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Heroes vs Villains in UO

Discussion in 'UO Developer Feed' started by UODevTracker, Mar 30, 2010.

  1. UODevTracker

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  2. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    This thread is near and dear to my heart and I wanted to chime in.

    The problem with “bad” in video games is that it always ends up being more interesting than “good.” There is more “game” in bad.

    For example, a friend and I participated in a play test of a new alpha game last week, for the sake of this story I will call my friend James. James made the observation that the most fun he had in the alpha was at a point where there was this lever that opened the gate to the next room. Another play tester would pull the lever and open the door, then the guy would walk to the door and James would pull the lever and close the door before he could get through. The guy wasn’t making the connection and thought he just wasn’t being quick enough so he kept running back and forth and it was cracking James up.

    Another example, there was a puzzle that involved stepping on these buttons in the floor in a certain order. Another tester with me figured out that if he stood on one particular square no one could complete the puzzle so he parked there and sat back and laughed. In this particular game, no one could push him off the square. I just stood there and acted like I was hitting him with my mace because I knew he was doing it just because it was funny. I was only slightly annoyed because I knew the guy and if I really wanted him off I could walk over and push the buttons on his keyboard.

    Those two ways of ‘screwing with people’ were way more fun than anything else in the game. I like to say, “Power that can’t be abused is not really power.”

    Traditional MMO wisdom would be some kind of artificial way to “block griefing” but in fact that would be removing the only 2 fun things that we discovered about the game. I would much prefer a *****-slap maneuver that allowed my character to go up to James or the other guy and “*****-slap” him across the screen. Pull the lever and run like hell for the gate before he can get back and pull the lever to close it. I don't even need to be able to kill his character... smacking him across the room would actually be more fun. Now we would be making our own game called “run to the door before James can close it” or "smack each other into the spike trap."

    In my observation, many designers neuter their game by doing something like… “the lever now just opens the door and then goes back by itself after 1 minute.” They try to control/manage the player experience to the point that they make the player feel powerless and manipulated by the developer.

    Making a game where players get to be “bad” is kind of simple because imposing your will on other people is always interesting. The real challenge is making a game where the player is challenged to be "good" and it is actually fun. This is one of the reasons I don’t want to make evil paladins…. Paladin is the only class in UO that actually rewards being good. If it were up to me, I would restrict it further in that if you become a murderer your Karma can’t get above 0. Of course, even as a designer of the game it is never just "up to me" which is why this hasn't happened.

    One of the challenges of designing for UO is that there is 12+ years of inertia. In many cases, "fixing" something is also destroying something that some paying customer likes and so you obviously risk losing people. There is always a big question of how risky a change would be and would it make the game more fun or less fun. The answer to that question is not always obvious. Of course, sometimes doing nothing is not a solution either so you just have to use your best judgement and see what happens.

    In the spectrum of good and evil and gray areas. I would LOVE to design a game where there was actually a stand off situation. Like a Jon Woo movie where everyone is standing around pointing guns at each other and no one really wants to pull the trigger. In modern games, death has so little consequence and murder has so little consequence that it is easier to just murder the other player and loot their corpse than bluff or intimidate.

    IMO, this is the main reason that the original moral mechanic in UO didn't work. Ask yourself for a moment why more people don't just murder each other in real life and loot the corpse.... First, if I attack you, I might get hurt or killed. If I get hurt it will take me a long time to get better and it will... well... hurt. Second, if I kill you you ain't coming back in 5 minutes... you are just gone and I don't really want that to happen. Third, I think I might get sent to prison for more than half of my remaining time on this earth and I have heard bad things about life in prison. Finally, I would probably go to Hell... which I hear is a bit like prison but hotter and more permanent.

    Now, what happens in video games? Almost nothing except you get pissed off and I get your stuff. Should it be worse? Should the murderer be punished? Well, I would say, "Would that make your game more fun or are you removing the the only part of your game that truly scales with player skill gain?"

    Here is an idea that I would like to put in a game some day. What if players did a LOT of damage to each other? Like, what if every PVP attack had a 10% chance to 1-shot the opponent, a 20% chance to do 2/3 of their life and a 70% chance to do 1/3. Now, we have a very different play experience. I might attack you and get a lousy roll and do 1/3 of your hp and then you just get lucky and 1-shot me. If that were true I would think very carefully before I attack you and am much more likely to try a hold-up or bluff. I can't say this is the perfect solution or even better than what we do now... at the end of the day it just depends on what kind of game you are making.

