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[MORPG] you get what you pay for... and some more

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Just an idea that I have been thinking about for a while. Actually, I was first thinking of making rather a chat room that would simply be based around a world. That is, you''d be roaming around in some environment just like in a MMORPG, but the only activity would be chatting... ...then I thought some more, and I came to this : Consider the current games around, you have to pay to play, right? What if you would offer to players an alternative : you play for cheap (or something really cheap compared to the "normal" price), but your character is only an NPC. It doesn''t evolve, doesn''t get to play an adventurer type character (in my conception, this could be done because the characters activity would be determined by their skills. Restrict the skills you can choose and you restrict the jobs that can be done), but it can chat, and that my friends is where the idea (IMHO) kicks ass. Because as long as people can chat, you can have a community growing. You can have a *player base*. Quid of the player killers ? Who cares, it can''t be as bad as all the stuff that can happen when you''re on IRC ! If one of those NPC players dies, it can simply create another character in a few clicks (or why not the same ...) The PK wouldnt get any experience from that, and it would get a really bad reputation. Additionally, those NPC characters can convey your plot. Most plots only need NPC that talk... you could reward your best "plot drivers" NPC players by offering them more skills that they could use in a more "PC" way... for instance they could become doctor, or merchant, or bartender, innkeeper, farmer, townguard, all those boring jobs that no self respecting hero would ever want, but that our chatty people would be more than happy to fulfill... after all, it''s better to have a NPC bartender not serve his clients ''cause he is busy chatting away with his barmaid, than having a boring AI driven bartender... mmmh ? Now. I jsut hope that no one read that thread so that I''ll be the first to officially implement such a cool idea ACtually, I am pretty sure that no one will use it... because it involve something that no self respecting multi billion dollar corporation can ever imagine : letting *some* people play for free ... muhahahahahaha (evil laughter), they''ll never thin of it !
Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

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Good to see you posting again, man!

The idea could potentially add a lot of atmosphere if folks get on just to chat. There''s definitely an audience out there that could go for a graphical IRC.

The only problem I think the idea might have is the static nature of the game world. If players are NPCs and seemingly disconnected from making a "physical" impact on the game world, do they have an incentive to keep playing. I know that for some of the IRC RPGs I''ve seen stats and records are kept so that people will know the changes in the universe. Those that have referee systems seem to me to be the closest to what you''d need for a completely automated system. Otherwise I''d think the user experience would be very emphemeral, wouldn''t it?

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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Furcadia is basically a graphical chat room. I logged on for all of one hour before logging off and deleting it, because it bored me to death. But for socializers who get off on endless rambling, this kind of thing sells (especially when it's free).

Still, there are a lot of pretty immature socializers out there starving for attention, and they will be easily as annoying as PKers. You need some discretion in choosing your NPC staff, or nobody will ever talk to them, and they'll quit, leaving only PC's (which is what you'd have anyway). And people who do an extremely good job playing the NPC will want to be paid for it.

I'm not sure this idea has any practical application.

Edited by - Tom on August 7, 2001 8:36:15 PM

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I like the idea.

Some random brainstroming, you''ve been warned:

Perhaps another way to look at it would be that the "payers" would be a hero caste, the mighty barbarians, noble paladins, powerful sorcerors, etc. They would be the ones off slaying dragons etc.

[bold]But[/bold] you could let the more ambitious talkers have their own schemes. Let them grow wealthy if they wish, or be content with baking bread and talking to their customers if that is their wish. They could be travelling merchants, shopkeepers, petty thieves, or accompany a group of "payers" (minstrels, inescapable pests, etc). Wouldn''t be able to hold their own in a fight, but anyone who has enough money could always hire a sword or two. When one of these characters dies, make them start over as a new character - which would hopefully provide some balance for the payers vs. talkers setup - ambitious talkers would have a more difficult time rebuilding, while a payer could just pick up a sword and begin adventuring again.

It might be enough that they could generate their own stories, with merchants hiring mercenaries for protection, perhaps a rival merchant hiring his/her own set of mercenaries to ambush the caravan...

