• Announcements

    • khawk

      Download the Game Design and Indie Game Marketing Freebook   07/19/17

      GameDev.net and CRC Press have teamed up to bring a free ebook of content curated from top titles published by CRC Press. The freebook, Practices of Game Design & Indie Game Marketing, includes chapters from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, and An Architectural Approach to Level Design. The GameDev.net FreeBook is relevant to game designers, developers, and those interested in learning more about the challenges in game development. We know game development can be a tough discipline and business, so we picked several chapters from CRC Press titles that we thought would be of interest to you, the GameDev.net audience, in your journey to design, develop, and market your next game. The free ebook is available through CRC Press by clicking here. The Curated Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition, by Jesse Schell Presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, anthropology, and more. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. View it here. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, by Joel Dreskin Marketing is an essential but too frequently overlooked or minimized component of the release plan for indie games. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing provides you with the tools needed to build visibility and sell your indie games. With special focus on those developers with small budgets and limited staff and resources, this book is packed with tangible recommendations and techniques that you can put to use immediately. As a seasoned professional of the indie game arena, author Joel Dreskin gives you insight into practical, real-world experiences of marketing numerous successful games and also provides stories of the failures. View it here. An Architectural Approach to Level Design This is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. It connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory. View it here. Learn more and download the ebook by clicking here. Did you know? GameDev.net and CRC Press also recently teamed up to bring GDNet+ Members up to a 20% discount on all CRC Press books. Learn more about this and other benefits here.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
cronocr

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

42 posts in this topic

[quote name='MrJoshL' timestamp='1354142186' post='5005109']
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.
[/quote]
It is only hard as long as you keep thinking in the boundaries of existing MMO's.

The game experience should be the same, but the way to accomplish it could be different. E.g. a mine quest could be started by a rumor. A rumor could be told by X different people in a town. A miner which goes into a tavern telling stories about the old mine (only accessable in the evening), a widow you met in the morning at the market, telling you that her husband died from a mysteriously illness from the mines. A child playing in the yard fearing to get near the mine. A blackboard seeking Y new miners.

As long as you think in term of quest-grinding, kill-X-rats-quests, loot-siege etc. you will not come up with new ideas.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1354135957' post='5005069']
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?
[/quote]
This is a goal of my game, but it is not yet fully available to test it out (though you can build your own dungeon level and it can be imported). I'm curious about if it works, I think it depends a lot on the available building tools. We will see :D
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1354135957' post='5005069']
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.

[/quote] This is something sort of like what we are doing with our game, and I'm glad you mentioned it, Dave. Here is how ours works. It might help to mention that our game is a zombie apocalypse MMO, kind of made like dayZ: You can really "shape" your environment, because you can build things such as walls, forts, anything. So really, you as a player can restore humanity. Do you want to build a town? Heck, if you have the equipment go for it! If people trust you enough, you could rebuild a civilization. Of course, with our zombies, the could still break in, and that's your job to stop them from doing so. With this feature, I think people will be excited. Of course, this is survival, so you will still have to find food, water, medicine, etc. for your town. I think this would be great for other MMOs, as well. Edited by dtg108
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1354135957' post='5005069']
Say you have an MMO where the player creates some of the content.
[/quote]
Another vein of thinking is in terms of [i]emergent gameplay[/i] i.e. ways to play the game devised by the players that weren't initially scripted or intended by the developer. Most of the time this is trivial (or game-breaking) stuff like MMO players throwing parties or holding reward-based contests (speed runs, guild activities, "beat this dungeon equipped with naught but a haddock", etc). If the game is instead designed as an emergence-promoting sandbox (give players tools or abilities to create contextually-recognizable goals), you can get all kinds of results:

Placing bounties on other players
Posting quests/jobs on in-game boards that have specific controls on how rewards can be applied ("I need N [link item required], paying [select from algorithm-derived currency amt or available owned items within a quality range]")
Creating unintended fabrication or resource-gathering industries (Logger's guild started up because enough people want crafting resources, build a warehouse to sell from)
Creating player cities by allowing the construction (and subsequent zoning) of structures
Make various stats and activities trackable by the game server so you leave room for granting experience or rewards for previously unplanned activities

It's really hard, actually, to list potentials, because the best part of emergent play is that it's organic and unexpected, it grows out of how people decide to play. Minecraft is the perfect example, but a bit too non-directional. People have devised all kinds of ways to play, but there's no good metric for progress or achievement (aside from the "ooo" factor of a structure or the number of diamonds you've found).

