interesting...i can see that it is quite dissatisfying if your actions dont have any effect on the world, almost feels like your time is not worthwhile if in the end the world is still exactly the same.
GDC Europe 2011: Freelance designer Ernest Adams talks about problems with today's online titles and how they can be addressed.
Who was there: At this GDC Europe 2011 panel, freelance game design consultant Ernest Adams discussed the problems with storytelling in massively multiplayer online role-playing games and how these issues can be addressed using a hypothetical, World War II-inspired MMOG called The Blitz Online.
What he talked about:Ernest Adams has some problems with how storytelling is handled in today's MMOGs. In brief, there's a big disconnect between what the game says the player is doing and what is actually happening. Using The Lord of the Rings Online as an example, Adams' first problem was that creatures respawn when killed. The game may say a player has killed the diabolical spider, but if you wait a few moments, it reappears again. The problem is still there, and it will always be there.
He went on to say that in these games, the player's actions do nothing to influence the state of the world. In another example from LOTRO, Adams was tasked with collecting some items so that a group of non-player characters could invade a town. However, after he collected the materials, the invasion never happened. Other players brought their materials as well, but it didn't make a bit of difference. He also disliked the fact that players could simply abandon a quest without consequence. The world didn't suffer for it and neither did the player.
This isn't to say that gameworlds in MMOGs never change. World of Warcraft, the Ultima games, and LOTRO have all received expansion packs that have altered their respective worlds. However, Adams said, the change doesn't come gracefully. Instead, it happens to everyone, all at once, and it's usually not the result of the player's actions. One day the world is one way, and the next day, it's totally different. Once again, Adams doesn't feel as if he's making a real impact on the world; he's just watching it happen.
The solution to this MMOG problem is not an easy one. It involves creating a massive world with a plot line that naturally produces several smaller ones. Traditionally, this story structure takes the form of a massive expedition, an engineering or construction project, or a disaster-relief effort. The changes the players make to the world should be permanent, and their actions should matter. The game must end, and the quests should be unique to the individual players. And if players can die in the game, the death should be permanent.
All of this may seem impossible, but Adams didn't stop there. He went on to lay out his plans for an MMOG that uses all of these elements (and more) to create a world where player choice truly matters. The hypothetical game is called The Blitz Online; a free, educational online game about the civil defense forces during the blitz in World War II. The blitz refers to the sustained period of bombings to several European cities by the Nazis in the early 1940s.
The game would take place in London during this dark time, and the conditions of the city would only get worse if the players didn't take action. Buildings would be destroyed dynamically depending on where the bombs hit, and some areas may even become impassible if they take enough damage. Players would be divided into different regions and help with the relief effort as defined by their character class.
Good players would help the national morale go up. If the national morale reached a certain point, the Nazis would conclude that the bombing isn't having the desired psychological effect on the population and would stop; thus ending the game. Otherwise, the game would end on May 10, 1941, the historical date the bombings ceased.
Character classes would include firefighters, who drive around putting out fires; rescue workers, who rescue people from rubble; ambulance drivers, who are just as they sound; and the Women's Voluntary Service, the game's primary support class that provides food, shelter, and other services to the other characters. Character death would be permanent in The Blitz Online as well. The only caveat is that players can't be damaged by actual bombs; Adams doesn't want players to feel cheated by a random explosion. However, fires, car crashes, and other hazards are still plenty lethal.
Ultimately, The Blitz Online would be designed to feel less like the player is playing a game and more like he or she is experiencing a story. The gameworld would change through the ravages of war, as well as the player's ability to save (or not save) its buildings and people. No two bomb strikes would be exactly alike, and the changes made would be permanent. The global plot would also have a narrative arc taken from history, including the opening of shelters for citizens and the advent of deadlier bomb types. And finally, the game would have a specific end point.
Adams acknowledges that such a game won't happen overnight, but he does urge developers to start analyzing how their games can have a greater impact for players. As he noted early in the presentation, Adams is certain he's not the only one searching for this type of experience.
