"Halting State" and future MMO design

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Backov, Aug 13, 2009.

  1. Backov

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    Hey, I've just been reading Halting State by Charles Stross, and as usual he's amazing. Buy and read it.

    Anyway, in it he posits a nearish future world where MMOs have basically been standardized - running on one of two major platforms (Microsofts and someone elses) - and generally being played on "phones" with immersive input through glasses and such.

    One of the many things that caught my interest was his idea that characters could freely move between the worlds - so you could potentially see a starship captain from an "Eve" world in the "WoW" world - he mentioned off hand stuff like "world tech limits" etc - all stuff you'd think would of course be there.

    Also, the thing he mentioned a lot (and mark my words, he's absolutely right here) - is talking about how in the Future, all content will be procedural - dynamically generated worlds, quests, NPCs, etc. I can't wait. :)

    It got me thinking - what would be the proto-form of the whole world standardization? How would you go about moving your character from one world to another?

    I'm thinking something like an agreed upon (on both sides) standardized format - like "Item X on WoW == Item Y on Eve" or "Item X on WoW == NA on Eve" - something very standardized of course. There'd have to be lots of cryptographic signing and such involved (another thing he talks a lot about).

    It's interesting. I wonder if there's space for it in the indie MMO market - someone's got to do it first, and knowing how brave they are, it won't be the AAA producers. :)
     
  2. PoV

    PoV
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    I suspect the so called "Future MMO" suggested is some sort of reality simulator/virtual reality/holodeck. MMO's and games today rely on art style and art direction, something that can't really be proceduralized.

    Except what benefit does working with other MMO companies provide? If one company dies, your item sharing thing kinda goes south. *maybe* it acts as a bridge to move to other MMO's (so your effort doesn't go to waste as company goes through chapter 11), but in a market dominated by WoW, what do these marketless MMO's have to offer to Blizzard?
     
  3. Backov

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    I'm not suggesting (and neither is Charles) that the models and textures and what have you are machine generated. But how they are used is.

    WoW is just 12 million people. Club Penguin is bigger. There's lots of Club Penguins. Hell, Mafia Wars is bigger.

    Thinking that MMOs == WoW is a mistake. Most games will be MMO in some way or another soon enough.
     
  4. jefferytitan

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    Funny, I just re-read Halting State the other day!

    As far as your question... I'm not sure I'd want Star Trek characters in a medieval setting or vice versa. It kind of spoils the atmosphere.

    I can see that migrating from one game to another would encourage people to try out more games, rather than having to slog through being a n00b in EVERY game. However it would make more sense to translate your level rather than your actual character. It seems unnecessary for all game engines to support both magic and spacecraft and be able to sort out what happens when they meet.

    As far as levels go, if you're level 60 in one game it might entitle you to level 30 access to all partner games. You wouldn't want the full level to travel with them, or by maxing out in one game they'd become near invincible in ALL games. That would give them a bad playing experience too. But imagine the level exchange rates. "Our game is harder!" "No OURS is!". Aye carumba!
     
  5. tolik

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    Future MMO is something that you'd create.
    Future top MMO - that's something already out and becoming mainstream through a major marketing push.

    Daily recurring procedurally generated quests - well, i'd like to see someone spending few months creating a procedural generation for recurring quests only to find out that game designer effort would be few days to create these quests in advance...
     
  6. PoV

    PoV
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    Yeah, but seriously? How does combining a childrens game, a crime game, and a fantasy role playing game work? Lets throw MyBrute in the mix too for fun. It's like trying to prepare a meal with chicken, feathers, cardboard and oxygen. You can't can make something from it, but no one's gonna want to eat it.

    Bash WoW all you want, but it's still the king of it's genre and class of MMO.
     
  7. Backov

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    Jesus. Who was bashing WoW? I play WoW. My point was that the market isn't just about one MMO. There's lots and they're big. The small to medium sized MMOs will shape the market to come, as they're the ones hungry enough to take a risk. Of course WoW and it's descendants never will - they'll be safe.

    @jefferytitan:

    Ya, I think that it would be very difficult to make it work. But if you're running on a standardized platform, it's just a matter of what the rules are.
     
  8. PoV

    PoV
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    I bash WoW, but it still does things dramatically better than most, so I have no choice but to respect it.

    In the long term though, an MMO shouldn't be confused with a social or sociable game though. MMOs are about breaking the prior concurrent user limits of multiplayer games. If there's anything that's going to "take off", it'll be social and connected features, and not cramming 75 avatars in an auction house selling virtual goods. The naked guy jumping around was funny the first time, but doesn't add all that much value.
     
  9. jefferytitan

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    Make a fire using the cardboard and oxygen, cook the chicken, poke a feather into the chicken to test if it's done. Jeez, it's like you've never played an old-school adventure game. ;)
     
  10. MiceHead

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    Ah, you're so right!

    http://www.oldmanmurray.com/features/77.html
     
  11. Sol_HSA

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    Oh no, not again.. snow crash, anyone?
     
