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The Future of MMORPGs 221

Fargo writes: "How often do you get the creators of EverQuest, Asheron's Call, World of Warcraft, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars Galaxies, Anarchy Online, and others in the same room together? It happened at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Jose. GameSpy pulled together notes from three days' worth of talks and drew some common conclusions that point toward where the genre is going in the future. A good read if you're interested in where Virtual Worlds are headed."
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The Future of MMORPGs

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  • ...into the firey pits of latency hell.... ;-)
  • by haystor ( 102186 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:15PM (#3230935)
    And here it is:

    Progress Quest []

    Its not too addictive and it doesn't use up too much time.
  • My god... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sarcasmooo! ( 267601 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:15PM (#3230937)
    If you look at the picture [] of all those guys lined up beside eachother you could swear it was taken in the 1970's.
  • Maybe with more and more people playing MMOGs there will be a solid base of consumers to demand some sort of solution to the U.S.'s broadband dilemma.
    • Most Internet consumer don't need and don't care about broadband.
      all the MMOOG player don't add up to 10% of the total internet users. MMOOG's don't even take up 1% of total online time.
  • MMORPG's are going (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sllort ( 442574 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:17PM (#3230950) Homepage Journal
    Where text muds went 10 years ago. All the problems of grief players, player killing, user grouping, experience sharing, and dynamic landscape generation were solved in text based MUDS like this one [] years ago. Watching the graphical corporate players re-learn these painful lessons (with the added humor factor of corporate arrogance, pride, and a PR department) has had all the humor value of watching a blind baby learn to walk.

    If you find that kind of thing funny.

    • I'm curious, how did they solve all those problems? Is there a paper or document somewhere I can read about it, or would you be willing to explain? (Not attacking you, I am honestly curious as I play EQ a lot :)
      • by sllort ( 442574 )
        i don't think so. that's actually a shame. this page [] delves into it from a high level but doesn't hit the technical details. especially since they keep changing it.

        interesting details:

        there are places where no one can attack anyone (LPK), places where you can kill but not loot (NPK), and places where you can kill and loot items (CPK). walking into a CPK area always requires confirmation. additionally, players can set a "DUEL" flag which allows them to engage other players in NPK anywhere on the map, even in town, if both players have the flag set. In addition, killing another player in NPK gives you a certain amount of time during which anyone can attack you (and TRACK you) in NPK. This is called "blood time". you accrue almost none for killing someone stronger then you, and exponentially more for killing someone weaker than you. a level 124 player killing a level 10 player would spend the rest of the day with "blood on their hands".

        also read about this [], a portion of the game which is dynamically re-located and re-mapped continuously at runtime.
  • Any old-timers who played Tradewars 2002 should take a mosey on down to [] and browse the screenshots and forums for the new game in development, named Tradewars: Dark Milennium. Hopefully, by this summer, we should have a AWESOME space game will be reborn into this new genre. I can't wait.

    - Kengineer
  • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nahsei)> on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:18PM (#3230955) Homepage Journal
    Sure, people do "play for the spreadsheet, filling in points", etc, but the real draw of a good game is it's roleplaying value - at least for me.

    I've been playing a Text MUD for quite a long time - Dragonrealms ( - and it's evolved into quite a large player base where anyone can make a mark on the community by roleplaying a character correctly.

    Hundreds of addicts, or just hundreds of satisfied people? Not sure, but the Roleplaying Genre needs to focus more on roleplaying, least we end up instead with the "experience-game-in-which-players-gain-levels genre".
    • While happen to enjoy games for the same reason you seem to, I don't think the "mass market" segment--the ones who are making the game profitable and thus the ones who the game will be designed for--are motived by roleplaying. Have you actually logged into Asheron's Call or Ultima Online? The worlds are absolutely dominted by "31337 d00dz" who are at the maximum level with more or less the same skillset and equipment, precisely because they DO care mostly about filling in the spreadsheet to maximize their combat effectiveness. I would love it for roleplaying and exploration to play a primary role (no pun intended) in these games, but at the moment I don't see how that is possible. Any game that tries it will either get swamped by d00dz or simply go bankrupt.
    • I used to play another text MUD - Utopia [] - but it got so addictive I had to stop.
    • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @07:07PM (#3231370)
      Roleplaying Genre needs to focus more on roleplaying

      I'm going to disagree, but not for the reasons you might think.

      The true jump in quality won't come from masses of gamers deciding in unison that, yes, I feel like pretending to be a sweaty dwarf named Argus McGinley of the Axehandle Clan today -- or whatever one's idea of traditional role playing might be.

      Rather, it'll arrive when these online worlds become immersive/enjoyable enough that you don't even have to think about role playing. Not consciously, at any rate. That is to say, as these games evolve and their in-game mechanics grow to be more fluid and natural (instead of the hundreds of little annoyances -- zone loads, clipping bugs, slash commands -- that constantly remind us of a game's limitations), a majority gamers will begin to act more naturally within them.

      Setting influences behavior, in a sense.

    • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <> on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @07:52PM (#3231668) Journal
      Wow - is Dragonrealms still alive?

      I was heavily addicted to Gemstone III when they introduced Dragonrealms, and so I spent a couple weeks over there.

      I really liked the game, and miss the combat system dearly, and was able to design and attire a character any way I wanted, from tough to spooky to sexy (or any combination of the above). But they seemed to replace Gemstone's "kill-rest-kill-rest" experience with endless "practice-practice-practice" experience. It got tedious sitting there trying to learn how to commune with my powerstone or wand or whatever. I practiced for hours every night and got very little out of it. The game was only a few weeks old, then... back in 1996 or thereabout. Perhaps it's changed since.

      But I will have to say that MUDs (and PBEMs) have offered the only real computer roleplaying experiences I've had yet. The addictiveness is twofold - there's the anonymous (or pseudonymous) socialization that IRC has, and then there's the challenge/reward feedback of gaining expereience to level-up that most RPGs have.

      The interplay with other humans is essential to roleplaying. You can't roleplay with a computer program... at least not until we achieve true AI. Sure, you can make gameplay choices "in character" but that's not truly roleplaying. MUDs and MMORPGs will be the only way to truly roleplay on a computer for a long time.

      I'm looking forward to Neverwinter Nights, and hoping intensely that the developers will eventually support the folks who are trying to put together persistent worlds. That's the next step -- homegrown persistent worlds with a rich graphical interface.

  • by MonkeyBot ( 545313 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:18PM (#3230956)
    I've been playing UO on and off for about 5 years now. I tried EverQuest for a while, and although I could see how one could get into it, I still liked UO better.
    However, both companies still have an advantage over all the newcomers--they have a game engine that they have been tweaking for a long, long time. I think that when the new generation of these MMORPGs come out and drag players away from UO/Everquest, Origin and whoever makes Everquest (I forget) will wise up and start selling an engine to the next generation of MMORPG makers so that they can implement a (hopefully) more debugged game more rapidly. It just seems logical; when your itellectual property stops making money in one arena, move to another...
    ...but that's just my 2 cents, and that's about all it's worth.
    • Several reasons:

      1) These engines and more specificalyy their server backends are highly customized. The backends are designed to play THAT GAME and nothing else. Customizability was never a thought. It probably wouldn't even run on different hardware. Since the client software is useless without a coresponding server, it'd pretty much be an all or nothing deal.

