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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Making Static Spawns More Dynamic

Posted by Daedren Saturday June 9 2007 at 8:14AM
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Static spawn points can be summarized as "Locations in a virtual world where an object or entity is born." The dynamic behind this is vital for a persistent world to provide constant things to gather, kill, or otherwise harass and interact with. While it might not be the most realistic thing, it's a necessary evil that will need be implemented, at least in some way, shape or form.


Past MMORPG's use pretty much the same system: Static or somewhat randomized (in a general area) of X Y Z coordinates for entity #whatever being born. This way, when a player runs into the woods, spiders and bears and boars (oh my) are abounding, wandering to and fro on set paths.


How can we improve on this? Let me show you the ways.


Changing Static to Dynamic?


  • Static spawn points can be tweaked, depending on the entity, to provide more realism.

For example, let's take ... Rad Scorpions! So, we have a bunch of Rad Scorpions. Shall we put them in a field with X Y Z coordinates, static walking paths, etc? That's no fun!


For this example, it's easy to change a static spawn point to something more realistic. Say, inside a cave. Or, inside some rocks. Whatever the place is, the player won't be able to get there. And to add to the fun, the Rad Scorpions won't just run out of the cave or rock. Maybe they will, but maybe they'll wait until there are 3-5 of them together to come out.


This example shows how easy it is to make a static spawn point a dynamic encounter. Hero goes jaunting off to the Rad Scorpion cave. He shoots a few scorpions in the eyes with his BB-gun. It's quiet... where'd they all go? OH MY GOD 4 JUST CAME OUT OF THE ROCKS THEY'RE COMING FOR ME AHHH!


That's the sort of encounters we'd like to see. Of course, this scenario is easy with entities such as Scorpions, Rats, and generally small things that can burrow and live in places people can't go.


But what about big things like Deathclaws and humans like Slavers?


Well, things get more complicated here, of course.


Regarding Human and Intelligent Encounters


Stepping back and looking at the current implementation of these encounters is sadly amusing. Nothing like walking down the street or being knee-deep in a bad guys hideout when *POOF* people just pop out of thin air and attack. The sad part about is that gamers are so desensitized to this thing that they don't care. Does this mean we should take an apathetic approach and not improve on this archaic system? Of course not!


Here are a few quick solutions to this:


  • Don't have entities appear within a certain distance of any players.
  • Set distant "spawn points" where reinforcements or packs of things will come to aid. (like a slaver patrol coming into the hideout once it senses trouble, or a pack of deathclaws stalking into the den to protect it)
  • Make spawn points dynamic in location, time, and strength.
  • Randomize spawn cycles and points so that it's not predictable where a given entity will "respawn" after a given amount of time.

Any of these would make for a more dynamic, fun and challenging encounter.


In conclusion, making static spawning more dynamic is doable. Simply:
  • Randomize entity strength, location, and spawn cycle intervals.
  • Get away from the static X Y Z , time M coordinate/timer mentality.
  • Add a surprise factor in encounters that will constantly keep players on their guard. (how did that scorpion learn to use a machine gun?!)
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to implement ideas because they are complex or hard to code.

Do you have more ideas on how to make spawning more dynamic? We'd like to hear it!

Paragus1 writes: Dynamic spawns definitely make things more interesting if you can code it. When the same monster are in the same spot every time it really feels like the world is frozen in time. This also touches on having in-game events where the monsters attack towns. I have played a few games where monsters have attacked towns and other events that really goes a long way to bringing the world alive, and at the same time adds a little bit of dynamic content that is unpredictable and pisces it up. I would imagine this type of content is a lot harder to code, but it definitely makes memories that will stick with a gamer for a very long time. Sat Jun 09 2007 3:37PM Report
Panossian writes: Agreed, we have come a long way from eq1 and the days of sitting in one spot for 6 hrs hoping the placeholder doesnt appear. Factors such as amount of mobs/npc's spawned, weapons, toughness would all be ways of keeping spawns more exciting. The first time a unique npc spawns that day it might be soloable due to the fact it spawned solo with only a glock, the 2nd time it might spawn with a bodyguard and a high powered rifle and some body armor. So in tern that player sitting there camping the spawn area might have to dig up some friends and return. Sun Jun 10 2007 9:50AM Report
vknid writes:

I'd like to see predator and pray migration. like wolves and deer slowing moving west.. etc.

Fri Mar 07 2008 6:38PM Report
vajuras writes:

I like designer-type of blogs I know these sometimes tend to get less hits but they are good to read.

Yeah spawning creatures is somethng that could be done better. Theres all sorts of imaginative things devs could try. However, checkout Damion's (bioware) work on tactical Transparency. Knowing when a creature will pop has advantages for players. But I like your idea of spawning them intelligently. You maintain the tactical transparency aspect.

gj here write more stuff like this yo....

Sat Apr 05 2008 1:09AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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