Greedy Goblin

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New MMO mechanic that puts no-lifers and casuals competitive without time restrictions

PUBG update, I can't complain:

The "hardcore vs casual" debate is the oldest in MMOs, because it's the biggest unsolved problem. Namely, in a game with no losses, time spent strongly correlates with results. Even a horrible player with 8+ hours a day will get better gear in WoW than a member of a top raiding guild who can only touch his character for 3 hours a week and doesn't have a top raid lined up for that 3 hours. This then used as an excuse for horrible players to explain them standing in the fire and having horrible spell rotation on "having life".

My earlier tackles were simply limiting playing time by servers being online for only X hours a day, or characters can log in for only Y hours a week. The problem is that the first would reward players with proper time scheduling (those who are always available when servers are up), while the second would only lead to using multiple accounts to play more and get advantage.

Now I have a new idea:
  • The basic unit of the game world is the guild, not the individual player.
  • Each guild has X character slots.
  • The characters are always online, either doing stuff or resting.
  • Players log in and take control of the characters. I mean you log in, you see the list of idle characters and jump into one. If you are a guild officer, you can usurp a lower member and take the character control. When you log off, the character becomes idle and some other guildmember can take it.
  • Of course there would be a rights management system to what various levels of members can do. If we consider WoW character management, simple player can do quest to improve the character, but can't pick talents and especially can't delete gear, only officers can do that.
  • From the perspective of the Game World, it doesn't matter if 1 player controls a character for 8 hours or 8 for 1-1 hours.
  • Characters need resting, if they are tired, they get nasty debuffs, but they have generous sleep schedules. So while they need 1 hour resting after every hour activity, they can work 48 hours straight without getting tired and then rest it all out in 48 hours. This helps with peak time - off time, all characters are in use when everyone logs in and they rest while people log off - without allowing nolifers make them active 24/7.
This way a casual guild of 100 players can play just as much as a hardcore guild of 10 players and assuming skill is equal (it's not) an outside observer couldn't tell the difference if the same people run a 12 hours long raid, or 100 people jump in and out, each making an hour or two.

As characters are guild assets, individual players can't take them with them when they quit the guild. What they have is their statistics, they can show that they added X XP, killed Z boss M times and did Y dungeon N times with wizard or warrior. With these stats they can apply to a good guild where they instantly get control of geared characters.

What do you think?


Esteban said...

As a leftie, I love it. It's practically a Soviet kolkhoz, with material rewards remaining with the collective and the individual getting only a good record of work.

Is it too early to reserve the name 'Alexei Stakhanov'?

Rohan said...

It's very interesting. But I think people desire a sense of ownership in their characters.

Although, if you think about it, a game like Overwatch is something like what you propose. The characters are fixed and anyone can play any character.

Anonymous said...

I think this is pointless, because in any game (or activity) time will correlate with results. If you don't give enough time then even the best players will suck because they don't have enough time to learn or progress. If you give too much time then people who can use up all the available time will be the best ones.

Image going to a concert where all the musicians started out as complete noobs and only given 1hr a week to practice their instrument. This will be a bad concert.

Harusame said...

I kind of like the idea except for "If you are a guild officer, you can usurp a lower member and take the character control. When you log off, the character becomes idle and some other guildmember can take it."

Of course it would depend on the game specifics, but if there was no character customization(visual or stats), I would like this.
However, if there is any way for a guild member to become attached to a particular character(via visible customization or character stats allocation for example), this idea of communal characters would not seem very motivating to me.

Maybe having the character locked to the guild but only one guild member has access to that avatar would make it more appealing.

maxim said...

There has been a relatively successful two-player experiment on something like shared control of a single entity in a game called "Lovers in dangerous spacetime", where your avatars are running around the spaceship, taking control of its various subsystems to pilot it. The catch is that one avatar can control just one subsystem at a time, and there are 5 of them, all with different functionality.

I highly recommend playing it with a partner, it is a great experience :D

maxim said...

The key in this idea will be the guild identity that can inform meaningful participation of individuals in a shared goal.

I think a game where you can run a fictional empire and hire other players as managers for that empire, giving them rights to control various parts of it, could be good.

Pheredhel said...

There is actually the question why the system would be that complex? All it would do is generate conflict.

Let's remove some elements and make it a) less conflict prone and b) easier to implement:

Whenever someone comes online, they generate a new character (maybe from a template / customized template).
The Level / Gear / Skills available are the ones of the guild. Characters don't have levels , guilds have.

This way people can be online whenever they want (no limit on number of characters currently online)...

Not that I'd really like that game.

Another proposal to break the time = rewards problem would be normalization:

- set a minimum number of time a player has to spend in game to be eligible for upgrades
- every unit of time is assigned a skill rating of the play (you stand around and chat => 0, you solo a raid boss: 100 ...)
- At the end of the cycle (e.g. every day/week/...) the highest X (fixed number no matter the player) time units for each player are picked and a currency is rewarded for them based on skill level ("throw away" the other units, so everyone has the same amount of time that is paid
- players buy upgrades for currency

- The system could convert all time played into currency for cosmetic items (reason to play more if you can)
- If the point system is transparent (what gives how many points) it might be possible to even have a cash shop for the cosmetic currency stuff without a big opportunity for cheating by the devs

Yes more time statistically gives you some random chance to get better rewards, but that is at least limited. ( a skilled player should always a lot of good and decent time units, the high time one sometimes gets one really good time unit.)

