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the emergent and the static

ghstwolfghstwolf hampstead, NHPosts: 386Member

Yes in a way we are taking up that tired  "sandbox" vs "themepark" debate and in a way that sucks.  Both of those terms are loaded with baggage that I'm hoping to avoid by talking in the higher concepts of the title.  There's another reason to do this as well, I see one of the future keys to success being to merge those two elements well.

If we are being honest, sandboxes have a limited market even within the larger MMO segment.  Their advantage is that when well executed they are in many ways easier to maintain and will retain higher membership (as a %).  Themeparks draw a larger audience but require near constant additions to the content and even then will lose membership as players tire of the setting and the constantly moving goalposts.  An over simplification certainly, but really there isn't much more to be taken away from this debate, nor does it give much insight into designing better games.

Hopefully that was enough to move us off the usual script and instead move us into a discussion about the strengths/weaknesses of both emergent and static elements and perhaps more importantly we can even touch on good ways to bring them together.

While there are easily hundreds of variations I'll start by spinning out one I recently put forward in one of Loktofeit's threads (BTW sorry for hyjacking that thread).  The basic idea was to add modifiers to individual merchants and then to create a mechanism for succession.  The replacement would have a new set of modifiers.  The emergent portion focuses on giving players a chance to change the game world.  The static element is that a merchant will quickly fill the same spot and that the dev would still be in control of those modifiers (or at the very least in control of the range those modifiers are drawn from).

I'll stop here before this gets way too long.

Comments

  • YakkinYakkin irvine, CAPosts: 919Member

    This is the only thing I can say:

    Sandboxes, based on my knowledge of Sandbox games in general (no MMOs, but plenty of sandbox style games like Garry's Mod, Terraria, and so on), are most enjoyable when you can self motivate yourself to make things happen. No motivation, nothing is going to happen, and you get bored.

    Not really relevant I think, but just a small thought.

  • rungardrungard st. john''s, NFPosts: 1,035Member

    i am of the mindset that developers need to take a step back and figure out how to best utilize resources, both player and non player.

    my idea was to make a sandbox game where you had concepts like open world pvp (not free for all) but you did it in such a way where the players who like to kill other players are kept to a 1:25 or so ratio.

    This opens the door for new concepts as follows:

    you can set up your sandbox where you have one great NPC enemy legion, or a few cooperating legions that harass players and player made structures, but in their ranks are these (the 1) "evil" player killers. These player killers give up alot of benifits when they become player killers ( look different, different skills, kos , less protections (item looting, costly resses etc)but they also gain a few things such as the ability to direct certain mobs, initiate npc attacks on towns, castles, bridges, mines etc.

    this gives your mindless npc legion some brains, if you will, and allows for more dynamic gameplay. The style of play would extremely challenging and suitable for hardcore players. We could use their will to cause havok as an actual gameplay mechanism.

    you make this style of play also ver compettitive ( only so many players can initiate events, or different levels of events) so these players willnot only focus on the "good " players, but they will be competitive within themselves to be the top dogs.

    on the other side of the equation (the 25) who arent player killers get to avail themselves with all sorts of protections from the "villians" such as deploying guards, evil detection systems, fortifying bridges, castles, and protections for their items and currency.

    there wouldnt be enough villians to make the game a gank fest misery tour, but there would be enough of them to keep the game interesting and dynamic.

    the real trick is making the villian role difficult enough that we achieve our 25:1 ratio of good guys to bad guys.  

     

  • anemoanemo Posts: 980Member Uncommon

    From my experience of priests in WurmOnline, Difficult game play to a subset only results in alts.  In the game above alts for political gain and damage to enemy players.

    I would also say that sandboxes do not have a larger % retention, But rather niche games do.  My case would be looking at iron realm games.   These games are text based Muds/MORPGs, heavy in status effects, and a nice dose of combat automation.   Essentially very niche, however developers of IronRealms have mention in passing interviews that their games have around 70 to 90% rention(play more than a couple months) if they can get player to play more than half an hour.

    I would probably tie quests to automatic generation.   We have a massive level of documntation for building terrain with branch and tree networks, some of that same work could be put to story lines.  

    Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.

    "At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."

  • ghstwolfghstwolf hampstead, NHPosts: 386Member
    Originally posted by anemo

    I would also say that sandboxes do not have a larger % retention, But rather niche games do.  My case would be looking at iron realm games.   These games are text based Muds/MORPGs, heavy in status effects, and a nice dose of combat automation.   Essentially very niche, however developers of IronRealms have mention in passing interviews that their games have around 70 to 90% rention(play more than a couple months) if they can get player to play more than half an hour. I would probably tie quests to automatic generation.   We have a massive level of documntation for building terrain with branch and tree networks, some of that same work could be put to story lines.  

     

    Most certainly very narrowly targeted games will retain the greatest %.  Beyond that however, I couldn't find anything definative enough to argue the point as anything but opinion either way.  That is before including the qualifier "well designed" (I include well executed in this as well), which throws out a majority of sandboxes.  That's not even based on some of my standards (which are a bit unconventional) but on delivering a working game with all the critical functionality (chat and grouping working for example).

    I'm certainly game for using the terrain as an active component in the world.  Then again I have a bad habit of being a bit too heavy on simulation elements, very niche elements like meaningful weather and seasons.  Much your OW PvP for the masses thread I'm going for something a bit more mainstream than (in my case) my own tendencies run.  Any thoughts on where or how we could connect to the terrain?

  • anemoanemo Posts: 980Member Uncommon

    The biggest problem I've found with even small sandbox games is how quickly resources are used up, especially things like trees.

    So I figured you'd probably want to go  with something like a floating island concept, or a changing tunnels.   Essentially after players have reached a certain point the island moves/falls, the tunnels change, or whatever.   This also means that as players control their islands(resource use/preservation) they can choose to keep themselves near allies.

    Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.

    "At one point technology meant making tech that could get to the moon, now it means making tech that could get you a taxi."

  • ghstwolfghstwolf hampstead, NHPosts: 386Member
    Originally posted by anemo
    The biggest problem I've found with even small sandbox games is how quickly resources are used up, especially things like trees. So I figured you'd probably want to go  with something like a floating island concept, or a changing tunnels.   Essentially after players have reached a certain point the island moves/falls, the tunnels change, or whatever.   This also means that as players control their islands(resource use/preservation) they can choose to keep themselves near allies.

    Often I find that issue is related to poor crafting design and planning.  Sadly, games usually dump players into both the "grind" (to raise efficiency and unlock skills/items) and a land rush (launch period).  Yes this causes problems, especially when failure creates lost mats and where recycling isn't an option.  New players also suck when active management is required (replanting trees) as they are likely to lack the tools, knowledge, or consideration to do it.  Another related issue is the often absurd waste in crafting itself, Wurm does this right 10% waste is reasonable (although smelting yeilds are a touch low), but other games seem to use 20kg of iron to make a 4kg helm which is stupid.

    Solutions to this are plentiful.  You could switch the bias, making primary (wood, iron and such) resources so abundant it isn't an issue.  In the case of plants, we could make replanting the grind mechanism (or bias skill gains to replanting), or even use a quota system where you can only harvest 2-5 more trees than you've planted.  Hell in some settings we could off load harvesting to a seperate "*-ville" game (more a sci-fi setting solution).

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