MMOG Crowd Control

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MMOG Crowd Control

Anyone designing an MMOG needs to be designing a framework for two different audiences: The one they'll have at launch, and the one they'll have three years after that.

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Turbine has actually rennovated the entire level 1-50 line of Epic Quests. There's now a scaling buff that will allow players with the group quests to get increases to damage and health, and reduce incoming damage, effectively making them 'elite' players for the duration of the quests. It will also apply to some non-instanced quests, but there's more of a restriction there.

More information about the new system can be found here: http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/devdiaries/628-developer-diary-volume-1-revised-edition

Edit: This rennovation occured with the latest content update that launched this week.

How to balance? Easy. Permanent character death.

Oh wait.. you mean how to balance and keep an audience? Hmm.. that's harder.

Man, Shamus stop spying in on my thoughts already! I just finished up my LOTRO trial account about a week ago and I certainly remember how empty the low level areas are. Every time I came across one of those forced grouping areas, I thought, "Why are they making me group when there is nobody around?"

In LOTRO, many quest chains end in a group quest. So, you'll do five missions solo and suddenly an NPC will tell you to sod off and find some friends. (And I do hope you read the quest text, or you might charge in alone without realizing you're committing a very humorous form of suicide.) You've just spent the last forty five minutes trying to find and save poor Gerebert, and now you realize all your work was for naught. You can't do it alone and good luck finding help.

**Confused**.. My Elven Hunter is level 30 now, has done most of the deeds/achievements/quests and hasn't ever had to run a group quest. Or if she has, she's aced it with relative ease.

Are we playing the same game?

See, this is why I don't play MMORPGs. I tried, but dammit, whenever I played a new one it'd just be so crowded I couldn't even get to grips with the game, and with the old ones, you had to get to a certain level before it gets fun. Which is why I much prefer offline RPGS like Neverwinter Nights, say what you will about the lack of human interaction, but at least they're consistent.

But if the system you suggest gets implemented, I might start playing again. I'm already interested in The Old Republic because it seems to be doing something similar. Then again, maybe I'm just that in love with Bioware.

I would have controled experience gain. WoW occasionally lessens the amount need to more quickly rocket characters to the cap, but I think a more active and thoughtful approach, independent to each particular server, is required.

I would propose that each server could have it's experience rewards altered by a percentage. 150% would rapidly spread the population; 50% would allow it to thicken. I would, of course, be hesitant to use such a wide range; 75% to 125% should be plenty.

The same can be done to inflate or deflate the economy as needed by changing the cost of vendor items and repairs by affecting each server with a percentage of the base price. Too much coin in the system? The vendors now sell at 150% the normal price. Too little? The vendors will take half the cash. In the case of money, each server would then act more like a real economy. If Bill Gates were to start throwing cash around your town, even the NPCs would raise their prices.

This article is right on the money. I found the world of Warcraft so awesome at first as every area had plenty of people and doing group quests wasn't too tough. But fast forward a couple years and trying to level an alt is a pain in the butt when the only thing left to enjoy is the story and you keep getting shut down at the end. Sometimes if the group quest is only a couple lvls below it can be worth soloing (if possible) but generally it's just a big MEH. I'm inclined to not play MMOs anymore for this and well, many other reasons. I like my solo RPGs with good stories.

DDO recently introduced a cool mechanic.

True reincarnation allows a max level character to restart at level 1 with a couple of extra build points and a past life feat. This makes them slightly superior stat-wise to a complete noob character but not so much that the game balance doesn't work. Reincs get an significant experience penalty so they have to do more of the quests to gain levels than first run characters.

This pulls some of the hardcore people out of the endgame because they want that 100% optimized build that they can't do without reincarnating and gives them an alternative to alts.

Unfortunately WoW leveling is WAY too grindy to get away with that but it works really well for DDO.

The force grouping quests are why I quit WoW and Aion even though I liked the idea of the latter( the massive grind for everything didn't help either.) I like the idea of a floating/changing mid area. It would probably be a bit more work to code but can essentially be tied to sliders for different areas with one slider for the whole game world for the early and late days of the MMOG.

vivadelkitty:
Turbine has actually rennovated the entire level 1-50 line of Epic Quests. There's now a scaling buff that will allow players with the group quests to get increases to damage and health, and reduce incoming damage, effectively making them 'elite' players for the duration of the quests. It will also apply to some non-instanced quests, but there's more of a restriction there.

More information about the new system can be found here: http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/devdiaries/628-developer-diary-volume-1-revised-edition

Edit: This rennovation occured with the latest content update that launched this week.

