Epic battle climax!

Related to the discussion about how to make hopeless PvP defenses a bit more epic and fun.


– Develop a system similar to Lucasarts’ iMuse (music tunes dynamically adapting to the situation in the game). The zerg approaches and you are outnumbered, and a special epic badass music starts to play.

War skills

The Horn

Mechanic: This is a commander skill. It can only be used when the team in a zone is outnumbered. When used it works like a simple trigger, enabling the “Braveheart” skill on all the players in the same team and in the zone. The horn is also a huge physical object that cannot be transported, so a commander must reside at a castle in order to use it.

Metaphor: The horn is played and its deep sound will be heard through the valley. You hear the sound, your realm is calling you. Fight for your realm!


Mechanic: after you hear “The Horn” your “Braveheart” skill lights up ready to be used. When pressed your character is locked into place, building up a morale boost that enhances your stats. If you are hit in combat you’ll be interrupted. This “buff” has a cap, so once filled it won’t pass that limit (you get the visual cue of a bar filling up, so you always know the status of this buff). Around five seconds to go from zero to cap. Your morale will then slowly decay over time and go down every time you deal damage, proportionally to the damage you deal.

Metaphor: You hear the calling, your realm is calling everyone to arms. Your character rises his fist into the air (animation) and SCREAMS THE HELL OUT OF HIS LUNGS (sound). You are answering the calling. In a castle “The Horn” is played and all defenders answer the call by screaming at unison.

Asymmetric PvP/warfare and processes of inclusion

Taking from a thread on F13, mine and someone else’s quotes.

This addresses “the problem that isn’t a problem”, meaning the population unbalance in persistent PvP.

People fail to understand that population IS PART of this type gameplay. Those unbalances are part of the system because they ARE the system. We are simulating the “struggle of nations” and even in real history those unbalances existed. History would SUCK if every battle was fought by the exact number of people. Taking all your people into RvR to defend your realm was THE game. This social aspect was THE game. A real motivation: fight for your realm or watch it fall. The realm NEEDS YOU.

The second you have EXACT numbers on either side, this kind of real RvR is over. “Numbers” are the heart of this kind of gameplay, not something to eradicate. The second you decide to lock numbers on either side you don’t have anymore real warfare, you have something else.

So look at this from the other perspective: instead of locking numbers to erase this unbalance, why instead not trying to make the game fun and exciting when you are outnumbered?

This can be done by making correspond to asymmetric numbers also asymmetric objectives. So that these objectives (and victory points you earn) are measured on your *current* condition, and not on the unfair premise that everyone has an equal chance. We *know* that it’s improbable to obtain equal footing in real persistent PvP so we don’t make a game assuming that, we make a game anticipating those problems and around those conditions.

Mythic’s big mistake was to design RvR ideally assuming that the three realms were always symmetric. They are not. The game rules should anticipate and be based on this.

tazelbain: Now with Scenarios giving the most VP, teams with best PvP teams controls the zone. This is a preferable situation because individual players have a better chance of overcome a teamwork gap than the numbers gap.

Nope because this is exclusive PvP. And exclusive PvP means that it’s selective. And selective means that some players get in while other players are left out.

A successful mmorpg must promote inclusion, not exclusion. Battles, the real medieval battles were about inclusion and numbers. Grab a pitchfork and join to fight. But we all also just saw “300”. And we know that a good team CAN overcome numbers. Or at least that’s the myth that games should make us live, because that’s what makes games feel cool and involving. Giving us myths.

The problem of zerg vs zerg must be solved elsewhere. I always said that the game must provide paths (through directed/objective based PvP) so that the game is fun and exciting even and IN PARTICULAR when you are outnumbered, because there’s the potential for something truly “heroic” that the players would love (see 300 again). While it’s dead boring if you know you are winning and the victory doesn’t require any effort.

How to achieve this? Instead of locking the number of players who participate in a defense/attack (which negates the immersion and the WHOLE POINT of the warfare), you give teams different objectives that are balanced for that specific situation.

A concrete example for a taste of what I mean: the team with the large zerg will have the objective (and related victory points) to conquer a castle. The outnumbered defenders will have the objective to defend it *as long as possible*. The more they resist, the more points they earn, and the more they are outnumbered the more the points they earn over time scale up.

Asymmetric/immersive warfare is the whole point of RvR. You just need to make it correspond adaptive/reactive objectives that are balanced to the current status of the realm.

And to precise better: are the game rules to lead the players around and determine what they’ll do and what they’ll avoid. Carrots on a stick, goals, power-ups. That’s what the game is about and what the players chase. They simply go where the best points to be made are.

What’s bad in PvP when you are outnumbered is that you only waste time feeding enemies points without getting anything back. So it’s often better to just /quit.

If this is seen as a problem then you can use the rules to encourage and motivate players to defend. What I mean is that this is ENTIRELY a problem of game rules.

It’s about time that game design starts to “legislate” on this, start working on models, interactions. Because till now RvR was just a big zone with a keep in the middle, with some bleached, gimmick features tacked on it. Not much development went into the actual RvR and warfare, and that’s the main reason why all that potential is untapped.

Just think to what we could have now if RvR had received in the years the same focus and numbers of reiterations that went into PvE.

That’s what I’m saying. RvR is still a closed door. The first step.

On the first question, is open RvR ever going to have mass appeal? I don’t know. Indications from daoc were that it’s worth a try, the casual players genuinely liked 100 v 100 face offs at keeps. The hardcore liked the open aspect of RvR much less, because it diluted their individual advantages. Certainly RvR is the only major thing that is unique to Mythic and WAR – and it’s the only mechanism I’ve seen for having hardcore and casual players interact constructively – so it seems nuts to focus instead on something that is already the focus of games like GW. At the end of the day, what we do know is that meaningful sport pvp is an unlikely premise for a mass appeal game, while RvR is at least unknown.

First off, prep-work. The beauty of RvR prep work was that the double mega hardcore did (and enjoyed) the prep work for the casual masses. Casual players did not have to do prep work for RvR, but double mega hardcore players who wanted to get shit done in RvR had to communicate that prep work to the casuals, it wasn’t perfect, but I have yet to see a better MMOG model for getting hardcores to talk to casuals. Plus prep work was only necessary at all for the very largest RvR events, on your average night of RvR you just use the realm war map to go find the action.

Open RvR remains untested in the market since daoc. And that was pretty much a stealth product by recent standards, I don’t think you can automatically draw conclusions about how an RvR game would do today.

There is significant evidence that meaningful (as opposed to diversionary) sport pvp is hard to sustain in a typical mmog setting because it dramatically emphasizes differences in player skill, at the same time as limiting community size and so forcing the uber up against the noob too often.