Anonymous said...


>Maybe having the character locked to the guild but only one guild member has access to that avatar would make it more appealing.

Seems like it defeats the purpose of the proposal. The whole intent is for characters to be extensively shared so that each one sees almost exactly 50% playtime (and 50% rest time). Therefore the cumulative performance (gold earned, wolves slain, etc) will reflect the skill and teamwork of the guild's players.

If your character is exclusive to you and it sees only 5% playtime, then the stats aren't meaningful anymore.

If you want the game to appeal to more casual players (or Fashion Souls guys) then you could just let people create 1-man guilds. They'd be essentially opting out of the competitive/ladder/ranking system, but they could customize their characters and they wouldn't need to share.

The major problem with this idea is that it places a heavy human-resource-management workload on guild leaders. They need to carefully balance their player count in order to maintain ~50% playtime on all characters. If they recruit too agressively then players will be dissatisfied (login ... no slots free ... can't play ... why am I in this guild? ... why am I paying for this game?!??). If they're too lax then their statistics will decline because characters are sitting idle. They'd potentially be forced to kick long-standing members for out-of-game reasons (your wife is dying of cancer? ... well, if you can't login 15 hours per week then you're out! ... go join some scrub-tier guild, you filthy casual!). And God forbid that you kick someone after he has spent thousands of hours building up a character and supporting the guild; you're going to receive death threats.

I'm not complaining about fairness. I'm saying that this HR workload would be very taxing. Guild leaders already deal with tons of arguments and internal drama and aggravations, but this thing would approach "second job" levels of stress. Few people would be able to manage it effectively, and fewer still would want to. The system seems to demand (or emphasize) out-of-game skills: rosters and spreadsheets instead of map knowledge or spell rotations.

You might end up with a Mittani-type situation: the leaders of the most successful guilds (i.e. the game's biggest celebrities) are people who barely play the *game* at all. Is that what you intend?

Gevlon said...

@Anon: there is no doubt that players with more practice will be more skilled. But now even a totally unskilled "player" - a bot - can outperform casual players by farming more.

@Harusame: the point is that the characters are active 12 hours a day, just in the hands of different people. If one can access it and he is on vacation, the guild is screwed.

@Pheredhel: which would simply create mega-guilds that zerg down everything. The point is that ALL guilds will have equal amount of characters with equal amount of playtime, just not 10 players playing 12 hours but 100 playing 1.2.

@Anon: this can be mitigated by turning resting time up. Instead of having 10 characters per guild with 50% uptime, let's have 20 with 25% uptime. So when lots of players are online, there are still characters available, but you don't lose performance when they are offline because the characters need rest anyway.

The player who spent thousands of hours building up a character will likely leave on his own with his pristine stats to a more progressed guilds.

Any management workload can be mitigated by proper tools. You don't need to build a spreadsheet if it's in the client, automatically filled with data. With these, the GM load will be:
- kick idiots who just waste character time by playing without progress
- hire people if characters are underused
- kick the lowest performance (not lowest playtime) players if characters are overused.

Gabesz said...

It's OK if you play an ant colony, or Borg (Star Trek).
If you don't have individual gear and targets, only standardized equipment and guild achivements, and your wealth is only what you have done - thats fair.
That would be complitly different from current MMO's.

Cathfaern said...

Sounds good, doesn't work. At least in an MMO setting. People are attached to their character (hc players not, but the more casual the more he/she attached) so they would not want to get some generic character. If there is customization, they would want to play with the same character always which sort of defeats the purpose of this mechanics. If there is no customization there would be no attachment and the players would leave on the first hardship (which is not a problem from your point of view but problem from the developers').

Although it can works with a bit of different "skin":

1. alternative: You have your own character, which is always in a guild. But you need some guild resource to play. This resource can be food in a fantasy settings or some sort of battery or fuel in a sci-fi settings. To play you need to consume this and it would work exactly as you wrote the "character sleeping" function (1 hour play would need 1 unit of food and 1 unit of food produced while the character is offline). Also your gear can be used by others while you're offline so gearing would also work the same (also gear would be guild bound).

2. alternative: You have your own character, but it's a "non-combat" character. You can log in with it, chat in the city, travel the world, do things which is not progressing your character in any way. But if you want to combat, quest (even non-combat quest), crafting, (probably trading,) etc, you need to "jump in" something. It can be a mecha or spaceship in a sci-fi settings, or some kind of transformation in fantasy settings (though it would work way better in sci-fi setting). This "suit" is guild bound, can be used by anyone in the guild, it would define the gear, it would need to recharge, etc... so would work the way you wrote in your post.