I kind of like this idea. Maybe make it so that the player can't enter combat with another player while elite buffed, alter the experience rewards so that it becomes more like a normal non-elite quest, maybe add the choice to go elite and reduce the experience rewards or go find a group with the option to come back and pick up the buff if that player can't find a group.

Come on, devs! Get cracking!

Yes, the real answer is to just let MMOs stagnate, and with any luck, die. I've sounded off on this before, so you guys I know have nothing against the players in MMOs. You guys have your reasons, and that's fine. But the fact is that the entire business model of MMOs is reprehensible and from a game design standpoint it is completely intractable. WoW, as you might've heard in the last 5 years, is great at making MMOs less of a chore.

WOW is right. LESS of a chore. WoW. A game that a lot of gamer would never touch.

Think about that for a second. Think about that guy you know, who plays ten times as much as you do, gets angry at you if you miss a raid and pours over FAQs and loot tables. Every gamer knows someone like that. That MMO-addict who is pissing his life away on what constitutes a very mean trap designed to catch anyone with any number of a dozen different weaknesses, from gambling, to poor social skills, to "pull lever" reaction to completely empty accomplishment that nearly every person on earth is addicted to.

And if you don't know that guy I'm describing, guess what?

... I shouldn't have to finish that sentence, but this is the internet and emphasis is hard to recreate. YOU are that person.

So don't "fix" MMOs. Kill'em off. Honestly, these days I long for the afternoons I whiled away with 12 other guys on my N64, playing Perfect Dark or Diddy Kong Racing all in the same room

My solution to MMORPG load balancing can be summed up in two words:

Dynamic Content.

Of course, dynamic content is yet another holy grail that MMORPG developers have yet to really leverage well.

I suspect that the solution will end up being more how WoW and DDO are starting to adapt their dungeons, by adding in selectable difficulty levels. If these sorts of things were designed from the beginning to have both solo and group options (with bonuses for completing them as groups, of course), then the problem would work itself out.

People that want to do it for the loot and whatnot will spend the time to run them as groups, and people who just want to experience the content will forgo the rewards and do it on a solo difficulty level.

Centrophy:
The force grouping quests are why I quit WoW and Aion even though I liked the idea of the latter( the massive grind for everything didn't help either.) I like the idea of a floating/changing mid area. It would probably be a bit more work to code but can essentially be tied to sliders for different areas with one slider for the whole game world for the early and late days of the MMOG.

vivadelkitty:
Turbine has actually rennovated the entire level 1-50 line of Epic Quests. There's now a scaling buff that will allow players with the group quests to get increases to damage and health, and reduce incoming damage, effectively making them 'elite' players for the duration of the quests. It will also apply to some non-instanced quests, but there's more of a restriction there.

More information about the new system can be found here: http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/devdiaries/628-developer-diary-volume-1-revised-edition

Edit: This rennovation occured with the latest content update that launched this week.

I kind of like this idea. Maybe make it so that the player can't enter combat with another player while elite buffed, alter the experience rewards so that it becomes more like a normal non-elite quest, maybe add the choice to go elite and reduce the experience rewards or go find a group with the option to come back and pick up the buff if that player can't find a group.

Come on, devs! Get cracking!

The Turbine system actually detects how many players are in your group when you enter the quest instance or zone where the quest target is, and alters the buff accordingly. I know you can use Reflecting Pools to replay story instances in LotRO, not sure if you can redo them with a distinction between elite/non-elite though.

Heh, you're making a mountain out of an ant hill really.

Here's the problem with designing things for the newbie/lowbie: Eventually they won't be lowbie/newbie anymore. A strong end game and a strong 'newbie zone' (to grab people in) are infinitly more important than a strong mid-game.

Most people who plays MMORPG by now understand that the good stuff is at the end, so it's not like the mmo crowd is really expecting demanding for a change either.

I mean, WoW has millions of subscribers and love it or hate it, it's a financially successful juggernaut of staggering power and influence... and it has a TERRIBLE mid-game. Yes, they're trying to fix that with the new expansion, but ultimately, what people will end up doing is still raiding and arena.

I mean back when I played WoW and one of my guild mates would complain about being bored in Tanaris or Felwood, I'd tell him to keep leveling in a few week he'd be in Northrend anyway... and it was true, so... what's the big deal?

