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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

The Future of Persistent Worlds In MMOs 302

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

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  • by rockout ( 1039072 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:27AM (#24718885)
    I never got into these games personally (I liked the RTS and first-person-shooters when I was gaming a lot), but part of me always assumed that kind of stuff, the persistent memory, if you will, was already implemented. I had no idea that was something that hadn't been developed already.

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

  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:39AM (#24718987)

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

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

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

  • Players as enthropy (Score:5, Interesting)

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

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

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

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

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

  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:00PM (#24719127)

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

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

    Natural resources were limited and you could mine a mine out ore.

    Of course there was a period of time when UO got quite barren because of this but I don't think they thought it through.

    Suffice to say Ralph went on to other jobs and the Ultima Online live team kind of turned his vision into something else not as interesting. Despite all that UO still remains fairly non-static in his AI behavior in its NPCs. I always enjoyed having to talk to my vendors instead of using a graphical interact (I like muds like that) and all the other MMOGs seemed quite gamey compared to it.

    Shame no one is trying something as bold again instead of making another EQ/WoW clone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:11PM (#24719203)

    I like the idea of persistence in virtual worlds, and I think the idea should be expanded further to a player's character as well. Why should your character suddenly vanish when you log out and stop playing? I'd love a game where you could write scripts to automate your character's behavior so that when you log out it can continue to do things like buy and sell items, perform mundane upkeep tasks, and even interact with other PCs in some meaningful way, like taking messages for you or automatically delivering messages to your friends when they log on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by Dekker3D ( 989692 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:19PM (#24719247)

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

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

    you'd need to create a lot of "unique"-ish rewards, so people have something to work for, and you're all set for the background gameplay. you won't get to fight demons and wizards all the time, but at least you get to knock out a few of the evil overlord's hired goons, and take some of their stuff. should be fun enough :) and there's always the demons for those who have gotten far enough to tackle them.

  • by gabec ( 538140 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:20PM (#24719267)

    Persistent worlds? Who cares! How about being able to play with your friends! The mainstream MMOs have no way for you to play with your friends once they've chosen the wrong server.

    What's the *first thing* you ask someone when you learn they play wow?

    "What server?"

    How often has the answer been disappointing? So far, 100% for me.

  • by TooFarGone ( 841076 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:56PM (#24719507)
    How about a game where the player that achieves the great status becomes the next target for the player behind him? Good/evil alignments would fight each other for mobs/quests and higher status players become higher level targets. Roleplaying could become a bigger deal and make more sense. Keep track of everyone that has anything to do with _MOB_X_ and if those players associated all quit, bring _MOB_X_ back into the game, recycled like. heck, have quests where you bring 20 healers with you and resurrect _MOB_X because you are aligned the same as that mob. I think there are numerous ways to handle it,but I suppose it comes down to development time/cost..
  • by mrlibertarian ( 1150979 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:01PM (#24719547)
    One idea would be a MMO that constantly generates random NPCs, and gives each one a random set of goals and relationships. Perhaps an NPC is created who has a goal of making money, and he decides to accomplish this by becoming a shopkeeper. Also, the NPC has a brother and a sister, and if either one is killed, the NPC will attempt to avenge his sibling. How the NPC attempts to avenge the sibling depends on his personality: Perhaps he tries to recruit an army. Perhaps he tries to hire a player to assassinate the murderer. Perhaps, if the murderer has surrounded himself with guards, the NPC will pretend to be a guard and wait for the right moment to strike.

    If the developers can create a large enough set of interesting goals and personalities, and if enough of the NPCs are related to each other, a 'never-ending' story could develop. Of course, not every player would be a hero, but is that really a problem? If every player runs into interesting NPCs, then I think every player will have fun.
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:11PM (#24719603)

    Everybody wants to be a hero, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:29PM (#24719727)

    I haven't tried America's Army. Do the players on one team appear different to the opposing team than they do to themselves?

    I suggest that while my character appear as a normal human character TO ME that to anyone assigned to an opposing quest I appear as a regular orc.

    That way, you would never know whether the monster was machine AI or human driven.

    You can also extend this to larger groups. The Knights of X appear as human to each other and themselves ... but to the Heroes of Y they appear as various monsters. And the reverse is also true. Even to the various villages and castles that they occupy.

    The only problem with this is that a quest to kill 5 orcs can be VERY difficult for new characters. Those "orcs" could be veteran players with years of experience (and items).

  • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:37PM (#24719763)

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

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

    Now... multiply that by the millions of people who play WoW... assume each player wants to do one quest a day... how many developers do you think it would take to support that many quests? (8 million or so quests a day) and not simply turn it into some parameterized quest system (first person: go kill the Goblin named AAAAAAA, next person: go kill the Goblin named AAAAAAB, next person: go kill the Goblin named AAAAAAC, etc.)

