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Shroud of the Avatar: Selective Multiplayer, Part 2

The Mechanics

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This is the second in a series of articles about the Selective Multiplayer system in Shroud of the Avatar.

Garriott So, it’s really important, if you’re, say, a blacksmith, that you have a vendor in front of your house that either buys or sells the resources you’re needing to create your blacksmithery… which means if I’m your friend, and I don’t see you at your house—which, statistically, I wouldn’t—then I will see your NPC shopkeeper.

So you can see that all these things begin to work together to where I could now, even if I’m online, I don’t have to see anyone else in the world. I can play soloplayer, but connected to the server, to where every time I change maps, I get the live version of the map, but I see your vendor and never you, because I don’t like you for some reason, or I don’t want to see you for some reason, or I don’t want to see any other people, or I’m worried about being PvPed.

It allowed us—this moving the server-side into the client—meant that suddenly we had all these possibilities for the ways that you could play. You could play like an MMO, completely open, everybody in the whole world, we see them all on the same map, up to the limit of how many people we can put on a map. And then we make another instance, and then the people who don’t know each other, we find a way to slice people into one instance or another based on the friends graph.

It could also mean “I don’t want to see the friends I want to play with.” When I walk down the streets of New York City, 99.99 percent of the people I see walk by might as well have been NPCs, because I’m never going to have to see them again, I’m never going to have any interaction with them. And the same thing is true in a virtual world. Seeing people hop around the world in another MMO is not relevant. It’s only relevant when it’s someone I know, or someone I have repeat access to.

So it allows us to throttle back how multiplayer-feeling the game is, from completely-open MMO, all the way into soloplayer that gets it’s updates live from the world.  And the nice thing is, even for those people playing soloplayer, they’re still going to see my shopkeeper, they’re still going to buy my trinkets. If they buy one of my swords, I’m still going to get the sale, I get the reward of the sale. It doesn’t matter that they’re in another instance of my home’s area.

Schultz So the NPCs are persistent across all instances.

Garriott NPCs are persistent across all instances. And so it opened up a lot more opportunities than we expected, starting with, “I want to play offline.”

Schultz So how do you deal with the security ramifications of a system like this?

Garriott So, we haven’t proven this, so this is still being vetted, but the game is still fundamentally an online game. But what our intention is, while you’re playing online, and earning things like value in gold, or value in experience points, we’re going to store some of it away. And by storing some of it away, up to some peak, so you’ve got a 100 percent reserve of XP and gold and whatever things we put into those reserves, those reserves can be tapped into while you’re offline. And so if you go offline, there’d be no way for you to go, “Oh, I want to have a billion gold,” because all you can really tap into is your reserves. So, even in the worst case of cheating, first of all, you can only stay offline for 48 hours before you have to check in and let it check your reserves. We’ll have checksums in there also about how quickly you deplete those reserves so that we can flag them for people that are setting the values hither and yon so that we know they are cheating. But, even if people get in there and cheat in a way we can’t manage to detect, or until we detect it, the most damage they’ll be able to do is to abuse their reserve. Which, frankly they’ve earned anyway, we just didn’t give it to them.

Continue on to Part 3

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