The Hard Problem: The New Concurrency

The Hard Problem: The New Concurrency

MMOGs brag about how many people they have all playing at once, but the real king of concurrency is something completely different.

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I really do miss the good old days of running 40 man raids with 2-3 people constantly disconnecting and reconnecting in the middle of boss fights. I want an MMO to think in a greater number than this at some point. A Player vs enemy encounter that would require 60 people could be fun. Make it easy enough that you can grab a group of random players, but difficult enough to still have a good time with a wipe or two.

Warrior Irme:
I really do miss the good old days of running 40 man raids with 2-3 people constantly disconnecting and reconnecting in the middle of boss fights. I want an MMO to think in a greater number than this at some point. A Player vs enemy encounter that would require 60 people could be fun. Make it easy enough that you can grab a group of random players, but difficult enough to still have a good time with a wipe or two.

I think the success or failure of MAG will decide the fate of having that happen. It's so hard to organize that many players, let alone be effective with them that it's pretty much essential to have some sort of re-pore with those you are raiding with, so it would work with large raiding guilds, but the average person will end up probably getting overwhelmed. Not that that should be an excuse to not do it - but obviously it would appeal to certain people.

I can't help but get this feeling that "proximal concurrency," as described in the article, isn't significantly more important than absolute concurrency, if significant at all.

If you're in a 1v1 poker tournament, you're only playing against a single winner of their bracket. The other players who lost to that player had a part in what led to that person's status, but that's a weak connection at best. I could make the same connection for every single person who interacted with an MMORPG character, as every world PvP, clan raid, and assisted leveling spree in which that character participated had in impact on that player's current status (same with every person who participated in the same auction as that character, or even just every person who wasted some of that player's leveling time). Requiring neither simultaneousness, spacial proximity, nor game mechanic impact to be proximally concurrent makes it seem worthless to me. It'd be like saying "if I get a high score in a single-player arcade game, I'm taking part in proximal concurrency with every single person who's ever used that arcade machine, because we're technically competing for the same goal: a high score." It's basically meaningless.

In my opinion, meaningful concurrency should only take into account players who have a direct impact on your present status based on how they interact(ed) with you. If the actual way someone interacted with you doesn't matter (for example, if their only impact on your route was winning or losing), then their contribution isn't presently relevant to your game decisions, and if you accept indirect impacts or impacts that affected previous status, then you basically need to call every particle in the universe a concurrent player.

This article made me think that proximal concurrency is a hugely variable term. If I buy a lotto ticket am I competeing against every other player that bought a ticket? I liked that he got into differences in location proximal concurrency vs. temporal proximal concurrency, but I think the depth of a game should be taken into an account as well, as we see in his disclusion of mafia wars. Perhaps some sort of quadratic plot of game depth vs. proximal concurrency, vs. mentions of overused internet/game memes will somehow give us new better vocabulary when discussing levels of concurrency.

I think we should just develop our technology so we can hold tousands of players at the same zone at the same time n start having some major PvP battles :D
Also id love sizes of maps to increase...imagine Orgrimmar with literally 10,000 buildings...truly an epic City. N ppl going around opening shops..buyibg houses.....*drool...
Tho i guess the internet connection should be somehow improved aswell.

MAG is interesting because it plays with notions of both spatial and temporal proximal concurrency. Temporally, its proximal concurrency can definitely be said to max out at 256 players simultaneously working with or against each other. Spatially, I think the game the game works within a smaller scope since people are organized in squads of 8, which often results in 8 on 8 encounters.

This is when the game works best: when squads are fairly divided (geographically) and mobile. At moments when MAG achieves something like even 128 person (64 on 64) spatial concurrency, the game breaks down. You end up with a bottleneck and a lot of respawning. This has been my experience anyway.

So maybe another hard problem is what kinds of genres/accepted play mechanics can actually support massive spatial concurrency? It'll be interesting to see, as the community matures, whether or not MAG can eventually make a true D-Day-esque 128 on 128 person battle work, or if the game will only work as isolated 8 man squads on a large map pushing towards isolated goals, with only occasional cross over of more than two squads.

