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Piercing the Veil On Bioware's MMOG

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the about-time dept.

Role Playing (Games) 88

Ziff Davis' newly rebranded computer-games magazines, Games for Windows, is showing off some of its new content on the 1up hub site. They've got a fantastic interview with James Ohlen, the creative director at Bioware Austin, Rich Vogel, and Gordon Walton, co-studio directors. For the first time, they reveal some new details on Bioware's upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Game. They don't talk about the game's setting, unsurprisingly, but they do go into some depth on the thinking behind their game. From the article: "GFW: One of the big problems with MMO gameplay is repeating the same content, or same instance if you're specifically talking about WoW, over and over again ... JO: That's something we don't want to encourage. We want to encourage players to continue to make progress in their story, to do new quests, consume new content, constantly move forward. The grind is not attractive in any way. Going and killing the same dragon over and over again is not something I want to do. There are lots of different ways to encourage players to move forward. Simply putting more weight on storytelling experience points is a good way to do that."

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Call me a pessimist, I guess (5, Interesting)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#17008642)

Simply putting more weight on storytelling experience points is a good way to do that

Not really. Or rather, it may be "good" in the sense that it's better than other ways, but not "good" in the sense that it actually accomplishes what the designers intended it to.

I was a wiz (admin, sort of) on a MOO back in the day. It was MUD-like in that it had a coded stats/skills system, including combat (both player-vs-player and player-vs-aHaB). It was MOO/MUSH like in that it emphasized actual role play, rather than dungeon crawling. In some ways, it was about the best setup one could hope for: there was a significant cultural value put on role playing.

This didn't stop players from sparring up stats and twinking their way through the game. It didn't stop "the grind." When people complained about what was going on, various technical means were put in place to try and curtail repetitive stat building and encourage role play. None of them succeeded to any great extent.

Or rather, they succeeded fantastically well for the players that availed themselves of the new systems - but those are the players who would have been role playing anyway.

After going through three different stat/skill systems on that game, with each change meant to discourage the grind and encourage role play, and none being terribly effective, I came to the conclusion that if you build it, they will not necessarily come. The very existence of a stats/skills system, I believe, means that there will be people who just try to game it as fast as they can, to up their numbers. And if the stats/skills system means anything at all within the game, those players will have an advantage over players who don't want to spend the time doing that.

Hell, you see the same thing in small groups of table-top RPGers. There's often (almost always, IME) one guy at the table, even in a good group, whose sole focus is levelling up. In that sort of small community setting, with constant one-on-one interaction between the GM and the players, and when the GM is pretty much god (I don't care how many dice you have in sneak, you cannot sneak across the football field in broad daylight. Fine, roll your dice...oh, sorry, you failed. He saw you and you died), this can be dealt with. None of those factors obtain in an online game: you have many people (a "Massive" amount, one might say), there isn't enough staff to have constant interaction with a real person, and the staff that does exist has to follow a specific set of rules, lest there be widespread player bitching and general dissatisfaction.

I spent a good lot of time working up a stat/skill system that, I believe, would have helped alleviate the problem (partially by recognizing that people will grind, and incorporating that into the system). I stopped before even trying to push for its implementation for two reasons: first, because I ended up realizing that it probably wouldn't work as well as I hoped. And second, because most of the players I bounced it off of didn't like it - they wanted the grind.

*shrug*

I wish BioWare and their future player base the best of luck. I really hope it works out for them. But I really don't think it will.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17008924)

You could stop the grind (and to a certain extent farming) but I'm certain that the 10% of super hard-core players would revolt ...

Suppose you added the states of Tired and Exhausted to the XP and Honor gain systems in World of Warcraft which limited the XP/Honor a person would gain performing an activity and (in the case of Exhausted) act like Rez sickness when fighting that type of opponent; in essence producing a per/day fight limit on a player like the type that used to exist in games like Lord. If the cap was set high enough to not impact most players (say you had enough fights for 2 to 4 hours of a particular activity before becomming tired, and a couple of hours after that before becomming exhausted) most players would be happy with the system; the problem would be the endless complaints from the hardcore.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (3, Informative)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009120)

This idea is exactly how WoW was originally planned. Once players got wind of this there was so much outcry that Blizzard changed the system to one of positive reinforcement with an experience bonus for not playing as much, as opposed to a penalty for playing too much.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009216)

Do you know whether the outrage was from the more hardcore players or from the average masses?

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009358)

Obviously there is no way to quantify how much of the outcry was from your "hardcore players" and how much was from the "average masses" as you put them. Regardless, Blizzard is a business and saw enough of a demand that they felt it was in their best interest to make the change.

FYI, the entire reason World of Warcraft is so insanely successful is because they do not pander to the hardcore minority. From its simplified gameplay to the fastest leveling time of any MMO ever released, WoW is the most casual-friendly MMO ever released.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009464)

FYI, the entire reason World of Warcraft is so insanely successful is because they do not pander to the hardcore minority. From its simplified gameplay to the fastest leveling time of any MMO ever released, WoW is the most casual-friendly MMO ever released.

True enough ... WoW was far less punishing than DAoC or Everquest ...

But (as a guess) anyone who was paying close enough attention to WoW before its release to know this would probably be pretty hard-core.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009502)

But (as a guess) anyone who was paying close enough attention to WoW before its release to know this would probably be pretty hard-core.

You are damn right I would fall into the "hardcore" category. ;) I have played practically every major MMO to be released in America, and I would gladly play a game that found the magical solution to zero grind while preserving long-term playability. Being realistic, however, I think we are more likely to transmute iron to gold first.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

rkanodia (211354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011920)

Being realistic, however, I think we are more likely to transmute iron to gold first.

12h 45m on my cooldown to be precise, but how much are you willing to pay? Normally I save my transmute for arcanite.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011040)

fastest leveling time of any MMO ever released,
What about Guild Wars?

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (5, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009634)

Not quite true. What happened was that initially, Blizzard set the rested to 100% exp, and had a "tired" state, in which people would only gain 50% of the exp gained in the normal state. Massive outcry followed from what were indeed hardcore players. "No fair - people who play less are almost as high level as me with no life!" What did Blizzard do? It renamed the normal state to rested, and the tired state to normal. It also said that the rested state would gain twice as much experience as as the normal state. In essence, they changed two words in their system. The entire underlying system stayed absolutely the same. What happened next? There was peace. Amazing what a mere two words can do to the perception of fairness of hardcore grinders. Personally, I find WoW to be quite the grind as well - but at least you get enough exp from quests to make questing a better value than straight-up monster grinding. Other than that, I find it a fairly average RPG.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011024)

I don't find XP to be a problem in WoW, quite the opposite. With a measured investment of time you can get several characters to level cap in a year. The problem to me was the major investment of time required to make any progress once level cap was reached. Blizzard basically gave into the hardcore players and required many, many trips through 40 person dungeons in order to get better gear requiring on average hundreds of hours to get a full armor suit which would allow you to tackle the next dungeon where you would have to spend hundreds more hours to progress again. The alternative they gave was hundreds of hours of faction/honor grinding. Neither appeals to me so I canceled my account renewal as did most of my non-hardcore guild. We're hoping the expansion pack puts the fun back into the game, but I'm personally not holding my breath past the 3-6 month barrier before all of the easily reachable new content is exhausted. With the billions per year Blizzard is making on the game they can easily afford to add new content at a pace that casual gamers can consume it but they believe (correctly or incorrectly) that there is more profit to be made with yet more grindfests.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

bnenning (58349) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012450)

What did Blizzard do? It renamed the normal state to rested, and the tired state to normal. It also said that the rested state would gain twice as much experience as as the normal state. In essence, they changed two words in their system.

That's impressive. Perfect example of a framing effect [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

subsoniq (652203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17023768)

Personally, I find WoW to be quite the grind as well - but at least you get enough exp from quests to make questing a better value than straight-up monster grinding. Other than that, I find it a fairly average RPG.

