Player conflict when nobody is around. Or: Pv~P

 
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 6:39 am    Post subject: Player conflict when nobody is around. Or: Pv~P Reply with quote

I'm working on a mud. Yeah, who isn't. One of the goals of this mud is to be a strictly PvP mud. By "strictly PvP" I mean, "any conflict a player might encounter will have been the direct result of some other player's intention to cause conflict". Some obvious candidate acts include: pk, players setting up traps for one another in the gameworld, players hiring NPCs to track down and kill certain people. However, it also disallows certain aspects traditionally found in muds (perhaps most importantly, traditional builders making zones and populating them with NPCs to fight). I acknowledge that the boundary between PvP/no-PvP isn't always so clear cut, or always useful to adhere to. For instance... is two players engaging eachother voluntarily to hone their combat skills PvP by my definition? Also, do we have to frown upon "newbie zones" that immortals have seeded with a few really dumb NPCs to familiarize players with useful survival techniques before "the real game" starts? But for the sake of this discussion, let's pretend the world is a perfect place and ignore these special circumstances for the time being.

So, if we run with this constraint (i.e. strictly PvP), we find our noses firmly planted into the nearest brick wall: muds typically start with a whimper, not a bang. What is going to happen when the mud first starts out and there are little to no players online. Or what about during the darkest hours of the night when the resident insomniac wants a bit of action but everyone else is asleep? Direct conflict with other players (let's call it the "hard PvP stance", because that sounds akademik) is not going to cut it for a strictly PvP mud all the time. Well, maybe it might with hard work and dedication. Genocide seems to have done it, although I might be missing something... I haven't spent too much time playing it. But I think the hard PvP stance is imposing a very strong handicap on any mud whose goal is simply to be strictly PvP.

Players are going to need to be able to set up game content that will stay even if they don't. So, the heart of what I'd like to talk about is: in what ways can this be done? I'll start with a couple of my ideas. Of course, what is a valid idea is probably going to vary from mud to mud since many muds have different themes. So I'll try to keep the ideas abstracted enough to be general-purpose. Then, hopefully, someone will jump in with their own thoughts so it doesn't continue to look like I am having a conversation with myself.

Who doesn't want to own a castle? Player houses are in high demand on many muds. People want to own property. Perhaps this can be exploited. What if the items a player quits with do not quit with him? What if he needs some place to stash them? What if other players are allowed to break into said storage facility and try to take these items? What if the person storing the items can strategically position and train guards for the place? Here's a ripe opportunity for player-created conflict that can persist even if one of the players doesn't.

What if players need to maintain control over resources in the game in order to do certain things? For instance, maybe you need to have minions under your control working at gold mines to have a steady income. Fighting for control over in-game seems like a situation that could be PvP even if one of the Ps isn't around.

Unless your game is rivalled in lack of dynamics by guessing whether or not a coin will flip as heads or tails, some players are going to be better than other players. Maybe the really good players become "notorious" and prizes are offered for their deaths (think: a really brutal version of "keep away". You know... with the soccer ball... and the keeping away...). Maybe players could have allied NPCs wait at strategic locations and kill passers-by that are notorious enough. Or maybe the NPCs just track down target players when they log on. The idea could probably be done in a few different ways.

These three examples could probably be distilled down into two general ideas:
a) Something in the game world that a character owns or has control of persists even if the character does not. The goal of PvP can be fulfilled by allowing other players to try and take this away
b) Allow NPCs to play proxy for players, with the real player giving the NPCs instructions on what to do during the player's absence.

There are probably many other ways to have PvP be a viable option when both parties are not online. Hopefully we can glean a few more, or refine these...

Comments?
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your post reminds me a bit of the Player-built worlds, Player-bred monsters and Player-built dungeons threads.

You've acknowledged that the boundary between PvP/no-PvP isn't always so clear cut, but I don't think the issue can really be avoided. If all of the monsters, castles, etc, are built by players, then the only real difference between that and a 'typical' mud in terms of available game content is that there's nothing to do when the first player connects. But what if the mud staff create mortal characters to add game content prior to the rest of the players turning up? What if they use their immortal characters, but use tools that regular players have access to? What if they use shortcut commands to get the content in place asap - but don't do anything that regular players couldn't also (eventually) do?

If you want to go with this sort of approach, my personal recommendation would be to have a fully playable 'newbie' section. Not some piddly little mud school, but a full world complete with real challenges that take many hours to complete, with enough replay value to keep the players online long enough that you can build up a critical mass in terms of playerbase. The main mud itself can still be strictly PvP, but this way you'll at least have enough players to make such a game model viable.
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Teelf



Joined: 12 May 2005
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Location: Seattle, WA

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First, I am wondering if 'PvP when you are by yourself' is really just PvE. If you hire a bounty hunter NPC to come after me when I log on, it is still just me versus whatever AI the NPC has. Or if you have guards in a castle and I come to kill them, again it's no different than me vs another AI. The only difference is I have the knowledge that if I am successful, my actions will waste the resources of some other player. Lost is the mind battle that only another living person can provide. But perhaps the knowledge you have wasted someones resources is enough of that PvP flavor to satisify until another challenger can log in. Probably depends on why a person likes PK in the first place. I would probably have to play such a game to actually decide.