On the topic of MAG: The way the game is designed, it seems like they could do 1024 players, and the experience for a single player in that environment will not change. They way they split things up, you're typically in an 8v8 to 32v32 engagement (in the 256 player battles, there are essentially 4 fronts being fought simultaneously, with some overlap at the borders). I like your argument that the level of concurrency that matters is how many concurrent players are actually interacting at the same time with you in regard to something, but I'd want to further narrow it to how many concurrent players are actually having an impact on what I'm doing. In the case of MAG, that seems to top out at 64 (myself, my 31 proximate teammates, and my 32 proximate enemies). MAG provides a sense of scale, and those other 192 players doing well or badly can make me win or lose, no matter how well I play, but the actual experience of playing is pretty much just with 64 people.

With regard to the article: For some reason, I think 1vs100 is a better example to support your idea of alternative approaches to large concurrency, because I'm directly competing with those other thousands of people, for the same goal, at the same time. But if you want to count the unique players across the entire week during extended play, you could make that number bigger (under my understanding of the Zynga Poker example you put forth) because every game played factors into your overall likelihood of being in the 100, or to be the 1. We're all simultaneously clawing at the leaderboard, and the One can score some funny-money if they do well. To come at it from another way, I could get (theoretically, not actually) 6 billion people involved in a Chess tournament. They would all be playing alongside each other, and at the end, there would be a winner. But is that really worth calling 6 Billion Player Concurrency? Does it alter or enhance the game of chess? It's just playing a bunch of chess games between different pairs of people. The existence of a leaderboard, or a weekly progression, doesn't seem to me a key to useful/worthwhile concurrency. WoW and MAG and EVE all have persistent overarching contexts (PvP leaderboards, territorial concerns), but you've already dismissed those aspects of their interactions as counting toward concurrency. Why does Zynga Poker's asynchronous level of interaction get counted? Because it has prizes?

Sorry for rambling, but one last thought: I feel like for concurrency to matter, it has to have an impact on the way I play a game. In basketball, or Halo, player behavior in a 1v1 seems very distinct from 2v2 and 5v5. But, past a certain point the game either ceases to function (a 16v16 basketball game would look like little-league soccer, I imagine), or it begins to act as a larger morass of smaller games playing out with small-game dynamics, vaguely interacting at their fringes (like MAG). At that point, does increasing concurrency matter? Is what I've described as "worthwhile" concurrency inherently limited by something akin to Dunbar's number?

I believe that Runescape's "There are currently X people playing." counter has reached 200,000 in the past.

That One Six:
I believe that Runescape's "There are currently X people playing." counter has reached 200,000 in the past.

I remember seeing that.

And I do agree, its not the number that play a game at all that make it good!

Awhile ago, in Arathi Basin, while I was capturing a flag, a thought crossed my mind that the mechanic of strategic points there was very similar to Dawn of War, except each one of us was an independently acting RTS unit. Instead of resources for expanding our army we were getting points toward a final winning score, but it was close enough.

So, I had a thought the other day. What if you make a whole MMO like that? Except instead of a Dawn of War skirmish, make it huge, more along the scope of Sins of a Solar Empire, or any turn-based strategy with RTS elements, where across all zones people might be playing for points or resources or whatever toward and ultimate victory. It could be a PvP horde vs. alliance or such, or it could be PvE with the server spending resources to tech and spawn mobs to take over the map. Everyone across the realm would have to cooperate to win, either that or they could just go about the usual MMO stuff but avoiding enemy occupied territories.

Fearzone:
Awhile ago, in Arathi Basin, while I was capturing a flag, a thought crossed my mind that the mechanic of strategic points there was very similar to Dawn of War, except each one of us was an independently acting RTS unit. Instead of resources for expanding our army we were getting points toward a final winning score, but it was close enough.

So, I had a thought the other day. What if you make a whole MMO like that? Except instead of a Dawn of War skirmish, make it huge, more along the scope of Sins of a Solar Empire, or any turn-based strategy with RTS elements, where across all zones people might be playing for points or resources or whatever toward and ultimate victory. It could be a PvP horde vs. alliance or such, or it could be PvE with the server spending resources to tech and spawn mobs to take over the map. Everyone across the realm would have to cooperate to win, either that or they could just go about the usual MMO stuff but avoiding enemy occupied territories.

