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All Posts by Meleagar

All Posts by Meleagar

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402 posts found

25 Fantasy Coloring Posters are being given away to a GW2 player in a giveaway over at the Tarnished Coast forums.



Over at the Tarnished Coast forums.


Winner gets 25 fantasy coloring posters.


Check it out!

The obvious answer is to provide rewards for DE's that will draw people to them. It's not so much a population problem as it is a population distribution problem.
Originally posted by Icewhite
Originally posted by Meleagar
Gamer perception is going to be that some sort of vertical progression is necessary (lack of contrary models, the WoW effect).

Whether that's true or false doesn't matter--selling your game, against a general perception, is an EVE-level "keep plugging for a decade until you have a sizable player base" problem, at best. 

At worst, closet niche--you'd better sell it with "you're so dayum hardc0re", or something--the only way niche games historically manage to struggle along.

Of course you'd need a marketing campaign that would be able to target the intended audience.  Even though it didn't turn out that way, GW2 was marketed as a non-treadmill game and the hype (which turned out to be unfounded) was that it was a real structural alternative to WoW-like clones - supposedly, no gear treadmill other than for cosmetics, and no grinding.  GW1 was successful, and LoL is wildly successful.

I think there's probably a pretty decent market for a strictly horizontal MMORPG. At some point some developer with the desire to make a truly alternative MMORPG experience should try it.

Originally posted by Caliburn101
Originally posted by Icewhite
Originally posted by greenreen

What you speak of is what has kept me up late nights trying to work out and I don't think it would appeal to many.

Humans have a drive to "get things".

It's difficult to imagine mmo gamers not constrantly measuring themselves or their status against all other gamers, isn't it? MMOs are traditionally just shallow little pools of status symbol, their players as vain and prone to strut as teenage boys.

We assume it could work, in the same way the Nirvana or Shangri-la could work, if only it weren't for the damned humans being involved.

It's a shame ANet didn't read a little history before they made GW2.

20th Century Communism - designed to make everyone equal and happy, and failed on a biblical scale due to people wanting to be superior to others in material goods, status, wealth, power - or as gamers measure it - gear, rank, gold and leetness....

Except we're not talking about an economic/'social system, we're talking about games. The basic structure of games throughout history has been to create a level, fair playing field so that players could compete (either directly or against some environmental challenge) without any artificial advantages. Unless you would call a game of chess "communist" because everyone has the same, equally-capable pieces to play the game with, inserting an economic/social theory into game theory argument is only a convenient use of straw man.

Football is a very successful game/sport. it is built around the concept of a fair and level playing field, which is why there is revenue sharing among teams and a universal salary cap, a weighted drafting system, etc.  That way, what is being judged on the playing field is not who has the most money, or who has the best equipment, but rather who has the most talent, skill and drive and who has the better team and coaching. There are literally millions of games that have no vertical power progression whatsoever, but are instead founded on the concept of a level playing field where players can pit their wit, intelligence, cunning and creativity against each other.  People spend billions of dollars a year on such games and invest millions of hours.

It has nothing to do with "communism", but rather actual fair competition in a game on a level playing field.

It's becoming more and more my opinion, however, that the power-progression system really only serves one kind of player: those have plenty of time to invest, but not the skill, intelligence or creativity a fair game requires in order to excel in it - so they grind out gear that artificially generates a sense of being an "elite" player for nothing more, really, than spending time at the keyboard staring at the screen.

There's plenty of playera with lots of time to invest that would rather have a fair playing field rather than one that has an eternal slope in it biased in favor of  those that can simply sit at their computer longer than other players.

And, BTW, GW2 was a huge pre-purchase and launch success based upon them representing and hyping the game as a stat-capped, no-grind, no-treadmill game.  In the weeks that followed launch, they were adding servers and had to discontinue digital sales until they could increase capacity.   After week 10 whatever goes on with GW2 financially doesn't indicate anything for the non-vertical market because they turned it into a vertical progression game at that point.


