Cool “Moments” are not “Dynamic Content”

Dynamic content is becoming a new buzz word with developers.   GW2 and Rift are both touting it hardcore in just about every dev diary, press release, preview, or twitter (twit? tweet?).   While I take issue with their use of the word “dynamic” when I really feel like it’s just random scriptedness (word?), I’ll pretend for a moment it is dynamic so that I can weigh in on how I would improve the dynamic experience.

In the latest Rift dev blog (#4) a story is told about how these rifts popped up and caused a ruckus and were thwarted and another opened and took over some quest hub and it all caused a commotion.   Here’s a quote from the dev blog:

“Our goal on Rift has been to build a system that could guarantee these moments — these emergent experiences — for the player.” -Will Cook

That’s the problem: They’re just moments.  Let me use a couple of examples from the beta.  In beta 1, after the rift event frequency had been ramped up, an invasion formed and took over a fairly insignificant quest hub that had maybe two quest givers.  This is not an exaggeration, within 2 minutes of it spawning and taking over it was put down and gone without a trace of its existence ever being there.  Another example is on an even grander scale when it felt like all of a sudden the entire zone was thrown into chaos and invasions of all sorts were everywhere.  Within 5 minutes, as I was just finishing closing the first rift I could reach, the entire map had been vacated of all rift/invasion/enemy presence.

They are neat little moments, but they are just moments.  What’s the point?  I feel like having them at all makes it worse because it’s like showing us that you CAN do it, but that you’re not doing it in any meaningful way.  I want those rifts to take over towns and I want those towns to become enemy towns that are barricaded and take much, much longer to regain.  I want those rifts and invasions to truly be scary and something people will need to join together to take over or else they face the consequences.  Let that quest hub, city, town, village, entire freaking zone, whatever, be taken over and truly gone for a significant amount of time.  Let the player feel like they are actually losing something or losing to something.  What’s the point of having them if they’re cheapified (again I amaze myself with words today) versions of what they really should be — what they’re being touted to be in these stories and previews?

The same thing is going to happen in GW2.  The events will be really awesome little moments with zero lasting impact on the world or the players.  A bridge will fall, an NPC killed, and moments later it will all mean nothing to the next player who walks by.  That isn’t dynamic content, at least by my definition.

Trion totally has the right idea here.  I think what they have implemented so far is fantastic.  Now just do with it what needs to be done and go that extra mile so that it actually matters.  Will Cook says, in that dev blog, that consequences matter and that Rift is challenging the normal unwritten rules about what is an is not acceptable in MMO’s but I want to see that ideology in practice.  Stop telling us about it, all of you developers throwing around ‘dynamic content’, and do it.

Note: I will be playing the Rift PvP weekend to see if things have changed.  I’ll also be certain to weigh in on GW2’s dynamic content once I am able.

  • Keen, I’ll be honest with you, I have been following your posts for 2-3 years now, but it’s getting hard and harder each day to read this blog, you just seem to want to complain about everything, nothing is good enough. You should really try to take a look at what you’ve been writing and do a little soul-searching, because you are killing the great image as a fair writer you got over the years.

    I mean, have you even read or watched anything about GW2 before this post? If a player takes down a bridge during an event, it will stay down until another event brings it back. Sure, it’s possible to one player see the bridge there, and come back another time and completely miss the whole sequence of events that blown up then reconstructed this hypothetical bridge, but that doesn’t mean that the event was meaningless to the world or to players. If this isn’t a dynamic content, then please, enlighten us on what does the word “dynamic” means to you.

    The way you put it, it seems that unless a player is able to kill the main antagonist, which will never ever show up again, you won’t be satisfied enough to call it dynamic content. Dynamic content does NOT implies on persistence. It means that the content is not always the same every time you go to a certain area (and if you played Rift, you should know that rifts and invasions make playing much more unpredictable and dynamic than the usual get-quest, kill-mobs, turn-quest-in structure from previous MMOs, and even Rift itself uses as a basic structure). This doesn’t mean that the area will be forever changed, and no one is saying that; it’s only you who seems to expect that.

    If you don’t care at all about these attempts of making MMO content more interesting, why do you even bother to read and write about these games? MMOs will not change in such drastic ways, because you cannot make permanent changes to the environment and expect the next set of players to just deal with it, so just give up if that is what you expect.

  • Cool Moments are Dynamic Content if they are “constantly changing,” which is all that is promised by “dynamic”. The problem is not that the game does not deliver what is hyped, but that people seem to expect the hyped content to do things it does not claim to do.

  • No offence, but I don’t think you are actually paying attention to what the devs of GW2 are actually saying. Events in GW2 are supposed to make lasting changes and there are indeed events where whole areas may be taken over until players come to free the place.

  • With Rifts, the developers obviously has a “Reset State” of the world where all the NPCs are up, and players move around the generic mobs in the countryside.

    It seems then they have these moments as you call them, that changes the behavior of the zone. After this moment is over, the zone returns to the pre-defined “Reset State”. The problem is that it seems to be rather binary – either you’re contested or not. So when rifts are closed the same “Reset State” is obtained. The zone isn’t dynamically changed… Someone reset the dungeon.

    Compare this to the demon attacks on thrallmar / honor hold in WoW. At random (?) times, a horde of demons will stomp in and wreck stuff. but moments later, order is restored into the “Reset State”. How are the Rifts different from that? Would you call Burning Crusade WoW “Dynamic Content”?

