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Role Playing (Games) Technology

Bioware MMOG Likely Slated for 2009 56

InformationWeek is running an article looking at a piece of technology Canadian developer Bioware will be including into their in-development Massively Multiplayer Online Game. The still un-announced project, the article also lets on, is likely to launch sometime in 2009. The technology, called StreamBase, is a form of complex event processing. Bioware plans to use the ability to change the codebase on the fly, while the game is live. "One of StreamBase's functions is to analyze events and make sure no intruder is trying to disrupt the game's logic, make malicious movements against the activity of other players, or activate the hidden Easter eggs that are sometimes known to lurk in the game's logic. An Easter egg might make a sound that was not consistent with the game's design, show a message, or cause a character to move out of the logic of his role, Dalton explained."
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Bioware MMOG Likely Slated for 2009

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  • Back in my day, we called those 'mad exploits'.

    The rest of that summary seems pretty pie-in-the-sky to me. If they've got the capability to change stuff on the fly, and better, to have the system perform these changes on its own, they're going to have to be very careful to prevent people from injecting their own changes, or 'socially' engineering the system to react in ways unforeseen by the developers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ajs ( 35943 )
      On the other hand, it would be interesting to see a game which encouraged the players to try to beat the system. I'd envisioned a game, back in 1990, like that, but the technology didn't exist to implement it yet. The core concept was that magic in the game world was a set of pre-defined routines in a programming language that more advanced users would slowly gain access to, turning the game into more of a test of "crafting magic" than just pressing the "1" button 70 times to kill the bad guy.

      Modern MMORPGs
      • I agree entirely, but the developer's comments from the article seem to suggest that they're aiming at the complete opposite. I get 'Okay, you throw some loose scripts together, mix in our magic semantic watchdog that knows what you meant and not what you typed, and the rest builds itself while resisting the corrupting touch of those nasty, naughty consumers'. Feels more like a teched-up interactive movie from the dawning of CD-ROMs, than an evolutionary step in MMOGs.
      • *cough*Eve*Cough* (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:27PM (#19493873) Homepage Journal
        Doesn't Eve encourage you to try to beat the system? Every story I've read here seems to indicate that's the case but they don't have a Mac port so I haven't tried it...

        I'd like to see a game with a "programmable" magic system like that. Given a base set of simple spells that affect the environment in some way and a mana pool that gets larger as you level up (Allowing you access to longer and more complex spells) I think it's quite feasible to do. It'd probably be interesting to a grand total of 3 of us, though. I suppose that if you could trade spells once you created them then you'd have two distinct classes of magic users -- the ones who just use other people's pre-crafted spells and the ones who actually write their own.

        You'd still have to account for the people who want to play other classes as well. If you spend that much time in the magic system you'd probably want to do something similar for combat system and the abilities for the various other classes. Plus I'd hope that you'd be able to come up with more than "Go kill 14 things then come back here for some bling. That gets old real fast. And actually having the same NPC back 10 minutes after you kill him is rather off-putting too. I'd go for thousands of distinct quests which get applied to randomly generated NPCs in the world. NPC might want you to deliver something to another NPC. NPC might want you to kill one or more other NPCs. NPC might want you to do something your character class is good at (Assassin's guild, anyone?) NPC might want you to herd his goats while he runs off for some hanky panky with another NPC.

        And as long as we're on the subject, I'd like to see NPCs much more interactive. It's easy enough to write a chatbot that is difficult to distinguish from human as long as you limit the scope to one field. So have the blacksmiths be able to talk to you intelligently about blacksmithing and the tailors be able to talk to you about tailoring.

        That'd be a game I'd like to play :-)

        • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
          Back in early beta, Saga of Ryzom had an amazing skill/magic system. It let you combine different costs and effects together to create your own spells or skills. Everything was going great until someone figured out how to combine skills so that healing a large enough group of people actually gave more mana than it cost, and healed them, too. They rewrote the entire system a few months later, ruining the entire game.

