The means and the ends

Yes, but why that happens? What I wrote is because what you enjoy is the “new” part and the new part is about something different that you learn, a new way of play, a new strategy and so on.

The “new” or “content” in their most wider concepts mean that. They mean the possibility to “learn”. They become old (and boring) when the gameplay pushes you to repeat instead of moving forward to learn new parts.

Learning is the key of the whole process:

+ We have fun when we are able to learn.
+ We are frustrated when the learning process is hard or forbidden.
+ We are bored when the learning process is missing.

No, I think newness and change are just an interpolation of the learning process.

Learning includes those two, those two don’t include learning. Obviously here I could consider the meaning of the word in a different connotation from its standard use.


A few days ago I wrote somewhere on this site the bad translation of a quote from Michel Maffesoli:
Who writes a book is who reads it.

I started to think more about this line, in particular because I linked it to the “experience of the world”. Going back to theories about life. You know, some think that all you do in your life is already written, others say that you are the owner of your destiny. You write it by yourself. And then there’s a third part that says that it’s a blend of the two previous positions or a fourth part that says that all is simply casual.

But casual isn’t correct. The world (concretely) works as a complex web of relationships. The theories about Chaos explain that everything is linked together in an absurd relationship and whatever happens, even minimal, has a strong and unpredictable influence on all the rest. This is what we call “random”, casual. Casual because we are unable to keep track of everything and the world reach a degree of complexity so high that it’s unattainable for us. We give up to understand all that and we go back to babble about “faith” and “chance”.

But I discovered a new way to consider “life”. Life as a book. Going back to the quote of Michel Maffesoli. Try to re-read it and think your own life as a book and that book about your life is the one you are reading.

I won’t wrote what I started to think from that point but it’s quite fascinating. I think it’s better to share that by pointing the path. If you want you can follow this path.

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Terranova’s fools

I’m perplexed each time I read news and comments at Terra Nova:

Magicback, now tell me how damn a more complex guild system could bring DAoC to the next level. Next level of what?

What you say is more coherent when you point the gameplay as a more concrete value than guild functions, but the point is exactly here.

In a game like DAoC the guild is basically a way to communicate, in many other games guilds are just that. If you don’t add a guild-related gameplay an hyper complex guild system is simply worthless.

If you imagine a complex game where the guilds can own part of the terrain, rule villages, manage resources and build alliances, THEN you’ll see how much a more complex guild system is needed. HERE a hierarchical guild system can be useful. But because you involve the guild mechanics inside the fabric of the game. A guild becomes a solid entity in the world, both for who is part of the guild and for who is outside and will have to consider who owns the land where he is passing.

A “guild system” isn’t an absolute element. We can discuss it properly only if it’s placed in a context. I have the preception that everyone here loves to fly around abstract concepts that have no grip on the reality.

The original comment is here.

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The marxist treadmill

This topic is the center of the discussions of the old Waterthread and it was one of my points when I commented World of Warcraft.

From my point of view the situation isn’t complex, there’s a key to “read” it. It depends on where you place the “aim” of your game. In DAoC the PvE is a grind and a treadmill because you want to reach level 50 and be able to join the RvR. So it’s a duty.

It’s about this simple concept: the treadmill is the aim or the consequence of another aim?

Let’s take another common example, Diablo 2 (I know only the first levels of it). As you move through the world you explore the map, kill monsters and gain experience. In this gameplay, if the game is well balanced, the levelling and progression of your character will be tied to the treadmill. As you *do stuff* the character grows.

The fun is in this concept. Till your aim is *doing stuff* you have fun. When you *do stuff* to reach another aim the fun is being killed. And you have the grind part.

I think this is a more simple and precise definition of the fun/unfun aspect of a treadmill. As Ian Reid says, everything in a game is a treadmill in the end, so you need to figure out where it achieves a negative value.

I pointed this value.

When you have in your mind a precise idea of this dynamic you have also a clear vision of how the gameplay of a mmorpg should be developed.

There’s a discussion about this here:

Cause and consequence. If the treadmill is a consequence (side-effect) you have fun, if the treadmill is a cause the fun stops and you have the grind. You can monitor what happens on a play session and you’ll see where the treadmill lags behind the aim and becomes a cause (grind). It’s a change of focus. From doing concrete things in the world, to repeat algorythms toward your personal power-grind.

At this point you finish on another new level. On this level you need a “term of measure” to monitor when an experience is a grind or not. This term of measure is about learning. You’ll discover that when you learn something the process is fun. When your actions loose the learning process the game fails and becomes boring and unappealing.

