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Just a link to one of Aaron William’s (Nodwick, PS238) newest endeavors… (In case you aren’t familiar with his work… Mr. Williams is a legendary gaming/RPG cartoonist from the early days of Dragon Magazine… Nodwick the henchman has been around for decades.)

Backwards Compatible

From the strip for Feb 13, 2008 (I’ll try to get the direct link for posterity’s sake later):

“MMOs are practically Barbie Dolls for gamers… it’s all about having the hottest outfit, whether they’re armored or have a cape.”

On the mud-dev mailing list, Mike Rozak wrote…

Several amateur MMORPG development kits are now on the market (Multiverse, Realmcrafter, Torque), with more to come. Some amateur authors are using the toolkits, but despite the fact that there are around 100x as many MMORPG players as MUD players, there only seem to be 10x as many amateur MMORPG authors as amateur MUD authors. Why is this? Where are all the amateur MMORPG devs?

Number of worlds as a metric:

MudConnector lists 1500 text MUDs. Sure, a lot of them are dead, so let’s assume the real number is 200 (just to be on the completely-safe side).

Those 200 MUDs are supported by a community of (my guestimate) 200K players. (It used to be 400K(?) pre MMORPGs.)

In other words, there is about a 1:1000 ratio of MUDs to players. Given a guestimate of 5 contributers per MUD (could be only 2), that means that 1 in 200 players are contributers. Or it could be 1 in 500 (if only 2 contributers per MUD on average).

There are approximatelly 20 million MMORPG players (100x the number of MUD players). Why aren’t there 200×100 = 20,000 amateur MMORPGs out there? Why aren’t there 40,000 amateur authors contributing to these worlds?

Yeah, sure, MMORPGs are more difficult to create, etc. So why aren’t there just 2000 worlds (not 20,000)? Or even 200?

The tools are available, albeit not very stable/mature: There’s Multiverse, RealmCrafter, and Torque. Metaplace is coming. My own toolkit (kind of MMORPG-like) is coming.

And there’s NWN 1 & 2, which actually do have around 200 worlds. Multiverse lists around 25 worlds, with (as far as I can tell) only a few being public, and none (as far as I know) are actually done. Realmcrafter’s forums are only accessible if you purchase RealmCrafter, so I haven’t been able to gague their developer population, but from posts elsewhere (and searches), it seems like only a few worlds are limping along. Torque has Minions of Mirth, and a few groups proudly displaying screenshots, but not much else.

Forum posts as a metric:

Watching the forums, it feels like hundreds of amateur authors (maybe a thousand) are out there. Not 40,000. MudConnect and TopMudSites get 10 (?) developer/author posts a day. Multiverse and MMORPGMaker are around 20-ish each. Even the NWN1 and NWN2 forums, while more active that MudConnector and TopMudSites, are not super busy (50 dev posts a day?).

Given 100x the players (MMORPG to MUD), I’d expect 100x the amateur authors, and 100x the forum posts… that’s around 1000 posts a day. My rough count is more like 100 posts per day on all the MMORPG-ish development forums.

Why haven’t amateur authors flocked to these tools?

For my part, I would respond with 3 points…

First, MMORPGs are a more visceral experience than the text MUD.  While there is possibly a similar ratio of discontent and interest in exploring alternatives for both MMOs and MUDs, I would suggest that there is far greater “low level” participation in the MMO realm… which I would define as people who are interested in being entertained, nothing more…. because it is easier for the typical individual to relate to and interact with the visual elements of the interface.  Such individuals, upon growing discontent, do not look to create their own alternative, but rather simply turn to some other form of diversion.

Second, MMO creation is difficult, particularly because it is multi-disciplinary in nature.  Not that writing a decent MUD is simple: however, it really only requires a fair amount of imagination, programming skills, and an ability to write engaging prose is a plus.  By contrast, a decent MMO requires artistic ability to generate sprites, models, animations, and what-have-you; some sound effect and music compositional skills are helpful; and knowledge of user interface design techniques is highly relevant, all in addition to the skills for the MUD developer above.

Most of the packages mentioned make few attempts to provide a comprehensive set of graphical elements as part of their distribution.  Help files and documentation is often highly technical, and fairly spotty to boot… meant more as a reference than a guide.  Examples are rudimentary and relatively poor in terms of leading interested parties through the process of generating a sample world to begin to flesh out.  In some cases, costs can run into the $500-1000 dollar range just to get a rudimentary world in place with a handful of models to animate.  In short, they are not currently situated to truly encourage widespread amateur use.  (Much the same is true in the MUD realm, and even arguably more so in some ways… but the simpler nature of the task, combined with the more focussed skill set requirements and cost-free access to materials, still equates to a far lower barrier to entry, I suspect.)

