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More interesting items/ideas for a Bioshock Rapture MMORPG
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2K Games (who control Irrational Games) are in turn controlled by the same larger Company as controls Rockstar (maker of Grand Theft Auto). The large map simulation system they have would at least be a start for the Rapture MMORPG (deeper pockets and better resources would be needed for this MMORPG project).
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Ticker Tape mechanism for text signs and info stream on TVs :
We've seen public text display boards (Marquees) in BS2 (ie- over portal doors in Sirens Alley) that show advisements for transportation and other alerts.
An early form of digital transmission of data over telephone wire. A similar mechanism can add text at the bottom of a TV screen (we see public TVs all over Rapture so there must've been a use like this). Later more el;ectronics could be used as Rapture's tech moved forward.
As a game mechanism, it would be used as one of the information systems in New Rapture. An intuitive object that doesnt take much explanation (a goal for this game to have things do whats expected). Players will have TVs in their Residence which will have viewable streaming content, on which text City Alerts and such can be displayed. Detailed viewing for TVs would be a more locked in 2D view of the front of a TV, with access to the knobs to change channels.
A 'Transfer' Bathysphere Station :
Low pressure (Rapture Normal, sea-level pressure) water tunnels can connect a Primary Bathysphere Cableway Station with Satelite secondary 'transfer' stations. The 'Transfer' station having a simple lift with no complex high-pressure airlocks required (useful when there are multiple 'stations' desire like across a cluster of buildings). Bathyspheres coming into the primary station can move under their own power (and/or a simple mechanical tow system) to dispersed Transfer stations at different points around a City cluster to conveniently minimized the walking long distances to/from a centralized 'hub' station. The premium prices of the Bathysphere service pays for this convenience for their customers. (The 'lesser' Trolley passengers have to walk alot more.)
The Worlds of Rapture :
A problem of 'design by committee' is differences of Vision. But who says that commonly created assets cannot be recombined/used/applied different ways. There would be more than one Server World, and each one's tone/theme might be significantly different -- not just varied by what the Players do to shape them, but dedicated to different 'themed' environments to offer wider possibilities to the Players. Variations of difficulty, emphasis, history, even time period could be made with such a modular system. Players would have the ability to visit different 'alternate' Worlds (but not be able to effect/significant change much outside their one 'Home Rapture' Server World).
I could even see one 'World' being Rapture BEFORE its Fall (boring as it might be, it would probably be of interest to see, just to contrast to what it became later). Other themed Worlds might take place in the BS1 Civil War period and the BS2 Lamb era.
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Someone in the Forums suggested a SIMs game long the lines of the MMORPG I describe. I would take that to be an online SIMs (would SOLO be too repetitive/un-cohesive or would it include 'downloading' other peoples creations?). During the 'Golden Age' of Rapture, it might be a bit boring. During 'The Chaos', it would be somewhat messy with alot of sudden destabalizing events that might run contrary to the way SIMs games usually operate (Splicers suddenly swarming over your creations and wiping them out ...).
Some of the behavior techniques might be very similar for how the NPCs in my MMORPG would operate (within New Rapture City-Limits at least). Interelation between NPCs would be simulated in detail and would operate around fairly ordinary human motivations - leaving the more exciting stuff to the Players. still it might provide a look at something a little more 'Living' than in other games.
Actually, the 'download' idea might have some merit with people creations published online to be installed in the Players 'World' (skipping the 'Servers' which companies are loath to pay for and manage). Unfortunately the interactions of your typical Sims game are rather limited, and Rapture is supposed to be a much more exciting/interesting place.
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Self Rebuilding Assets - in Game Maps/Worlds :
The Mall map in Fort Frolic reminded me that various in-game signs like this need to be modifiable as new businesses/facilities are added - either by Players in the New City section or for old ruins which are filled-in semi-randomly (procedurally generated) when explored or from newly added game Assets being installed. Damaged wall maps/directories can have obscured/unintelligable names on them to hide the fact that the Server World hasnt yet been expanded to include those details. With all the rest of the create-on-the-fly' mechanisms in the game, this kind of mutatable thing would not be difficult to make happen (its how much of the game system operates). The Players have a complex map widget in their interface(s) which also would handle this process.
