Today’s guest blogger, Oliver, hails not from the land of MMOs but of online strategy games. Even so, Oliver has a thought about MMOs in his pocket, as well as his Pulitzer prize. Let’s give him a warm welcome!
A Player-Driven World by Oliver
First off, hello! It’s an honor to step in for Syp and share my random MMO thoughts with you. Personally, I come from a background of strategy games (Civilization, Travian, etc), and have just started to notice an overlap between these and MMORPG’s. One aspect that a lot of MMO’s really fall short on, that hopefully OSG’s can help with, is presenting a player-driven world.
Most MMORPG’s present worlds in which thousands of epic heroes are running around completing treacherous quests, none of which seem to have any impact. No matter how many times I save Iverron in the Shadowglen, he somehow keeps getting bit by those vicious Webwood spiders and needs more antidote. No matter how many times I recover the Gilded Scroll in Korthos, Linus keeps locking it back up in the storehouse, and resetting all the traps as well. Oppositely, even though Captain Calhaan says the Charr are preparing to attack the Great Northern Wall, they never actually get around to it unless I show up.
Of course, a certain amount of this is necessary. No one would want to play a game where you approached a quest giver who shrugs “I had lost my family heirloom in an awesome dungeon instance, but that other guy just returned it to me.” On the other hand, how satisfying would it be if a guild got together and was able to finally slay the necromancer that was responsible for all the skeletons plaguing the local town and then BAM: no more skeletons, some new areas open up to all players, and all the NPC’s in town recognize you as a hero and give your guild a special discount on all items. Granted, the game might grow boring as quests are slowly “checked off”, so there would have to be a constant stream of new quests and content.
A cheaper way to do this of course is PVP, and PVP that actually affects the world. Global Agenda has done this very well with their Agency system, which pulls a lot from online strategy games. In Global Agenda, each agency (i.e. guild) controls part of the persistent game world. With the land they control Agencies can build weapons, shields, mounts, etc. Agencies battle each other and can conquer territories, and eventually take over and win the whole server. Square’s latest free-to-play MMORPG, Fantasy Earth Zero, uses a similar system with it’s “Realm vs Realm”. Guild Wars 2 is attempting to accomplish a player driven world using Dynamic Events, where “if a character tells you ogres are coming to destroy a house, they will really come and smash down the house if you don’t stop them!” I have high hopes for that game.
Having player-action affect the world, in whatever form, really takes the game in a whole new direction. You’re no longer going on raids just for loot or experience, but because completing the quest or defeating the other alliance on the battlefield actually matters. It’s something that also helps with game emersion, when your character is actually involved in the world instead of, essentially, a very busy observer. This type of player driven-world is something I really appreciate in the few MMO’s that utilize it, and something I hope to see more of in the future.