  • I have to agree with the others that you guys haven’t done your research on GW2 dynamic content.

    It has been said, AND PROVEN (at games days and expos), that the dynamic content in GW2 is very dynamic.

    In GW2 that bridge once its down, stays down, and there is more store after that leads away from it, but there is also a series of quests the may bring the story back that requires you to REBUILD to bridge, but its not 100% related to the previous reason for it going down.


    1. A ship lands on the coast and has a constant rampage of people attacking a small village.
    a). You can defend the village, and start a sequence of events that eventually destroys the warships.
    b). Or you can do nothing, and the village gets taken over and you lose a quest hub.

    2. This opens up 2 possible routes. Once you defend the village a quest, for example, opens up to start making a push to the boats to get them. Then there is a bridge part that for example gets destroyed form teh events.

    3. You push the event to the ships, and thats it. The bridge stays destroyed, and the ships are gone.

    4. Then there are quests and changes in another zone, that could lead to another attack of the ships. Which then can push all the way back to the same area. The only way to take them down would be to rebuild the bridge, and attack them from a point they think doesn’t need defending. So the bridge is rebuilt. At that point, it aprtially starts over. But there is so much dynamics and changes to the world. No player ever truly plays the same thing because the world can be in a different state every time.

    These events are simple but this is the gist of how it will work, and it has been shown to work at events that ArenaNet showed off GW2. There are videos, and documentation on how it works.

    Not to mention all the other possibilities going in the opposite direction if you never defend the place. You never even touch the bridge nad have other things to worry about.

    I read your blog regularly, but you guys are starting to spout unresearched non-sense.

    GW2 has implemented in a polished form everything they have announced, and it has been seen by players as such. They could easily release now and it would be a polished solid game, but they are still considered alpha, if anything, GW2 will be the most polished MMO to release in a LONG time.

  • The core “Incursion” feature of the current EVE Online expansion is designed to have an impact on all star systems in a constellation (a local group of 5-10 systems).

    Once it becomes active pilots in the constellation will not be able to run PvE missions efficiently (damage/resist/bounties are all nerfed), mining asteroid belts will become more difficult as they will populated by tougher-than-normal Sansha NPCs.

    Once the Incursion clears, there’s no lasting effect, but the intent seems to be for the Incursion’s impact to be sufficiently irritating that pilots in those systems will either have to relocate temporarily, or group up and clear it rather than waiting several days for it to dissipate naturally.

    Inflicting annoyance on PvE players with a new PvE content system. I love CCP sometimes. 🙂

  • I have to agree with Keen on this. This industries definition of “dynamic” does not come close to what I would call it. Rifts are NOT dynamic they are at best random. For me a dynamic world needs consequences. Someones actions should have meaning and long term impact.

    I’ve said this in other places before but for me a truly dynamic world would have the chance to constantly change. Lets say there is a cave containing trolls. Players could fight their way through the cave and kill a named troll. That troll would not respawn again. That said a new troll might respawn but if players cleared the cave of all trolls and perhaps destroyed their “subterranean entrance” then trolls would never respawn there. Some other creatures might one day take up occupancy in the now empty cave but maybe not. Possibly even players could build there only to be invaded later on as something new encroaches.

    Things like that should be coupled with an over-arching storyline that would advance beyond the players direct control. GMs could control an advancing faction that is constantly attempting to take potentially player-controlled land. Towns could be wiped out and would stay wiped out. Plagues could come into a town and turn its inhabitants into zombies. Give the game a life expectancy similar to A Tale in the Desert. Some faction (including the GM one) might actually “win”.

    For me never knowing what to expect in the game world would make it dynamic as something more related to ecosystems and how they can change.

    None of the new games have anything like what I want to see as “dynamic” instead they continue to give meaningless game”play” drivel.

  • As much as I agree with the comments from other posters regarding the dominance of negativity in Keen’s articles lately, it is a little too early to jump to GW2 defense at the moment. Whatever GW2 is going do to be awesome is still unknown so criticizing or defending it right now is somewhat premature. How about looking at Rift and commenting on Keen’s opinion about its dynamic content implementation. Is he not too far off about it?

    Forget GW2 for now, hype it too much and be disappointed when it will be released. Anyone played War lately?

  • There is a difference between negativity and skepticism. Skepticism in this industry is a VERY GOOD THING. I’m not being negative by providing my feedback. I said straight up that the rifts and zone invasions are good in theory and the right direction, but to matter they must be ramped up to a meaningful level. Come on, 1 minute in a quest hub isn’t meaningful.

    If I’m too negative for you and you feel the industry is just fine, then you’re welcome to stop reading. I can recommend a few good Darkfall blogs where they’re always happy and nothing is wrong with MMO’s at all. As for me, when I see a problem I’m going to address it.

    @Daegalus: Oh I’ve done my research. Do a search for GW2 where I quote quite clearly the various times they’ve made statements that 100% completely contradict the meaning of dynamic content. They’ve been so bold as to say that the game world changes all around you, but state it cleverly such that it’s obviously like a public quest (or instanced, or phased).

    You’ll see when the game comes out. It’s not an ever evolving and changing world based upon player interaction. It’s scripted events. I don’t care what they SAY.

