MMOs Need More Bastards

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My greatest MMO moment, Nay GAMING moment, that will stay with me forever is when I left my gambling stall by Britannia Bank in UO forgetting to drop my 3 million golds worth of cheques (NOT CHECKS!!!) into the bank first!

I take a Gate to Fellucia (The Pre Renaisance Free for all zone) and make my way home.
I see a red (Player Killer) gate camp and the inevitable COR POR (Nasty spell of pain and death) so adrenaline pumping I flee, being a trader merchant not a fighter.

A fraction of a second later the full weight of the situation dawns on me as I spy the pile of yellow in my bag and I swear I felt my heart stop for a dead second.

The next 10 minutes were at once the most gut wrenching, intense and fearfull moments of my gaming life, every bramble, every creature from the tiny birds and rabbits to the Ettins a potentially fatal obstacle.
The world never looked more menacing, suddenly my favourite path by the graveyard was at once a deadly obstcale course and a menacing forboding of my situation.

I pull every trick in the book, the Duke, the Dupe, Chaff, and the decoy pack horse, even my woefully inadequare hide skill comes into play as an act of sheer desperation, nothing works as my assailant wants my blood and nothing else will do.

When I finally slammed myself into my front door I am litterally panting, nose against my monitor, when did I stand up? I can't remember, why am I pressing my face to my screen as if that will help me? it's all a blur

My would be murderer, still unaware at just what a jackpot he's missed out on calmly walks into through my front door, uninvited like some kind of rule breaking Vampire, knowing that with but a press of my "I BAN THEE! hotkey he will be permenantly ejected from my home and can do nothing more to me this day, flourishes his cape (Emote) and sits at my table and pours himself a cup of my finest meade raising a toast to such a spirited chase.

I begin to calm my nerves and decide to sit with him, finger still over my macro of course, I pour myself a glass and start to laugh hysterically (IRL) and we have a nice civilised chat about this and that, nothing personal and no hard feelings.
He also had a good laugh as I "showed" him the prize he could have won as I "lock" down 3 million golds worth of Cheques on the table between us (he almost manages to grab one but misses and we decide it's just not his day).

He decides to teleport home to get some gold and we play a few games of Die as he figurs if he can't steal my gold and my life he'll try his hand at chance to win it.
After loosing a few thousand in gold to me he declares me a bigger criminal than he ever was and takes his leave but promises to "drop in on me" from time to time with a sinister inflection.

It took a while for me heart beat to slow and the adrenaline high to wear of and to this day no game has ever come close to that experience, and it was down to the fact that there was no saftey net, no rules, no GM, I was at the mercy of another player who simply wanted to kill me, not neccesarily for profit as I may have had nothing, but just on the off chance and for the lols because he could.

True he wasn't a complete douche and if he had of been it would not have been QUITE the experience but the Adrenaline heart pounding fear would have been the same and that's what stuck with me most.
Never have I been so sucked into a moment in a game before or since, and that negative made the dizzying high of success so much more.....everything!

Or as Eve-Online puts it, You have to take the risk, if you want to make the Isk
So heres a toast, TO THE BASTARDS!

BlindTom:

Althus:
So what makes the MMos different from one and other is the actual player in it?
Its us that play it, yes devs make the rules, but in the end it is up to us, to make choices.

Only if the devs offer us interesting choices to make, and the consequences of interesting choices often impact other players, who then whine to the devs, who then take away everybodies choices.

The choices players make will have a huge impact on the overall game, yes I agree whit you on that point.
But in a MMO you are mostly "free" to do things you probably will not do in real life, so you do not have fear to be a dick and "hurt" others. So if we all became dicks in a game is that really Fun?
I appreciate the idea of players decision and free choice, but I fear if we cant find a balance be-twin be good or evil.

EDIT: Yes most people have said something similar whit this.

Firstly there is no fun with a capital F. Just becouse you find it entertaining to be a digital dooshbag dosen't mean that other people will. You know, some people find collecting stamps and playing solitare fun. Fun is a subjective term.

I have to agree with EmperorSubcutaneous that "sandbox" MMOs are a niche market, witch is why even if you only have a few more it would still saturate the market.

