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Randomly generated islands- can it work in an MMO?

neuroguyneuroguy Member
edited July 2 in General Discussion
I found myself thinking about the possibility of having some random generation of a small temporary island (or a few) beyond the pre-made world map, non-instanced of course. This could be cyclical and a new seed could generate island(s) every few months while removing the old ones during patches or maintenance (similar to how seasons will change). I personally envisioned this as an end-game system where you compete on a ladder for prestige instead of spending your time getting better gear, creating an alternative end-game system you and your guild can focus on.

I was thinking this randomly generated island would first need to be found, encouraging exploration (naval) since it would not be on the map. Early on, players can then choose to keep its location secret or share it before it gets discovered by more people. The island itself would only have a few nodes and cannot have nodes lvl up beyond a town (to prevent players from staying there forever with services such as re-speccing etc missing to this end). Content-wise, it would play like a season in other games where ladders, achievements etc would be wiped for each iteration of the island and guilds/players would compete each time. The island could have a handful of world bosses, a single PvP objective without a timer (unlike node or castle sieges), maybe some scarce amount of good quality gathering resources (for consumable items, not gear) and 1-3 dragon eggs (temporary flying mount) which could serve as the ultimate goal. Not to mention, outside of the in-island PvP, piracy would become a very exciting experience around the waters of the island(s). To prevent invalidation of main-land content, the resources/loot should not be able to be used to create better or even equal quality gear than what can be found in the main-land... the dragon eggs are the prize, not shiny purples. The geography, climate, mob types, world bosses, location of PvP objective etc will be the randomly generated part. Lots of things can be done to spice this up, like the gods could have special influence over these islands and each iteration could have special rules in place like "no corruption" or something (similar to leagues in PoE).

I was thinking such a system would be a constant source of 'new' content that reinvigorates the player-base without invalidating the rest of the world, or at least that would be the goal. Due to the lack of fast travel and the lvl cap of the island nodes, players would need to really prepare for the journey, and commit time and resources that could not be be put towards mainland content, gear and objectives (e.g. castles, node mayoral races etc). The mainland nodes of the world closest to the island would also become more populated and tense as players would want to use the waters for the shortest travel distance to the island. The island would be a hub that concentrates end-game level and geared players and guilds as an alternative to all the end-game content on the mainland. I've always liked games that have alternate end-game systems that players could specialize in or engage with like the ARPG genre (e.g. mapping vs delving in PoE or the arena vs the monolith in last epoch).

On the flip side, in an MMO, having too many end-game systems can spread the population out too much, especially of end-game players. Ashes might already suffer from this with no fast travel where high level players would flock around the 6 possible metros (instead of a singular end-game hub in other MMOs) and only deviate from these locations for castle sieges, world bosses etc. It also runs the risk of invalidating one form of content by indirectly competing with it. If a server's population decides to focus on the island, the island might be an epic experience while the mainland content suffers or vice versa (kind of like how a theme-park MMO expansion makes the old content suffer). It all made me think, is there any room in a healthy MMO, or AoC in particular with its current design decisions, for randomly generated content such as this?

I like the idea of random generation because I've seen how games can do it so incredibly well like the maps in Deep Rock Galactic and the early exploration part of games like Civ6 have always been the funnest part of those games for me when I'm exploring the land, looking for resources and thinking about optimal locations. This would definitely evolve the MMO genre by borrowing systems from other game genres. Or does this simply have no place in an MMO... thoughts?

Final note: I understand AoC is not an end-game focused game. When I say 'endgame' I just mean high lvl content for players that would not have leveling as a big motivation.

Edit: after some fun discussion below I am lead to believe that this does not need to be 'randomly generated' at all, and could be quite low effort with an artist since it is small, temporary, and does not need to accommodate things like freeholds etc. It simply does not need to be too complex as it should not compete with mainland content and should instead provide a fun temporary battleground instead.
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Comments

  • NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    neuroguy wrote: »
    Final note: I understand AoC is not an end-game focused game. When I say 'endgame' I just mean high lvl content for players that would not have leveling as a big motivation.
    The game may not think it will have an end game focus, but once the game is 6 months old, there will be more time spent on level capped characters than any other level. Games with a high degree of open PvP tend to be played at the highest level more so than games that don't have that PvP - in my experience.

    As to your suggestion, I've said many times that PoE's mapping system is an ideal content vehicle for end game content in a full on MMO. To me though, what I like about the system is the variability it offers, while offering players the choice as to what variables they take on (to a degree).

    The general idea of take that system in to an MMO only needs minor changes, imo - the main one being that the content generated needs to be large enough as to have actual exploration be a thing (requiring multiple bosses). I would also consider it a shame to have a system of content like this without affording players the freedom of having some decisions about that content (mapping in Ashes allows players 4 or 5 different avenues for altering the content of an individual map or a group of maps, though most of them come at a cost). However, this decision making is only really appropriate if content is specific for the one raid (instanced, basically).

    I do agree with your concern about such content spreading players too thin in Ashes - but I also offer up a potential solution.

    In the EQ universe, the game has a calendar set up with 10 day weeks, 4 week months, 4 month seasons, and 3 season years (this was one of several calendars in that universe - different factions often had different calendars).

    None of that matters here.

