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PVP in RPG's... Why?

Posted by grimfall Tuesday May 13 2008 at 3:40PM
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Typically a table-top RPG is a cooperative player versus environment experience. Many of the first MUD's embraced this, but also many introduced the concept of player-killing. Ultima Online encouraged player killing, and almost every game since has included some element of it. I often wonder why.


Is player killing inherent in RPG's? A lot of people who come to this site won't play a game unless it has player killing. Very rarely when I played Dungeons and Dragon or Gamma World with my friends would we get so mad at each other that we had our characters fight it out, and it never seemed to be a very satisfying experience, so how did it get into MMORPG's? And perhaps more importantly, why is it so important to many players? Is it the satisfaction of defeating a 'real' opponent? Is it the need for a greater challenge when it comes to opponent's AI?


What about griefing? It's really amazing that in every game where griefing is enabled, and even some where it's not (how many times have you had some level 70 PVP flagged genius jumping up and down on your 20 hunter trying to get you to accidentally attack him?) there are plenty of griefers trying to ruin the game play experience of some other human being. Yet, of the 200K people who frequent MMORPG none of them ever were griefers and they say they don't like them...


Now I like head-to-head contests just as much as the next person. I've played my fair share of Tribes, Half-Life (no good at those) and hundreds of hours playing Myth and it's sequel... but I don't really want to fight other people in a RPG. I want to cooperate. Being ganked and griefed while trying to chop down a tree to make a humble bow for my friend, well, it's just not fun.


Are there really non-griefing PVP players? If so, why don't the police the griefers themselves? It seems almost contradictory to me. If the game enables griefing, and there are all these great responsible non-griefing PVP players, where are you when the noobs need you? It comes down to you being part of the problem, if you're not part of the solution. The real world has 'Open World PVP' but society, for the most part, has a control over wanton murderers and people who do whatever they want. Why isn't this carried forward to MMORPGs? Who's responsible for it? It seems to me like it's the community at large's responsibility and PVP enthusiasts, this means you.


By the People for the People

Posted by grimfall Monday April 28 2008 at 6:40AM
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I’ve been thinking about game design and getting a MMORPG created. It seems that it is almost impossible to get funding for a title from a publisher if your game diverges widely from the WoW template. This causes an inherent conflict between creative control, which is crucial to make a top game and the publisher who wants the game released quickly and a ‘safe bet’ so that they can reach their expected ROE.
So, how do you get around that problem?
One way is the way Blizzard and Bioware (before they sold out) were going about it. Get rich making some single player or network games and use that money to fund your MMO. Unfortunately that takes about 15 years, and I don’t want to wait that long. 38 Studios start up capital (I’m assuming) has come mostly from Curt Schilling’s personal fortune, but even they are tying themselves to venture capitalists and maybe a publisher down the line, which I think they’ll come to regret.
Some of the lower profile titles in production, such as Fallen Earth and Age of Armor look like they’re mostly privately funded, so I guess it is possible to make a game without a big round of funding, but I suspect they’ve got some seed capital somewhere and honestly, neither of those games in my opinion is going to become a major player in the industry.
So here is my idea: A publically owned game company. In brief, after some start-up capital, the company would raise additional funds by selling preferred non-voting stock to the public, namely to MMORPG fans, but to anyone who wanted to invest. The incentive to invest in this stock would be you get the coolness cache of owning part of a game company, and a certain level of stock holding would guarantee to be a beta tester and receive a free copy of the game. In addition, some out-sourceable work would be ‘exchanged’ for these same shares in the company with private contractors. If someone wanted to write ‘lore’ for the game, that could be traded for stock. Or if they wanted to create some 3D objects or do some animation (assuming they had the tools) again, they could submit that work, which would be reviewed and then stock would be rewarded if it was used in the game. There are a lot of talented people making custom content and personal MUD’s around, who don’t want to leave their careers or homes to join a game studio in Austin, TX, and I think this would appeal to many of them.
So what do you think? Plausible or not? Leave aside the legal and technical issues, as I am aware that there would be many of both, but I don’t foresee any being insurmountable.

10 'New' Things My MMORPG Will Have

Posted by grimfall Friday November 23 2007 at 6:25AM
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 Let me preface this by saying that I believe this ideas are all my own, though certain aspects of them are probably seen in other games. I certainly haven't played every MMORPG out there, though I have played the big American ones.