Good point, and I would love to see that. However at such a scale your contribution, in my mind, would be too little. So what's the motivation in playing?

^^The usual... experience points... maybe some area or realm-wide bonus for a captured area... reputation points... plus some added bonus like honor points toward gear if you win. Not unlike battlegrounds.

As always, cool article. I love The Hard Problem. And, as always, I disagree with a whole bunch of stuff! So, let's get to it.

I would definitely argue that Zynga Poker does NOT constitute important proximal concurrency. Even if my chances of winning a prize are affected by 200,000 people, the way I play the game does not. The only thing which can change the way I play are the 7 other people at the table. I think there were 8 people in a game of poker, anyway. But the point remains - they don't affect my game experience just like everyone in eBay does not affect my auctioneering/bargain hunting experience. Only those people -interacting- with me do. Not just "affecting".

This is one thing that seriously bugs me about most Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Especially the RPG ones. There's so little proximal concurrency, and it's usually more of a pain for me to go find people to hang out with rather than just go solo. It's why I prefer team-based games like Team Fortress to a team-if-you-like system like Champions or World of Warcraft.

In something like TF2, what I do now is directly impacted by my teammates. I'll have to heal to help with this assault. Or go Spy to take out that rogue sniper behind us, because all our Heavies are dying. Or whatever. World of Warcraft's 5-/10-/25-/40-man instances are better than most of the game, because you're directly working with a team, but I find that until you hit 80, those are pretty uncommon occurances. I know Champions didn't even try to make use of them at lower levels.

As you start increasing proximal concurrency, the impact each player can possibly have is lessened. Spritzey just pointed it out, talking about Fearzone's game idea: What's the point in playing if you don't make a difference? If you spend all day trying to get this hard-to-capture point, and finally get it, but overnight a thousand enemy players carve a bloody red hole through your bright blue nation? There has to be a game which you can have fun in with that huge overarching goal only sitting behind it, not just a game where you work on a goal. Players would rather feel important than insignificant, and so game design has followed. Excepting technical limitations, I think that's the main reason games tend to work more on the basis of low proximal concurrency, with potential non-immediate bonusses if high server concurrency happens.

With regards to "temporal" proximal concurrency, I'm not really clear on how it's important at all. I mean, I could just go and play Space Invaders or something, and post a score to the leaderboard. Are you trying to tell me that my competition with every other player playing the game is important? Because I can't see how it is, at all. Their actions don't affect me, except possibly to egg me on to get a higher score and waste more of my life competing against people who don't have one to waste.

Finally, what's the point of increasing proximal concurrency? How does it make the game any better to play? Let's take MAG as an example, since lots of people like it. Even if we're only talking 64p games. Does having 32 enemies really make the game more interesting than having 16, or 12? You're more likely to be sniped from some obscure location. You're more likely to have your kills stolen by your own, larger team. There will be more spamming of ranged attacks. I'm mostly speaking from my experiences with Team Fortress 2, here, which goes from very small 3v3 games up to about 16v16. And those last, the 32p servers, are just unbearable for me. So I don't get it - what's the appeal, here? I understand the MMORPG thing, where you can hang out with heaps of people, you can play cooperatively with people, but player versus player with huuuuuuge teams is just no fun at all.

So, tl;dr:
-Temporal concurrency doesn't mean much.
-Players like to feel important rather than insignificant, so increasing concurrency (in any way) isn't necessarily good.
-Most so-called "Massively" Multiplayer Online RPG's tend to not do much with immediate proximal concurrency.
-Why are we trying to increase proximal concurrency again? I hate kill-stealers and ninja-looters!

Thanks for the discussion, everyone, and to John for writing the article.

