Friday, March 6

My perfect MMO part 4: A different take on harvesting

Keep in mind; this is something that takes place in the Shadowrun background. A futuristic dystopian of the Cyberpunk genre with Fantasy elements thrown in.
The action takes place in large city sprawls and the overland map(s) will largely be of this type. As a result this will not be that dissimilar from what you'd see in City of Heroes or Matrix Online. Meaning dreary buildings, pedestrians and traffic. Cryptic has done one hell of a job bringing their cityscape alive using just cars and pedestrians. A little known fact, selecting an NPC and then hitting any of several keys will prompt them to tell stuff, about you, the time, the zone e.t.c. But essentially, they are there to provide a bit of movement to an otherwise static environment, and to obscure your view of randomly positioned mobs to pummel.
In my hypothetical game, as a Shadowrunner, the players are criminals, not heroes. Guns for hire. Most often without a day-job. But in between shadowruns (missions) there should be other activities for them to engage in. No good MMO is without some kind of harvesting and crafting element. I can't even call them it mini-game anymore. More often than not, it's about a third of the whole game.

There's a few gameplay mechanics I'd like to see implemented.

At semi-random places, there's these dumpsters you can go through.....
Nope, that'd be the classic harvesting system I'd like to avoid if at all possible
I wasn't randomly for once mentioning the cityscapes of CoX and the traffic.
Rather than have 'nodes' (the dumpsters) of mineral resources semi-randomly pop up all over the place and have players run endless loops clicking on these, waiting for a few seconds until the animation stops and a message tells you whether you've struck led or gold, I'd like harvesting to have a more realistic element. In this case, car-jacking supply trucks.

Ok, not actually stealing the truck, though maybe it should be possible as well. What I'm thinking of is CoX like traffic, only with select vehicles that can be attacked amongst the regular traffic.
Attacking a vehicle will disrupt traffic, which in turn alerts police and or other security forces. But more about that anon. Attacking a vehicle will not be done in the age old manner of harvesting described above. For one, you have to locate them and they're moving targets. Second, you will be attacking the vehicle in the game's normal fashion (yes, yes, I've not actually talked about the combat system yet, assume generic WOW/EQ-2-like combat for now). They don't fight back, but they take longer to be destroyed. Toughness is always in respect to your toon's level and you can't share a harvest/kill. It should take between 5-30 seconds to take the vehicle down. Upon defeating the vehicle it becomes a wreck and you can search it for goods. The loot tables for these vehicles will be based on manufacturer corporation (so you will have to look at the name on the side) and come in trader-trash, common and rare variety. Actual levels depending on finalizing of itemization / gear concepts.
The manufacturer corporation has another purpose. You see, attacking a vehicle is strictly speaking a crime. As such the city officials feel that someone ought to make some effort to deter that. The corporations want the city officials to give them carte blanche to deal with anyone hindering their business.

In Shadowrun, corporations are effectively "ranked" by the amount of assets under their control, including material, personnel, and property, as well as profit. These ranks are A, AA, and AAA; AAA corporations are top tier. Most corporations in the AA and AAA level are immune to domestic law, responsible only to themselves, and regulated only by the Corporate Court, an assembly of the ten AAA-rated corporations.

So every time you attack such a slow moving target, you run the risk of catching police attention. With some of the more lucrative harvesting targets, a corp's own strike-team may respond. Your chances of catching attention will be based upon several factors, randomness being just one of them. nr of recent attacks by the player & recent attacks at the location & nr of recent attacks on that type of vehicle and proximity to vehicle's mother corporation are others. It's probably best to spread out your field of operation as wide as possible to escape attention. However, harvesting 2 streets away from where someone else just jacked a car isn't smart either.

When you catch the attention of the police/strike-teams you have that most ancient of choices to make. Fight or flight. Both are an option. The police generally has a set amount of time they will spend chasing you, with being out of sight for x amount of time making them loose interest. Or a greater crime draws their attention (more on that anon) some of the strike teams will be more tenacious and aggressive. Running into a store should not be a smart move. Escaping the authorities will imbue upon the player a small amount of XP. A mixture of fighting and running is probably the best approach for solo-play.
Fighting will be interesting more interesting for group-play. You can try to fight of the initial strike-team and have a chance to succeed, a chance that becomes greater if other players assist. Strike-teams are hostile to you by default (if you are the perp that caught their attention) but anyone can engage them, which naturally makes them angry. Normal agro rules apply, so it's potentially interesting to harvest as a group as you can stave off the cops more easily that way. Cop units will drop overland mob loot which is different from what you get from the vehicles and they provide 60% of the normal XP a player would get from a similar unit in different situations.
Splatter damage from AoE attacks will ahrm non-involved players as well, so it might be a good idea to get the hell out of the way if you're a level 10 petty thief and there's a World War VI being waged by 24 Level 80's and Saeder-Krupp security forces.

That is actually a likely scenario as destroying/killing a police unit will draw more official attention. Staying to fight those will result in greater waves of more veracious units. I.e. initially an equal level patrol car will spawn and come after you, downing that will get you three of them on your tail. Downing those will get you 5 Level +1 foes. This will keep scaling up until order is restored, the server crashes or a to-be-determined cap is reached. I.e. you have the opportunity to create whole gang/cops street-wars if you so wish. Think of a mix between the base assaults of Tabula Rasa, only at random locations, and the Giant Monsters of CoX. I'll go one step further, and institute a special Street-crew concept which will be a blatant rip-off on the Public Quest group concept from Warhammer Online. A street-crew is a public invite-your-self group aiming to misbehave on the streets and fight off the pigs when they show. Two teams can join to street-gang size which can grow to encompass four groups in total. Sounds like fun yes? And all the while you're gathering materials for crafting as well. I just realized that the initial player-lock of the target-vehicle will probably have to go for decent group-play. So be it, Vehicle-Level is still determined by the first shooter though making playing with different levels in the team interesting. We'll make it so that joining the team will invoke a mentoring system bringing you up to within 3 levels of the team's leader or down to two levels above, to keep things within a single tier.

