Potential problems and answers
: With a botted economy, there is the danger of out-of-control inflation. This can be controlled by having a closed player economy where players are not selling large amounts of unwanted goods to NPC merchants. Because everyone has access to automated harvesting, there isnít a problem like in RO where some players have a lot more than others unfairly.
What about Socializing: This appears to be a very logistical and calculating game that at first glance seems devoid of socialization elements. But there is a lot going on at the inter-village level between players. We could also imagine many variations of non-combat oriented goals Ė a fashion tailoring village that produces unique clothing, an alchemy town that researches and sells high level spells, a ranger village where players can buy tamed horses for cavalry or exotic animals as pets, or towns where festivals are held.
Asynchronous Communication: At first glance, it may seem problematic that so many of the other people you would need to talk to have a good chance of not being logged on at the same time as you. This problem is solved by asynchronous communications like an in-game email system or a real-world IM system.
Bots are Bad: Because of the way bots are currently used, players think they can only do bad things like kill-steal you. But in fact, benevolent botters in RO could choose to set their bot to run around and heal or bless the players on a certain map. Indeed, we could build in altruism as a way to level up certain skills Ė like for priests who need to make a pilgrimage to another village and carry out priestly duties. The metrics and advancement requirements of a game are what guide players to do what they do. Like "A Tale in the Desert" or "There.com", if you get cool skills from helping out newbies, then players will help out newbies. Altruism can in fact be engineered by the game mechanics.
So the question is: Whatís your gut-feeling about this game? Would you want to play it? Would you add or change anything about it?
While your article is a killer read, you forget that there is no way to form a 'town' with RO unlike in say, Ultima Online. No buildings to place, no homes to make your own despite the abundance of empty buildings so the main towns basicly become your homebase. In that effect, taking over towns would be disasterous in the same way the faction system in UO is.. there would be no way to maintain control of your town unless it is where you join your faction at.
An RO with your ideas in place however, now that would be a fun MMORPG. Well hell, a 'engrish'-free RO would be a fun MMORPG as well! I hope Gravity can see your suggestions even though they would not budge on anything.
Hey Sara - Yeah, this is definitely not meant to be something added to RO. It's meant to be something entirely new and on its own. Gravity would never go for this.
Nick says: What if you controlled interacting characters instead of single characters in MMORPGs?
Come watch me EQ, Nick. I play druid/cleric at the same time. My best EQ friend plays rogue/shaman. One fellow in my guild brings Shadowknight/enchanter/shaman/cleric to raids... he is usually our rampage-tank group all by himself. Guildleader is druid/necro/enchanter. Her righthand man is SK/shaman/cleric. They are a two-person full group for exping. In fact I'd say appx 1/3 of my guild (almost 200 characters strong, virtually all of them level 65 with over 100 Alternate Advancement points -- we are one of the top ten guilds on Xegony achievementwise) play two or more toons at once on a regular basis, including on raids.
Not so oddly, people who drag a second (or third) toon along and don't do anything but soak up experience and grab flags are said to be "botting" that toon. We sometimes do it with guildmembers' toons for flags if the guildmember can't be online for that raid.
It took me a long time to learn to "box" (as it's called). I inherited my cleric when he was level 53 (no, I didn't like the genderbending but everyone knows it's me, the 60 year old woman, inside that dorf cleric dude) and I was not very good at playing two at once for a long time.
Most people begin by using their high level toon to "powerlevel" their alternate toon. They get hooked on having two things going at once (or 3 or 4).
It has certainly enhanced my EQing, and given me two options when I don't want to play both at once, options I'd not have had had I needed to choose one or the other every night.
Follow up comment:
Nope, I wouldn't find your game attractive: too much like Age of Empires, where I had to worry about controlling too many different things that were going on at once -- fun to play with my friend when we sat at computers next to each other, but impossible to keep control of solo/online with "strangers."
Part of what is attractive about EQ is that my toon is in many ways "me" and the people I interact with are in many ways the toons they are playing. I don't see that same attachment when all my characters can be botted for days on end. The "me" wouldn't be in them.
This idea somewhat reminds me of Black&White, except the scripting is done in a less natural way. If you took all your ideas and meshed them with a Black&White-ish interface you'd have a brilliant and much more accessible game.
I can imagine spending hours training my original character in 'level' and in behaviour until i finally unlock a sidekick of sorts, who is in turn trained (via imitation) by my original character, as well as input from me. A martial artist may eventually have their own dojo, a thief their own thieving guild, a politician their own city.
