“Neighbor” mechanic for new kind of MMO gameplay and anti-RMT

I realized two things about massively multiplayer games: they are mostly clones and making a different game is not trivial. I mean most MMOs have the WoW standard gameplay with different lore and art. SWTOR, LOTRO and practically all titles I can think of are: “kill mobs for quests, do dungeons with others, do positive-sum structured PvP, improve gear, get achievements, do crafting…” There is nothing I can do in one that I cannot do with another, they have merely different visuals and flavor texts.

In this post I’m talking about player-player interaction models and found the following:

  • Parallel (WoW): you quest next to each other but not together. You earn rewards and progression merely by playing by yourself. If you do group content, you get your own personal, soulbound rewards when the boss dies.
  • Trading (Black Desert): you can exchange rewards for currency with other players. (The anti-RMT fixed prices are not theoretically relevant).
  • Trading + PvP (EVE): you can exchange rewards with players or take them by force, causing progression loss for the other player

Every MMO fits into the three models. I now offer a fourth that opens up a very different kind of gameplay and design, the “neighbor model”. The idea is that players control their own areas (may they be kingdoms, islands, planets, ethereal planes or whatnot). They can only interact with their neighbors and not with players with further areas. May it be trading or hostile raid into their lands, you can only play with or against with these players.

The main benefit would be consistent playing with certain other players who are distributed randomly when land is assigned to players. You can’t just grab whatever random you can find on LFG, you are stuck with a neighbor and you must make something out of the situation via diplomacy, trading offers or warfare. You can’t just shrug and find another player.

The secondary benefit would be full trading without the risk of RMT. A goldseller could only sell gold to his neighbors who are randomly chosen and most likely are not interested in offers. This allows a wide range of cooperative play without the risk of the whole thing comes down to “who has more money to give to botters”.

There would be multiple downsides of course:

  • An inactive neighbor is a burden if you need his resources. The game must quickly remove and replace inactive players to allow their neighbors to progress. This is a problem for on-and-off players, imagine leaving your game for a month and find that your lands are taken and you must start from the beginning.
  • The above is even bigger problem if the population shrinks, which is unavoidable after the launch hype. If more players quit/go inactive than new players arrive to replace them, the game has no choice than to relocate players at the edges to fill holes in the middle. This can break immersion if done with assets teleported, unfairly resets progression if not.
  • A toxic neighbor is even more of a burden. Imagine if all your neighbors are active but are not interested in trading with you because you are a woman, Trump supporter, gay, Chinese or whatever out-of-game dislike. You can’t progress and must delete your progression, starting over somewhere else, hoping for a better situation.
  • Playing with real life friends is limited. While it’s probably not a big deal to implement a “place us together” feature for players who start together, finding a spot next to an existing player can be impossible. You can’t just evict his neighbor to make space. Also, placing a new player next to an established one can be enabling RMT.

So obviously such game would not be for everybody. But as I wrote, game developers must aim for niches instead of competing with existing titles, where they will most definitely lose.

Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

7 thoughts on ““Neighbor” mechanic for new kind of MMO gameplay and anti-RMT”

  1. So, basically: “The secondary benefit would be full trading without the risk of RMT.”

    No, that’s not the secondary benefit, that’s the only benefit. Everything else in there is really a negative. And it’s only a “benefit” for abusers of the game’s “economy.” For everyone else it means they can’t trade what they have for what they want unless, magically, they have a neighbor that has what they need. The only way to have this work is to put complementary play areas next to each other, I.E. Your forest kingdom produces lots of trees, but the neighboring mountain kingdom produces lots of ore, thus forcing interaction between you. But wait, what about hides? Is there a player forced to have a plains kingdom next to both of you?

    This concept, that of forcing interaction, simply doesn’t work.

    No, the bettor solution is to eliminate “economic players” by treating them the same as you would botters if you could. Oh! Botters are easy to eliminate! Just eliminate the reason for botting, which is economic players.

    How to fix this: Eliminate all fungible currencies that can be stored in essentially unlimited quantities. That’s it. It’s that simple. No gold, no silver, no gems, no credits, none of that. Basically, you collect stuff, then the only way to get rid of it is to trade it for other stuff, convert it into more complicated, but soulbound stuff through a transformation process, (Crafting, Alchemy, etc.) or destroy it to make room.

    You can still trade, and you need to, as everything you have is limited to your inventory capability, with “unique” items (I.E. high value items) being soulbound. If you have wood and need ore, you just look at the current “prices” for wood and ore, then trade as much of your wood you need to trade for as much ore as you want to have. You don’t even need a “player” to trade with, any npc broker can materialize the ore out of the void, and sent the wood into the same void instantaneously based on values calculated from previous transactions.

    Of course, by eliminating these fungible currencies, you eliminate a huge revenue stream needed by the AAA developers, promoting niche titles.

