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kerryl

MMRTS: Using Time As An Immersive Hook

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In an MMRTS scifi game, I''m starting to think that it makes more sense to embrace the realtime aspects of space travel. Accelerated, of course, so it doesn''t actually take a year to travel a light year! But what about a few hours? Remember, you have a fleet so it''s not like you log out immediately. Same with repairs, loading cargo, etc? It seems like there are certain interactive advantages to such a system: 1. A cargo ship that takes two days to arrive at a starport could be overtaken and pirated by a faster ship. 2. Perhaps an armada will pass through an area monitored by my probes and tell me that x ships are on a heading for my home planet and will arrive in two days. 3. If one of my ships are engaged by an enemy shouldn''t such a fight take anywhere from minutes to several hours or even days? Isn''t that the point of RTS to be able to really strategize and send reinforcements or retreat? 4. If I''m in a big fight and go for repairs, doesn''t it make sense to have the shop tell me it''s going to be three days? I then suffer the consequences for my aggression, or lack of planning, or stupid mistake. 5. Or for planet x to tell me that it''s going to take two hours to load all the cargo? 6. You could send a team aboard a derelict vessel (ala Aliens) and have to wait a few hours while they did their sweep...maybe with periodic check ins. It''s probably a departure from the standard "look at ships, check money, buy ship, fly ship" kind of thing that happens in the span of a few seconds or "I''m being attacked, do: make fighter: loop". I might be completely off my rocker but it seems like it would be more fun to have everyone be in a state of nervous tension. Rather than "I had enough turns to make it home..whew!..log off" be thinking "I hope my allies get to my sector before x arrives." I''d like to add a little more suspense and nail biting and thought maybe this is an option. [feature idea] You could even make a little screen saver to show estimated times when something is going to happen (destination, repair, etc). Maybe query the server every hour (if connected by DSL) or every 12 hours (if Dialup) in case anything happened. Now, even when you''re not playing actively, you''re keeping an eye on your babies. [/feature idea] Comments?

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It seems like you''re almost in the realm of play-by-email games here. I remember an old empire game with detailed fleet tactics that worked a bit like this. You''d plot your moves and both battles and travel took days to conclude, with period updates being emailed.

It was cool for a PBeM game, but I''m not sure this would be so good for a MMO RTS. The point of an RTS is to fight, unless you''re going to be adding other empire game type components. So what are your players going to be doing while they''re waiting, esp. when they start out and don''t have a lot of resources.

I like the idea, I''m just not sure it''s applicable to an RTS. I think what works more for this genre is set piece, instant action battles (where two parties warp into the same space & duke it out). That doesn''t mean, btw, that it has to be about peon or fighter pumping. You can have slow, stately battles just by slowing down the game. But for an RTS, I think days or even 10s of hours is waaaaay too slow.





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Just waiting for the mothership...

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Oh, hey. Just a thought on time: When other players enter the picture, time is the only thing you have to pretty much keep constant per side.

If you want the nervous tension (good idea, btw ), I''d switch to another resource that''s similar. You never want players waiting around, they should always be doing something (unless you''re trying to make a sim, and then periods of nonaction are part of the realism).

An idea I played with on and off was that of "jump portal diameter." If you had slow moving battles, but the ability to occassionally jump in with reinforcements, then the portal diameter (based on resources) would determine how many ships you could bring through. A battle lasting 1 hour would have only 2 or 3 portal opportunities.

So the tension would come from hoping your ally would bring enough to make a difference, not waiting around for them to do something while you try to eek by.

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

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Wav brought up the thought that it is leaning toward play by email. That type game appeals to me, but it is too much of a hassle to find someone to play, email files etc. How about a massively multiplayer persistant turn based strategy game. Essentially it would play like a PBEM, but in a user friendly manner. ie You load the game and it automatically connects to a server and downloads the currant game state, you issue your orders and it sends them off, no email involved. I''m thinking something like a Master of Orion or Civilization with dozens of players in a game. The problem with those are the massive numbers of turns in a game. This cannot be reduced without changing the combat system. So it would need a more abstract military system. But that wouldn''t really be a problem. This type game would primarily focus on diplomatic, economic, and broad strategic decisions rather than direct control of military units.

Jack

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JackNathan, the original Play by Email games were just follow-ups to Play by Mail games, which were played by hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously (and still are, actually).

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quote:

Wavinator:
So what are your players going to be doing while they''re waiting, esp. when they start out and don''t have a lot of resources.



Agreed that that''s the sticking point. A new player with few resources wouldn''t have a whole heck of a lot to do.

quote:

Wavinator:
But for an RTS, I think days or even 10s of hours is waaaaay too slow.



Problem: In a persistent world, how do you make a universe "big" (I mean really big)? How would you go about creating a universe where, as time goes on, you have this slow migration towards farther resources. It seems unrealistic to create a system where everyone pops on over to the fringe and then meet in the middle to duke it out.