  • Well, I for one is happy that Keen for once isn’t going all gooey praising a game to high heavens before launch, only to turn on it after a few weeks.

    I like the new cynical keen better.

  • It’s not cynicism. Cynicism would be if I didn’t offer any way for it to improve or if I saw the state its in and said its doomed. I think Rift has a great chance for their content to be better if it is just a little more meaningful. I’m just skeptical at this point that they’ll be able to pull it off — it’s VERY doable though. Just ramp up the difficulty.

    Just keepin’ it real. If it’s too real for people to handle, well, that’s reality.

  • I didn’t play Tabula Rasa for a super long time but I believe that’s sorta how their “random” invasions worked. They could take over a town and you would have to go take it back..not sure if it stayed under their control until you did it or not.

    I’m trying to like Rift but I can’t find a reason yet to play it over wow except the soul system which is kind of neat. Everyone says the graphics are really good but to me they aren’t that great and i’m running 1920 *1080 with fully maxed out settings. Beyond that the rest of the game just seems kind of like the some old thing and I would rather just do that in wow.

  • Let me start by saying I know this post will seem like irrelevant semantics – for which I apologize. Nonetheless I do have a point: I think as it stands, Keen’s original criticism is effectively hamstrung due to a lack of clarity or specificity. It will have no power to truly criticize, because it can be easily deflected. I.e. “but, they didn’t mean dynamic in the sense you meant it”, or “but, the world really changes for 30 minutes, or an hour!”

    That said, for any of this to make sense, we need to determine whose definition of “dynamic” we’re using, or if that’s even the right concept to be making the center of the argument.

    Frankly “dynamic” is kind of useless to us. In its general sense it doesn’t really say anything relevant to game design, with the closest thing being:

    “Dynamic. Computers. (of data storage, processing, or programming) affected by the passage of time….”

    So really, “dynamic” is only meaningful as the opposite of “static”:

    1. pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition.
    2. showing little or no change….
    3. lacking movement, development….”

    Static certainly described most MMO questing. And in this sense, it’s completely correct to describe Rift’s world as dynamic – over time we can observe change or movement; its condition is not fixed.

    Yes, it is true that it always tends to cycle back towards the default state, but I don’t see that precluding it from being “dynamic”, as long as the cycles aren’t locked into a specific, static rhythm.

    That is, we can have set, unchanging cycles that are in fact static, but as long as the cycles show change, they are dynamic in the general sense. In contrast, this shows why we still call WoW’s questing static, even in Cataclysm: On each player’s individual questing “timeline”, the phasing events always happen at the same point; the phase cycles show no change, the events are fixed in relation to the quests before and after.

    All that said, I agree strongly with the other points Keen is making, and I totally understand why the harping on “dynamic” or not – I follow what I would call similar distraction myself, all the fucking time.

    The point must be emphasized: The devs should be pushing these ideas *more*, and trying to inject more *simulation and NPC agency* into the world. And that’s really the issue here – if I’m understanding it correctly – we’re not talking about dynamic versus static, but about pre-designed scripting versus simulation; a controlled world with a limited number of options for the player, versus a world full of self-directed NPCs who could decide to revolt – against the players and the designers alike.

    Basically the developers are giving us pre-animated death animations – of ever increasing quality and sophistication (now you get a different animation depending on when you shoot the person and where! It’s “dynamic”!”) – while some of us really just want ragdoll physics and get it over with.

    As a side note, I think GW2 and Rift are so different in their basic philosophy towards content, (quest-centric versus a hybrid between Animal Crossing and WoW’s reputation systems) that comparing them isn’t particularly meaningful. Particularly given how little is still understood about GW2…

  • @Sisyphean: I think … think… I get what you’re saying Sisyphean. I tried to make it simpler and quicker to read and take something away.

    Also to clarify, if you’re directing that at me about GW2, I’m not comparing the two games as much as making the statement that both have said they have dynamic content and in reality I feel that neither really do.

    Oh, and I’m using my definition of dynamic content.

  • The simple reason why the moments haven’t lasted long enough to provide long-term consequences of the quest hubs being gone, etc. People. Lots of people. All excited about rifts. All converging on them at the same time as soon as they appear. How is this not working as intended?

    What may be more interesting to observe over the long term is as people get bored of the rifts, what happens then.

  • So… while they’re interesting they’ll be pointless because they’re saturated with players, and once they’re boring they might finally mean something to the world because everyone ignores them?

  • Fair enough, Keen. I know it might not seem like it, but my whole rant was offered more as a friendly criticism than anything else. My IRL friends and I find occasional digressions helpful, in order to better specify the terms and concepts we’re using to grapple with an idea, and that’s what I hoped to do here. I realize, however, this sort of digression doesn’t translate well to the internet, and tends to come off as semantic bickering.

    And I’m not trying to change your mind about anything, really. It’s just that, if I understand the argument you’re making, I think there are some more specific concepts (scripted versus simulated for example) we can use to talk about things in future – you know, later, when all the ideas around this whole “dynamic content” shitstorm start to coalesce more, and we have more concrete examples to refer to.