One thing I've noticed from reading the comments is this notion "it's not greefing, it's using my brain" As if those two are mutually exclusive. Just becouse someone is a greefer dosn't mean they are stupid, in fact the worst greefers are the smart ones. Ones that just come at you mindlessly are fearly easy to deal with in my experiance. Oh, and not wonting to play with dooshbags dosen't mean you're a brainless ideot ether.

Witch brings me to my next point witch many people seem to have forgotten, I'm not paying $20 a month to be greefed by assholes. Yea, most of these games are not free, you have to pay good hard erned money for them. Even if they are "Free-To-Play" they still require a huge investment of time and energy and by the same token, I've got better things to do.

I stopped playing MMO's years ago becouse the system you seem to think is so light on the screw-you-factor was still way to annoying for me to stand anymore.

I also noticed that a lot of the stories about "Sand-Box" MMOs are about ones that have failed.

Mike Kayatta:

Althus:

ldwater:
Play EVE.

Nuff said really - plenty of bastards in that still!

That was exactly I was thinking, all the time i was reading this, and i have only played the free trial of EvE, but from what i read and saw about it this is pretty much your game there. Free to be a arse hole or a good doer.

It's not enough just to have free will. It also has to be a fun game. I'm not hating on Eve (to be fair I haven't given it too much of a chance) but its not for me. Everyone is saying Eve! Eve! Eve! in the comments, but that's akin to saying we never needed another FPS after Doom. Yeah, I get it, Eve offers many of the freedoms I'm looking for, but trust me, freedom isn't the only important factor of gameplay when I'm looking at what to spend time with.

Yes the free will its not the wining factor to you, like to me so we are both on agree there, but you probably like more Fantasy settings then space operas like me, so its a personal opinion at the end.
I understand your point of view, But I pointed EVE maybe because its the most known example or one of the most known player "influenced " MMO, but not the only one.

See in this article we have now established why the internet should never EVER be censored.

Because if you make it so the "mums and dads" are happy. It completely ruins the environment.

So as a result I agree.

More games like Ultima Online.

I did see an interesting approach to this recently. It was APBR

Sure if you saw asomeone on a street you couldn't shoot them outright (unless you saw them commiting a crime, they saw you commiting a crime, ur in a mission against them or they are killing everyone so the whole zone could shoot them). But it worked.

Sadly not to many people play that style game.

I think it goes a lot deeper than this.

There is very little that is more thrilling and cathartic than ganking another player. Especially when you know that you've completely ruined their day and possibly made them ragequit the game entirely. There's usually a bit of guilt that tinges that thrill, which just makes it all the sweeter.

There's also very little that is more thrilling and cathartic than narrowly escaping ganking, either by means of killing the ganker first, clever mechanics use, calling in your friends or the city brute squad, fleeing to town, or even just hiding and waiting for the ganker to go away. It means the "bad guy" loses and the "good guy" (you) wins.

On the flip side, there is very little that is worse than being ganked by another player, who kills you for no reason other than they can. Some people suck it up and chalk it up as a learning experience, but others become enraged and all too often they do stop playing in anger and disgust.

In both cases, ganking (or being ganked by) another real human being can be, by far, one of the best and/or worse experiences in online gaming. There's just something about it that amplifies emotions ten thousand fold, where the exact same thing done by a brainless NPC is forgettable within an hour but we often remember a particular ganking years and years later. The stakes are just so much higher for some reason.

The ideal environment for a ganker is one where ganking is allowed, few other people gank, and many many people are around for other reasons. I believe this is why free-for-all PvP servers of any MMO tend to have much lower populations than regular servers. Everyone wants to be the ganker, but no one wants to be the gankee. PvP servers start out full of people wanting to be gankers, but no innocent population to prey on. Eventually, the bastards leave the PvP servers and try to figure out ways to gank people on normal servers, or go to different MMOs with a better balance between ganker and gankee.

