Thought for the day.

I quite like MMOs of a more instanced design, such as Dungeons and Dragons Online, or Guild Wars; I like to be able to interact with other people in public areas, but when I’m off adventuring with a party I like the fact that I won’t have a bunch of loljumping twits training mobs onto our group as we try to fight a boss.

Taking the instanced design as read then, I thought it Quite Interesting to consider having two different game engines depending on the space the player was in. For the adventuring and dungeoneering side, a detailed graphics and game engine could be used that could only handle a party of six or so players due to technical limitations (something like Vindictus which uses the Source engine) allowing environment destruction and very detailed character models which would otherwise be challenging in a highly populated game space. On the public side, a different style of engine could be used, one able to handle hundreds of players in a communal area. Perhaps a different perspective could also be employed here – such as a JRPG/Diablo isometric-like third person – which would demarcate the two areas and avoid a continuity clash in the players’ perception of the world’s detail level. The isometric world would contain dynamic player housing, crafting games, player shops, and other such elements which are more easily employed in such an engine.

There would be plenty of hurdles, obviously: avoiding having to translate between the engines for items and gear would be one, but characters could have casual cosmetic outfits which they wear in public spaces that would differ from their adventuring outfits, for example.

With a strong demarcation it would then be possible to concentrate on the social side of MMOs in the populous isometric world, while allowing the more intense gamer side to be fully expressed in the traditional group-orientated third person instanced areas, but at the same time providing continuity between the two communities (crafters providing equipment for adventurers, for example) and thus hopefully encouraging interaction and migration between them.

12 thoughts on “Thought for the day.

  1. Bri

    You wouldn’t need different engines — doing so would be impractical and would cripple any further development on your game. Zone defaults can be set for LOD (level of detail) including physics LOD, as well as things like default camera positioning.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    It’s a fair point, games such as Alien Swarm show that the Source engine can be used to produce a game with a vastly different appearance to the FPS games it was originally built for.

    Perhaps what I’m really considering then, is an idea of two separate game styles which are joined through common persistent elements (characters, items, crafting resources, etc), each of which focuses on a different subset of the MMO population. There would be interdependence however: for example, the dungeon running side would find materials for the crafting side, and the crafting side would produce equipment for the dungeon running side. Players would be free to travel between the ‘sides’, where the demarcation would hopefully give the socials and gamers places to play, while at the same time giving them the opportunity to remain as a communal whole.

    In a very loose sort of way I suppose it reflects what is allowed to happen in EVE between high-sec industrial corporations and those who prefer to exist in null-sec. However, instead of having a boundary between PVE and PVP, the boundary would now be between what I believe is the more commonly occurring division of the social and gamer types of player found in most mainstream MMOs.

  3. Helistar

    Believe this or not, I’d like to actually be able to almost DISABLE graphics in instanced content. While all the flashy special effects are nice, in WoW raiding I’m at the point where I long for boxy untextured polygons. At least I would be able to SEE the fire I’m standing in. Right now, I crank my settings to the lowest when I raid, raising to high only the view distance and particle effects….. and there’s still too much crap to correctly see what’s going on in some fights (but I can’t put particle effect at lowest, otherwise the flames become almost invisible).

  4. Melmoth Post author

    That can definitely be an issue, but certainly depends on the game. To draw on my stalwart comparison companions, LotRO doesn’t seem to suffer from this nearly as much as WoW or Rift do. City of Heroes was generally okay unless you had a large group which was stacked with AoE powers, at which point it could become quite hectic if you were the lone melee class trying to see where to go in the middle of it all.

    It’s an interesting problem, players generally seem to like big flashy effects, but obviously not to the extent that they affect situational awareness and the like. I imagine one solution is to try to keep the actual effects centered on the character models and only use simple outlines to indicate the actual area of effect. Another option could be to use height to distinguish between effects, with normal AoE powers always remaining close to ground level, but with more important effects – such as the fire you’re supposed to be getting out of – coming up to a much higher level, which would hopefully help to draw the player’s attention to the element which requires the more immediate reaction.

