UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

General debates and discussion about the Guild of Writers and Age creation

Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Sirius » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:37 am

Aloys wrote:That's the core of the problem: producing enough content to satisfy the players and make it profitable.

True. But it's a problem all MMOs have to deal with. High quality content can't be created fast enough to satisfy players, no matter which game.
Instead, MMOs force players to "grind" experience points and loot. It's low quality content and rather boring, but most players agree to this. Throw in some buyable content (such as upgrades and cosmetics for your avatar) and your MMO is viable (sortof - assuming your game is good and you're lucky).

Problem is, Uru has neither of those. It also doesn't have a combat system, which means you are targeting a very specific audience with not much to give them. Doesn't mean it's hopeless though...

belford wrote:The idea of small groups of people sitting around and slowly customizing and gardening in a group Age or neighborhood, over the course of weeks or months, is interesting. I think Relto just scratched the surface of that. It's not the puzzle-exploration mechanic that defines the Myst series, but it *is* consonant with the social gaming model that Cyan seemed to be pushing when Uru was in progress.

My thoughts exactly. I've pondered this a LOT, and came to the conclusion that allowing players to create their own Ages might be what's needed to turn the tables. I don't mean customize it, but really create it from near scratch :twisted:

I'm no expert in MMO, money or social behavior, so what I'm about to say is heavily opinion based and mostly guesses from what little I've played of MMOs. Hence the spoiler tags. I hope my rambling will interest people nonetheless :)

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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby belford » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:03 am

allowing players to create their own Ages might be what's needed to turn the tables.


Oh, I wasn't talking about *that*.

I don't disagree, mind you. But I have nothing to add about player Age creation; we said it all in 2007. I built my experimental player-Age-creation engine five years ago. It was a fun hack.

(My experiment was all-text. Plenty of people are working on the problem of making 3D environment modelling a more accessible art form. They work for Unity and Unreal. I'm not going to crack that problem.)

Right now I am more interested in the design of game mechanics around cooperative action.
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Sirius » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:57 am

Ah, sorry, I have extrapolated on what you said about Age customization.
Yeah, putting fanmade content into Uru is an old idea. My point was more about highlighting how content creation becoming mainstream opens up even more possibilities than it did in 2007. Enough that it could be made part of the game.

belford wrote:Right now I am more interested in the design of game mechanics around cooperative action.

Agreed, cooperation is sadly underused in Uru.

Speaking of cooperation, the thread "Surprise in Minkata" was rather interesting when it came to exploring in groups. Probably due to the text format once again.
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Korovev » Thu Sep 27, 2018 7:27 am

There are some good reasons why the “regular MMO grind/recycle crap” is still the most successful formula, though. For non-combat, level-free MMOs, one could look at Second Life, Kitely or OSGrid, but those too haven’t been hugely successful either.
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby sarpedon2 » Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:25 am

Funny enough, I found this review back from 2003 that could really sum up the problems Uru would always have as an mmo:

https://adventuregamers.com/articles/view/17680/page1

But the real problem with URU Live, at least from the point of view of an adventure game critic is this: there’s no game in that game.


Some less-than-happy players have described URU Live as “a really pretty chat room.” While that does a disservice to the experience, it is perfectly possible to utilize the game in this way


I think if you were going to have an Uru-like MMO, where development is driven by cooperation between developer and players through story-telling, and asset-creation, then each server should be limited to a certain amount of players (say for example, 200-300) so as to prevent dilution of the story-telling experience. When you have a game world that is populated by 1000s of players at a time, player interaction with NPCs like Yeesha, the DRC and the Bahro become pointless, because nearly every player is doing the same thing, and thus the players do not experience any sense of consequence of their actions. Many in the end become spectators to the same troupe of players who interact with NPCs, and put their best effort into developing the story. This is what (among many other factors) doomed MMOs like The Old Republic, which boasted before release that it would give players a meaningful opportunity to shape the overall game story...by quest grinding. By limiting the number of players per server, the game would be able to balance the players between isolation that the Myst series works well with, and is (in)famous for, and the sense of cooperative exploration and story-telling that made Uru Live a unique experience.
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Lehnah » Fri Oct 05, 2018 2:22 am

