Friday, January 11, 2008

Mining mini-game

Since crafting will play an important role, it also means that there must be some way to gather resources. My first idea was something like this:

1- Go to a mine
2- Select mine
3- Enter the number of time points to spend on mining
4- Get resources

Of course, there's a really big problem with this system: There's nothing to stop someone to create 10 characters and mine an incredible quantity of resources in less than 5 minutes... I need to add some kind of process that also require time and not just "time points". That way, mining will really become an activity in itself.

No matter how mining is handled, it will always be boring for a lot of people. I have yet to hear someone say "hey, let's go mining, it'll be fun!". You mine because you have to or because you are working toward some goal, not because you enjoy it (well, some might but I'm sure it's a minority).

So no matter what kind of mini-game I make, it will end up boring for a lot of players. Mining is just not for them I guess. But I need a way to somehow limit how resources are gathered.

So here's the mining mini-game (it might change with testing):

A player with the mining skill go to a mine and right-click on it and select "Mine" (or double-click or whatever). The first form won't have the players actually enter the mine (though doing underground zones is not actually a challenge, the current system can handle it).

A 10x10 grid appears with a nice picture of rock as a background (just for immersion). The goal here is to discover in which location the gold or iron is located. So he clicks a first square.

The number 1 is only to help explaining here. The player didn't discover a resource spot but his mining skill tells him he needs to be searching right.

The mining skill allows a player to mine (duh) but also gives him better chances to find the resource location. So if a player has "Mining basic", each time he clicks a square, there's 40% of chance that he receives an hint as to where to search. A player with "Mining advanced" might have 80% of chance to receive an hint (as always, temporary numbers).

So the player clicks another square at the right of the first one.

As you can see, he didn't received an hint on square 2. However, on the 3rd square he clicked, he now knows that he needs to search even lower. So the resource spot is located at the right of the first square clicked and below the 3rd.

The player received an interesting hint at his 4th click. The square is now yellowish, meaning he's getting closer of the resource, and he receives another hint to look even lower.

After 2 more clicks, the player finally found the resource. Notice how the color changed at the 5th click (it doesn't looks like much, I badly chose my color).

On his 6th click, he receives a notice that he found the resource. The resource is put in his inventory and he can start again to mine another spot. Each click while mining cost him 1 time points (or more), simulating the time it took to mine (here it took 6 time points to mine 1 unit).

To protect against bot mining, a limit might be to set on the number of attempt a player has to guess the resource location (like 10). This way, I'd also limit extreme mining by someone that would still create multiple characters and hit every square without "playing" the game. That wouldn't stop someone that really really really wants to use multiple characters but I feel the problem is pretty much taken care of with this.

Will everyone have fun mining? No. Do I think I came up with something interesting while not too complicated? Yes. Each click simulating the player digging in the rock, I even feel this mini-game is somehow not totally unrelated to mining.


Poo Bear said...

Isn't this potentially the first sighting of the dreaded tread mill though? Doing this more than once or twice per game session is going to get pretty boring for a fairly large percentage of people (I would guess). Question is, do you have to do it more than twice, is there a strong incentive?

It's odd, because if you were going to have some kind of treadmill then I'd applaud this kind of thing. Compared to UO - click on pick, click on rock, pick breaks, repeat - this is pretty good. Reminds me of Puzzle Pirates, I could imagine with more work on variation it could be a nice puzzle game (for people who like puzzle games).

I see the problem though, how do you avoid a treadmill without people taking advantage.

In UO the mines I visited were in dangerous parts of the world and in a way it was quite fun. You'd find a couple of other miners to go with and watch each other's backs on the way there, while mining and then back again. The actual mining was DULL, it would have been much better if you could just press one button to enter "mining mode" until another beasty came by.

Extra spice came from pker's, but lets not even go there.

StarWarsG had something where you hired a mining probe and then just left it on site if I remember correctly.

It's a tricky one. Is it bad to just limit players to X units of ore per day? That would stop people getting hold of too much ore and still keep it as a simple "spend X time for Y ore, where X < upper_limit".

Or maybe just going the whole mini game treadmill route is fine. I know I enjoyed Puzzle Pirates, but they did put quite a lot into the puzzles to keep them interesting I suppose.

I quite like the idea of mines just being in dangerous places. The more dangerous the mine the better the range of ore available. Player skill affects the chance of getting the top end stuff out. Actual mining would be just a one click kind of thing. Perhaps you have to be unmolested for 10secs or something. Discourage exploitation by making ore really heavy perhaps and the better stuff really far back in the "cave".