    Most people like the quests to seem meaningful in some way... to have some effect on the world. The above goblin killing quest system doesn't provide that and just gets old real fast. You can only tear down a castle once... (unless you do things like have another quest, maybe from a rival faction, to rebuild the castle, then your faction could tear it down again and it just flip-flops like that).

  • by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:26PM (#24720113) Journal

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

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

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

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

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

  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:33PM (#24720149) Homepage Journal
    It gets harder, but you can "force" the story to follow roughly a mapped out line by being creative. A story element is predicated on a specific town being under control of a specific side? Introduce a story element that sees a massive amount of NPC's for that side help out in the defense or attack of that town in the time leading up to it depending on who is holding it. Essentially you stack the game heavily in favor of the state you want/need.

    You might need to invent story elements to explain it, but there are tons of easy explanations to that kind of thing ("allies from far away have sent forces to help you in this time of need, blah blah") and you can even try to avoid the NPC's by having the game dynamically create quests for users to drive normal players where you need them to be to make your planned outcomes more likely to happen naturally.

    Or you dynamically adjust the stats of the players involved in a battle to increase the chances of the outcome out want.

    The methods of subtly (and not so subtly) influence the world in the direction that fits best are endless.

    Even if you don't take it "all out" it can still be useful in keeping thing interesting by preventing one faction from dominating too long - introduce unpredictable elements that upsets the balance, and create story around it even if you allow the players the opportunity to overcome the obstacles and modify your planned story.

  • by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:42PM (#24720237)
    Seriously. I'm sorry guys, and I know that you've got a bunch of the movers and shakers from the tabletop gaming world... but Christ, just look at D&D Online to see how much different tabletop gaming is from MMO gaming.

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

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

  • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:43PM (#24720253) Journal
    If you take your idea of resource consumption and expanding faction territory, and keep the number of resource sources static within any given faction, then you have a self balancing mechanism for faction strength. A faction with twice the territory would have half the resource density. You could add a static number of wandering defense NPCs to each territory to also have this effect. A faction that lost half it's territory would have twice the density of NPC defenders. Ever time a defender is killed a new one quickly spanes somewhere in the faction territory, as that territory shrinks the likelihood of the spawn being close by increases, eventually a Faction territory that was reduced all the way down to just the Keep in the capital city would have an effectively infinite number of NPC defenders. So even a heavy faction imbalance in a server could be contained.
  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:50PM (#24720313) Homepage Journal
    Instead of making the quest "chop down the tree on the hill" you make the quest "chop down the tree at location [foo]" and the location and the tree is dynamically generated determined for each player. Assuming you populate the world with enough trees, and/or eventually slowly replace the trees, the world will appear persistent and the amount of extra work is very limited.

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

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

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

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

  • I think NOT... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2008 @03:41PM (#24720771)

    Then, you'd have an MMORTS with a persistent world. This MMO paradigm would not work-- how many MMO players that also enjoy RTS will play WoW if this style of play were implemented? If players HAD to choose between factions/racial ties in ANY MMORPG, then how much fun would you have if the developers scripted Racial Wars, caught you off guard while you were hunting the dreaded FatBack Beast, and you were surrounded by a horde of Dark Orks? All by your lonesome?

    It'd be a trick, but if personal world view said you needed the Galactic Presidential Ring and you set forth to acquire one: campaining the Galaxy for a Galactic Year, and swearing the Galactic Code of Ethics at the Inauguration Ceremony, only to find out once you arrived in the Oval Office, that someone else got there first and acquired the ring for themselves?! I'd be so upset and angry (and other similar expressions), that I'd e-mail the developers and tell them exactly what I thought of their [fill in your favorite colorful expletives here] game, and to refund ALL of my monies that I invested in my character, *AND* to delete that character and my account!

    Can these developers truly do this, and keep up with our voracious appetites for online content? I, IMHO, would believe that they would rather botnet their own servers with ads for their own sites, because it would be simpler, than to add this kind of "world memory".

    Ideas... Anyone?... Anyone?...

  • Re:People (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grant_Watson ( 312705 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @03:46PM (#24720821)

    EVERY single quest completed would then require a new unique quest to replace it.

    Well, yes, obviously a quest-generating AI will have problems. But the solution here is probably to have the world (more likely the zone or sub-zone) be a finite state machine. In any given state, there is a quest (or two) to be done, and the completion of that quest (or quests) leads to a different state and a new set of quests. Eventually you cycle back to the first state.

    You could also transition to different states depending on which way the quest goes.

