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Tecknowolf

Making online game chars persistent

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I have been discussing with friends and other people, and wanted to bring this discussion here. If online games are persistent, with the game world always there, why not your character always there like in The Sims?

I realize this will require some backward thinking like changing how we log off characters at the end of a game session. We will need to have to use a fairly detailed menu of what we want them to do when we are off line. I figure if we can have characters with multiple skills, tie in decision tree's with specific skills in mind. So if your character has a cottage woodworking industry, then menu's would allow you to during your off time to do woodworking. I am using the game The Guild 2 as a basis for many idea's here.

So as you log off, you would tell your character to start its routines, including making products, checking its inventory of materials, and going to buy materials if needed. Minding the store would also be important as players and offline characters would also patronize your store. Plus your character would likely need to patronize other stores for tools, nails, finishes, or material.

I feel this would make games feel more alive, similar to how it felt to walk around Skyrim, or other games with players bustling around.

But your asking, how would this affect combat players? First, this wont work for full pvp games, but with for games like SWTOR, Rift, Vanguard, Warhammer, then as PVE it would work ok. As you log off your character, you would have several options for your character to do. From returning to your house and sitting quietly, to finding a trainer and honing some skills you feel need work, to defending the local city by returning to the city barracks and earning civic points.

I realize this still has many holes, but I would like to discuss this with other people.

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You should make two separate inventory: (1) as an NPC (2) as the player. Have it so that players could move things between the two inventory, but the game server cannot access the player inventory when the character goes into NPC mode (log off). There should also be two separate currency counters, of course with similar restriction. The player has access to both sides, while the server has access to only the NPC side of things.

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Characters in offline mode need to be visibly marked as such so other players don't get confused trying to chat with friends who aren't actually online.

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As for the "honing your skills" bit, you could do a time ratio for learning skills. Say you have a skill tree, where you have to use or learn or wait so long to gain the skill you now have the level for. You could have offline time in that skill be a fraction of online time where either way they could unlock that skill but it takes longer offline than on.

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It would be a lot of active characters for the server to track. It would amount to every character owned by every player in the whole game being online at all times. They wouldn't eat up bandwidth, but the server would have to run all their automated tasks, eating server resources at all times of the day and night.

From a player perspective, it would be weird to see a friend's character in "zombie mode", offering robot responses to stimulus and not remember the great dick joke from last time you quested together. You'd never see your own guy in the game, unless you were playing on another character, which might be vaguely gratifying, but not terribly productive.

Also, if the benefits of offline training or commerce were substantial, it would encourage players to build a stable of automatons, setting their drones to work leveling up or farming resources or upgrading in-game assets, rather than actually logging in and playing the game. I know that when I played EvE online, there would be months when I'd log in a few minutes a week to update market orders and skill training queues, never so much as undocking my battleships. Not the most engaging gameplay model.

How much of your game's infrastructure would be tied up with this? If the best alchemist in town sets his character to level up archery for a week while he's on vacation, will the potion market be seriously impacted? Will an NPC take his place? Will it be easy for another character to fill the gap? Will my automatic work when I'm offline be an oppressive duty, or a meaningless bit of roleplay?

I think this kind of idea works better int he context of a single-player game. What if I could get my guy in Skyrim leveled up in smithing, then buy a shop in Markarth, then retire to make sweet axes and cheap arrows? My next character could go there and purchase high-end gear from him, maybe get some training in the skills the older character had mastered, or barter for rare items that I had collected in my earlier travels.

What do you hope to achieve with this?

Ambiance? Because characters in online games are created ex nihilo, usually through a customization interface, it's likely that you'd wind up with cities packed with idle characters, at least a few of whom would have immersion-shreddingly horrible features and dress. As I said above, the inability of the drones to recognize friends or interact with active players in a meaningful way would seriously reduce the value of their presence.

Is it productivity you're after? Anything a robotic Character player model could do could be done--more cheaply--by simple offline timers. Tell him to build 40 leather backpacks. You get a progress bar and nobody in-game needs to see your little man pathing from the tannery to the leatherworks to the tailor for hours on ends, hanging up in doorways and staring straight ahead and ignoring my chat hails.

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You should make two separate inventory: (1) as an NPC (2) as the player. Have it so that players could move things between the two inventory, but the game server cannot access the player inventory when the character goes into NPC mode (log off). There should also be two separate currency counters, of course with similar restriction. The player has access to both sides, while the server has access to only the NPC side of things.


That is a wonderful idea, I had not really thought of that, which is why I brought it here. I was planning on just flagging an inv. offline mode, so when in online mode, it is normal, offline would be where you can set a limit on what and how much of something you can move. I will have to play with both idea's now, and see how they work. Thanks

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Characters in offline mode need to be visibly marked as such so other players don't get confused trying to chat with friends who aren't actually online.

Yes, I agree that having some sort of flag to explain that a character is in NPC mode would be useful, I was thinking of having their name Highlighted over their head fulltime and maybe a specific color or outline. My intention is also to have character names not be visible unless you know them, ask them, or you can click on the character and notate a name. More realistic then everyone having a name before you get to know them. Its an idea.

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As for the "honing your skills" bit, you could do a time ratio for learning skills. Say you have a skill tree, where you have to use or learn or wait so long to gain the skill you now have the level for. You could have offline time in that skill be a fraction of online time where either way they could unlock that skill but it takes longer offline than on.


As for training, I am trying to tie in with the NPC mode and have characters that train others also gain by earning mastery points to specialize with or use in other ways. But back to your suggestions, learning skills offline is something I like and heard from EVE players. A majority of players are offline 13 hours or more a day, so learning skills and being useful rather then just popping out makes more sense to me. I agree that training offline should take longer then online, but when your online you want to use your character and their skills, not spend time making a character to use.

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I think you should have a decision tree or something like you would do with normal AI's

I agree a decision tree is how it should be, with many questions ending in a drop down menu, and turning itself into an If/then setup. If a player asks for something, then I can make it or I can't, do I have the raw materials, refined materials, or the skill? If not then say" That is out of my ability, sorry"

I plan on this aspect of my game being rather long and arduous task. But, i am guessing that making SPORE was not easy either, and it was a great game with game-play we haven't seen before or since. And since MMO's really haven't changed much, I feel making something that pushes the genre a bit is never a bad thing.

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