      2) MMORPGs are a recuring revenue stream. When people buy the game they keep on paying until they are bored. Therefore it is not in your best intrests to have any competition at all. You don't know how many people I kew a year or so ago said "Ya I hate lots about EQ, but it's the only thing available" and then jumped ship to DAoC when it came out.

      3) Mature in this case also means outdated. I can't speak on UP because I've never seen it, but the EQ engine really shows it's age. Several guys at work play it and there are some real problems. Yes they enhance the graphics, etc, however when you really look at it, there are some major problems. IT takes a lot of power for something that looks so bad (even with the new graphics).

      Due to the highly customized nature I just don't think you'll see the engines getting sold. IF someone wants to make a game like this, it's going to be mostly custom anyhow. They might start by picking up a 3d engine, but in that case there are things like Quake 3 for sale. As for the bulk of the code, it's going to be their orignal work.
    • Dispite popular belief, MMORPGs did not start when you started playing UO.

      UO and Everquest are both game engines that have only been around for about 5 years. MMRPGs have been around for about 15-20, but they're all text based. The "engines" are already fully evolved, and in some cases are more complicated than Everquest's or UO's.

      And they're free.

      For some people, this interface is a problem, but really its only a temporary one. Because they're free, development is slower - less people are doing the development.

      But that doesn't mean its not happening. Its quite likely that these rich, powerful systems will replace UO as soon as graphical interfaces are easy to deal with.

      If you don't believe me, consider that the only text-based system that works quite well with a gui now - majormud - is actually quite successful as a commercial product system (this one you have to pay for though).
      If Origin and Everquest would release their game engine code, it would quickly be swallowed by the older mmorpgs and no one would pay for it.

      Even if they don't, its only a matter of time before its all free because people like me would like to use their free time to work on this, and are quite entertained by creating worlds and having others interact in them.
  • MMORPGs will move towards having a real economy [], where people live out their lives totally online. When you can make more money hunting monsters in a cave than coding in a cube, ill jump in too!
    • This article is excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the intelligent focus on copyright and intellectual property issues as MMOGs slide towards greater and greater online content. Admittedly, I haven't played an MMOG since the Tradewars days, but the idea still fascinates me. The most thrilling idea surrounding this topic as far as I am concerned however, is that of inter-game compatability. It seems only a short matter of time before, at first multiple games by the same company, but eventually games by competing companies, support the transfer of characters and wealth between game worlds.

      From that point I can imagine very easily that the drive towards standards and cross-compatability would result in the creation of a standardized "meta-game" in which characters could interact devoid of any rules or constructions aside from user created content and the "laws of physics" of the virtual world. Some users, of course, would become massive creators of original content in effect turning their corners of the meta-game into games in their own right(whether free or requiring an admission fee). Of course the commercial games would still exist and could be easily entered at any time from the meta-game, but the meta-game itself would provide the perfect level for many types of interactions and for encouraging a seamless gaming experience.

      There is only one small step left from there to envision this meta-game expanding to include near-infinite non-game content and eventually replacing what is now WWW-space with an avatar driven virtual world such as that envisioned in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

      Of course, everything i have just said is speculation and supposition, but my real point is that what is going on in the world of MMOGs may be something that warrants attention even from those who aren't gamers themselves. People may one day talk about EverQuest the way people to day talk about an old DoD project called ARPANet...
  • by Xenopax ( 238094 ) <xenopax AT cesmail DOT net> on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:19PM (#3230962) Journal
    The problem with MMORPGs right now is the players can't shape the world. It would be so much fun if players could build cities, destroy cities, take power over a nation, remove a person from power, eliminate an entire species of animal, etc. Sure at times you'll have things unbalanced, but as long as you have methods to rebalance it shouldn't be an issue (like destroying a boulder that stopped a river). Also it would be nice missions involved more than one person. For instance the game could give a high level character a mission that would take too long for him to finish by himself, but he could hire lower level people for a negotiated reward to help him along.

    But like all people on slashdot I only have ideas and no plans to actually implement the crap I think up. ;)
    • I agree, the problem is that design of game systems has not reached a level where we can design a stable system. Every gaming world has these rules, and the rules are designed to increase the amount of power in the world through the accumulation of experience by players. Of course all this experience comes from the infinite supply of bad guys to kill. Thus the system is by design, unstable. The only system like this is UO, but uo has a problem with overcrowding, so UO is stable by artificial limits, not by natural design.

      Real life may or may not be stable by design, but it much better then the gaming worlds that we have created. Unlike in UO, AO, or EQ, god doesn't have to intervene on a daily basis and reset the world, resusrect players, or nerf items/abilitys . (At least not to my knowledge, maybe god did, which is why the bible is so interesting) :)
    • Also it would be nice missions involved more than one person. For instance the game could give a high level character a mission that would take too long for him to finish by himself, but he could hire lower level people for a negotiated reward to help him along.

      Obivously you're not an EQ player. There are many many quests that pretty much require the assitance of other players. Some require dozens of other players (to defeat a spectacular enemy, for instance).

      Every class has an Epic Weapon, and I don't think an Epic exists that doesn't require a huge party at some point.

      • Yes, I realize that there are quests that need more power, but the point is if something could be subdivided it would be much better. Like assebling an artifact that needs 500 parts, not one person would want to get them all, but he could reward people who help him out.
    • Come see us. Unfortunately, release is probably still at least a year away. We made a very good showing at the Sun booth at GDC, though.
  • Pull to Supervillany (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:21PM (#3230980)
    I've always wondered why the 'supervillain' players aren't just allowed to be supervillains... Some gameplay addition that gives them a fatal flaw, or restricts them to certain 'evil lands' when they PK. The 'good guys' could then search dungeons (after finding out about the fatal flaw at the local tavern/wise man) for the 'special thing' needed to kill the evil PKer. (note: the dungeon would be off limits to the PKer, and probably anyone 'evil' and just contain monsters and the such)

    It'd be just like the predictable, mediocre plotlines of soo many stories we all love and enjoy. The PKers are happy that they can PK people foolish enough to enter their wicked realms, and the good guys can go off and fight 'eeeevil' (for great rewards of course)
    • Easy...the "Supervillains" aren't usually the roleplayers. They're people who are out to kill other characters for fun and mischief. And you can call that roleplaying to an extent, but these folks also tend to be the people who level faster than others (more playtime) so they can easily ruin other's fun.

