One of the testimonies about FTL that I keep seeing over and over again is just how attached players get to their little crew members. Considering that none of them have any personalities or distinguishing qualities other than what species they are, that might seem odd. But it’s not to me, because I’ve seen this before.
For me, it usually happens during strategy titles, like X-Com, Colonization, Civilization, Master of Orion, and so on. Without a central protagonist and with only generally faceless characters, I overlay my own story on them. The game provides the basic gameplay, in other words, but my mind provides the tale. I’ve assigned motivations and personalities to so many drones and forces, and for me it always enhances the experience.
FTL is perfect for this, because it lets us live out our spaceship fantasies. Instead of keeping us just on the outside of the ship, we’re focused on the inside — where the people live and work and fight. It’s where most of the focus is in similar TV shows (Star Trek, Firefly) and books, but oddly enough is usually neglected in video games. I don’t emotionally bond with the cold exterior of a spaceship the way I do with the little scurrying people inside.
It’s made me really want something like this in an MMO. I’d love a spaceship game that had much more of a focus on ship interiors. Maybe the ship could have the typical MMO immortality but the crew would face permadeath (which is another reason why FTL resonates — we want to protect those little guys so bad because they won’t be coming back from the void). Instead of a game that seesaws between mining and constant ship battles, there could be a lot more variety that utilized the crew — particularly to solve mysteries and engage with other creatures and people.
Even FTL Online could work, in much the same way as, say, Realm of the Mad God. Just center it around permadeath and constant rerolling, but with some semblance of progression and unlocks. I’d dig it.