Finally, the question as posed in the email essentially assumes the the MUD/MMO crowds are fundamentally separate, that there is no crossover whatsoever between the MUD and MMO sets of participants.  I don’t believe that is really the case.

While it may be true that a large percentage of MMO participants are relatively uninterested in MUDs (see point #1), I question whether the reverse is the case.  Is it not likely that an individual with an interest in creating an MMO might not start by investigating MUDs, as a simple, relatively straightforward introduction to the endeavor?  They might quickly move on, or become discouraged and drop the idea entirely… but they’d still be counted in both MUDs and MMOs, not just one or the other.

Anyway, those are some of my random thoughts on the topic… anyone out there with a different take?

Building on previous posts in the same line: for example, this one on potential Races, this on potential Travel options, and this on Economic levels and options… rambling through some of the occasional thoughts I’ve had re: a mutation mechanism for a Gamma World type of setting.  As always, feedback is welcomed.

The Difficulty

As most probably already know, mutation in real life (in most known lifeforms) doesn’t really work the way it is presented within the Gamma World mythos: “expressed” mutation is a process which occurs over generations of offspring, not within a single individual.  Since the setting is at least implied to be a future version of our own world, this is a potentially significant issue: if it doesn’t work this way now, why would it in the future?  However, the concept of mutation occurring regularly to an individual is a central concept to the Gamma World paradigm (and a sizable factor in making it an interesting setting)… I want to retain it for the implementation.

There are two basic options for dealing with the apparent disconnect between “how things really work” and “how things work in this imaginary future”: 1) simply ignore it, or 2) come up with an explanation for why this changes.  My preference is to attempt the latter: nothing wrong with going the former route, I just believe that by developing a coherent (tho fanciful) story for why this change occurs, a foundation for further enhancement and future decision making is also created, making a consistent setting and plot more likely.

This is a long one… much more beneath the fold…

Read the rest of this entry »

If you’ve ever read any of my random musings on my “dream design”, you may recall running across references to “Awareness” scores in one form or another.  One of the challenges I was fighting with (prior to getting buried at the office) was how to effectively convey the needed information about Awareness to the player in order to make it a viable and interesting part of the design.

Fundamentals

In Voyages, the Awareness score is an objective mechanism meant to measure whether the character detects various potential events/stimuli, and in what level of detail.  Prevalent examples of situations in existing games/systems that would be analogous might be things like trap detection, secret door detection, listening at doors, detecting hidden/invisible opponents, etc.  In Voyages, the intent was to take the concept to a finer level of detail than is usually offered, and give increased control to the player.

In essence, the player is asked to monitor and control up to two related Awareness scores: a “general” score and a “focus” score.  The “focus” score applies to whatever specific stimuli the player indicates the character is focusing on: selecting a trap detection technique, for example, would tie the “focus” score to that endeavor, leaving all other stimuli to be compared to the (usually lower) general score instead.

On the other side of the coin, every stimuli is assigned two threshhold ratings: a “detection” rating and a higher “recognition” rating.  If the character’s current Awareness exceeds the “detection” rating, the player is notified of the stimuli in general terms (“You hear someone speaking quietly nearby.”)  If the “recognition” rating is exceeded, far greater detail is offered, potentially limited by other knowledge/skills (“You hear a guttural male voice whispering in Orcish, about 40 feet to your left.”)

The intent is to tie this system in to nearly all aspects of the game.  For example, attacks in combat include detection and recognition threshholds: an attack must be detected to defend against it, and recognition offers the additional detail of whether the attack will miss despite lack of defensive action.

Interface Issue

The question I’ve been worrying away at for a while is, how best to offer sufficient feedback to the player such that the Awareness mechanic is a viable part of the gameplay?

I wanted to try to avoid using simple status bars, if possible.  One idea I was playing around with briefly was the following:

combinedawarenesscircles.png

The larger golden circle representing general Awareness, the smaller overlapping golden circle representing focused Awareness.  The blue filled circles would represent current score, expanding and contracting based on the character’s actions.  Each stimuli would generate the two “open rings” demonstrated in each display (the inner ring being detection, outer ring being recognition), popping in as the stimuli occurred and fading away over a second or two.

