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What Makes Online Worlds Fun To Explore? 42

Thanks to IGN RPGVault for their roundtable discussion on building satisfying MMORPG worlds. Rick Priestley from the forthcoming Warhammer Online argues that "There's no point in having a huge world if it's empty. Better to have a smaller, well-realized one with plenty of activity and player density", going on to voice "concerns with the idea that you should give large areas of the gameplay over to the players - building houses, raising taxes, leveling cities and so on", lest "anarchy" ensue. However, Gordon Walton from Sony Online addresses "lack of [graphical] richness", arguing that the "...primary business challenge we face with art is that the costs for first-class art continue to rise faster than our market is expanding, and that MMOGs require tremendously more art assets than the vast majority of standalone games."
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What Makes Online Worlds Fun To Explore?

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  • pixelated icons like /. has.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @01:39AM (#7288088) Journal
    Take games like quake, flight simulator and Operation Flashpoint. The best art for them is user created. FS9 is a case in point. While the engine certainly seems capable enough the default art is hideous. Spend some time downloading and you will be able to replace all the aircraft with far better looking versions that also reflect real world airlines not some hopelessy faked ones.

    The sims huge appeal (among a certain group) is that you can create your own addons like clothes and furniture. So perhaps games that play online where others can actually see your creation they should allow for user created content as well.

    Of course they are not going to want that. First time someone adds a topless piece of clothing all hell is going to break loose.

    Guess they are just going to have to find a way to create a larger customer base. Here is a tip. Get rid of credit card only subscription. Large parts of the world don't have the widespread use of credit cards. A company like sony does however have local offices pretty much every in the world. Use them to also accept local bank transfers.

    • So perhaps games that play online where others can actually see your creation they should allow for user created content as well.

      Of course they are not going to want that. First time someone adds a topless piece of clothing all hell is going to break loose.

      The other problem will be with people having to download all of that custom content, whether it's done from outside the game or inside (especially inside). No matter how much great work has been done on Quake, there is still a large percentage of the
  • Second Life (Score:3, Informative)

    by neostorm ( 462848 ) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @01:58AM (#7288156)
    I am not entirely certain of this since I haven't played the game myself but I think the MMO "Second Life" allows for users to create in-game objects that are saved on the servers.
    The graphics in this particular title are hideous, but with a developer stepping back to allow the users to create their own world, litterally, it might be pretty cool in the future.

    Just food for thought.

  • Emergent Worlds (Score:1, Insightful)

    by jobbleberry ( 608883 )
    I think a system where by the world is created somewhat on the fly as new areas are opened. You know a kind of procedural build. This way common assets can be used to create unique areas as players explore based on the surrouning world type. When these are discovered/created they can be saved to the world so other may follow. The other players should be able to add assets (within in reason) which will add to the richness of this world. They could then trade or sell these. You know like designing new models
  • by LS ( 57954 )
    The ability to kill and maim without consequence.
    • And when you and your 12 year old friends have driven off EVERYONE how wishes to enjoy the game, then what? Do you move like a plague to another online game?
      • Rerestricted PvP doesn't have to exclude everyone from the game. There are plenty of game mechanics available to discourage wanton chaos while allowing players the freedom to make their own choices on whether or not to follow the law.

        The put-down isn't needed, either - plenty of adults play competitve games, or do the World Series not count?

        • You didn't read what he said.

          " The ability to kill and maim without consequence"

          He isn't saying we should have Restricted PvP. He wants PvP on EVERYONE in the game.
          • " The ability to kill and maim without consequence"

            He isn't saying we should have Restricted PvP. He wants PvP on EVERYONE in the game.

            I don't think those two statements are the same by neccessity, whether it's what he meant or not.

            Having PvP and non-PvP servers allows PvP players to have that ability, assuming the game allows the 'without consequence' portion. Even Diablo 2 allows it to a certain extent, even though there are very specific conditions to PvP.
            • PvP isn't murder, it is killing. Murder is taking the life of another with out their permission. Playing PvP is implied concent.
              • Re:Murder (Score:2, Insightful)

                In a PvP server I would normally think that agreeing to a duel was the only implication of consent.