    -Shade
     
  3. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    This would crack me up:

    You should have seen the Slasher during beta... he didn't need to be in pairs. He just rolled up on people and *KA-POW!* If you recalled away he would follow you.

    Before I get into this further, I need to make it clear that no ideas I discuss or support here is a commitment to implement in UO or any other game I may work on, I'm just hanging with you all and talking about game design concepts; Specifically the challenges of making "good" and "evil" an interesting game. Also, if people start going, "Mark promised this and that." All that is going to happen is that EA will no longer let me post on the boards. That said, I certainly care what you all think and that is why I read the boards.

    OK, one more thing to clear up with Coldren. You commented that there should be more reasons that people don't murder each other than the ones I listed. I totally agree, but I was referring to deterrents for people who would otherwise be murdering and looting corpses. In no way do I condone murder in real life. Video game murder is something else entirely... it's more like a gory version of "got you last."

    Regarding Morgana suggestions about forensics and witnesses. I really like that idea. In fact, I have discussed it before in the office but it is moot in a system where a ghost can report you for murder. We could remove the ability for players to report their own murder, but removing that feature would be considered a nerf by many players.

    Roving bands of guards is more doable in the current UO game. We could make them do circles from certain crafting spots to certain crafting spots. I'll throw it onto the white board that is our wish list of features.

    Ok, here is the thing about punishment. Punishment makes total sense in the real world for real "being bad" but in designing a MMO you don't get very far punishing the people who pay you unless being punished is just another way to have fun. In an online game, people just log out when it stops being fun. If someone is really being a problem, we just ban their account which is a different thing entirely.

    I've been kicking around an idea about some kind of magic ball and chain. Like, let's say that in game you murder someone. If you are caught, you get shackled with a magic ball and chain. You now have some kind of sentence. Like, the next 100,000 gold you get is paid to the state in restitution. (In the current UO economy it would be like 1,000,000,000 gold but you get the idea) Any wealth that comes into your possession is magically removed from you every time you get it until the debt to society is paid. When you are paid up, the shackle magically disappears. If you just want to keep looting, you can pay your debt with ill gotten gains but if you are caught your sentence lengthens.

    You might say, "Make them give the stuff they looted back" but the problem with that is tracking it. You can track it, obviously, but there is a cost to that. Every item that they stole would need a "hot" flag with some kind of timer on it to determine that it is still "hot" and all those timers would pound on the server. They could also sell the "hot" goods and then you get into this weird situation where the person who bought it had no way of knowing it was "hot".

    If you make the restitution go to another player, you just end up opening a new way to grief.

    I am all about trying new stuff in the name of making the game better. I designed the gargoyle racial ability revamp and the changes to their armor slots. The quest that is starting on [edited because I am not sure I can tell you when the patch is] to give away housing plots in the Stygian Abyss required two new features added to the quest system. Of course, many other people in art, engineering, and design worked on it too, but my point is that I do not block change in UO. I'm hoping I can get a crack at the virtue system later this year but we'll see. If they let me I would make some pretty big changes to that system. If that comment scares you, it probably scares my producer too and now you understand why it isn't likely to happen. Heh. Designers working on a game like UO are kind of like a wild fire looking for something to burn. Producers are the people who have to pay for the firewood... and the curtains... and the lawyers.

    I can't say too much right now, but the new faction stuff that Mike Moore, Heather Cerlan and I designed is about to go to a test server and I will be very interested to see how this impacts PVP. Factions are our "consensual" pvp system as opposed to the murderer "non-consensual" pvp system and we figured it was high time for it to see some love. There are several choices that we made in that system revamp that are very relevant to this discussion.
     
  4. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    Zyon, you make some interesting points but I need to take exception with some of them. I hope no one is too annoyed by this post as I don’t intend to offend, I just like to keep it real. If you don’t like my opinions, be comforted that I’m not the only person designing for UO, I just happen to be the one in this discussion.

    I use the phrase "just a game" to refer to the fact that a game has no real consequence. If I beat you in a game you are still you. You still have the same job. You still have the same home. You still have the same family. Nothing important to you has been lost... unless you have a gambling problem but that is another matter.

    I believe games give us the opportunity to train our minds and in some cases (not computer games) our bodies and to experiment with ideas. A game like UO is like a vacation from your real life where you can just try stuff that you normally can't do for any number of reasons. It is an alternate reality where if you find your alternate life going horribly wrong you can just delete it and start over. That is very freeing and, imo, fun.

