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  • So you are happy with the direction It's going?

    DMKano said:
    Maurgrim said:
    This are a question for those who started the MMOs back in late 90s and early 00s.

    What did you think back then how the future of MMOs would evolve and how much right and wrong are you today?

    I started with UO in 1998 and EQ1 in march 1999.

    Other than improving graphics I didnt have a clue how the gameplay would improve, but I thought that mmorpgs would move away from simple and antiquated "hitpool" and "damage" die roll mechanics to something that resembles real life simulation (when you punch someone or shoot somone in real life, there are no hitpoint bars or damage numbers)

    I always thought that real life physics, ecosystems and organism simulations would be what mmorpgs would be like - not anytime soon due to massive compute power that would require.

    So completely wrong.

    But I also had no idea how my lifestyle would change and how much family life with work and kiddo schedules would change how I play games.

    Never thought about that either back in 98/99 - I always assumed that I would have most of my day to devote to gaming.

    Was completely wrong too. 

    I also never considered how I would change as a person and that I would lose desire to spend 10 hours raiding which at one point back in early 2000s I thought was amazing.

    Zero desire to ever do that again today.

    So again very wrong.

    Am I happy with the direction that its going?

    Well gaming is going on all directions, so yes I am very happy. There is a larger variety of games being made by more people today than at any other point in history.

    I am having more fun gaming today than back in 98/99 due to so many different games.

    Never been a better time
    than right now.

    There's a lot that's gone off-track, in my opinion.  It's disappointing, actually.  The scope of the earlier games like UO and EQ1 were far greater in the things the developers attempted to put into the games.  Subsequent games have been steadily removing systems and functions, making the world less and less interactive.  Games have consistently adapted the same abstractions that were present in D&D in 1972, without attempting to use the computer to explore new ways to represent people in hazardous situations.

    It appears that instead of using the computer as a tool to bring new concepts to the RPG environment, it was only seen as a cash cow, a platform for more of the same.  It could be argued that there have been more advancements in how a business can make money from an MMORPG than actually how to make an MMORPG better.

    I expected more progress in the form of AI to populate these world's with more life-like NLC inhabitants.  Factions warring independent of player input, dynamically attacking, defending, and counterattacking one another.  A world alive that the player is dropped into to play a role in.

    AI is another primary area where games have failed to deliver.  Gamers seem to want games to emulate real-world eco-systems.  Why haven't we seen packs of wolves adapt to players attempts to hunt them?  Machine learning and neural networks have been important areas in computer science since the 1980s, but we've yet to see these types of technologies improving how the computerized opponents act, react, and behave.

    Players are still stuck dealing with static content, which makes for lackluster worlds.  Mrs. Johnsten always needs you to make a new scarf for her, which requires somehow getting wool.  Captain Anders will always direct a player to visit the outlands to battle the bandits disrupting trade.  Farmer Mycroft always needs someone (everyone) to kill 10 rats for him.  Events and actions within the world are scripted (occasionally badly), with predictable results.  New content is dependent on developers creating it.  Too often, this requires yet another bit of writing, once again focused on an individual, and plopped into the world via an expansion or (more infrequently) a major patch.  Dynamic generation of content is still a distant pipe-dream, while manual content creation is a restraint to the genre.

    Where are encounters that don't require dialog?  A pack of wolves roam into the woods near Farmer Mycroft and discover snacking on his hogs, then roam off once repelled?  Living things aren't always predictable and aren't slaves to a respawn timer.  There are no coincidental events in MMORPGs.  Or non-repeatable events.  Life is full of them.

    So, I was extremely wrong on where I thought MMORPGs would go.  Problem is, I still believe that it's a reasonable path to follow in the future.  Enough of rebuilding the basics, let's see new ideas and elements take advantage of the computing power in the servers and desktops to really move the genre forward.
  • Simulation game mechanics

    Isunandshadow said:
    Like many people, I think the ideal MMO (or for that matter single player RPG) would be a combination of sandbox and themepark elements.  The role of the themepark elements is fairly well explored: they exist to provide the player with a story that makes the player's actions meaningful in context, enables roleplaying, they provide surrogate socialization through NPCs, and they motivate players by suggesting specific goals and offering rewards.  But what should the role of the sandbox, or simulation, be in this sandpark game?

    Single-player simulation games traditionally exist as three separate genres: vehicle and sports sims, farming and crafting sims, and dating sims (and I'm going to roll detective games in with these).

    In vehicle and sports sims the focus is on physics of movement and interaction between objects; something most games are terrible at, even high-budget, big-name games like Skyrim and games with a big focus on acrobatics like the Assassin's Creed series.  The real universe is made out of an awful lot of math, and there is no standardized solution for simulating a world, so you have to find developers who actually understand that math.  Aside from the difficulty of comprehending physics to simulate it, It is a LOT of work to implement physics in a way broad enough for an RPG.  And it can't be done in expansions either; if your initial vision is insufficiently broad you often can't fix it without a complete redesign later.  The recurrent problems with flying mounts in WoW are a clear example of this.  A lot of indie MMOs hesitate to even include jumping in their design, much less swimming, climbing, flying, destructible structures, and other things that are necessary for any natural-feeling simulation of moving around the world in a human body.  But a really good sandpark or sandbox MMO would have all of these and more.

