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Calculate the size for an open world with no instancing?

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Hello!

 

How do you think – is it possible to make an open-world MMO game with no instancing?

I mean, the main issue is – to design how large the world should be. Definitely, it's related to a possible number of players at the same time online, but probably there are more things need to bear in mind?

 

And about players count – how to calculate it more-less properly when the game development only on a stage of idea design? (I doubt it's even possible, correct me if I'm wrong)

 

TL;DR

How to calculate which world size do I need to the game launch?

 

 

Any thoughts are appreciated!

Thanks!

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Calculating players count is impossible, let alone at "idea stage". Goes from 1-2 concurrent players to some thousand, depending on... well, if only I could tell you what makes the difference between an unsuccessful and a successful game! It is almost impossible to predict this.

About the world size, I'd definitively stay on the small side. First, the larger the world gets, the harder it gets to fill it with something meaningful. But also, people tend to cluster in few locations anyway, and most of the remaining area is empty. It's not very interesting to run across empty terrain for half an hour, and not see another player.

You can always open new areas if your world proves too small. Just remove that large fallen tree which used to block the passage to the next valley. Too big... difficult to make smaller. So... maybe start out with a 2x2 km square, and see what happens. If you already have a hundred concurrent players on average during beta, you can always double the area then.

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Goes from 1-2 concurrent players to some thousand, depending on

Well, yes, that's why I've created this post – probably, there are some known paths how to design this part of a game and not based on players counting.

 

 

It's not very interesting to run across empty terrain for half an hour, and not see another player.

Well, it depends on a gameplay, no? It could be crowded by players, but what if the game wants to make a feeling of unexplored territories? There should not be lot of players around in that case, only in some basic points (e.g., in cities). And at the same time, each player (or group of players) should be able to find "own piece" of that exploration (and still has a chance to meet other players, as in real world, not as in instanced games).

 

 

 

Just remove that large fallen tree which used to block the passage to the next valley

Probably, it will work for some cases, but hard to implement really open world with a path just blocked by some tree. It's good for a corridor-style games, where player have just a single way to go...

 

Also other issue with this way is that still need to develop those additional zones pretty fast (in case if game becomes successful) – or to have some buffer with zones which are unavailable to players – but it's taking us back to the question – how much zones need to have pre-developed?

 

While this make sense for alpha/beta tests, thank you!

Edited by norlin

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Your main concern regarding world size is to make it large enough for each individual player to have fun. Overcrowding is a good problem to have; it means you have a lot of players and probably some money which you can spend on development. So it's not worth worrying about that at the start.

 

World size is up to you, and you'll want to consider:

  • how far can a player see?
  • how fast can a player move?
  • how long do you want it to take a player to cross the map?
  • how does your design limit progress across the map? (e.g. combat difficulty, impassing obstacles)
  • how much content are you actually able to create?

Nobody can tell you "You need 15 zones for every 1000 players" because nobody has any idea (a) how large your zones are, (b) whether you even have zones, (c) how long it takes for a player to complete a zone, etc etc. There are no guidelines. Just decisions.

Edited by Kylotan

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how far can a player see? how fast can a player move? how long do you want it to take a player to cross the map? how does your design limit progress across the map? (e.g. combat difficulty, impassing obstacles) how much content are you actually able to create?

 

Ok, thank you! I've thought about exactly these questions, but also thought maybe I've missed anything important.

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Ok, thank you! I've thought about exactly these questions, but also thought maybe I've missed anything important.

 

Not really, its just deciding how things are going to work, and making decisions that make sense.  while doing this, Its important to pay attention to how your choices affect each other. IE what game dynamics arise from you set of choices. You want to avoid choices that lead to bad dynamics - stuff like:   empty world + slow movement rate = no action.

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For reference, many of the largest games developed over many years with millions of active players have world sizes in the 40 to 60 square mile range. WoW is about 60 square miles, Skyrim and Dragon Age Inquisition are about 20 square miles.

Also for reference, since many people are familiar with The Sims 3, the largest world size in 'create a world' is 4 square kilometers -- 2048 meters x 2048 meters.  Many people spend hundreds of hours playing in the world map that is one square kilometer, 1024 meters by 1024 meters. 

 

 

Another frequent trap is wanting to make real-world sizes for their games, about 60,000 square miles of usable area.  The problem with that is that you need a population the size of earth to get the same density, and even then there are huge swaths of desert and frozen tundra and wastelands where nobody resides. Your game likely won't have that scale of billions of players (no game currently does) and you don't have the ability to create that much content and interesting materials.

 

 

Think small.  Then think smaller.  Then consider that in professional games, there are many worlds smaller than one square kilometer take many work-decades and sometimes work-centuries (fifty people for two years, or about 60 people for 18 months) to turn into interesting maps and worlds.

