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MMORPG Methodone

First post explains the reason :)

Author: tupodawg999

Clearing some Headspace part 6 - Colonization meets Second Life

Posted by tupodawg999 Tuesday August 11 2009 at 3:46AM
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More clearing of hobby game designing ideas from overstuffed brain.

Sim fantasy village meets colonization.

The last time i gave up on momorpeggers I decided to tinker around with writing one instead. It didn't get very far because I got got side-tracked and deflated by the mountain of 3D modelling, which was lucky really as my design sucked.

The basic idea was a kind of medieval fantasy sim involving lots of separate villages where you could progress through the social structure by working on a career like farming or whatever. There was going to be lots of villagey quests involving lost sheep and such with the occasional  more serious sighting of undead at a tomb but all fairly tame and low scale. One of the possible advanced career paths involved a kind of ranger career which was more heavy combat but that was the exception - most combat would involve hunting wild animals and be mostly safe.

The second part of the game was to involve players heading out from the village area into the wilderness and starting up their own settlements, clearing mobs, clearing forest and gradually taming it. This was tied into the old D&D idea of players being able to build strongholds after a certain level. This part was much more like a normal game.

The third big element involved characters only having a limited time before death but being able to earn "fate points" through various deeds which could be spent on improving their next character's base stats or buying them special abilities.

There's a lot of things wrong with this overall design but what's more interesting (to me) is what I think generated the components.

1. "Second Life" in green tights.

A lot of times in the past when I played Everquest I'd hear people criticize it as a fantasy themed chat room and more recently people criticizing a type of player for wanting a kind of medieval fantasy themed version of "Second Life". I used to dismiss those kind of criticisms but now I think there's a serious point in them. These games aren't really games to some people, including me, or rather they're only partly games. I think there's a whole segment of people who got into these games because of fantasy fiction (or sci fi) (and often games like D&D as well) and those people partly view these games as a kind of fantasy novel you can walk into. I don't mean just role-players either. I'm much too lazy to role-play but I do like a world that "feels" like it's a world and not just a game - and I've realized that's actually more important to me than most other factors.

So what I was unconsciously doing in my villagey design was getting to the basics of that fantasy sim, cutting wood, farming, learning some petty magic from the local witch, all the little immersive type things.

The other big aspect of that part of the design was how slow-paced i imagined it to be. There was to be progression but it would be very slow, through effectively only having the equivalent of daily quests and no grinding, so players and skills could only increase at the pace allowed by the daily tasks. For example i had farming pencilled in as having a morning task and an afternoon task so there was scope for two farming "skill-ups" per game day and no way to increase it. I only imagined these tasks taking a few minutes so what was i expecting the players to do in the gaps? I think i was unconsciously expecting them to chat.

In a chat room, messenger, or whatever, if the people you normally talk to aren't around you go off and browse or maybe play some online scrabble while you wait or something. My villagey fantasy sim was more or less doing the same. The ultra-slow gentle "levelling" I'd envisaged was a kind of mini-game to pass the time in between chatting. I also must have been unconsciously imagining a certain amount of compartmentalization as well, as the fantasy sim part and the chatting about everyday life part would be a strange non-immersive mix.

All in all I don't think it's such a bad idea if it was done consciously. It wouldn't be a MMORPG, actually it sort of might, but not in the now most commonly understood sense. It would be more like a social space with a game attached. There'd be the fantasy themed village zones with their OOC general chat. Role players would have RP channels to advertise and be able to create their own channel to do their thing. There'd be a lot of crafting - most of it completely unrelated to combat and with most of what would normally be the "game" implemented more as a collection of distracting mini-games to pass the time.

The number of activities that could be mini-gamed and "levelled" could be immense from heading off in the (game) evenings to trap some rabbits outside the village for a stew or a herbalist hunting down some plants to brew up some potions to jousting contests so there'd be plenty of aimless but aimiable activities in between chatting.

It would be a bit like Free Realms for adults who'd read too much fantasy lit. in their youth.

2. Niche-ism.

I had the Second Life in green tights idea first and later added the idea of players pushing out from the starting villages and colonizing. The idea in itself is okay and is pretty close to something like Wurm Online but I think I added it purely because the first half wasn't really gamey enough so I was thinking one segment of players would do the second life chat room thing while those who were playing the game as a normal momorpegger would need something else. But actually what my little hobby game designing threw up is what lies behind many of the recent game disasters imo - trying to appeal to everyone.

It seems to me there's only really been two real success stories in momorpeggers since WoW and that's WoW and Eve. A lot of other games have been successful in an objective sense but I don't think there's any except WoW and Eve that have been as successful as, or more successful than their designers expected (hoped). I think all the others hoped they'd be more successful than they eventually became.

Trying and failing to appeal to too broad an audience while WoW was sitting on that ground is I feel a big part of why those companies didn't succeed as well as they hoped. Whereas little Eve, very focused on their specific player-base chugs along quite happily.

So, I've come to think niche-ism is the way to go, whether you're a big game company, a small indie outfit in a low-rent basement or some individual guy messing with momorpegger design as a hobby.

Easier still if you are just one guy then you're already a niche of one. So just think up the kind of MMORPG you'd want to play and work with that. Odds are you'll never finish it anyway and if you do there's almost certainly other people who are the same niche as you - not many maybe but definitely some.

3. Character aging and fate points.

I think i added this idea as my way out of the "endgame". I wouldn't actually need this in a game designed purely for me. I never get to max level in the games i've enjoyed anyway - perhaps because to me these games are a kind of visual fantasy fiction or "second life" and getting to max level is "the end". In my design I'll just have max level as 51 so people who like nice round numbers could get to 50 but avoid 51 and the dreaded "end".

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