      Stories from PKers are often funny, but I can see how it can be frustrating from an RPers point of view.
    • by Psmylie ( 169236 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:52PM (#3231242) Homepage
      A better system might be to put a bounty on the heads of any PKers, and post the username in some sort of "post-office" type place. The person who kills that player not only gets to keep his stuff, but gets a reward (and gets to PK without being branded a PK'er). You would quite quickly see a large number of bounty hunters spring into being, along with a rapid drop in random pk'ing.
      • believe me- this system does not work. Putting money on players heads doesnt convince them not to PK- it attracts them- it says "I'm on top of the Murderer board". I was Public Enemy number 1 for quite a while on the UO server I was on- when I had enough money on my head, I logged into UO on another computer- killed myself and took the head in for the bounty. Then resurrected- took the stat-loss and started working my char again. Within a couple of days i was back in form to PK again. Believe me- there is nothing more amusing than killing a bunch of people on your own- with them complaining because they feel Im "evil" I should somehow let them kill me because they are good.. "Evil will always triumph, because good is dumb" - Dark Helmet
  • More games are coming out, but the gaming populace doesn't seem to be joining in. The existing market is fragmenting. Perhaps there is a substantial number of gamers who are waiting for one particular game to arrive before they join online. I have my own complaint. I chose Asheron's Call and played for three months after watching friends try out Everquest. All four of us quit EQ and AC, the other three tried both first. For us, the fundamental hook of eternal leveling simply is not enough to make us play. This incessant cycle of endless battles for weak rewards do not make these games fun for us. Two of my friends play Diablo II still, so I think they if anyone should have the will power to fight hordes for hours at a time.

    What seems to be lacking for me is a real sense of accomplishment. Leveling up is not fun in and of itself. The quests I do must actually matter to the game world. The game should change because of what I do. I should have other options besides fighting to earn credits. The classic game of Pirates! comes to mind. I want to be a trader sometimes, also a politician if I desire. Not just a patron, but I want government, and generals, military commands and so on. Neocron has some of these ideas.

    Unfortunately what I want is like ten games in one. But that's exactly what every company must strive for. Releasing the hack and slash game, followed by the trading game, followed by the political game, followed by the military/bounty/mercenary/thief-type game. Last but not least, if the world has horses or cars, there needs to be a racing game, not just on tracks, but street races. All of this must be available together and integrated.

    I know I ask the near-impossible, but if the game makers want me to devote my real life to their virtual world for years to come, shouldn't their world be at least as interesting as reality?

    • The problem is that if the world changes because of what you do, it will also change because of what the other 500K players do. What you do wont matter, in the end, because we all want to be heroes, Gandalf, Aragorn, Frodo, but if we all were there would be no difference and we'd be back to not making a difference.

      Or should the games cater to the 10% players who have no job or life? That's what the feeble attempts at PVP MMORPG's do. 90% of the players get to be 0wN3D by the 10% who have no life.

      Successful games will be the ones where you can do little to become special. People dont want to play the part of the victims or cheering public to other people playing heroes.

      You ask the near impossible, but perhaps some day someone will implement it. But probably not as a commercial venture, because it is unlikely to be profitable or popular.
      • I would of agreed with this until the Sims came around. It seems that if gameplay is challenging/rewarding enough, poeple will be quite happy to play a member of the mob. For many people the escapism/fantasy element is still there(the desire to be Aragorn) but for others, being a productive happy hobbit is escapism enough. Particularly if(as the Entropia [www.project-entropia] people are trying to do) a system gets developed which fully supports gamecash==realcash, rather than just really-cool-game-stuff==cash/fraud-from-EBay. I can imagine a lot of people who might think that spending a lot of time doing challenging and rewarding but unspectacular game tasks and making real world coin for it was as worthwhile as spending a lot of time trying to be a hero and maybe just ending up with a character who dies a lot(with a possible gamecash/realcash cost for resurrection). Of course you would still want a healthy helping of heroes, or else the game might get boring(only might mind you, there are No heroes in the Sims), but still... someone might just be able to pull off a game world which actually supported a heroic framework, adoring mobs and all.
      • Nevertheless, developers are still on crack if they expect more people to play for two to three years just to level up endlessly. I think its possible to create a game where the 90% are just as powerful as the 10%. When the players decide they want to kill the evil NPC Mordrath who is in his castle deep in the mountains of Sloemp, everyone can take part in the battles to eradicate his minions from the mountains, lay seige to their towns, and finally kick his ass, which mind you will require cooperation from tens or hundreds of players.

        How much one participates in this living world is up to the player, but the designers will have to stay on their toes to keep the world interesting. I figure this can be done, but it will take committment.

    • "More games are coming out, but the gaming populace doesn't seem to be joining in."

      Do you have any figures to back that up? I haven't been able to get exact numbers, but subscription numbers for both Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot seem to be quite high. (EQ over 370,000 last I looked; DAoC over 150,000?) Verant recently mentioned that every successive MMOG rollout has actually increased EQ numbers, possibly because it increased interest in the genre in general.

      I highly doubt the Sims Online will take away from EQ subscribers; it'll likely increase the market by a huge amount. Neocron, Planetside, and other games with a twitch factor will increase the market once again; the space games like EVE will make it even larger; franchises like Star Wars and World of Warcraft will bring in casual gamers (if the games are accessible enough), making the market huge.

      Current numbers don't seem to support your claim, and the future looks even brighter for the genre. I agree that to be successful they need to get away from the stupid leveling treadmills you mentioned, but even if they screwed that up (which the Sims won't, for example), they'd still be able to bring in a pile of cash.
  • by gatekeep ( 122108 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:22PM (#3230996)
    This article raises a number of interesting points. Not the least of which, is what are these things? Are they games, of other worlds of existence? A place for enjoyment, or a metaverse of sorts?

    In my mind, they need to evolve beyond games and give users a reason to take part rather than stat building and killing progressively larger monsters. As a beta tester for Ultima Online, and short term user of several other systems I can tell you that gets boring real quick.

    The problem, as I see it, is how to deal with that small percent of the population who want to just cause trouble for everyone else. Pkilling, newbie killing, etc will always be something people want to do. The key is to protect people from it while not breaking the suspension of disbelief that gets us so caught up in the world, and still allowing these sorts of things for those who want to take part.

    Can you imagine how boring the metaverse would be if Hiro Protaganist just slashed through all the black and white avatars, simply because he could? That wouldn't go far to lure new users.

    To continue the metaverse analogy, allowing users to carve out their own niche is a real bonus. MUDs, MUSHs, etc. have almost all had some capacity to allow the players to build the world. The metaverse allows people to create homes, buildings, hell even the Black Sun.. but in MMORPGs so far that feature has been poorly implemented. UO allows for building houses and hiring shopkeepers, but the former just cluttered the landscape, while the latter became pack animals for most players.

    In short, this article asks some good questions. I can't think of any easy answers to any of them, but it's good to see people discussing this in an open forum.
    • The problem, as I see it, is how to deal with that small percent of the population who want to just cause trouble for everyone else

      Griefers is what my firends and I call them and yes, they will always be there. One way to deal with them is how we did on the MUD I used to admin: we banned them. There were rules about things you couldn't do. For example you couldn't kill someone X levels below you UNLESS they were dumb enough to start something. You broke the rules, first we warned you, then we helled (basically a temporary ban) you, then we erased your account and banned you from comming back.

      However a better solution is what the people from Shadowbane are going to try: count on griefers and build the game knowing they will be there. I won't bore you with tons of details but basically they are trying to design it so that griefers force you to join a guild, since they'll be jerks otherwise. IF you're in a guild, you are then protected by that guild and so on.

      It reamins to be seen if the Shadowbane implementation will work, but all in all it's a good idea: Count on the fact that there will be griefers and design the game to have mechanisms to get around them.

  • Personally, I think DIY MMOGs are the way to go...basically you release a toolset that allows someone to make thier own world with a pre-existing framework of rules...then you can turn the players loose in them.