It seems that if you include the poker game because it has weekly competition over the same prizes under the heading "MMOG," you would also have to include any game with a shared leaderboard. This would dilute the term until it had no meaning. If you take out the "Online" from "MMOG," you would also have to go back to the physical arcade, where a single machine (such as Space Invaders, as posted above) might be played by a few hundred people, competing for the glory of putting three letters at the top of a high score list. But asynchronous competition is not the same as [/i]multiplayer.[/i]

I agree with most of the commentors.

I've had more interaction with other players in a dozen LoL matches than in several months of EVE. 'nuff said

Fenixius:

As you start increasing proximal concurrency, the impact each player can possibly have is lessened. Spritzey just pointed it out, talking about Fearzone's game idea: What's the point in playing if you don't make a difference? If you spend all day trying to get this hard-to-capture point, and finally get it, but overnight a thousand enemy players carve a bloody red hole through your bright blue nation? There has to be a game which you can have fun in with that huge overarching goal only sitting behind it, not just a game where you work on a goal. Players would rather feel important than insignificant, and so game design has followed. Excepting technical limitations, I think that's the main reason games tend to work more on the basis of low proximal concurrency, with potential non-immediate bonusses if high server concurrency happens.

Not all players' fun lies in feeling like the most important cog in the wheel, you know. I personally think the best game designs are the ones in which the player is rather made to feel like a smaller, but well-working part of a larger whole. I remember a mod for the original HL way back when called something like Firearms (?), which was basically class-based team combat la TF, except there was a system of "lives" included - whenever one of one's own got offed, a "life" was removed from the team counter, until they were all gone (and your team lost). There were other objectives too, capture and hold, capture the flag bla bla, but the lives were always there - no lives, no win (I think you could also replenish these lives by completing objectives and stuff like that, but my memory is fuzzy).

Point of the matter is, I played a medic. A medic could heal, but a medic could also go up to dead-but-not-really corpses of friendlies on the battlefield and 'evacuate' them, which would return the lost life to the pool. This was not an important role, really, most were just in it for the shooting and the fragging, but I really enjoyed playing support. I felt that I was making a small difference in the big whole. I wasn't a half bad bunny jumper either, so I could've easily made a much bigger difference for the team if I'd just run at them guns blazing. But I didn't want to do that, since then -no-one- would've played medic.

There's a whole bunch of people around who like playing support, who like helping out behind the scenes while the 'heroes' rush in to cap flags or shoot people or whatever it is they're doing. That's why most class-based combat games HAVE classes like Engineer or Medic or whatever, to allow for us tinkerers and repairers and healers and so on. I personally get a lot more enjoyment from supporting my immediate ally, group, army, nation, whatever than I get from leading or feeling like a hero in said group. So yeah, if someone comes in and takes over the blue zone I had just conquered the next day - bring it on!

tl;dr: People don't always like being the hero, people also like being in support roles - and really, -everyone- should support everyone else rather than there being some kind of weird divide. The end.

I read the byline and immediately thought "Assuming control" ...which, I suppose, just means I've been playing way too much Mass Effect 2.

Skimmed other posts so I can type before I forget, but I'd argue that EVE does have some of the best conccurency, since everyone that plays IS bidding on the same items, competing for the same asteroids to mine etc.

"Hulkagedon" managed to double the price of hulks for all players.

<edit, wrong button :P>

The point being that in EVE all 250,000 or whatever it is subscribers DO interact in a roundabout way, whereas the 2M people playing mafia wars probably never see each other.

I would love to see an FPS with 100 on 100 battles in a nice open map (think battlefield vietnam) but such a thing would probably never sell since it would probably require relatively poor graphics by today's standards thus putting off all the "I get 10 billion FPS with my quad SLI tower that uses 3 1,500W power supplies" tards.

The solution to managing that many players is quite simple, battlefield did it, eve does it and the real army does it. Chain of command. Someone in command who orders platoons/wings around and then someone in each wing/platoon that orders squads around and someone in each squad who orders players around.

I don't care for this proximal concurrency.
Optimal is 6 guys on your team and 6 on the other team. Or just 6 PCs for PvE.

When you get to 2 digit teams, your character becomes too insignificant and gameplay becomes a grind.

Server concurrency matters alot because the MMO depends on it.