I'm in the closed Burning Crusade beta (currently level 66 Druid) and blizz has definitely toned down the ability to grind mobs for levelling. I get anywhere from 9,000 to 13,000 XP from a single completed quest (the little ones where you walk 3 feet and talk to another guy even give about 2,000), while a level 66 mob kill will give me about 1300 XP in rested state. And the first 2 zones in Outlands have so many quests that you will probably gain about 2-3 levels from their XP alone. Trying to level by single mob grinding would take ages to do.

The grind isn't totally gone though, while the 5 man instances have some great loot the drop rate can be annoyingly low, so to get all of the gear you want you have to run through the instances 20, 30 or more times. Blizz could fix this by spreading the class loot drops out amongst the instances more (the first 2 are heavy with druid drops, but the next one has hardly any worth a druid's time). Hopefully they'll tweak the loot tables of the instances before TBC goes live so that you're not encouraged to spend weeks runnign through a single instance.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17009142)

I agree with you entirely. I play WoW, and damnit, I want to grind.

The trick is to limit the length of the grind. Make it a shorter grind. Anyone who has played korean MMO's like RO will know what I mean. Once you've grinded to the max level (say 60 in wow, soon to be 70) then you have to give diminishing returns. Make additional grinding net very small rewards. Raiding for tier 3 over tier 2 will give you an edge, but a very small one. Of course, very high end gear over minimal gear at 60 is still a large difference, but all players at that point have the same (base) stats, the same skills to work with, and the same number of talent points.

The trick is to let all players see where the end of the grind is. Where they will be "done". So they know how much stronger other people can be than them, and plan for it. And then bump up the end a little bit, slowly, every few months. So they can't leave. This is step 2, ie:

1) build popular MMO
2) slowly increase "maximum" power over months, years
3) profit

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009202)

The very existence of a stats/skills system, I believe, means that there will be people who just try to game it as fast as they can, to up their numbers.

I'm waiting for the day for the MMORPG that doesn't show the player his skill/stats.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009862)

I'm waiting for the day for the MMORPG that doesn't show the player his skill/stats.

Well, in a sense, this has been done. I have been directly or indirectly involved with MUDs that kept such things out of view. It still makes little difference. There is always, always a segment of the player base that will be stat-hunters -- they'll find some yardstick and a way grind up their performance on that yardstick.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

robosmurf (33876) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014016)

If the skills or stats exist and have an effect on the game, then hiding them doesn't help.

The hardcore players will just conduct experiments within the game to determine what the stats and mechanics are. This just means that the hardcore players have even more of an advantage.

For example, some of the game mechanics of Final Fantasy XI are rather complicated and depend on stats that are not directly visible in the game. However, people have done sufficient testing that most of the effects are fairly well understood.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016142)

And you won't be waiting long before it (or the company pushing it rather) goes out of business. A HUGE proportion of players, even the casual ones, play the game to up their stats. They might joke and socialize with friends, but guess what: they're usually talking about their in-game stats. Take that away and many, many people would leave a game.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010270)

There's nothing wrong with grinding, providing you can make bread or a cake with it at the end.

Which is my way of saying that repetition has a value, but only so long as that repetition serves the purpose of creating progressively more interesting things. I turned away from WoW a while back because there is no creative gain to the timesink. In other words, I am not improved as a person in any appreciable way. Grinding in that context made my character better, but it failed to make me better...and that is the one unforgivable thing that any game can do. Put your life in a dead end with the false perception of progress.

Second Life and games like that are, in my opinion, the path of the future for all online worlds. You can still have your roleplaying fantasy or science fiction genre, but real longevity will only come when the environment empowers you to create and grow in game and out. Eve Online is a great example of this, and a lot of "grinders" abhor it, but a close look at that game will show that it really teaches you to create, whether for your own small business or for a corporation. Not to go into a lot of detail about any one game, but there is a big distinction between Eve and WoW and the distinction is the capacity for a player to create in world and improve as a real person. I played both for 2 years and my understanding of economics, politics, manufacturing processes, the nature of research and development, corporate management, and small business success increased dramatically from playing a game (in addition to the fun of exploring and fighting enemies that all these games incorporate)! That game was not WoW. :-)

It's all about increasing your creative capacity.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (2, Insightful)

dircha (893383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010786)

It is possible to control the rate of advancement of players. This usually amounts to daily or weekly experience caps. I think a curve-based cap, where one is capped in power relative to other players might be workable. But these systems tend to be arbitrary and unfair. Who's to say the person who is most advanced isn't also a great player who happens to have a lot of freetime?

However, bigger issues in my mind are "twinking" and farming, particularly "boss-farming". These activities can ruin the atmosphere for other players, as well as ruin the economy.

My experience is particularly in Neverwinter Nights community persistent worlds.

There are two very effective measures to controlling these excesses:
1. Make content tied to quests and one-time only. If you defeat a boss once on a character, you don't - can't - defeat it again. Create sufficient content so that players can reach maximum level with minimal replay. You'd think this would drive players away; it doesn't. Most of these players will start new characters and play through the world again, until eventually they have experienced all the content and leave once they become bored like any other player.
2. Prevent players from transferring gold and powerful items to the new characters you create. This keeps everyone on a reasonably even playing field, and it prevents the world economy from spiraling out of control or otherwise disrupting the original vision for the world. A low magic world where every new player has a +2 weapon is suddenly no longer low magic.

Reinforce these steps with content and quests that focus on choice and character development in order to provide greater replay value.

I will never go back to playing a game like WoW where the "end game" is fighting through the same 2-3 dungeons to kill the same bosses, week after week after week for months. On top of this, outside of PvP WoW has next to no replay value in terms of character development and dynamic content, making it that much worse. And even PvP amounts to little more than a grind. Anything but the top rank is primarily about finding a group of people with as much free time as you and playing more than everyone else in the same 3 battlegrounds, over and over and over for 40+ hours a week.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17013566)

I have played a few mmorpg's. I only stuck with WoW for a couple months. I enjoyed City of Heroes for several months, largely because I'm a bit of a comic geek, but eventually I got tired of the grind.

What I did enjoy quite a lot was Guild Wars, largely due to the strong story, and the cinematic cut scenes, but I haven't played either of the 2 follow up games yet (bough factions, but haven't played it so much).

Maybe there's the right game out there for me somewhere, and I'm happy to hear people's suggestions. I think one problem I've had is having a hard time finding a good group of online friends to play with. I did have a nice group of friends on Guild Wars, but once the campaign was finished we all just drifted. With CoH they all drifted away eventually to WoW. I mention this to provide a little background for the suggestions I am about to make:

1) CoH did a fantastic job on the team finding interface, and I wish other developers would look to if for inspiration. Being able to click "looking for a team", and search lists of people by class, rank, etc. is just so much more convenient that global chat spamming.

2) Too often (and CoH is guilty of this) the admins try to stop people from grinding or power leveling. I think this is an overly negative approach. If people want to do the grind, screw it: let them play how they enjoy playing. Instead of punishing people for power leveling, encourage people to play for the story. Do this by making the rest of the gameplay experience, and especially the story and role playing elements more rewarding. CoH annoyed me because it tried to keep people playing with badges, costume rewards, other stuff I don't care about at all, and all of which are essential grind rewarders. I want stories! They can even be mediocre. Give me a comic book showing the highlights of a particular battle (just some screenshot of a characters dying, decisive battle moments, etc. plus some cheesy text. Even done badly this would be fun). Let me share those with people instead of stupid badges, which are just another kind of XP.

The power levelers and grinders are only annoying when you get in a team with them. The problem isn't grinders though, it's a problem of forming good and compatible teams. Look at CoH's team forming tools. Maybe try adding some personality modifiers like "choose one of the following: a) I just wanna level, b) I wanna role play, c)want a friendly chatty team".