I could take a select group of characters out on missions and quickly switch between them using hot keys, maybe issue orders in a similar way. Alternatively I could leave them to fend for themselves over extended periods of time and return proudly days later to check on their progress. This is much more in tune with the 'persistant world' idea behind the whole MMORPG craze.
None of these ideas are really new in the single player realm, so why hasn't any of this flowed over to multiplayer games? Closest I can think of is The Sims Online. I suppose the problem lies in bandwidth. Each player would have to send and receive data for an exponential number of characters, so unless everyone has exceptional broadband and servers are capable of accepting and processing such an amount of data, we'd be stuck with a laggy mess.
Take SWG for example. The sheer amount of customizability compared to similar games makes a concentrated battle impossible. Having more than a hundred or so people in a battle can crash a server, and we're only talking about a small multiple of the amount of data being sent per player.
In short, wonderful idea, but we'd need some major advancement in networking before something like this is feasible. Perhaps a form of distributed processing between all player machines would reduce the load on the primary servers?
One of the complaints I've had with almost all mmorpgs is the sheer amount of tedium they build into it to get anywhere. Bots are many players answer to the tedium. I don't know about this game, but it sounds interesting enough to try. I personally think the games need to move from being primarily about building a person to taking a mostly built person and having adventures with him in a landscape that he can influence and change. UO was starting to do some of that when I left that game (the social dynamic there sucked imo) and it was really fun. It started with the appearance of some new creatures, then progressed to some kind of puzzle towers we had to solve to get rid of and culminated with a battle royale to open up a new city where we got new crafts and more areas to explore. I have always believed that if the manufacturers would stop thinking about the game in terms of time sinks and focus instead on interesting and engaging activities people would be much more likely to remain a loyal customer. The way it is now, people reach a point where they realize the time involved to get the rewards they want is too great, so they just quit and do something less time intensive.
What you have proposed is a Massive Multi-player Online Strategy Game (MMOSG instead of MMORPG). Without a single character or avatar to identify with, you are just a disembodied concept controlling troops. Without a main character there is no ROLE for you to play. This is more like Civ, MOO, Black & White, or any other strategy game on a grand scale. While there is likely to be a market for such a game, it would not have the same fan base that MMORPG games have.
A Strategy computer games are almost always about controlling multiple bots. Generally a resource collection bot, and a vast array of combat/medic bots. There are dozens of poorly designed single player strategy games that are designed so the best way to run them is to set things up, and walk away for a few hours. Good ones require your constant attention while playing, but arnít so complex as to drive you nutty.
Greifing (One of the things bot or afk activities often tend to do by accident or design) would be very common in a game set up the way you proposed. Even if altruism is encouraged, some people are going to give their troops orders that will cause other people problems, then log off and let them run just because they can.
Because all players are using bots, having more than one account is just as useful. A single player can have 2 or more towns worth of troops to attack any one player, Or could dedicate one town to defense and the other to crafting, etc. People who can afford to have a more than one account will still do so, and still be disliked, by those who can not. You havenít eliminated the use of additional accounts, youíve found a way to make it easier for them to be used and harder to detect. Good business model for selling accounts. Bad for player happyness.
Would I want to play a game like this? Absolutely not.
For me to be interested it would have to be a MMORPG not a MMOSG. One main character to play. Character could have multiple followers (pet/bot). Character and followers do things while I am offline base on predetermined commands. But you would need to have a truly inventive system for dealing with how characters/bots (on and offline) deal with each other.
The idea of having the character always in game even when the player is not online, is a truely interesting idea that has great potential.
With regards to comparisons with strategy games like AoE or Civ. In both AoE and Civ, units are meant to die and be replaced. They are unnamed and you are not encouraged to get attached to them. They are units and not "characters". More importantly, they do not grow or advance (although in some games like Majesty or HoM&M they do).
In a way, it's more like the X-Com model of character growth, where you can grow characters yourselves, but where there are different roles to grow into.
I guess the right mix of character-attachment, growth and strategy.