  12. AlexWeldon

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    On the one hand, it's going to be a hell of a long time before AI has progressed to the point that procedural generation will be able to come up with a quest as interesting as that produced by a human designer. On the other hand, procedural generation is very good at taking things that were human-designed and combining them in ways that make them feel different. So I expect we're more likely to see a sort of hybrid quest system, something like:

    1) Occasional legendary quests that are custom-designed, very hard, run once, and are open to the whole game world until some party beats them. Maybe eventually they get recycled, but they repeat rarely enough that they feel new each time... especially if each one is locked to a certain level range, it'll be rare for the same player to go on the same quest twice.

    2) Individual quests that are different for every player, combining procedural generation (probably influenced by the player's class and skills) and human-designed setpieces (integrated in a procedural way) to provide the puzzles and unique tactical challenges that are conspicuously absent from most procedurally generated stuff.

    As for people traveling freely from one game to another, I don't know if that will happen, but if it does, I don't think it's a good thing. Generalization is the enemy of balance and elegance. Personally, I think these epic, sprawling, chaotic games will reach a peak, and at some point, at least the more discerning users will start calling for a tighter, richer, more fine-tuned experience, which by necessity needs to be limited in scope. Of course, the more discerning users probably aren't the ones playing MMOs in the first place, but even within the "just give me more of everything!" crowd, I'm sure there are shades of personality.
     
  13. PoV

    PoV
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    These Pizzas wont deliver themselves.
     
  14. Backov

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    Feel free to point out in Snow Crash where the procedural plot engine was.

    So I guess no one wants to have a discussion about this, sad but expected.
     
  15. zoombapup

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    I think the premise just doesnt stand up. Interoperability isnt really a key sales factor is it.

    However I can see some avatar system becoming uniform, like for instance if every XBLA game decided to use the XBLA user avatars.

    But as others point out, it would break the immersion for many types of games.


    Personally, I see a huge amount of value in procedurally generated content, be it quest or otherwise. Besides, its really not that hard to create a procedural quest engine (have any of you seriously played these damn MMO's that are out there right now? because I dont think any "designer" content is particularly genius).

    I've been at presentations where researchers have created dynamic plot for interactive "soap opera" content. Its really a similar problem, with a slightly different structural syntax. I would think its relatively do-able without much further work. Evaluation would be a big issue though :)
     
  16. PoV

    PoV
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    Well no, but practically speaking the only people in a situation to do something like this are companies with multiple MMO franchises. SOE, Nexon, or such. I think one of the companies started doing some sort of unified subscription pack, where 1 account would let you jump between all their games. There might have even been some sort of unification between the games (levels?)... or at least that was part of pitch. No idea if it ever panned out though.

    But I'm also reluctant to even talk about MMO ideas in public, since the majority of the companies making them are VC money pits. Connectivity, sure. But the last thing we need is to waste more time and money on yet another MMO that's totally different and great because it's about Spartans.

    The MMO is the completely wrong game style for the majority of indies to be considering. If you can pull it off, then great, but the majority will be essentially burning time and money.
     
  17. Nutter2000

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    Hmm... a Meet The Spartans MMO.... could work :p
     
  18. Nexic

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    The problem with this is that MMOs tend to be exclusive - ie one person will only play one, or maybe two MMOs at once. Therefore, whilst it's okay to advertise other related products it's pretty much suicide to advertise other MMOs. Even if you were getting a huge affiliate cut, chances are you'd make much more money keeping the customer direct.

    So essentially this can only happen between games owned by the same company, where they offer you a character in their other game as opposed to you quitting and spending your money with a competitor.

    I totally agree. All designer made quests still boil down to: go here, kill that 10x, find the key etc. In Dead Frontier I recenty finished a procedural quest system (to go with the huge procedural city). In it's current form it isn't that great, just a set of template quests with the variables changed randomly, IE. Look for X missing person in X area, kill x in x area etc. The plan is to improve it over time until it's as good as any WoW quest.

    When I first released this system I expected players to be very upset that it was too simplistic, but actually everyone seemed very happy with it. They seem to like 7-10 random missions everyday more than 50 designer made missions that are always the same.
     
    #18 Nexic, Aug 22, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2009
  19. tentons

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    That's awesome to hear! :)

    It's so funny that indies do these kinds of things with almost no resources (well, speaking from my own current perspective), but the titans don't even consider it since they can pay 20 full time designers and writers to create 7,000 quests by hand that aren't any better than your random ones. Can you imagine what would happen if they, instead, put all that time and money into a powerful procedural quest engine? o_O
     
  20. Nutter2000

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    Well to be fair to the bigger developers they usually don't have the budget to allow someone to experiment with a system like that which may or may not work.

    That's the beauty of indie development, we can take more risks :D
     

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