    I am personally uncomfortable with that analogy. Designers are only "gods" insomuch as they create a world, however artificial it may be, but we do it to entertain real people like you. My understanding of God is that He is not there to entertain me. Game designers are a form of entertainer in my humble but informed opinion.

    Yes, but in life, and in UO more than in other games, players have free will. The original creators of UO obviously thought it was important for an individual player to make their own decision not to murder or steal… otherwise the game would not have allowed it. Being “Good” has no meaning without the opportunity and incentive to do otherwise. As many have stated already, the problem with the system as originally implemented is that being a bully and a jackass was easy-mode.

    I’m a big fan of pen and paper role playing games… and I notice a lot of people play Paladin on those games just because it seems like easy-mode. When I am DM, I lock in on the fact that the pali MUST remain lawful good lest they lose all of their powers and I make that as difficult as I can for them by placing moral quandaries at every turn. You find a guy bleeding to death in the street in front of the healer shop. The paladin says, “I rush into the shop to buy the guy a heal potion because I’m out of heals for today.” I say, the shop keeper isn’t there but there is a display of healing potions on the counter… what do you do?” In truth, it doesn’t really matter what they do because it is just a game, but I want them to think about the fact that being so good that you gain holy power is not easy-mode.

    IMO, in a good mmo design with free will a player's choice to be a villain should actually add to the content of the game, not take away from it... they are now like a level boss. This is not easy to do in a game, which is why you don't see it... well... anywhere. But that is the dream. Hero stories require villains, otherwise the heroes would just... I don't know... sit around and drink coffee.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t want to micro-manage the player, I just want them to think about their choices. If I didn’t want players to be able to kill each other or steal then I could just turn the feature off. And for what it’s worth I presume God could do the same in real life if keeping everyone safe was the most important thing.
     
  5. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    If free for all gaming is so popular, why don't more people play siege?

    This arguement comes up every time anyone says, "This game needs to be more challenging." They get rebuffed with, 'If people wanted it to be more challenging, more than 40 people would play Siege. They don't want it to be more challenging, they want to gank noobs."

    I would love to know why more people don't play Siege if so many like a more rough and tumble world.
     
  6. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    I've found this thread to be very informative. I especially have learned a lot about what the real issues are by my question about Siege.

    One observation I will make is that there are many people in this thread who feel that the biggest crime of AoS was not so much that they changed the way resists worked but that they encouraged a "Me, me, me. Gotta have it." kind of environment. Having the right gear became more valuable than having the right team.

    Let me try to get back on track here and talk about heroes and villains. If I understand the perspective of Morgana and some others, I think you want more advanced social structures and political systems in the game. We kind of started that with the faction commanders but I think we could do more.

    One of the keys, I think, is to make the game more about building a civilization... or subverting one. Then the moral relevance of an action stands out with greater clarity. I've always felt kind of odd about rolling up into Cyclops territory and killing them in their homes. That doesn't seem very heroic to me. Looting the dead is also kind of sketchy. Not saying it is evil, just not saying it is good. In all RPGs I'm aware of, pwning monsters is just what you do because the monster isn't really a monster, he is just the avatar of the XP god or in UO he is the wrapper on a tasty bit of candy.

    I'm interested in doing some player controlled towns. It would be especially interesting if you could make an area more safe though a game mechanic, probably requiring some ongoing resources. For example, perhaps a player controlled town can extend its guard zone. I'm just kind of riffing here, seeing if any of this stuff sounds interesting.

    Heroes would be heroes of the town. And they are heroes because they helped the town and a way that makes sense and in many cases, but not all, involved their ability to hit things really hard.

    Villains could either be usurpers or could just try to terrorize the town. They might even control a rival town. Hopefully, the interaction of the heroes and villains actually makes the town more interesting.

    What I always value in a game is a good story, and UO has many. Even the stories like, "Back in the old days, money didn't grow on trees. My buddy and I started blacksmithing and we blacksmithed night and day until we had enough money to buy a ship. Then we took the ship to these islands that very few people went to and we would just farm ingots till the boat couldn't hold any more. That's how I bought my first house. And it wasn't one of these new fangled houses with stuff like walls and floors, it was a bunch of loose ingots stacked up on each other in a pyrimid I tell ya! If you sneezed you could cause an avalanche!"

