I had a wonderful conversation at work about the features I'm adding into my game, why some were chosen, and how I determined the level of detail I put in to each feature. The conversation started as I was explaining about how worker units move resources to the building they are building. This is instead of depositing materials at a central location and using stored resources to build. To my coworker this seemed in contrast to resource nodes that automatically respawned. He conjectured that since players need to manage supply lines, why should they not also need to plant more trees? The conversation followed various threads of logic and examples trying to alleviate his concerns, but it was only after, during my drive home, that I realized the miscommunication was in the definition of my game. I'm building an MMORTS, both the MMO part and RTS parts mean different things to different people; making merging them together all the more difficult. These sets of posts will hopefully illustrate my goal for this project, how I see the two genres, and the gaming philosophy I'm trying to employee.
Before digging into specifics, I want to go over my definitions of both gaming genres and a rough overview of where my sew lines are. To me, an Massive Multiplayer Online game has the very distinct features of a communal persistent world; a community sand-box world. This means players can affect the world and that effect stays when the user(s) logs off for others to interact with. I disagree with games like "Guild Wars" being considered an MMO, as players are put into private instances whenever they leave a common city area. To me, that is no difference than having a staging/chat room with graphics. Compare that with "Guild Wars 2" and you can see the difference. Most true MMO games allow the player to go anywhere and explore the world in which other players continue to exist. It is here that a lot of online RTS games fail my definition of MMO. Games like "Shattered Galaxy", while a lot of fun with some great features, is mostly a staging/chat room world with individual battles. Battles even limit the number of players that can participate. In general I am more willing to compromise on the RTS features than on my definition of an MMO.
For real-time strategy games I acknowledge two major features: unit maneuvering and base management. A part of base management is resource gathering and unit upgrading. Some have defined games with only unit maneuvering as "Real-Time Tactics". While I don't mind this distinction, valid arguments can be made on both sides and the difference between "tactics" and "strategy" can also be argued in the genre. When attempting to morph an RTS into an MMO it is the base management section that gives the most difficulty. Most RTS games feature small battles. In each battle the player builds a base, creates a force, fights with that force, upgrades buildings and units, and expands their base until a single team is left. In a persistent world, with no individual battle arenas, building a base would be done once or that base would need to be temporary in some manner. You then run into the problem of what to do with the base once a player goes offline and the real-estate used for that base. I have seen Online RTS games put the player's base inside a private instance with rules dictating the ability for the base to be attacked. A great example here is "Kingdom Wars", a fun RTS but I would not consider an MMO. There is also the exploration of the entire tech tree. Within a standard RTS a player can go from minimal starting units to a fully upgraded army during a single battle; rinse and repeat over and over again for each battle.
In this project I am looking towards MMORPGs as a guide for the base management aspects. This means manual harvesting, storage, and transporting of materials, as well as character (instead of unit or building) upgrades, and the respawning of world resources.
In the future I'll start to go more in-depth in the different features and systems starting with the world, zones, regions, and bases. In part three I'll flesh out units, upgrades, and player motivations.