The thing that makes real-life politics interesting is the balancing of powers. The carefully crafted constitutional checks and balances among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the U.S. government is one example, but pretty much any public organizational structure will pit one power base against another. In some of today's nations there is a tension between religious and secular leadership. Even dictatorships often split into civilian and military power blocs.
MMORPGs that offer player cities and that want to stimulate (if not simulate) player politics need a way to create power blocs within city administrations.
Some games such as SWG have made a reasonable start at achieving this by letting players be citizens of player cities, and by allowing players to become Mayors of those cities. EVE Online has a more abstract version of this in which players can be members or CEOs of corporations.
These are good starts, but they don't go far enough to really provoke political intrigue. For that, a middle layer is necessary -- there needs to be a power group between the leader and the citizens. Only when multiple players are able to compete or cooperate to define and execute rules do you really see the kinds of interactions that make politics so interesting. (An example of this would be king, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie. Shifing alliances among these three groups generated a much more diverse and interesting politics than the more direct command-and-control system of a ruler and the ruled.)
Here's how this three-group system might work in a MMORPG. To use the analogy of a city, I'd like to see players able to win seats on a City Council. Novice politicians could earn political points serving as an executive assistant, or legislative staffer, or some such thing. Once you earn enough political points to learn a City Council skill, you can run for city council. (Council races would occur weekly, mayoral races would be held independently once per month.) Election to the city council would give you the ability (depending on the skill level) to do certain legislative things -- basically changing certain existing laws and sponsoring new ones, each of which would generate political points. The city council would vote on these "bills," which if agreed to would go to the Mayor for signature or veto. If vetoed, the council would have a chance (through another vote) to override the veto.
This restructuring of the power system would have a number of positive effects on gameplay. It would allow more people to be able to actively serve as politicians, rather than only allowing one person to be Mayor. It establish a tension between the executive (Mayor) and legislative (Council) power structures -- the city council itself could become a political battlefield on some issues. It could even set up "insider" vs. "outsider" dynamics, as between someone who's sat on the city council for months ("I know this town, and I know its citizens") versus someone who's never held public office ("I've got fresh perspectives, and I'm not beholden to any pressure group").
Something similar could work for corporations. Holders of enough shares or proxies could constitute a control board overseeing the actions of the corp's CEO.
Overall, I think the simple citizen/Mayor system concentrates too much power in the hands of one person. It's not a matter of fearing the corruption of power -- it's more that politics isn't as much fun if only one person can play.
We need checks and balances. And babies to kiss!
Monday, November 3, 2003
Friday, September 19, 2003
I like the idea of professions that are explicitly for combat support. Combat Medic is the prototype, but there could be others to fill the other kinds of roles you find in military operations: communications, logistics (if supply were as important in this game as in Real Life), PsyOps (this one could be fun, but the griefing potential probably dooms it), intel (now THIS one could work -- look at all the "spy" PAs that have already been created), etc. These professions might give minor bonuses to some pure combat skills, but would otherwise be focused on support abilities. The Squad Leader profession would also benefit indirectly from having more useful functions to integrate.
Having said this, I don't think it would be appropriate to graft combat support functions onto otherwise non-fighting professions. Again, I think we do better over the long run to find more ways to let crafters be crafters (and likewise for the other non-combat professions), rather than tacking unrelated combat features onto them. We need to find ways for fighters to depend more on crafters (AND vice-versa!), rather than expecting crafters and other to participate in direct combat.
For example, consider the concept of fighters providing protection for parties moving through the wilderness toward their homes, harvesters, or mission objectives. It’s not clear to me why "caravan guard" hasn't turned into a more popular in-game role. There's no game-specific function for it, but it seems like something that would have emerged on its own... but it sure doesn't look that way.
I can only figure a couple reasons why not:
1) It's too easy for crafters to pick up combat skills. For example, I'm a Master Artisan and near-Master Merchant, yet I'm about to pick up my fourth skill level in Pistol. It's handy to be able to collect my own Hides (especially with prices skyrocketing), but I use it for defense as well -- I actually got chased into my home/shop by some swamp rats. They got me, but I got one of them first. On top of that, I've got /maskscent and improved /burstrun... so explain to me again why I need to hire guards?
