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Thursday, June 22, 2006

What is a good game? Part VIII

Last time we started discussing how our PvE, or player vs. environment, system will work. Specifically we spoke about the AI system our NPCs, or mobs, will be using during combat. We also mentioned our “mob feelings” or fame/infamy system a little; we shall expand upon that more in this article.

Every NPC in Ilyrias will hold feelings towards you whether they like or dislike you. This will be determined by many different things, such as quests and combat. It will also affect many quests, as well as having a large effect on the AI system used for combat.

While fighting an NPC, they will start to dislike you more and more. Something that really upsets them is healing people that they are fighting, and rightly so. This aspect is fairly obvious, and there isn’t too much to it. For those of you that have played World of Warcraft, you should recognize this type of system.

Certain quests can also effect how an NPC feels towards you, obviously handing a man his dead son would not make him like you. Rescuing the princess would probably make most of the people in that kingdom have strong feelings for you. Depending on an NPCs feelings for you, quests could open up (or be cut off) and prices could raise/lower in certain areas. If the majority of a village or city dislike you, you might find yourself branded an enemy and thereby cut off from most activities. In the same light, by doing things to make the people feel better towards you, you could end up an ally and receive discounted prices in their stores.

We mentioned that this plays into PvE combat right? If an NPC REALLY likes you, they will basically ignore you in a room. That is of course unless you start beating on them. If they decide to change their main target, the more they dislike you, the more they will choose to target you. If you’ve made it on to their personal “kill on sight” list, not only will they ALWAYS target you, they will attack you on sight (even if they are not normally aggressive).

We feel these types of systems will help make a more immersive world, and therefore a more enjoyable game. By making your actions have a profound effect on how NPCs react to, and treat, you things should be far more dynamic and interesting. Now NPCs are not mere punching bags, but they are almost living beings. Of course, this fame and infamy system only affects sentient beings.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

What is a good game? Part VII

In our last few articles we have been discussing player vs. player combat in Ilyrias. In the next few articles we will be discussing PvE or bashing.

In Ilyrias NPCs, or mobs, will be far more intelligent than in other games. We have designed an AI system that allows them to smartly choose which attacks to use, instead of random as most games use. We have also design a “mob feelings” or fame/infamy system which will play a part of this, but that will be discussed in our next article.

In most games bashing, or leveling, is a fairly boring task. NPCs attack randomly and there is little strategy involved. You just keep attacking and healing yourself as needed. Since leveling is such an important aspect in most MMO games, we feel it should also be an interesting aspect of the game. Thus we have designed an AI system to help make our sentient creatures smarter. Non-sentient creatures, such as most animals, will not use this system, making them easier to slay.

The way it works is fairly simple, an NPC will look at its’ past five attacks and predetermine which type of attack is best. Attacks are categorized as multiple or single target, as well as damage or affliction based. Based on the last five attacks, the system will choose which would be the most likely next attack. After this, they will build a list of each attack that the NPC can use.

After having a list of all attacks possible, and a predetermination of attack style, the system will compile a list of people that are in the room. The more people in the room, the more likely they will be to use a multiple target attack. Right after this step, they will make a choice if they wish to choose a new “main target.” This choice is based of the NPCs feelings towards you, that fame/infamy system we will be discussing later. Obviously the more they hate you, the more they will target you.

After we have a list of attacks and a main target, the system will attempt (but not always accurately) to assess the main targets status. How many afflictions they have, how low their health/mental strength is and what race the main target is, are all taken into consideration. If the NPC correctly “remembers” that your race, or what race you appear to be, is weak against fire attacks that will make them be more likely to use a fire based attack.

After all of these considerations, and a couple more we won’t mention, the NPC looks at what attacks it has left to use. It then chooses one of those, based on a weight we gave to them at creation (bigger the attack, the lower its weight for fairness). This system, in testing, has increased a sentient NPCs difficulty by AT LEAST 50%. Thus we have made it so sentient creatures also give 50% more experience when killed.

As you can see, we have taken many steps to try and make one of the most basic MMO features a bit more interesting. In our next article we will explain how our mob feelings, or fame and infamy, system will make things even more dynamic.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What is a good game? Part VI

Thus far we have discussed many aspects of how player versus player combat leads to a better game. In this article we will look at the last remaining part, afflictions and curing them.

For those that dont know, afflictions are a main aspect of our system. Afflictions can slow your opponent down, increase your damage against them over time, or give a very short lived boost to any damaging attacks. Curing them normally involves the use of some herbs, potions, salves, or skills.