    On top of the year in Norrath, they also have a Quatrain, which is a four year period. These four Quatrains are each influenced by a god in the game - with Xegony causing heavy winds and driving rain for the year, Fennin Ro causing scorching heat, Rathe causing volcanic activity and earthquakes, The Triumvirate effectively causing cold (sadly, this was never represented in any EQ game).

    What Ashes could do is adopt the notion of a Quatrain, or even make it a Septrain (7 gods. 7 years). From there, they could afford alterations to the game world on an in-game yearly basis, which is four weeks real time.

    One of those time periods could be that random mysterious islands appear off the coast of Verra (also explains the randomness), and players are able to get in a ship (affording some decent naval action, presumably), and try to see what is on these islands this time around.

    That may well mean that while they are in the world, most players participating in the end game spend most of their time there. However, since they are only available for a short period of time (say, 4 weeks), and then not available for a longer period of time (say, 12 weeks), that isn't causing any major issues in the larger scheme of things.

    The one thing I do disagree with you on is the idea that there need not be equal rewards to mainland content (although I understand why you would suggest that). To me, any activity in a game should reward commensurate to the difficulty of completing that activity.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    edited June 20
    Even at max Adventurer Level, there will be other categories to strive for max level.
    There will just be content throughout. New content should be appearing as we're constructing and destroying Nodes.
    Also, the devs plan to introduce new content monthly and quarterly. We'll just have to see if they can actually do that. With their current track record, monthly seems unlikely, but quarterly would be good enough. Heck new content yearly would probably be good enough.

    I suppose if we can have bridges appearing as Nodes develop, islands are not impossible, but...I don't expect to see that ready near Launch.
  • NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    Dygz wrote: »
    I suppose if we can have bridges appearing as Nodes develop, islands are not impossible, but...I don't expect to see that ready near Launch.
    Why do we need bridges in order to have islands?

    I mean, we have ships...
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    @Dygz
    Oh I do not doubt there will be a ton of content. This is more about an alternate system to engage with rather than alternate/new content. This new system would include a ladder and someway for your PvE and PvP accomplishments to somehow lead towards winning a dragon egg. New content would be new dungeons, world bosses etc and I have no worries that AoC will provide plenty of it and in good quality.

    @Noaani
    So my idea definitely takes inspiration from PoE mapping but the issue with the control that players have over the mapping in PoE being adapted for an MMO is that it needs to be individualized and therefore instanced for you to have any real control. I like the open world design of AoC which is why I think a randomly generated island that is common to all and yet new to explore/discover is the best solution. I think this is an easy place to take polls of the community for what the mods for the next island could be (in-game like runescape, or just forums and polls) which may provide a sense of 'community customization' if you will.

    I do think the 'only available for a limited time' solution for the proposed system is absolutely valid. In fact I was thinking about that myself but decided that what I proposed above is better. The limited time property of the island would make it almost an expected part of people's gameplay calendar. As in, they would focus on the mainland content for 3/4 of the year and the other 1/4 they forsake it (as does the rest of the server) and set out to conquer the island. I think FOMO would drive this mass migration and although it resolves the separation of the player-base problem, it introduces bigger problems. Mainly, it creates almost an expectation for players to engage with it during the short window it is available and secondly, it takes away from it being an alternative end-game system to engage with and instead becomes a scheduled system to engage with. However, I do think having it be available for ~4 weeks and not available for 1 week or some 'down-time' window might be optimal.

    The reason I like the island to provide no gear that is better than or equal to main-land content is my personal vision for it as an alternate end-game system. I want it to be a conscious decision for end-game players to either pursue growth in power or to demonstrate their prowess and progress earned from engaging with main-land content. To be clear, I think you should be able to get gear and grow your power from the island, but I think it should be at least 1 tier below main-land rewards. The main reason of course being to keep the entire game and the main-land content valid. This isn't quite a radical idea though. In many games, you earn (most) gear through PvE and you engage with the PvP system for prestige and cosmetic stuff (titles, mounts, skins etc). The island, in my vision, would serve as this proving ground where you can take the progress you and your guild have made in the main-land and test yourselves against other guilds on the server to achieve the dragon egg(s). This also gives your interaction with the main-land content more depth and resolves some monopoly concerns.

    A guild who decides to commit to the island for a single cycle is accepting that they may fall behind in terms of gear/power to other guilds. This means that a powerful guild that has controlled a castle for a long time would be allowing other guilds to catch up and compete if they decide to commit to the island. Thus the island would act to ~even the playing field between guilds by providing an alternate option that does not yield as much power gained for the same time spent (you'd still get materials for good consumables and possibly a dragon egg), but also provides very high prestige. Also, due to the nature of gear repairs requiring materials and the economy, the island will be dependent on the main-land for supplies and resources which guilds can transport themselves or could buy at probably much higher prices from merchants who risked the pirates to bring in wares themselves. Having the island lack resources for top end gear then also makes the economy surrounding the island much more interesting.