Quote:"I realize this game breaks almost all the rules."--Ernest Adams, on his hypothetical MMOG, The Blitz Online.
Takeaway: The MMOG genre (and video games in general) is still very young. There are plenty of new and unique experiences out there for developers to explore and players to discover. It's important that we help foster an industry that isn't afraid to take chances and get a little creative with the medium we all enjoy. Adams' ideas may seem overwhelming when taken all at once, but he insists that evolution of the genre is important.
Intriguing and quite interesting - this concept could heighten realism in games and take it to a new level - multiple people engaged in a story with their actions being able to change the outcomes. Although I wonder how exactly would such a game be saved ??? Maybe on the game's servers !!!
I hope Wolfire's Overgrowth project will at one point have a mode where whole tribes of those animalpeople fight over territory, build settlements and outposts and witness a living changing world. Stalker or Metro would make great MMOs too and a lot of people would love a proper Action Fantasy MMO along the lines of Demons Souls, Dragons Dogma. Personally, I'd love a fighting game MMO where you learn new skills at different Dojos, players can be teachers and students, tournaments and fights on streets with proper tight Street Fighter and similar mechanics once you get a fight started.
Oh and permadath in an MMO is a bad idea. Connections might get interrupted, the server gets a hiccup, you get an important call, the door bell rings and plain griefing combined with the time and effort invested in MMO characters makes this only enjoyable to sadists and masochists and it places too much importance into the game over the real world.
He got the problem right but so does almost anybody else, his concept though is quite horrible. I hope there will be more sandboxlike and dynamic MMOs out there in a few years. The Old Republic's approach just seems to invest a huge amount into parallel singleplayer content with some group activities. I don't want an involving single player storyline that is the same for everybody picking a similar character than mine in an MMO, that jsut leaves the world full of "Chosen Ones" who have been through the same stuff and therefore have nothing to tell each other. I like what Rift is doing now with the zone events combined with the frequent updates that send everybody on a global quest to unlock the next content. I was also quite happy with Horizons back in the day which had a similar take on global events everybody could partake in and happily worked for days and nights on the big construction projects to unlock, explore and conquer new content. Just think if what you did is of any interest to someone else, if talk about your game is just "Did you kill that latest boss?" "Yup." then you're doing it wrong.
So, basically a gaming consultant is talking about how other MMOs suck so he can say how the MMO he's working on will be so much more awesome and cool? Uh, sounds like free advertising to me....
MMO's as RPG's these are really about extending the initial table top dynamics of one game master generating a story and managing the game world for a small team of players which really is a great way to game. The focus is now on an all seeing and hearing AI that performs the role of god managing the lives of thousands of players, as yet it is not possible. I think current MMO technology is fueling an unconscious desire to create a meaningful man - machine relationship (we want to interact with an intelligent world). It is something beyond a purely educational justification and something beyond the realm of being just a game.
"I realize this game breaks almost all the rules." It does not only break business driven "rules" (of which most are mentioned in many posts one can read here) - it's exactly what a game is not nowadays. Something that has educational impact and teaches responsibility in any useful way. Brilliant idea for applied history in schools. Does a "harcore"-gamer think two thumbs and a quick finger really raises experience by number? Don't know any - I just shot some people and like the plat I got for it (it's called "hunter-gatherer" that makes you addicted, boys) Sadly, realism with scientific background kills the expected fun of a "game" most of the time. On the other hand - I'd rather go outside and talk to people who have experienced that awful time, watch "Die Welle" and "Das Experiment" to find out how this **** went wrong and watch some news to find out how the world is going down right NOW, not in a history-sim-game. That's exactly why I don't play Sims nor any ridiculous MMORPG. Too old for this...
I like the idea of the Blitz, but permadeath isn't something that should be forced on all gamers. Not everyone likes it, and there's a reason most games make it an optional feature.