Second, what you are describing will happen when everything in the mud is player created content and thier is contention for resources. Since players consume resources to make the content (gold to buy guards, lumber to build a castle, etc) when another player destroys or changes that content (kills the guard, takes over the castle, etc) that player has lost that resource and must gather more. It is assumed there some sort of balance so players can not make unlimited content. Also, if there is an unlimited resource, like if the gold pieces are flowing like water, then when I kill the bounty hunter you hired for 1000 gold, it no longer hurts you and is no longer worth anything to me as PvP.

So keep your game balanced, and all your content player created, and everything will be PvP naturally. Then you can focus on just those player created content that you find provides the most fun.

Of course, everything can not be player created. And you might find out why people say "98% of player generated content is crap"...
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If you hire a bounty hunter NPC to come after me when I log on, it is still just me versus whatever AI the NPC has.


But if the AI was written by the player who created the bounty hunter, then it would be more comparible with fighting a botting player. You're pitting your skills against those of another player, it's just that they're using a different skillset to you.

Quote:
Or if you have guards in a castle and I come to kill them, again it's no different than me vs another AI. The only difference is I have the knowledge that if I am successful, my actions will waste the resources of some other player. Lost is the mind battle that only another living person can provide.


I'd still think of it as PvP though. Not PK, perhaps, but it could provide the same sort of PvP that you'd find in a RTS game like Age of Mythology or Warcraft III. This is particularly true when the guards are following patterns laid down by their player - patrolling certain locations, using specific formations and tactics, etc. Such mobs become extentions of the player, much like equipment and skills would in a regular mud.
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:

If all of the monsters, castles, etc, are built by players, then the only real difference between that and a 'typical' mud in terms of available game content is that there's nothing to do when the first player connects.


It sounds like a 'typical' mud. TinyMUD redux. Wink
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lukeo



Joined: 06 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that the idea of having all the NPC's which a player might need to kill to get to rescources, or other players items, helps to simply make the world more realistic, and give the players a sense that they are affecting the world.

For example, instead of mindlessly killing NPC's which spawn and seem to have little to no reason to be in a certain place except that it provides fodder for players to kill, the players will fight NPC's which are somewhere for a reason, and they won't keep respawning.

However, as said, it can take a long time for the player base to be large enough and active enough to provide enough of this PvP conflict. So, in the mean time, what should be done, is the immstaff who are building the areas, they should place monsters, guards and whathaveyou in places with clear reasons for them being their, and perhaps features such as when the guards around a castle run low, a messenger may be sent out to try and request reinforcements. These may come after a while and provide more conflict as they attempt to take back the castle....

I don't know... Just ways to make the conflict which does occur have a reason, and therefore make it far more exciting for a player.
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:

what if the mud staff create mortal characters to add game content prior to the rest of the players turning up? What if they use their immortal characters, but use tools that regular players have access to? What if they use shortcut commands to get the content in place asap - but don't do anything that regular players couldn't also (eventually) do?


For initial seeding of the world, this is what will happen. But I suspect player-created content will be ephemeral since all of the content will be generated with the intent of conflict in mind. So the real problem becomes refreshing game content, and this is where I run into my problem:

The staff is composed of myself and another person (and soon, I think it shall just be myself). There is also a sort-of-staffmember who is a player from my other mud that really likes playing with and refining the combat system. I wonder if this will be enough staff to keep content refreshed in times of need? Since the success of the mud really hinges on this topic, I'd prefer to be conservative and say, no, it's too risky to assume this will be enough staff members to ensure content is always available.

Sure, I could advertise for more staff, but the idea behind the mud is simple enough that the entire development of the mud should be easily done by 1 or 2 people. So I'd have a bunch of people sitting around doing nothing if I took on anyone else. Sure, I could assign them the role making sure content is always refreshed, but then why not simply advertise for players?


KaVir wrote:

If you want to go with this sort of approach, my personal recommendation would be to have a fully playable 'newbie' section. Not some piddly little mud school, but a full world complete with real challenges that take many hours to complete, with enough replay value to keep the players online long enough that you can build up a critical mass in terms of playerbase. The main mud itself can still be strictly PvP, but this way you'll at least have enough players to make such a game model viable.