Original Absurdity of 'No Laws' (who came up with this crap?) :
What kind of punishment could those guilty of major crimes be punished with -- Exile might reveal the City so thus it require incarceration in Prison/Jail (how do you allegedly do all this with 'No Laws' ?? It is part of the poorly fabricated/contrived fallacy of Ryan's "beliefs". Its so loosely/illogically and is obvious that there IS laws against murder and robbery/thievery, destruction of others property, etc... Expecting the Citizens to enforce it all themselves would cause a climate too chaotic for a large scale 'city' society and complex economic system (which has its own commercial laws which need to be enforced - ie - contract enforcement).
The MMORPG will have alot of "splainin to do" to try to resolve this utter lack of logic in Rapture as portrayed in the Solo games. Perhaps there will be the other 90% of the Audio Diaries which we never heard..... Ryan making the "Only One Law - Smuggling", is so obviously a setup, (with strung up smugglers prominently displayed , without corresponding signs saying 'Traitor' and Audio Diaries agreeing with the punishment as risking the entire city's safety) -- the game designers making sure Ryan was "a bad guy" for somehow 'breaking his own 'philosophy'. How many guns were smuggled in to help Fontaine/Atlas terrorize the city and kill citizens with ?? (No mention made...)
Again, we have to remind ourselves that BIOSHOCK was created to sell as a (FPS) blast-fest slaughter game with some story and nice nostalgia invoking/interesting settings, and some purported 'meaning'. Playing loose with logic, beating us over the head with contrived situations, and running us like a pawn through it all was just the easier path for them (and all the hype about it being somehow better/different than all the other similar games out there). The MMORPG can have something better than that.
Mission - Salvage Run (Sank, the Bismark) :
A shipwreck full of lovely metal sits on the bottom of the Ocean (3000+ feet down, and several hundred miles away) and is being salvaged by the City as a source of repair materials (the remelt furnaces at Sinclair Metals is back in operation). Your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to oversee a salvage run out to the site, work the recovery process (bring your plasma torch) and bring the goodies back to New Rapture.
--- Mother Sub used to tow equipment around and materials back to City
--- Remote control cutting rig
--- Lifter (small blimp crane)
Goal is 100 tons of scrap steel (nice thick sheets of armor plating) delivered for use in City reconstruction.
Note - 100 tons of steel is about 408 cubic feet or a solid cube about 7.5 feet on each side -- pretty dense...
Reward is a standard payment and brownie points towards your next Civic Achievement Award.
Server uses 'Procedural Generation' of Ocean terrain (not overly exciting, its dark out there and deep ocean floors arent too interesting - most of the time).
You may have a few Open Ocean 'encounters' along the way and unforseen problems which will need handling (missions have lots of variables to make them different from player to player and when repeated as this one could be).
Vita-Chamber, Little Sisters and SeaSlugs :
Some modified Vita-Chambers when used on Little Sisters increased subsequent ADAM production by as much as 100% (vitalizing the Slug apparently...) for a brief period. Your mileage may vary.
How to get them (LS) to stay in the chamber for the a longish period -- tea party time. We never got much details about handlers for Little Sisters in their 'Homes' and how they were managed while they were not out hunting for 'Angels'. We saw that the LS were allowed to wander round in that special section of Outer Persephone (when we saw things thru their eyes). We never saw how the ADAM they produced was collected. Previous conditioning and simple child psychology likely was employed (versus grabbing them, anesthetizing them with a cloth full of ether and then shaking them by the feet upside down into a bucket - a training film (Player Created) would show THAT as how NOT to do it). One wonders how various Splicers who 'run their own stable' of Little Sisters manage to do it.
Gunfight at the Rapture Corral :
Hmmm, Gunfighters in the Ruins - quickdraw pistols - too bad nobody much follows those 'Rules of the West' - instead For Real you have lots of back-shooting. Maybe it could be some pulp fiction for New Rapture TV show series (likely in pretty amateurish productions). "Have Speargun will Travel"/ "Shootout in the O.K. Bathysphere Station"/ "Zorro Rides the Deeps"/ "The Great AE Train Robbery"/ "Young Squid Bill Rides Again"/ Bad Men of Deadmanschest"/ "City Vigilantes"/ "Diver Dan and the Haunted Mine"/ "For a Few Doubloons More" ....
- Is Dueling banned in Rapture (probably within City Limits..)??