    Well, I took some liberties on that last bit. But in more modern games I see stuff like, "OMG, did you see my dps? Last night we did Kraken's Nightmare and I was hitting 100000000 dps for almost 2 hours. I practically wore out my number 1 key." That's not much of a game in my opinion, and that is why I like working on UO.

    One of my goals in designing the game is to try to foster those memorable moments for players. And those memorable moments don't usually come from quest text or some new item; they come from achieving a hard won goal.
     
  7. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    This has to be done VERY carefully. Making a game more fun for one person by making it less fun for everyone else is a really bad idea.

    I have some ideas in this area, some of them are upcoming in the next live event.

    We are about to have an experimental shard and that is going to do me a world of good. Not saying everything we put on it will be a gem, just that we will be able to try stuff that until now has been impossible due to the amount of risk.

    There are other ways to be bad than murder, but any non-consensual pvp will continue to be confined to Fel. I think one challenge going forward is to make being in Fel more fun... not just for pwning crafters.

    I don't think it would be appropriate or even reasonable for me to second guess a decision made in 2003. I know that a lot of the decisions made at that time were being influenced by Diablo 2, which was a major competitor. I think we all can look back and go, "that should have been done differently" but as a live game designer, it is my responsibility to work on the game as it is today and try to make improvements.

    I am reminded of a quote from Gandalf, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." I tell you I'm going to try to make the existing game better, but I would humbly assume that this same sentiment was felt by most of the AoS designers in 2003. I guess we will have to wait and see what they say in 2017.

    I have a lot of confidence in the existing team and the existing management of UO. I guess we will need to wait 7 more years to see if our work holds up to the test of time.
     
  8. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    I've been thinking about this idea, and I find it interesting. Not for UO, but just in general, perhaps for a game that I do in the future.

    You have some opt in system for pvp, like factions in UO. This would be essential for perma death to work.

    Then you would have the non consentual pvp as just an element of the world... however, if you actually went red (which would not be on your first kill, probably on your 5th like in UO) you became vulnerable to perma-death.

    Now, what would probably happen is that the player who turned red would log out as fast as possible and keep that character logged off till it turned blue again. But what if the game only counted time logged in?

    Now, you have some interesting psychological elements. You have fear of accidentally killing someone. You have "on the lamb" gameplay. You have self imposed exile. And you have mob retribution. However, to make this work, you don't get a pass for killing a red, you take a murder count unless it is a state ordered execution. Thus, if a mob kills the villain, they all take a murder count... they may not turn red, but this can't get out of hand.

    Practically speaking, it just cuts down on the amount of non-consentual pking. Like... you only get to do it 5 times and then you have to take several days off.

    I would also think there would need to be a non-lethal combat system. Possibly a way to knock out the murder so they can be arrested.

    Anyway, just riffing again... it's what I do.

    Less extravagant but another viable alternative to isolating villains is safe areas, kind of like in Eve. That system of justice is pretty cool.
     
  9. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    *considers what one might be able to do while dead*

    Let me think about it some more. Go to dead parties? Be greatful? Possess weak willed monsters? Pick something up that can only be picked up while dead? Hmm... Well, we have the virtue of spirituality that we aren't doing anything with... Hmm...
     
  10. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    It's going to be a for players. In fact, we **intend** to start it next week with some of the faction stuff we have been working on. Please keep in mind, this is the beginning of the faction revamp, we just need to kind of vet it to the players to see if we are going in a direction that is fun. It will probably only be on the experimental shard for several publishes as we continue to develop it. We've been working on this project "on the side" for about 3 publishes and we don't want to keep going down this road if none of the PVPers want to go with us.

    The only thing that is going to be going up in this first stage is moving from 4 factions to 3, moving the locations of some of the fortresses, rolling out new (totally sweet, if I do say so myself) new fortresses, a new ranking system, better pvp stat tracking, and some new rules governing faction items. That's just a little teaser for ya, the details will come out... well... I guess they will come out next week.
     
  11. Mark_Mythic

    Mark_Mythic UO Legend
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    The way the game is designed, going red is not supposed to be a good thing. Like, it is supposed to be a punishment... making you a pariah. Of course, it doesn't work that way but there is no indication that the original design had being red a class.

    I am very interested in making some kind of repercussion for helping a red or grouping a red. Like, maybe it makes you turn grey and you are culpable for the crimes he commits for 10 minutes after you help him. Not saying I'm doing this, just considering it.