[MUD-Dev] Design: Episodic MMOG's (not expansionistic)

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Thu Feb 9 11:21:29 New Zealand Daylight Time 2006


"David Wright" <david.a.wright at gmail.com> wrote:
> I was curious if there has been much thought or discussion regarding
> Episodic MMOG's, wherein the content is transient - ephemeral, but
> characters and various npc's are persistent (or re-born), instead of
> the traditional where most/all content tends to stay around forever
> and players/npc's spiral ever upwards.
>
> Obviously this leads into the idea of disposable content, however
> I'm thinking this may be a Good Thing as opposed to content (and
> bugs/design flaws) which Never Dies.

The fact that you'd need to constantly create significant amounts of
content is perhaps the greatest knock against the idea, though I do
believe that procedural content (ie random dungeons) that can build itself
would significantly reduce that problem - were it done well, which hasn't
happened yet (though I do believe I've made a breakthrough in my personal
considerations, but explaining it would be off topic).

The other big knock is that players like the "treadmill" thing. They may
not always like it, and they really hate it when it is done poorly, but in
general, it's their thing. They don't want to lose progress, and they
don't ever want to hit a brick wall where they can't progress anymore,
especially when player ability is that wall (makes them feel feeble). That
spiral upwards thing is what brings in the subscriptions. I mean, if the
game essentially reset every month or two, why would somebody subscribe
for four years straight? If you went for that whole "alternate payment"
thing that it all the rage since Guild Wars, it could definitely work.

That's not to say that I'm against the idea. I'm, in fact, pondering such
a beast in my spare time. Tying into the procedural generation thing, the
game world builds a giant, community challenge that everyone has to work
towards to win. And when they do win, the players get rewarded based on
how well, and it resets to a new challenge. With the content essentially
self creating, it could be tailored based on the success of the previous
game by changing a few variable sets. Of course, this idea is gameplay
episodic rather than story episodic (new elements and subsystems could be
introduced periodically, and the procedural generation would automatically
insert them appropriately into the content), though I do have an idea for
how to procedurally generate or at least modify stories as well (and that
would be WAY off-topic... MMORPGs don't have stories :).

To answer your question, I've thought about it quite a bit. Still, I can't
help but think that such a game would be very successful using the current
MMORPG model (maybe it would've worked a few years ago before Everquest
and WoW defined consumer expectations for MMORPGs).

I should also point out that some games like Asheron's Call and Horizons
have episodic content, though the world itself remains essentially
unchanged. It was (is?) just a simple way to build publicity for upcoming
patches, really.

- Sean

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