Here begins a series of posts, when I remember to do them, in which I will discuss the elements that would make up the perfect MMO for me.
One of the things I hate most in games is levels that “matter”. And by that I mean content that is gated or trivialized based entirely on level. However, I do understand the desire to have a constantly rising metric by which players can compare themselves or show some aspect of their selves to others.
In my perfect MMO, there would be levels and there would be experience gained through killing, questing, crafting and any number of other things. These levels would be entirely a measure of effort. If you kill 8,000,000 rats earning 10 exp per rat, your level will be higher than someone who has killed only 1 ogre for 1,000 exp. However, if the two of you were to face off in combat, how you played, what abilities you used and other factors would determine the outcome, not level.
Level would simply be… well… experience. A beginner would be just that a “Beginner”. As that person played the game and did things they would become a “Novice” or “Neophyte” and progress up through different titles until they eventually reached something like “Extraordinarily Experienced Grand Master” or some such. This title could be modified by sub-levels determined by the means which you obtained your experience. If you did so through a majority of exploration you might be “Worldly Grand Master”, or if you did so by crafting you might be a “Grand Master of Labors”.
Looking at a person’s “level” (which would not be expressed by a number, at least not a single number) would actually tell you a bit of the story of their lives. And that is why such a system appeals to me. It also appeals because unless you plan so poorly that you exhaust the entire English language by allowing people to gain ten or twenty levels per session, you could literally have infinite leveling. All you need is another tier of words, and a formula to calculate how to gain that next tier.
Previously, I wrote about there being two kinds of time travel. More specifically that there are only two kinds that work and make sense without leaving giant gaping holes in the stories. Now I’m going to spin-off into an examination of dimensions…
The Big Bang
If you ignore the faith-based beliefs that the Universe just sprang into existence when a deity willed it to be, then you pretty much have to accept the theory of the Big Bang, that everything exploded out of “something”. For a while, science and science fiction grasped on to the idea that eventually at some point down the line, the Universe would stop expanding and would begin to contract. People really like this idea because it lends itself into a nice loop. Everything racing back together, getting faster and faster, exceeding the speed of light, warping back in time billions and billions of years and then exploding again. The end is the beginning.
Assuming a warping of space and time, it isn’t hard to jump to the idea that when the Big Bang happens again that it doesn’t have to be exactly the same. In one way of looking at it each version of the Universe is happening in sequence. The end of Universe 1 is the beginning of Universe 2, and end of U 2 is the beginning of U 3, and U 3 to U 4 and so on. Thanks to the warping of time and space, however, you can get to the idea that these Universes are also happening simultaneously but somehow out of phase with each other. This conjures up the idea of wonderful strangeness, like in our Universe there are nine planets (Pluto, I’ll never let you go) but in one of our neighbors, X-1 or X+1, there are ten and due to some sort of anomaly, that tenth planet occasionally influences or even crosses over into our Universe. Your keys weren’t sitting on the table the whole time you were looking, they had actually slipped into X-1 but found their way back eventually.
Now we have evidence that the expansion of the Universe isn’t slowing, and may even be speeding up. It’s hard to tell what is going on with all the dark matter out there and whatnot.
But how does an examination of dimensions of this sort relate to time travel? You have to stop thinking so three dimensionally. What if the Big Bang wasn’t just a simple explosion, but instead ripped right through space and time. Now you have Universe 1 beginning, and then a tiny fraction of a second later Universe 1 sub 1 begins. A tiny fraction later Universe 1 sub 2 begins, and U 1 sub 3 shortly after, and U 1 sub 4, and so on. And infinite number of Universes trailing behind us through time. And since we are just as likely to not be the first Universe as we are to be it, there are an infinite number of Universes extending out in front of us as well.
Now, when you travel through time, you aren’t really. You are simply jumping to another copy of our own Universe. Jumping forward in time by one hour is actually sliding to a Universe that began exactly as ours did but an hour out of alignment.
The very first time that I thought about this was when I was watching the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. In it, Rufus explains to them that no matter what they do or where they go, they have to keep an eye on their watch because the time in San Dimas is always moving forward. This is because the phone booth isn’t actually travelling in time, it is sliding between dimensions where the intended time is happening “right now” and when they return to their own dimension if they’ve been gone for an hour it will be an hour since they left. Time marches on, so to speak. The only real problem with that theory as far as the movie is concerned is Rufus’ stated reason for being there. His mission would appear to be a closed loop (he’s going back in time to help them with their report because he did go back in time to help them with their report that they almost failed), but then you get the paradox of how that loop got started. It would have to be that a Rufus (or someone) from a Universe that didn’t have a successful Bill & Ted pinpointed the need for them to pass the history exam 700 years prior (or however long they needed) and traveled to the appropriate world to fix it, then returned home to live in his unacceptable world (or maybe he didn’t go home). In that world, 700 years later, Rufus climbs into a time machine in a perfectly excellent world to go back 700 years to ensure it still happens… or rather, that it happens for someone else. So either lots more cross Universe communication is happening, or only one world every 700 years gets to be excellent. In a manner of speaking.
