Will it work?
There are many differences between the real world and games. That is truly the way it should stay. Political systems are a design of our culture to keep laws and taxes in order and ensure people live in happiness and freedom, or total domination depending on where you live. Now adding a system of politics into a game that fully impacts players will come up against some serious hurdles. TERA will be implementing the most ambitious political system yet into an MMO. The question really is: how will it do?
TERA offers a lot as a game. A lush world filled with huge boss monsters and a rich history. Different races all battling a common foe that threatens their land. All of the trimmings of an MMO with a fast based action combat system. Now enter in the politics where players can impact other players. To be voted into office will take quite a bit of effort from one player. Forming a guild and inspiring others, gaining favor among people and building up a reputation. All of these things can be done by a player with a lot of cunning and time. It is when they get into office that the real trials begin.
The biggest claim from TERA is that politicians can put other players in jail. Well, normally this would make sense, but who is to say that someone just has a bad day and locks up a few citizens in the process. You have now impacted the gameplay of others. Even more so you are doing it with full fledged internet "bravery". These players who have been locked up know only your character name. Could you ruin someone’s evening of just being silly online by wielding full political might? Personally I don’t think this idea is very fair. I actually think it is wrong to allow one player influence over others regardless of how much time they play a game.
If we look back at Ultima Online there were Players Killers. They ran rampant in the sandbox ruining everyone’s day. That is until players started forming PK kill groups which defended the players just trying to have a night of adventure. It wasn’t perfect but there was a self policing system in Ultima. Sure you died, but people were smart about what they took out and traveled in packs for safety. In many ways this system worked. It was political, in a sort of street gang kind of way. Yet no one character held dominion over others. Guild leaders were only as strong as their guilds.
In many ways a political system could work well in TERA. It is true that eventually politics in a game balance out. The real challenge is the race to the top when the game launches. How many players will try to take control? How will it impact everyone? Some players enjoy MMOs on their own as well and won’t go near a political system. Other will try their hardest to get their names on the map.
The one area I do think is very cool is in hosting tournaments. Having individual PvP duels for prizes is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in any game. My only question in this area is who gives the prizes? Does the guild come up with a sum? Or do they give away some valuable loot won in a raid? Surely the champions of the realm deserve something worth their time. More than any other aspect of the political system I think this part is great. In many ways as a player I’d much rather be a champion than a politician. Isn't that why we play games in the first place?
So a lot of questions come up with this new political system in TERA. It definitely is ambitious. I wonder if it is something that gamers in general would shy away from altogether. After all who in the gaming world really likes politics? I do think it is an interesting twist for TERA, a game which already has a lot of new systems and ideas. TERA has a lot of great features. Is a deep political system really needed? All we can do is wait and see what is to come when the game goes live. If successful there could be a growing trend of politics in virtual worlds, which may become just as complex as they have in the real world.