In other affliction based PvP combat systems, such as Achaea, you eat an herb and the affliction is instantly cured. You then wait a few seconds before you can eat another herb. In our attempts to add more depth and options to our world, we have decided to change this basic system slightly.

In Ilyrias there will be two types of herbs. One is like the above example, eat it and be healed instantly. The second type has a delay of one to two seconds before curing, but the recovery time is lowered. This means if you need to heal something right away, you can eat the first type of herbs. If that affliction isnt too serious, or you are being hit with many afflictions, you can opt for the delayed cure. By using the delayed cure, you will be able to eat a second herb in a shorter time span.

We feel this small change to our combat system will have a fairly large effect on how people view player vs. player combat in Ilyrias. By giving you this choice, we are adding depth, without increasing the difficulty of getting into combat. You could always choose to ignore the second type of herb, and only pick the instant curing ones. We believe those that embrace this change, and really learn when to cure what; will gain an advantage of those that only use the instant cure style herbs.

This will be the end of our discussions on player vs. player combat. In our next addition we will begin to look at some of the ways we have made bashing, or leveling, more interesting. The major change is the AI system we have added, as well as the NPC feelings. Players will begin to gain fame and infamy, much like some of the larger graphical games, such as Oblivion, have done.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What is a good game, Part V

We briefly mentioned follow-up attacks in our last article, but what are they? They are another element of PvP and PvE, or bashing, combat. Another addition, that we feel adds more depth to combat without making it too complex to learn the basics.

A follow-up attack is an attack that naturally does well after a previous one. For example, a back-fist after a roundhouse punch or a fire based attack after an ice based attack. How do we incorporate this into Ilyrias?

As an expansion off the minor balance that we discussed in our last article, follow-up attacks come with risks. Any attack made on minor balance will always have an increased balance time, and normally an increased chance to miss. Follow-up attacks are a bit different, but they still have the increased balance time. Let’s look at our back-fist and roundhouse punch example in more detail.

A normal punch might do 60 damage, with a balance time of 3 seconds. A normal back-fist might do 40 damage with a 2.5 second balance. As you can see, the punch is always better to use, more damage over time. A back-fist is designated as a follow-up attack for punch, but how do we use it and what does it change? If my last attack was punch, and I’m currently on minor balance (that last second of balance time), I can choose to wait one second or attack again. If I choose to attack with back-fist, the balance time increases to 3 seconds but the damage also increases to 80! Now by back-fist is BETTER than my punch.

Now, to add another level to our combat, we have anti follow-up attacks, things that just don’t work well together. To use our example with punches, back-fist is a poor follow-up for a back-fist. If I were to do a back-fist after a back-fist, and on minor balance, it would still increase the balance time to 3 seconds. The damage would be LOWERED to around 20, not a very effective attack.

You won’t know which attacks are good follow-ups for what, some we will tell you though. For the bulk of the attacks, you will need to discover it on your own. To give you a hint though, they will be logical and the attack messages for them will change if it was a good follow-up or a bad follow-up.

As you can see, this part of combat is something one could just completely ignore. The more advanced fighters will take the time needed to learn how to utilize this aspect to overpower their opponents. Another aspect of combat that we really hope will add depth and enjoyment over all.

Come back for Part VI where we will be discussing how curing of afflictions will work in the world of Ilyrias.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

What is a good game, Part IV

In our last article we started to get into how PvP, or PK, factors into a good game. Over the next few articles we will expand upon that aspect more. In this article we will be focusing on balance and equilibrium.

In any good PvP system, it should be relatively easy to get into, but difficult to master. We have tried to incorporate this into our world. One factor of that is how to handle players actually killing each other.

There are a few different ways that games handle combat, such as the D&D style turn based system. Here at Persistent Realms, we prefer the balance style combat system. In a balance based system each attack you make takes a few seconds of balance. When you regain balance you can attack again. Many systems break this balance into Left Arm, Right Arm and Leg balance with Equilibrium added in for magical or mental attacks. We have also decided to go with this system, but have expanded upon it a little more.

We have added in the concept of minor and major balance, which allows for more flexibility and choices in combat. Minor balance is actually part of your Major balance, the last one second to be exact. If you have used your Major balance, you cannot attack or move; you must wait to regain it. If you are on Minor balance (that last second of balance), you can attempt to move with a chance of tripping. You can also choose to attack again, with a high chance to miss and increased major balance time. The exception to this rule is follow-up attacks, special attacks that naturally come after another one (for example a back-fist nicely follows up after a roundhouse punch), but that is a discussion for another article.