    Farming and crafting sims have been somewhat explored in games from Minecraft to ArcheAge and Ark, but a lot of them flinch away from the costly step of designing good minigame content to represent the actual in-game activities of crafting, gathering, farming, training animals, etc.  And a lot of the more traditional RPGs don't make good use of allowing the player to customize the colors or textures of items; they often fail even to establish a standard color palette for the game, or a standard use of transparent layered textures controlling color placement on models.  The outdated mindset of "one model, one texture" is something that really needs to be educated out of young game artists and game art system designers.

    Dating and detective sims are combined here because they about the player interacting with NPCs and other complex interactive items within the game world.  In fact we could probably include lock-picking, stealth/field of view mechanics, and a variety of adventure game puzzle mechanics here, like sliding and rotating tile puzzles, sokoban puzzles, entering numerical codes, and of course dialogue puzzles.  This entire field of simulation is either ignored by sandboxes, or you get a game like A Tale In The Desert which had the "design is not broad enough" problem and invented several incompatible systems which couldn't share any code or be improved as a group.  Similarly, faction-reputation-related code in WoW was quite piecemeal, while NPCs in games like Terraria, Minecraft, and Fable are unified in design but robotic and quite difficult to add content to make them individual and more human-like.

    I can't really blame older games for not having broad flexible designs, because this kind of design really requires experience to create.  But current game designers should really be able to learn from the vast array of previous games.  The fact that they aren't could be a result of poor and piecemeal education of game designers, or it could be a result of the fact that designers apparently hate to cooperate with each other and rarely collaborate to improve each others' work, or it could be a result of economic pressure not to "waste time" researching or laying down a good design before beginning to develop content (as well as economic pressure to minimize the number or designers and numbers of man-hours spent on design per game).  Not to mention the fact that it's generally impossible to look at the code of older games, due to intellectual property issues.

    So, you all can discuss whatever you like about "what's good MMO simulation", but personally I'm wondering, "Is there any way we can create an environment that helps designers to design good simulation gameplay?"

    (Also, it's depressing that design isn't even a tag.)
    To me, a simulation starts with a different mindset than a game.  There's too much 'game' embedded in the MMORPG space to make a fantasy world simulation.  The problem, as I saw it in 2002, was the fundamentals were too rooted in the analog systems inherited from Pen & Paper games.  AC, HPs, levels and such were simple systems to represent the human body (and various methods of protecting or injuring it).  The main advantage was that 1.  They could be easily represented with dice, and 2. Integer math is easy enough that most players could do this on-the-fly.  If D&D had tried a more robust representation of the human body, for instance, involving geometric functions (sin or cos) or exponential equations or differentials, the math would push players away.  Computers can handle the math, so why do our games still reliant on the simpler analog models?

    A simulation really needs to represent the fundamental elements that operate within the world.  For a fantasy situation, that starts with the primary actors, the characters.  How the characters interact with each other and the world.  The development of a simulated world / environment can't really begin until the developer knows what elements are being simulated and what are being abstracted.  
  • Do we really need old school?

    I think a powerful reason for why we fondly remember EQ1 and why many think (myself included) that EQ1 is better than the current crop of games is because of the scope.  EQ1 attempted many, many systems -- stealth, locks, begging, poisons, damage over time, heals over time, direct damage, direct healing, crowd control as well as combat and magic resolution necessary for emulating fantasy conflicts.  The big problem with newer games is that instead of expanding the list of systems, newer games trimmed the less successful systems from the game.  Occasionally, a game would attempt to improve the basic EQ1 formula, frequently by adding more interaction points (keystrokes and mouse-clicks) to 'operate' the character.

    Too often this resulted in smaller and smaller game experiences.  Instead of expanding on the RPG formula (and our gaming experiences), games have become smaller and shallower.  There's been no effort to 'stand on the shoulders of giants'.  Instead, companies try to cull out uninteresting systems and elements or put a veneer over the old UI without really improving anything, leaving us with more restrictive choices of basically the same thing.

    Bottom line; I want more choices, and more meaningful ones; not fewer.

  • Steam Outlines Further Changes to Combat Default Review Display Manipulation - News

    Now, if they would fix the horrific game classification tag system.  When I choose Turn-based Strategy + Fantasy, I don't want to see MMORPGs.
  • Pantheon vs Wow Classic

    My issue with the early years of both EQ1 and WoW was quests, rather the quest rewards.  Developers of both games never really found a balance between difficulty and rewards.  EQ1 was stingy with quest rewards, both items, coin and faction were never worth the effort.  WoW went the other way, to the point it was almost a waste of time to do anything other than quests.  Somewhere in between these extremes has to be a happy medium.