Of course, the second movie completely throws that out the window with all the jumping forward and backward and delivering items to themselves.
But assuming the Echoes theory is true, it means that you can’t change your past or future. You can only change the worlds offset from your own, and in order for your world to change an offset you needs to be the instigator of change.
No matter what, thinking about time travel this much will probably give me an aneurysm.
One thing I am a big proponent of is building games to have one single world server. The simple reason for this is illustrated by every single game that doesn’t do it. I play, then find out some of the people I work with or chat with on message board or whatever play on another server. Usually we have just one option, someone has to start over. Although, more and more games are allowing server transfers… for a price.
However, I do understand the limitations of many games to support a single world environment. Imagine World of Warcraft with only a single world… the lag would be unbearable. Outside of the sheer population problems, one world means you need to actually develop more content in order to spread people out and keep it from being bland, unless you go with a 100% group/raid instanced world.
As an alternative to trying to cram everything on to one world server, I think what I would like to see is an in-game acknowledgement of multiple worlds (or shards, if you prefer) with a method to allow players to move between those worlds.
Lets take WoW as an example. Put in an NPC in each major city who wanders around like a crazy homeless person muttering about the multiverse. Give him a quest, where the player needs to gather a few simple items (a gemstone of some kind, a few other things, nothing rare, all common drops cheaply obtained, maybe some food for the crazy guy as well). Upon bringing the items, the NPC gives a second quest and sends the player to a room where they take the items gathered (reconfigured by the NPC) to an obelisk, opens a dialog with a list of all the servers, they pick one and hit Complete Quest. *poof* The player is logged out to character selection where the character they just chose to transfer now has a listed status of “Travelling to [insert server name here]…” The transfer takes somewhere between 3 to 10 days to take effect. That last part is there to discourage people from transferring back and forth alot.
Maybe even throw in a part about how the shifting between worlds is rough, and the character will lose all items not tightly bound to their souls (i.e. – droppable items and money are gone, oh, and the bank is going to give your stuff to Goodwill after a few days so you lose that too), if you fear transfers will hurt the game economy. And of course, the devs could exclude servers that are new (if that is desirable) or already over populated (but if you give players the ability to leave crowded servers, doesn’t overcrowding become their problem?), and even provide a glimpse into the interdimensional pathways (a count of server populations including the number of characters queued for transfer).
I guess what I’m saying is, at this point in time, a game that launches should have, from day one, a way to easily transfer characters (at the very least from the DBA point of view) since the games that have come before have shown that players desire it. I know in some cases, making this player controlled would eliminate a revenue stream from the company, but maybe instead they just add twenty-five cents to the monthly fee they were planning to charge. Besides, if they build it into the game from the get go, it means they don’t have to pay someone to run character transfers later.
It has been a very long time since I read through the 1985 DC Comics event, but last year Marv Wolfman decided to write a novelization of the comic. Crisis on Infinite Earths tells the same tale of the original comic, only this time largely from the point of view of Barry Allen, The Flash.
If you’ve read the original, or if you read the first chapter of this book, you know from the get-go that Barry Allen dies. If you have followed The Flash comics since the original Crisis series, you also know that Barry didn’t really die so much as join the Speed Force (well, first he skipped off into the future, had a couple kids with his wife, Iris, and then permanently joined with the Speed Force, but that’s not really important right now). So from the first pages you know Barry is dead, but somehow and for some reason, the Monitor and the Speed Force are keeping him around in some sort of super accellerated ghost state. Appearantly he has something important to do.
The story is fairly confusing as it leaps from Earth to Earth and through time all over the place telling you things out of order and upside-down. But the snippets are still interesting, and the end of the book ties everything together nicely, adding a new dimension to the old comic book without destroying it.
If you liked the original Crisis, then I recommend this book.
However, I do have one complaint. The original series was published in 1985. This book was published in 2005. Twenty years. Alot has changed in those twenty years, and Marv lets slip in a number of current and recent pop culture references that simply didn’t exist then. Then again, comics have always been a very weird art form since their characters tend not to age while their world usually stays fairly up to date with the times, so I can overlook it a bit but I strongly feel that every one of those references could have been removed form the book and it would have worked just fine. It didn’t need pop culture. Still, it was a good read.