But at the same time, the best you can say for RvR is that people who tried it usually liked it.

In daoc, assuming you survive to level 50 rr4 or so (ie. rvr viable, and yes, that needs to come sooner in WAR), your realm is, in effect, a form of guild.

But in a normal guild, the guild community can form around social links, and so it is naturally cohesive. In a realm on the other hand, the game has to build a community around the arbitary membership of the realm.

If people (scrubs included) don’t care that scrub participation in sport pvp hurts the realm, that means you didn’t set up an environment which builds the community right, and as such you already failed the most important precondition to make RvR work.

This is really key, if you make everyone believe they are involved in a genuinely realm versus realm competition, and believe that they can contribute, and believe that the rest of the realm is on their side; then tbh most other stuff falls into place by itself. DAOC was built entirely on that principle, in that game pve was ostensibly about building community, and open-RvR was how the community entertained itself on an open-ended basis.

Checkmate in two

Nostalgia (and referring to this, there’s a rule: you only have nostalgia to things you lost, or traits of them that you lost, not to things that are done better). Then I’m done.

Mythic released today a patch with a few good changes (archer classes excluded) and I was writing a bit on the forums. It summarizes well my idea on the game (DAoC will remain my very own crusade and inspiration) and goes back to a lot of fundamental principles that I discussed on this site about mmorpgs in general.

One idea I’d propose if I was the producer (wink to Walt): plan a mini-expansion to be released this Fall.

– Price: $5.
– Purpose: completely scrap and reprogram/redraw the UI, with the goal of making it scalable so that it looks the same no matter of the resolution, which is a feature that should be STANDARD for every game. And then make it more functional, organized and responsive, with a fixed, well designed layout that leaves behind the old-style dockable windows and then buy a readable/polished/aliased font.

Giving DAoC a better “impact” while simultaneously work on the structure (meaning the PvE treadmill and a reorganization of task dungeons) would help greatly to make the game once again presentable and a first step to start drawing new customers.

Since they are retooling with the Frontiers. Redoing the keeps in order to fix LOS problems and make the client perform better is something I STRONGLY support, but it isn’t all that the game needs.

The two most important things from my perspective are:

1- Make once again the keeps the protagonists of RvR.
2- Work to remove stalemates at those keeps so that it’s fun to play there.

The bias toward 8vs8 groups made the game unplayable for me and, I’m sure, for many other players. But in particular it killed completely the accessibility for new players. When 90%+ of the RvR is accessible only in specialized groups the consequence is that a majority of players are flat out excluded.

What is left in the average experience is to sit LFG at a keep for hours. Or walk around solo just to feed points to a roaming gank group.

THAT’s the FIRST problem in DAoC currently: the game needs new players, and the very few players are turned off by the UI and boring PvE first, and the complete inaccessibility of PvP next.

That kills the game. Checkmate in two.

So for me the only solution is to bring back that cooperative feeling and realm pride that we had back then. When people grouped together to fight for communal objective. And when ALL the realm joined up for some crazy battles. Everyone grouped everyone else. Everyone was doing its small part. And there were BOTH specialized groups and casual groups working together. It was fun, exciting and it built the community.

The point is to make the RvR easily accessible and fun once again for all the players, while trying to make the battles at the keeps a bit more dynamic instead of boring stalemates where you wait, wait, wait and wait.

Here is my “David Perry” MMO project

This is the result of twenty minutes of “logic” brainstorming.

Logic brainstorming because I didn’t start from an inspiration I got. I just started to think about the nature of the project, its restrictions and then figuring out a scheme that could fit that project well.

I’m referring to that Dave Perry’s Top Secret project that I’m still skeptical about but that still keeps teasing me for obvious reasons. On F13 I posted that it could be fun to participate as a group as we are somewhat that part of the MMO world who has always had gripes and knows EXACTLY what is wrong. So it could be interesting to have that solid foundation: even if the project sucks, we aren’t naive and we know the genre and the industry well enough to cut the superfluous and talk about what matters. So whatever we achieve would be still respectable.

Then I started to think on my own about the project itself and what kind of casual game could be appropriate for it. Finding a set of features that must be respected and that are common to all game concepts possible within those restrictions. From there I tried then to deduce a specific idea about a possible game.

Here the skeleton of the project:

1- This is supposed to be a smallish project as they said it must be completed in about a year and will be one of those “free” games. So nothing ambitious like a complex sandbox, a virtual living world or a massive-scale game.

2- It should work on current or easy-to-make technology. So you cannot focus on something innovative or not already proven from the technology side.

3- Low production value. You cannot expect large and immersive worlds, with impressive vistas and focus on the exploration. Nor the “epic campaign” or hundreds of hours of character development. It’s a good idea to build a thing that can work with a limited group of art assets, easily expandable, and where things can be reused. Mudflation or leveled content should be banished from this project.

Considering these points I guess the best choice is for a game easily accessible, with a shallow power curve, small download, that you can get, log in and have some cheap fun within a couple of minutes. Since the “scope” cannot be the goal I guess the focus to realize a decent, interesting game should be on a core gameplay that is easy to get and fun. Nothing with multiple systems stacked on top of each other. Something simple but that can be also be mixed and freeform to hook the attention of the player in the longer term, while on the other side not losing the accessibility and fun.

One idea I had was for a Macross/Battletech/Gundam hybrid with simplistic RTS elements. Something like Planetside, but more RPG-paced. The fact that art assets should be reused makes a good idea to lean toward PvP. It could work through a short PvE introduction, with simple missions to complete, either online with mates, or offline. Completely skippable.

Then you reach the “end” game. A set of “maps” that may be linked by goals and purposes. PvP/conquest maps as well PvE cooperative mission maps. Either path (PvP or PvE) viable without forcing players one way or the other. You get points more or less like DAoC or WoW PvP. Then use these points to buy new mech parts.

The “core feature” of the game could be the freedom on how you build your mechs, so that you can put together and rig all sort of crazy, custom mechs. You build for the game a basic infrastructure, like a “grammar”, then let the player recombine mech parts for a near-limitless number of combinations. Studying a system so that the final stats and capabilities of the mech fall within a directed “balance”… Maybe you can take inspiration from Magic, the card game, where each “map” has also set “requirements” (like Magic’s tournaments where some cards are banished), so that the mechs must meet those requirements in order to participate. Or like in Gran Turismo (the racing game) where you have to have the right type of car to access set competitions. For example through a system where your final mech is automatically “tiered” or “ranked”, defining the kinds of missions it can enter.

You can then have “practice” maps where you can go to test and fine-tune your mech, or just play for fun, on your own, without any restriction at all. Just being wild with your mech design. Think to something like X-men “Danger room”.

