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ICE_MAN

Convoy System - the end to inane NPCs?

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I was reading this thread: http://forum.game-labs.net/index.php?/topic/311-automated-trading-routes-auto-convoy/?hl=convoy

 

and came to think about one of the things I would most like improved in any MMO's:

The large number of inane, pointless NPC's that either stand around like inanimate objects or wander aimlessly with no real purpose.

At the same time, a developed global economy would have to incorporate a significant element of hauling goods, which often leads to players spending countless hours on the open sea doing nothing.

 

So:

A completely player-initiated convoy system that could haul goods from A to B, taking a certain amount of time, incorporating hauling and escort ships as appropriate, and allow players to pool up for multi-player convoys, which would then in turn spawn a convoy on the open sea that would follow a set route would have a number of (positive) effects:

  • Avoid spending your own time hauling
  • Haul larger amounts than your own ship would permit
  • Allow simultaneous trading with multiple destinations
  • Create a focal point for player cooperation
  • Create a large number of open sea NPC ships
  • Dynamic supply/demand situation caused by concerted efforts to interdict/blockade a port by intercepting convoys
  • Contribute to realistic price fluctuations depending on global diplomatic situation and other events
  • NPC pirates and privateers could now have a direct purpose of hunting these convoys as well as lone players on the open sea

If enough players participate in the system, enough NPC ships would be generated to replace the aimlessly wandering NPC ships typically used for grinding XP or money. It is the accepted truth that these logic-defying NPC's are part of any MMO, and personally I have always found them annoying and destructive to immersion in the game.

 

Some issues would naturally arise which would need to be addressed:

  • Money loss when a convoy is captured/sunk - an insurance system is needed. I considered having insurance paid out by players through an insurance auction house-like brokerage to ensure money is sunk back out of the economy
  • If all NPC's are this new type, how does one grind xp/money? - missions and these new type NPC's
  • NPC affiliation, how to manage convoys from other nations - I'll make a post on RvR soon

 

Please drop your thoughts below - there are more issues than the above, but also more positive effects.

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Player initiated convoys will be in the game

Once crafting is designed discussed coded and tested with the same level of attention we pay to combat right now.

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Coastal areas of the map (especially in the Med) should, however, be cluttered with 'inane' NPCs wandering around. The majority of them, of course, should be small, relatively worthless craft engaged in fishing and smuggling, most of which aren't remotely worth bothering with even as a pilot or hostile naval officer. Of course, small boat combat could be a blast too, and if the game successfully make sailing fun (and maybe adds smuggling), then lots of players will want to own such craft. Here, POTBS is a very positive example with its array of small vessels.

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Inane NPCs ruin the immersion. Only NPCs with a purpose should be allowed to exist (and those who are aimlessly wandering with the only purpose of being a money grind do not fall into the category of having a purpose)

NPCs who are part of a trade route or are eg fishing for a nearby town - that can be used to add to the ambience.

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maybe we have companies wich we pay for huge deliveries like wood from finnland to england or rum from the caribbean etc.

You maybe can insurance the merchantmen and the more players form for a convoi the less insurance you will have to pay.

Just a few cents to the usage of convois.

 

Useless NPCs you will have to define this.

Potbs has lots and lots of NPCs wich ALL serve a porpose. And if only you need to kill for reputation. Its a painful grind but well.. the NPCs have a porpose.

I would totally HATE such bad NPC grinding to get a certain aspect of the game.

Not to get me wrong. I dont mind a grind. But I do mind a grind wich takes like forever.

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maybe we have companies wich we pay for huge deliveries like wood from finnland to england or rum from the caribbean etc.

You maybe can insurance the merchantmen and the more players form for a convoi the less insurance you will have to pay.

Just a few cents to the usage of convois.

Useless NPCs you will have to define this.

Potbs has lots and lots of NPCs wich ALL serve a porpose. And if only you need to kill for reputation. Its a painful grind but well.. the NPCs have a porpose.

I would totally HATE such bad NPC grinding to get a certain aspect of the game.

Not to get me wrong. I dont mind a grind. But I do mind a grind wich takes like forever.

The NPCs as they were in potbs were exactly the inane type I'm talking about, their main purpose being an Xp/money grind. They ruin the immersion as they are clearly illogical entities.

NPCs need to have a purpose, or they should go, being replaced by player-initiated convoys including escorts, AI controlled pirates and privateers who will hunt those convoys and Other ambient style NPCs like fishing boats or ferries or minor transports around ports. It doesn't have to be ultra realistic, but also it should not insult the intelligence of the average person.