    Also, as you say, there is merit to simplifying things for the sake of consumption in the context of a blog. I, obviously, have never perfected this skill. 🙂

    As to my GW2 comment, I was just sort of typing at the aether, pay it no mind. ^^

  • I woul like to point out that Tabulate Rasa had a better (in my opinion) version of this type of content three years ago.
    @Mark TR’s control points were towns that were contested between the good and bad guys. Without player intervention they would eventually be overrun by bad guys arriving in dropships to attack. Whichever NPC faction was in control also fortified their position with forcefields at the entrances. With some skill, timing, and the right spec a solo player could retake some of them by themselves, but defending one or attacking one worked best when players worked together. These control points were real towns with quests, merchants, etcetera.

  • @Sisyphean: I can think of a few examples.

    I see scripted content being like rifts. They’re scripted to open up, they spawn, they have the same phases, they’re completed the same way. Nothing the player does really changes them aside from closing them (which happens very, very quickly). I lump public quests into this category.

    I see phasing technology as simulated. Phasing simulates a dynamic world by using smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that you’re really just playing through something that only has one way to be played. You never really change anything.

    Dynamic or more open-ended content is like a DAOC frontier with keeps or even the DAOC style battleground (do not get confused by the word battleground since it is NOTHING like the WoW/WAR/RIFT style) where the world is constantly available for change and how the players change it has lasting effects.

    To me, dynamic content or a dynamic world is one where a change is made (usually by players) and it sticks until players change it. One could say Rifts meet this description, and I would agree, except for the fact that they do not throw around any weight. As I pointed out, they’re brief moments or flashes in the pan. It’s not like my castle was just taken by other players or my city has been burned down. It’s not like I’ve just placed a house and claimed an actual part of the world to myself. That, to me, is dynamic.

  • Phasing and scripting will never bring about truly dynamic gameplay. For that to happen you need the players to be driving the events in the game, not the other way around.

    As mentioned, this happened with DAOC, and tends to happen with the ‘sandbox’ focused games. It definitely happens in games with as few hard coded rules as possible, and so far it only happens in games with direct competition between players.

    About the only thing close to release that could be classified as that type of system would be Earthrise, and the jury’s still out on that one.

  • @Keen: Now you’re just discussing semantic. You’re giving names like “phasing”, “scripted” and “dynamic” to things that are essentially the same, however with very small differences. And all of them are dynamic, but you chose to use the word “dynamic” to name one of them.

    “dynamic content or a dynamic world is one where a change is made (usually by players) and it sticks until players change it.”

    Here is the contradiction: you say you did your research about GW2, and yet you ignore that this description you give is EXACTLY what happens on the game. An event starts when a group of invaders try to take a village. If players do nothing, the village is taken, and stays that way. This can trigger further events where the invaders get further away into the area, possibly destroying our dear bridge. If that happens, you would need to go through an event to rebuild the bridge, another to repel the invader, and these can now trigger new events with different consequences. The world changes (in different scales, depending on the type of event), and can stay that way until the player takes action. This is dynamic content by any definition.

    What you are calling dynamic content, you should be calling sandbox content, and even worse, you seem to think that just because the events have any scripted changes (like a bridge being destroyed by AI invaders, not the players), then it’s just “smoke and mirrors”. Sorry, but if what you want is a world where all changes must be made by specific choices of players, that’s going to be a very boring world. The player is not, and should not be the only force capable of changing the world on games where any form of PvE exists. Players are fighting creatures on this world, why should these creatures not have any way to change the world?

    Games like GW2 or SWTOR are trying to include compelling story into the world, and that requires a storyteller. You won’t find a good story on MMOs unless there is a script. So yeah, there events follow some rules. Of course, so does any type of changes players can possibly do on an MMO (like having your guild take a keep and control it on DAOC), these rules are just more simplistic and don’t try to tell anything about the world, and they are an illusion of change just the same (you can take a keep from another player, but you cannot destroy it forever). That doesn’t change the fact that anything that gives players a perception of change on the environment is going to make the world feel more dynamic (in opposition of static, which is what the word means despite whatever meaning you want to give to it), hence being called Dynamic Content. Trying to differentiate what can or cannot bear the title of DYNAMIC according to where the change comes from, and how long it persists, it’s just being nitpicky, and to be honest a little silly.

  • @Kemwer: The names do not matter. I’m not getting into semantics whatsoever. There are, clearly, at least these three types of content. Call them apple, orange, and banana if it tickles your fancy.

    GW2 is implying they’re an apple when they’re really a banana. Wonderful for GW2 that they’re going to tell a story using phasing technology or instancing or scripted open-world events. If the big bad wolf blows down the same houses every time, that’s not dynamic — that’s a story. Oh, sorry, I mean a banana.

    To deny these different styles of play exists is to deny a fact. To imply a game is one of them when it isn’t, is a lie or ignorance. I am NOT talking about terminology in this post whatsoever. I am talking about actual gameplay. What is, and what is not. Zero interpretation is taking place here. Again, call it anything you wish.

  • @Keen: the only thing GW2 or Rift are implying is that events will take place and give you different content to play on a same environment, and players can affect the outcome of these events by actively taking part on them, or not. They claim that these events are not static, always present occurrences on the world, and might happen on different times or depending on different conditions, with some of these conditions possibly even being triggered by players. GW2 is saying further that events can change the world, on small or large scale, until players takes action. All of these claims are true if facts are your concern, and anyone that played those games can testify to those facts.

