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Bramble

Size of the CW vs Population vs Travel Routes vs POI's

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I've been chewing something around in my head, and I'm not sure (I think) I've seen this talked about in-depth.  To get at the meat of what I'm stalled out on conceptually (design goals at a higher level) I'm going to provide an example out of Archeage.

 

Disclaimer:  This isn't an opener for an Archeage argument.  My intent is to provide the concept example out of another game experience.

 

Archeage.  PvP.  Econowar.  Large open world map, trade routes including sea travel for Trade to the other continent.

 

Population of (X), Trade Running by Merchants of (Y), Piracy / theft frequency of Merchant goods of (Z).  All of this is encapsulated in a game-world size of (A), with number of trade routes / nodes of B.)

 

My experience in Archeage suggested to me the game world was TOO SMALL to support the Trade Running / Theft Risk dynamic.  Specifically, the Straits between the two continent, through which the vast majority of ship trade occurred, were very narrow.  Also, there were only a very few ports you could dock at to turn in.

 

What this resulted in was a far too easy shut-down of a key "life blood" activity.  It took very few ships to essentially Naval (Pirate) blockade Traders either by shutting down ship travel between continents and/or by perching at the few drop off ports.

 

So, there's this idea of SIZE of the game world.  SPACE for dynamics to play out in.  In Archeage I personally felt the dynamics would have benefitted with much more open ocean / landscape to ease the pressure of perching highwaymen and pirates.

 

So, shift gears to Crowfall and our CWs.

 

Is there a "Science", a method or algorithm or thought process that tells you when a Map is far too large, or too small?  On the one hand if it's way, way too big people can just spread out and hardly ever meet.  If it's too small however you simply trade one problem for another that being too much pressure-cooker, too much funneling players on top of each other.

 

When looking at the CWs, the number of POIs, the number of resource spawns, the number of players likely in a CW, what's the "right size?"

Edited by Bramble

“Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards--and living up to them--is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it." - Seth Godin

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I'll be writing articles about this soon but I'll try to summarize here my understanding of the topic anyway.

 

I agree with you in the sense that a small map is a problem, see GW2. But I think size is not the only element, the way the space is distributed is also relevant. If it was a huge map but had no choke points, no alternate routes, no exposure areas etc. Then it would be equally shallow and lame, even if it was big.

 

What they need to deliver in Crowfall is a combination of big maps that will require time to move through, but also intelligent terrain that will allow for interesting battles (LoS, choking, flanking etc). Combine this with mechanics that limit players moving speed. Animal packs that move slow and need to be escorted etc. Imagine a big raid trying to go siege a castle, but to carry the siege they have animals so they are moving slowly. They can either go through a long open route, where a confrontation would favor their big numbers, or they can cut through a long valley between mountains, where they can only walk 4-5 players at a time and even a small strike force could wipe them. This valley has to be big enough for them to stay inside it, exposed and vulnerable for a while. If the enemy has placed sentinels, they will spot the army and have an advantage over it, if they didn't the army will get to their base quickly and attack. The moving troups can also send scouts ahead to see if they will be ambushed or not.

 

This is a single example that shows that the distance being big is not such a huge deal, it is a combination of size, proper terrain features (in this case a well designed choke point) and mechanics that cripple players (escorting animals with siege weapons) opening opportunity windows. If the valley from the example above could be crossed in under 2 minutes, there would be no time for the enemy to react, when they got there the entire team would be out of the valley and ready to smash any enemies with it's full force.

 

The goal is to combine size, objectives well spaced out, some with restricted access, others with not so restricted access. This way it encourages all play styles, zergs and big raids can be adequate to take a certain castle, while a smaller team carrying no siege would be more suited for a remote location with choke points. The depth that this kind of scenario creates allow for the strategy to be complex and unpredictable enough that players will feel the weight of their decisions and the risk behind them.

 

If the maps are too small, without any choke points, with castles all protected or all exposed, people will catch on to the best ways of sieging/ best routes for traveling in a matter of weeks, and then the rest of the campaign will be boring as hell.


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So its sort of a push-pull type thing- in my mind anyway.

 

Small maps are crowded and easily crossed, exploring is quick and easy and arguably less fun. But the chore of travel is less of a issue.

 

Big maps allow for more flexibility in terrain and supports player towns easier. The issue is travel becomes and bothersom chore, how many times have i looked at a map and sighed with annoyance that i am in for a long run.

 

Also, you have to consider empty space. Its also a push/pull. To much empty space on a big map makes it boring. To little and you give up the advantage of picking a great place to build, right?  

 

So this mix of empty spaces and actual land map size is difficult to judge. And it may be completely different based not only on the ring but ruleset, right?

 

For example;

 

The dregs may benefit from a smaller, less populated map.

 

While the shadows needs to be pretty big.

 

But again, what is ACE targeting fro max pop on a campaign? If theres going to only be 1 dregs a bigger map may be better.

 

I have a feeling that the open beta is going to particularly test these points. What makes the best dynamic map under which situations?


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CWs are procedurally generated.  Do not get your hopes up for pre-planned choke points all over the place.  They're going to be mostly open spaces.

 

If they're able to procedurally drop POIs that match the terrain around them (mines next to mountains, lumber mills next to forests, etc), that will be nice.

 

Pack train choices are going to be a)take the most direct route to home for shortest travel time or b)take a circuitous route and hope to avoid people waiting between the POI and our town.

 

Everything is designed (on the cheap because they're a tiny studio) to promote player interaction (combat), because that's the fun part of the game for the target audience.  POIs give us a place to congregate and a reason to fight.  Pack caravans give us a mobile reason to congregate and fight.  Sieges offer the chance to force a pitched battle instead of a running battle vs raiders.

