Posts tagged ‘world’

Bad Guys Don’t Play Nice

This post goes along with the previous post on combat. Besides being short and sweet (or not so sweet if you get yourself killed) when thinking about combat it needs to be remembered that bad guys aren’t going to fight fair. Unlike MMOs today where the mobs will just stand there and trade blows with you, “real” bad guys don’t want to do that. They’ll set up ambushes, traps, run away if the fight goes sour on them, etc. Players will need to change the way they think about taking on the bad guys if they want to come out on top, let alive just survive.

Any time a player has to enter into hostile territory, he needs to start thinking about several things:

  • What in the immediate area can kill me?
  • What in the immediate area can hide things that can kill me?
  • What in the immediate area can let the bad guy know I’m here?
  • Is the immediate area even the best way to go?
    The last is something that needs to be considered by the area designer. The bad guy is almost never going to want a direct route that leads to him that’s easily discoverable by players. This is part of why mission planning is going to be important. If the player doesn’t know how to find the bad guy, he shouldn’t just be able to follow a path to him.
    The first 3 are also things that need to be considered by area designers, but in a different way. Even if the area the player is in doesn’t lead to the bad guy, it needs to appear that it might and thus, needs to have things that are hazardous to the player, although not overwhelmingly so. Thinking like a bad guy means that the stuff the designer puts into or near an area of the bad guy’s lair costs money and bad guys are probably going to be cheap about what he leaves lying around, unless the bad guy is a multi-millionaire, which shouldn’t be common, obviously.
    What kind of cheap but deadly things might players encounters in an area? Things like mines, pits, things that a character might touch that are electrified, trip wires that release gases, etc. are all usually staples in a bad guy’s arsenal, though they’re also all pretty cliché. Still, some of the usual suspects should be used to satisfy the player’s expectation.
    The area designer is also going to have to consider how players might be able to escape or evade these things in order to keep things fun for the player. A trap that is unavoidable that kills the character 99% of the time isn’t going to be fun and if the game isn’t fun the player will not continue to play. Typical building architectural pieces like ventilation shafts, fire escapes, rear entrances, and roof accesses are all things that should be options to be considered when designing the area a bad guys makes his HQ in. Most bad guys in the game are going to use regular buildings as their lairs so these things should be present, although possibly booby-trapped in keeping with the thinking above.
    Depending on the bad guy, he also might not want to kill agents that come knocking at his door, so traps may be non-lethal. Not only does this give the player a better chance of making it to the bad guy it also means the designer has to plan for what happens if the traps incapacitates the character. Is there a part of the lair that can be used as a holding cell? How thorough are the minions of the bad guy going to be in making sure the character doesn’t have anything on him that will allow him to escape? How escapable is the holding cell going to be (again, it might just be an office in the building the bad guy has holed up in)? Is the bad guy going to want to interrogate the character and, if so, how is this going to play out in the game?

Ultimately, building a world that is both fun and exciting for the player for several years of game playing time and one that is also not just another standard MMO is going to be challenging. I think it’s something that has to be done though, to bring some freshness back to the genre and pull in players like myself that have given up on MMOs that devolve into grindfests and new players that are looking for something different.

To MMO Or To Not MMO, That Is The Question

In thinking about how player interaction is going to work in the spy game, I started thinking about player interaction in the genre in general. How many MMOs really need the first “M”? From my experience, not many. What use is it really to have a couple thousand players running around in the same world if they don’t interaction and their actions don’t affect the world for other players? More often than not, having that many players running around in the same world is a hindrance for players when you have to deal with issues like spawn camping.

Is it just to make things easier for developers? I know the more players the game has the more money developers make, but can’t you get the same number of players in the game in a way that makes things better and more interesting for the players? I think so.

There’s a couple of things that could be done:

  • Make the game so that player actions affect the world in a meaningful way.
  • Make the game so that there are fewer players in each instance of the world, but more instances.
  • Allow players to jump in and out of instances as needed (for example player in U.S. city HQ instance doing a mission that takes the character to a European city instance).

Doing option two doesn’t mean that option one can’t be done as well. Ideally the world would be affected by players no matter which way you went.

I’m trying to think of how a game would be less attractive to players if the world didn’t have a thousand or so players running around in it. I can’t really think of a down-side assuming you let things like auctions and such still be done. That doesn’t require the actual character’s presence in the world. Of course, this assumes the game doesn’t have missions that require hundreds of characters to take part in it. I know there are dungeon raids in MMOs these days that require a large number of players, but I think that’s a design decision that doesn’t need to be done to make the game fun and exciting.

I know I’m probably missing something in my scattered thoughts on this subject so I’d appreciate hearing some other viewpoints. As always, I’ll be posting links to this post in the GP Wiki and App Hub forums:

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. 🙂