    When compared to the usual MMO content, when you get a quest, some mobs are standing around, you kill them and go away, and they respawn like nothing ever happened, these games are calling these these new mechanics Dynamic Content, which is a fair definition. By your example, this is just an all-encompassing “Fruits” definition, they didn’t claim to be any specific one, that was all you.

    Now what you are implying is that because their mechanics don’t fit what you think when you hear the world “dynamic”, then it’s not dynamic, and that is not a discussion on content, it’s just on semantics. No one is denying the existence of phasing, scripted events or sandbox content, and none of these games are defining their content as any of those, just as… fruits. Your arguments are just that “they don’t change the world enough or long enough”, and “they are scripted”, but being scripted or player-driven, if they change the world for one minute, one hour or one week, they still change the world, therefore making it more dynamic.

    And yes, I realize that by that definition even a weather system can be called dynamic content… because it is. Just because they are not the “brand” of dynamic content you want, or as impactful as you wish they were, doesn’t make them pointless as you claimed on the article. They are still major changes to how MMOs are played, and this is great. At the very least, they help pave the way to further innovations, taking the genre further towards something anyone can truly agree is “very dynamic” and “player-driven”. And hell, to some players, they might be even fun enough as it is, which I think it’s still the point of these games, more than trying to fit into some ideal definition.

  • You know what I’d like to see? After a rift is closed or invasion is beat, that the ground effects *slowly* dissipate instead of reset within a minute or two. Maybe over a few hours. That’s small, and doesn’t make anything dynamic, but at very least it’s not as immersion breaking as the “now it’s here, now it’s not” approach they’re taking now. The way everything clears up simply makes the whole thing feel tacked on. More than anything else I’ve seen in recent major MMOs, that on-off nature makes it feel like a game event rather than a world event. It’s very immersion breaking and really adds points to the “novelty” column.

    I’m having a lot of fun in the game, don’t get me wrong. What they have it a great framework to build on. Anyone who thinks things couldn’t be improved, though, is simply wearing blinders.

  • @Syeric: oh, sure it could be improved. I have been playing Rift since the first beta, but personally I’m not really interested on buying the game, it just didn’t grab my attention as I wish it did. My guild is going en-mass to it tho.

    You are right that immersion is broken quite a lot by how rifts can show up, get closed and disappear sometimes all under a minute. But I would hazard a guess that this is for performance sake; they would need to make rifts open less often to avoid multiple scenery effects starting to get overlaid on top of each other, so they just make the effects disappear faster so more content can appear. That’s just my guess.

    Despite calling them just scripted events, even Keen said that what they need is just more persistence, and sure enough while invasions can completely take over towns (possibly even the main cities, since attacks also get there), they disappear by themselves after some time unattended. But imagine if they didn’t: with a game the follows the progressively-higher-level-areas structure as Rift does, 6 months after release there would be nearly no one playing on the initial areas, which would be on almost permanent state of siege by other plane’s attacks, since players would have no motivation to retake these areas, therefore making the game unplayable for newcomers.

    So my point is that there are always trade-offs. You cannot just allow players to do whatever they want, or allow AI-driven attacks to keep areas under siege forever, if you don’t plan the entire game mechanics to keep the game interesting and playable for both old and new players under these conditions. And that’s just not the game that Trion is trying to make. As for GW2… that’s a different matter, and why I disagree strongly with Keen, because the game is being built to allow entire areas to be taken under control of mobs, and ONLY after players actively repel invaders they can access things like vendors on these areas. So claiming that GW2’s dynamic content is not impactful in any way just isn’t true. The persistence is there, the player-driven changes are there, now it’s not enough because there are scripted sequences on these events?

    Of course we will see just how impactful that is on the day-to-day gameplay when the game is released, and I make no claims that GW2 will be perfect, but as far as this discussion can go, I prefer to stick to what I know the developers are trying to achieve, and what I’ve seen from actual gameplay, than claiming their ideas “will all mean nothing to the next player who walks by” without any factual base for that.

  • Gw2 story and quest line are likely to be instanced or phased. But the dynamic content (GW devs actually do not use that word) is not your normal 3 stage public quests. Its more a series of events lined up with one another. SO if a wall falls, it falls and you have to take it back. It does not just reset (It might reset but after a week or something, not 5 minutes). These parts here are not instanced or phased.

  • Also for truly dynamic content it is rather hard to implement. UO tried very early on in development adding fully dynamic content (all rabbuts dye wolves come. All wolves die rabbits come crap). But realized it just did not work. MMO players while predictable, are not predictable enough to make it a worthwhile system.

  • You are 100% right. On the spot. Thanks Keen for writing this. Sometimes I feel like I am alone with my idea of a good MMORPG.

  • The problem is, Keen, Rift is aiming towards a way more casual audience than you. You want to know the response from 90% of people when the quest hub is gone for 2 days instead of 10 minutes “Well, I can’t level up any more, this is stupid, I’m going back to WoW” Dynamic content is unfortunately a “hardcore” feature in that most people don’t want a dynamic experience. They want a consistent, predictable experience.

    I think Rift is an attempt at bringing in emergent gameplay to a casual audience, and it might do a decent job at that, but its still going to pale in comparison to PvP dynamic gameplay (dynamic because real players are doing things), because it has to still fit within the theme park game design. I think I was hoping it might bring more “open world PvP” feel but with PvE instead, and from the sound of it, that similar to what you were hoping for. Unfortunately, I think that would be unpopular for the same reason open world PvP is unpopular, people don’t want to be bothered/ganked/interrupted, while playing.

