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The State of MMO's

MMO's are currently always in development, but the discussion around them is a maelstrom. I want to sort out some of the ideas and give some of my own. This industry definitely needs improvement.

Author: lifesbrink

Dungeon Keeper Arise!

Posted by lifesbrink Wednesday February 11 2009 at 5:48PM
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For that is the nature of what should happen with making a monster race, and why we have no games with monster races, for people playing them would not enjoy the lack of similar advancement that others like so much. However, if done properly, dungeons would appear in the world when a monster has a attained a sufficient level/skill mastery that allows it to hold sway over minions, thus building a kingdom. And so a kingdom should arise, one that is built on traps, chaos, powerful magic and despair. If however, this dungeon master should ultimately fall and lose its kingdom, it should remain a relic, there for others to take, or random monsters to inhabit.

Monster races should be able to spawn others of their kind every so often, increasing with level or skills, so that eventually, they can form their own population if possible. Their spawn should be partially AI-driven and also controlled by the monster character, similar to Warcraft or another RTS.

As an example, let me illustrate the idea of creating a spider-race. Typically, in any fantasy world, spiders range from the tiny to the extremely large within various races. They also can be fairly dumb, or intelligent to where they have their own language and culture. So to have a race in a game, you need to create something with its own culture, in order for humans to partially identify with the character they create. So we have a spider race that hatches from an egg in an environment full of other spider hatchlings. Immediately, it has to fend for its life amidst the hatchlings, as they tend to start out a bit violent.

After asserting its dominance, the player moves on to find a lair to inhabit and spin its web throughout. Now the process of growing begins, and the life of a spider starts out hard, beginning with simple animals and eventually growing in size and power to find more unpredictable prey. Perhaps the player will associate with a colony and train abilities or learn from other spiders. Or it might become a solitary creature until it raises its own army of spiders. Eventually though, the player will have achieved an epic spider that wants to create a dungeon to call home.

Thus the process begins in which the player will find a suitable place, perhaps a cave, or a dark grove of trees, to create its lair in. This opens up a new GUI that is akin to something like an RTS. The character resides at the center of the dungeon with minions, and the dungeon starts off as closed to the world, until the initial plotting has started. If you have ever played Dungeon Keeper, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeon_Keeper; the interface would be likened to this, where your dungeon has a control scheme to be grown and rooms created, or sections. Defenses, traps, monsters would all be set to be there, and then the player would click finish to start the dungeon.

At this point, the spider player needs to grow more minions, and expand the dungeon, as the likelihood of being attacked is inevitable. Defenses would have to be strengthened, and time and training would unlock more dungeon abilities. The player could switch between overlord of the Dungeon with the different GUI, or play as the spider and roam the dungeon, perhaps taking out would-be heroes with planned ambushes, or sending an army to attack at strategic points.

The final idea is that there is also the possibility of banding with other spiders or perhaps allying with other monsters to create alliances and hence dark kingdoms.  Treasure could be accumulated as loot, (every horde loves a nice treasure room of trophies), and kingdoms could advance their realm (or shrink).  Again, if they are ultimately defeated, the remains of their dungeon stay (which can at least be molded into something different by the next occupant) and would be automatically emptied and later occupied by NPC monsters if no other player claims it. 

Another thing to note though, is that an MMO's world needs to be big enough to support the chosen max number of players within it, so that expansion with both good players and evil types never completely overshadow the world.  Also, there should usually be racial cities that stay as is, to create some harmonious placement of places, and at least some familiarity.

Ratings

Posted by lifesbrink Tuesday February 10 2009 at 6:13PM
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How do I do them?  Is there a trick?  I just want to join in on the fun game of rating blogs, and I can not.  I have searched the pages hundreds of times, and still can not find the button!

The State of Progression

Posted by lifesbrink Tuesday February 10 2009 at 5:52PM
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You ever get tired of killing the orc that hangs out in the same spot under a tree, or loathe passing by the lost hobbit that needs help, despite the fact that you have watched her get escorted countless times? Maybe, maybe not. But if you are like me and the countless others who are tired of seeing static worlds, then you might be interested in hearing of a solution. This is a next-gen solution though, and is not a catch-all.

Currently, worlds are set to be static, because they are easy to pull off. But with a static world comes a loss of accomplishment. However, to make a world truly dynamic could be disastrous under the current construction of worlds, as they are small and packed with players. This would lead to many people going through content too fast to which others would be left out, not to mention the complexity of it would be difficult to pull off. There is another fix though.

Progressive servers could be the next logical step. To explain, the basic idea is moving from one world to another changed one after so many quests are complete. This would unlock the next set of quests, and going through the world, players would find that the quests they did had an impact, through buildings being different, people no longer being lost, monsters that were supposed to be dead staying dead, and so on.

Some people would see this as being an issue though, especially to socializing with newer players, or the Auction House (present in most MMO's). This is easily fixed though by allowing the player to go back and play with newer players on the old version of the world if they like. As for the AH, that should merely be allowed to span across the versions of the worlds.