Ok, this harvesting turned urban warfare is one way to gather materials. We need another, more solo-player oriented now. Luckily there's still the dumpsters. Or we can go the way of organ harvesting. Besides streets, cities have alleys, and people foolish enough to venture in them. The more stealth/solo oriented player can go lurking in these to molest innocent pedestrians. Most of the time, this will result in a few nickels and dimes only, maybe a BTL chip to be resold on the street market. Occasionally though, you can harvest organs. Provided of course that you have the tools for extracting and storing them. Don't be squeamish. This is the age where life is the cheapest commodity and people are willing to pay good money to be able keep up their organ destroying bad habbits without too many questions asked.
This is considered a serious crime though and doing so will always trigger authorities. The rare version of a molest will be to find harvestable cybernetics which are actually quite rare for the majority of the population. The majority of cybernetics is concentrated amongst tha tpart of the populace that are the players.

I was thinking about another money-making sub-game called deal-brokering, which would basically be a re-invention of the diplomacy system of Vanguard. But as usual my rambling method of writing, which I use in lieu of having an actual style, made this another way too long post. Hope there were some fun or interesting bits in there for you.
P.s. I haven't played a Grand Theft Auto game since the first version. Not true, I tried Vice City for a bit on the original XBox but soon only used it for an 80's music box. If any of my idea's are similar to GTA IV that's purely coincidental.


  1. (First things first, the COH comments you get from pedestrians is not based on which key you press, but on the first letter of their names.)

    When I was half way through reading your post I left like you were busy making GTA Online. Which I think is a very bad idea. I am glad you figured that out yourself as well in the end :)

    But I read on and thought some more over it, and it actually has some nice ideas. I like the idea of mixing harvesting with combat. Although harvesting in general was all rather useless in AOC, I liked the random attacks.

    You could also expand the whole thing on the area you trash about. In the more grim areas you will not get the police on your case but street gangs that don't like it you are operating on their turf. Or even PvP areas where harvest gangs can fight it out amongst themselves and steal the loot from their recent rampage.

    I guess there will be 'harvest' levels separate from xp levels. A whimpy carjack expert should be able to get stuff out of a car quicker than an uber dude that does it for the first time. Of course whe it comes to fighting the police (or whoever) the uber dude will have a much easier time.

    And perhaps their can be harvest equipment as well that will speed up the process.

    But I have some issues too. I am a little bit worried that the loot versus effort ratio is rather low. Interruptions from your main goal is fun, but it should not become the main focus. It could be that you get both crappy fighting xp and crappy harvest loot.

    Another problem I have is that it might make the world a bit unbelievable if everybody is continuously bashing up cars. It comes back a bit to the wolf and sheep dilemma. Although I am a shadowrunner, and therefore a criminal, I am don't have to be the bash-up-random-people kind of villain. It is really killing for the sake of killing. (Which reminds me of my slaughter of defenseless travellers outside the dark elf city with my Raki) There needs to be a moraly better way to get your hands on loot.

    The mugging people in the alley for organs doesn't sit well with me either. Again too much killing for the killing. Maybe I am just in a pacifistic mode today ;>

    Hmm, looks like I am only bashing your idea now, which is not my intention. It is actually all pretty nifty. It just needs more. I will have to think and post more later.

  2. Some great ideas to make 'harvesting' that little more interesting. I'm not in a pacifist mood today so the looting of bodily organs sounds quite fun at the moment and harkens back to RPGs like Vampire masquerade- Bloodlines where the stealth drinking of blood was one of my favourite parts, do it too openly and your immediately tagged for police intervention.

    For those pacifists who may not want to engage in killing for the sake of harvesting maybe a salvaging system can help provide resources?

    Dumpsters (which I interpret as 'skips') would only yield low level 'waste' that would have limited use if realism is important but what do you expect when stealing the trash wouldn't warrent any repercussions.

    There could also be missions/quests for resource robbing, which if done stealthed could also provide for a more pacifist encounter?

    They are great ideas but even in AoC the interruptions can get very annoying very quickly, I've always seen harvesting as a more relaxing, more or less aggro free necessary time sink for anyone interested in crafting or boosting their gold supply via the demand at the trader/ah/merchant/black market.

  3. Time to respond :-)

    @Phe, your concerns regarding the morality of these gathering systems are duly noted.
    The vehicles, I envision them as delivery vans (armored transports most of the time) of A or AA corporations, and you shouldn't think one every street but one every block or blocks of street.
    The organ harvesting, it's something that's there in the background. In Shadowrun unless you have a SIN your life is the cheapest commodity. But your concerns are valid. P&P Shadowrun was all about losing your morality and, more importantly, your humanity. I haven't really touched on how to apply that in-game yet. I probably should get around to that coming night-shifts.

    As for Geek, I was actually trying to steer away from the mind-numbing node harvesting of the EQ-2 / Vanguard / Age of Conan type, where indeed AoC is the most lively. But... In order to keep the 'Fixer' class in there, I'll be ripping something along the lines of Vanguard's Diplomacy card-game and or VG & EQ-2's crafting systems for this game. I'll probably get nagged at for using too many sub-games :-)

    P.s. Vampire: Bloodlines is the only non Bioware game in my RPG top three. I just loved my Malkav telling everyone what was going to happen or what they did, without realizing what she was saying.
    It's a shame that Troika was great at making games, but sucked at getting funding :-(