I would have to agree that at present your game sounds a little too much like an MMO version of Age of Empires, or some other basically empire-building game. If nothing else, the risk of depersonalization (and, therefor, the devaluation of the characters to the player) is very high as a "town" grows large; the average player could never be expected to keep 30 characters straight, let alone a town capable of engaging in any serious conflict with another town. I also doubt that the politics would work out the way you believe they will. I think players will strive for self-sufficiency, and will therefor build a well-rounded town which may make war with its neighbors with impunity and complete disregard towards the consequences of such actions. At such a point, it really becomes a competition over who can build the biggest town. Thus, we have empire-building, Age of Empies, Civilization... take your pick. Real player relations would probably need to be forced in order to exist in any appreciable quantity, and Earth and Beyond tried this to the grievance of many of their players--- who wants to fly halfway across the galaxy to help the newbie take on the monster they couldn't possibly stand up to alone yet needs to at least help kill for their promotion quest?
Perhaps my experience is uncommon, but most humans interact with other humans out of need, competition, or mutual benefit. Where there is not a need, benefit, or competition, the NPC is almost always the preferred way of interaction in the game because they are efficient, consistent, and persistent. It is this tendency, I'm sure, that caused many recent MMORPGs (Ragnarok Online and Lineage 2, as some examples) to include an automated private shop function--- the player lets their character sit there and sell a good, and some time while the player is away someone comes up and buys the product. This is good for the player who wants to sell something for a better price than the NPC, and good for the player who wants to buy something for a better price than the NPC. Best of all, it works just like the NPC vendor: Efficient, consistent.
As for you game, I would make the change that a player does not run a village and grow it from a few characters to a hub, military base, center of advanced research, etc. This is the empire-building paradigm, and in an MMO setting would likely fall prey to powerful warring empires demolishing upstarts in the name of security. Certainly, this is what /I/ would expect from such a game, and would probably be driven from it before trying.
I think a better model of the game would be the player having an array of characters they could control manually, with botting abilities added such that the player can play act as one of their characters and interact with another of their characters. Personally, this strikes me as terribly attractive, not only for the practical aspects of assisting in building a new character, but also to emulate an effect in the .hack series of PlayStation2 games.
.Hack has an interesting effect because you can interact and "befriend" a series of characters. They all have their own personality traits, and they each have their own abilities. They have unique and varying names. These characters also grow with you, according to when you take them with you on your adventures. This sounds more like what you're looking for: Multiple characters which the player can become attached to, and can watch and help grow, and can maybe help the player's "main character" grow as well. You can also coordinate quickly with these characters and define attack strategies against monsters. If .Hack were an MMO with similar multi-character play, it would not be difficult to create other support classes that could be scripted to handle a number of tasks--- getting the best price for equipment, selling and/or manufacturing goods, collecting resources.
From a play perspective, these other characters fill another valuable role: they make it very easy to create a well-rounded party without taking the time to deal with and coordinate with real humans. Well rounded parties are always important, but many players don't want to play as jack-of-all-trades classes, since these usually only gain some skills of each tree and never reach the level of "cool" or "power" that specialized classes reach. Coordination, for certain, can be a very time-consuming part of a party. Further, these humans have the deficiency of being prone to leaving the party at the worst times, over inane reasons like food, work, or sleep. Humans also bicker over who gets the loot. Bots don't argue. Bots don't leave.
Botting while the player is away would only help to remove the grind from these characters and allow the player to experience growth of their party without the massive time commitments of the grind.
Especially if such an interaction between a player and a bot could pass a Turing test and portray a given character with a personality, it could lead into less play time invested personally in a given character and more time spent on watching the character grow and interacting with this character.
I apologize if my thoughts are chaotic at this hour, but I believe you're on the right track and have a good idea of what would appeal to future players, both casual and hardcore. But I think it's the personal nature of the relationship between these characters and their player that makes their growth valuable, so you'll want to avoid depersonalization of the very avatars that the player is developing.
The first day that I heard about Worlds of Warcraft I imagined a world surprisingly similar to the one which you are describing. After playing WC3 I particularly enjoyed the levels where were given a small entourage of troops and had to accomplish a goal. I thought WoW could build upon this model.
As you start the game you were a low level almost peon, learning to fight and equipping your self. As your progressed, your race's military would assign you the ability to command troops. As you progress, your troops become more plentifully, and higher in level. You are allowed to choose which troop types you would like to control so can tailor your fighting as you wish. Group commands and keyboard short cuts would help command large numbers as well as increasing the sophistication of AI choices for your fighters as time progresses.
Of course, WoW is nothing like this but I really hope I find a game like this some day.