          For those that didn't play, it would be like:

          Fire effect - needs 10 cost
          Mana cost - provid
          • In old EverQuest (old? yeesh) a necro's pet would adopt the speed of the weapon it was given, assuming the weapon wasn't slower than the pet's natural attack speed.

            Basically, it would take the better of the weapon's damage or it's own, and the better of the weapon's attack speed, or it's own.

            And the pet's attack speed was around 3s. So if you gave it a rusty dagger at around 2s, or a fine steel dagger at around 1.8s, your pet would be attacking at dagger speed but with their own natural damage amounts.

            • Ahh, there's a million stories of people doing things the developers didn't envision.

              Of course, that's the entire point! If the developers could envision it, then they would have just programmed it right from the start and skipped all the mess in between. No, the problem is people doing things the developers didn't envision that unbalance the gameplay. So, the real trick is to come up with a system that allows people to be creative and create new content, but in such a way that it's both interesting to do so, as well as maintains a balance. Think something like the unified field theory fo

              • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
                Well that's one of the nicest things about WoW IMO. They do a really good job of making sure that no one character type can beat all other character types given the same level, equipment and player skill. They do an excellent job of maintaining the balance. Ultima Online used to be similarly balanced back before they started dicking around with artifacts and all that crap. UO threw all that crap in there with no consideration of what it would do with game balance.

                Anyway, also note that WoW isn't just pure

                • The feature I still miss from UO was you could retrain you character into any roll (class) you wanted at any time (with a little work) instead of having to create alt after alt if you wanted to change the direction of your gameplay.
        • I'd like to see a game with a "programmable" magic system like that. Given a base set of simple spells that affect the environment in some way and a mana pool that gets larger as you level up

          You can build up some pretty impressive magical weapons with some pretty low level spells and the right raw materials. For example: Copper pieces + Flaming Hands + Fool's Gold == Flaming Pyrite. Throw at enemy. Most effective if they get behind the enemy's armor and maintain contact with his flesh (esp. behind codpi

        • by brkello ( 642429 )
          No, Eve encourages you to try to make up your own storyline. The closest they have to "beating the system" is becoming buddies with the devs and getting access to all the future patches and exploits so that you can stay on top. Combat in Eve consists of a couple of button pushes and key clicks. Quite boring even compared to WoW and really and nothing near as interesting as a programmable magic system.
        • Oblivion had a somewhat decent magic creation system. With spells you had learnt you could create spells and give them attributes like:

          Target, - On touch, or ranged.

          You could also make enchantments, so if you learnt fire, you could turn it into a fire enchantment on your helmet and kill yourself... or you could do more beneficial things.
          • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
            Oblivion's magic system is extremely unbalanced in that the various effects of enchants stack up on one another. So it's possible to create a set of armor that effectively renders you 100% invisible to monsters and from that point on you don't really need to worry about taking damage anymore. All they have to do to fix that, though, is prevent the effects from stacking. So your chameleon rating is whatever your top item rating is. Same thing goes for potions -- You can make some insane ones by beefing up yo
            • Yeah, I really really liked Oblivion until I crossed certain thresholds and all the challenge was suddenly removed from the game.

              It should not be possible to get 100% chameleon no matter how hard you try, or else at least give higher level monsters a Perceive: -X% Chameleon style attribute (letting them see through Chameleon to a certain percent). Heck, your own detect life spells see through all levels of chameleon and invisibility, and this is available at level one!!

              Better than this though would be the
      • The Original Asherons Call had a very good Magic crafting technique.

        It involved between 4-6 components which you threw together then tried to create a spell. Each component had a specific job, like the scarab decided what level the spell was, another chemical component would decide what 'energy' the spell used. For example, cobalt would use frost/water, cinnabar would use fire. Then there was a herb which decided how the spell was fired. Hawthorne was used to create a "Ball", so if you used a bronze sca
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:33PM (#19492889)

    ...make sure no intruder is trying to disrupt the game's logic, make malicious movements against the activity of other players, or activate the hidden Easter eggs that are sometimes known to lurk in the game's logic.