Crunchy English:
Yes, the real answer is to just let MMOs stagnate, and with any luck, die. I've sounded off on this before, so you guys I know have nothing against the players in MMOs. You guys have your reasons, and that's fine. But the fact is that the entire business model of MMOs is reprehensible and from a game design standpoint it is completely intractable. WoW, as you might've heard in the last 5 years, is great at making MMOs less of a chore.

WOW is right. LESS of a chore. WoW. A game that a lot of gamer would never touch.

Think about that for a second. Think about that guy you know, who plays ten times as much as you do, gets angry at you if you miss a raid and pours over FAQs and loot tables. Every gamer knows someone like that. That MMO-addict who is pissing his life away on what constitutes a very mean trap designed to catch anyone with any number of a dozen different weaknesses, from gambling, to poor social skills, to "pull lever" reaction to completely empty accomplishment that nearly every person on earth is addicted to.

And if you don't know that guy I'm describing, guess what?

... I shouldn't have to finish that sentence, but this is the internet and emphasis is hard to recreate. YOU are that person.

So don't "fix" MMOs. Kill'em off. Honestly, these days I long for the afternoons I whiled away with 12 other guys on my N64, playing Perfect Dark or Diddy Kong Racing all in the same room

No.

Just because some jackhole can't moderate his own gaming habits - whether he's playing WoW, CoD4, the Sims, or obsessively cornering the market on eBay - doesn't mean that the millions of people who enjoy games like these in moderation aren't having a good time.

I remember that MUDs (precursors to MMOs) often had a system of reincarnation. Once you reach a certain point, you can choose to start over. Doing so gives you various perks, and you leveled up faster. I think a few MMOs have added something like this, not sure (I've only played DDO, which has something close).

How it would work: get to 80 in WoW, choose to reincarnate, get a few minor permanent buffs and gain experience x times faster (x being current number of reincarnations) until you hit your previous level again. It allows a die-hard story fan to see the content they missed as well as the new stuff, while still providing incentive with the stat buffs for the raid guilds to do it. Each time they add a new expansion, as well as raising the level cap they also allow one more incarnation and add the associated buffs.

I think the best system I saw was in a MUD I can't remember the name of (that's long since gone) where every time you reincarnated you got to keep a very toned down version of some of your old character's abilities as 'memories of a past life'. They were not overpowered, but they were a huge boost in the beginning of a new life. Not to mention, a pure warrior with the ability to detect magic or traps is awesome. The original Mass Effect had a similar system, for a more modern example.

The alternative is level scaling, which is not ideal in most situations. If you scale the level 80 players down so they can fight with the level 30's, how do you handle their equipment? Their powers? If, say, paralyze isn't available at level 30, do you just drop it off their power bar? Do you change it to stun? Give monsters a higher save? What if the entire character is built around paralyzing, and the buffs/perks they chose don't transfer to stun? And with items, do you drop the accuracy? Armor class? Damage? The abilities? With the sheer amount of potential character builds, it'd be impossible to do it automatically.

DDO has an advantage, there. D&D is calculable, as long as they followed the rulebooks closely enough. You know that, say, a DC25 save should be a DC15, or this +5 Sword of Ominousness would be a +2 Sword of Minor Apprehension right now, or a Greater Rod of Copious Explosions should really be a Lesser Rod of Gently Expanding Hot Air.

Ah, this is the article I've been waiting for for awhile, as I've been bitching about this issue nearly since I started playing LOTRO in Beta. They tried an alternate solution to the problem- give players rewards to helping other people complete their quests. However, I think the manner in which they implemented it was horrendous(it only applied to specific quests, you had to select the quest option BEFORE you helped someone complete the quest, etc.).

Once I saw the problem caused with Mines of Moria drawing the veteran players away from helping people complete quests in Volume One, I knew the problem was just going to get exponentially worse. I hope this new system really improves things to allow you to complete quests with smaller than recommended groups.

Simple solution:

Get rid of leveling.

The idea that the wolves in THIS forest are ten times as deadly as the wolves in THAT forest is ridiculous. The idea that Villager #4 in Town #2 can beat up everybody in Town #1 one-handed, including the huge bully you needed a group to tackle, is insane. A top-level player can kill everybody else endlessly without breaking a sweat.

Forgetting what it means for group quests, it means also that 99% of all content in an MMO, no matter how huge the MMO is, is totally pointless to visit by a top-level player - especially if his equipment never gets lost, loses durability or is otherwise impermanent.

All zones should have something worthwhile for a top-level player, be it resources to exploit (trees that only grow in one area) or politics and commerce to exploit (logs that fetch a good price in one area).