SitS - Something In The Sea (counted aspart of the Canon/Legacy Lore) :
Seems overly contrived and complicated to me, but I guess when most of it is text and you have to justify a Flash game component, things go a bit off course.
http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/There%27s_Something_in_the_Sea (partial content of SitS assets)
The whole "There is Something in the Sea" scenario, with Big Sisters stealing dozens of children (possibly alot more than Meltzer found references to in his investigations). How exactly would that work? Some Big Sisters came under the direction of Sofia Lamb (perhaps other Factions were doing the same thing ?? and it might not always even have to involve Big Sisters to do the 'dirty work'.) The Big Sisters are mentioned to not be too easy to control, and to take precise directions (the submarine(s) used may have been run by Lamb's non-insane minions, and the Big Sisters used to snatch the future LS from the coastlines.)
One would assume the children were largely targets of opportunity - who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Did the Big Sisters know to steal children of the precise age? Were those stolen who were not-quite the right age later 'disposed of' (euphemism for 'killed')? Kidnapping is a dirty business with lots of things to go wrong, which often do. How many frightened parents were killed trying to protect their children?? Children killed/drowned in the attempt? That bit wasnt quite expressed later in BS2 while we had to listen to all of Sofia Lamb's psycho-babble and whining.
The flexibility of the MMORPG system would allow Flashback recreations (and extrapolations) of some of these events, no doubt someone would be interested in expanding upon that. There is alot there in the fiddley details of the SitS which were created (largely an incremental FLASH website presentation) between BS1 and BS2. Mark Meltzers reaching, descending and traversing Rapture in search of his daughter would be a worthy 'campaign' subset of the MMORPG.
I suppose someone could also create Elizabeth and Bookers 'alternate' visit to Rapture (just before they were chased and torn apart by a gang of Spider Splicers). Just another fever dream by a deranged Splicer (same bad toothache medicine Booker had drunk too much of to give him that whole weird 'Columbia' dream.).
The possibilities are endless.
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Happy Chappy rides again - recreating performances :
A truly momumental Asset for some Player to create would be TV recordings (possibly on film taken at the earlier times) of some of Sander Cohen's 'masterpieces' (his Broadway-like plays). These would infrequently be played on New Rapture's TV (nobody would actually care to stage this at the later date, and there is limited things to show, so far).
The MMORPGs stage direction scripting mechanism would make compositions like this (and for MUCH better Player Created shows) possible, but it would still take some creativity/imagination to generate something like Cohen would have produced in the 'old days'. The same mechanism would be used to create commercials, TV shows and historical receations (newsreels) for the Player's media feeds. In-game Live performances of all kinds (including acappella on the Streets) could also be played using this. Ive seen Players having music concerts In-Game for several years in some MMORPGs, and this is taking it a few steps further.
Hmm, I suppose it is possible (Someday), employing Voice Generation, to simply import a Shakespeare play's text (saute it a bit with added directives -- like more detailed character movements/actions and voice inflections) and create a 'Play' Asset which could be performed in-game. ANYTHING with a similar scripting form could be done the same way.
The more I think about this whole MMORPG stage direction scripting mechanism Im talking about - with its general Real-World uses - a MMORPG would be the LEAST thing you could actually do with it.
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Skill Paths for your Team NPC's :
One of the game elements to remove tedium and yet maintain a higher level of 'realness' is the NPCs which act/behave in more intelligent ways, more of the time. Scripted AI simulastion has them react/do appropriate things to support themselves as people and carry out their lives/duties as a background in the game.
Players build a 'Team' of NPCs which can do mundane game things - fetching/fixing/transporting - often based on logical/well-define jobs/Tasks/Roles which dont have to be micromanaged. The NPCs also can do specialized Tasks for which their Skill progress would be selected (and the Player makes resources available for).
Most RPG games have Skill ramps and options which allow the Player to selectively progress (and continuously do new/interesting things). This MMORPG has similar 'improvements' for the Player's NPC "Team" members. These too are often logical progressions which if left alone will normally progress (self-driven using more AI logic) with little Player guidance required. The Player's activities might be used to guide their Team NPCs development if its left upto them.
The Skills enable 'Tasks'/actions/abilities for the NPCs, which are run via complementary AI scripts, which control when/who/where/what/why/how the skills are used (paying attention to situational priorities decided logically or by the Player's orders).
Note- this is the same AI which all the self-run NPCs inside and outside the City make use of. Combinations of circumstance, attributes and skills for NPCs bring much variety, and interactions between them even more.