Let me be very clear about this;

It is the accepted wisdom and state of the art of the MMO genre that grinding inane NPCs is part of the experience. It is an absolution of responsibility for developing a good game to just accept this silly notion and furthermore it is just plain intellectual laziness to not even try and come up with a better, more immersive concept.

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The NPCs as they were in potbs were exactly the inane type I'm talking about, their main purpose being an Xp/money grind. They ruin the immersion as they are clearly illogical entities.

NPCs need to have a purpose, or they should go, being replaced by player-initiated convoys including escorts, AI controlled pirates and privateers who will hunt those convoys and Other ambient style NPCs like fishing boats or ferries or minor transports around ports. It doesn't have to be ultra realistic, but also it should not insult the intelligence of the average person.

Let me be very clear about this;

It is the accepted wisdom and state of the art of the MMO genre that grinding inane NPCs is part of the experience. It is an absolution of responsibility for developing a good game to just accept this silly notion and furthermore it is just plain intellectual laziness to not even try and come up with a better, more immersive concept.

 

NPCs should have an AI they should have some task they are doing, fishing boats going to fishing grounds, traders heading from port to port, Privateers intercepting solo trading ships and convoys, Naval officers patrolling the high seas.

 

Random NPCs sailing around doing random stuff just to give a player something to grind for xp or rep is something we should strive to get away from.

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Potbs has lots and lots of NPCs wich ALL serve a porpose. And if only you need to kill for reputation. Its a painful grind but well.

 

That's like saying our purpose as human beings is to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. 

 

Like ICE_MAN says, there has to be a better way to advance your standing in the game than simply hitting the 'W' key until your sails are full, and hitting the space bar when you run up along side an NPC ship.

 

There has to be a better reason to have NPC ships on the open sea than to drop random loot and XP for a player.  Let the sinking of that ship have a rippling effect:

 

From minor effects like cargo lost, disruption of trade, or disruption of supplies to a port.

To major effects like your personal standing with a given nation to the diplomatic state of affairs between nations.

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Perhaps a compromise?  NPCs exist, but only as entities managed by player organizations.  Players will have the abiltiy to hire NPCs to create merchant convoys to transport their goods.

 

Perhaps prior to launch there could be a contest or drawing to put random players in charge of extant companies of the time, with a large pool of funds to start shipping goods around and thus create the atmosphere people are looking for.

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Privateers and cruising naval vessels will appear to be aimlessly wandering the sealanes, so I think this topic is much ado about nothing.

 

Managing the type and number of different vessels is the only concern, and giving merchant vessels a simple waypoint between ports is a simple affair.

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Privateers and cruising naval vessels will appear to be aimlessly wandering the sealanes, so I think this topic is much ado about nothing.

 

Managing the type and number of different vessels is the only concern, and giving merchant vessels a simple waypoint between ports is a simple affair.

 

Maybe I'm one of a minority of people who can actually distinguish between aimless wandering and purposeful movement towards a predetermined objective.

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Blockading and Cruising etc at a glance are only really distinguishable from bimbling if you happen to be on board. I know what you mean, but even in PotBS the NPC vessels on the OS had start and finish ports and sailed reasonable courses between them, albeit bloody slowly. It's essential for every vessel at sea to be there for a purpose, but that is not necessarily the same as them all looking purposeful. Any thoughts on how to achieve it?

 

However, really cool idea re the convoys, glad it's been confirmed by the devs :)

 

Baggy

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I would like to own many ships and have them sailing all over the globe, I think it would be fun and great way to populate the map.     If that's the general idea.

 

I would also like the ability to jump in and command any one of my ships.   

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The problem is there needs to be enough ships that players who only log on a for a short while can quickly and easily find something to do. In reality even in a relatively crowded area like the Med, you could go for days without seeing another ship, never mind finding a ship that is the right dificulty/faction for you to fight. I suppose idealy this game would have something like star citizen is proposing; all the economy is 90% npc driven, and all the npcs you see are participating in it, rather than just wandering around. I don't know if that is a route the devs here are interested in though.

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I think that might be the reason behind starting in the English Channel - one of the busiest waterways in the world for two millenia or more - is that there should be no problems with making the place look popuated :)

 

That NPC driven eco is surely a necessity, at least in the beginning if not for the game's entire duration?

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It's essential for every vessel at sea to be there for a purpose, but that is not necessarily the same as them all looking purposeful. Any thoughts on how to achieve it?

Look at it from the other side - if you manage to remove all the inane wandering ships that clearly are there only as grind objects, you have achieved something invaluable in terms of immersion.

 

Remember the 12 fleets spawning and taking a random direction? Or ALL the NPC pirate ships who clearly had no purpose whatsoever? Get rid of those and the associated mentality.