    Again though, I absolutely recognize your solution/variation is valid too, I'm just defending my personal vision.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    neuroguy wrote: »
    @Dygz
    Oh I do not doubt there will be a ton of content. This is more about an alternate system to engage with rather than alternate/new content. This new system would include a ladder and someway for your PvE and PvP accomplishments to somehow lead towards winning a dragon egg. New content would be new dungeons, world bosses etc and I have no worries that AoC will provide plenty of it and in good quality.
    Yep. All of that will already be happening without islands via the various buildings and services that are built as Nodes progress, decay and are destroyed.
    Not impossible that islands could appear with expansions, though. And it's not impossible that it's already in the design.
  • NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    neuroguy wrote: »
    So my idea definitely takes inspiration from PoE mapping but the issue with the control that players have over the mapping in PoE being adapted for an MMO is that it needs to be individualized and therefore instanced for you to have any real control. I like the open world design of AoC which is why I think a randomly generated island that is common to all and yet new to explore/discover is the best solution.
    A map system akin to PoE absolutely does need to be instanced to work properly, but I see two reasons why that could work in Ashes with a time limited form of content like you are talking about.

    The first is that because it need only be available at some times, it is only slightly reducing the value of the games open world content as a guild can not survive alone on 4 weeks of content every 16 weeks. As such, a guild will still have to take on the bulk of the games content if they wish to retain members.

    The second reason I think it could work is that it would give players what would basically amount to a drama window.

    People that are unhappy with the gearing progress their guild is making may decide they want to break off and form another guild to gear faster (or gearing more fairly). Doing this in the regular game is likely to be hard, as you have your previous guild(s) to contend with, who will no doubt make things as hard for you as they can. If you took players from a few guilds that were not fairly distributing their loot (which is a thing that absolutely happens, sadly), then you likely have several guilds full of better geared people trying to stop you getting anywhere.

    Add in a window of 4 weeks of instanced content every 16 weeks, and these players will look at that as a window in which to leave their guild, gear up via this content (that they can in part tailor to their strengths), and then hope that at the end of that 4 weeks they have done well enough to stand up to their previous guild(s).

    I personally see that as a boon for the game as a whole.

    In response to your point about a time limited situation causing an expectation that this is where people will be when it is available, I agree. However, in my experience, guilds always have an expectation of what content players will do, and this is a big part of what guilds individual players decide to join. To me, we all kind of accept that there are expectations along these lines placed on us, and I personally like the idea of these expectations changing on occasion due to a new content type being made available for a short period of time.

    This is not a whole lot different - to me - than how players would be expected to defend their node in a siege.

    What I could see working in an open world version of this is that guilds have a way of influencing the content in a similar way to how maps in PoE work. If your guild does what ever needs to be done to impart that influence, then you get to apply an effect to either one or all of these islands that lasts for a few days.

    Make it so that it isn't just the strongest guild that is able to do this, and you have a situation where lesser guilds may be able to focus on a specific form of attack or defense, select an influence that highlights this, and they may then potentially be able to take on a guild that would otherwise be much stronger than they are - but only over those few days and only on these islands.

    I like the point about not having materials to repair gear readily available though. This opens the whole idea up to people that aren't interested in combat, but just want to trade. Getting repair materials to the island and offering services like this would no doubt be lucrative.

    The only part I don't really see is the prestige the islands offer. In most open world PvP games I have played, the closest thing to "prestige" that top end guilds have cared about is how easily they are able to ruin your day. This generally means having the best gear and the most coin. If these islands don't offer them anything that would assist them in ruining someones day, I don't see the appeal for them. They are unlikely to risk losing a castle - that brings in real means of ruining many days for many people - unless what they are risking it for has the potential to be greater than that.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    edited June 21
    Noaani wrote: »
    In response to your point about a time limited situation causing an expectation that this is where people will be when it is available, I agree. However, in my experience, guilds always have an expectation of what content players will do, and this is a big part of what guilds individual players decide to join. To me, we all kind of accept that there are expectations along these lines placed on us, and I personally like the idea of these expectations changing on occasion due to a new content type being made available for a short period of time.
    Yeah I completely agree, I just worry that if most guilds follow the same calendar for an open world event that it could get very chaotic and dense. Once the island's location is common knowledge it may become very crowded and chaotic, or require a quite large island to support the population that it would attract.
    Noaani wrote: »
    What I could see working in an open world version of this is that guilds have a way of influencing the content in a similar way to how maps in PoE work. If your guild does what ever needs to be done to impart that influence, then you get to apply an effect to either one or all of these islands that lasts for a few days.
    Like capturrable shrines with unknown refresh rates where the victor sets an affix for the whole island? Haha I guess that could work/be implemented but I like the idea of a single stable rule for the island's length that would at least a few weeks. In PoE, you cycle through maps fast enough where small modifiers can be interesting but unless the rules are dramatic, I suspect if would just fall into the background after a day or two.

    I will say I think the simple fact that the island's location is unknown at the start will already randomly benefit guilds that may not be the most powerful, where the lucky first few would get quite a head start on content, and depending on how the content is designed exactly this could be a big deal. Not to mention the intrigue and people's spy fantasies of having imposters in guilds to gather info and that sort of thing.
    Noaani wrote: »
    The only part I don't really see is the prestige the islands offer. In most open world PvP games I have played, the closest thing to "prestige" that top end guilds have cared about is how easily they are able to ruin your day. This generally means having the best gear and the most coin. If these islands don't offer them anything that would assist them in ruining someones day, I don't see the appeal for them. They are unlikely to risk losing a castle - that brings in real means of ruining many days for many people - unless what they are risking it for has the potential to be greater than that.
    Haha well the prestige could be in the form of titles or skins that could be tied exclusively to the island (like arena seasons in WoW) and the flying mount all on its own is a huge source of prestige I bet and will already cause guild/alliance drama in all likelihood.
  • VhaeyneVhaeyne Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Hey @neuroguy.

