[MUD-Dev] MMORPG, buildings, is it bad to be just props?

Damion Schubert damion at zenofdesign.com
Thu Feb 20 21:51:21 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: Ron Gabbard
> From: "Damion Schubert" <damion at zenofdesign.com>
>> So I guess my take is: by all means, make a fully interactable
>> town, but keep player traffic patterns in mind when you lay out
>> the thing, with a real eye for what players truly value.
> Keeping "player traffic patterns in mind" when developing MMOG
> cities and worlds is somewhat of a dilemma for the designer.  No
> matter how bright the designer, they're going to get it wrong,
> (where "wrong" is defined different than the players would have
> designed it to make it most convenient for them).  That said,
> designers are wearing the wrong hats with regards to city design.
> The appropriate hat is that of urban planner.  The urban planner
> lays out the infrastructure of the city. They don't decide what
> type of commercial building goes into a commercial zone.  They
> don't decide what will be sold in that building.  {snip}

Well, to start off with, most games will want to ship with cities at
ship in order to provide appropriate atmosphere and a preferred
experience to the users.  You also typically need NPCs in order to
provide quests on a reliable basis.  Also, let's not forget that
there are many kinds of online worlds, and the "Fully Dynamic
Citybuilding Sim" is just one of them.

That being pointed out, you're quite correct.  However, an
examination of the UO experience shows something very clear - that
the economy of the world, and what the most popular shops were, were
driven very much by the services that players can NOT provide.  For
example, the single biggest and best place to start your shop was
between the bank and the moongate.  "Last chance to buy reagents!" 
shops set up outside Dungeons were very successful.  Far from being
a flaw in UO's economy, this was possibly the most interesting part
of the economy's emergence.

Some kind of zoning is mandatory - that's the other lesson of UO.
Doing so, you can at least prevent the urban sprawl effect that
struck UO.

> (deletia) The end result over time is virtual abandonment of
> obsolete content and a ton of wasted development time.

This is natural to online worlds.  Newbie lands which are high in
demand on day one, for example, can be completely unused on year 2,
day 1.

> For me, the object lesson of UO was to give players the tools to
> affect their economy and world and let them compete with each
> other to make the world more convenient/efficient for the average
> player.  Crafter players walk around giving away teleportation
> marks to their castles where their vendors are set up.  When you
> arrive, there are most likely a plethora of vendors available
> selling all types of various goods that the players need.  When
> every player has a dozen marks to various shops around the world,
> the vendors are forced to compete on price, quality,
> relationships, array of products, etc.  They have to keep on
> increasing the value proposition to the average player.  The end
> result is that the average player gets the best value for their
> time... and isn't that a primary goal of these games?

And this was the largest flaw in UO's economy's design. =) There are
typically not enough things in an online world to compete on - there
are usually only a limited number of really good items, a player's
needs are somewhat limited, etc.  In the real world, a business can
live or die on 'location, location, location', but by stripping away
that competition mechanic, in many ways you hurry along the
'Wal-martization' of your online world, where small shops cannot
compete against the ruthless guild-corporation willing to lose a few
gold pieces to drive the mom-and-pop shops out of business.


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