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Author Topic: Content Uber Alles! by Xilren's Twin  (Read 5410 times)
HaemishM
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Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you and other troops you control.


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on: April 26, 2006, 07:11:44 AM


stray
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Reply #1 on: April 26, 2006, 07:41:16 AM

Considering that my favorite mmo to date is Shadowbane, I'll have to say that dev created content (at least as far as quests and mobs go) isn't exactly on the top of my list. Just about all of the entertainment in SB came from other players.

All I really ask for from a dev team is for them to provide a good set of tools (cool classes/professions, weapons, etc..) to facilitate fun and meaningful competition...And then let the players take care of the rest. That's "content" as far as I'm concerned, and not much different from what I'd expect from a dev team working on a deathmatch or Battlefield game.

If I want an experience with storylines, quests, and all kinds of interesting monsters and opponents to destroy, then I'll just buy a single player game. I've learned to never expect anything truly worthwhile along those lines in an MMO.
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #2 on: April 26, 2006, 08:20:36 AM

All I really ask for from a dev team is for them to provide a good set of tools (cool classes/professions, weapons, etc..) to facilitate fun and meaningful competition...And then let the players take care of the rest. That's "content" as far as I'm concerned, and not much different from what I'd expect from a dev team working on a deathmatch or Battlefield game.

If I want an experience with storylines, quests, and all kinds of interesting monsters and opponents to destroy, then I'll just buy a single player game. I've learned to never expect anything truly worthwhile along those lines in an MMO.

I've recently been playing SB again since it went free, and I feel pretty confident saying a huge part of it's problems were with it's content design.  Not from a class/race/skills/equipment standpoint; that part I think they did well on.  And they had the player generated content part down with full pvp and city building raiding, but the the world design didn't support their concept of player generated content well enough to KEEP it fun.  Too easy for server stagnation to set in which then made the player generated content leach away when a guild or alliance "won" a server.  Too hard for newer players to be able to skill up and compete with existing guilds already maxed out.  So, I think that gets back to quality control of player created content.  IMHO, there were ways they could have dealt with it, but chose not to.  Player created content is a bit of a catch 22 for reason just like that.

Plus, beyond the technical knocks on the game, SB was slamed early and often b/c the graphics sucked, the UI was confusing (at first, its was actually very flexible), and they only had point and click movement, all of which I consider content too.

Xilren

"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
Jeff Kelly
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Reply #3 on: April 26, 2006, 08:50:31 AM

Just to nitpick the headline: "Content über alles" or even "Inhalt über alles" (would defeat the purpose but would be completely german).

To get back to the topic. Repeating content can be fun or how else could you explain the success of diablo.

What all these content discussions seem to leave out is the people factor. I would have long quit playing WoW if it wasn't for the people in my guild. Those games seem to carry on long after the players have reached their boredom point because of the social networks that are built by the people playing the game.

Those social networks tend to keep people playing longer than they would normally do. Doing a level in a single player game over and over again will bore players rather soon, playing the same content again and again with/against other people (ideally with the help of voice comm) will be exponentially more fun and will entertain people far longer. See the success of counterstrike as an example. Playing cs_desert over and over again against the AI wouldn't have kept players pöaying for so long.
Soln
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Reply #4 on: April 26, 2006, 09:49:39 AM

Nice write up. Thanks.

I think Jeff's right by saying it's not just about individuals, but rather the entire ecosystem of relationships on a shard or world.  Social networking is a huge part of these games, and if like me you don't develop enough social capital to enter a mainstream network you will lose out on the player-driven content you mention.

“What exactly IS content in one of these subscription online games to you?”
Content for me primarily is dev created.  However, I think fundamentally you need to always consider the problem of advancement along with the placement and role of content in the game.  After all, like you point out, there's lots of different content to consider.  But the stuff you correctly mention has a specific role -- it's there to help players advance.  The problem is "advance to what?"  Well, understanding that is maybe the real problem -- what is the core game?  is it just a narrative to a single and specific end game?  If so, what is that end game?  Alternatively, what mechanisms are there that enable players to create their own formal content (like player written quests) or informal content (like player cities, guilds, alliances, etc.)?  Are there sub-games like crafting and economic activities available, or are they mainstream to the core narratives (content) of the game? and again, do they lead to a specific end game?

To me most content in MMO's is disposable and enabling -- it's only there to get to you the next level or to assist with that.  If MMO providers made the NPC AI and advancement systems less linear and more complex -- and not easily repeatable -- then you might have a lot more options for complex player created content and interactions.  As long as developers keep a linear advancement model player content will always be effected by the players who work that system the best (catazz like you said).  That's the only fear with retention and content-burnthrough.  Get rid of the straightline advancement bias and you'll remove the danger to retention, and thus open up new possibilities of play.