    I am a huge advocate of procedural generation. I think it works very well if used right. Games like Elite, POE, and even NMS stand out as amazing uses of the tech. Things like FFXIV's Place of the Dead, or WOW's Torghast/Island Expeditions give procedural generation in traditional MMOs a bad reputation. I think we have yet to see the tech used well in fantasy MMORPGs.

    My number one ask has always been for a MMO to abandon the antiquated concept of scripted dungeons with set stories, favoring a well-made random dungeon generator. I think there are posts on the DDO forums of me asking for such things dating back to 2006.

    That said, I am not certain if I would want this for Ashes. Not in a capacity where these islands have nodes and stick around for a while. If the island just magically surfaced in the ocean and had a procedurally generated dungeon on it with a raid boss that would sink the island when defeated. I could see that being a bit better. I love the call to exploration and adventure, I just would want to see most people focusing on Verra and not the seas. Having the content be a constant source or fresh dungeon layouts would be cool, though.

    The way you described it reminds me a lot of Crowfall. A fine game, but we already have that game. I mean, if Ashes did take your idea and pulled it off, I would just be jazzed to see more good examples of procedural generation in a fantasy MMORPG.
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  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    @Vhaeyne
    So I understand and share your concern about having the main continent be forsaken, but I think I made quite a few suggestions that should make this not the case. I won't repeat myself but let me paint a more clear picture of what the islands won't be/have. The island content in my vision is end-game in a game that has a lengthy leveling process and a rich dynamic world and it would be noticeably missing a lot of the parts of AoC that people will want to engage with. No freeholds, no cities or metros, no castles, no high level crafting materials for the best gear. If anything, it may be helpful to think of these islands as a glorified giant PvP battleground like the old AV in WoW, but with engaging PvE content too haha. You go there to compete with others for glory (aka a temporary flying mount) but if you spend all your time there you will fall behind and go broke. The islands won't be profitable for people trying to get the dragon egg(s), it will damage your gear that will require repairing, it will cost you money for consumables and services from people trying to make money, it will be dangerous with pirates and PvP so you will get a ton of death penalties. It provides a zone that is dense with players who should all be around the same level, lots of reasons for PvP, a procedurally generated map with unknown secrets and resources and large procedurally generated dungeons. It is a playground that you visit when you have the strength and resources to afford it. And it can't be monopolized beforehand by longstanding guilds or players as even finding it is kind of RNG... I think it should be hidden in a large radius around the main world with low visibility distance such that it may not even be found in the first 24h.

    I do think details about the reward system, i.e. how do people win the dragon egg, what are the other rewards (or is it just winner-take-all style) etc need to be fleshed out and provide a lot of flexibility to how this could be implemented. As one possibility, I was thinking some token system for PvE and PvP objectives that guilds could turn in/negotiate for over the span of the island's life. A race to kill some boss deep in a procedurally generated dungeon could work too though. I do think this island idea would work best with some non-trivial time commitment though, 1-2 weeks before an island is "completed" would work best with the systems I described I think to provide sufficient challenge without getting stale, and allowing those who want to participate to take part.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    Mmmmn.
    1: An Island that appearing in the sea/ocean would probably not stay secret for long. If you haven't been in the Alpha, you probably can't understand the high degree of visibility Ashes offers. It's not really possible to hide an island large enough to have several dungeons with low visibility. Stumbling upon an area with low visibility would be instantly suspect.

    2: Ashes doesn't have an endgame. I suppose an island appearing out of nowhere might be effectively similar to endgame in that it probably cannot be implemented by launch and by the time it is implemented, lots of people would have hit max Adventurer level, but it's very unlikely to be designed as strictly max level content.
    And there would be room for Crafters as well as Adventurers.
    There would have to be profit besides just the Dragon Eggs. What you describe in this latest post is a lot of risk with very little reward.

    3: The focus of Ashes is objective-based PvP combat. What the devs call meaningful conflict. So, the island would have some kind of objective similar to Castles and Nodes. Or similar to World Bosses, like the Winter Dragon that causes perpetual Winter until the Winter Dragon is defeated. But, if it's just World Bosses, that wi really PvE objectives rather than PvP objectives.
    PvP objectives would have to be something like a Castle or a mini-Node.

    4: I don't understand how the Dragon Eggs can work as an objective. The devs are not going to have 3 months with a bunch of extra Dragon Eggs just so people can have more PvP combat. The motivation to kill Dragons is not just because they will offer loot. The reason to kill Dragons is because they are wreaking havoc on a region. The objectives would not be token objectives.
    As described so far, I think the island would stick around for way less than 3 months.
    If there were PvP objectives, like a Castle or mini-Node, which players could "own" for several weeks to one month, it might be OK for the island to stick around for 3 months.

