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Curious old MxO screenshot 
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Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 9:32 am
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I was always amazed that the live event characters could stay in character with the area spam, stupid remarks etc. Used to annoy the hell out of me.

Good for you dude, those are some awesome memories to have!

Would you do it again (obviously in a different game)? It seems like so much blood sweat and tears....


Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:46 pm
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Heh probably not! It would surprise me a lot if another MMO came along that tried to do in-character events to the extent that MXO did. I mean just for them to be unscripted, on-character, AND relevant to the very latest storyline you need to have the story writer sitting there playing the characters live, or at least closely supervising the people playing them, and it's highly unusual to have a game team structure like that, as far as I'm aware. But more to the point, nobody has figured out a way to make events like that cost effective.


Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:31 pm
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BC wrote:
Heh probably not! It would surprise me a lot if another MMO came along that tried to do in-character events to the extent that MXO did. I mean just for them to be unscripted, on-character, AND relevant to the very latest storyline you need to have the story writer sitting there playing the characters live, or at least closely supervising the people playing them, and it's highly unusual to have a game team structure like that, as far as I'm aware. But more to the point, nobody has figured out a way to make events like that cost effective.


So, how was it done in the early days of MxO when, presumably, there were several devs at a time playing event characters? Everyone in the same room with the story writer supervising!? It seems like alot of coordination....but not terrible? (spoken as the guy who has never had to do it :) )

Also, you mean cost-effective as keeping paid staff to *just* be live event characters? Naively I'll ask....couldnt you just use clever volunteers? Interns? I guess having to know the storylines and every characters previous interaction with each other might make that just too hard? Also, the player LET's kinda filled in there in MxO....was that a success in your opinion?


Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:48 am
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I didn't hang out with the LET really but I did see their room and set-up (they took over my old QA pit :PP); basically it was a lot of computer desks along two adjacent walls of a room, so you could have had a supervisor monitoring all of them at once, pretty much. They did have supervision and lots of meetings and discussions, and to a large extent their boss wrote his own stuff for them, which was part of why it diverged from Paul's stuff--but anyway they did then, in effect, have the writer there providing close supervision. (Also I think they started assigning fixed roles to team members, so, like, Jim is the guy who always plays character x during North American hours on server y, and he has some freedom to start essentially writing his own side story stuff, so it's another case of a writer/player--but then again that might have been part of the reason stories started to diverge between servers, which was problematic if they were ever supposed to affect the main storyline, or if say player z switched to server y and found character x there had a very different personality.)

Having to pay people to play live characters is one aspect of it, yeah. We did use volunteers, ie LESIG, and that was certainly very helpful, and much of what was done in terms of events over the past three years or so wouldn't have been possible without them. But if your story characters are important to the business--and that's the type of live events we're talking about here anyway; much of the "draw" of the event is people getting a chance to hang out with Morpheus or what have you--then you pretty much have to restrict their use to paid employees, because you simply don't have enough guarantee of good behavior over volunteers. Like, if Morpheus doesn't make it to his advertised resurrection event because his dad needed the computer that evening, that isn't good for the health of your project.

There are other things that make it difficult as well, though. For instance, much of a job of an MMO's design is to spread players out so they don't overload a particular server or part of a server. If you're running events with big-name characters, though, what happens is that a huge amount of player traffic suddenly concentrates in the tiny area around that character, and then you can end up with both client and server performance problems. So the basic architecture of most MMOs is not really well suited to that type of event.

Also, no matter how hard you try, generally speaking you are only going to reach a small fraction of your player base with live event characters, even if you've got teams of people working around the clock, because you can only afford to have 1 live event employee for every [large number] of subscribers. Most players probably won't even realize there are live event things going on, which raises the question of why you're spending money on a LE team. The players who DO care but don't make it to events will feel like they aren't getting their money's worth, there will inevitably be accusations of favoritism, etc.


Fri Apr 09, 2010 5:09 am
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BC wrote:
I didn't hang out with the LET really but I did see their room and set-up (they took over my old QA pit :PP); basically it was a lot of computer desks along two adjacent walls of a room, so you could have had a supervisor monitoring all of them at once, pretty much. They did have supervision and lots of meetings and discussions, and to a large extent their boss wrote his own stuff for them, which was part of why it diverged from Paul's stuff--but anyway they did then, in effect, have the writer there providing close supervision. (Also I think they started assigning fixed roles to team members, so, like, Jim is the guy who always plays character x during North American hours on server y, and he has some freedom to start essentially writing his own side story stuff, so it's another case of a writer/player--but then again that might have been part of the reason stories started to diverge between servers, which was problematic if they were ever supposed to affect the main storyline, or if say player z switched to server y and found character x there had a very different personality.)


