[MUD-Dev] Re: A Non-Cumulative Character MMORPG? Heresy!

Paul Schwanz paul.schwanz at east.sun.com
Wed Nov 28 14:02:18 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Jeff Freeman wrote:
>> From: Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com

>> As for pvp being bad, thats because combat in these games is
>> completely unsophisticated. If the balance is moved towards
>> player skill as opposed to level then things may start to
>> evolve. We covered this a bit a month ago too ;)

> Indeed, and that's another realm where MMO's are doing things
> because that's what (C)RPG's are *supposed* to do, but where it
> might not actually be the best thing in the world to do.  How
> about an MMORPG with no stats or skills at all - yet still with
> avatars, inventory, crafting, quests, housing, pets, and all the
> other stuff that people have come to expect from MMO's?

Absolutely!  While I personally enjoy some things about character
development through evolving states and skills, must an MMORPG be a
cumulative character game?  On the other hand, perhaps an MMORPG
could even have stats, skills, and character development without
totally revolving around these things.

Change is interesting.  A game that offers no change is boring.
Players want to experience change and they want to effect it.  Could
it be that the current paradigm causes players to be so wrapped up
in changes to their character because there is really no other type
of change offered or supported?  If I can't make my character's
experience increase or his skills change, I can't have any sort of
interesting impact on the game at all.  Is it any wonder that we
have lots of powergamers and little else.  The game becomes about
character development because it isn't designed to be about anything
else.  To me, this is a cumulative character game.

I'd like to design an MMORPG that is about changing the virtual
world.  This change could still involve characters, but it may also
involve communities, it could involve animal populations, it might
be about political alliances, it could be more concerned with
building physical structures or idealogical governments, or it might
allow change in any number of other areas where it makes sense for
players to have a meaningful impact on the virtual world.  The point
is that the focus is shifted outward, away from the individual, with
its narrow goals and perspective.  Objectives take on a larger
scope.  This is where I think a massively single-player game becomes
a massively multi-player game.

Perhaps in order to get players to understand and accept this
paradigm shift, we will need to move deliberately away from how
cumulative character works in current games.  I don't see this as a
bad thing at all, since I agree that cumulative character games
borrow needlessly and often illogically from their PnP predecessors.
If we give up our sacred cows, I think we can create something much
better.  Of course, I still like stats and skills. ;)

I'd love to see more discussion about how we can put together
effective and balanced systems that allows players to strongly
impact the game world.  I think this will require some different
thinking as to what "balance" actually is in an MMORPG.  Until the
means of addressing imbalances are handed to the players, the game
world must always remain relatively static, since developer support
is simply too limited to constantly right imbalances in a dynamic
world.  When you give this responsibility (not by simply washing
your hands of the matter, but through game design) to the players,
truly it is their world now.

But how do we do this?


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