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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Static MMOGs

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 7 2010 at 3:11PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on a thread started by user Bookkeeper entitled “I'm tired of MMOs that stay the same every day.” In the thread, Bookkeeper laments the static nature of MMOGs, wondering why we cannot see games with a much more dynamic experience, where players can make a meaningful impact on the world:

“MMOs talk about the grand adventure, but they give you the same day over and over again. You kill the same things over and over. Everything stays in the same place, every day is the same as yesterday. The same guy hands out the same lame quest, to everyone, everyday. Everybody does the same lame quests. Time has no meaning, players have no impact. The MMO genre will continue to stagnate and bore the game community until some developer steps up and makes a changing living world. One where time moves forward and tomorrow is different than today.”

Firstly, the most obvious answer is money, time, and manpower. I know most people don’t want to hear this but that is just the simple fact of the matter. Players traditionally complete content by magnitudes faster than developers can create it, so the idea that developers should spend time and money on content that would be seen on just one single day, or for one single player simply isn’t feasible.

If sometime in the unforeseen future we figure out virtual reality and have AI as advanced as the programs in The Matrix or The 13th Floor these “games” would have the potential to be as Bookkeeper described.

However, that is not to say there aren’t games currently available or in the pipeline that address some of these issues in their own way. As many community members responded, there are a number of games, mostly in the sandbox genre of MMOGs that allow for dynamic experiences, as the players themselves create the lion’s share of the content.

User arenasb mentions Guild Wars 2 as an upcoming game looking to tackle this challenge:

“Well I'm in agreement with you. I don't think there are any mmo's out that have a changing world. Guild Wars 2 is coming with an event system that takes the place of quests. The event system is supposed to have world (on a micro level) changing activities, such as a centaur raiding group invading a town, if nobody attacks the centaurs in that town or chases them off then that town will be the centaurs forever (or until the players kill them off). So far that is about the closest I've heard of an mmo having a non-static world.”

Similarly, Heroes of Telara, which is being developed by Trion World Network looks to do just that as well.

Below is an excerpt of a Heroes of Telara E3 ’09 preview by the folks at 1UP.com:

“The focus of the presentation was on the games dynamic world, with group quests tied to regions that can be triggered by the game's masters at select times, keeping players on their toes. These seem pretty much like GM events in other games, but there are supposed to be enough of them, and they'll be scheduled infrequently enough that they'll seem more heroic and epic.

In addition, they'll have repercussions for the game's world. We saw demons attacking a town, and teams of players managed to fight them off without too much property damage. Low level characters rescued people and fetched water while the more experienced repelled a giant demon lord, and afterward shafts of sunlight pierced the clouds and citizens emerged to applaud the defenders. Failure is an option, however, and we're told that should the battle have gone differently, the town would have been destroyed and remained in that state for weeks.”

Jatar, a developer at MMO Magic also chimes in to reassure Bookkeeper that the team has been hard at work on an MMOG that is just as he describes, called Citadel of Sorcery:

“Since our game was mentioned I've been following this post. Bookkeeper, I also responded to your question in the Citadel of Sorcery forum.

Let me just say that this kind of game play, though not exactly what Bookkeeper described, but very close, is absolutely possible. Several of you have mentioned that it is not technically possible, or feasible to make a world where time moves forward and players have unique adventures. We are building just that very thing.

I invite you to read about Citadel of Sorcery and ask me any questions you like. I am allowed to answer most of them, being part of the design team on the game for the past five years. This is a long term project, and like a few of you mentioned, it's not an easy task to build an MMO, let alone one that changes with time every day. But, that's what we have been building, and continue to build.

Come check it out, we're still looking for input from players as we have a lot of work yet to go.”

As for currently available games, what better example of emergent gameplay than EVE Online? Zlayer77 brings up a great point:

“Op you should come play EvE then... its the best sandbox right now If you ask me.
Things dont stay the same, the hole point of the game is fighting other players for teritory. You can build 99% of everything that is in the game. And it has the best economic pvp market of all mmos.
Build your own POS ( player owned structure) lay claim to your own space. Shoot, negotiate and spy on your competition.
EVE has it all…”

Heck, even old school games such as the now defunct Shadowbane tried to tackle this issue, as zerglin87 explains:

“Another sandbox game that the OP was trying to argue here was Shadowbane, Wheneer you logged on, every city could be different, it could be owned by another guild/nation or gone completely. That is why i loved that game and i wish there was a game like it but i have yet to meet a fantasy sandboxPvP MMO Close to it.”

Robsolf offers an excellent example on some creative ways developers have attempted to create the illusion of time passing in an MMOG with the Epic Storyline system present in The Lord of the Rings Online:

“LotRO's whole quest/advancement philosophy works this way. When you advance through the epic quests, "time" passes. Once you've completed all quests from Aragorn in the Prancing Pony, for example, his door is locked and you don't find him until Rivendell after the events of weathertop, and then once those quests are done you're locked out of the room and you don't see the Fellowship until Lothlorien, sans Gandalf. Thus, the illusion of the passage of time based on advancement. “
 

Can you think of other MMOGs (both present and future) that offer more dynamic worlds? Darkfall? Star Wars Galaxies? Ryzom? Let us know in the comments below!