Dynamic learning is the only heart of this issue. The learning is the only element involved in the treadmill and it’s why this treadmill can be fun. If a process doesn’t include learning you obtain frustration and alienation.

This brings to marxist theories and I think i’ll stop here :)

Guild System

More on my own Stormbringer idea:

Guild System

The players can have four different statuses:

– Common peoples
– Guilds
– Houses
– Fallen Houses

Common Peoples
Each player falls in this category as he enters the game. This status already determines a precise position. Mobs and NPCs will attack or help (commerce, services and quests) the player depending on his faction/aligment value. But he will also starts with a precise position in the PvP. A common player will be always flagged for factional PvP. So a “Law” players can be attacked from a “Chaos” one right at the beginning (or by a fallen house, see below). In this case the rules about the factional PvP apply. Each player will be able to choose if accepting the fight (and the consequences) or flee. It’s not completely open PvP because you can always have the possibility to flee. What you cannot do is mind your own business and ignore the menace. Mercenaries are also considered common peoples.

Guilds are easy to build. You just need five other players and the guild is done. The structure is similar to what you have in current games. There’s a communal chat and various ranks (ranks are shown graphically). There’s also a special rank for the active mercenaries. A guild will be able to hire mercenaries (other players). The system is easy. Each mercenary will be hired behind a contract. This contract is based on two elements: payment and time. Basically a mercenary is a temporary guild member paid by the guild. If you set the cost to zero you can use this rank to recruit new players and test them before really add them to the guild. Guilds don’t have a “built-in” tax system.

A guild automatically becomes an “house” when it owns a part of the land. So if the guild owns a castle, a village, an outpost or various cities, it becomes automatically an “house”. If these structures are lost, the “house” goes back to its “guild” status. Being a house let you manage the real core of the game. You really have the control of a part of the world, you have NPCs under your services, you can set taxes, commerce, manage guards, territory boundaries, upgrade the structures and so on. Then you also gain a special status in the PvP system. Once a guild becomes a house it is more exposed. Not only the factional PvP is always active but also other houses inside the same faction can declare a war to another one. The declaration of war is one-way. Once it’s set you have a warning and from then you can only fight. This system allow battles inside the same faction and it’s active by default as your guild control a piece of the land. To limitate the possible disasters, there are systems that prevent the players from exploiting this rule. Each time a player kills another player in the same faction (this is the case of House vs. House) the *whole guild* (each character inside the guild, logged or not) will suffer a penalty in the faction/aligment value. So, if the battle goes on for long, the houses involved could reach a status where their factional value is reduced to zero. In this case an “house” becomes a “fallen house”. (there should be mechanics that allow an house to become a fallen house even without directly warring against its own faction)

Fallen Houses
A “fallen house” is another new status. In this case the status is determined by a timer value. To pass from guild to house you need to own a piece of land but once you pass from a house to a fallen house the land isn’t anymore important (a fallen house can own or not a part of the land). A fallen house will be flagged this way for a period of time. During this period not only the opposite faction can attack it, but everyone can: the enemy faction, the rival house/fallen house and the whole, once-friendly faction. It’s a special status where you have the world against you. Attacking and killing a player that belongs to a fallen house in the same faction doesn’t have anymore a penalty on the factional value. This is the path if you want to stay out of the three factions (Law, Chaos, Balance). Once you are a fallen house you are against everyone else. This status “heals” with the time and just the time but can still be redeclared if a fallen house wants to stay so.

The whole system is built to give depth and strenght to the three faction system (Law, Chaos, Balance). At the same time it allows the players to play even inside the same faction by exploiting the politics. The “fallen house” status is another position that allows a guild to build its own presence in the world without being a force included in the three factions. At one point a “fallen house” could become an even stronger reality than what the game’s structure expect by default.

There are two exceptions to the system above. The first exception is about alliances. Alliances are just a communal chat between various guilds and houses. Fallen houses alliances can only exist between fallen houses. In the gameplay the alliances have no value. It’s only a way to communicate.

The other exception is about the “Balance” faction. This faction behaves differently from Chaos and Law. There aren’t guilds or houses here. The Balance is like a big guild and each player already begins inside this structure. The revolutionary idea is that this whole thing will be governed in democracy. There will be periodical elections and who will win the elections will lead the faction. The government will be built around 20-30 members that will decide together what the Balance will do. They will control the commerce and they will decide if the Balance allies with the Law or Chaos. Everything about Balance is being determined by the government. No other guilds or houses (or even solitary players) are contemplated in this strange faction.

