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Author Topic: My Dream Next Gen MMORPG  (Read 899 times)
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rittchard
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« on: April 21, 2008, 10:47:24 PM »

I would start off with a baseline game in the Shadowbane style.  Freeform and highly changeable by the player community with player-built structures.  But that would just be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, the launching point for real next generation gameplay.

Evolving World - I want to see the world evolve over time, not just in terms of buildings/cities rising and falling, but also in terms of game time passage, so that the world develops its own lore over time.  The actions and events in Real Year 2008 would be talked about as the stuff of legends in Real Year 2010.  Maybe every real time year is 100 game time years, just as an off the top of my head example.  The world keeps evolving whether you play or not.  If you take a break a few months, the world you come back to should be vastly different.  This should (theoretically) keep people wanting to (pay to) play.

Evolving PCs and NPCs - likewise, I want to see all characters evolve over time, both players and NPCs.  Grow old, even die.  Leave behind a legacy and offspring that allow you to continue playing the game.  Same for NPCs.  Maybe this means permadeath for toons, but the pain of this perhaps alleviated by allowing transferral of some skills/spells/persona/items to an offspring so that not all is lost.  "Levelling" in whatever form it's carried in, would have to be relatively quick and efficient (and of course fun) such that your offspring toon can quickly catch up to where you were

Advanced NPC AI - in conjunction with the above, I would love to see some actual true AI improvements in NPCs.  It's almost unbelievable to me that after so many years of development, most designers are perfectly happy with static NPCs with a ? over their head.  I want to see living, breathing NPCs that are nearly undiscernable from human players.  With not just their own schedules, but their own agendas and politics and "levels" that also evolve over time.  We've seen some of this in games like Gothic and the TES series, but why only in single player games, and why not take it further?  So for example, at lvl 25, an NPC decides she wants to venture out into the world and vanquish robbers.  She goes out and starts killing robber mobs.  If you were to follow her around, you'd see how her story unfolds.  You could choose to help and get involved, or do nothing, or play evil and turn against her.  All of which would affect how she (and her NPC family) reacts to you

Advanced "Mob" AI - similar to the above, I'd like to see mobs/creatures/adversaries with their own (evolving) agendas and varying degrees of intelligence.  Different mobs may have different hierarchical societies, as well as different motivators/needs.  Maybe a pack of dragons has exhausted its food supply and needs to move out further toward a river, inadvertently encroaching on a player built city.

Game World Emergent Questing - instead of the same static quests that everyone repeats and then reset, how about quests that emerge from the game world itself.  From the above example, the dragons are burning down a city.  The mayor (could be human or NPC) sends out a request for help.  Initial quests are as simple as the fedex to get the message for help out.  Bigger challenge quest (needing a group or groups) is to actually battle and drive the dragon pack out.  Different example: a small merchant town has a master crafter of swords.  An adventurer (again human or NPC) brings him a new undiscovered metal that is x times better than the previous best metal.  He then creates multiple quests himself, including quests to get more of the material, to gain information on how to process it faster (maybe a fedex type), etc.  Players role-playing adventurers may take the first quest and end up exploring a deep cave, wherein they gather the material but also discover other things (treasure, a journal, or perhaps a new race of creatures) that lead to other quests developing.  Last example: an "evil" guild decides to kidnap and hold for ransom the city mayor's daughter (possibly an NPC).  Now the baseline quest is of course to rescue her - but in the process you've made an enemy of this guild and of course player politics may come into play. 

Mobile/Remote Mode Gameplay - taking a beat from some web-based games, add features that allow the player to interact with his character(s) and the game while away from home.  Maybe similar to the strat games where you issue some orders for crafting or buildings.  Or maybe from your cel phone, you re-organize your inventory or sell/buy things from an auction house.

Merc Mode - as an adjunct to mobile play, add a mode to allow the user to put a character (remotely of course) into Merc Mode(TM).  That character can then be pulled out by anyone on his friends list to serve as a Mercenary that functions similar to one in Diablo 2 or other such games.  Merc gets taken along wherever and earns xp as well.  Then when the user gets home, he can log right in and take control over the merc.  If the AI is really good, you might not notice the difference!

