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Reader Comments (39)

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 4:49PM (Unverified) said

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*They're thinking again! quick! Distract them with good graphics or excellent marketing so the morons overwhelm them before they build any steam!





seriously...prepare for the lemmings to ignite your soul, but kudos to you for thinking like a person rather than a walking, self emptying wallet.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 4:54PM Miffy said

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Yeah I want to feel like I'm logging into a virtual world that I could live in for the rest of my life as it is evolving. Games like UO, EQ and SWG before they were all ruined by dumbing them down and killing the feeling of a world. EVE Online is the only game that they've stayed true to what it is about, they haven't tried to dumb it down or break the rules of their world for convenience.

When I used to login to SWG I could spend all day in it and feel like I'm doing something meaningful in a world. When i play a WoW or any modern MMOs I feel like I'm logging into a Counter Strike, where I have a quick game and go. They don't feel like worlds anymore, they don't feel like a home I can stay in. That's fine for like a mobile game I only want to play quickly for dumb fun. However I want a world I can live in on my PC for the weekend.

I hate fast travel, just ruins the world and makes it feel small.

I hate linear worlds like WoW with the level zones so half the world is dead.

I hate loading screens and instances that warp you somewhere. I mean I like instances like how WoW did it with Dead Mines, how it takes up real world space. I hate it when you click on an NPC or a bell and it warps you somewhere.

Wish I could go back to 2003 with SWG launch :(

Posted: Oct 23rd 2010 4:33AM (Unverified) said

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''Wish I could go back to 2003 with SWG launch :(''

You aint kiddin!

I'd love to have a virtual world mmo again.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 4:57PM CCon99 said

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I find it ironic that PC MMO's are going the watered down themepark route in hopes they can make their games more appealing to the mythical "untapped" MMO gamer they believe is out there. They're trying to make their games "console friendly" which in their heads means dumbed down because obviously console gamers are all morons that need their hands held (that's sarcasm).

While they're doing that the console developers are making games like Fallout 3, Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, GTA, Oblivion, Fable that all have MMO features in them and create these giant virtual landscapes you can go out and explore and immerse yourself in.

It's pretty sad for the MMO developers when people ask what's the best MMO released in 2010 and people answer Red Dead Redemption.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 6:23PM (Unverified) said

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I always hear the phrase "dumbed down" across pc gaming in comparison to console market. Honestly I believe that pc/mmo development teams have the right intentions but going about it the wrong way. As great as a sandbox game EVE is, i have always believe that it falls short because it has not been simplified.

PC developers have the burden of keyboard/mouse/computer as an obstacle to getting the average person to play their game. In result i think they get lost trying to over simplify the experience to try and get an individual to play their game instead of console. Because a console has a controller it's already more inviting than the tradition pc/keyboard/mouse.

My number 1 personal rule in gaming has always been "Game = FUN". At any moment you are not having fun, i believe it is no longer a game (sometimes EVE feels like a job). And this is what the general population(myself as well) wants. However, FUN = immersion, interesting, depth, Easy, Challenging. The dumbing down of games is the developer making the game easy and forgetting the other elements of fun.

I would love to see more effort in creating worlds that are dynamic and real. But like everything it must have balance. I should not have to learn a second education to play my game. At the same time i should not feel as if i am wasting my time (in a tradition themepark mmo). That is why WoW has its subscription base because currently it is the "closest" in the current industry to achieving that balance. Eventually (who knows when) another game will achieve a much better balance of fun and show similar signs of success.

TL;DR : Games must be fun. Not too complex and not too shallow. (this is an opinion)
But after all that i said the success of Farmville baffles me.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 4:57PM DancingCow said

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I agree - what I call "world factor" is completely missing from many MMOs. In most of them there's no sense that the game world is alive.

Ryzom does it spectacularly well. Mobs interact with each other - predators periodically chase down and attack prey. Some are social, others not. Seasons change the landscape and mobs move with them.

And while you can generally predict mob behaviour and movements, there's always a realistic (and dangerous for the player) element of randomness that keeps you on your toes.