By default the Balance can only attack a fallen house but not another faction. If the balance wants to attack Law or Chaos they need to build an alliance with one side. These alliances can be public or secret but they cannot be broken every few minutes. Each decision will last for a limited and fixed period of time.

As a side note: To hold a piece of land not only you need to defend it but you need also to pay an upkeep. The system is built so that this payment is easier if you are inside a faction. For a fallen house it’s a lot harder to mantain the control over the land and this because of the complex commerce/resources system that isn’t explained here. Since a fallen house has no contact with the other three factions (all enemies), it’s obvious that it will be hard for them to find the resources for the upkeep.

Nearly on the point…

…of jumping on EverQuest for a full year (I’m nearly EQ-virgin).

Lately I’ve “met” Rod Humble on QT3 forum and he seems quite intelligent.

What is happening in EQ is starting to really seduce me. They rebuilt the engine and now they added a new tutorial for newbies and new ways to speed up the treadmill. Each of these new decisions seems really inrteresting for me.

In particular I’m reading Mobhunter’s last update and I can see many good things happening to the game.

I really hope that the staff behind Rob will be able to be better responsive to the problems that the playerbase is pointing. I’m noticing a new trend and the only bad part is about what happened around GoD expansion. Exactly and precisely what happened to Mythic with Trials of Atlantis.

If Sony is able to give a good answer to that I think that EQ will see a new strenght. And it will need that when WoW will be released.

Latest design f00leries

Lately I’m re-reading Elric/Stormbringer saga and it’s something extremely stimulating. As I read, I imagine to transpose all that in a mmorpg that could be at the same time extremely innovative and fun. Joining together what could be a very strange and niche product with an experience that surpasses everything already on the market. Even on the popularity level.

Obviously I don’t hold my ideas to stay into the limits of the tech, because this is only a useless work of mind and I’m the only limit to what I imagine. For now I focused two elements that will be really hard to realize technically. The first element is the player collision. FFXI has it and my form of collision is not so different. You’ll be able to move through another model (monster or player) only if you keep pressing very hard on the limit. It’s what happens already in FFXI but with a stronger effect. The second element is about the fly. I want to have in the game a strong presence of flight. In particular about dragons. A bigger part of the PvP I have in mind is about fighting with war machines and other tools that will need more than one player working on them. The idea is to move from a player-centered gameplay to a wider range where you are really part of an army. With complex strategies, a concrete role of the land and the structures, and the use of complex war machines. So the exact opposite of an open-field arena where all that matters are the skills of a group of players. I want the warfare. I want complex tactics based on emergent elements than just a flat arena. A warfare that pivots around concrete combat and concrete consequences. And I have strong ideas to accomplish this.

The other part I’m developing is the PvE experience. In this case completely integrated with the aligment/karma system and in the basic world where the factional PvP happens. So PvE inside the PvP and as a concrete part of it. Then, aside that, there will be the instanced zones. These zones correspond to the various (infinite) planes of Chaos. Here you can invent everything and the limit is simply your fantasy. Each plane will be like an inner world, with its soul and purpose. Each of these planes will be used for a precise adventure that will show a new form of “storytelling”. The direction where I want to aim is what “ID” is trying to achieve with Doom 3. I want to push the cooperative gameplay of a tight group of players till the limit. The limit is about involving a party in a frightening experience. These instances won’t be always open. It will be an event to go inside them (the idea is to tie the planar levels to a system like Darkness Falls in DAoC, so they open if you achieve and perform various actions in the real world). If you fail an attempt you’ll suffer a loss and the access to the planar dimension will be forbidden for a period of time. Many gameplay elements I have in mind to transform and push the PvE expereince to a complete new level. Just as an example: a new concrete use of the light system. If you enter a cave you need a light. These light will be magical forms of a torch that will produce various types of effects (like “cones” of light). You will *hear* the monsters moving and lurking around you but you’ll have to point these torches toward them to see them. They’ll dodge the lights and will try to fight unseen. The animations of the players during the combat will make a full use of these light sources to create a realistic effect. You’ll have the fear of fighting against something that you can barely see and with a solid menace because these attempts are tied to a “one time only idea”. You could be able to access the planar level again only the following week, or the following month.

