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Persistent Misconceptions

Mark Hoerrner

It seems that everybody and their brother has hopped aboard the rabid, bouncing badger of persistent world-creation in order to have their chance at righting all the perceived wrongs of games such as Asheron's Call, Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online. What I keep hearing from these worlds is that although they plan to throw in a few modules, most are going to be carbon copies of the above MMORPGs, standing out only because they are following a different ruleset..

What does it truly mean to be persistent?

Persistent means you have a world going constantly, coming down only occasionally for updates and changes. It means you have a number of dungeons and towns that are the same for every player, regardless of class, and maybe, just maybe, you throw in a few quests to keep the interest level high. This leads us, the humble NWN community, to think of most of the persistent worlds out there as little more than personalized versions of existing MMORPGs. We have to get away from the idea that just because we are going to have these worlds running 24x7, it does not mean we have to settle for the existing models of large expanses of land packed with hundreds of wandering creatures to be slaughtered for experience. The beauty of NWN is not just the addition of the Dungeon Master to customize the adventure but to make the persistent world persistent in its evolution, not in its continuation of existing realms of gaming.

Certainly, some dungeons throughout the lands will have to be stocked with respawning monsters. There should be dungeons that are forever infested, despite the antics of the sword-wielding do-gooder. Some monster villages will be stocked with respawning creatures, but we do NOT have to allow camping and the unrealistic nature of consistently fighting the same monster over and over again because we are eating our mutton and wine on his doorstep. Certainly, you could have an orc camp that regenerated every 12 hours or so, allowing "a new orc" to assume leadership of the clan, giving him different stats than the previous chieftain the party defeated, and perhaps even granting him a differing alignment and outlook. We've got thousands, dare I say, millions, even, of dialogue-tree choices that the existing persistent worlds are without.

Persistent world creators need to be looking for the way to create a vibrant world with an elegant history and solid plotline as well a way to immerse the player. Not just the hack-n-slash (which is a necessary element of a DND world) but for those who want to roleplay and perhaps look at developing skills, working as a merchant, etc. Certainly, there will be haunted estates/mausoleums/dungeons that will always be haunted, but because of the power and ability of NWN, we can change those dungeons from week to week, day to day, hour to hour if we desire. One party's actions may clear the dungeon, only to have a large dragon and his minions take over that dungeon later that week. One party's actions could earn them the enmity of an evil/good NPC group.

It is my sincere hope that DMs will take the time to develop "persistent" to mean "persistently changing." In this, players learn to have a regular base of operations, and develop their characters over time, stopping to smell the roses and whatever devious/creative plans you have put in motion. You can have the fair share of loot and monster destruction, but finding ways to differentiate your world from those of what we know thus far will not only cut down on the powergamers showing up at your server, but will allow you much more creative freedom to design the adventures that really immerse people in our various fantasy settings.

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