I reiterate: for those that require vertical stat progression to enjoy a game, this kind of game is obviously not for you. Yes, you will perceive your character as being stagnate and yes, you would feel like there is no reason to do anything else in the game. I'm not trying to sell the concept of a non-vertical game to those that reguire vertical progression in their gaming entertainment


Originally posted by ice-vortex

Horizontal progression doesn't mean no progression. Horizontal progression is advancement through new abilities that are equally viable in power as previous abilities you obtained.

You can't get away from veritical progression without making it bland, because even if you went horizontal progression with character abilities, characters would still gain an increase in power just because of how flexible the later characters would be compared to new characters.

If one is simply intent on defining something - anything -as "vertical" in order to justify a claim that there "must" be vertical progression, they can certainly do so. Again, my point is about stat progression either in gear or in characters, which is what is generallly meant by the term.

Swapping a +5% fire resistance out for a +2% movement is not a vertical increase in power.

Originally posted by Rossboss
Originally posted by Meleagar
Originally posted by Rossboss

I would love this game except that it might get boring as far as standard combat goes unless it's AI that learns from you. What I mean is killing an unending amount of rats/mongrels/snakes would get really boring because their behaviors are entirely predictable.

At the end of the day, killing anything repetitively is boring, but at least with this kind of game you can go wherever you want in the world because it's all the same "level" and fight different stuff, and you don't feel compelled to do so because you aren't trying to level. You can do other things that bring in the materials, tokens or gold you want.

You might be able to go wherever you want in the game but what's the appeal to going there? Exclusive materials, places, people and conflicts. It wouldn't be much of a game if you have no opposition. What would be the point of collecting the materials or cards or money?

I can't see where you find opposition if you entirely skirt the fact that you don't have to engage in any kind of conflict. People would just roam around without having anything to worry about as they craft/collect to their heart's content.

You also said RP potential is enormous, but is there a market for RP in games anymore?

I think you must have gotten the wrong idea. I didn't say that there was no PvE. There will be plenty of PvE. Lots of creatures, boss creatures, dungeon creatures, raid creatures, etc to fight along your way. There will just be no vertical progression.
Originally posted by Crazy_Stick

However, it seems the OP isn’t describing a true MMORPG and is really after something else MMO I am hesitant to label. A video game RPG is defined by forms of vertical progression which is what separates it in part from any other shooter or action game into a unique genre. What they note is a lot of features that aren’t wrapped into a point to make a complete game and could be tacked onto anything really. They don’t make a game by themselves.

There is nothing explicit or implicit in the term "massviely multiplayer role-playing game" or even "role-playing game" that refers to vertical progression.  That may be the narrow, myopic choice developers have decided to utilize, but just as "talkie" used to be synonymous with "musical", the current association doesn't necessarily define the potential of the genre.

Originally posted by nariusseldon
Originally posted by Meleagar


People engage in all sorts of games, hobbies, sports, and liesure and entertainment activities that have no meaningful vertical progression. I'm not arguing that people shouldn't enjoy vertical progression activities, I'm just saying that there's plenty of successful non-vertical entertainment in the world. It's not like you can accumulate "more powerful cards that most others can't get" in poker, canasta, bridge, spades. It's not like you can go into a domino tournament with your own dominos that have extra dots.  People spent endless hours playing "pong", and other multi-person games that had no vertical progression. Where is the vertical gear or stat progression in football, baseball, or soccer?  It doesn't exist in many FPS games or sports or simulation games. Most standard board games have no vertical progression. People invest endless hours in hobbies that have zero vertical progression.


may be not verticle progression, in the sense of accumulating stuff in a MMORPG, but in almost all of the competitive games you cite, there *is* progression, and status plays a role.

In poker, you have amount of money won. In fact, more money you have, you have more psychological power over your opponent since it is harder to "bankrupt" you.

In chess, and bridge, and many competitive sports like ping pong, there is the ELO ranking score. That is also used in many online competitive games.

In baseball, you have your stats (if you play competitive games).

Obviously it is much harder to improve your chess ranking, than acquiring the new armor from a MMORPG dungeon .. but that is the point. Human, in general, crave status, and MMORPG provides an artificial, easy and cheap way to satisfy that need.