Players can guide their NPCs' Skill progress to match their own 'Team' preferences/goals, and can get higher/sooner efficiencies/abilities through Effort they expend on organization/guidance --in effect, you get mediocre 'good enuf' if you do nothing (the automatics will take care of it), but can excell if you take interest and expend some in-game Effort.
Skill systems are usually based on 'Achievements' which mark major quantum levels, as well as incremental Skill levels - usually the result of experience and repetition. Often Resources are needed for the NPCs to operate/practice upon and various required tools.
(( Thinking of many games - some Players will have interest in seeing/watching what NPCs and their Team members are upto (think of those Aquarium programs that have been popular for 20 years) - yet another facet for this whole project -- an active screen saver mode following NPCs around in their Rapture World.
"What the heck is my Avatar doing now ??" - one more set of customization - Avatar preferences which allow the Player to tailor their Character - not just clothing, but behavior attributes. There would be vanilla behaviors the Avatars carry out while the player is off-line, but mixes of various preferences and tendencies would allow them to be less ordinary.))
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Gene Bank - How exactly would that work ? :
Disabling gene controlled tissue ?? How do genetic 'mod' things get undone in your body (do they just stay, but are 'turned off'??) Washing the RNA which might control the 'power' out of your system (back into its magic bottle - to be restored at some time in the future...) ?
The Gene Bank machines would be closely related to the Gatherers Garden machine in that they adjust the products 'sold' in those machines (control of them would be a 'feature' the better Plasmids/Tonics had) - and would be marketed as such. They would thus have to match with the technical specifications of the standardTonics/Plasmids (and possibly competitors products) to manipulate them properly.
Various Plasmid/Tonics may share similar sub-functions (like common energy generation in the body useable by all/some Plasmids). Those would not have to be removed and may be a significant proportion of the person's "mods" (Splicing).
Rearranging tissue is kind of an ugly process (ie- the hand projector tube structure that spurts blobs of inflammable fireballs). Constant subtracting and adding of genetic modifications had to have some negative effects. Cruder ADAM products might not be easily removable/controllable and conflict with others.
The Gene Bank machine would be fairly sophisticated to be able to figure out what Plasmid/Tonic sub-functions (partial mods) to add/remove, and what component can stay and be reused in order to minimize the changes required. Likely, the Gene Bank would have ways to restore/reassert the body's original tissue when undoing these 'mods' (Ryan pushed for better features like that once he took over the majority of the ADAM industry).
Conflicting Plasmids was alluded to as the cause of much of the genetic disruptions/turbulance which caused the deformations/tumors and led to secondary effects like insanity.
Note - most Splicers we see in the games dont really have that many different Plasmids/Tonics active. We ourselves are probably the worst example of a 'devils brew' of Plasmids/Tonics in combination (perhaps if we ran around in Rapture for much longer a huge number of negative side-effects would catch up to us). The Splicers who tried too many Plasmids (especially at the same time) may just not last/survive very long (and this was probably even worse with the cruder early ADAM products (and always with bootleg ones).
"That's just the Plasmid blues, Mary. You just need to slow down a bit on the splicing. Before you know it, you'll be as right as rain..." ( http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/BioShock_Public_Address_Announcements )
Jack (you) apparently survived his(your) 'devils brew' (in the 'good' ending), but Tenenbaum may have known the best process to eliminate much of the genetic modifications. We did not see the intervening scenes (leaving/returning to Surface), so you may have been 'purged' largely via one of the Gene Bank machines before you left (you were eventually de-Daddy-fied also).
Delta was hamburger, but Porter must've had something similar take place.
How fast did these machines do their work? In a FPS game Players dont want to wait and you get a 2D interface anyway (freezing the game) so it might take much more time than what is shown. I would expect originally it was done by a 'doctor' or ADAM technician in a 'Mod-Shop' with a 'comfy chair', for proper 'adjustment'. Later, as the ADAM products got more sophisticated, and supported 'quick-change' features, these Gene Bank machines would come into being. Most people would NOT possess or be using the huge number we accumulate in our BS1/BS2 adventures or use so many siultaneously. Some of the Gene Bank machines we use in game might have rightly given a 'Tilt' warning when we used them.
Now we might discount these machines as just a game facilitating mechanism, but if such Plasmids/Tonics existed, there would need to be further Convenient manipulations for the customers beyond simple 'installation' and adjustments might commonly have been made in their common/widespread use.
