Tobold's Blog
Friday, July 06, 2007
Player-created dungeons

Many a single-player game comes with some sort of map editor, and the ability to load and play on maps created by other players. Of course not all of those maps are good, but then there are often websites from which you can download these maps, and rate them, and through the ratings of other players find the good ones. This player-created content adds a lot to the longevity of the game. So I wonder if something similar would be possible for a classic MMORPG like World of Warcraft.

Now virtual worlds like Second Life are all about player-created content, but there is no game behind them. Sure, you can design a fancy shirt or a curiously shaped sofa, but besides looking good these items don't do very much. And there is a danger that player's creations tend towards the obscene or try to promote real world ideas or brands. In a classic fantasy MMORPG you wouldn't be able to create just about anything, because that could break the game. But if you have reasonable restrictions, why shouldn't players be allowed to create for example a dungeon?

Games like Anarchy Online or City of Heroes have random dungeons put together from tile sets and populated with random monsters corresponding to that tile set. Player-created dungeons could use similar tile sets, with a dungeon editor to put them together. You choose a tile set and a level, then build the dungeon by linking together tiles of corridors and rooms and stairs. You get a selection of mobs that fit with the level and tile set, and you can place them in your dungeon, and determine patrol paths or spawn points. There could be a couple of boss mobs to place, with different special abilities. There could even be some sort of event editor, adding some special effects, doors opening only when a boss mob is killed, or events like ambushes to the dungeon. You would not be able to place rewards yourself, because you shouldn't be able to make a dungeon full of treasure chests and no monsters for your friends to harvest. Instead the rewards are placed automatically using standard loot tables for the monsters you placed.

For the players in the game, there would be special entrances to these player-created dungeons in zones of the corresponding level. Once your group enters the instance portal, the group leader is presented with a list of all player-created dungeons for this level, which can be sorted by popularity rating, size, creation date, or the name of the player who made them. When the group leaves the dungeon, regardless whether they finished it or just gave up, they will have the opportunity to rate the dungeon on a scale of 1 to 10, thus creating the popularity rating mentioned before. But every player can rate every dungeon only once.

Now I'm not saying that this would result in dungeons as good as the existing developer-created instances. But the best of the player-created dungeons could come close. And obviously there would be a lot more of them. Would you rather run through the Deadmines again and again, or try a player-created dungeon of the same level?
The idea of having player created instances sounds really nice. You could even expand the concept so that when a player can get a high rating over a longer period and his dungeon has been played by a large amount of players a GM should investigate the dungeon. When he seems they dungeon was created fair and challenging the playedr can advance so that he has additional features unlocked in his editor like additional event scripts or bigger boss mobs.

But the danger of this system is that it can be abused if you give so much freedom in the editor. Players can created their own farm instances for exp or loot. as a mage you can easily design a great room where you can aoe large amounts of mobs without risking to much. Just add 10 or 20 mob pulls without any ranged class for instance.

They only way I see to counter such abuse would be that every new created dungeon is unavailable for normal palyers and has first be checked by a GM who approves or denies the dungeon. But this would cause a huge time and money investment from blizzard and I highly doubt that this will happen in the near future.
I think Ryzom has a similar system. Players can create quests/areas/dungeons for other players to enjoy, with the restriction that player made content can't award exp, money or items since it could be possible to make "easy" ones.
Wouldn't work in WOW. People would just design instances with only bosses and if thats not possible place all trashmobs away from the path you intend to take.
Tobold, my friend were just talking about this yesterday.

Ryzom's Ring is much like this... it's just packaged with a game that next to no one plays anymore.

I'm hoping someone picks up the idea though and runs with it. It couldn't really work with a licensed IP, but something original with no harsh license laws to follow would suit it perfectly.

Especially if players could designate their dungeon's rewards based on difficulty of the encounters they've created. Be it gold or even items.
Wouldn't work in WOW. People would just design instances with only bosses and if thats not possible place all trashmobs away from the path you intend to take.

