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Feb 10, 2007



I'll take a first thoughts stab at this one.

If we make the following assumptions:

1) We have a pool called "influence" that is assigned to every character (unique to a region, so players can have more than one pool for different areas).

2) We give positive "influence" to players for longevity as well as success, and we remove it for failure.

3) You can give a player negative "influence" by sacrificing your own at a 3:1 ratio. (You spend 3 to reduce them by 1, which means 3 people willing to kick out "influence" equal to the individual to be twatted can manage to drop them to 0 pool.

Now we find a place to assign it in our MMO.

Let's choose economy for the fun of it. (And because it's been on my designer mind anyway.)

Let's say we have an economic convention which allows merchants to set up shop in the trade district of a country. We'll call the pool "influence" the measurement of an individual merchant's credibility and rights within that country. As stated, they gain points in their pool for time spent engaging in trading as well as successful trading. So we'll assign a base value of 1 influence per day that they have "set up shop" and 1 influence per 1 gold (a fairly large sum in this world, something which a high power character could expect to earn a couple of in a night's work) of taxation they pay.

What rights does influence buy? We'll say base taxation for a 0-20 influence merchant is 33%, while 21-40 is 25%, moving on to 20% at 41-60 and at 61+ they only pay 17% tax. In addition, 0-20 allows you to set up your merchant's stall in the "foreign quarter" while from 21-60 you can work in the "market plaza" and at 61+ you're granted access to the "high row" (the most prestigious area, close to the banking institution of the city as well as the governmental seat and wealthiest homes)

Now, you have a system by which merchants can fight it out amongst each other for the prime spots. We'll say that space is first come first serve, and that while the foreign quarter has limitless space for merchants (tents pitched on the plains outside the gate) you have only 100 stalls in the market plaza and a mere 30 on the high row! In addition, we'll say that access to these stalls carries the additional benefit of being able to charge more for wares as they carry status benefits. NPC interactions are improved when players are carrying items purchased from a "more prestigious" merchant.

You've got merchants vying to sell the best wares (as the more tax they kick back the more their influence will rise) as well as to get spots in the best places for the various benefits. Thus those on top can sacrifice influence to keep competitors down, and those climbing up can tray and work out ways to push merchants on the edge down.

Let's make it more intersting by saying politically active characters can gain influence by participating in NPC interactions. So if a merchant has a guildmate who has chosen to play the political metagame it is possible that the friend might help them oust a competitor.

It's rough. It's ugly. It'd need a lot of refinement and filling in, but it's an example of what I think you asked for. (And it took 10 minutes, so no huge loss if it sucks after further consideration.)



My bet is that the current system is too self-perpetuating and would result in undislodgable vendors. But I like it in concept.

Not that I'm any judge, heh.


I suspect that it might run into the problem you suggest. Modelling would give us a yes or no. (Or a maybe.)

Might introduce a decay mechanism such as, time is worth 1/week at 0-20, 1/2 weeks at 21-40, nothing at 41-60 and at 61+ you lose 1/2 weeks. Could help to offset time as a factor (you've established that you belong, but you need to prove it by being a good salesman . . .)


I remember inbetween The Sims Online and really gelling in Second Life, a group of us in SimArts played Nation States assiduously. I remember making a "nice" country and a "mean" country and trying to see how their votes turn out. The voting on the issues every day was the most fascinating part of it to me, the way it played out.

We played this to the hilt and even put up separate websites that Aldo Stern wrote long manifestos on, and then somehow, one day we all wandered away from our game and one by one the states fell off the map. This was before the "influence" stuff, so I will have to see what that's like.


Maybe it's because of the word "nation," but I'm reminded of the lovely RTS game "Rise of Nations." It had zones of influence in the game, too, and they gave various benefits to the nation and its units based on the land covered by buildings, improvements, etc. It added an entirely new strategic dimension to the game, as the border between nations -- where the lines of influence met -- became hotly contested. You could see the border; my zone is blue, enemy is red. In the blue zone, my troops heal a little and get various bonuses. If they attack into the enemy area, they don't get the bonuses, and get penalized. It made the border a very... interesting... part of the game. Nice, nice game mechanic.

And an intriguing idea for an MMO. There are, I think, all kinds of "zones of influence" that you could attach to individual, group, geographic and quest structures.

* Set up a zone as "sacred" to a particular race, guild, tribe or class. Bonuses to that group in that zone when they complete quests and bring items back to the zone. Negatives to the bonuses when the items are stolen by enemies.

