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cronocr

Is a new age of bad design coming? (MMOs)

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[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']And maybe [u]MMOs should be more single-player[/u]. Even if the game is an MMO, you should be able to play alone and affect your own copy of the world. [/quote]Sure, but what for? If you want to play alone, why not play singleplayer games which will ALWAYS be superior in terms of playing alone?

It's sounds to me like trying to make an elephant out of a rabbit. Sure, both have 4 legs and one head and one tail and even the colour is similar but... :)
The strenght of multiplayer games is in playing with others, the strength of singleplayer games is in playing solo. Not following the natural strength of a genre/game type is a recipe for designing an inferior game.

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Thanks for contributing [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1354040238' post='5004596']
The strenght of multiplayer games is in playing with others
[/quote]

The question is if we really need "massive", toward infinite amount of players, or "massive" can be something moderate that allow us to enjoy the game. How many people do you need in a MMO to fulfill the "play with others" feature? Isn't balance always better? Maybe technology is taken games too far, to a wrong reality.

[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1354040238' post='5004596']
It's sounds to me like trying to make an elephant out of a rabbit.
[/quote]

I'm having fun with an apocalyptic scenario for game design, but at the same time I trying to realize if the player would be happier playing alone and inviting his friends to his game whenever he wants, instead of an actual massively world in which you practically don't know anyone, and you also aren't allowed to make changes in their world, because that is not nice. Edited by cronocr

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I believe there is a sweet spot for "social" in games.
[i](Disclaimer: I don't know squat about psychology)[/i]
Like in real life, a densely populated area tends to have people ignoring oneanother,
while being just two persons in an otherwise deserted lands are more likely to connect.

Of course the more challenging the environment (as in urban vs. wilderness), the more need people will see to team up.
I understand your "be more singleplayer" idea, although I think it's a balancing issue.

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Not all MMO's are like this. For instance CitiesXL and SimCity 2013 have/will have an MMO planet where each player gets their own city site to construct on. Each city is able to interact with the world, and decisions in one city can have an impact (albeit tiny impact) on other cities.

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On the topic of procedural content becoming bland:

I got into MMO's with Anarchy Online, and one of the primary xp grinds were procedurally generated dungeons (called "missions") you could request from mission terminals. The room palette was only like 4 or 5 rooms large, with 4 hallway types and 2 or 3 themes to choose from for the interior as a whole. That content rapidly became stale background noise, but the fights against the npc's IN the missions were the focus because they took everyone's attention.

I think this is a key element that a lot of mediocre games forget: if your player is going to spend a lot of time doing X, make X inherently fun! Combat in AO was tedious once you knew what you were doing, the standard "stand still and responsively hit skill buttons" fare. Occasionally things would get crazy with accidental add-on enemies and your utility class with the calm/sleep/mind-control skills would save your bacon, and THOSE were the fights everyone talked about after. Not the 200 went-like-clockwork encounters.

That's the kind of fun that needs to be harnessed, then. Tons of content doesn't make up for bland gamePLAY. How many shooters fall flat because firing the weapons doesn't feel right? That was a major gripe with the Planetside2 beta before release: the guns felt too lightweight. They reworked that with response rates, sound and graphics, particle effects and damage rates and now, even with the game being a repetitive slogfest, it's fun to catch an enemy in your sights and unload a clip. I don't care if I've done it before a hundred times that day.

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[quote]Too massive for so few content
The designer will never be able to generate enough content to cope with the population of the game. For example if you are supposed to destroy some computer terminals, but some other people are there and destroyed them first, you are forced sit there until they rematerialized, so you could destroy them again. Bottlenecks.[/quote] That's because MMOs are designed like virtual theme parks. Quest lines are like a series of rides.