In action, it kind of gives off a “radar/sonar” kind of vibe, which seems appropos.

However, plenty of problems as well.  Problems with the idea include:

  • There can be multiple nearly simultaneous stimuli; displaying 2 rings for each could easily lead to confusion with relatively few events;
  • Even with the overlap, this takes up a lot of real estate on the screen: the example is 100×100 pixels;
  • There is no obvious way to express changes of scale: a buff that increases potential Awareness significantly, for example, might be difficult to indicate to the player;
  • The number of “steps” in value that can be effectively indicated is small (relative to the screen real estate consumed, at least).  The larger circle is 80×80, and really only can express 40 discrete “steps” in value as proposed.

One alternative I started to play with was using the same base concept, but using “barbell” lines to indicate stimuli, which would essentially radiate outward from near the center to near the edge, somewhat like hands on a clock.  That would increase the number of stimuli that could be displayed simultaneously… if the lines were separated by 22.5 degrees (out of 360, of course), that would give room to display 16 at once (12 if you cut out the overlapped area…)

Anyway, I’m kind of casting about for some original ideas here.  Anyone got anything?

As some may recall, I made a bit of a fuss about the initial play experience in PotBS, back in my original “review”.  Since PotBS is now nearing the end of open beta, I took some time I probably shouldn’t have (I’m behind schedule as it is, I feel guilty about even blogging, but sanity is important, too, right?), went back and revisited the character creation routine, just to see if there had been any adjustments.

The answer is “kind of”.  The big thing they added (I think… I might have overlooked it the first few times thru, I suppose) was a very explicit step in which you are prompted to open a full-screen graphic describing many of the interface elements and basics in significant detail.  If you take the time to read the entirety of both pages (one for swashbuckling, one for ship combat), you gain significant insight into the mechanics.  There were a few other adjustments as well, minor changes in NPC placement, etc.

It is better than it was, and I’m definitely glad they found time to make these adjustments.  On the other hand, I was hoping for something a bit more… interactive.  For example…

Scene 1: Small sleeping quarters off of Captain’s cabin aboard ship

Description: bunk or hammock, sea chest, tiny writing desk, chair with personal journal, quill pen, and stoppered ink bottle, a little open space for avatar movement

Goals: basic familiarization with avatar movement and interaction with interface and environment

Events/Steps:

  • inform player of movement keys, encourage use of each.
  • highlight personal status elements, with brief explanation of purpose of each
    • hit points
    • initiative
    • balance
  • direct player to move to sea chest, open and explain inventory screen upon interaction.  Highlight inventory button on main interface bar as well.
  • direct player to move to personal journal, open NPC interaction interface, describe general situation (aboard the “ship name”, a vessel captured from buccaneers earlier in journey; impressed Captain and crew mightily during voyage, been made interim captain of the captured vessel; looking forward to making port, Captain seems nervous, almost fatalistic at times; possibly being followed by suspicious ship for past couple of days…)
  • upon “closing journal”, sounds of cannon fire and shattering wood.  Establish first quest “Speak to First Mate, find out what is going on”.  Direct player to exit cabin.

Scene 2: Captain’s cabin

Description: large, rather empty room, a few scattered maps, navigational tools, journals and books about the floor.  Upon entry, loud explosion to explain large hole blasted in the back of the room.  2 dead crewmen near hole, first mate stands ready to report…

Goals: firm up basics of swashbuckling, start tutorial process

Steps:

  • Direct player to interact with First Mate.  First Mate reports sneak attack by multiple vessels, boarding underway.  Wants to recap recent lessons in basic combat moves to prepare you to defend/retake ship (optional subquest)
  • If player chooses to execute subquest, enter combat mode against First Mate.  He directs use of each of the 4 base maneuvers, highlighting the impact of each on the PC’s statuses as well as his own, and driving home how finishing techniques require certain levels of initiative and/or balance to be used.  Mentions options for more advanced training in port.
  • First Mate directs (respectfully suggests) player to retake the deck while he flushes out any bilge rats from below deck.  Direct player to exit cabin instance.

