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Reader Comments (9)

Posted: May 18th 2009 5:15PM Temploiter said

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That's a great read. Really get's the wheels turning.

Posted: May 18th 2009 5:48PM Myria said

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The basic thesis here seems terminally flawed. So what if Server A and Server B make different decisions? Why can players only be affecting the game world if they do it all in the same way on the same server? Because it would make too much work for the devs? So everyone should be on one server that does only one thing because that makes it easy for the devs? He's kidding, right?

Sadly, probably not. He's making the classic mistake too many MMO devs make, assuming that his job is to tell a linear story instead of recognizing that his job is to create a coherent and internally consistent story world in which players can tell their own stories. The "story" shouldn't be about Arthas or Frodo, it shouldn't be what the dev wants it to be (and thus deviation can't be allowed so everyone has to be on the same server), it should be about the player and what they want it to be about.

Make the world, let people tell their own stories, should be what they take away from Eve, not that it's on one server and that's the only way to do things.

I would argue that having multiple servers is a good thing and a design that should continue in newer games. It allows for different flavour of servers (RP, PvP, PvE, whatever) and invariably each server becomes unique, with it's own strengths and weaknesses. A wise player searches for a server that suits their needs and playstyle best. All of that isn't possible in a shardless system, and it tends to make shardless games less personal then a multi-server system generally is.

Posted: Jun 12th 2009 9:21PM (Unverified) said

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"He's making the classic mistake too many MMO devs make, assuming that his job is to tell a linear story instead of recognizing that his job is to create a coherent and internally consistent story world in which players can tell their own stories."

Did you even read the article? He's making the exact opposite assumption here. He's saying that because current MMOs are shattered into millions of little easily-digestible pieces to keep server loads down (which, on the whole, would still be a massive tech hurdle for your average company to get around), that that's *forcing* MMOs to be linear-esque anyway, which is true. Aside from EVE, which is unsharded by the way, I've never seen an MMO utilize player-manipulated political landscapes, and DEFINITELY never seen player-manipulated physical landscapes, be they the result of city building/razing or destroying mountain ranges.

And the reason for this is pretty basic, and I really don't understand why people here are having such a hard time grasping it when he laid it out pretty clearly in the first place. First of all, get it out of your head that this idea can simply be executed on a multi-server system arbitrarily, and the dev team just has to make twice + as much content. That is not how servers work. They do not store all the games data, or any of your data or any such ridiculousness. They just store *instances* of all those things, which exist as dormant entities somewhere else. You're in fact playing an illusion of an illusion. There's no built in mother brain that can say "oh, on this server, mountain A was destroyed". No, they just pop in what needs to be popped in, with no memory of that time 80 players pooled their magic and caused an earthquake. Even if such a thing could be memorized, it wouldn't even know which server that happened on. You can ONLY pull off that kind of bullshit if you have a single server. Not because of the server, but because of the game.

Nothing personal to you in particular, Myria, but the only thing terminally flawed here is everyone's assumptions of how MMOs work. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that playing them tends to preclude understanding them.
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Posted: May 18th 2009 5:52PM Pingles said

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I prefer to have a million mini-stories rather than focusing a game on one major storyline that effects the gameworld.

Granted, you could do both but I'd rather they just focus on clever, untraditional quest mechanics.

Posted: May 18th 2009 8:26PM (Unverified) said

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Having not read the source yet, there seems to be two ways one can go in designing an MMO in which players can have meaningful roles in shaping the world. Either you create a single, unsharded environment or you create a very large number of much smaller worlds (ala Love) where the number of players is like that of a small, rural town. Having only a few hundred people playing in any one instance of a world would allow designers to establish a sense of organic life in the world (no mobs on 2 minute respawn timers to serve Joe Schmoe #43 on his daily kill quest), create a high degree of cohesiveness and responsibility among the community members, and let players actually change the world in significant ways. Perhaps the worlds could interact with each other as well. One day you and a small group of friends might decide to venture across the sea (think Middle Earth) and after a long and difficult voyage, you encounter a whole other world, one similar to the one you left behind but shaped by the players who inhabit it (and perhaps procedural generation technologies).

Posted: May 18th 2009 8:29PM J Brad Hicks said

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Yeah, I'm not going to go along with his main thesis, either, because it wouldn't be that hard to have sharded worlds turn out differently ... or it wouldn't be if 3GSMax weren't such a millstone around the industry's neck. It's the same problem as the problem of branching missions, only written large, and you fix it the same way: by having branches that turn out similarly result in the same art assets. The different turnings in the war between Floren and Gilder can be different, but you don't need to update the art assets until Floren defeats Gilder or Gilder defeats Floren. Then you need two, and only two, versions of the game world, and who cares if the servers aren't the same? Later you can have a Gilderian resistance rise up in the Floren-conquered world, and vice versa, and do it again. Or you can introduce a new story line, where pirates either do or don't conquer the united Floren/Gilder empire; either way, if you write the story so that the details that separate the Gilderian Empire from the Florentine Empire get destroyed, you end up with only two game worlds to maintain.

You write your side missions so that it doesn't matter who runs the government, the same crimes are there to commit, the same criminals to arrest, whatever you want. If you want to localize them to the current timeline, you move the text out of the instance files, which you probably ought to be doing for language localization purposes anyway. That way you can go through and mass search-and-replace any nouns that need to be changed now that somebody different is running this shard.

Yeah, it doubles the cost for creating and maintaining the game world, which is probably half of the budget of any MMO that's continuing to produce expansions. (It'd be cheaper if the tools didn't stink on ice.) So you end up having to have 25% to 33% more subscribers to break even. But the first MMO to offer this and have it look and feel compelling that you and the other players on your shard are changing the game world isn't going to have a hard time increasing their subscriber base by that much, I'm thinking.

Posted: May 18th 2009 8:59PM (Unverified) said

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The problem isn't with the servers going down different roads per-se, it's that MMO-gamers already have a strong tendency to 1)min-max and 2)complain. This is complicated by the fact that shards are not tied together in real-world time. (Server A fights the evil monster on a different day than Server B sets it free.)

If server A and server B make different choices, server C is going to hold off on a decision until they determine which one is better (perfect balance will never happen in an MMO). Server B will then petition that their server be reset so they can make the same decision server A did so they will be treated fairly. A huge development headache.

There is a separate problem that any time a discovery is made on server A (say a rich mining area), other servers do not go through the discovery period: there is no reward for the clever or the lucky, and instead the biggest guilds/groups will be able to quickly dominate resources. Allowing big groups to get bigger without seeding new, competitive groups leads to stagnation for both parties.

If you want to have a sharded game that allows for permanent, player directed change, each shard needs to START OUT as a different world, not just become that way over time i.e. different continents, different resource distribution. Doing that IS a huge development headache. Additionally, I don't know if anyone has done the marketing to see if such a game (unique shards) would sell well.

Posted: May 18th 2009 9:15PM (Unverified) said

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I'm personally not as concerned about the story- what bothers me is when I have a bunch of friends on server A, another on server B, and more on server F. I can't play the same game with *all* my friends without a bunch of alt-hopping.

Posted: May 19th 2009 6:05AM (Unverified) said

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Guild Wars is not a single server? Ofc it uses american/europe districts, but you can switch to them in 2 seconds.

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