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[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
Is people actually interested in seen an overcrowded game?
[/quote]
I'm interested in seeing crowds where I'd expect to see crowds. Adventuring off the beaten path, I expect to be pretty much alone with the wilderness, and running across other adventurers would be something to take note of. I don't want to see a queue 300 people long for the entrance to a remote cave. Unless they're all there because someone's hosting a great party. Emergent gameplay, yay.
Similarly, I expect crowds in a metropolis. An idea in a "if I had a million dollars I'd make this" sci-fi mmo design I have is to phase crowds based on player population: if you're the only player in the downtown area, you'll see lots of npc's milling about. If there are hundreds of players running around the city, you need relatively few extras to give the sense of crowd, so the game tones down the npc numbers (gracefully, they'd all wander off to other business or something).

There's a sweet spot for population though. There's almost no chance for personal significance in a crowd of 5000 heroes. If there are 10 or 20 avenues for greatness, that changes things. Likewise, if there are only 500 people on a server, almost everyone has a shot at being a known name, even if there's only really one path for gameplay.

I have lots of fun playing co-op games with just one friend, but MMO crowds are there to give you several things:
1) An economy to benefit from (auctionhouse content, sales, specialized crafters)
2) The chance to find similar peers (you know, the source of guild drama and whatnot)
3) An audience to show off to.

Of course, only points 1 and 2 really benefit from MASSIVE numbers, 3 works even in a small circle. Case in point: I always made Diablo II characters LAN-based, even if I was playing solo for the entire character progression, because it gave me the option to leverage that character's skills and "awesomeness" in a game with a friend if the opportunity ever arose.

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[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
I hope to create some controversy...
[/quote]
We don't need any more controversy anywhere, let alone an internet forum.

But to answer your question, one of the biggest things you hear about MMO's is the complaints of Blizzard's World of Warcraft players (as WoW is the longest running MMO to date, although Runescape probably is older, but has less of an audience) who say that "the original (vanilla) WoW was so much better than the new ones." A big reason people say this is because a game, especially a social game like an MMO, is so much more fun and adventurous when you [b]and your friends[/b] go on a new adventure and play a game where everything is new and you are all newbies, and you go on adventures discovering the world with them. If you look at WoW now, although it still is a great MMO and game in general, the game itself is better, but the players now complain about how the game is an antisocial stat fest. If by some stroke of genius you find a way in game design to make someone a perpetual newbie, encourage [b][i][u]unscripted [/u][/i][/b]social adventure, maintain positive feedback from your audience, and still deliver a great end product, please tell us.

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[quote name='MrJoshL' timestamp='1354061897' post='5004754']
as WoW is the longest running MMO to date
[/quote]
Not even close. Off the top of my head Ultima Online, EverQuest, [s]Age of Conan[/s] (EDIT: much newer, my apologies!), and RuneScape have all been running for at [i]least[/i] a few years longer than World of Warcraft. I think what you might have meant to suggest however was that World of Warcraft is the [i]most popular[/i] MMO -- I don't know the latest statistics, but that would quite probably be true. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]


Interesting topic, and I think you might be right that the majority of people aren't really interested in a [i]massively[/i] multi-player experience: they do want to be able to play with friends -- some of whom may be new friends met within the game -- and they want to have an audience they can show off their achievements to, but realistically they don't need thousands of concurrent players for that. This is perhaps an area where instanced content helps to reduce the crowding.

//Sorry, I've got more to say, but I'm currently on baby duty and she's started crying! Edited by jbadams

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I've played MMORPGs since Everquest I and I must say that I had lot of fun. But I think, that a MMORPG is already bad design by definition. The problem is quite simple:

[i]When playing a RPG, the player want to be the hero, saving the world of commons while experiencing unique adventures. [/i]

The barrier are
1. The player want to be THE unique hero,
2. The player want to live through adventures experiencing unique stories,

Storytelling and being the unique hero is possible to some degree in a single player or small multiplayer game, but a massive multiplayer game is the anti-pattern to this design.

After more than a decade of MMORPGs available you can see different approaches.
[u]1. WoW:[/u]
They stay true to the RPG thought, trying to deliver lot of customization features (being unique) and story (in form of content).
=> This lead to the content-racing, even blizzard will fail to deliver more interesting content at some point here.