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billions of players

That's the plan! xD

 

I have seen a game worlds comparison today: http://i.imgur.com/uBWCz.jpg

(And there is a second part, but can't find right now).

 

It mostly depends not only the size itself, but rather on how fast players could travel in a world.

Yes, you're right. The content filling is the most complex part...

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It's all about content when I play games. How fun is your content? How much travel time is it worth? Why not just put all your content close together? Wouldn't that be more fun? A big game world might be more fun for you to have, but how is it more fun for the player? WoW, Skyrim and San Andreas have very good answers to these questions, and were highly rated. Fuel, Arkham Knight and No Man's Sky have very weak answers to these questions and were less (or no) fun for it. Zelda would not have been a better game if it were twice as big just like Star Wars wouldn't have been a better movie if it were twice as long.

I ask because I also dream about making a huge game, and I could detail all my ideas and what I've learned about Procedural Generation so far, but I don't want to derail your thread.

The core issue is this: nothing gets around making a fun game. If your content is fun, you can repeat it many times, whether that takes the form of going over a hill to repeat it, or advancing to the next level to repeat it, or starting a new round to repeat it. If your content is not that fun, then the world should be smaller, or your game should have fewer levels or rounds, so that players can finish the game before they get bored.

 

If your only goal is to have a big game, I'm not sure why anyone will want to actually travel through it.

 

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By "instancing'   you mean no multiple server worlds,  or no server 'bubble' scenarios, or no respawn of NPC laid out in a minefield across the world) ???

 

Depends what you are after - realism - massive cooperative interaction - minimizing interference of other players

 

Various limitation of an MMORPG could force you into some instancing  (separate server zones with overlap areas is a flavor like instancing).

 

If you have a Free-for-All everywhere, that lessens some restrictions.

 

If you want some semi-realistic economy/ecosystem that is another aspect requiring restrictions

 

If you have finely crafted mini-scenarios which you dont want interfered with (or worse Griefer-ized)  that is another problem.

 

Im looking at a game design for a closed-in world (interior spaces) where a previously unknown generic manhole cover can lead to someplace interesting (and part of the player's somewhat  personalized journey).   So INSTANCING there is a fundamental aspect of the game.

 

Huge worlds Ive seen have been largely "Pretty Deserts" with anything of real interest far and few between. (and then the interesting places often swarming a result of  the cattle-ramp fixed mission progression).

 

Mass slaughter of generic opponents is easy.  Lots of individual interesting player experiences are hard.  It all depends what you are aiming for  (and for any individual goodness, unfortunately Procedural Generation of 'instances' is a most practical tool.

Edited by wodinoneeye

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By "instancing' you mean no multiple server worlds, or no server 'bubble' scenarios, or no respawn of NPC laid out in a minefield across the world) ???

I mean just a single in-game world for all players.  (not sure what do you mean by "bubble scenarious"...)

So, basically, any single player could meet any other single player;

no shards, no "channels" (as in GW2), no "individual dungeons", no separated "pvp zones", and so on.

 

It's mostly about exactly pvp-interaction (not just fights, but all kind of social interaction between players). Modern MMO games mostly have single-player experience for a basic gameplay – I don't like this design.

 

 

If you have a Free-for-All everywhere, that lessens some restrictions

What do you mean "free-for-all"?

 

 

If you want some semi-realistic economy/ecosystem that is another aspect requiring restrictions

Yep, I hope to make a kind of live economy and ecosystem.

 

 

If you have finely crafted mini-scenarios which you dont want interfered with (or worse Griefer-ized) that is another problem.

There are planned lot of different quests, but I don't see how it could be an issues in sens of instancing/no instancing.

 

 

Huge worlds Ive seen have been largely "Pretty Deserts" with anything of real interest far and few between

Well it's a content issue, I know... Hope to solve it one way or another :)

 

 

Mass slaughter of generic opponents is easy. Lots of individual interesting player experiences are hard. It all depends what you are aiming for (and for any individual goodness, unfortunately Procedural Generation of 'instances' is a most practical tool.

Sorry, can't say I understood this sentence...

Edited by norlin

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If your content is not that fun, then the world should be smaller, or your game should have fewer levels or rounds, so that players can finish the game before they get bored.

 

i beg to differ.  if game play is so lackluster as to negatively impact game scope in the hopes of improving things, then you really shouldn't build the game at all. You're building on a flawed core.

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norlin:

 

sounds like the thing to do is design a scale-able world, so you can add content as needed. Start with "should be big enough" and no bigger.  As you create more content, or more players require more content, you can add it. By adding content i mean adding additional sections to the world map.

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If your content is not that fun, then the world should be smaller, or your game should have fewer levels or rounds, so that players can finish the game before they get bored.