-pwd

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Why dont you give the NPC players a reward for being a good NPC. If they get enough points by doing "good", un-annoying things give them a big discount on the pay-to-play portion of the game. This will give the player an incentive to be good NPC players.

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wow, a lot of misinterpretation here, it seems. Wouldn''t surprise me, though; it seems my english is never as good as I would believe, when I need it... anyway

Wavinator ( and all, actually ) :
Yes, I have been looking at your good ideas, as usual, but I''ve haven''t had a lot of motivation recently :/
My idea is not to add graphics and whatnot to IRC... I was just taking IRC as an example of environment where people are ready to spend days and nights, invest effort, and most of the time for nothing. You get channels for people that share common interests, channels for horny geeks, or worse, horny newbies, you get lots of condescending lUnIx users, etc
Now imagine that you take all those people that have some sort of interest towards fantasy, roleplaying, storytelling, etc. And you offer them to come and play your MMORPG.

Now... that''s where the trick is :
Those who want to play as a hero (slaying dragons, rescuing damzels, retrieving whatever artifact ... you get the idea) would pay the full price.
They could create any type of character, including those accesible to non-paying players; They could get XP (some system to increase their skills, reputation, and general status as a hero); they basically would have access to the full product.

Now you would have another population of people who wanna know what the heck all this is about. Let''s call them Observers.
They would be your chatroom guys.
Now you have to consider the fact that in a chatroom, you are a name in a list, and you can teleport anywhere you want, talk to anyone whenever you like, be in a private conversation, etc... compared to all this, a MMORPG is NOT the best environment to chat.

That''s perfect, because this would quickly deter those who think it''s "jsut a graphical chatroom" to come in. They would come in, visit, realise they have to *walk* to talk to anyone... and they''d quit. Or they would like the idea, and think maybe they can play some role.
They *could* play some role. In fact, they would have access to a restricted set of the game. They could create as I said before, all those not really interesting characters no one really want to play (as a hero), but that are necessary to create a good atmosphere.

The way I see it, some people will emerge from the lot. Some people who are really good actors, and love to create some sort of plot. Some who are natural leaders and will want to create some sort of guild or whatever.
Imagine a Player who decide to rent the services of Observers to know what''s going on in town... the Player could be a master Thief and the Observers would be beggars, or other low life.

If some Observer is really deserving, I don''t se why they would be paid, since they are having a blast and paying naught...



I am still unsure if there should be some sort of gradient between Observer status and Hero status... I guess it would really depend on the way your game is structured.
If your game was based on level, maybe the maximum level you could advance to would depend on the price you pay ? (I don''t like the idea of levels, I am just using it so you get the idea)
But there still should be this non-paying class.

Did I mention Observers could be animals as well as monsters ?
(though as for NPC, the level of powe they could access would have to be monitored... you wouldn''t start as a Big Bad Dragon, hey! )

Now... is it a bit clearer ?



Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

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Okay, ahw, now you''ve got me thinking!

So it''s not graphical IRC. Instead, people actually act as background in the world.

This actually sounds like a powerful way to meld the hack & slashers with the roleplayers, if you think about it. If you could create safe zones for player NPC, then they''d be free to do a great many things that aren''t combat related.

Here''s the major question, though: Is the purpose of this role to entice people into becoming paying customers, or is it a game unto itself? If it''s the former, I think you run into significant problems. I''d think you''d inevitably end up needing to cripple or lessen the player NPC gameplay in order to encourage them to sign up. Otherwise, where''s the encouragement?

But if that''s the case, what''s the draw for playing a barkeep or wolf in the forest anyway? I''m not opposed to the idea of making the paying game more interesting than the non-paying, btw. I''m just looking at this like a demo: Normally, you have to give the player almost all the functionality of the full game but make it a smaller / shorter experience. With the idea that you have, it sounds like the player NPC experience would be entirely different.

There seems to be another problem, though, if you say that the player NPC experience is a game unto itself. It seems to me that you ''d have to build gameplay to be as rich for player NPCs as it is for paying PCs. What I mean is this: You''d need to give them conversation ability, ways to make an impression on the game world via actions and objects, possibly inventory, stats, etc., etc. At this point then they''re really PCs, playing for free, and you''ve spent just as much effort developing for them as you have paying PCs. If you only have limited time/funds to develop, I''d think this would end up hurting the paying experience, because it''d be taking away from the time you have to enhance it.

