Tag Archive for city

Fantasy Fantasy MMO

If I were to set about trying to build yet another fantasy MMORPG, here is what I would do…

I’d start with EVE Online.  There are many reasons for this, the first being that I don’t mind having zones.  Lots of people will tell you that you have to have a giant seamless world, but I always ask them “What seamless worlds are you playing in?”  They always say World of Warcraft.  But they are only half right.  Yes, you can run from one end of a continent to the other without zoning.  You can fly on a griffin or other travel beast and cross no zone lines.  But how do you play the game?  Most people are in instances, dungeons and battlegrounds, and crossing from one continent to another makes you zone.  Warcraft has seams, they’ve just gone a long way to hide them from you.  EVE does too, but thankfully for them their Sci-Fi setting makes it easy to throw up gates and wormholes and faster than light travel and hide them in plain sight.  In my fantasy world, I’d have large sprawling zones.  Some zones would be city zones where a large city rests at the center and is surrounded by farmland and sparse wilderness.  Some zones would be town zones where it is mostly wilderness with a sprinkling of small villages and towns, two to five per zone, just a small cluster of buildings or an inn at a cross roads.  And some zones would be full on wilderness with caves and dungeons and evil.

Players would be able to own and run the small villages and towns, possibly even city blocks in the large cities (but not the whole city – the advantage of controlling part of a city would be in the nearness of so many other people, the disadvantage would be that you have to share the city – think of cities as being the trade hubs of the game).

When you want to leave a zone, you would go to a “crossroads”, of which there might be several on each zone at the edges.  From the crossroads you would use the signpost and it would tell you which zones you could get to from here.  Players would be allowed to choose if their journey was “safe” or “unsafe”.  A “safe” journey would simply zone you directly to your destination.  An “unsafe” journey would randomly generate an adventure zone with one or more encounters that you would need to cross.  These unsafe adventure zones would have two exits, one where you start would be back to where you came from and the one at the other end (not necessarily the opposite side, the path through could wind around and end up anywhere on the zone perimeter) would take you to your destination.

The point here is that there would exist in the game shared content raids (the zones I mentioned earlier with caves and dungeons and evil) with spawn timers and event cycles and so on, and there would exist instanced travel content where a player or group of players (or raid full of players) could go thwart evil unhindered by other players (an added bonus could be that clearing a road of bandits and other nasties could have an impact on the prices of NPC trade goods between the two end points of the journey).  As well there could also be “pocket” zones that would work more like traditional instances in other game – perhaps players, from a village or town, can accept a posted bounty or task that sends them either immediately into their own instance or directs them to a nearby crossroads where they can select their instance from the signpost.

Of course, I’m just spit-balling here.  But I think this sort of thing would be a very interesting idea to pursue.  Another day, I’ll go into how I’d apply EVE’s character design/building to a fantasy game as well…

Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps by Mur LaffertyMur Lafferty crafts a world where superheroes must be licensed to practice, and are paid by the city through tax revenue.  A world where those with powers apply to the Academy and have their powers tested.  If you are deemed worthy, you get a name and a suit and get to fight crime.  If you are deemed weak, you get to try and live like a normal person and try to forget your aspirations of heroism.  This is the world of Playing for Keeps.

Keepsie Branson’s power is that she can “hold” (put it a sort of stasis) anyone who tries to take anything that belongs to her.  She runs a bar across the street from the Academy that is frequented by people rejected by the Academy.  She has a waitress who can lift and balance anything on a tray, a cook who always knows what people want to eat and can make it, and friends who can learning things about people by smelling them, heal people one inch at a time, have super strength in five minute bursts, fire streams of feces from his hands, and other “useless” powers.  They wind up getting caught in the middle between the heroes and the villains, and have to learn to make use of their powers to survive.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the book.  It’s short, and certainly not a time waster.  You could do worse.

Boneshaker

Boneshaker by Cherie PriestThis weekend I finally turned the last page of Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker.  It took me nearly two months to polish this one off, and I feel like I both enjoyed it and didn’t enjoy it at the same time.

First off, the book contains two elements I like: steampunk and zombies.  The story is thus: In 1880s America (or there about), Seattle has been partly/largely destroyed by an event in which a machine ran amok, dug a giant hole under the city causing the release of some weird gas that makes people sick and turns them to zombies.  The remains of the city are walled up and a small industry has risen from the distillation of the gas into other products (drugs mostly).  People still live in the walled city, pumping in safe air from high up (the weird gas is heavy and sits within the walls like liquid in a bowl) and using gas masks when needing to venture outside.  The son of the man responsible, having never known his father, enters the city to learn more, and his mother goes in after him.  Overall, a well formed world is crafted by Priest and the elements of the tale are interesting.  If you really love zombies or steampunk, I recommend the book.

On the other hand, if you aren’t hardcore into either or both, I might wave you off.  Priest’s book is dense.  She is working hard to craft a world here, and sometimes I felt like that got in the way of the story.  Numerous times, for me, the book came to a halt while she took the time to describe objects and places and how things were.  In stark contrast, her action sequences were quick and lively, and made the non-action seem that much slower.  Because of this, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

So, I cautiously recommend Boneshaker.  I enjoyed it overall, but at times felt like I was slogging through it just to finish.

Story of Heroes

City of Heroes is about to do something that, unless I’m mistaken, is nearly unheard of in the world of MMOs. They are going to advance the story.

No, not just some expansion that tacks on a dozen new zones and makes an additional story you can explore, but actually taking the existing story and moving it forward. The only other game I know of that has done this is Asheron’s Call… and it makes sense once you know that some of the top guys at Cryptic were once the top guys at Turbine, makers of Asheron’s Call.

If you have been playing the game, or buy it right now and play, one of the villain groups you will fight are the 5th Column. These are a hold over from WWII, rooted in the Nazi Party but since separated into their own goals and headed by a man from another dimension, an alternate Earth when Germany won WWII. In a month or so (or less, I hope), you won’t be able to do this. In fact, if you join the test server now, you’ll find that the 5th Column are gone, and a new group, The Council, have risen up to take their place, destroying and devouring them from within. In a few months time, except for the odd plaque and the memories of older heroes, the 5th Column will vanish from the game.

One of the problems with other games on the market, is that they are, for all their lore and diversity, static. In EverQuest, if you buy an account right now and start from scratch, I can point you to quests and monster spawns that have remained unchanged for more than five years. The story in EverQuest has expanded, they’ve added new continents and worlds, alternate planes. They’ve added new lore and stories, new arcs of history and adventure, but they have remained reluctant to remove the old ones… The Paladins of Marr and the Freeport Militia are at the same tense standoff for control that they have had for five years. Wait, that’s five “real” years, but since 72 real minutes = a Norrath day, then you have 20 Norrath days per real day, which means that its been over 100 Norrath years. Beyond simple storytelling, EQ would have benefitted from adjusting its game in other ways… as time went on they developed more and more high level content, because thats where the bulk of people were, but they also took away none of the low level content, so the decreasing number of players turned into empty underpopulated zones and loss of social activity. In its beginning, people met in EQ because they were in the same places… now, until you get up to the later 50’s in level, there just simply aren’t enough people to fill the world to make for meaningful interaction between players.

This whole thing with City of Heroes gives me hope. I’ll be keeping my eye on the future of World of Warcraft to see if they follow suit, and even though I have no interest in playing EQ2, I’ll keep an eye on them to see if they have learned from their past. I’d love to see more worlds, more stories, instead of giant online gaming habitats.