What does this mean to PvP combat? For the novice, they can just ignore the minor balance. For the advanced fighter, they can embrace this new addition and learn how to best use it to their advantage. Perhaps you are close to death, but you know your opponent is close to death as well. Using that minor balance, you could either choose to run, or run the risk of missing in an attempt to slay them before they can hit you again.

Another addition is that of Power Balance, which is a special kind of balance and is not affected by any others. Certain powerful moves will utilize this balance, in addition to normal balance/equilibrium. The only effect this has is that you cannot use another power move until you regain your Power balance. We are hoping this will add another dynamic to combat, while again keeping it simple enough to learn the basics.

In our next article we will expand upon the follow-up attacks, and how they will affect PvP, or PK, combat. Our goal is to add depth, without making it too complex for a novice to learn. This is not an easy feat to do, but we feel things like this accomplish that goal for our combat system.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What is a good game, Part III

Welcome to part three of our discussion on “what makes a good game.” Last time we discussed how an extensive skill system, can help foster role-playing and allow players to stay true to their characters, while still changing their individual skills. In this article we will be discussing our “dodge” system, and how it will help curb excessive player killing.

PvP can be a very good addition to generate more role-playing but it can also kill it. Then of course there is the issue with players "grieving" or repeatedly killing one person. Some places, such as Achaea, have gone to an almost lawyer like system to handle this... something no player enjoys, nor do we really want to deal with. Other games, such as Lusternia, have come up with a mechanical system, hard coded, to try and deal with excessive PK. It was good, in theory, but proved to be almost impossible to really control things as planned.

Keeping those two things in mind; we designed our "dodge" system. The way it works is fairly simple, and based off real combat. The more you fight someone, the more you learn the little "quirks" in their fighting. For example, your opponent might raise his elbow before striking with that arm. A good fighter will notice this, and use it to his advantage. All of our players are considered "good" fighters for this purpose.

As you fight against someone, you will gain "dodge points" against them, slowing increasing your chance of dodging their attacks. Over time these "dodge points" will decay, and if you kill that person you will instantly lose all of them. If someone kills you, you will gain a substantial amount of "dodge points" against them, in addition to anything you gained during the fight. We feel this type of system is more flexible than other more arbitrary systems. It does allow you to kill the same person more than once, but it will become increasingly harder. Not only does it serve to curb unneeded player killing, but it adds another dynamic to combat!

Stay tuned for the next article in this series, where we will be discussing more about how our combat system will help make Ilyrias the best game around.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

What is a good game, Part II

In our last post, we discussed some of the role playing aspects that make a game good. In this part we will start to take a look at what aspects of combat make for a good game, specifically role playing and combat.

Many games PvP combat, or PK, is either a side thought or the only thought. In Ilyrias it is a major aspect of the world, but not the only one. The problem with this kind of system lies in how does one produce a combat driven world, but still keep role playing as a major aspect? At first glance that seems simple, but when you actually look deeper it turns out to be not so easy. Players are competitive by nature, and many times will give up other aspects of a game just to "win" it. That means role playing often gets kicked to the side, just so one can become the best combatant.

There are a few ways that we have tried to correct this, all gleamed from our experiences in other games.

The first is how to fix what is known as "guild hopping." In many, if not most, games your skills are broken up based on what guild or class you are in. Doing this has many advantages, such as easier to keep combat balanced, but has some down sides. The major downside is that players will often switch to the guild they "think" is the most powerful. Not all players, but those that are highly into combat will often give up the role play of their character in order to achieve the most "combat power."

How to fix that? Well as we mentioned in our previous post, we don't have guilds and classes in the traditional sense. Every player will have 13 "skill slots." Ten will be for "general" skills, and three more for "professional" skills. Doing it in this way is obviously harder to balance, but allows players to keep within the character they have designed, and still switch their skills around as they wish. An extensive skill system, or classless system, like this should not only help keep people true to their characters, but also foster more role-playing opportunities by allowing you to make the character you always wanted.

Keep an eye out for our next article where we will be discussing our system to help curb excessive player killing, and help keep PvP within the realms of role-playing.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What is a good game?

What makes a game a good one? There are many schools of thought on this, but only one thing really matters. What do the players think?

At Persistent Realms we're looking at many different things that factor into a good game. The problem is everyone has a different idea of what's fun and good. Some are really into the role-playing side of a game. Others just love combat, while others are all about the "bashing." How do you fit those all together, to make something that anyone can enjoy?

