Moo Tang Clan: January 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Sandbox" or "Dynamic"?

In writing that last post I almost tagged it with "dynamic" .. but instead decided to tag it "sandbox". (A new tag on this blog - I now have to trawl my archives and do some re-tagging).

Is there a difference? In my mind: yes. A sandbox world is one which players can shape and change in whatever direction they want, while a dynamic world changes in response to player actions according to it's own rules.

The roll out of the Isle of Quel'danas content progression in response to player actions is dynamic, albeit simplistic. As is the flipping of Halaa in Nagrand. The freedom of construction of structures in A Tale in the Desert and in Second Life makes them sandboxes.

You don't however see the Second Life world develop a global warming problem or rampant wild weather in response to all the rampant development going on. When a Second Lifer plants a thousand trees on an island you don't see a change in the wildlife. Thus, SL isn't dynamic.

There is of course potential for a huge overlap, and a world which is bother dynamic and a sandbox would be a very interesting place to live and play.

What do you think? Do these distinctions between the terms make sense to you?

That's a Terrible Idea: Sandbox MMO Design Problems

Evizaer writes about Sandbox MMO Design Problems.

In addition to the Logging-out problem he mentions I would add the subtle corollary of the Logging-in problem - if the world is a sandbox you can change then the safe haven you logged out in could well become a most unfortunate place to log into some time later. Ouch.

I agree the Player-is-a-Peon Problem is tedious. I'd like to play a sandbox world where there was an interactive and dynamic NPC population which players would vie to control and dominate. Think SimCity rather than The Sims. This might also go some way to addressing the Excessive vertical advancement problem too since advancement could be measured in resources at your beck and call, not your avatar's personal capabilities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Glyph on Dynamic Worlds

Glyph the Architect has written some thoughts on designing for a dynamic world. Go read it and add a comment - this is a topic I'd love to see more bloggers explore.

Self referential MMORPG concept

With so many wannabe MMORPG designers in the blogosphere, would it be possible to build an MMORPG whose concept is not hack-n-slash dragons+wizards, not space opera, not sekrit squirrel spies ... but instead an MMORPG design environment.

Classes would include Graphic Designer, Model Maker, Quest Writer, and so on.

Hmmm ... and bosses would be, of course, bosses.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shaping community behaviour via NPC interactions

There have been multiple games where a quest-giving NPC is interacted with via a dialog tree. It would be a safe bet that virtually all of them presented fully immersive RP dialog options. If only the devs put in a dialog option for what the player is really thinking ("Yo! Quest .. gimme now! And skip the life story twaddle!") ... of course many players would choose it, especially if it did skip an interaction step or two.

Let them do that a few times, and then have the NPC offer only measly rewards to quests, or give false information, or send you on a quest which is much more dangerous than apparent .. that is, have the NPC learn from these interactions and treat these jerks as, well, jerks.

If the player wants better quests and better rewards they'd soon enough learn that the jerk-option is non-optimal. When you come down to it, the actual dialog in the options is as irrelevant to the NPC as it is to the player - the player is simply choosing option J over option A, B, or C.

Now ... what might be the knock-on effect in the rest of the game, especially with the player's interactions with other players? Will they take out their frustrated meanness and jerkwadness by being jerks to other players, or will the "be nice = optimum route to loot" lesson be unconsciously ingrained and applied onto other players? Will players, when confronted with jerk behaviour, model their response on how the game treats such behaviour (ie. disdainfully unforgiving) - if NPCs punish players for being jerks, is this not permission for players to punish jerks too?