2) The rewards offered aren't enough of an inducement. If combat types are able to pull down kilocredits for a relatively simple mission, it's not likely that any of them will be interested in the Cr2000 I can offer for eliminating the narglatches camped out in my front yard. I honestly believe that the rewards for missions have been and continue to be WAAAAAY too high. Fighters, for the most part, ought to be cash-poor; there ought to be gazilliions of ways for them to lose money and only a few ways -- mostly dependent on working for non-fighters -- to earn money. (Yes, I know this viewpoint will not make me popular with combat-oriented folks OR with high-level armor- and weaponsmiths. So be it; all these folks were able to advance far too quickly due to excessive fighter cash.) It would be nice to have other inducements than monetary, too -- maybe other players should be able to hire fighters, and after so many engagements be able to offer rank levels -- Guard, Guard Sergeant, Guard Lieutenant, Captain of the Guard, etc., with uniforms and badges (REAL badges, not text!) as are in each case appropriate.
OK, now it's my turn to offer ideas to get shot down. (Hey, fair is fair.)
1. It was originally planned that low-level artisans would be able to craft components for items that only elite crafters could build, and that the skill point control system would force high-level crafters to give up low-level crafting skills (thereby creating a market for low-level crafters to profit by making components). Didn't happen. But maybe we should revive at least some of the basic idea -- how about requiring more low-level components for high-level items? Complex devices should need lots of simpler parts (and NOT from factory crates, either).
2. To extend this idea on the other side, I'd like to see more "multi-disciplinary" objects -- in other words, there ought to be really complex items that need components that can only be crafted by entirely different professions. This would do multiple Good Things: It would extend the game for high-level crafters; it would create more interaction among players (and professions); it would open up more opportunities for lower-level crafters (to supply the components, see #1 above); and it would put more cool things in the game for other players to enjoy. As examples of the kinds of things I mean, I think of shopping malls, vehicles (once that patch is released), power stations (for vehicles), and even space stations and maybe capital ships (once the Space Expansion is released). Also, there is talk of a City Planner profession... maybe they'll need advanced artisans in some way...?
3. What about factioned artisan objects? This would be a way for artisans to participate in the Galactic Civil War in a meaningful way. Off the top of my head, I think of things like fortifications and gun emplacements, and perhaps even the various types of Imperial walkers, but I'm sure there are lots of other faction-related items that crafters could create that could be tied to the movies.
4. More mission types, please. Crafters ought to be able to exercise their four key functions -- creating, maintaining, repairing, and enhancing -- on darn near any object, and there ought to be all kinds of missions and places in which to exercise those distinct but related skills. (Speaking of enhancing, I don't mind letting Bounty Hunters do slicing on electronics and containers, but letting them do weapon and armor improvement is a mistake. Item enhancement ought to be restricted to crafters.)
5. Bodies of water are almost completely worthless in SWG, and that's a shame. If REAL swimming were an option, we could create all sorts of water-related devices: snorkels, the rebreathers Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan used in Ep. I, submersible vehicles, oil rigs, floating houses....
6. Ditto #4, except in the air. (Although this would be badly open to griefing unless the fastest vehicle available was a helium-filled dirigible, but we really do need some way to recreate Bespin.)
7. Finally -- and we're getting a little way-out here -- what if there was a kind of crafter that resembled the Settlers/Engineers from the Civilization games? In other words, what if we could alter the terrain? Although to prevent griefing there'd have to be some seriously stout controls on what could be done, what if it were possible to build roads (which, frankly, ought to offer movement bonuses)? How about clearing trees? Would it be useful to those planting harvesters, do you think, to pay someone to level a piece of ground over a particularly rich resource site? Speaking of resources, why not offer a skill that improves the percentages of a particular resource in a single location (possibly reducing the percentages of randomly-selected other resources nearby)?
I know not all these ideas are good ones. Others might be good, but are unrealistic. Ultimately, the point is to come up with ideas for additional content for non-combat players. Most won't be used, but if even just a few are, then we're better off and it was worth it.