First we looked at other popular games, both in our genre and outside of it. What do they have that is good? What could be done better?

Let's look at role-playing first.

IRE games are very popular for text based Muds. What do they do to foster role-playing? In the old days, they had great events, with different outcomes based on player choices. These are great, but take a lot of work and slowly events there turned into more of a book that you just HAD to follow. We will stick to the old ways, as events with multiple outcomes and flexibility are just more fun.

Another thing they did well is the politics system, which only a few other games have had this. Ah, but there are flaws in that. A single player could easily abuse their position, making it almost impossible to remove them from office. There is also a lack of options; every government is basically the same. We decided that we too will have player run governments, but with more checks and balances like a real life government. So while you could have a city leader, there is also a city council that can "veto" that leader's actions. Then we looked at how hard it is for someone to be removed, if they get control over the council. In real life we have revolts, why can't a game have them too? So we put in place a revolt system that, while hard to pull off, would lead to a complete change of government. After a revolt the government style could be changed as well. Instead of every city using the same government style, we also implemented things such as dictatorships where the council just doesn't exist. Some cities may prefer this method, if the dictator is good, others would revolt against it choosing another style. All told we have around eight very different styles for governments.

Another issue, related to politics, that we sought to change is the fact that no new cities are born without the administration coding them in. To solve this, we implemented a system where players can actually build their own cities! The requirements to do so are extremely high, and it still has to go through the administration via a form of city charter. As long as the city has enough players backing, and has a role-playing reason to exist, it goes in. That brought up the issue of adding rooms to cities. The solution was simple; add in construction based trade skills for players to take. A city that wants to expand can contact these construction workers (which are fellow players) to build additions to their city. That construction worker would not only need the required in game materials, but also submit a work permit for approval. The reason for the permit is so the administration can change, and fix if needed, the descriptions for these new "rooms." Obviously keeping a high standard of writing is needed, we don't want new people to be seeing poorly written and misspelled descriptions.

So we've got some of those aspects covered, what about the individual player? Most players prefer to be as flexible in their choices as possible, yet most games force them to fit into "cookie cutter" molds of races and classes or guilds. This tends to lead to "guild hopping" where a player moves around to different guilds, just to play with different skills. That harms the over all role-playing of a game, as it isn't easy to explain why John the patron of all that is good and holy, suddenly joins the thieves guild, then a few months later is an elemental mage. Easy solution, give the players what they want!

While we will have set lists of races that fit our world, we've decided that statistics won't be set in stone. Each race will have a list of advantages and disadvantages, with those you get what you get. Other than that, the main mechanics for races would be their physical and mental statistics. Those are easily more flexible. What we decided to do is give each race a set base statistics and then give players an additional 10 points to divide as they wish. What's that? That will just lead to people giving themselves super high strength? You're right, they could do that, but they will have painfully low agility causing them to be hit more often. Then they will also have a painfully low constitution giving them a very weak body. Sure, they can hit hard, but they also fall down a lot faster. We also put the maximum starting for any statistic at 18, meaning that if Ogres have a base strength of 16, you can only put up to 2 more points into your strength.

That leaves us with skills, everyone loves skills right? Remember that we said most games seem to fit you into a "cookie cutter" mold, called class? That just doesn't seem to fit with what most players want; they want choices. Our skills are divided into two types, general and professional. Professional skills could be combat or trade related. We give you the ability to choose which general and which professional skills you want to take. Some skills may require that you have another skill already, or that you don't have a certain skill. Then to top it off, some skills will have branches. For example Spirituality can only be trained half way. After you reach that half way point, you must choose which branch you want to focus on. For Spirituality there will be a general branch that anyone can take, and then if you are in a religious sect there may be another branch based off that sect's beliefs and teachings. We feel that, while harder to balance, this level of customization will allow each player to design the character that THEY want to play. Oh yeah, there are 10 general skill slots and 3 professional skill slots.

To add even more customization to your character, we have designed and implemented a skill effectiveness system. This system is something we've never seen in another game, at least not in the way we have done it. Some games that do have an effectiveness system, meaning your abilities get stronger the more you use them, choose to use just that. We have chosen to use both skill sets, as described above, and effectiveness to add an extreme level of customization. So, how does it work? Pretty simple really, each ability in a skill set is given a type. Types could be things like "forging", "active offence" or "healing." The more you use one ability, the stronger that ability gets. At the same time, though much slower, other abilities of that type get weaker. This allows you to choose your "favorite" abilities of each type, and make them extremely strong at the cost of other abilities. It is possible to become extremely strong in almost every ability, but it's no easy task.

