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Problems with space-sim MMORPGs???

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Okay I''ve been thinking about working on the design for a futuristic MMORPG set in space as a hobby to work on in my spare time. Okay the reason for this is topic is to determine the major reasons why they aren''t as popular as fantasy based MMORPGs. Evidently if your using space as a setting then you can expand with a whole lot of new possibilities. So why aren''t they as prevalent? I''m hoping you''ll post a response if you: 1) Have a reason that you don''t enjoy them as much. 2) Have seen a reason that they aren''t made as much. 3) Have a suggestion for fixing obstacle that stands in the way of a space-sim MMORPGs. I want to address these issues as I design. Thx

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For your reasons:

For 1) I dont like humans, or aliens, just gods and demi-humans

For 2) They are alot harder due to the fact you need to have different planets/galxies/ possibly multiple universes since its never been prven theres only one universe!

For 3) The action can't be constant in a space SIM. The avaiblible world needs to be explored, thats no short journey. You can't force missions on to people like in Baldurs gate, you have to allow them to be free. This can become hard. Also, you need a wide group of graphic artists, and all your programmers need to know the same API. Your team needs to be very determind, and if you plan on doing it alone, I sggest you take your time, because the fastest one person could get it done is 5 years(if your a guru) and for a novice programmer/graphic artist/ network programmer/ writer/ designer(which is everything you need to act as) it should take you 10 years.

!Good Luck!

"I've sparred with creatures from the nine hells themselves... I barely plan on breaking a sweat here, today."~Drizzt Do'Urden

Edited by - Drizzt DoUrden on September 4, 2001 5:24:09 PM

Edited by - Drizzt DoUrden on September 4, 2001 5:25:27 PM

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For the First problem, are there any alternatives that could be used to replace standard humans/aliens concept? I''m open to suggestions.

Hmm the non-linear aspect does present a big problem since players are always going to be testing the boundries of Space. So is there anyways that the universe you''ve created could limit the area your players want to travel in? Something that although perhaps a frustrating could be plausible and even understandable for your players to grasp?

Whew this is going to be interesting...

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Maybe the problem with space-sims is that more imagination is needed to create plots (you have no magic... in teory ). And in space MMORPG your principal weapon is a laser... ups, in MMORPG those types of weapons are difficult to manage...

About the boundaries problem, there''s a very simple solution: just place your first part of the MMORPG in a few solar systems with an hyperspace torment, so nobody can escape . Next, when you have created the entire galaxy, just stop the torment. And when you have created the whole universe, just make somebody to discover an hyperdrive [best hyperspace motor] .
And if you don''t like boundaries... well, everyday new planets are discovered ... . Just when you create a planet, it''s added to the pool ...

And about the time of making the game... just take a look to http://www.argentum-online.com.ar , this''s a MMORPG Done (well, it''s under development but it''s very very advanced) in 1.5 year. So if you want it, you CAN do it.

Go for it . But two advices:
1) Make a VERY GOOD Design.
2) Take some people into your jorney. I''m programming a console-style CRPG and i''m ending the engine... but it took more than 6 years (i was programming & learning) ...

RRC²Soft

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TechnoHydra, I honestly think the bottom line answer to why is very simple: It''s just not time yet.

Not too long ago the whole cRPG fanbase was suffering from a lack of games. But space sims were going strong (you had the Wing Commanders, Freespace, Star Rangers, Privateer, X-Wings, etc.). Now things are reversed, and I-War2 is just about the only space sim around. Publishers play it safe and herd together. They saw UO made money at a time when cRPGs were making a comeback probably thanks mostly to AD&D and Black Isle.


There''s nothing you can''t do with a science setting that you can do with magick, you just have to be creative. Sci-fi encompasses fantasy. You can have magick (psionics / space-time fabric manipulation), heros and royalty, and even low tech castles & such in a sci-fi universe; whereas, a tank or plane in a fantasy universe is wrong.

Since most fantasy MMORPGs are hack & slash anyway, and most space sims are combat oriented, I don''t see a big difference. The only problem might be bandwidth if players expect the traditional fast action feedback system of your typical space sim. (Your typical MMORPG "watch the falling healthbars" for combat might not be interactive enough).

Compare:
* Fight - Already talked about
* Trade / Inventory Swap - Same
* Commerce (Blacksmith / Tavern) - Same (space station Bar / Shipyard)
* Missions / Plot - Same (rescue drug lord rather than princess, for ex.)
* Character Building / Leveling - Same (w/ your ship instead)
* Characters / Storyline - Megacorps vs. orcs, same thing
* Beautiful setting - Same (check I-War 2''s dust clouds, nebula, and planetary graphics-- stunning!)