And “How does content effect both your enjoyment of and continuing subscription too, these online games?”
IMO if I can't get my mind off the fact that my play time will end up in a future activity I won't enjoy (or can't participate in because of time requirements) then I won't do it.  Two personal examples.

1) in SWG I unlocked Jedi relatively-early (patch9), but I was so put out by the ongoing changes to the profession, the whole combat system, and the basic reality that all I would be doing in the profession was grinding made me quit. In that the advancement was just time-in-game grinding to an end profession title with new stats/abilities.  There was nothing reflective from the gameworld for my activities.  It was just repetition.  And it could be done solo.  Bad content.  No future but more grinding.  Also, include a very hostile non-Jedi community from PvP and RP'ers.  In that game, of course, Jedi IS the end game.  There was nothing else to really accomplish.

2) I enjoyed WoW but quit because I couldn't stop thinking that I'd make it to 60 and all I'd really have to look forward to was raiding.  There's nothing wrong with raids, but I don't have 4-8hrs ever of free time to spend on it.  I couldn't get rid of the feeling that any networking I did was not going to be fair to me or my guildies -- I wouldn't be able to help them.  So irrational or not I quit.  Also, their uptime is inexcusable so that made the /cancel easier.  There was less repetition in this example, but because the advancement forced on behaviors on the player created content (the social raiding network) they weren't things I was comfortable with I had to move on.  The content may have been player created, but it was so skewed by the overall progression design it turned me off.

So to me it's never about the quality of the content or if it's dev or player created.  It's always about the developer created advancement system behind it that forces a role on the content.  If I can enjoy that, then whatever is presented is fine with me.  Thanks.
Slayerik
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Reply #5 on: April 26, 2006, 10:23:47 AM


End game to me is competition. Whether it be in PVP, gear, guild standing (notoriety), forum wars, I usually could care less about the actual Dev content if there is a solid reason to PVP. Games I enjoyed most: UO, Neocron, shadowbane, WoW...Least: AO, SWG

Level based games to me = how fast can I get to end-game? Im never one to cry about content. I usually play one character exclusely, rarely ever even playing an alt, and finding out how to play him best or equip him best. The best content to me is having player created reasons to fight. These usually required minor Dev tools such as Chaos/Order, factions, Guild Wars, Anti/PK (Ultima), Outpost battles, factions (Neocron), Massive town assaults, random high level 1 on 1's (Shadowbane), Tarren Mill back and forth scraps, fights outside instances (WoW). These are the things, in hindsight, that I remember and love about the games. Killing some AI foozles over and over again I could handle if there was a chance at some type of weapon upgrade, especially in a game where I would lose them and need new ones (Ultima, Neocron).

Also when you drop items, its another time sink ... but one I dont mind. In Ultima's case, you could usually recall or buy more regs or loot them off bodies. Let me see another game where a naked mage (though fragile) can still kill. Skill based, not item based. Items just give you a slight advantage if you risk them. I know, I know, will never happen. I still miss "You have now left the protection of the town guards." Thats right people, no dev hand holding.

I quit wow about the time when I realized all i did was log on to raid. I would raid all the time and never have a FUN reason to use my gear. So I then sold my priest and got Planetside resubbed until the next one comes along.

"I have more qualifications than Jesus and earn more than this whole board put together.  My ego is huge and my modesty non-existant." -Ironwood
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #6 on: April 26, 2006, 12:37:21 PM

Just to nitpick the headline: "Content über alles" or even "Inhalt über alles"

Yeah, I couldnt find the umlaut on my keyboard :-p

Quote
What all these content discussions seem to leave out is the people factor. I would have long quit playing WoW if it wasn't for the people in my guild. Those games seem to carry on long after the players have reached their boredom point because of the social networks that are built by the people playing the game.

I agree, but then, how should dev's then approach content creation with limited time/budget to take advantage of such social bonds? 

Perhaps heavily encourgaed (i.e. forced) grouping, and social tools like built in voice chat could help....

Xilren

"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
Lantyssa
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Reply #7 on: April 26, 2006, 04:29:06 PM

Perhaps heavily encourgaed (i.e. forced) grouping, and social tools like built in voice chat could help....
Maybe you are infering this, but DDO would seem to suggest this is not enough on its own.  Perhaps with other 'content' it would be true, although I am of the opinion that forced grouping is more of a detriment than a benefit if it is used too much.

Hahahaha!  I'm really good at this!
Jeff Kelly
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Reply #8 on: April 27, 2006, 03:45:59 AM

I agree, but then, how should dev's then approach content creation with limited time/budget to take advantage of such social bonds? 

Perhaps heavily encourgaed (i.e. forced) grouping, and social tools like built in voice chat could help....