How about this variation on your theme:

Since the major draw for most MMO cRPGs is level building, I think you''d be right in limiting an observer''s advancement. But if the goal is to add ambience to your setting, how about a more radical approach?

Cast the observers as "spirits" that can move in and out of NPC bodies. To observers, the game is re-entrant, and they can get in and out as easily as in Quake (wait!!! hear me out!!!!! )

Like CoolTomK said, you reward the players who do well. The better they do, the more they get to stay in a given NPC body. They can''t improve it, they can only improve their "spirit''s" gameworld reputation. The more dangerous the class of NPC body they inhabit, the more difficult it is to stay. Playing a shopkeeper is easy, but playing an Orc king is hard (since combat is normally the most developed portion, this is meant to add challenge).

Body control is tiered, so that there''s still some level building to draw in the cRPG fans. The stronger the spirit, the higher the level character they can control.

Multiple Bodies
Here''s another major twist: A spirit (observer) can spread itself across several bodies at once, just as a player can control a party of six PCs in some single player cRPGs. Though the NPC characters are still bound by game world rules, this enables one enterprising player to enact a plot involving several NPCs vs. the PCs (lots of room for plans within plans here!!!!!!). They can also control multiple monsters, giving you a potentially favorable AI boost vs. PCs (esp. when tied with the tiered spirit advancement idea).

Jump in, Jump out
For observers, the game is re-entrant and when they die, they just switch to another creature / monster / NPC elsewhere in the gameworld (random and far from their last position to prevent PC / observer collaboration).
Observers at this point then become a little like admins, though with vastly reduced capabilities. They get to sample a significant slice of the gameworld, and grow and make game world changes, but you potentially leave them wanting more (which they pay for).

You possibly also end up attracting multiple audiences: Your PKer/hack & slashers and more action-oriented RPers jump in to play individual monsters / creatures, with their spirit getting fame and recognition that lets them advance to controlling monster hordes. You reduce somewhat your admin burden, because players are spawning content. Escapist can be safe in town baking bread and changing town laws and getting married (or whatever). And your PCs get a rich world with lots of stuff constantly happening.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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To be honest, I don''t think this would work. 1) The numbers of the additional people that would pay for the chat are way over rated. Think about it, the amount of audience can be reached with the additional chat is restricted to the content inside the game, not the general audience that enjoys the overall chats. A person who likes to chat about futuristic related rpg would still have zero interest in your game. 2) The chat would draw away the primary "pay" customers. If say the reason for A to play mmorpg is because of the interactions and the chats, then why would he pay a full price for the game instead of a small fee for just the chats and npc control? 3) By making npcs controlable to the players, you would then have to take additional time and resource to balance/regulate to what degree these npc will affect the game. Yea, the player controled npc could add some interesting plot to the mix, but what if some brat control a npc shopkeeper and refuse to sell items to the real characters ? And what if two player controled npc gives out a similar quest but with a tiny difference in detail which could create a paradox in the game and rip up the whole background story ?

The idea have some merits but I see a lot of loop holes before it could work.

Peace out,
Mooglez

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I think it is an interesting idea. It may not work, but I think it might be worth a try...

I dont think that you have to create much of an infrastructure for the PNPCs (Player NPC? isnt that an oxymoron?) they dont have to be shopkeepers or whatever (in fact I dont think they should be) and they could be restricted to a certain area (doesnt have to be a wall - like restriction, just make it so that unaccompanied PNPC''s are so wussy even the lamest lonely goblin can and will take them on and win) Adventurers can then come back to the town and boast about their exploits, and by doing so, encourage the freeloading PNPCs to fork out for the full price package. It could be a very effective way to hook people into the game.

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Euh do u really think people are going to enter a game where the can only chat ???
I mean if the others where not playing maybe but with all those players having fun around.
And who will talk to a "PNPC" untill he gives u quest ?
hmmm the idea seems good when u write it because of the background it can add but I dont think it has any practical issue.