Those are just a few of the considerations and choices we have made, in an attempt to make a more dynamic game. We feel that by making things dynamic, and giving you more choices, our game will shine through as a "good" game.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

NPC combat and more!

This post is repeated from the most recent forums announcement. We feel that it is such a major improvement, that we will repeat it here for all to see.

This has been by far the most productive week we have had thus far. Let me outline for you how much as really been done.

The first major piece is what we call Racts. That is short for Replica Actions, or special attacks for mobs/NPCs. That isn't their only use, but their main use. I had estimated that this would take me about one month to completely code... and I completed it in two days! This is the foundation of our smart mob combat system.

Mobile combat AI has just been finished. I had expected to spend at least two weeks working on this system. This would be mainly the ability for sentient NPCs to decide which attack to use next. They base this attack off many factors, to include their last three attacks, their current status (broken arms, tied up, etc.) and their estimated status of the main target. I had expected this to take at least two weeks... but completed it all in a seven hour period!

Due to those major aspects being done, I have gone back and started adding in functionality for replica's(items and NPCs/mobs). I've made it so they correctly reset, and get deleted as they should.

Only a few pieces left before I can put all of mob combat together! Only major thing that is left, besides them actually using their attacks, is figuring out the experience curve we wish to use. I'll be playing around with numbers for the rest of the day to get there. Once that is done I can put the last pieces of combat together, and then make players actually die when they get below 1 health point!

This really has been a good week.

On another note, we've gotten some really good builder applications in the last few days, I hope to see some more come in before we close them off again.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Building

Since we've gotten a couple applications over the last few days, I figured we might as well officially open applications again. As before, here is the information about applying.

Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles is set in a world unlike any other. Carlean scholars have recently unlocked the system of the world, giving them unprecedented control over the forces of nature. Though some denounce this new science as magic and heretical. Meanwhile the Alberen natives in the south fight to keep their homelands safe from the destruction wrought by the Carleans "progress" and unrelenting expansion. Utilizing the ancient techniques of spirit conjuring and runelore, they present a formidable foe for any enemy of the Ianai forest.

Interested parties should send an e-mail to applications@persistentrealms.com with the following information:

- Your name and age (You must be 18 or over to apply)
- Your experience with MUDs, including time spent as a player, builder, immortal, or admin
- A sample of your writing. This should be in the form of room descriptions (please no more than 10) plus a single item description of some kind of steam-punk gadget that might be appropriate for the Ilyrias theme.
- And anything else you think we should see

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.

Players and NPC's

Hunting, Bashing, Leveling, etc... how ever you want to call it has always been a boring aspect due to the simple structure most games give for NPC combat. Most games kind of just throw it in there, without giving much thought to how much time the average player will spend on it... well NOT us!

Over the last two days we've been working on coding a system to give our NPC's special attacks, not those boring "The orc slashes you." style ones from the old days. Every one of our NPC's will have their own unique attacks, with unique abilities. Some of you may be familiar with this, as most bigger games have this feature. Whats so special about ours? Our NPC's don't attack randomly!

Each one of our attacks will have requirements for the NPC to do it, such as needing 2 arms free, not being tied up, opponent being prone, etc... What, a tied up NPC? Yup, you will be able to afflict our NPC's with most things you can afflict a person with.

Once the NPC decides it's time to lay the smack down, the system will look at his list of available attacks, and from that build a list of attacks he can currently use with his status. After this, the system will determine what would be the best attack for him to use next, be it damage/afflictions/etc. From that much smaller list, it will almost randomly choose one(if there is more than one). Only sentient NPC's will be able to choose the best attack, your brain-dead and animal types will randomly choose one from the list of attacks he can use at the time.

Sound interesting? Well lets make it a bit better. Just like players, sentient NPC's will be able to cure those afflictions you can give them. Using basically the same methods that a player would, the NPC will choose what is the most important thing to cure first, and cure it. For those brain-dead types, they will be able to cure the simple things(like a net) with some effort, and some afflictions will slowly fade from them. Some afflictions may not effect the animals as they would a player or sentient NPC.

Just another way we are trying to make the world of Ilyrias a bit more interesting for you, as well as foster roleplay a bit more. By making our NPC's "smarter" it should help people view them as more than just walking punching bags.

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Persistent Realms LLC Development Team for Ilyrias, the Aegadian Isles.
Contact us via comments or visit our forums.