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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

The Future of Persistent Worlds In MMOs 302

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-mario,-xlegolasx-already-saved-me dept.
Zonk did an interesting interview with Ed Stark and Dave Williams, employees for an MMO developer named Red 5 (and experienced tabletop game designers). They talk about their ideas and plans to bring about the next step in MMO gaming: increased persistence in online worlds, where an objective, once completed, stays completed. Williams said, "Right now for most of these games, when the player saves the princess and he starts walking away from the tower — if he looks back he's going to see the princess at the top of the tower again." Regarding their current work, he continues: "If you save the village, it stays saved — you saved it! But maybe now that village becomes an objective for another player; maybe something has to be done now because that village wasn't destroyed. And so on, and so on, and so on. Building those mechanisms to make it a world that reacts to a player's actions instead of existing in a static state. That's the world we're talking about."
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The Future of Persistent Worlds In MMOs

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  • People (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PakProtector (115173)

    Such things would require a prohibitively high number of actual persons playing NPCs, and the amount of coordination between them would make this extremely buggy.

    • Re:no problem (Score:2, Informative)

      by extirpater (132500)

      Bot programmer here!

    • Never played an MMO, ever. So I may be talking out of my ass here...

      Why not turn players against each other rather than use NPCs?

      "Take this city" is the objective given to one player.
      "Devend this city" is given to another small group.

      Or if the city is taken "So and so has taken the city, go destroy them" players(rand()).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Been done, and it can work. However, players might not always be the best to be trusted with plot and such.
      • It's called Warhammer Online.
      • The MMO "Pirates of the Burning Sea" works under this concept, but it has suffered under some exploits. Namely everyone other than the maxed out players are obsolete in the attacking or defending of a town, and guilds purposefully orchestrating attacks at low server hours (like a huge attack at 3am on a Tuesday).
    • Nightmare LPMud about 10 years had persistent changes, even to the point that the main town was eventually destroyed by warfare.

      It is doable, it just takes a hell of a lot of planning into a larger story line, including "what if" scenarios.

      • Another problem is lore related. If you've got an established game (Like Warcraft, for example) you can't really have the big named heroes being killed off permanently in a WoW, because that now changes the official lore, making Warcraft 4 that much harder to do.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WuphonsReach (684551)
      Such things would require a prohibitively high number of actual persons playing NPCs, and the amount of coordination between them would make this extremely buggy.

      The bigger issue is the "Internet Fuckwad Theory [penny-arcade.com]".

      Which basically means that you WILL have players who figure out how to ruin events and storylines for other people. That's why a lot of quests are persistent, and ever un-changing.
  • by rockout (1039072) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:27AM (#24718885)
    I never got into these games personally (I liked the RTS and first-person-shooters when I was gaming a lot), but part of me always assumed that kind of stuff, the persistent memory, if you will, was already implemented. I had no idea that was something that hadn't been developed already.

    I'm not a programmer, so I don't really understand, why is it so difficult to have objectives that stay completed after you've completed them? Can someone enlighten me as to why that's a step that's still forthcoming?

    • by Negatyfus (602326) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:34AM (#24718937) Journal
      It's difficult, because there are thousands of players with you in the same world. So you achieve an objective. Is that objective also achieved for another player? If so, then he can't do that particular quest anymore. You'd have to present different perspectives of the world to each player, where when player A does something it is done for him, but player B still sees it as unfinished. That's not really a persistent world, I'd say. The hard thing to do is allowing the player to be an epic hero among thousands of other players. Everybody wants to be a hero, right? So how many princesses are there that need rescuing? Another hurdle is content creation. A lot of the repetitive nature of MMO's is because of the fact that players consume more content than the developers can make it, and MMO's never end. So what if everything that needed saving is finally saved? Game over? Wait for the next content update? That's not how a developer wants an MMO to work, and so the quests and boss fights are repeatable. If you have an elegant solution for these problems, the MMO world would thank you.
      • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:39AM (#24718987)

        Puzzle Pirates is persistent and has no quests. The only non-persistence is brigands/barbarians which sail around for no apparent reason.

        (Ok, it has three non-persistent quests, but those were only added a month ago or so, and they're rather silly.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Part of why Puzzle Pirates is able to do that is the way very ordinary pirating tasks are made interesting. In Puzzle Pirates you have to engage in the driving activity of the game (completing puzzles) to make your ship more or to reload you cannons or repair your hull or to make rum or to make a sword, etc, etc, etc. By contrast, in Sid Miere's Pirates! you click to make you ship sail or fire or repair. So for a more standard MMO than Puzzle Pirates how do you make mundane things like building a city wall
          • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday August 23, 2008 @05:20PM (#24721655)

            how do you make mundane things like building a city wall... into an interesting gameplay task?