@rando22 I see what your saying and think that would work; however, what about the "game ending" part? It would be nice to play the type of games you used in your example, especially assassins creed as an MMOG but then the game ends and....then....I'm outta ideas. The only thing I could see working there is having the developer sit there and dole out mass DLC's real quick which after a time would end up going south for various reasons. Definitely something that if done correctly though, would make for a entirely new way of playing.
@mypony89 I'm not badgering you at all, because you do make some good points, for example I agree with you on the game just ending. But with this type of ambition we need to think outside the "box." Who said that it has to fall into the traditional MMORPG template? Leveling, experience points, killing X amount of monsters, "go fetch" quests. Instead of levels or experience points what about just having a plot or story that progresses. Who needs another grinding experience(i.e. WoW, LotRO)? What if it was like (hypothetically of course) Assissins Creed or Gears. The story progresses, you get better/stronger but there's no leveling or experience points.
The game he's trying to create here won't set any new standards, it will just fall into a niche category. It most likely wouldn't even be a strong game for "hardcore" players, not only are deaths permanent, but also there's no "theory crafting" that comes from the game, and also there's no sort of competitive environment being created. The quote from Adams "I realize this game breaks almost all the rules" is even true for his own thought process, because of the death permanence he wants to make random bombs not kill players. This lack of death from bombing ruins the immersion he's looking for (ex. "Hey look a bomb fell on my head, don't worry I'm perfectly fine, I'll just put out this fire now")
I wouldn't mind having my actions actually effect the story line and I think the closest game I've played to that is GW. However, his problem with having enemies who don't reappear seems kinda senseless to me. I mean if you are playing an MMORPG then how exactly are you supposed to lvl up if there are no enemies to kill other than "go fetch" quests. Again, GW is the closest I've seen to not letting enemies reappear and that was a dynamic world all your own and they ended up reappearing when you came back to that area. His "the game should end" theory as well kinda leaves me thinking his game will be a "one hit something" because once its over...well, then what. There are no enemies to fight or anything. I'm not going to fork over 60 dollars + any subscription fees to play a game that will end in an MMO world. If I wanted that I play games like Oblivion or Skyrim. Lastly, when he says, if a player dies he should stay dead turns me off to his idea even more. I don't mind a penalty, loss of xp or whatever if I die, that is understandable, but to have to start a new character, no thanks, I'll stick with the traditional. I know alot of people sit there and say that if a game doesn't have something different in it than what is out there then it isn't all that great but maybe I'm just a 28 y/o old person who doesn't need a bunch of "hip" new whatchmacallits in my game.
Yeah the term "Persistent world" is something he's carefully avoided, since it's bandied with a notion of acceptance. Most of us subscribers already know we're not doing anything other than grinding the hamster wheel; we just enjoy the various illusions to hide that grind. It would be a truly incredible game type that imposed lasting consequences based on player action and success - possibly too heavy for current players' tastes.
Ooooohhh teacher I know the problem! Publishers don't want to put their lot in with high-risk IPs that might potentially cost them billions and then flop. That pretty much explains everythiiiiing...
I agree that the static nature of the quests and the world is one of the reasons I stopped playing them. Developers should try to make players actions matter. If players band together and manage to kill a powerful NPC, then the NPC should remain dead.
This idea would be amazing. It's one of the reasons why I don't play MMOGs much. It seems that SWTOR is kind of going down this road, of course the choices you make affect only your personal story, not the whole game world. But all in all, I hate to say it, but I'm pretty sure that developers will continue to use the tried and proven "formula" of "game building" if only to rake in the big bucks. It just seems to me that only a few games come out that really try to give a unique experience to the player rather than to make money.
Right now people arent playing mmo's for the story. They are playing it because of the carrot and stick elements employed. You are always trying to get to the next level, unlock a new ability, aquire better gear etc. These games give you a sense of accomplishement in short repeatable bursts where does that happen in real life?
I'm actually surprised that there is so much market for MMOG's. They require a lot of people playing it for a lot of time... can't see myself playing more then one at a time.