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I have to agree with these last two posts. The game doesn''t seem like it would be that fun. Although it is interesting from a designers perspective. From the players perpective(which is the one that counts) I''m not sure sure I would want to take the time try it because it doesn''t sound that fun. Typical RPGers want more then just chat, usually even the most conservative wants some hack and slash once in a while and this may not fit the bill.

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wow, sorry for not replying too fast ... everybody get there turn, just look for the bold parts if you don''t wanna read all of it

ok, first, I''d like to find a word that doesn''t influence the thinking too much, so let''s call those people Visitors. They are playing, they are around in the world, but they are not Heroes. normal players would be Heroes. I was thinking of using the word, Extras, because that''s what I was initially thinking, but then you''d get biased again, so let''s use Visitors for the sake of clarity.

Wavy, first :

spending too much time/efforts on Visitors, thus not spending enough time on your valuable paying customers :
There are two answers really. First of all, I am not that stupid I wouldn''t spend all my time on Visitors if it was for nothing.
The way I described it, Visitors are just like Heroes, *except* that they are using a subset of the game experience.
Say, they wouldn''t be able to have access to magic items, they wouldn''t be able to develop certain skills past a certain level of expertise, they wouldn''t have access to some areas (by the fact that they wouldn''t have the resources, skills, funds to do so... but maybe some mighty Hero could make them do a safari tour ? hehe "on your right you can observe the cage of Trolls, please do not disturb them as they like human flesh, and now if you want to follow me to the next dungeon level")
So when you develop something in the game for the Visitors, the Heores also get it, and more.
If I developed the chat interface, for instance, Heroes would also use their functionality, so the work is not lost !
Also, if you make your Visitors happy, and spend time to make them feel as important as Heroes (which they are, IMO), they would make the experience for the Heroes a better one.
I think of Visitors as extras on a movie, you get them for free/cheap, they are happy ''cause they are taking part in something cool, and they add a great background to the experience, that is simpler to do than using other tricks like CGI (massive battles rendered thanks to some 3DSmax studio)/AI(some stupid AI that moves around and answers "sorry, don''t have the time to talk with you").

About the variation on my theme :
Yes, I thought about something similar, but for a different reason. Player death. After death, players would come back as ghosts, shades, and lot''s of other things... but unfortunately they wouldn''t be visible to the rest of the world, although *they* could see it. I guess Heroes would be ghosts that have to come back on Earth, fulfill something to pass to the next level of being (a la Ghost, with Patrich Swayze), while Visitors would just be wandering spirits ? I keep that one in some corner of my mind anyway

Multiple bodies :
Wholeheartedly yes. I just wanted to get the concept of Visitor clear first But definitely a thought. If they are going to be simple people, at least they have to be quite a lot of them. Again, the parallel with extras : in one scene the guy would be the goblin and his friends hunting game in the forest and meeting a party of Heroes, later the same guy could be a farmer in the tavern, while his son (that he would also control) is in the fields ? Since most of those characters would never really grow in power, it seems like a good idea to have a few to use. It would also allow the chatter to quickly switch from one location to another, thus being able to talk to different people in an IRC like fashion (that is, not restrained by the geographical considerations).. I can imagine lots of angry game developer playing a goblin village that is very much into Art and Culture
Ah, and when they abandon one of their body, it just goes into AI mode, that could of course be customised (as in, the farmer goes to the tavern in the evening, to the fields during the day, etc)

Jump in / Jump out yes yes, implied by the multiple body thing above


now, Mooglez :
To be honest, I don''t *know* if it would work, because I can''t read the future
1) Mmmmh, yes and no... I think you misunderstand the fact that *I don''t want people to pay for chatting* so there is no problem on that side.
Although I agree that the audience would be limited to the people liking the content of the game. But as I said before, this is desirable, as those people are more likely to spend some time roleplaying, hence giving a great experience to everybody.
They would be like extras that are invited to play in there favourite movie, but are told they are not gonna get paid. Imagine if you had been invited to play in Lord of the Rings, but you have to pay you trip to NZ and eveything there, mmmh ?
(ok, if you are not a tolkien fan, don''t answer that)

2)if the person is only interested in chatting and social interaction, he is probably valuable material to become involved in a plot. I would coatch people like that in order to make the overall experience enjoyable for everyone.