    How about taking/commenting/compiler-directiving the "Easter eggs" out before you ship? This lack of control over the finished product makes me think this thing will really be in beta (if not alpha) long after they start selling it to marks who see the "BioWare" brand and start parting from their money...
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:37PM (#19492955)
      Someone has obviously been told not to call them bugs, and was looking for another word. They chose 'easter eggs' with having any bloody clue what they were saying.

      Obviously, it isn't an 'easter egg' if the developers did not put it there on purpose. And if they did, they would indeed remove any exploitable ones before shipping.

      That aside, the whole 'change the code live' thing is a programmer's wet dream. As such, there's probably a reason it's not very common. Like, oh, it's a nightmare to actually use. Updating a cute little Lua script is easy, updating a library or even a big nasty lua script is not easy at all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's worse than that. They referred to Easter Eggs as logic bombs for exploiting and stuff. Easter Eggs aren't exploits, they're just something silly programmers put in to reward people who do obscure stuff. It can be something as simple as an NPC with an odd or referential name in hard to reach location. The Secret Cow Level in Diablo 2 was pretty much an Easter Egg.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The Secret Cow Level in Diablo 2 was pretty much an Easter Egg.

          There is no cow level.
          • Just a Tauren world!
          • Where did those informative mods come from? There certainly is a secret cow level. There was no secret cow level in Diablo 1, despite persistent rumours - the developers added one to D2 as a response. It's a classic example of developers having an in-joke with the players.
            • *sigh*

              It was part information, part joke. The code to unlock the cow level in Diablo 2, was "There is no cow level".

              • Oh really? I apologise then. I didn't know you could use a code for it; I used wirt's leg and portal tome in the cube.
                • It's been a while so I don't remember all the details on it. If I recall I think the code allows you to warp to different areas. Or maybe I'm thinking of Starcraft, I'm pretty sure that was a code in Starcraft as well. Now I need to go lookup all the old cheat codes for all the blizzard games to verify all this. It was pretty common for Blizzard to include references to their other games in the cheat codes of different titles (and sometimes the content as well, ala the vikings reference in WoW).
                  • Just looked it up, "There is no cow level" is actually referenced in two places. In later releases of Diablo it was added as a tip on the loading screen, and in Starcraft it was the cheat code to instantly win the game.
                  • Man, those vikings, they rocked. NObody understood why I burst out laughing when I first reached that part of Uldaman.
              • *That* isn't right either.

                "There is no cow level" was a cheat code in Starcraft.

                The code to unlock the cow level in D2 was transmuting Wirt's Leg with a Tome of Town Portal.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ubergrendle ( 531719 )
        Bugs, errors, variances, failures, abends, crashes, defects, deviations from spec, undocumented features, grits...tsk tsk tsk those just don't sound right.

        I know, lets call them easter eggs. Everyone likes chocolate!
  • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:53PM (#19493263)
    they can swear it's not just means they changed something. Seriously, changing on the fly to me means high probability of entire realms going down for hours on end because some codemonkey forgot a semi-colon.
    • by Sciros ( 986030 )
      Nah, that's why you there are dev and staging servers. They'll test stuff before putting it on the live one.
      • Ha hahahahahhahahahah

        Deep breath......


        Another deep breat.....

      • by CRiMSON ( 3495 )
        Oh yah, and QA Catches EVERYTHING.
        • by Sciros ( 986030 )
          If we're talking about servers going down, yeah I'm pretty sure that's not that hard to catch. ArenaNet does this for Guild Wars all the time, it's been virtually problem-free for 25 months. I honestly don't see where this complete lack of confidence comes from considering there are working versions of a similar system out there.
  • I read this as they can also mess with the game's mechanics on the fly. I find that a lot of MMO players don't like it when their game changes. You spend 500 hours building up a mage that gets NERFed all of a sudden.