Gameplay-wise it shouldn’t be twitch (twitch games need EXCELLENT execution and it’s not a luxury you can aspire to have in such a project). I would use the same system I imagined for my Fallout concept: playable with a gamepad (and ready to port on consoles if you want), using a single key to automatically target what’s in front of you, or switching targets with buttons for automated weapons. Maybe different mech parts could be linked to different control methods. For example you could drive a mech with “legs” with the analog stick, while a mech on “tracks” could use acceleration and deceleration keys.

It would feel fresh enough to draw the attention of the players, while being at the same time “sticky” with the mech customization and unlocking of new parts, along with the variety of mission maps available.

Another main goal is that this game structure is also easily expandable. You can freely add new mech parts and even completely new missions and brand new gameplay. As each map has its requirements you can easily add all sort of stuff without worrying to keep everything balanced for all the rest of the game. It’s so open that you could easily build whole new games within.

+ The game concept makes it also easy exportable to the large eastern market.

EDIT: I got an idea for the first “expansion”: Super Robots!

I was thinking to that japanese RTS game, Super Robot Wars. Instead of toying around with anonymous mech parts, you could do what City of Heroes did to comics. Use mech parts inspired to Mazinger, Gundam, Daitarn and the like. Then have “invasion” mission types where you take your Super Robot and invade metropolis like Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York. Stomp over fleeing people, take building parts and toss them around, take down aircrafts with your lasers, blow things up, destroy everything on sight and even fight Godzilla, Gamera, King Kong -like creatures and all sort of cool, weird stuff. Like those wonderful classic Japanese movies. Okay, maybe this goes a bit beyond the reasonable scope, but it would be one hell of fun :)

EDIT2: To who thought “where is the multiplayer” about the idea above…

Super Robots Arenas! Think something inspired to WoW’s arenas. 1vs1, 2vs2, 3vs3 or 5vs5. Ranked or unranked. The metropolises of the idea above would be the “ring”. How cool it would be? And in ranked matches, as it happens in Magic, the winner loots one random mech part from the loser ;)

Considering that this MMO won’t run on a monthly subscription but will be “free”, I fear that it’s almost obligatory to support RMT, whether you want or not. Considering the structure of my idea (unblocking and modding mech parts) I believe it wouldn’t be all that hard to put RMT on top of it. Even if I’d despise it…

You purchase new mech parts, new missions, and you may even purchase more “mech slots” to store in your “garage”. So that you have more mechs ready and set up for all the different kinds of maps. Instead of having to dismantle and rebuild your current ones every time.

You can even add “durability” to the mech parts, so that you may have to repair or repurchase broken parts.

This project is “gated content” certified (all content always accessible, with no “endgame” separation or drifts from solo -> groups -> raids. All modes always available right away) and “permeable barriers” certified (mechs can be dismantled and rebuilt freely, no character locked into classes or one-way choices to make). So it respects all the principles I laid down in regards of MMO game design during the latest years. And it may be the proof that they are valid :)

How to design a Fallout MMO game that gets 1 MILLION of players within the first year

(this post may look very superficial but there’s an HIGH density of pure game design)

I started to gather ideas just for fun a couple of weeks ago and it’s when I decided that title you see. I did some brainstorming for a few hours but then forgot the whole thing and looked elsewhere.

Today I was thinking again about a part that I didn’t completely resolved, so I decided to put together at least what I had written (and that I partially posted on Q23). I love to brainstorming, in particular in this case that it is BLATANTLY OBVIOUS that this title is pure vaporware that will never be released.

So, pick up the challenge. Put together a sketch of a design plan for a Fallout title aimed at the mass market and that can reasonably aspire to get 1M of players within the first year of release.

As I said I sort of dropped this challenge, but here it is what I got during that initial brainstorming phase.

Inspiration: Mad Max, Army of Darkness and Cowboy Bebop. What I used for inspiration is already quite weird, but I think it works to visualize the kind of world and gameplay to mimic.

Ash Williams! Chainsaws, shotguns and dynamite!

I started to find some key values that are meaningful to that setting. Things directly “fun”, visceral. The cool factor. Basic expectations. The post-nuclear world.

– Ranged combat (getting ranged combat right in a RPG isn’t trivial)
– The setting: I see it like a flavor of cyberpunk, just more decadent
– Tribal nature (small outposts, gangs, local mafia etc..)
– Water, food, gas and ammunitions represent the “wealth”.

It’s also a bit steampunk. There’s technology, but a raw kind of tech. We don’t have spaceships and fancy computers, we have muscle cars, dune buggies, rust, heavy metal (not the music), screws, nails. Gritty world. Dirty. Both new and old. Sixties music could fit better than modern. It’s the “retro” feel. And the reason why I used Cowboy Bebop for inspiration.

The Fallout world has the essence of something strongly familiar. It’s more a distorted way to see the past, than an interpretation of the future. It’s actually more fantasy than sci-fi from this perspective (hence the reference to Army of Darkness).

One part I was considering is that the setting is somewhat “desolated”, few people around, most are dead. You really cannot portray a noob zone with hundreds of survivors whacking droves of mutated spiders, rats and scorpions.

How to preserve the post-apocalyptic mood and give an idea of a mean world where nothing is secure and where the personal initiative makes the difference?

That’s the main theme: there isn’t anymore a general government, so everyone is organized in smaller tribes, ala Mad Max. Everyone is more than ready to stab the other at the right time and steal what is possible to steal. And most of the gameplay should be about the smaller, unexcused wars between the tribes while the rest of the world goes to hell.

Now the overall scheme is where the game can be more interesting and it’s the easier part to realize as there may be so many good ideas and things to build around the concept. From this perspective the setting is ripe of good ideas and the possibility to step far away from the usual treadmills. So I don’t think it’s too hard to make an interesting, “fresh” game with a wide appeal.

The part that actually gave me more problem is about the combat itself. The gameplay. How do you realize this core?

Obviously you cannot go turn based. I discussed this on the forums. The premise of the challenge is to make a game that could be a huge success and a turn based game will be much harder to market. The other common mmorpgs are also turn-based, in a certain way. But instead of dividing “time” in regular segments, the division is more variable and the gameplay more fluid. I see this as a step forward, so I wouldn’t go back.

The first idea I had was to use a RPG kind of (ranged) combat that could feel “right”. Right meaning the opposite of SWG. SWG had ranged combat totally abstracted and weird. To explain what I meant I used the example of Company of Heroes. A kind of gameplay that feels “right” without the need of going “twitch”. But people thought that a CoH from a closer perspective would be boring. It’s actually hard to explain what you mean when you bring these examples.

The point is: no fancy particle effects and floating icons. Bullets, not rainbows.

