Mischiefblog
I make apps for other people

Cyberpunk MMO

Mission or quest goals as graphs

Posted by Chris Jones
On January 10th, 2007 at 19:54

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO, Design Journal

Many missions or tasks should be able to be completed by a single player or (faster) with a team. Several roles or skills are used (such as unlocking doors, defeating security systems, watching for guards, cracking safes, etc.) that fulfill tasks in the mission (in order and in arbitrary order). With a team, these may be completed faster.

In opposing missions, players on the other side may reset goals if there isn’t a team to counteract the damage to the completion status.

In competitive missions, teams may have different sets of goals to accomplish (either different locations or completely different goals). Some of those goals may be exclusive or complimentary to the other team’s efforts, and some may be block the other team if they haven’t advanced past that goal.

Mission goals may be seen as acyclic directed graphs. These graphs may be linear, networked, treed or doubly treed (with many goals in the center and a single beginning and single or few end points. Success may be based on absolute completion of all goals, achievement of a particular end goal, or a percentage of goals completed. As opposed to grinding (kill ten rats, so to speak), completion of goals should use skills outside of combat.

Events and suggested missions

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 17th, 2006 at 07:08

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

Several events happen at regular intervals during the year:

  • Twice a year elections
  • Spring Festival
  • Summer Festival
  • Harvest Festival
  • Winter Festival (Yule)
  • Lunar New Year

Elections
These are scheduled elections. Some time and quantity limited rank 10 missions can also initiate a special election (those that are intended to gather evidence to embarass politicians in power and force a special election). During election season, special missions are available to all organization members and can be accepted with the goal of seizing a faction bonus: successfully completing these missions which directly oppose missions from other organizations will swing voter opinion. Rather than the quantity of missions completed, the average points earned on all special election missions will be used to swing the election.

Absent successful missions, the election itself is a random determination of votes, one for each organization’s candidate, totalling 100 points for all candidates. The average of all the organization’s election mission points adjust that vote.

The organization which won the election gets an additional 10% bonus on all faction checks.

Spring Festival
With the end of winter, people begin to spend more time outdoors and enjoying the city’s parks. This is a prime opportunity for criminal mischief, and it’s up to the forces of law and order to prevent muggings, robberies, and keep the criminal element in check.

Summer Festival
The hottest days of the summer bring out the worst in people. Civil disorder is the watchword, with poorer sections of the city more likely to riot, strike, or cause other unrest. Government organizations will be kept busy controlling and stopping disruptions, while non-government organizations may try to organize these events, or take advantage of the distraction they cause.

Harvest Festival
The city is infected with a carnival atmosphere, as street fairs bring rich and poor alike out into the streets to enjoy traditional sweets, cakes, and parties. This is also an opportunity for non-government organizations to spread terror or to disrupt the festivities. Government organizations will need to try to stop these plots before they happen, and keep the people safe if the plots aren’t stopped.

Winter Festival
The winter cold keeps most people indoors, but doesn’t cool down the conflict between goverment and non-goverment organizations. It’s time for the government forces to take the initiative and work to eliminate the leadership of opposing organizations–if they succeed, spring festival might be easier to manage, but if they fail, new criminal recruits will be blanketing the streets shortly. Non-government organizations get the opportunity to try to ambush government personnel, stopping them from discovering who leads their organizations and giving them false leads to stymie their investigations.

Lunar New Year
It’s a huge celebration for over half the population of the city and a major headache for the government forces. A week of parties and outdoor crowds makes it easy for non-government organizations to regroup, recruit, and execute daring and ambitious plots. Taking advantage of the new year celebrations and how thinly government forces must be spread may give opportunities to raid otherwise secure government installations and get away with whatever loot or distruption can be gained.

Problems with skills

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 16th, 2006 at 19:19

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

Over the weekend, I’ve been considering skills in the Cyberpunk MMO design, especially how they’ll be obtained and advanced. To require all known skills to be capped before going up a rank doesn’t allow players to specialize. Depending on how hard it is to cap skills (how skill advancement is tweaked in testing), it may make sense to only require one skill, or one skill from each group to be capped. Characters may advance through the ranks very quickly if I do this, but they’ll feel less frustrated than grinding skills on missions they don’t enjoy. (“Why did I ever take lockpicking? Now I have to take the stupid espionage missions that I hate every time I want to gain rank.”)

