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KeeghanM

Roguelike MMORPG - Game Design Discussion

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Right, heres an idea I want to discuss! A Roguelike MMORPG.

Let me preface this chat with:

  • This is not an engine specific chat, it is a high level game design chat
  • I have no intention of developing this game as it is waaaaaay beyond the scope I can achieve. So I'm not farming you for ideas.
  • This could be purely futile, and entirely impossible. If so, tell me! Thats kind of the point... am I crazy for thinking this could work?

So with that out of the way, heres my idea.

A classic roguelike set in a multiplayer world. Where everyone can interact and progress together in the world. You can either work together to fight the monsters, or fight each other.
It would still have the traditional elements of a roguelike such as Dungeon Crawling, Random Generation, Permadeath, tile based gameplay. It would not inlcude turn based gameplay for obvious reasons.

I have thought through some of the technical problems, and some of the story/setting ideas.
Technical Thoughts
Problem: If every player is free to move around, and free to attack other players, how do you prevent high levels  camping the spawns and just constantly killing new players. Or even just wandering around... and killing new players.
Solution: Picture the world as a tower (I'll be referencing this a lot. So, get used to it!). The tower has floors to it, these are technically infinite due to the endless random generation aspect, but... floors. You map these floors to the player levels. When you spawn as a level 1, you are on floor one. To level up, you must physically travel to Floor 2.. thus becoming a level 2 character. Once you have gone up, you can't come back down. So while you could still have an experienced player hunting new players... they will all be the same INGAME level, balancing it out atleast 80-90%
Problem: Roguelikes are randomly generated, how do you handle multiple players (hopefully 1000's) who want to A) Interact with other players but B) have their own random rooms.
Solution: Back to the tower, on each floor is a "Room". This room can be arbitrarily sized. From an actual room through to a city, right now it doesn't matter. The idea is that the "World" is a grid of "rooms" and each room is only generated when a player visits it for the first time. So lets say Player 1 spawns in Room 1. It generates. Player 2 spawns in Room 1, and gets the exact same room, and can interact with Player 1. Player 1 goes East, gets a new random room. Player 2 goes West, and gets a new Random room. They can both go back to Room 1, or to the room the other players went to... It is a MMORPG remember.
Problem: This raises the problem of late comers getting only pre-generated rooms. Lets say 1000 players have played the game. Now Mr 1001 comes along, and they never get a new room. Worse still, Mr 999 dies and respawns (it is permadeath) in Room 1... and it's the same Room 1 they had before.
Solution: Room Resets. There are two types of Room Resets I can picture. The first is to do with visiting an already generated room. The second is for re-generating rooms. Type 1, a room can either reset it's contents (loot, monsters, puzzle items etc etc) constantly so theres always a steady stream of enemies pouring through the walls for example and loot is always there for each new player (one player can only take it once though).. or once there are no players in the room it resets. The other type is to do with re-generating rooms, which is tricky. You want to keep rooms around for a while so players have a familiar path if they backtrack. But re-generate them eventually to keep the game fresh. My idea is to reset a timer everytime a player enters the room, and start the timer when there are 0 players inside. if the timer reaches some time (example, 60 minutes) then the room can re-generate.

Setting Thoughts

  • Multiplayer games always have multiple Servers you can pick from. I picture these servers being called "Adventurer Guilds", each time your character dies you get the opportunity to pick a new "Guild". Now, most people will pick the same because it is a server and people pick that for lag reasons etc, but this does allow players to get more variety. And also spreads the players out, increasing the chance of room re-sets.
  • You could also have "Private Guilds" these would be groups of players who want to play together. They can setup their own server and run that in private mode.
  • Continuing on with the "Tower" idea, that would be the setting. You would be an adventurer who is exploring a powerful wizards tower. This explains the changing, and seemingly infinite size. 
     

Right. Thats my thoughts so far on some of the problems and how I would work around them.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the concept as a whole, and whether there is anything I missed. Or any glaring mistakes that would make this simply impossible?