 

Redirect the grind to missions and useful stuff like patrolling ports from NPC privateers (whom you will find preying on the trade routes near that port).

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Maybe I'm one of a minority of people who can actually distinguish between aimless wandering and purposeful movement towards a predetermined objective.

No, no you really can't.

 

These are sailing vessels we are talking about, not NYC commuters.

 

The limitations of wind, weather and seaworthiness require all sorts of cautious, inconvenient maneuvers. Put the 'purposeful movement' idea out of your head this instant. At any given time, many vessels will be sailing courses that do not lead anywhere near even short-term destinations. They will be sitting there aimlessly, drifting with the tide or current, until the time is right to set sail. They will be skirting the coast cautiously, waiting for a chance to bring their contraband into port. They will be meandering all over the bay, following schools of fish others have no knowledge of. They will wandering the sealanes at random on cruises for enemy merchantmen. They might just be goddamn lost.

 

Almost any activity can be justified by some goal of which you are not aware. Fishing boats should act like fishing boats, naval vessels should patrol at times, and merchantmen should have concrete waypoints, but there's really nothing to worry about, in terms of movement. It takes a minimum of AI coding, and again, the composition and number of vessels is more important. Lots of small craft, rare indiamen, lots of merchantmen, ships of the line in squadrons, lone frigates, no xebecs in the Channel, etc.

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Look at it from the other side - if you manage to remove all the inane wandering ships that clearly are there only as grind objects, you have achieved something invaluable in terms of immersion.

 

I think a lot of people are missing your point, ICE.  Either that or they can't wrap their heads around the concept, so I'll add my two cents to reiterate your point.

 

In Pirates of the Burning Sea, NPC ships served as a grind mechanic for XP and money. 

They served as targets to increase your faction standing with another nation or high-level organization such as the Mississippi Trading Company.

They served as targets that would ultimately kick off RvR battles (sinking a ship belonging to that port's nation within 100 miles generated contention).

 

AT BEST, that mechanic was short-sighted.  It was GRIND.  It was mundane.  It had no effect other than when you looked at your character screen you had a little more XP and a few more doubloons in your possession.

 

This mechanic is in desperate need of an overhaul, yet players continue to feel that 'trash mobs' are neccessary in an MMO because it gives the players 'something to do'.  Mindless, repetitive tasks?  Sign me up!  Did you see the way I hit the spacebar just then and that ship exploded?!  This is NEVER going to get old!

 

What ICE is suggesting, is that every NPC is put out onto the open world because of something WE did as players.

As a result, every ship we sink out there has an affect on that particular player whose original action generated the NPC spawn in the first place.

 

If our guild base is Lisbon, our population will require a certain amount food.  Some of which will be provided by fishing boats.  In POTBS, sinking the little sloops outside of port would do nothing to the internal mechanics in town, but sink fishing boat in this game (hopefully) and the fish stores in port will start to shrink dramatically.

 

If we sailed to neighboring ports and bought grain and salted pork, and paid an NPC hauler to sail to Lisbon, then intercepting the convoy would further exacerbate the problem of food.  Slowly the town would start to starve, which would impact production and population.

 

NPC activity should be DIRECTLY tied to player interaction within the gaming world.  OUR actions should drive the NPC actions.  Not the other way around.  After all, we're supposed to be smarter than they are.

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You're just one little captain. Lisbon is going to eat fish no matter how many little skiffs you sink...

 

The world needs to look and act believably. Making everything revolve around the player isn't how you achieve that.

 

And I don't think anyone seriously thinks that the fish stocks of Lisbon are going to be an actual game mechanic. Not with the size and resources of this team, not unless they get bought out by Paradox.

 

A variant of the POTBs system would in fact mimic the real world nicely. Just tinker with the waypoints and completely overhaul the distribution and proliferation of vessel types, based on map and time period.

 

However, the ships we actually take should have a big effect on the player. Promotion or censure, prize money or court battles.

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No, no you really can't.

 

These are sailing vessels we are talking about, not NYC commuters.

 

The limitations of wind, weather and seaworthiness require all sorts of cautious, inconvenient maneuvers. Put the 'purposeful movement' idea out of your head this instant. At any given time, many vessels will be sailing courses that do not lead anywhere near even short-term destinations. They will be sitting there aimlessly, drifting with the tide or current, until the time is right to set sail. They will be skirting the coast cautiously, waiting for a chance to bring their contraband into port. They will be meandering all over the bay, following schools of fish others have no knowledge of. They will wandering the sealanes at random on cruises for enemy merchantmen. They might just be goddamn lost.

