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Quote of the Day – Did SOE Solve the Latency Problem? November 14, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Quote of the Day, Sony Online Entertainment.
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In old MMOs, when monsters started to attack, dice rolls had already determined if they was going to hit you or not. We’re not doing that. We’re allowing you to move out of the way and do stuff that way. With positioning of your abilities versus what the monster is doing, it’s a very fluid situation. There’s no lather, rinse, repeat mechanic that works all the time.

Dave Georgeson, interview at Rock, Paper, Shotgun

The interview linked above is interesting if you want to learn more about the plans for EverQuest Next and Landmark.  I recommend it.

LandmarkLogo

There is a lot about the tools that will be available to end users and the scope of what players will be allowed to do.  Heady stuff, with ideas like “build your own MMO” being bandied about and EverQuest Next being referred to as just “a professionally developed alternative” to what players will be able to create in Landmark.  It all sounds like many steps beyond things like Wurm Online, right down to the griefing potential.

In the midst of all of that, there was some talk about players, classes, and combat, which included the quote at the top.  Again, sounds nifty!

Only reading that triggered a memory.  A few years back there was a new studio… and I have forgotten the name, date, and what not, so [citation needed]… and one of the developers was talking about them making a zombie MMO and generally criticizing combat in all MMOs up to that point.  He didn’t want hot bars and dice rolls behind the scenes, he wanted to swing a bat and, if it intersected with a zombie’s head, to score a hit and do damage.

Somebody else must remember this, right?  Help me out here.

[Addendum: Talyn found it! I am not crazy… in that regard at least.]

Anyway, that was doing things properly and he was quite dismissive of the MMO industry for not having done this already.

In due course a fair number of MMO devs sighed, shook their heads, and went on about how they would love to do that sort of thing, but the realities of network reliability and latency and client synchronization prevented it and that these loud mouthed upstarts would surely learn all of this in the fullness of time. (Or maybe it was just this post, which I was able to find once I had the date.)

If I recall right, they did, balance was restored to the force, and we all moved on.

At least until I read that quote up there at the top, which brought back those partial memories along with a few question… like, did Dave Georgeson really mean that?  No dice, no probability, just a check on positions and the intersection of objects in motion?  In real time?  In an MMO?  Over the internet?

Did SOE solve some critical network issue along the way here?  Or am I reading this wrong?

My alternate quote from that article, which also hits on a side detail is this:

Sometimes we ask questions that we know can only go one way. But the players are constantly having debates over stuff, so then we can go in and explain why we’re doing things a certain way. Because the more we can work with our players so they can understand why games need to be built a certain way, the better the suggestions will be.

This actually makes me feel a little better, as a number of questions that have popped on the round table have seemed to have only one possible outcome, so I was wondering why they bothered asking.  Now I know.

Comments»

1. jellydonut - November 14, 2013

Planetside 2 does real-time combat pretty well, maybe that has something to do with it.

It’s not like normal non-Eve (M)MOs have many players in one actual place.

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2. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 14, 2013

@jellydonut – Well, for specific definitions of “many” I suppose. Was Wintergrasp many or not back in the day?

But it isn’t just PvP. Latency impacts your ability to interact with NPCs. One of the big problems with Path of Exile at the moment is server/client related that makes positional DPS attacks problematic at times. You swing your sword but find that the mobs were not really there as you client re-syncs.

This has always been given as the reason for the button mashing hot bar approach to MMO combat, that it left all but the easiest positional elements (like must be behind for backstab) out of the equation.

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3. C. T. Murphy - November 14, 2013

I interpreted it more like Guild Wars 2-style of game than solving any truly fundamental latency issues.

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4. Talyn - November 14, 2013

http://undeadlabs.com/2010/11/news/the-way-you-make-me-feel/

Is this the citation you were looking for? =D

Also, keep in mind when (hotbar) MMOs were created, dialup was in the majority, only colleges, etc were lucky enough to have T-1 or OC3 lines so given that they were designed to have more people in one space performing more actions than you’d see in a typical multiplayer title back then (or today for that matter), hotbars and server “die rolls” were the way to go.

Today, it’s less of an issue (hardware and latency notwithstanding) but Neverwinter, for example, works quite well with fast combat and a lot of movement. Then PlanetSide2 and Defiance for the shooter side of the equation. The tech is getting there.

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5. Gevlon - November 14, 2013

The problem isn’t network latency. It’s the reaction time of the typical MMO player.

If you have a good reaction time and enjoy using it, you play an FPS or a jumpy adventure game. MMOs are about a world, character progression and player-player interactions. They belong to a different audience.

The “latency” excuse is lame anyway, people played FPS games 10-15 years ago on the internet.

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6. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 14, 2013

@Talyn – That is exactly it. Thanks! I even looked at the Undead Labs site, that name ringing a bell somewhere in the back of my brain. I just didn’t look back far enough.

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7. kiantremayne - November 14, 2013

I’m not sure I read the original quote as anything more than the style of ‘action’ MMO we already have. In GW2 if you target mob A and shoot an arrow, and mob B is in the way, then mob B takes the hit instead. Likewise, dodging attacks depends more on player movement than raising a “dodge stat”.

If EQN does actually take an online game up to the level of games like Skyrim, I’ll be quite impressed. I’ll also be a bit disappointed, for the same reason I don’t play shooters much – I like playing an nimble swordmaster in a fantasy world but my own dexterity is somewhat below average. If my swordmaster’s agility depends on my own, I’ll suck at EQN even before network issues raise their ugly head.