    5: I think the details don't really matter, though. The broad idea is good enough and if the devs chose to use the broad idea, they would craft whatever they think is best to make it fit with the overall design goals.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    Dygz wrote: »
    Mmmmn.
    1: An Island that appearing in the sea/ocean would probably not stay secret for long. If you haven't been in the Alpha, you probably can't understand the high degree of visibility Ashes offers. It's not really possible to hide an island large enough to have several dungeons with low visibility. Stumbling upon an area with low visibility would be instantly suspect.
    I think what I was envisioning is that beyond a certain radius away from the main-land, the oceans would just get super low visibility (via fog I guess). Normally this would act like an invisible wall in the sense that it signals the end of the created world. However, during the island time, somewhere in that fog will be the island.
    Dygz wrote: »
    2: Ashes doesn't have an endgame. I suppose an island appearing out of nowhere might be effectively similar to endgame in that it probably cannot be implemented by launch and by the time it is implemented, lots of people would have hit max Adventurer level, but it's very unlikely to be designed as strictly max level content.
    And there would be room for Crafters as well as Adventurers.
    There would have to be profit besides just the Dragon Eggs. What you describe in this latest post is a lot of risk with very little reward.
    Oh absolutely I would expect/hope this would be an expansion/major patch down the line if it's a thing. I do agree that my proposed rewards are very sparse atm. I've never been good at conceptualizing good 'reward' systems which is why I'm not a game designer I guess haha. My main thought is I really think it would be a mistake to reward players with high-end gear through a system like this.
    Dygz wrote: »
    3: The focus of Ashes is objective-based PvP combat. What the devs call meaningful conflict. So, the island would have some kind of objective similar to Castles and Nodes. Or similar to World Bosses, like the Winter Dragon that causes perpetual Winter until the Winter Dragon is defeated. But, if it's just World Bosses, that wi really PvE objectives rather than PvP objectives.
    PvP objectives would have to be something like a Castle or a mini-Node.
    Yeah, so I don't like the idea of a mini castle or node. I think a lot of classic 'battleground' concepts like capture the flag or capture points would work well here. Something that isn't super large-scale or time gated like sieges but will have a sense of perpetual skirmish conflict you can jump into and get out of whenever. I think the island's content should try to be distinct rather than a microcosm of the main-land content.
    Dygz wrote: »
    4: I don't understand how the Dragon Eggs can work as an objective. The devs are not going to have 3 months with a bunch of extra Dragon Eggs just so people can have more PvP combat. The motivation to kill Dragons is not just because they will offer loot. The reason to kill Dragons is because they are wreaking havoc on a region. The objectives would not be token objectives.
    As described so far, I think the island would stick around for way less than 3 months.
    If there were PvP objectives, like a Castle or mini-Node, which players could "own" for several weeks to one month, it might be OK for the island to stick around for 3 months.
    Yeah I mean I think the lifespan of the island can be better decided once the details would be fleshed out.
    Dygz wrote: »
    5: I think the details don't really matter, though. The broad idea is good enough and if the devs chose to use the broad idea, they would craft whatever they think is best to make it fit with the overall design goals.
    Glad you think it's an idea possibly worth entertaining :D.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    We will have naval vessels on the oceans, so I doubt that visibility will be low and certainly not super low.
    The rewards would have to match max level expectations if the focus is supposed to be max level players.
    My expectation is that the devs would consider capture the flag to be "meaningless" PvP combat rather than Meaningful Conflict.

    But, again, temporary island appearing seems workable. The expert designers can figure out how to make it work if they like the idea.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    I mean, 'meaningful' PvP entails fighting over an objectives like nodes and castles. If some objective was the subject of the PvP on the island with the incentive not being long term ownership of a castle or destruction/perseveration of a node but rather progress towards dragon eggs, I'd count that as meaningful but I get your point that it's a different flavor than the other PvP objectives we've been told about.
  • AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I finally know what this made me think of.

    Sunless Sea.

    Basing it on that, it takes only three things. First is islands that aren't random, but built by the environment design team properly. Secondly, that they don't spawn in the same place on every server. Thirdly, you take a bit from BDO and have them just not appear on the main known map of Verra at all.

    So you can 'sail off the edge of the map', and as you go further you encounter more crazy, unkillable stuff and terrible weather, and the devs don't have to worry too much because eventually your ship has to turn back because some rations or something will run out (this applies the reasonable distance limit).

    What you put on the islands can also be 'randomized' within some reasonable space. So sometimes 'Kabiki Island' has a hostile village of corrupted Sladeborne, and on some other servers it has a giant gorilla tribe, and on others it has a dragon and treasure.

    Since all the content to 'fit on' any randomly generated island must come from somewhere anyway, the ability to just 'not be able to find it' or have issues navigating so it isn't the same every time (doldrums, being blown off course, minor currents that aren't the same per server) would work.

    Then you would have people who gather entire fleets to try to discover 'new' islands. They're not completely new, but because they aren't in the same place on every server, different things happen.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    I think it would most likely be the same kinds of mechanisms as Nodes - and which ones appear when/where would depend on nearby activity and/or which services and buildings constructed at a Node.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    Azherae wrote: »
    Basing it on that, it takes only three things. First is islands that aren't random, but built by the environment design team properly. Secondly, that they don't spawn in the same place on every server. Thirdly, you take a bit from BDO and have them just not appear on the main known map of Verra at all.