That kind of AI is such a simple thing but it really adds a lot to immersion.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 4:59PM redsolar said

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Not only cities, but think about the outside world, too. Nature, ecosystems, weather systems, gravitational forces, supernatural wonders, the vast black space around the world itself and what other planets, moons, alien life exist around it. But not every plant is a wonderful picture either. Some worlds can be dark, menacing, barren, polluted, etc. It's a cause and effect reality from the tiniest spec to epic proportions that breath life and dynamics into worlds.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:26PM (Unverified) said

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What you're saying sounds awesome, but I don't know if our tech is at a point to handle this yet. If you look at games that have been taking steps in this direction (the two that come to mind are Oblivion and Fallout 3), they still seem to have difficulties with stability and AI, and they are only focused on making the cities feel alive. I guess this could be chalked up to Bethesda's engine just being dated and having its own issues. It's hard to say, though, because no one else is doing any better at this point.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:00PM (Unverified) said

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Quote: "Making cities that truly live is hard."

Your thought on world building are very simulationist. Not to say that all your thought can be summed up by this sentence. Make cities that truly live is really an exercice in simulation. Making a game, while using some form of simulation, is another matter entirely.

Does players want to wait for 5 real hours until the sword shop gets open? Does player want their character movement down by 5% when they walk in knee high snow? Does players want to die each and every time they try to tackle a dragon with a sword and a shield? Of course not.

I understand the challenges of creating a engaging world through simulation, but most video games tend towards some form of gamism each designer must balanced their need for simulation versus game.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 6:48PM Ayenn said

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I want to know who decided that simulation game play was a bad thing.

ROFL simulationist... that is a friggin joke of a concept.
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Posted: Oct 24th 2010 4:40AM Anatidae said

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I agree. But that is where "simulation" MMOs fail. What you want to do is really "emulation". I know that sounds like just semantics, but here is what I think.

You want to emulate the feeling of owning and running a shop, not simulate it. As a shop player, you should be able to operate your shop in game a few times a week and perhaps using external technology like an iPhone app to augment that type of play.

You want to emulate the feeling of being a hero. The towns should emulate the feel of being populated and every building should have an emulated purpose, not just a stated purpose.

UO showed that if you try and make a completely closed system, it does not work. Finite resources require constant destruction of items in the world. Yet players are horders. So, instead, a developer has to create systems that emulate the feel of a finite resource world while still allowing resources to be gathered.


What I see the key items for a sandbox world are:
1. Everything gets destroyed at some point, through use or age. Some things can be fixed, but that requires resources. In a way, replacing an item or fixing it both should be resource sinks and both tasks should be available to players to offer.

2. Everything in the world, including "epic loot" can be crafted by a player or group of players. EVE is a good example of this. However, the more epic the loot the longer it might take to craft. Weeks, months perhaps. Maybe it takes a guild a solid month or two in order to get their castle built. But whatever the balance for epic vs. time vs. resources, it IS possible for players to craft.

3. Resources ebb and flow (emulating a finite amount, such as if players over harvest a forest it takes longer for the wood to replenish). Resources are also regional. A powerful sandbox mechanic is "trade" and that requires...

4. Travel and distance matters. Instant travel across the world should be costly and more costly as the size & mass of the package grows. Again, players should be able to offer a variety of travel services. A group of mages might open a portal in space/time. In a sci-fi setting a corporation owns the tech and has the energy supply to do the same. The more people/stuff sent through the more magic/power it takes. There is a whole meta-game business around providing travel.

5. There should be off-line slow travel. For instance, it might take an hour of in-game travel to go from city A to city B, or you can catch a "ride" with a NPC caravan when you are offline to travel the same route, but it might take 2 or 3 hours. Again, a supporting web/iphone app to travel your characters when you are offline would allow friends to coordinate their locations before gameplay time.

6. PvP should be allowed. It adds serious risk to caravans and traders. PvP does need a counter balance to help emulate real-life risks of being a villian/killer/etc.. (coming)

7. JUSTICE, something missed in every PvP sandbox, needs to have a set of tools. Or you can call it revenge. Basically, if Player A (for A**hole) griefs Player V (for victim) then player V should somehow be able to see justice. In real life, if you are robbed, you can call the police and they will work to (in theory) find the robber. You also can get insurance to replace your stuff. In MMOs Player As can log out, making them impossible to catch.
7a. Revenge points - any time Player A harms a Player V, Player V gets points that can be spent to seek justice on player A. Imagine a set of abilities/spells/actions that can be used. The more powerful revenge ones, the most points you need. Players can pool points by giving them away to friends, bounty hunters, or even guilds or towns.
7b. Justice needs a prison. Somewhere to banish Player As. There should be a huge zone in the game that is fun to play in, but is completely lawless. This is where Player As get banished if caught with enough revenge points on them. The Prison should have ways to break out.
7c. Other than the fun of greifing and the loot, there should be cool bonuses to being "bad", but with equal risks. Imagine in a fantasy setting you become so evil that sunlight will kill you. Yeah, you can only go on the surface at night, but you might find some fun greifing in the depths of dungeons and such.