 

i beg to differ.  if game play is so lackluster as to negatively impact game scope in the hopes of improving things, then you really shouldn't build the game at all. You're building on a flawed core.

 

 

I see what you're getting at, but I'm not sure it's 100% true the way you're saying it. The best game I can make right now probably won't hold up for 60 hours of gameplay, and I can think of some games that have great gameplay, imho, that didn't hold up for 20 hours. Not because it was lackluster, but just simply time investment requires a certain amount of depth to plumb.

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If you have a Free-for-All everywhere, that lessens some restrictions

What do you mean "free-for-all"?

 

Like what you replied ... open to griefing/loot stealing/interference with missions all which can cause serious disruptions of any attempt to choreograph  scenes and mini-plots and forcing you into very simple 'mission' goals and actions

 


 

 

If you have finely crafted mini-scenarios which you dont want interfered with (or worse Griefer-ized) that is another problem.

There are planned lot of different quests, but I don't see how it could be an issues in sens of instancing/no instancing.

 

the issue Is :  that is one way way (using instances) where other non-designated players are prevented from interfering and constantly making a hash of any planned (choreographed/designed/coordinated) sequence of interaction with npcs/terrain  for the Mission the player has been told to do.  Otherwise even a small subset of players will constantly be allowed to 'have their fun' disrupting/stealing other players experience and achievements -- and thus much effort of yours to attempt to create interesting situations will be so damaged as to be largely worthless to many players

 

 

Huge worlds Ive seen have been largely "Pretty Deserts" with anything of real interest far and few between

Well it's a content issue, I know... Hope to solve it one way or another :)

 

which is the point that if you want more complex missions (where something unique can exist and it NOT just being the only place where monster X spawns)  your 'staged' situations cant be open to be pre triggered/skewed/manipulated into confusion by players who LOOK for just that kind of thing to do to piss off other players.

 

 

Mass slaughter of generic opponents is easy. Lots of individual interesting player experiences are hard. It all depends what you are aiming for (and for any individual goodness, unfortunately Procedural Generation of 'instances' is a most practical tool.

Sorry, can't say I understood this sentence...

 

procedural generation offers generated combinatorics and coordinated creations.  Its used to mass generate varying situations (it can be made VERY complex and have whole miniplots, goal sequences  (and be  player customized) , etc...  be machine generated for the 100000 people who will ALL go through largely the same places and missions (which in most MMORPGs are wholey staticly defined.

 

scenario instances there are (can be)  created 'on the fly' and potentially anywhere on your terrain map world

 

even just as bulk filler for the map  -- the generation logic is hard to do right but still can be relegated to the  'filler' content around other  more complex/ornate/handcrafted mission scenarios (adaquate semi-interesting filler is a major improvement over largely generic spawn minefields most MMORPGs have).

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one way (using instances) where other non-designated players are prevented from interfering and constantly making a hash of any planned (choreographed/designed/coordinated) sequence of interaction with npcs/terrain for the Mission the player has been told to do.

This is just making a single-player game inside an MMO lobby, it's not a real MMO (while almost all of modern "mmo" games doing this). I'm going to make a real MMO, where players could always interact between themselves.

And all described issues are not isseus, in fact. It's a part of MMO experience (with correct game design).

 

 

forcing you into very simple 'mission' goals and actions

Still don't see any reason why it's forcing to a simple quests. The quests could be as complex as it's required for the game, just they should be designed for a multiplayer game, not for a single game.

Edited by norlin

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The best game I can make right now probably won't hold up for 60 hours of gameplay,

 

Nothing says a game has to have 60 hours of content.   Sure, $1 per hour of content and a $60 price point for a new AAA game are pretty standard, thus the expectation of 60 hours+  gameplay.   But that's not written in stone anywhere.   And fewer and fewer titles these days deliver on that one hour of gameplay per dollar spent.  Either they are small, and deliver less than that, or they are huge, and deliver hundreds or thousands of hours for $60.

 

and I can think of some games that have great gameplay, imho, that didn't hold up for 20 hours. Not because it was lackluster, but just simply time investment requires a certain amount of depth to plumb.

 

I don't follow...    they were too shallow?  IE great gameplay, but not enough of it? At least not enough to want to do it for more than 20 hours?

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The best game I can make right now probably won't hold up for 60 hours of gameplay,

 

Nothing says a game has to have 60 hours of content.   Sure, $1 per hour of content and a $60 price point for a new AAA game are pretty standard, thus the expectation of 60 hours+  gameplay.   But that's not written in stone anywhere.   And fewer and fewer titles these days deliver on that one hour of gameplay per dollar spent.  Either they are small, and deliver less than that, or they are huge, and deliver hundreds or thousands of hours for $60.

 

 

 

and I can think of some games that have great gameplay, imho, that didn't hold up for 20 hours. Not because it was lackluster, but just simply time investment requires a certain amount of depth to plumb.