I'm talking about vertical and gear stat progression within the game, not titles and status and money you get *outside* the game itself. You don't get more powerful ping pong paddles or pawns that can shoot lasers out of their eyes in chess.  Those are entirely horizontal games.  When you play tournaments in any sport to become the champion, you don't accumulate gear advantages over the players you meet - you're both playing with the same gear. You dont get a hockey stick +7 str or a football +2 against interception.

Seriously, what's the big deal? There are countless games, hobbies and activities that have **no** vertical stat/gear progression and people pour millions of hours and hundreds of millions of dollars into those things every year. We all know this.  There's no sense trying to call a leader board, playoff brackets or a title "vertical progression".  You all know what I'm talking about here, and those things have nothing to do with the kind of vertical progression we're discussing in an MMOG.

The argument that an MMOG can't succeed without stat progression is just not founded in reality, IMO.

Originally posted by Rossboss

I would love this game except that it might get boring as far as standard combat goes unless it's AI that learns from you. What I mean is killing an unending amount of rats/mongrels/snakes would get really boring because their behaviors are entirely predictable.

At the end of the day, killing anything repetitively is boring, but at least with this kind of game you can go wherever you want in the world because it's all the same "level" and fight different stuff, and you don't feel compelled to do so because you aren't trying to level. You can do other things that bring in the materials, tokens or gold you want.

Originally posted by greenreen
Originally posted by Meleagar
Originally posted by coretex666

People engage in all sorts of games, hobbies, sports, and liesure and entertainment activities that have no meaningful vertical progression. I'm not arguing that people shouldn't enjoy vertical progression activities, I'm just saying that there's plenty of successful non-vertical entertainment in the world. It's not like you can accumulate "more powerful cards that most others can't get" in poker, canasta, bridge, spades. It's not like you can go into a domino tournament with your own dominos that have extra dots.  People spent endless hours playing "pong", and other multi-person games that had no vertical progression. Where is the vertical gear or stat progression in football, baseball, or soccer?  It doesn't exist in many FPS games or sports or simulation games. Most standard board games have no vertical progression. People invest endless hours in hobbies that have zero vertical progression.


How many of the hobbies that people do require a cash shop? I don't know about you but I have to be talked into spending money and I can't say I have ever bought from a cash shop.  Only thing that really jumps out at me is something game related with people that do Warhammer miniatures, those I heard cost a lot. Sports and cards are out of that unless you are playing competitive. Even when I played euchre for money at clubs it was cheap entry fees.

We play cards at holidays for my family and it's always for the competition. Whoever wins gets to choose what they take home from the dinner. There is also lots of smack talking during spades matches. We do it because we are competitive, not just because there is a gain from it. I don't know if that is tradition for any other families but that's the one thing I look forward to on holidays are the screaming debates on politics and religion and the card playing because then I get to be the one to walk out with all the white meat turkey and flaunt it in my brother's face shaking that ziploc bag at him lol

Competition doesn't have anything to do with vertical progression - in fact, many games and activities that are competitive are only meaningfully so because the playing field (including what one would call "gear") is fair and even. 

Most hobbies require a cash shop. People that build and fly radio controlled games pay at the cash shop - a real life one. I don't know of any hobbies that do not require a cash shop - a real life one.  Play the guitar as a hobby? Paint?  Bowling - tennis - even when you go play putt-putt. There's no vertical progression on a putt-putt course, unless you count the inclines and ramps.


Originally posted by coretex666

First off, I think this belongs to "Game concepts" section.

As to the idea, I am afraid it would not have the potential to maintain sufficient playerbase for a long time. Why? Because people do like some sort of progression. They like it in real life and they like it in MMOs.

Unless of course it offers something that has not been seen before, something amazing, something you have not described in the OP.

