Gravelords and Passive Multiplayer in Dark Souls 2: Meaningless Just-For-Fun Thought Experiments

Hopefully this is the last bit of my current Dark Souls posting madness. Anyways I was having a conversation with someone over how multiplayer currently works and was talking about the things they’d probably want to do in Dark Souls 2. The return of dedicated servers probably represents an increased capacity for inter-game communication. The ‘lobby’ system build upon XBL/PSN/GFWLs intrinsic room systems is cute, but I have a feeling it really restricts how much they can do.

Passive Multiplayer

They’ve probably been thinking about this since Demon’s Souls. The idea of slipping into someone else’s world unknowingly is deeply in the spirit of Dark Souls. Imagine while exploring an area, you encounter a “grey” phantom. In fact, both of you look grey to each other. You can harm each other, share souls for enemies that were slain and can share the victory of boss battles. This is similar to when a red and blue phantom meet in Dark Souls… Do they gang up on the host, or do they fight each other? The tension is wonderful.

Now, even if they could have done it in Demon’s Souls though, they probably wouldn’t have. The maps in that game would not lend themselves well to it. You’d slip into another players world and everything in front of you would be dead. Dark Soul’s more open maps make this more of a possibility, but the game is already doing too much when it comes to juggling connections.

Dark Souls 2, with an open world map and dedicated server could make this happen. It’ll likely also change how the world is formulated if they do it. Approaching areas from different directions is key to making this sort of interaction interesting and jarring. An idea that sticks with me is the idea of an important bridge or road that connect parts of the world, where, even in the absence of a boss, such connections could be made. Where when crossing the road, you might for a moment pass other player traveling in the opposite direction, who might continue on his way, attack you, or who knows what else. Such transient interactions deeply interest me, as does the tension surrounding them.

Another small idea is simply using an item (maybe just the white soap stone) to ‘ally’ with the host (for practicalities sake if you decide to help each other) but also having the ability to break this alliance on a whim (say, using a red eyed orb).

Grave Lords

I’ve written about this before. Conceptually, Grave Lords are awesome. I gave the idea earlier in the year of ‘placing’ grave lord signs as a source of enemies. While this would be more fun than the current setup, the result would just be attempts to redundantly clog important areas with piles of BPs. So I came up with what I thought would be a decent implementation for DS2. What they do, if the continue the Gravelord concept at all, will likely be much better, but this was a rather complete implementation, so I decided to share it.

On the Gravelord sign, I would put 3 markers, one for each world. You see them ‘fill in’ as you successfully corrupt worlds. When a player you corrupted dies, one of the markers turns red. This means there is a bloodstain in the area, much like the ones invaders leave. You explore the level to try to see where the player died to collect some souls/collectibles/whatever. You can also watch a more in depth death replay than normal (just show the enemy silhouettes too, basically). Now you have tactile feedback and you’re doing more than standing around waiting for PVP.

Now, to make this more interesting, you can also have it so BPs spawn in the gravelords world too. Perhaps his local ones get weaker as he infects more worlds or something. Now, anyone who invades him will also be attacked by these phantoms, as will the host. So the gravelord has to be able to carefully navigate his world to collect his winnings. Aural decoy, alluring skulls, some new spells that are covenant specific? He can use this BPs to his advantage when invaded, but that can also turn on him and get him killed. The Gravelord will probably want to clear out some enemies to make his life more manageable, but if he empties the level, or the level around him, he can’t make use of the advantages of his BPs. You can try to balance this in other ways too. I don’t know what the mechanic would be for handling this, but I like the idea that the strength of the BPs are based on the Gravelord sacrificing strength (if only for that life). So the more powerful the BPs in the world, the weaker the gravelord is… but the weaker the gravelord is, the harder it is for him to reap the blood stains of his victims and the more dependent he becomes of the enemies in his stage to do the fighting for him.

So yeah, just wanted to throw those two thoughts out there. I feel the neutral phantom thing is something that FROM has to be considering (whether they actually do it is another thing entirely), but the Gravelord thing is just my own little thought experiment. I should probably get to working on Brave Earth more, rather than wanking it to Dark Souls. :P

4 thoughts on “Gravelords and Passive Multiplayer in Dark Souls 2: Meaningless Just-For-Fun Thought Experiments

  1. Yeah, sorta. The Souls games and Journey have surprisingly overlap in the Great Venn Diagram. Journey have even have been partially inspired by the Demon’s Souls multiplayer (which it’s self was simply trying to capture the unique properties of an MMO without the cruft). This is the generation for weird, anonymous and or strange online interactions. I hope this trend continues.

  2. Your ideas for gravelording mirror what I try to make happen in dark souls already. It can be pretty fun to gravelord people and use undead rapport to have them fight some big tough NG+ monster. I also co-ordinate with dark spirits that invade, who are usually happy to fight a stream of spirits of vengeance while I stand in a high traffic area. I do it more for the feel of having ‘one last black phantom minion’ rather than to gank, that wouldn’ be fun.

    An even more tactile implementation for gravelords would be for them to invade other worlds as an invisible phantom who can touch enemies to turn them into BPs or otherwise sabotage the host’s world. The idea of actually controlling an enemy itself is really cool but maybe too hard to do right. Either way, you’d know for sure if your dirty work was resulting in kills. It could even be set up so that the gravelord never has to pvp and you ‘lose’ if the host makes it to the boss. This would be neat as a multiplayer covenant for people that are scared of or not interested in regular pvping.

  3. Yeah, watching people play with Rapport was one of the things that made me think of this. As for the host invading and actively sabotaging the world, I would LOVE to see that, but I definitely wanted, for thematic reasons, keep it as ‘the covenant where people come to you’. It would be nice to see what you mentioned though. Perhaps Velka punished the guilty in slightly different ways? :)

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