I don't know about the whole idea. The good thing is it's different and we need to get different ideas flying around so that we CAN find the "next big thing." As far as the idea of your char being online always, the only game i have played that did that well was Tradewars 2002, and that was good because you are always so worried that someone has found your sector and is going to attack so you are constantly wanting to check online to see what's going on. The thing is while you were offline the most your char could do is defend the planets in their sector, or run from an attack.
One idea that i have been having is that the main focus of MMO's today is to gain lvls, but why? They lack any real form of achievement, and yet that is exactly what people have always tried to find in MMO's. When UO first came out (haven't played it in years so can't talk about currently) people tried really hard to accomplish something for themselves even though the devs didn't really give them "good" tools to do so. People would buy houses and set them up and then spend time making furniture so that they could set up a fake little tavern in the middle of the desert. Then others would set up there houses so they could have a community. The thing is these people would do all of this but they never really got rewarded for it, the best they got was social recognition. What about a game that focused more on what a player could accomplish? Example would be a player starts out as whatever profession, fighter type, trader, artisan or whatever, but ultimately they really have their hearts on setting up a tavern to be able to roleplay and have that whole social aspect. After reaching a certain lvl in their profession and getting the money (it takes effort, time, and money to accomplish things otherwise it's worthless) they put their current profession on hold and become a lvl 1 tavern owner. Now there needs to be something to keep them in the tavern, and obviously something to get people to come to their tavern. So you have a system where if people stay in the tavern for long enough then they over hear talk of a special quest that they can go on. At the same time the tavern owner himself receives quests related to his tavern that may require him to hire some of the patrons to help. As the tavern owner gets higher in lvl he can hand out quests at his tavern (with criteria attached) and can higher help that makes it possible for his tavern to be open 24/7. Eventually he reaches a point where he has a fully established, nice tavern where people want to come because they know they can get good quests and maybe the tavern owner takes the extra time he has due to the success of his tavern to go back to adventuring part time.
I'm sure the idea has a lot of holes, but the point i am trying to make is that MMO's need to make a world where we can set out and feel like we accomplish something that affects other people too (not just accomplishing the task of reaching the lvl cap.) Also we need to be able to make personal connections with places so that we can go there and feel like we are at home, not just "another zone to hang out in until we gain 5 more lvls and can move on to the next one."
Well those are my thoughts and i got off track from the original article but reading it made me think of these things.
I have to agree with the fellow who said this idea is basically just a persistent state RTS game. I don't know much about Sims Online but this is basically what I always imagined Sims Online was, except of course minus the battling and fantasy. I'm not much of one for RTS games, so I don't know, but I'm pretty sure there are games basically like you described that are already out there and more in development, even if their implementation is lacking.
As far as the future of the MMORPG genre goes, I think it is all wrapped up in making games more open-ended with more character freedom and also making them more dependent upon actual player skill rather than just mindless button pushing. The player skill aspect is an obvious requisite for any kind of enjoyable PvP, but it can also be built into other systems such as crafting, trading, mining, etc., all it requires is a little bit of creativity from the developers.
If you put the tools of interaction (with each other and with the game world) in the hands of the players and allow them to be creative with them, then you create a true virtual world that transcends the negative aspects of level treadmill games.
The best step forward that I am aware of right now is this game: http://www.darkfallonline.com
The future of the MMORPG genre is in allowing players to exist in a virtual world, and just letting them do their thing. Imagine a Holodeck from Star Trek, except where Holodecks all over the universe are networked together so that the people in them could all interact with one another in the same fantasy world. That is the ultimate MMORPG, and that is the direction these games will inevitably move towards to the extent that technology allows it.
This medium is extraordinarily powerful; it has the potential to be EXTREMELY unhealthy for individuals and society. It is imperative that in this early stage we ensure that the PSW genre is developed in a way that is healthy for society and for the individuals who play these games. That is why sites like yours are so important. Keep up the good work.
Most of the previous posters (this is turning into a forum thread) had ideas mainly about how the original poster's idea would, in effect, change the genre of game being played. Another poster mentioned the the utility of NPCs over bots. The original poster aslo said that players should be persistent. I say all of these ideas can be combined, and the grind still solved, with this idea:
What if, when a player logged out, he would become an NPC?