People engage in all sorts of games, hobbies, sports, and liesure and entertainment activities that have no meaningful vertical progression. I'm not arguing that people shouldn't enjoy vertical progression activities, I'm just saying that there's plenty of successful non-vertical entertainment in the world. It's not like you can accumulate "more powerful cards that most others can't get" in poker, canasta, bridge, spades. It's not like you can go into a domino tournament with your own dominos that have extra dots.  People spent endless hours playing "pong", and other multi-person games that had no vertical progression. Where is the vertical gear or stat progression in football, baseball, or soccer?  It doesn't exist in many FPS games or sports or simulation games. Most standard board games have no vertical progression. People invest endless hours in hobbies that have zero vertical progression.

The argument that "people like vertical progression" is, IMO, obviously a non-sequitur. Sure, they do in a lot of things, but in a lot of other things that they invest a whole lot of time in, vertical progression isn't even a consideration.

Again, I'm not arguing against vertical progression in all games, it just seems very odd and narrow to me that virtually every MMORPG ever made is almost entirely focused on vertical progression.

It's like when sound first got into movies; every single movie was a musical. Every. Single. One.  They couldn't imagine a movie *not* being a musical. Then years and years later some guy pitched a non-musical movie, and most of the studios laughed at the idea. Why would anyone go to a movie that didnt have song and dance?  It's like they totally forgot that BEFORE sound, NO movie was a "musical". It's like a strange quirk of the evolution of MMORPGs that funneled everything down a very narrow focus on vertical progression.

Almost like it relates to something psychological in many people. Hmm. Sounds like a future blog post to me.


Originally posted by greenreen


You could plan your idea out into documents and give it a test run on a kickstarter if you get staff together if you are ambitious and can get together some capable people with the same ideas.

I'm not a game developer nor do I have that kind of ambition. I'm just expressing some ideas - like I do on my blog here - with the hope that it contributes in some way to the creation of such a game.  You never know where an idea might take hold.

Originally posted by greenreen

Some of that could be labeled vertical progression though. Larger ship > more strength over smaller ship/raft, the glass not as much but you would probably run out of uses eventually for it although I do think a mount with windows would be funny - sort of a gypsy caravan. I still think it comes back to needing some way to improve things over time which is considered progression. Once you improve something ppl scream vertical but because of finite items you can't be totally horizontal. We already know that the other poster doesn't care about crafting at all, how do you introduce new creatures to them to keep them challenged, you would have to rely heavily on art and great AI mechanics but again, everything has a physical glass ceiling on how good we can go.


You can label "better aesthetics" an "improvement" and call a different cosmetic "progression" if you wish, but the point about the ship-building is that different ships have different uses. IOW, you can't build a 20-person capacity boat that has more stats than any other boat - it can only have differently distributed stats and different uses because of size or construction. As far as a 20-person ship being "better" than a canoe, it depends on what you're using it for.  You can use a canoe to navigate down a fairly narrow river; a 20-person boat (or something larger) wouldn't be able to.  Would you really want to take a raft or a canoe out into the ocean and challenge larger boats?  You might use a smaller craft for personal transport and exploration - larger crafts for invasions or ship warfare. You might need to put virtually all stats in +defense to be able to outfit a ship with an ice-breaker to navigate ice-covered waters.

The way new creatures keep players challenged is by the same "card" system - you can introduce creatures that have different distributions of innate stats, different non-comparable abilities and various armor sets to challenge and add endless variety.  You can have a gradient of MOBS - some are easy to kill and you can wade into a bunch of them and succeed, but they give less loot each than harder MOBS.   Some mobs might require very specific builds, or combinations of very specfic builds, to sucessfully combat them.

Also, you can introduce whole new areas, MOBS, and corresponding trait/skill/talent systems that specifically deal with that area.   Without those "cards", the sledding is much tougher, and at some point very, very difficult without those specific kinds of cards.  For example, you could introduce an area with undead, where ghosts are virtually invisible and extremely deadly unless you have spectral vision.  The more spectral vision you have, the easier the ghosts are to hit and the less defense they have against you.  Why would you do this? Perhaps this is the only area where you can purchase, or get what you need to purchase (with some kind of unique tokens) spectral rainments, which are non-combat clothes that allow you to interact with deities. Being able to interact with deities can grant you all sorts of non-vertical perks and opportunities. Or you get some commodity that allows you to create glowing dyes. Who knows?