MMO Companies have tried to deal with this aspect of online gaming in various ways, ever since the days of MUDs. Some ways are quite a lot more effective in others. A free-for-all like the writer wants is very dangerous, because you get people angrily quitting and eventually the place is a ghost town. Some smaller MMOs and MUDs have "regulated PvP" where players can complain to mommy if they got killed "inappropriately", but that takes a lot of resources to do. I'm personally a fan of having separate "sides" and free-for-all PvP zones where it's kosher to stomp on each others' faces and hunt them down but you can still do normal quests and the like. Entirely PvE MMOs like most of Everquest 2 can be nice, but even then there's still some ganking.

One thing I am very glad most MMOs have gotten rid of is the "lose all your stuff" mechanics. Getting ganked in PvP is painful enough without it.

Apart from the obvious EvE Online there is also Darkfall a ground-based game based in a Fantasy setting.

I find it a little odd that the term 'bastard' is being used for engaging in competitive gameplay in MMOs. When a chessplayer tries to win we wouldn't call him a bastard, or when someone tries to kill you in CoD he isn't a bastard either, just a player following the normal objective of the game.
Maybe MMOs are too closely linked to pen and paper RPGs which are designed for non-competitive cooperative gameplay. I think there is something about the traditional linear progression seen in WoW or EQ that interferes with conflict. Adding player conflict to that kind of game will either result in a lack of consequence, or very harsh penalties for dying. EvE probably did this right by almost completely removing the traditional character build and progression element.

Unfortunately the idea that conflict is for bastards, tends to attract real bastards who use the mechanics of a game to act like jerks. There is a difference between killing someone for the purpose of a game objective, and killing someone with the purpose of trying to make the opponent miserable.
If we have more high quality competitive MMOs, players may get a more relaxed view of conflict, and thus less griefing and less real bastards.

Tibia was like that at first. Ultima's bastard son, seeing as it was made by a bunch of german dudes using the a modified ultima 6 engine.

At first it was cool. There was a real community. I lurked in Kazordoon. The market tended to have the same people hanging out there half the time talking when they weren't hunting or training at the lake. There was a player made guild that acted as guards there so people didn't get out of line, eventually I joined that guild. People who got out of line were made object lessons, as in your body displayed the name of your killer be they player or monster, if people behaved in such a way to get smote we put their corpses on the torch in the market right outside the depot. In my time as an IRT guard the corpses often had my name on them.

On the other side while people hated pks, getting attacked could indeed be exciting and possibly get you some decent loot from your attackers. One time I was training my axe fighting skill on weak enemies as it's the number of hits that matter so I used a weak hand axe.

Apparently a group of player killers thought I was easy prey and blocked me within the troll tunnels, and went at me. Unfortunately for them I had just purchased a backpack of ultimate healing runes for my knight, I had my good knight armor in my main backpack, and the kicker: A dragon lance. Yes it's a polearm but it was under the axe fighting skill to help it's power. It was quite powerful on it's own and me having it at that level was a surprise to most people, my constant hunting, never leaving even barely valuable loot in monsters and saving had gotten me the prize.

At the end I used maybe half of my runes, had decimated the half dozen or so guys attacking me and actually routed them to the point of chasing a few down and putting them to the lance outside the cave itself. I then gave the names to my fellow guards to question or kill upon their entrance to our controlled city( I was just out of our , well jurisdiction I suppose, with my training.)

So it could be quite epic with pvp, when people were being asses but when it failed it failed horribly.

one time I did the extremely foolhardy idea of attacking a cyclops( melee only) with a bow when knights tend to suck with bows. I got 3-5 minute lag froze and died. I checked my corpse just to have my prized dragon lance and knight armor stolen by some opportunist prick of a player.

The sword cuts both ways.

bjj hero:
I wouldnt touch wow etc. with yours but Eve interested me for exactly the reasons mentioned in the article. Having said that the idea of playing and the act of playing were poles apart. It just felt like a second job without the pay, having to log in at set times to change skills, mining, etc.

Painful.

QFT man :)

Eve sounds great on paper and as a concept its superb but theres just too many things that are just not implemented in a way thats FUN for me to ever really get into it and believe me I've tried ;)

I am a veteran of Eve and often a victim, but I can understand the true adrenaline fix you can get when the stakes are high having experienced it, I have also experienced the crushing losses you can incur which can equate into real time losses.