Actually, making ore heavy solves the problem doesn't it? If you can only carry 1->5 rocks and it takes 5mins to get to the metal smith or shop then job done?

Over00 said...

Question is, do you have to do it more than twice, is there a strong incentive?

Yes, if you're the crafting kind or just enjoy selling resources. I did this for some time in SWG. While mining was quite boring and felt like work (having to do a weekly run to put maintenance money in your harvestors only to find that the good resource spot you found has now disappear), I enjoyed having my own shop.

One way I though to make this more "enjoyable" is to add random events like the discovery of some artefact or valuable gems and such. This could be considered like a "surprise" bonus.

Is it bad to just limit players to X units of ore per day?

My problem is that I'm going for a free game. Players can easily create a new character, train the mining skill and go for more resources. If they had to pay for each account, they would be called hardcore miners, in a free game, they'll be called abusers (my guess). I could try to enforce only 1 account per player but from my experience with Chasing Tortoise, it's something very time consuming and not a 100% bullet proof.

The time limit in this case might be more appropriate than a fixed rule in the game.

I quite like the idea of mines just being in dangerous places.

An idea I had for the "actual game" was to put a limit on the number of units a mine can provide for day to all players. Players would battle to keep away other players from mining it. The problem here is that I can easily see how players would be able to gain total control of the mine, causing more problems than good.

Actual mining would be just a one click kind of thing. Perhaps you have to be unmolested for 10secs or something.

While testing, if the mini-games end up being something that would hurt the game, that's the way I'll go. A player will only have to click the mine than a progress bar will appear showing the time needed to mine. I'll have my time constraint that way too.

Micha said...

"While testing, if the mini-games end up being something that would hurt the game, that's the way I'll go. A player will only have to click the mine than a progress bar will appear showing the time needed to mine. I'll have my time constraint that way too."
Why not combine the two? A progress bar that moves automatically with a minigame on top of it to keep you from getting bored. The minigame could be related to results, or maybe not. (Perhaps up the chance of gem-finding or something similar.)

I personally hate the whole "go here, wait here for 30 seconds doing nothing, run home" thing. If a game is making me wait at the end of a leash for some amount of time where I'm not doing something useful/entertaining, it becomes a chore, not a game.

Over00 said...

The idea of the mini-game being related to bonus results is interesting. That would add an interesting dimension to activities mostly considered boring by most.

I certainly want to avoid creating fake downtimes just for the sake of it. If the only thing happening when you mine is a progress bar then you don't have the feeling you're actually mining.

Poo Bear said...

This is one of the major problems with MMO's, how do you stop players exploiting the game (intentionally or not) without irritating players who just want to have fun.

It's interesting to look at the line of reasoning here.

1. People need ore to make things, they get it by walking up to a mountain and selecting how much they want.

Problem - people will get vast quantities of ore and make huge numbers of items. A big part of the game is economic, if items are worthless because there are so many then they are no longer a goal for players. Why explore the game and earn cash when players are just giving items away.

2. make players stand next to the mountain clicking on it repeatedly. Getting something out is based on random chance modified by skill. We can even make the mining tools break occasionally to really screw with them :)

Problem - spending more than 10secs clicking on something repeatedly is dull.

3. Players get X time points a day and when they log in they can spend them on whatever they want. This limits the amount of ore a player can get, it's like he's put the time in when he wasn't online.

Problem - people can create multiple free accounts and then 10x players can all give there ore to the real player who then can mass produce items putting other players at a disadvantage and potentially damaging the economy.

3.1 people have to play a simple mini game to get the ore out. This means we can make it take as long as we like to get ore out, plus we can stop macros working by adding some random elements to the games.

Problem - there is a danger this will still prove too dull for players.

3.1.1 Put a time delay on it so fi the game isn't solved within X secs you can get the goods anyway. Completing properly could give a bonus to how much you get.

Problem - this just made macroing and mule characters easier again. I can set my ten mules mining, let them fail and then claim the minimum ore prize. May end up needing to up that time delay to stop exploits.

3.2 every time you try to get a unit of ore your avatar must stand still and be unmolested by nasties. Random spawning and dangerous mining areas stop macroing or using mules.

Problem - if you have to stand still for more than X secs players are going to get bored again. I suspect X is ~10secs max.

3.3 prevent unequal trades like Runequest have just done i.e. the mule characters could not just give the ore to another player or drop it. They have to exchange it for something of equal value.

Problem - players cannot just give expensive things to each other.

IMO 3.3 sounds the best, but maybe there are other issues too.

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