It’s not just CoH that got ranged combat right. Even Gears of War is a good example of combat going in the right direction with the use of the “cover”. The cover is a basic element in the real ranged combat, and it’s exactly what you have to reproduce if you want the combat to feel “right”. The cover mechanic that is now popular in that game was something I asked *for a very long time* for SWG when I was criticizing its combat on the forums.

SWG was oblivious of those basic lesson and we got weird, fancy combat with colored bars and special attacks. THIS is what I never forgive to Raph and that I’m rather sure he still didn’t understand. The “metaphor” isn’t a dress. It’s EVERYTHING. And if you betray it, the game will greatly suck.

The second idea I had was to use squad-based combat, like a mini-RTS where each player controls four characters with different classes. I quickly discarded this idea for a number of reason. I believe there are many good reason to keep mmorpgs the way the are. One player = one avatar. That’s also a kind of visceral relationship that I don’t have the courage (or real motivation) to break. It would be odd to have a player with four different names and it also depersonalizes the game. It would look also odd seeing everywhere these squads of four guys going around, especially where games have problem with lag when every players controls just one character. All these problems could be actually addressed one by one. But I don’t think it’s worth the work. So idea discarded.

The third was about making it a FPS. So aiming and everything. Assuming the game has a huge budget we could dare to put aside all the technical problems and try to go in this direction. But in a realistic scenario this would mean focusing the WHOLE development on trying to make a good FPS. And in the end it would mean that we have little more than a FPS. So idea discarded because I think I could use better the resources available and focus on other parts to make this game an unique experience. Not just a FPS set in the Fallout world. That’s not interesting enough.

And this is the part that I didn’t complete. My design here branched in multiple directions between these various modes.

When I brainstorm stuff I use to repudiate the kind of gameplay of today’s mmorpgs. One good way to force things in another direction is by designing the controls on a gamepad. Not only you get rid of the typical “hotkey” kind of gameplay that BORES ME TO TEARS, but you would be also able to design a game that will be easy to port on the consoles. And if you want that million of players then every other market opening up is precious.

So. No aim-twitch because we care for the servers and cannot waste three years of development just on that. And a gamepad. Now design the combat. Ranged combat.

I usually try to portray things as a cutscene, then I try to translate that into gameplay. I was thinking of a bunch of characters with ragged clothes, all whacking mutated rats and scorpions. THAT’s what you expect from a Fallout mmorpg (Fallout 2 actually started like that). Then you hear a buzzing sound that seems increasing more and more. You cannot see far away because there’s a sand dune and all at the sudden you see a black shape that kind of takes off from that dune, leaving a dust cloud behind it. And it’s the classic dune buggy with one driver and another on a mounted turret controlling a vulcan. This dune buggy moves incredibly fast, jumps off the dunes, nearly turns upside down after a sharp turn. The poor guys killing scorpions see this thing approaching at them at an insane speed, they try to run away and the dune buggy passes right through a bunch of giant scorpions sending pieces and green stuff in all directions. Then the buggy does a sideslip and the other guy on the vulcan turret takes care of the remaining scorpions.

That’s the kind of clash I want between two kinds of gameplay. No sitting there and exchanging slaps with a poor creature. I want something fast (but not twitchy), something intuitive, immediate, with as little UI noise as possible. I want a kind of fun, arcade combat that still leaves a lot of freedom to the player. In particular I want vehicles and I want a realistic physics system. I want these vehicles to be fun to drive, even if you just do that. Driving, jumping off sand dunes, create spectacular crashes. Have you played Flatout? Company of Heroes has a very simple control of vehicles, but the physics system can do wonders to make the driving feel realistic.

I want the vehicles to have an important role in the game. We also solve the problem of travel. Today we are stuck in mmorpgs with mounts that go a bit faster than running speed. But even with a mount the travel still takes a lot of time if you have to go through a few zones. A vehicle completely reverts that perception because a car goes MUCH faster than someone walking through a desert. You can have a huge environment while making travel not a burden. And without the need of fancy teleports that aren’t appropriate to the setting.

Of course vehicles need gas, and gas is precious. The inspiration is Mad Max again. You need mechanic skills to repair and mod stuff. This part about vehicles alone already provides hooks for all kinds of interesting gameplay. You can also have race circuits, destruction derbies and whatnot.

You use Fallout to ridicule Auto Assault and demonstrate them how to deliver on the theme.

So: vehicles, physics system, turrets with mounted vulcans. Lots of bullets. Lots of Mayhem.

But this doesn’t complete the problem of the combat. It’s just a way to explain the direction I would like it to take.

Today I was thinking about this problem and I found a better solution. We use a control system similar to other arcades. Resident Evil, Tomb Rider, Metal Gear Solid. Classic third-person, non aim-twitch. You have a key that works as the “aim”. You hold the key and your character automatically targets what’s in front of you. No “target lock” as it depends on the direction you are facing, the position of your body. But we can also add a lot of interesting elements. For example lowering the precision if you are moving. Or the possibility to decide how to shoot between classic two/three types (single shot, burst and things like that).

It very simple and familiar but also different enough from current mmorpgs to feel fresh. Press a button to aim and then shoot. But without needing to aim yourself. It should be quick and visceral enough to be appreciated by a large public and at the same time it won’t scare away those who just cannot digest furious twitch FPS. It’s something in the middle that is intuitive and that at the same time retain a RPG depth, stats, kills, detailed character sheets, perks, professions and so on. You don’t have to be good at aiming to do well in the game.

Plus why not taking the best from current games. The cover mechanic of Gears of War again. You use a key that automatically makes your character take cover. You don’t need a real FPS to make a good use of a good mechanic (Company of Heroes, again, also uses cover mechanics). I say Gears of War because its a recognized example but surely not the first game to do that. Metal Gear Solid had similar functions and, again, it’s part of what I asked a few years ago for SWG. So aim, shoot, take cover. With simple, familiar, streamlined controls AND NO HOTBARS. No rainbows. We have already a good core. A basis of gameplay that can be used to define the rest.

No pulls also. I can integrate here all those design principles I bring with me from a long time. If I can see a bandit, then the bandit can see me and react accordingly.

In fact the success of this part of the game is all about the AI. Today the mmorpg AI just make a creature run or shoot at you. We would need instead an AI that also takes cover, uses the environment, cooperates and so on. The goal is to “simulate” a gunfight. If this part is well done then the game has already a good possibility of becoming truly successful.

The overall scheme

As I said, this is the part that offers more hooks for new ideas. There’s a lot to play with, perfect to push the creativity.

The overall scheme: The scheme of the “onion”. The more you move further away from the center, the more things go wild and only ruled by the players. “No Law” zone.