I'd like to point out some key similarities in other areas of entertainment. This sort of trend isn't JUST in MMOGs. It's also in television series (a good thing to point at here is anime as well). Every episode has it's own little theme (compared to a "questing area" in an mmo) but essentially at the end of the episode things go back to the way they were at the beginning with little to no change at the end of each episode. Season finales usually change something big, and those changes could be compared to an MMO's "expansion pack". And before anybody rages over my "anime" comment, yes. I'm aware that not ALL anime is like that. I watched Cowboy Bebop from start to finish, so I know there are rare exceptions. If there were a real problem with MMO's way of doing things, I don't think there would be literally millions of people playing them day in & day out. Not every body likes MMOs, does that mean that MMOs should change to suit the minority? Certainly not. If you don't like MMOs, or don't like the way that they're handled, then don't play them. Find a single player game or a 4-man coop campaign to play with friends.
I think the problem with the MMOG genre is that it's currently like the FPS genre. It's all the same, with only very minor variations to specific elements. It needs to get more specialized and stop trying to cater to every single player type out there all in one game. Personally, I'm an explorer/challege seeker. I don't want to play MMOGs to "unwind after work" and "complete a series of tasks to level up". I want a big, harsh world with no story and alot of options in how I define progression and goals, so I can make up my Own story. I don't want to write the ending for someone else's story, or fill in the blanks. I want to make my own, and I want a PURE sandbox to do it. If you love Minecraft, Demon's Souls...you know what I mean.
Man... I just got schooled... I never knew... Wait a second, I did know. In fact, I think EVERYONE knows this. In fact, I would be my fiance would be able to come up with this if I gave her a couple minutes and she despises them to the point where she's never actually played one. Should this be how it is? Yes, absolutely. But I've only seen three things even come close. Asheron's Call does monthly updates where things can change (not seamlessly) and Guild Wars where it happens but then you are segregated in some way from the people who haven't gone through the change. Then there's minecraft which is probably the best case of this. But even then, the player still has to come up with the story around it. It takes months for even a professional author to write a book (roughly) and you want something like that to place in weeks, not counting coding, graphic design and the animation requirements would just be staggering. I'm not against this, but right now it's just hugely unrealistic. We're talking about having multiple writers doing separate stories concurrently so that hopefully each one's story could pick up with the other left off and rotate back to the beginning. And God help the coders who will essentially be on crunch continuously.
Well all of those MMOG problems he just brought up ARE ALL BEING ADDRESSED by Arenanet as WE SPEAK, DEVELOPING GUILD WARS 2!!!!! And that game he was talking about, The Blitz Online, sounds so boring, OMG....its horrendous, I couldn't see that working...just play Guild Wars 2, that's solving all the problems. Jheeze, it truly escapes me why he didn't mention Guild Wars 2 after they have been addressing and solving ALL those problems he mentioned, Arenanet realised that MMOs were getting stale 2/3 years ago, so this guy's late....Arenanet are the innovators, not this guy Ernest Adams....
I totally agree with the problems he mentioned that most nowadays MMO's have, your actions have little to non impact and it's really making them boring quick. But given it is, his examples how it should be done need much work or a rethinking of the whole process what he thinks it should be like, because if he wants it that way, tell me any reason why I should play it instead of a better Offline Game with amazing multiple stories all ongoing at once and having big impact on the whole games world?
That game...doesn't sound very fun at all. As far as his other points, WoW seemed to have hit a great idea with the phasing system, where you really can see a difference in a zone before and after you play through it, and it's permanent for that character. This way everyone can access the content, but there's still a sense of progression. It is true that it doesn't affect the world as a whole, but there have been world events in the past. Overall, though, solving the core of that problem is impossible as long as you have an MMO that lasts indefinitely, and MMOs have to last indefinitely in order to be sustainable.