            Tetris!

      • by Terwin (412356) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:14PM (#24719227)

        I figured you would have multiple sides and while a given group can protect a town or village from attack by a different group on another team, this is really just PVP with the outcome recorded by the state of the game world. Presumably conquering larger towns or towns farther in to enemy territory would harder because of more NPC defenders of greater power.

        An alternative would be a series of generally similar quests for making a given town more or less friendly to one side or another. Team A can make the town favor their side, then team B can come around and do a similar quest to get the town to favor their side instead. (possibly giving the town more or fewer defenders for the next attack on that town by one side or another)

        Just because the changes to the game world persist, does not mean that they can not be reversed by the actions of other players.

        Also, if one side or another starts getting more and more powerful compared to the other sides, just give some nifty artifacts or other toys out to the sides being trounced to either encourage more players to play that side, or to beef up the players already there. (presumably these would need to be server and team specific)

        Just set up a large map with three or more teams starting at opposite sides and having a lot of territory in the middle that can be conquered in small, medium, or large chunks as you work your way towards the strongholds of the other teams.

        Even if you don't have any other sorts of quests, you automatically get 'resupply isolated outpost' type stuff by just having reasonable resource consumption, which also gives you supply trains to attack or defend in 'friendly' territory, etc.
        (every 100 citizens need 1 box of resources/week and produces X taxes/week to pay for them based on the tax rate, etc)

        And if you are worried about one side winning everything, just change the scale. After all, what is that saying about a land war in Asia?

        • by Z34107 (925136)

          This sounds like the premise of PlanetSide. It's easy to do in first person shooters, or in other games where there is only Player versus Player stuff present. But, it gets harder to do, say, if you want some kind of linear plot or story? (I know, I know, it's an MMO, but Blizzard is really proud of their lore.)

          Deviate from 100% PvP and you have persistence problems again.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by vidarh (309115)
            It gets harder, but you can "force" the story to follow roughly a mapped out line by being creative. A story element is predicated on a specific town being under control of a specific side? Introduce a story element that sees a massive amount of NPC's for that side help out in the defense or attack of that town in the time leading up to it depending on who is holding it. Essentially you stack the game heavily in favor of the state you want/need.

            You might need to invent story elements to explain it, but th

        • by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:43PM (#24720253) Journal
          If you take your idea of resource consumption and expanding faction territory, and keep the number of resource sources static within any given faction, then you have a self balancing mechanism for faction strength. A faction with twice the territory would have half the resource density. You could add a static number of wandering defense NPCs to each territory to also have this effect. A faction that lost half it's territory would have twice the density of NPC defenders. Ever time a defender is killed a new one quickly spanes somewhere in the faction territory, as that territory shrinks the likelihood of the spawn being close by increases, eventually a Faction territory that was reduced all the way down to just the Keep in the capital city would have an effectively infinite number of NPC defenders. So even a heavy faction imbalance in a server could be contained.
        • by shdowhawk (940841) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @03:54PM (#24720905)

          As a person playing RPG's for 18+ years.. and MMO's for about 12+ years, I can confidently say that this would fail. It's nice on paper, but would fail badly if set into motion when 20,000+ people are playing. Here is an example:

          1. World of Warcraft. Horde vs Alliance. Alliance in some servers when i last played was almost 2 to 1. With double the alliance, the alliance would get bored because there would be a line to "destroy the town" (or insert any other 2 sided quest here) because it would take so long for a Horde group to finish all of the stuff to "rebuild" it.

          2. Give the Horde (one specific side) better equipment? Let me re-introduce to you the bane of all MMORPG's ... The NERF-STICK of +480328423. Suddenly, in PVP, Horde is better than Alliance since equipment is better. OR because equipment works better with certain stats.. Or because (insert one of many of reasons why nerfing happens). Sadly, PvP and PvE don't work well together, and things get horribly nerfed because of it, so this negates giving better equipment to one side.