Before logging out, the player would have to choose what NPC AI his NPC would use. For example, the Crafter AI would use raw materials to craft items, which it would then sell. The player would choose not only the AI, but all of it's parameters. Using the previous example, the player would need to specify the raw materials being used, the item being crafted, and the sell price. Thus, while the player is away, his character operates exacly like an NPC. When the player returns, he notices that he has gained some levels in crafting, as well as some money. A simular system could be used to make PC/NPC guards and warriors. The only difference would be the different parameters and AI. While a Crafter would use a standard NPC AI, a Warrior would need to use a MOB-type AI. The only real parameter would be: Will you follow PCs around, prehaps into combat (if so, which PCs/PC groups?), or will you remain stationary and only attack if specific enemies enter a specific area? The spells/abilities the NPC will use, as well as his equipment is easily determined and doesn't require parameters. The spells/abilites in the current quickbar and any equiped items would be used by the NPC automatically, determined by the regular MOB AI.
This idea could be put into any MMORPG currently on the market.
While this idea does not remove treadmills, it certianly makes them optional. You could kill MOBs for 5 hours, or you could also be surfing the Internet. Either way, it takes the same amount of time and gets the same result.
By making treadmills optional, you open up the high-level activities to the general public. For example, DAOC has a PVP zone, but you have to be such a high level that no casual player could possibly get to it. The high-quality graphics used for many of the high-level monsters are wasted as most people only get to see the various skeletons, pigs, rats, and pixies you kill for the first dozen levels. Now, casual players can have access to things like guild wars and border skirmishes between rival PC kingdoms.
So, in essence, you don't have to play through boring parts if you don't want to.
Does this idea have any merit at all?
An interesting example of a RTS/RPG hybrid is shatteredgalaxy.com, and almost all of the game content is now free so one can freely get into it and see what a WC3 with RPG aspects would look like. Of course that game does have many bad things in it too but a more ambitious company with more understanding of how to make games interesting (and give realism the boot) could make a very interesting game on that type of model. Having said that after a couple of months I was too bored with the game and even more annoyed with it's falacities which should have been obvious given the extreme prominence of starcraft/wc3 and how close SG is to those games in some ways.
I'm personnaly not much of a MMO player, the only online RPG that I've played for a long time is Diablo 2 in Hardcore mode for about 1.5 years. If anyone is not aware of this playing in hardcore mode means that if you die, you die, it's over, your character and all it's items (except worn items which a friend might loot if he was in the same guy) is gone forever. I think that Diablo 2's model is in some ways very similiar to what you are saying without the need for botting since D2 HC combat is infact very interesting and definetly not boring; the fact that at any point a small mistake or lag spike can cause your character that took you alot of time and energy to be gone forever keeps you quite interested in combat.
In D2 HC, the point would always be through sheer dumb luck or smart/lucky trading to aquire the right items that would allow you to make a character that can "farm" a certain boss for items, with a low risk of that character ever dying. Because of the existance of magic finding gear (i.e. gear that makes dropping of rare items more likely) such specialized characters were by far the best way to get all the items you would ever need. Of course the "perfect" gear for such magic finding chars was by itself very expensive but there were cheaper alternatives that one could use. Now once you have this character setup, the items it finds can provide for any other characters you might want to make. Other chars are generally far less specialized in their purpose, some you might want to specialize so they can get low level characters through hard parts of hell so that you can "rush" people, or you might want characters that can very effectively clear high level areas so that you can level up very fast and hit lvl 99 (although hitting 99 before the latest patch was not that hard to achieve).
Or you might just make new chars for fun, infact a very common theme among good players (i.e. rich players who also have an excellent understanding of game mechanics), was to create characters using supposedly weak skills and taking advantage of certain pieces of equipment or wierd skill combinations to make them viable characters, even though they were significantly weaker then "cookie-cutter" characters. For me personnaly, it was much more fun to think of some odd and interesting playing style, aquire all the right items and level the character up to a fairly high, but not that high level (d2's leveling curve was such that lvl 1-90 takes alot less time then lvl 90-99, hence I usually stopped around lvl 85).
Blizzard's new MMORPG, WoW (which I had the great joy of playing for 10 days during stress test) appears to have a very similiar type of idea of really allowing and expecting a single player to have more then a single character, and these characters to help each other (i.e. there are many different tradeskills and all are beneficial so it would be better if you had access to all of them with different chars). The game also appears to be alot *faster*, it appears that even a fairly casual player should max out a character in maybe 2-3 months at most (and a real hardcore player perhaps a month). How well this will really work is debatable, I know I would enjoy it much more then playing a single character, but I have heard some old EQ players complaining about it. Then again I've also heard some EQ players cheering it on, so I guess it really depends.
