Online multiplayer. Some people love it,and thats all they do. Others hate it, and won't touch it to save their life. Me, I love it to death if it compliments the SP in a game. I do believe that some games should only one or the other. But this is how I plan on fixing multiplayer in my games.
I'm going to be using a fictional title, one that has this premise. It is a 64 player per server title, and the game is persistant. The game world is 40 square miles, and it doesn't matter what system it would be running on. The game has alot of nooks and crannies that you can explore and find neat things in. The world has all kinds of objectives to complete, solo or as a team. You fight for control of places and items that at the end of a 24hr cycle the winner is announced.
The biggest thing is the fact that there are three factions when playing online. The Team players who work with each other to complete goals, Lone wolves who might or might not complete goals that are set by the game, and the douches. The douches will probably always be douches, but the lone wolves can be helpful in ways that game designers haven't figured out yet. I think though, we need to have an ingame system for communication with the larger community other than just the players that we are on the server with.
What I would like to see is the ability to report the douchebags in the game, and then have them be reported by several players so it's not just one person with a beef. Then once the report is done, an admin will come into the server, either as a player or observer and watch the behavior of the reported player to see if the report was justified. If so, an instant decision maybe made, either banning for a set time or a written warning by the devs. If you get two written warnings in a months period you will be banned for a certain amount of time.
The other thing is having the ability to connect to the forums or a feedback system in game. I would love it if gamers could be able to report issues that happen as they occur with snapshot of the gamestate at the time of occurence. this will allow us to debug or patch widespread problems easier.
A) Making the maps the right size.
One of the things that I hate about most titles is that the map sizes feel wrong, no matter how the devs want you to play. For example, COD:BO has alot of small maps. I have not played the title since the first two months it was out, but I know that alot of the maps, especially Nuketown were too damn small even for the 12 players the game is limited at. Wow. It was just wrong on how small it was. On the other hand, Fuel was too damn big to play on, because the 12 players were usually lost and trying to find the enemy more than actually playing. I know that the map didn't come into rotation that much, but if your going to have a large map, atleast make it where it comes up more often than a random choice.
If you want to have large maps and smaller urban style ones in your game, you will need to have a good sense of scale to give the player. You dont need to make your map so massive that the player feels like an ant, but dont make the player feel bigger than normal either. Battlefield has always been a series that the sense of scale from open world map to urban/close quarter combat feels right. I think the reason for this is the sense of scale presented visually, and gameplay mechanic wise. when you climb into a vehicle, either jet or hummer or what not, you feel as if your driving said vehicle, and your sense of scale changes. You climb a ladder, and the amount of time it takes is realistic, your weapons interact with the world in a realistic way (especially in battlefield 3 videos). You can feel the world around you as you play, even in boring maps.
By giving the player a sense of scale, he can then learn the weapons much better. I cannot tell you how often I have fired a gun in a game that I know in the real world has the reach of a god, but in the game, they changed the specs to make it fit the level sizes. I hate firing say an M16 knowing damn well that the current real models are accurate up to 300 meters or more, depending on the shooter. So when there is bullet drop at less than 200 meters, its bullshit. What the fuck?
B) Giving a sense of physical existence
By giving the player the ability the sense of realistic movement, kinetics, and mass, you can have a better experience also. If you were to play a platformer without the ability to feel visually the mass and momentum of the onscreen character, you feel off. Why should this be any different in an FPS? By making the player feel the physicality of the avatar they are using, they can then have a sense of being in the world a bit better, making the immersion real. I never feel as if I am in the game world, but more of a camera in the world with a gun. I would love to have a sense of mass and momentum going from running to stopping, climbing objects, and moving objects.
Something that games do is limit the player and the interactions with the world around them. This is done by either not allowing them to interact with objects in the level or world that you could in real life. For example, if your near a stack of crates or boxes that are waist high or even higher, you can climb them in the real world. In MP games, it seems that almost anything that is waist high or higher is unable to be climbed. WHAT THE FUCK? I'm sorry, but if there is a pile of barrels or junk that is in a corner of a large room, I would like to be able to climb it and use it as a hiding spot. Why can't I do this in games? Is it because they couldn't seal the levels correctly? Laziness? It would break their vision of the game and how its "supposed" to be played?!
