would try to limit stratification amongst the player base and would try and find some way that really encourages players to work together.

I would suggest you check out ATITD.

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Warning: Snob Alert

I sure as hell hope not. 4X's are one of my favorite genres and I've been playing them since before Civilization was new. I've got no problem with multiplayer gaming and in fact really enjoy co-op versus the AI but the requirement for persistence and the inability to pick who you play with are real barriers for me. The need to do make-work for the sake of extending a player's subscription is probably the biggest reason I'd be against this sort of future-- an MMO 4X game like Evony, for instance, does the research, building and fighting in real time so that it might take almost a real week to accomplish what you could in a couple of hours in Civ (medicine might take 72 hours to research at a certain level, troops might take 18 hours to build, etc. etc.). To me this isn't gameplay, it's waitplay in the service of filling some company's coffers.

Also mentioned is the time commitment. I can play Civ or Master of Orion over a couple of weeks, a little at a time, and have a very enjoyable experience. MMOs seem to cater to those who have an abundance of free time, and not surprisingly this seems to be the young-- an age group whose sportsmanship skills are often lacking. So while you might find many players who are both young and good sports, this isn't going to be the majority of people you find online. I think this fact alone would dumb down the genre (Civilization: Revolutions and the console market being a parallel example) and make me not want to play.

Oh, yeah, and back in my day we conquered the galaxy with sublight engines and asteroid bombardment AND we walked 5 miles uphill to school-- in the snow-- both ways...

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Most of these games have the depth of the average Flash game - they just hide it by taking forever to do the simplest things. If you could play one at 50x speed (or whatever...) you wouldn't.

With unending games, the game is guaranteed to degenerate. Either the best player balloons into an unstoppable juggernaut and the game has de facto ended, or negative feedback keeps even the best player from growing appreciably stronger than anyone else, in which case the game is an insanely boring treadmill. Worse, in the latter case the superior strategy for everyone is quite likely to belong to the largest alliance in the game - since any individual can't grow, the only way forward is to get more individuals, and so on. The amount of boredom this kind of system generates has to be experienced to be believed.

If the game ends but you have thousands of people in the same universe, then at any time except directly after reset the majority of players are likely to be dead in the water, stand no chance of winning, and logically will quit until some game reset in the future - or for good.

OTOH if there are only a small amount of people in any one universe, it's no longer a MMO but a regular 4X with matchmaking.

I think the only way this "MMO strategy" would work is intensive concurrent games with variable timings. For instance, you could have a game that is played one hour or two hours a day every day at a given time, or you could have a weekend game that starts at Saturday morning and runs non-stop with 15min breathers every two hours. Everyone who got wiped out or quit for any reason could almost immediately join another, concurrently running game instance which is just starting up, while the top players left in the old game would keep slugging it out until someone wins. It would also be pretty easy to add flexibility to the schedule by allowing people to "sit out" invulnerably some length of time.

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I remember playing a "massively" multiplayer online game back in the old BBS days called Galactic Empires. By "massive" I mean it probably supported a few dozen players online at a time (or however many modems the server had) and a total population in the few hundreds. But it was massive by the standard that the next largest game available to us supported two players if you could fit two chairs next to the keyboard.

You piloted a ship and conquered planets and fought duels. It did suffer from the problem that planets produced resources and defenses were hard to overcome, so after an initial landgrab, the strategic part of the stagnated. There was still fun to be had flying around fighting other players, and before the Internet was accessible to the unwashed masses, this was fabulously cool.

I have since wondered whether it is possible to design an MMO persistent strategy game such that it doesn't naturally trend toward run-away imbalance where all resources quickly begin to gravitate to a handful of particularly obsessive players, giving them an unstoppable advantage.

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Quote:
Original post by Stroppy Katamari


With unending games, the game is guaranteed to degenerate. Either the best player balloons into an unstoppable juggernaut and the game has de facto ended, or negative feedback keeps even the best player from growing appreciably stronger than anyone else,...



WOW is open ended basically and it is plenty popular.

EVE is another game that is open ended and has a different solution than WOW to the continual build up of resources. They also have solutions to players getting too powerful.

I think an unending game is perfectly possible, it just has to be created in a way that makes sense.

I think with 4x Strategy games the best way to go is treat advancement like a deck of cards with a built in counter system. As the player advances their deck expands but when they play a game(fight) they are limited to the number of cards they bring to the game.

If the setting of the game is space there can also be large limitations placed on location like with EVE.

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Quote:
Original post by Stangler
Quote:
Original post by Stroppy Katamari


With unending games, the game is guaranteed to degenerate. Either the best player balloons into an unstoppable juggernaut and the game has de facto ended, or negative feedback keeps even the best player from growing appreciably stronger than anyone else,...



WOW is open ended basically and it is plenty popular.

EVE is another game that is open ended and has a different solution than WOW to the continual build up of resources. They also have solutions to players getting too powerful.


I don't know about EVE so much but wouldn't one major difference between a 4X MMO and an RPG MMO be in the area of how people gain power? It seems to me that you'd have to gain power in a 4X MMO at the expense of other players whereas in an RPG this wouldn't happen as much (I don't know, I'm not an MMO fan and I don't play PvP RPGs, so maybe it is the same).

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There are two ways to go imo, the WOW way or the EVE way.

If you are going to build off WOW then you need an in depth PVE game as a major source of resources with some PVP on the side.

If you are going to build off of EVE then you are going to replace mining and ship building with city building and ship building. The advanced player can be countered by low cost PVP counters.

There can also be a meta game like that is found in EVE but the resources feeding that meta game are derived through a different type of gameplay.

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