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Fundamentals of Game Design, 2 nd Edition by Ernest Adams Chapter 21: Online Games
Chapter 21 Online Games2 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Objectives Understand the advantages and disadvantages of online play as compared with single-player play Understand key design issues for online games, including handling arriving and disappearing players, real-time and turn- based play, chat mechanisms, and designing to prevent player collusion
Chapter 21 Online Games3 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Objectives (Cont.) Be familiar with some of the technical security problems of online games and some solutions Know how persistent worlds differ from conventional games and what this implies for storytelling, avatar creation and death, and the internal economics of the game world Be familiar with the issues surrounding player-versus-player combat in online games
Chapter 21 Online Games4 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. What Are Online Games? Multiplayer distributed games in which the players’ machines are connected by a network The network can be the Internet or a local area network (LAN)
Chapter 21 Online Games5 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Advantages of Online Games Player socializing Online games offer opportunities for social interaction Most games offer chatting (conversation restricted to typing text) More games are including voice communication As the creator of an online game, you are a social architect
Chapter 21 Online Games6 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Advantages of Online Games (Cont.) Human intelligence instead of artificial intelligence If players compete against each other, less AI is needed Use NPCs when necessary—AI-controlled enemies can fight a team of online players
Chapter 21 Online Games7 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Advantages of Online Games (Cont.) Online gameplay versus local multiplayer gameplay Characteristics Multiplayer gameplay can be purely competitive, purely cooperative, or team-based In online play, players are usually in separate places Local play can be two types Local area network (LAN)—similar to online play, each has her own screen Local play—players in the same room using the same equipment, all looking at one screen
Chapter 21 Online Games8 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Advantages of Online Games (Cont.) Online gameplay versus local multiplayer gameplay (cont.) Problems with local play Must display UI elements for each player Can’t hide information from other players Limits the number of simultaneous players Online play solves the local play problems Each player has own screen, information, UI Servers can handle thousands of players
Chapter 21 Online Games9 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Disadvantages of Online Games Technical issues Communication models Client/server—player runs client and game company runs server Peer-to-peer—players’ computers communicate directly Latency, also known as transmission delay time— players with a faster connection could have an advantage Dropped and garbled packets cause errors
Chapter 21 Online Games10 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Disadvantages of Online Games (Cont.) It’s harder to suspend disbelief Misbehavior can ruin the game for others The need to produce content Online games earn money through advertising revenue or subscriptions To keep players interested, you must produce new content on an ongoing basis Online games require more customer service Players expect different things from online games
Chapter 21 Online Games11 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming Arriving players Start new matches at frequent intervals Provide a lounge for waiting players Might need a matchmaking service to form groups In persistent worlds, late arrivals are at a disadvantage. To assist them: Don’t have a victory condition Discourage competition between experienced players and newcomers Be sure that direct competition is consensual
Chapter 21 Online Games12 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming Disappearing players—choose a fair way to deal with disconnections when they occur: Vanishing player forfeits Penalty less severe than forfeiture Award victory to leader at time of disconnection Record as a tie Record as a “disconnected game” Abandon game entirely Use referees Each approach has weaknesses
Chapter 21 Online Games13 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming (Cont.) Real-time versus turn-based games Real-time provides more freedom for the player and it’s more immersive Turn-based is less immersive and requires: Limited number of players in one game Time limit on each turn Default action occurs if player runs out of time Players can do other things while waiting for turn In some games all players plan action simultaneously, then server computes the results for each turn
Chapter 21 Online Games14 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming (Cont.) Chat Chat is a mechanism that enables players to send messages to one another Chat levels Private message to one player Message to your team Message to the players nearby (in the game world) Message to all players in the game at the time Abusive behavior is a big problem MUST have a strong system to protect children
Chapter 21 Online Games15 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming (Cont.) Mechanisms to prevent/reduce abusive chat: Limit chat to certain words/phrases Profanity filters (don’t work very well) Complaint and warning systems Complaint button reports offending player to authorities Offender can be warned, disconnected, or banned Ignoring other players Ignoring enables player to stop receiving messages from a specific player Player sets ignore, so there’s no staff cost involved Use live human moderators Expensive, and moderator must be impartial Only real solution in spaces designed for children
Chapter 21 Online Games16 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming (Cont.) Collusion Form of cheating in which players who are supposed to be opponents work together in violation of the rules Computer enforces rules but software can’t detect certain kinds of collusion such as instant messaging or physical communication outside the game software
Chapter 21 Online Games17 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming (Cont.) Collusion (cont.) Designing to reduce collusion You can’t prevent collusion completely You can only try to reduce the effect Consider these questions as you design: What will happen if players share knowledge supposed to be secret? Is there any mechanism to transfer assets between players that they can abuse? What can happen if a player deliberately plays to lose?
Chapter 21 Online Games18 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Design Issues for Online Gaming (Cont.) Technical security Use a secure telecommunications protocol Encrypt data Use a heartbeat mechanism Include unique sequenced serial number in packets Don’t store sensitive data on the player’s computer Don’t send the player data he isn’t supposed to have Don’t let the client perform sensitive operations
Chapter 21 Online Games19 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds The origins of persistent-world gaming Since 1978, developers have played text-based persistent worlds called MUDS No commercial market for MUDs today How persistent worlds differ from ordinary games Story doesn’t end Players can change their roles Gameplay is expressive and active, not reactive
Chapter 21 Online Games20 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) Richard Bartle’s four types of players Killers enjoy acting on other players Socializers enjoy interacting with other players Achievers enjoy acting on the world Explorers enjoy interacting with the world
Chapter 21 Online Games21 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) Creating an avatar The first thing a player does in a persistent world is create an avatar Players maintain profiles that include information such as Unique name or handle Physical appearance History or experience Reputation Player autobiography
Chapter 21 Online Games22 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) Raph Koster’s world models The five classic world models are: Scavenger model Social model Dungeons & Dragons model Player-versus-Player (PvP) model Builder model
Chapter 21 Online Games23 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) Avatar death Avatar death must be accompanied by a disincentive Ways to deal with avatar death: Permanent death Resurrection with reduced attributes Resurrection with some property missing
Chapter 21 Online Games24 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) The player-killer (PK) problem It’s more interesting to fight another player than an NPC Players carry better loot than NPCs It’s a social experience Players fight better than AI opponents The Ultima Online experience—without imposed limitations, players preyed on each other
Chapter 21 Online Games25 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) The player-killer (PK) problem (cont.) Various justice mechanisms to regulate PvP: No automated regulation Flagging of criminals Reputation systems PvP switch—only consensual fights allowed Safe games; no PvP allowed Faction-based PvP enables players to attack members of enemy factions but not members of their own faction
Chapter 21 Online Games26 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) The player-killer (PK) problem (cont.) The bottom line on player killing: It’s a fantasy world, it needs to be fun for everyone People pay to play—their cash expenditure matters The nature of time In single-player games, time can be paused, sped up, or skipped In online games, time must run at the same pace for everyone
Chapter 21 Online Games27 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Persistent Worlds (Cont.) Persistent world economies Designing and tuning the economy in an online game is difficult Players should not be able to create something for nothing As with all other games with an economy, do not create any system that allows players to generate runaway profits
Chapter 21 Online Games28 © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc. Summary You should now understand How to compare advantages and disadvantages of online play and single-player play How to handle key design issues for online games How to describe solutions to some technical security problems faced by online games How to distinguish between persistent worlds and conventional games How to describe online PvP combat issues
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