Massively-Instanced Multiplayer Online Game

shroud of the avatar city

Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar was announced today.  It’s a Multiplayer RPG with a pinch of MMO, and only a pinch.  In fact, I’m going to coin another phrase: MIMO (Pronounced M/e/- M/ō/).  Massively-Instanced Multiplayer Online Game, or in some cases MIMORPG.  This effectively removes the reference of ‘massively’ from the number of players and emphasizes the fact that it’s only a multiplayer game with a lot of instancing.  At this point, that’s all we really know about Shroud of the Avatar.

Shroud of the avatar overworld map

Shroud of the Avatar uses an overworld map. This is one aspect I do not like.

Apparently the only part of the game where you’ll actually have to deal with other players who aren’t your friends is in the big cities where you’ll share real estate with others looking to move into that same city.  How that all works out, I don’t know, but I am intrigued by the idea.  In fact, so much so that I’ve begun to brainstorm how I would make a game like this, and how it could actually be a lot of fun.

I’m imagining a world like Skyrim where once I leave the city and set out on my own, the only people who come with me are my friends. What makes that different from something like Guild Wars 1 or Dungeons & Dragons Online, you ask?  Those aren’t contiguous worlds.  You get transported away to a mission area, whereas in a contiguous world it would be like zoning out just like you do in Skyrim from a city with a load bar, but on the other side the entrance to the city is right there.  GW2 does this style of zoning.  Ideally, I think phasing technology would work the best where there’s no break in the immersion at all.

Pardon the cliche, but if I could have a vast living, breathing, dynamic, RPG world like Elder Scrolls provides, but I could go back to town and do commerce with thousands of other people then I’d be okay with that.  Again, this isn’t a MMORPG and one wouldn’t go into it expecting lots of other players around the world.  The only issue I can imagine comes from watching the video where Garriott shows buying a shop in the city and says you can be a blacksmith and open a shop; is that shop always in that same spot for every single player on that server?  If so, that’s awesome because that’s how I would want it to be done.  Think of it like owning one of the shops in Stormwind, and when players go into Stormwind your shop will always be there.

Skyrim lake mountains

I would do a fully explorable, open world, with phased cities.

Running across the world and coming upon cities where you’ll meet other real players once phased in could really be a great boost to the social aspect of a traditional single-player RPG.  Often times I wish I could bring someone into my Skyrim game with me, and I wish the cities were populated with other real players.  I just don’t want them messing with the rest of my game.  There’s almost a renewable energy associated with having other real players available on-demand.

Where I see Shroud of the Avatar coming up short is in its single-player design.  I’m not a big fan of over-world maps where the world is broken up and you essentially jump into an area that’s instanced. That kills the feeling of a virtual world for me.  I think they run the risk of making it feel more like a DDO than a Skyrim — ultimately not what I would shoot for if I made a game like this.

To sum things up, I think Shroud of the Avatar will be a MIMO, and not a phased single-player RPG where you have everyone in the world but can only see each other in cities, villages, and other key locations.  I think there’s a fantastic opportunity for someone to make a game where guild members and friends can see each other anywhere in the world, but everyone else only shares phased cities.  The Online Single-Player game that bridges the gap into becoming an optional multiplayer experience of sorts could be a really neat innovation.

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Fuzzy - March 9, 2013

I backed this, albeit only at the $25 level. Will wait to hear more before deciding whether to stay there, up my pledge or withdraw. I kind of like what I’ve learned so far about the project (the interview at http://sota.ultimacodex.com/interview-with-richard-garriott/ was far more helpful than the Kickstarter page itself at explaining exactly what they’re doing and why). They’ve been pretty up-front about the fact that this is not an MMO, but I like the sound of an Ultima-esque single-player sandbox game with multiplayer elements.

Only downside I see so far, aside from the separate over-world map that you already mentioned, is that the graphics and world design look rather generic, especially compared to the recently launched “Torment: Tides of Numenera” Kickstarter (which has one of the most intriguing settings I’ve ever seen in a game).

John - March 9, 2013

it sound great for me..I will definitely want to try this game.I don’t have problem about immersion when others are not around, in fact it is the opposite for me..I am more immersed in skyrim than any other game MMO or not..

I hope the gameplay will be more “sandbox” like skyrim..I hope you have ultimate freedom outside in the world and lot of depth/freedom in character build as well as many ways of progression

Goom - March 9, 2013

I watched the video and was just let down at the overhead travel between villages and the graphics overall as well. I’ve currently been bak in skyrim with about 50+ mods running which take it so far ahead of where he is going that it looks like his video is from 2003.