I would like to see anything that is climbable by a 5'10" person in the real world, climbable in a game world. It would open up so many gameplay options for ambushes and tactics. If it would break the game play style you want for your game... Your just being a douche.
Something else that I would love to see is you to be able to interact with objects in the world. I would love to see doors that could be open and closed at will, by the player. If you have a desctructible environment, it'll be pointless, but you could do it. Or even just debris in the world like trash, bottles, shoes. I would love to be able to pick them up and throw them as distractions or traps. I want to make people have to think about that shoe, was it there, or did someone drop it there. If you can make the player feel as if he has to keep his eyes open, you can then have them pay more attention to the work and details that were put into the game.
C) Make the maps with gameplay styles in mind.
If your going to do a "sniper" map, make it a damn sniper map. I feel that if we can have a set of maps to choose from that are scaled correctly, we can make open map lovers and CQC lovers happy. I would ship a title with seven CQC maps and seven open maps that allow for CQC and long range combat. For example: You can have a large open map that allows for realistic sniping and long range fire from mounted, chain, and AA guns without sacrificing the CQC that the closed, smaller maps allow. by placing objectives near/in an close quarters area. This has been done constantly, but this makes sense. If your trying to force the players to have close quarters combat at some point, you need to force it. If you don't want to force CQC, don't! Look at "A bridge too far" from the Console versions of Battlefield 2, it had the ability to do an open world environment and really intense CQC combat. If you remember it, it even had the ability to get on sky scrapers to effectively snipe until you ended up getting caught. I loved this map, because of how perfect it was combat wise.
The way to make a perfect sniper map in my opinion is to separate the two sides, with no chance of CQC at all. If you were to have both sides separated by a natural canyon, river, or other environmental block without it being bullshit, it would be perfect. But how to effectively do so without having to suspend disbelief too much? You could use any form of natural disaster, from earthquakes to a lava flow. I would love to have a level layout like this:
LEGEND: Black - Buildings that you can snipe in an ontop of. RED - Lava/Environmental hazard Green-Land.
Now, on my really, really crude map, the scale would be about every inch would equal about .5 miles. The player size would be 64 players, 32 per side, so if every building held atleast 3 people per building, you would then have more than enough to cover each other. Now, in my perfect game, the sun would be moving at a realistic speed, so if you were on the western side, and the sun was rising, you would have to worry eventually about having the sun reflect off of your scope, unless you were using an electronic one that used an LCD screen. This is clearly a TDM map, but I would use this as a perfect example of giving the player a sense of scale. If even just four to five of the buildings were 10 stories apiece with full or mostly fully explorable areas, you have the makings for an intense sniper map. When making a sniper map, you need to have the players be able to locate targets without having to guess where the hell the enemies are.
Now, this comes to something else that pisses me off in MP games. Why the fuck would you have a god damned name tag floating above your enemies head? I hate nothing more than some asshole seeing my Gamertag and killing my ass because the game gave my position away because of this. If you seriously want to have a realistic or even semi-realistic online experience you need to remove the name tags above your avatars fucking head.
This is how I would make a CQC map:
LEGEND GREY- Ground, BLACK - Buildings/world objects RED-Control points
Scale would be maybe 300 - 400 feet per inch, imagine Faleva from MW2 only a bit bigger.
Now on this crude map, the black areas are all open to exploration and hiding in. But while in the buildings you have the usual debris that offices, houses, and stores would have. Now, within this environment, I would place the capable zones in places that were both hard and simple to attack and defend. If you have the cap zones surrounded by buildings or objects that are higher than the zone, attacking would be difficult depending on where the opposing side decided to defend. If it was me, the zone in the lower left with the wide open areas I would post one to two guys behind each building, facing out. This way you could have them be looking outward to protect the cap. But another person might have them all facing towards the east, or even north with one or two posted east. Attacking is simple if your opponents were facing in one cardinal direction, you ambush from the behind. But these are tactics we all use.
But the biggest problem is weapons sometimes, and not the map size or sense of scale.
D) Make your guns real or arcade like, but alert the player before they hop online.