As well, what would you like to see in a game like this? What would you do for the design and setting? Etc etc etc!

Edited by KeeghanM

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I think you just described the MUD and MUSH world.  Some have been running for decades with hundreds of players online at any time, such as this one.

I've heard compelling arguments that the MMORPG games of today are little more than highly graphical MUDs.

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8 hours ago, frob said:

I think you just described the MUD and MUSH world.  Some have been running for decades with hundreds of players online at any time, such as this one.

I've heard compelling arguments that the MMORPG games of today are little more than highly graphical MUDs.

From my understanding though, a MUD is still not procedurally generated. That's the main concept I'm trying to work out if it would work in a MMORPG setting. Does random, procedural content work with potentially hundreds of players in the same world?

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Different systems support different things.

Various tools from the day supported different things. The better engines supported fully-designed, partially-designed, and fully randomized areas.  Fully designed areas were carefully mapped out.  Partially designed areas had regions you would carefully map out, and others you could leave as open to fill out procedurally.  Then you could also have towers with rooms and zones that were fully procedural. 

The fact that you mentioned Roguelike in your description generally implies it is nearly all rooms and mazes. Those are the easiest to automatically generate.  Most Roguelike worlds are randomized levels of rooms and passageways, with small areas defined as special rooms, and occasionally as special levels.  A special area may have wide areas of pre-defined stuff yet also have wide areas of procedurally generated stuff.

There are (and were) many MUD and MUSH worlds that work that way.  Hundreds of players in the same room rarely means hundreds of people in the same small area of the dungeon at once, they don't get too crowded.

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To agree with Frob, I have certainly always considered the MUD and MUSH games to have been the original MMO games.  So much so I am surprised to see Frob describe it as merely a prevalent opinion.  The MUD were, in turn, also partially inspired by NetHack, which was the best version of the original Rogue-like games just as Star Fleet 1: The War Begins was the best version of the original NetTrek games (actually "Begin").  But, although the MUDs had been partly inspired by NetHack, they were not quite the same thing because "Rogue-like" and "Multi-Player" are a contradiction of terms in many ways.

What modern gamers call a "Rogue-like" game is comprised of several primary elements, one of them being what modern gamers describe as "permadeath".  But it is not just the permanent nature of death but, when done right, it is also very hard on top of that.  That greater difficulty than modern gamers perceive, when done right, is coming from a specific philosophy... "the player never has enough resources".  This is an "old-school" philosophy of game design that few if any modern games other than Rogue-like games possess.   Modern games hold your hand and walk you through them.  Modern gamers complain if they don't have enough resources to do everything at the same time.  Old-school games specifically prevented you from having everything, while modern games generally do the exact opposite and ensure that you have more resources than you need to do everything and are even stockpiling them.

So a big part of what makes a Rogue-like game feel the way it does is that you are always short on resources pretty much across the board, which makes it very hard and far more likely that you will lose.  And losing is permanent.  This is much more of a 1980's game than a 2010's game.  And it places the focus entirely and you and your struggle to barely make it through the game.  Other people doing the same thing at the same time really isn't very relevant too you, and your focus in this type of game is entirely on barely scratching by with your own character.

So, while you could make a game along the lines that you are describing, it would lose a lot of the qualities that make what you think of as a Rogue-like game have that same feeling.  You would be transferring a lot of the focus off of the struggle of just making it through, which is exactly the thing that gives those types of games the engrossing quality that makes people like them.

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MUDs also enabled mix through shared actions.  As you write the resources were limited, but you could form campaigns and groups and parties who traveled out together.  While each could be their own character type already, further specializations could be possible.  You could have three different fighters in a group but each with different sub-specialties. 

One common factor was limiting inventories to the alphabet letters. You get 26 things, or if case is considered, 52 things. Some give an additional slot for money (the $ character) and there were also containers that could boost your number of distinct items, but the types were limited. Another was weight, if you carried around a fortune in cash you will be burdened by weight; if you carry heavy armor and heavy weapons you will be burdened by heavier weight; if you carry heavy spellbooks and you will be too burdened to cast spells.  So include in your party a few people willing to be mildly armored to serve as pack mules, or get some pack mule MPCs while in town.

