SOE New Game? Underworld: Evolution Multi Player Online Game

Okay, this is all going to be really speculative, and I’m sure it’ll have some kinks that would need to be ironed out for implementation, but just as an exercise, let’s say the Sabbat game’s PVP revolves around havens. There are only so many buildings suitable for being havens in the gameworld. Player groups can claim havens. Let’s say a coterie of three to ten people or so claims a haven. These people then probably affiliate with one or more other havens, becoming part of their pack. These packs, at probably 20 members or so, are the largest PVP units for Sabbat infighting, because PVP revolves around claiming havens for coteries, and a coterie belongs to a specific pack. If a pack decisively wins a PVP encounter, a coterie from that pack can claim the haven.

(Havens guarantee you a safe place to spend the day, and they’re also a place to store your stuff. They’re not absolutely vital but they’re very useful. There are places you can hide from the sun without a haven, like dumpsters, and you can crash in somebody else’s haven, and if you die – from sun exposure or anything else – your ashes will reconstitute themselves into you after a while because nobody likes to lose their MMO character. Players will probably respawn somewhere relatively safe and semi-unpredictable in order to hinder corpse camping.)

This keeps PVP intimate – ranging from one-on-one contests of honor or monomacy or general hostility to 20v20 gang wars. This makes it possible to have detailed and customizable characters interact in fluid and responsive PVP where each participant matters. It also means that no matter how many people are playing or how many members a particular group has, there’s an upward limit to how unbalanced the game can be. Actually, depending on server size, maybe limiting the game to coteries only would be a good idea. Or maybe some servers could go for the coterie thing, and others could have full packs.

The Camarilla has citywide courts. A struggle with the Sabbat could involve potentially up to ALL local Camarilla members. For that matter, the Sabbat bands together against the Camarilla, and thus would bring their full weight to bear as well. I fear battles would be huge, laggy, impersonal brawls. Furthermore the absolute factional polarization between the two organizations would make any contest between them as big as it could be and thus a test of the overall server balance. You wouldn’t have a tightly knit group of personal friends from the Camarilla fighting a similar group of Sabbat over the rights to a boarded-up warehouse – you’d have the place mobbed by everybody from both sides who wanted a piece of the action. “LocalDefense is a joke in my town,” as I used to say in WoW.

A lack of the potential for peaceful relations between the Sabbat and the Camarilla means that unlike a Sabbat-only game, where people might respect each other’s territory (and wouldn’t have a boundless capacity for expansion and expansion-related hostilities, because of their limited coterie/pack sizes), the principal – and really, only – effect of pitting the Sabbat against the Camarilla would be a lot of unfun, unfair, stuttery mass combat.

I think an imbalance is almost guaranteed so long as there are differences between the factions. Maybe the Sabbat don’t have to deal with a badly implemented “humanity meter” mechanic. Maybe the Camarilla’s relative lack of internal violence is popular with PVE weenies who, once they’re all on the server together and feel powerful in numbers, start zerging the fuck out of the Sabbat. Maybe the Sabbat area is more compact, making everyday transportation 10% faster. Maybe Camarilla questgivers are 6.2% more generous, or it’s slightly easier to get blood. Maybe the Sabbat powers are seen as cooler. Maybe the Camarilla is popular because an old PVP group like Shadowclan dominates the Sabbat on most servers. Maybe the Sabbat is popular because the Camarilla is infested with obnoxious Olde Englishe Role Playinge types from UO. Maybe the Camarilla appeals to more people because they are the good guys. Maybe more people like the aesthetics of the Sabbat – who doesn’t want to look like a SuicideGirl? (Incidentally, for all you White Wolf STs out there, SG is great for finding pictures suitable for vampire NPCs; you don’t have to be registered to see the photos in the blogheaders.) It could be anything, but whatever it is, putting numerical PVP balance at the mercy of player choice sucks.

Since you hate the Sabbat, though (and FRIENDSHIP, you monster) I don’t see how any of this is going to appeal to you anyway. If somebody doesn’t like a setting or atmosphere, it can really spoil a game for them, and I don’t propose to fix that. It’s just a fact of life.

I dislike the Sabbat because they are essentially bloodthirsty killers, and I don’t want to play that role. Those that are smarter are still anarchs…again, not a role I am interested in. Those with even MORE power…no idea what they are doing, but in every case, the sole motivation seems to be destruction.

I hate friendship because…wait, there’s a hook in my mouth ;)

Anyway, I do see your point, but why can’t the same thing happen in your Sabbat only world? If one of your coteries, or whatever you want to call them, is much larger than another, same result. Lopsided battle. The key would be limiting the number of people that could engage in such battles. And once you do that, it might as well be Cam vs. Sab.

Alternatively, you could have Clan wars, which would be interesting, and then it wouldn’t matter whether that game were Sabbat or Camirilla. But I think maybe you are taking all these roles more literally than they need to be. The MMORPG atmosphere could not rely on the pure politics of the Cam. society, so it would adjust accordingly. If you want true RPing in that universe, you need a MUCK or something. But Bloodlines allowed some nice RP situations while still having plenty of combat. I would love an online game that was a huge extension of that approach.

And don’t get me wrong…I would play your Sabbat game. I don’t hate the Sabbat per se. But I would rather have the choice, because I almost always prefer the Camarilla because I like the RPing possibilities a lot more.

But I do suggest this size limitation, and the Sabbat does naturally coalesce into these small subgroups. The Camarilla, not so much. I guess you could maybe impose some kind of pack system on the Camarilla and make them operate in a similar way and carry the engagement size limit into interfactional combat as well, but I’m not sure what that adds to the game.

