My poor, smartass design debunked

Two of my recent and, I thought, more solid ideas were criticized. And those critics actually have a point, so there’s something to discuss.

The first is against the proposed LFG tool for WoW, from FoH’s Frott.

He actually has a good point that I considered but probably not as much as it should have been. A probable reason why Blizzard’s LFG tool is limited to three fields is to not kill the database. In my proposed panel I used a bunch of checkboxes, but could this work technically when the database server has to go through more complex queries?

That may be a problem. To fix it or find better solution I’d have to know better what the system tolerates and what doesn’t, but I think it’s possible to find workarounds. For example through timeouts, so that the LFG data is not updated in realtime but there’s a delay. The current /who command in WoW for example has already a 10 second delay.

I don’t know if WoW is particularly vulnerable to this, but DAoC allowed something similar to what I proposed without issues. So I believe it would be possible to preserve the general scheme I described while adapting the tool to the limits of the game.

In theory you could consider each checkbox like a “room”. You add the name of the player to each room and then you return all the names in that room during a search (for every room requested). This is a very simple query and I find hard to believe it could give problems to the servers. With an intelligent use of delays I think the impact would be minimal.

I’m writing about this also because of what I wrote recently about Guild Wars. I started to write how the LFG tool sucked, but in the end my opinion was different. It wasn’t too bad. Not a powerful tool, but the simplicity wasn’t really a flaw.

Frott was actually right:

Why do we need to reinvent the wheel? Here’s my LFG design:

1. you are flagged LFG or LFM
2. you can enter a comment
3. people can see that you’re LFG/LFM, see your comment, and talk to you

Holy fucking hell, what a radical invention.

Guild Wars does that. And it does it well. It just gives five general categories and then lets players set their messages. It’s like a “message board” more than an automated matchmaking tool.

But there’s a reason why it wouldn’t really work for WoW. In WoW you need a centralized system, and without a way to “filter” the results you would get just too much “noise” to make the tool usable. In GW it works because the LFG tool is location-based. WoW has a different structure and a similar LFG tool just wouldn’t work well.

The other critics is about the “grid” mechanic I proposed for Fallout. Just because I create an adaptable structure doesn’t mean that the players won’t overload parts of it.

But there are two points to consider:

1- The players usually police themselves if you give them the possibility. If there’s too lag and they can move freely to a better server without losing progression and without complicate procedures to go through, then they WILL.

2- In the intended scheme there would be territorial control in the game. And if you have experienced the insane rush in UO as a new zone where you could build an house was opened then you know that the players will cover as much space as possible. They would fill EVERY hole faster than the time you need to blink.

So, of course the possibility to travel between grids/shards doesn’t automatically solve the overloading problems. But it’s already a first step that is also good for the players (it’s not just to balance the server, but also for the principle of “permeable barriers”, letting the players go meet each others easily).

Nothing prevents players to log all in one server in WoW. Nothing would prevent the players in this idea of Fallout to travel all to the same grid. The point is that you already offer them a way to spread when there’s need to without suffering losses (as you don’t leave friends permanently behind). The rest can be done through game design (providing reasons and incentives to go out and explore, conquer, move away from a tight crowd and so on).

Especially on launch day you could spread the players around easily. Forcefully placing them in a grid distant from their friends wouldn’t be a dramatic problem, because later they would be able to meet just by traveling to the same location. And the first approach to a MMO is usually single-player. You start to learn how the game works and only later you care to “reach out” for the rest of the community.

At that point (when the barriers are permeable) it’s entirely a game design competency to maintain the ideal density of players. All the issues coming up should be dealt one by one.

After all that idea was just an adaptation of an old one about server travel, but where this travel was regulated by portals that opened only under certain conditions, so keeping the population levels even on all servers. Obligatorily. Obtaining the same results without strict rules would obviously require a lot of careful and good game design. But it’s entirely possible.

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