Progressive servers would allow for new gameplay options by changing the dynamics of how quests could work with different environments (the old world vs the new). This is by no means a perfect solution, but it is better than the standard worldset we get now with any MMO. This server type would create an evolution in the step to a dynamic, breathing world that we can all enjoy someday.

The Powerful Uber lvl 18 Kingdom!

Posted by lifesbrink Friday February 6 2009 at 11:00AM
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In the game of Everquest, there is a little place called Crushbone.  It is a magic land, filled with desperate orcs, and it was lead by Emperor Crushbone himself….a magnificent orc who crushes all opposition.  Did I mention he is only lvl 18?  Did I also mention that his kingdom was apparently plaguing Kelethin, the nearby wood elf city?  Did I also mention that despite the fact that they were *under siege*, the common lvl 50 Elven guards could go in and wipe the place out over and over again….or that the common brownie skipping around the forest could also wipe out the kingdom of Crushbone?

 

Ah yes, the conundrum of lvls in an MMO.  Over and over, we have every world filled with kingdoms, dungeons, and other places that have monsters anywhere from lvl 1-1000.  Yet overall, the way that they are designed makes little sense.  Progression is something that is maintained at such a linear rate, but at the cost of making no sense at all.  Time and time again, we have every game plague you with endless quests to kill off leaders, armies, monsters and whatnot that could always be easily taken care of by some lowly guard that sits at the gates waiting for an attack that won't come.

 

What games need are dungeons and kingdoms and armies that adhere to some basic principles:

  1. Skill Levels:  If a kingdom is taking over or a threat to another, then their leaders, generals, and such should be fairly powerful, and as such, should be progressive in the quests to hack at them.  At lvl 10, you should be striking at food supply chains guarded by lowly militia, at 30 you should be taking out their battalion of flying drakes and at 50 you should be going after the King himself.
  2. Sensible placement of these places in relation to the city you are fighting for
  3. Ensure that the character's city guards could not easily take care of the job, whatever it is.

 

Although these are not the only ideas that could ensure more meaningful questing, these are a good start for a game to follow.

The Not so Epic Story

Posted by lifesbrink Friday February 6 2009 at 10:24AM
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When I was 10 years old (almost 28 now) and already somewhat influenced by games already, I laid my hands on something that changed my perception of games and ultimately got me into RPG's and opened my mind to wider horizons of beauty than many people ever notice - - Final Fantasy.   In the year of 1991, this game more or less epitomized a new era of RPG's that had initially been ushered in by Richard "LB" Garriot and his Ultima line.  You had 4 warriors that came from lands faraway and were to save the world from Chaos and despair.  After picking the classes and names, you were into it, leveling, completing quests and moving the story along to its epic finale against an enemy that was both unnerving and difficult:  Chaos itself.

 

Over time, there were more of these Final Fantasy games that gave the impression it would never really be final (although I severely hope I don’t ever see a final fantasy XXII or somesuch), and I grew more engrossed in them for various reasons.  The epic stories they contained, the world catastrophes involved, the character development, the character interaction, the occasional romance…the all too often tragedies, the music, the different styles of visuals and the wide range of combat possibilities.  All of these things kept me enthralled and at the same time introduced something of a standard in my life with games.

 

Of course, the Final Fantasy you will see coming out does a lot of fan-service, and the games are definitely in a bit of a different direction, but I think that like all series, this one needs to start winding down, instead of up.  But that is neither here, nor now, as my focus is on one particular point of this series.

 

What this story is getting at, is there is a certain lack of the epic feel to MMO's we see today.  Of course, when it comes down to it, there never was an epic appeal of any kind.  When I first entered the game of Everquest back in 2000, I was awed, but it was the fact that I was part of an online world, and that world was new to the real world.  But the stories, creatures, and environment were rather uninspired.  Of course, back then, technology was to blame, as there was only so much you could do with an online world at the time.

 

Fast-forward almost a decade though, and the problem remains, while we see more of an amazing polish to single-player games as time goes on.  Yet the market is swaying to MMO's, for when a single-player game is done, it is done, and people do not like to lose their time so easily.

 

I love a persistent world, but there has yet to be anything that amazes me like that first time that I rode a train through Midgar in FFVII, or first opened the door to the Esper world in FFVI, or came upon the floating isle of Bhujerba in FF12. (I realize that was laden with Final Fantasy references)  And that is with fairly archaic graphics in the first 2 examples!  Not to mention the stories themselves continue to amaze, mainly because so many earth-shattering events take place!  But in today's MMO, we have a story that is immutable, and repeated by all.  Not entirely so great in the slightest.

 

I really think it is time for MMO's to take cues from single-player games and give us stories and worlds that make us care what we are doing within it, and then maybe more people would consider them to be a second home, instead of that simple virtual world we waste time in.