I keep tinkering with game design / programming stuff but get side tracked all the time by too many ideas. I'm going to make a few posts of ideas that I'm not going to pursue but which are taking up room in my only modestly sized brain.
I was thinking about Darkfall and the whole FFA PvP thing and how a game would need to be if it was going to appeal to me (after various experiences over the years on PvP servers rife with hacks, exploits, macroing etc).
Game start would be a cut scene where a prison ship docked at a space station above some horrible planet. You'd shuffle off all chained together into the space station and the ship would leave. In your cell there'd be hologram training explaining the basics of the game. After that tutorial, which you could skip 2nd time round, there'd be another cut-scene where you'd be taken out of your cell and put into some kind of pod and fired out into some random point on the planet - a minumum distance away from other players and predator beasties. The pod would self-destruct within a few seconds so you'd need to get out quick and run or you'd die straight away.
You'd start the game completely naked (maybe some underwear).
The world would be huge and could be huge because it would be mostly empty. There'd be different terrain areas e.g temperate, desert, forest etc. There'd be large numbers of small and large herbivores and smaller numbers of predators. The herbivores would be crafting materials on legs while the predators would be very dangerous and best avoided wherever possible. There might also be some minor sentient goblin type mobs but these would mostly go around in groups and be very dangerous initially and best avoided. If a player was lucky enough to come across one on it's own it would be a good head start as they'd have better gear than a player could make early on.
The game would heavily revolve around crafting with most of the environment being usable or neccessary in some way. Your first weapon would be the first club-like piece of wood you could find. You'd be able to make basic tools from rocks and lumps of wood and with those basic tools you could make basic gear and the basic gear would help you kill something that dropped crafting materials you could use to make better tools which would make better gear etc in a kind of crafting spiral.
You wouldn't be able to master everything. Each craft category might take 100 points to master and you had say 200 points in total. There'd be sliders to portion out your points that would set the maximum e.g foraged tools 40, foraged weapons 40, foraged bow 40, foraged clothing 40, herbs and medicine 40 or bows 100 and everything else 20. You'd still have to practise to raise the skill but the maximums would be set.
The crafting would be designed to counter macroing as much as possible and ideally make it impossible. One way would be to use weight and inventory so you couldn't craft stacks at a time e.g you'd only gather one unit of lumber at a time as one unit would be all you could drag. So you'd make crafting involve gathering one unit of lumber, dragging it back to where the tools were, and then multiple stages to make an item. So instead of gathering 20 units of wood and then making 20 of an item for 20 potential skill ups you'd gather one unit and have 5 stages of making one item for 5 skill ups then repeat.
Another example might be making a basic trap from a lump of wood and a large rock. First you'd need to find some kind of small creature's burrow. You'd forage one rock and one lump of wood from the environment which would be all you can carry then you'd set the trap near the burrow. Actually setting the trap within range of the burrow would be the neccesssary last step in the process for the skill up and say only three traps in total could be set near the same burrow.
So basically you'd design the crafting around not having repetitive tasks in the traditional MMORPG way but instead make it a complex sequence of steps.
If you're going to have FFA PvP then players need to be on as level a playing field as possible which macroing interferes with. Also by limiting the total skills available and forcing players to choose what they focus on it means it's never impossible for newer players to catch up.
You could change your mind about what skills to focus on by moving the max slider down and your points in that craft would decay by 5 points a game day which could then be trained in something else.
I'd have some kind of special temporarily spawning areas like moving oases that would provide the next step as these areas would spawn some beastie that had teeth hard and sharp enough to make a wood cutting axe or saw. With this you could find some forested area and make yourself a log cabin and after that a pallisade. This would be important in many ways but one would be you could build a smelter and forge and move on from foraged tools and weapons to mining and making metal ones.
Foraging and Farming
Everything you did in the game would cost energy, even walking, and you'd replace that energy with food from foraging and hunting. Initially finding food would take a lot of the game day and a lot of the crafting and skills would revolve around it.
Eventually as mentioned above you could build yourself a log house and pallisade. The pallisade would enclose a vegetable patch so you could switch some of your foraging skill to farming. Farming would have an advantage and a disadvantage. Your plot would need tending every game day to provide food but it would take less time than foraging. So you'd have more time in the day but you'd be tied down to your food plot.
Once you got that going you could advance to animal taming. You'd build some kind of coop and find some chicken type creature. Once you'd raised your animal skill through that you could make a pig sty. After that you could trap a wolf cub and tame it as a pet dog, fourthly some creature to be a pack animal and lastly a mount. Maybe.