- - -

So basically the idea is a real sandbox-type world, but one that truly evolves over time, with player, NPC, mob AND "natural" (i.e. disasters) actions.  Every player can go in and choose the role he wants to play, whether it be adventurer, politician, crafter, assassin, mercenary, soldier, etc.  His offspring will gain much of his identity from the original, but still has the option to choose his own different path.  The game world and everyone in it (both real and AI) determine the depth and nature of the "quests" and their solutions, and none of these are static.  If you miss it because you took a hiatus from the game, too bad.  But very likely there will be similar adventures or problems to deal with once you get back into it.  Some of the grander scale events become part of the game/server history, and eventually become part of a (hopefully) rich world background and lore. 

Obviously there are some extremely ambitious game elements I've listed.  But many of them have been done in some shape or form in some game or another.  Yet in many of those cases the last iteration was many years ago.   The traditional MMORPG (fantasy) genre has really stagnated of late and I would love to see it actually evolve. Even the 2 newest upcoming games (AoC and WAR), while offering some minor innovations, are really looking like iterations on proven designs, rather than true next generation games.  Problem is, who has got the balls (and huge amount of resources) to make a next gen game happen?
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Rumpy
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2008, 08:43:04 PM »

Quote
Advanced NPC AI - in conjunction with the above, I would love to see some actual true AI improvements in NPCs.  It's almost unbelievable to me that after so many years of development, most designers are perfectly happy with static NPCs with a ? over their head.  I want to see living, breathing NPCs that are nearly undiscernable from human players.  With not just their own schedules, but their own agendas and politics and "levels" that also evolve over time.  We've seen some of this in games like Gothic and the TES series, but why only in single player games, and why not take it further?  So for example, at lvl 25, an NPC decides she wants to venture out into the world and vanquish robbers.  She goes out and starts killing robber mobs.  If you were to follow her around, you'd see how her story unfolds.  You could choose to help and get involved, or do nothing, or play evil and turn against her.  All of which would affect how she (and her NPC family) reacts to you

All nice thoughtful ideas, however, as much as I'd like the kind of AI you describe, I can easily see how it would pose a problem. I think the most obvious one however is that when playing an MMO, people want to find NPCs easily. They need to be in the same spot where people can always find them, otherwise people would get frustrated at not being able to find the NPC they need. The second is bandwidth and processing. Can you imagine the bandwidth needed to tell each client playing where such and such an NPC currently is located? It's one thing for a single player game like Oblivion to have wandering NPCs, but the moment you introduce it into a multiplayer situation becomes too much an overhead. Not to mention how silly it would look if a lot of people were following this NPC at the same time in order to finish up a quest or something. It already looks silly enough with them standing in one place.

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YellowKing
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2008, 08:54:24 PM »

Have you looked at Darkfall? There's no telling when it will come out, but it does have some radical new ideas for an MMO. No levels, all skill-based, very realistic-acting world. One example a friend was telling me about is that wandering mobs are intelligent enough to "pack" together if they run across each other. If enough packs of say, goblins, run together, there is even a chance that they will congregate into an outpost, and should no players clear that outpost over time it could grow to a giant goblin encampment.

I haven't read much on it (it has been in development for years), but I have a couple of friends following it very closely and from what they tell me it seems to be at least a step in the direction you are talking about.
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rittchard
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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2008, 02:08:12 AM »

Quote from: Rumpy on April 22, 2008, 08:43:04 PM

Quote
Advanced NPC AI - in conjunction with the above, I would love to see some actual true AI improvements in NPCs.  It's almost unbelievable to me that after so many years of development, most designers are perfectly happy with static NPCs with a ? over their head.  I want to see living, breathing NPCs that are nearly undiscernable from human players.  With not just their own schedules, but their own agendas and politics and "levels" that also evolve over time.  We've seen some of this in games like Gothic and the TES series, but why only in single player games, and why not take it further?  So for example, at lvl 25, an NPC decides she wants to venture out into the world and vanquish robbers.  She goes out and starts killing robber mobs.  If you were to follow her around, you'd see how her story unfolds.  You could choose to help and get involved, or do nothing, or play evil and turn against her.  All of which would affect how she (and her NPC family) reacts to you

All nice thoughtful ideas, however, as much as I'd like the kind of AI you describe, I can easily see how it would pose a problem. I think the most obvious one however is that when playing an MMO, people want to find NPCs easily. They need to be in the same spot where people can always find them, otherwise people would get frustrated at not being able to find the NPC they need. The second is bandwidth and processing. Can you imagine the bandwidth needed to tell each client playing where such and such an NPC currently is located? It's one thing for a single player game like Oblivion to have wandering NPCs, but the moment you introduce it into a multiplayer situation becomes too much an overhead. Not to mention how silly it would look if a lot of people were following this NPC at the same time in order to finish up a quest or something. It already looks silly enough with them standing in one place.