Scene 3: Retake the ship

Description: typical main deck of a ship; 4 bilge rats scattered across deck, 2 individuals and 1 group of 2 at far end; 2 crewmen to rescue

Goals: give player experience with swashbuckling combat, introduce directing of allies/crew, progress on initial plotline

Steps:

  • Main goal is simply to defeat all bilge rats, none are exceptionally tough to beat, but remember that since player may not be comfortable with interface, it may seem more challenging than might otherwise be the case
  • Releasing prisoners by defeating the group of 2 gives an opportunity to highlight the ability to direct crew; have pairs of additional (slightly tougher) bilge rats run out from below decks, encourage player to direct crew to engage one while fighting the other.
  • Upon defeating 2 additional pairs, direct player to return to captain’s cabin to meet with First Mate.

You probably get the idea of what I mean by a more interactive experience at this point: show and tell, not just tell.  However, the existing system, especially with the recent adjustments, should be good enough, and the systems _are_ relatively straightforward… it’s not that hard to pick up the basics anyway.

My two cents…

Tobold and Raph have been having a cross-blog discussion re: RMT that has went over all the common territory very thoroughly and relatively concisely, I think.  My own views on RMT kind of fall between the two extremes, but instead of going into all of that, I thought I would instead muse a little on what really drives the entire RMT controversy.

I’m skipping a lot of supporting narrative here, I admit.  If necessary, I’ll add it later.  Also, I know a lot of this is obvious to most MMO players… but I think sometimes people forget certain aspects or overlook specific points.  It may be helpful just to talk through the various reasons RMT does create controversy, if only to help identify situations that a particular proposal would not truly deal with.

Time vs. Money

Cutting to the chase, I really feel that most of the RMT controversy boils down to simply preserving the primacy/superiority of available time to play over available money to spend.

That is not all bad, nor even as bad as it might sound.  For example, there is a modicum of knowledge and skill required to play these games as currently designed.  Try returning to a WoW or EQ2 character after a 2 year absence and run straight out to your old hunting grounds… what does that “blue glowing hand” icon represent again?  Which of these 4 slightly different lightning bolt icons is my best attack spell again?  What order should I be using these abilities in?  The skills and knowledge required are not exactly rocket-science/brain-surgery level cognition, no… but they are significant nonetheless.

Spending some amount of time will teach most people the necessary skills to succeed… money does not confer the same benefit.  Current designs are built to subtly favor time expenditures over raw money expenditures (in multiple ways, actually)… and I doubt most current players would care to change that.

Which leads us back to RMT and some of the criticism it provokes.  RMT in it’s various forms suggests the possibility of supplanting the time commitment with one involving money instead.  (I’d guess this is one of them that really sticks in Tobold’s craw, based on certain comments in his post.  Obviously, I could be very wrong.)

Currently it is generally only used to supplant the more mundanely time-consuming aspects of the game: attaining a specific item, or amassing enough gold/credits/etc. to purchase such an item, for example.  However, the existence of power-leveling services and character selling (services I actually feel are far more pernicious than mere gold selling, setting aside the disruptive nature of “farming” operations) begins to truly impinge upon the time vs. money question… and who really knows at present where it could potentially go from there?

In Tobold’s arguments (there are actually several posts on the topic over the past week or so, I only linked the most recent), for example, you can find several references to a potential future wherein RMT sales would start to drive the game design for the developer.  This is an indirect reference to the conflict above.  Such changes would likely create a very different game, and one that would possibly be unappealing, if not completely inaccessible, to many current players.

If this made more profit for the developer, even (or especially!) with fewer players, does anyone reasonably think that development resources would not become focused on that style of game?  Given that, does anyone think there would be much remaining concentration on development of the current style of MMO any more, the type that current players obviously enjoy (despite forum rants to the contrary)?

These are companies after all.  Subscriber numbers and simultanous user counts are nice, but the true bragging rights come from a different set of numbers: Gross Revenues, Gross Profit, and Net Profit (After Taxes).

Bragging Rights

Speaking of bragging rights: another common argument against RMT that boils back down to time vs. money is somewhat typified by the statement “I spent 3 months, hundreds of hours, building this character, and he buys one for $500 bucks on e-Bay and expects to be treated equally?”

Setting aside the skill question already touched upon, reaching max level or obtaining certain rare items equate to a certain amount of prestige in these games.  RMT rather cheapens the overall impact, and in this case it impacts _everyone_, not just the person doing the buying.  (Did he actually _earn_ that Sword of Terrible Wrath, or did he just buy it for $149.95 on GoldFarmers.com?)

