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sunandshadow

Collecting small plots of land within an MMO

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This week I've been playing Plant Tycoon and thinking about the Harvest Moon series, as I often do when pondering how to design an MMO with a lot of good farming and breeding sim content. I've previously described the concept of each avatar having an 'estate' that traveled with them, stored in some sort of magical hyperspace when not in use. The player would unpack the estate onto the ground whenever the player wanted to work on their house, entertain inside their house, do various kinds of crafting, manage their item storage, play with their garden or stable of pet monsters, etc. This concept of the estate is somewhat based on the collection of outbuildings, fields, appliances, and monuments that players amass in A Tale In the Desert.

One of the fun things in the Harvest Moon series is that you get plots of land covered in junk and have to clean them up before you can farm them. Sometimes you find useful stuff or plot items among the junk, so it's like exploring a new area in an RPG. In some of the HM games additional plots of land are unlocked when certain in-game objectives are accomplished. And as a player, I tend to value each bit of land more when it's handed out in tiny amounts; this also makes it take longer for me to get bored of farming, I don't get bored as long as I have more things I want to do with the land than land to do it with. So I was thinking, why not use land as a currency the game can use to reward the player in an MMO? This especially could be useful to a level-less MMO where XP has been removed as a player reward and needs to be replaced somehow to motivate players to keep playing. It fits nicely with a dynamic where players are climbing a personal tech tree rather than leveling up and getting gear to match their new levels. But it could be good in a regular level-based MMO too.

So, my overall question is, can you all think of any downsides or hazards to rewarding the player with small quantities of land which can then be used for farming or constructing outbuildings or expanding the main building within the player's estate? Also, how would you handle giving the land to the players as rewards?

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Tangentially related idea: XP stones

I feel that, although some of the effects of leveling in an MMO are very undesirable (mainly the inability of players of different levels to play together), there's nothing fundamentally wrong with paying the player a non-gold bounty per monster killed, and requiring the player to kill several monsters to get a useful amount of this bounty. So how could this work in a level-less MMO? My thought is this: rather than putting xp into avatars, the xp could be collected in containers, for example a magic stone. Filled stones would be a resource which was only created in this way, and could be used for some crafting purpose, or perhaps one would be necessary to breed two pet monsters or to change the color of an owned piece of clothing, etc.

Thoughts?

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You mentioned unpacking the player's land on public server space, my question would be why is this necessary? What if each player had an item (say, a warp stone or some such trinket) in their inventory that took them to an instanced realm of their farm from anywhere on the main world map. Inviting other players to their demiplane of farming goodness would be a matter of creating some linked keys or something.

As a matter of increasing your farm size, it would fit quite well - the more XP stones you collect, the more you can expand your demiplane to create more usable farm space, or space for other upgrades like monster barns or whatever. So in running with harvest moon traditions, upgrades to your farm are bought with the currency of XP stones.

How might one go about earning these xp stones? Would this game be more akin to Rune Factory in that the player adventures in order to get things he can use on his farm? Another question to consider is what's different about XP stones than regular XP (other that they're consumable and potentially could be traded) - it seems to me that players will probably still grind for them (a very undesirable element of many MMOs in my book).

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Quote:
Original post by AesteroidBlues
You mentioned unpacking the player's land on public server space, my question would be why is this necessary? What if each player had an item (say, a warp stone or some such trinket) in their inventory that took them to an instanced realm of their farm from anywhere on the main world map. Inviting other players to their demiplane of farming goodness would be a matter of creating some linked keys or something.

The main goal of allowing players to temporarily place their estate on public space is so that other players can look at it and be motivated to obtain the same possessions or attempt the same activities. I want to encourage players to have collections of items they show off to each other, and the architectural design and colors of the buildings would also be something to show off. Passing-by players might complement the one working in the estate on a collection or architecture. Seeing other people's in-use estates should also give the gameworld a feeling of being alive and constantly changing, and add points of interest to otherwise boring field and forest areas.

Quote:
As a matter of increasing your farm size, it would fit quite well - the more XP stones you collect, the more you can expand your demiplane to create more usable farm space, or space for other upgrades like monster barns or whatever. So in running with harvest moon traditions, upgrades to your farm are bought with the currency of XP stones.

How might one go about earning these xp stones? Would this game be more akin to Rune Factory in that the player adventures in order to get things he can use on his farm? Another question to consider is what's different about XP stones than regular XP (other that they're consumable and potentially could be traded) - it seems to me that players will probably still grind for them (a very undesirable element of many MMOs in my book).

I'm working on a design for a level-less MMO - that means players do not level up and there is no regular XP. I don't personally see a problem with players grinding for crafting materials. They can always choose to go do something else within the game instead; crafting as a whole is optional, and there are two alternate paths to earn money (minigames and pvp). Many players like to kill lots of monsters, they just want motives and rewards for doing so, and they also like some variety in monster behavior and tactics necessary to kill them.

