Flat Power Treadmill

I save here a mail I wrote on MUD-dev months ago where I delve some more in the problem between new/casual players within a game world shared with old/hardcore players. Touching important problems like the content segregating the players and the difference in power in a PvP environment based on treadmills (Realm Points, perks, abilities). This also corresponds to a port of the old forum to the forum engine in Drupal. It isn’t great but since I use it mostly as a lumber room it will do the work without needing to mantain multiple engines and databases.

It’s interesting because my opinion changed on some core points. For example it is true that treadmills create gaps between the players as a direct consequence, but they also build groups, helping the players to find themselves in the same problem/situation and cooperate. This within a “manageable” condition (a small group of players in a specific zone and with a specific purpose/quest). Typical example where World of Warcraft shines (and the PvP system works because of this zone-based fragmentation). Instead other games like Eve-Online are so open-ended and without a specific direction that groups are way harder to build and need a lot more effort from the player to really pierce the surface of the game instead of just drifting and playing in solo-mode.

As I wrote recently in various forums: I find myself having a way better social experience in Warcraft than, say, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies or Eve-Online. Even if the focus of the design of all these games is effectively reverted.

Raph Koster:
I think we can agree that designing a game that discourages players from playing regularly is probably a bad idea (at least in terms of mass acceptance–some games, like turn based games, PBEM, etc, have some flex here). Designing a game which allows players not to HAVE to play regularly, however, seems desirable.

I agree here. I was attacking the idea because there are games going in this direction. For example Eve-Online has an advancement system (aside the money) that is time-based and really just requires you to log in from time to time, start train a skill and log off.

So a more interesting point is surely about *how* we give depth to a game without requiring the players to play more than they are able to. This is an inner problem for every power treadmill that has the result of producing gaps between the players. It’s an interesting design problem for one of the core issues about mmorpgs and the “mass market”.

But the context of the discussion was different. The context was that, from the money perspective, it’s better to have the players in the game as little as possible to spare on the bandwidth costs. In this case the players and the gameplay aren’t anymore the reason of the design and it’s where the situation becomes “dangerous”. Because a possible result following this strategy isn’t good and won’t be successful.

I have many design ideas on how to solve the problem about “Casual Crowd vs.Time Rich Crowd” and they are along the lines of creating different structures inside the game where different players have different roles and goals. Where casual players have a specific role and goal and where time rich crowds have another. And the *key* is about giving them different roles but making they play *together* with the same general goal.

The difficulty here is that is the roles have contributions to the goal inversely proportionate to the time investment required, that people will start to cross the roles in search of maximum return. The time-rich players will take on the casual roles because they offer greater reward for time invested. And if the casual roles do NOT offer greater reward for time invested, then they will not feel rewarding to the casual players either, who will compare themselves to the time-rich players and cry foul.

The difficulty would be sharing a given metric across both roles–and if there is a shared goal, there will most certainly be some form of shared metric. I’d tend to approach this in terms of orthognal but equally valid goals, ideally with interesting intersections.

I find hard to keep reasoning on an abstract level. While writing I was thinking to a particular PvP model where the players have access to different ranks and roles based on a treadmill. These ranks and roles define how you play in the -same- battle allowing each player to still group together and play in the -same- situation. What isn’t considered is the strict “power difference”. An higher rank doesn’t gain more powerful skills for himself (so that he could be able to kill more easily a lower rank in a 1vs1 battle). Instead it just gains access to a different role and specific gameplay. For him to gain this role he must be in a group where there are other players with lower ranks. Without lower ranks he isn’t “high rank”. To play his role he needs the support of the lower ranks. So they play side by side (the goal and focus of my idea).

The point is that a casual player can join the battle even if still at the bottom of the treadmill. This won’t mean that he’ll be uneffective or forced in an unfun role. The gameplay can still be designed to be fun for everyone but different for various players. As it happens when you have different classes in a group: a different role for each player but within the same situation.

In my more specific idea a greater rank actually IS more powerful. But the power works inside a battle system where we can build a group of ten players and only *one* of those can be designed as a “General” and so with a specific set of powers. In this case you can go through a treadmill and become a general yourself but:
1- You’ll never reach a point where EVERYONE MUST be a general. Because there will be only 1 each 10 players. Nominated by them through a voting system.
2- Whoever doesn’t have the time to “apply” for that position will keep enjoing the game in that precise moment and will still have available an advancement system to pursue but not where he is *forced* to arrive to reach the fun or see new content previously forbidden.

This is similar to the point above: “Designing a game which allows players not to HAVE to play regularly” but still rewarding you when you do. Incentivating to play without rushing to play.

A possibility without an obligation. Accessibility, not necessity.

The idea just came out from observing the actual organization of mmorpgs. In raids there are always leaders. These leaders have obviously an higher time investment into the game but their characters are still powerful as any other player. What I did with my idea is to institutionalize what already was happening adding gameplay depth to the system. Building more different roles needing active players.

I’d love to read some opinions about this because it’s part of the basics of my “dream mmorpg” and I want to know how solid or possible is what I planned.

Just to explain better from a different perspective. Think to a traditional mmorpg where you can choose various classes/races. The system is simply built so that you only have “x” classes/races unblocked as you open an account. But if you max out one, gain “x” numbers of special points (treadmill based on the endgame, after you maxed out your power), you are able to “unblock” a new race or class that can bel cool but still not more powerful or effective than what you played till that moment. This means that in the game there’s a reward but this reward isn’t required.

My battle system for PvP goes even beyond this. In fact you will be able to “unblock” ranks and roles in PvP. But you don’t automatically gain everything. Instead in each specific situation you can be “choosed” to be a general or remain a normal player.

-HRose / Abalieno

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Leave a Reply