 

There are many great MUDs out there still today, I strongly recommend spending time on them.  You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find.

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On 1/19/2018 at 5:14 AM, Kavik Kang said:

So a big part of what makes a Rogue-like game feel the way it does is that you are always short on resources pretty much across the board, which makes it very hard and far more likely that you will lose.  And losing is permanent.  This is much more of a 1980's game than a 2010's game.  And it places the focus entirely and you and your struggle to barely make it through the game.  Other people doing the same thing at the same time really isn't very relevant too you, and your focus in this type of game is entirely on barely scratching by with your own character.

So, while you could make a game along the lines that you are describing, it would lose a lot of the qualities that make what you think of as a Rogue-like game have that same feeling.  You would be transferring a lot of the focus off of the struggle of just making it through, which is exactly the thing that gives those types of games the engrossing quality that makes people like them.

I definitely agree, some of the fun of those old games was feeling alone and having to fend for yourself. I guess you would be losing that in favour of having the ability to work together.

On 1/21/2018 at 4:54 AM, frob said:

One common factor was limiting inventories to the alphabet letters. You get 26 things, or if case is considered, 52 things. Some give an additional slot for money (the $ character) and there were also containers that could boost your number of distinct items, but the types were limited. Another was weight, if you carried around a fortune in cash you will be burdened by weight; if you carry heavy armor and heavy weapons you will be burdened by heavier weight; if you carry heavy spellbooks and you will be too burdened to cast spells.  So include in your party a few people willing to be mildly armored to serve as pack mules, or get some pack mule MPCs while in town.

I've always loved games that do this, force you to be careful about your inventory selection. I guess maybe having the ability to form "parties" in a game like I've described would then allow this team work and planning to be a "feature" and actively incouraged, not just something that could maybe possibly happen.

 

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Some players will always enjoy a solo-play/attempt over a coöperative play, and some players will always feel exactly the opposite way.

If you wish to correctly implement solo-play in a game that also allows coöperative play, the biggest mistake(that plenty of games have made, i suspect they regard coöperative play as a better way to retain/attract players) is to either give, or just let coöperative players keep advantages over solo-players.

Specifically speaking, you don't need higher maths to figure out that two players will have an advantage over a single player, but you need to put in some maths/playtesting and some minor mechanics that just work better for solo-players.

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8 hours ago, KeeghanM said:

I definitely agree, some of the fun of those old games was feeling alone and having to fend for yourself. I guess you would be losing that in favour of having the ability to work together.

It's always a trade off.  In a traditional Rogue-like game the focus is entirely on the player's character and a struggle to barely survive with usually being short on just about everything.  If you take away from that focus, you begin to lose part of the primary quality that makes a Rogue-like game feel as it does.  So the question then becomes, does what you are adding too the game that is dividing the players focus add more too the game than the divided focus takes away from it.  If it does, then it might be a good idea.  If it doesn't, they you are just detracting from the experience instead of adding a new element that makes it better.

A Rouge-like game I'd like to see is one that has the quality that NetHack and some of the other old school versions had.  Modern games are generally "hold your hand and walk you through the game" easy, so even when they make Rogue-like games I don't think they even consider making them this way.  But it was not easy, to say the least, to actually win NetHack.  My brother did it once...  This is what gave it such endless replayability, you had probably never won a game.  Every time you started a new one there was a "this could be the time I actually win" aspect too it, and every time you died it was "well, that was to be expected".  It works as a means of creating endless replayability.  It goes entirely against the grain of modern day thinking, but I'd love to see a Rouge-like game that was nearly impossible to ever get to the end and win.

I like Faster Than Light a lot, but I don't think of it as a true Rouge-like game because it is so easy to get to the end and win.

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