1. It will be a role-playing game

I think that the game mechanics in the majority of popular online RPG's today tend to detract from role playing. I don't necessarily mean the 'Well met. How art thou?' roleplaying, but I do mean interacting as your character to other characters and playing a role in an adventuring group. An emphasis will be placed on encouraging interaction with the context of the game world in mind. The auction houses and mail boxes are two common conventions that will be shown the door.

2. Character Creation will be fun and meaningful

I disagree with the basic premise that users won't know enough about the game to make a character that's fun to play if they're allowed to choose stats and or powers for themselves when they 'roll up' their character. If they can do that, it's more a flaw of game design and balance, than of anything else. Sure if you make a warrior type character and max his intelligence and wisdom at the expense of strength and fortitude he may have difficulty functioning as you may expect, but if you choose a little more intelligence or quickness instead of maxing out your brawn then you'll be able to do some things than the walking brick houses can't.

3. Character Statistics will be meaningful

When you choose to put points into one statistic over another, there will be consequences. This ties into #2, of course. In the character generation system, if your more wise your brow will furrow more. If you're stronger you'll be more muscular and if you're more dexterous that muscle will be leaner. It won't just be cosmetic differences, however. There won't be gear for the most part that gives you increased wisdom and hit points. Conversely, there will be a difference between 15 and 16 mental strength. The higher the ability score, the easier it will be for you to perform actions, or those actions will be more powerful, or more easily repeated. This will apply to 'crafting' and adventuring aspects of the game, whether you're aiming a gun or hammering out a shield. 

4. No leveling

This applies to adventuring and crafting. In both realms of endeavor the only idea goal will be to explore and conquer for their own sake. To adventure to some areas and defeat some foes you'll need to be equipped with good gear, but you'll start at level 1 and remain there for the life of your character. Likewise the crafting system will be based on steps, where you will have to have completed one task before you can do a more difficult one, but you won't need to make 16 short bronze swords before you have the skill to make one long bronze sword.

 5. Separation between crafting and adventuring

All the crafting skills won't necessarily be to support adventuring. Some will but some will there just because they're cool. Being an artist or a historian will be just as rewarding as an engineer or beast trainer. All of the crafting game will be represented by mini-games which will, in an entertaining fashion, try to replicate what the real life crafter would have to go through.

6. The end of Groundhog Day

The end of undying deities will arrive. Players will start young, mature, grow old and retire. There won't be permanent death, but each resurrection or certain game situations will have a chance of causing your character to age. Some of this aging process will be physically evident as the character's skin and posture change, and some of it will be reflected in statistical changes, as you grow older and wiser you also grow weaker, slower and less hearty. Eventually the player will not have the physical requisites to adventure any more, though they can retire to a life of crafting or trading, and maybe get together with his old cronies for one last ride into t he sunset.

7. The end of Groundhog Day Part 2

The world will age and change itself. After a month, each of the servers will be different, depending primarily on how the players use and are manipulated by the existing factions in the game. When a new server is launched, it will be in a pristine condition and a large enough, determined group of individuals can set it's history on a course completely different from an older server they played on. Monsters will respawn, of course, but they may mutate so that one strategy that the previous adventurers were using may no longer be workable. For example, monsters that are susceptible to sword blows will gradually grow immunity to that type of attack. They may become more or less sociable or more intelligent as they evolve.

8. Player guilds will be part of larger game organizations

Players will be allowed to and encouraged to form guilds or cells, but each of these will be subservient to a game-wide organization. The cells will then be given objectives to further that organization\s cause and will be rewarded or punished based on their ability to meet these objectives. The guilds and individual player actions will tie closely in with number 7.

9. GM Interaction

The Players will actually get service for their monthly fee. Expect GM's to take over the role of NPC's on a regular basis. GM's will also drop in on adventuring groups to add a little spice to a dungeon or adventuring area they are working through.

10. Realistic Combat Effects

If a player throws a grenade or a fireball next to you, it won't just selectively hit the targets that she wanted it to, it will hit you. This will apply to shooting a gun, swinging a sword or using an AOE healing power.