8. Pointless crap. Sandboxes need silly dances, emotes, clothing, fancy items, non-combat spells and abilities (that are not crafting either). Basically, give players tools to express themselves. You don't have to be a role player to enjoy these extra abilities. The more we go to games, the more designers forget that there is more than doing damage or preventing damage.

9. Government tools. Tools to let players hold elections, control lands, set laws, etc... With that alone there will be crazy players who will run for offices and if you allow players to build their own cities (which you should) then they will do just that. And those cities will eventually war with one another - because that is what players do. And if they don't you can create in-game rewards if they do with a little GM interaction.

10. The focus of attachment should be on the player's avatar and the society they are in - NEVER the items their avatar owns. UO was great at this. Player lost their stuff so easy that everyone eventually had tons of backup sets of armor and weapons. If you ran out, there was a thriving community to supply you with more. It sucked, but whatever. If you strip a player, they should still feel powerful, unlike WoW where you are your loot.

11. Litter the game with micro games. Create in-game gambling (run by players of course). Give the tools for players to create quests. If every creature in the world drops a resource of value, that alone makes kill X quests something that some player will pay you to complete.

12. Kill levels. Reward players in other ways, but level 1-100 or whatever sucks. Still based systems are better, but I think the true future will be MMOs that actually let players become the skilled ones. Not unlike a FPS where a player's skill is what matters. Yet I don't think MMOs should be twitch based. There is maybe a medium point of emulating growth while still allowing a player's real skill to develop.

Crap. I'll stop. I sometimes rant in hopes that some game developer might get some ideas and run with it instead of creating another instanced theme park. I like those games too, but I already have enough of them right now.
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:09PM DancingCow said

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I should have added....

Rift should do this well too. Not only will the rifts be dynamic parts of the environment but the underlying tech allows devs to make changes to the gameworld without patching.

Eg. they can shift travelling merchants around to anywhere they want.

Or they could (theoretically) burn a village to the ground and have it gradually rebuilt over time.

etc. etc. etc.

Even without sandbox or pvp, that should add a lot in the way of world factor.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:11PM Jef Reahard said

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Good to see someone else that cares about worlds vs. games, it gets awful lonely sometimes. And great read as always Sera.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:13PM Scopique said

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The reason why EVE works so well is because it gives you tools, but DOESN'T tell you what to do with them. The fact that some people find it "hard" is just another way of saying that they don't understand what they're supposed to do with the tools they've been given. I've had to explain EVE to some friends before they tried it, and once they got the gist of it, they took to it immediately.

But it's also scary from a developer's point of view. With WoW, LotRO and others, it's easy to map a path of progression -- well, not EASY, but easier then just leaving your players to their own devices -- because with theme parks, you can point to specific features (raiding, dungeons, loot hoarding, "crafting", etc) as bullet points and say "See!? Isn't this stuff fun?".

Sandbox titles simply allow players to do things that they want to do, not necessarily what a development committee want's them to do. Although not an MMO, this is EXACTLY why people have so readily taken to Minecraft: Basic interactions which can be stacked in useful ways with different outcomes to suit a particular task, but no one is TELLING YOU what that task has to been at any time.

Posted: Oct 23rd 2010 7:05AM Transientmind said

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I'd like to politey disagree on the point of EVE being hard because of a lack of understanding...

I'd aliken EVE to the political system. Anyone perceptive enough, with a good grasp on human behaviour, statistical analysis and a keen awareness on the interplay of demographics can understand politics.

...And what they will understand almost immediately is that it is ugly, vicious, fiercely competitive and impossible to change alone. What people then lack is the initiative, responsibility, man-hours and persistence to slog through the alliances, negotiations, leadership and delegation tasks that are required for an individual to make any kind of splash in this world whatsoever.

Go ahead. Read any single news article that has been generated within EVE and tell me how many of those pilots interviewed got there on their own. It's not happening. Most people just logging on for one or two hours after work are going to find themselves slotted into the corporate-wage-slave/miner/gun-for-hire position.