Playing on Warhammer Online, I think the most people I've seen in a zone taking part in the same thing was a keep assault with something like 100 Order players defending versus 200 Destruction players assaulting. It made for a lot of fun, but unfortunately, of course, it caused lag and lots of it.

The ideology behind mmo's will have to change soon enough as new technology and ideas are implemented to change the very definition of an mmo.

We are witness to the birth of the genre and make no mistake, it is still on it's hands and knees crawling towards the sunlight.

I know I come of all preachy but, soon the New Computer Architecture will be implemented changing the way data is processed and executed (no idea WHAT it is thought) and mmo's as we know them will cease to exist.

Phishfood:
I would love to see an FPS with 100 on 100 battles in a nice open map (think battlefield vietnam) but such a thing would probably never sell since it would probably require relatively poor graphics by today's standards thus putting off all the "I get 10 billion FPS with my quad SLI tower that uses 3 1,500W power supplies" tards.

The solution to managing that many players is quite simple, battlefield did it, eve does it and the real army does it. Chain of command. Someone in command who orders platoons/wings around and then someone in each wing/platoon that orders squads around and someone in each squad who orders players around.

I suppose that would work, but I don't think many players would get into it, unfortunately. I recommend you check out MAG for PS3, releasing soon. It advertises 256 player battles, so maybe that's your thing?

Wolfrug:

Not all players' fun lies in feeling like the most important cog in the wheel, you know. I personally think the best game designs are the ones in which the player is rather made to feel like a smaller, but well-working part of a larger whole.

Oh, I agree. But I don't think any player really would enjoy feeling largely unimportant unless there was the option for personal fun as well. As such, I think it's a matter of scale. You ratchet that "larger whole" up past about 50, and I think you'll find that people will stop caring. Unless, of course, you push the margin for error to very small terms; in which case one guy makes the raid wipe, but it takes everyone to succeed. And in those cases, I think you'll find that it's impossible to coordinate and manage that many people meaningfully.

Wolfrug:
I remember a mod for the original HL way back when called something like Firearms (?), which was basically class-based team combat la TF, except there was a system of "lives" included - whenever one of one's own got offed, a "life" was removed from the team counter, until they were all gone (and your team lost). There were other objectives too, capture and hold, capture the flag bla bla, but the lives were always there - no lives, no win.

It sounds like Battlefield crossed with Team Fortress. That sort of system punishes less effective players by penalising the whole team. By incorporating team-oriented classed with less direct impact on enemies, and more impact on your team as a whole, there's a chance to mitigate this. Which leads to interesting decisions for players. Much like the ones I face every time I jump onto a TF2 server. That's not especially relevant to the conversation about concurrency, but it's interesting nonetheless, I think. Game design is why we're all here, right?

(Paraphrased from) Wolfrug:
I play medic. People like to be support. Most games have Engineers/Medics/etc. I personally get a lot more enjoyment from supporting my immediate ally, group, army, nation, whatever than I get from leading or feeling like a hero in said group.

Okay, to be clear, first up, I play a LOT of Team Fortress 2. And my top three classes are, in order by max playtime, Engineer, Heavy and Medic. So I totally know where you're coming from - direct combat isn't always the most fun part. But I find that I make that decision based more on playstyle, rather than focussing on how I can be important. Of course, I play both assault, defensive and support classes when I play, so it's not a focus, which is something that appeals to me. But as you increase the proximal concurrency; that is to say, as you add more players, I just get frustrated because whatever I do feels more meaningless.

If you extrapolated TF2 onto a 64p map, it'd be ridiculous. The game wouldn't hold up. I've never seen any game designed with the intention of having such a high proximal concurrency, and I don't really see one working at all. Either it spreads out too thin, and other players have less immediate impact, or we go the other way, and everyone affects everyone, and noone plays because it doesn't make a difference.

That's what I'm getting at - it's not viable in a conventional videogame. Something like 1 vs 100 might work, but I think that's a special case outside the norm for established videogames.

ioxles:
The ideology behind mmo's will have to change soon enough as new technology and ideas are implemented to change the very definition of an mmo.

We are witness to the birth of the genre and make no mistake, it is still on it's hands and knees crawling towards the sunlight.