And like the working Gatherers Gardens (we saw existing as late as BS2), the machines either were really well built, or had to have had maintenance/repair on them continued. Gene Bank machines would have been an important component for Ryan's seeking to stabilize the ADAM addicted population, to try to maintain order while he moved forward with rebuilding his City. Like the Gatheres Garden machines (and maybe other vending machines and the food supply) they may have been the avenue through which the Pheromone control components were disseminated to Rapture's Splicers.
Wiring Mini-Game using Hexes instead of 'pipe' Squares :
Offers more combinations of components interconects (6 sides) and more complicated 'components' to solve.
Player Tasks to repair wiring circuitry as part of a Mission or fixing/improving their own equipment (part of the in-game Fabrication interfaces). Suited to 'Mini-Games' played on the offline tablet/smartphone App part of the MMORPG.
There can still be 'Square' circuitry, which represents the older WW2 era electronics (tubes, relays) versus the newer X-ister (transisters, bio-electronics). Devices and machines can use both kinds of technology in their sub-modules as well as mechanical mechanisms (a whole 'nuther' repair/fabrication system...)
The Ultimate may be helping fix one of those OMG machines - rewiring part of a Vita-Chamber with a 1000x1000 component grid (you get to fix some part of it as your Task - it actually adds incrementally into the machine object in the MMORPG - as a group puzzle effort), so you can see the ongoing progress and its eventually operation when fixed). The Thinker's Disk Logic Circuit (DLC) Tasks offer similar activities.
Getting replacements and rebuilding components is part of the Task. Different levels of difficulty depend on what skills/tools you have (you can sign up for easy or harder ones).
Rewards for such 'benevolent' tasks assisting the City can be getting priority use of the machines later. Of course, if you really mess up and not just cannot complete it, but destroy the sub-module, you are expected to make good for it. You are helping move New Rapture move ahead one limk of the Great Chain at a time.
Sander Cohen's - Strange is only a word :
Rumors have begun to surface that Sander Cohen had been using various concoctions of ADAM Plasmid/Tonics in experiments to try to creat a "Rabbit Splicer". That he employed strange mixtures, often from bootlegger ADAM brewers, in these bizarre activities. No doubt tests on some of his plaster 'Art' may turn up hard evidence.
Perhaps some newly recovered Accu-Vox Audio Diaries and other documentation will shed some light on these murky events from the Past.
As mentioned before, it may turn out the Show called "Sander Cohen" may not yet have made its final performance. (How can we pass up THAT set of content for this game ? )
Gatherer's Garden machines added by Ryan ... like Methadone :
"Gatherers" were the Little Sisters (with or without Big Daddy 'Protector' accompaniment) in the period a bit before the Kashmir Incident (very end 1959).
After he gained control of Fontaine Futuristics, Ryan used the GG machines to distribute ADAM products. They would also be a convenient way to distribute modified products containing Pheromones and/or stabalization versions of Plasmid/Tonics, AND eventually be use to distribute "the Cure" -- once his Labs found it for the ADAM disease effecting so many citizens. Until that time, they would be employed in the equivalent of Methadone Therapy used on Heroin addicts.
Some Gatherer's Garden machines continued to function up through the Lamb period (as we saw in BS2). Whether this was due to simply being well made or any active maintenance is not explained. Such machine must've had formidable defenses against Hacking or being broken into as the ADAM they contained was so desperately sought by Splicers.
It seems illogical for the Gatherer's Garden machines to require ADAM as payment (or to process - if they ever also required money) as the only sources we are told are : SeaSlugs, Little Sisters, and (later) Big Sisters. The SeaSlugs were largely unreachable out in the Ocean, and the Big Sisters rather formidable to take. Little Sisters thus were the easiest source for the ADAM the machine required. Yet they are also supposed to be the primary means of recovering/generating ADAM. Setting them up to be killed by crazed Splicers just seems stupid (no matter how many Big Daddies went with them).
New Rapture is a bit smarter and keeps its few Little Sisters safe at home and has any bodies brought to them for the 'recycling'.
Turning ideas into ... :
Ideas are "a dime a dozen", (and Ive listed at least a thousand here). Turning those ideas into Reality is the difficult problem. The idea of having Players take THEIR ideas and then easily create decent game content for a MMORPG is a solution that eventually will come (the game industry itself could like this type of thing because it can cut their costs/risks significantly).
