Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Tobold had another thought-provoking post on his blog today about a new vision for MMORPGs. Games like Everquest, WoW and more recently Lord of the Rings Online seem to be stuck in an "old vision" of leveling, forced grouping and other MMORPG staples. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of unintended consequences. Many people like leveling but hate "end game." Rather than guiding people towards social interactions and friendships, "end game" shoves people into guilds to get "phat lewtz," other players be damned. It doesn't need to be this way.

A while back, I posted the following ideas on creating a new MMORPG on the web site of my WoW guild. The ideas are worth posting again ... I think. :)

Let’s say you inherit a bajllion dollars and wanted to make the next WoW. Or someone puts you in charge of the MMORPG industry. Or Blizzard approaches you and says “based on your skills in farming peacebloom, you are obviously the one to tell us how to make our next MMORPG.” What would your game include? How would you make it fun? What would the “goal(s)” be? Would you still use levels? Would you allow PvP? Make it all PvP? What would your setting be? (You can use a total rip off of an existing game or make something up.)

What’s prompting the question, you ask? I’ve been playing a number of games lately (mainly WoW, but also Oblivion) and have also played Quake, Unreal Tournament and Heavy Gear II. There are aspects of all these games that make them fun, and other aspects where I’m not sure I like them.

My game ideas:
1 – A MMORPG. It would be a fantasy-type game with knights and dragons and its own Lore. There would be a massive on-line world with swamps and dungeons and forests for players to explore. The graphics would be WoW-esque. I’d want people to play the game on whatever machine they had (within reason, sorry, Commodore 64 fans).

2 – Limited number of players on a shard. A low limit. Like 500 or less. The reason for the limit is. The number may go up depending on the needs of the system devised below. On the other hand, it could also be cool to have a very open game with a massive land mass where any player in the game could interact with any other player.

3 – Players can develop land in-game to make their own houses and castles. A castle would cost a crap-ton of money whereas a house could be cheap. Castles would be more for guilds and houses for single players or a small group. If building in a town, the player would have to talk to the count / countess and get permission and pay taxes / fees etc to buy an existing house or build their own. Outside of towns, you can build where you want, but there is no protection from the guards and you’ll have to find a way to make sure wild animals or bad-guys don’t take your stuff. You could also construct your own places of business, such as inns or taverns, and charge other players for the stuff you’re selling. Wherever you build, there are costs associated with it. If building in a town, there are “zoning rules” which will ensure players cannot build too close together or on each other’s stuff.

4 – No levels. At character creation, you have all the base-stats you’ll ever have (with modifiers you select at creation). Stats can be changed via itemization, however, stats for itemization will be limited. While leveling gives a sense of progression, I think we can come up with some other neat things to do besides kill slugs for two hours just so you can move up to killing giant slugs.

5 – Crafting. The majority of the items in the game can be constructed by players. The best items in the game are also crafted items. New patterns can be introduced periodically to ensure that people will keep wanting stuff. Also, players that choose blacksmithing can repair other player’s gear. Repairing gear, however, will require reagents so there will be a cost associated with it. Additionally, blacksmiths with a skill subset will be better at repairing some items than others (armor smiths for armor).

6 – Changing the world. Player actions will have an outcome on world events. I was thinking of an invasion-type scenario (like Oblivion). If the players do nothing, that’s fine. But more and more baddies will crop up and pick fights all over the place until all the towns are under siege. Some towns will be targeted by the baddies anyway, giving players the chance to defend their lands and drive back invaders. If a town goes undefended for too long, it can fall to the enemy. Towns that are taken can be reclaimed by players and rebuilt. If the players do decide to fight, and fight early. They can keep the invasion forces at bay. The enemy forces will be tenacious indeed and will try to work their way around the defenders, including sneak attacks and raids.

7 – Players can give quests to other players. So you’re an armor smith that needs a certain type of ore for armor repairs at an outpost. You’re also a ranger trying to defend the frontier against a new invasion from the northlands. You don’t have time to do both and on your server, people have decided that stemming the invasion takes top priority. So what do you do? You find another player that doesn’t really care much about fighting the invasion and give them a quest to get the ore for you. The return for the work is whatever you’ve arranged. Money, free repairs, etc. They actually get an entry in their quest log for the quest. If you have talked to two players, however, and one completes the quest, you can make the other player’s quest invalid. You already got your ore.

Ideally, the interesting thing about the game is how players deal with the enemy AI and how they shape their world. Move to a different shard and they will not be in the same state as another one. You could have a shard where they let the invasion slide, and it’s total chaos. You could have another shard where they keep pushing back and it’s relatively peaceful. The benefits of a peaceful shard are that commerce can flourish. Players will have the best stuff available because they will have free access to materials and trade routes. Another fun thing players may want to do is create special groups and go to an area where the enemy is everywhere just to take back stuff. The enemy can also be set up so that there are lulls in the fighting where players can just roam and explore stuff.

The history of your shard is the history you created. You’ll remember the time when the “Rangers of the North” (a group of players) were created from town funds to prevent raids like the one that destroyed town “x.” You can be part of the efforts to rebuild and resettle town “x.” Move to a different shard and it will be a different history. Maybe there was no invasion from the north. Maybe there was, but it’s still underway. Maybe the players said “to hell with town x” and it’s now a ruin with monsters and things to explore for the adventurous.

So whaddaya think? Neat? Stupid? Needs more cowbell? What would you like to see if you were building a game world?

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