Some folks have the mistaken notion that cRPG == medieval. It doesn''t. But GameDev I think is a bit skewed towards that perspective. You may have better luck getting a response on comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.space-sim than here, since I think a lot of cRPG fans here are fantasy fans.

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

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The other aspect I''d add to Wav''s list is:

Religion. Gods / priests. You can easily have them in a space
game and the Gods can give adherents magical powers

As far as boundaries are concerned they can be technology limitations etc.. or physical barriers such as in Star Trek first series where there was a physical barrier between the Star Trek galaxy and the next one. If you are developing an MMPORG then presumably development will continue even after the game goes gold so that you can add star clusters or new galaxies after the start.

As far as why space games are not made that isn''t true. MS is making Freelancer but I think they''ve canned the internet play bit. I''m not sure why. But given the success of games like Frontier and Privateer these games are being made - look at Eve as well as the other games mentioned earlier.

You don''t have to have aliens in space. There any number of Sci Fi stories about human expansion into space followed by a technological / societal collapse and what happens when one set of humans runs into another centuries later - Isaac Asimov and the Foundation series for example.


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Nice feedback. Tech limitations would be a good way to keep people in an area until others are implemented. As far as types of PCs, would it work to have androids and cyborgs? These could possibly be upgraded or enhanced as the player got stronger. The same could be done with people, through genetic manipulation. I was sort of thinking of trying to add several different ways to play the game. There would be trading for those who like that sort of thing. Combat and quests. Skills like mining and such.

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I was just thinking back to a topic on a sipace sim idea. And I''m thinking perhaps having personal combat option as well. Then having player vs. player tournaments and these would be broadcast on a sort of sports channel. As to Wav''s thought on space sims be out at the moment. By the time I get anywhere major on this theyll probably be back lol.

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Well, I can think of a lot of reasons that fantasy based MMORPGs are being produced. The first is simply that a few allready exisist. That always makes imagining and pitching a game much easier. "It''s like UO/EQ/AC but with..." The second is that it''s a lot easier and more socially acceptable to rip off classic fantasy ideas than it is Sci-Fi. Third is that usually we''re not expecting Fantasy to make sense, which makes designing something easier.

And what do you think the chances of multiple civilizations all obtaining similar degrees of spacefaring technology at the same time really is?

So, with sci-fi, which is something that I think we expect to make some kind of sense, there''s a greater burden of responsibility on the designer to keep things believable.

hope that helps

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I''ve been designing a space empire mmorpg for some time now but like most of my projects it ends up being placed on hold because I can''t find a good team =)
I think mine is slightly different because you have a fleet of ships instead of just one but most things should still apply. The game should be confined to one galaxy. I mean the milky way contains billions of stars..no need to complicate things by making the universe infinite. Still, space is HUGE. You need some kind of fictional technology to explain how ships can travel faster than light. In my design there are sectors which behave like the areas in Baldur''s Gate. They may be a system with habitable planets or a nebula or just some empty space where you can be alone or meet up with someone in secret.
As for action..well that''s pretty constant. As you may have guessed parts of the galaxy are at war so all you have to do is go to a known hostile sector if you want a fight. As wavinator pointed out a lot of traditional aspects can be carried over to sci-fi fairly easily. Need a dungeon? How about a system that was once populated by a warfaring culture but now only contains planetary and automated defense systems.

Well, everything else I have to say was pretty much summed up by Wav but if you wanna discuss some details of this design I''d be happy to share some of the stuff I''ve come up with.

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First, I-War 2 is NOT nearly the only space sim around. Let''s see. Battlecruiser Millenium (and anyone who wants to flame Derek - he''s a cool guy - can leave now) Bridge Commander - by game-god-of-space-sims Larry Holland, Earth and Beyond, which is a semi-space-sim-semi MMORPG, by Westwood, and an addon to Verant''s Star Wars MMORPG will be space-simmish, so I''ve heard. So to be honest, Techno - I''d drop it. Simple:

Ropple''s Law:
Designing anything in the computer industry that is not as good or better than the best is very-near-fruitless.

Sorry for being pessimistic - I do that a lot - but it''s the utter truth. I never shine the truth up at all.

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quote:
Original post by Edward Ropple
First, I-War 2 is NOT nearly the only space sim around.


