[MUD-Dev] Do players enjoy farming? (was MUD-Dev Digest, Vol 7, Issue9)

Dave Bacher DaveB at battlebazaar.com
Thu Jan 15 18:56:06 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004


On Mon, 12 Jan 2004 21:57:04 +0100, Sheela Caur'Lir wrote:
> From: "Rayzam" <rayzam at travellingbard.com>

> They use camping and farming as stress relief.

> While camping, they might want to read a book, or are cleaning up
> the room besides the camp. Offcourse, that would mean a camp with
> long spawn time, so there's enough time to do stuff besides the
> camp.  Or perhaps do it around the time you are making food
> .. say, a home- going housewife is making food for kids and
> husband but it's kinda boring, so she mixes in a little bit of
> MMOG camping in the mix.

> Now farming MOBs would be a more intense setting, but perhaps the
> person doing it just wanna kill stuff fast and enjoy slaughtering
> those little creeps in the dozens in his best barbarian style.  It
> can get boring to do long slow fights, even if they allow for far
> more and interesting tactics - Sometimes you just wanna cut loose
> and mow down everything that moves.

Here is the camping scenario:

  1.  Find a static spawn that nobody else is camping.

  2.  Kill the mob.

  3.  Wait 10, 15, 30, 72 minutes (or longer) for the mob to
  respawn.

  4.  Kill the mob again.

  5.  Repeat

Lets start with the fact that artificial down time is poor game
design.  Any artificial down time.  When you are reading a book or
watching TV while playing, it means the game has failed to grab your
attention (or to hold it at least), and it means that you aren't
really playing the game for most of the time you're in the game.

Typically, you have static camps.  Each static camp has a particular
set of static mobs that spawn.in static places with static loot
tables.  A player either is camping for experience, or camping for
loot.  Most commonly, they are camping for a rare item on the drop
list in order to complete a quest.

In a MMOG, for either case, there is usually competition for the
camp.  There are very few uncontested camps that are worthwhile.  So
they sit, wait for a mob to spawn, and answer camp checks every now
and then.  After some period of time, the mob that they are waiting
for spawns, they kill it, then wait again.  The procedure is more or
less the same for camping for experience.

A good group may clear the spawn very quickly, at which point they
have to wait.  and wait... and wait... for the next mob.  You can't
scale the spawn to the group, because it is static, and so what
happens is they are sitting bored a good percentage of the time.

A bad group won't clear the spawn quickly, and may have mobs faster
than they can handle them.  They may continue to call the camp,
despite this, denying other players access to the mobs despite being
unable to kill them by themselves.

A camp may be claimed by someone else, and may be the only "good"
camp.  Players may invent new camps, taking mobs from existing
camps.  More or less, this whole concept of sitting and waiting for
a mob to spawn just causes problems for the game.

A better solution for reading and TV watching is to make the game
compelling and engaging enough, even during down time, to encourage
the players to pay attention to it.  Then when something good is on
TV, or when they want to read, they can log out (I know, I know,
scarey thought, logging out of the game) and do so.  The waiting for
encounters part is boring, that's why you want to read at the same
time in the first place.  If the game were interesting and holding
your attention, then you wouldn't want to watch TV or read a book at
the same time.

It is a failing in the game itself.

A better solution for cooking and for your barbarian friend is the
concept of instanced encounters, zones or challenges.  For cooking,
while you are AFK checking on dinner, who is calling your camp?  Who
is guarding you, in case the thing spawns while you're busy?  If
you're in a group, the entire rest of the group is sitting there
bored, not checking their dinners, waiting for something to happen.
Maybe they can fight without you, maybe not.  In a well balanced
game, where it would be most advantageous for them to face a similar
strength opponent, they are most likely waiting for you to come
back.

Now take this same thing, and move it to an instanced approach.
There is no artificial, developer controlled down time.  The players
can decide when they are ready to try the next opponent, and can
face it.  Solo, there is a place in the instance you can go and be
safe to go check your dinner, etc.  Grouped, the group can make
plans for what to do to tackle the next part of the encounter.  In
either event, as soon as you come back, you're immediately set to
fight again, and you can immediately resume play.  You don't have to
wait for some period of time picked by some developer on the spawn,
you are personally in control over the spawn.

Moreover, for your barbarian friend, a scaled challenge can be
created to give the barbarian a true challenge to their ability.
The encounter can be personally scaled, and while individual waves
may carry no reward, can have a significant reward if the encounter
is followed through to completion.

Meanwhile, you've removed the incentive to farm a mob that drops
items on a particular loot table.  When any player who needs the
item can go and request a challenge to have a shot at it, there's no
incentive for someone to farm the item.  Meanwhile, you can control
flow of the item into the game by making the challenge more
engaging, more difficult, versus putting an artificial limit on it.
People with the item will carry prestige, especially if the item is
visible, because people will know what it takes to get it.

Also...  if you use a mission giver to create the instances, and if
the mission giver is in a safe place, you create a place for groups
to form, replace missing members and begin and end their hunts.
This has an added bonus in that it improves socialization, as well,
whereas camps w/static spawns, more often than not, degenerate into
bickering:

  "Who trained me?"
  "Blah is a trainer!"
  "WTF, we have ORC 2 -- get away from our camp!"

Camps, generally speaking, are a miserable experience, waiting for a
mob to drop a rare item that you really want.  It's more a trial of
enduring camp checks and chasing off people who would take your
quarry from you than actually playing the game.

And they don't serve a useful purpose to the game.  They encourage
behavior that you don't want out of players, and probably cause more
support tickets than any other aspect of the game.  This is
particularly true when you have mobs that drop key parts or whatever
that spawn insanely rarely, and huge numbers of players who need to
get the parts in order to do raid events.

More or less, camps are a really bad idea.  The benefits you get
from having them can all be had much more easily with instanced
encounters or areas, and the problems they cause the game --
including playre satisfaction -- are huge.

The other thing is...  if I know that I have to kill 12 goblins in 5
minutes to receive the prize, then I can come and engage them any
number of times and improve each time to meet the challenge.  If it
is really hard to complete the battle in the time limit, then the
item still will be rare.  But seeing other players face the
challenge and win, and have the item in their hands will encourage
me to keep trying, versus to complain about it being broken.

The other thing with this is...  there can't be a waiting line for
the challenge, or else it will turn into what the Trials in EQ
turned into -- a 16 hour line for a single attempt.  Also, if it is
a key or something like a key, it needs to be reasonably easy.
Deter people from going to the zone by making the zone itself hard,
not by some artificial means.

Anything that is completely artificial players will complain about.

Dave Bacher
Programmer/Analyst
members.battlebazaar.com
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