Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thought: “Lived-in” Worlds

Solo players in MMOs point out that they enjoy MMOs because the world feels like people are living in it. Much different than the boring worlds in single-player games, all of those other characters, (probably) with people at their controls, add a certain vibrancy that can’t be found in all those NPCs that stand around all day and repeat themselves to anyone nearby.

Imagine this: A game has AI that can play as effectively as human players. As far as you can tell, humans are at the helms of all these characters—they simply don’t talk much. Would your MMO soloing desires be filled by this game?

Could we create worlds that feel lived-in within single-player (or multiplayer non-massive) games that would then capture a sizable part of World of Warcraft’s market?

15 comments:

Verilazic said...

I doubt it. While that may satisfy some people, they'd recognize it as yet another illusion. I think what a lot of people crave is the social aspect, or at least the potential for it.

I think instead of making an AI to give the illusion of a lived in world, you might be better off simply making a single-player game, and then linking it to something like Facebook, to allow players to chat and socialize while playing. Then again, maybe that would have too many limitations as well.

Spinks said...

Probably. Remember that trick Spore used? You could introduce species that had been created by other players. That's one way to have a world of your own, but some indirect interaction with other players. You could probably do something similar with an auction house.

Hirvox said...

Whenever an RPG introduces characters that actually do more than stand around and give quests, players do notice. Those little touches do add up quickly until you start to stare down into the uncanny valley. Eventually, players are going to do something that the developers didn't think of, and then the illusion is shattered forever.

But the mere existence of the uncanny valley shouldn't be an excuse not to try. Personally, I would love it if NPCs would have the AI of the Sims. Likewise, if I wasted enough time, their settlement would eventually wither away due to whatever threat that's ailing them.

Drevarius said...

I'm thinking of the server demands of running NPCs with that much AI script and doubt that it would be currently feasible.

It's definately something that could be inspired to, as it would be addition to gameplay.

I suppose it depends on how interactive and unique you would want the NPCs to be. You could create an array of similar NPCs and run similar scripting methods for them, but processing each script would still tax the servers. Maybe you could do it in an MMO with very few NPCs and choose quality over quantity?

Jayedub said...

That's one reason why I love Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Sure all the npc's start to look and sound the same, but more immersive than an mmo.

Norzemen said...

Ala Matrix? Perhaps, but they will be subhuman and reviled creating a subclass. Ultimately these AI NPCs will rebel and then we will be asking the opposite. Should games include real players or just AI?

evizaer said...

Players only pollute game worlds with inconsistency, exploitation, and idiocy anyway. I'm all for removing them. I've never met a player that I've liked.

motstandet said...

YOU LIKE ME!

evizaer said...

Oh... I didn't tell you about the accident...

Jason said...

People always say they want a world to feel alive, but then demand it not to be. Back in the original EverQuest and its first few expansions, there were NPCs in towns who wandered, or disappeared during certain times of day, and the forums were filled with bitching about not being able to find them.

People want a world to be alive and dynamic until it impedes them "winning". That's why they want players to be around them, but not to actually need them for anything.

Kevin Serafini said...

I think its an interesting idea. When I first starting playing WoW way back when (2005), I played solitaire most of the time. The only time that I grouped was for instances and group quests. I like the game because the world was huge and fairly non-linear (at least compared to most single player RPGs).

Even now, as a member of a guild, most of my time is spent solo. I'm into raiding, so I group mainly to do heroics and to PVP. Most of my social interaction is through chat.

I do think that you need lots of real people to create a viable economy. The WoW economy changes all the time and is quite interesting. I don't think that you could create something like that without lots of people.

kalkyrie said...

Well DDO has 'hirelings', which are basically AI controlled players. Not as smart as people, and they had to build in work-arounds if they got stuck in the dungeon.

They are a useful aid to soloing, or if I get a group of people and no healer, an AI healbot is a short click away.

Jason said...

"I do think that you need lots of real people to create a viable economy. The WoW economy changes all the time and is quite interesting. I don't think that you could create something like that without lots of people."

You could do that with a "Passively" Multiplayer Game. Every player is playing a solo RPG, when they sell items to NPC merchants that data gets sent to a central server, processed, and then spit back to players affecting what and at what prices the NPC merchants are selling across all games.

Not what we are used to, but might be something worth looking into to make solo games more dynamic without having to make them multiplayer or develop AI/economy algorithms to do it individually for a single player.

Dblade said...

What's interesting Evi is that it already has been tried. The .hack series for the playstation 2 tried to simulate a MMO in the form of an offline RPG. They did so to the point of making a desktop, complete with changable wallpaper and email client, and even forums and news sites.

In the game, you had a lot of simulation: you had NPC players running around that you could trade with or talk to, and they would mimic what human players did-running to the item shop, going and using a chaos gate to reach the playfield, and even sometimes showing up in it as part of a party. Hack GU even had a pvp arena.

The series failed a bit because it wasn't too good of a play experience. It was as grindy as a real MMO, and repetitive. But it did try to fake the MMO experience.

Tesh said...

Incidentally, I played through a bit of the Death Knight starting questline, and the "liveliness" of the little town under siege and the marauding undead went a LONG way to making the game world feel "alive". To be honest, it felt more like an interesting world than puttering around Ironforge.

I think it's telling that most players treat other players as NPCs until they do something unpredictable and/or annoying. Even in real life, we tend to treat tellers and other drivers as NPCs rather than see them as other people. Those who are one step further down the interaction chain, like the power line guys or the farmers who harvest the food we eat, are even closer to NPCs.