I know I come of all preachy but, soon the New Computer Architecture will be implemented changing the way data is processed and executed (no idea WHAT it is thought) and mmo's as we know them will cease to exist.

So you're saying that... things will change? I thought that was kinda obvious. Maybe you can tell me how you think it's going to change, or what it'll change into, or why current conventions and mechanics will be dropped, and we can talk about it? :)

Fenixius:

ioxles:
The ideology behind mmo's will have to change soon enough as new technology and ideas are implemented to change the very definition of an mmo.

We are witness to the birth of the genre and make no mistake, it is still on it's hands and knees crawling towards the sunlight.

I know I come of all preachy but, soon the New Computer Architecture will be implemented changing the way data is processed and executed (no idea WHAT it is thought) and mmo's as we know them will cease to exist.

So you're saying that... things will change? I thought that was kinda obvious. Maybe you can tell me how you think it's going to change, or what it'll change into, or why current conventions and mechanics will be dropped, and we can talk about it? :)

Sure, I'd love to discuss it.

One of the things I think will change or rather evolve, is the way data is handled.

Nano transistors are one of the ways this change will come about; what this means is that not only will technology get smaller electronically, but the sheer size of data able to be handled will increase exponentially without an increased strain on power or bandwidth requirements.

This will come about after the wall is hit as per what current silicon transistor technology is based on.

This advancement alone would introduce massive changes to the world of computing and computer gaming, needless to say mmo's. The amount of information transferred between server and clients would be massive and rapid allowing, for all it's implications, millions of people to concurrently exist on one server.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor

http://physics.about.com/b/2007/02/28/nano-transistor.htm

http://www.nanoscienceworks.org/articles/quiet-2013-nanotransistors-at-work

If you want any more just say so.

Fenixius:

If you extrapolated TF2 onto a 64p map, it'd be ridiculous. The game wouldn't hold up. I've never seen any game designed with the intention of having such a high proximal concurrency, and I don't really see one working at all. Either it spreads out too thin, and other players have less immediate impact, or we go the other way, and everyone affects everyone, and noone plays because it doesn't make a difference.

That's what I'm getting at - it's not viable in a conventional videogame. Something like 1 vs 100 might work, but I think that's a special case outside the norm for established videogames.

You might be right, for the average player. Having participated in IC-ArmA, for ye olde Armed Assault, the 100+ player battles WERE terribly laggy, crashed often, and were (due to the game, hardware and ping issues) often frustrating. But we continued anyway, because the experience was just so awesome. I remember one of my first games. My assignment was sitting inside (alone, I might add) a Stryker IFV, at night, watching a town making sure no enemies were going to hit it or pass through it. Gameplay-wise, I was the equivalent of a canary, since I wasn't actually expected to fight back any enemies, just get killed and thus warn the rest that there were enemies around.

I didn't shoot a single bullet or die a single time, yet I had a goddamned blast just listening to the comms, watching the flares, the explosions, the odd helicopter flying by. Oh, and staring into the greenish, NV-goggled forest looking for anything that might suggest an enemy sapper.

Later on I got to experience all the joys of being a tanker, including sitting by myself on top of a hill fighting back hordes of enemies, letting our infantry advance just a bit up the flank - or taking out the whole enemy tank division in one quick action, opening up a window for a push. And sometimes, I'd just sit somewhere staring at nothing and BOOM I'd be dead and waiting for my damn tin-can of death to respawn for ages and ages, or a helicopter would come from nowhere and blow me to hell, or I'd be out-sniped by that other tank, or I'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere with my legs busted and no help in sight. Sometimes a whole game could be like that. And sometimes, sometimes a game would be pure gold.

The only reason, really, why these battles were sometimes less than phenomenal, was the lack of players! A higher concurrency in this game (or, rather, a netcode that would allow for it) would be absolutely perfect. So there's a game designed for it, if there ever was one.

But I guess that I'm speaking here as an OFP/ArmA/Arma 2 player, which, as the Internet generally agrees, is a species of gamer all of their own ;) Because you are of course entirely correct in that TF2, public-server, 64 player games would NOT ever work reliably.

