Comments on: GDC Transcript: James Portnow, User Generated Story: The Promsie of Unsharded Worlds Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:53:13 +0000 hourly 1 By: edubois Fri, 27 Mar 2009 05:55:00 +0000 I’m surprised someone besides me remembers the canceled BT:3025

Oh what could have been.

By: David Sahlin Thu, 26 Mar 2009 06:20:00 +0000 Darkfall certainly has the player-driven conflict down, Amanda, but influencing the world outside of that looks to be pretty non-existant.

By: Amanda Cosmos Thu, 26 Mar 2009 02:17:00 +0000 Interesting. I’m definitely going to show this to my Darkfall-obsessed coworker tomorrow because a lot of what was mentioned here (player-built entities, ever-shifting alliances) definitely are ringing bells when I think back to what he’s told me about the game. I’m sure it’s to a simpler degree but I’m now curious about his take on it.

By: solipsistnation Wed, 25 Mar 2009 20:41:00 +0000 holy crap that got long. sorry. 8)

By: solipsistnation Wed, 25 Mar 2009 20:40:00 +0000 Ha ha noobs. We solved a lot of these problems for LARPing in the 90′s!

More seriously, some of the issues are very similar, just larger. You also give your players more freedom to do stuff, since you don’t hand them character sheets to start with and people are playing for more than a weekend. Although in an MMO you do hand people archetypes to work with, and if there’s an explore/fight/loot loop going on then there’s more to the game than pure character interaction and role-playing, which can sustain players for longer than a weekend or week-long game.

This is also interesting in the LARP context:
If you allow even your lowliest players to feel like they’re touching a living world, the’re going to realize that as they progress they’ll have an even greater affect on the world.

In almost every LARPs I’ve played (and remember, these are theatre-style role-playing games rather than boffer fights), there has been some new player who is given a fairly light role because the GMs weren’t sure what to do with him (or her). Sometimes they play it light or don’t get into it or whatever, but often those new players in light roles expand to fill some kind of space left by, say, a player in a major role who isn’t that into it. Or on some fantastic (but sadly rare) occasions they make their own space in the world of the game and have that greater affect.

There was a flip side to this, of course– inexperienced GMs writing games occasionally put in character who are, on the surface, pointless powerless window dressing but who, upon closer examination, turn out to be REALLY pointless REALLY powerless window dressing. The best example I have of this was a game based in the Star Wars universe where there was a character of a “broken droid.” This character was pretty much written to wander through, do something silly, and wander off. The GMs made it explicitly powerless and unable to communicate. And then they asked a player to do that for 3 days– wander around in costume annoying other players until they finally just ignored him. I think he quit Saturday afternoon and I doubt he ever LARPed again. This led to an article I wrote for the New England LARP association magazine about ways to write interesting stories for your characters and how to make sure you don’t have characters who are window-dressing. When you play a game like that, everyone is the protagonist of their own story. In any MMO, all those people are protagonists, they’re all the hero of something (or would like to be), and there’s nobody there who doesn’t have something interesting going on.

The good thing about an online MMO is that you can have NPCs to do the window-dressing stuff. Need a crazy kobold who runs through town and annoys people? Well, the internet is big and full of weirdos so you might have people who do that particular thing on their own… But you don’t NEED to have people paying you (and using their own time) to do something that’s window-dressing. Now you just have to make sure that everyone who starts out as a random guy on the street is totally sure that random guys on the street can aspire to godhood and get as far along that path as their ambition and skills can take them.

Anyway, that whole “nobody is a side character” thing is one of my favorite things to get kinda drunk and talk about. I think it’s interesting that the MMO world is reaching the same sorts of problems from a different angle than the LARP world. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the people I gamed with at InterCon worked at Looking Glass…

Oh, and this part:

Socially designed resource system: why do real cities form? Why do they leave? People gather around natural resources or trade routes. They leave when resources go away or no longer support the population as much as other cities might.

…Mr. Tepper? Phone call for you.

By: Austin Grossman Wed, 25 Mar 2009 20:38:00 +0000 Thanks for throwing that up! The GDC exile appreciate it. Anything else you want to put up there would be awesome.

By: David Sahlin Wed, 25 Mar 2009 20:08:00 +0000 Yes. Massive Choice Event is the phrase which summarizes my philosophy towards MMOG design.

Thanks for the notes, Darius.