So I've covered a LOT of the different aspects of what would be my perfect MMORPG. Still a lot to cover, thanks for reading and commenting! I will go back and update the overview with links to the various sections as I go, please be patient!
On that note...
Player versus Environment. PVE.
So I aim to create this amazing world with awesome character advancement, sweet PVP systems and crafting, a focus on the character and your play style rather then gear, etc.
But what will you be able to do in game?
The first part of PVE I already introduced in the crafting and the economy sections; the Trade Routes system. A mix of combat (if you wish) travel, economics, and crafting. I think my Trade Routes system as an evolutionary step in the right direction to provide repeatable, worthwhile, fun and profitable content without becoming a grind.
I want a storyline that actually matters. Similar to that which we find in single player RPGs that is complete with awesome characters, and a plot filled with twists and turns, character growth and intrigue, and epic struggle.
The only way to pull this off in an MMORPG is through instancing. LOTRO is doing a really good job in regards to crafting that story for the player, with a nice mix of cut scenes, instanced action, plot development and world-changing events. I'd like to follow a similar route.
When you play through the main story arc, most of the play will take you to instanced location for you and even a few friends if you so choose. Players who have already completed the part of the story you are on, or are at the same point will be able to join you in your instanced story elements, but not players who haven't gotten that far yet. You don't want to skip any important story elements because it'll dilute and convolute the story for that player.
It's hard to do a good, character driven story in a MMORPG because every player character is different. So you focus the story on a group of NPC characters and events, villains and objectives that are important to the NPC characters you make the story revolve around. The player becomes a participant observer in the story, playing a key role in all plot developments, but the story must revolve around the NPC characters in order for it to work. Just like LOTRO is doing.
I also want the main story line to NOT be level specific, because it is instanced and "private" to your character, it's easy enough to cater the experience around whatever level your character happens to be. And if you remember from my character advancement section, it's more about skills then level in my game anyway.
You can divide the story into a few books, and each book into different chapters. This way, you can have major events occur at the end of books that change the world, and all players still within that book will see the same locations in the world. Guild Wars did it with Ascalon, with the before and after the apocalypse. LOTRO did the same thing with the starting city (can't remember the name) that is burned down during an attack.
This way, you can create world changing story elements without messing up the game for other players that are not yet at that point in the story. So if players don't want to do the main story line, they don't have to, they'll just always see the world as it was before any of the story events. Obviously you WANT people to participate in the story and "advance" the world, so you give incentive to change the world by going through the story: they don't become "stuck" in the old world areas as they existed before the story elements that change them.
Besides the main story line (which of course has an ending) you have side story arcs. These side story arcs are more specific to the area or individuals who initiate the story, and will be handled like your typical MMO standard-fair questing. I don't want "go to x and kill y" just for the sake of doing it. Every quest will be part of a story arc. So instead of 1,000 random quests and 50 quest-chain mini story arcs, every quest will be part of a chain that will form it's own side story arc. For instance, you travel to a new village and all the quests in that village are part of the same story arc. All leading to a big, epic "end" quest for that arc that will close up all the loose ends, and probably lead you to another area for another story arc.
Of course quests will grant you XP and money for completing them. You'll also gain skills for any activity you do that uses your skills. Also, each story arc will be tied to a specific faction or reputation. There will be NO grind. If you complete all the quests for a particular story arc, you will have the maximum reputation with that group or faction. Simple. No grinding for reputation turn ins. If you do everything they ask of you, they will love you. Reputation will grant you titles and various bonuses from vendors/traders from that within that faction/group.
Also, you will have an overarching "Infamy" rating. The only way to advance your Infamy rating will be to complete story arcs for different groups / factions. Your infamy will grant you specific titles much like what we saw in Ultima Online. Things like "The Well Known" to "The Infamous" so and so. Infamy will help you with every faction and every group. You're reputation will precede you, even if you've never been to an area before.
The side story arcs will also grant you the ability to change your Morality. Morality will function as a measure of "good vs. evil" and will open and close some doors for you, leading to additional story arcs and Morality specific content. Through the course of story arcs you'll be able to make choices as to how you wish to accomplish a specific task. These won't be "black and white" choices most of the time, as any choice will have consequences. Whether you are good or evil will not effect your standing with the various factions/groups, as they will praise you for getting the job done. It will also have no effect on your Infamy.
Besides the main plot line and story arcs, you will have missions available to you. These are meant to be for a quick bit of experience, money, and skill advancement. These will be like the missions we saw in SWG, repeatable, quick, and without all too much variation. The missions are designed for the player who doesn't have much time to play and just wants to do something quick and profitable. These are NOT meant for constant grinding, though, you can if you want to of course.
Also I want to have Guild tasks. Not player Guilds, but NPC Guilds such as a Mage's Guild, Adventurer's Guild, Warrior's Guild, Assassin's Guild etc. These will be kind of like side-side story arcs, focusing on proving your merit to the Guild by completing tasks associated with that Guild's desires. Guild membership will grant you access to further challenges, riches, and titles. These are completely optional but a fun way to advance your character further. Getting high enough ranking within the Guild will grant you access to more Guild specific advancement options.
You can imagine typical examples of tasks a Guild will have for you. The Mage's Guild might send you to find a cure to a plague infesting some town, the Warrior's Guild may have you dispatch some bandits, the Adventurer's Guild might have you explore some forgotten ruins... that kind of stuff.
Also there will be Crafting Guilds. Crafting Guild tasks will be stuff like filling our orders for specific items, delivering goods to different locations through the Trade Routes system, that kind of stuff. You'll gain access to Crafter specific titles and recipes.
Pretty much with Guilds, it's stuff you'd kind of being doing anyway, but you get a little more reward and "direction" for doing it. I never want players to have nothing to do, so having these Guilds will be a good way to point you in the right direction towards something interesting and fun.
That is enough for a typical MMORPG all by itself, but I want more.
Next post will cover dungeons, raids, crawl-dungeons, and the PVE conquest system. Thanks for reading! Please comment!