 

They simply don't have the manpower or art assets to hand build long narrow valleys to insert between POIs and town sites.  POIs will be scattered (mostly) randomly around the procedurally generated map and we'll be able to build towns on either randomly dropped ruins or whereever the heck we like depending on if they can make that work in the engine.

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My understanding was that the world was procedurally generated but they could then add features to the generated land by 'stamping' features, like lakes, hills, woods, etc onto the land. 


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One of the most important features intersecting with map size is whether and how people can be tracked.  IMO, density and distribution of points of interest combined with the ability to track must be included in any conversation of map size and population.


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I think the best thing here is even if the map is terrible it would only last for one campaign. The devs can learn what went wrong and adapt also with this routs are not static while for a couple months a route may get blocked next campaign who knows. As long as the time between campaigns is used to improve this should not be an issue.


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Alot of it may be constrained by server performance and capacity. How many players they allow on one server or campaign to keep performance enjoyable.

 

But I do like all of these suggestions! Battle of Thermopylae... Naval blockades...yes please.

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JTC has stated he is targeting 2-3k concurrent players per CW. CWs can also be customized to be whatever size they want, so its a simple matter of testing with an appropriate amount of players to determine what is the right size map and density of POIs. 

 

It is a rather ingenious design. The worlds are made up of building blocks rather than predetermined/preplanned monstrosities that fail to take into account emergent player behavior and creativeness. Those types of worlds are huge resource drains when trying to come up with new maps and layouts, and ruins the exploration component because players already know where the best locations are. The approach that ACE is taking allows them quickly generate any number of maps while also learning what works and what does not work. Once they have identified to good/bad traits of their procedurally generated worlds they can modify the code to increase/decrease the chance of those traits appearing again.

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JTC has stated he is targeting 2-3k concurrent players per CW. CWs can also be customized to be whatever size they want, so its a simple matter of testing with an appropriate amount of players to determine what is the right size map and density of POIs. 

 

It is a rather ingenious design. The worlds are made up of building blocks rather than predetermined/preplanned monstrosities that fail to take into account emergent player behavior and creativeness. Those types of worlds are huge resource drains when trying to come up with new maps and layouts, and ruins the exploration component because players already know where the best locations are. The approach that ACE is taking allows them quickly generate any number of maps while also learning what works and what does not work. Once they have identified to good/bad traits of their procedurally generated worlds they can modify the code to increase/decrease the chance of those traits appearing again.

 

Yes, I understand.

 

But what I was getting at, either from the community or perhaps from ACE is the thought-process and methodology by which one judges a map is too large or too small.  If we think it through it's (in my mind) actually more complicated than "if we need the map to be bigger they can just make it bigger".

 

Again, going back to my illustrative example in Archeage, I had some specific criteria that suggested to me personally the travel-routing and size/space/points of interest were too small:

 

There was no room for bleed-off, or pressure release from Piracy between the two continents.

It suggested to me there needed to be 1)  More ports of call to turn in to spread out the thieves, 2) more open water between the continents for maneuvers.

 

In CF we are going to have maps filled with Guilds and a lot of group combat.  In a small map, for instance, this would strangle all solo or small group play.  If we make the maps HUGE-oh-mungous, it might tip things too far the other direction (?).

 

So, looking at the maps, the artifacts on the maps, the theoretical pathing to occur, the fact varying terrain features play a role (e.g. choke points, cliffs, etc.), how do we THINK THROUGH sheer map size to the right size?  I argue sheer map size is a critical design decision as much as what's in it like the choke points, and has a very real effect on the CW experience.  Particularly in regards to wandering exploration vs outright zerg-festing group battles.


“Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards--and living up to them--is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it." - Seth Godin

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One thing people learn is that completely random is rarely fun.

 

Needs to be a method to the maddness. 

 

They mentioned that being a issue at their first shot of it and they made changes that made it less maddness and more method. 

I think the greatest lesson we can learn from this is to see how No Man's Sky did by over relying on procedural generation. Sure everything was generated but many players still appreciated the handcrafted parts of the game far more than the procedurally generated parts. There is a reason why battleground maps and maps like those in WoW and GW2 are made that way so that players are able to use certain strategies because of how the landscape is designed (like keeps located on a hill, etc.) 

 

But then again, if they give us great freedom to build wherever, I think players could build on those hills and make that a strategic location themselves. That is to say if they do include mountainous features, valleys, lakes, rivers ,etc.

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One thing people learn is that completely random is rarely fun.

 

Needs to be a method to the maddness. 

 

They mentioned that being a issue at their first shot of it and they made changes that made it less maddness and more method. 

 

Apologies, completely random what?  I'm missing the context.


“Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards--and living up to them--is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it." - Seth Godin

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But one advantage of the CWs is that if ACE get it wrong (e.g. world too small, not enough choke points etc) they can change it on the next CW.

 

Exactly this!  We will have plenty of time in the Pre-alpha, alpha, and beta's to test different CW sizes and see what works with the population.  Since Pre-alpha and alpha populations will be much smaller then the beta's it will be easier to ramp up the size with the player base to find out what works, and also what doesn't work.


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But then again, if they give us great freedom to build wherever, I think players could build on those hills and make that a strategic location themselves. That is to say if they do include mountainous features, valleys, lakes, rivers ,etc.

 

I hope there is alot of flexibility for where things can be built. I know JTodd said they are still thinking about it (in the AMA? or one of the videos) but it would be great to fortify an area of interest...choke point, area of resources, high ground, are some examples.

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