The idea matches the one of the original games. You have a central zone that is “known” and that is more secure. But the resources are scarce and you have to move out where it’s risky, build factories to produce ammunitions and weapons, vehicles and all the rest. Find oasis. Smoke dope. The hippie community, with the van painted with flowers and bright colors. Till they don’t find you.

It would lead to a structure similar to Shadowbane with the players-run outpost and everything, but with a predominant central hub where you can keep things under control (and directed).

You could also play with the concept of the “radiations” as a way to “shuffle” the game world and generate dynamically new things. You irradiate a zone and then the server regenerates it so that it will be ripe again for exploration. This procedure can be more or less tied with other parts, like the player’s settlements, PvP and more.

Balancing the servers

Starting from the idea of taking the deep scheme of Eve-Online, while replacing its slow, long-range, icon & spreadsheet combat system with a simil FPS where you SEE your target. Something frantic. Something strongly visual, immersive, visceral and with as less “interface noise” as possible.

All within a SEAMLESS world. From the room inside the building (and close combat), with a player-to-NPC dialogue, till the larger desert and larger battles. No loading.

Of course this is already a huge problem. Eve-Online worked as a massive world because it’s very slow and requires almost no bandwidth. So how to fit a large world, so that the players aren’t lacking, with a more fast and direct combat? First answer would be: instancing. NO. NEVERMORE!

A rough idea I had was to build the world like a “grid”. Now, normally you reach the limit of the grid and it would correspond with a “wall”. Instead I was thinking to something that was happening to older games. Instead of hitting the zone wall, you exit from the top of the grid and reenter from the bottom.

Yeah, lame :) But wait.

With one trick. Instead of exiting and reentering the same “grid” from top to bottom, you would enter a new grid.

Every grid = one server/shard. Every grid is a nearly exact copy of a shard (with the possibility to prepare slightly variated maps as it happened with Shadowbane’s shards). With its own “hub” and its own “wilderness”.

This would basically allow for a “seamless” world where you can add as many new “grids” as the population of the game requires. You could add new grids on the fly without affecting the remaining ones. You can expand or shrink the world depending on your needs. Every grid would work like an independent “shard”, as in current games, but with the possibility for the players to travel to the grid border and switch “server”/grid if they want. (permeable barriers)

It would work to “chunk” the players into more manageable units, while keeping the barriers between the servers permeable, so letting players meet each other in a global world.

It would also offer a perfectly scalable world that fits every need and that solves both overcrowding and desolation.

That’s pretty much everything I thought. And I really think it can be valid enough to go as close as possible to the goal and a broad market.

Of course only as a fancy dream, because this game will never see the light of the day. Nor in my interpretation, nor in another.

No math in games (reinstated)

I got an odd question in the mail that I’ll back-up here:

In your “Dream MMO” how much information do you give the players? Do you give them the math behind the numbers? Do you give them all the numbers (leaving the math behind the numbers a simple exercise reverse engineering)? Can you show them NONE of the numbers? What different levels would you define to group the different styles of showing numbers? What’s the benefits & drawback of these levels? Which ones are more viable?

I always intented the “ruleset” of my dream mmorpg as a pen&paper ruleset. So rules that could be managed by human player in a normal play session and simple dice rolls.

All the “logic” of the game is supposed to be “readable”. So full disclosure of the mechanics, but not only. It’s not just about revealing them, but also designing them so that they can be understood and used easily.

That was one of the basic goals behind the “dream mmorpg”.

Beside many reasons (that I explained partially in a post with a similar title), there’s also the fact of the “genre”. RPG are fun also because rules are fun on their own. It’s fun discussing them, it’s fun learning them. They “belong” to a world as much as the content itself. An RPG is also the tomes you had to read. Reading the rules of a pen&paper game was an integral part of the experience that I want recuperated in a mmorpg.

As it’s fun personalizing the avatar, it’s also “fun” having detailed character sheets with many statistics. So, even the rules, are a part of the play. And it’s a good practice to let the players in contact with them. Use them and enjoy them. While also keeping the game design and the maintenance of the code (in particular in large projects) much more viable.

“No math in games” is a general principle that I believe could do wonders. Keeping things simple and intuitive.

Fear my PvP

I was searching my old design notes about my “dream mmorpg” for something else but I found a part that caught my attention.

Today there are many players who complain about PvP because of bland death penalties. Because there’s no permdeath, there’s no full looting, no harsh exp losses, corpse camping is often considered griefing and so on. They don’t want these possibilities to exist, they want them even encouraged by the rules.

Well, I’ve always been strongly against those positions because I always thought that PvP should be accessible and fun for everyone. Never punishing or elitist. But I found these notes where PvP is quite harsh, harsher than what you’ve seen till today, and yet without getting in the way of the gameplay.

It was part of a bigger scheme to make the combat more visceral and cinematic. The idea was about letting players chop off heads and limbs from corpses to create totems with which “decorate” a battleground. “Trophies”. That is something with a strong effect but that doesn’t remove character progress. It has a strong emotional impact that doesn’t leave you indifferent, but at the same time it doesn’t cripple the gameplay.

I had divided PvP vibes into two groups. The first was “personal” (corpse looting, permdeath, corpse camping all fall in this category). While the other was “communal” (conquest modes, domination and everything that is usually goal-based). And I decided that the second group was always ok, while the first should be used to “punish” the loser, but without depriving him of his progress or his possibility to play the game. So the idea to go with the emotional impact, on the “roleplay” level.

Think to the extreme scenario where you could kill a character and then rape the body. This would be *more than enough* to drive away from the game in shock and disgust half of your players and create so much noise that the “Hot Coffee” case would be nothing compared. But it is just to say that you CAN make death harsher and have more of an impact without crippling the gameplay or impairing the characters.

It’s part of what you may call “taunting”. It doesn’t have any weight on the rules themselves, but it adds a lot of “spice” and I’m sure it offers something that even the hardcore PvPers would appreciate. Adding the personal satisfaction through totems and similar mechanics (I had planned even a hostage system), while the persistence and purpose through goal-based systems (the conquest mode, housing, city building and so on). Actually I even added notes to give these totems some effects, with enough totems in an area the other faction could suffer a “morale loss” that could work like a slight penalty while fighting in the area. Giving for example the possibility to “decorate” your city walls with these totems as a deterrent for an assault (I didn’t decide if the morale penalty would apply only to NPC guards and patrols or also to the players).

In my design notes these totems were also tied to the crafting system, requiring materials to be made, with the purpose to limit their number somehow. The totems would also decay over time, becoming unrecognizable and turning into skulls.

Below these notes about totems there were other ideas for visceral combat. One in particular was about the use of “finishing moves” or “fatalities”, with choreographic, dramatic animations and everything.