There should be a plateau that is easy to get to, and that plateau should be extremely difficult to transcend, except by politics (clan/guild effort), and the rewards of such should be communal, not individual (a support network, not better gear).

I'm thinking UO, EVE and the upcoming MO. We need more sandbox MMOs.

John Funk:

Crunchy English:
Yes, the real answer is to just let MMOs stagnate, and with any luck, die. I've sounded off on this before, so you guys I know have nothing against the players in MMOs. You guys have your reasons, and that's fine. But the fact is that the entire business model of MMOs is reprehensible and from a game design standpoint it is completely intractable. WoW, as you might've heard in the last 5 years, is great at making MMOs less of a chore.

WOW is right. LESS of a chore. WoW. A game that a lot of gamer would never touch.

Think about that for a second. Think about that guy you know, who plays ten times as much as you do, gets angry at you if you miss a raid and pours over FAQs and loot tables. Every gamer knows someone like that. That MMO-addict who is pissing his life away on what constitutes a very mean trap designed to catch anyone with any number of a dozen different weaknesses, from gambling, to poor social skills, to "pull lever" reaction to completely empty accomplishment that nearly every person on earth is addicted to.

And if you don't know that guy I'm describing, guess what?

... I shouldn't have to finish that sentence, but this is the internet and emphasis is hard to recreate. YOU are that person.

So don't "fix" MMOs. Kill'em off. Honestly, these days I long for the afternoons I whiled away with 12 other guys on my N64, playing Perfect Dark or Diddy Kong Racing all in the same room

No.

Just because some jackhole can't moderate his own gaming habits - whether he's playing WoW, CoD4, the Sims, or obsessively cornering the market on eBay - doesn't mean that the millions of people who enjoy games like these in moderation aren't having a good time.

I guess, approximately as much fun as you could have running a chat program and minesweeper at the same time. But my personal bias against MMOs aside, it isn't just some "jackhole", its a great many people. And when a significant number of people beginning ruining their lives, whether because of sinister marketing or some seriously lacking self-control, its time to either regulate or restrict. Gambling, is an excellent example.

I think the likely thing is that in its current form, most MMORPGs are just not going to be capable of this kind of thing. Either massive restructuring or something else is required.

Games like Planetside (an MMOFPS) have a continuing objective that just can't be met alone regardless of whether you are max level or not. This kind of thing is probably what is required to get people to group.

The_root_of_all_evil:

In LOTRO, many quest chains end in a group quest. So, you'll do five missions solo and suddenly an NPC will tell you to sod off and find some friends. (And I do hope you read the quest text, or you might charge in alone without realizing you're committing a very humorous form of suicide.) You've just spent the last forty five minutes trying to find and save poor Gerebert, and now you realize all your work was for naught. You can't do it alone and good luck finding help.

**Confused**.. My Elven Hunter is level 30 now, has done most of the deeds/achievements/quests and hasn't ever had to run a group quest. Or if she has, she's aced it with relative ease.

Are we playing the same game?

I don't know. Did you solo the quest to save Gerebert as a Minstrel or a hunter while the quest was still meaningful in terms of loot and XP? If you "aced it with relative ease", you might want to share your extreme elite techniques with all of the other frustrated players who end up leaving Gerebert to rot because the game throws masses of bandits at you.

I tried the mission when some of the bandits were gray, and it was still to much for my minstrel. They chased me off with sheer numbers.

Same goes for my hunter.

Could they help the problem by limiting the server choices for newbs? If all new players had to reach x level before getting to choose a server it'd help with low level populations.

Kwil:
How to balance? Easy. Permanent character death.

Oh wait.. you mean how to balance and keep an audience? Hmm.. that's harder.

Permanant character death WITH penalty attached for re-spawn?

Its never an easy plan...but, out there is the correct forumale. Just needs someone willing to test and experiment

DDO is quite good at keeping population levels, mostly due to instances and the fact that there are only 2 cities, one of which is for first levelers only.

DDO is also the only MMO I have played, other then a massively disappointing demo of WoW.

Easy: don't.

As in, don't bother trying to keep the population under control, as you're never gonna succeed.

People are gonna move on, and unless you plan on having an extra few thousand show up every month, then there's no avoiding the mid-level zones becoming barren while the endgame becomes overpoplulated.

My solution would be to have no forced grouping quests at the end of a quest line, but to have forced grouping quests at the beginning instead; that way, you have a reason to stay in a group beyond just the one quickie quest, as continuing on the quest line with your current group would be worthwhile for everyone, and this keeps solo quest lines manageable for solo players.