Right, wrong, or indifferent, the prestige effect is real.  It needs to be considered.

Gold Farming

I just want to mention this one, simply because it may be the “exception that proves the rule” (I hate that old saying, actually.  Exceptions don’t prove rules.)

Anyway, as everyone is well aware, one of the older complaints related to RMT actually derived from one of the incidental side effects of the practice, the fact that certain areas/mobs were known to be more “productive” than others, and that gold farming organizations would sooner or later move to dominate those areas, in some cases effectively preventing the remaining player base from ever using them.

I almost hesitate to list it, because there are so many ways it could potentially be addressed without “major” changes to the basic common designs.  It is something to be considered, if only because it reinforces the point that every decision (aka spawn rates and loot tables in specific areas) in these designs impacts everything else (the entire economy of the game) in myriad ways… to the point that almost no alteration can be called “trivial”.

Conclusion

Ugh.  Duty calls… what reasons/impacts did I miss?

For me, the one advantage to being tied up most of the weekend, running a long series of database queries, tying up multiple computers for sizable periods of time, is that you have plenty of downtime to write/type… although I find I can’t do any real development/writing of code (for that, I need to be able to concentrate more fully, I guess).  As such, this weekend offered me copious amounts of time to do more design brainstorming on my dream game/Gamma World implementation, and thus…

One of the more whimsical conceits of the Gamma World setting in most of its incarnations was the range of the different player character “races” (species, really) that were allowed in play.  I’d want to try to recapture as much of that same range of variants as possible, tho it would be extremely challenging with all but the most abstract of graphical presentations… for example, a 3-D implementation would require a significant scaling back of the number of options simply due to the number of different models and associated animation that would be required.

Anyway, some brief notes on the options…

Pure Strain Human

In this setting, these are humans that, for reasons to be explored as time goes by, simply do not mutate when exposed to “mutagenic” energies and substances (such things simply weaken and damage them as they accumulate instead)… outwardly, at least, they seem to be base human stock.  In comparison to pre-Cataclysm humans, they have changed significantly, with multiple advantages in terms of resilience, physical strength, etc.  They also have significant advantages in comparison to most others dealing with pre-Fall technology, especially technology that checks genetic information to unlock or activate.

Mutated Human

These are humans whose bodies, for reasons to be explored as time goes by, react to accumulations of “mutagenic influences” (radiation, weird chemical compounds, etc) by undergoing a kind of “cleansing metamorphosis” which can yield certain mental and physical changes as well.  The possible side effects of such metamorphoses can range from the merely cosmetic to devastatingly powerful (or detrimental), the one thing that is certain is that changes (in the form of new, muted, or utterly different mutations) will occur.

Mutated Humans can be somewhat limited in their ability to interact with Ancient technology: various types of security mechanisms (visual profile scans, biometrics, genetic testing) may or may not recognize them as actually human…

Ancient Human

These come in two basic sub-types: Sleepers and Starborn.  Sleepers were cryogenically preserved (for various reasons, from medical to punitive to mere boredom) prior to the Cataclysm, and were lucky enough to survive and be successfully re-awakened in one way or another.  Starborn, by contrast, were the small groups of the Ancients spread across the Solar System in various isolated scientific and industrial installations, that both avoided the impact of the Cataclysm and found ways of sucessfully adapting to the lack of resources from Earth. 

In both cases, these are basic humans with no special tolerances for most of the various deadly environments of Gamma World, but with a far better innate grasp of how to use (and potentially build/repair) Ancient technology than most other individuals.  Starborn Ancients, in particular, might work best as an “unlockable” race, opened as the original player-character base finds ways to travel to Lunar bases, asteroid mining stations, etc.

Mutated Animals

There are a plethora of potential subtypes under this general category: consider mutated penguins, buffalos, mosquitos, llamas, pigeons, manatees, cockroaches, jellyfish, equines, bovines, dogs, frogs, snails, whales, cats, bats, rats, gnats… and everything in between.

In all cases, the salient characteristic assumed as part of all player-controlled mutated animals is human-level intelligence (or at least close).  Characteristics which may prove helpful, but can be passed over if a more challenging experience in play was desired, could include ability to generate/mimic human speech, ability to breathe air (for fish and other aquatic lifeforms), and prehensile digits or limbs (ability to manipulate objects).