  • I totally agree as well. As of now, Rifts are a gimmick – no more and no less. They need to be developed in depth – taking over towns…spreading…that is a good start. For Christs sake – this game is called RIFTS!!! It needs to be more than a silly gimmick or spin off from Warhammer’s Public Quest system…

    There needs to be a serious incentive to participate too. In UO, they had GM run events where suddnely some spawn would take over an area. These were always exciting because they didnt happen very often….it was mad chaos…it was “good hunting” when in UO you had to often search for good hunting spots.

    A few weeks ago, you always mentioned Trion overselling on the “you can be anything”…now where I am in beta…I understand your complaint. I totally still ahve the mindset of “being everything” like the stealth mage with plate armor…but then you look at the souls and it seems that if I choose Rogue as a class then I can “be everything” within the Rogue classes…that is not “be anything”…

    The whole game is designed around pre-Cataclysm WOW…but we are now in the post-Cataclysm “era” – things have changed…some for the better…Trion is still living in the past man..

  • @Mala: I agree with you completely. If nothing else, they could make them slightly more difficult — just slightly — and have them change up a bit more and be capable of doing more things to the world. Maybe have them take over more are at a time or something.


    They sure do use dynamic, a lot.

    @Kemwer: I see we disagree on a fundamental level, so I won’t pursue the argument. Know this: I am simply trying to give my opinion on how I think they could better their content to be (Truly) more dynamic.

    To take this back to the fundamental point I am making here, I do not feel that “dynamic content” can be had in simple “moments”. If nothing else, it needs some longevity or substance to give it the oomph it needs.

  • bleh yeh sorry my bad (Was really wishing for an edit button after i made that comment). Still though original point still stands. The dynamic content if full open world and non instanced and I have yet to see any mention of phasing outside of personal story related to dynamic content.

    Another major point is that the dynamic content is the meat of the system and what the game was designed around (vs a wow leveling design with random rifts). It is very scripted, but not 1-2-3 kill boss reset. More x goes to Y Y to Z Z back to Y.

  • It would be really nice to see Keen for once writing something positive about GW2 and comething negative about WoW and SWToR. That’s all i have to say.

  • I agree with you 100% keen. These guys saying GW2 is 100% dynamic is bullcrap. A scripted event leads to a bridge being shut down until another scripted event builds it up again. These 2 scripted events will replay over and over throughout the course of the MMO’s lifespan.. THIS IS NOT DYNAMIC.

    Mildly changing the look of the world until it is changed back and repeating that step over and over is not dynamic. It is scripted, and I don’t give a crap if a town is taken over for a couple minutes, or even hours.

    I guarantee after you play GW2 and Rift for a while you are going to learn these scripted events by the back of your hand. “Yep here’s this part where they take down this bridge *AGAIN*” .. “Yep.. here’s this part where we build it up *AGAIN*”

  • @John:

    That is exactly the point!
    It is not ab out the nature of the script. Unbless you allow players to create these events (dream on), you need such a script.
    HOWEVER, the time scale is the point. If GW2 had an event that was of sufficent scale and affected the world for half a year I would be absolutely satisfied. What feels extremely like a gimmick is an event the repeats itself several times while I am at work. And I fear that is exactly the kind of ‘dynamic’ event that awaits us. It may be dynamic, but it is not meaningful.

  • The problem is you’re asking for dynamic events to forever change a zone for everyone. Which would require a restructuring of the actual files need to operate the game. Otherwise, it’s a predetermined occurrence that will happen one way or the other. Dynamic simply means that it can change on the fly. Which DOES happen. For a zone to be changed on a permanent scale for everyone no matter what.. just can’t be done. Not without phasing. Which isn’t really dynamic in the first place.

  • @High Life: If you were a regular reader you would know that I have said many nice things about GW2 and many terrible things about WoW and SWTOR. I do not simply bash games nor do I simply praise them. I bash and praise games and sometimes I do it to the exact same game.

    @John: Yep, you understand.

    @Nils: You understand as well. I think the events could indeed be scripted or simulated if they were simply more than mere moments. Thanks for seeing my point. 🙂

    @Shadrah: Not forever, just for longer than a flash in the pan. Literally, LITERALLY, the events in Rift last for minutes. Even if dynamic does mean “changed on the fly”, I feel it’s not dynamic enough to mean anything.

  • I haven’t played Rift yet, but from many videos it looks like these “Rift events” involve a few bad monsters dropping out of the sky and then stand around and wait to be killed so the Rift disappears. Is that basically the sum of it?

  • @ John:
    In addition to that the monsters pose a danger to the world your char lives in. Unfortunately, you need to be an incredible optimist if you, in fact, believe that to be the case 😉

  • JOhn: Keen said moments later the bridge goes back up again. Likes it a reset or instance. This is describing it like phasing in wow or PQ in War. The GW2 quest as seen and describe last a lot longer then that. They also stay in their current state till the player takes action upon them.

    Sure the events will be predetermined. But if this goes about right it will be the most innovative things in MMO since the quest hubs.

    Plus with rifts, sure rifts are nice but shove them over a WoW quest hub system was a bad idea. Basically seems a really cool idea with a game under it that is not made to support it.