What about a rating system, for after you team with someone. I think two ratings would be useful: 1) Is a team player (0-100), 2) Is competent. Granted that's open to abuse and problems... What I'm really trying to say TRY SOME NEW IDEAS FOR CHRISSAKES.

One final point in this vein: If the missions are story oriented and interesting enough, there's a strong motivation (except for the total grinder geeks, and let them do what they like) not to just grind or do power levelling, for if you do you just miss interesting content. 3) The cut scenes in Guild Wars are a great idea. They make the gaming much more story oriented. They don't all have to be pre-rendered. I think coh would have (and could still be) greatly improved by having a short cut scene to wrap up major story arcs, task forces, etc (not every small mission, but whenever doing a larger story). I think a approach might be to have the camera zoom in to the character (villain or npc) doing the talking, but allow players to zoom back out or wander off and ignore the guy if they want.

4) Good admins are really important, and they should have a number of tools at their disposal to keep the community running well. Keeping your admins in line is also important so there has to be an appeal process. But admins should be active (but judicious) in keeping the community smoothly running. For example, forcing people to use the trade chat channel when trading, and not using the global chat. Get good admins, and reward them appropriately. Consider it an expense of running a good game.

5) I think all mmorpgs should have wastelands where ANYTHING GOES. They could be level sorted wastelands, but without admins, pk'ing is allowed... let anarchy reign, give everyone a chance to vent their inner asshole or victim.

6) The sidekick/mentor system in CoH is also a great idea that should be adopted by other MMORPGs. It's nice to be able to team with people across a broad level range.

Okay, that's all I have off the top of my head. I'll shut up now.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

rvw14 (733613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17036688)

I would also add that the time sink in Guildwars is much less. As a 30 something gamer with a family, I can't put in 6 hours a night to grind or even complete a mission. The henchmen system where you can take a NPC instead of a real person eliminates the need to try and get a group together. I can group with one or two other real people, with the rest henchman, and complete most missions in thirty min. to an hour.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17020566)

Your problem is that you were trying to tell your players how to play the game. This sort of arrogance is what kills games, and they're replaced by games that let the players play how they want.

If you want people to roleplay but they want to advance their characters, trying to force them to roleplay is like Canute trying to turn back the tide.

Remember, people play games to do what they want, not what the designers want. This is the first lesson of game design.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#17024732)

Exactly. And what players want is the grind.

Which is my point, and is pretty much precisely what I said. The community may want (or say they want) role play and minimal grinding, but players want grinding. Which is why this new MMORPG is not, IMHO, going to succeed in doing away with it.

And I fail to see how it's "arrogance" to try and design a system according to what everyone on the message boards is saying they want. The problem lies in not recognizing that what they say they want isn't actually what they want, which is a problem that I don't consider synonymous with arrogance. Perhaps naivete, but not arrogance.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17025122)

Have you considered that the community on the messageboard don't actually represent the wishes of your playerbase?

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#17026166)

Judging by the number of unique accounts that posted to the message boards as a percentage of the total accounts active, the message boards represented more than a two-thirds majority of the player base. The general - though not universal - consensus on the message boards was that "more RP" was desirable, as compared to stat building.

It is, of course, possible that it was simply the loudest voices that held out for RP; I'm unaware of anyone doing statistical analysis on the content of the message boards. But when a forum is provided for players to express their wishes, and those wishes are clearly one thing, I don't think it's arrogance for the admins to pursue that thing.

Besides which - I have no reason to believe that the situation that obtained on the MOO is different than the situation that obtains on modern MMORPGs in this respect. The message that is received (both by the admins of that MOO, and, apparently, by Bioware, hence their statement) is that "the grind" is bad. That this message was, as evidenced by behavior, wrong on the MOO might indicate that this message is also wrong for the MMORPG.

Which is my whole point, of course. Lots of people say they hate the grind, but when the game is played, people always go for the grind. They may or may not be the same people, and I really don't care. Grinders get what they want.

Re:Call me a pessimist, I guess (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17030066)

Maybe not arrogance, but a mistake. You don't judge people's wants by what they say, but what they do.

Article Summary (4, Informative)

Flame0001 (818040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17008796)

Article summary: Our game will be good. WoW was good, but ours will be better.

Necessary Evil (2, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009042)

The grind is not attractive in any way. Going and killing the same dragon over and over again is not something I want to do. There are lots of different ways to encourage players to move forward. Simply putting more weight on storytelling experience points is a good way to do that.

As much gamers complain about "the grind", you can't have a successful MMO without one grind or another. It is unrealistic to expect developers to design, implement, test, and release fresh new content at anywhere near the rate that players can and will consume it. That means you need to have players repeating the same actions ad nauseam to progress, otherwise they will reach the "top" and have nothing left to do. Bored players quit the game, and that will hardly bring the business any money, now will it?
You can put me on record as saying there is absolutely no way to design an MMO without some form of mindless repetition.

Re:Ultima Online? (3, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009274)

As much gamers complain about "the grind", you can't have a successful MMO without one grind or another.

I take it you never played Ultima Online back in the 1998-2000 era?

Sure, you would find yourself doing repetitive tasks like chopping wood, mining, crafting, or killing certain creatures, but in general it wasn't a very kill something rinse and repeat type of game.

Mostly because of the player interaction and virtual economy. That and it wasn't that hard to become a 7xGM (what you would call a level 60 character that is maxed out) with maybe 3-4 months worth of casual play. I'd dare say you could get to be 7xGM in 2 if you macroed and played hard core.

Being such a big fan of UO kept me from being able to get into any other MMOGs since I did not like the grind and level systems.

Take away the leveling and XP and replace it with a skill system and I think you have a good game.

Re:Ultima Online? (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009826)

wow... I remember UO. I also remember trying to get 100 in smithing and mining so that I could make money... I quit that after a few weeks because the game began to seem a bit too much like work. So then I tried my hand at some PvP, but got my ass handed to me because I wasn't pimped out... so I tried building my skills so that I could actually do some of the fun stuff... but I quit that after a few weeks because the game began to seem a bit too much like work.

There's a pattern there, but I'll be damned if I can find it...

Re:Ultima Online? (2, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17013022)

I know more than a few people who have played a lot of MMORPGs and still think that UO was the best...myself included. What happened to player housing? Clothing? Skill-based systems? The holiday gifts (Guild Wars does this very well)? Player-owned NPC vendors? And a thousand other things that fostered a great social environment. Almost every MMORPG released, especially WoW, has been little more than "EverQuest Improved". People obviously loved being able to own and decorate a house/castle. The only problem was the urban sprawl, which is easy to fix if you only sell certain plots of land.

I just want another game where the CRPC, that huge group of roleplayers on Catskills, could live again. Horizons was going to be something great before internal politics killed it. It's been six years; MMORPGs should be so much more by now.

Re:Ultima Online? (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17022088)

SWG attempted it, but failed miserably. They had some of the concepts such as player run cities, a deep crafting system and player run stores and malls. Unfortunately they also included a grind which started as a skill grind, then became the jedi grind. They also had a severe lack of content. They got the sandbox built, but didn't give people enough toys to keep them playing there.

Re:Ultima Online? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17017136)

That and it wasn't that hard to become a 7xGM (what you would call a level 60 character that is maxed out) with maybe 3-4 months worth of casual play. I'd dare say you could get to be 7xGM in 2 if you macroed and played hard core.
People used macro bots to have a 6xGM (before the game got the PK nerf) in 3 days. Easy.

Yeah, it was *really* challenging to have your toon fight with a knife against another toon with a knife to work your swordfighting skill up. Just bot it up and let them run against each other with a bunch of healing potions, and viola, skills go up!

Please, stop acting like UO was hard. The only thing hard about UO (prior to the PK nerf) was trying to play the game without a bot or a powerful guild of friends. Gangs of PKers would lay in wait for a newbie toon to enter the one dungeon in town, and gank them. Repeatedly. Then wait until the person got tired of it and went to the woods far enough to make a burst run back to town impossible, and then another group would gank them there.