You could think that the implementation could be problematic because of the netcode, but the way I described them seems doable. Basically I had considered them like normal attack skills to be used only as finishing moves. They could be dodged or parried (I actually described these as the “grabs” in Tekken). The server resolves the action before the whole animation is triggered. If the attack misses, is parried or dodged, the cost of the move (like “rage” or whatever) is paid and lost. Instead if it hits and it deals enough damage to kill the enemy the finishing move animation is triggered and can run freely for a few seconds. During the finishing animation the attacker is invulnerable, so the animation can run uninterrupted without problems, in all its spectacular effect (if you think about it God of War does pretty much the same, making your character invulnerable as long the animation runs).

This gave the possibility to add spectacular, cinematic animations and special fatalities for all classes, maybe in various combinations triggered randomly. A warrior could throw his victim on the ground, block him down with a foot on his chest and then push down his sword on the body. A mage could burn to ashes his victims or freeze them with a cone of cold to send them to pieces shortly after. The more gore-ish, violent and cinematic was the animation, the better.

In particular these animations could be completely in synch, without technical problems thanks to the way they are triggered (after an enemy is “already dead”), offering a strong sense of “touch” between two fighters that is completely missing in today mmorpg’s combat. And you could also have a lot of freedom, not only adding 1vs1 animations, but also 1vs many if it’s the case.

Thinking about it, it isn’t so unreasonable to think these special synched attacks not just as finishing moves when a fighter is already dead, but also to use them mid-combat. You may think that taking out the control from the player to play a synched animation could be frustrating and unfun as a “stun”. But a stun locks one player while the other continues to hit, while a synched animation is one attack only. It would become more like a “matrix” mode, a “pause” or a “slowdown”, a temporary suspension (of disbelief) in the combat that actually gives you a couple of seconds to plan your next move.

And, of course, the monsters could be enabled to have something similar and very special, cinematic attacks.

It would deserve at least some prototyping to see how far you could go (and no, your middleware won’t allow you that).

On “Classes vs. Skills”

From Psychochild’s blog:

The challenge is this: Point out an advantage of either a class-based or skill-based system that hasn’t been discussed to death yet. Or, if you’re feeling bold, describe a system that goes beyond either of these systems.

I really wanted to contribute to that discussion with something worthwhile as I have some ideas but then I didn’t find the time and only scribbled down some notes.

As I wrote in the first comment on Ubiq’s blog I mostly agreed with him and for my “dream mmorpg” I was planning an hybrid with skill-based advancement but within a class system, no levels and with class adaptability.

Adaptability is particularly important. Similarly to Final Fantasy XI, you would be able to switch between “roles” to level and use separately (permeable barriers). The goal is to let the player adapt his character to a group, bypassing class requirements and “mechanics of exclusions” that often force certain classes in perma-LFG.

So your class won’t preclude you to take an offensive, or defensive, or support role (see Raph’s analogies). You would be able to switch between those depending on the group’s needs, while also requiring them to be “leveled” separatedly (which broadens the character progression without the negative effects of the “stacking”). You could ideally switch from “battle” to “mage”, but without the overpowered “battlemage” option.

(The original idea was explained better here and here.)

Another basic point is to enclose skills into “spheres” or skill groups. These would correspond to different “kinds” of gameplay you support, so that, for example, trading and crafting would go in their own sphere, with their own independent pool of points. The important part is that all player and all classes have access to all those spheres (then it’s their choice to spend time into them or ignore them). This was the main critics I had about SWG. If there’s crafting and combat then ALL players need to be able to craft and combat. And NOT a class for combat and one for craft. These pools will then level separatedly one from the other (or have separate caps).

This is part of the “gated content” concept, as the idea of parallel progress and content. Opposed to linear, selective or exclusive content. All kinds of different activities and playstyles should be made available as “parallel” content. Without classes that lock out of parts of the game. And without an “endgame” to reach later on that dramatically changes the way you play.

Everything the game has to offer should be available without requiring an exclusive choice from the player, and without requiring to be “reached” (the level 50 RvR in DAoC, raid content in EQ and WoW). Which also doesn’t mean that all the game world is completely open without requiring any effort (see “threshold advancement” in Ubiq’s speech).

Then within each sphere you would need a certain amount of “templating”, so that not every player can do everything and be alike. With the possibility to gain points to lose them (?!). I mean that instead of fixed templates that you are stuck with (see what I wrote here below about “permeable barriers”) the idea would be to use a system similar to Ultima Online where you can let skills decay so that you can specialize in something else if you want to experiment something different.

An hybrid system similar to what I have described would retain the advantages of classes that Raph pointed out as well (but not completely) the advantages of a skill-based system. And the concept of class adaptation and role switch would also address the other quirks about the “balance” (and “versatility”, which is a great strength in the eye of the players).

But this isn’t enough. The truth is that I still haven’t found a solution that satisfies me. For example I like both passive and active systems. A passive system is one where you go adventuring and while you do that you see skills improving in the background (this happens even in WoW, to a limited extent). I love that kind of feeling of accomplishment, so it’s something that I don’t want to lose. At the same time I like an active system where it’s the player to “manage” his character in detail, so with some control. This is why I’m still looking for a solution that joins those two together. Still a work in progress.

Originally the system I wanted was inspired by the pen&paper Stormbringer (which is also the inspiration for the setting). You go around adventuring but only if you achieve a particular objective you have an occasion to improve (goal-driven progress). Grinding monsters just wouldn’t work if not in the case it was part of a quest. When the achievement was reached then the player had the possibility to rest. The system would flag automatically all the skills that were used along the way. The player would then choose between the skills flagged to decide which one to improve (he could have used ten skills, but he could have only a couple of attempts to “allocate”). Then, the server rolls dices for each “attempt” and tells the player if those attempts were successful or not.

I discared that system for many reasons. One was that the achievements were meant to be not repetable, but this would have turned the game in some sort of “badge collecting” that I just didn’t like (from grinding mobs to grinding quests, it’s better, but a dream mmorpg should aspire at more). Another was that the “server rolls” would have been random and just too frustrating to watch. And another again was that it required either too much micromanagement (in the case you had to do that frequently) or not enough (in the case you made the achievements too spaced out). It was just a system weak on “fun”. It wouldn’t work. I needed something else.

Again, I still haven’t found a solution, but at least I know more or less where to search one. I want one that is more automated, more in the background. And, in particular, I want one where the skills improvements are gradual and better paced. It would be better also if the improvements arrive in a less predictable way. If you transform experience points in skill points (as in Warhammer), then you know exactly when you are going “ding” the next skill level. While I would like a less predictable system where the “ding” is less expected and awaited. So passive and active as two aspects that I want to join somehow.