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8. Vatec - November 14, 2013

From what I’ve seen of EQ Next, the combat is very similar to GW2, Neverwinter, The Secret World, Wildstar, and some of the more recent developments in Rift: the NPC telegraphs its next move by putting a big triangle/circle/rectangle on the ground and the player has a brief time period in which to dodge out of the way. It’s not terribly innovative, but Georgeson is trying to make it sound so.

The only things that are truly innovative, as far as I can tell, are the destructible landscape (Rift has some, but it’s only in pre-set areas, EQN supposedly will let you destroy any terrain) and the dynamic NPC behavior (orcs set up camps next to lonely roads, but relocate if guards or adventurers drive them off, etc.). Quite frankly, I see huge potential for griefing, as players run around blasting holes in the ground under other players or high-level players driving off all the NPC’s the low-level players need to kill for their quests, etc.

At least it will be interesting to see how it all works out.

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9. bhagpuss - November 14, 2013

I’d bet it doesn’t mean much more than the kind of combat we have in GW2 now. I hope that’s what it means.

Personally, I prefer a dice-roll system anyway. I want to play an RPG where my character has the skills, not an action game where I’m supposed to have them. I’m in my mid-50s. I don’t want to be trying to match reaction times designed for twenty-somethings, especially since I wasn’t great at that kind of thing when I was in my twenties.

GW2 is a fine compromise between RPG and action gameplay in my opinion. If it’s like that, fine. If not, I’ll be doing a lot of crafting.

The more interesting aspect by far is the whole “buld your own MMO” thing. Elsewhere I’ve seen it asserted that every development tool made for EQNext will be added to Landmark, meaning anyone will theoretically be able to use Landmark to create a full-blown MMO. The implications of that are staggering. Think what some of the current Kickstarter MMO wannabes could be doing if they had that level of off-the-shelf tools available.

Can’t wait to see what kind of licensing it involves.

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10. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 14, 2013

And with the date nailed down on that post, I was able to dredge up a key response to the Undead Labs post and some of the stuff that swirled about at that time. Once again, I give you charming and attractive Brian “Psychochild” Green.

Reading that post and following the links… it is a trip down memory lane.

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11. Mekhios - November 14, 2013

Gevlon is right (damn did I just say that). I’d love real time action in MMO’s (some have headed down that path already) but there is a big difference in capability between an MMO click bar player and a realtime FPS player.

Games like Planetside 2 have massive numbers of players on screen all in realtime (200+ player battles are not uncommon). Additionally most people have far better internet now than the old days of EQ1.

I’d love to see EVE Online do away with the one second click action rule that dictates every aspect of combat in the game. I suspect though if that happened you would see a mass exodus of “older” players who hate real time combat and simply couldn’t handle the pace.

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12. kiantremayne - November 15, 2013

There’s also the point that action-based games aren’t inherently “superior” to a hotbar/cooldown based game – they’re different types of gameplay that require different skills. A twitch-based game calls for reaction time, precision and situational awareness. A hotbar based game is all about managing your decision cycle within the cooldown- you need to observe what’s going on, decide which skill is your best next action, and activate it within the time available. Too slow, and you’re sub-optimal because you’re taking fewer actions than you could; press the wrong skill and you’re sub-optimal because you could have done something more useful. The point is that this can be just as challenging, just I a different way.

There’s a side point that in my view a lot of MMOs AREN’T good decision-cycle games – if there’s a set optimum skil rotation then the decision part becomes trivialised and it’s just a monkey task of pressing the buttons in the right order. RIFT’s macros meant (for DPS at least) you didn’t even have to do that…

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13. Dàchéng - November 15, 2013

Mekhios, if you’d love real-time action in an MMO, then you could give “Darkfall:Unholy Wars” a go

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14. SynCaine - November 15, 2013

DF1, which was started in 2004, has real-time FPS combat on an MMO scale (sieges got up to 500+, and the server holds 10k players total). DF:UW of course also has it. We have covered this before, remember? Blizzard told us all it was technically impossible, hence instanced ‘world’ PvP in Wintergrasp.

The reason most MMOs don’t do it is because its ‘hard’ to get right, and a skill-based combat system means most players learn they are terrible compared to the skilled minority.

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15. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 15, 2013

@SynCaine – But is/was DF actually using the physical locations, the arc of a weapon and calculating the location of nearby objects to see if that arc connects with them? Or are they still using probability and rolling the dice so long as proximity is within certain bounds?

Even WoW has positional combat, with certain attacks requiring the player to be beside or behind a opponent and proximity is calculated.

And Darkfall was actually first announced in 2001 and was probably started even before that.

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16. Vatec - November 15, 2013

I don’t know if DF uses physical location and flight arc to determine a hit, but Asheron’s Call certainly did. You absolutely could dodge a fireball, or even an arrow, if you saw it coming. The targeting was TAB-based, but actually hitting was definitely a function of flight arc and location of the target and intervening obstacles.

Of course, AC also suffered from numerous technical difficulties (and exploits) as a result of having collision detection on such a scale….

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17. SynCaine - November 17, 2013

Getting back to this late, but yes, DF does use the actual position, as you can dodge an arrow/spell, and weapons could hit none, one, or multiple targets based on what’s in the arc.

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