Emergent play is likely the direction a few popular games will go in the next decade. They can't just be empty sandboxes, you need to plant a few seeds of desired progress or achievement, and nurture it through a game system that supports a wide range of activities on some level, and it's not an easy balancing act to do. But someone's going to stumble across the right mix of direction and freedom.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='MrJoshL' timestamp='1354142186' post='5005109']
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.
[/quote] I actually implemented my random idea (not to the full degree I wanted) as a NWN mod that ran as a persistant server (like a small MMO) and the players enjoyed the hell out of it. Nothing has to be the same. And nothing was the same.

I scripted everything up to cater to the individual player instead of what MMOs do, which is have set things stand there 24/7 and make the player cater to the preset content.

In a standard MMO there is a static broken merchant caravan at the same spot. The NPC will stand there 24/7 and repeat the same crap about the same guys that ran off to the same place over and over again. The enemies drop the same crap over and over, and there is one thing you can do with it.

In my system, there was no cart, there was no quest. I gave every player an array of 3 quest slots as part of their custom data, and I generated stuff on the fly to fill those empty slots.

So a player enters a zone. This zone has part of a road that goes from town a to town b. So it's a trade route. So after checking that the player has an empty quest spot, and he passes a random check to see if I should generate something,

I generate a merchant cart somewhere. Not on a specific pre set spot. Anywhere in the zone. In the grass, up a tree. Upside down in some rocks. Who cares? Just put it somewhere random. If the player stumbles upon it, then his imagination can fill in the blanks. The thieves hid it, they ran him off the road, or the merchant was drunk.

Maybe I generate a merchant there with randomly generated story that some (creature/guild/thieves) attacked him and ran off with (any random item).

Maybe I don't generate a merchant, and I just put some random object there that acts as a clue that (random creature) was there and ran off to (random place).

Maybe the merchant is fine and YOU decide to act as the bandit, creating new content for another player to find.

So now the player has a unique event to react to or ignore.

When the player enters the destination that has the (random creatures), I see this in the script that checks everyone who enters a zone, I generated the content for them.

If the player destroys the (creature) and gets any randomly generated associated loot. He can do what he likes with them. There are variables attached that say what they are, and where they came from. So the game always knows that player has the loot item from a bandit raid on the road (should he choose not to return it), and the game can react to it constantly. Maybe you don't want to return it because you're evil, it's useful to you, or you can get a better deal for it).

On rare occasions, that loot could have been an item someone else was looking for, causing new random quests between the factions that were interested in it.

If a another player stumbled upon that merchant that was waiting for the loot return and killed him. I'd generate an evidence item. So you'd have the loot to find a new owner for, and a quest item to find out who who murdered that guy (if you wanted to follow up on it). (I never coded up the part where I wanted this to happen only with nearby players, and to require the player to interact with them as witnesses, then the guilty player can have generated authorities looking for them).

I had quests to save NPCs from randomly generated places or villains. You could return them. Rob them. Beat them. Return them by demanding a ransom. Sell them to slave traders. Sacrifice them to some evil deity, etc... It was all up to the player.

What happens if a large chunk of players are sacrificing or selling into slavery? The game keeps track of this. So it can react by spawning appropriate content.

The cult of the evil deity is growing stronger. So spawn a higher percentage of followers. The town NPCs are spawned with pitchforks, clubs, and torches. They generate quests and jobs that are weighted towards cracking down on this cult or freeing slaves.

Those merchants you bump into aren't getting robbed now. They are afraid of the cult and need your protection! They are afraid to walk alone, or you can't let their deliveries get into the hands of that cult. Are you in that cult? Then you just found your next sacrifice alone in the woods. :)

Everything was random and flexible and apart of the same system. Everything was aware of the state of the world and could react to it and change it. Everything that happened could change the state of the content for the other players and it was player driven to begin with.