    It's not massive, but it is multiplayer...and people can restrict access to thier worlds as they see fit...ending the days of l337 camper and catass man.

    Oh yeah..that's Neverwinter Nights, and its coming out in June...

    I think the MMOG 'industry' is about to get a nasty surprise.
    • NWN is close... but it is not designed to support a persistent world, it's designed for episodic adventures.

      Not that that's stopping people. I was involved with one group of people planning a persistent world set in the Forgotten Realms. And it wasn't the only one. But there were two big problems:

      First, the game isn't designed to represent a persistent world, and the game system isn't designed to be played in real time. One spell per day? Hah! Who's going to play a first level wizard. There are some ways to get around this, but as of the last developer chat I attended, none of the developers had the time to worry about persistent world problems... they had enough on their plate already. And I'm sure it's only gotten worse. Some did express interest in going back after release (and after bug patches) and looking into a persistent world addon, but it was only talk. So, everytime we turned around, there was another hurdle to overcome, or question unanswered, specifically because we wanted a persistent world.

      The other problem is cost. It costs a lot to run a server and provide the bandwidth necessary. How are you going to pay for it? Advertising? Monthly dues? Subscription fees? Sales of in-game items? Suggest any of these to your prospective audience and you'll get flamed and derided. The proposal to charge just $10/month pretty much ended our aspirations... the discussion forums where we GMs were coordinating and soliciting comments descended into namecalling and bagbiting, and I left. Eventually the project server went offline and never came back up.

      The other thing we discovered was that there are a lot of people who don't want to roleplay -- they want to hack and slash, PK, or do both while playing a Drizzt clone. I can't tell you how many people introduced themselves with a character description of "Dark Elf with two scimitars" and half of those wanted to play an evil paladin or something equally far outside the rules. We got sick of munchkins even before we got our first look at the design tools.

      Despite all that, there's going to be people using NWN to set up persistent worlds. But because it isn't designed for them, they aren't going to be very common nor very good. The best ones will probably be distributed over many interconnected servers with "portals" between them. However, until someone designs a toolkit for building persistent MUD-like worlds, DIY multiplayer online RPGs will be a thing of the future.

  • by eison ( 56778 )
    Red Dwarf figured it all out years ago, watch "Better Than Life" []
  • ...but sitting around the table with a pen and paper and a few dice is much more fun than staring at a Monitor for several hours...
  • They all look virtually the same. This problem has been brought up with regards to other game genres, too...but I think the most important thing that MMORPGs would be able to do in the future is present a really new, innovative environment - one that doesn't focus on "Wander around, kill things, get stuff, sell stuff so you can wander around, killing bigger things".

    Maybe an MMORPG with some real meat to the ability to develop a world, i.e. Ultima Online 2k2 (and I mean a really new version, not just the updated client). Maybe one that has real, obvious, easy-to-get-involved with politics and stock marketing built in. Heck, maybe one like Freedom Force [], where you can destroy everything, except with the addition of a building mode. Something to get out of the "Kill to get bigger to kill bigger things until you can sell your character on eBay" mindset.

  • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:27PM (#3231032)
    ...the creators of EverQuest, Asheron's Call, World of Warcraft, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars Galaxies, Anarchy Online, and others in the same room together?

    Wow. Throw some heavy-duty padlocks on that door and you'll have just increased geek productivity by about 800%.

    And if they start asking for food and water, just tell 'em to /petition it...

  • Two years ago, we saw several companies trying to impulse "a new way to surf the net" (cuecat, anyone?). It turned out that people were happy to type URLs and use search engines, thank you.
    My point is, there are plateaus. There are points when you have to say "this is good enough, no need to spend a lot more time and money for less return". Some call it the 80-20 law.
    I believe MMORPGs are very close to their plateaus now. There are only so many more changes that can be made without the need for mayor investent, both from enterprises and users, that I don't see happening anytime soon.
    MMORPGs are almost as good as they're going to get, at least on fun factor.
    I'm not trolling. I'm just sick of "the sky's the limit" mentality, when there's always a practical limit, and it's often closer than you want to believe.
    Sorry about the rant. I'll shut up now and return to my rocking chair.
  • Online games will continue to be released in an incomplete state and their owners will fully expect the players to pay for finishing the game. That's the future of MMORPG's.
  • Check out Joystick101 [] for some more first-hand reports on the various talks and presentations that went on at GDC 2002. Particularly this one [] and this one [].
  • I think that as we become more and more online, games will be the first to switch from a product like it is today to a totally service based system. You may goto a store and buy a cd that starts you off, but eventutally the game will be totatlly downloaded off the internet. It's already happening today in small amounts with EQ, UO, AC, and AO. Valve just realeased that technology that allows you to download a game completly from the internet.
    If content providers hooked up with cable and DSL providers, and provided caching servers closer to the customer, there would be almost no wait for your games. That's something I can see people paying for.
    Old school distribution is definatatly going to dissapear in the long run. Maybe not until the X-Box 3 or the PS5, but there will be a console released that you just plug into the internet, monitor/TV and wall. No CDROM/DVD drive, just games. The only thing that is stopping it today is bandwidth and the fact that Sony makes an amazing amount of money for those silver disks.
    It really makes sense because right now they are almost doing it right now. Think about how many times you have had to buy the same game but slightly updated for the new system. Is Civ III really 50 dollars better then Civ II? Most sequels are just the same game, better graphics. The only difference is that you can NOT buy the new game, but if they charged a monthly fee then you have no choice, it's pay to play. Though I hope that they will charge less since they will be able to get much better market data from the consumer if the consumer has to download the game to play it.
    • I think that as we become more and more online, games will be the first to switch from a product like it is today to a totally service based system. You may goto a store and buy a cd that starts you off, but eventutally the game will be totatlly downloaded off the internet.

      As a former Associate Producer for an MMORPG, I've had my hands slightly into the marketing and financials of these types of games and I can tell you two things:

      First, the serious players already treat their game as a service instead of a product. Witness Premium Subscriptions, which are justified as a direct copy of the Premium Service Plans you can get from more traditionally service-oriented companies.

      Second, box sales aren't going away any time soon. The profit from retail on a new MMORPG is too big of a carrot to ignore. It provides a little bit of financial help for what is already a very very financially risky business (the game industry in general, and it's many times worse when you factor in the added costs of developing and launching an MMO title). A couple companies have tried allowing downloads already, but that was mainly out of desperation.
  • Of course, user-created content has a lot of sticky issues. Raph Koster, former Lead Designer for Ultima Online and current Creative Director for Sony Online Entertainment and Star Wars Galaxies, expressed the problem without mincing words: "Our corporations are terrified of this." Intellectual property, ownership, and copyright issues are just the beginning of the uncharted territory. More importantly, how can a game design rationalize the desire to give players creative power with the need for a controlled environment? Are the two mutually exclusive? Solving this problem seemed to be the top agenda in the next generation of games.

    Why do corporations think they can control user-created content as their own, in MMORPG's? We have enough of this problem in the real world, just with their damn license agreements.

    What an MMORPG needs is a GPL-like license, that way, all changes are made availible in return for promoting the world's depth. It doesn't have to be programming, but anything created from the world's sense of creation.

    People make worlds, to achieve their own goals, not give corps fatter pockets.
  • I agree w/ alot of the developers' comments except for one: "How do you make a player who spends five hours a month [playing] still feel relevant to the game world?"