That only tells you that trashmobs are badly designed in existing WoW dungeons, not whether player-created dungeons would work. You could solve that by making loot-tables so that killing boss mobs isn't so overproportionally rewarded as it currently is.
Referencing "trashmobs"....
First time I head of that term is in WoW and the word say it all. It's just mobs that you would never do if you can skip them.

That is because in everybody mind we think at a dungeon as a place to be raided to farm bosses. Everything else is trash.

Isn't that a result of instancing and having only bosses as a mean of interest for their loot?

Wouldn't be fun a big dungeon that isn't instanced even if it couldn't yeld too much valuabe drops?

From time to time I miss Darkness Fall (dungeon in DAOC) that was very very big and at same time tied with pvp results as entrance was granted (open) only to one faction at a time based on towers capture.

Or UO dungeons that were (I suppose "are" as UO is still alive ^_^) not instanced. Is fun to find other poeple doing the same dungeon.

Yes, I know....
Instanced vs not instanced.. both have specific pros and cons. But both cam be fun.
As someone still playing and enjoying WoW, it seems to me that the Drop Rate of BOE Rares in Instances has been increased. It's not uncommon now to come out of an Instance having seen one or two Blues drop off Trash Mobs.
There is a lot of way to avoid 'easy' mode.
First make that only guilds can create a dungeaon in their name, not player based.And that a guild playing its own dungeon does not get any Xp and loots. This way you'll reduce the number of dungeon and probably increase the general quality. This could allow easier checking by GM on the popular ones.

Allow one dungeon per level range, or perhaps, allow one dungeon per guild per currently existing dungeon, with the dungeon tile set and mobs.

Make the rewards in these player made dungeons 10%-20% less interesting than Dev dungeon and more random based. The lacking 10% will be compensated by the additionnal fun of seeing new dungeons.
You can even think of having a completely new itemisation system. Say that for any dungeon depending on level you gain X gold per mob and Y tokens per mob.

The best way to avoid overuse is to have a time based limitation. All user made dungeon are on the 7 day reset timer. So you'll need to do different ones.

The only problem I really see is that GM will need to check the popular ones, to see why they are popular and that they are not exploiting a missed 'easy' mode. And GM will be responsible to shut down invalid dungeons, but then will have the same problem than with character names...
Depending on the genre it could be a great boon to open ended gameplay.

In a universe like EvE player created content could just simply appear as a separate planet or asteroid since the world map is more fungible.

I like the idea of the new content becoming part of the mainstream game rather than have all player content only accessible through a battleground like interface.
I don't think it has to involve much work or risk on the developer side. I just posted a walkthrough on my site. Feel free to respond here though, if you want (best to consolidate the discussion).
I would like to see something like this added for PvP. A player created map for a BG for example.
A friend and I were talking about this about a year ago and essentially came up with the idea of making Player-made-Dungeons a core aspect of a game so that the entire game would be geared around the idea.
The game would feature a whole bunch of premade dungeons and open areas full of all kinds of mobs and items. Mobs, items, even quest templates can be 'cllected' allowing you to put them in your own dungeons. There would even be rare boses and items you can collect to make your dungeon even more unique.
On top of this, all player made dungeons are rated by players and each month the top ones are rewarded with more cool rare stuff and expanded options.

I love this idea. In addition to adding variety to the dungeons, players could create really difficult dungeons. This would certainly add to the replayability of mmorpgs.
Many or most games these days offer a scenario or map editor, or random map capability.
In others, making your own map (think SimCity) is the point of the game.

IMO, player-created content in regular WoW servers is not a workable concept. Managing input from a pool of millions is tough (witness Blizzard forums) without having to also implement and proof and police it.

But don't lose heart; there are many WoW "private servers" to choose from...
There is a game with player-created dungeons: it's called Neverwinter Nights.
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