I hacked this up in my basement when I was 22 and knew half of what I know now. I'm sure a bigger, real MMO could try something similar. You just need a little data structure that says [b]who/what/where/why/when[/b] and then to make everything aware of it. Even NPC chatter can be gossip about player deeds.
2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They should stop making all these easy games for casual gamers with instant rewards. That would be a good start.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1354097613' post='5004912']
[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.
[/quote]

Thats a very good point. Not many seem to remember that most (if not all) MUDs had a staff (wizards, creators) that worked on new features or expanding the game world and that it was done dynamically, without strict release cycle. Things were done and deployed on the fly (depends on a MUD type, but most drivers/mudlibs allowed this). Somehow from a dynamically expanded game world that introduced unknown changes that had to be discovered by players we went into same-for-all experience with strict releases (expansions) that are consumed by most active players in 1/100 of time that took to create it. A pity really.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='noizex' timestamp='1354235491' post='5005518']
Thats a very good point. Not many seem to remember that most (if not all) MUDs had a staff (wizards, creators) that worked on new features or expanding the game world and that it was done dynamically, without strict release cycle. Things were done and deployed on the fly (depends on a MUD type, but most drivers/mudlibs allowed this). Somehow from a dynamically expanded game world that introduced unknown changes that had to be discovered by players we went into same-for-all experience with strict releases (expansions) that are consumed by most active players in 1/100 of time that took to create it. A pity really.
[/quote]That stuff never really went away. We had BBS doors that did that (LORD 2), and full multiplayer graphical RPGs. Those features just weren't advertised as hard. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] There was a big MMO sub community in Neverwinter Nights, It was like having a whole bunch of free MMOs to play on. Find whatever one suited your preferences, or start your own. Just the mainstream MMO games turned into those treadmills to nowhere.

There must be some Second Life communities that have thought up some good designs? Edited by Daaark
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
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]

Obviously you haven't played Guild Wars 2. There the player can effectively solo the whole game while still gaining experience from assisting (or being assisted) in killing an enemy that may be just a tad too tough for one person to handle. Also, the interact-able objects for the most part are specific to the player, so even if you and another person are doing the same quest to destroy X amount of objectives you can either destroy objectives with the other person (while not in party, but still getting credit towards your quest) or for certain cases you can interact with a "sparkly" that someone just used without causing the "wait to play" aspect.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
Procedural scramblers

Procedural generation could help the designer. But the problem with this content is that the designer is limited with a given set of parts that match together. Basically he is just scrambling pieces of terrain, buildings, characters, items, quests, dialogs, etc. After playing a few times the player will find out that the game is always the same, just things are placed in different positions. And the player will focus on finding where did the useful pieces fall, like in a hide and seek game, making the game repetitive. If you go to the extreme of procedural generation, the world will become too weird for the player to understand.
[/quote]

Once again, GW2 has helped to solve this problem by making the storyline of each character take a different path depending on your choices when you create the character. Sure, there are only a finite number of quest-lines in this manner, but the ability to alter the path your hero takes (including your choice of Order) still helps to break the monotony when you wish to start over again.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
Perpetual tutorial

So to avoid bottlenecks there must be more roads, then the complexity of the world increases. Now, the designer is required to ease the gameplay with guided tours thru the world, but in increasingly complex worlds this is being taken to the extreme of transforming the whole game experience into the longest tutorials. Basically you get a message that tells you to go somewhere and do something. You do this, you get a pat on the back, then you're told to go do something else. Ad infinitum.
[/quote]

Sorry, but this just sounds like you hate the style of MMOs altogether. Fetch quests and their like are an integral part of being an adventurer in almost any MMO as they not only gain you rewards from completion, but they also gain you experience from the grind to complete them. Also to be noted, once again GW2 has made this a non-issue for the most part as their quest system allows for you to help a variety of people in the world by completing not just one, but multiple objectives towards assisting them. There, the player gets to decide just how they want to proceed through the game, not always following the same boring type of quest over and over.

[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
Solutions?

