Posts tagged ‘missions’

Spy Game Design – World Setup / Server Architecture

Disclaimer – I am by no means an expert in the area of MMO hardware architecture, so some of this is just wondering aloud (or in print as the case may be) about the logical way to set up servers for our spy MMO.

Normally in MMOs you have a bunch of servers that each are running a copy of the entire world, or part of a world with several servers grouped together to make an entire copy of the world. Some similar to this:

mmo architecture

The blue ball would be the world server that the player is handed off to from the login server (in the upper right) after the player successfully logs in, where he’s handed off to the server(s) where his character resides.

This is a must-have architecture when you have millions of people running around and the people can, at some point, get to every point in the world. What if you want to normally limit players to only a section of the world though? This is probably the way most spy agencies work, TV shows about spies not withstanding.

If there’s an operation that requires agents to go out of the local area, in the game it could be handled by spawning an instance of that area on a server dedicated just to spawn instances, which shouldn’t be too resource intensive so that many instances could be handled at the same time and agents from any area in the world could be handled. The mission areas probably wouldn’t be as large as the area where an agency HQ is located, which would be city sized or slightly larger possibly. I would imagine most missions could be contained to several city blocks and if the mission takes place in several locations, the areas could be loaded into the instance as needed.

The world server (the blue ball) can be used to allow area instances to communicate with each other. This could be represented in game by any UI needed, from a web site on a device that the character can look at that shows what’s going on in the agency in all the areas, to a bulletin board in the HQ break room that shows memos from other area HQs to whatever can be dreamt up.

Obviously this type of hardware setup is going to be out of the means of most indie developers. What do we do then? For test purposes this could be several instances of the server software running on one machine, or a couple of you have a network that’s available to you. Since we’re just in the “here’s what I’d imagine things would look like” stage right now, we can worry about the actual implementation later.

So is this kind of a setup logical from the way our game is going to work? What am I missing? I’m sure I left something out or my ignorance makes what I’m thinking of difficult or impossible. 🙂

Spy Game Design – Assignments/Missions

One of the things that annoyed me the most about every MMO that I played (and I’ve played about a dozen since being in the EQ beta) was that I never felt like I was making a difference in the world. I’d get a quest to get rid of some troublesome mobs and an hour later they’d be running around right back where I left their corpses.

I understand that in order to balance the games the way they’d been designed to make it fair for all the players that they had to do this, but haven’t we evolved past that? Is it not possible for players to do things that other players haven’t and still have it be fair and balanced? As long as players all get a chance to do the same amount of quests and get the same level of rewards/experience, it should be ok, right?

That’s what I’d like to see in my hypothetical spy game. There should be enough trouble caused by the “bad guys” (who can be players) that the good guys have enough to keep them busy and the world should be alive enough for the bad guys to find things to do to keep the good guys in business.

Perhaps the game can help both sides out by providing tidbits that lead to missions (think – snitches for both sides). How about allowing players to play both sides of the fence as informers? Non-action type classes seemed to work well in SWG, after all. Hmmm, have to think about that. How would that type of player progress through the game? Money, probably, which means he needs some way to spend it (I smell a topic for the next blog post). At the very least players should be allowed to try to infiltrate the other organization in order to bring information back to their HQ.

Would the game need a 3rd organization to balance out the two and provide more activities to perform? That’s a thought. It would be a ton more work, but might help keep things interesting longer.

The types of assignments are something I’d like to see expanded from the regular MMO variety. Of course there would be the typical Fed Ex, kill <x>, escort, etc. but there has to be a way to make them more interesting.  For Fed Ex and escort missions, there should be a chance that an opposing agency knows about the delivery or person being escorted and that would lead to the player having to figure out whether to try to complete the mission stealthily or by gunning it out. For the latter, calling backup should be an option. Completing the mission for a percentage of XP is better than dying, right? Which brings up another topic for discussion – death. :\ That’ll probably have to be another post. I’m of two minds on the subject and need to think about it.

Multi-step assignments are also something that should be part of the game. Every good spy show carried some missions through multiple episodes where they did something new each episode. An eavesdropping mission turns up information about a Fed Ex mission or theft being planned that the agent then needs to stop. After stopping the delivery the package is examined which leads to another mission.

Obviously, the mission system is going to make or break the game. I can see many man hours being spent designing the system, let alone figuring out missions and how to set them up and get them to players. I’d love to hear some feedback on what’s wrong with current quest systems and how to fix them while keeping them fun and balanced.