    A fully dynamic system, lets say M&B like thing system. Has been attempted in MMOs since the early hay days. UO scrapped it even before launch due to its unpredictability.

    If something like this were to come out you have to have a lot of patience with it. Not just some flavor of the month, get angry at a few flaws and shove it in the trash bin.

  • I guess you haven’t played in beta 4. All I hear in general chat now is an invasion has been in a quest hub for hours, and they can’t progress.

    I am pretty sure they have the rifts, and invasion spawns turned way up, but I do see this as a problem in the future, and I see why they may not want to punish players.

    Look ahead a few months, and than think on how empty the lower zones will most likely be. What will you think if there are only a few players in the zone, and you can’t defeat the rifts, or invasions. It will automatically make you ragequit, and never play the game.

    Look at Warhammer as another example of having lasting impressions. Initially city sieges stopped everything for 18 hours. No scenarios, no open rvr, or anything while the other faction farmed invader gear for 18 hours straight.

    Once the city siege was over your city was ranked 1 star, and you couldn’t even do any of the PVE city dungeons until you got your city back up to 3-4 stars, and by that time your city was being invaded again.

    So many players became unmotivated, and quit the game. At the time DF was coming out, and alot of players wanted something better.

    Players try to talk like they want punishment, but when it happens to them they are the first ones on the dev forums crying about how 90% of the content is inaccessible. Unfortunately punishment in games doesn’t get people motivated, and organized to make a push, and change things. Most just jump ship, and join the OP faction.

  • I have no issue with “cool” moments so long as the developers are honest about it. WoW, especially the new Cataclysm areas, are full of little story videos and phasing techniques which makes for some great experiences. I enjoy them a lot but recognise that it’s not dynamic in the slightest. It’s just like palying a single player game because it doesn’t affect anyone else! At least though Blizzard are quite open about it and you get exactly what you expect.

  • Cataclysm is a really fun single player game with a hell of a lot of replay value. The only thing that is not good about Cataclysm is the leveling 60-80 and the virtual world parts, in my opinion.

    Otherwise Blizzard are, indeed, very honest about it. There’s no next-gen addon or anything like that. They don’t even claim to have a virtual world.

  • For me personally, WoW’s replay value has gone down immensely over the years. In vanilla, I felt like there was a great deal of replay value, because with each run through a zone you could refined your quest circuits further, becoming more efficient and knowledgeable with each character you leveled.

    By Wrath, however, there was no longer any room to actually learn the zone or alter your play in order to have a better (or worse) experience – you simply went through the quests in the exact same order, following the rails from one quest hub to the next.

    Obviously my opinion in this matter is in the minority. And of course, the advantage of the new system is that you generally only use one of two zones to get through a specific level range, so you have the option of going to another zone you haven’t done before on your next play through. But I still argue that in the sense of actually being a game you get better at and learn about (rather than a scripted story, where the new system is inarguably superior), WoW’s replayability is currently at its lowest point ever.

    I will admit I’m assuming a lot about Cata’s higher levels, however, since my experience is limited to all of Wrath and a few of the new Cata zones I played during the 10 day trial.

    To be clear I do agree that Cataclysm is an amazing single player experience, from what I’ve seen. I just think there are some downsides to the new philosophy in terms of replay value, which often get overlooked.

  • What’s the difference between “Games” and “Toys”?

    Games have rules, toys do not.

    A game has to have some kind of structure to it. Patterns of game play. Systems that the player can understand and exploit.

    Dynamic Content as you describe it, in it’s purest form, breaks games.

    It leads to situations/behaviours that simply are *not* fun.

    I recall an interview with the Oblivion devs about Radiant A.I. They were striving to create an AI that allowed NPC’s to actually live out their lives. Factions of them could be a war with others. They could gain skills, form relationships, all react with one another.

    The problem was they *couldn’t* predict the behaviours rising out of the AI. It would constantly break the world, often in ways that made no sense to the player.

    You’d be asked to go looking for an NPC, only to be unable to find him, because he’d been murdered by another NPC. Of course, the player doesn’t know that. The NPC is just missing.

    Game worlds will always be limited, because they are a limited simulation of a world, not a real world.

    In the real world, life is often brutal and unfair. Not fun. For everyone who’s enjoying a hot meal, there’s someone starving in a gutter somewhere.

    Games are suppose to be “fun”. Ideally, for as *many* people as possible, so they will all buy your game and make you money.

    You can’t design Dynamic content that rewards a tiny faction of your player base at the expense of the rest. It’s just makes no business sense to do it that way.

  • Quietwulf,
    for some players experiencing the simulation (in addition to playing a game) is fun. Of course, the simulation should not be equal to real life. But it should be similar – as all MMOs are.

    The question, really, is not whether games should be completely abstract (Tetris) or based on reality (Counterstrike).

    The question is where the optimal point is? How convincing should a simulated/virtual world be to be the most fun ?

  • […] Of course the good guys won, and at the end there were about 20 players standing victorious at the quest hub. My one action had affected not only the world, but at least 20 other players. These 20 players where not defending against other rifts that had opened in the area. When I logged on half an hour later I saw a named water boss (Ara’quixgl something)  fighting an epic death boss (Fist of Regulos) at the same quest hub. Would this have even happened if I had not opened that first rift? This is dynamic content. […]

  • I think realistically nothing that is a simulation in a real sense will happen in the next 10 years maybe more. It is counter to what most developers/designers want.. it stops them from tightly managing user experience.