I agree with you that people do not dislike grind. Most pasttimes that we do for fun are essentially grindy by nature. Take card games for example. In poker, bridge or rommé you are basically doing the same things over and over again. Depending on luck or skill you sometimes win or lose but the content doesn't change at all. Board games are similar in that respect because in monopoly or chess you are doing the same things over and over again while still enjoying yourself. Counterstrike or starcraft would be examples of computer games that could be described like that. Counterstrike would be extremely boring if I had to play it against the AI. You only have a small set of maps and you do the same things over and over again

People wouldn't play those games if it were not for other players. But these games have other things in common.

1. It doesn't take that long to complete a round in those games.

In poker or bridge a hand usually takes about 5 Minutes to play. Monopoly takes about an hour of time to complete. CS is anywhere from 5 to 15 Minutes. That is a huge advantage. I can easily start a game, because I usually know how long it takes to complete one round in the worst case. I do not have to commit myself for hours. In card games I can spend time in 5 minute increments. If I lose interest or have real world appointments I can leave on short notice. In large raids time commitment is usually in the range of several hours. This scares away many players. Not because they couldn't spend so much time in front of the computer but rather because they either can't or won't spend that much time all at once.

I know many people beyond thirty, who have kids and a job, that game a lot. But they usually only do so in one or two hour increments because they have real life commitments

2. The replay value of those games is high

People play poker, chess or counterstrike for several hours a day. One round of the game takes a short time to complete and when the round has ended I have another chance to win or lose. It's competition in small doses. Also losses in former games don't carry over into new games (well you could argue the point because in games like poker you lose/win money). When I start a new game of chess the outcome doesn't depend on whether or not I lost the last game. At worst I lost a little amount of money. The replay value of those games stems in a large part from playing it against other players. Competition plays a large part but also ease of play.

3. The group size needed to play is small

I need five people for poker, 10 for a match of counterstrike,  15 for a match in arathi basin (WoW) and nine to play puzzle pirates. It is easy to get 5 to 10 people together for a game, especially when a game only takes half an hour and we are on the internet. That means I can play many games on one day and I can play with a lot of different players.

4. The games are easy to learn but difficult to master

The rules of chess or poker are easy to learn but it takes years of experience to truly master those games or as a obscure example snooker (I just use this because I watch the world championship in sheffield at the moment)

What these types of games have in common is that everybody can start to play them at once. You do not need a huge financial or time investment to start and the rules are more or less straightforward and yet these games provide players with a huge room for improving their own skills at the game and for comparison of their own skill against that of other players.

5. Communication is an essential part of gaming

All games would only be half the fun if it wasn't for the small talk and banter prevalent to those games. There are games that simply wouldn't work without the social interaction. Poker for example. This game is built around bluffing your opponent. Counterstrike without teamspeak would not work and would only be half the fun etc. pp.

So I would propose a few things that I think would make it easier for developers to retain people.

1. Make communication between people as easy as possible. The best solution would be to integrate voice chat into your game and provide the UI hooks that people can easily distinguish who is talking, easily talk to other players and easily ignore annoying people. If that is not possible at least make text chat not as annoying and arkward to use as most online games do. The more easily people can communicate the easier it is to find groups for play.

2. Make content that is accessible by small groups of players.

I am raidleader in my WoW guild and coordinate BWL and it is a huge time investment to coordinate that many people. You have to agree on the right date for raiding, the right time for raiding and you have to deal with all the little drama queens, suppossed injustices and so on. Finding 5 like minded people people is easy, 40? Not so much

3. Make the looking for groups/players as easy as possible.

Nobody likes to spam the LFG channel for two hours to look for other players. Provide players with all the tools necessary to easily find/manage players/groups. This directly ties in to the communication part.

4. Focus on content that has a large replay value

5. Corollary: Focus on content that has a large replay value and is completed in a short amount of time. WoW Example: Scarlet monastery is more popular than maraudon exactly because one wing in SM is done in 1 hour whereas one wing of maraudon takes three. Risk is more popular than diplomacy because risk takes an hour to complete whereas diplomacy can take a whole weekend. (Oh and risk doesn#t tend to destroy friendships ;-)

If your content takes about an hour to complete but is still fun when played for the umpteentht time you will draw more players than when your content takes 6 hours of gameplay to complete.

If you do not want to do content that is completet in a short amount of time then at least give players the opportunity for save points or something like that

6. It is easier to keep players when your content is PvP/RvR oriented than it is when you do cooperative gameplay. In PvP the incentive for players is to beat other players either for fun or profit or the bragging rights. In cooperative gameplay people play to beat the encounter. If the encounter is beaten once you will have to create secondary objectives as an incentive for players to repeat that content (Items or something like that). In PvP games people will always play another round as long as the basic content is reasonably fun and there is still a challenge presented by other players.

