Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The logging off problem

In the real world, people don't just suddenly disappear because some divine being on a higher plane decides to log off!? So how can we replicate the real world in games when users can log off at any time, or worse have their connection drop? The ability to leave the game at any time isn't just a problem with game realism, it can also cause many issues with group centric activities like raiding and PvP. How much does it suck when your healer or tank drops?

One thing that I have yet to see done in an MMORPG, is the ability to include other players as the objectives to your quest. For example, you receive this quest:

"Find 'Melf Himself' and give him this package."

or better yet:

"Assassinate 'Melf Himself'"

On a side note, it would be funny if your assassination target also had you as their target. It would be pre-ordained PvP with a PvE quest like twist. Something for everyone :P

Upon accepting the quest, you are blocked from talking to the person who is your quest objective. You are also blocked from using the their name in chat. The only way you can find the other person is to talk to NPCs and ask if they saw them recently:

"Yes I saw 'Melf Himself' pass through here only 2 minutes ago. If you hurry, you might catch him at the Blacksmith."

How cool would that be? Oh yeah... logging off problem... What happens if the other person logs off?

Now we discuss a possible solution. Why not have your character become an NPC when you log off? It could wander around and become one of the town folk, or even a henchmen (if you were in a raid or something). No matter what happened to your character while you were logged off, its status would always be the same the next time you logged in. The only thing that would potentially change, is the location of where you last left it. I think it would actually be kinda cool, as you would be surprised every time you logged in.

This would also open up the possibility of 'day jobs', like in city of heroes, except your character actually performs the job as an NPC. Player housing would also become more important, because your NPC character would actually have to live there.

In summary, we need some way to handle the logging off problem, especially with moving toward a dynamic type world. Having having a connection drop or a player rage quit during a group centric activity can really inconvenience other people. It also steals away from the realism of the world a bit. Solve the problem and our online lives become just that little bit easier. ;)


Anonymous said...

Involving other player characters in missions would be quite neat. The NPC thing would need to work for not just logging off, but also cancelled game account (if it is a subscription game) or an option to reassign the persons in some way - or perhaps auto-complete.

Atriarch had something like that in mind I believe - your character would do stuff even if you were not logged on and would also grow old and die - you would continue to play with the kid(s) of that character.

I am not sure if Atriarch is ever going to be ready and released though, it has been under development for longer than Darkfall even. But I think the ideas they had for that game would still be a welcome change to current games.

Crimson Starfire said...

I've never heard of Atriarch, cheers for bringing it to my attention. I'm not sure about the 'grow old and die' thing, although there would need to be some penalty for extended periods of inactivity. The business model would also need to suit the concept. It would be weird if you had 5 character slots and you saw 4 of your other characters running around...

Melf_Himself said...

You're right dude (I keep linking to this everytime someone has an idea about anything it seems)

Zoso said...

Interesting idea about becoming a henchman-type NPC when you log off, could save some frustrations where you're doing well in a dungeon and one of the party has to leave.

Could lead to slightly awkward situations, though, where you log on to find your character in the middle of an instance, so you play for a bit, then the party leader says "would you mind awfully logging off? We were doing much better when you were an NPC..."

Thallian said...

didn't star wars galaxies do this? Well anyways easy solution is to keep the player @ home or somewhere when they are logged off. I see no problem. Other than a lack of it being done as a matter of course..

Tesh said...

Zoso, maybe have a "ghost" setup where you can login and watch your character for a bit before taking control. Enable chat during the ghost walk, and you can let people know you're coming.

If they tell you then that they are doing better with the henchman version of "you", you can watch and see why.

...or go pout and do something else while your company-sponsored 'bot plays the game for you. (Jade Dynasty, anyone?)

I really like the idea, but I'd want some sort of cap on it. Say, once your current "quest" or "raid" is over, your character goes "home" and goes to sleep or something. Better yet, let the player define the offline/AFK behaviors, not unlike FFXII's Gambit system.

Yeah, this could be fun.

Crimson Starfire said...

Actually your idea talks about players taking over the role of an NPCs. My idea is the reverse: NPCs taking over the role of players ;)

Lol, yeah that would be funny. I think the henchmen thing would only work in instanced dungeons. An instance of your character would exist as a henchmen, but if you logged back in you wouldn't be apart of the dungeon party anymore. The henchmen would exist until the dungeon finished. Or alternatively, what Tesh describes.

The idea is that you build up a community of NPCs based off the player characters. You could choose to log off in an inn or house and your character wouldn't really wander all that far, but if you logged off in the middle of no where, they would try and get home. The day job thing would also be cool. I never played SWG, but sounds like they may have been going down the right track.

Spot on. Those are some great ideas and I think they would work really well with a Player-NPC type world.

..and yes, I think it would be really fun.

Melf_Himself said...

No, this idea is merely a limited subset of my grand idea. What did you think happens when you log off in my game?

Crimson Starfire said...

With your idea, the player doesn't get to create the character, they only get to choose and influence. Mine allows the player to create what ever character they like and provide direction as to how the NPC will take over.

So although your idea was grand, it lacked a lot of freedom and player attachment. In your own words:

"Obviously, there would be some NPC's that would be more desirable to take over than others - your Drizzt's and your Elminster's for example."

"The higher the profile of the character you take over, the more opportunity for changing the world would present itself."

I wouldn't want to be a sucky guard, when I could be an Elminster. You forget that everyone has a hero complex :P

Also what would be the point in developing an NPC only to have to give it up later? Players need a feeling of attachment in order to keep them coming back.

Melf_Himself said...

