[MUD-Dev] Winnable MMO

John Robert Arras johna at wam.umd.edu
Wed Apr 2 13:56:56 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


On Mon, 31 Mar 2003, apollyon wrote:

<snip static world problems>

> So, what if you designed an MMO that was made to be winnable?

You could. A Tale in the Desert is designed to do this:

  http://www.atitd.com

But it's hard to do. ATITD has premade tasks that you have to
complete, so I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for.  If
it's more like traditional fighting PvP, the closest I've come up
with is a world filled with lots of villages of creatures that the
players can attack or bring to their side. Then, once they have
enough villages, they have enough "life force" on their side that
they can regenerate in the astral plane as they fight to defeat the
demons to win the game.

> The timeframe would not be so long that people would feel as if
> they had made too great an investment to think about starting over
> again, but long enough that players could feel as if they had
> striven against a worthy opponent and would be anxious to try
> again.

It probably isn't necessary to make people start over from nothing.
Let them keep something about their character (maybe some levels or
skill levels), and with each iteration of the game, make the
"endgame" harder to achieve so that the players who have played in
previous games won't have a cakewalk while winning again. Players
should lose their possessions and buildings and other objects they
own, since the world should be rebuilt and regenerated anyway.

But, games should be set up so that newbies can "catch up" to
highlevels as time goes on anyway. So, the highlevels could keep
some of their power and the newbies would have a somewhat easier
time catching up so that they could make a difference.

> The biggest obstacle I can see to such a proposal is that it's
> risky. MMOs are expensive and no one wants to lay down that much
> money for a game that people can "beat".

Yup. Here are some other risks I see:

  1. The world has to be huge to be able to absorb lots of player
  actions, so I think it will have to be generated. That means it
  can't be totally balanced at the start.

  2. Even if you make the world and have everything set up
  perfectly, the minute players come into the game, they will do bad
  things to your pretty little world and your plans. By definition,
  players HAVE to be able to do bad things to the world or else
  their actions don't count.

  3. The players won't do what you want them to do. They may decide
  that they just want to sit around and pk each other and not engage
  in your story. They may figure it out and decide that they don't
  want to win because they'll lose their stuff. They may decide to
  actively prevent others from winning. It depends on how the game
  is set up. If it's set up so that you're just focused on winning
  and the game itself isn't that interesting, then you may have a
  higher percentage of people who try to win. OTOH, if the game is
  interesting on its own, the players probably won't want it to end.

> At any rate, just some thoughts that got stirred up.  Curious to
> toss them around and see what opinions people might have regarding
> the concept as a whole.  

I think it's a great idea, and I've been trying to write code to do
things like this. It's just so darn hard to figure out some "goal"
that the players can achieve that is interesting enough for them to
try for, but difficult enough to get that they won't do it too
quickly. It also has to be some goal for which it makes sense that
the world is broken and everyone has to start over again. Like with
my silly demon story, why wouldn't the world just keep going after
the demons are defeated? I dunno.

I want to see how ATITD turns out. I expect that players who are
powerful will actively try to stop other players from winning as the
endgame draws near. That will hopefully lead to people having to
play a misdirection metagame where they gain as much power and
complete as many things as they can without allowing the other
powers to realize how close they are. Then, perhaps a small group
could make a push to the end to let one of their members win once
they have all they need from the larger populace. :)

John


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