  5. darkeye

    Different graphical styles could work well for a PVE/RVR split, detailed graphics in PvE then a more stylised approach in large-scale PvP. I thought it could be a nice idea for GW2 because the WvWvW takes place in the mists, a sort of underworld, so instead of going in as your own character you’d take a (less detailed) ghost/demon form that was different for each class, like the way the krait/awakened/margonite have different models for each class so you can recognise them easily. I know Anet are good for make a nimble engine that works on most machines, but they’ve not don’t large scale battles before, so kinda worried that it is going to somewhat laggy no matter how better they do than Mythic.

    I thought there was going to be an MMO that was a RTS/FPS hybrid but it fell off my radar after reading one article about it, but it looks like EVE/Dust514 will be the more high profile example when it is realeased.

  6. Melmoth Post author

    I like the ‘ghostly’ idea, giving a lore reason for a less system-intensive style during large PvP fights would be rather splendid. Funnily enough, in another Thought For The Day, I mused on the idea of players turning translucent/ghostly as they lost health as a replacement for health bars, of which your idea here just reminded me.

    I’m sure there were going to be (have been?) some FPS/RTS games, but nothing seems to have come of them. The non-FPS part doesn’t necessarily have to translate to meaning RTS games, however; for a somewhat cheesy example, a Farmville-a-like could work on the crafting/social side, not that this would be the direction that I’d chose.

  7. ArcherAvatar

    Was it FireFall? (

    It’s an interesting theoretical exercise… However, are you certain that even further segmenting of the player population is the way to go? Seems like we should be looking for more ways to help folks crossover to more styles of play than they already enjoy.

    I’m sure the technical obstacles to your idea “could” be breached… I’m just not sure they “should” be.

  8. Melmoth Post author

    My evidence would of course be anecdotal, but my belief is that players already separate themselves within these games, and friction occurs where these groups are forced to mix.

    My theory is that giving each their own space in such a way as to allow them to play ‘separately together’ would create a more robust community.

    My hope would be that emergent behaviour would lead those two communities to find further ways to conspire together to improve their lot.

  9. Zoso

    From another genre the Total War series could be an interesting case study, the way they mix the turn-based large scale world map with the real-time battle maps. It’s possible to just play it as a turn-based game with all battles automatically resolved, or just to play real-time fights; I don’t know if anyone plays it as teams, with turn-based politicians controlling taxation, raising armies etc., then turning the battles over to real-time generals. I think that’s something along the lines of CCP’s intentions for EVE/DUST 514, be interesting to see how that turns out.

  10. Jon Shute

    Interestingly a lot of the military shooters at the moment actually have two engines. The single player one can look a bit better and be developed separately from the multiplayer side, which can be made by a more specialised team with experience such as Dice.

  11. Melmoth Post author

    @Zoso: Good point on EVE/DUST 514, two entirely separate genres being merged there. I must say, as someone who loves the design of EVE but was never able to get into it, I’m really quite hopeful that DUST will allow me to get involved in some way; if it’s taken some of its design from Planetside in terms of classes and upgrades, I imagine I’ll be hooked.

    @Jon: That is indeed QI. I assume it’s a curious forced evolution of design based on the fact that they need to have a super shiny game engine to get the initial box sale, but are then expected by most of the gamer populace to have an accomplished multiplayer game too.

    I suppose the difference is quite clearly in the fact that the amount of game real estate that has to be created is a lot less for FPS games than MMOs, but I honestly wonder sometimes whether creating these vast landscapes that players hardly ever visit is really worth all the time and effort.

  12. Tesh

    Incidentally, “ghost” forms for multiple players would be a Bad Idea, just from a tech standpoint. Alpha sorting is a beast at the best of times. In dynamic situations, it may well bring an engine to its knees and then kick it in the head.

    I love the idea from an art standpoint, but technically, alpha (transparency) isn’t dev-friendly. (Believe me; I work as a game artist and I keep pushing for alpha, and the programmers keep whining and refusing.)

    That aside, *heartily endorse original post*

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