    I'm not sure why the islands not being random is necessary. A sense of exploration of the island can be achieved with a hand-sculpted island, sure, but it requires a lot more man hours and resources to do as a cyclical 'event'. Not having the island on the world map, and also not having a map of the island (so people have to use memory/landmarks etc) are sufficient to make the island fun and mysterious for exploration. The island itself though only needs QA to go over it and make sure it's fine, no need to hand-craft it, or am I missing something?
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    Any geographical area is going to be handcrafted by the devs.
  • AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    neuroguy wrote: »
    Azherae wrote: »
    Basing it on that, it takes only three things. First is islands that aren't random, but built by the environment design team properly. Secondly, that they don't spawn in the same place on every server. Thirdly, you take a bit from BDO and have them just not appear on the main known map of Verra at all.

    I'm not sure why the islands not being random is necessary. A sense of exploration of the island can be achieved with a hand-sculpted island, sure, but it requires a lot more man hours and resources to do as a cyclical 'event'. Not having the island on the world map, and also not having a map of the island (so people have to use memory/landmarks etc) are sufficient to make the island fun and mysterious for exploration. The island itself though only needs QA to go over it and make sure it's fine, no need to hand-craft it, or am I missing something?

    I am not sure if you watched the Latest Development Stream, but here's the relevant section. In simple terms, the way that terrain is generated, level bounds and lower bounds, meshes made to match the ground perfectly, and so on, are actually a lot of work. Sometimes years to fix every part.

    Not only can players fall through the world, rarely, enemies can as well. I won't try to go into detail, since I'm not the environment artist or engineer of my group, and if you want a really in-depth I can ask her to jump in, but short version is that even the best QA won't really be enough, and truly random generated ones are more prone to this.

    What I forgot to mention would be that you could extend it even more in the way you are thinking of, though. Once the island is tested, the precise orientation (think like a clock face) of the island in the open ocean would probably be randomizable. So a part of the island that is 'north' on Lyneth might be the south east part on Resna, and along with differences in what spawns, or foliage (since this requires much less testing), it might be enough to really make it feel different.

    But, no, overall it's not 'less work' to make random islands because those sorts of systems take long to perfect and even longer to test. A good environment artist can churn out beautiful islands much faster, to the point where it might even be worth 'them doing it randomly between updates'. More options for easter eggs, cool vistas, properly considered battle 'grounds', etc. I wouldn't say 'nonrandom' is necessary, but it's more work. One incorrectly clamped noise function and suddenly everyone's in the deep dark ocean below Verra.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    edited June 29
    Dygz wrote: »
    Any geographical area is going to be handcrafted by the devs.
    Why?
    Azherae wrote: »
    I am not sure if you watched the Latest Development Stream, but here's the relevant section. In simple terms, the way that terrain is generated, level bounds and lower bounds, meshes made to match the ground perfectly, and so on, are actually a lot of work. Sometimes years to fix every part.

    Not only can players fall through the world, rarely, enemies can as well. I won't try to go into detail, since I'm not the environment artist or engineer of my group, and if you want a really in-depth I can ask her to jump in, but short version is that even the best QA won't really be enough, and truly random generated ones are more prone to this.

    What I forgot to mention would be that you could extend it even more in the way you are thinking of, though. Once the island is tested, the precise orientation (think like a clock face) of the island in the open ocean would probably be randomizable. So a part of the island that is 'north' on Lyneth might be the south east part on Resna, and along with differences in what spawns, or foliage (since this requires much less testing), it might be enough to really make it feel different.

    But, no, overall it's not 'less work' to make random islands because those sorts of systems take long to perfect and even longer to test. A good environment artist can churn out beautiful islands much faster, to the point where it might even be worth 'them doing it randomly between updates'. More options for easter eggs, cool vistas, properly considered battle 'grounds', etc. I wouldn't say 'nonrandom' is necessary, but it's more work. One incorrectly clamped noise function and suddenly everyone's in the deep dark ocean below Verra.

    I don't understand how it would not be less work to start with a randomized map and through QA fix up any bugs. None of the problems stated in the video should occur more or less oftem with randomized generation of the geography if done decently, and I mean, they are already occurring with the hand-crafted map. As they make the rest of the world and the game, they will resolve some systematic sources of such bugs and the ones that are not caused by a systematic problem will be solved more easily (due to the experience accrued from solving these problems for the game). It's not like I'm saying randomly generate the map the night of the patch, they can be even more than one island cycle ahead of release... look through 10-20 randomly generated maps, pick their favorite one as a starting point, debug via QA and tweak it as they see fit to slap in easter eggs or whatever else if they really want. The time spent polishing up the random generation to a decent point will be rapidly exceeded by the time it takes for hand-crafting each island if it is recurring and with any reasonable frequency.
  • AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Well, I don't know what to tell you, because I don't know how to explain exactly how terrain modeling works, and I can't be sure which of the methods of terrain modeling Ashes uses.

    To be clear though, I thought you meant 'building a model that will generate an island outright without much if any involvement from them'.

    I can only tell you that modelers and environment designers are really really fast at their jobs when you give them something like 'island' which doesn't have to fit in with a lot more things.

    Maybe Ashes uses one of the modeling schema that would allow for random to somehow be faster than a professional modeler. I'm also not sure why you say that they shouldn't occur more often? Are you expecting that Ashes starts from the volumetric voxel approach? I haven't seen many indications that they do, because it doesn't often work well for MMOs, and any proper phasing that doesn't look chunky still has to go through a heightmap pass.