Part of the problem I see is that most of us (myself included) are now conditioned to think in a certain way based on what developers (mostly WoW) have fed us game after game.  The paradigm of ? on static NPC head now just seems like it's the right way to go, it's simple, elegant, efficient, little room for error.  But because of this, developers seem to fear trying something different.  It's almost as if they've given up on innovation or change for fear of having it stray too far from the WoW model.  An easy solution to the problem you pose is to have quests posted on an adventurer's board or some such central location in a town.  Upon completion, maybe you automatically get credit.  Or, maybe to get the full reward, you need to eventually go back to the board or the NPC, or send a note (if you want to be more "realistic"), but certainly it could be worked around fairly easily.  For some quests, it's plausible the NPC AI would dictate it follow you or the party and he/she may reward you immediately.

- - -

YK, we've been watching Darkfall for so many years it's sad.  I think we finally gave up and decided it was vapourware.  Still hoping I'm wrong but...
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Blackjack
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2008, 03:04:27 AM »

The MMO AI problem I've generally read is that you simply can't have amazing AI in a game that has thousands of NPCs running around everywhere. There just aren't enough CPU cycles to slice up the AI like that. That's presumably why most MMOs simply turn nasty bosses into bigger and bigger foot stomps, or why all the Monster class enemies in City of Heroes basically don't do anything more interesting than foot stomp or maybe projectile vomit.  smirk Even if you hate shooters and RTSs, you're probably always going to find more interesting and challenging AI in those types of games (or even sports games).

That's presumably why a lot of Asian MMOs just do PVP entirely, rather than try to find creative ways to squeeze an interesting AI into their games.

Sorry to be a wet blanket. icon_smile What I do like to see in MMOs is at least more variety in AIs. If they can't make them better, they can at least make their attack patterns more interesting, give them some ability to retreat strategically etc. They don't have to be Half Life marines, they just need to be a little unpredictable so I don't get bored so easily, imho.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 03:56:49 AM by Blackjack » Logged

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rittchard
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2008, 05:56:49 PM »

Quote from: Blackjack on April 23, 2008, 03:04:27 AM

The MMO AI problem I've generally read is that you simply can't have amazing AI in a game that has thousands of NPCs running around everywhere. There just aren't enough CPU cycles to slice up the AI like that. That's presumably why most MMOs simply turn nasty bosses into bigger and bigger foot stomps, or why all the Monster class enemies in City of Heroes basically don't do anything more interesting than foot stomp or maybe projectile vomit.  smirk Even if you hate shooters and RTSs, you're probably always going to find more interesting and challenging AI in those types of games (or even sports games).

That's presumably why a lot of Asian MMOs just do PVP entirely, rather than try to find creative ways to squeeze an interesting AI into their games.

Sorry to be a wet blanket. icon_smile What I do like to see in MMOs is at least more variety in AIs. If they can't make them better, they can at least make their attack patterns more interesting, give them some ability to retreat strategically etc. They don't have to be Half Life marines, they just need to be a little unpredictable so I don't get bored so easily, imho.

Is it plausible that the AI/CPU cycles are all contained on the main server (some supercomputer), so all your PC has to deal with is the results? 

