[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

Ben Hoyt Ben.Hoyt at SilverPlatterSoftware.com
Wed Feb 5 17:48:26 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: Ron Gabbard

> A 4-hour/week player will never compete with a 60-hour/week player
> in terms of progression along the "treadmill".

I don't accept that this statement is NECESSARILY true.  At the same
time, I'm also not sure whether or not it SHOULD be true.  But, let
me take a minute to play devil's advocate.

> First, if a hard cap of 4 hours is placed on each character each
> week, many core players will have 5 "capped" characters.  Thus,
> instead of the 4-hour/week blacksmith competing with one
> 60-hour/week blacksmith, they're competing with ten 4-hour/week
> blacksmiths with many core players being a completely
> self-sufficient Avatar Incorporateds... Bubba the Miner, Johann
> the Lumberjack, Antoine the Tailor, Sam the Blacksmith, and Conan
> the Hunter.  While Casual Carl the Blacksmith may have just as
> much skill as Sam the Blacksmith, Conan the Hunter is going to
> "buy" his sword and armor from his alt.  The end result is an
> increase in supply of each craft to the point where it's not
> profitable for anyone and there HAS to be an inflationary economy
> where players have "extra" money to pay for skilling the crafters.

There are quite a few design decisions that could be made to address
the problem you're pointing out.  The first, and simplest, would be
that players have to identify a "primary" character.  Each account's
"primary" character would be allowed to advance, say, 4 levels in a
week.  "Secondary" characters would be limited to 2.  Problem
solved.  Secondly, I'll also point out that leveling is (in theory)
only PART of the game experience.  I know quite a few people (myself
included) who, if limited to a certain number of levels per week, in
a game like DAoC, would level until they hit that limit and then
just go play the game (RvR, in the case of DAoC) for the rest of the
week.  I most certainly would NOT feel compelled to go create alts
in classes that didn't interest me, just so I could keep frantically
leveling.  While I think that the phenomenon you're afraid of would
occur to a limited degree, I think that you have no real reliable
basis for drawing the conclusion that it would result in a situation
where it can't be profitable for people to be crafters.

> Secondly, a primary advantage of the 60-hour/week player is in the
> social network they develop.  MMOGs are designed such that players
> cooperating will achieve a greater rate of success than players
> trying to go solo.  The social network developed by the
> 60-hour/week players are more organized and efficient.  They have
> regular groups of friends with whom they adventure.  They increase
> in team skill from repeatedly working as a team.  They gain
> reputations as competent players which broadens their grouping
> possibilities.  In short, core player's social network allows them
> to achieve goals exponentially faster than the player that logs in
> for 4 hours per week.  Thus, the efficient core player can
> accomplish in 1 to 2 hours what it takes the casual player 4 hours
> to accomplish.

It seems to me that the point of creating a time limit on leveling
would not be to necessarily create a "perfectly" level playing
field, but simply to cap the degree to which extra time could
translate to extra advancement.  The goal would be to make it so
that someone playing a "reasonable" amount of time could advance as
quickly as someone who plays an "extreme" amount of time.  At that
point, whether the "extreme" player actually hits their cap in less
time than the "reasonable" player seems relatively irrelevant.
> As in RL, there is a reason that most MMOGs have a specialization
> of labor... it allows people to pursue activities from which they
> receive the greatest satisfaction and in which they are most
> competent.  Imposing achievement caps on players only forces those
> achievement-oriented core players (of which there are quite a few)
> to pursue less-desireable activities in greater quantities than
> they would otherwise have chosen... or else just not log on.  The
> "not logging on" option is the kiss of death to a game as the
> number of on-line friends begins to dwindle and "guild spam"
> becomes very sparse the ties to that game become weaker and
> weaker.

On your first point, I really don't think that there are that many
people out there who are the type of "achievement-oriented" players
that you describe. Based on your logic, those players would level a
character all the way up to the max level for their game as fast as
possible and then stop playing the character because they can't
"achieve" any more.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I doubt that there
are that many 50th-level characters sitting around totally idle.  I
think that when most achievement-oriented players hit a cap (whether
an absolute one or a weekly one) they will gladly shift their
activities to other ways to achieve (advancing the guild, finding
better treasure, completing quests, etc).  I would bet good money
that a feature like a weekly level-cap could actually be very
welcome to players who feel compelled to level as much as possible,
as it would provide them an excuse to get off the treadmill and put
their work to use in the "game itself."

In regards to your second point, I really don't think that not
logging on has to be the kiss of death for an online game.  After
all, absence makes the heart grow fonder. (God knows that I
routinely finish playing Warcraft III for 3 hours only to ask myself
"why the hell did I just do that?" and yet, the next day at the end
of work, I'm jonsing for Craft again).  And, while implementing
gameplay features that make it less "painful" for players to step
away from the game might cost you some of the core gamers, I bet
that you would be making the game more appealing to the mass market
at the same time.  Which effect would be greater than the other is
impossible to anticipate...

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