Sunday, September 30, 2007

Second Hand Sword

In MMORPGs, there is only one way to get an item; usually, that way is to kill the one who owns it (sometimes more than once). If it's not a drop, it's a quest reward, or a craftable. Yet one is left to wonder, who made that sword in the first place? Ophelia is so great, that the gods appeared in front of her to give her the sword? Or maybe she was BORN with that plate helm on; we all know what happens with all that chaos magic...

And what about quest givers? You would think that he would run out of wands of incineration eventually, but it seems he's always willing to hand it to adventurers who slay his life-long enemy.

In a more realistic world, items are created by someone for a purpose. When not created by players, the sword has to be thought by an A.I. somewhere, who will decide that with the materials at hand or easily available, the best sword to make is one with fire and speed enchants. Then the NPC will simulate playing the smithing minigame, and create a sword according to those results.

That's how you get a new sword; and if an NPC can make it, you can bet that players will be able to do it too. There's no reason to limit what they can do just because they pay the monthly fee.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pack Yak

Your party's inventory space is limited. The barbarian is already knee deep in priceless artifacts and the rogue has run out of room in their bags of holdings. You found plenty of bags, but the only animals around are bulls and yaks, and those can't be used as pack animals. Why? Because the programmers didn't think it would be useful.

In real life, anything from a dog to an elephant, and then some, has been used to carry stuff around, and that works great. Cheap to feed, quadrupedal animals have always made an easy living by carrying humans' stuff on their strong backs. Not so much in video games, which have yet to acknowledge the carrying capacity of anything beyond mules and llamas.

And that is common practice in video games, to give each object a single purpose, ignoring all others. Hammers are for hitting things, not building them (Or the other way around; but never both). A vegetable is to be used in recipes, never to be eaten. And don't you dare suggest that axes can cut trees. Trees are for decorating, and sometimes burning down for your enjoyment. You can get wood at the general store over there.

Objects are for much more than just their primary scripted purpose, but it seems people think it too hard to do more than one thing at once. I certainly hope that trend disappears sometime soon, otherwise those points spent in animal taming and leather working would have been for nothing. No pack yak for me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Metaplace MMOArrPG

Metaplace is a service that allows you to build your own virtual world or MMORPG; just like Multiverse, but Metaplace has the name Raph Koster tackled to it, so it's going to be good, right?

The goal is to allow anyone to make a virtual world, big or small, if they feel like it. You can put it on your web site and have people look at your latest projects, or make a whole game out of it and see people swarm to it. And that is interesting. That speaks to me.

It means I could start coding a world, and have natural selection decide whether it's good or not. It means I could be part of a team, and help make a virtual world become true.

So what do you say? Does the prospect of building a world after your own mind speak to you, or will Metaplace go down in history as yet another ambitious project that didn't work?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On Market Analysts

In MMORPGs these days, the one best way to make money isn't always to kill stuff or get some kind of resources; often, you can make bundles by playing the market. People make their living in the virtual worlds by buying low and selling high; indeed, sometimes, people play for no other reason than to make more money. Even gold traders get some of their supplies from virtual market traders.

But not everyone wants to play the market. Not everyone wants to care about the price of copper in their cities. Sometimes, people just want to make an honest profit. So I suggest a "sell to market" feature.

For a nominal price, players can put their hard-earned goods for sale on the market, tweaking some bits about desired profits and wait time. The goods are then put for sale automatically at a variable price, determined by factors only market analysts would dare delve into; the player's hands and mind are free of caring about whether or not they got a fair price, or whether or not someone is going to make a quick profit from their hard work.

Then players can go back to playing the game like it was meant to, whatever that happens to be in their case; but not playing the market. Market's doing very well on its own, thank-you-very-much.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Traditional MMORPG Progression

In a traditional MMORPG, the player is expected to put some inputs in the system. First, you usually give some cash; sometimes more, if the game allows real money trade for in-game resources(Or if it has a black market). Then you give time. Time is the primary input resource of an MMORPG; you input time, and the game outputs progression. Better knowledge of the game means you can output more progression for the same amount of time, but in the end, it's still the same time => progression graph.

In any other type of game, where there is an ending, progression means much less. Nobody will care that you have collected all the sparkles of power once you've defeated the final boss. Your progression becomes meaningless once you have uninstalled the game, so the developers have to make sure every moment of the game is enjoyable.

In an MMORPG, however, there is typically no ending, meaning that to keep you hooked, the devs have to give you more progression. They will give you harder and harder bosses all the time. After a while, it won't be possible to progress anymore all by yourself, you'll have to team up with more progressers to defeat bigger, nastier bosses to get more progress points. It's always about progress; never about fun. It seems that you can't have fun anymore, because fun doesn't sell.

If you need me, I'll be playing progress quest. Wake me up when there's a progress-less MMORPG out there.