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Old 11-12-2008, 11:30 AM   #1
Kereth
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Post Idle exp

Call it what you want, whether it's heartbeat exp, roleplay bonuses, or whatever, a lot of MUDs like to give players exp just for logging in and sitting around doing nothing. So what effect does this have on gameplay?

Now, obviously, it does wonders for making the MUD look good, seeming to prosper even when it isn't. If you give exp just for idling, a natural side-effect is that players will be logged in at all times, just gathering up that idle-exp. This makes for a fantastic boost to MUD player count numbers, as the average number of players logged in may be almost equal to the total number who play at all (whereas one MUD might have 60 players who log in now and then, they'll only show maybe 20 online at a time, but if all log in all the time and stay idle, they've tripled their number). This looks fantastic to new players, who if given two MUDs of similar concept, but one has 20 players at a time and the other has 60, will often choose the higher populated one, because hey, everyone else likes it, don't they? And of course, for those MUDs with no obvious multi-play rules, one player may have several characters on idling at all times, multiplying the player totals artificially even further (Yes, I've seen MUDs like this too).

Any thoughts? And beyond that, how much does this free exp (or even free money, in many cases) help or hurt ordinary play value? Should more MUDs adopt such a system? Or should they consider laying off the idea entirely?

-Kereth Midknight
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Old 11-12-2008, 03:34 PM   #2
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Re: Idle exp

Rather depends on the game mechanics. If the game relies heavily on combat, then, imho, this would bound to be bad news. If exp for say.. general skills, where kept separate, then one could have the system let you get better "ancient writings" or some such from it, which would have an "impact" on some game mechanics, like crafting, without having the "same" impact as you could get from actually "doing" the crafting. Example - improving that might allow making better magical scrolls, but not improve the "success" of actually doing so.

Ironically though, I haven't been playing text much, but fiddling with second life, and in there they have a combat system called CCS. This usually gives out about 5 exp per five minutes, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on whose area you are in. Right now, due to a redo of the experience tables and a remort, we are being given 6 per five minutes, to make up for some of the lost levels this caused. But, the system has to work this way, since the overhead on the server side is.. idiotic, at this point (a lot of the mechanics of texture handling and object rendering is done server side, then pushed through to the client, due to needing to at least "try" to protect people's ownership of the content), which means no NPCs, monsters, etc, and thus.. the only means to make exp is to either a) kill other people, or b) ticking it. Since the former is just stupid, and undermines RP, the later is done instead. Its.. really a pain sometimes, even in this context, since you get a few people, like one Arch-Demon, who is so strong he is almost impossible to defeat, even if 50 people are trying to kill him, (And that much script activity/people/guns firing, etc. makes it almost impossible to fight anyway.), for no other reason than he spent a "lot" of time logged into the region. It.. badly screwed game mechanics imho, even when unavoidable, since, especially where everything is basically PVP, people can do anything they damn well please, within the limits allowed, including bordering on godmodding, and get by with it, since you don't represent "any" sort of real threat at all.
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Old 11-12-2008, 03:35 PM   #3
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Re: Idle exp

I'd be interested in some specific examples here, because most if not all of the time bonus systems I've seen don't work when you're idling, or it doesn't matter if you idle or not. You get RPXP when you RP obviously, so you're not idle there (unless you count waiting for the other person to respond as idling). Flat timed XP systems usually just award XP on a weekly or monthly basis (more typical in mushes, true), and the other timed rewards I've seen ignore idle/afk time in their calculation.

On the other hand maybe you have a different definition of idling -- does some common chitchat between characters count as idling? I'd say no, but if you say yes I can see your point.

I think timed bonuses have some good effects other than PR (which isn't a bad effect at all really). Mainly they partially level the playing field between people who have many hours to spend on a mud and more casual players. Usually casual players will get left out of the mix simply because they can't grind (or bot) for whatever reason, and I think in general a mud will do itself a disservice if it doesn't try to make a game good for casual players.

Of course some muds, RPIs maybe, won't care as much about casual players. But even in a RPI timed bonuses can help, as it can be difficult to adequately or semi-objectively reward the quality of someone's RP. A timed bonus is a neutral reward which benefits most PCs.
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Old 11-12-2008, 04:43 PM   #4
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Smile Re: Idle exp

A few examples of MUDs that spawned this context are in order then. We'll take two of the more popular ones that I have had experience with: NewWorlds and Discworld.