          3. The next problem that is added in (which partly relates to my #1) is what you mention about sides taking control of maps = organized raids. Organized raids = time. Time = complaining that "Oh but I have a job in real life, I don't want to work in a game", or "I don't have 6 hours to play" or "My class isn't needed for this raid?? WTF? LFG!! (Looking For Group)" ... Basically, now you have all the casual gamers complaining that only 13 year olds are doing this since only 13 year olds (or rich spoiled kids, or fat slobs in their underwear in their parents basement) have the time, unless it's the weekend, in which case the "teams" will be HUGE and lag will kill things. =/

          4. Server Populations. The other problem is that as server populations change, or as the game has been out a while.. slowly the average level changes. A System that involves needing others to effect things suddenly creates issues if there is no one going to that town anymore (new towns from expansions? Level 10 town out of 80 levels when the game has been out for 2+ years?). Suddenly no one does those quests any more since it takes forever for the "other side" to do their part.

          Please understand, I LIKE the ideas and LIKE how you are thinking about it, the problem here is that too many people are going to complain about this or that.

          Here is MY answer to the problem:

          a. Make a PvE game ONLY.
          b. Make a Grinding game ONLY.
          c. Make a PvP Game ONLY. (Already done, Play Eve-Online (http://www.eve-online.com/ [eve-online.com] Warning: You will have to "work" to do anything in game. Little to no free-be's.
          d. Make an Instance game ONLY where it's really easy and no one has to play the "Massive Multi-Player"... with any other players (hmm.. weird eh?)

          The end result is that you can't have a fully persistant world, have PvE and PvP, have Full economies etc etc. all in one game since it's almost the same as putting 5 holy men of different religions into a room and asking them to decide which is better. All will agree that there is something bigger than them, but none will agree on the "perfect method" to find / get to / understand that greater being. (sorry for the religious reference, it was just an easy example to stress how many different sides there are). In the end, making smaller games to individually target those groups I listed above (instead of making ONE game.. most likely badly ... with all aspects in there) would fix a lot of issues. After that we can work on trying to make things persistent. (Like EVE which has some good persistent aspects already!)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Dekker3D (989692)

        one idea would be to randomly generate most content, and have in-game tools for the story workers to create the good stuff. of course, the good stuff would have to be on a grand scale compared to the random things, or it won't ever catch the attention it deserves.

        also, having quests based on simulation (competition between farmers, corrupt merchants, threats to the livestock or villagers etc.) would add a lot of content as well, automatically.

        you'd need to create a lot of "unique"-ish rewards, so people hav

        • you'd need to create a lot of "unique"-ish rewards, so people have something to work for, and you're all set for the background gameplay.

          If you make the reward and the players effect on the game world one in the same, you don't need to create anything particularly unique. If the corrupt merchant is run out of town, then prices for that good are slightly lower, if they fail the mission the prices are slightly higher. I think the need for need for fancy personal items will drop if the "for the good of the
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        One idea would be a MMO that constantly generates random NPCs, and gives each one a random set of goals and relationships. Perhaps an NPC is created who has a goal of making money, and he decides to accomplish this by becoming a shopkeeper. Also, the NPC has a brother and a sister, and if either one is killed, the NPC will attempt to avenge his sibling. How the NPC attempts to avenge the sibling depends on his personality: Perhaps he tries to recruit an army. Perhaps he tries to hire a player to assassi
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tucuxi (1146347)

          Spot on, but I would take it a bit further. Good AI at both the individual and group NPC levels is the key to the content problem - without it, nobody can script or generate persistent, non-linear, per-NPC story-lines fast enough to meet a large user base.

          From a designer's perspective, you only need to initialize NPCs to a set of stats and relationships with each other (like, dislike, do not know, would avenge, reminds me of, ...), and a long list of (possibly randomized) behaviors (aggressive against ag

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FroBugg (24957)

        You'd have to present different perspectives of the world to each player, where when player A does something it is done for him, but player B still sees it as unfinished.

        Interestingly, this is something Blizzard is introducing to WoW in their next expansion. For example, when you first come to a certain town, it looks deserted to you. As you complete quests, it fills up with NPCs and changes slightly. It's not instanced, but someone who has completed a certain quest and someone who hasn't will see different

      • by vertinox (846076) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:11PM (#24719603)

        Everybody wants to be a hero, right?

        I think that's the problem with MMOGs is right there. That's what developers think everyone wants to be.

        First objection to this, in truth there is a large amount of the gaming community that loves to be "the faceless storm troopers" or the lowly grunt because they can relate better to them than the hero. And its not like most people role play a hero in MMOGs anyways, but just some random dude looking for loot and XP.

