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Khal's Korner

Ranting and raving about this MMO craving. Whether you agree or disagree I just want to get you thinking.

Author: Khalathwyr

World of Darkness Online. Will it really be so?

Posted by Khalathwyr Tuesday April 27 2010 at 2:39PM
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One aspect of interest in CCP's upcoming mmorpg World of Darkness Online for me is will it really be a world of darkness. That is, will the game have day and night cycles or will it be a "forever night". There are rumors , which admittedly is all we have to go on at the moment (heres hoping E3 will change that) that there will be a playable human race along with vampires and werewolves. If so does that give way to the need to have a day cycle?

I'm pretty sure Nick votes NO on the daylight question and I'm sure Lionel is cool with the night.

I for one would be really interested to see CCP take the approach of making the game exist in an eternal state of darkness. Aside from the most obvious reason that it fits the name of the game, World of Darkness, it would also lend to another slight difference to distinguish it from the vast majority of other mmos on the market. In fact I can't think of a single one that exists in such a state. Well, I guess you could point to CCP's other mmo, EVE Online, as you are in the depths of space most of the time. There are, however, plenty of very bright stars that you fly around so it's not really always dark.

One thing that does bring about a little bit of worry is does a game set in perpetual darkness give cause for people not to play it? I realize that some people won't like the idea of constantly being in the dark and there is little you can do about those individuals. What I mean is could such a feature hinder the gameplay in such a manner as to drive people away. Some of you remember the days of Everquest, or should I more appropriately say the nights of Everquest. If CCP made their online world that dark would cause a massive balk at playing the game?

I hope not. In fact I'd probably like it to be that dark in places that didn't have lighting sources such as streetlights and neon signs. It would seem most appropriate in the sewers if indeed sewers are a playable area as well as old abandoned warehouses. It would also allow for interesting game features such as infravision (through innate ability or via gear) to be incorporated into gameplay. Echo-location could also be implemented for those vampires gone batty.

I have to agree with Mr. Benson: Gimme the Night!

I think it'd would be in the best interest of the game to go with night time all the time. The last thing I'd like to see in the game is a day cycle with a weak justification like the "sun tan lotion/sun glasses" approach of of Blade (SPF 1,000,000 anyone?) or having vampires "sparkle" in direct sunlight but can appear normal is the sky is overcast as in Twilight.

No, I want CCP to just stick to White Wolf's lore and gimme the night!

Player Generated Content: By The Player, For the Player, Part 2

Posted by Khalathwyr Friday April 16 2010 at 5:19PM
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In part 1 I talked about what I mean when discussing player generated/driven content. It's basically more of the developers creating and refining tools and systems that allows players to dream up their own roles and play that story out in a meaningful, virtually tactile way.

TJKazmark asked a good question which I will take a shot at this go around. His question was:

"Also, what are your ideas for the interaction between developers and the player community when it comes to introducing new content for the players to experience and/or use?"

Mind you it's not a good question only because he asked me. It's a good question that all of us as gamers and especially sandbox gamers should put thought into. Despite what the forum mind readers say I believe that many gamers out there do know what they want and have spent more than a few hours thinking about it throughout their respective MMO gaming times.

Anyone remember this guy?

The biggest issue I see as far as when developers have introduced any story in past MMOs I've played, with the exception of Asheron's Call, is that it was done in a very detached, narrative manner. The developers did not really engage the players in such a way that to me looked like they weaving parts of the game's lore and incorporating the players into that story building effort. The majority of times to an almost absolute degree new "content" is thrown out there and while it allows for players to affect the game world in some small manner one can't help but feel sometimes of looking around and thinking "Hey...I did it...anybody?...See, I did it...*crickets*".

Now, this isn't a call for devs to be there to pat you on the back for a job well done everytime you kill 10 bunnies". What I am saying, though, is that developers should be there taking an active role in driving some of the background stories based on the game lore. They should be the force that puts into motion the desires and goals of the background stories key players such that actual people playing the game can stumble upon these events playing out. Those players can then choose to watch, participate or just leave.

Let's say two groups of developers, playing opposing sides, are fighting some battle over some area or resource (and I don't mean a resource node). A group of players comes across the battle from the "MMORPG.COM guild <MMG>" and sees that Dev Group A, identified as a faction that is known for its steadfast warriors is defeating Dev Group B, a faction that consists of the greatest arcane minds in the known world.  The <MMG> players could elect to help Group A, Group B, watch the battle or move on. If they help Group A to victory the devs playing that group thank them and offer to aid <MMG> in its next Castle Siege or to perform escort duty for one of it's mining caravans. If <MMG> helps Group B to victory they likewise offer <MMG> access to their library to obtain a rare spell that only <MMG> tagged spellcasters can cast. If <MMG> decides to just watch the battle, the side that wins could mistake them for enemy reniforcements and attack them. If they instead leave the area, well, nothing (for them) happens.

Either way the battle is recorded in server lore and whether <MMG> gets its place in the annals depends on their action or lack therof. Items like this being documented and put forth in the world for other players to see I think is a critical element as well. I think it stirs player passions about the world more knowing they can interact with the developers in a fairly fluid manner and include their character's story in the overall world history. A history that is recited by npc heralds and found written on statues in game. And most importantly, combat shouldn't be the only way to do this. There are many, many creative ways to do this that I can't list them here. It just takes a little bit of creative thinking and a Dungeon Master mentatlity to explore those possibilities. Possibilities that are most certainly doable in an MMO with today's technology.

There are plenty of ways to get your message across.