Discworld is just flat "heartbeat exp." Basically, you slowly tick exp as long as you're logged in. It's not nearly as fast as farming, particularly at later levels, but it's enough that it makes it worth your while to sit and idle, and yes, you don't have to do anything at all, not chatting or moving around. If you're logged in, you get heartbeat exp. I think the game will kick you if you idle too long though, probably as a control, and triggers and scripts are forbidden there, so using something to keep you idle and logged in would be cheating.

NewWorlds, on the other hand, gives exp and cash out in chunks every set number of hours spent logged in. It's a lot slower accumulation though, compared to Discworld. They call this the "Roleplaying bonus." They also have an "mia" command that lets you stay connected, and their multiplaying rules permit two characters to be owned by a single player and logged in at the same time (with certain restrictions).

Both are fairly large muds (by reported player base size, though of course, that has to be taken in stride with the effects of idle exp). You can track the basic information from the listing on here, I'm sure.
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Old 11-12-2008, 04:46 PM   #5
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Re: Idle exp

In The Oriental Dojo, we have (not implemented fully yet, its what im working on today) a system that i call the Practice Dummy, within a players house is a Practice Dummy, it is useful for making out skills and spells as well as earning experience while AFK. The amount of experience earned is equal to about 1 kill per 10 minuites, its a trickle, but level gains take a fair amount of time and this is a nice little bonus, just for maxing out your skills. It is also a reason not to bot the rest of the game, which has survere penelties.
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Old 11-12-2008, 07:26 PM   #6
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Re: Idle exp

Whether idle xp is a good or a bad thing is likely to depend on other elements of your design.

On Maiden Desmodus players will be able to select one skill at a time to train and this skill will improve gradually over time while their character is in the game. The rate of skill gain will be very low and I don't expect it to be the primary means of skill advancement, however it will still add up over time. With this system I want players to feel that their character is progressing each time they visit the game.
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Old 11-13-2008, 03:08 AM   #7
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Re: Idle exp

I've just about stopped feeling like playing anything that doesn't use time-based advancement (TBA)--this isn't "rest XP": you get XP/character points simply by existing, logged in or not. Of course, I play MUSHes, where the point isn't combat but RP. If it wasn't TBA, it would probably be a nominate/vote system, so there still wouldn't be an "accomplishments-based" XP system anyways.

And even if combat is a primary concern... I'll mention Eve Online, which is probably considered the "best" PvP MMOG out there at the moment. I don't play it, mostly because I can't stand PvP, but it uses TBA for its skill system. It has a subscription base of around 200K players.
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Old 11-13-2008, 07:05 AM   #8
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Re: Idle exp

In Last City (my old WoD RP mud) I awarded exp the first time you logged on each day, and again for your first hour of play each day. I didn't view it as idle exp, but rather as playing exp - if someone wanted to idle for it they obviously could, but most people would spend their time roleplaying, socialising, exploring, building or fighting. It basically let people decide what they wanted to do with their online time, rather than forcing them to grind specific activites.

I think my inspiration mainly came from the LARP games I played around the same time, where you earned 1 exp for every session you attended, regardless of what you did. You could simply turn up and sit at the bar if you wanted to - but if you weren't interested in playing, you had no real reason to care about exp anyway.

GodWars Deluxe also gives 1 exp per second, but it's such a trivial amount that it's almost meaningless. It did seem to encourage newbies to hang around longer though.
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Old 11-15-2008, 01:05 PM   #9
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Re: Idle exp

Exp is not a reward if it fails to grant access to something a player actually wants. If empty exp cannot influence the behavior of players, then it cannot influence gameplay. (It could influence the behavior of players if total exp is scarce and empty exp is analogous to hoarding.) What this means for idlers is that they are ultimately brought back to the game by expectations of what they can do in the game -- by the promise that there is a reason not to idle.

So idlers who routinely come back to the game probably fall in two camps:
1) People who want to play this game but have to leave the game to sustain that lifestyle.
2) People who don't want to play this game, but do want to play a different game that they see as accessible only by playing this game.

In the first case, you need a good idea of what the idler thinks of as "this game" in order to know whether idle exp is a good or bad thing. A person who enjoys the game may be miffed that when they come back the exp has pushed them into a different game, or they may be glad that they haven't been pulled back into a different game (such as being drastically lower rank than their friends).

In the second case, idle exp is probably a good thing, so long as it only changes the game significantly for the person who doesn't enjoy the current game. Even if the change turns out to be much worse than they expected, so long as the cost of getting there was insignificant, then the information adds to their ability to choose what to do next: press on, start over, or go elsewhere.