If the original plan of constant new content being added was met would it have been an issue? I don't play MMO's (but I have read about how they work and so forth) so maybe I'm speaking out of turn but if a new Age or section of the City was added every month or so (and I mean full Age/ district, not the can-really-do-anything areas like the Pod Ages) would this have been an issue? If there were constantly new puzzles to solve, new mysteries to unravel be it via solo or group play, would this emptiness have been a problem?

P.S. As an aside, even if there wasn't gameplay as such, if just more and more of D'ni kept being opened up to explore I would have loved that. Even now I just love walking around D'ni and looking at all the sights. :D
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Korovev » Fri Oct 05, 2018 7:51 am

I doubt more of the same would have been any better; it’s debatable if Cyan would have been able to keep up with it (and at the same monthly fee). Most importantly, the problem with puzzles is that once they are solved, there’s little game mechanic reasons to go back to those Ages.

Take the Pod Ages: when they came out, it must have been a fantastic experience, trying to figure out how it worked. But ultimately that was also its failure, because if you joined a month after the puzzle was solved (let alone years after), the entire experience was lost and meaningless; most new explorers will likely find out the solution through a walkthrough, because it’s very difficult to get enough observations by playing solo, and why trying to figure out the timing when there are predictors available?

If Uru ends up being little more than a glorified chat room it has a problem, because there’s much more you can do over Second life, or Discord. As annoying as it is, grinding does keep people coming back. This is why I like how only one spakly per month appears on Gehn: it might be frustrating, and the prize underwhelming, but it means that you ‘must’ show up at least once a month for a whole year if you want to complete the calendar. Pellets are not quite the same, because there is no real payback for collecting any amount of them.

For a ‘doomed’ MMO, The Old Republic to this day still shows up on various kinds of top tens, while outside the Myst fandom most gamers, if they ever heard about Uru Live at all, think it closed in 2008. It’s great that Cyan wanted to do their own thing, but one cannot then expect any kind of popularity when doing the opposite of every player-retaining mechanism.
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby sarpedon2 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:29 am

Korovev wrote:As annoying as it is, grinding does keep people coming back. This is why I like how only one spakly per month appears on Gehn: it might be frustrating, and the prize underwhelming, but it means that you ‘must’ show up at least once a month for a whole year if you want to complete the calendar. Pellets are not quite the same, because there is no real payback for collecting any amount of them..


I agree that grinding does have its merits when it becomes apparent that it signals progress. Had creating and dropping pellets into the lake actually produced some guaranteed changes (even if subtle at first), it might have encouraged players to take part in the 'restoration', bringing the city back to life.

Sirius post a couple pages back that demonstrated how he changed the lighting of Canyon mall and other city structures got me thinking. Ages like Dahtamnay produced fire-marbles. If players wanted to make the city less gloomy and more alive, they could have helped the DRC mine fire marbles on Dahtamnay, which would contribute to the city feeling more alive. Its a form of grinding that while it doesn't necessarily reward players individually, it rewards the overall community. Trying to remember but I enjoyed contests like the stained-glass competitions for the hood libraries. Where there any other situations where players were encouraged to play a role in the restoration?
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Sirius » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:47 am

Korovev wrote:There are some good reasons why the “regular MMO grind/recycle crap” is still the most successful formula, though. For non-combat, level-free MMOs, one could look at Second Life, Kitely or OSGrid, but those too haven’t been hugely successful either.

That's true.
Personally I dislike most forms of grind; I'd rather be forced out of the game because of lack of content than inside due to artificial barriers. I'm also not really fond of the kind of petty rewards MMOs like to give you, and I'd rather use my free time to do my real-life chores.
But still, you have a point. Grinding is essential for the developers, and I can see why some players might enjoy it too provided they enjoy MMO gameplay in general. Heck, I guess I wouldn't mind farming Yeesha Pages if there was such a thing in Uru.