    The easy answer is: You Shouldn't.

    The whole point of a MMORPG is to immerse yourself into a digital world. It's not like playing a quick starcraft game. 5 hrs a month isn't even enough to develop a good Diablo II charactar, and most people (me included) feel that D2 is too simple and should've been more in-depth. If someone is only willing to play 5 hrs a month then they're probably not willing to buy the game.

    trying to cater to this "vaporous" crowd will only make the game suck
    • You're right! Only people who sacrifise real life for their virtual life should be catered to. After all, those are the people that really matter right? The ones who live in their mom's basement and live "life" though IRC romances...

      Games are a release, therefore, you shouldn't have to put an ungodly number hours into it to get somewhere. something out of it, or to begin to have fun. In other words, go outside at least once a week.

      • Uh, hello, 5 hours a month is about 1.2 hours a week. That's nothing at all. How many people are going to pay $10 a month for 5 hours of play? Thats $2 an hour. Do you think someone will pay $120 a year for that? I don't think so. Anyone who does is an idiot, and I think they make up a very small segment of the market. If gamers don't contribute more to the game, they will never feel relevant. Its more important that developers figure out how to make the gamers' contributions relevant. If the gamer has a genuine impact on the world, and currently gamers don't, then they will feel relevant.

        • Uh, hello, 5 hours a month is about 1.2 hours a week. That's nothing at all. How many people are going to pay $10 a month for 5 hours of play? Thats $2 an hour. Do you think someone will pay $120 a year for that? I don't think so. Anyone who does is an idiot...

          It would not make them idiots, it would make them a) casual players and/or b) people with limited time available to play. I know several people who are casual MMORG players who only play a couple of days a month. I am one of them. I average between 10-15 hours per month in my MMORG.

          Would I like to play more? No, I have a full life with plenty of interests and a good job. The 10-15 hours a month I play provides me with enough time to feel satisfied without getting burned out on the game. It is also enough time to keep in touch with my Guild friends and how everyone is doing. Do my characters advance as fast as most others? No. Do I participate in all the guild events, raids, etc? No. Does it bother me, no.

          I get as much out of the game as I am willing to put into it. It is worth the $12/month to me (by your standards I am $24/year more foolish than the average casual player). I spend much more a month on going to the movies and WAY more a month on soda. Actually, I tend to save money because I no longer buy 2-3 new games a month. My subscription fee is automagically deducted from my account, and I play when and only when I am in the MOOD to play... a very important factor. Playing a game for the sake of maximizing your time/dollar is just dumb. Playing when you really WANT to play, maximizes your ENJOYMENT per dollar.

          Politeness note: calling someone an Idiot when you don't see their Point-Of-View doesn't prove they are an Idiot, but it might indicate that you are one. Caveat Orator.


  • Painful Memories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pyrrho ( 167252 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:42PM (#3231166) Journal
    I worked in online gaming from 1992 to 1998 and we built a MMORG that never got to see the light of day.

    During it's development it suffered from many of the things mentioned in this article.

    (1) was it a game? No one knew, it ended up being made into an interface for our other previously developed games (like Spades and Poker and Bass Lake Fishing). The RPG aspect and personal space customization were to be done later, after this was decided. So the answer was, no it wasn't a game.

    (2) it's for adults more than kids, and at the time people still thought only kids played video games (ooops, kids grow up and... still play)

    (3) we were hot enough to be bought by AT&T and then AOL... ug, death!

    (4) finally, we were around before the (commercialized) net and had a you-have-to-build-it-yourself mentality. This is not a "not invented here" syndrome, when we started making network games in 1991, you really did have to build it yourself. Email, chat, everything. We didn't survive all the help we would get, and never leveraged the explosion of the net to our advantage... instead it was a sort of tsunami that swamped us.

    (5) Violence: it sells, the 3d "revolution" in games is associated with it. Making a peaceful game hedging on community and social play, construction exploration and politics... why, it's a hard sell now, it was even harder then. Thank god for the Sims for opening this up a little, potentially.

    BTW: I still remember how to make these things... our technology could support tens of thousands of people on the hosts where there was no limit to packing, but you saw only the closest couple hundred people. It sits unused, now owned, I think, by EA. The hosts are in use for non-mmorg use, oddly enough. Inside these hosts people playing mundane card games have existence in a 3D world because the message passing paradigm is great... but they don't move in the 3D space and essentially sit in a matrix keeping track of an unpresented 3D position in the world.
  • by Binky The Oracle ( 567747 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:44PM (#3231182)

    When I first stepped into Everquest, it was magical. This was the first online game I had tried and it was simply amazing that there was an actual person on the other end of that halfling.

    While the magic and novelty is largely gone, I can't help but think that these MMORPGs are destined for the business world. Five years ago all I heard about was the coming virtual reality - meetings in cyberspace... working from home with an avatar in a virtual meeting room.

    Well, I've been playing in one of those for the last year or so. With some minor tweaks and feature enhancements, this technology is ripe for virtual/avatar-based meeting spaces. Instead of logging in to the goblin city, I'll enter a building. My conference is going to be in the third door on the left (the door will be pulsing softly and there will be arrows pointing the way from reception).

    I'll enter the room and the people I'm going to meet with will be there also. I can look at the "screen" and see the presentation, whisper to the person next to me... or the person at the other end of the table for that matter, raise my hand, whatever. I might even be able to have my macro script take control and nod appropriately so I can nip off to the mall and do some shopping while it records the presentation for me.

    Yes, this is years down the road, especially for it to become an accepted business practice... but it will start with someone convincing their boss that the next staff meeting should be held in the North Freeport tavern or the Inn of Rivervale. Once it does happen, it will do more to eliminate the need for employees to be in the same place as their employers...

    And that will be pretty cool.

    • Gee...go after the co-workers with a sword or M-16. Give a whole new angle to team-killing.

      Seriously - sounds like overkill for having a meeting. Then again, I can run around in Doom and kill processes on my machine, so each to their own.

      "User *BANNED* from server for TKing Networking Team"

      See boss...the server won't let me in, but this 24/7 Overlord server did.
      • It's certainly overkill for a meeting where everyone's in the same building, but what about a meeting where you have people in different states or even on different continents?

        This kind of technology seems like a good substitute for videoconferencing which takes up way more bandwidth and provides less functionality. Add some intuitive way to provide emotional cues when needed (smiling, laughing) or voice over IP technology, and I think this would be a pretty cool solution.

        • Still overkill. Why do I need to move around, jump, look at things to see them?

          Instead provide something like Netmeeting (that works with multiple people) - or basically any voice chat. Wanna see the presentation, put it on the common chat area, or at least a link to it.

          Then again, I guess if you have a QIII engine and a crappy video card and don't follow the directions in the presentation, you can always claim that it was rendered different on your machine.

          It's not that I don't think it'd be cool - just kinda counter-productive.
  • Just one thing.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The_dev0 ( 520916 ) <> on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:46PM (#3231191) Homepage Journal
    The only reason I don't play any of the better MMORPG's about is a reason I think alot of people will agree with. If I just paid $50 or more for a game, thats it. I have a real problem with ongoing payment (mostly because I dont own a credit card)toward a game I already own! I understand it costs money to keep the servers up and other stuff, but hey, make the game slightly more expensive on initial purchase and eliminate the ongoing payment. I won't pay to play on principle. I would maybe consider it if the game cost had a ceiling, ie: you buy the game, pay to play for 12 months, then it becomes free. When a mate showed me Asheron's Call and explained how it worked, the only thing I could hear were the cash registers going off in my head.