Speech would be the least challenging defect to deal with, since sign language and writing would both still be potentially available, or failing that, the ooc /tell channels… (more thoughts on communication adjustments and variants in a future post.)  Depending upon the design of the setting, lack of an ability to breathe air might simply be too limiting, and need to be made a required characteristic.  Lack of fine manipulation ability could be significantly devastating to a character’s potential as well, and lack of intellect is just right out… saving that for NPCs alone seems, um, prudent.

Limitations based on size need to be considered as well, and may need to be a hard limitation in terms of options for the player.  Both the mutated whale and the mutated gnat would have significant difficulty driving a pickup track due to sheer size, for example, but in very different ways… restricting the list of options such that the character would be between 1 and 3 meters in length/height may be best.

Mutated animals of all species would work like mutated humans when exposed to “mutagenic influences”, going through a cleansing metamorphosis that has an impact on their specific mutations.  (The question of why a vast variety of different species would all react in precisely the same way to genetic damage is another one of those topics with “reasons to be explored as time goes by.”) 

Mutated animals would also have significant challenges in terms of using Ancient technology, especially anything with security mechanisms… although some species do have an edge (dogs and cats in particular, having been common pets with their own “toys”/”tools”)…

“Green Ones”/Mutated Plants

Similar in most ways to mutated animals, but even more weird.  Everything from pine trees to dandelions to mushrooms to colonies of algae might be potential options.

Like mutated animals, certain characteristics are assumed in a viable mutated plant player-character.  Human-level intelligence and some manner/form of mobility are the two most basic ones.  Capacity for mimicking human speech, ability to manipulate objects, and ability to utilize various common senses (sight, hearing, etc) would again be suggested (but not necessarily required) options.  In contrast, different methods of generating sustenance might apply naturally (photosynthesis vs. food consumption, oxygen-breather vs CO2) and be quite viable.

Mental abilities of various sorts (psionics of various origins and capabilities is assumed in my take on the setting) will require specialization to work as well on flora-based characters as they do on fauna-based ones (animals and humans), the assumption being that the mental “structures and frequencies” are _very_ different…

Mutagenic influences affect mutated plants in precisely the same way as mutated humans and animals… yep, you guessed it, “for reasons to be explored as time goes by”.  Manipulation of Ancient technology can be quite challenging for the mutated flora character: even the most common of houseplants didn’t get many tech toys to play with, pre-Cataclysm, oddly enough.

“Live Metal”/Self-Aware Robots

The most divergent and weird of all the player “races” would probably be this one… playing an intelligent machine, particularly in a setting where replacement parts aren’t necessarily easily obtained.  “Learning” mainly by finding new software to integrate into the AI-OS, tapping a variety of energy sources and supplies to keep basic functions operating, watching out for various types of EM jamming and manipulation… I would want playing an AI to be almost a different (or at least derivative) set of gameplay considerations entirely, just implemented within the same setting.

One question to be answered would be how attached the AI-entity should be to any one particular form.  The character might start play as a lawnmower/automated gardener (“Garden-Master 2100”), to pick an example, but if it came across a derelict traffic control bot, should it be able to “switch bodies” and capabilities, maybe at a cost in performance since it has less-than-optimal drivers and software to control its new systems?

That’s as far as I got… as always, any and all feedback is welcome.

I have to chime in on this one… it’s just too good to pass up.  I agree with most of the Honorable Lum (the Mad)’s points, understand…

Taking the HLtM’s bullet points, one at a time…

PvP should not be the focus of your entire game

Agreed in toto: PvP should feed into a larger goal.  My preference is that such goals be about claiming territory or resources… that’s what RL PvP is almost always about, after all.  Religious crusades to convert-and/or-destroy the heathens/infidels/unclean (with cynical economic goals for the aristocracy behind the scenes) work okay, too…

PvP should not be a random afterthought

Agreed in toto: but I would note this should be a general rule for any and all subsystems, hardly limited to implementing PvP.  If you want something to sUxx0r, tack it on your game as a random/rushed afterthought.

PvP players hate classes

Everyone hates classes (except those who don’t, of course).  Actually, I personally think class “hatred” is a simple function of player experience.  The more experienced the player, the less comforting and conversely more irritating classes (and their usually contrived limitations on activity) become.

PvP players need classes

I don’t like the wording, but I agree with the sentiment.  PvP requires a fair level of tactical transparency.  Classes are one way to achieve that.  Doom did it with pistols, shotguns, and BFGs.  Whatever works.