The game was ALL about ganking and griefing. Once they split the shards so that you could actually play the game without fear of being PKed, the game was effectively done. All the people that really wanted that had already been driven off. The rest wanted to continue their gankfest.

I really wanted to like UO, but I didn't know a single other soul playing the game. I met a few nice, fair and friendly people and joined their guild, but we all eventually got tired of not being able to do much of anything without getting ganked. Nothing like having you and 4 others get crushed by 20 "red" toons that lay in wait in a dungeon to really make a game worthless. I quit after about 6 months of being gang raped by people that acted like a pack of 11yr old girls that just decided you were no longer their friend. UO was my first MMO experience, and I almost didn't try another. After years of seeing the dregs of humanity that often was your stereotypical AD&D player that showed up for our college's gaming group, and seeing the exact same childish behavior in UO, I figured what was the point?

I next tried Asheron's Call, and it was almost as bad, with its pyramid scheme mechanics for guilds.

Thankfully, I got to try EQ, and played with some good people I knew in RL. I moved on to a good sized guild that became part of a great alliance. The people I met there will always be people I remember fondly.

Like someone else said, WoW has been such a huge success because the casual player can play it. EQ2 is now designed to really make the casual player have more fun. UO was brutal on the casual player. There was just no point in trying to play UO as anything less than a cold-blooded killer that has regressed to their early teens.

Yeah, that's what *I* want from a MMO.

Re:Necessary Evil (1)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009312)

It is funny you mention that. I played every Ultima, and was a huge fan of the series. I got in on the early beta tests for UO as soon as I heard about it and played ravenously for many years after release.

While that is one of the few MMOs to abandon the legacy D&D level grind, it still had just as much a grind in the form of skills.

Re:Necessary Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17009388)

Exactly.

Some grind is inevitable. If you don't have it, then consumers will blow through the game in a week or two, and then gripe about the fact that there is no new content. (The fact that WoW has had almost no substantial new content in all this time while EQ2 has had 3 expansions released still won't keep the WoW fanboi from proclaiming that they have had massive updaets to the game. lol) The hardcore gamers finished the original content of WoW pretty much within a few weeks. Heck, just duoing with the wife on a rogue/druid combo, and the wife being constantly getting her panties in a bunch over any pull more than one lower con mob, we hit 60 in about 7 months. And promptly got bored with the gear grind. End of subscription.

But you really can't satisfy the hardcore gamer. I remember when UO was out, before the revisions to make PK easier to avoid. Many people called that the epitome of hardcore. But, your character got to live, and keep all the gear they had stored up in the bank. The fact that you could have a toon with all 100's in 6 different abilities in 3 days meant it was not hardcore at all.

The only way to really get the hardcore is to bring it right up to the edge of the perma-death model (you die, you have to start a new toon, as the old one is gone, as well as all the gear/cash it had) without crossing it. You will be amazed at how many "hardcore" gamers blanch at the prospect of losing the toon they worked so hard for, but think ganking some lowbie and stealing all their hard-earned stuff is fun. Somehow, they just aren't THAT hardcore.

They could call the game Highlander, because there really could be only 1 that had never been killed, in a way. Because once that toon died, you had to start over.

The hardcore crowd for a while had the ear of the V:SoH developers. The game was getting tougher and tougher, with the testers trying everything they could to make it the anti-WoW. Anything that made the gameplay better that could even remotely be considered something that Blizzard did, was flamed. Then Brad thought about it, and said to himself "Well, if we do it the way these rabid hardcore guys want, we'll have 10,000 subscriptions after 6 months, but they will sure keep playing!". Yeah, that's they way to throw away a lot of development work.

Personally, I prefer the "carebear" world. It's actually almost hardcore to watch these idiots try and behave themselves, and have to function well with others. They just can't do it. And that is almost more fun to watch than many of these games are to play!

Re:Necessary Evil (1)

Mathonwy (160184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010540)

I completely disagree. Grinds are NOT mandatory for MMOs.

The problem is, as people have stated, that there needs to be a stream of content for players to explore, that is generated at least as fast as players consume it. And people are right, that expecting the devs to generate that, that fast, is a losing proposition.

That doesn't mean that grinds are mandatory though. Grinds are just a means for the devs to say "here's a repetative action that you can undertake, that we can easily offer minor variants on, indefinitely." They work great for a bit, but eventually get old. (hence their moniker)

The secret is to find other sources of content for players to explore. Interestingly, the most obvious answer here dates back to the days of text-based MUSHes, etc. The best source of new content, if you can get to that magical state where it works, is the player base itself. Countless MUSHes, MUCKs, etc, had systems whereby players could eventually earn the right to create their own little worlds, if they were interested. (Many just let players start doing so off the bat.) If you can make the game open enough that the players can make content for it, (without unbalancing or breaking things) then they will. Games like Eve, Second Life, and a Tale in the Desert all recognize this, and make great use of it. Sure, a lot of people don't find Second Life "fun" here. But setting aside personal distaste for the game, it DOES offer people a great set of tools for setting up their own private worlds.

On less ambitious scales, things like guildwars exist primarily on the strength of the interaction between players. The PvP is a constantly changing landscape, and so people keep playing because, every time they fight a group, it is different. And the combat is deep enough that new strategies are always evolving.

Heck, even things like City of Villains allows players to craft "Supergroup Bases", and invite other groups to come try to make it through them. That's like letting players make their own (small) dungeons!

The secret is just to realize that the devs don't HAVE to do everything. They just have to set up the rules well enough that the players can keep themselves busy exploring for a very long time, and making things interesting for each other. (that's why ultima worked, for a long time, as well.)

Borish repetition (1)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009082)

You know, I've never played a MMO game, and I doubt I ever will. I just can't see the reason to pay for doing the same thing every month. Sure, I've done my fair bit of RPG'ing back in the day, but I was more for the story than the experience points. Even when I was DM'ing I would make them work for experience points in the context of the story rather than the typical Diablo throw-a-bunch-of-crap-out-for-the-player-to-slaugh ter thing. Granted, sometimes it is fun, but when leveling up becomes a chore, to me, the game loses its fun value. You log in, kill the same monsters over and over, get gold, log out, rinse repeat. Where's the fun in that?

I think if they can make an Oblivion/NWN type MMO with more focus on a damn good story and great quests, they will be very successful.

ssshhh (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009296)

> You know, I've never played a MMO game, and I doubt I ever will.

shut up then

Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (3, Insightful)

sgant (178166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009210)

When playing EQ or EQ2 or World of Warcraft...you get quests. But these quests do NOTHING to change the world around you. You're doing the exact same quests that everyone else is doing and the talk on the channels is like "did anyone do the "Orc Chief" quest yet? I still need two more hammers before I'm done". That's not really RPG is it?

What about dynamic quest generations? Think about this. You start out, you make your character. And that's it. You don't go up to the "quest giving NPC" to get your first quest. You just start out with basic equipment and that's it. Along your travels, perhaps the very first NPC you meet, or perhaps not, THEY may come up to YOU and say something like "my little boy hasn't come home in almost 3 days! I'm really worried about him, he was playing down by the Cave that's just South of here, can you please help?" And WHAM you have a quest. You're ONLY quest by the way. No stacking of quests.

Now, YOU are the only one with that quest. No one else has the "little boy lost quest". You move out and perhaps see another player along the road or off to the side and you ask him if he can help you out...there-by sharing your quest with him. The cave itself can be an instanced cave that is generated for you and in there the quest gets longer and longer and longer, talking to different NPC's that continue on with the generated story, generating more to the story. Perhaps the boy WAS in the the cave, you find a Troll in there that you think ate him...but no, the Troll is really a nice guy that actually saw the little boy being taken away through the caves by a group of soldiers to another area beyond the cave. WHAM, you have more to follow. This quest can go on and on and on and actually span the world as you move through it! And only you and your party have this quest. At any point you can choose to bow out and let the other player or players you've picked up along the way continue it and you go along your merry way. Perhaps to pick back up with it days later with a group STILL on the SAME quest that started with you. Or you go somewhere else.