    So let me get this straight, you pay $50 for the game, then $12.95 every month? And how long have you been playing now? *ching ching*

    • or
      Have the intial software you buy be a game in its own right, then charge for people who want to play online.
      • Good call, friend. I'm sure that there are a lot of people at home playing a quiet game of Baldurs Gate 2 or Diablo 2 as we speak. I myself have been playing the Baldurs series since release and have never played it online (I do LAN with friends, though). Even the Quake3 idea of 'bots' inhabiting the game world is better than nothing, and it would justify the price of some of these games that are basically unplayable unless you are logged on to the game server. It would also give newbies a chance to get their shit in one sock (so to speak) before jumping on-line and getting vaporised.
    • There are more problems with the payment plan you propose than I can immediatly explain, but I will have a go.

      Firstly, these games cost more than single player games to develop. Much more. Costs relating to the current generation, and the next generation in development are between 5 and 10 times as expensive as a typical single player game. If all they got was the initial purchase price, it would not be economically viable at all.

      When it comes down to it, $12.95 per month is really not that much. When you compare it with the cost versus playtime of most games out there, then its very good value. The playtime of games is shorter than it used to be, and it looks like its going to get shorter still. I am not a hardcore gamer by any means, and I played the last two games I bought in less the a week each. I imagine that a teenager with fast reflexes and plenty of free time would have been able to finish them in a day.

      The current payment model covers the costs quite nicely. A burst of revenue early on to cover a proportion of the development costs, and the costs of setting up the servers, followed by a steady, if gradually declining revenue stream to cover the costs of updates, new content and operational costs. If anything the proportion of the cost covered by subscription is going to rise rather than fall, and the idea of a company letting you play for free after your initial subscription period is a pipe dream.

  • The current genre of the titles mentioned in the article is MMOLG, Massively Multiplayer Online Levelling Games. (I admit though, some like to call new titles in this genre "More Meaningless Online Running Past Groups").
  • by jheinen ( 82399 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @06:52PM (#3231235) Homepage
    The central focus of all MMORPGs is the economy, and so far all of them have weak or artificial economies. The rewards of playing stem from the game economy and in order to be truly compelling the economy has to be robust and realistic. Take EQ for example. The economy is really driven by two things - experience (which can't be traded) and equipment, all of which exist in essentially unlimited quantities. Spend enough time and you can get everything the world has to offer.

    What is needed is an economy that motivates people to cooperate and simultaneously drives conflict. Think RTS combined with RPG. There should be certain resources that are finite in availablity, but necessary for progress. To get the resources you need you can either find them, buy them, or steal them. To help this along there should be factions or groups to which you can belong and from which you derive certain benefits that help you get the resources you need. This sets up a natural conflict between competing groups vieing for the same limited pool of resources. You are effectively forced to ally with others in order to achieve your aims, since it is easier to defend your resources when you group together. In order to get some resources, it might be necessary to pool resources, for example to get enough cash to purchase a piece of equipment that enhances resource production. You would essentially be investing in an enterprise and expecting a return on that investment. The game could even support a stock trading system in which you could invest in various enterprises based on your interests and desires.

    Once you have an economy figured out, everything else comes together. You don't need to provide monsters or quests, since the dynamic of the game creates them all on its own. You get people working with or against each other, which is what it should be about anyway. Other humans are going to be far more interesting and challenging opponents or allies than any AI creature.

    • Other humans are going to be far more interesting and challenging opponents or allies than any AI creature.

      umm ... HAL?

    • Heh, finally someone that agrees with me. Economy is something I've never seen replicated properly in any game, anywhere. They either fail to emulate resource gathering sufficiently, or they make it too tedious, or they don't make the system zero sum (which I've always felt is vitally important, someone has to lose so someone can win).

      However, there's one big problem with your ideas. ;)

      > Other humans are going to be far more
      > interesting and challenging opponents or allies
      > than any AI creature.

      This is something I've watched a bit with the recent release of Dark Age of Camelot. The lesson learned? Players HATE to lose. If someone beats them, their first inclination is to assume there's a problem with game balance and they appeal to the developers to fix the balance. In short, players expect that they will always win. Very, very few people can soak up a loss without complaining, get back on their feet, and go at it again. They ALWAYS blame game imbalances.

      Computer controlled conflict doesn't have this flaw, or at least not nearly as badly. Players are better at accepting that a comptuer is more impartial, even in th face of suspecting the computer is artificially buffed up to make the fight a challenge (ie, compensate for poor AI). Or else, they blame the developer (which happens no matter what they do, so it's mostly down to deciding what kind of blame the developer wants to cope with).

      But I digress. As interesting as human opponents look on paper, in practice, they end up being an amazing pain in the ass to a developer, which is something I highly reccomend not overlooking. ;)
      • I would have to disagree. In EQ people lose all the time. The pain of death is lessened by the fact that you don't really lose much. You can go out and reclaim your corpse and its posessions.

        True, people don't like to lose, but if you're bothered by it that much, why play at all? If there are no losers and only winners, it's no longer a game. The key is to make the consequences of losing commensurate with your investment in the game. If you have to spend hours and hours building your character, then death shouldn't be a huge penalty. If, on the other hand, all players are basically created equal, then there is no problem. There are all sorts of ways to make death and losing not so bad. As long as you return to the game reasonably close to where you left, there shouldn't be a problem. User education is important too. It needs to be stressed that it's a *game* and that people lose. In a role-playing situation, losing can be as fun as winning if done right.
        • In EQ people lose all the time.

          Umm, no. They might *die* all the time, but they don't actually *lose*.

          The pain of death is lessened by the fact that you don't really lose much. You can go out and reclaim your corpse and its posessions.

          You see? This has nothing to do with the zero-sum economy as you are suggesting.

          The key is to make the consequences of losing commensurate with your investment in the game. If you have to spend hours and hours building your character, then death shouldn't be a huge penalty. [...] As long as you return to the game reasonably close to where you left, there shouldn't be a problem.

          But that is contrary to a zero-sum economy! In a real (capitalist, at least) economy, your risk goes proportional with your investment, i.e. the more you have invested, the more you can lose. What you're demanding is an economy where people have a guaranteed return on investment, or at least are protected from losing too much of their investment. This is not a zero-sum economy, at least not a competitive one.

          The main problem with a zero-sum game you'll run into is that those who have lost can simply quit the game and restart with a newly created character. This implicitly will make your game non-zero-sum: the wealth (money, objects, whatever) that they've lost to others cannot be taken away from the players who have won it, but whenever a new player joins the game, the total amount of wealth must be increased (otherwise the economy as a whole would become poorer whenever a new player joins). So you have a constant supply of extra wealth by players who join the game, lose, then quit. Note that this system is not only non-zero-sum, it will probably also be exploited heavily.