I think that a deeper player interaction can only be a good thing for an MMO, if anything its the only true meaning of an MMO. With that I do feel their is a role for the bastard or evil player but often the game mechanics are in their favour.

1) Multiple character and accounts undermine any possible game inflicted consequences. In Eve if you kill lot of players you get negative standing and can't enter high sec systems. That isn't a problem as you have another character that can and you can freely trade with them.

Another aspect while you are camping that gate you other account is mining, trading building in high security space essentially funding you illegal behaviour. This anonymity reduces the effectiveness of player lead consequences. You corner a pirate in a station, they log out and into a different character and does some mining or something else. They can play the game while you stare at a station.

Essentially this point means that for players to stem the tide of crime they have to dedicated themselves to it. Where as the criminal can choose when and where they strike.

2) Risk assessment, nearly every MMO I have played has a means to establish how much better or poorer another player is compared to you. Level 5 versus 60. Ships they are flying etc. Eve actually does something to hide this fact but you don't require a great deal of experience to see that its a tech 2 frigate (and therefore what skills are required to fly it).

Again another mechanic that puts the lawful at a disadvantage, any thief, murderer, mugger worth his salt will pick out the weak and the easy. Why are pensioners and teenagers biggest victims of muggings? Because they are perceived as weaker I can't think of an MMO I have played where I can't tell my opponents abilities, at the very least have a decent understanding of my chances.

This all boils down to Risk-Reward importantly the perception of risk and reward. Two players can look upon an identical situation and have a differing Reward/Risk value. The more game mechanics make this ratio clearer the more it will encourage optimal behaviour, i.e killing noobs, camping spawns etc.

The whole point is that this freedom in MMO must come at a price I would suggest that ways to pay for this price are single account-character presence, the world is persistent so why should you the player not be? (Okay you might want to have multiple characters just have a penalty in swapping, i.e you can only log in to a different character every 24 or 12 hours).

Remove mechanisms that easily identify players abilities, even allow for decoys and false information. How about a replica Excalibur everyone knows that sword is powerful and by extension its wielder so I buy a plastic one people might think twice about kicking my lvl 1 arse, equally calling your bluff can be interesting. My point here is let player infer risk from the environment and interaction with other players. Ultimately make the player conflict just as uncertain for all parties involved then at least you really have to be committed to been a bastard.

MMOs need less bastards. i dont know what kind of games you play but the earliers graphical mmo "tibia" (that came couple months before ultima online and is still working) is really full of it. you cant go a coupel hours without somone randomly killing you because "their bored". same goes for eve, peopel find enormous amount of ways to kill you bending the rules. it really is amazing.
ofc if you play wow you may say that, but wow players are the whole other race and arent really human to begin with.

Tibia was like that at first. Ultima's bastard son, seeing as it was made by a bunch of german dudes using the a modified ultima 6 engine.

Exept that tibia got there for online gameplay before. UO was already in the making by then though so could say they are brothers.

. Everyone is saying Eve! Eve! Eve! in the comments, but that's akin to saying we never needed another FPS after Doom. Yeah, I get it, Eve offers many of the freedoms I'm looking for, but trust me, freedom isn't the only important factor of gameplay when I'm looking at what to spend time with.

Eve is fun if you let it be fun. yes eve is not the only game like that and its not the only one we need. but eve is the biggest, most known game that does that, and as far as MMOs goes it is pretty darn unique.

The biggest problem with games like these is the levels. Why shouldn't I be able to kill a warrior in his platemail with my rogue who doesn't have any armor? Instead make the combat more dynamic and action oriented to show real skill. Then I might consider playing. Too bad people still have this notion that levels are somehow needed and must have in games. They aren't.

A lot of what this guy said makes sense. There's a real feeling of accomplishment if you manage to succeed at a genuine challenge and not just some artificial scenario that's practically designed to be beaten. Getting to beat a challenge that actually takes some forethought and cleverness, as opposed to just going through the motions that you know will inevitably lead to victory.

Hampering players from harming one another is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it prevents griefing and harassing, but on the other it also prevents true conflict from developing, and that takes away a lot of the challenge in a game. Now there's no doubt nobody likes getting one-shot by some asshole 40 times as powerful as you, but at the same time, you do have to accept that sometimes it will happen if you're to have the same personal freedoms. As Ben Franklin said "People who sacrifice freedom for personal safety deserve neither."