* Cursed/blessed areas that have a longstanding effect based on actions. Make the curse/blessing stronger/weaker as one side does good/bad stuff or the other does counter-stuff. EG, if healers heal in the zone, it strengthens Side 1's bonus. If magicians kill w/ magic, it strengthens Side 2's.

* Changes based on ritual/sacrifice. At the edge of the desert, drop 20 gold into the Grimlaak Hole and double your speed while in the desert. Throw one of your teammates in... and everyone else's armor rating is doubled while in the desert. Yeah, sucks to be the dwarf...

I like the idea of influence a lot. And the idea that you can change it. Much more environmental and "worldy." Appeals to the RPer in my soul. Nice.


Hmm. Its an interesting idea. Its all, imho, about balancing offensive capacities vs defensive capacities, in such a way that produces the desired outcome.

But arguably such things can also lead to status quos which I'd argue for any *game* might be a bad thing.

If we go back to the idea of performances, what I'd suggest is that mechanics work best if they encourage naratives of some sort. Huge fortified walls that just meatgrind anyone attempting to penetrate it, lead to infallible empires. Whereas a lack of defensive mechanisms could just lead to hopeless balkanisation. Both are dead boring.

Maybe the trick then is to introduce a degree of drama and tragedy into the mix. Random attack/pointless defence is alot less meaningful than epic struggles for meaningful objectives. If passions are aroused, then the heart stopping intensitys are so much stronger.

Now the regional influence mechanism you mention is an interesting one, because it puts it down to a metric of sorts. You use X amount of N to 'defend', but 'X.Y' to attack. The longer you hold the fort the more of N you use. The question then remains is, does attacker Z decide its worth it? For that question to be meaningful, the heuristic has to change to one of drama and tragedy.

Does the epic fucking over of defender outweigh the horrible cost you'd endure? Is the drama and tragedy of the narrative worth it? At that point its a question for the individual or collective ethics and struggles of the players in question.

When Interstellar Starbase Syndicate, possibly the first real publically traded IPO in a game was shredded by the , D2, and allied fleets in EVE for aiding and abbetting the loathed LV and BOB, we had what might of been seen as an epic tragedy in terms of lost potential for the ISS , and massive loss of e-life for the attackers. But for the attackers, knowing that what this meant for the 'evil' LV and BOB , it was worth it, despite the fact that half the universe had shares in ISS and this was potentially copping the wrath of half the universe. In otherwords it was a loss of reputation for gains in war.

The nearly insurmountable odds of succeeding in attacking such a well fortified foe was worth the risk for hobbling the financial well being of a relentless enemy.

Epic stuff.

Man I've read this thing laterally.

I suppose the trick is, assuming we agree that the Nation States 'regional influence' thing is a good thing (It sounds like it is), then how can it be abstracted into something that can be applied to other problem domains in game design. Is it perhaps something that can happen naturally (like I'd argue it does in eve) if the drama stakes are high enough.


I'd have to spend more time getting into it, which I'm not willing to do atm, but I see one of the issues in Nation States is that you're stuck, as a newbie nation, with the UN member your region has already selected, who got there by bribery or cajolery or trading favours or whatever, the process is opaque lol.

So you look him over, but if you don't like him, well, what can you do? He isn't voting well on the UN proposals up -- or not voting at all. You can't run for UN delegate -- you're new. You don't see among the welter of other odd ducks all over your region what else to pic. So you just have to chafe at your lack of influence unless you are able to join with others to get a better UN rep.


dmx > "epic stuff"

I couldn't agree more.

Prok, you can do a couple of things. You can either set about lobbying the nations in your region to create a movement in opposition to the crap delegate you have; or you can move your nation to a smaller region, where such a movement would arguably be easier to get going but where you wouldn't have as much sway once you in the UN; or you can start your own region, recruit friends and other sympathetic nations, and try to muster enough support to become UN delegate there or back a sympathetic candidate. Again, fewer endorsements from your region means less overall sway in the UN, but it does take time to build support, unless you make the end run of coming in with a blazingly kick-ass platform, which is of course a gamble.


Looking forward to trying this out. I just created my nation, The Oppressed Peoples of This Reality, and joined the TerraNova region.

Currency: The Meme
Animal: The Dodo

I gave it a national anthem, too.

So who's going to host the UN meetings in Second Life?


Well, you seem to have latched onto a solution in search of a problem...