IMO, developers have just been trained to be myopic when it comes to game content. There's so much that can be put in a game when it doesn't have to be shackled, in some way, to endless vertical progression - I don't think the barest surface of such potential has even been scratched due to the development time focus on progression content.

Originally posted by greenreen

Boom, I knew you would layout gear, that's what I did too. It's the easy one to map out because it's stat based. What about more advanced crafting which would fit into a game like yours where the game is the experience instead of the numbers.


How about shipbuilding, furniture making, glassblowing, things that don't have stats on them, what would an approach be to advanced crafting. That was when I start to fall apart because there were no longer stats and now the only variations are color, size, styling which anyone might say one is better than another but they would have a finite combination vs ye olde stat based upgrades that are so easy to just move one tick up per expansion. Yes, yes, expansion again, I can't help but ponder longevity in the equation because mmos are meant to be played more than 3 months.


I think your concept is fun discussion material, you should flesh out more information and throw it into the "Developers Corner" forum another time too.



Let's take shipbuilding.  There could be all sorts of ships that you can build, from one-person rafts & canoes to mighty steam-powered boats that can carry scores of players.  Ships could have inherent stats as well +defense, +maneuvering, + stealth, +speed. The crafting system for boats could be stongly weighted towards stealth and maneuvering, while as you gain larger boats they become weighted for defense, while different kinds of boats can be weighted for speed. Same with airships.  The system can allow for ship and airship battles where the ships all draw from the same stat pools. It can be near impossible to hit a raft or a canoe, but then it's not carrying enough firepower to be a threat to a larger ship. Etc.

Glass blowing can range from simple bottles for potions to very complex chandoliers, windows, and various artifact components that can be used to distribute stats or card systems in gear. I envision modules for such professions where you can design things like stained glass windows, light fixtures, trinkets, nick-nacks, etc.

This is just stuff off the top of my head. IMO, an endlessly-vertical progression game sucks all of the development creativity and talent into a very narrow focus. There's no telling what kind of horizontal systems can be invented and put in such a game. Also, everything one does will be relevant because all materials'/gold/tokens would be viable means of gaining horizontal goals in future updates. 

Sounds to me you want League of Legends with fluff. Or probably GW1 with fluff. Or probably GW2 with fluff and instant max. level.

Those who prefer infinite vertical progression usually classify everything that doesn't contribute to vertical progression as "fluff", so yes, I suppose it is fair to say that the game will be full of "fluff", but then that's what the whole idea is about - non-vertical content.

Why craft? Why build an estate? For the vertical progression player, there is no reason.

Look, I have no problem with there being a wide assortment of games with infinite vertical progression (progression that is increased every expansion).  There's nothing wrong with vertical progression per se. Just as there are many players - perhaps a majority - that find no satisfaction or reason to play a game without vertical progression, there are many of us that find no satisfaction or enjoyment in games where there is endless vertical progression.  I can't really enjoy games where I know there is going to be no end to progression.

I think there is a market for both kinds of players - and I'm not claiming those are the only two kinds of players. I'm just saying it's time, really, for an AAA MMORPG without vertical progression.  The success of League of Legends and GW1 indicate that such a game could indeed be successful, even if only for a viable niche market.

As far as being "handed" a maxed-out character - yes, I want everyone to start the game out with maxed-out characters. Actually, the term "maxed out" wouldn't really have any meaning in such a game.All characters would be built from the same limited pool of stats - the only difference would be distribution choices, non-comparables selection, and player skill.


Originally posted by greenreen

What you speak of is what has kept me up late nights trying to work out and I don't think it would appeal to many.

Humans have a drive to "get things". From Maslow's heirarchy of needs ( ) we know their basic needs but once they advance in the pyramid I think they look down and say - oh, I could have that "better" thing over there to replace my average "thing" here. You could also put it in the "esteem" category. It's a product of my particular country (maybe not yours) to acquire wealth and put happiness secondary, we work more than we play often to support a lifestyle. We don't sit back and smell the roses until we are aged, if we make it there. No real surprise that the same goals haunt us when gaming. We may don a character but it's still us behind the wheel. We will carry over our societal wants and needs with us.


