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Thinking Virtually

#55: Five Things I Love About You: Fixing Engineering Problems

by Shannon Appelcline
May 13, 2002

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Well, it's now been over half-a-year since I started in on what I consider to be five of the top engineering problems for Multiplayer Computer Roleplaying Games (MCRPGs). For those of you who have been here the whole time, kudos and congratulations for hanging in. For those of you more recently arrived, now that the whole mini-series is done, you might want to head back to Thinking Virtually #31 and read the whole thing through.

This time around I just want to take a quick skim through all five problems and summarize what I believe are the best solutions to each. None of them are really complete solutions, because these are hard problems, but if you're a MCRPG engineer, they should at least get you started.

Problem #1: The Fun Factor
Thinking Virtually #33-37

My first engineering problem asked the question: how do you create a game people will enjoy? Much of the answer is, "produce a good game," and "resolve all these engineering problems I've been discussing." Some of the more specific solutions offered both by myself and by other authors include:

Problem #2: The Realism Rathole
Thinking Virtually #38-40

In January I talked about realism, and how it centered around the question: how do you balance a game that's realistic with one that's enjoyable? In my opinion the whole question of realism is really a dodge, not truly understood by a lot of folks who are, at heart, playing in fantasy games. However, I and others did offer suggestions on how to make a game more realistic--by some definitions:

Problem #3: The Competition Conundrum
Thinking Virtually #41-45

By the very nature of their multiplayer existence, MCRPGs innately have problems with competition, and how players relate to each other. Succinctly: how do you support competition without angering players? A lot of this question has to do with PvP or PK play, but a number of suggestions can bring new light to the whole issue:

Problem #4: The Balance Bother
Thinking Virtually #46-49

Balance is an even bigger problem in MCRPGs than traditional tabletop RPGs because they're much more solidly about making your characters better. In short: how do you balance different players in a fair way? There are a number of answers: