I’m sitting at my day job today, running reports on different billing operations, tracking data for revenue collections, and in general making sure that our staff has work to do and that money is coming into our hospital. So naturally I’m watching episodes of Frasier, Scrubs, and The Simpsons on my iPod. And as I drown my boredom in the warm comforting glow of 20-minute solvable problems and corny sentiment, I can’t help but still drift even further off to a hobby I’d rather be partaking in back at home: gaming.
More specifically I’ve got an itch to dive into one of a half-dozen worlds that are sitting on my PC. I could go for a little adventuring in Champions, dive into the Allods Online beta, see what my guild’s up to in WoW, slice up some Gobbos in WAR, do some crafting in A Tale in the Desert, or even get all nautical in Pirates of the Burning Sea.
But I know me. I know I’d sit down and feel that where most of my characters are in each game would mean that I have to devote an hour or more to each title to accomplish much of anything. Sure I could run a quest in a few minutes in just about any of the abovementioned titles, but that would move my character’s progress bar all of a sliver. Plus most of these games’ subscriptions have lapsed, and I’d have to re-sub with the knowledge that one night might be all I get to play each week. I’ve got a fiancée, two dogs, two jobs, packing to do for a move to a new house… and suddenly, I feel grateful that I’m stuck at work where I can run some reports while watching sitcoms. It’s a good day.
And while watching Frasier help his father solve a crime that’s plagued his memory for years in a comical fashion, I start to wonder. Star Trek Online recently released with what they call “Episodes” serving as the main story-driven content. Each of these episodes I believe is intended to play out in about an hour’s time, just like the show used to. What if more online worlds delved into a similar line of thought, and catered directly to that?
Imagine a game that’s one part Sam & Max, and one part World of Warcraft, where the content was doled out in small doses from week to week and you only had to pay for each episode, or subscribe for the entire “season” as it were. You could play and replay any previously purchased content, but there would be no need to pay additional funds or a monthly subscription unless you wanted to buy into the newly released episodes.
Content would of course need to be scalable for parties of different sizes and level ranges, and I assume the world itself would be built on a smaller scale like Global Agenda as opposed to the wide-open reaches of Azeroth. And then there’s the problem of developing content at such a brisk pace as to satisfy a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. You’d better have some pretty hefty tools at your disposal to undertake such an endeavor. Still, despite how unfeasible such a game might be, I can’t help but want to see it happen one day.
It could be the perfect secondary MMO, or primary game for those like me who only get an hour here or there at most times during the workweek. I’d gladly pay a few bucks a week, or buy different episodes at my leisure which I could play and replay as much or as little as I’d like. The game’s marketplace for such a thing could have an iTunes like interface where players could rate their favorites, make playlists of certain bits of content, and share their opinions with the community. Storylines could carry out over several episodes, or be one-shot affairs, or even stretch over the course of an entire season.
But would you pay for something like that? Would a whole new subscription model attached to a whole different kind of game that’s based entirely on episodic content interest you? What would you need to see in place to make it enticing? How much would the episodes and seasons have to cost? I mean, who knows how progression and item systems would work, but I would assume they could remain largely similar to what we see in most games now. The main thing that would differentiate the game would be its way of content delivery.
And if you think I’m just a little insane or demented for even bringing up such a silly notion… then I’ll just go back to being blissfully unaware of my surroundings as I watch JD and Turk try to convince the patrons of Sacred Heart that they’re not gay.