Last edited by Burrytar : 11-15-2008 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 06-06-2010, 11:23 AM   #10
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Re: Idle exp

I like the idea of stopping the online clock when you are afk
and implementing an auto afk flag that sets you as afk if you dont do anything for say 10 mins...

obviously you will get people cheating this with timers but that can be spotted quite easily
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Old 06-06-2010, 10:51 PM   #11
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Re: Idle exp

Some might insist this is irrelevant, but in CCS (Community Combat System) in Second Life, we are looking at a complete redo, where you have to be actively practicing skills to actually learn them. A similar sort of thing works for Eve Online, where you have to line up a skill or group of them, if you have room in the queue, in order to learn the skill in question. The former one currently just ticks, for as long as you are on, and has a time out, and a now a captcha test, to prevent disabling. You have to turn off the meter to stop it, then, as soon as you click it on again, you usually get hit by the captcha (which I find slightly annoying). This is going to change, once they make it so you have to actively train a skill, and lose levels with it.

While this isn't exactly "mud" tech, it solves the main issue. You don't have to beat anything up to gain XP, and in fact, except special quests (in CCS), like the guy that kills a specific NPC, or the last one standing in a competition, etc., you *can't* gain XP from killing anything. It makes for a rather different way of managing things. Though, the Eve system is, imho, slightly fairer to people that can't be on 8 hours a day, since it constantly ticks, you just have to make sure you have something for it to tick towards.

And, yeah, the whole reason why CCS is going to go levelless and change how its skill system works, and why the timout and captcha was added for now, is **precisely** because, even in a graphical client, someone can manage to find a way to cheat it. In this case "camping" - Being online with the character, with the meter running, while talking about things other than the RP environment, or just not even at the keyboard at all.

Mind, it was funner, sometimes, when a high level "fixed" the problem by pounding the buggers doing it into the ground. The GMs though.. didn't feel this was a good way to handle it. lol
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Old 06-07-2010, 02:30 AM   #12
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Re: Idle exp

XP is a motivator. If it's not, it should be.

It is used to make your character better, which is either a goal itself, or gives a greater ability for the player to reach other goals.

So idle XP is a good idea, or not, depending on what you'd like to motivate. If you want players to do something, reward it with XP. Simple as that.

If you want players to be online, so the game looks full, reward it with XP.
If you want players to go out and fight and kill NPCs, then reward THAT with XP, and don't reward the idlers.
If you want players to mingle in social areas, reward being in those social areas with XP.

And so on.

Idle XP is a really bad idea, for my game, because the game is so social. Players look at the list of other character online to see whether someone they need to speak with is available. Seeing that the head of a house is online will motivate them to seek out that character to negotiate politics, or whatever. If they regularly find that character idling and unable to respond, they will learn not to use the online list, which means they will loose that opportunity during the times when the character *isn't* idling.

So, for my game, idling players is bad. We should avoid rewarding them, as I'd rather the players log off when they're idle. In your game, it might not be harmful.

Personally, I don't see the point, other than making the game look full. If you're going to give idle xp, why not just give them the xp whether they're online or not? That way returning players get a swag of XP to spend, and will be excited about trying out their new skills, probably have more fun the first few days, and be more likely to stick around.
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Old 06-07-2010, 04:06 AM   #13
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Re: Idle exp

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Originally Posted by silvarilon View Post
Personally, I don't see the point, other than making the game look full. If you're going to give idle xp, why not just give them the xp whether they're online or not?
Because then there's no incentive for them to even bother logging on.

The approach I mentioned earlier in the thread actually worked pretty well, giving players an incentive to log on for a short while each day, but not forcing them to grind kills or do any other specific activities. If they just wanted to hang out and chat (or even idle) that was fine, but it wasn't uncommon for players to log on for their 1 hour of exp, and find themselves caught up in roleplaying for several more hours - during which time other players would log on for their hour of exp, and also get pulled in.
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Old 06-07-2010, 01:56 PM   #14
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Re: Idle exp

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Call it what you want, whether it's heartbeat exp, roleplay bonuses, or whatever, a lot of MUDs like to give players exp just for logging in and sitting around doing nothing. So what effect does this have on gameplay?
Since New Worlds Ateraan was mentioned in here somewhere I'll comment briefly on how it operates and is handled on the game and whether it works or not.