PvP players detest grinding

True enough, but slightly off-target, IMO.  PvP players want to play a PvP game.  I know, shocking, isn’t it?  Setting up your game such that they have to go through days/weeks/months of PvE (or other hoops/hurdles) to even get to the PvP, let alone have much chance for success, is likely to be viewed with less-than-rapturous-praise as a result. 

In the past, PvPers have wanted to reach the “end game” in two weeks because that’s where the game they want to play IS.  This is changing (finally).  That is good.  (Heck, _I_ get this, and I don’t really like PvP.  Where does this mental block come from?)

PvP players need some grinding 

Agreed in toto.  It needs a better bullet point, tho.  MMO PvP players need some grinding… there, that’s better.

PvP should not screw new players over

Agreed in toto.  Games with a less attentuated power curve in the advancement model(s) would help, but there’s also the problem of player skill…

PvP should screw over someone

This is why I don’t like PvP.  But I can’t argue against the need for that dynamic.

“You gotta keep ‘em separated.”

Only true if you want to, like, pay the electricity bill with revenues from your game, or something silly like that.  A riff on the old saying: unrestricted PvP=a great way to make yourself a millionaire… if you’re already a billionaire.

But not too separated

Agreed in toto.  Striking a reasonable balance in enticements to enter the PvP area can be dicey, but it is necessary.  It’s a little like jumping into a lake, I guess: yes, the water is cold, but once you get past the initial shock you’ll be fine…

In the endless player skill argument, you should assume your players don’t have any

And if I’m one of those players, you can be absolutely certain of that.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reward those players who do

Agreed in toto.  And don’t overlook the value of mere bragging rights, with a dollup of shameless promotion on the side…

PvP players are angry and bitter, and will hate you

And this is different from the general MMO audience… how?

Another in a potential series of design entries related to expressing a Gamma World type of setting in my “dream game” mechanics.  Some general thoughts related to economic systems were related here.  As always, any feedback is welcomed.

The number of possible transportation methods of transportation in a Gamma World style setting nearly beggars the imagination.  Again, part of the intended progression of the game will be to enable the character to obtain and operate ever more advanced equipment… but in this case especially, I want to make most of the options available in some form or another almost from the very start.

Personal: You have the usual walking/running stuff, of course.  The mutations and potential psionic abilities add potential options for personal flight, short-range teleportation, and so on.

Beasts: A variety of different beasts of burden with a range of abilities, potentially based on concepts like Podogs (intelligent riding mastiffs) or Centisteeds (horses with 12-18 legs), or even stranger imaginings.  A variety of beast-drawn vehicles should be possible as well.

Wind-driven: sailing ships and balloons/dirigibles are the obvious options, but other more fanciful entries could exist in certain environments as well.  Sail-boards (and sail-cars?) for traversing wind-whipped prairies and deserts, for example.

Self-powered vehicles: skateboards, bicycles, tricycles… Segways? (heh).

Petroleum-burning vehicles: motorcycles, cars, trucks, etc.  I’m assuming these would be mainly post-Cataclysm inventions, actually. 

Ancient vehicles: jetpacks, gravcars, maglev cargo platforms, and even powered armors and military vehicles of various capabilities.  Power sources could be a variety of different styles of batteries (solar, chemical, etc), hydrogen-burning fuel cells, “micro-fusion” reactors, whatever sci-fi-tech concepts seem to work…

Ancient Mass Transit: I’m thinking cross-continental maglev subways as a big part of this setting.  Part of the gameplay at the community level over time could be to discover, unearth, and re-activate various stations/terminals spread across the countryside, offering very fast transport across large distances on a regular schedule.  Helping to maintain the infrastructure of the Tubes could be an ongoing side activity as well.

Other Ancient mass-transit systems such as automated sub-orbital or orbital flights, perhaps with stop-overs at orbital stations, might be an interesting possibility as well.  (That’s about as far as I want to go, tho.  I’m definitely shying away from having ubiquitous teleportation technologies in this setting.)

Limitations

The general concept would be allow the player to interact with most of the above from the get-go, leaving aside perhaps the petroleum-burning and Ancient vehicles except as loaners from others. 

Instead, I was thinking that part of the challenge for the player would be to be able to afford to operate, and perhaps maintain, whatever modes of transportation they chose to use.  Beasts will need to be kept sheltered and fed (to varying extents); vehicles need fuel/energy and maintenance; even the mass-transit options will have a cost to utilize, and maintenance (as a communal effort) will be required to keep them running.

