Editor's Note: This is a weekly column from our News Editor Garrett Fuller. Each week, Fuller will highlight new innovations in MMO gaming as well as smaller games that you may not be so familiar with.
We all love to play video games. We spend hours in our MMOs trying to gain levels and find items for our characters. Whether we do this to stay competitive in PvP or gear up for those large raids in PvE, the point is we are always playing. What happens on the days or times you cannot play? As game designers of MMOs, you want to keep your players interested in the game as much as possible. As players, wouldn't it be great to log in and manage certain aspects of your character or army while you were away from the game? We cannot play all the time, but MMO worlds continue on without us. How about acting as part of that world without having to play? Dreamlords set up a Web based management system for players to log into and track their armies, build resources, and work on the game without actually logging in to play.
For those who do not know, Dreamlords is a game that combines MMO and RTS elements. A player's character (Dreamlord), controls an army but also builds towns and cities. The resources needed for players to develop their army must be found and then worked on to allow the player to grow stronger in the game. This seems like a regular RTS system of growth for a player. Here is the catch, what if you could manage your troops and resources from the Internet?
Allowing players to log into the website and actively manage their game is a great way to keep players involved and thinking about a game when they do not have time to play. I for one work and have a family to think about, so my game time is very limited. Let us say for example I am playing an MMO with a heavy crafting aspect. Why not create a Web service that allows me to log in on my lunch hour (from a remote location of course) and check on how my crafting is going. Many games are starting to find new ways to give players experience instead of just killing monsters and going on quests. If that is the case, then work on a platform for players to log in and do something for their characters when they cannot get any game time.
Here is another hypothetical example, the dreaded vacation. Great time to relax and get away, but darn I will not be able to play my favorite game. However, for the two weeks I am gone the hotel has an Internet cafe. With a Web connection to the game, I can at least track and manage my resources each day from the hotel. Okay so I am not playing, but I am still part of the world. Who knows maybe before vacation I was able to gather a ton of resources in my bank and plan to do some crafting through the Internet while I was away. This would be great wouldn't it? Imagine still being part of the game each day for a time when you are not officially playing.
Dreamlords took an idea like this seriously and gave players the ability to manage resources and armies simply by having an Internet connection. For players of the game, they can always feel involved. That way when they come home for the day and want to log in at night the work they have done while offline is already set up.
I think the best way to fit these types of ideas into an MMO is though crafting. Obviously a character should not be able to quest offline, although another option may be training. Remember the old days of Ultima Online? How many of you players used to build your skills while sitting in a house? I can remember friends creating macros to continuously use skills, then using a pen or pencil to keep the button held down so they could walk away from the computer and still have their character working on development. Geez, when I talk about it now it feels like the ancient times of MMOs. Still, this is a technique that players will develop whether you want them to or not. So why not make it part of the game? Give them ways to work on things when they are not questing with their friends. Staying logged in at the forge all day just to create items can get a little boring. World of Warcraft did a good job of making crafting move a lot quicker for players. Still, you had to sit there and create items as things moved along.
What if you are the alchemist for your guild and there is a big raid tonight. Yet you have to go to work all day for endless meetings and lectures. Wouldn't it be great to log in for the morning and set up your alchemist recipes for the day? Put your character to work so you yourself can leave for work. On a lunch break log in and check the progress of your potions. By the time you get home, all the potions are done and you are ready to raid with your friends. Seems like a good plan.
Hopefully we will see more game developers come up with ideas like this for MMOs. Remember they are persistent worlds. If you are not in them you are not part of the game. Dreamlords did a great job allowing players to feel like part of the world when they are not actually able to log in and play. By creating news ways of game play, Dreamlords is thinking outside the box. Just don't get fired from work for a game!