Don't worry, I'm not going to brain you with a mace... I'm just going to give you a broadside of six 1400mm artillery cannons in the middle of high-security space. Sure, the police will kill me, but by then it will be too late for you.

(Like everyone else, I'm talking about EVE.)

Sure, it's possible if you're diligent, and careful, and anal enough to set yourself up so that the griefer can't just gank you when you walk out of the safe zone.

They showed how in South Park. Remember that? 4 kids spending months just grinding on the lowest level garbage so that they could finally get high enough in level to simply survive walking outside? Sorry, but if the author is suggesting that we need to go there, I don't think that's exactly useful.

You see, the problem is simply that most people don't want their game to be a job. And while you might have fun with that, well.. that's you and an amazingly small niche of people -- most of whom are already playing EVE anyway.

Mike Kayatta:
...the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world ...No one would accept the program ...

Over 12 million subscribers for WOW alone can hardly be considered a "no one accepting the program" occurrence.

I think the initial UO's system punishes players too much. Against a fully equipped warrior all a wizard had to do was cast paralysis and then spam fireballs... The funny thing is: a wizard risks nothing, but the reagents carried. A warrior risks everything, since a poorly equipped warrior is simply a poor warrior.

I agree with most of what you said, but I think that resource gathering should be made less tedious in that case. In UO you could literally spend weeks upon weeks mining for the best ore to make a full armor set, only for it to be taken away in few swift seconds by a PK'ing wizard.

The mining and crafting used in UO is a highly redundant system. It's tedious and mechanical, thus feels more like an actual mechanical job akin to pushing crates in a warehouse.

"Firefall" approaches this problem in a very clever manner. You have mining pods that you need to protect before the excavation is completed. Which already is a lot more fun than just clicking on rocks whole day long.

I would suggest another approach: engineering. Let players design and build their own mining installations, such as mining shafts. The said installations would then have to be outfitted with defenses against invaders, making it into a tower defense mini-game, essentially.

Automating production would be done in the same manner, minus the tower defense element possibly (it really depends on how much freedom in shaping the world you're willing to give to the player).

P.S.: yes, I do realize the whole world was macroing itself out of this kind of misery in UO, but what's the point, really? It's not much of a game if it's playing itself. In that way it's more close to an economic simulator than a game.

EDIT: spelling mistakes.

Zakarath:
Don't worry, I'm not going to brain you with a mace... I'm just going to give you a broadside of six 1400mm artillery cannons in the middle of high-security space. Sure, the police will kill me, but by then it will be too late for you.

(Like everyone else, I'm talking about EVE.)

As The Duke of Wellington said in Blackadder:

"Real men fight with cannons!"

Why would you use any other weapon in EVE when you can have cannons?

CrawlingPastaHellion:

Mike Kayatta:
...the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world ...No one would accept the program ...

I think the initial UO's system punishes players too much. Against a fully equipped warrior all a wizard had to do was cast paralysis and then spam fireballs... The funny thing is: a wizard risks nothing, but the reagents carried. A warrior risks everything, since a poor equipped warrior is simply a poor warrior.

Yeah, I don't think UO was perfect or anything (though I will counter that the reagents needed to make spells to whack a good warrior were rare and expensive), my main complaint is that they nerfed the game's philosophy instead of working on balancing and refining it. I think gameplay adjustments could have been made that wouldn't have restricted free will. Remember, it's still a very old game by today's standards (and the technology and experience guiding WoW). I just want to see this idea used as the skeletal structure of a well-designed experience. I'm not claiming that by extension of allowing freedom you magically have a good product.

Mike Kayatta:

Yeah, I don't think UO was perfect or anything (though I will counter that the reagents needed to make spells to whack a good warrior were rare and expensive), my main complaint is that they nerfed the game's philosophy instead of working on balancing and refining it. I think gameplay adjustments could have been made that wouldn't have restricted free will. Remember, it's still a very old game by today's standards (and the technology and experience guiding WoW). I just want to see this idea used as the skeletal structure of a well-designed experience. I'm not claiming that by extension of allowing freedom you magically have a good product.