Influence is excellent because it was designed as a solution to a specific problem. Given a similar problem, a similar solution would likely be appropriate.

Something to do with political control of regions, fernazample.

But there's a whole bunch of game to design there first, before one goes looking for a place to install a problem.

Hrm. I think the degree to which Nation States is user-managed and user-made, with world-appropriate, coherent, user-generated content, is a far bigger story, there.


It's not really THAT much user-generated content. It's definitely a game-god game. It's very much rigged. For example, you try to pick the prefabbed characteristics liberally, and it generates, "below average civil rights". You answer one issue, and all of a sudden, you become a "New York Times democracy". It has a set of rote routines, with hilarious copy, that you chose from -- but you can't make them up (actually there is some elaborate process you can start to get your own proposal up but who has the time?).


Jeff Freeman > "I think the degree to which Nation States is user-managed and user-made, with world-appropriate, coherent, user-generated content, is a far bigger story, there."

Those things will be addressed in Parts II & III. Although this is basically the "user-managed" post, isn't it?


My cryptofacist enviro state I had on NationStates a couple of years ago was kinda fun, although I could never figure out how to implement "forced vegitarianism at gunpoint". I wanted to have a flag that had a dude on a wheelchair with a bazooka (My paraplegic buddy has that on his t-shirt. awesome design)

I dont think it was politically verry coherent :) I'll have to check out Nationstates again.


If your nation had an email address associated with it and you can remember the password, I think you can get it back. They go dormant after 28 days of inactivity and are dropped from the rolls, but I read somewhere that you may be able to reactivate them.


Allright, so this is a significant departure from the general considerations above, and I'm not sure that either of these ideas are even remotely good, but here are a couple of potential ways of mapping something vaguely in this vein onto WoW (I know Mark, you said not literally WoW, but its my primary point of reference):

1) Ganking control mechanism - Players killing player targets that yield no honor become progressively nerfed by a short term effect such that after each consecutive honorless kill (lets say within a 5 minute time period) stats are temporarily reduced by 10 levels. In this manner, after camping a level 30 corpse 3 times, a level 60 ganker becomes a reasonably easy target for an erstwhile victim. Stats would have to regenerate at an appropriately slower rate.

2) Spicing up the PvP: In a new rank system completely unrelated to the old rank system, players vote for other players as either effective or ineffective leaders after each battle. Highly effective leaders eventually gain the ability to call up NPCs in battle which they can actually control, however doing so requires spending hard earned "leadership points." Players on slow computers lag out and in some instances servers probably go down in blazes of glory, but hey, it was fun while it lasted.

I see immediate problems with both of these applications, and yes they're both stretching things to the point where we're really not talking about influence. The only other thing that comes to mind though would be some kind of in guild mechanic which strikes me as a bad idea unless . . . there was some in game function managed by representatives from different guilds. I have no idea what that would possibly be though.


Moses, nice ideas, but I do think anything voting-related is open to gaming, as you point out.

Here's a weird idea: When you hit a new zone in WoW, you automatically have 100 Gank Points (or whatever other number). Each instance of an unprovoked attack by you on another player reduces your gank points according to the following formula, where AL is attacker's level, DL is defender's level and GP is attacker's Gank Points:

If {AL - DL > 5} (i.e., if you're more than 5 levels above them) then {GP = GP - (AL - DL)}

So you lose 1 GP for every level more than 5 between you.

Once you're at zero GP, there are some deleterious effects. And you'd regain GP at the rate of 1 or 5 a day or something like that.

Obviously crude, but it's a possibility.


The biggest problem I had with WoW and most of the other MMOs that I play is that the people who play the most have the best gear. Adding influence, if it's earned by work in game, will just lock the noobs and casuals out more


In the case of NationStates, the noobs and casuals can start their own region where they're the people with the most influence right off the bat.

Those things will be addressed in Parts II & III. Although this is basically the "user-managed" post, isn't it?

Nah, this was just a description of a game system and how it is played.

The user-management they're doing extends outside the game, to actually running the game.

They don't just create the content, but moderate submissions. And appoint, dismiss, and otherwise manage moderators.

It's the difference between UO's volunteer councilor program... and having the players run the councilor program, along with running CS, plus handling the ongoing design and development of the game, including the management of the designers and developers....

It's very much different that what you're describing here: there's no "game system" with that. It's game management.

And I mean, just having player generated content that doesn't SUCK is pretty impressive. They knocked it out of the part.


"They knocked it out of the parK."

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