Frustratingly, all 3 Rune Factory games are for consoles I don't have, so I haven't been able to play one. :/ But they do sound similar to my design. A main difference, besides the MMO-ness, is that I was planning to have tactical combat where the player controls a small army of pet monsters.

[Edited by - sunandshadow on December 10, 2010 8:18:47 AM]

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I’ve always liked the idea exploration and discover side of the HM series even if it was down played a lot. I think it be fun to find secrets within in your like hidden rooms, mysterious devices. You could even have a couple of different bases to choose from at the start all with their benefits and secrets to discover. Such as ghost town, castle, forest ruins, etc…

With the idea of moving of your estate perhaps you could have two kind of areas in your estate cultivated and uncultivated. Uncultivated areas would take on the characteristics of whatever terrain your estate was currently in. So an old growth area in a woodlands zone would be come a dense forest, while in an ocean zone become a coral reef. This would affect the produce you can gather from those tiles maybe mushrooms and boars can be harvested in the dense forest, while pearls and tropical fish in the coral reef.

XP stones remind me a bit of idea I’m playing around with for a cyber punk concept I’m working on. In it I have something called cubes, 4 cubes can be combined into a larger cube currently there are 6 sizes. Cubes are rare and valuable awards for high end jobs, difficult to discover, and expensive to buy. Larger cubes are better then smaller ones but not every device can use a cube of ever size. So the player ends up choosing between upgrading lots of things or providing a bigger upgrade to few things.

The same could work here a player could use an XP stone grain to add +1 to an item, stat, or skill, or they cold combine 4 grains to make a 1 XP stone sliver which gives a +6 bonus.

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I don't like the idea of packing and unpacking the farms. The issue I see is that the world will change too rapidly. If players are always packing and unpacking their plots then someone who is just wandering around and viewing other players collections might not be able to return to a collection later if its no longer in the same area.

I'd say it might be nicer to give each player a specific piece of land, and there farm stays in place. It might be that in order to make your farm larger you have to move to a new plot that is larger. This would make it so that someone could move and you would have to find them again, but it would likely happen less because it wouldn't be as simple as pack up the whole farm and take it with you.

Another idea was already mention in that you simply keep the farms in a virtual space and offer portals to them, one way to do this might be to have a gallery which gives a picture from the front gate so a player can get an idea of the farm and decide if they want to visit. Using this method makes it easier to have "bookmarks" I would imagine.

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I was just giving a little more thought to this idea and drawing on my experiences with Harvest Moon, I had an idea you may get something out of:

What if in your game, each position in a town were a class? So not only do you have farmer/rancher (you could even split them up), you had shopkeeper, blacksmith, mayor, herbalist, etc. The shopkeeper (who might double as a cook) buys raw goods from the farmers, turns them into meals, and sells them in the store, the blacksmith forges tools out of ore, the mayor organizes the town and decides who gets to live there and what tracts of land they get to own, herbalists brew potions to relieve fatigue and heal people when they get sick. You get the idea here.

Now, instead of having one large persistent world, make each town a sort of self-contained environment with a maximum population and a constrained size - once all the shops and plots have owners, the town is full. So each town has its own identity, you come up with 6 or 7 terrain types - plains, forest, mountains, lake, etc. Each town gets two or three terrain types randomly assigned to it upon creation. Each terrain type has different resources for the populace to get - forests have lots of lumber, mountains have valuable ore, etc. Each terrain type also has places to go where the player can find neat things to add to their collection at home. You could have 2 or 3 different architectural styles for the buildings to also increase visual diversity.

This way, each town has a very tight-knit community of players who all know each other. Players can also travel to the 'road out of town' and explore other towns, even petition for residency there. When in another town, players can explore the particular resources that town offers and get items for their collections they otherwise couldn't at home, or just look at other players' collections. You could even list the towns based on the total value of the collections of all the residents (kind of like e-prestige points), or just have a filter if players are looking for something specific (need a town with a mountain so I can get ore today.)

As far as player advancement, food could increase player stats, so buying food from the shopkeepers who cook it will count towards advancement - say blacksmiths need to eat a lot of protein so they can hammer all day. The more pieces of <type> food they've eaten, the longer players can work before becoming fatigued.

Hope this helped.

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Quote:
Original post by Turt99
I don't like the idea of packing and unpacking the farms. The issue I see is that the world will change too rapidly. If players are always packing and unpacking their plots then someone who is just wandering around and viewing other players collections might not be able to return to a collection later if its no longer in the same area.