First, the system is not based on hours on game as mentioned. You actually must be active or the logorithym changes significantly depending on where you are and what you are doing.

Second and more importantly, if all players did was idle and got bonuses that would be a horrible system as mentioned, because no one would be actually roleplaying or playing. So for the sake of an answer, it really depends on how your system operates and how the players operate within it.

This is never the case in NWA as on a normal check (and we check) on average 80% or more of the players are active all the time. This is also very apparent on an unscheduled reboot (like our 24 hours of down time) where over 100 players logged back on within an hour of the game coming back up after over a day of outtage. That's some serious active roleplayers. Also the game crashed related to that down time the following day in the middle of the day and there were over 60 players back in the first couple minutes.

The point is, while some people take dinner breaks and idle at work sometimes, not many players are inactive in NWA as shown mostly by the interaction that occurs constantly on the streets, in temples, in caravans, or wherever you go in the game.

If you want interaction and roleplay, this is the place to come where you can always form adventure groups and have events and not be standing around for hours wondering where in the world everyone is.

New Worlds Ateraan
We'll Be waiting for you! (TM)

Hmm, something tells me I just turned that response into an advertisement.
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Old 06-08-2010, 07:11 AM   #15
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Re: Idle exp

The game I am working on now will have 'passive xp'. It is idle xp that you gain on a tick basis. However there are several things you need to consider if you wish to idle on it. First off if you idle for too long you will be booted out of the game. Second off the xp ticker is based on an invisible rating the IMMs give players that we up or down based on your active roleplaying. If you log on just to sit, your multiplier is going to be low and you may only get 1 or 2 xp per tick.

Also, if anyone is idling on a game, and just soaking XP, I would hope the admin staff of that game would do something about it, if it is not something they were going for.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:46 AM   #16
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Re: Idle exp

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First off if you idle for too long you will be booted out of the game.
You realise that players can easily create triggers to avoid that, right?

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Originally Posted by Aermyn View Post
Second off the xp ticker is based on an invisible rating the IMMs give players that we up or down based on your active roleplaying.
That sounds like a huge administrative overhead. So if a member of your staff snoops me and arbitrarily decides they don't like my roleplaying style, I could suddenly find myself earning exp much more slowly? If the rating is invisible, how would I be able to find out that they'd rated me down, so that I could request an explanation for their decision?

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If you log on just to sit, your multiplier is going to be low and you may only get 1 or 2 xp per tick.
What would be the maximum you could get per tick? And how long is a tick in real time?

Roughly what percentage of total exp comes from this system?
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Old 06-08-2010, 10:54 AM   #17
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Re: Idle exp

Well, first and foremost...take into consideration your dedicated and loyal players. Do THEY want such a system? If yes, then the system works, but it's not a one way street.

I've had experience with a MUD that used "roleplay points"...every tick, you earned a point. These "points" could be cashed in to earn EQ you couldn't find anywhere else in the realm. Now, to actually earn enough points by idling, you'd have to idle for THOUSANDS of hours. The real gravy came in when a staff member watched you roleplay. That's when you might earn as little as 25 points, up to a couple hundred, depending on the roleplay and the circumstances surrounding it.

And this is what I mean by two-way street. When I was a staff member, if I saw someone idling and using triggers to keep from voiding, I'd purge them to the realms of real life (frightening, I know!). And if I saw a couple players roleplaying, I'd award them points. This DID NOT involve snooping. This involved being wizzy and just watching them in a public area somewhere.

It requires more dedication by world staff, really. The players can log on and do their thing. But it requires staff members who actually watch the roleplay as it happens and keep an eye on those who want to abuse the system. On the above mentioned mud, the majority of the players DID NOT idle to gain roleplay points.

The diligent imm staff, the high cost for items using roleplay points, and honestly, interesting world storylines kept everyone happy and for the most part, kept them from abusing the system.

Do you have a dedicated staff? Do you have something worth earning through the accumulation of those points? Are your players generally happy? The system can work.
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:23 PM   #18
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Re: Idle exp

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Because then there's no incentive for them to even bother logging on.
The incentive to log on should ideally be enjoyment of the game, rather than a daily carrot-on-a-stick. While I can't argue with your results (i.e., people logging on for their XP and then staying longer), I personally wouldn't appreciate missing out on rewards if I didn't clock an hour per day, and I doubt I'm the only one. I played EVE Online for a period of three months, and the need to check my skill-learning queue daily and select new skills to work on made me feel tied down, eventually sapping my will to play. (If I'd ignored the queue, my skills would have stopped training.)