To this I want to add a depth to each monster. Each will have a complex data. Each will have a story, a behaviour and a purpose. The AI will make use of different types of attack and each monster will have various tools to use realistically in a fight. I want a soul here, not just meat you throw to the players to make them loose time. Each monster will have a schedule, they won’t just stay on the place. They could be friendly or enemies depending on your alignment and each entity of the world won’t be just something you need to aim and attack. You will be able to find your own way by killing them, or by making them your friends and allies. These monsters have their own life and objectives. They have a role in the gameplay and a part in the ‘politics’ and the story of the world. Sometimes the players will start to believe that they are just tools, in the hands of these alien entities coming from the planes of Chaos.

Then I want demi-gods. Here I want to really introduce revolutionary ideas. I want that the players will be able to become demi-gods. The loot will have a new purpose. Legendary swords like Stormbringer and Mournblade will be in the game and *unique*. These tools will really have their full powers along as many other tools. Each of these high level tools will have a complex story and a complex path to follow if someone wants to hold them. As in the books they will be both an amazing, unmatched power and a burden. A curse. A demi-god player using these tools will be able to fight against tenths of other players. There’s NO balance. But they will also be the objectives of “raids”. Instead building groups to fight a big NPC, the players will gather to defeat other players that have reached this “uber” status. Their power will be sensed and localized with the use of magic and till they hold these powerful tools everyone will be able to see them and attack them in an attempt to steal their power. The “loot” will be a side of the center of the action and enemies and alliances will be formed to defend and attack these poweful tools in the hands of the players.

Obviously the PvP here is “full loot” (when tricky magic won’t be involved). Each of the magic, powerful tools will be completely unique in a single server. There will be timers attached so that you’ll be able to hold one of these tools only if you can mantain a minimum presence in the world (reasonable, not many hours a day). If not, they’ll return to their planar homes, ready to be found by a new group of adventurers.

(to explain, these tools reside on the planar levels. So to get them you need to follow long and complex quests that revolve both on PvE and PvP elements. When these unique tools are brought in the “real” world everyone will be able to percept their presence with the use of a specific magic. So everyone will see if a relic is present and active, who holds it and where he is. The demi-gods cannot hide. They will have to play pand participate to the PvP if they want to hold these tools or the tools will reset to their old position, after being “available” in the world for a limited period of time. Yes, these tools give you an absurd power, you are a demi god with the possibility of invoke demons and big scale catastrophes but till you have the power, you are a clear target. Both your enemies and your friends will try to steal the tool from you and you cannot hide for long since each of these tools requires an “upkeep”)

Aside these major tools every single other element of the game will have depth. Even the lower magic swords will have their own soul and exclusive “meaning” in the gameplay. Each magic tool will have its own name, story and data. They are like characters. They’ll grow with your character and even the weakest stupid magic dagger, one day, could become a powerful tool. This will follow an advancement system that I’m developing that works on various paths. Each tool will follow its nature and have an easier path to follow, growing quickly on a side and slowly on another. In this case, these tools will produce a bond with the player. You won’t loose them. There’s magic involved and you’ll be able to create your unique legend around these tools. Each single element of the world has an evolution path. A treadmill in a way or anther. Dragons used in a battle will have their own story and will develop abilities based on their own expereince.

I want each player to micro-manage all these elements like sub-characters. The balance will be hold so that everyone will be able to achieve all this, following its own path. The “personal” legend is an advancement path that *everyone* can achieve slowly. A different thing are the limited tools (and unique) like the two swords that will turn a player into a demi-god.

And all this is to be applied to the structure I’ve explained here.


Mythic put up a patch to the previous one which generated the feedback you can find around here.

This new patch is an absurd, insanely complex system with a new series of mini-timesinks worst than before. But it has the pill to make the playerbase shut up:
You’ll earn a few Realm Points while dead.

Only a single intelligent and honest player has been able to see through the trickery:

All I see here is that my wizard will get more RP’s than he is used to because he will get them while dead.

I imagined that my feedback couldn’t go anywhere but the actual result made me feel really cheated and depressed.

Even more frustrated when I read Sanya’s words: overall more fair and fun.

Laying on the ground, dead. Fun.

But you receive RPs. Ahhh, the treadmill. The excuse of the shit of the world.

We want achievement. We don’t want to interact, we seek to climb the social and (enter x here) ladder. I wonder what happens when our culture stops judging its achivements by ladders (i.e. college and business rank, etc) and instead do what they want?

This is Galt. The whole thing makes me feel so disgusted.

Even games have responsibilities. We are teaching everyone how the world is shit. Instead of doing something to move things somewhere else.

Toward an healthy competition.

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