[u]2. GW I (never played two):[/u]
They deliver a small coop-mutliplayer RPG experience, added PvP and a feeling of RTS (you feel like a soldier executing unique missions to fight your war in a greater war scenario).
=> This is not only one of the most cleverly business models, but although delivers a good single player experience and a RTS feeling.

[u]3. Ultima Online (though never played it):[/u]
Unique in the sense of having a very high degree of building and crafting.
=> Player want to be creative and giving the players the ability to create something [i]world changing[/i] is a great idea (->minecraft), though UO have some really hard issues with it.


To be honest, WoW is leading the MMORPG into the wrong direction and most other MMORPGs (take an existing brand like StarWars, Lord of Rings and put WoW on top of it) try to herd after them, eventuallly leading down the cliff. The design is a content pyramid scheme and will eventually collaps with a lot of people being frustrated and never touching a MMORPG again.

I personally like the single player aspect of GW and I think that more MMORPGs should go MMORTS. There's nothing wrong about being a single soldier in an massive conflict (all the CoD like games proof this) , being the hero for only a single session. RTS approach is screaming for MMO, but the industry is cautious about MMO+RTS, most likely seeing only a literal implementation of the RTS genre instead of integrating RPG parts into a weakened RTS implementation.

And finally the creative aspect of content creation is a very important factor, though it is in conflict with modern AAA design and art.

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[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1354086865' post='5004872']
And finally the creative aspect of content creation is a very important factor, though it is in conflict with modern AAA design and art.
[/quote]
[url="http://www.realmofthemadgod.com/"]Realm of The Mad God[/url] took an interesting approach to this by having relatively simple content and then providing a simple and restricted method by which players could contribute. I think player-generated content is an area worthy of further investigation -- and RoTMG is a good (albeit simple) example of it being done right.

It's also a good example of different game-play -- it's more of a bullet-hell shooter than a traditional RPG.

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[quote name='jbadams' timestamp='1354076282' post='5004834']
[quote name='MrJoshL' timestamp='1354061897' post='5004754']
as WoW is the longest running MMO to date
[/quote]
Not even close. Off the top of my head Ultima Online, EverQuest, Age of Conan, and RuneScape have all been running for at [i]least[/i] a few years longer than World of Warcraft.
[/quote]Age of Conan is only 4 years old. WOW is 8. (Now if only we could get low fantasy / Conan in a Skyrim like game...)

You guys are only counting graphical MMORPGs. MMO type gameplay has been around since people had computers to play them on. An MMO is just a graphical MUD with a bigger playerbase. Even Everquest started as a near clone of DikuMud.

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Sure, that's true -- but once again, a MUD doesn't really benefit from being [i]massively[/i] multi-player either -- in most cases an instanced server with anywhere up to about 64 players would be just as effective, and a smaller number of players might help to reduce some of the common problems that larger crowds can introduce.

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[quote name='Daaark' timestamp='1354095484' post='5004900']
An MMO is just a graphical MUD with a bigger playerbase.
[/quote]
Most early MMOs has their roots in MUDs (Meridian59, Camlelot, EQ ?), what is quite interesting is, that MUDs had often world builders (limited to certain players/admins), a way to alter the world [i]dynamically[/i]. This was almost completely lost from the transition from MUD to MMORPG.

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[quote name='Daaark' timestamp='1354049177' post='5004665']That's because MMOs are designed like virtual theme parks. Quest lines are like a series of rides.[/quote]
[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1354086865' post='5004872']
MMORPG is already bad design by definition [...] The player want to be THE unique hero,
[...]
To be honest, WoW is leading the MMORPG into the wrong direction and most other MMORPGs follow[/quote]So true -- at least from my point of view. However, the massive success that these games have proves otherwise. Well, admittedly Star Wars and LOTRO are not truly blockbusters (despite their huge existing fanbases, which should guarantee a license to print money!), but I think that's because of the implementations that lack "design love".

