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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

An Ecumenopolis Paradise

Posted by lifesbrink Monday March 23 2009 at 1:58AM
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Waking up (logging on), I got up from the bed and peered out the window of my apartment. The City of Terra greeted me with its usual vastness. A complex network of arcing buildings and futuristic flying vehicles was laid out in a vast expanse as far as I could see, a busy hub of activity. Of course, it was neverending, as the city was encompassing an entire planet. I had purchased a decent apartment here and used it as storage, among other things.

In the sky, I spotted a ship floating with a banner that read: Totayaka Enterprise - Keeping Terra Safe, Secure. I shook my head, as that was a big lie. The company was headed by a player named Ketsune, and although his name sounded Japanese, no one really knew his ethnicity, except perhaps some of the higher members of the company. His organization was vast, and had spread across the entire planet, gobbling everything in the industrial and commercial sector. Although his company had claimed to have unified the planet, especially as a means of uniting all military units in the planet to fight against the threat of the Oroks (a race of zerg-like monstrosities that were claiming a frightening number of planets), many other players have complained on forums across the Net that he had nefarious means of keeping the planet under control.

My name is Kirnan, and I am a human pilot. As you might be able to tell by now, this entire planet…in fact, the whole Galaxy of Estraza, is a game. Originally developed as a single planet, the games creators started with simple systems of building and character development, and later added in infrastructures allowing for complex economical and social organization.

Sandbox, it could be called. It was all laid out on a single server, made up of thousands of clusters by this point. The players took years to really develop what was seen now, and real world corporations had involved themselves as well. Artists, musicians, families, every walk of life had invaded this game. This was in turn due to the open development, and allowance of inclusion of music, scripting, and graphics by anyone. Everything that would allow for customization could be uploaded under terms of virtual world creation, provided the player had a right to be uploading it.

Of course, there was a story that was based in this galaxy by the developers. Humans were the first and only race that were allowed to be created, but later on, other races were allowed too. By this point, one could be virtually any sentient creature out there among the game's 27 planets (with more out there). Humans, like in all games, were some of the most popular, followed by the Oroks.

Oroks. They were almost the yin to the yang, and were deadly. Creatures that worked like nightmares, they were united under the leadership of Ka'ris'deks, another famous player that others flocked to for invasions. Thirteen worlds were under the Oroks' control, and had been kept that way, almost as if to signify something ominous to come. Many feared that Terra might be invaded at some point, though that might seem foolish, as Totayaka Enterprise had the planet under very tight control and bristling defenses. Still, attacks on other settlements on the other planets were common. Wars between other races and humans were dying out as alliances were made to defend against the enormous threat of the Oroks.

If some of you are wondering about population, by 2024's count, 43 million players were or are involved in this game.

I made a preparations for leaving, and left the apartment to take a skycar to one of the cities many spaceports, to board my ship, the Wraith. This was not a permanent ship, by any means, but it was my first purchase, and many modifications had it outfitted to run about any mission I needed without being disturbed much, hence the name. My chosen career in this game consisted of doing scouting missions for certain military groups, as well as bombing runs, escorting people to various places, a few assassinations here and there, and so on. In this game, permadeath is concrete, but there are no levels, and your character's assets were inherited by the next character you made, although with certain taxations by your last place of residence.

As I boarded my ship, I contemplated my goal for this evening. I had found something of a special place at the edge of the galaxy, and I had plans to do more exploring, but the last time I had gone out, I found that I had been followed. The tagalong was nothing more than a probe, and I had deactivated it and attempted to capture it, leading to an explosion that almost had severe ramifications on my ship (shielding almost broke). I didn't know who sent the probe, so I suspected I had made a few enemies somewhere, and I needed to find out who. As usual, inquiries on the forums had been met with little results, so I needed to be cautious on this run as well.

After the needed checks were complete, I fired up Wraith, and my ship blasted out of the sky into space, hanging in orbit around the planet of Terra, letting me make more preparations to cloak and conceal before warping, and giving me a final view of the planet. It was strange, seeing this global city revolve around me, making me wonder if Earth would one day be so consumed by technology...

Skilling up Issues & Solutions

Posted by lifesbrink Tuesday March 10 2009 at 1:44AM
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The worst things you see in any game through skilling up are macros or repetitive movements that level skills. This destroys the whole idea of skilling up altogether, but can easily be fixed. Most games have soft caps on anything that levels, and any game could do something similar but allow for a system that prevents abuse at all. Hence we have degrading of skills on the basis that they were skilled too much. Example as follows:

Jumping is essentially a skill, in a sense, but it is tied very heavily to strength, stamina, endurance and agility. So to skill up jumping, you are essentially working to be able to jump higher and farther with less stamina loss. Typically, though, you could have a player macro jumping, go next to a wall, and come back hours later to have maxed jumping. Reality can be applied though, and this can be remedied. In the real world, if you were to jump in one spot for hours, you wouldn’t get very far. Further, you couldn't max in a day either.

So to compensate in-game, we add two scripts. One ties jumping skill-ups to distance traveled, combined with factors of speed used throughout, and how tired you were. The second script would enact so that over time, if you jumped too much, you would start losing skill, and your stats would temporarily suffer. In the end with this situation, you would have gained nothing at all. This should be a generous amount, generally, like 6 hours of mostly jumping, a number that would increase at least, as the skill level and stamina levels approached superior statuses.   This idea could easily be applied in different ways to other skills, such as losing skill or stats with other physical skills, or simply putting a soft cap on intelligence-related skills.

Of course, this merely puts a cap on a bursting bottle, and doesn't truly remedy the issue. To do that, games need to have skills be interesting to level. To some extent, battling skills are inevitably tied to the combat system, so if your combat system is weak, so shall the skill leveling be tiresome. Crafting though, is another issue, for in real life, learning a craft is not very exciting either. So in essence, the key here is to keep it somewhat dynamic to maintain interest, as well as make a true crafting system that really rewards the MMO world as a whole.

Dynamic is not always easy though, as evidenced by the failure to really do so by any MMO out there. I would say it is still fairly simple though: let us take being a lumberjack, for example. Currently in any game you walk up to a pile of wood or a tree, and hit your gather key. This gets fairly boring fast.

Solution? Enable a combo mini-game, where timing certain clicks could give you bonus "swings" and thus remove time from harvesting. Also, making all trees harvestable would add a dynamic of placement with your harvesting, lest you depopulate the area too quickly. Crafting also commonly uses too much material, and with materials being able to be reused and less used overall, the system can stabilize a bit more.

This article will tie in to a future article that will be tied to how a world economy should work and what ideas should be done to prevent it from becoming boring or collapsing.