          The only option is to make sure that players never lose or gain too much, but then the economy wouldn't be competetive any more and doesn't generate any real conflicts by itself, so you'd again be stuck in a game that requires you to introduce artificial conflicts (e.g. the inifinte supply of monsters that current games have).

          It needs to be stressed that it's a *game* and that people lose.

          Not true. It's a gaming world, not a game. The fact that you don't mind losing e.g. a board game is that a board game is designed to be a competition. This means you're starting of equal and that you're competing for a limited period of time. In an online gaming world, you expect players to stay forever, so *everyone* must have some motivation to stay. "You've lost" might be fine if it's at the end of a fun game, but not if the next time you're starting the game you're starting of where you left. Imagine playing Monopoly, losing, and when you start the next time, being asked to start with only the money you had when the previous game ended. Would you want to play? That is the situation in an online gaming world.

          BTW, here is an article [] describing that a more competitive economy has been tried in UO, but failed due to the exact problems described by the parent post -- players don't like to lose.

          • The MOO I am an administrator on, CyberSphere [], had an economy re-vamp three or so years ago. A player had figured out an exploit to get endless money, so we shut the entire economy down and re-did it as a zero sum economy.

            What you said about new players quitting at any point and changing the economy is a good point. We've set a limited number of 'credits' (the currency most of the people use), that slowly increases. People arriving draws money from the welfare fund, which is repleneshed by the various corporations [], which gain and lose money on the stock market and through other actions. Players start on the streets with next to nothing, and most of the rich ones have created their wealth through finding a niche and exploiting it instead of through mere coded actions. Instead of performing coded automated tasks for a paltry sum, they create a role where they can milk dozens of people doing the automated tasks to gather even more resources. Muggings, implanting cyberwear, selling drugs.... a variety of characters have fulfilled a variety of self-built roles, creating interaction and conflict through economic means, and avoiding having to introduce too many artificial conflicts as you warn against.

            The only problem I've found is increasing the size of the drain. It's easy to pump money into the player economy. Creating jobs, missions, quests... it's easy to come up with a dozen detailed coded systems to provide money. It's taking the money back out that's a problem. We have rent, and disadvantages for living in cardboard boxes or such. Large apartments which hold a variety of gear or garages that store vehicles cost money. Vehicle armor needs re-building, computers break or have one-shot programs, and medicine decays. But short of staging large administrator-run raids on player hoards, I've found it hard to think of realistic ways to increase the size of the drain when a bottleneck occurs in the player economy. Once a player has 'won', they have no motivation not to sit on their hoard. And in a zero-sum economy, this stagnates the game. Many of our players [] have a mature attitude about it. They play and scheme and plot until they've 'won', and then stage their own defeat, allowing their gear and money to be taken by a pack of young blood. But certain people just want to sit on their stagnant throne for literally years. And I have yet to figure out how to encourage them off without being too heavy-handed.

            These kind of conflicts could not occur in a MMORPG. The game I refer to has only a few hundred players, usually twenty to forty people on at a given time. With a dozen or so active administrators, we can offer small plots, large game-wide campaigns, and custom-coded groups and events. The zero-sum economy forces a good amount of player on player action. But these things, like true democracy and communism, don't scale well to a massive populace.
            • What about imposing a certain percentage drain on players based on their level/prestige? It takes a certain amount of cash to maintain a certain lifestyle. Food, clothing, taxes, amusements, etc. all add up, and they are higher the richer you get. Allowing players to have a ton of wealth, but not have to spend it is unrealistic IMHO. The drain doesn't have to be on specific things like rent, armor, etc. You could charge a base percentage on all wealth each time period.
    • You've hit on the central concept of Starship Traders []. Relative to these modern games, however, it's hopelessly simple. It relies entirely on the other players to make it interesting. While there is a fledgling graphical interface [], the vast majority of players still use the more refined text interfaces, either browser or telnet.
    • You should check out Shadowbane []... they've paid alot of attention to the economy, learning from the mistakes of other MMOG's...
    • The only problem I see with a realistic economy driven game is that people are not going to stick around durring a resesion or depresion which you would have to have once people have choped down all the trees. sure you might be able to set up some kind of conservation group and not let people strip the lands, but you are going to have a depresion of no lumber for some period of time.

      With any game you really need to be able to continously grow. this also gets out of control eventualy. eventually you get to a point where you cant grow any more.

      ok off my soap box now

      • This really gets to the heart of one of the main problems with simulated worlds in general. A simulated game world has certain limitations imposed upon it. Players are not free to do whatever they want. When you have a situation like a recession in the game world, the players can only do what has been pre-coded. They can't step out of the box and try novel solutions. In real life you might try to invent some new thing to fix the problem, or pass legislation, etc. But in a game world, unless the action has been coded for, you can't do it. So your inclination might be to invent a new tree that grows faster than old trees, but unless the programmers implemented it, you can't do it.

        So the solution seems to be to have games as open ended as possible, and users having the ability to modify the game world in new ways. I don't think we're even close to being there yet.
  • I was reading this article and suddenly had a vision. Combine MMORPGS with Augmented Reality []! Let the game world coincide and merge with the real world. A virtual world (or several) layered on top of the physical world, visible only to those who are logged in.
  • This was apparently written by, a participant of elementary education only. The writing and progression were light, if not fluffy, and without competent theme or concrete style of presentation. This story effectively reduces what are clearly some intelligent and well meshed ideas into 2-second text-bit mud. Bravo, you've sucked something of worth out of the world.
  • ...scared to see the people with the greatest potential to control my future all gather together under the theme of how to milk us for all we're worth. After losing a little more than a year of my life to Everquest I'm a lot more leery of these persistent on-line worlds. I mean, I lost a lot of my life to MUDs, but I managed to fit those around a real life (well, for a geek) and still get a college education out of it. During my Evercrack phase, I gained nothing but a serious loss in productivity at work, and a nonexistent social life.

    Nothing in the gamespy article gave me the feeling that these game designers were looking to make better online worlds for us to play in. This was a business meeting designed to maximize profits and reduce risks. And these people are suppose to be competitors. When major industry leaders get together like this it doesn't bode well for their consumers. "Higher prices, less content, join today!"

    I read an article in the Wall Street Journey describing how kids today no longer fall prey to conventional advertising, as if a resistance has been built up to it over the years. I'm thinking the same thing applies to the geek community, and we don't yet have what it takes to say no to these escapist fantasy worlds. I predict a dark age in computing is coming and I weep for the future of us all.

  • by Logic Bomb ( 122875 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @07:15PM (#3231427)
    I was sort of amazed at the line about making users who only play 5 hours a month feel involved or meaningful to the game universe. I can't imagine an entertainment persuit less suited to extremely casual commitment than RPGs of any variety. This is particularly true for the medium in discussion, which continues to run 24/7. If you're in a D&D group, at least the action stops when you go home. MMORPGs inherently only appeal to people with a fairly particular interest and a high level of commitment. For goodness' sake, the whole point is to *immerse* yourself an another universe! How do you immerse in just 5 hours? ;-)
  • The people on this panel seem to have ignored the most pressing issue looming up, and that is the monetization of the MMORPG object tokens.

    Up till now MMORPGs have been too low on the radar to register for fundies who like to ban this sort of thing, politicians who want a piece of the action, and the mob, sorry, Vegas, who want all of the action.