Just a clarification... I meant on the shelves, sorry. All of these others (Larry Holland!!! cool!!!) are in dev, right?


quote:

Ropple''s Law:
Designing anything in the computer industry that is not as good or better than the best is very-near-fruitless.



Actually, for retail I tend to agree with this (my version is "Stay out from underfoot of elephants."

However, for indie games, I believe if you can offer something that the game industry is unlikely to offer or rarely offers, and you can do it tastefully but with low production costs (i.e., smart and super-efficient use of resources) then I think you have a shot. (A great example of this was Escape Velocity on the Mac, or King of Dragon Pass)

For this reason, I''d never try to design an RTS, FPS, or *ahem* medieval cRPG.

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First, what many people said is true, games are a me-too industry. There aren''t any popular space MMORPG to copy yet.

Second, a space game may require people moving around *and* ships. So you need personal combat and space combat, more models, etc. You could cut out one or the other entirely.

Third, you can''t rely on Elves and Dwarves and "Fireball" spells, you might (god forbid) have to make something up yourself.

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Okay here''s a few ideas I''ve had floating around for a while and a few that I''ve posted under other people topics.

Starting with the PC themselves: You start out on a planet/space station/etc. You don''t have a ship at all. In fact, ships are expensive, VERY expensive, even the little junky ones. So many players will end up playing out the game in one place(unless they find transportation, more on that later). For this reason I want to put lot''s of player skills to make the game enjoyable even in one place. Combat, trading, craft, computer, etc etc skills the player can utilize on a world.(Note: The aformentioned categories can be broken down but I won''t at this time) So you end up being able to do everything you could do in a cRPG like say fallout or something. As far as special magic-like powers, I think that PSI powers could be utilized in a scietific way. Brain wave manipulation and such gives access to new abilities while lowering the efectiveness of other skills. A tradeoff that helps balance it all out.

Later on:
If you are successful enough and skilled enough in more advanced skills you may get the oportunity to buy a space capable ship. When this happens you have another whole aspect of game play to add on. Not only are there new skills(piloting, ship repair, large weapons combat ie mounted lasers torpedos, navigation, etc) but you have whole planets and stations that you can explore. Plus other sources of income like salvage and and mining operations.

I believe I can address the permanent death question too when it comes to space travel. There will space combat(duh) and if your ship gets destroyed you lose that ship permanently, but you get ejected in an escape pod that rockets to the nearest inhabited area, whether youre familiar with the latout of the place or not. (Sorta like getting stuck in a strange new world) All is not lost though if you had money in the bank which spans the whole playing area of the game. Traveling between places would take real time too. It wouldn''t be instantanious. And if all you could buy was a junker ship you could(with the money and influence) upgrade parts of your ship. Drives to decrease travel time, weapons, shields, fuel sources(you have to pay for fuel), engines.

In the event you have no ship but want to go someplace else, there would be transportation companies. Like the airlines we have but that go between systems and planets. It costs money but far less then ship of your own would be. So if your ship got destroyed and youre stuck on another world if you have the cash you can still get home if you want. Or if you found someone who has a ship and is willing to take you along then you could hitch a ride. This adds another money making aspect for players, taxi rides.

Theres other stuff like politics, taxes on imports, relations between governments, mining right etc. And I''m think that each major planet/solar system would be on its own server. Yeah I know this limits the number of planets but then again if most cant fly then most won''t care.

Edward R: I''m not sure I understand your reason for suggesting I drop it. I''m not doing this to make millions I''m doing this for the purpose of acomplishing something I haven''t done yet. Like I said before this is only a hobby. Not trying to come out with the biggest and baddest space MMORPG ever made in the history of the computer game industry, just trying to design something that if nothing else will give a few new perspectives on designing in general for my own personal satisfaction.

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You stick with it mate. I''m helping to write another space MMPORG and I guess there are quite a lot of us wanabees out there. But hey, the development is a lot of fun.

If you''re going to confine players to one planet for a fair amount of time then the planet has to be well defined in terms of cities, economy, industries etc... If there is combat on the planet then you need different nations, religions etc...

Perhaps as you say, you would need to have a server for planet or solar system A, a server for planet or system B and a space travel server and allow connections between them. As new planets are colonised you might need to bring new servers in. But as I understand it, prices of servers are likely to drop while server capacity increases. So perhaps you could have a star cluster and its planets all on one server.