                On the other hand, you could be in a PvP server and kill someone from off-screen (depending on the type of game this could be simply with a knife from behind or from a distance using a spell or a bow) without warning and it would probably be similar to murder.

                There's a lot more to playing an RPG PvP than simply running around randomly killing people, and some games have more or less etiquette involved than o
          • "He isn't saying we should have Restricted PvP. He wants PvP on EVERYONE in the game."
            PvP on EVERYONE exists, it's called Shadowbane, or friendly-fire FPSers.

            By definition, there is *NO* PvP that can exist without consequence. Either on the level of "one side gets killed", or "someone is hurt", or "first blood has been drawn".

            And note that I didn't say anything about restricting PvP from anyone - only that there are game mechanics that can work in the favor of both PvP+ and PvP- people. Hell, EQ had a f
            • Please tell me how you think this:
              There just needs to be a real consequence to these actions.

              In any way jibes with what the original poster said, which was even pointed out to you a second time:
              The ability to kill and maim without consequence

              Let's take another look at that..
              You: needs to be a real consequence
              Original: to kill and maim without consequence

              So you're berating someone who actually happened to have read the original post because you didn't have the minimal ability to understand it, even
              • "So you're berating someone who actually happened to have read the original post because you didn't have the minimal ability to understand it, even when it was pointed out to you directly?"
                This from a guy who failed to read the post to which he responds?

                Me: "By definition, there is *NO* PvP that can exist without consequence."
                You: "You didn't read his post."

                The original poster's desire to engage in antisocial activities without consequence cannot be fulfilled against another person. The consequence of hi
  • by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <twistedgreen&gmail,com> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @02:24AM (#7288216)
    What makes exploring fun in general?

    It's just what humans do. I like how Frank Herbert describes it, in Dune, as the Atreides leave Caladan for Arrakis:
    "Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken."
    Online worlds and adventure games in general simulate that, which is what makes them fun.
  • The Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series.

    The high point was Dark Forces II. After that, the maps and textures started getting over used. You could tell either the creators were running out of juice (how many infinite drops/50 story fusion laser beams are we going to be subjected to?) or they started running short of money to pay the artists. (just finished Jedi Academy. The levels were a disgrace.)

    I can imagine MMGs having difficulty with that.

    SO why don't we come up with.. ooh this idea is good. I think
  • Hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @05:36AM (#7288790) Homepage Journal
    Personally, what interests me about MMORPG games is interaction with other people. I would love for a GTA based massively multiplayer game. Heh I get a smile on my face just imagining some of the mischief I can get into. That's what I used to do with Quake. Play little games with other people's minds. It was always fun making the other guy go "Son of a bitch!"

    It seems to me that anything you can do to create a game where the humans are allowed to be human puts it on the right track. Pity they took the flipoff button out in Quake 3.
  • Binko (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) * on Thursday October 23, 2003 @05:45AM (#7288811)
    If Sony or anyone else wanted to sell me an online game they would need to nix the credit card requirement. I've got enough recurring charges on my card without a video game being tacked on top. Sell me the game with three months of online time attached to it. Give me another three months for every expansion I buy. Three months gives me enough time to play the game enough to decide if I like it or if I wasted my money. Instead of having me sign up with a credit card sell a little calling card like deal with X weeks of server time.

    All the content in the world doesn't matter when a game needs a credit card to play. Credit card requirements exclude lots of students both in high school and college as well as people who simply don't want/need more credit card charges. Companies then wouldn't need to worry about content because there would be people online to interact with.

    Once I'm playing the game my interest isn't too hard to keep. If you're running a fantasy game give players a couple languages or writing systems to learn. Provide clues to special items or abilities in these languages. It give the hard core players something to do and rewards them for it. Also give the players a highly interactive world. I want to see a game where any NPC I can talk to will give me a unique reaction depending on a number of different factors. Take dialog trees to the next level by adjusting the NPC's actions and demeanor to the results of the dialog. If you insult a member of an NPC clan or guild you should have some consequence any time you meet another of that group's members.