Is people actually interested in seen an overcrowded game? Maybe having overly crowded games just make them real in all the wrong ways. Maybe it's the ambition of game designers that actually turned into bad design, something that we are realizing until now that technology is capable of taking us to this extreme. And maybe MMOs should be more single-player. Even if the game is an MMO, you should be able to play alone and affect your own copy of the world. You could still invite your friends to play in your copy of the world to socialize, which to me it's the important feature of an MMO.
[/quote]

First off the correct way to ask that question is "ARE people actually interested in being in an overcrowded game?", and the answer is a resounding YES! People that play MMOs (which let us remember means Massively Multiplayer Online) do so just for this fact. some have the intent of exploring the world with friends or even strangers (who many times become friends) while others are simply there to grief other players just because it is the only way they can be hateful to other human beings without getting their asses kicked because in reality they feel their lives suck (not passing judgment, but you know who you are...). The numbers that WoW, GW2, FFXI, Everquest, and many others put up are not a fluke of bad design, they are a social setting where people can escape to because the real world just blows.

So in conclusion, we are not ushering in an era of "bad design" we are merely exploring another avenue of interactive entertainment which for many is a necessity to have any manner of social life whatsoever. So while you posted this as a topic for debate it feels more like a gripe with a genre you either don't understand or just don't enjoy. Either way go enjoy the next HALO: Call Of Battlefield Of Honor 13 and allow those of us who truly appreciate the genre for the hard work and effort it takes to make such an immense gaming experience to begin with.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree with all four points in the original post.[list]
[*]The amount of content needs to be enough for each player's whole playing experience from a trial account to a cancelled subscription; as locations can be either instanced or shared by many players, content can be stretched too thin in time, but not in space.
If there's enough content for a few players, there is enough content for many players, with two exceptions: player-owned land etc. might require a [i]qualitatively [/i]larger world (e.g. adding railroads or highways or stargates to keep travel times in check) to accomodate a larger population, and occasionally some places could be too crowded to operate normally (but it's perfectly normal and expected).
[*]If simple procedural generation modifies content in superficial ways, it's always better than exact repetition and bad procedural generation.
Good game rules generate fresh tactical and strategical challenges from small changes of scenery, monster power, etc. (questions like "is it going to kill me?" and "where can I run?" never cease to be interesting), and procedural generation could be taken further.
[*]Unless the designers introduce railroading in what should be an open-ended experience, telling the player things the character is supposed to know (e.g. the location and schedule of important events) or things that he might not have learned yet (e.g. in which market locations he can sell what loot) is just useful guidance.
[*]Socializing is the opposite of solipsistic private copies of the world. The only advantage of a MMO over a single player RPG is the interaction with other people, and MMO designs will (or should...) continue to sacrifice everything else to make friendly and unfriendly interactions with other players more fun.
[/list]
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One aspect that I think is being emphasized too much in this conversation is the need for one huge world for many players to explore.

An MMO can still have a feeling of open-world without having a massive over-map that takes hours to traverse. From my experience (I don't play MMO's, but had friends who were very addicted to them) players don't like spending half their time going from one point to another. So from that perspective, lets say we get rid of that.

Nearly all MMO's have different servers and some form of level streaming to help maintain the amount of content thats viewed by players at any one time. If you break it down into a smaller level, it could be easier to maintain; not only in regards to content but also cost to the developer. So then every level that is played could be maintained content. Again, if we take that approach, we can get rid of over-populated quests.

If you create something like a hub in which players interact before forming teams and tackling quests, then you are basically creating a more stream-lined instances system like in WoW. If you create faster, more intense action in the game and take the grind away for leveling, leaving only the instances with smaller teams, you create an MMO system that takes less of a toll on servers and content creation, thus minimizing cost.

Then again, this method of instanced action stemming from a central hub could also be used to explain nearly all FPS multiplayer games. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/biggrin.png[/img]

I guess it's all in the way you perceive games. I see Call of Duty as an MMO just as much as World of Warcraft since they both have addictive game-play with leveling and as you progress, you get better gear. And it all really boils down to playing games with friends.

So yeah...pretty much if a game; any game, is online, has a decently large community, and some form of matchmaking where you could play with strangers, than isn't it an MMO? Edited by DaveTroyer
2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
@DaveTroyer I agree wholeheartedly with your idea of a hub system where players just go into instances of a dungeon (or similar area) to play together and given the right game concept/setting this would work beautifully. However, I feel a small correction is necessary...

