[MUD-Dev] Building a 'Deeper' MMOG [was The Future of MMOGs... what's next?]

Ron Gabbard rgabbard at swbell.net
Fri Jun 14 11:55:12 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Talanithus HTML" <talanithus at mindspring.com>
> From: "Ron Gabbard" <rgabbard at swbell.net>

>> Personal opinion, the main short-coming with MMOGs is that they
>> are one mile wide, 100 miles long and 6 inches deep.

> I would love to reply to this, Ron, but I really am not following
> what you mean by MMOGs being "6 inches deep."  Of all the gaming
> genres in existence, I think MMOGs have the deepest influence of
> all.  They allow social interactions, communities, individualized
> representations of one's self...  basically the ability live and
> breath in a new world!  In effect, I believe that MMOGs are
> actually the deepest gaming experience that has yet been created.

> Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean?  Could you elucidate
> on your thoughts, please?

I would love to elucidate.  <Maximum Verbosity> This is the aspect
of MMORPGs I'm most passionate about...

I agree with you that MMOGs are generally deeper than any other game
genre because of the reason that you pointed out... the social
interactions between players.  However, within the genre, the scope
of possible PvP and PvE activities a player may perform are
extremely limited.  Thus, new content additions typically put new
skins/stats/names on old activities and items making the game
"broader and wider", but not "deeper".

There are few consequences to in-game activities in the current
stable of MMORPGs.  Those activities that would have the greatest
consequences in these games are typically anti-social and/or are
'disallowed' through the TOS or the code itself.  You can get a
group of people together to kill off 'bears' in an area for 1000
hours straight and it will have no impact on anything except your
waistline and posture.  You can kill off your avatar 1000 times in a
row and that avatar will still come back to die yet again.  Kind of
like the old Jay Leno 'Doritos' commercial... 'crunch all you
want... we can make more.'  Through hard work and shrewd trading, a
character can amass a huge fortune... and have nothing to buy except
'twink' gear at inflated prices.  Thus, I postulate (while I
elucidate) that the next 'revolutionary' step for MMOGs will be
increasing the scope of possible player activities while adding
consequences to the game world, i.e., make it 'deeper'.

A dynamic ecology where areas can be 'deforested' through repeated
clear-cutting is a basic example of consequences...

Imagine a world where players harvest trees for wood that is used to
make player-owned buildings, weapons, furniture, etc.  There is no
fixed cost for constructing and owning a 'house', just the cost of
the lumber needed to construct it and that cost is determined by
free market supply/demand.  Repairs to house degradation and damage
are also 'paid for' in wood, not gold.  Thus, assuming that many
people will want to own houses and commercial buildings, the demand
for lumber would be tremendous and growing exponentially as more and
more players constructed buildings.

In an 'infinite-spawn' world with a free market economy, this would
lead to an increase in the number of 'lumberjacks' until the profits
(utility) gained from that skill reached equilibrium with other
competing activities.  However, just by making the economy
market-driven, there is already a deeper level of 'consequences'
associated with player actions as prices will fluctuate based on
supply/demand.  Now, take it step further...

The ecology is such that X number of trees are required in an area
to prevent erosion and support the flora/fauna that call that area
home.  Repeated clear-cutting of an area over a period of time will
lead to the degradation of the soil such that it will no longer
support trees... yet the demand for lumber continues to grow.  Thus,
you have a Tragedy of the Commons where the entire world could
(theoretically) eventually be deforested.  (sound familiar?)
Players will compete with other players for the finite amount of
resources.  You've now given players the ability to change the world
through their activities and those activities have consequences thus
making the world a little more 'deeper'.  Now, take it a step

A component for the primary 'heal' spell is a ground-spawn herb that
likes shade and only grows under trees.  The consequences for
clear-cutting just got greater.  Lumber is a pretty much a
universal, high-demand product as is the 'heal' spell.  You've put
two 'core' aspects of the game (home/building ownership and
'hunting' efficiency) in competition with each other at the societal
level.  There is now a REAL reason for those tree-hugging druids to
protect the forests.  Now, take it a step further...

A player organization builds a town and establishes an area of
influence.  They've seen the deforestation around other cities so
they decree that no one outside of their organization can harvest
lumber from 'their' forest without their permission.  This could be
implemented any number of ways.  Through the code -- "You cannot cut
down that tree.  It doesn't belong to you."  Through player PK
enforcement -- The player organization is responsible for patrolling
their own forest (or hiring NPC guards) and attacking 'poachers'.
Or, by letting the player organization determine their own penalty
-- Attacking the poacher, blacklisting the poacher so that no player
in their organization (or any other group/person that can be
influenced) will buy or sell to that poacher, banning poachers from
using any of their city's facilities, making the poacher KoS to
their city's NPC guards, etc.

The number of potential scenarios that could ultimately play out is
almost infinite and determined entirely by the players.

That's what I meant by 'deeper' versus 'wider and longer'.  No
additional content was added per se.  The players were just given a
greater ability to interact with the existing content and with each
other.  The players don't have to be 'told' anything with regards to
how they should act as the 'market forces' inherent in the various
competitive scenarios above will drive behavior.  They just have to
be given the ability to do the activities and those activities be
given consequences that result in conflict and competition within
individual players, player organizations, and the player base as a

OK, done elucidating.  I hope I was able to explain myself.



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