I'm not sure in what way you think you are ever an Elminster in any other MMO implementation... players only get to be generic hero #12,367. At least in my idea you can actually get the chance...

I'm not sure why you're regurgitating comments that were already addressed in that thread, but the point is not to develop the character. There would be minimal progression of any character that you could possess, otherwise every lowly peasant would end up being a demi-god.

Playing the character instead develops the abilities of your avatar (allowing you to control better characters), and furthers your goals in the world.

Crimson Starfire said...

Your idea is good, but it's different to what I am describing in this post. The regurgitation of comments was because I was trying to point out why it's different (also because it had been a while since I read that post). With mine, the player earns the right to be a hero through conquest, not through assuming the life of an NPC. The NPC part of it is to solve the logging off problem. Your entire post is about a certain type of virtual world where players play as the NPCs. Mine is only about solving a problem caused when players log off. The solution to the problem does contain elements from your post, but I think it still differs enough to be classified as a new idea.

Xoduz said...

One problem I see with this is the potential toll it could put on the servers. They have to handle AI of X thousand NPCs already - how much would it tax the system when it has to start treating logged out players as NPCs with advanced AI?

Also keep in mind that players can have more than one character on an account - should the server then make each and every logged out character act like an NPC?

Anton said...

Actually, I like this idea, it's something I've always wanted. I think it's silly that your character vanishes when you're gone. They should go to your "home" and sit there doing whatever you have specified as their "offline" tasks. Also, you can build up a whole family of characters who live in the same home and if another player enters your home, they can talk to your people and you can specify what each of your characters will say to other players when they talk to them (Like NPC's in Final Fantasy games)

Melf_Himself said...

I wasn't trying to say that the ideas are the same, they are obviously different. Yours is a tweak that could be applied to existing games, mine is a completely different game altogether.

I was merely plugging my previous idea to show that it too solves the same problem. I feel that the idea solves a lot of the various problems that crop up in MMO design.

B.J. said...

I had a friend who tried to log off in real life one time. He told us that he wanted something from his kitchen and instead of getting up to get it, he went and lay on his bed because he said that he thought he "had logged [his alt] off in the kitchen."

Then he realized what he had done and finally admitted he had a problem.

Crimson Starfire said...

Yeah, this kind of idea would be a little tricky with current hardware and server design. There would need to be a few improvements in that area.

As for multiple characters on an account, the game would have to treat them like a family or something (same house). If a server could hold 100,000 accounts, and each player had 5 characters then it would be a pretty big virtual world. You'd also need to throw some non-player NPCs in there as well. I can see how this would cause server issues with AI... good point.

I definitely think it could work, we just need the technology to back it up. It would also make the game so much more convenient to play in. You wouldn't have to worry about logging off in the middle of something important.

Your right, it does solve the same problem. With our powers combined, we could create Captain Awesome MMO! ;)

...or not... :P

Lol. I don't think I've ever mistaken the real world for a virtual one... yet...

Anonymous said...

I will start with the beginning of your story.
A real world in a game will never be possible to create. Only just some elements of the real world. If you want to create a real world like game, you also need very detailed physics and AI and stuff.

The other player objective sounds very interesting, but I think it would be very hard in a MMO though.
Especially when you can't ask their names and only find info by NPC's, which also means the NPC's have to get a function to remember every player they see and looking what they do and when. That takes some memory in the game, but if 1000 players have the same thing in the same server, it would be 1000 times bigger. And talking of memory... If you log off and turn into a NPC the servers would be full of NPC's and need players too. That also counts for a online player, because of the stats, but the NPC needs a talk bot which recognizes words.
And if NPC's can do what they want, these are very easy to use with auto bots, like auto training and stuff.

I'm sorry to say this and break your dreams. It would be a cool idea indeed. But you also have to be realistic.

Crimson Starfire said...

I don't quite get you with the auto training thing, but you haven't raised any issues that couldn't be solved by better hardware (and game design).

Anonymous said...

Oh that's simple. If your NPC character does something which is controlled by a computer script or program legally, could mean that you can command stuff with the same script while offline. If your good with those stuff you can even command to level up faster or get 1 million gold in your next loggin, without actually being illegal in the game, because it's controlled by the script of the game itself.

But I forgot to say this is one extremely example of NPC's while offline.

But the better hardware you say and better gamedesign isn't for the developer only.
If they use more detailed gamedesign and game engine. It means you need better hardware too.
That isn't actually a problem, but on a MMO it's very hard. Everything have to work clearly for everyone. But more players means more memory and calculating. And the more realistic details (to be extremely like Assassin's Creed online) would have loads of bugs and glitches and will only work on very high super computers :P
But the point I talk about is the group of people who don't have loads of money to spend to their games, but want to have fun, without buying all upgrades for pc and stuff.
Oh don't get me wrong, I talk about every MMO. But then only about the system specs.

And I like this blog, it's very interesting to read what you guys want and how you think.
Keep on with the good writing ;)

mbp said...

World of Warcraft used to give bonus rest XP if you logged off in an inn. I think this worked well , at the end of a nights adventuring I would head to the local inn to rest and recuperate. If I was in an RP mood I'd even go to one of the bedrooms of the inn and lie down before logging off. A nice touch.

In Lotro I sometimes retire to my little house for the night but the limited travel options can make this impractical.

Fortuente said...

OK, I know this is an old post but hey I can't sleep. And I am obliged to say the following:

This is possibly one of the best MMO design ideas I have ever heard.

I love the idea of the NPC/day job. And logging in to a potentially different loc would be immensely fun to me personally.