        Secondly, its not truly feasible in the current state of MMOG so that everyone feels like their the hero because even now it still doesn't feel like it.

        "Gee... I just killed the boss of the whole game but it really doesn't feel that important because he's coming right back for the next guy in line"

        See, no mater how you look at it, you will never feel like a hero if everyone can do what you do or that the fate of the world really doesn't hang in the balance.

        The solution, IMO would involve a pretty complex system of quest generation that are one off quests and scenarios that affect the world in someway slightly.

      • That's what Planetside did right. You had a war going on between the players so combat for territory generated it's own objectives. Persistence could be total.
      • by Chordonblue (585047) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:26PM (#24720113) Journal

        The solution is algorithmic in that these games should be able to support a non-entropic reality and introduce things on their own.

        I know that's much easier to say than do, but perhaps the bar is set too high to do this now - particularly on a planet wide scale. Maybe it should be tried at a city or small town level first before trying to do it all at once.

        If things were dynamic enough, the developers wouldn't have to plan huge expansions of meaningless quests - ideally, these quests should form on their own based on the changing social-political situation in-game. Solutions to the computer-generated quests should also be up to the players at hand. Oh no, there's a Big Magic Dragon! Should we use magic or spears to kill it, how many people will we need, etc.

        One of the most disappointing things about MMO's to me is the fact that NOTHING matters. It's an empty experience but for the social interaction with the other players. Most of the quest solutions are online anyway, there doesn't seem to be much of a sense of true adventure. True adventure involves risk of the unknown and there's damned little of that in an MMO game.

        I think that games like Spore will prove (at least to some extent) that this is possible now. The first company to apply Spore-like persistence and algorithmic flexibility to MMO's will do incredibly well.

      • Afraid to lose (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Shihar (153932) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @03:54PM (#24720903)

        The problem with the "everyone is a hero" mentality is that it not only makes for a wildly inconsistent and boring world, but it also fails in its objective. Seriously, can anyone out there claim that they felt like the hero after doing a quest that a thousand other people have done? Do you really feel the hero when you ask on chat how to save the princess and someone LOLs about how easy that quest was? The "you are a hero" quests are as mundane as any other quest.

        Personally, I think MMORPG should realize that the MMO part is supposed to mean something greater than making a really tedious single player where other people also play. I personally think that many people would be far more interested in a changing and dynamic world than a world of dozens "you are the hero!" quests that everyone and their dog has done.

        I think that the biggest problem is that MMORPG makers are afraid to have people lose. They want you to always feel like a winner, and as a result the game becomes very dull for many people. There is absolutely nowhere to go in an MMORPG but up. I am not advocating massive exp loss or anything of that nature. People hate that sort of thing because they hate to grind. What I am advocating is a world that can turn for the worse. While you are at it, maybe it is time to rethink the absurd exponential power curves that forces content segregation.

        Consider:

        Forget the mechanics for a moment; just imagine an MMORPG built upon the principle that all people should be able to enjoy the content. That means instead of having to make content for each 5 level slice, content is there for all. It might mean that you need to rethink "power" and âoeprogressâ in the game.

        Now, you have a game where everyone can participate in content. Now imagine a threat arises that is dynamic and moving. Instead of the "threat" being a new area spawned in that you can go to and spawn camp at, imagine if it was a living and moving thing.

        So, letâ(TM)s take the classic zombie horde. The threat is a zombie horde. It starts at one end of the world and moves to the other end. As it kills it grows. It moves slowly, but it clearly moves. As it moves into an area, zombies wander in slowly. When resistance is met, zombies start heading that way. Any prolonged resistance results in a horde concentrating. So, if you defend a town, you can hold it for a while, but after some time you get swamped and either need to flee or get reinforcements. Even if you do not resist, at some point the zombie population gets thick and everyone dies.

        Make it so that there are no-win scenarios. You can hold a town for a time, do so damage to the horde, but in the end you WILL lose. The best you can do is do some damage and fall back.

        So, the players keep fighting and falling back. Perhaps they make some valiant last stands in various popular cities, but in the end the cities are conquered one by one. If the players fall back effectively, do damage as they retreat, than at some point they might thin the horde enough to actually hold a city. Instead of being swamped in a few days, they might just find themselves in a long term siege that lasts weeks or months. Other players might try and fight supplies in, while others fight from the walls, clean up sewers, and clear out zombies that slip in. Maybe after a time the momentum is reversed, and the players are able to push back the zombies and reclaim land.