I know, a story generation engine would have to be built and tested beyond belief. But couldn't something like this actually work? So you feel that you're really part of the world? Sure, there can be quests that are static that everyone of a certain class has to complete. Like a Fighter's quest...more like a "test" to gain rank. That can always be the same because it's the standard test that all fighters must go through. But for a living, breathing world, wouldn't a dynamic quest/story system be much more immersive?

Is something like this do-able? Otherwise, the world never really changes. Maybe big, server wide changes can happen due to a first-time quest like opening a gate to a new expansion or something. But little things that change the world here and there are non-existent. In MMORPG's now, that guy that lost his hammer at the beginning of the Horde newbie area in WoW is ALWAYS lost. You create a new character, BAM he's got a lost hammer in the exact same spot that you go and fetch for him. 3 or 4 people are also there to pick up that same hammer...even though there is only one there, they all pick up a hammer and deliver it to the guy...but the hammer is still lost and the next person now goes to find it. Nothing changes. It's all the same. Wouldn't it be better if a player were to have killed an NPC and now someone has to track down that player?

Or worse, "quests" are given by the same people over and over with the "collect twelve beetle eyes" kind of thing. Or just "kill 10 wild dogs". Doesn't anyone else find this boring? How about a farmer wants you to kill this pack of dogs that's been killing his sheep. You don't know how many there are, but you go out, find the dogs (track them perhaps?) kill them and see that one has a collar on it with a name. These are not wild dogs you find out, but they actually belong to someone. You tell this to the farmer and he tells you that it's a notorious Thief that lives nearby that's been after the guys land. or it's a rival farmer, or it's a group of dogs belonging to a band of orcs....or on and on. Each step peels back a layer that gets added onto dynamically to the next layer and on and on. Dynamically generated that is.

I don't know, I'm sure this is impossible to do.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17009480)

it would be nice to see a 'disconnect' (that meaning npcs aren't necessarily needed to be there 100% of the time and can even permanently die yet be replaceable) from npcs being static in that you go talk to farmer bob and he needs you to clear out the werewolves from his pumpkin farm then the quest becomes unavailable. a werewolf in human farm then becomes available to give someone a quest to kill the farmers son in vengeance or something. then maybe the farmer needs you to get a priest to help bury his son or whatever. the point being that you lead the person through their leveling but also replenish quest lines for the person questing/leveling right behind the person. with master storytelling i would bet money you could do this in a way to where you essentially created a 'dynamic' system but also a system which recycles it self circularly and never ends.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

che.kai-jei (686930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009622)

hear, hear.

that is the best idea.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Johnathon Walls (27265) | more than 7 years ago | (#17009886)

It's an interesting idea, and definitely more immersive than anything out there right now.

I certainly *would* prefer to see more story-oriented questing. My favourite quests in WoW are the quest-chains -- and I think that many story fans agree. One-shot "kill 10 of these" is a way to add content where really there is none. Especially since if you wait 5 minutes, everything will be back.

Unfortunately dynamic content often breaks down to:

Help, "player name"! My "relation" has been "state of distress" for several weeks now, and nobody will do anything to help! Please, please help me! He was last seen at "place" doing "something dangerous".

Times 100.

I don't think there's much doubt: truly immersive, excellent MMOs need to have once-run content -- that is, content tailored to each individual player, that can alter the world in a permanent fashion. Creating custom content for 100,000+ players is impossible, and so you're left with waiting for someone to generate a truly killer dynamic content generator.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17009938)

Interesting idea. But you have a problem. You have this great quest for the first player. But you say, nobody else will get this quest.

SO, whats the other 100,000 players who are online today, supposed to do?

The problem with making exclusive quests, is that you need MILLIONS of them. And next week, you are going to need another Half Million more. And in a month, you need 2 million more.

It can't be done. Either your quests are going to be stamped out of a mold, form-letter-style, or you can't make enough content.

And whats the point of being the can person who has the quest to Rescue Little Jimmy from Orc Cave, when your friends all get Rescue Litte Timmy from Orc Cave, and Rescue Little Jimmy from Goblin Cave, etc?

It might be nice, to have some kind of dynamic, where the quest NPC is only offering the quest for a short time (if Timmy isn't back in a week, they have a funeral for poor Timmy), and/or to have the quest NPC only around some of the time.

That will add some appearence of change. But it won't really be what you want.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

sgant (178166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010236)

Well, everyone would be different, OR if they're not on a quest at the moment, you can get others to help out in your quest by sharing it with them. You know, you're off to find what happened to this kid, find someone along the way and invite them to join you. Could even be when you're in a group, the quest scales and everyone involved gets experience and also the amount of mobs or the level of mobs increases with the number of people in your party etc etc.

I know, I don't have the solutions to everything, but it would be more interesting than how it is now.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Phydeaux314 (866996) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010530)

You know, Anarchy Online had a (very crude) version of the same thing. It would give you missions (quests) to do, generated at random. They were very simple, usually "kill person A", "find person B", "fetch item C", and that ilk, but it was still interesting. Partially because they KNEW that their quest generation code was simple, so they made the quest text hilariously bad to read. However, the technology exists to do that sort of thing well... the problem is that for it to be meaningful, you cannot have a truly random environment, it has to have a theme behind it, otherwise players will get bored fast. But it can't always be the same style, either - there needs to be variation - possibly artificially introduced. For example, say you code seasons into the game. As a "area event" the local valley has a crop failure, and thus runs into trouble with lack of food. So they draft some PCs to get some food from the next town over and bring it back. Or maybe another year they have a problem with a new noble family running the fief, and he's taxing them excessively. Also, areas where there isn't anything of notice happening shouldn't have as many quests, if any. I mean, not every town in the world has a million problems at once that only JOEBOBLEET and his party can solve. Hmm. I would gladly pay $15 a month for a game that had that featureset. It wouldn't even have to look good.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

14CharUsername (972311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016370)

Actually even in towns where nothing much is happening you could still have stuff to do, just it wouldn't involve saving lives or whatever. You could have some townspeople invite you out to hunt some boar, or maybe help the farmer harvest the crop. Of course you'd quickly get bored of that and go off somewhere there's a little more trouble to do something interesting, but it would make the world feel a little more real.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Johnathon Walls (27265) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011252)

You're absolutely right, it definitely would be more interesting. The scaling should be pretty simple, but the key lies in getting a good, cohesive, interesting dynamic-story generator. As the other replier notes, Anarchy Online has these "random"/"dynamic" missions. They're truly awful. Some work on this must already exist ... there must be some ground work laid in MUDs, IF, or in other games ...

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Evardsson (959228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010026)

I don't know, I'm sure this is impossible to do.

Not impossible, immensely time-consuming and possibly very, very costly from a development standpoint, but not impossible. In fact, if you start with a system that has an entire "world" filled with NPCs, objects, locations, etc and allow the state of those to change based on user-interaction you could do something like this. That would require a well-built database design to store all of that in the back end.

Now that you have the db, let's add some tables for storing things like "random" events (meteor shower [always an omen don't you know], missing [person, animal, object, etc], revenge plot, justice plot, ad nauseum) and where and to whom such things might occur (jail breaks don't happen to farmers, while drought caused by a missing statue wouldn't plague the town's gendarmes, etc).

If you really wanted to add to the number of events available you could petition the player community for suggestions.

Just my 2 cents

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

ampathee (682788) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010736)

You're asking for an algorithm that automatically generates interesting, unique stories (quests), along with all the associated level design, appropriate monsters and rewards. You're asking for an intelligent, creative, nay *artistic* computer program.

AI is nowhere near that advanced yet, I'm afraid. It's CG cookie-cutter quests, or human programmers.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Doug-W (165055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17010808)

And then you log out, never to play that character again.