Either way you have your own character which you can get attached to, but otherwise it would work the same as you wrote. I think it would be way more acceptable for the social / casual players.

Anonymous said...

>this can be mitigated by turning resting time up.

It can be mitigated but it can't be *prevented*. A competent guild leader, like a competent airline, will intentionally overcommit. He'll recruit more players than he actually needs because he knows that someone might go AWOL for a week due to unexpected IRL stuff.

You're going to encounter scenarios in which people login during EU prime time and then get told by the guild master "sorry, all characters are in use, please logout." Or even worse you could login during AU prime, rarely get to play with any of your guildmates (because they're Americans and they're all asleep) and sometimes be told "sorry, all character are currently resting, you'll screw up the rest schedule if you play right now, please logout."

> The player who spent thousands of hours building up a character will likely leave on his own with his pristine stats to a more progressed guilds.

You're talking about assortative mating. Humans put a greater emphasis on hypergamy. Each player will want to be in a guild that's stronger than him (so that he can benefit from improved gear and learn from smarter teammates). Each guild will want to hire players stronger than its current members (so that it can improve its stats instead of languishing in mediocrity).

If you've got an above-average player then it's in your interest to retain him. Hence: esprit-de-corps, building up an out-of-game personal relationship, emotional manipulation, blackmail, guilt trips, trash-talking and shaming of ex-members, etc.

If someone's stats begin to fall then he's not going to quietly accept demotion. If someone is achieving average results then he's going to be pissed off if you kick him out in order to make room for a ringer. Hence: public accusations of malfeasance, forum drama, smear campaigns, DDOS attacks against the guild website, death threats against guild leaders, etc.

This situation could become toxic very easily.

> Any management workload can be mitigated by proper tools.

That's mostly reactive. You notice that someone's stats are falling and then you kick him. Top-tier guilds need *proactive* leadership. They need to be scouting and recruiting talent weeks *before* they have an actual "job opening". They need to perform metagame research and theorycrafting stuff for dungeon team compositions.

There's a reason why EVE coalitions developed their own websites, maps, fitting tools, comms systems, etc. If your tools are better than your rival's then your guild can gain a competitive advantage - even if your players have inferior in-game skills.

But let's ignore all of that stuff for now. Leaders are still going to feel pressured to provide conventional *leadership* - education, encouragement, support, propaganda (etc) for their players.

This is a significant time commitment and stress burden. Many of the people who accept this role won't have time to simultaneously be top-tier players. Again: is this your intent? Are guilds in your hypothetical game supposed to be "led by heroes" or "managed by bureaucrats"?

Gevlon said...

@Cathfaern: easier solution would be player-owned cosmetics. So the guild just have "a wizzard" with stats, if Adam plays, it's an elf male with a huge staff, if Betty, it's gnome female with a dagger and a dragon whelp pet.

@Anon: in pro guilds, players would accept this. In casual guilds, they would simply not overcommit because they don't care about progression that much.

There is nothing in the world that can prevent forum drama. See raid spots. Casual guilds won't care about performance anyway and kick players only over drama, HC guilds will manage like they always did

Top tier guilds WILL have no life leaders who do it as a job, either because competition, or because it IS their job (streamers and other monetizers). Casual guild leaders will "itza game just hav fun ladz" anyway.

vv said...

I don't see how this game can be sold. Game when you don't have your own character and totally under control of guildmaster or guild officers. But I think this can be solved by level of inderection. You control character but character can't do anything real. This player character controls real characters that belong to guild. Setting - some kind of sci-fi where real characters are remotely controlled robots and belong to corporations (guilds) for example.

Esteban said...

@vv: Yeah, writing a setting for this kind of thing would be the least difficult part. Sentient AIs/cyborgs, human operators/robots, even immortal spirits/mortal hosts.

I do think that there should be some progression of the 'soul', too, though. Cosmetics and a resume, yes, but some skills, flavoured as mental rather than physical, should probably transfer as well. Just no gear.

Cathfaern said...

Sure that could work too. But that would be hard to justify with ingame lore. Which of course does matter or does not.

Anonymous said...

The Knights vs Demons vs Zerg game you've proposed a few times could possibly balance factions to account for playtime as well.

Zerg requiring no investment whatsoever, you simply spawn as whatever creature the Hive Overmind has decided is the best use of resources, you can't really level up, at best you can eat some specific kinds of food for buffs.

Knights work best for weekend raiders and altoholics. The king gives out quests every week, creating diminishing returns for playing one character too much.

Demons for the nolifers. Those who really want to grind away until they can become a raid boss and/or compare epeens can do so. The fact that knights and zerg have to use teamwork to kill them can be balanced out by the biggest nolifer demons dropping the best rewards.

NoGuff said...


You're forgetting one very important thing; the time vs reward element. How do you propose to deal with the reward aspect of this? If someone is dedicated to their guild, then they get value from the time spent supporting and developing the characters, and with that comes a very real, tangible and earned entitlement aspect. What would the rewards be in the interim? How would progress in skill related areas be data-mined and rewarded to prevent the arthasdklol types from negatively affecting the guild?