Speaking of skyrim as you did, have you ever thought about releasing play thrus using mods on the PC? Using some such as Skyrim Unleashed, Duel, Frostfall and town and villages mods you basically have a new game. There are many others as well of course and if you run some play thrus as good as many humorous ones on YouTube you can get some good hits and provide good reviews of mods if you are interested in any of that.

Also the expansion? For Dragons Dogma should be out in April, looking forward to that as well.

Either way, keep up the great info, I first saw the info on LBs game here so nice

romble - March 9, 2013

Guild wars 1 was completely instanced in the same way.

silvertemplar - March 9, 2013

I’m with romble, i’m confused. As far as i remember GW1 was indeed “contiguous” , exactly like Skyrim. You run out of the city, and you are outside the gates, then you had to run across dangerous landscapes in your instance to the next hub to unlock the hub. Yes, once you unlock a hub you could teleport between the hubs directly, but there was definitely connected landscapes between the major hubs. Wasn’t it even a little sport to hire “runners” for you to enter an instance with you and help you run through to the next hub to unlock the teleport point?

Now DDO, there was a combination, sometimes you climb on a ship and you’re plonked onto an island where the ship supposedly sailed to (during a load screen) or you open a sewer grate in town and down you go into a sewer dungeon (although isn’t that also exactly like Skyrim?).

Neverwinter, is also a combination. There is definitely a connectedness up to a point, but due to the ability to inject player content , it kinda pulls a Dragon Age where as you walk out the city gate you are presented with a world map where you just teleport directly to your quest instance.

Gankatron - March 9, 2013

Did they mention a proposed financial model (F2p, B2P, sub) yet?

Keen - March 9, 2013

@Romble/Silvertemplar: The GW1 that I played did not feel like a big, open, contiguous world. It felt confined to paths, instanced, and very scripted.

@Gankatron: I haven’t heard anything. I’d imagine a box price since it can be played offline.

Fuzzy - March 9, 2013

@Gankatron: According to the dev posts in the comments section of the Kickstarter, it’s going to be buy-to-play, no sub, with possible microtransactions for cosmetic items (i.e. not play-to-win). I’d prefer no microtransactions at all, but since they’re aiming for continual updates, I guess they need some kind of ongoing revenue stream. Being a Kickstarter project (i.e. essentially co-developed by the backers), it might be possible to sway them in this regard.

Fuzzy - March 9, 2013

Whoops, I meant pay-to-win, not play-to-win.

IBeBeffer - March 10, 2013

Richard is legend. I’m backing 100% and look forward to seeing what he comes up with. The top down view is a nod to old school rpgs. Simply having a large world where 50% of it is just abandoned may sound interesting but in fact is quite boring. They have stated this as well as the costs of building it that way.

Thelg - March 10, 2013

Honestly to me it just looks bad, absolutely nothing that I find interesting in it. I like good single player RPGs but this.. so kindof like GW1? meh that was a good game for tournament pvp, nothing else

coppertopper - March 10, 2013

Demon Souls did this with audible cues when another player accomplished something in the world that was notable (the bell ringing being the most notable). But this seems like the obvious next step, given all the MMO failures lately. For the most part, WoW has survived so long by offering a soloable experience in a large online world. Other players are just sort of the background. So to introduce MMO like aspects to a single player RPG seems like the obvious next step. I am thinking of Fable also, where you could see wisp avatars of other players who wee in a similar area of the game as you.

xenovore - March 11, 2013

Yet another nostalgia cash-in attempt: “Look, everyone else is remaking old RPGs, we can do it too!” Meh. I have fond memories of playing the Ultima games, but these days the whole setting is stale and in need of retirement, permanently. (And those screenshots further support that; it’s just more cliche pseudo-euro-medieval fantasy.) And to me “replayable scenes” says rather blatantly “we didn’t bother to create more content, so grind this over and over”.

Gaugamela - March 13, 2013

Your idea is actually quite solid. Create a single player sandbox world like Skyrim connected to city hubs filled with players and activities that are more MMO-like – shops, arenas, etc.
Allowing housing in the game world would also probably work great.

Keen do you keep an eye in A-RPGs? Many of the things you stated here are actually implemented in that manner in Path of Exile. You should give it a look – it’s an amazing game and free-to-play (not pay to win though).
If someone translated that type of mechanics to a game like Skyrim they would have a winner in their hands.

A shame that the Elder Scrolls online game won’t be like that though.

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