 

 

 

 

these are npcs that will have set goals a merchant is not going to wander aimlessly from port to port but will have a trade route in mind. no npc or player would just sit there drifting with the current or wind aimlessly. nor would they sail in circles just for the lols. 

 

the coding ice is suggesting is that each npc has a specific ai routine that can be effected by the players actions in the world. i.e. a merchant would possibly change trade routes if the players create a new trade hub or if players are plundering a certain trade route he would

change trade route.

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You're just one little captain. Lisbon is going to eat fish no matter how many little skiffs you sink...

 

The world needs to look and act believably. Making everything revolve around the player isn't how you achieve that.

 

And I don't think anyone seriously thinks that the fish stocks of Lisbon are going to be an actual game mechanic. Not with the size and resources of this team, not unless they get bought out by Paradox.

 

A variant of the POTBs system would in fact mimic the real world nicely. Just tinker with the waypoints and completely overhaul the distribution and proliferation of vessel types, based on map and time period.

 

However, the ships we actually take should have a big effect on the player. Promotion or censure, prize money or court battles.

a potbs style or variant does nothing but generate random npcs that have no other reason to be there than to provide something to grind, If all you want is something to grind with no depth or flavour then by all means emulate a potbs random spawning style. No depth,It does not mimic anything in the real world even remotely.

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No, that's what I said. (At least the first part. Persistent NPCs that react dynamically would be an awesome feature, but difficult to accomplish, and I would be fine with NPCs spawning in and out based on player's presence.)

 

 

If enough players participate in the system, enough NPC ships would be generated to replace the aimlessly wandering NPC ships typically used for grinding XP or money.

That's what the OP said, and it's nonsense. Player's convoying their goods can't recreate the entire maritime economy of the Age of Sail, nor even 5% of it. This is like calling pedestrians in GTA 'trash mobs.'

 

The point I'm making here, is that given the vagaries of weather and slow communication, seafaring in the Age of Sail was very much a random affair. A seaman's life was marked by intense fatalism, because he really had little control over anything. Such an environment is very well represented by intelligently-balanced randomness. We don't need a biography for every small-time smuggler or fisherman sailing out of Dunkirk. We just need some sort of plausible percentage chance that they'll be around when we make an offing. This is a classic example of complexity having few benefits over simplicity.

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these are npcs that will have set goals a merchant is not going to wander aimlessly from port to port but will have a trade rout in mind. no npc or player would just sit there drifting with the current or wind aimlessly. nor would they sail in circles just for the lols. 

 

the coding ice is suggesting is that each npc has a specific ai routine that can be effected by the players actions in the world. i.e. a merchant would possibly change trade routes if the players create a new trade hub or if players are plundering a certain trade route he would

change trade route.

 

 

This may put too larger a strain on Game Labs AI. I dont really have an answer, but I do have an idea about player initiated convoys.

 

Lets say I'm a privateer, and I'm hired by a player to escort three AI convoy ships from Gibraltar to Yarmouth. On route, My convoy and I happen across a Spanish privateer, out looking for a bit of easy game. We are caught up to and enter the battle instance. Heres my idea... Instead of all four ships fighting the one privateer, how about the three AI do as they would in real life, and make all sail to try and escape, leaving the task of defence to me, their escort. If I the privateer hold of the attacker, and the convoy manages to get x distance away from him, they leave the instance and continue making sail on the open sea. Lets say I defeat the Spaniard, but he flees. We are kicked from the instance, and I am left to rejoin my convoy. While I was busy with the Spaniard, my convoy was escaping on the open sea and was at risk of being attacked by a second ship. If this happens, and the convoy is caught without it's escort, the three ships turn to defend themselves. As I am on my way back from my engagement with the Spaniard, I happen across the gateway into that exact instance. Because I am the convoy's escort, I may freely enter. Once I do, I can join my convoy in fending off this new enemy, or I can order my convoy to retreat and let me take care of it alone. What do you guys think?

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Convoys (or really just small groups of ships) are of course mandatory. M&B handles this just fine (except for the irrational fleeing/engaging behavior).

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The point I'm making here, is that given the vagaries of weather and slow communication, seafaring in the Age of Sail was very much a random affair.

 

That is simply not true.

Take this example from http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/revwar-75.htm

"June-July, 1776 - A massive British war fleet arrives in New York Harbor consisting of 30 battleships with 1200 cannon, 30,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors, and 300 supply ships, under the command of General William Howe and his brother Admiral Lord Richard Howe."

 

To say that seafaring in the age we are discussing in relation to Naval Action was a random affair is about the most far fetched fairy tale I have ever heard. The logistical and planning challenge of getting a fleet of 300+ ships to arrive at the same time at the same place during a war is about as far from randomness as is humanly possible.

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