In theme-park games, however... the quest NPCs call you a big damn hero every five minutes and you achieve great feats of strength in what would be epic battles if they were against real opponents. But it's spoon-fed to you through the design mechanic. This isn't a bad thing for most people, even if it is an illusion.
There are few ways for the masses to achieve that kind of superiority and individuality in real life. (It's lonely at the top, but that's only because the people up there don't want company.)
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Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:15PM Beau Hindman said

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As someone who has watched the games change over the last 11 years, and as someone that will never turn down a chance to try a new game (regardless of how it looks or of what I hear about it) I have enjoyed all types, but all types have their time and place. I can jump into Vanguard one moment and into WURM Online the next (chopping tress is hypnotic) then into Fiesta.

I think it's one of those things that people say they want, but don't go out and get. EVE *is* a perfect example. Is it more complicated than just players wanting to avoid chopping down trees all day, or to avoid mining asteroids all day? Sometimes, players just want to jump in and play. Heck, I would say that the numbers for both free-to-play and subscription games show that. Then again, maybe sandbox just hasn't been given the chance it should have?

For the record, I prefer these sand box games myself -- but they become tiresome just like anything else. That's why I try a varied gaming diet! :) (High in fiber.)

Beau

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 5:27PM Space Cobra said

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Good comments and article all around.

IMO, there is much to making an MMO successful and part of that is addiction, especially social addiction. You have to keep players interested in your world.

I do think things can be learned and adapted from Second Life ("that" sandbox MMO), but with existing famous IPs adapted into MMOs, of course company lawyers are skittish. But really, IMO, I think that is certainly a way to go to build a new interactive dynamic.

"Back in the pre-history", community was easy to make and, what was better, GMs added to that in-game community. Now, we hardly see any GM-run events and the times you hear about Player-Run events are not often enough IMO. It is time to intergrate existing trends and technologies in a MEANINGFUL way: I hate Facebook, but, for example, don't just make it record what a player is doing, make it their personal web-page. Integrate in-game advertising of Guild-Player events into the front pages...well, I could go on. It seems everyone wants to jump on the "social bandwagon" but no one really uses it properly to engender a community.

And community goes both ways, Devs and GMs need to get involved. Really, we need to go back to a MUSH-way of things. If a game grows, fine, have a plan to deal with the masses of new players, but interaction should be a two-way street in these types of games.

Also, realize your game is not going to appeal to everyone: what Schilling says is good, but I kinda am waiting to see the results. That is not to say don't listen: admittedly, it is a hard balancing act and, IMO, I see more examples of a game failing when Devs DON'T listen than when they do. Also, patience in explanation on both sides is needed. Again, always that tricky "Balance" issue. Games need to evolve, but not change too drastically. Provide comfort or an exciting, never-endingly mind-boggling experience each time one logs on (as your point about EVE's tough-to-learn, this latter point is better off left alone IMO).

Well, I could go on because I am constantly thinking about such social ramifications in games such as these because I essentially cut my online gaming teeth at the dawn of MMO's; if you REALLY want social-interaction, online RPG chatrooms are the way to go (with socially mature players and...patience for those who are not experienced, but also not rude).

It's like some businesses; to get employees to care, you have to get them INVOLVED in the business. Give them a sense that they "own" something or are "responsible" for something. Of course, not everyone wants such responsibility, but from there, you get committed players and you can go forward with that. The others will drop to the wayside eventually if a game is not for them.

Posted: Oct 22nd 2010 6:37PM Dblade said

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Most of the news in EVE happens in other games too. Scamming a corp is just the same as ninja looting on a raid or wiping out a guild bank, both of which I saw several times in FFXI. Other games can have EVE poker or gambling too, it's just most games have enough actual CONTENT in the game to not need constant meta/out of game stuff.

Most of the news in EVE is because there isn't really that much to do in the actual game but PvP and farm. That's why it has a lot of trouble retaining people, and it's starting to add traditional PvE content like planetary interaction and those dungeons.

Posted: Oct 23rd 2010 12:52AM (Unverified) said

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This.

I would add that EVE is a really poor example of world building, there is very little difference between each system aside from the amount of planets in them. "Ooh this system has a blue background a 10 belts, the last system had a red background and 5 belts!"

Or I guess to look at it with the glass half full, space is a really easy world to simulate. It is 90% empty. (Just like EVE's content!)
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Posted: Oct 23rd 2010 5:45AM DiscoJer said

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That's a very good point. Every game I've played in has had a lot of server drama,

But somehow in Eve it's both "News" and an example of how superior it is to all the other games us troglodytes play.

Uh, sure.
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