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

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

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

  • Afraid to lose (Score:4, Interesting)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by tucuxi ( 1146347 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @04:52PM (#24721411)

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

    From a designer's perspective, you only need to initialize NPCs to a set of stats and relationships with each other (like, dislike, do not know, would avenge, reminds me of, ...), and a long list of (possibly randomized) behaviors (aggressive against aggressors, 'work' behavior, fight-or-flight, crowd-forming, gossip). When something happens, designers can let the NPCs work it out by themselves, or nudge them along a general direction ("villagers send out a scout to the next village requesting help", "leave town", "form a mob and try to defend town"). Designers become something like the agents in 'matrix' - their preferred mode of interaction is to take over control of NPCs temporarily to make them advance certain plots.

    Even better - this can work for larger groups of NPCs, allowing entire communities to develop community relationships. Create an unpopulated world, and drop a number of 'seed communities' (with community-wide likes, dislikes, goals, and so on). Simulate their evolution for a while; let them fight or cooperate with each other, build an economy, watch as some spread and others drop back, tinker to produced desired master storyline arcs (but let details sort themselves out) -- and *then* drop in the PCs. Simplified models can work just great - see the examples in Phillip Ball's book []. Or take some clues from biologists or economists - they've been modeling entire ecosystems (economists call them 'markets') for a while.

    A nice after-effect of 'evolved' NPCs and NPC communities is that they would provide rich backgrounds for PCs. So you want to be a rogue? Great, pick among these rogue-like characters we've been evolving in the last year (you may know some of them 'cause they tried to rob you before when you played another PC), and you will get a background, a set of likes and dislikes, a couple of caring aunts and uncles you can help or flee from, and so on and so forth. Also, this would provide persistence during off-line hours - let PCs choose the goals that will drive their characters while they're not directly controlling them.

  • by bishiraver ( 707931 ) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @08:09PM (#24722705) Homepage

    If you look through my comment history, you might find some novel ideas on how to implement permadeath whilst keeping it "fun." Unfortunately, I'm not a subscriber and can't view my own full comment history. The gist of it:

    1) why do players dislike permanent death?
    1a) Because they lose hard work.
    1b) Because their character might have been famous, and now they have to start all over again.

    2) what can be done to rectify this?
    2a) incorporate death somehow into the character development process, so it's a GOOD thing. Sometimes.
    2b) their friends (and enemies) will still know who the player is behind the toon, because the bloodline's surname is the same.


    You create not a character, but a bloodline. This bloodline has an abode (probably starting as a hovel with upgrade possibilities). Said bloodline can have several characters in it. Bloodline possessions are handed from one character to another.

    The circumstances of a character's (permanent) death influence starting character attributes (if it were fallout, I'd call em perks). Say one of your characters dies fighting a dragon? Now you have the ability to create a character with the Dragonslayer perk (+ to damage against dragons, perhaps), to better avenge his forefather. This also can kick off dynamically generated quests.

    Example: forefather that died fighting dragon had a pretty cool sword. A few months down the road, your current character gets wind of where his sword might be, and sets off on a quest to get it. The strength of his forefather's spirit/character imbued the sword with even more magic, etc.

    Having a haven/home for your bloodline also allows you to more easily create different styles of characters and play subsequent characters easily.

    You build up your character to a coveted level of skill in swordmastery. Unfortunately, he dies. Your subsequent characters, if they so choose, can be built with a "Swordmaster Heritage" perk, for example, which makes getting up to a decent skill level in swordmastery a bit easier/faster.

    See what I mean? Permanent death need not be an annoyance to be complained about. It can be integrated into the play workflow nicely.

  • Re:People (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday August 23, 2008 @08:17PM (#24722765) Homepage Journal
    Create a bidding system for quests. People or groups which want something done can offer money to have it done.
  • Re:People (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hubbell ( 850646 ) <{moc.evil} {ta} {iillebbuhnairb}> on Sunday August 24, 2008 @09:28AM (#24725747)
    It worked amazingly in Asheron's Call for numerous storyline climaxes, or plot changing events. The Shard of the Herald event where players had to choose to either defend or attack the last of six soul crystals which if destroyed would release Bael'Zharon, a monster so epicly badass that he nearly destroyed an entire civilization of mages 100x as advanced as the magics available to player characters. Most storylines had such major pvp events as the culmination of whether the story goes one way or the other. It very nearly happened one time where the devs had to come up last second with a new storyline to go with but at the very very last second things went the way the original storyline writing had it written down as.
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @01:21PM (#24727257)

    Good post!

    I've thought about this myself and came to exactly the same conclusion. I'd put the matter only a little differently: The question is: When will we write AI that can do all the work of a competent human game content developer? I expect it will take a while, but not forever.