If you make a FPS, you need to make several choices that will affect how your guns work. The first thing that you need to do is decide if your going for simulation, realistic, or arcade. You can have a blend of them, but mostly its either simulation/realism or realistic/arcade. To me arcade is more like COD, Quake, and other faster paced shooters. Crysis 2 is an odd duck because it tries to be realistic with arcade like features. I have not unlocked the Hardcore modes yet, nor do i know if people play them.
But this is the number one rule: YOU NEED TO INFORM YOUR PLAYERS WHAT ONLINE PLAY WILL BE LIKE. You can have a COD experience with a Hardcore mode, and I honestly prefer Hardcore over any other type because it is close to realism when it comes to damage detection. But the gunplay is still crazy and off balance.
If your going for realism, your sense of scale needs to be spot on. If your going for the more arcade style shooter like COD, you can tinker with the ballistics a little more. Balancing real world weapons and what players expect is a hard thing to do. Look at the Uzi, the real gun is very accurate and NOT pray and spray. In games, players expect it to P&S and not be very accurate nor powerful. I prefer the real version of the gun, especially after playing Far Cry 2 on the 360. The gun was a beast, but ever since then, I cannot use a Uzi in a game that doesn't depict it in a realistic manner.
So, when it comes to sniper rifles, I honestly believe that the online matches need to be based on what a real world player be doing with a sniper rifle first, then the mid-long range, then CQC combat. For example:
If your going to have guns that are mostly mid to close range, I would remove the ability to use a sniper rifle in that map. By removing the sniper, you remove the frustration for the player. It seems like a dick move, but by forcing the players to make a tougher choice, the combat will be more intense.
Explosions and grenades need to be configured for scale also. I cannot stress this problem enough. I am sick of having a grenade of mine go off maybe less than four feet from someone and it not harm nor kill them. Real frag grenades have a blast radius of at least 10 to 15 feet for the explosion/air compression alone. This doesn't even factor in the shrapnel of the grenade. I would love to have a realistic frag grenade that has shrapnel accounted for. Yes, a grenade that has shrapnel would be difficult to code, much less track the damage models in an online match, but it would neat.
Flashbangs, smoke and stun grenades to be more realistic, especially smoke effects from the weapons, grenades, and world objects.
When have you seen smoke dissapte quickly with no wind or even see smoke stay in one area when there is wind? Something that we need to work on is having smoke react correctly. If you have a smoke grenade, you chuck it, and it spends its contents. The smoke depending on the environmental situation has many things it could do. If there is breeze and the player can see visual clues of where it is going/blowing, the smoke should follow said path of the wind. If the area is a still environment, say in a building or a windless area outside, it should linger, and very slowly dissipate. While making the environment difficult to discern shapes, colors, and movement. Now, if the smoke is realistic, a player running or sprinting through the smoke will cause it to move around the player. I would love to see smoke that is interactive with the player. Also, you shouldn't be able to see the outline of a player when near the edge of the smoke, its mostly impossible to see someone until they are through the smoke.
But we might have to wait till the next gen to see this happen.
E) Making the player feel as if they have a role, team based or lone wolves.
If your a lone wolf by choice, you know that you are the one who usually snipes from the edges of the battlefield, or completes objectives on your own. If your a teamer, you know what its like. But this is how I would reward the lone wolves.
The first thing is I would have equipment, items or weapons that don't need to have kill streaks associated with them to give bonuses. For example, if you are a sniper and you prefer being on your own, why not give the player the ability to call in a radar sweep every few minutes for either the whole map, or even a small radius around the player. Anyone who makes a kill during this radar sweep gets themselves and the lone wolf bonuses for XP. Now, if your the type of lone wolf that likes to complete objectives without the hassle of dealing with team mates, I would give that person a slightly higher bonus than a team effort to complete it.
Now, when I say objectives your thinking taking caps, blowing away baddies. This is a list of things that I would love to see happen on a battlefield for objectives. Selectable, team and lone wolf objectives that can be completed in any fashion at your leisure. It could range from killing the entire enemy team atleast once, to capping a certain base by a set time limit. Something else would be having a contest to see who can kill the enemy VIP the fastest.
These objectives need to be easy, but have a good reward system for doing them. This is the next and biggest item I have to talk about. But I have written a long, long blog, so I will continue this tomorrow. Sorry for the abrupt end, but I'm tired and need to think. Please, comment on this if you will, and await part two.