    So, now, with this technology, they can tinker with mathematics and algorithms without even telling users that changes were made or while the player is in the middle of playing. I can see as much use in this feature from BioWare as the abuse it attempts to prevent.

    • Maybe sudden unexpected nerfs will make up for the game design that was crippled by wasting too much time developing [for/against] cheaters... Make PVP a lot more interesting if halfway through a brawl someone gets an epic nerf...

      Cynicism aside, maybe this will lead to the dynamic worlds MMOs have been promising for years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bieeanda ( 961632 )
      Gott in Himmel, they're coding the bane of gamers everywhere: the over-controlling DM. I can see their scripting now:

      if { questNPC.avoided = true


      if { goblinHordeRing.defeated = true;,playerCharacters);

      Sys.out("Rocks fall, everyone dies!");}


  • Matrix? (Score:4, Funny)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:11PM (#19493571) Homepage Journal
    Am I going to see the same black cat cross a threshold twice when they change the live code? Deja vu?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    StreamBase is a COTS (commerical off the shelf) streaming database with all sorts of on-the-fly analysis capabilities. They are more likely to use this technology to analyze how the players are engaging in the "world" and reactively modifying the behavior of the environment as result (altering behavior of NPCs), rather than dynamically rewriting code and so forth. This is actually in innovative approach, and not something that has anything necessarily to do with making the software bug-ridden and prone to c
  • If i read correctly, they use statistic based analysis of events, instead of proper QA of the code to catch exploits planted by their own developers? I loved most of Bioware's stuff (except NWN), but this sounds weird.
  • This will all be great until StreamBase decides "The only way to keep the classes balanced is not to play.." and shuts all the realms down.
  • by ZombieRoboNinja ( 905329 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:34PM (#19495031)
    The article makes it sound like they'll be using this system basically to track down the people who type in IDDQD and activate God Mode, but it seems more likely that it'll be used largely as a GM tool. Looking at some of the exploits in other MMOs, it's easy to see how this could be used to track down exploits, from botting to teleportation hacks to bugged mobs that give too much loot. ("Hmm, why has Lesser Bog Rat been killed 700 times more often than any of the mobs around it?")

    It could also be a valuable tool for GMs. If it really does keep a detailed log of everything that's happened in-game, they should be able to track down lost items, punish bad behavior, and so on much more effectively.
    • Well, I'm hoping that they can apply Complex Event Processing to actually implement adaptive content, so that the in-game experience changes over time, in response to the actions and accomplishments of the player characters.

      One of the biggest yawn factors of MMOs like WoW is the static nature of play. No matter how many times Onyxia is slain, Lady Prestor is still standing there in SW Castle...

      If BioWare can make a game that adapts (gradually, of course) to the player accomplishments, it would truly be

    • by Barny ( 103770 )
      By botting I assume you mean using multiple accounts controlled by scripts?

      In DaoC "botting" is commonly referred to the practice of just having a second account for buffing purposes (and in that game it is all but required you do so).
  • Heres to hoping that all this new codebase and exciting concepts gets put into a worthy sandbox. Personally as a somewhat jaded Star Wars Galaxies, on again, off again player I am hoping that this is the harbinger for a new Star Wars themed KOTOR era MMORPG. If not and Bioware is doing a unique world than hopefully something futuristic as I think we are getting a little oversaturated with elves and orcs and magic (Ohh my)
    • by Aneirin ( 701613 )
      How about one from Planescape. I'd love to see someone bring planescape back.
    • I'd love to see a KOTOR based MMO, but if it's made it won't be by Bioware. They've decided to stop making games for other companies and focus on their own IP's instead of others. Here's to hoping one will be made, and hopefully won't be rushed like TSL.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.