That was kind of my point, actually. I wasn't implying that you were putting UO on a pedestal of any kind. Still the truth is much closer to UO than to your everyday modern "mumorpuger". I actually don't even remember when I last had fun in a MMORPG. I remember UO for its incredible freedom and I remember "Ragnarok Online" for its novelty back in the days when the market wasn't flooded by bad korean diablo-clones. As of today, it's nothing substantial, just bells and whistles.

Despite all the good points (and some bad ones as well), I think it all boils down to whether you want the kind of interaction present in the old UO. I suspect that most players simple don't want it, no matter how deep such a system becomes.

Crystalgate:
Despite all the good points (and some bad ones as well), I think it all boils down to whether you want the kind of interaction present in the old UO. I suspect that most players simple don't want it, no matter how deep such a system becomes.

They wouldn't mind it if getting items would be a lot easier, or at least a lot less tedious. I surely wouldn't and I myself quit UO because I was constantly getting killed by paralyzing wizards and deadly poisoning thieves.

There is a fundamental problem with free-PVP sandboxes.
They encourage teamplay so strongly, that a person becomes virtually helpless alone. A team of friends will be stronger than a team of random strangers, more so than just a lone stranger. Meaning - they require a lot of dedication.

People, who mentioned Eve in this thread, should know the term "alarmclock ops". It's when players HAVE to wake up in the middle of the night (thus "alarmclock") or take sick leave from dayjob to protect some ingame asset. In its peaks Eve takes up as much time as a full fledged hobby, just without anything to show for it. Actually, scratch that - noone can spend as much time in a gym, or playing footbal, or even painting WH40k minis as a hardcore Eve-player spends playing Eve. Not humanly possible.

Sandboxes not only eat your time, they eat it anytime they like.
Again, several times Eve have been reffered as "your second job you have to pay for" by players. I quit it when I understood, I will literally never forgive myself all the time I've spent on it.

But that doesn't mean I don't play games anymore. I play games, that I can turn on for 2 hours, play and turn off after that.
Eve, good-old-competitive-PVP-boost-your-killboard Eve, just does not work that way.

Free world games like those have always failed and always will. That's because of the general attitude of the MMORPG player. They're more similar to farmville players but also screw that crappy facebook pos. I'll play a game that actually had developers. Not to mention that games with their fun based on the community typically have small communities. The largest community game I've played that had a free world style was Anarchy Online, game was great and fun but leveling was usually done in a group with one horribly twinked dps and a non grouped level capped healer making them immortal.

Nobody wants to deal with other players and their general asshole-ness because all you want to do while you're leveling is level. Modern MMOs are all about the grinding, if you want a break from that you que for a dungeon or a battleground. People want to be able to go to the danger, they don't want it springing up around them with a trollface and a "U mad son ?"

People who want danger typically play fps and moba style games. People who play games like WoW usually just wanna sit back and grind and/or socialize.

Well, I think the problem that you (the article writer) are missing is that online gaming has yet to move much past it's infancy in any absolute sense. Right now game developers want a game that they can just leave to run on it's own and make money for it's publishers with little in the way of direct control on the part of the administrators.

The problem with games like early UO is that you were dealing with what many would consider "griefing", which is people setting out for little purpose other than to exploit the system to make other players miserable. Realistically there was no lasting repercussions as evil death was just an inconveinence and a skill point dock, and no viable motivation "in character" to the world for a lot of what was done other than the knowlege that some player on the other side of a character was going to become irritated by what you did.

Add to this the issue of balancing good vs. evil. See in an MMO enviroment that is just left to run itself, evil is very easy to reward... you wind up with more stuff, the satisfaction of killing people and the furstration of players. Good on the other hand winds up presenting very little in the way of tangible rewards, in a game enviroment largely governed by loot, stats, and other things it's not like most other players care much because they are more concerned about whether you can afford the stuff they are selling, or their own self sufficiecy than what kind of play enviroment you might be fostering. What's more when the bad guys wind up with more and better stuff, and thus higher stats, the only way to really keep up to even conceive of stopping them is to become a huge bastard yourself... and then usually you wind up just becoming another rat yourself, irregardless of whatever your intentions might have been to begin with. Useless NPCs telling you what a great guy you are don't really provide much in the way of a reward.