Now the placement of that NPC that the world designer spent time on was wasted, the dialog written for it by the quest designer will never be seen by another person. Was there another reason to go into the cave? World art time wasted. Now multiply this by enough quests needed to keep every person playing active at all times and also to enable all the twinks who start a quest but never finish it or people who quit the game to have THEIR quests and still all be unique. Dynamic generation of quests tend to be MORE of the: Kill X of Y where X is a list of 1000 items and Y is a list of 1000 creatures then non dynamic quests ever can be.

Also usually in each of the MMOs there is one quest line that can only be done once. Release the sleeper, open the gates of Ahn'Qiraj etc...

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

14CharUsername (972311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016746)

Nah, you just keep track of who has done that quest and when they've done it. Make all kinds of farms and all kinds of caves. If you've never done the lost farm boy quest before, or if you haven't done it in a long time (you'd have to repeat it eventually otherwise you would eventually have players with no quests to do), then you might get it when you talk to the next farmer you see. Also there would have to be a life cycle to the farmer character. If you rescue the farm boy, maybe he will eventually grow up to be a farmer himself and his son will get lost in the cave. If you don't rescue the farm boy, his father goes crazy and when he dies you end up with a haunted farm house, which opens another quest to put the farmer's spirit to rest. You finish that quest then one of the farmer's cousins moves into the farm house and becomes the new farmer. And eventually has a son who wanders off and gets lost in a cave.

So really you just have to make up some random farmer names and maybe a couple of different farmer models, but that's not really hard. Then you keep track in a database what quests you've done, so that if you get to the cave you might find out an evil nobleman abducted the child, but if you've already killed an evil nobelman character recently you'll find out it was a witch, or whatever. This is pretty basic stuff on a technical level. The story writers would just have to write small parts of stories and then decide which stories can be connected together. If you've done the farm boy quest yesterday, the next farmer you meet will either give you another quest, or just talk about the weather until you get bored and leave. If you go back and find the same farmer you helped earlier, he will give you some free food in gratitiude.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011198)

This sounds almost like a derivative of a tech-tree to form a quest tree. I think its a brilliant idea, just two problems. A) You've got millions of players, how do you give them all something to do? B) If, for instance the lost boy in your example is actually being held by the grand high superwizzard in some massive long quest, how are you going to be able to reward the player for what could be 20+ hours of questing when returning to the mother? What's she going to give, three copper coins?

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

14CharUsername (972311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016802)

You could gain experience. And don't forget about the loot the wizard dropped. And whenever you visit that farm you'll get free food.

Of course if you're character is good knight, he wouldn't expect a reward, would he?

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Nanpa (971527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17030714)

Well, if he was spoilt sixteen year old brat I think he'd be expecting differently...

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011500)

Wow, I can't fault you for lack of ambition! However, the quests you describe as "generated" sound better than many of the quests in published games. This means that the generating system would somehow have to be better than human beings. Well, it would make an interesting Turing test...

What would be necessary for your system to work would be detailed world-simulation. By this I mean that there would be a world of NPCs who lead interesting lives, with or without PCs looking in. All their activities and interactions are simulated on the game server, including eating, working, commuting, etc. Somehow the setting would have to be tuned so that it's roughly at an equilibrium if left undisturbed. Then PCs really could change the world: They could band together to enslave an entire village, while another group might be setting out to free them. And yes, normal things like children getting lost would happen with or without PC interference. (Usually, they'd be found without PC help.)

There are many problems in implementing a system like this. One of them is the incredible processing power that it would need. A much bigger problem would be writing a simulation of human intelligence and motivations that would determine what each character would do. Many of them would live very monotonous lives, but still, even the village miller could get pretty riled up if some passing stranger stabbed the carpenter who lives on his street. How would the village try to exact a retribution? How would they make a reasonable judgement about what reactions are appropriate? What they would do as a group would arise out of the decisions of each simulated individual and the results of their mutual conversations, but it would have to be an amazing simulation if they were to respond in a character-appropriate way.

Well, I don't want to go too far off on a tangent. My point was that generating adventures probably won't work unless you have permanent simulation of everything in the world, in both psychology and physics. I think this is the ultimate goal of massive online worlds, but even Moore's law won't make this a reality in our lifetimes.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012844)

I can't remember which recent RPG or some type of MMO that it was had an NPC AI kinda like this - and they saw instances of 2 farmers (obviously with a set task of farming), and only 1 with a pitchfork (whatever farm tool the NPC required). It ended up one of the farmers killed the other for the tool...

Ok, I got off my arse and looked in Wikipedia - it was Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion's originally slated NPC AI engine "Radiant AI [wikipedia.org] ".
One character was given a rake and the goal "rake leaves"; another was given a broom and the goal "sweep paths," and this worked smoothly. Then they swapped the items, so that the raker was given a broom and the sweeper was given the rake. In the end, one of them killed the other so he could get the proper item.

In one test, after a guard became hungry and left his post in search of food, the other guards followed to arrest him. The town people looted the town shops, due to lack of guards.
Apparently it was such a pain to try and balance the goals and schedules, they ended up just using scheduled NPC AI for the actual release of the game...

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

14CharUsername (972311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016980)

You don't need to go into too much detail when there are no human players around. You would probably update the farmer's state once every couple of hours. And just keep things simple. ie, if (drought) then farmer->gold -= 10. Then when a player shows up in the area you decide if the farmer is in the field tending the crops or wandering around distraught over his son being lost.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

pancompact (770616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012912)

Nice. Then I'm in real world AND in the virtual world unemployed because the quests are too limited for ten-thousands of players. And twinking would be also not possible because a quest would be stuck if the twink is abandoned but not deleted.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012976)

What about dynamic quest generations? Think about this. You start out, you make your character. And that's it. You don't go up to the "quest giving NPC" to get your first quest. You just start out with basic equipment and that's it. Along your travels, perhaps the very first NPC you meet, or perhaps not, THEY may come up to YOU and say something like "my little boy hasn't come home in almost 3 days! I'm really worried about him, he was playing down by the Cave that's just South of here, can you please help?" And WHAM you have a quest.

Ultima Online tried this back in 1997. Before launch, they boasted: "Adventurer kills small monsters. Big monster higher up in foodchain starves, kills farmer livestock and farmers. Farmers starve, complain to adventurers. If no adventurers step up, big monsters slowly amass wealth and experience, and eventually have children. Dynamic, meaningful adventure!"

First of all it was extremely difficult to balance the basic underlying food chains, economics and challenge levels. You had whole continents where monsters were completely exterminated. GMs had to repopulate monsters manually, and hordes of bored high-level adventures committet mass genocide on them within minutes. Or (rarely) it turned the other way, no one could beat the monsters, and they grew more powerful and numerous.

Second the quests were so very BORING. Think the most uninspired caves and quests of Oblivion multiplied by a hundred. Same whining peasants all the time, similar looking dungeons and blood drenched altars everywhere. No real plot or characters to be attached to.

People keep suggesting programmatically generated quests as some kind of panacea. It won't happen, to get any variation and keep human interest they would have to program in such a huge number of variants and parameters they might as well write the quests by hand.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17014450)

I've never played a tabletop RPG but I think that is why they are better for role playing. With one on one interaction with a game master, they control the content and make it new and interesting.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014874)

And WHAM you have a quest.
Could you please kick it up a notch for me?

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014944)

I have been toying with this idea for some time: player-added content. Effectively turning player characters into quest givers, or simply allowing subscribers to create NPC's. Obviously the quest objective, description, and reward would need to be reviewed by a GM to keep it balanced (unless there was a formula that could regulate pay and xp automatically, but this wouldn't work for truly unique quest ideas), but at least then there would many, many ideas, and too many quests to repeat the same ones over and over. There will always be the "kill 10 sock monsters" quests, as well as the chains ending in taking down a boss in a dungeon, but both are needed to appease different tastes and styles of play. Allowing players to add quests would let guilds create their own chains to customize initiation, it would let bored people who no longer feel like leveling to still interact with the world, etc...

