Moo Tang Clan: Make it impossible to document these locations?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Make it impossible to document these locations?

What is wrong about exploring a really big forest that is filled with random spawns? You earn EP while you do it, you do it only if you like to explore (important) and the designer can even put a few things in there to find. (But make it impossible to document these things in internet sources!)
-- Nils
OK, how do you make a MMO where the locations of things are not trivial to document (saying "impossible" might just be a bit much).

My first strike would be to eliminate x,y coordinates entirely. Don't show them on the map, and don't let them be available thru any in-game API/scripting. Of course, if you have a map, then you've got a de facto coordinate system: the pixels of the image of the map are arranged into a regular grid.

What next then? OK, have the map you see be different from the map I see (thus not a standard shared image). I've written before about mapping as interactive game activity.

You'd still want it possible to find your way back to the thing you found. It might need to be a case of "head up the mountain path until you see a rock shaped like a dog, then climb down the slope until [yada yada landmark landmark] and there you have it! The lost treasure of Sierra Madre!"

What about you ... how would you tackle this design challenge?


Nils said...

Thanks for the link.

One relatively easy way is to make different servers have different maps. (Procedurally created).

Combine that with careful changes in the langscape every few weeks if you want.

As I wrote before, game developers need to create mechanics that not only accept the Information Curse (that is the internet), but actually resist it.

WoW answer, that is to focus the challenge on execution alone, is a bad answer.

Rebecca said...

Well, Mabinogi does it in Iria by changing the position of dungeon entrances every week. Once someone uncovers a given dungeon's entrances, the location is known to everyone, but they get a title for having found the place.
Not entirely realistic unless your setting lets entire dungeons get up and walk around, though.

You could... not give players a map. At all. It'd still be possible to map the place, but a bit more difficult when the only main cue for distance is footstep-lengths and travel time. Variation: The Path doesn't give you a proper map, but does give you a trail of where you've travelled previously.

Alternatively, give them a map, but don't give them one that shows their own position, and certainly not one that shows all interesting locations.

For added fun/mapping issues/obfuscation, have character travel-speed vary for some reason; an item that speeds travel for 10 minutes would understandably mess with a player's ability to map distances correctly if they're working on the assumption that they travel X distance in 1 minute. Or maybe whatever footwear a person has equipped alters their walking speed. Or perhaps characters just have slightly differing walking speeds, randomly determined at chargen, though not so different that one character is too much faster than another.

I tend to navigate by landmarks, myself. I loved the segments of Breath of Fire 3 and 4 where you had to navigate a desert and a plain, respectively, primarily by stars or birds or time spent travelling.
You could still say 'orient yourself in THIS exact direction, keep walking, and you'll eventually reach X', but unless significant-navigation-elements like stars and landmarks differ enough in position for each player or drift over time (Mabinogi, again), you can 'map' like this in any game.

Garumoo said...

"Alternatively, give them a map, but don't give them one that shows their own position"


Of course, real maps don't have our position automatically located upon them. Half the fun of orienteering is figuring out where you are on a map.

Verilazic said...

Yeah, procedurally generated terrain, combined with the ability for it to change over time. I actually first started thinking about that after reading your post a long time ago about "Two Factions, Two Themes, Two Destinies".

Landslides that change the arrangement of mountain passes, seasonal flooding, jungles that overgrow the current paths sometimes. Actually, sometimes I wonder if WoW could simply use its phasing technology to do this, though it'd probably take a lot of man-hours to implement on sufficient scale.