Cool insight into what went on!
And WOW, I hadnt stopped to remember that there were multiple servers who's event outcomes were different. Throw individual's diverging ideas in, yikes. I am suprised to hear that people had the freedom to write thier own ideas. The way the Wachowskis seem about their Matrix property, its hard to imagine that they would let anyone (other than Chadwick, and later you) add to the story.

BC wrote:
Having to pay people to play live characters is one aspect of it, yeah. We did use volunteers, ie LESIG, and that was certainly very helpful, and much of what was done in terms of events over the past three years or so wouldn't have been possible without them. But if your story characters are important to the business--and that's the type of live events we're talking about here anyway; much of the "draw" of the event is people getting a chance to hang out with Morpheus or what have you--then you pretty much have to restrict their use to paid employees, because you simply don't have enough guarantee of good behavior over volunteers. Like, if Morpheus doesn't make it to his advertised resurrection event because his dad needed the computer that evening, that isn't good for the health of your project.


Yeah, getting to hang out with Morph was pretty cool from a players perspective. I remember in beta getting messaged to meet him somewhere and being really really stoked. lol at Morph missing an event due to Dads computer being unavailable XD.

BC wrote:
Also, no matter how hard you try, generally speaking you are only going to reach a small fraction of your player base with live event characters, even if you've got teams of people working around the clock, because you can only afford to have 1 live event employee for every [large number] of subscribers. Most players probably won't even realize there are live event things going on, which raises the question of why you're spending money on a LE team. The players who DO care but don't make it to events will feel like they aren't getting their money's worth, there will inevitably be accusations of favoritism, etc.


I was one of the players who cared a lot about the storyline and live events...but couldn't dedicate the time that many of my faction mates did to being online. So I missed a great number of the later events. Some of that was because we didn't know when they would occur. Things like the blue sky event were easier for me, because the event timing seemed much more defined . I never complained about missing events though, mostly because I thought it was my fault. Also, one of the reasons that MxO was so different and addicting was the chance that you *may* have an event. It was really really cool. I guess if the expectation from the general player is that everyone will be aware and involved in every event, then yeah, it would be bad. I was ok with getting to attend one when possible...and hopeful that at least once a year there was a "big" event I would know about. I still dont know why MxO couldnt survive without small centralized live events with live event characters? Why not just keep to world events like so many other mmos (and MxO: unlimits, corrupted, red eye agents etc), and maybe just have one big live character type event a year? I 'spose the subscriber base had just dropped off at the end anyhow.....


Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:17 am
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The big world events thing was tried for a while at the beginning, remember. Possibly it could have worked *better* than it did; the people running the show got into this obsession with making each event bigger than the last, and ended up investing so much in them that they couldn't possibly have been profitable. Other games like City of Heroes do large-scale events once in a while, and they seem to have some success with that, but from what I hear theirs are much better planned, and almost entirely automated. MXO's problem in that regard was that there was very little support in the existing game code for the mechanics of large-scale events; all they really had was weather changes, city/district/neighborhood random NPC spawns, semi-random loot drops, and collectors and vendors. You could incorporate missions too if you really tried, but it wasn't easy. Really the primary reason for basing events heavily around live actors was the lack of other means of getting things done, particularly a lack of mechanisms for scripting NPCs outside of mission areas.

So could MXO's events have survived--ie kept enough people subscribed to satisfy the publishers--if the events had been managed well? *Maybe*, but I tend to think that on their own they wouldn't have been sufficient to carry the game, both because MXO lacked a robust scripting architecture to support events that could really keep every player in the game busy, and because, particularly at that time, there wasn't enough to do outside of the events to keep players interested during the down times between events. We ended up with this phenomenon of a big hype build up to an event, then people being inevitably underwhelmed or missing it or crashing, then lots of standing around and complaining in the relatively empty weeks or months afterwards.

So it didn't work out and people left and funding was cut. It got down to being pretty much just me trying to do events, and I didn't have the ability to generate really big events on my own--particularly when it came to inventing engineering to support them and keep them novel and interesting, and I wasn't much tempted to try to lean upon my possible resources for generating maybe one or two half-assed "big" events a year because they wouldn't have been super great anyway--even if I could have gotten the engineering, testing, and acting support needed, which was more and more doubtful as time went on--and in the huge times in between there wouldn't have been anything else for players to look forward to.


Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:18 pm
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yes, I do remember the world events, they were great. Its cool that they wanted to make them bigger, but too bad that doing so was so bad for the game.

Well, I have to say I'm surprised to hear that the game was coded without support for world events and more extensive NPC scripting. Of course, I know nothing about game mechanics, so I don't know if that's normal anyhow, but based on Champions online and some other games that Ive dabbled in or beta tested (Tabula Rasa...thats another story), I assumed world event mechanics were planned into most games. Incidentally, I always thought there was way more to do in MxO than I actually had time to do, but I guess its because I didn't have the play time that some do, and I wasn't really in a hurry to get everything done as soon as new things were released. Still a couple of the quests I never got to do. I wish I had now : (

BC wrote:
then people being inevitably underwhelmed or missing it or crashing, then lots of standing around and complaining in the relatively empty weeks or months afterwards.


People complaining never failed to piss me off. It seemed like no matter how good things were, if there was one crash during the middle of an event, it was like the world was coming to an end! I always felt that, in the end, that's why Sony killed the game. I would have been tempted myself tbh.

Well, you did a ton of stuff with what you had, so that was great for us. I know you realize that most of us deeply appreciated it.


Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:38 pm
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Nahh the only people who would really have cared about complaints would have been me and maybe some of the CS people from time to time (although I think they were much thicker skinned on the whole!), and none of us had the power to cancel the game, heh. Not that any of us would have wanted to as far as I know!

There were a few rudimentary "world events" thingies, so it wasn't like MXO had nothing, but yeah there was no really robust ground-up support for a lot of the basic things you'd really want in that area, as an event designer. Still there will always be stuff you'd like to have that you don't, so eh you just do what you can with what you have.


Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:31 am
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Ooh I see I already talked about some of this stuff over here. Ye cats, how did I forget about Veil?? She was fun to play; another character with hidden depths, even if hers were more obviously hidden (her name, conflicting stories of her past, her concealing costume) than the others.


Did you ever think that maybe you would reveal more of Veil's past had there been more time? If so, what kind of ideas did you have?


Mon May 03, 2010 12:25 am
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*tries to remember*

I don't think so... Nothing major at any rate, because I could never really be certain about what had already been said to players about her by the old live team; it hadn't been documented, and the bits I could gather from players and old event recaps didn't quite seem to fit together perfectly. So with Veil I just sort of generalized to myself that she'd had a dark past of violence and betrayal--I think I tended to think that if she had betrayed Zion, as some stories of her past had it, she would have done it out of her own sense of betrayal by Zion or maybe just humanity before that, something I never tried to clarify in my own thoughts--and tried to let that sense of trauma color her reactions to current events. She tended to be very pessimistic regarding Machine decisions as they affected the Cypherites, for instance, and with Cryptos she would get frustrated with his abstract way of thinking because she didn't have much faith in anything other than real, tangible results.

But Veil for me was very interesting because I always felt that despite her often flippant or nearly homicidal facade, deep down she really did have a dream of living a "normal life." I don't think she really thought it would happen, and for her own part she certainly didn't want to live under the illusion constructed by the Machines, but it was at least an imagined ideal for her... Hm and again with the betrayal thing, she could blame both Machines and mankind for rendering any kind of stereotypical 1950's happy suburban life that you'd see in old movies totally impossible, at least in a completely real sense. Still, the strength of her desire for that ideal inspired in her--and this is again a feeling whose manifestations she would always have been very careful to suppress--a deep-seated urge to protect or preserve anything approximating it, at least in which the feelings of the participants were genuine; so while she detested the Machine mechanism and lie, and really for herself wanted to crush it and destroy it utterly, if she had, for instance, come upon a human couple in the Matrix really living a blissful life under that Machine illusion, her reaction to that would involve a nearly overwhelming sense of awe and desire, and of anger over her own loss.

It wasn't until the Machine/Cypherite rift resulting from the revelation of Cryptos' overwriting that I was able to start solidifying those aspects of her personality for myself. So my general idea for Veil was to find opportunities for those feelings to come out into the open a little more; they had already started to be useful as the fuel for her increasingly anti-Machine attitude, and for tension between her and Cryptos, who had a whole different set of conflicting feelings when it came to the Machines.


Mon May 03, 2010 9:26 pm
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