Playing Star Trek Online for about 100 hours this summer, I absolutely agree. I'm not having any impact on the game, and enemy respawns take all of 30 seconds most times. It's like I'm watching a DVD that repeats chapters, then every ten levels or so I get to watch a new part of a story that's already been written. Aside from dailies, everyone just grinds the feature missions to get the next tier of the best loot. That's like watching the same youtube video 8 or 9 times. Still, I happen to like that story and the process of getting there. I just wish it wasn't protracted like MMOs have to be. Forcing me to spend 5 hours grinding so I can pretend I'm getting my money's worth. STO would make an excellent single player game in its current state of Season 4. (Arguably not so at launch.) The disappointing moment in an MMO for me comes when I just skip dialogue and look for the highlight text so I know what to click to get on with the mission. If I didn't have to do the same thing thirty times, I'd enjoy reading what all these writers have worked so hard on. This is why the single player experience is so meaningful, to absorb the narrative. Online, I want to absorb EXP.
@cboyuno I think you misunderstood the blitz. There is no war, its just defend, rescue and rebuild. I imagine the only "war" you'd see is if you were able to take control of an Anti Air battery. But it still sounds like an excellent idea. Imagine MAG with these game mechanics, where you don't just go into battle but you can play as a support class in field hospitals where people have to go to revive once killed in battle, in mess halls providing food or in the actual weapons factories of each PMC building weapons from stuff plundered during the main battles.
I feel Adams is suggesting that the developers and game companies should work towards "daily updates" instead of "major updates" after x amount of time in a MMOG. It also means players will spend more time and be more serious about the MMOG he/she is in. However, by constantly updating a MMOG, it indicates the game itself gains more life span which sometimes is against the fast-paced world we are living in. Like Adams acknowledges this change won't happen overnight but I think the MMOG itself is changing. It slowly integrates into our daily lives..if it's not there already.
This is an amazing idea. I can see it all now. Once the game is released there is a week downtime before players can begin to fight each other. In the first week your character is in boot camp. If you buy the game late, your character isn't weaker but you join the war late so to speak. The game would put you in the shoes of a soldier and once you die you are shut out of the campaign forever. You literally can't log back into the game. This would be the ultimate game for hardcore players. However, your money wouldn't go to waste. When the war ended weeks later you would get to play again. etc.
Three words about MMOGs: they - never - end. Until they start having a beginning, a middle and an end (if only to restart the next day, i see no problem with that) nothing will change much in these games.
This guy seriously needs to play the GW2 demo at gamescom. Your personal storyline is completely instanced and your personal town is permanently affected. The open world portion of GW2 has events that change the landscape, towns, services etc. depending on the choices the players make.
Finally! Something truly interesting out of a game conference. Isn't this what we all really want out of games? I'm tired of just killing or being killed in COD, I want a more meaning ful game experience!
Blitz Online would be the most revolutionary mmo but the game would never sale. No guns, swords, bows? Adams may have good ideas but he is no marketer which kind of defeats his argument. If you want to change mmos, you need to present something that someone would actually want to play while being your ideal fantasy dream game if not, you are just stating common knowledge.
He's got some good thoughts. A lack of change can be unsettling in an MMO, and it definitely lessens the impact of a player's choices. But he's already behind the times...several of the next generation MMOs already have or are going to have more persistent choices. Rift, for example, has dynamic events that can completely change an area of the world if players don't react to them, and things don't go back to normal until the players respond. SWTOR also looks to make player choices mean more, though certainly not to the extent as Adams is talking here. The biggest genre changer on the horizon, however, appears to be Guild Wars 2. Their dynamic questing system appears to be exactly what Adams is looking for in an MMO. Players are given information about what is happening in the world, and are free to respond or ignore it, and suffer the consequences. If they act but fail, this also has consequences. All in all, it's shaping up to be a pretty innovative game. I do think his Blitz Online idea is taking it a bit too far, though. As many others have said, what he is suggesting doesn't actually sound fun. And that's the kicker. If it's not fun, people won't play (or pay).
A players actions impacting the game world seems like an impossible dream at this stage of MMO development. To create a game that would allow for millions of tiny actions shaping how things are would just be mind boggling. However, it does pose an interesting question about whether something like that could ever be done.