        Of course, things could go the other way. The players could be pushed back and pushed back until there is nowhere to go. The world could end and the game starts anew with some different challenge facing it.

        Some people will hate this type of game play. Some people want to win every time. Other people will love it. I don't know about you, but the idea that you could actually lose is thrilling. A desperate retreat fight back to the center of the empire, losing city after city sounds a shit ton more exciting than farming NPCs or doing save the princess quests. Do I g

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MikkoApo (854304)
      In single player games persistency is generally easy to implement. Most games are based on linear plots, where the gamer can't go backwards. If they can visit the places they've somehow changed, it's also pretty straightforward to save the state of things. No problems in that area.

      In multi-user games it isn't so simple anymore. Since most game content (plot, tasks, quests, NPCs etc) is still generated by humans, there's a limit to the content that a single game can contain. If one player completes all th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pcolaman (1208838)
        Unfortunately, having resets leads to boring and uninspired gameplay over the long run. What would be a much better idea, IMO, is to have a story arc, but the only issue with that is the game has to end at some point or you get to the point where you are so weary of grinding towards a goal that seems to keep just out of reach (I'll call this the Gilligan's Island Paradox) that finally you just give up and quit. With something that had a story arc where the players actually effect the story, it would requi
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fitten (521191)

      The big problem is the sheer volume of content that a company has to come up with if every single quest in the game was, in effect, usable by a single player only.

      Play 1 does the 'quest' to chop down the tree on the hill. Now it's chopped down for everyone and all the programming, artwork, etc. that went into making that 'quest' is 'used up'. No other player will experience it, they'll just see the stump of the chopped down tree.

      Now... multiply that by the millions of people who play WoW... assume each pl

      • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:50PM (#24720313) Homepage Journal
        Instead of making the quest "chop down the tree on the hill" you make the quest "chop down the tree at location [foo]" and the location and the tree is dynamically generated determined for each player. Assuming you populate the world with enough trees, and/or eventually slowly replace the trees, the world will appear persistent and the amount of extra work is very limited.

        The same principle can be applied to most things: Put N evil kings in the game world, and M princesses and other desirable hostages, and let the N evil kings constantly pick from a list of X plots involving kidnapping princesses or others, assassinating people (including players who have been given quests to fight them or to carry out quests for other kings) etc., and then hand out quests to aid or prevent those plots. Add a handful of twists and turns and wary the number and level of players given each quest and you'll have endless variations. Once a princess is kidnapped, you have the reverse quest of freeing her. Once she's free she'll eventually be targeted for kidnapping again, probably by another king, via another method with other players involved in the kidnapping and in protecting/saving her.

        So yes, as you say you make things flip-flop. But you can introduce variations, delays etc.. You can keep a torn down castle in ruins for a while, before an upstart king decides to make it his stronghold and hires players to rebuild it again, possibly in a completely different style, and quite possibly his alliances will be different, so the conflicts he's involving players in and the plots he hatches are different.

        Keep in mind that the real world flip-flops like that a lot: Countries have taken and lost land many times throughout history. Castles have been taken and retaken, burned down and rebuilt. Royal families have been ousted and retaken power.

        Just don't make things go back to exactly the same it was, and don't make it happen immediately.

    • There are several games that have it, and in a really large-scale style too. See EvE Online where players can conquer star systems and put up permanent bases.

      It is more a question of "how do I offer the same series of quests to thousands of players?". The easiest way is to reset the objective after a while, so the next player can do the mission. It is also the most unimaginative and immersion-breaking way (among other things, the player who just killed Oog The Apeman might meet him again an hour later). Mos

    • Take Lord of The rings Online, currently the game is nearing the end of book one, the fellowship of the ring and one of the quests the player can complete is to see the fellowship set out on its journey. Very nice, very touching, good moment. Bit of a problem then that the characters are still there when you exit that scene.

      So they moved the characters so the most obvious ones to seperate rooms so you at least not see them constantly, but some are quest givers, how do you hide them completly without re-wri

  • Even with the current state of things, griefers have a field day annoying the bloody fuck out of casual gamers and serious gamers alike. I can only imagine what will happen if 10000 casual gamers sign on and see all the collection and simple rescue quests are done and what remains is an epic battle requiring 300 players to complete (LFG 299 PST). This is going to be really hard (to balance enjoyment, leveling progress and eliminate griefing) if worlds are persistent.

