One of the pieces which has been missing from MMORPG Tycoon 2 for a long time has been a useful high-level overview of what’s going on inside the game simulation. You’ve always been able to see how many people are subscribed, and you’ve been able to look at each individually to see how they’re each doing, but there hasn’t been a single display which shows a big-picture view of what’s going on, so that’s what I’ve been working on over the past few days.
What you’re looking at in the screen above is my normal test MMORPG game, “Titan Prophecy”, and its overview.
When I first implemented this screen, I was surprised by a few things.
In the game, we divide subscribers into four different groups, based upon the Bartle classification system:
- Achievers like to show off their skill to other players.
- Explorers like to discover things and places.
- Socialisers like to spend time with other players.
- Killers like to pit their skill against other human players, or to cause mayhem amongst other human players.
So it surprised me, initially, to find that this test game had so many more Explorer-types subscribed than others, and notably more Socialiser-types than either Achievers or Killer types. Were Achievers and Killers becoming unhappy with the game much faster than Explorers and Socialisers, and unsubscribing?
After investigation, though, this skew in the player population turned out to have a simple explanation; when this game was created, it was set up as a Story-Focused game, which made it more attractive to Explorers and Socialisers, and less attractive to Achievers and Killers. We weren’t losing those other types due to any specific problem, they simply weren’t subscribing as often.
Another interesting thing I noticed was that I seemed to be losing subscribers at a surprisingly rapid pace. A few minutes before I took this screenshot, I had over 500 subscribers. And a few minutes later, I had 300. Then 200. And the average player “happiness” level is negative. Clearly something was going wrong, but what?
The problem, it turned out, quite soon became the #1 thing showing up in the “Player Thoughts” area. Apparently, during a previous testing session I had set up each of the games’ respawn points to charge a $100 “micropayment” for each respawn after dying. I’m pretty sure I did that in order to test the logic around what players would do if someone was silly enough to set a real-world dollar price on respawning in an MMORPG, and then forgot to change it back when I finished testing.
…and as it turns out, this is what they do; they complain, and then they unsubscribe en masse.
I still need to add buttons which will take you to the target of each of the most common player thoughts, so you can (for example) tell precisely which respawn point is the one with the mis-set price. Or if everybody is complaining about some player, you can go right to them and ban them (or reward them, or whatever). In this case, I only had two respawn points in the whole game, so it was easy to find the problem one. But it’ll be even easier in the near future!
Another interesting note is that this screen is pointing out (in the ‘World Summary’ box) that my highest-level player is level 3, but I’m only providing content to service players up to level 2. I didn’t think the game had been running long enough for anybody to have reached level 3 yet, but apparently somebody has (in fact, there was somebody who was level 4 a little earlier, but they unsubscribed immediately before I took this screenshot). These poor players with nothing left for them to do had apparently just been grinding, killing level 2 monsters for not much experience, and slowly gaining levels because there was never else for them to do.
Still a lot more UI reports to go! And I imagine that most of the development time for the forseeable future will be around finding useful pieces of data from the game simulation and presenting it in a usable fashion. That was certainly the main problem with the original MMORPG Tycoon; players didn’t have enough information to be able to tell precisely what was going wrong in their games. I definitely don’t want this version of the game to suffer from that same problem!