I'd say it might be nicer to give each player a specific piece of land, and there farm stays in place. It might be that in order to make your farm larger you have to move to a new plot that is larger. This would make it so that someone could move and you would have to find them again, but it would likely happen less because it wouldn't be as simple as pack up the whole farm and take it with you.

Another idea was already mention in that you simply keep the farms in a virtual space and offer portals to them, one way to do this might be to have a gallery which gives a picture from the front gate so a player can get an idea of the farm and decide if they want to visit. Using this method makes it easier to have "bookmarks" I would imagine.


Personally I like the idea of the world changing rapidly, since it is only a surface change, it should not affect gameplay at all. But bookmarks are a great idea, and the estates could be viewable even when they are not currently unpacked. The game design includes a forum, so bookmarks could fit right into the forum software, and I want people to be able to admire each others' collections from the forum anyway.

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Quote:
Original post by AesteroidBlues
I was just giving a little more thought to this idea and drawing on my experiences with Harvest Moon, I had an idea you may get something out of:

What if in your game, each position in a town were a class? So not only do you have farmer/rancher (you could even split them up), you had shopkeeper, blacksmith, mayor, herbalist, etc. The shopkeeper (who might double as a cook) buys raw goods from the farmers, turns them into meals, and sells them in the store, the blacksmith forges tools out of ore, the mayor organizes the town and decides who gets to live there and what tracts of land they get to own, herbalists brew potions to relieve fatigue and heal people when they get sick. You get the idea here.

Now, instead of having one large persistent world, make each town a sort of self-contained environment with a maximum population and a constrained size - once all the shops and plots have owners, the town is full.


It's an interesting idea, but as a player I hate to be restricted to one or two types of crafting gameplay and hate being required to do cooperative activities with other players. I wrote a 'design philosophy' for this levelless MMO design quite a while ago, and the first two points are "all content will be accessible to every avatar" and "all content will be optional, especially players will not be forced to participate in social/team play" and your suggestions sort of violates both of those. So my instinct is to reinterpret your suggestion a bit. My current plan was to treat each of these professions as, well, professions, and allow the player to develop skills in all of them. I think of this as 'avatar as renaissance man'. An alternate possibility would be to treat a town as an avatar so that a player can develop a character for each profession. But I think 'player as town' might lose some of the immersion and personal investment that players make into roleplaying a single character through that character's story of exploring the world and gaining skills and possessions.

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I commented in your other thread before reading this one, so I'll just post my idea here.

I think a good solution to the "huge amount of land needed" problem is to have a nice main overworld for players to visit a few towns, etc... and then have boat docks, with a ferry. When the player goes to the ferry, they can choose what destination to go to... Which would basically be their own farm island or any other player's farm island.

So then you could just have like a fade transition from one dock to another, or if you wanted, have the boat actually leave and do some "boat traveling the water" animation until they arrive at the destination island.

So players would each get their own little island to explore (pre-generated or whatever) and they can build their house and have farmland and all sorts of stuff. They can invite friends, have mailboxes to send letters/packages to other people, etc.

The only downside is that you don't have player's farms right there on the main world/island. So the solution would be to just create some incentive to get players wanting to visit other player's farms.

I'm not really big on magical hyperspace or anything like that. That's why I prefer a practical solution like a boat trip. =)

Not only does it give each player a "solid" piece of property in the game world (which people can visit at any time) but it also lets you have a nice clean overworld.

Of course, maybe players could eventually move to the overworld if they had enough money or whatever... Like maybe they can rent plots of land on the overworld. These plots would be in limited supply and would go to the people who have really put in the time and effort to afford them. So then you'd have motivation to want to play for a long time so you can be one of the few people who own farmland on the main island.

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Somewhat related to your comment about alternative XP rewards.

I like the idea of XP stones being a kind of resource for crafting or other areas, because it's another good way to link mob killing with crafting. Generally mobs are only good for dropping potentially craftable goods, but this way players will actually need to go out and PvE a bit to progress in crafting. As long as it's not too grindy (example: you must kill 100 boars to craft 1 boot), I would find it a welcome addition to an MMO.

There's even more possibilities out there too. I'm thinking about actually having level experience being converted into "plot experience" where what you do directly effects a plot-stream. You can level up a different "arc" of the plot-stream in order to alter the course of the plot. Essentially what you do/kill, where you go are going to "level up" the plot if you will. As if the story itself was a skill-based character. Just a random thought.

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Use a flexible landscape?

All the 'farms' would be along a road, and the first few 'plots' would be fixed and visible from the road. However all extra plots are then added to the back and sides of the visible plots, basically overlapping neighboring lots if they had extended in real space.

So you can see part of the user space from the road, and part of the road from user space, but a given user space extends beyond what can be seen from out side of it.

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