    I'd also like to see games learn from the likes of Pokemon and Animal Crossing. Both of those games use real time clocks to change the world according to the time. When it is dark out different things happen than during the day. Events take place only on particular days. Putting this into an online game would be easy. Tie the game's calandar either to the real world one or its own. If its around Halloween give people spooky adventures, if its around Christmas give them philanthropic ones. Give players a reason to have their characters online and in particular areas at certain times. Characters can have different schedules based on any of their personal atributes. Mages might be called to a conclave or mage fair and fighters might be invited to a tournament. No new media needs to be made for these sorts of events, just NPC scripts and players shwoing up to participate.

    Inside the game world give players something to do besides blindly adventure or talk to NPCs. Tournaments or contests where players can be rewarded for particular skills would be a pretty good idea. Again no media needs to be produced, only in-game scripting and characters are needed.
    • All the content in the world doesn't matter when a game needs a credit card to play.

      I know this isn't a solution to your problem necessarily, but Neocron [] got my custom because I could pay with a debit card (I don' t have, and can't get, a credit card). Plus it's a fairly solid, top-notch cyberpunk MMORPG experience, which makes a change from swords-and-sourcery dungeon-bashing.

      (that being said, the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay geek in me can't wait for the Warhammer MMORPG...)

    • There actually is/was a number of online games that sold prepad time cards... usally 90 day installments (earth and beyond,the sims online, I beleive I've seen EQ ones as well).

      The problem is, actually finding places that sell them. Walmart sold the ones for Sims online and E&B... but I only seen them on the shelves for a moth before they quit carrying them.
      • Re:Binko (Score:2, Informative)

        by tvalley000 ( 410933 )
        Pre-paid playtime cards are actually the norm in places like Korea and Malaysia, where the predominant MMOG audience is based in Internet cafes. In a cafe situation, it's not really expected that people would commit to secure, credit card based transactions over a public terminal. Besides, apparently there is a large population of transients playing these games in the streets of many asian cities -- making it that harder for them to get online if they've got to have a credit card for the barrier of entry.
    • Instead of having me sign up with a credit card sell a little calling card like deal with X weeks of server time.

      Sony does. You can buy Everquest Game Cards at many retailers -- I just checked and CompUSA has a 90 day subscription card for $40. A bit more than paying by credit card I believe, which is reasonable since there's one hell of a lot more overhead involved in selling cards.

      I don't know if the initial credit card requirement is still there or not. I quit playing nearly 2 years ago. Hallelujah.
      • The biggest issue with "unique" events in a MMORPG is that they attract users. Of course, you'll say that's the entire point. The problem is that they attract too many users.

        This is pretty simple to counteract, though some players may not like it. All you have to do is make the 'unique' events a little more unique by not having them repeated and by having them only available to players that are already in a certain area at a certain time, and not announcing them. Maybe have the same event happen in multi
      • Server crowding and low framerates are implementation issues. To me as a player they are really beside the point. They're technical hurdles I'm paying them to overcome by buying the game. If I'm shelling out $10 a month on top of the $50 I spent on the game itself I really don't care what they have to do to make it enjoyable. If the game is boring because of technical problems I'll take my cash somewhere else.
    • when a game needs a credit card to play

      And maybe lower monthly fees would help a lot. I, for one, am not willing to pay ~ $10 a month, simply because I don't have enough time or the money. Pay-per-Usage would be nice ($1 per 5h or something like that), with a max. amount of 10$. Which is feasible in a way: if I play less, I put less stress on the server & bandwith and cause less support issues.
      • As an addition, you could make the cap on the per-hour (or per-5-hour, or whatever) payments at 1.5 times the maximum per-month fee, or maybe $3 above the monthly fee, giving people a reason to pay the monthly fee rather than the hourly rate, without royally screwing the hourly players when they have a high-usage month.

