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Author Topic: MMO Developer Says To Abandon Heavily Interdependent Systems  (Read 4037 times)

Offline MrJuliano

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Russell Williams, the CEO of Flying Lab, who produced the MMO Pirates of the Burning Sea sent <a href="http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10014&Itemid=2>an email to Next Generation[/url] about the recent merging of Pirates' servers, blaming interdependent game systems as the root of the problem.


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Pirates’ gameplay is very organic, designed in such a way that the different systems feed into one another. In a PvE-only game, focusing mainly on content, this isn’t a big deal. But in Pirates of the Burning Sea we have systems that require a minimum number of players to function correctly, such as our economy, and they break other systems if they’re not working correctly (such as PvP). If we didn’t have these kinds of interdependent systems, we wouldn’t even be considering server merges.



On Ralph Koster's blog, a member of the Ultima Online development team and former creative director and Chief Creative Officer of SWG, he comments on the email, saying at one point,


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The lesson to be drawn, perhaps, is “don’t make heavily interdependent systems.” But that lesson kind of sucks, because there is so much interesting gameplay and design territory out there in player interdependence land. Player economies, guilds, player towns — all fail if there isn’t a certain size there. No entertainers in the (old-school) SWG cantina, and the whole combat experience fell apart. No combat guys out there by the harvesters and the crafting system could fall apart (though there was never a shortage of combat guys). And so on.



This type of thinking doesn't bode well for STO, where the game will potentially need to balance out economy, leveling/skillset system, player housing on both planetary and ship/bases, plus a robust space-based and ground-based gameplay. Here's to hoping the new developer doesn't heed these doomsday scenarios.

Plus, given the fact that STO players will likely be more social than most, these systems will hopefully stay populated and not result in the game's demise.
« Last Edit: 23 April 2008 06:04 AM by MrJuliano »
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Offline Hamilton

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Re: MMO Developer Says To Abandon Heavily Interdependent Systems
« Reply #1 on: 23 April 2008 06:41 AM »
The problem is, which I'll state for the record, is entrench conventional thinking and management.  MMO's are a new breed of games and cannot follow the methods of previous computer games.

Rather, follow the history of prior table-top games and RPG's and go from there.
Build the core system and then expand from there, not build everything at once and hope it works with possible fixes later.


And do not charge top dollar.  Start low and go up, as has Eve-Online.  Pirates of the Burning Seas is a good game, but not at the level of $50 for the client with a $15/mo subscription.  Perhaps as a Free Client and a $10/mo subscription.
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Offline MrJuliano

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Re: MMO Developer Says To Abandon Heavily Interdependent Systems
« Reply #2 on: 23 April 2008 07:08 AM »
I couldn't agree more, Dracus. We are essentially playing the Super Mario Bros. and Contras of the MMO era. Like with the early game environment, changes in thinking about how to make MMOs must be made in order for the genre to grow.

This is still the infancy of interactive entertainment, and growing it is important, but will only come when there is a change in how developers approach projects from the beginning, not in large changes after a game is produced and released.
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Offline DougQB

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Russell Williams, the CEO of Flying Lab, who produced the MMO Pirates of the Burning Sea sent <a href="http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10014&Itemid=2>an email to Next Generation[/url] about the recent merging of Pirates' servers, blaming interdependent game systems as the root of the problem . . . .


Thanks for posting that.

It makes me wonder what types and to what extent a Star Trek MMO should have interdependent systems.  I noticed the discussion quickly moved from interdependent systems to the interdependence of players/characters.  I suppose to a certain extent there will always be some overlap there, but that isn't necessarily exactly the same thing.  They certainly aren't mutually exclusive though either.   :p

Another issue that was also related to this was cooperative and competitive game play.  All of these issues have a bearing on the style of game you end up with.  I wonder which mix fits the type of player most likely to play Star Trek Online?


Offline SpeakThoseWords

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Re: MMO Developer Says To Abandon Heavily Interdependent Systems
« Reply #4 on: 11 June 2008 06:19 PM »
An interesting warning.  I have multiple answers, especially when it comes to STO.  Two steps that can be taken to alleviate this effect:

1) Fewer Servers (like, maybe 1)
With space so large, it's really not inconceivable to populate space with a million player characters.  The tech behind it may need to be tested out since that's unprecedented, but it hardly seems impossible, especially if common areas like Earth are large enough and content is progressively generate, eliminating the 'development time' barrier to massive servers.

2) NPC Fill-ins
Your crew is full of NPCs doing jobs meant for low level players.  They're not as good as players, but they keep the ship together while you worry about the weightier matters of diplomacy and fleet organization.  If there is a space that needs to be filled, let an NPC do a half job.  In all of the above examples, suitable NPCs would have propped up the interdependent systems.

alternately:

3) Worry about it later
This is only a problem when the playerbase wanes.  Until then, let the good times roll and just leave flexibility to implement the solution later.

I don't think a Trek game can really capture the Trek spirit without having interdependent systems.  It's hardly a universe of soloers out there.
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Offline Raven

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Re: MMO Developer Says To Abandon Heavily Interdependent Systems
« Reply #5 on: 25 July 2008 08:25 PM »
While a heavily interdependent system might not be a good thing, you can't almost completely eliminate it like they did in the NGE Version of SWG.  STO needs to be about teamwork and cooperation.  To ensure that the system doesn't fail, a strategy that can be used is to start off with a handful of servers and try to get them at least halfway to capacity or have a predetermined population benchmark and then make available other servers as needed.  I feel however an interdependent system is necessary in STO.