What about a custom instanced area that is affected by players. This way, while a player may not necessarily be in a persistent world all of the time (wow has dungeons and raids), the areas the player does occupy in his/her/their own space is permanently affected by the character. Imagine helping lead a revolution in a zone, only to see that zone stay liberated until, perhaps, another faction managed to weasel things away? I realize they had something like this in TBC, but I'm, thinking bigger; settlements affected, mob behavior affected, lasting consequences, no lame upkeep or resetting, players decide when things get done, global affects like the price of certain items known to come from that area going up in value/cost, global quests affected by this such as finding alternatives to said aforementioned item or a means top cope with the loss/gain in supply. I'm just throwing this out there, but I'm sure there must be things that can be done to improve this without drastically overhauling the rest of the core mechanic people enjoy in an MMO like the freedom and non-linearity.
It is refreshing at least to see a game analyst/strategist talking about a solution to gaming other than switching to ios! :P But I think that to a certain point mmog's (and games in general) can get TOO REALISTIC and that is where I think it would cross the line..having to pay for other people's stupid decisions and laziness....that is government not videogames.Yes..of course...I am sure a player says (after being killed) ''YES! I just got killed! I totally appreciate this realism and would very much be willing to shell out money to die over and over again!''....gamers play mmo's for a chance to escape and play a game that doesn't necessarily have an end,not a title that ends after you complete the quest (which destroys the purpose of online might I remind you) and have to deal with more boredom and tough luck situations than they would face in real life.I suppose next we can only walk a couple miles before having to take a break since it is unrealistic to think we can walk forever huh?
Honestly it's an intresting article and what he talks about are good ideas for an MMO its just the game he described is horribly dull sounding I mean I get it your targetting the MMO crowd with their well proven ability to have literally more time to burn away on piffle then anyone else (see WoW) So yes I can see making that game but I cannot see anyone playing it. In other MMO's people grind because of the underlying purpose in it as always is to be more powerful that THAT guy this game he described has none of that and lacks well... any sort of real purpose who gives a #$*#$ about digital britian.
This sounds like a very boring game, or some cheesy mobile game. Sure, those are strange quirks of MMOs he pointed out, but that's why they exist: they're just quirks. They're excepted, parodied, and people move on. The thrill of MMOs is being with a ton of other people, seeing cities swarming with players doing their own thing which you can't script, and being part of a game that always changes with each patch and has ever-expanding content. Story serves as a little bit of reason for what a quest has you doing, and WoW is about as far as one can go with story in an MMO before people are just playing an RPG with a lot of people walking around next to them. This guy's ideas are illogical, boring, and to some degree a little childish. Who invited him to this panel?
Wow... this guy is idiotic. First of all in his MMO the most interesting class is a damn nurse who hands out food. Second the point of MMOs is to feel like a small part of something big. Say WoW, you are supposed to feel like a small member of the Horde/Alliance, not some ultimate power that can do anything. Third a WWII MMO is the worst idea I have heard in a LOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNG time. Yes it's different but so is a sandwich made out of taco sauce and dog poo.
Nah, that sounds pretty dumb to me. If you die it's permenant?? What if you want to keep playing huh? you make another player?? This would probaly not work at all. If he wants a fun mmo, then he should play RuneScape.
"[...]thus ending the game." Knowing the game will end defeats a whole lot of what MMOs are all about. Need to rethink the plan to include a story where the world can change, but will cycle in a way that keeps the changes going back and forth indefinitely. Sure, that cuts into how world-changing the story can be, but it is the best compromise, IMHO, and much better than what we see in MMOs now, where nothing we do matters at all.
I understand what he's saying and totally agree, but it's not really practical at this point in time. Who would wanna pay $10-15 a month to play a game that could eventually end upon satisfying certain requirements, or in which they could potentially permanently die?
The downside to this is that games like this, cause the player to miss out on certain sequences or events. In a game like WoW most players can experience all the quests they want. However I feel that a middle ground between these two styles is the best way to go.
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