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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.





--------------------
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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Dude, I hope you''re writing these things down because they are excellent ideas. I''m not sure we want the players to wait hours but having an equation like 5 - 10 min = 1 hour or something might work. If this is going to to be multiplayer and online you might think about having crews made up of different players. Then even if they are waiting around to get somewhere there''s still interaction and friendships. Those that cant aford a ship can buy passage on other players ships or big NPC cruisers. With high tech like this you can have the equivalent of Global chat. That helps pass the time real well. Make the ships slightly expensive and you give newbies a goal and make the possibility of friends pooling money to buy a ship of their own more prevalent. Man typing about this makes me almost want to try to design one myself.

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quote:
Then even if they are waiting around to get somewhere there''s still interaction and friendships. Those that cant aford a ship can buy passage on other players ships or big NPC cruisers. With high tech like this you can have the equivalent of Global chat. That helps pass the time real well.


Bad Hydra, bad. Forcing players to chat with one another for the sake of passing the time is BAD. They''re paying to play a game, not to wait around and chat while waiting for monster to spawn on EQ, please remember that.

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I agree fully with you that forceing the player to chat is a bad idea, that''s not what I meant to bring out. Evidently chatting wouldn''t be the only thing that COULD keep them occupied. But the main point was if they have friends who are playing the game they will have the option of talking with them if they so choose. If they go so far as to buy a ship together then they''ll evidently be good enough friends that they will want to interact with them. Do not discount the power of friends in hooking a person to a game. Onboard a ship you could have mini games sorta. Remember Star Wars(IV)? They waited to get someplace and had interaction while they were waiting. This could be a universal option(playing with someone on a planet or different ship) sorta like network play inside network play. Onboard if you wanted to hang around until you got there instead of just logging out you could have other things for the player to do. Perhaps, PERHAPS micromanagment of some sort.

The point is to give the player enough to do so that he/she doesn''t mind the wait to go long distances. The fact that it takes TIME to get somewhere adds to the importance of the players next move. Money and decisions are suddenly worth more to the player.

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quote:

gavco98
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.


I thought something like that would be cool but didn't know if there was anyone else out there who would be that interested in what I guess you'd call a "total" experience.

Make long meetings/family reunions a lot more fun.

quote:

Wavinator
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.
Don't think I haven't thought about that! I was just wondering if anyone else would think it's fun. Sounds like maybe I'm hearing a "yes"?



Now as far as passengers go. Sure, you could maybe do something like that and add an RPG spin to it. Maybe the spacedock has a bar or brothels or something. Players who choose a harder edge might start out in a mining colony somewhere. Now when a ship arrives...a ship really is arriving. Now your little guy could jump on and...who knows?...maybe steal some technology info if his hacking skills are high enough? It would depend upon what kind of security force you put on your ship, wouldn't it?

So now maybe you've got a mix of a large economic sim type game with the interaction of smaller actual people to where they say, "ha. psycocorp is at war with super,inc. i ain't gettin on that ship."

I think it's ripe with possibility but didn't know if the time factor would turn people off. Sounds like it might not.

I have so many ideas...so little experience.

Thanks to EVERYONE for sharing your ideas and opinions. Much appreciated.



Edited by - kerryl on August 13, 2001 4:44:52 PM

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Now let''s pretend such an idea took off and you had a couple thousand subscribers or something...

Get ready...it gets heavy on "pretend", here...

Now you could schedule universe changing events like they do on Asheron''s Call. But since this is all space based, you make a live webcast that is truly live and covers unfolding events...

"Once again, if you''re just joining us, at 9:15 universal standard time, the merchant ship SS Imperion began transmitting an emergency high bandwidth communique along with a short feed of what appears to be a craft of extraterrestrial origin before, what we''re now seeing, continued radio silence. The United Corporations of Earth have been unable to hail the Imperion and all ships have been ordered to stay away from sector 210-510 pending further notice. Mandatory observation of this quarantined zone is required for all vessels as use of deadly force has been authorized. As it stands, we know very little but will obviously keep you updated as news arrives from our affiliates and sister stations."

So now you''ve got people on the edge of their seat. They go to login and you get this sort of War of the Worlds live broadcast. But then you add the reality to it like they do in any big story where they don''t have all the details...bring in "experts" and talk about past events.

"The SS Imperion is owned by SuperCorp,Inc and we''re working on contacting them now. Obviously, SuperCorp has its own engineers working on this trying to re-establish communication so in the mean time we''ll go to Dr. Susan Klasky. Dr. Klasky is a professor at the University of New San Francisco in France where Roman Smith, captain of the Imperion, was a student of hers. Dr. Klasky, thank you for joining us on such short notice."

Klasky: "My pleasure, Interviewer."

Interviewer: "What, right now, is Captain Smith doing?"

Klasky: "Well, Interviewer, I think Roman is probably weighing out all of his options. Obviously, he''s opposed to using military force in a situation such as this unless he''s presented with no other options. First and foremost, he''s going to be most interested in preventing a war with an unknown lifeform whose intentions are not yet known but, more importantly, whose technological capabilities are also unknown outside of the Black Out Zone you described earlier. I''d like to note that such an act may be just a preventative measure so that this vessel can simply observe the Imperion without threat. I''d be hardpressed to say that such an action should be interpreted as aggression. If he has power, I''m sure he''s putting as much as possible into reserve banks while rallying his first officers to calm and keep control over the civilian passengers..."

Now doesn''t that sound like fun? It does me...but then that''s what that was a question and not "that sounds like fun!"

The bitch is...someone''s going to do it. I just don''t have the resources to do it myself.

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That does sound good. I would pay just for the experience of being a witness to the events. And considering you have a whole universe you could stage several events in opposite sides of the game universe. It would really depend on your resources of course. Another nice thing is the wide area of skills you could have. "Do you want to specialize in ships weapons or personal weaponry?" That sort of thing. Then youd have events in different systems like racing ships or UWC(Universal Wrestling Campionships) that sort of thing. Competitions between players in lots of different fields. Gets everyone involved. If you had the resources you could make a sort of daily or weekly news program detailing events that occured and highlighting winners or something. Then have News flashes for those big live events. The problem is that something like this would really require a lot of work to keep up. But it would definitly be fun. Hope someone tries it.

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