Korovev wrote:This is why I like how only one spakly per month appears on Gehn

I'm in favor of this too. But that might also be because they only take 5 minutes to collect each month :) If they required a whole week of farming, that would be a different story.

Korovev wrote:Take the Pod Ages: when they came out, it must have been a fantastic experience, trying to figure out how it worked.

Yeah, same goes with Ahnonay and the Watcher's pub (although that was offline). Usual puzzles involve some sort of combination you have to guess by finding journals and notes (especially in Myst 3 to 5 and ABM), but in those particular Uru Ages, puzzles were really simpler yet tougher by contrast.
But then as you said, once you know the solution no puzzle is really replayable since they don't offer any other challenge.


Lehnah wrote:If the original plan of constant new content being added was met would it have been an issue?

Depends of the size of the studio. A small game company with few employees could survive on an MMO like Uru assuming they could push content that regularly... but then they wouldn't sleep much ;) A bigger studio could create this much content without any problem, but then you would have to pay a lot more people, which wouldn't be profitable.
This is probably comparable to the situation Telltale Games was in: they tried to create a lot of episodic content quickly, and it seems that was really difficult (probably why they are currently going under).
Then you have other problems: releasing things fast and often means you have less time to bugtest (what if one particular bug corrupts player saves ?), and mean you sometime have to release half-finished content ("sorry, you opened that door, but there is nothing behind it yet").
Grind is a good solution to this problem: let players do the same thing over and over, in the meantime you can create quality content without time limits. This is why lots of MMOs create buyable DLCs that add new content every 4 to 12 months.
On the other end, trying to create content too quickly means you end up creating less content. The Pods, Jalak, Tsogal and Delin are good example. They have nice mechanics, but ultimately these Ages are super small and really side content more than anything.



sarpedon2 wrote:Had creating and dropping pellets into the lake actually produced some guaranteed changes (even if subtle at first), it might have encouraged players to take part in the 'restoration', bringing the city back to life. [...] Sirius post a couple pages back that demonstrated how he changed the lighting of Canyon mall and other city structures got me thinking. Ages like Dahtamnay produced fire-marbles. If players wanted to make the city less gloomy and more alive, they could have helped the DRC mine fire marbles on Dahtamnay, which would contribute to the city feeling more alive.

Actually at some point I did something similar and managed to link the number of pellets dropped to how bright Ae'gura was (by changing fog values from black to a more orange tone). This never ended on any Shard though AFAIK.

Problem is, it's a lot of grind for a very little change. I prefer my idea of having a few Ages entirely player-made and let people build their own environments within the game (although this comes with its own share of problem, obviously...).

sarpedon2 wrote:When you have a game world that is populated by 1000s of players at a time, player interaction with NPCs like Yeesha, the DRC and the Bahro become pointless, because nearly every player is doing the same thing, and thus the players do not experience any sense of consequence of their actions.

On a smaller scale, I always hated MMOs because they always want you to be the ultimate-hero-of-the-prophecy, yet you still had to wait in queue to talk to NPCs. That, and ignore half-naked avatars jumping on tables and messing things up. But it's a problem with storytelling in multiplayer games in general... Never bothered me much in Uru, but then I started playing it when the main storyline was stopped, so...
Guilds and neighborhoods are pretty good solutions to scale down multiplayer to a more manageable level, though.
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Re: UPlasma development - Play Plasma from the Unity engine

Postby Deledrius » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:52 am

Korovev wrote:Take the Pod Ages: when they came out, it must have been a fantastic experience, trying to figure out how it worked.

Nope, the Pods were a joke then too. We had players who were certain that there was more there to see and do, but in the end they were (unfortunately) wrong. The primary experience was not the portals; you're looking at that through hindsight knowing it's the only purpose they still serve. At the time we were actively lied to about the content in those pods. The timing puzzle itself is definitely an interesting concept, but in a vacuum it's pretty meaningless and not worth much of anything.
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