I have been thinking about MMORPGs. In particular, I have been daydreaming about what I want to see in a next generation game. With that in mind, if I won the lottery tomorrow and I was able to toss $100,000,000 into a project, these are some of the elements it would have to have:
- Every role that a static NPC performs, such as merchant, bartender, mayor, criminal leader, guard, etc., should be a role that a player has a path to replace that NPC. There is a role-playing ideal which in the player character and the non-player character should be indistinguishable in the world of the game. To my knowledge, no theme-park, story-driven MMO has backed off of making the players world-saving heroes enough to make them part of the world. Adventuring and treasure-hunting should always be options, but the player character should bring a unique skillset to every quest, precipitating a complementary set of strategies for the player to attempts.
- Player characters as opponents rather than AI whenever possible. I have already established that players should be able to take on RPG roles normally given to NPCs. One thing NPCs are good for is outsourcing jobs to adventurers. The player who has taken on a non-adventurer/mercenary roles should have the option outsource a task to another player. And if that task is to attack another player, all the better. Because when your opponent is human, each objective requires thought.
- More ways to accomplish objectives rather than combat. As in the real world, combat is always an option, but more often than not we do not choose. In CasualSlack’s $100,000,000 MMORPG, the player will have to handle every situation in a way that gives them the greatest advantage. Hire a mercenary to hunt discover the identity of a serial killer. Criminalize magic to force an allied player’s rival out of town. Offer a suit of armor to a Treasure-Hunter to steal a sacred tome from an ancient tomb. Every player or NPC needs to accomplish objectives. While killing should be an option, it should not always be the best option.
- The player’s chosen skillset should make a difference in how the player interacts with the world. In my MMORPG experience, I have seen class-specific quests and faction-specific quest. Typically, they all go the same way, fight your way to an item or fight your way to a boss and fight him. In my game, if fighting is not within developed with the player’s skillset, the player would be a fool to choose combat as an option to get what they want. The game should be programmed only to offer options that are unlocked by the player’s previous choices up to the time of the decision at hand.
- Every role path the player has the option of progressing through should be as complete and as satisfying as any game where the player has locked themselves into a class before creating the character. In most RPGs, class is only relevant to combat and is meaningless otherwise. In my game, the role path that the player chooses at the beginning of the game is only a means to determine what objectives they will have to start with and what initial skills will form the foundation of their skillset. The player can choose to expand their skillset, but it will be the progress of the individual skills that determine the types of encounters and decision points and level of difficulty that the player is confronted with. Once the player has maxed out all the skills available to them, chore that would take far longer than maxing out a single skill, all decision unlocks and the spontaneous gameplay associated with them. Alternately, the player who focuses on a narrower skillset will progress faster and have options available to them sooner that give them great early advantages, but leave them vulnerable to more well-rounded players. Both types of players should have a satisfying variety of options to deal with conflict imposed upon them by NPC and Players alike and opportunities tailored to them.
- The game needs a matchmaking system should direct players into conflict with each other.to track what players are making which decisions in which territories and matchmake them appropriately. The more decisions the player makes, the more likely another player is to get the option to oppose them.
Basically, my big idea to put sandbox freedoms with theme-park design and storytelling. I want a game that puts emphasis the player’s decisions impacting their gameplay so that their experience wraps around their choices. I also want a game that has moved beyond video game convention and can employ multiple modes besides combat to provide the basis for character progression. At the same time, an MMORPG must be about conflict. The conflict with other players must be based on decisions made as the result of a player believing that direct competition is the best avenue for character progression available to them. All of that is the core of the game I’d make.
If it already exists, somebody let me know.