    • But, on the other hand, if you world is constantly filled with newer quests (either randomly generated - like in most modern economic simulators -, or with newer content written by developers) replacing the older, this make it really hard for the grinders / farmers. Instead of repeatedly killing $arch-demon until they got the all the pieces of the precious epic armor to sell on e-bay, they can only do it once. They'll have to move to another quest to get the rest.

      This "always changing quests" will both make

  • by TibbonZero (571809) <Tibbon@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:33AM (#24718929) Homepage Journal
    Not that anyone is under the illusion that actual Role Playing was ever strong in MMOs, but the fact that the world is mostly static really has always killed it for me. There's never any tension that the armies will fall, towns will be taken over, or some epic thing will happen. Even in the upcoming WotLK, surely the Lich King himself will be defeated time and time again (with no worries to the storyline) by several groups of players. How could a bard sing a song about great conquests done if everyone has done the same thing, and nothing ever changes?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076)

      Not that anyone is under the illusion that actual Role Playing was ever strong in MMOs, but the fact that the world is mostly static really has always killed it for me.

      Originally, Ralph Koster (whatever happened to him after SWG?) had this idea for Ultima Online in which the world was completely dynamic. Animals and monsters could go extinct because of player interaction and they would interact with each when none one was around. You would walk around in the forest and see a wolf attacking a rabbit or a cat

      • Oh I think that Ralph Koster (Designer Dragon?) had some killer ideas. I really loved playing in the Alpha and early beta stages of UO. Not all of these ideas were in there, but at least you could tell that the free-flowing sprirt of it was there. I loved that it was very no-holds-bar. There were no PVP flags. You could attack anyone and suffer the consequences.
        I've always been upset that Ralph's ideas never came to fruition. I do wonder where he's at now. Off to Google.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:59PM (#24719929) Journal

      How could a bard sing a song about great conquests done if everyone has done the same thing, and nothing ever changes?

      One name : Lerooooooooy Jenkins

  • With all this talk about doing away with instancing, I'm surprised they didn't mention EVE Online [wikipedia.org]. EVE has *ONE* world for all the players. Granted, it can make it mighty laggy for large engagements, but most of the time it's fine. Missions are "instanced" insofar as they are randomly created when you get them, but they can be discovered by other players using scanners, so you could conceivably have complete strangers swoop into your mission and rob your loot. Annoying, yes, but it adds tremendously to the feeling that you're part of a larger world.

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:54AM (#24719093)

      Don't forget Player Owned Stations and Player Outposts. Eve player Alliances can declare sovereignty over whole constellations in 0.0 space (non-Empire) and maintain it with persistent stations and construct their own Jump bridges and all of that as long as they control the needed number of POS'es in systems.

    • EVE has basically no PVE content worth speaking of. The missions are boring mini-games and certainly don't make the player feel like a hero. All the persistent (but changeable) content is player-generated/-owned and while it does make the game interesting, it's not an achievement because anyone could choose to do that in an MMO (just throw buildable content at players and let them sort it out). It's basically a bigger / more complex WoW outdoor PVP map - you take a flag and it stays yours until the enemy ta
  • Too real (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joebert (946227) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:45AM (#24719031) Homepage
    Don't get me wrong, I've been playing video games since Nintendo Power was giving away Dragon Warrior I for free with the purchase of an anual subscription to the magizine, but games seem to be mimicking real life a little too closely.

    I played games because they were simple and allowed me to get away from the difficulty of the real world. I liked it because if I did something wrong I could just try again without the conssequences & I could do the same things over and over again because I liked doing them.

    The direction games seem to be heading, I might as well just do these things in real life.
    • Although I agree for the most part, there is a really simple solution; don't play games like that.

      No one is forcing you to play all these complex games, and there is no shortage of simple Mario style games.

      If someone wants to spend 14 hours a day playing WoW, that's their choice (or fault) and if you wanna play Tetris for 45 minutes, thats yours...

      Personally, I like to alternate between both, or in some cases games will have an "Arcade" and a "Simulation" sort of setting, so you can piss around, or take it

    • by grumbel (592662)

      The problem is that a MMO is by definition a multiplayer game and simple tasks that work fine in a single player game really feel silly in a multiplayer one. When I have to get in line and wait for my turn to kill that very same boar that all those people before me already killed all my suspense of disbelieve goes right out the windows and I would very much welcome some added persistence even when it makes the overall game a little more complicated.