Edit: So in conclusion, the OFP/ArmA/Arma 2 series of games IS designed for a very large player concurrency, even though the engine and netcode are NOT optimized enough for this to be technically feasible. The dream-come-true of this game would be a combined-arms assault where infantry, supported by artillery, IFVs, tanks and aircraft would make a push against a fortified position with all the same assets as the attacker - and every cog (numbering any amount, really) in this wheel would be controlled by a player. It works, because it's based on real-life military logic, which is of course one of the larger and more visible places in which "players working on the same overall team, in the same location, pursuing the same or at least related goals" can be seen.

I am aware this is a pipedream, and therefore not really 'worth' pursuing, but it's a matter of technical drawbacks, not game design or some kind of idea of "impossibility", that makes it so.

Phishfood:

The solution to managing that many players is quite simple, battlefield did it, eve does it and the real army does it. Chain of command. Someone in command who orders platoons/wings around and then someone in each wing/platoon that orders squads around and someone in each squad who orders players around.

I've always thought that this model would be fun, but in my imagination the leaders are competent and level headed; while the grunts are loyal and respect the chain of command. Reality then steps in, those in command will end up being ego driven and dismissive. The grunts wouldn't show much better, being a collection of self-centered mass deserters.

Dirty Apple:

Phishfood:

The solution to managing that many players is quite simple, battlefield did it, eve does it and the real army does it. Chain of command. Someone in command who orders platoons/wings around and then someone in each wing/platoon that orders squads around and someone in each squad who orders players around.

I've always thought that this model would be fun, but in my imagination the leaders are competent and level headed; while the grunts are loyal and respect the chain of command. Reality then steps in, those in command will end up being ego driven and dismissive. The grunts wouldn't show much better, being a collection of self-centered mass deserters.

There is a much better solution but it requires imagination and good design and the example is TF2 bear with me

In TF2 you have different people with specific roles all relevant all important and teamwork happens engineers build stuff medics heal allies heavies suppress enemy so team mates can move spys sneak round ect

The reason everyone plays their part is not because the player base is mature and organised its actually a typical base the reason is playing your part is fun and going against it results in death and it is staggering how many devs don't understand this and its consequences

The key isn't to make a game where team work is effective its to make one where team work is fun if its fun to take the tank screw the ambush and charge in a guy will do it and ruin the game this is another point many miss making one guy more importaint is a terrible idea its why im yet to see tanks implimented well and why flying capital ship in space games isnt a good gameplay choice it requires competant level headed incividuals

Comanders have to in practice be advisors anyone who ever played empires mod will understand how this works each team has a comander but his job is to build the base and do reaserch enginiers get the stuff he places online this in turn lets player build tanks playes move up and secure positions which allows the com to build refineries which in turn alows large stuf like tanks to be built in the buildings engineer brought online ect. this isn't the whole solution empires suffers from slippery slope and also there is no sensible way as of yet to balance infantry vs tanks properly but i think they have the right general idea each person is a cog in a 64 man battle and his role is a fun one the engineer build stuff and suddenly turrets come on-line and blast stuff infantry cap a point latter tanks come and help them.

Jeeeze... no mention of either Planetside or World War II Online:Battleground Europe? Both of these games give your definition of proximal concurrency, and importance you ascribe to it a challenge. And both of these games are relatively unsung pioneers in the MMO genre. Let's ignore, for this discussion, whether or not the current player populations are too low to experience the games properly--very debatable even if we could easily pin down the numbers. Both games have had their periods with literally thousands of players at a time playing, and affecting each others play.

Planetside has servers with capacities in the thousands, and while the actual battlegrounds (called "continents") have a hard limit of 499 players (133 per side), the strategic/command structure creates a sort of meta-game along with the interconnections between the continents/territorial control mean that what's going on in the entire server population effects the individual battles. This is nowhere near the 1000's of "proximal concurrency" you're attempting to cite in some of your examples, but it's also a more complex relationship that doesn't easily fit your model. Even so, 500 players in three opposing forces is an astonishing experience in an FPS from 2003--or even now--and the tactical/strategic meta-layer adds other aspects of complexity and engagement that render most discussions of things like proximal concurrency fairly useless. Yes those 500 players in one FPS space can create lag/performance issues, but it was still ultimately very playable, and the multiple layers of engagement in the game were enough to get 1000's of players to ignore the problem and pay $12+ per month for much larger chunks of time than most games, MMO or not, can hope to keep players coming back for. Probably hundreds of thousands over the life of the game.