The concept is fascinating and very interesting, to me in particular, since I work in a company that runs the local franchise of RO in the Philippines.
The game is flawed, though I think that's the partial fault of the hackers who thrashed the game after the Korean beta and the Gravity who didn't keep any backups! ^_^;;;;; I've heard rumors that the original would have more UO-like features mixed in with a healthy leavening of AD&D for character progression.
Your observations on the bot-supported economy were spot-on. Last Holy Week, our IT department upgraded the system's security protocols, temporarily blocking bots from logging in for what was a week. I would like to say that the reaction was ... vocal, to say the least. Bot supporters marched onto the streets of Prontera and complained like crazy.Anti-bot supporters _also_ flocked to the streets like crazy and mocked the bot supporters. I tell you, if it was RL we'd have had a large-scale riot on our hands. Another effect of the temporary bot-freeness of the servers was sudden spike in prices. Rare items that sold only in seven digits were now eight-digit commodities, though I suspect this was just panic.
All of this cleared up by the end of the week when the botters found a loophole in the security protocols and shifted gears into another bot program, which lead to another crisis in which the majority of the sources for those bot programs had been modified with in-built keylogger worms that ended with bots being hacked left and right. But that's another story...
I'm personally against bots since I view them as ultimately self-defeating. I mean, you're paying to _play_ the game, why not play it rather than have the computer play it? The Grind(TM) maybe put you off, but starting on the top would be even more off-putting in the long run. I also dislike bots for the most usual reason they are used: harvesting for RL money trading.
However, botting as posited in this article is not technically botting but a total restructing of the game into another model of play. Do not imagine "towns" but imagine a menagerie of characters available to an account all at the same time, operated by AI scripts: your single-man party/support group. This would be detrimental for player interaction but there will still be player interaction; imagine the menagerie as a mercenary company and you're the captain. You will still have to deal with people to equip the company, get jobs, help in quests etc. Disturbing enough, I think this was part of the original iteration of the game as the mercenary system.
However, at this late a stage, Gravity will probably not be implementing any of this for RO. Probably for their new game, R.O.S.E., but RO's become stable in a way. But still, I don't work for Gravity directly so can't say anything final about that.
A lot of people a likening it to a RTS.. well there is a big market for RTS games, why not have a MMORTS?
It would work as a MMORPG, but it would needs a few constraints.
Any form of town or permanant area would have to be in a pvp-free zone & unattackable by other players. Otherwise you'll have a situation where dominant players invade anyone entering the game.. you could still have pvp, but it'd have to be something like DAOC where you'd go with your bots to a specific pvp area where there are objectives to achieve/places to capture etc.
It you would have to have a limit on the number of bots you have - I think you said 20/30.. 20 would be a good number, but anymore and you would depersonalize the characters & make it more of an RTS. & it would be an idea to have a "lead" toon. One that is in-charge of the others & that you would play & associate with more than the others. A character that people can identify with if they wanted to.
If you got rid of grinding you'd be getting rid of most of the achievement centered gameplay, so there would have to be things that you can achieve that bots cant do, otherwise there'd be no point in logging in to the game... it'd be a lot like sims online :/
Gravity should make lots and lots (i mean a lot...) of new monsters with high HP and massively attack all the cities and take over 'em and kick all player out of town!!! yeah!!!
I'd definitely go for something like this. While a larger number of characters under a player's control would lead to a lessening of the player's attachment to individual characters, I think that they would still feel a strong attachment to their town as a whole. An attachment could be developed to a single character in a leadership position, with RPG style gameplay available to that character and their entourage.
Something fundamental to the success of such a game would be difficulty in war. If a pair of militaristic players are able to overwhelm a military/development pair of players, then non-militant players will be quickly weeded out. If specialization is heavily rewarded and militaries need a lot of development support, then it would prevent the game from being overrun by teenagers with dreams of military conquest.
Before the bots, my experiences with Ragnarok Online is rather exciting.
I used to play in Indonesian servers, so I don't know whether or not my experiences will be the same with other RO servers.
During my explorations around Rune Midgard, I often meet friendly new people.
It's not rare if we end up exploring together on groups later on.
And the users are really enjoying the game, especially during special events like Valentine's Day and Christmas.
It's just plain simple fun.
After the bots, I feel the enjoyment is melting away.