[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1354303920' post='5005803']
I guess it's all in the way you perceive games. I see Call of Duty as an MMO just as much as World of Warcraft since they both have addictive game-play with leveling and as you progress, you get better gear. And it all really boils down to playing games with friends.

So yeah...pretty much if a game; any game, is online, has a decently large community, and some form of matchmaking where you could play with strangers, than isn't it an MMO?
[/quote]

This is kind of wrong. The actual definition of an MMO is: A massively multiplayer online game. A computer game in which a large number of players can simultaneously interact in a persistent world.

The main word there is [b]simultaneously[/b]. A game is only an MMO if a large group of players (which I take to mean more than 32 to 64 at a time as is the case of COD, Battlefield, etc...) are all playing on the same field at the same time, regardless of whether they are all in the same exact area at once. MMOs are about not only exploring the world with your friends, but being able to communicate with virtually anyone in the world no matter where you are at. Other than that I love the ideas you proposed here and like I said, that could work well in another game type, but not really fitting for a true MMO. Edited by Lord Darkshayde
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord DarkShayde, MMO is a buzzword. MMO doesn't make a difference when you only ever meet a few players at a time in any given session, and it's all instanced anyways. If your party enters a dungeon and gets it's own private instance, what difference does the MMO part make? You might as well be playing a something like Icewind Dale at a Lan Party.

What difference does it make if there are 64 or 6400 if I never see these guys? They are in other zones, doing other quests, and when I come across them, they are just passing by on the road on their to or from town. They extra players really don't add anything to the experience.

It's like an amusement part. They are just other people waiting in line to ride the repeating quests. The level reqs are just a replacement for the 'you must be THIS tall' signs. ;)
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm silently reading all the great contributions to this post, thanks guys! :)

And now I found this recent [url="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/182287/The_story_of_Glitch_Why_this_odd_MMO_is_shutting_down.php"]article[/url]. Quote: "Production Problems Made it Tough to Find the Fun" ... "We really underestimated how long things would take to get right, and how much would have to be invested in... the core loops and making it fun."
2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[quote name='cronocr' timestamp='1354035552' post='5004564']
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]

Phasing dramatically reduces this. You create multiple copies of the same zone based on population. And as we get better with dynamically created content this will be even less of an issue. GW2 and Rift are on the right track IMHO.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I still consider Ultima Online the best MMORPG of all times. Played it many times, with many characters and in different guilds so I can have a varied view of the game.

What made UO the best:

1) You can play alone. You will feel the danger of playing alone, like when robbed by a band of thiefs, but you are not "overwhelmed" like in other mmorpgs where groups kill easily the solitaire players. The solitaire hero, here, can live.

2) Trading system. Impressive, functional, it works, many objects to be created, and USEFUL. All working perfectly and high interaction between the players.

3) Social fun. You play chess with your guild friends, have a virtual beer at the tavern, just spend an hour chatting about useless things or wandering around the town with a girl. ANYWAY, it's social, it works, it's a kind of The Sims inside a Medieval Combat game.

4) Level CAP. you reach maximum stats easily... it's not like EVE online where you have to play for months and months and months and newbies are totally useless. After you reach maximum stats you are not supreme. You have high stats in something and low stats in something else. ANYWAY, you are not HUGE. You can still be killed by newbies and that's the cool part of the game.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The secret to generating a lot of content is to stop trying to make everything kick so much ass.  Well designed play can be mixed and matched freely, and content like art and music and levels can actually be slapped together with great effect.  Just make sure you use these resources in the way they are built for.  Don't loop annoying songs for extended periods.  In fact, with music just fish with dynamite.  Tons of extremely basic songs, throw out a bunch.  Done.  Art?  Low poly, weak graphics.  Lots of reuse.  Levels?  Make 'em funish, piece by piece. Section not fun?  Try something else right there.  Again, fish with dynamite.  It's really not that hard to make the game look and sound and feel cool if you keep a consistent style.  Me?  I use procedural generation.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0