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Re: What makes a good MMORPG December 27, 2009

Posted by oktyabr in games, opinions, personal.
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I originally posted the following on a forum thread with the above title. People that know me know that I’ve been working on a similar project literally for years, even before powerful computers were commonplace (yeah, I’m that old).

What I am more concerned about is doing what hasn’t been done before or at the very least striving to progress in that direction. Some things that are overlooked in *most* of today’s MMORPGs:

Realistic, dynamic weather and seasons. I don’t mean just eye candy either. Your barbarian wearing nothing but a fur diaper will freeze to death trying to cross that same several leagues of barren wilderness in a blizzard.

Realistic day/night cycles, perhaps even tides. Shouldn’t be hard to even make recognizable constellations of stars, multiple moons, etc. Make your character tell the time and navigate their direction by the sun, moon(s) and stars.

Progressively (EDIT: I meant “procedurally”) generated terrain with a “memory”. Algorithmic based formulation for basic climate, terrain, flora and fauna, is relatively easy. A game must have basic logic in place that can define a solid piece of terrain based on longitude, axial tilt, tidal forces, weather patterns, and broad scope geographic influences and modifiers. As a thought experiment imagine a world generation technique that can deal with as little or as much information as you want to give it and then generate a semi-realistic environment logically, “on the fly”. Important bits specific to the game like villages, ruins, roads, etc. would be the only part that must be generated in detail. As things change, a mine is dug, a forest cut or burnt down, a piece of land built upon or farmed, the environment database would be altered from the progressively generated content to reflect this. Done properly this would provide unlimited replay (just regenerate the world, semi-randomly), would save a ton of work by filling in the areas that you don’t want to spend the time to develop, and only as they are needed. It would also provide a lot of “natural” surprises too like waterfalls, dense forest at the foot of a mountain, maybe even natural cave systems.

Realistic economics and social interaction based on local production and supply and demand. Want to make a fortune just in trading? That river might have a nice beaver population and the town a days walk away, next to the plains, has a demand for warm hats and gloves. Wood is cheap if you live in the woods, fish are practically free *if* you live near water, etc. Your character is an excellent swimmer but grew up in the mountains? You want to try and ride a horse but have spent most of your life on a chain of islands at sea? The point I’m trying to get at is most MMORPGs don’t take advantage of the game world’s potential constraints for socio-economics and character background and development.

Why? Because it’s too easy to just make another game like the rest. It’s sort of analogous to companies pushing graphics technology to make a FPS shooter look as “realistic” as possible and then flicking a crosshair in the middle of the screen (a pet peeve of mine) like the original Doom game made so many years ago. They do it because it’s what that sort of gamer expects to see. Would realistically modeled weapons and the use of “iron sites” make the game more immersive? Sure! But there are plenty of FPS gamers that scoff at such realism and go back to their games with crosshairs because *that’s what they expect to see* and then five seconds later tell their friends that Game XYZ 2 is the best looking (most realistic) one yet!

Game developers and game players need to learn to think outside the box.

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Comments»

1. Ian - July 28, 2010

sorry that this is forever after you posted, but i do have some questions.

When you say memory terrain and ecosystems which can be modified by player and npc involvement, I’m not sure what you’re implying.
like, yes, i understand what you mean, but to what extent are you implying? do the game developers make the terrains and landscapes first, and then create mines, towns, and man-made components in-game? i mean, that would be kick ass, but a pain to come up with a program to do it.
I imagine a roller coaster tycoon type building system to the nth degree…
also, the economy, are you saying a game-run economy is key? i see where youre coming from with your explanation, but i also see the very well designed WoW economy, with the Auction House.
you may not care, but yes, i am trying to design a game. your help is much appreciated =D


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