Mind you I''m pretty technologically ignorant so I may have picked up the wrong idea


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If ever there was or is a ime for games set in the future, it is now. I can not think of 5 people in my ENTIRE nieghborhood, who own a fantasy cRPG, or a console fantasy RPG. Besides me of course. I know people who own shooters, and other ''simulation of something that could happen in the real world'' type games, but no fantas RPG''s. Once person I know used to play Magic(the card game) and thats it. So as for those game''s being to popular, it is because most people buying them are D&D fans, and not to mention, they CANNOT BE COPIED, when you try to burn the 5 CD Baldurs Gate game, I can guarentee you will run out of patcience, and the game is good, so you go out and buy it. Thats probably a better reason than everyone likes them, because not everyone likes them, in fact, not one of my friend''s even knows what a halfling is, nor does anyone of thier friends.

Space sims would make it very far if they are GOOD. If its a 2D asteriods type space sim, you shouldn''t expect it to go very far.

If you have multiple planets, space outlaws, and all of the other space-ish things, and you have a good publisher then you will probably get far. I know I wouldn''t buy it(being a fantasy fan) but I know for a fact that every friend I have would waste away at thier computer, playing it every day(they would be game fanatics).

So, if it is good, you will achieve what no one else believes is possible. If you modify asteriods for a space sim, you will get nowhere.

"I''ve sparred with creatures from the nine hells themselves... I barely plan on breaking a sweat here, today."~Drizzt Do''Urden

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You make good points, all. And Bridge Commander should be out very soon, as should most of them. However, Techno - pessimistic as I am - reread the post. I suggest you drop it because, honestly, without abso-expletive-lutely brilliant programmers, artists, etcetera, you''d be making something nobody would see, or, if you do finish it, would be, frankly, beaten out by the competition. That''s just the way it works.

Wavinator - You''re pretty close to my thinking, but I would never have uttered that three-letter expletive-in-my-vocabulary M-A-C The only ones I can think of were Space Empires IV, and, though it may be a cRPG, but it''s really the only one I''ve ever played that I thought "Wow, this is tons better than the hotshots in the market" was the Exile series. I played the original the week it was PC-released (no Crapples for me, thanks) and bought them all. However, be honest with yourselves, and me. Can you say that any indie game has really made you think that the big games are inferior to this? Any RECENT indie game, I should say, as most of the genre-defining, older ones (cough-id-cough) were already indie.

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quote:
Original post by Edward Ropple
Wavinator - You're pretty close to my thinking, but I would never have uttered that three-letter expletive-in-my-vocabulary M-A-C



LOL

quote:

However, be honest with yourselves, and me. Can you say that any indie game has really made you think that the big games are inferior to this? Any RECENT indie game, I should say, as most of the genre-defining, older ones (cough-id-cough) were already indie.


Weirdly enough, I can actually HONESTLY answer this. Open ended space games (no crappy go here, do that missions) are the game genre I LOVE. Recently, I bought both Orion Pirates and Independence War 2. I don't know what it is, but as beautiful and technologically sophistocated as these two games are (I-War2 stunningly so) there are beaten flat out by an old 2D game on the Mac (IMHO, of course) Escape Velocity, while less fully featured and primitive in comparison, was faster paced, more adventurous, better designed and simply more fun! EV has more freedom, which is the essence of the genre. In EV, you could just jump into a ship and go anywhere.

(In fact, EV is partly responsible for ending my "PC-uber alles" game philosophy. I almost bought a cheapo Mac just to play that game! )


I think the guy who creates a well designed niche game, that's not totally friggin' overambitious, has a shot. If someone came out with an indie superheros game, for example, or a galaxy spanning sci-fi cRPG, or a good economic empire builder (like Corporate Machine), I'd buy it. But if it was yet another _____ that the game industry constantly comes out with, forget about it. Design & gameplay being equal, if I'm interested in such a game, the pro's will have more bells and whistles.

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

Edited by - Wavinator on September 7, 2001 7:06:53 PM

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Hmm after reading Crydee's post I'm thinking perhaps the design should be divided in two parts. Planet side and space side. The modes and methods of play are going to be vastly different but deeply intertwined. Will be interesting to see how this looks in a month or two.

Just a quick question Drizzt, what atracts you the most to Fantasy games? I'm used to playing fantasy games too(the bread and butter of you RPG experience). Is it the type of gameplay or the setting?