Game Elements- Part 1: The Interface

Posted by grimfall Monday September 17 2007 at 11:02AM
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Due to a lot of work, a second chance for EQ2 and a well earned vacation, it's been a while since I threw down the gauntlet with IIHAVH's first entry.  Thanks again to those who read it and particularly those who took the time to offer their insights.  You can find that post here:

I do pride myself on being one of those people who doesn't just bitch about things.  I like to bitch about things, but then try to fix or better them.  With that thought in mind, today in the first of a multi-part series, I am going to discuss the game element of the interface.

First, let me describe what I think of as 'the interface'.  To me, the interface should always be thought of as a two-way interface.  Yes, it is how a player controls his actions in the game, but it is also how the game communicates to the player.  Many decisions that form the very core of game design, such as how are the graphics going to appear, should be integrated seamlessly with the concept of the interface.  As far as I can tell, almost all MMO's now (and unlike 7 years ago, I can no longer claimed to have played them all), start with a some sort of graphics engine, and then slap on a few windows (hot keys, status bars, etc) on top of it and say 'There, that's your UI'.  But, everything that happens in the game is part of the interface.  The graphics, the sound, the voice or text chat that other players and NPC's generate, with each of these elements, the user is interfacing with the game or vice versa.  When blood flies, or spells explode or lasers sizzle, the users are receiving data from the game, aka interfacing.

There was one particular application of the UI that got me thinking along these lines, and it happened quite recently.  I cannot remember which game it was (I suspect it was LOTRO), but when running around I found myself using the battle music as notification that I had aggro.  There were most likely some visual cues that I was 'in combat' as well, such as peacetime hot keys graying out, or a shot of text such as 'A Dire Wolf leaps to attack', but what I found easiest to monitor was just listening for that combat music to kick on.  Was this the intention of the combat music?  I suspect not.  And if not, this is an example of a UI element gone awry.  Whether the outcome that I was using this aural cue as my battle notification was good or bad I will leave up to you to decide.  But this is just an example how one overused interface element, battle music, can wind up as a UI element other than it was originally intended because the developers think of music as 'music' and the interface as 'a bunch of windows with hot keys and status bars', and both were most likely implemented by separate teams, even though we can see that their impact on the game play can overlap.

Now that we have broadened the understanding of the interface, what does it mean?  Can developers better intertwine audio and visual clues to make the interface more intuitive, informative, interactive and easier to use?  Let's go on with my combat music example above and extrapolate some other interface functionality.   What about letting the user set a tool-bar to appear, based on the music or aggro triggering?  Or if in 'run mode' a text box pops up that says 'would you like to fight?' and stops you, and wheels you about toward the closest enemy if you click 'Yes'?  Should I even need to click on 'Yes'?  Why can't I just say it?  What about using different types of combat music that convey the relative power of your enemy, so that you can receive that information even though you don't have it targeted to see it's 'con' color on the status bar? 

That is just one example of using a non-conventional interface element to convey information outside of the MMO standard that we have today.  What are your thoughts?  Do you think the hot-key overlays can be improved, or are we at the pinnacle of UI technology?  Do you think we can better communicate to and receive information from the games by changing the way we perceive the interface?

MMORPG's Need a Kick in the Pants

Posted by grimfall Sunday August 26 2007 at 2:21PM
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It's been a long time since there's been a revolutionary MMORPG... Maybe that's being too generous.  Has there ever been one?  From Meridian 59, to Ultima Online to Everquest to World of Warcraft and to what is probably the highest species of the genotype Lord of the Rings online, players have been pretty much been riding the same horse.

Meridian gave us a graphical MUD. Ultima Online crafting and an economy.  Everquest gave us a beautiful world and raiding.  World of Warcraft lowered the time and entry requirements. Lord of the Rings took a snip here and a snip there and spent a lot of time polishing things up, but we're still pretty much playing Meridian 59.  Today I am going to kill a monster, loot his corpse and use the sword he had to help me kill a tougher monster tomorrow.

Some games have given us different beautiful worlds (Pirates, or Space or Alien Landscapes or Technoworlds), some games gave us instances or dragons or new trade skills, but though the games have been refiend and are evolving, there hasn't been an evloutionary leap probably since the original Everquest and even that can be argued.

Going over the list of upcoming games, only Tabula Rasa is looking for a way to change the landscape.   Why is that?  Is the lure of the windfall Warcraft created so strong that financiers are only willing to try to better that game in an effort to steal its market share?  What would you do if you were making an MMORPG?  Would you try to Out-WoW World of Warcraft or would you take a step away and try to step forward and deliver something new?