    I feel like one of the two of us is much less informed about this than they think, so I'll assume it's me and go ask someone about it. I'll therefore 'Baton Pass' on this thread and stay out of it, and if anyone from my group oosts again, it'll be the person who knows exactly what they're talking about. And of course, if there's no post, it'll be because she corrected my misconceptions.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    Azherae wrote: »
    I feel like one of the two of us is much less informed about this than they think, so I'll assume it's me and go ask someone about it. I'll therefore 'Baton Pass' on this thread and stay out of it, and if anyone from my group oosts again, it'll be the person who knows exactly what they're talking about. And of course, if there's no post, it'll be because she corrected my misconceptions.

    Hahaha, how humble of you. I don't have any game design experience. I have a decent bit of coding experience but am mostly extrapolating from that. The main reason I'm pushing for randomization is that
    A: I liked Vhaeyne's idea of one boss and was fresh off the divine node catacomb reveal so I was imagining a sprawling underground dungeon to crawl through. I think there is a lot to be said for being able to randomize a maze-like sprawling dungeon.
    B: I think when you design a recurring system, it is almost always worth investing time to automate as much of it as possible. For example, if this design idea is scrapped or was super successful and wanted to be expanded upon, having an automated pipeline would be best. If it is scrapped, you might as well have developed a nifty algorithm that can generate geography, it may be useful elsewhere. If it's a huge hit and they want to make 3 islands, each twice the size originally planned, the workload would increase dramatically for every part that is not automated.
    C: I think algorithms can generate very interesting stuff, intentionally or not. I also, with little practical knowledge, assumed that manually designing the island, even if the assets are all recycled, would be fairly resource intensive if it were recurring.
  • DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    edited June 29
    Bacon can explain why everything will be handcrafted better than I can.
    But any island in Ashes would be created similar to Nodes.
    Check out the latest Dev Livestream for some insight.
  • MerekMerek Member
    edited June 29
    Due to the huge RNG factor that would come with it, no. The chance that someone gets the one in a million island with the best mob cycle, loot and everything, making him a millionaire would be too damaging to the economy. I wouldn't mind there being a large amount of islands off the coast, but they shouldn't be randomly generated.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    Merek wrote: »
    Due to the huge RNG factor that would come with it, no. The chance that someone gets the one in a million island with the best mob cycle, loot and everything, making him a millionaire would be too damaging to the economy. I wouldn't mind there being a large amount of islands off the coast, but they shouldn't be randomly generated.

    Not sure what you mean. There would never be a terrible or super amazing island, even with all the RNG, since they would all go through QA. If it would be too enriching, it would not make it to live servers. The space in which the island can spawn in is an important factor on the rate at which people will find the island. If players are looking for it, it will not stay monopolized by a single guild or player for long. In a previous comment I said at most I would want it not found for 24h. A high number of islands would spread out the population a lot and damage the mainland content too much. For this to work it needs to concentrate players, be dependent on mainland for resources, not out-reward mainland content and be only temporary content (available for some window of time and removed afterwards). I go over all of that above though.
  • GrandSerpentGrandSerpent Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited July 3
    Hi all, to follow up on what @Azherae said, while procedural generation of content in the context of an MMO is within the realm of technical feasibility, there are a lot of non-obvious challenges which make it difficult in practice.

    1. How procedural terrain generation works

    In order for this to make sense, I need to give a brief explanation of how terrain is normally generated in procedurally-driven games.

    The most common technique for dynamic generation of terrain in video games utilizes computational tools call noise functions, most commonly Simplex noise. These generate continuously-changing 2D or 3D fields of numbers, which can be used as inputs to terrain heightmaps, or voxel-based terrain generation functions.

    Through applying mathematical operations and multiple layers of noise functions with different parameters, game developers can refine their outputs, resulting in something more tailored to the sort of game environment they're interested in creating. With sufficiently complex algorithms, this can result in some interesting, varied landscapes, which are utilized to good effect in games like Minecraft or No Man's Sky.

    However, it's important to emphasize that this sort of procedural generation is, at its core, unpredictable and random. While programmers can influence how terrain is generated, it's not fundamentally possible to get results which will consistently conform to any given set of requirements for gameplay.

    2. Non-obvious pitfalls in the context of MMOs

    An MMO like AoC has a specific set of requirements for its gameplay areas. Players need wide, relatively open areas to fight mobs, they need the capacity to easily traverse between areas of the world, and they need a certain, logical distribution of resource gathering points for things like fishing and harvesting. In the context of a large, procedurally-generated island, there are some significant technical challenges to achieving these goals. In no particular order:

    • 1. Does the island have enough wide, open areas for players to fight in?
    • 2. Are there areas of the map which players can get stuck in (e.g., a drop into a canyon with no way out)?
    • 3. Are there large areas which are inaccessible (e.g. a plateau with sheer cliffs surrounding it)?
    • 4. Do randomly-placed props (trees, rocks, plants) on the island clip through geometry, or display in other janky ways?
    • 5. Do any NPC spawn points or resource gathering nodes intersect with props or with terrain features?
    • 6. Is there a clear route onto the island from the ocean?
    • 7. Will player-operated ships get stuck in shallow areas of water?
    • 8. Can the generation system create the required gameplay systems (AI pathfinding nodegraphs, collision geometry) in a reliable way?
    • 9. Is this collision geometry generation reliable enough to prevent any spots where the player will fall through the world?