        Just trying to put in some ideas that might actually make sense to people in places like Sony. If the hourly rate was capped at the monthly rate, I doubt anyone would pay the monthly rate (t
      • Amen to that. From the publisher's stand point I can understand fixed pricing. Anything paid for that goes unused amortizes the cost of someone who uses way more resources than they pay for. From my point of view $10 is a lot of coin to dish out for a game. Server space isn't cheap by any means, neither is a support staff. While I can sympathize, I don't care. I'm a dirty rotten consumer, I want something for nothing. If I can't have that I want something for very little. I already spent my money on a compu
  • muds as an example (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deemah ( 644363 ) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @08:44AM (#7289399) Homepage Journal
    So graphics are what make MMORPGs interesting? Nonsense. MUDs/MUSHes/MOOs have been running for years with little more than the classic text adventure console style and are _still_ hugely popular. Of course, being for the most part free to play might have an additional acctraction.

    The whole point of the genre must be player-player interaction - if a world is so large and sparse that my character wanders in a wilderness for vast hours of gameplay, i'm not getting the experience i've paid for.

    Adding player-built features is a great way to hike up the amount of player interaction, as is the simpler introduction of player killing ( even with the associated possibility of abuse ).

    In summary, I'd rather enjoy a text-based adventure than be bored of looking at pretty pictures.
    • So graphics are what make MMORPGs interesting? Nonsense. MUDs/MUSHes/MOOs have been running for years with little more than the classic text adventure console style and are _still_ hugely popular. Of course, being for the most part free to play might have an additional acctraction.

      While I agree with your point, being a former MUDer myself, I'd have to bow to the pure statistics. "Hugely popular" is a rather unfortunate turn of phrase when comparing the active user accounts in the current MUDlist to the s
  • My Own Personal Take (Score:4, Interesting)

    by robbway ( 200983 ) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @09:24AM (#7289648) Journal
    I've discovered that the original Asheron's call was boring: because you didn't advance in abilities fast enough, the world didn't change, and there was incredible lag and errors. Same thing with the orginal Lineage. In both these examples, you spend your first 40 hours or so battling training level NPGs, dying a lot, and looting your old corpse. That just isn't fun.

    Yet Diablo 2 and Phantasy Star Online kept me glued for hours. Mainly because of the quasi-random dungeons and puzzle placement, as well as the slim possibility of obtaining more rare items for use or trade. Then, when I beat the game single player, I lost interest in both, because the quests didn't change. It was all level building at that point.

    So here's my criteria so far for a good MMORPG:
    1) Fast level building early on, slow later, with a really high ceiling on levels, or no ceiling at all.
    2) Randomly rare items that increase in ability as you advance in level
    3) Somewhat random dungeons that seem familiar, but everything moves around each game
    4) Fascinating single-player play, but more than 5 chapters, please! Perhaps some Chapter 6 random questing mode? I don't have all the answers.
    5) Fascinating multi-player cooperative play. Some things should only be achievable as a group and cooperating.
    6) Fascinating multi-player antagonistic play. Hacking and slashing at each other in PK mode is boring as crap and rather dumb. I suggest in addition of PK arena type play, also add competitions throughout the world: races, creature hunts, gambling, treasure hunts, target practice, or whatever is appropriate for the fantasy world.
    7) You should never feel maxxed out nor finished with the quests! Especially if you're paying a monthly fee. With Diablo, it kinda made sense that you maxxed out, since you paid all your fees up front with the software purchase. Subscription services should live up to their name: periodic quests, periodic events, holidays, change of season, contests, etc. (not to mention software patches)
    8) You should also have some level of permanent effect on the world. A plot of land where your hut is, for example.
    • The world didn't change in AC?

      Nuke Arwyc anyone?

      Spires shooting out of the ground, a great epic battle between Asheron and Bael Zharon that players could participate in? An event where one faction of players had to keep players from defeating an evil crystal from another faction of players?

      Of all the MMORPGs I've played, (EQ, AC, AO, DAoC) AC had the most liquid world BY FAR.
      • Of all the MMORPGs I've played, (EQ, AC, AO, DAoC) AC had the most liquid world BY FAR.