Reuseable Assets could be employed game following game without having to pay to rebuild all the Asset objects each time. Human figure animations in particular -- when large numbers of them become available as a 'palate' to compose game happenings with. Companies could then concentrate on (put more effort towards) the game mechanics, story and extravagant/imaginitive scenes.
Tools to provide that 'ease' (and a game engine which can use the wide range of resulting Assets) will eventually be done -- otherwise computer games will continue to stagnate as they already have. Thinking about there being so many reuseable assets -- the Creator (Player) would need to be able to quickly find (search) and inspect those available, to fit into whatever assemblage they conceive of and wish to create. Good Search Tools would need to exist, and include quickly applying the found Assets into their composition (for viewing) to verify it being what the creator imagined.
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Moderation of the Game World (of Map Growth) :
One problem that I forsee - Players too easily running all over the World Map 'discovering' new places that would require the Auto-Generator to greatly expand the 'known terrain' and thus have to use the available templates which initially may not be as large a set as later when the Player Creation additions have a chance to grow). Once explored/defined/composed 'on-the-fly', the terrain/props/contents/denziens would be 'REALized' as data, and then have to largely stay constant (because was seen by a Player). This might cause large areas to be fairly repetitious, when later there may be many more options to combinatorically randomize and create the location's contents from.
You also generally dont want some easy passage allowing the first Player to find and scoop up all the goodies leaving little for anyone else. This game doesnt have endless 'special' respawns "so everyone can have one" which make so many MMORPGs seem so lamely staged.
Some solutions - Slow down ability of Players to traverse large areas :
- Vehicles/equipment they wont initially have, which are required to cross certain boundries (Diver suits, Subs, working Bathysphere routes, Gasmasks or Oxygen). Likewise early on after the MMORP officially starts, many Players would not have enough skills to get past moderately difficult obstacles.
- Difficulty in passage - blocked doors/passages that take time to open/repair, hazardous areas that must be carefully travered or cleared/neutralized, hostile Splicers/Vermin/Others that do not allow free passage (and since Splicers move around they can reoccupy places). Some locations are just too hard to get to for a long time. Even when you get to a 'new' place, exploring it all in any detail will take a long time with all the hazards/blockages and the multitude of interesting things contained.
- Compartmentalization - a passage thru one section does not reveal adjacent sections which can be 'realized' later after similar slowed access (if you never open that blocked door there could be just about anything behind it). General detail of space can be defined (the basic shape of the City would exist in premade 'seed data' of building locations/themes so the city will have a cohesive design), but specifically what is in the unseen volume can be deferred until Players get closer.
- Limiting information about areas 'discovered' by others, to make it more difficult for a Player to pick easy routes to reach new areas. Surveys which expand 'common knowledge' should be required (and take some effort/time) before such information is available/easily accessed 'by the many'.
- Changeable situations in terrain which require subsequent accesses to exert additional effort (hazards are not static, inhabitatnts move around). A changeable environment may close off paths, if the Player later tries to retrace their steps (various malfunctions, entropy(damage), actions of Splicers, even mishaps by other Players).
- Many Quests/Missions (carefully) use generic locations which do not have to persist (Splicers/Factions move around and situations seen on a Mission may not remain at the locations any longer). Twisty confusing paths that arent exactly traceable (back) - ex- drainage tunnels in basements throughout the City's buildings).
- Players themselves often will take "paths of least resistance" and often not be willing to go into hazardous areas (ex- 'new' areas never 'passified' incrementally by previous Players...). Deep penetration reaching 'new' areas likely will take too much resources most of the time (inventory wont be unrealistic like in most games). Camping out in the 'Ruins' is extremely hazardous so 'returning to base' will force Players to retrace their steps (increasing difficulties of going 'far' into new areas).
- Interesting activities in the 'already' discovered areas (one hopes) should keep alot of Players from needing to explore so far and 'random encounters' along the way to keep things from always going the way the Player expects. A term I coined years ago was : "a game where there is something interesting under every rock".
Early experimentation on Testing Servers will have to determine how difficult things NEED to be to stop excessively fast expansion, as well as how effective various tuning factors can be and for what. How fast is fast enough? (too slow is as bad as too fast.) Thats a design issue, similar to how hard the City Rebuilding is to be in the game. Players will want to see visible progress, but the game Worlds will run for years.