    When you have outfits like Entropia [] blatantly charging people for their addictions [], this is when matters come to a head.

    It's already been suggested that's why companies like Mythic [] are so eager to ban online auctions of their "objects", because this turns them into at least retailers, and probably casino operators.

    Now because of the weird alliance between the mob, sorry established casino operators, and the unusual number of puritanically minded prohibitionists in the US, online gambling is effectively banned, or regulated out of the country.

    It's existed for a while [], but operators generally have to set up servers in dubious countries [] and share rack space with porn merchants.

    If MMORPGs go on developing their virtual economy, then they will soon be subject to at least taxation, probably regulation, and possibly prohibition.
  • by Patoski ( 121455 ) on Tuesday March 26, 2002 @09:35PM (#3232222) Homepage Journal

    Most developers agreed that in small communities you can rely on the user base to police itself. But large-scale games with tens of thousands of users logged in at any given time can't be counted on to effectively self-manage. Conclusion? Control the environment. Just as Disneyland keeps its attractions clean and ejects any troublemakers from the park.

    Trying to police and control your player base is a waste of time. 100,000 motivated subscribers will always find ways to circumvent arbitrary barriers and rules that game developers put in their way. Implementing these barriers steals valuable developer time and resources not only to implement these barriers but to also patch and maintain the barriers against their cunning player base. If you would instead give the player base and incentive to do the policing for you they'll do a far better job than a flotilla of developers could. I'll give you an example...

    "In the land of Yore there lies a forest where the king's finest stag's graze. These stags are known throughout the world for their tasty meat and great horns both of which are highly sought after abroad (and are Yore's top exports). Now only the king and his servant's are allowed to kill stags in the forest as the stag population is cautiously controlled so as not to thin the heard too much. Commoners (controlled by player's) have been killing the stags illegally and ruining the game's economy. Do you...

    A) Make the forest and no kill zone and technically implement this solution? Or

    B) Deputize trustworthy members of the player base and pass laws against venison trading (punishable with prison terms for the character etc) by anyone except the king's men?

    With A) your players will most likely figure out some clever way to either lure the stags out of the forest and kill them or figure out a hack which would allow them to kill stags in the forest. You'll end up spending all of your time fixing exploits that your players find and devs spend less and less time making the game more enjoyable and more time 'fixing' their game.

    With B) you get an armed guard for the stags which never sleeps nor rests. Oh, and by the way you just made your game a lot more fun and interesting! Your player's are chasing dirty rotten thieves all over the forest and countryside to make them pay for trying to ruin their beloved land!

    Some of you are probably wondering what stops a grief player from simply creating another account and griefing again? Simple, limit the number of player accounts a person can have per per credit card. In this way you limit grief players in the amount of trouble they can cause (although a little trouble can be fun and interesting). IMO it shouldn't be about trying to control user's and their experience. It should be about developer's injecting the right amount of reality into the game (where there are consequences for your actions) w/o removing the fun from the game. Game developer's: please allow players to police their own with the occasional encouragement and incentive from you to do so. The current model of "control the user's experience" is clearly broken and something needs to be done to fix it. MORGs are very costly to develop and company's don't like taking chances on unproven theories such as mine. I would very much like to see an atmosphere of experimentation and risk taking expand into the world of graphical MORGs much as was/is seen in the MUD community. This is one reason why I'm working with WorldForge. I would dearly love to promote an indie gaming scene where innovative games are created and interesting concepts tried. To take players where commercial game developers dare not tread.

    • Deputize trustworthy members of the player base and pass laws against venison trading (punishable with prison terms for the character etc) by anyone except the king's men?

      Oh, you mean like Guides, Counselors, or Advisors? Are you willing to deal with the flack when one of them either makes a wrong decision, or turns rogue and starts abusing their powers?

      There's no such thing as a totally trustworthy player. All of the major online games have had to deal with people who had gotten fairly deep into their volunteer systems only to turn around and massively abuse the privelages and abilities given to them.

      Relying on them as your only method of keeping the game clean is folly; and worse, makes you liable for whatever they do. It's a much safer decision to put that power to function as a representative of the game world (and thus, the company behind it) in the hands of someone who is being paid and is legally responsible for their actions.
      • Oh, you mean like Guides, Counselors, or Advisors? Are you willing to deal with the flack when one of them either makes a wrong decision, or turns rogue and starts abusing their powers?

        No, I mean players just playing the game however they see fit. Just give the deputies the ability and open permission to kill folks poaching in the forest. There would be no duties, no schedules... Therefore they aren't a volunteer for the company. They're just playing the game like everyone else except the deputies have a few special abilities therefore the company wouldn't be liable for what a player does in game.

        There's no such thing as a totally trustworthy player. All of the major online games have had to deal with people who had gotten fairly deep into their volunteer systems only to turn around and massively abuse the privelages and abilities given to them.

        Of course not... Just like there's no such thing as a person who tells the truth 100% of the time. Players abuse other players all the time and the companies aren't liable for their behaivor. Again, people abusing their privledges will be handled in game. A trial by their peers and subsequent jail time for the offending character (perhaps a life sentence or even execution [implementing permadeath tends to make an impression but that's another debate]). Wow, players can choose to be wandering magistrates if they want? Now there's a switch... Don't like the magistrate's decisions? Get together a petition and run him out of office! This produces interactivity and player dynamics that makes the game more interesting! The only interacting players do now is arguing on who gets the next spawn. Blech!

        Relying on them as your only method of keeping the game clean is folly

        I haven't heard you say how its folly yet. I have a rich and long history of MUDs behind me that says it will work.

        and worse, makes you liable for whatever they do.

        Again, you're not liable for the player's actions bc they aren't your volunteers, they're just ppl playing a game. Players have been abusing other players ever since MMORPGs first went online. You can reduce it dramatically but it will never be stopped completely.

        It's a much safer decision to put that power to function as a representative of the game world (and thus, the company behind it) in the hands of someone who is being paid and is legally responsible for their actions.

        And therein is the problem with modern gaming companies! All the companies take the status quo and the middle road which is the safest. This is why we're stuck playing the same game in every single MMORPG produced by large studios.

        Kill stuff and level... Wait for spawn... Kill stuff and level... That's all the current crop of games provides. Oh, joy how creative...

        You're advocating the status quo which is *clearly* broken. Players are *really* unhappy now with their gaming experience bc of virtually non existent support when they look for redress to some wrong. The reason for this is that the game companies can't hire enough service reps to police even a small fraction of the player base and enforce rules. Enlist your players to help in this policing and you have a whole new ball game.

  • All of this emphasis on building online communities.... no wonder real life communities are going to shit. Think about it- how many people do you know online, now how many people do you know in your neighborhood, and how well in each group?

    For those of you who have balanced lives, not bother replying telling me you do, I know that there are plenty of people who have satisfying online and real life interactions.

    I'm pointing this out for the people who are immersing themselves in an artificial word, and probably don't even think about talking to their neighbors.

    As unreality becomes more real than real.
  • IMHO, the Ultimate MMORPG would be The Sims + EQ (or your favorite flavour of fantasy RPG). Essentially - you get to build and change the environment, find grain control of everything, and plenty of interaction.

    I would love to go raid my Neighbor's luxury home which he just built, but forgot to put doors on.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!