    You also eliminate the “Play forever” play style promoted by these same AAA developers. If you get to the point where you can’t trade what you have for what you need because you can’t transform anything you can get into stuff because you already have it, you’ve won. Time to quit playing that game.

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  2. @Smokeman: no. The primary benefit is making interaction with certain players regular. In current MMOs the players are totally interchangeable which defeats the point of MMOs. I could replace everyone in a WoW server with a well-written bot and the only player wouldn’t notice.

    The only players who actually play together are real life friends, but in the age of social media that’s not a selling point.

    I wish to create a game where other players are – like in a table-top game – present as humans and you need to interact with them for progression.

    (meaningful) trading in games means that the optimal way of getting in-game wealth is RMT (token or illicit) for players with meaningful income. No matter what feature EVE introduces, average players have no reason to play it because they can buy all the rewards for the price of a coffee. The only solution so far is no (meaningful) trading, however that stops any other form of meaningful cooperation (you can’t give gifts to your friend either in World of Warships, he has to grind it out on his own). The neighbor idea would fix it.

    This doesn’t mean forced interaction, just encouraged. I mean all kingdoms would have ores, hides and trees, but the forest can find good trees fast for high lumber output while the desert player must travel a lot to find some dessicated hulks. He can progress though alone, but it’s better to trade.

    Removing currency would not help at all, people (including RMT-ers) would just barter. Please note that Diablo2 currency was worthless and people traded items measured in Soj of Jordan rings.

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  3. “Removing currency would not help at all, people (including RMT-ers) would just barter. Please note that Diablo2 currency was worthless and people traded items measured in Soj of Jordan rings.”

    Replacing currency with another currency solves nothing. That’s why:
    “with “unique” items (I.E. high value items) being soulbound.”

    Almost no one would use, for example: “PeaceBloom”, a level 1 herb in WoW as a currency because it’s ubiquitously available and occupies a lot of inventory slots to have any value at all. It would only have any “value” if it was not in any demand. As soon as it became a “currency”, demand would shoot up and value would drop like a stone.

    And:

    “I wish to create a game where other players are – like in a table-top game – present as humans and you need to interact with them for progression.” Right. Forced interaction. Why not require players in team based PvP games like WoWs to be on actual teams, too? It’s a TEAM game, none of this random groups that you just throw away later, right?

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  4. Clearly, we have a complete difference of opinion here:
    “(meaningful) trading in games means that the optimal way of getting in-game wealth is RMT (token or illicit) for players with meaningful income.”

    The crucial term here is “trading.” You apparently see it as a way to accumulate wealth. But “accumulation of wealth” is the exact opposite of what character progression games needs. Hell, why not keep all the money you earned in Monopoly to use in the next game?

    As such, that’s not (meaningful) trading, that’s abusing the economy. There is no “trading game” possible in there without leading to abuse, just as there is no “character automation” game in there that doesn’t lead to botting.

    To be fair, I like the idea of a game where you only need to interact with a few people you like. But “need” and “have to” are completely different things, and “have to” becomes “forced” very quickly.

    “…all kingdoms would have ores, hides and trees, but the forest can find good trees fast for high lumber output while the desert player must travel a lot to find some dessicated hulks.” So, forced rarity to force interaction. Yeah, that won’t end badly for anyone but the guy willing to have many accounts and focus on the forced, abusive trade relationships that maximize wealth.

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  5. @Smokeman: I don’t see why “forced interaction” is bad. Every game forces you to face challenges.

    Multiboxing in a “neighbor” game can be limited greatly by limiting the amount of “friends” you can spawn with, randomizing neighbors. Having an alt 3 kingdoms away doesn’t help the main.

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  6. Problems you mention are solvable.
    You could for example make the realms to be connected by portals instead of solid land mass. By controlling how the portals connect game devs could alliviate most problems. For example two sided upkeep or portals reset connecting somewhere else. Maybe 1 to 2 slots for portals that you can ‘choose’ the connection to make you able to play with friends, but still stop RMT as you can’t make distribution network with 2 slots. The reset speed of portals should be relative to game speed, most likely from days to months.

    Other idea would be for example flying islands to keep the neighbourhood ‘physically clustered’ or what ever the term is for neighbours sharing their neighbours. The problems could be solved by the islands drifting semi uncontrollable causing the neighbourhood slowly change. They could make for example ‘inactive ring’, longer you are the inactive the father you drift to outer ring with other inactives.

    Both of these cause the lack of ‘total war’ as you could eventually disconnect from the other player in case you are losing. Causing the warfare be more raiding or skirmish type. This could be bad or good thing depending on game and players personal position.

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  7. Take a look at Starborne (some ex-CCP among developers) – it might be like what you describe here.
    Game is very niche, I liked the concept, but I don’t think it will really bloom.
    The problems are what you describe here – neighbors inactivity and limited action. Also it is kinda slow, which might be partially because of concept too.

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