    Surely, there will initially be some cheating. So maybe when you kill an orc, it will indeed stay dead, but another orc will spawn elsewhere in the forest, waiting to be found by another adventurer. I would love it if we tried to simulate an actual ecosystem that simulated (among other things) the conception, birth, feeding, etc. of orcs, but that would have three problems. One: It's just asking too much of the AI. Two: It would reveal how ecologically incoherent most of the classic "dungeons" in rpg's really are (even by standards of fictional ecology, orcs must consume so many calories each day, shit somewhere, etc. They're not going to be having lives in some single room in a dungeon.) Three: Such a system, even if it were relatively stable without PC interference, could easily be corrupted hopelessly by the actions of some powerful player characters. Destroying is much better suited to the activity of a PC in a CRPG than is building. Destroying is faster. Cutting down a tree is much easier than making one grow.

    All current and future CRPGs must find a way to set back up the knocked-down bowling pins, or set up different bowling pins instead. If a group is bent on deforestation or depopulation of a country, and the game must replace what is killed in a natural way, there will soon be no more trees nor NPC humans.

    Of course, systems could be introduced that prevent such actions. Repairer druids might magically regrow lost forests, but who will generate replacement villagers?

    What's attractive about "adventure settings" is that they are in a context of very weak central institutions (so they leave space for adventure) with potentially powerful individuals. There are no "adventurers" in Singapore, because there, even spitting on the CCTV-watched street gets you in trouble. That's one way to prevent chaotic rampagers, but the four classic role-playing world types (middle-age w. spells, western, war & post-apocalyptic) are not chosen by accident. They're settings where individuals are not under the yoke of a central authority. For fans of Firefly: The protagonist adventure-group does their work on the outer planets exactly because central control doesn't extend that far.

    My point is that it wouldn't be an adventure game if it were in a setting that prevented individuals from devastating rampaging. This means that such settings are inherently unstable. (Usually, strong governments elbow in and stamp out the "adventure space" - for the most part.)

    So even a perfect AI would not be able to impose stability on an inherently unstable, fully simulated situation. Adventure settings are paradigmatically not in equilibrium.

  • Mod parent up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psychochild ( 64124 ) <> on Sunday August 24, 2008 @08:18PM (#24731151) Homepage

    I usually don't post that as a title, but the parent post should be modded up. I'm also a professional MMO developer, not posting as an AC. The whole "players want 'entertainment'" bit is something I'm filing away to explain to other people.

    The poster is also exactly right about the whole "hero" thing. Most people have a tremendous capacity for self-delusion. Even if I have to stand in line behind all my friends to release Sharpbeak, the game is still rewarding me for a specific "heroic" action. Or, think of it this way: if you rescued a little girl from a burning building, would everyone say, "Big deal, thousands of people have saved thousands of victims from burning buildings before." The fact that the world goes back to a steady state in an MMO doesn't mean your actions are any less heroic. They're just not unique, and people are fine with that. And, especially with things like instancing, you don't even have to compete with other groups to accomplish your heroic goals.

    From the grandparent post:
    "MMORPG are afraid to have people lose."

    The parent poster is right, this is because people hate to lose. There's a thread about permadeath in another part of this discussion. Know why permadeath is never done? Because it's the *players* that scream loudest when this is brought up. They don't want to contemplate the thought of losing their hard-earned character, even if the game isn't designed like that. Most games are designed to have people invest a lot into a character. If someone tries to go against that particular bit of groupthink, then they're accused of "hating the players" or "caring more about experiments than fun".

    The real reason why we see people clone DIKU MUDs/EQ/WoW is because the players are demanding that we make more of the same. There are some interesting alternative games out there, including Meridian 59 [] which I own, but people pass them by. M59 is a brutal PvP-focused game where you can lose just about everything you've worked for, and then some. And, because of that, it has a lot of trouble attracting and retaining players. The reality is that nobody is going to drop even $10 million (let alone the $50 million WoW cost) to build a game if nobody will play the game that cost a few hundred thousand to build. So, we keep seeing the same games that don't take risks and don't let players lose all they've worked for.

    Anyone willing to invest in something different can contact me through my blog at []. I won't hold my breath. ;)

    Some insight from another MMO developer,

  • by Psychochild ( 64124 ) <> on Sunday August 24, 2008 @08:25PM (#24731179) Homepage

    I'm a professional MMO developer. This idea isn't new, but the word "permadeath" sends most MMO players into a frothing frenzy. I think it would be interesting to do in a game.

    I previously wrote up a concept similar to this where players would manage a family on my professional blog at []. I also had the concept of expansions "fast forwarding" the timeline and advancing the story; this allows the story and world to change based on player actions without having some of the problems associated with a fully dyanmic, persistent world. I'd like to do it someday. :)

    Some thoughts,

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.