A living world, something that a lot of MMOs seem to boast with. There’s lots of interaction. You have player-to-player interaction, player-to-NPC interaction and NPC-to-player interaction. But there’s one thing missing that truly prevents all these great worlds from really coming alive. NPC-to-NPC interaction.
Ever noticed how the level 50 city guard always need your help dispatching those level 2 wolves? I mean if those guards were actually fighting off level 50 zombies to keep the city safe then sure. But they’re just standing around, at most they’re walking a small patrol route. Or how you’re hired to kill some bandits because they were assaulting caravans. Yet in all the months you’ve played you’ve yet to see a single caravan save for the burned wreckage near the bandits. And you’ve yet to see the bandits attack a single thing save for the players that attacked them first.
Let’s take an example from the all famous WoW here. You know that big volcano, Blackrock Mountain. I’m sure most of you do. Inside Blackrock Mountain there are two major factions. Seemingly in war with each other. There’s the evil Dwarves who’ve allied with Ragnaros and his fire elementals. And there’s Nefarian and his dragons who’ve allied with some evil Orcs. Those two factions are fighting over control of Blackrock Mountain. But in the year I’ve played I’ve never seen the two factions do any fighting at all that mattered, if they did any at all.
How cool would it be that one day you entered Blackrock Mountain and those evil Dwarves where had all ran out of the Blackrock Depths and were busy assaulting the Orcs who had taken over that rock which is kept floating in the middle by huge chains. In the lava below you can see Baron Geddon leading various fire elementals. In the air you see Firemaw accompanied by two other flying dragons. A week later the dwarves have been beaten back so far that the Blackrocks Depth instance is now inhabited by orcs instead of dwarves. Ragnaros has been weakened and the Molten Core is easier then ever. But Blackwing Lair has become much harder due to the additional strenght gained by Nefarius.
Or maybe when you’re in town you suddenly see a strange new NPC at the weaponsmith. When you check with the weaponsmith he boasts about the high quality metal he just bought. And when you trade him he suddenly has a Starmetal Blade for sale. But the next month that NPC never comes back because the Gnoll camp south of town is making the roads unsafe. Instead that NPC is now supplying players from the opposite faction!
What about NPCs bidding on auctions and actively participating in the economy? You’ve made a bid on a special sword. But suddenly a rich noble outbids you. The next day that noble is actually walking around with that very sword. Checking back at the auction house you suddenly see the blade the noble previously carried for sale! Maybe craftsmen could actually buy materials put up at the auction house. And if they manage to gather enough high quality materials they could put a special blade up for bids. Instead of each NPC having an endless amount of gold the amount they had would actually change depending on what players bought and sold to them. The prices actually changing depending on how much money the NPC in question had. If he was rich then he would buy high and sell low, but if he was poor he would buy low and sell high.
Even when it comes to normal wildlife MMOs have a long way to go. Since when to do wolves walk around their lair all day? Since when do gazelles no longer run away when a lion comes to close? Since when is each zone neatly divided into areas with diffirent wildlife? All tigers in the north and all gorillas in the south.
Think of an MMO in which creatures actually moved around the world. Where wolves actually hunted other animals. Where gazelles would run in fear when predators came too close. Where gorillas moved to another place because there were more bananas there.
An MMO where each time you entered a zone it would be different. Where you could influence the layout of the zone. By killing lions you could give the gazelles more space to live in, causing them to spawn more often. Or by killing big bad banana monsters you could force the gorillas to move to a new area where there were more bananas. Such beautifull dreams.....