    • I perform a series of intricate quests to impress a lady, facing untold horros, performing deeds of heroism that are the stuff of legend and in the end, she refuses to actually have sex with me.

      That certainly is a LOT like real life.

  • Players as enthropy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:53AM (#24719075) Homepage

    It's hard to make this work in a way that doesn't allow the world to deteriorate. How does all the stuff that players destroy get repaired? Probably by a huge number of NPCs working very hard around the clock. The NPC AI's need persistent state, too. They need to learn from experience, so they will rebuild better defenses. Walls are built stronger. Weak points are plugged. Overlapping fields of fire are set up. Obstacles to slow up assaults go in place. Towers are built to be mutually supporting. Checkpoints where players must disarm are put in place. NPC guards discover flanking tactics.

    The day will come when the NPC AIs get smart enough to realize that the players are ruining their world and band together to exterminate the players.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      One idea would be to allow individual players and groups of players ("guilds"/"corporations") to construct buildings and in other ways control infrastructure. Combine this with two or three major factions (like the horde and the alliance in WoW) and you could have a very interesting game.

      In fact, WoW with this sort of dynamic would be very interesting and I'm a bit disappointed that Blizzard didn't bother figuring out a way of implementing it. Imagine the horde capturing Stormwind City and Elwynn forest whi

      • by QuoteMstr (55051)

        The problem is that rebuilding is tedious. Gaming is supposed to be an escape from reality; if you try to replicate reality too faithfully, the game is no longer an escape. Who wants to be a carpenter rebuilding houses when he could be out fighting?

      • And what happens to players who have no interest in taking part in all that? They just want to do some quest or visit a weapons trainer, but they can't because their capital city has been taken over. It's already annoying enough when enemy players kill critical NPCs and force you to just sit around wasting your time. On a PvE realm no less.

    • by Tim C (15259)

      The day will come when the NPC AIs get smart enough to realize that the players are ruining their world and band together to exterminate the players.

      Actually that sounds pretty awesome to me, but then I've always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic survival horror/action films.

  • by Dreen (1349993) <dreen1@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:07PM (#24719163)
    Wurm Online [wurmonline.com] is a 100% persistent HUGE world where you can feel your actions change the world, and collaborative player effort can change it into something entirely different it is. Apart from that its indie, dirt-cheap (5 euro/mo), cross-platform, with beautiful sceneries, and very immersive. All you need is Java and a little patience. Wurm Online Wikipedia Entry [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      5 euros a month? I'm American, that's my whole month's salary, you insensitive clod!

  • Design a full background for the world then add in the usual suspects and then let things go (tweak things as needed)

    You have a King with a Kingdom and Queen there will be a princess therefore some group with enough evil will make a grab for said princess. You have a town with $rare_resource somebody is going to try to grab it. Add in $epic-class beast (with lair/loot) and you have most of your quest stuff just rolling along.

    Programming and balancing this is left as an exercise to the reader

  • Depending upon the complexity of it all it would be be done easily with quest chains that loop.

    You have two villages.
    Village 1 is in disrepair, they give you quests to go gather wood to help them repair the building after enough wood is gathered and some time has passed the village is no longer run down.
    Village 2 and Village 1 are in conflict.
    Village 2 offers you quest to go kill players around village 1 and then to take their wood and burn it.
    Village 2 also offers quests to go destroy village 1
  • by RobinH (124750) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:54PM (#24719489) Homepage

    Well, Planetside [sony.com] (an MMOFPS) has done this since the beginning. When you capture a base or a tower it stays captured and becomes a spawn point for your side. Then because of the lattice structure between bases, it opens up new bases that are vulnerable to attack. The lattice structure is there to cause a front line to the battles.

  • With buidings being taken over by COGs, and re-taken back by toons, doesn't Toontown already have a simple version of this?

  • I drew up a rough design doc about related pieces of the world. Players need food so they hunt deer but they can't overhunt or the herds will thin. So you learn to cook or salt the meat to make it last longer. Wolves can eat both the deer and NPC farmers so you need to keep those under control. Villages will have NPCs you grow relationships with...bit an Orc attack undefended may kill Mary the pie maker and you no longer get cheap pies...