I'm just thinking out loud here.  I've been playing MMORPGs close to 10 years now and CRPGs close to 30 years (yikes!) so obviously I'm a little jaded by the conventional standards now.  As much as I look forward to new games like AoC and WAR being released, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed that these "next generation" games are offering so little in the way of innovation and true next gen gameplay.
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Rumpy
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« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2008, 07:42:20 PM »

Quote from: rittchard on April 23, 2008, 02:08:12 AM

Quote from: Rumpy on April 22, 2008, 08:43:04 PM

Quote
Advanced NPC AI - in conjunction with the above, I would love to see some actual true AI improvements in NPCs.  It's almost unbelievable to me that after so many years of development, most designers are perfectly happy with static NPCs with a ? over their head.  I want to see living, breathing NPCs that are nearly undiscernable from human players.  With not just their own schedules, but their own agendas and politics and "levels" that also evolve over time.  We've seen some of this in games like Gothic and the TES series, but why only in single player games, and why not take it further?  So for example, at lvl 25, an NPC decides she wants to venture out into the world and vanquish robbers.  She goes out and starts killing robber mobs.  If you were to follow her around, you'd see how her story unfolds.  You could choose to help and get involved, or do nothing, or play evil and turn against her.  All of which would affect how she (and her NPC family) reacts to you

All nice thoughtful ideas, however, as much as I'd like the kind of AI you describe, I can easily see how it would pose a problem. I think the most obvious one however is that when playing an MMO, people want to find NPCs easily. They need to be in the same spot where people can always find them, otherwise people would get frustrated at not being able to find the NPC they need. The second is bandwidth and processing. Can you imagine the bandwidth needed to tell each client playing where such and such an NPC currently is located? It's one thing for a single player game like Oblivion to have wandering NPCs, but the moment you introduce it into a multiplayer situation becomes too much an overhead. Not to mention how silly it would look if a lot of people were following this NPC at the same time in order to finish up a quest or something. It already looks silly enough with them standing in one place.


Part of the problem I see is that most of us (myself included) are now conditioned to think in a certain way based on what developers (mostly WoW) have fed us game after game.  The paradigm of ? on static NPC head now just seems like it's the right way to go, it's simple, elegant, efficient, little room for error.  But because of this, developers seem to fear trying something different.  It's almost as if they've given up on innovation or change for fear of having it stray too far from the WoW model.  An easy solution to the problem you pose is to have quests posted on an adventurer's board or some such central location in a town.  Upon completion, maybe you automatically get credit.  Or, maybe to get the full reward, you need to eventually go back to the board or the NPC, or send a note (if you want to be more "realistic"), but certainly it could be worked around fairly easily.  For some quests, it's plausible the NPC AI would dictate it follow you or the party and he/she may reward you immediately.

- - -

YK, we've been watching Darkfall for so many years it's sad.  I think we finally gave up and decided it was vapourware.  Still hoping I'm wrong but...

You misunderstood what I meant. Blackjack pretty much sums up the reason why I said this. It's not that the devs don't want to try something new, it's that technologically, it's hard to do because you'd be serving up the location of NPCs to every client, which goes and introduces another lag factor. I'm sure if an opportunity to change things would open up, that devs would want to take advantage of it, but as it is, I think we've still got quite a few generations to go before it's technically possible. Everyone would be complaining about the lag and complaining about the devs being sloppy coders, etc. 


Unless of course, you have a server for the game, and a server for the AI and NPCs. Or maybe if Physics cards become common enough, they can offload the calculations to that.Until then, it's not possible.

Now, I didn't mention the NPCs that do walk around towns and such, but that's not AI. That's a predetermined path that the devs have set to the NPC, and in the case of mobs, if X sees Y, X will engage Y. That's pretty much the extent of AI in an MMO, and why MMOs deal with events using triggers.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2008, 07:47:32 PM by Rumpy » Logged
rittchard
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2008, 08:12:12 PM »

I totally agree/understand that many of the ideas I've thrown out would be difficult to implement effectively.  But what I would hate to see/hear is developers just "giving up" on good, true "next generation" developments just because they sound difficult on paper.  Give engineers/programmers a chance and some time/money, and in general they will come through for you in some form or another.  I remember a time when people thought it would be "impossible" to have seamless transition between indoor and outdoor areas.  Then boom, along came Diablo 2 and the impossible became reality.  (Side note: interesting how few games have been able to reproduce this effect, including "next gen" games like HGL!)
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Razgon
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« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2008, 12:37:36 PM »

Cool ideas, I like it...

all I want is Elite in space, that doenst get extremely boring after 2 hours of play (I'm looking at you, EVE I'm afraid)

As far as innovation, I'm afraid we'll only get that from established companies, like Blizzard, who has the money and guts to try something different, in order to get ahead (once again) when WoW is declining...
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