I think it would also be interesting to offer this kind of people a paying formula but in a NPC way... that is, if they wished to pay, they could get an extended formula, but instead of being Heroes, they become NPC Heroes (so to speak). They would pay because they''d have access to more resources and things than a Visitor, *but* since they would have to follow some directives in order to create plots for other players, I they should pay less than a Hero that gets to do anything he/she wants...
3) I *knew* it. I was writing "those people could be, say, shopkeeper" and I knew someone would ask "and what if some moron refuse to sell me the damn thing".
Well, I would call it roleplaying my friend
You could : steal it, threaten the person, call some other friends to do just that for you, you could go to the guild of merchants and spread some rumor about this guy selling magic weapons for much cheaper than the allowed minimum prices, you could simply go somewhere else, you could *convince* the person using your own personal skills "well, I have a vey heavy sack of gold here, I guess I''ll have to go to your competitor across the road, then"...
come on. Any good roleplayer could solve that... *given the proper mechanisms have been implemented.

So I agree this is a point of concern, hence it should be taken care of, but I disagree it would be as disastrous as you seem to think.

Sandman :
Worth a try, yes, that''s the way I see it too
I don''t think Visitors should be restricted in an artificial manner. There is always IMHO a way to make things in a good game-related way. The countryside is unsafe, well, guards at the door would always ask the Visitors why on Earth they wish to leave the safety of the walls, and warn them that no one is gonna go and look for them when they get attacked by trolls. They''ll probably go, die, and remember not to do it again
Your mention of Heroes bragging about their exploits is exactly where I wanna go, the Visitors would create an environment where Heroes feel like goddamn real Heroes !!!
Thye''d feel unique and special. Also they would maybe convince some Visitor to become an adventurer too, a little peasant kid decide to become a mighty knight like this guy that just came back from the other side of the country... you get the idea ?

Azot_BE : I don''t think *gamers* would want a *game* where they can only chat. I think *people* would want a game where they are allowed to be *people*, and not hardcore gamers.
Heroes would talk to Visitors because they like to boast. I feel I know enough of human nature to hold some things as certain, and the need for bragging is very deep indeed.

TEchno Hydra :
The *game* would be that fun for *gamers*, if it was all chatting. please refer to the previous answer, my fingers are getting stiff from typing
From the player perspective (the Hero perspective), you get lots of people around you that act in a realistic fashion, ''cause they are real people ! Instead of some zombie-like town with NPC that say not much...
From the Visitor perspective, you get to play for free, you get to chat, man, it''s better than a demo, or a limited time trial !
It depends if you are talking of reallife RPG (Pen & Paper), or computer so called RPG.
On the computer, I agree, but that''s because up to now there hasn''t been any point to base a game around talking, since talking couldn''t and still can''t be as fulfilling and full of possibilities than in P & P RPGs...
My idea would (IMHO) change this for computer RPG players, and bring all the P & P RPG players as well


Ok, that was a lot of typing, but don''t hesitate to ask or give ideas, it''s good practice for me

youpla :-P



Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

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I hope you didn''t think I was trying to put the idea down or anything. It has merrit definitively. I say if you feel you can dedicate enough time for both groups to make it enjoyable. Give it a try.

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http://www.gamespy.com/legacy/interviews/ulprofile_a.shtm

I guess such game does exist and they do attract hardcore RP gamers. Wonder if I can find some stats to figure out how well they are doing compare to the typical MMRPG.

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hey thanks for the link Mooglez, that''s a very interesting game indeed.

As for this thread, well, it seems no one is really saying it''s bad, so I guess I''ll have to make it a bit more consistent.

I still have some thoughts about this idea Wavinator gave. Maybe Visitors could switch to a chatter mode where they''d be simple spirits, invisible to the rest of the players, except those that can see spirits... mmmh...

I''d still be very happy to here some criticism, though, if there is any ?




Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

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