Round based MMO?

Gripp 101 Jan 06, 2011 at 13:40

I, like apparently far too many others, have had an idea for an MMO stuck in my head for a good 10 years or so now… I doubt i’ll ever get a chance to make it (as i’m well aware of the resources which would be needed) but it is fun to dream about regardless. But, if i ever do get that chance i would prefer that i have everything worked out.

My problem is that I’ve been unable to completely rectify one of the elements.

Part of my concept is that domination would be the goal (as apposed to killing the same boss over and over…) That is, once one team has gained control over a substantial amount of land (think age of empires) the ‘round’ is over - that teams wins.

but the obvious problem here is that MMO’s are about building a character - no one likes to lose what they’ve spent so much time building. further, starting all-over is a window to jump ship (would likely start as “i’m going to sit out a round” and lead to them never coming back.) At a very basic level for my overall concept rounds are too key of a feature to eliminate - or i would simply do that…….

so the question here is: how to do a round-based MMO and not lose retention?

my thought with this problem has been to allow the members of the winning team (or all members) to carry-over some of their earnings (both money/items and skills) and further lose them if they don’t use them (some decaying formula.) And considering that part of the theme is that one could never “max out” a character this would allow players to make an increasingly stronger character with each round; which would be a nice feature.
but this would create a problem with having people who have played for a while being able to completely pwn new players - making it difficult to earn/retain new players.

this leads me to the thought that the there should be separate servers/round qualifications dependent on how much of this carry-over a player has obtained. but the problems there are two-fold:
1. ideally players make new relationships with other players and their continued ability to play WITH those other players is key to retention (IMHO at least) and
2. this lends itself to an elitist philosophy amongst the players - again, not ideal for retainage.

Allowing “qualified” players to invite unqualified players would be the solution to #1 - but this would only strengthen #2…

so does anyone else have any suggestions?

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Tottel 101 Jan 06, 2011 at 14:09

One possible solution to using ‘rounds’ and make people have to start over with their character, is adding trophies and awards.

The round is over, people lose their progress, but they can earn a spot in a hall-of-fame (Top 10 players, Best teamplayer, ..).

Gripp 101 Jan 06, 2011 at 19:05

That would be one way. and an award system like this would definitely be present. but beyond the basic awards, this isn’t much of a motivator for many people (myself included). any other ideas?

TaggM 101 Apr 17, 2011 at 04:09

A storyline basis could work: teams complete one “battle” in a[n eternal] “war.”

That has worked for many animated cartoon series based upon collectible card games (CCGs).

It also works for a mecha universe.

handy_vandal 101 Apr 18, 2011 at 04:14

“Once one team has gained control over a substantial amount of land (think age of empires) the ‘round’ is over – that teams wins. How to do a round-based MMO and not lose retention?”
– Gripp (see first post in thread)

This is what I call Conditional Turn Gameplay:

If some condition is true (“Team A Captured 95% of Territory”), one team is declared the Winner, and the other is declared the Loser (for that round).

The server then … does what? That’s where the programming happens, naturally it’s worth plenty of thought. But let’s postpone that practical question, and first explore philosophical questions:

What we mean by “turn”? What do these “rounds” really signify? In the broadest possible sense, what kind of rules or principles apply to all turn-based games? And, how can we use these principles to our advantage as game designers – in particular, how can we retain players who lose rounds?

Before the round is over, a losing team may hope:

“More players will join our cause! Current players will play more, fight harder! The enemy team will fall on hard times, their leaders will get days jobs and give up gaming! The game designers will take pity and intervene in our favor! A lucky systems crash will save us!”

But the round itself irrevocably declares:

“Team B: Losers.”

This means losing game points, losing prestige, losing acquired skills and experience, losing weapons and ammo and other possessions, losing alliances and trade routes and other group benefits, losing castles and cities and roads, losing the world you worked so hard to build and getting sent back to Square One, and so on.

Losing hurts. We want it to hurt, in some hurts-but-good way. What makes the hurt tolerable is good sportsmanship: the winners, in particular, must behave like good winners.

Consider a friendly game of softball: the winners congratulate the losers on a good game, high-fives and smiles all around, let’s go have a beer. Of course this translates in different ways – high-fives in a friendly game, victory taunt in a deathmatch – but I submit that the general principle of good winners and good losers holds true for all games.

The question for game designers becomes: what game systems can we implement which encourage good winners and good losers? In particular, how to we make Losers feel the genuine sting of Defeat, and yet retain players?

Some thoughts:


  1. Trophies for the defeated: gravestones, memorial arches, Hall of Fame for the fallen heroes. Customized in memory of Team B. A consolation prize, in the legitimate manner of honors for defeated warriors.

1.a. Make the winning team pay for the loser’s memorial. We’re asking the Losers to be good sports, by acknowledging the sting of Defeat yet choosing to stay in the game. Let’s ask the winners to be good sports as well. If your game has a money-based system, deduct a hefty chunk of the winner’s purse, and use it to build up these virtual Trophies for the defeated. Don’t just display some numbers: build it up in the world.

1.a.1. Implement the memorial as a quest that the winning team must fulfill … a scenario-swap, where the new map or storyline puts the losing team in a dominant position, and the winning team in an tougher position than before.


  1. Vengeage-based gaming: grudge match, old scores to settle. Specifically play up the idea of “getting even” for a particular round, or string of rounds.

Load Balancing

  1. Technique that prevents a team from winning *too* many rounds in a row.

3.a. Spawn a “Magical Consolation Prize” for the losing team – maybe a big monument as discussed above, maybe a player-carriable object. A team that has one such object gets little benefit, but the effect is cumulative and exponential, so a team that loses several rounds in a row will acquire several of these magic thingies.

3.a.1. Example, magic earthquake: one magic thingie makes your hair stand on end; two magic thingies, the earth trembles; three magic thingies, your team can split the earth beneath one enemy city of your choice ….

Hope that gives inspiration to somebody out there.

Here’s a link to my game design blog, the Handy Vandal’s Almanac:

frankfrederik 101 Apr 21, 2011 at 20:49


so the question here is: how to do a round-based MMO and not lose retention?

After reading your post, I was reminded of a game a played a little while back called League of Legends (humorously abbreviated to LoL ;))
I don’t recollect the specifics, but the general idea is that you as a player (summoner) level up after every battle you have played with a chosen ‘champion’. The champion starts at level 1 every time you start a new match and levels during this match. You as a summoner level a bit after every match and then spent some points in a talent tree with which you can do cool stuff in the battles you play.

Maybe this game can provide you with some interesting ideas? (the wiki page on it explains the concept pretty much)