Monday, June 26, 2006

MMNG: Global Narrative, Part Two

In part one I asked questions. In this part, I hope to answer some of them.

The basis for my solution revolves around the fact that any given player is too unreliable to be trusted with a global narrative. If a player proves that theory wrong, hire him. Then, of course, he won't be a player, and the theory will go back to being right.

I don't have a magic solution for doing player-driven global narratives automatically. I do, however, have some ideas as to how to allow players to create their own narratives and attach them to a global narrative to affect it... and how the employees writing the global narratives can use player-generated global narratives to drive their own narratives.

The basic idea is that anyone can create a plot and leave "hooks" coming out of it. A hook is something that allows other players to affect the plot. Which players can be limited, of course. Specific players, certain guilds, certain ratings, freely available: it's all possible.

A plot might be "I've kidnapped the princess, mua ha ha!" and a hook might be a castle raid.

Now, this is pretty straight forward. What kind of people can enter the castle raid with what kinds of supplies and at what times can all be strictly limited - but, of course, the more other players involved in your plot, the more "plot points" you get.

The complicated part here is that someone else can attach a new plot to the hook. For example, you attach a "gather an army" plot to the castle raid hook.

Visually, this would probably serve the same purpose as simply running around asking people to team up with you and go on a raid. But in the mechanics of a game, there is a very good reason to do it like this: plots have payoffs. The more people involved, the more the payoff. So, with your "gather an army" plot, you might get a hundred more resource points: enough resources to bring twenty more men into the castle with you.

Of course, focusing the payoff is also a major part of any plot. An extra soldier might cost twenty points, but buying in bulk is cheaper. So if you split the payoff evently, maybe each of the ten people can afford to get one extra guy, but if all the points are given to one man, then he can afford to get twenty extra guys.

The "capture the princess" plot itself is simply a method of harvesting the points that automatically come off participants and giving them, wholesale, to the owner of the place. There is almost certainly a payoff for "winning", although it might not be points. It could be the princess character, for example, added to your roster. This costs nothing to give you (it only costs when you bring it into play), but it took time and effort to design.

The "gather an army" plot could be as simple as getting people to sign on. Or it could be as complex as a tiered jousting tournament to choose who gets to lead the army into the castle.

Points themselves are just a touch complex. You see, points you gain in one plot can only be used to fuel expenditures in the plots it is hooked to. So you can't use your newly founded army in Africa - you're stuck here, rescuing this princess. However, now that you've imported them to rescuing the princess, you can continue and import them to whatever that plot is hooked to. Furthermore, there's a "tax" on imported points which is given to the owner of the plot you're porting into, which gives people a good reason to create chains of plots.

So, points are local, but they can be moved.

You can also turn temporary points into a permanent threshold by spending. It gets more expensive to raise your permanent points for each permanent point you have, of course... and you can only spend from one plot.

So, what this means is that the guy who's running the captured princess castle is trying to save up enough points to buy himself a permanent pool. The guy running the "raise an army" plot is just trying to get an edge against the "captured princess" plot - quickly gained, quickly spent.

A plot developer can choose to lock off pool spending and mandate a starting expenditure (reducing everyone to equal footing), lock off plot stringing (restrict people from gaining extra points to spend by creating hooked plots), and several other methods to control how people participate.

And, of course, anyone who wants to create a plot doesn't have to worry about in-plot spending: they can simply create their plot as they see fit, with as much grotesque overspending as they please. So the pool is kind of useless, I guess.

No, the real reason pools are important is in global narratives. While players have the same creative capabilities and tools, most of the global narratives will be created by script designers (often working off submissions from the players). These plots will be the primary source of fame and "fortune", awarding unique content and ranks to winners and participants. Designer-backed names and content will have an unforgeable demarkation - such as yellow letters - which let people show off. This can be further classified with information as to how old the custom content is, how difficult the quest was, and any additional awards the designers felt should be given out.

The designers can theoretically write whatever they want. In practice, however, a good scripter will quickly realize what's hot and what players love most, and write to that preference. Scripters can also incorporate huge swaths of player-submitted plots, allowing a scripter to work only a fraction as much as someone starting from scratch would have to.

Now, one of the biggest reasons to have a global narrative is that it is written specifically to mix newbs and elites. A newb comes into the game, and the game says, "you can start wherever you want, but we suggest you start with these low-level global narratives". Then the newb goes off and participates in some largely stable event which lets them get used to the world, get some quick content, and get a feel for the game.

This steady flow of newbs also gives points to the owner of the node, which means that lots of players will want to write newb nodes and have the designers link them directly to the newb starting area. The player-designer submits a design. The employee-designer reviews it, rejects it, modifies it, accepts it, whatever. Only the employees can link to the newb starting areas. (Although, of course, Newbs can simply go off and wander, if they feel like it.)

The way this links to elites (and, in fact, any more experienced player) is somewhat complicated and directly influences the design engine, so it'll have to be covered elsewhere.

Anyhow, that's my idea.

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