        Sure, as you know, AC has had the most content updates of any MMOG on the market today, or in history. They've had at least 48 distinct story/content updates to the game world.

        However, that being said, I think the original poster was alluding to the fact that AC, like so many MMOGs, is not strictly a Persistant Online World (POW) in the sense that your actions don't have any lasting effect from login to login. You ca
        • Yes, that's right. It always felt like I was a guest in AC, and that my world only extended to the ends of my avatar.

          Keep in mind, previous responses, that in the first 3 months, nothing happened at all. Learning dungeons were always looted, which made no sense since they were learning dungeons.

          There were no single-player oriented quests early on. Ultimately, it boiled down to me not wanting to "wait" for the game to get interesting. I guess the good stuff was later, but I found regular RPGs more suit
  • A lot of the big companies are leery of player created content for various reasons. X-rated content could cause them problems, and copyright-violating content could cause problems. But also, most developers I've known are focused on the attitude of "WE make the wonderful creative stuff, the players we sell our game consume it".

    Having the creators try to keep up with the voracious demand for content of hundreds of thousands of players is tough, though. It's not as easy to get away with "everyone goes thr

  • SWG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @01:45PM (#7292578)
    I only have one guy to pick on, since I only actively play one MMO game currently =)

    Gordon Walton Vice President and Executive Producer Sony Online Entertainment writes:

    Licenses, so long as they are more world than character based, can help tremendously in giving you the flavor and character of the world you are building. At the same time, licenses can end up dramatically limiting your freedom to add flavor and richness to the world dependent on the relationship you have with the licensor.

    Seeing how SOE has so many licensed MMORPGs I wonder which one he's talking about? =P

    Experiencing an area that is very similar to one you have already experienced for the first time is a letdown, because it detracts from the player suspension of disbelief.

    • Starports. Apparently in the Star Wars universe, all starports are exactly identical and are only large enough to accomodate one ship (except for in Theed).
    • Cantinas. All the same everywhere. Some have minor interior color differences.
    • Caves. Many of them are duplicated, just with different enemies inside.
    • Shuttles. All the same, not even any color differences.
    • Player Houses. Some overall variety of house types, but very little can be customized about each house itself such as interior and exterior colors, exterior decorations, and lighting for example.
    • Creature lairs / destroy NPC camps. They all the same set of five or six things (a warren, a dead log, a pile of bones, an earthen mound, etc), no color variations and they are all too small in size.

    Having a living world (one with natural motion, an ecology and sensible physics) is also important for immersiveness.

    Sensible physics apparently means:
    • Players can't jump, not even an inch over a twig laying on the ground (see debris on Rori).
    • You must enter a house by walking up one specific side of a ramp, even if the ramp is completely buried.
    • If a hill separates you from your enemy, don't worry, you can shoot straight through it as though it's not there!
    • A dead log will burst into flames and eventually explode in a huge Simpsons-esque fireball if you destroy it, even with melee weapons (i.e. a sword, fists, or a staff).
    • You can *walk* up the side of a steep cliff, even if it's nearly at a 90 degree angle to the ground. Not only that, but with sufficient nonmagical skill, you can climb a 200m cliff instantly, since it seems vertical motion is not a component of space-time.
    • If your enemies intend to you attack you, you better watch out! It seems that despite what was depicted in the movies, bad guys can teleport instantly to your location from over 60m away!
    • Apparently mobs shrink when they go into their homes, because most creature/NPC homes are smaller than the creatures themselves!

    Don't get me wrong. SWG is a cool game, but it has a long way to go to incorporate satisfying content to go with all of their fancy game structure. It will be quite a shame if they never live up to this, considering that they have a great framework in place to build content upon.

    In the long run, I look forward to a game which has:
    • the player creativity potential of Second Life
    • a good player-developer connection like in A Tale in the Desert
    • excellent graphics like Star Wars Galaxies
    • an honorable FFA social structure (has yet to be done, though IIRC UO does a fair job of it)

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