Sure, the solo player will never have as good of loot as players questing as a group, but at least then they won't be hitting bottlenecks like the ones you've described.

Shujen:
Simple solution:

Get rid of leveling.

The idea that the wolves in THIS forest are ten times as deadly as the wolves in THAT forest is ridiculous. The idea that Villager #4 in Town #2 can beat up everybody in Town #1 one-handed, including the huge bully you needed a group to tackle, is insane. A top-level player can kill everybody else endlessly without breaking a sweat.

Forgetting what it means for group quests, it means also that 99% of all content in an MMO, no matter how huge the MMO is, is totally pointless to visit by a top-level player - especially if his equipment never gets lost, loses durability or is otherwise impermanent.

All zones should have something worthwhile for a top-level player, be it resources to exploit (trees that only grow in one area) or politics and commerce to exploit (logs that fetch a good price in one area).

There should be a plateau that is easy to get to, and that plateau should be extremely difficult to transcend, except by politics (clan/guild effort), and the rewards of such should be communal, not individual (a support network, not better gear).

I'm thinking UO, EVE and the upcoming MO. We need more sandbox MMOs.

I've been thinking along these lines as well.

Another similar alternative, that keeps the levels in for those of us who enjoy seeing numbers go up, would be to make it so that your character isn't twice as powerful every couple of levels. The power progression in these games is nuts... level 1 you have like 100 health and hit for 10 damage, and by max level you have 50000 health and hit for 5000. If the progression was more gradual and didn't end at such an extreme, you'd still be able to enjoy a broader range of content for longer.

Also your point about resources is good, I think it's the best way to keep a mix of people active in all areas of the world at all times. With dynamic resources, you could even have places that become over-harvested or under-harvested, which would encourage mobility in returning to previously tapped out areas, or exploring for new resource-rich places.

I always thought that EVE never had that problem. If you ignore the problem you have getting started, the starting areas in EVE are typically populated by people of medium and high level. This is due to the safety of doing business there and the central location of the starting areas.

My proposal is that the relative location and structure of the world can affect how populous a particular game is. If you design the game in a line structure like most MMO you will find that the population is highest in one part of the line and decreases away from that point.

If you make the structure of the world circular like EVE Online, where the starting areas are in the center of the world, and anyone who wants to go from one part of end game content to another can either go through other end game content to their destination (dangerous) or through the center area (safer). Hopefully this will make an even distribution of population by region despite the difference in level distribution.

vivadelkitty:
Turbine has actually rennovated the entire level 1-50 line of Epic Quests. There's now a scaling buff that will allow players with the group quests to get increases to damage and health, and reduce incoming damage, effectively making them 'elite' players for the duration of the quests. It will also apply to some non-instanced quests, but there's more of a restriction there.

More information about the new system can be found here: http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/devdiaries/628-developer-diary-volume-1-revised-edition

Edit: This rennovation occured with the latest content update that launched this week.

Yes, and on top of the majority of Epic chain being solo friendly now, Breeland and the Lone Lands (basically the territories you'll be in following the intro areas from level 15 to 30 or so) have also been revamped to remove most group quests or at least rebalance them such that full 6 person teams are no longer needed. I certainly may have missed something, but I'm running a new character through now (currently level 27 and just starting the Ost Guruth area quests in the Lone Lands) and I haven't found any forced grouping at all. I'm really not sure what Shamus is seeing as I've finished most/all chains I've started and have never had to group once. In fact, there are so many quests now with such good rewards (and such fast xp gain) that you will without doubt miss a bunch of hubs and quest chains in the early game unless you choose to do the quests when they are vastly outlevelled.

Honestly, I do see the core issue identified by Shamus as a problem but if there is one game that has handled this progression best it probably is LOTRO. It's much less drastic than what is coming in WoW's Cataclysm, but in LOTRO Turbine has been pushing to update and evolve the lower level areas and content for quite some time now.

Generally speaking the way to keep zones from loosing population is to do away with leveling, give incentives for repeating quests, via getting a little boost by reincarnating your character or whatever, make many factions of reputation like in WoW, and have them open or block off quests based on your reputation with different groups, and finally make sure new rewards are not so important that people skip straight to whatever is new.

OH man, I HATE the grouping quests - particularly for the supposedly 'low level' encounters. That became the reason I effectively quit NeoSteam - all my characters current quests involve some impossible baddie. You spend all your time fishing for party members, trying to get them in the same place, trying to keep them from going to AFK while other people show up, and then MAYBE taking a swing at a creature that may or may not be there any more. Nope, not for me.