This is a useful suggestion, I think. However, I do find it a bit unfortunate, as it seems to suggest that a strictly PvP mud cannot grow at the beginning unless it first starts off as a PvE mud. I would like to try to avoid this option if I can (if for no other reason than I am curious to see if it can be avoided). But if no other options present themselves, I do think I will end up taking this route.


Teelf wrote:

Of course, everything can not be player created. And you might find out why people say "98% of player generated content is crap"...


Before I started up this new mud, I developed another mud. One of the selling aspects of it was that people could design and name their own spells. They designed what the spells did, as well as named them and set the messages for them when cast. I was (and continue to be) amazed at how creative the players are with their spell names. Many of the players do a far better job at naming and describing spells than I possibly could. Maybe there's something going on, here: the more impact player-generated content has on the character's ability to compete, the less crappy the content will be. It seems plausible to me.
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alister wrote:

I suspect player-created content will be ephemeral since all of the content will be generated with the intent of conflict in mind. So the real problem becomes refreshing game content, and this is where I run into my problem:


I just realized that this doesn't have to be the case. Maybe instead of content being destroyed, it simply changes ownership. Kind of like those territory-holding scenarios you see in FPS games. Instead of slaying the mercenary who is guarding your opponent's stronghold, he surrenders and starts working for you. Or in the case of my mud which will focus largely on conflict between demon lords and their undead minions, the undead simply rise back up after a short period of time. When they're down, perhaps players could have a way of stealing control of them.

If content isn't destroyed but, rather, simply switches ownership, perhaps PvE elements aren't needed if game staff is willing to seed the world with content generated by their players before the game opens up to the "real" players.
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Cornelius



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Instead of slaying the mercenary who is guarding your opponent's stronghold, he surrenders and starts working for you

If the stronghold is a type of place where you can expect to have a constantly regenerating population you might be able to make use of that concept in a rather interesting way...

Consider that the guards themselves might 'level up' as they are trained by a player. Perhaps fighting against ones own defenders or engaging in some type of training minigame could advance the status and abilities of the guards. Then if a guard or stonghold is destroyed (depending on which level the fighting takes place) a new recruit|militia replaces the lost soldier|army that starts at a very basic skill level and must be retrained.

This also has some pleasant side effects: you give a player something to do when no-one else is on to attack, i.e. train their own guards- this still constitutes PvP since it is a strategic move right? I mean time spent training guards is time spent not expanding your empire but at the same time someone who creates a large empire without training their guards is liable to lose it fairly quickly. And if training takes place by sparring- you also have a way to teach new players the game while at the same time they prepare for the coming onslaught.

As far as the game just starting out- The strategic maneuvering of players training and growing their spheres of influence will constitute the first stage of the muds development and then when there is no place left to conquer or the SOI becomes too large for the player to handle the battles will begin. You can force battles to begin earlier by taking a page from Sid Meier's book...

e.g.
A guard needs not only to be trained but also equipped, this requires resources like wood, iron, oil, horses, bronze, rubber, adamantium, trilithium, pixie dust etc... and say certain resources allow you to train your 'armed guard' into 'cavalier', 'slayer', 'horseman of the apocalypse' or whatever then in order to have guards with the special skills and abilities they would need access to the required resources making those locations that have them prime real-estate. Not to mention that if you have those resources you might be sufficiently confident in your defenders superiority that you may wish to excercise your strength against a weaker opponent...

This concept works particularly well if you can take your trained guards with you on raids of enemy strongholds.

Also, this allows a capital loss in resource investment if a guard is destroyed which is may or may not be more painful then the loss of a good trained soldier.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
For initial seeding of the world, this is what will happen. But I suspect player-created content will be ephemeral since all of the content will be generated with the intent of conflict in mind.


Then why not make the staff-build content less ephemeral - rather than creating (say) a goblin village which is permanently destroyed, allow your builders define the rules for spawning randomised goblin villages on demand. Create a few dozen such locations, each somewhat fuzzy in definition (to avoid making them carbon copies of each other) and the mud should be able to supply a never-ending amount of reasonably varied new content.

To be honest I think this is really the only way to go, otherwise you're going to be in a constant race to generate content faster than the players can destroy it. And because that content is being constantly destroyed, the time and effort you spend on it is wasted in the long run. On the other hand, if you define rules for mud-generated content, you can use them again and again - which means the variety of the content will constantly increase and none of your effort is wasted.

Quote:
This is a useful suggestion, I think. However, I do find it a bit unfortunate, as it seems to suggest that a strictly PvP mud cannot grow at the beginning unless it first starts off as a PvE mud.


Well, that's what I found when I ran my pure-PK mud (the other major factor being that there was no character advancement). Players would log on, see there was nobody else there and nothing to do without other players, and leave. Other than providing alternative solo activities (which I did, and which worked very well) the only other possibility I can think of would be to schedule special events at specific times, giving players a reason to log on at the same time.
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