Samwise
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Reply #9 on: April 27, 2006, 09:24:20 AM

I agree with a lot of what you said there, Jeff, but you didn't do anything with:

Quote
4. The games are easy to learn but difficult to master

That IMO is still the biggest problem with MMOGs - you master the gameplay by learning how the game works long before you "master" the game by grinding your way up to max level.  Everything in between mastering the gameplay and mastering the game is pure grind.  The other games you mention don't tend to have that quality because of that "difficult to master" clause - you keep improving your skills (even if only slightly) with each game played, so it's not really just a matter of doing the same thing over and over.

"Nice attempted blast about my "drinking".  I do enjoy a nice cuppa, but that is because I am a bon vivant of gregarious nature and cheery disposition." - Ab
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #10 on: April 27, 2006, 10:21:38 AM

I agree with a lot of what you said there, Jeff, but you didn't do anything with:

Quote
4. The games are easy to learn but difficult to master

That IMO is still the biggest problem with MMOGs - you master the gameplay by learning how the game works long before you "master" the game by grinding your way up to max level.  Everything in between mastering the gameplay and mastering the game is pure grind.  The other games you mention don't tend to have that quality because of that "difficult to master" clause - you keep improving your skills (even if only slightly) with each game played, so it's not really just a matter of doing the same thing over and over.

I'll expand on that.  I too agree with what Jeff said; to my mind the number one culprit is the combat gameplay.  Why not replace that a better game system?  Or, to put it another way, why couldn't someone make a mmorpg with MtG style combat game (or any strategic type gameplay for that matter).  Make each combat be like a mini game of 10 minutes to 1 hour by adding depth to it.  I don't want to have 5000 combats of 30 seconds each or less to go from level 30 to level 35.  That's the grindy part b/c each individual combat session is so meaningless.  If a single "combat" mini game took 30 minutes, yet was worth the equivalent of 200 kills in you current favorite diku game, you just reduced your grind factor hugely.  And if you do it by make combat both deeper, and more fun, it's a win win.  Sadly, the current rush to make the combat games more twichy and faster paced, actually makes the "lack of meaningful and fun content" problem worse.  People generally dont remember single deaths in Counterstike any more than they remember single kills in WoW.  They remember matches.

You know, playing Culdcept recently has really driven this home.  A single match takes 30 mins to one and half hours vs 1 or 2 computer opponents, but each one is fun and nicely complex.  IMHO, the mistake they made with Phantom Dust was taking the mtg style spell system and trying to make it an action game on top.  Liked the complexity, disliked the pace.

There only game in development I know of that's trying for turn based strategic game play is Tactica Online, though I suppose I should get around to playing puzzle pirates too.  Might be too cute though.

Xilren
 

"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
sinij
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Reply #11 on: May 01, 2006, 03:43:09 PM

Combat is so short in most all MMORPGs is mostly due to need for players to win, nobody like losing and most don't like working hard to win. All MMOGs created so everyone can win, for that to happen AI has to be very simple and predictable.  Typical AI is so stupid that spending any but brief period of time with it reveals just how simple it is. If you make fights longer you must make AI a lot more complicated so smarter players don't get overly bored doing simple things for long periods of time, but then you have stupid players getting their ass kicked and quitting. The only solution I can see is dynamically adjustable difficulty.

Just remember, half of the humanity is below average intelligence, by definition.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2006, 03:51:00 PM by sinij »

Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.
Xilren's Twin
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Reply #12 on: May 02, 2006, 09:23:55 AM

Combat is so short in most all MMORPGs is mostly due to need for players to win, nobody like losing and most don't like working hard to win. All MMOGs created so everyone can win, for that to happen AI has to be very simple and predictable.  Typical AI is so stupid that spending any but brief period of time with it reveals just how simple it is. If you make fights longer you must make AI a lot more complicated so smarter players don't get overly bored doing simple things for long periods of time, but then you have stupid players getting their ass kicked and quitting. The only solution I can see is dynamically adjustable difficulty.

Just remember, half of the humanity is below average intelligence, by definition.

I dont disagree with you, so for that reason what I would rather see is longer, more involving combat gameplay between humans, or limited npcs with AI.  The gameplay would have to have some elements of randomness in it, like die rolls or card draws, so that each player can have a chance to win, but, the bulk of the success of failure should be based on decisions a human player is making.  If the "penalty" for losing is low/not present, and the gameplay is fun, even people who are below average would play.  For example, you could have combat be a 4 players affair with the winner gaining the primary prize, and the other players still winning prizes, just less amounts.  Hell if you took the straight exp paradigm and had 4 players go at a prize worth 1000 total points, the winner might gain 400, 2nd place 300, 2rd 200 and 4th 100.  Cooperative competition as it were.

Xilren

"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
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