No world chat or region chat of any kind. There'd be a short range "say", a slightly longer range "shout" and a "whisper", but only if you were grouped and close by to the person you were whispering to. The only exception would be a clan town which would count as a mini-region with it's own channel - no guild chat outside though. There could be smoke signals, gongs, signal horns and beacons however.
FFA, full loot, usual stuff.
When you met a player you could run, hide, attack, say hi etc. Assuming niether attacks then they could form a proposition group. In these you could still attack the other person at any time if you wanted. If you grouped with somone in a proposition group for a significant amount of total time - say 6 hours in total (not all at once) - then you could form a friend group. If you were in a friend group then you could no longer attack each other while you were grouped. If you stayed in a friend group for 6 hours in total you could form a clan - once in a clan you couldn't attack each other even if not grouped.
Your name would be hidden as in Darkfall so you could hide easier but if a player clicked on you they could see your name color. The color would be blue or something initially. It would go orange if you'd killed a player in self-defence. Proposition, friend and clan name colors would be various shades of green. If you attack and kill a player your name would go red. Red names could only group with other red names and so could only form red name clans. Players in red name clans could always attack each other at any time.
Creating and maintaining clans would be difficult but very beneficial because different members could specialize in different trade skills. A solo player could be entirely self-sufficient but their self-made gear would all be average.
Clans might have max numbers based on the size of base - maybe six if they don't have a base at all. A lot of buildings and structures would require larger numbers for specialization purposes. A base might start as a collection of wooden huts with a pallisade - move onto mud brick - then eventually stone walls. So the sequence might be - basic stronghold -> new crafting structure that unlocks a new craft -> player specializing in that craft -> upgraded stronghold etc.
Combat would absolutely not be twitch based in any way as that's just a recipe for hacks imo. It would be sort of skill-based but not in the sense people normally use. There'd be a pool of skills that you could pick from and these skills would be like your deck in a card game and from those cards you'd pick your stance. Your stance and the other players would go up to the server and all the calculations would be done there. The skill would be in choosing the right stance for the situation. Solo combat would be quite static this way but around half the available melee skills would be group skills so group fights would be very tactical.
Every player or predator mob killed would gain a new skill from the pool. If you were solo and didn't have a home then death would be perma-death. A "home" initially might be a cave or a bunch of rocks you could crawl into. They'd usually have some nasty already in residence so you'd have to kill it first then click some rock or something to claim the spot. If you die solo within a certain distance of your home then you'd respawn there. The better the home the longer the distance. A clan town would provide a much larger safe radius. Regardless of home radius, if you were grouped then you'd be unconscious and if your team mates won the fight they could bandage you up - if they lost you'd either respawn or be perma-dead depending on home radius.
Even the biggest clan town would have a limited home radius so long-range raiding would be risky. This would give smaller groups and solo-ers a chance to survive by moving away. Clans could extend the safe radius a bit if everyone in a group was mounted. Another option would be crafting and filling a load of supply wagons and then using them to build a temporary supply camp near where they wanted to attack. The supply camp would last a few hours or so - and could be burnt if found.
Non perma-death deaths would still have a significant penalty - you'd lose one of your skills and maybe some random gear plus wounds would take a significant time to heal. There'd be no healing in the usual MMO sense - only after-combat stuff that increased the speed of natural healing and prevented infection etc.
Gear would matter mostly in terms of armor and penetration power. It would be set up in such a way that twinking wouldn't help much solo i.e a twinked newbie character fighting an experienced character with average gear would mostly miss. The experienced character would mostly hit but maybe not be able to penetrate the twink armor. The odds would be set so the twink might get lucky but most of the time the higher skills would pay off.
At the same time 2-3 newbie characters with trashy gear might be able to beat an experienced character with average to good gear as outnumbering an opponent would be a major advantage.
Archery would be tricky. I'd probably make it so archery was pretty useless against a moving target and being in melee while holding a bow got a big penalty. So archery would be a great alpha strike if you managed to sneak up on someone but after that you'd want to drop it quick and draw your melee weapons.
There wouldn't be any magic initially though it might be possible to learn off stray dryads or something. Also if a clan eventually built an advanced enough city they might develop it. Similarly priest type skills wouldn't be available initially but could possibly be gained through chance encounters in the wilderness and then developed through building a shrine or something.
The non-crafting skills would have a limit total in a similar way to the crafting skills so melee skills, stealth skills, healing skills etc would all come off the same total. So no one would ever be able to be good at everything and new players could catch up in skills easily enough.
I could go for an ultra-harsh game like that as long as I knew it was a guaranteed even playing field where the only effective ways to load the dice were knowledge of the skills and game world, superior clan organisation or numbers i.e things that were reasonable in the context of the game, and a self-sufficient soloist type could still survive as long as they kept away from the main zergs.