It's also intrinsically unfair. Under that system, let's say I play 3-4 hours per day, 4-5 days per week; on the other 2-3 days, I'm out of town, very busy, or otherwise indisposed. If I don't log in for at least one hour during such days, I miss out on 2-3 days' worth of rewards. On the other hand, someone who "really" plays only a few hours per week, yet logs in for an hour each and every day, receives a larger reward -- despite being far less active in the game than I am.

As you can see, with this system you could conceivably chase off players who would play very actively most of the time, yet can't be at a computer every single day of the week. Thus, it's a double-edged sword.

Personally, I don't think people should be rewarded for hours played or for frequency of logins, no matter how sophisticated the system used to track player activity. I see these as artificial methods of bolstering the number of players in-game, both in the MUDstats.com sense of "Players Online" and in the sense of trying to keep your MUD populated.

I'm playing an IRE MUD at the moment, and ever since I started playing, they've been doing "log on for at least X minutes daily and you get Y" promotions. This is slightly annoying to me, but it's minor and promotional incentivizing. If daily login/hours played rewards were a permanent and integral part of a MUD, I would not play it.

And that's a key point I should touch on: If these sorts of rewards are truly minor in nature, they're fine. If they're significant rewards, though, that's another story.

Last edited by Suicide Boy : 06-08-2010 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 06-09-2010, 08:48 AM   #19
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Re: Idle exp

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It's also intrinsically unfair.
I don't think it's "unfair", I think it just doesn't suit your personal playing habits. But whatever system is used, it's not going to suit everyone. Even if you were to give every player a fixed amount of exp, whether they're online or not, you'd have hardcore players complaining that they should be advancing faster than those who play less.

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Personally, I don't think people should be rewarded for hours played or for frequency of logins, no matter how sophisticated the system used to track player activity.
The standard approach for most muds is that you earn exp for killing mobs. But killing takes time, therefore you are indirectly earning exp based on hours played...and you'll hear plenty of players complain about how much they hate grinding.

By simply awarding exp based on online time you get the same end result (exp for playing), but the players don't have to grind. They can kill mobs if they wish (perhaps for collecting treasure), or they can do some crafting, or exploring, or roleplaying, or just socialise if they prefer. You're basically shifting the emphasis from "kill lots of monsters" to "play the game the way you want to play".

My current mud doesn't give idle exp, but it does award "boost points" the first time you log on each day, and these can be spent to speed up your advancement. If you're out of town with no internet access then you would still miss out, but if you're just very busy you could log on then immediately log off again. You could do this for up to 4 days in a row before reaching the maximum number of boost points, so this would certainly cover the "4-5 days per week" playing style you mentioned earlier.
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Old 06-09-2010, 11:54 PM   #20
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Re: Idle exp

Having played New Worlds recently (gave up for just this reason in March of this year), I can say that it is *extremely* frustrating to be on a so-called 'RP-enforced' game that actively endorses players idling. Apparently, it's considered 'roleplaying' if you leave your character in a Guild or Church location with the roompose of 'is resting here' whilst you, the player, goes off for many hours and isn't attentive to your character at all. Whilst you as a player are off doing what-ever else, your character is accruing bonuses for being online, and receives in-game rewards of both money and experience whilst you, the player, are at work or school or lounging in your back yard. This creates a 'who list' of a lot of characters , but it's an illusion. Trying to communicate In Character with any of these characters most often results in a 'They are AFK' response. Given that this game relies on merchant characters to forge and fix weapons, armour and create all the food in the game, this is a big deal.

Also, there are certain characters that you can start up in the 'South' (meant to be a more challenging starting point for a character), and to advance out of slavery or military service, you must have a certain number of hours logged. Most players just idle until their 'time is done' with these characters, then they apply for freedom so that they can then move on to join a guild in the game. This leaves players who actually want to RP, and be aware for their character's progress, disadvantaged as they have little chance of 'catching up' with those who chose to idle.

I thought this was hugely unfair and brought it up on more than one occasion. I was told, by a staff member of New Worlds, that I should idle and 'say it was like sleeping' for my character. Basically, I thought this was rubbish for a so-called 'Roleplaying Game', so I left and have not returned.

If this seems like a rant against New Worlds, I suppose it is. I don't know of another RP-enforced game that has such a strange take on Roleplaying. How or why should an idle player be rewarded in this way?
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