    @Keen difficulty, have you played Demon Souls on PS3? there is a really interesting interview worth reading that explains A LOT about how games are developed now,0&$Version=0&$Path=/&$,+$Version%3D0

  • This is just something people are going to have to see to believe. I too thought that Rifts were really dynamic until I did them long enough. This is a good example of when I say something early on, take flack for it, then see it popping up on the rest of the MMO Blogs where they receive nothing but accolades for figuring it out. I take solace in knowing that perhaps what I say now, early on, might in some way act as feedback for the devs and to awaken peoples minds to the reality that we face not only in Rift but many games trying to persuade us that what we see is dynamic ‘enough’.

  • “For a zone to be changed on a permanent scale for everyone no matter what.. just can’t be done. Not without phasing. Which isn’t really dynamic in the first place.”

    Couldn’t disagree more with that statement. In fact there is quite a bit of work and research that has gone into such things. Some in the gaming industry but a lot more in the simulation and modeling world.

  • “I think realistically nothing that is a simulation in a real sense will happen in the next 10 years maybe more. It is counter to what most developers/designers want.. it stops them from tightly managing user experience”

    Sadly I think you are correct what is needed is for a visionary innovator like Peter Molyneux to advance this further.

  • Zones have been changed on a permanent scale for everyone no matter what all the time. DAOC Frontiers could be completely claimed for one realm and the realm could sit on them and dominate them 24/7, ensuring that anyone entering them was hunted and killed. They could then change hands or turn into a complete battlefield.

    SWG planets had permanent and entire server-wide permanence in the form of player housing. Houses were placed out in the actual world and they took up actual space that then belonged to the owner.

    Asheron’s Call had server-wide permanence and change on a regular basis.

    Darkfall has dynamic permanence.

    Player driven dynamic change is even harder to accomplish than PvE driven dynamic change because it requires something you have no control over — the players — to actually get out there and do it. You’re banking on the players playing how you need them to for it to work. PvE driven dynamic and even permanent change is something that can be enacted immediately and at-will.

  • player driven PvE can be enacted immediately and at will but still has to respond to the actions of the player. Getting other players to respond to each others actions I would say is easier and doable. getting PvE to react, without it being simple, bland and redundant. And work in a way that is not just annoying to players is pretty hard.

  • Yeah I think PVE especially non-buggy realistically working pve is really non-trivial.

    Perhaps best approach would be to have AI/pve simulate player behaviour in RvR? Have zones have some objectives and have mobs try to take them over. Then have mobs get “bored” if they dominate (not enough players opposing them) but that has to work over period of days/weeks. So sometimes you gona go into zone and then get ganked by a roaming mob gank grp haha

  • I’d like to state that I don’t actually disagree with Keen. I do agree that what Developers are calling “Dynamic” is not a perfect system.

    It’s not going to create this amazing “living” world, like some people are expecting.

    What I’m getting at is that the level of “Dynamic Content” some people are asking for simply isn’t possible with today’s technology. Further still, indications are that those kinds of world won’t make for terribly “fun” gameplay anyway.

    Friends of mine and I have been talking about “Dynamic worlds” for years. The idea of having a living, breathing world, where all the factions have ideals, goals and the resources to carry them out. We even suggested the idea of a “God” AI (Think AI Director out of Left for Dead), that watches the world closely and “tweaks” things to influence outcomes.

    It randomly spawns a more aggressive mob, with desires to lead it’s faction to war.

    It turns the tides of battles in subtle ways, allowing certain desperate gambits to actually pay off.

    It does what it needs to to make sure the world doesn’t fall into disrepair, *inspite* of what the players do. Because that’s the trade off for a sustainable, Dynamic world. It has to survive *inspite* of how badly the players try and break it. Because they will try and break the systems. That’s the nature of players.

  • I think the problem is, the kind of dynamic content keen (and myself) crave, would be harmful to the health of WowKiddie69 and HaloBoi15.

    See stock footage:

    Then the “hardcore MMOs” like Mortal Online weren’t all that good, and its left a void for those few who started the genre in UO, Shadowbane, and DAoC.

  • Did you ever anticipate that there are like 700 people in one zone and that the reason that footholds / rifts aren’t up for very long is because people are in the zone killing them very quickly?? If rifts stay up, they will take over the entire zone, if you dont attack the footholds they will take over everything. They will even attempt to take over the capital city.

    Under normal server circumstances and loads I think rifts will come to fruition. Hell, the other day there were 4 20 person raids doing foothold and rift hutning in freemarch. You can expect them to go down very quickly.

    They are dynamic in that the rifts / invaders scale in difficulty, spawn rate and spawn locations based on how well players are doing at taking them down, how many people are grouped, not grouped, how many are in the zone, what players are doing, what quest hubs are more valuable targets.

    You can upgrade your quest hubs defenses with new turrets, more guards etc.

    Sounds pretty dynamic to me. These were merely “moments” to you because of the ungodly amount of people working at them. There are two sides of the coin about rift, just dont be your cynical self ;-P

  • I’m well aware of how Rifts work with even the minimal amount of players. What makes you think that launch will have less people than currently in beta? There won’t be less.