 

I don't follow...    they were too shallow?  IE great gameplay, but not enough of it? At least not enough to want to do it for more than 20 hours?

 

 

I understand. What I was attempting to refer to with my earlier comment is that you should be able to look at the gameplay you've created and have a strong idea whether it's a best fit for the hundreds of thousands of hours or the less than 60. A great example, for me, is the Arkham game series. I've enjoyed each game, but as the 100% completion has gotten bigger and bigger, finishing the games has gotten more and more tedious and less fun and engaging. The depth of the gameplay doesn't last long enough. And while mileage naturally varies on such things, I think there's a ballpark or sweet spot that can be aimed for.

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A great example, for me, is the Arkham game series. I've enjoyed each game, but as the 100% completion has gotten bigger and bigger, finishing the games has gotten more and more tedious and less fun and engaging. The depth of the gameplay doesn't last long enough.

 

Ah, so its long, but lacks the depth to keep you from getting bored before you reach the end. 

 

All games get old sooner or later.   The less there is to them, the sooner it happens.   Different levels of complexity call for different lengths of game - for storyline based games that have a specific end - unless the story itself is enough to keep the player engaged.   For open ended games, you just play until you get tired of it, or retire that game and start a new game.

 

With storyline based games its extra tricky.   You're mixing two types of entertainment in one product:  storytelling, and game playing.  Each will have its own "opinion" about how long the game should be.   If the story demands a long game, the gameplay must have the depth for a game of such length.    And visa versa.   The  story should be engaging enough to last until all game play has been exhausted / thoroughly explored. I think skyrim might be an example where the questlines don't quite stack up to the sheer volume of gameplay. OTOH, skyrim also has a distinct "more of the same" type design to it.  Its really big claim to fame is that it has so MUCH more content than most games. I still find new content from time to time while playing it, and i probably have over 1000 hours in the game with all the characters i've tried. TES and the sims are the two games that influence Caveman, so when Skyrim came out, i had to check out the ENTIRE game. It took something like 8 characters to do it (one for each major  questline), at a couple hundred hours gameplay each.

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one way (using instances) where other non-designated players are prevented from interfering and constantly making a hash of any planned (choreographed/designed/coordinated) sequence of interaction with npcs/terrain for the Mission the player has been told to do.

This is just making a single-player game inside an MMO lobby, it's not a real MMO (while almost all of modern "mmo" games doing this). I'm going to make a real MMO, where players could always interact between themselves.

And all described issues are not isseus, in fact. It's a part of MMO experience (with correct game design).

 

 

Its a matter of degree. You would allow prearranged 'party'  (people you invite to take part)  to play through the protected mission.   Unfortunately there are MANY dimwits out their who gleefully will ruin the activities of every player they encounter and generally it is utterly simple for them to do it. (while you advance your character to Play, THEY figure out every shortcut/optomization to find ways to either kill you instantly (ganging up is so easy for this) or to disrupt any mission situation so that you will want to quit in disgust)

Dont count on Gamemaster intervention for any of your 'correct game design' to solve this as it is $$$ prohibitive.  Even with automatic evidence recorders and complaint submission and banning,  the labor expenses will largely invalidate such measures. Draconian Automatic mechanisms are required and unless being something as simple/absolute as blocking interaction or isolation THOSE themselves usually wind up being subverted for griefing activities )

 

 

forcing you into very simple 'mission' goals and actions

Still don't see any reason why it's forcing to a simple quests. The quests could be as complex as it's required for the game, just they should be designed for a multiplayer game, not for a single game.

 

Because your efforts to provide anything intricate or interesting will simply be attacked by asshole griefers (you try fighting a more than one-dimensional boss challenge  (a close fight) when a (PvP enabled) griefer is ready to zap and kill you at the right moment. (and who will make it THEIR mission to ruin the situation/game for you).  Thus all missions have to be utterly simple (braindead) and over quickly and unchallenging  (and generic and numerous and unrewarding) so you can finish them before the assholes have a chance to interfere.   They learned this about 20 years ago with the first MMORPGs

Edited by wodinoneeye

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[b]@[member='wodinoneeye'][/b], well, you're talking about limiting pvp-interaction, which is the key part of any MMO game (as it should be). I strictly against such mechanics because it's killing MMO games and converting it into a single (or simple multiplayer) games. What's the reason of making MMO game in that case?

 

For example, when talking about pvp-interaction (not just fights, but any interaction) I'm always referring to Lineage II, which didn't had any instances/limitations. Instead, it had in-game mechanics to regulate such things. And I'm sure this is the right method.

 

There was lot of pvp experience, some kind of politics (between clans/alliances), fights for areas/bosses and so on. There was lack of PvE (basically, only grinding) but it's a different part.

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