Sadly it all leads to some form of progression. I can understand making that as painless as possible but without "getting better or more things" what is going to make the majority of your users login to the game. As much as I dislike saying it, I do think some form of progression is necessary to satiate the majority.


Your words on this whole scheme are also vague. As an example, Work me out in text (not theory) how you make 500 crafting recipes that are all as appealing as each other but none are better. Now, do that for multiple crafting types because without a variation of crafting types, everyone makes the same thing and there is no demand only supply.


If the whole concept is a card collecting game, why wouldn't I just play magic the gathering, no cash shop there  :P



Nothing is keeping you from playing Magic The Gathering.  I'm using the term "card" figuratively - they are traits, skills and talents that you then have in your account library that you can freely apply to characters you create.  You then take that character out into a 3D world and play.

Within the framework of crafting, let's look at creating armor.  You could have 500 crafting recipes just in this category alone without even scratching the surface.  I envision a module that allows players to design their own gear (which can be purchased seperately, of course), and then they can even sell the recipe. Outside of that module there will be standard crafting recipes you can buy/trade for.  Different variations of armor recipes would be for variant skins (once you craft a "skin", it is like a card you can apply to any comparable item), graphical effects, and  nearly infinite variant distributions of the stat pool via a weighted system. Let's say that each piece of armor has 3 stat categories: +defense (physical), +resistance (magical, psionic, effects), +hit points, and one slot for a "card".  Let's say the standard armor pool is 500 pts, and you can distribute it according to a weighted system. For example, 1-100 in any one stat is 1pt each; 101-200 is 2 pts each; 201+ is 3 pts each.  Then, you get to craft a "card" into the armor, giving you an additional, non-comparable trait, such as "chance of burning the attacker on impact" or "chance of reflecting magical attack" or "10% resistant to stun effects" or "increases gold find by 5%" or "decreases crafting component requirements by 5%" (imagine a full set of crafting gear) or "increase movement speed by 5%" or "increases climbing ability by 5%" or "increases charm by 5%" for political or social avenues of content).

Honestly, there would be the potential for infinite, meaningful horizontal crafting to suit any preference (other than for those that require vertical progression, of course).

A drive to "get things" can be satisfied by a purely horizontal game.  There's no sense in arguing if a purely horizontal MMORPG can succeed - we won't know until we try. However, many games succeed and have been around for a long, long time that have no "vertical progression" whatsoever, or none worth mentioning. League of Legends comes to mind.  Many very popular FPS have no vertical progression to speak of.  There's no "vertical progression" in most sports (where a player gets better by getting "better gear" that gives them an advantage over the other players or team) - in fact, in most sports and games, a fair and equal playing field, and as fair and equal a system as possible, is what makes the game enjoyable and competitive.  In many sports it's the person or the team with equal gear against the environment.

I'm not sure where the "vertical stat/gear progression" concept became so enmeshed in the idea of gaming, but IMO an MMORPG without vertical progression is a concept that should be tried out. Like I said, you don't even need to create a huge game world and a huge assortment of traits/talents/skills to begin with - just enough to populate your characters to begin with and give them something to work towards collecting via a world that doesn't require any "beginning" or "mid-range" conent.

I'd advise having a training area instances where players can try out their builds, much as League of Legends has a bot system for you to practice against.

Look, I don't have a whole game figured out in detail, I'm just throwing an idea against the wall. I'd like to see an MMORPG where I could always play with my friends and go anywhere in the world and play towards my horizontal goals with them - never be "left behind", and never have any world content whatsoever trivialized and abandoned.

Originally posted by Xiaoki

Seems like you want to include everything and the kitchen sink ....except combat.

You talk endlessly about crafting, housing and exploring but not combat.

What if I dont care about crafting and I want to kill things? What would be the purpose of defeating the hardest PvE content in the game? Would it give me gear comparable to the effort involved?

What about PvP? Is there any purpose to the PvP other than killing other players?

And these concerns are excusing what a balancing nightmare the system would be.