In addition, there would be skill-based limitations on the use/operation of many of the forms of travel (Voyages being a skill-based/usage-driven design, as opposed to class-based/XP-level-driven).  Skills and techniques would govern the level of control and basic speeds (safely) attainable… wrecking the community pickup truck on a joy ride probably isn’t the best idea for making friends and influencing people (could be a decent quest hook, tho…)

Certain objects may require an expenditure (or an act of “heroism”) in order to lay a claim to full ownership, even if the character is the one that unearths/obtains it, depending upon the circumstances.  Having the only operational jetcopter or gravcar in the entire region, and not allowing others to use it on occasion, should logically create some potential “issues” with local governments and even the populace at large…

Anyway, those are some of the general concepts I’d be leaning toward for the GW setting.  Any comments or concerns?

(Sorry about the meager posting of late… a bit busy at the office.  Four applications, including 2 entirely new ones, a total of 13 systems, plus 3 upgrades and 1 new PBX, all and sundry to be installed or at least in testing by Jan 1… not all my job, of course, but a good portion of it is under my purview.  And all of it representing business acquired since mid-November…  gotta love Section 179 depreciation.  Add in the usual holiday activities, and our first snowfall (yay!) with attendant traffic snarls (gah!)…)

This post is somewhat disjointed, I’m afraid… but I wanted to get some thoughts written down.

I’ve been somewhat stuck on musing about resolution mechanisms and systems of late… combat systems mainly, but also related to crafting and other activities.  This has largely been prompted by the contrasts between various recent or upcoming games (TR, PotBS, Hellgate:London, EQ2 update, etc), but it’s been on my mind for some time (I recall posts a few months back where I made comments about Vanguard and Sword of the New World along similar tangents, for example).

I’ve been working on a loose classification system to try to bring some order to my thoughts.  It’s far from complete, but some of the considerations I’ve been pondering…

Random effect ranges (“50-150 damage”) vs. static damage values (“100 damage”)

Random effect ranges seem to have somewhat faded from ubiquitous use.  TR and CoH are two games that instantly come to mind where each successful attack with a particular attack or weapon has precisely the same impact, variations only coming from differing defensive capabilities of the target, and the occasional “critical” doing precisely double damage.  I’d presume the rise of DPS analysis amongst players as a key measurement of effectiveness had some influence on this. 

I haven’t yet checked to see exactly which games still feature random effect ranges: DDO is the only one that I’m relatively sure of at present.  I think WoW and EQ2 both do as well, but I wouldn’t swear to it (I haven’t made a point of watching that closely in those cases, I must admit.)

Random chance of success vs. automatic hit

Most games have moved to this model, it seems.  “Missing” when the target is obviously in range and within arc of swing/line of fire often feels quite jarring.  This has been somewhat replaced/obfuscated in some case by Dodge/Parry/Block notifications (TR and SNW come to mind), but even those are used far more rarely than might be expected from a fully random hit/miss mechanism.

Random special challenges

This covers features like the events that can pop up in EQ2 crafting, stun effects in CoH/CoV, and so on.  Relatively random effects that need to be countered by player activity (selecting the appropriate reaction to fix/cancel the crafting problem, “popping a purple” inspiration to cancel the stun).  It’s somewhat of a whack-a-mole type of mechanic, but it can be an effective addition to a resolution system, adding a dash of tension and reaction time testing.

Player controlled facing and targeting vs. auto-facing/targeting

This seems to be easier (or more obvious) to implement with ranged combat than anything else, PotBS ship combat and TR ranged combat being recent examples.  It covers nearly any situation where the movement and targeting as controlled by the player has a significant impact on the results.  I can’t think of a melee implementation off-hand that has attempted anything similar (there possibly are, I just can’t think of one), but it might be an interesting experiment to see if it could be done.

Limited options vs. wide array

The best example of what I’m talking about: compare TR’s 5 weapon slots and 5 ability slots to the typical EQ2 and WoW multiple bars of 10 options each.  The memorized spell slots of EQ1 fall under this general consideration as well.  This also drives/is driven by the interface interaction style… the point and furiously click of TR vs. the target and then trigger multiple options in varying sequence of EQ2.

I’ll come back to this topic over the weekend, but I wanted to at least get some thoughts down today.  Anyone spot any other design aspects that I’ve missed/overlooked so far?

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