Isn''t one of the points of MMOGs to create that sense of scale? That you can look at a map and wonder what''s out there?

quote:

Wavinator:
An idea I played with on and off was that of "jump portal diameter." If you had slow moving battles, but the ability to occassionally jump in with reinforcements, then the portal diameter (based on resources) would determine how many ships you could bring through. A battle lasting 1 hour would have only 2 or 3 portal opportunities.



Now that''s a REALLY cool idea. ::swipe::

quote:

JackNathan:
How about a massively multiplayer persistant turn based strategy game. Essentially it would play like a PBEM, but in a user friendly manner. ie You load the game and it automatically connects to a server and downloads the currant game state, you issue your orders and it sends them off, no email involved.



The architecture is exactly what you''re describing, Jack. Big client download with graphics and sound, client talks to a mysql database via php. Client compares media resources # with server returned media resource # and downloads any updated media.

I guess what we''re REALLY talking about here is me needing to make a decision: Do I want a sim or do I want an rts?

Thanks all!
Kerryl

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I think you are going for more of a sim than an rts but it sounds great in my opinion. One of my favorite rts''s is Homeworld, because of that same feeling you describe. I think it would work well in a massively multiplayer game. Good luck.

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You can combine strategy and simulation into one single game. The hard part is balancing the two so the game dosen''t seem completely one sided.

I personally don''t like persistent MMORTS. I played Mankind for about two weeks then I dumped it cause there is no sure way to defend my units/buildings offline even when there''s an AI that does the automatic defense for me. Human > AI

Furthermore, I don''t think any multiplayer RTS should last more than 3, 4 hours at most. Turn based strategy can last days because the players don''t have to watch the monitor a whole day and they could save the turns and use them all at once or whatever. But, don''t expect too many people to sit down through a long 3 hour session of non-stop RTS, especially the non-hardcore players who would prolly just quit after the first ten minutes if you can''t grab their attention...

quote:
You could even make a little screen saver to show estimated times when something is going to happen (destination, repair, etc). Maybe query the server every hour (if connected by DSL) or every 12 hours (if Dialup) in case anything happened. Now, even when you''re not playing actively, you''re keeping an eye on your babies.


I thought about that before. Try including a off screen message program in the game like icq or mmg and you can get a *beep* if someone message or attack you. Maybe there''s this way you can even get some sponser money from Microsoft.. Hmmm... join the dark side.

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quote:
Original post by kerryl
Isn''t one of the points of MMOGs to create that sense of scale? That you can look at a map and wonder what''s out there?


This is true, but I think you have a significant exception. Space (unless you really get weird) isn''t the wilderness. So while it may take you hours to walk across a MMORPG''s continent, there''s changing scenery, different obstacles, wildlife, and monsters.

Space has gas clouds and vacuum. If you''re trying to be realistic, then it''s likely that star systems are the only interesting places, and even then probably only gravity wells. Even if you did breathtaking visuals that rivaled the works of space artists like Pat Rawlins or Chesley Bonestell, that''s an awful lot of boredom.

quote:

Now that''s a REALLY cool idea. ::swipe::



Cool, glad you like it!

quote:

I guess what we''re REALLY talking about here is me needing to make a decision: Do I want a sim or do I want an rts?



I wonder if it wouldn''t help to consider providing a richer solo experience to go with the multiplayer? Is the only purpose of the game to fight? If not, then maybe you could make even one single ship very rich in activities.

Then, when players are together, they could have an interesting time cooperating or conflicting. Yet when the player is all alone, cruising from place to place, his ship or ships are detailed enough to provide interesting entertainment until the next encounter.



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

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Personally i think you are on to a winner here m8. If you make the timescale big enough i think it will benefit the game. What you will do is create an immersive environment that will hook the players to the game.

People will get up in the morning and start an attack on an enemy. On the way to work they will fire up thier wap phone and check on the progress. By the time they get to work they find an email waiting informing them of political unrest in one of thier cities. By dinner time thier attack has began on the enemy colony. By the end of thier dinner break they are sending off reinforcements as the battl;e isnt going too well. By the time they finish work the battle is over and they have lost. They get home and start working on building confidence back up amongst thier armed forces, before heading off to bed. The next morning they are back up and seeing how things are in thier online world etc...

Basically because you have spread things out over long time periods they have more time to work on the smaller points, making the game more detailed. If you allow updates to be recieved/sent over multiple mediums (email, http, wap, client program) etc they can stay informed at any moment.

It also hooks them up 24/7 to the game, whenever they are not playing they are thinking about thier next move, or how thier current move is going. If you do it right people will be so addicted that they will need councelling when the game finishes!

I think this has the potential to be huge.

G Coates
------------------------------------------------------------

Gavin Coates

Co-Founder

http://www.multiplayercentral.co.uk

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