I often meet bots now and then, and knowing there's no human behind the characters already spoil the fun.
To make the matter worst, bots are used to gain rare items from monsters.
So rare items are no longer "rare", because everyone can buy them from the users who use bots.
Last but not least, the bots creates a disturbing virtual economy.
People no longer play to build the characters and searching for rare items. Instead they pay users with bots, in real money, to build high-status characters for them, and to equip the characters with rare items.
In short, RO nowadays is not about playing for fun, it's about paying for fame.
At least, in Indonesian RO.
Bots were allways "bad thing" in games for me. For me it is of greatest importance that real (live) players are behind game characters.
Its like when i ask: "hey Dude657, can you watch my back while i go down to kill some", and get the answer: "Who's your daddy?", argh, terrible bot...
And i dont like the idea that my character lives and wanders around while im logged out. I dont see the point in it.
I think that the town system would be far too mundane for anyone to get attached to, especcially if they have that creative streak that brought them to role playing games in the first place.
Something more exciting would fill the bill. Going to the past for inspiration, I would fancy a game world similar to Mythic Europe in the Ars Magica 'paper and dice' RPG. In that game, players reguarly had multiple characters to control (there was your 'primary' character, a mage of considerable power, and a 'companion' character who could be a rogue type character, fighter, or even a learned scholar or healer, and then there were numerous 'grogs', characters of limited but useful abilities that filled the gaps. Players banded together to form a 'Covenant', a group of like minded Mages who would quest for resources and magical artifacts, conduct research, and face the dangers of their profession of adventure.
Using Nick's most excellent model, you'd have a primary character of considerable power within the game, and a host of less powerful (but useful) characters that you could either automate or play as your other characters spent seasonal time advancing their non-combat skills. In fact, a typical 'mission' for the Covenant might involve player A's Mage, player B's Companion, and several of Player C's grogs (and various other combinations thereof).
There were also 'rules' concerning conflict between rival Covenants. To blatantly attack and try to destroy Covenants was to invite the wrath of the greater Order of Hermes (the society of mages that laid down the law in Mythic Europe) so confict between rivals for resources was resolved in elaborate rituals and by covert sabotage rather than outright overwhelming firepower.
To keep players interested you have to create something that differentiates your game from a strategy game such as Civ 4 Warlords. Advancement isn't enough, you need intrigue and adventure but at the same time, you need something that prevents 'summer' Covenants (those that are in their prime) from wiping out 'spring' Covenants (those that are just getting started) just by force of arms. To keep people interested there needs to be that sense of belonging in the game, of individuality of character, and while the game, like life, may be a constant struggle there has to be those moments of triumph and the feeling of freedom and control of your general destiny.
That's the difference between a great game, and a great game idea.
If something like this was to ever happen in RO I think the players would have a heart attack. xD
I don't really like the concept of this new type of game. I really enjoy the fact that a player has to actually be on and leveling in order to get anywhere. (Why I greatly dislike afkhemists. =p) I beleive that it is much more rewarding to see the results when you directly have to level. I am starting to ramble though, hehe... xD
A bit late considering when this initial study was published, but it's a bit off the mark.
A little while after you published this article, the european franchise for RO opened. They made it clear from the beginning bots would not be tolerated and good and bad, pretty much did a good job at solving the problem (volunteer GMs called bot hunters, available at pretty much any time of the day or night for you to report bots, etc).
The economy was and still is very healthy. Why?
Because most "basic" items, or the ones you would seek when you reach the turning point of the game (WoE, aka War of Emperium, which is a bi weekly guild vs guild brawl) are easily accessible from a low level. The card that gives you damage reduction from human players can easily be hunted at level 30. A very sought card for PvM (pupa, that gives you +700 HP) is huntable on a mere novice.
Latest additions made very common items in high demand for a special class, but the amount needed is often tedious for advanced players. That is the key with RO: as you advance, you have more money, and you grow lazy. You don't want to waste one week hunting for your card, so you just buy it for let's say 5million zeny.
With prices being generally higher, and a lot of in demand items being accessible to low level class, a lucky find or a bit of research is often the golden pass for a new player. With all this sudden money, they can buy better gears, potions, and in general being more efficient level wise.
It also put you in front of a choice: Do I want to power level, which will cost me money, or do I want to "waste" some of my time to gather and/or save money now to be more efficient later?
What is close to zero xp and cost 5mil to you, is actually very decent for a beginner, and 5mil is a fortune to him.