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015576)

A long time ago, myself and a couple of immorts on a mud considered, and actually designed, quite a bit of this system. We stopped because at the time, our system couldn't handle the additional load. Nowadays, that's no longer a problem.

Dynamic content isn't as hard to create for a MMOG as you think, it merely requires some minor attention to detail and a proper concept of story. My major issue with MMOGs is the grind, especially the EQ kind, along with the forced grouping beyond about level 30, unless you were one or two very specific classes. The greatest challenge in those games is to solo yourself to max level, as a normally "unsoloable" class. It can be done, but will slow you down to the point that the game will most likely cease to be fun.

Then there's this stupidity (IMHO) of equalizing the classes. Give me a break. For instance, a level 60 wizard should be able to kill just about anything in single combat, unless it kills him in the first blow or two. Now, what happens after that with the victims friends is a different story.... Warriors can deal damage and protect. Clerics heal wounds/keep a party alive and deal medium damage, depending upon your particular interpretation. Thieves sneak around allowing your party to surprise others, possibly take out suprised single opponents, and hopefully detect those traps. In other words, the strengths of the classes should complement each other, not be equalized. This was the basis of the original D&D.

Lastly, most MMOGs are all about leveling, and very little about content or fun. It's basically I'm (or my guild is) bigger/better/have better stuff/can kill x than you, and very little fun.

Re:Dynamic quests system for a MMORPG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17023284)

Right so opening the AQ gates in WoW was a quest that did not have entire world reprecussions?

Let me explain. All the players had to contribute to the war efforts with crafted goods and materials. One player had to complete a scepter quest. That one player had to hit the gong and begin the Ahn'Qiraj opening which then triggered a zone wide event.

Onyxia's head turn in and the Zul'Gurub head turn in also give zone wide buffs.

Please know what you're talking about before claiming these quests have no affect on the world.

Feh (2, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 7 years ago | (#17011166)

There's no easy way to do this.

World of Warcraft is the best yet. Its a mix of quests and grinding. You can grind if you want, or quest if you want. Grinding gets you loot, more money, etc. Questing is a little slower, but full of content and things to read, see, do, etc.

Instance running over and over is kind of dumb in my opinion, but with the game based around equipment so much..it leaves people little choice.

People that dedicate more time to the game should be more powerful than people that play less. A better idea, for WoW, is to make world drops truly drop off of anything in the game. For example, that Glowing Brighwood Staff might drop off of a level 20 enemy and make you rich, or give you a nice staff to look forward to.

The problem is that the best equipment is ONLY accessible to people that put hours and hours and hours and hours of play into the game. Its impossible to get most of the stuff if you aren't in an excellent guild. They could fix this by leaving the current loot tables, but giving more common enemies chances to drop rare equipment. For example if all level 60 creatures had a slight chance of dropping some rare dragon drop. Granted the chance may be pretty low...

Re:Feh (1)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012270)

Yes increase the average power level, what could possibly go wrong...

Re:Feh (1)

leathered (780018) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014000)

World of Warcraft is the best yet. Its a mix of quests and grinding.

No different to the countless other Everquest clones then.

Don't get me wrong, WoW is a good game, but its success has been a result of taking the best ideas from other MMOs. Is WoW innovative? Not at all. Call it the McDonalds of games if you will, it's good enough to satisfy the masses but excels at nothing.

Re:Feh (1)

static0verdrive (776495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17019486)

Excels at nothing? That's a bit harsh.

I've played 5 MMOs and I've never played one that made it so easy to play (interface-wise). A granny could play WoW, but not in a way that makes it dreadful to hardcore gamers. Also, in a world where some programs' interfaces make absolutely no sense, I think WoW takes the cake on improving and polishing the best ideas from other MMOs into the "total package". Innovative? Not entirely - but none of them are, all that much (they're all just multiplayer 'Eye of the Beholder' in a way). Excels at nothing? I think it is the only MMO that excels at being an MMO. (Woah - I sounded like a fanboy there, but I really just mean that all the MMOs are the same, WoW included, but it's the only one that successfully incorporates the finest aspects of MMOs into one.)

Re:Feh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17020880)

I have to disagree that the interface was that great. Why can I say that with a lot of confidence?

Because player made UIs became the standard by which most players played the game. In fact, some of the UI components became "gotta have it or people won't group with you" necesities.

Blizzard did get a lot of things right with WoW. The problem is, they weren't prepared to come up with an expansion in anywhere close to a timely fashion.

They are getting close to releasing their first real expansion for the game.

Meanwhile, SoE has released 3 full expansions for EQ2, plus 3 (I believe) adventure packs that cost a few bucks or you get free with the SoE All Pass or whatever they call it.

Sure, WoW was better than EQ2 when they both first came out. Now, though... I think EQ2 has gotten better than WoW. It certainly feels that way. I tried EQ2 after playing WoW for about 2 months, to group with some old EQ1 players I had grouped/guilded with. It was horrible at the time. Now, I can't even get an itch to play WoW with friends from that game. And I can't seem to stop playing EQ2.

I'm not a SoE fanboi. I actually don't trust them very much after the various things they have done. SW:G comes to mind. Nerfs galore in EQ1 have left me leary. But I am finding EQ2 to be a better game NOW than WoW was when I quit playing over a year ago. And nothing in WoW has substantially changed in that year. Certainly there has been no significant content to speak of.

Re:Feh (1)

Attrition_cp (888039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014714)

I played WoW casually for about 5 months, and have just a little comment about questing vs grinding.

Basically WoW had a few basic ways to play. You could kill mobs, you could do quests, you could do instances, or you could pvp. The problem with every single one of those is they are all grinds (pvp may have or may be changing soon from what I have heard). Instances aren't necessarily grinds unless you're 60 and raiding, but some earlier ones can be farmed as well.

Basically you can chose to grind mobs, grind quests, grind instances for loot, or grind pvp for gear. I never really considered having choice in which way to grind as better than any other system.

Uru (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17011518)

If you hate the grind but would love an evolving story, play Uru: coming this Christmas.

Bad Endings (1)

Aeonite (263338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012182)

Maybe they can get an MMORPG right since there's no ending to screw up (like they did with NWN2 and KOTOR2).

Re:Bad Endings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17012412)

Bioware didn't do either "Neverwinter Nights 2" or "Knights of the Old Republic 2". Bioware did KotOR 1 and NWN 1. Obsidian did both games that you mention.

Re:Bad Endings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17012426)

NeverWinter Nights 2 and Knights of the Old Republic 2 were developed by Obsidian, not BioWare.

Re:Bad Endings (1)

Dr. Jest (10116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012914)

Neither of those games were made by Bioware. I think you want to level blame at Obsidian, who also crippled the NWN engine by ripping out all the cross-platform bits.

Re:Bad Endings (1)

Swift(void) (655825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015570)

Maybe they can get an MMORPG right since there's no ending to screw up (like they did with NWN2 and KOTOR2).
Both endings were not up to what they should have been thanks to publisher constraints placed on Obsidian Entertainment. The first was Lucasarts (surprise surprise) wanting it out the door on Xbox to catch the Christmas '04 period in the US. In the case of NWN2, it was purely due to the fact Atari was in a very precarious financial position and needed the injection of cash they knew NWN2 was going to give them.

Obsidian make great games (apart from its ending, KoToR2 topped the original in every way), they are just unlucky enough to get stuck with some careless publishers who care more about dollar signs than quality.

Re:Bad Endings (1)

Aeonite (263338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17019694)

Well, I guess that's more reason for them to get it right. :)

For those who aren't familiar with the Hero Engine (1)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012400)

It's developed by Simutronics (makers of Gemstone, DragonRealms). First of all, realize that this company has nearly 20 years of experience in MUDs.