MadnessRealm writes:

I remember that Citadel Of Sorcery are working on some Event Tool to create a living/breathing world where players will be given choice and the world around them will evolve based on these choices.... but that's the only one that was not mentionned that I can think of.

Thu Jan 07 2010 3:22PM Report
johnmatthais writes:

 Citadel of Sorcery is also supposed to have more of a solo component than most MMOs...at least from what I remember...

Thu Jan 07 2010 3:37PM Report
Kyleran writes:

Technology is just not there yet, though as mentioned some games like CoS are going to give us a first look at what is possible.  No telling if they'll be successful or not.

 

Thu Jan 07 2010 4:20PM Report
jakin writes:

Unless the design has changed since I last looked, CoS is featuring an instanced world outside of common hubs.  Such a set-up would give them great control over the individual / small group play experience - but sacrifices the Massive component of an MMO.

The main issue is that the current philosophy on MMO "content" isn't conducive to having an evolving world.  It is very much possible (technologically and design-wise), it's just that most MMOs these days are produced by corporations seeking maximum return for minimum risk.  As such - minimal innovation on a proven financial model, no outside-the-box thinking required or desired.

Thu Jan 07 2010 6:05PM Report
Darkz0r writes:

 Ultima online? Good old times!

Lol

Back when I played on closed/alternative shards we used to have events and world changing stuff all the time.

SURE, it was VERY TIME CONSUMING. Imagine yourself along with a few more GMs creating a floating city in the middle of the ocean, placing tiles, NPCs, etc...Basically doing everything by commands

Then after a few days and events, make it all burn and place some demons. Then later making custom arenas for tournaments, then removing because they only were constructed in times of provings..etc

Too bad I can't stand the graphics/sounds/etc anymore. Damn evolution of gfx lol.

But my point is, it was possible when "it all started"

Thu Jan 07 2010 7:34PM Report
Amsra writes:

I have to agree with the mention of Eve. It is the only MMO I have consistantly gone back to periodicaly.  It's a very niche game but has not only survived but continually grown it's sub base over the years.

 

@jakin

I totally agree, most of the big players are not looking to take any risks. Go with the WoW or FtP with micro transactions model. My best hope for a decent fantasy MMO is Copernicus from 38 Studios. They have a lot of talent and were game players first :)

Thu Jan 07 2010 8:13PM Report
IsUberLeet writes:

I think that  the ever changing world mechanic is better suited for single player RPGs. Sure it works great when you're the only hero, or when you and a group of friends are sitting around a table rolling dice, but when your friend that's just started out in the game is trying to kill a guy in a castle and you can't help him because, to you, that castle doesn't exist, I turn against the idea.

Thu Jan 07 2010 8:45PM Report
Svayvti writes:

A changing world is one of the things that made Chronicles of Istaria (Horizons) worth playing. The dynamic world building elements of it are still awesome even if the graphics are rather dated.

Thu Jan 07 2010 11:05PM Report
ghstwolf writes:

@isUberLeet- If it were an actually changing world your friend wouldn't have the option to go kill that guy in the castle.  The first time the NPC was killed, he would be dead.

The real problem with a dynamic world is the expectation of doing epic things.  It's not even that though, it's the notion that those epic things should be quick and easy to do.  Flattening a town isn't easy, nor is building a town.  These are thing that take considerable time and dedication.  But people don't want that, they want short duration things a retarded house cat could do to feel epic.

Fri Jan 08 2010 5:14AM Report
SnarlingWolf writes:

I think my comments in the original thread still stand. And they are spot on as to why it's not going to happen and I tried to help people understand how impossible of a task they were asking.

 

There are some ways of faking it, like making a quest line that advances you through time like LotRO. But there is no way to actually do it. The quest will still exist for other characters to run through and the world itself will still stay the same.

 

To create an MMO where no quest is ever repeated and the world shifts and changes daily is impossible both due to man hours needed and cost.

 

And how come I have a Ban User option after everyone's name in this response, did I get some magic admin rights all of a sudden?

Fri Jan 08 2010 10:34AM Report
Bookkeeper writes:

SnarlingWolf, though what you said has some truth, I'm not looking for truth.  All games, in all ways, are in illusion.  They are not real, we know that.  What we are looking for as players is a better illusion.  Right now the illusion of a real world is very thin.  Every day looks and acts the same.  I'm looking for a better illusion, one where the game sells me on change.  There are a lot of ways to accomplish this, a lot of ways to improve the illusion and draw me into the world.  This is not only possible, it is being done.  I never asked for a game where no quest is repeated, only that there be some feeling of my affecting the world and having time seem to move forward.  Everything is an illusion, give me a better one.

Fri Jan 08 2010 4:22PM Report

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