I think the leveling aspects may be in some ways the true detriment to MMORPGers. They force the designers to structure areas and maps to the levels of the multitude of characters. It also forces experienced players to grind through the same old crap to create a new character.

Perhaps one idea would be to follow the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky model - where the environment's difficulty level remained effectively static, as did the character themselves. However, as the /player's/ experience and gear got better, they might have a better chance to survive in certain regions than a player with little experience and underwhelming gear. This doesn't necessarily prevent the inexperienced from heading off in search of loot and glory, but the chances are higher their inexperience would get them turned into chunky salsa. Nor does it mean the more experienced person won't get their ass chewed off by a normally 'insignificant' threat. And since gear degrades and bullets run out, they'll be on a constant search to replenish their supplies.

Because the world - as in Clear Sky - fluctuates, regions and interactions will differ all the time; thus inspiring the desire to return to familiar (and once 'safe') areas. This would require a more 'hands on' approach from the moderators, but I'm sure that wouldn't be an issue - just drop a new pack of monsters randomly and watch the fun begin. If a 'static' game can do that, why not a MMORPGer? (I mean, I can't count the number of times in STALKER I'd return to an outpost only to find a pack of mutants ripping people to shreds or a squad of bandits trying to reclaim territory).

Shamus Young:

I don't know. Did you solo the quest to save Gerebert as a Minstrel or a hunter while the quest was still meaningful in terms of loot and XP? If you "aced it with relative ease", you might want to share your extreme elite techniques with all of the other frustrated players who end up leaving Gerebert to rot because the game throws masses of bandits at you.

Honestly, I can't remember that one but I started in Ered Luin. I remember soloing the Dwarven Citadel though. Hunter has some sick DPS combined with traps.
My burglar's out there though, what level is the Gerebert quest? (Gerebert Misses A Meal is level 8)

(Not being a showoff. I haven't really had any difficulty with doing the fellowship quests a few levels later (apart from the Bree Tombs, but that's because the game has a hard-on for spiders and makes them impossible))

So, here's a thought, not completely fleshed out, but maybe workable, using the WoW nomenclature: Every 10 levels or so, you get the chance to choose the next realm server you want to go to. So, launch day you have 20 realm servers, each with a big population. As the initial crowd moves on, you add realm servers that are not eligible for level 1 characters to start in. If you need to, start removing realms from the list that allows new players. There may be huge gaping holes that I'm not thinking of, but it certainly seems like it might be viable...

jmpatt:
So, here's a thought, not completely fleshed out, but maybe workable, using the WoW nomenclature: Every 10 levels or so, you get the chance to choose the next realm server you want to go to. So, launch day you have 20 realm servers, each with a big population. As the initial crowd moves on, you add realm servers that are not eligible for level 1 characters to start in. If you need to, start removing realms from the list that allows new players. There may be huge gaping holes that I'm not thinking of, but it certainly seems like it might be viable...

except the whole point of playing an MMO is to play with people you meet in game, and everyone having to swap servers at different level points means there's absolutely no reason to make friends with anyone till you hit max lvl, you'd be effectively discouraging grouping making your game no better than an oblivion clone that forces you to connect to the internet to play.

Hi there. I've mulled upon the idea of "crowd" control before, but never thought of it as such. Here is my idea on how to work with it.

Combine Endgame and starting zones.

Think of it as a WWII theme. Newbies, fresh from training, crammed into landing boats, shoulder to shoulder with other new characters and NPC cannon fodder. Meanwhile Endgame characters are trying to capture certain points by using the landing parties to advance their own agendas via some command mechanism, and opening up content with successful advances and failures.

Meanwhile, the Newbies are thrown straight into the thick of the battle, not expected to make any great progress, and no death penalty yet, learning the ins and outs of the system while great battles take place around them, with most of the visible progress in the never ending fight being made by the endgame characters either grouped together raid-style, or orchestrating the fight through quests and NPC's.

After a perscribed amount of level, usually the point in which the threat of death penalties kick in the newbs finish their "tour of duty" and go home to where the mid level content is, and level up through regular means, with a slow build toward returning them to the fight as experienced Endgame commanders, putting them back in the thick of the fight, now commanding and affecting the endgame on a more immediate scale, now with serious consequences for failure and larger goals surrounding the same pitched battles that as a new character they were only a small, insignificant part of.

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