I've played LOTRO (at the time of Shadows of Angmar) myself and found it kind of entertaining for a week. However, overall, it was just badly designed in a purposely stupid, annoying manner. Plus, nothing interesting to be done after playing for a week, and nothing to be done at all (except raiding, which is really 90% [i]waiting[/i]) after two weeks.

I remember reading a review when Rift came out (was it Rift? I think so...), of which the bottom line was that it's such a great game because after selecting the first quest NPC, you never even have to think any more. A big arrow shows you where you have to click next to "win".

All in all, my impression is that the vast majority of people doesn't really have too much interest in rich RPG and in fact enjoys a theme-park style of game, and even "grinding" (even while complaining, they enjoy it). I couldn't explain otherwise why such games are so massively successful. Edited by samoth

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[quote name='MrJoshL' timestamp='1354102423' post='5004935']
When I said WoW is the longest running MMO, I was saying that it is the longest running while maintaining a solid playerbase and being somewhat mainstream.
[/quote]

Sorry again. NationStates opened 2 years earlier and has a solid playerbase and been mainstream since it opened. ;)

WoW is the most popular MMO, but certainly not the longest running mainstream one.

BTW, I was mistaken before. It's not The Realm Online, but Furcadia which claims to be the longest continuous MMO. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furcadia

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@OP
I agree with you. The classic MMORPG, Ultima Online, was all about how the players shaped their own world and interacted with others.
You could be anything you want, you had a wide range of skills to develop and you could build your own house to live in this world. PvP was also available, but not so mandatory.
Today, UO is very different and lost great part of that unique experience. New MMORPGs are just about how you should grind to a maximum level (which is stupid) and battle other players just to show off. I don't see the same motivation of the old players in the new ones... which IMO is very sad and very bad for the genre.

There is a [url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4xfrVUj_c0"]cool interview[/url] with the designer of the Ultima RPG series. He tells a very interesting story at 18:30 I guess Edited by kuramayoko10

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My only problem with this 'bad design' is the grinding by design. They are also set up like a form of gambling.

I've put HUNDREDS of hours into Skyrim, and none of it was grinding. That number may be 500 too. It was all fun and exploring.

I've put 100 hours into Dark Souls, and some of it was grinding, but that grinding was never required, and it was fun in the form of helping other players kill bosses.

In a commercial MMO, you have to grind for a ages to get anything.

Skyrim (for all it's faults) could teach these MMOs a thing or two. Open the whole world up and let players have missions that span the world. Make them take time to do.

When you take a mission in an MMO, you enter a small area where everything is close by, and your quest amounts to walking across the street from the NPC and killing ten of something. Repeat * 1000 until you are leveled enough to do the same thing in the next area.

Why not get a randomly generated mission in one town, that leads to someone in another town all together. The town is a few day's walk away. While you're walking you get distracted by wild life, maybe do some hunting, people trying to rob merchant carts, strange noises in the woods. Gather food (maybe from the hunt), and set up camp for the night, then continue until you reach the town and talk to your target who then gives you something to do in a cave that is half a day's walk away, etc...

Depending on your actions with that merchant cart, maybe you made a new player friend when you saved his shipment. Maybe you looted it and now the players in the thieve's guild are angry at you for infringing on their 'turf', and they take it up with the players in the bounty hunters guild. Maybe there are wanted posters with your face on them in whatever town was expecting that cart? There is so much potential to really simulate a little fantasy world and it's inner workings.

But instead everyone just does their zones bs and make people pay to grind endlessly for a 10,000th of a chance to get that rare drop. Just like people who keep putting money in casinos hoping against hope that they beat the odds and win money, even though it's all rigged to begin with. Paying to grind is like walking into McDonalds and giving them 15$ a month for the pleasure of scrubbing their toilets in the hopes that maybe you'll get a free big-mac.

You don't need to stagger things to keep people playing. People play other games for years on end. People still still play all the Elder Scrolls games, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, etc... They have fun mechanics and the player base takes on a life of it's own.