What's more when your dealing with heroic fantasy, as opposed to something trying to be dark and realistic, that's a paticular issue. One of the things that slotted players of Ultima off is that the game series has always been about morality and the triumph of good over evil and the benefits of following the virtues even if only one very specific person became the incarnation of them all. In that world a guy dedicated to virtues like Compassion, Sacrifice, Honor, or others should wind up trumping someone who sets out to be a complete bastard in the long term... especially in THAT world. The guys complaining were not just victims but fans of the Ultima games (play them sometime, especially starting with IV, GoG has them, they were more recent at the time this game came out).

This all brings me to the initial point, to REALLY advance MMOs as a genere you don't just need players acting freely to advance the RPG and free form aspects, but you need an administration that constanly interacts directly with the player base, and is capable of subjectively interpeting what people are doing. GMs who are capable of looking at people being bastards and taking reasonable action on part of the world, or rewarding righteous
play for those being good guys.

The big problem with this of course is that most companies running MMOS don't want to actually pay a staff to run the game. What's more the people they hire are more akin to coders or customer service reps than actual Gamemasters (which is what we need), guys who both hold a certain degree of detachment from the players, as well as being trained to think dealing with them in any meaningful fashion isn't part of their job. If your lucky some GM might drop a few extra monsters on a town and call it event in most MMOs, and really that isn't what building a real world like this takes.

I believe it was Larry Niven's "Dreampark" novels that chronicled the evolution of games of this sort (ending up with VR, as they existed in the actual story) and has so far come pretty close, though we have sort of stagnated. Those stories outside of the central mysteries driving them kind of explained what you need to make a virtual enviroment work, and that involves an active administration running the game itself, as well as "Loremasters" who are players with similar authority (either known or covert) acting to cultivate the game enviroment. Many players of course fear the idea of other humans having direct control over thegame this way, but at the same time no code, no matter how advanced, is going to be able to maintain a proper fantasy play enviroment.

To be honest I kind of suggested something similar between actual GMS and the Loremasters of Dreampark early on in UO, based on what some MUDs wound up doing by empowering players, of course the idea was never really embraced, and we see what they chose to do instead... for good or ill.

Shadowbane. Was part of a small Guild for a while. Helped build up a town, was on every day farming for gold and items to sell, while the Guild Master set all the buildings to make items for his liking, ect. Suddenly we were targeted for demolition, and after us peons defending the town for a day... the Guild Master wouldn't help protect the town. A girl and I hunted him down, hiding by a wall at a deserted allied city, disbanded from our guild and killed him and went over to the guild that was attacking and we stomped a mud hole into the rest of the guild we abandoned for their weakness.

p.s. I was also that bastard that typed "Vas Flam" above my head and went into attack mode acting like I was going to attack you, and got you to attack me near a guard so I could loot you.

Here here! Can't get enough of these articles, feels like i've been tidal waved by fail MMOs ever since UO and developers just don't see it.

Honestly, I love the idea of such a world, but unfortunately your average MMO these days has a stat system that makes it impossible for a player five or more levels under another to even damage said player, much less survive a few blows.
I'm all for granting free will on a playerbase in a game where the bastards actually run the risk of losing, which, in current MMOs, they simply don't.

ie. more levels should not equal more hitpoints. The highest level players should possess more skills, more guile, better equipment... but the same health points as everyone else. As the Star Wars D20 GM guide says, "A blaster to the face is still a blaster to the face".

Cannorn:
It took a while for me heart beat to slow and the adrenaline high to wear of and to this day no game has ever come close to that experience, and it was down to the fact that there was no saftey net, no rules, no GM, I was at the mercy of another player who simply wanted to kill me, not neccesarily for profit as I may have had nothing, but just on the off chance and for the lols because he could.

I respectfully submit that this person you describe clearly wanted to interact with other players in ways beyond griefing them "for the lols because he could".

Free will isn't inherently good. Just like life would suck if everyone could do whatever they wanted irl, games where anyone can do whatever they want are just annoying. Of course, I don't play MMOs at all (I don't understand the point of playing a game with no ending where you do the same stuff over and over to help you continue do the same stuff over and over), so that might color my opinion.