    But then it's no longer just the adrenaline rush of hunting and ki

  • There's already problems caused in MMOs by persistence. The classic one is quest mobs. When another player's doing a quest that targets the same mobs as yours, the mobs he's killed aren't there for you to kill and you can't update your quest until the mobs respawn (persistence resets). When the objective's one with a long respawn time (maximum persistence) and has some value to other players, it gets worse because people will go and farm that objective, taking or killing it as often as they can, simply for

  • Right now, a well built encounter and story-arc can take dozens of hours of work to make, even using very generic 'tile-sets' and pregenerated characters.

    A.I. has no capability create interesting, cohesive and *meaningful* stories even if you used dozens and dozens of super-computers. NCSoft is actually going to be doing something very interesting in this arena by allowing players to create their own missions using a mission editor in City of Heroes (maybe in as little time as a few months.)

  • To me, the key challenge in setting up a "living world" (aside from the QA nightmare of all the possible interactions of events) is that without static characters/locations/quests, how do you ensure that it stays fun. You see, the fun and rewarding quests will be done quickly while the difficult, unrewarding or simply unfun ones will tend to persist. In the population of available tasks in the game, evolution takes over with it becoming "survival of the unfunest".

  • by Alarindris (1253418) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:28PM (#24720127)
    Perhaps players could also give out quests?

    Say a player needs a bunch of X cloth to make a new robe. The player could grind it out himself, buy it, or set up a quest from a template for another player to do it.

    (kill, get) X (monsters, items, npc) for X (gold, items).

    (I just woke up, my imagination coprocessor is still booting up.)
  • I haven't actually played it, but AFAIK, the Matrix Online is somewhere between stateless and persistent, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_Online#The_continuing_story [wikipedia.org]
  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:42PM (#24720237)
    Seriously. I'm sorry guys, and I know that you've got a bunch of the movers and shakers from the tabletop gaming world... but Christ, just look at D&D Online to see how much different tabletop gaming is from MMO gaming.

    The biggest problem is, they're underestimating just how fucking fast players will progress through the content. If there are milestones like quests to be met, the players will figure out a way to pass by them at light speed. Even if you have ten thousand canned quests ready for deployment as soon as the first batch is completed, they'll be gone in a month at most.

    Someone pointed EVE Online out as a truly persistent world. I'd like to add Ultima Online to that list. Both have only the barest NPC interaction: there are mobs to hunt and kill, and merchants to deal with, both of which can be bypassed by a mature-enough player-base. The only 'quests' are specific GM-run events that are more complex than 'harvest five bear asses' or 'serenade the Princess for Cyrano'. Everything else is a sandbox. Players create their own storylines, fight their own wars, and build their own merchant empires. There's no need for a traditional dungeon master because the server is smart enough to handle simple math like combat, and the only real social interactions occur between players, not players and keyword-driven mobiles.

  • I would like to see an MMORPG with a skill-based FPS-like combat system. Something as big as World of Warcraft, but with fast and furious battles like the Quake series. The rock-'em-sock-'em robots style of combat in most of these MMO games gets a bit tedious after a while.

    I'm guessing that it's probably hard to have the fast response times and detail of a good FPS inside a massive MMO world. But at least for the battlegrounds and arenas, this would be more fun than "point and click on target and push at

  • by Singularitarian2048 (1068276) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @03:50PM (#24720863)

    But there should be unique items, a few of them so rare and so powerful that whoever comes to wield one of them will be like a demigod in that world. Players will form factions, armies, to steal just one of these items from whoever currently has it. (And it will take an army to get it.) Players will betray each other to get control of one of these items.

    Also, it should be possible for a character to really die, and stay dead--not just respawn. Once dead, a character should become a ghost, who can roam the world, chat with other players, and contribute in minor ways to a party, perhaps as a spy. Then governments will form. Good players will unite to protect newbies and others from player killers, and a justice system will spontaneously develop.

  • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @05:32PM (#24721723) Homepage Journal

    With more than 6 billion current subscribers, it seamlessly tracks the direct and indirect consequences of every player action. Cause and effect are so detailed, that it is possible to build toy MMOs within the simulation. It features total immersion with 5 or more senses that routinely covers 16 hour continuous stretches of simulation time. Longer stretches are possible, but the experience starts becoming erratic after 24 hours or so of simulation time. Administrator interventions are quite rare and well integrated when applied - to the point that many players believe there haven't been any.

    The immersion is so complete, that when a players connection is temporarily interrupted, their experience in the real world is often remembered as a dream when returning to the simulation.

    All player decisions are exhaustively recorded, and are reviewed and judged when their subscription is terminated.

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