Skill rewards from missions may take the form of new skills that the player doesn’t possess, but the player may not want the reward. They make take the form of increasing a skill by one point: this works well when skills do not improve through use.
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Reconsidering procedural terrain generation

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 13th, 2006 at 14:25

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO, Design Journal

I’ve been mucking about with different algorithms for procedural terrain generation. I’m coming to the reluctant conclusion that the fractal proponents had the right idea from the beginning. Then again, I’ve also decided that random terrain and procedural terrain have limited usefulness. In the example of the cyberpunk game design, building placement may be done randomly, but the overall city should be designed:

  • streets should curve, bend, and intersect so badly that a Roman would despair (to help keep the poly-count and clipping plane low for any vantage–long straight streets would appear depopulated from a distance because of server object culling),
  • streets should be interesting, with rises and hills in places, to make the area feel more like Hong Kong or San Francisco than Miami,
  • the character and size of streets should vary depending on which organization is based near that part of town, and
  • the city should be given a variety of interesting regions, such as a waterfront, canal and river system, poor and rich hillsides, warehouse and manufacturing districts, red light districts, city parks, power plants and power lines, a couple airports, train stations, an elevated highway, etc.

I’m not attempting to aggrandize the role of the designer or landscape artist, but I must now emphasize the value in having logical and interesting terrain. I believe that was in no small part a key to the success of MMOs that approached the world design as if it where an interesting place rather than space used to spread out encounters. Above all, the world must have distinctive regional character and procedural terrain rarely accomplishes that.

Custom terrain requires more artist work and takes additional resources in distribution and on the client (storing the meshes and textures). It also provides a continuing source of expansion sales revenue as the world is grown over time.

Cyberpunk MMO: skill success and advancement

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 12th, 2006 at 14:51

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

Recall that character skills are gained in four ways:

  • by gifting (at character creation when joining an organization),
  • by purchase (spending cash to buy training in new skills),
  • as loot in a mission, and
  • as a mission reward.

Interactions with the game portions of the world may be judged successful through the use of a skill test. (more…)

A little horn-tootin’ about PvP

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 11th, 2006 at 12:12

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO, Games

Lauren at Mystic Worlds made a good point about decoupling PvP or PvE from MMOs and observing what happens to the game/world:

You could erase PVP from WOW tomorrow and it wouldn’t technically prevent a single player from reaching the end-game. So even in a game based on the lore of a faction conflict remains technically viable without said conflict and more importantly to my point, PVP. However, you can’t do the same thing in reverse. Removing PVE from WOW would render the game useless. Not a single dungeon can be accessed and no professions learned. WOW, like most of the other MMORPGs, is nothing without PVE.

WoW, EQ, SB, and AC depend entirely upon PvE for advancement. EQ2 and DAOC allow experience and advancement through PvP, but that is a pathological play style for levelling. Arguably, removing the PvE content and replacing it with purchaseable items, ala Guild Wars, is an alternative that could work for EQ2 and DAOC. Guild Wars is a special case, with both PvE and PvP playstyles, where an exclusively PvP playstyle lives in arenas, while a PvE character can participate in both games.
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Cyberpunk MMO rules (first draft)

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 7th, 2006 at 21:53

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

Below is a first draft of GITS:SAC-inspired cyberpunk MMO rules, specifically dealing with a limited set of character attributes, how characters take damage, how armor modifies damage taken, and how characters heal.

The rules are not complete, such that we have no details on skills, equipment, cyber bodies available for rank, skill limitations or caps per rank or attribute, how skills, bodies, attributes, and equipment are purchased, what a typical reward is from a mission, how missions are accessed, etc. Do note that I have chosen an arbitrary figure of 50 ¥ to restore a single point of hits in the hospital–I would expect this figure (and the associated cost formula) to change as a result of further design iterations, play testing, and balancing.

Enjoy . . .
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GITS:SAC MMO design (revised)

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 6th, 2006 at 21:38

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

Ghost In The Shell:  Stand Alone Complex Gig 2My wife reviewed my Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex MMO design and had a lot of good suggestions. The next revision of this may remove the GITS:SAC theme completely in favor of a “generic” cyberpunk setting which could then be expanded in directions not present in Masamune Shirow’s creation.

The design addresses an alternative way of handling gameplay for elder players. One question that prompted it was “how can the game continue to provide interesting gameplay when end-game players are much tougher than most anything else in the game?” Part of my proposal is to extend quests and missions by providing greater variety in type and content, rather than relying exclusively on raiding or PvP content.
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Alternative gameplay: a high level GITS MMO design

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 5th, 2006 at 15:17

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

This post has been superceded by a reviewed and improved design. Feel free to compare the versions if you wish.

Ghost In The Shell:  Stand Alone Complex Gig 2I’ve been thinking about a Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex MMO lately. It’s a better setting than the Ghost In The Shell movie for an MMO, with more characters and player character roles demonstrated. It even provides a mechanism for measurement of character progress through ranks, and rewards for progress, such as a new or better cyber body.

Consider a character like Major Kusanagi Motoko to be at the end game: only politicians and department heads are higher ranked than she is, and as an individual combatant she outclasses all but heavy military equipment. How do you continue to provide interesting gameplay when end-game players are much tougher than most anything else in the game, especially in a setting where random violence will cause the character to be hunted down, removed as a threat, and imprisoned or destroyed?
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