Why are you robbing people? Because I can use money to make myself more powerful. Why do you want to be more powerful? So I can be better at robbing people! Or alternatively, however else one makes money in Ultima to become more powerful so you can survive travelling between villages, so you can make more money in a new place. To me, it seems to be exactly the same as the whole "Raid dungeons to get better gear to help raid dungeons" thing in modern MMOs. They seem equally unfulfilling and meaningless. The whole fake society thing is silly because unlike real society which we're stuck with, there's no reason to be there.

I'm just going to mention a certain game for the Author of the article; the game is Wurm Online.

For little more detail - read on.

It not only has an extensive crafting system, with which you can create anything ranging from awls, barrels and carpets to rings, ships and two-handed swords, but also features structure building and terra-forming. And farming. And mining. And animal breeding. And so on.

On top of that, you can decide to leave a non-PvP islands to become part of one of the three kingdoms warring over land known as Wild - and probably experience again what the Author seems to miss the most from the modern-day MMOs.

There are certain downsides to the game however - it's really time intensive, takes a while to get used to and to become good at certain skills you might have to invest weeks of your time. While also it is slightly lacking in the graphics department (although mostly in the creatures and player avatars part, the landscapes are just breathtaking at times), it is still being actively developed and model quality and gameplay improvements are rolling in steadily.

On the other hand a new gameplay model, called Epic, is coming to it, which is again a PvP faction war with added twist of involvement from the Gods - that is players' actions are supposed to influence global events, such as small godly boons to cataclysmic events the likes of volcano eruptions.

I've been pretty much playing it for nearly two years now, and while the player base is on the small side, it is still a pretty lively place to be.

So, there. I hope I piqued the Author's interest (or anyone else for that matter), if so I suggest heading over to http://www.wurmonline.com/ and checking it out (the game is free to play on the non-PvP server with a limit cap on the skills).

PS: Also, funny fact, it was co-authored and developed by Notch, before he decided to try make his blocky game about terraforming, building and mining... hmm...

It sounds like a neat concept, but while it's certainly innovative, it fails to account for a vast demographic of players. By catering to one audience, you've completely isolated and ostracized another one, which is bad as a game designer (imo, but of course some people have tastes they want to fulfill and thus I respect them for that) and as a product (which holds more weight in a competitive market).

If they had servers like that for people to be on, that's perfectly fine, but an entire MMO dedicated to something like that? You're definitely not going to get a unanimous "Yes" on the project.

This is what pretty much all modern MMOs are missing: player-controlled societies. The modus operandi for MMO development is still "Make it like WoW but with X number of new features" when it should be focusing on allowing players absolute freedom. There's no point in having five thousand players in the same game world if they're all just adventurers.

I want an MMO where there are little to no NPCs, and instead it is the players who are the merchants and guard captains and kings. I want a persistent world where things actually change--a country is conquered and stays that way until the original owners take it back. The circumstances of warfare and diplomacy between player-controlled kingdoms would provide more than enough content without ever going on a scripted quest.

Only when we start seeing this sort of things will MMOs be living up to their full potential. In the meantime all we have is an incredibly "gamey" game that doesn't feel at all like an actual world, where players are defined by their limitations rather than any actual unique achievement.

I think someone didn't vote for lord British because maybe they are Lord British :)

ldwater:
Play EVE.

Nuff said really - plenty of bastards in that still!

This.

EVE Online will satisfy your pulsating tumorous itch for PvP.

didn't know that UO had so many <10 years old during it's Golden Age, if you take the profile age of some of the "veterans" posting here seriously...

Nevertheless casual style mmo's have prevailed which makes sense since playing style has changed alongside with the demographics of the consumerbase. Ingame ganking and griefing were always fun if you were one of 1% of the server population who were ahead of the cattle to pull it off and still being untouchable in terms of sanctions of the community. You can make more money with making the game more appealing to the 99%...

Real PVP is a relict now, patched to its death in nearly all relevant games over time or non exististent in newer games. On the otherhand it's saves the people who cared for it alot of free time.

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