There are basically a bunch of goals that I want to reach, but I still need to find the right combination of the puzzle so that they all match together:

– No levels, more realistic progression
– Percent skills, because they are familiar at least as much as levels (see also the principle of “transparent mechanics”)
– Different skill groups so that the player doesn’t gimp the charater by selecting skills that take away points from combat
– “Passive” skill-ups through server checks
– “Active” character management for the player (control, allocation)
– Customization
– Adaptability (possibility to switch classes/roles to adapt to a group, instead of being excluded or included on requirements)

One possible solution that I’m considering is this one:

– Capped spheres/skillgroups, so that the player can customize and “template” each while still having access to the different parts of the game.
– Use-based, percent skills (server checks in the background) which each its own rules
– A system with special abilities on top, to unblock/enable through questing or PvP

Rough example: your “sword” skill % will be involved in to-hit rolls. But you would need PvP achievements or questing if you want to buy special attacks. Basically each special skill would have a requirement of base skill, but the base skill would be independent from the special one. An “eviscerate” special attack could require 70% in axes, swords or whatever. The special attack would need to be unblocked through achievements, while the percent base skills through use.

That’s where the “dream game” sits at the moment, even if I’m still not completely satisfied. You may even say it doesn’t sound too far away from WoW if you think at the skill progression as a level progression, but there are still some core differences that I see as improvements:

– Class adaptability and balance (solo/groups)
– Narrower, more realistic power growth
– Percent-based mechanics, transparent and easy to familiarize with
– Less linear growth and progression (as you pick up the skills to use and improve)
– Different spheres/skillgroups to explore that would open the game toward aspects that aren’t just focused on combat

Instead I just cannot understand this (from Raph):

And really, the fact that there can be multiple reasons to play is at the heart of it. This is why class-based systems have real trouble absorbing crafting, for example, and we often see the notion of having a separate parallel class system for crafting alongside the combat classes. It’s like asking a hockey team to also do embroidery during the match.

I have real trouble grasping that concept. I can understand having “multiple reasons to play” if I can access different parts of the game. But if those parts are accessible only through an exclusive choice (like a crafting class OR a combat class) how this brings to “multiple reasons to play”? The game forces you to select ONE, where it could have offered instead those reasons to play one by the other.

Take together “more than one thing to do” with “multiple reasons to play”. How you can achieve the latter if you can only pick one between the things that the game can offer? What’s the advantage of a system that precludes large amounts of content to be experienced?

I just cannot get it. Maybe he’ll explain that more.

About the rest of the discussion that spawned multiple blogs, this is a note I had taken:

Secondly, a skill based system kills “lesser skills” and “sidetracks”. You are encouraged to “maximize” what you have, so you are almost forced to leave behind some fun possibilities just because they don’t fit the “template”. Instead of taking advantage of the diversity of many skills and the freedom you are supposed to have, concretely only the opposite happens. You finish to be stuck in a template and locked out of activities that would be fun, but that would be detrimental for your character efficiency.

The evolution, from the “mechanics” to the “metaphor”

Originally I was planning to write in this post just about the concept of “roads” in my dream mmorpg and its design implications, then I bit onto something.

It starts again from the long debate with Raph about the role and relevance of the “mechanics” and the “metaphor” in games. Raph thinks that the only essential one is the first, without which, we have no games. My belief is instead that they are strictly connected. And more than that, that one is the evolution and continuation of the other.

The raw theory behind these thoughts is rather simple to explain. We are cultural beings and we experience the reality only through the egg-shell of the “culture”, rarely in direct contact (and no, drugs are symbolic and cultural. As are games). So our perception is filtered through that shell. As Raph says, games tell us lessons about ourselves and the world. This is why the strict mechanics are much less powerful than a “metaphor”, because the metaphor is what adds the cultural value to something. Life-like patterns that are easier to recognize and that communicate their messages much more efficiently. In a word: immersion.

The basic critics I was making is that when we “simulate” something in a game we surely cannot replicate every other element. But we should choose the elements and rules that we are going to use to “make sense” in the game world. So, even if choosing a few elements, they must be drawn from a reality. If there are going to be five basic mechanics, those five should be “life-like”. Immersive. They should tell something concrete.

Years ago when I was working on a MUD concept there was an idea I really wanted in. NPC guards that would enforce realistic behaviours. At that time I was only playing Ultima Online and always thinking, “the guards should take all these people going around naked and throw them in jail”. And there were a lot of people running around Britain in underwear when I was playing. I couldn’t swallow that. As I couldn’t swallow all the stupid names that people used. I just didn’t like how awkward was the simulated world. For me the immersion has always been everything, the reason why I play. I imagine a game as if I’m being there, as a movie. I don’t think that a movie about Ultima Online would tell 50% of the walk-ons, “go sit in the set in underwear”. It just isn’t realistic and I always thought that if I was going to build a “world”, one day, this would be as immersive as possible, in all its smallest details.

Let’s see at this from a completely different perspective. Let’s take the Doom’s toilet. See, this means a whole lot. It tells us the evolution of games. The mechanics of FPS haven’t really evolved much. But you can see a definite, fundamental trend in the evolution of level design. In the classic Doom the environment didn’t make much sense. Raph would say that their function was exclusively about the mechanics. Long, narrow corridors, bigger rooms, moving walls, raising platforms. These had a role and this role was about creating a variation in the type of challenge, with a mix of different monsters and situations. Secrets to discover, puzzles to figure out. Everything was there with a purpose and the purpose was to create fun situations. The level design had the only purpose of creating fun and varied gameplay. Mixing the right types of rooms and environments with the right monsters.

That toilet represent the seed of an evolution. That toilet was out of place in that game. An anomaly, as it didn’t create any form of “gameplay” on its own. Think about it.

The evolution was about moving away from those generic rooms strictly with a functional purpose to reproduce more “life-like” environments. Think at those elements that made Duke Nukem 3D so popular. The interactivity, the voice comments, the dancers in the bars. Compare the classic Doom to the modern FEAR. The level design in itself isn’t so different. We still have walls, ceilings and doors. But today the designers and artist go in great detail to model these environments to look as realistic as possible. Instead of having rooms that are just rooms without a “metaphor” or an actual context, now we have enivronments that are reproduced as photorealistic as possible. We model officies, depots, parking slots, industrial complexes, and then desks, computers, cans, cables, ducts, sidewalks, manholes, posters and so on. More and more we go into the detail. And then we add physics so that all these objects also behave more realistically.

For me those levels in Doom that somewhat replicated more realistic environments were by far the most fun and those that I replayed more. Urban-like combat was the most fun to be had. The less linear was the level the more I enjoyed it. The mechanics weren’t “better” in those cases, but the “metaphor” was much more powerful. The game communicated better with me and it felt much more immersive. Running around an urban environment was for me more direct and powerful than moving around rooms connected together with little sense. I loved so much Doom 2 because it moved in that direction. I remember that when I played in multiplayer with my friends we used to give nicknames to the different zones in a level, the “house”, the “bridge”, the “refuge”, the “jail”. We were parsing those environments to make them look more familiar.