    With sufficiently complex algorithms and enough development time, I believe most of these problems could be overcome in the majority of the cases, and manual QA of generated areas would help screen out many islands with obvious technical flaws. However, there's still an irreducible level of inconsistency in this approach, and getting sufficiently good results requires a lot of investment in the procedural generation systems. It's also very easy for more subtle flaws in the generation of any given island to be missed by QA and make their way into production.

    Even games with a heavy emphasis on procedural content generation sometimes misstep on these points, either by removing enough of the randomness from the proceed that everything feels kind of generic and "samey" (e.g. No Man's Sky at launch), or by creating areas of content which are sometimes unplayable (too many examples to list here).

    Since AoC's main focus is on hand-authored content, I'm therefore not sure if it would make sense for Intrepid to dedicate the technical resources necessary to implement this type of system in a sufficiently reliable way, at least at launch.

    3. What game developers can do

    While full procedural generation is probably outside of AoC's scope, there are still ways to utilize procedural tools and algorithms to help expedite the level creation process, and blend hand-authored and procedural terrain.

    One approach sometimes used in games is to start from a piece of terrain created by a noise function, and refine it into a usable gameplay space via conventional terrain sculpting tools. This can be a good way to quickly iterate on content, and ensure that no areas of the world have significant technical flaws. This kind of workflow has been used in many open-world RPGs in the past (Morrowind, Oblivion, etc).

    Another approach is for a level designer to define the broad shapes of a landscape, then allow algorithms to refine the terrain, applying processes like erosion, or applying textures and props to areas of the landscape based on slope angle or a noise-driven biome system.

    From what I've seen in the alpha so far, I believe AoC's devs are already utilizing techniques of these types of techniques. UE4 has fairly sophisticated tools for terrain generation natively, which make intermixing algorithmically-driven and hand-edited terrain feasible (e.g. simulated erosion, foliage painting).

    4. Conclusion

    This is a case where, although dynamically-generated islands would make for an interesting system, the technical complexity most likely outweighs the benefit unless Intrepid plans to focus heavily on this type of content.

    Areas like islands can be generated by hand relatively quickly by level designers, often with a greater degree of quality and visual interest (hand-placed props, environmental storytelling, etc). Based on my experience, putting together a small island without any unique assets or gameplay scripting is something that a designer could finish within a day, meaning that even a relatively extensive archipelago could be put together in a reasonable span of time.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    edited July 2
    @GrandSerpent Thanks for the educational post. Your links don't take me anywhere =/ I would love to learn more. Short response: I definitely don't have enough knowledge about manually creating this stuff to try to compare their relative effort and I trust your expertise so I concede and will edit my original post (which btw I'd love to hear your thoughts on as a game system). I think that personally, I would find it easier to be creative if provided a clay mould of an island than an empty canvas so that probably biased my thoughts haha. Setting up a random generation algorithm sounds like fun to me and I might just make it a pet project so I will also post my thoughts on how I would approach that here and you can maybe give me some feedback/point me to the right tools to try to code it up myself.
    Edit: on second thought let me read more on the manual creation before I sink time into this haha so if you have any good resources to point me to, I'd appreciate it (otherwise I'll just google it).
  • AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    @neuroguy - Yeah she and I have both had odd issues getting the BBCode for video links and such to work, but it's probably just overlooking something.

    Here's another try.
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    Azherae wrote: »
    @neuroguy - Yeah she and I have both had odd issues getting the BBCode for video links and such to work, but it's probably just overlooking something.

    Here's another try.

    Yeah so as mentioned by @GrandSerpent it definitely seems doable with a simple "multiple layers of noise functions with different parameters". To clarify, I understand all of the problems mentioned in her post but she also immediately provides the intuitive solutions to all of them. These are just a number of tractable problems that can be solved with iterative random generation and parameter setting, plus you can just brute force a lot of it if needed and do manual rejection (and train up a machine learning algorithm if you really want to get fancy). But ultimately if it is really as quick as you say to hand-craft these environments then more power to that.
  • NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    neuroguy wrote: »
    But ultimately if it is really as quick as you say to hand-craft these environments then more power to that.

    If I were to implement something like this general suggestion in to a game, I would start with procedurally generated terrain, and would add in props and spawn points manually.

    This isnt as much about saving time as it is about variation - if you had a small team making new islands every so often, they would eventually end up being similar in some fashion. If you randomize the foundation of it and leave the details to those same people, you are more likely to get more variation.

    Also, issues with terrain generation (pathing, ensuring space etc) are very easy to solve in comparison to prop placing issues, and spawn points - especially since generation speed isnt exactly a factor (such as a game generating a random map when players start a game, or enter a new area).
  • neuroguyneuroguy Member
    Noaani wrote: »
    This isnt as much about saving time as it is about variation - if you had a small team making new islands every so often, they would eventually end up being similar in some fashion. If you randomize the foundation of it and leave the details to those same people, you are more likely to get more variation.
    I tend to agree, and I've seen procedural map generation in DRG blow me away so that's why I initially proposed it as such... But I mean taking only a day to whip up an island is fast. I feel like a team of 3-4 people should indeed be able to set up some procedural generation pipeline in <4 months easy, and I feel like that's a conservative estimate.Again, keeping in mind that is just needs to be geography that designers/artists will pick up and make sing. But a day per island? At that speed you could just swap artists in charge of the island and produce content for a few years that way without seeing any individual artist's biases.
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