Rotting castles don't need to burn

| Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sandboxes are trouble. If we build too easily, the world runs out of space. If we destroy too easily everyone is afraid to build. We're not all online at the same time.

Here's my vague, generalized solution:

You can build anywhere. However destruction by players can only happen in contested areas.

Safe areas are safe to build and travel in, hence the name, but are resource-poor, so you cannot hope for much more than a hut and a rusty sword. Yes, the sword could be newly made and still rusty. The local iron is just that bad.

Contested areas would have more resources and better resources. These would be the places to farm. And the places to build if you want to take control. In these places, you can die to anyone, your buildings can be destroyed by anyone.

However safe areas are not places where you can just build away and never worry. Buildings will rot, decay, and be worn away. This would be a percentage of the cost, so that more expensive buildings require more upkeep. They won't fall down in a day, but after a few days of game time they will fall apart until they are ruined and need to be rebuilt. "Game time" is the time you are logged in and time offline if you are leveling skills (such as in EVE). To prevent permanent structures being built by people who never log in, even offline there would be a very slow decay; not so fast that you feel you must log in every day, but so that if someone is inactive for a couple months, they aren't cluttering up the world.

To maintain structures you will need to go out to the contested areas. You can gather and return home, but not without risk.

The overall goal is to allow players to destroy other's buildings without it being a game of waiting until they are offline and then torching everything in the night. You'll instead need to starve them.

Various mechanics would work behind the scenes to keep things running as intended. Resource gathering would be slightly more efficient when the server has more players, so that players are discouraged, though not blocked, from sneaking out when no one is around, while those who operate at peak times are rewarded for the risk of being out when the bandits are too. There would also be an attempt to keep players in more or less the same real life time zone, partly to keep out the dirty foreigners, partly to keep a sense of time (day-night cycle would be related to RL), and partly so that players are taking similar risks.

There will be a risk-reward relationship in this game. Players who want no risk at all could stay in the safe areas and would consequently have pretty awful homes. Players who venture out can get more resources and have nicer properties and items, but will still be limited. Those who take big risks, building directly in contested areas in order to gain control over them* will be able to get more and better resources, but will need them to survive out there. In general it should be balanced so that players will see benefit to building in risky areas but without being so much that everyone feels forced into FFA PvP.

* Control would be physical, not based on game mechanics drawing borders. For example, you might have walls to enclose properties, preventing others from chopping your trees and keeping your herds in place. There could also be traps and magical protections, but nothing that would stand entirely by itself. The goal is still to have players be able to log out without wondering if in the morning everything is gone, but without logging out being a guarantee of safety. One specific mechanic might be self-repairing walls, which can use existing stockpiles to maintain themselves, so that you can log off and survive, but if you don't get back and replenish your stockpile, the walls will be down within a day or so.

Of course everyone loves a good fire, so I will add this bit: even in a safe zone, a building under 10% integrity can be set on fire and will burn down regardless of repairs. Outside safe zones, buildings, if they can be reached (walls will be pretty important), can be set on fire at any integrity percentage, but may be harder to light or will burn slower and can be doused and repaired. So sorry, you don't win just from one good torch toss.

I've not considered how NPCs would fit into this world. Maybe they too would build and gather. I certainly don't want them to be just passively waiting around to be killed or as just a generic malevolent group of bandits.

In closing, I want to let everyone know that I never had a sandbox as a kid. Instead, I had the far superior "dirt place", which was an approximately 5'x12' area next to our house which had no grass in which they used to store coal. It probably gave us all cancer, but coaldirt is a much better structural material than sand, especially with easy access to the hose.

P.S. Thanks to Adam for the inspiration.


Syl said...

I like the maintenance factors; in essence, most of what you describe here was present in UO, in a somewhat different form. you would keep the really precious stuff in towns, in your bank. you'd make sure to never carry anything outside for too long, all by yourself.

your house on the other hand was out there - where others are, where anything oes, where resoruces are too. it was only semi-safe; your house key could be stolen/looted (which is why you'd still use the bank), your house needed refreshing by regular log-ins.

take all this, add a bit to it - with today's technologies and vast server worlds, it should be an easy thing, shouldn't it?

Michael said...

Doesn't your plan throw the most pvp-oriented people (who like to burn down people's houses) and the least pvp-oriented (who just want to build a nice house) into direct opposition? It seems less like a way for everyone to have fun and more like a way to ensure constant victims for gankers.

Why not make it so that houses need like 5 different types of resources to stay maintained, but each area where you can build a house only provides 2 of those 5? Goods in the safe area are inviolate, you never have to worry about someone taking them. So to get all 5 goods, you have to player trade or purchase from a common market of some sort. In the contested area, perhaps houses provide 3 resources, or still just 2 but are provided at a faster rate. But anyone can steal some of your stuff, and the main way you'd get the other 3 would be raiding other people's houses.

For that matter, why not make the safe and contested houses completely different, with different required goods? Not either one better than the other, just orthogonal, so that pvp gameplay and pve gameplay remain separate.

Klepsacovic said...

@Syl: If I'm understanding it correctly, the bank was the equivalent to the safe zone house, while the house house was in the PvP area?

@Michael: Yes and no. It puts builders and destroyers into the same place, but it doesn't put everything they all have in one place to be destroyed at once. What is a nice house anyway? If someone just wants something pretty, they can draw it. A pretty house by itself isn't much of anything. In this game that pretty house would be a symbol of success, both for the community and the player. I guess what I'm saying is that this isn't a game for people who just want pretty houses, but for people who want pretty houses and a bit of struggle to go with them.

There could be markets for goods, so maybe a particularly talented designer could hire himself out and never have to spend much time in the scary places.

Syl said...


Faeldray said...

The whole part about safe areas and decaying structures sounds a heck of a lot like Wurm Online. Unfortunately, there's no option to burn things down but you can work at knocking them down once the player protection goes away.

Klepsacovic said...

Wikipedia said all I needed to know: "Markus Persson". I'm sure I'll have some posts about Wurm Online.

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