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[quote name='samoth' timestamp='1354103305' post='5004940']
All in all, my impression is that the vast majority of people doesn't really have too much interest in rich RPG and in fact enjoys a theme-park style of game, and even "grinding" (even while complaining, they enjoy it). I couldn't explain otherwise why such games are so massively successful.
[/quote]
I don't think that the success will hold on. WoW is loosing subscriptions for years now, lotro was forced into F2P and StarWars, well, it is more or less a flop and this with such a setting from bioware ! What about all the other games, DnDO, Rift, Aoen, Secret World, AoC, all have been beaten by WoW a 7 year old game. I think that WoW is still attracting new, more casual gamers, whereas core gamers keep away from new MMORPGs.

[quote name='Daaark' timestamp='1354109575' post='5004952']
Skyrim (for all it's faults) could teach these MMOs a thing or two. Open the whole world up and let players have missions that span the world. Make them take time to do.
[/quote]
With [url="http://elderscrollsonline.com/"]elder scroll online[/url] we will see if an other top single player developer is able to pull it off.

The risk of developing a MMORPG is very high and many developers have tried to get their own MMORPG on its way, but many failed the desired goals. So, why do all try to make their own MMORPG ? Well, it is like always cash, which is greed, which is a bad base for good game design. The latter is reaching its climax in F2P MMORPGs:
[i]grind as long as you want, but you need to pay to have fun[/i] [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/wacko.png[/img] Edited by Ashaman73

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So I have an idea or scenario that might be interesting...

Say you have an MMO where the player creates some of the content.

We task the player with controlling their own plane of existence or something like that. We give them an area to make their dream dungeon/castle/base/whatever and they need loot and experience to unlock all the goodies they can to make their base. That means they need to adventure into other players bases to get gold and gear. When the player is online, they could possibly fight with their minions to help fight adventures or multiple adventures or even parties can be running through copies of your base at the same time. Going through the base will give the base owner and the adventuring team experience, but the base owner doesn't get as much. As the player develops their bases, they are creating higher level dungeons which helps to maintain content for the player base. Of course, this model would also be strong for microtransactions as a player could buy special monsters for their base to help boost their gold collection or adventures could buy checkpoints or gear that will make it easier to go through the base.

Just like how players enjoy making levels and maps and all that goodness, in this game we hand that to the players themselves with only a handful of developer created levels. Only thing that really needs to be developed content wise is a fair sized library of parts, weapon assets, and characters. Sure, good game-play, a hub world, and a level-creator will need to be developed, but that doesn't seem so bad with letting the players essentially create, build, and maintain their own expansion of your game.

...dang, I like this idea a lot now... [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/biggrin.png[/img]

Edit to make sense: A game where the players create levels for players to explore. A vicious cycle of game-play where the player plays to create content for other players to play... inception? Edited by DaveTroyer

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Easier said than done. MMO's have to be great and realistic games, but have to be the same game for each player. That means that the questgivers will stand in the same spot 24/7 and the quests will have to be text-based, and there are lots of queues.

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[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1354135957' post='5005069']
Say you have an MMO where the player creates some of the content.
[/quote]
Player created content is potentially a great idea -- and it worked well in the afore-mentioned Real of The Mad God -- but it isn't without problems:[list]
[*]Players can game the system by creating ridiculously easy challenges to give each other rewards.
[*]Trolls can work to try creating scenarios that are impossible to win.
[*]Some players are just unimaginative or unskilled and will create bland and boring content, or a lot of the same generic content.
[*]It can be hard to find and highlight the really good content in a manageable way.
[/list]
These are all problems that can be solved in different ways, but they definitely mean that player created content is non-trivial to implement.

[quote name='MrJoshL' timestamp='1354142186' post='5005109']
but have to be the same game for each player
[/quote]
Do they?

This is something that players are used to from existing games, and no one wants to miss out on any experiences or opportunities that others get to experience, but maybe this is an assumption that could be challenged: is there a way we could make it acceptable to not present the same content to each player?

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