They've been developing this engine for use in their game, Hero's Journey. One of the key things about Simutronics games is their army of GMs, constantly creating content that's tacked onto the world. Maps, quests, items, etc etc. They've worked hard to make their toolset easy for GMs to use to make new content, and add it to the world - seamlessly, with no patches downloaded.

That means a constant array of new material being released.

One of the aspects of Hero's Journey that I doubt will take place in Bioware's game, but would be awesome if it did, is the concept of an actual Hero's Journey with your character. Quests have branching storylines, several ways to complete them (with reactions appropriately by the quest generation schema)... and eventually you'll find that one of the big baddies of a failed quest has become your nemesis, and shows up again and again.

Another really cool thing about the Hero Engine is its ability for character customization. Think Oblivion (face, skintone, hair, etc) + UO (outfit customizability). I really liked this aspect of UO, and hopefully Bioware will take cue from this part of UO that has yet to be truly present in an MMO since (DAoC had some dyes, but they didn't do much and looked pretty ugly. This is more akin to what the armor customize tool in the NWN toolset was like, except you know - upgraded for today's technology)..

It also handles instancing as well as contiguous common areas. Whether it's more of a Guild Wars or more of a WoW is up to the developers.

Now, some commentary on the meat of the article;

"That's something we don't want to encourage. We want to encourage players to continue to make progress in their story, to do new quests, consume new content, constantly move forward."

This is encouraging to see. I hate grinding instances just as much as I hate grinding random mobs in the Plaguelands. They want players to constantly move forward - but there comes a point when a character's potential is met, and cannot proceed further. This makes a tough decision; my pet idea is to have permanent death, but have that death be an integral part in the creation of your next character. That leads you to build a sort of legacy, etc, and dying eventually becomes - while something of an inconvenience - just another step in playing the game, advancing your legacy. This way the game's overall character strength is more of a bell curve than an exponential curve.

Re:For those who aren't familiar with the Hero Eng (1)

MatthewAnderson (1005607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17012918)

Not sure if this is too late to make an impact but I agree with you very much regarding a death system, but most gamers don't want to waste their time investing in a character that eventually dies. I personally would love to keep rolling out new combinations of skills/etc (provided there was an interesting way to do so) but that doesn't fly with gamers, which makes it a questionable business decision. :(

Re:For those who aren't familiar with the Hero Eng (1)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17168152)

And while this article is really old, I just noticed your reply - The point in this different sort of death system is to change the paradigm of building a single character into building a whole legacy of characters. Maybe give characters a hovel when they start their character, and eventually through building their legacy, can have a palace... who knows.

MMOG and Roleplaying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17013324)

All MMOG games have plenty of roleplaying. Everyone is roleplaying a 11year old kid in a basement while constantly typing "L01L0101 STFU!!!1!". If you want proper roleplaying there's nothing close to pen and paper DND. Of course that requires real life friends which I'm sure is very inconvenient for MMORPGers.

Max Expo and Max LVL ? (1)

JohnRoss1968 (574825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17013504)

Why do all of these games have to have a maximum for their lvl system and skills ect... they should just make it harder and harder to get each new lvl or skill lvl. As far as repetitiveness in games throw in some wide scale wars , have some weapons that are Unique.....Thor's hammer , The Sword of Death . The Flying Ring/blade of Goatsey ect. If someone has it the only way to get it is to challenge them to a fight in an arena or just a fight to the death ect. The one thing i hate (and im a casual player mind you UO) is this BULLSH*T about well people who only play a little each week will feel leftout/disadvantaged/PMS....who cares. you get out of it what you put into it Same as anything in life. You want to just do casual gaming Fine ! You think roleplaying is more important (as in you MUST speak like this "Whom shalt we slay today" and all ways stay in character Coolbeans Be My Guest ! But stop whining when a rabbid squirll kills you. Try swinging that sword around instead of yapping your gums.

Spore? (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016080)

Why doesn't someone improve on the Spore engine (unique creatures breeding) for the basis for an RPG? Give a few restraints for certain "species", but let people make the animal look like whatever they want within limits. I know this would be a mess for modelers to make armor and such, but the world would be dynamic. This would also create unique creatures. An evolution approach to mobs. The strong (high level) survive, and the game becomes progressively harder, while continuing to get new mobs without any developer input. Just thinking outloud

Guild Wars (1)

Taulin (569009) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016584)

I found Guild Wars to be full of a lot of story driven game play. The only problem is since I have to go into an instance to play any part of the action or story, I fealt I might as well be playing a single player game that had better graphics and not all the quirks of online game. If I am going to play across the network, I want to see others all the time.

The only way to eliminate Grind (1)

TomRC (231027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17017570)

The only way to eliminate Grind is to eliminate the concept of "leveling". Leveling up works in pen and paper RPGs where a live GM creates new content customized to the players. But the pale immitation of that (grinding) in MMORPGs is inadequate and quickly becomes un-fun.

Shooter multiplayer games are fun with little or no plot, and no character development beyond acquiring different items and maybe picking a character class at the start. The basic actions possible to the player are mostly available from the beginning - it's the interactions with environment and other players and development of *player* skills and knowledge that make them interesting.

Someone needs to implement a "shooter style" (no advancement) RPG. For ego-addicts, maybe provide a "ranking" system that doesn't affect game play, but gives players bragging rights for having played a lot, done lots of quests, etc.

Re:The only way to eliminate Grind (1)

*weasel (174362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17038302)

Exactly.

Levelling is the core problem of quite a few of massmog ills.
mudflation. grinding. powerlevelling. twinking. etc.
the solutions themselves make problems and make the whole thing even less approachable.
Take powerlevelling. You stop it by penalizing or restricting level disparities in groups. Which basically means you cut people off from playing the game together, and stratify the playerbase. It creates a barrier for entry. A roadblock that makes it hard for friends to hook one another or keep in touch when some play more than others.
It's Not Good(tm).

Levels even waste precious designer/developer/artist time, forcing the creation of redundant content that is necessarily consumed and then abandoned entirely. (e.g. if a WoW player levels up in loch modan/the wetlands, they probably won't bother with westfall. and they'll likely never really go back to either zone. abandoned cities. dead zones. Not to mention the designed-to-be-disposable itemization for loot, tradeskills, mobs, spells, special attacks, etc )

The worst part about the entire system is that level caps ultimately present the game designer with the hard problem eventually anyway: How do you occupy a player base when they can no longer level? The grind just delays facing the inevitable, and chases off customers in the meantime.

I've been advocating No-Levels (and even strict No-Numbers) game systems for years to alleviate the business, balance and social problems levels create in persistent multiplayer worlds. And you know what the biggest roadblock i've run into is?

people like levelling.
They like the discrete 'accomplishment' and the 'power gain'.
Even if it's all a sham. Even though they know it's all a sham.

I think the alternatives are the future. They're inevitable.
But the current playerbase is going to resist.
It's going to take a bold developer to create a game that faces very real rejection by the only proven playerbase out there. Just as WoW vindicated the assertion that casual massmog players did exist, were willing to play and to pay - I think such a bold design would be vindicated.

But that's an awfully hard sell.

The key.. (1)

iamblades (238964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17030898)

..to removing grinding is ultimately more unique content, and the removal of randomized rewards.

The second is farily simple, if the boss always drops the item, you've no need to come back and kill him again next week, and the week after, and the week after that. No reason at all to grind now.

The first part of that is the hard part. How do you keep up with player's demand for content without arbitrarily slowing them down. You could make the content very very difficult so that players progress very slowly, but that is not likely to be very popular, or very fun.

You could introduce dynamic content that is generated on the fly, which has been done to a limited extent in various games, but it doesn't work well enough to make up a large portion of the content.

I think a large part of the solution needs to be real GMs with the ability to truly interact with the players, not just glorified customer service people. Fresh content created in real time by GMs and dynamic computer generated content combined would drastically reduce the grinding.

The current model of huge chunks of content delivered every couple of months simply doesn't work.
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