ThoughtBubble got me thinking about different races and technology. Perhaps a planet or two should have a native population that is as advanced as say American Indians were when Columbus landed or perhaps the equivalent of 17th century. Then plop a colony from another world(talk about culture shock) and see where that environ goes.

Edited by - TechnoHydra on September 7, 2001 9:22:26 PM

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Excellent discussion.

Rather than designing top-down (trying to encapsulate all possible combinations, etc), why don''t you try bottom-up, especially in the genre of sci-fi. If you can correctly implement your principles and make it possible for interested/dedicated/skilled gamers to manipulate them, then you essentially create a relatively open-ended universe. Note that I said relatively , since the openness is restricted/confined by the number and variety of principles - unless your engine will be updated to include new ones.

This has real-world physical correspondence. When a new physical or chemical axiom is discovered (though this hasn''t happened in a long time), the previous rules are revised somewhat, and so forth.

Okay, so let''s talk about a real application. There''s been a lot of discussion in this thread about species creation/definition. Why not use principle here: species have a number of legs (uniped, biped, triped, etc) - possibly even none; species have a number of arms (an octopus-like organism would have no legs and eight arms); species would have a defined length and/or rigidity for their torsos; a set number of eyes and their placements. These principles would come into play with regards to machinery and atmospheric survival: some machinery would only be operable by organisms with a certain number of arms and/or legs. Having eyes on the back of the head would make it impossible to sneak up on some species unless they were asleep (and not all species have to sleep). Strength of the skin, muscle and skeleton would determine whether pressure suits would be necessary for a species to survive in certain environments. Gills or other aquatic respiratory gear would enable a species to venture underwater without breathing apparatus. And so on.

This would have use in defining which species could go where (obviously), which could be an important factor if certain resources were only located in places with specific climate types or if some crops only grew under certain conditions hostile to most species, etc. The motivation to harvest those resources (and to explore harsh environments) would be that they could potentially be valuable - sources of energy or nourishment. Entire planets could be filled with a crystal, a vine, an organism which could only be harvested by one species. They develop a monopoly on the resource and the only ways for you to break or break into it are to hire members of that species as harvesters (and provide them with equipment and ships); to become a distributor/importer for them; or - gasp! - to enslave some of them.

The same principles can be applied to most aspects of the game''s design, which also gives an interesting possibility: if you upgrade the engine at some time in the future, the changes can be broadcast as "discoveries", just as new resources would. However, those discoveries can be valuable information for which resources and alliances may be traded. They may entirely shift the balance of power (say a new resource is discovered which provides a much higher energy yield than the previous "cash crop", and a different species is suitable for its harvest...)

Boy, that''s el mouthful !

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quote:
Original post by TechnoHydra
Perhaps a planet or two should have a native population that is as advanced as say American Indians were when Columbus landed or perhaps the equivalent of 17th century. Then plop a colony from another world(talk about culture shock) and see where that environ goes.



And how advanced was that? Do any of us really know? That statement is a function of an upbringing being told that the Native Americans (that''s the appropriate term, please - there''s nothing Indian about them) were primitive, which any race is in the eyes of conquerors.

Not that I don''t agree with your idea, I just object to your phrasing, as a minority. I''m always told that my ancestors (Africans) were primitives, yet we managed to create such coveted works as the Nok terracotas (and that''s just in my "neighborhood").

Besides, Columbus himself was a primitive brute.

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The idea of having a monopoly reminds me of Dune. Where life as they knew it was dependent of a spice found only on 1 remote planet. I''m not sure I should make the game that dependent but having a few rare resources might make it more interesting, although it remains to be seen if this would actually make it more fun to play or just design.

I want there to be enough gameplay whether the players ever own their own ship or not. If they run out of options theyll lose interest.

As far as native inhabitants go. I''m trying to figure out what sort of impact beings from another world with tech far superior to the natives of the planet. In this future society would the newcomers be viewed as gods(Stargate) or would they be able to except the truth of their origins and arrival. This would shake most civilizations to their knees and cause them to rethink everything they believe.
...On second thought I think I''ll put most of my ideas on this aspect on hold for a while. There''s enough to design without having to get into advanced philosophical thoughts on the effect of offworlders landing on other planets.(It''s almost 1 in the morning here so philosophy is not the easiest thing to think about at the moment, lol.)

Thanks for the insights so far. This is really inspiring some new ideas. Oluseyi, those thoughts on the effects of physiological differences would really add new aspects. If I decided to add a different playable race, it would be an entirely new ballgame. Skills, interaction, everything would change.

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