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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
Letting Go
By Robert Basler on 2011-09-28 11:52:39
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

From the time I originally envisioned this project until today, I have been dreaming of a fully persistent world. It's time to let that dream go.

Lately I've been finalizing my game design. Refining the big picture feature set. Taking the features I've decided to do and figuring out how they are actually going to work. That has involved a lot of navel-gazing, competitor research, and reading an unbelievable amount of game criticism, armchair design blogs and game theory.

No matter how I slice it, I just can't think of a way to build a purely persistent-world game where the no-lifers don't eat the newbs for breakfast. You can help out new players, give them extra powers, add safety nets, but at some point, they're going to have to sink or swim in a pool full of pirahnas. This isn't the ideal scenario for retaining a healthy volume of mainstream players.

Since I started, when I pictured the game in my head, it was about people playing cooperatively. I wanted to recreate the experience I used to have with my buddies playing LAN games on a Tuesday night, but with a bigger circle of friends. The conventional primary meta-game for the genre I've chosen is über-competitive -- kill everyone or die trying. Looking at the array of corpses of other games that have tried it, that particular meta-game is the real killer.

There are other issues with persistent world games as well. What do you do with inactive accounts? Do you leave their old crap laying around all over the place? How do you deal with people destroying your stuff while you're offline? How much fun is it to come online in the morning and find out that some guy in Australia has just finished wrecking everything you've made since you started playing the game? Do you really want to encourage players to be online 24x7 to protect their stuff? Do you want to pay for servers to sim everything tens or hundreds of thousands of players have ever built?

I've puzzled a lot about these questions, and while I think that sort of world would be interesting and challenging for a subset of players, I don't think there are enough of those players to sustain a game on their own.

I have the technology to build a fully persistent world, but I'm choosing not to. At least for now.

By Lex on 2012-01-20 02:49:31
Homepage: email:lexmitchell at live dot com
Does it have to be an all or nothing proposition? Can you not have areas that are strangely patrolled or covered by some state of grace, sanctuary?

Perhaps its like Highander and certain factions cannot fight (amongst themselves or others) on holy ground. Perhaps you pay a tax to the local warlord to insure your property and if you dont log in for two months it gets removed in lieu of payment (and you get a mission to go recover your property?).

Maybe those systems are too complex to be worth implementing but it feels like there are reasonable solutions that can use in game fiction.
By Robert Basler on 2012-01-20 18:00:46
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com
I considered having a way for players to have their stuff be safe while they're offline and leave it in-world, but at some point, there's too much stuff laying around to simulate and you need to cull out that stuff (particularly stuff belonging to dead accounts) just to keep your operating costs in check.

I was reading about a game the other day (whose name escapes me at the moment - Everquest maybe?) where the author was complaining about there being player houses everywhere. My online world has finite space, better to leave it for active players.

I considered having a stasis-field that would keep items in-world, but there is going to be an inevitable support cost for that - "my stasis field ran out while I was on vacation and I lost everything, I want it back."

For games where players have things which generate money over time, some players will be farther ahead simply by having an older account. And you have to simulate all that economic growth.

You still need some of the ideas you're talking about, even in a non-persistent world. There will still be players who have more than others and who will choose to make the less fortunate miserable. I have on my todo list a system that will spank those who make others miserable.

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