Random encounters as seen above is one way for in-game developers, or live team, to interact with players. Additionally developers can utilize in-game message boards (which typically house quests in MMOs past and present), creative use of well-known and "one off" NPCs venturing into well populated areas and making announcements as well as the good old fashioned roaming the world "invisible" and creating encounters on the fly. By the latter I mean have developers create such random attacks on groups out traveling the wilds by creatures that, when targetted, don't reveal a name. Have that happen a few weaks and then introduce your next playable area and that these, until now namelss creatures, hail from there. Again, players can choose to help the raiders, with all the intrigue involved in first contact, and have the raiders grab a foothold or they can fight them off and then begin taming those wild lands and setting up new towns.

Oh, and one more point. Players in games with such freeform movement develope their own factions and usually a web-based presence. This, I think could be tapped in that developers could use such group affilitations to send out "guild" emails to the groups requesting their aid shortly before relative events. And obviously the guilds would get rotated as far as whom gets called upon just like all other items mentioned above would go through further refinement and "iterations" to include as many people as possible.

I'll close with I think that such efforts don't get attempted alot because of the misconception that you have to fairly provide the same experience for every player. This simply isn't possible yet it is a handcuff on creativity. If actions are randomized (day, time, in game location, guilds, etc.) sufficently then you'll provide ample opportunity for developer introduced content to place its mark, and the players to place their brand, on each other.

Player Generated Content: By the Player, for the Player

Posted by Khalathwyr Monday April 12 2010 at 3:46AM
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One of the hottest topics with respect to MMO gaming is fun. It is also one of this genre, if not all genres of gaming's greatest enigmas. What is fun? How can we capture fun in a bottle and then turn it into code and infuse it into a computer or video game? What characteristics of fun are most universal such that we can grab the attention of the most gamers and hold them?

Admittedly, I don't have the universal answer for this as if I did I'd be a rich man. I do very ok, but rich I am not. What I do want to talk about today is what I believe to be a key factor in the equation that equals fun. That variable is player generated content.

 

What do you mean "You people"?

The topic of player generated content often comes up when discussions of themepark vs. sandbox games take place here on the forums. Inevitably when it is referenced some of the first replies are "You people don't know what you're talking about. Player generated content is never as good as developer made content!". Well, I'm not going to argue with that assertion when talking in context of yout typical Go to the Misty wood and kill 10 Blood Frogs type content. In the frame of an MMO I doubt players would have the range of freedom to make NPCs cheer and herald the player as a hero like the developers could.

When I and I'm sure many others reference player generated content and being able to tell your own story it most certainly is not in reference to the action listed above. Instead it is in reference to an MMO having a well-developed toolset and set of systems and mechanics through which players can take a long hard look at the game's background or setting and then put into play a particular vision of a character that they would like to see develope in the gameworld. A large part of MMO gaming draws upon one of the key elements ofthe pencil and paper world that it spawned from in great part: imagination.

Now, this imagination is not the "oh, well, you can just imagine you're a doctor or a general store owner in game" type. In truth if such a limitation were the end all, be all then why even have the game in the first place? Why not just have a chat room where people type out their actions and imagine they are PvPing each other or imagining they are banding together in a group of 40 to take down a raid boss? The reason this isn't so is it's more fun, more rewarding to imagine that you are going to do this and then log in and visually see it happen. That's the kind of imagination I reference. Players love to imagine a role that is fun to them in a MMO's setting and then to actually watch it come to be whether you are slaying dragons or selling the adventuring gear to that budding hero. Heros, afterall, come from all walks of life.

    

The stories behind this great men, one real (Masamune) and one fictional (Q or Major Boothroyd) could hardly be played out in most modern MMOs.

So what do I mean when I use the term Player Generated Content? Well, the term means to me the ability of the player to utilize in-game systems and mechanics in order to bring about almost any role they can imagine and introduce that story into the game's background. Should a player have dreams of making a character that starts out a lowly soldier in some federated army who serves his contract and gets out and decides to start a mercenary unit it should be possible in game. Most games have a guild system, which would cover the mercenary unit portion, but that guild system should be robust enough to handle various command structures. It should be well-planned such that it allows a guild to be flagged as hired by another guild, thus forming an alliance and applying the appropriate "Friend or Foe" targetting in combat.

Suppose our intrepid hero wants to secure an area of land for his mercenary group. The game should possess a system of claiming land space. There should be full crafting trees devoted to the creation of a variety of buildings to support a base, from barracks to turrets to motorpools/stables. It should be equally viable for another player to make a career out of producing and selling such items. This is the crux of what is meant by having all gameplay mechanics and systems interwoven such that they make sense and make all these roles viable. This allows for a great deal of different sotries to be told and thus player generated content.

We often see developers complain that players skip through the launched content in 2-3 months, the kill the 10 frogs variety, that they spends 4-5 years creating. That does not seem very efficient in terms of resource use for a developement effort to me. It seems as though it would be alot less taxing to provide a platform or a stage and let the players become the actors, the story-tellers. The challenge then becomes to adjudicate systems that allow the great emotions of the human condition to play out and drive conflict and companionship, love and hate, prosperity and pauperism. It is these attributes, I believe, that reach deep down in a player such that at the proverbial "end of the day" generate a sense of being vested in the game world's events. Give them something to build, to own, in the world such that they don't want to lose it. Whether it is losing a base or losing a lucrative building contract if they have reason "to care" then fun will happen.

I dare say it will be a more intense fun because the events, at their core, were imagined by the player and brought to life by their actions. That experience is truly theirs.

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