Edit: I realize what problems it avoids, but I think it kind of dilutes the difference between the Camarilla and the Sabbat. Besides, making the Camarilla and the Sabbat politically/systematically comparable for balance reasons kind of defeats the purpose of having both.

Interesting in theory, definitely – and I like the clans to stand alone more than they usually do, because when you have player groups of one character from each clan, the characters are enormously likely to be cardboard cutout stereotypes of their clans, which super pisses me off. But that’s a PnP/LARP problem; I actually don’t expect people to consciously “roleplay” so much in an MMO. What I DO expect is a game that is designed to provoke appropriate responses from players playing characters. For example, if sunlight can kill you, and you hide in a dumpster before dawn, you may not be “roleplaying” a vulnerability to sunlight, but you are reacting to the rules of the game in a way that causes your behavior to fit the situation. That’s good enough for me.

The trouble with clan wars is that if it’s clan vs clan, that’s like seven to twelve factions, each with its membership determined by how players create their characters. Given the choice, an alarming number of people will play Tremere, and only a handful of people who don’t mind being ugly will play Nosferatu unless they have some kind of insanely sweet special ability, like instant go-anywhere sewer travel.

That’s what I’m afraid of. It’s the difference between the Forgotten Realms 3e book and the early reports from D&D Online. I don’t think the political/social aspect of the Camarilla can be done as an MMO either – most of the time it can’t even be done in a LARP, at least not to my satisfaction – but I’m afraid that what that would effectively mean for a Camarilla MMO is that there would be something stupid in its place, like a static, linear string of plot missions. Worst case scenario, it would just be another whack-the-monsters-MMO-of-the-week.

Far be it from me to use a phrase like “true RPing” to describe anything actual, even if it’s just hypothetically actual. I was just arguing on AIM with a purist friend about whether a game can be an RPG without systematic character progression (e.g., equipment, experience points, etc.). An MMO like this would be an RPG in the sense that players have avatars and the avatars have stats. I’m not going to assert anything beyond that. In MMOs, I expect a level of immersion that is precisely in accord with the level of immersion that the experience of playing the game itself provides. In other words, if you have to hit I to see your inventory, people will talk about “hitting I.” Standard terms like cooldown, aggro, and nerf are guaranteed to be part of the vocabulary. I don’t think developers can expect players in general to bring any immersion to the table – that’s why games should be immersive in and of themselves, even if what they immerse the player in isn’t something anyone would mistake for reality. So a couple of Brujah antis are talking about rebinding their keys because they don’t like WASD – you can’t prevent that kind of stuff in an MMO at this level of technology. Even inhaling the PS9 isn’t going to make that go away – “I think I need to call tech support, I keep sneezing every time I zone.”

As for Bloodlines, I didn’t much like it, an opinion I’ve managed to work into about half my posts here. Ocean View hotel was cool the first time. The only thing I’d want another game to have in common with Bloodlines is vampires. And PC compatibility. And it has graphics and sound. I guess there are actually a number of things Bloodlines does right. Good or bad, a single-player linear-campaign game is going to have somewhat limited relevance when considering the possible design of an MMO.

Take the vehicles out of Grand Theft Auto 3, make certain buildings claimable as havens, dump in a bunch of other players, add a coterie/pack system (these are, by the way, the official White Wolf terms – I think; it’s been a while), give everybody vampire powers and stats of their choosing, maybe rework the guns a little (M60 can probably go), if possible beef up the close combat system (don’t want bruisers to get bored), and there you are, really.

Not my own position, but I can respect it. However, I don’t think the things that can potentially make the Camarilla interesting would translate to an MMO anywhere near as well as the things that can potentially make the Sabbat interesting.

Not my own position, but I can respect it. However, I don’t think the things that can potentially make the Camarilla interesting would translate to an MMO anywhere near as well as the things that can potentially make the Sabbat interesting.[/quote]

This is the bottom line, and clearly the source of our disagreement. Where we agree is that an MMO cannot really do RPing of the sort of depth that the PnP Vampire came can. I thought Bloodlines did a good job of this, but mainly because it was a solo game. By expanding on it, what I meant was that you could have factions in the game to which you could cater (or suck up to?). How your character developed, what kinds of mobs would attack you, etc. would be based largely on that.

The Sabbat game would seem to lack this because frankly Sabbat lends itself to a you-against-the-world approach. Maybe you have a gang of friends, but everyone else pretty much hates you, and you hate them. For me, this is the major problem of the Sabbat. It would diminish the social aspect of an MMORPG, which takes away its most exciting feature. Why would you ever group with members of another gang? What happens if your friends aren’t online? What quests could there be other than kill/destroy X?

You do seem to have put your finger on the key points there. I agree, it is pretty much “you (and your guys) against the world,” and if the game had quests (which I wouldn’t want it to) they would be somewhat limited in their goals and scope. But there are a lot of games with quests and big, undifferentiated communities. This would be an opportunity for something a little different.

Oh, definitely. It would require a different approach. I wonder if it would need RPG conventions at all (your game). Could you do it as an FPS type game? In the end, without quests and such, is it really that different than Battlefield? I guess the persistent world would be the major difference, which is interesting. But if the Havens really are captured, how would you recapture it? Presumably, the guys with a home now have a huge advantage over your now scattered group. I think a lot could be done with the concept you propose, but it certainly doesn’t fit with what I think of as an MMORPG (or an RPG of any sort). Perhaps that’s the point?

Perhaps that’s at least part of the point. As for RPG conventions, I think a customizable distribution of powers and stats would add a lot to the game, and a highly customizable appearance would be practically mandatory. As for a defenders’ advantage, it would hopefully be balanced by the attackers’ advantage of being able to coordinate an attack so that they’re all on at the same time.