WWIIOnline does a very similar thing, and has been since 2001. It has and even more complexly detailed and structured and involved tactical/strategic/command meta-game, and even less restrictions on how many players can engage each other in one FPS space, all on a seamless scale map of western Europe, on a seemless single "server" architecture. Yes this 10+ year old game DOES suffer lag and performance issues in certain situations, but it is largely avoidable, and again there is MUCH MORE going on here to keep players engaged than "proximal concurrency" can easily explain.

Also both games are PvP only, with effectively zero PvE content of substance. Two outliers in the MMO landscape, certainly. But two games that will become increasingly studied by MMO devs as the industry evolves. Also two games that, while definitely past their glorious heydays, remain active and engaging, though no longer full of life 24/7.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_online
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetside

from the self-description line: would you like to be Legion from ME2?

Ed.:

snip

Ed, there's definitely an intelligent idea in there, but for the sake of any readers and myself, please use some punctuation. No matter how insightful and informed your ideas may be, unless the rest of us can understand you, the message is lost.

In reply to your post, if I can use your TF2 example, the only time you see team play in online shooters is when there's some kind of clan structure guiding it. How many games have you played when there are mostly spies and snipers on the team with only a token sprinkling of support players. Or everytime there's a new update where people swarm the new features just to try them out.

Online players are inherently selfish, it's built into the system. This is simply an extrapolation of the annonymous nature of the game. Why should we care about any of our teamates? We don't owe them anything. All it requires to destroy your idealistic view is one griefer or hack. Then we're back to square one.

Fenixius:

I suppose that would work, but I don't think many players would get into it, unfortunately. I recommend you check out MAG for PS3, releasing soon. It advertises 256 player battles, so maybe that's your thing?

Lack of ps3 and lack of cash to buy one hamper it, does sound fun though.

Dirty Apple:

I've always thought that this model would be fun, but in my imagination the leaders are competent and level headed; while the grunts are loyal and respect the chain of command. Reality then steps in, those in command will end up being ego driven and dismissive. The grunts wouldn't show much better, being a collection of self-centered mass deserters.

Last time I played battlefield it offered more points for following orders than not, however since points were permanent it didn't really matter. You could combine positive reinforcement with negative though, for example add points for following orders and subtract points for tasks that are clearly not related to orders. Ok, thats a little problematic.

If you are ordered to defend a point, agressively taking a different point is clearly against orders. But what if you park up as a sniper nearby, not directly defending the ordered point but generally griefing the enemy? But the idea is that if you are mostly not following orders you get crapper and crapper guns or longer respawn times etc wheras if you are following orders you get the airstrikes.

The real problem is that people play games to have fun, only doing what some pimply teenager with no idea of tactics tells you to do is no fun.

Dirty Apple:

Ed.:

snip

Ed, there's definitely an intelligent idea in there, but for the sake of any readers and myself, please use some punctuation. No matter how insightful and informed your ideas may be, unless the rest of us can understand you, the message is lost.

In reply to your post, if I can use your TF2 example, the only time you see team play in online shooters is when there's some kind of clan structure guiding it. How many games have you played when there are mostly spies and snipers on the team with only a token sprinkling of support players. Or everytime there's a new update where people swarm the new features just to try them out.

Online players are inherently selfish, it's built into the system. This is simply an extrapolation of the annonymous nature of the game. Why should we care about any of our teamates? We don't owe them anything. All it requires to destroy your idealistic view is one griefer or hack. Then we're back to square one.

Thats the point people are selfish you design the game around that in TF2 its generaly more fun to help your team than not to so the selfishness serves the team, nothing you can do about greifers except penalise them and have decent server admins really.

 

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