I included PvE in my O.P. but didn't spend much time on it because I consider it a "given".  The variations you could have for PvE combat could be virtually limitless you could build any sort of character within various weighted systems - put in a couple of fire elementalist cards with a dash of psionic and some terrain movement specialties; sneak cards, bludgeon cards, pet cards, etc.  Heavy armor would be weighted against some terrain movement specialties; heavy armor would be contingent on strength, which draws the character stat pool away from magic and towards heavy weapon use (since the strength is alreasdy there for the armor), etc.

PvP and WvW provide tokens of some sort and/or gold that can be used to trade for/purchase various goods, including cards, gear variations, skins, resources.  PvP can have leaderboards, tournaments and titles, along with tokens. WvW benefits can include tokens/gold. 

Since it's a flat game, I'm not sure what you mean by "the hardest content". If by that you mean the content that takes the most players the most coordinated effort, your reward is a larger amount of gold, tokens and other resources than you can get from defeating less difficult content. No "gear" or card drops from any creature - the only things that drop anywhere in the game are usable resources, gold and tokens.  This way you use the gold, resources and tokens to get exactly what you want and you're not stuck with gear or cards that you happen to find that may or may not fit your character design.

Remember, from day 1 you always have gear that has max statistics that are generally distributed to standard build types; with crafting or via purchases you can get gear with more specific stat distributions and skin sets you want.

When you log in, you custom-create a character using a numerical pool for stats you distribute as you wish according to a weighted system.  You pick from available basic gear that has X amount of stats.  These stats never increase, but they can have different distributions .  You also pick your gender, race, name and can invent a name for your own profession. 

Next, you pick from a base assortment of skills, talents, traits, etc. These are like cards you collect, but everyone starts out with a base selection. You fill out your skill/talent/trait slots as you see fit.

Skills, talents and traits are based off of the non-comparable paradigm found in League of Legends. You can collect a vast assortment of different skills, talents and traits and create different builds when you start up the game client, but each time you log into the actual game world all character specs are locked (this doesn't extend to gear, food, potions, etc. - just stats, traits, talents and skills).  All trait, talent and skill "cards" you collect are usable by any character you create.

Thus, the entire game world is essentially flat.  There is no need for "starter" or "midrange" areas (that soon become depopulated).  Right outside the log-in area, or on the other side of the world, it's the same "level" of PvE. The world has dynamic events and quests, vast solo areas and instances, raid areas, dungeons, WvW, PvP arenas, dueling, group-oriented boss mobs, etc. There can be different areas that have different crafting components/resources - note: there would be no need for different "levels" of crafting.  All recipes would be worthwhile, depending on your build.

There can be many ways to collect gold or various tokens for acquiring new trait, skill and talent "cards", as well as various kinds of skins for your character and for gear.  The cash shop can sell skins and lock boxes with random cards amont other things. It might also sell certain standardized "card" sets or animation/sound effect packages, bank slots, character slots, etc.

Expansions can drop in entirely different horizontal concepts - politics, exploration, fighting skills, crafting, etc. - with appropriate "card" sets, gear stat arrangements (not increases), and skins. Modules can be offered (for a price) where players can design their own gear styles, furniture for their homes, guild or other appropriate customizables.

You wouldn't even have to create a huge world to begin with. League of Legends started out very small.  Start-up costs would be much lower than the usual MMOG because you could just cut out 90% of the stuff other MMOG's are full of that nobody uses more than a few weeks anyway to get to the end game.

In a purely horizontal MMOG, the whole world is in fact the "end game", so you need none of that other pre-end-game content at launch. Since it is only going to expand horizontally, then whatever tokens or gold players amass by playing before expansions come out will be usable for the new horizontal content, giving them reason to play in-between expansions even if they amass all the "cards" currently available.

Such an MMOG could offer enormous long-term horizontal opportunities - to build houses, estates, even cities; become famous for many different reasons; explore factions and pursue political prestige, become an explorer, build boats or airships ... the sandbox-style possibilities would be endless.  And, in a flat game, there is no "pay to win" as far as a cash shop is concerned, so the game could be monetized for high profit.  The role-playing potential would be enornous.

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