Think about it and you’ll see how the evolution we had is exactly that. We moved from the generic rooms in Doom, to reproduce realistic environments in the tiniest detail. Rooms that are linked together with a sense. Not because those details really add a lot to the gameplay. But because they add so much to the immersion and the results is significantly more powerful that you can imagine. These games communicate better. They establish a better link with the players. Today people love to play stealth games, from Metal Gear Solid to Splinter Cell. The immersion is everything. The only real difference from a normal shooter and a stealth game is that the latter replicates patterns that are more immersive. Where you have to think with the mind of your opponent, study his behaviour, follow where his eyes are looking, look around the rooms to locate the spots where you can hide better. The patterns that these games replicate are just more “life-like”. More complex and immersive.

Take also the AI used in FEAR. It was the must praised element of that game but I didn’t find so great as I expected. Imho the game isn’t all that much more challenging compared to other shooters. What I noticed is that if you move around the level trying to mimic a realistic behaviour, leaning past the corners, duck behind things, the enemy AI seems to react much more realistically. But if you take the “run & gun” classic approach the game is even easier and the bad guys look as dumb as in every other game. The thought I had is that the AI in FEAR isn’t harder to defeat or more challenging. It just tends to behave and react more realistically. And people love that. They like to go in a message board and write down a play session like a story. And this story makes sense. It’s not just a game. It’s pure… roleplay.

People seem to love to roleplay shooters. An enemy that yawns, sneezes or starts smoking. When they play a game and there’s something that behaved realistically they go “Cool!”. It’s the “wow factor”. (and take even the example of my short report about Sin) They call their friends and say, “Look at this!”

Is this more fun? Hell yes! That kind of “sophistication” isn’t anything else that the link between the bare mechanics and the “metaphor”. The life-like patterns. The immersion. “Being there”. Communicating in the most efficient way as possible.

Games tell us about life. Reality and the world. But filtered through the culture. The level of the metaphor is what bring that culture in a game. We like sex and blood and things that go BOOM! in games not because they are more fun (oh yes, they are) but because they are metaphors. Nothing else.

Take someone who never played a game and that thinks that games, comics and animated movies are things for children or nerds. Then show him Pac-Man, Tetris and Bubble Bobble. Then show him that fake trailer of Killzone 2. What you think will impress him more? What you think could “win” him?

And this brings me to what I really wanted to write about. The concept of “roads” in a mmorpg and a simulated word. Right now we have various levels of implementation:

1- In some games the roads are nothing more than a different texture on the terrain to give that “life-like” impression.
2- Then in other games the roads are used to lead the player. If you follow a road you’ll eventually arrive somewhere.
3- In fewer cases the roads are also safe spots, where wandering mobs do not pass, so a better choice if you don’t want your travel continuously interrupted. In the case of WoW there are also NPC patrols to guarantee that the monsters stay away.

One thing that I really wanted in my dream mmorpg was varying running speed and an active role of the environment in the game. So that, for example, it would be more convenient to pass over a bridge to cross a river instead of just swimming through it. For me these are fundamental issues because, again, I aim to create game worlds that can make sense. That are immersive and where the elements have a purpose.

In the recent games we always have maps but I remember that when I played DAoC I usually had to stick to the roads to not get lost. With the maps, those roads become more like superficial graphic features than something that has a “role” in the game. In these game worlds the roads don’t have a similar purpose like in our real worlds, where roads are sort of indispensable.

The idea was to change all that. What’s a mount in WoW? Well, a mount is just a well-animated model below your ass and a bonus to the running speed. Then, if we nitpick, a mount defines also a social status. It says that your character is at least level 40, and if it is an epic mount it says you made a trip to IGE or that you catassed or cheated enough to get one.

The idea was, again, to change all that. Everything pivots around the keyword “realistic inventory”. And then “realistic loot”, but this one I won’t discuss here. A realistic inventory means that I want the “weight” back in the game. It also means that a bag isn’t an icon on the lower right of the screen, but a physical object that you have to wear in certain locations. And in that bag you can fit only something that is at least equal or smaller than the dimension of the whole bag. The quests tells you to bring back twenty goblin skulls? Well, you’ll have to find a way to carry them.

Here plugs the idea of mounts and caravans. They are used to transport stuff that you do not usually carry with you. You can buy a cart and tie it to your horse. But the horse will run slower if you do.

And the roads. The roads will have a definite role because the carts and horses move much more quickly on cobblestones than they do on raw grass. And for sure they won’t go up a mountain. If you want to transport goods between a town and the other, organizing a caravan would be required. The purpose is to give the environment a role, and more, a realistic role.

In a PvP world the players could control, camp and block roads because those roads aren’t there just as a different texture on the ground, but because they were built so that the carts could move without breaking up. As it happens in our real world. This brings to an immersive game, but also to a game that has a better complexity, where the players can play actively with these elements because these elements have that realistic role that then behaves in a meaningful way.

Giving a purpose to the “roads” is just the first step to bring in the game another layer of complexity that enables the players to have a control over those elements. Patrolling and controlling roads will have a definite use. The game world would start to become more “life-like”. More immersive and deep.

If you think about this, it’s the path that we should take toward an evolution of these games. We always moved from a superficial reproduction of elements to then progressively add more complexity, more depth, more “meaningful” interaction. So this path is already traced, I’m only better defining it with concrete ideas. I believe it would lead to better games. Immersive games that communicate more effectively. Realistic loot, realistic inventories, realistic aggro behaviours, monsters attacking in teams instead of getting “pulled” one by one. One day these things will go away because they are only “temporary sketches”, temporary compromises.

It happens everywhere. It happened when for the first time we killed the dragon in D&D to find piles and piles of gold, but instead of becoming suddenly rich the master said, “how are you going to carry all that gold?”. And it happened in today’s comics, where Brian Michael Bendis took the Avengers and made them live stories that are truly “dramatic”. We don’t have anymore Capitan America fighting against 100s nazis with a smile. We don’t have anymore the superficial propaganda. Instead we scratch and scratch more on the surface. Give realistic and deep relationships to the characters, give every element a “weight”. Even the random combat scene isn’t anymore just a generic sequence of punches. Instead the backgrounds get more detailed and the action flows much more organically and consistently, with the “actors” respecting their positions and states. It’s a more detailed and careful description. More realistic, and more immersive.

“What would you do if?” The roleplay. Immersion. Being there.

Simply put: immersive games lead to stronger bonds. They communicate more efficiently.