Here’s a thought exercise. Given an unlimited budget and no concerns about customers/deadlines/etc, what would you do to make your perfect MMO? Kind of a fun thought right? Ultimate wish-fulfillment. But the underlining psychological effect of giving you an idea of exactly what game would work for you. After all, you will ultimately judge every game you play compared to your imaginary perfect game. You shouldn’t though. I’m always think that you should judge something purely on how well you enjoyed it, and not how much it matched up to how much you think it should be. Granted, sometimes those things overlap. Other times it will get you kicked out of film school. Just ask Lil’ Vrykerion who ended up with a degree in Creative Writing and NOT film.
But on with this grand experiment! Which should prove to be quite the experience, because I have a habit of trying to bite off more than I can chew (That is in both a metaphorical and literal sense. Steak night is a horror show at my house.) Where to begin though? I could start by writing a 10,000 word breakdown on the history of the world and how it got to be this way, but while I am sure that there are many of you who would probably really enjoy that it doesn’t really bring us any closer to our goal. So how about we start like this-
Imagine There Are No Classes
It’s actually pretty easy if you try. Essentially my idea is that the world is composed of nations. Let’s say five nations. Each nation has its own ideas and traditions. Maybe one is more technological, another is more magical, one is a savage land where only the strongest survive, etc. Essentially, at the beginning of character creation you pick which nation you want to be from and represent in the game world. Then you design how you want that character to appear. I imagine there would probably be some conventions to go along with each nation. People from this place would have tan skin and red eyes (and hate Alchemy?) or these people would have the option to have blue or green hair. Stuff like that.
After character creation, you finally enter the game world and get treated to a short chain of quests that introduce you to the game. Give you a feel for the mechanics, and of your nation and the issues facing it in the world. After this quest you are given your very first talent point. Now this is where it gets fun because since there are no classes (just ‘races’ for all intensive purposes) each nation has three talent trees. One for tanking, one for damage, and one for healing. Yes, my ideal MMO would stick to the trinity. Yea, there are people who would give me flak for it, but I can’t even imagine how to break it or how it would function without it. So I’ll leave such ideas to those who can grasp those concepts.
The talent trees would be divided up into 3 distinct parts. First there is the first, middle and last tiers of abilities. Each of these would have a choice of one of three abilities that are iconic to both your role and your nation. Essentially, there would be 2-3 choices of abilities in these tiers that would affect how you play your class. Maybe one focuses on two weapon fighting and one focuses on big 2-handed weapons, or something like that. The other two areas are your Upper and Lower tiers of talents. The lower tiers are between the first and middle ability tier, and mostly have pretty broad improvements in your role. More critical damage, quicker attacks, etc. The upper tiers have talents that are especially designed to augment that specific role. This ability gains this additional property and what not.
The reason for the Upper and Lower tiers being that way is that when you reach the Middle Ability Tier, you are given a choice. You can continue down your path and maximize that role to its full power and access the top ability tier, or you can multiclass and gain the first and middle abilities tiers and lower enhancement tier of a second ‘class’. So you could add a bit of utility and self-healing to your tank by multiclassing as healer. Lack the survivability of a full tank, but maybe you can solo tougher challenges with the heals. Are you confused yet? Don’t worry, this is probably the most confusing part. Besides, you don’t really care about how I’d handle the classes, you’re wondering what I’d do different with-
The World and the Stuff to Do In It
Oh yea. I rocked that segue. The big thing I would do with a big open world is the story. The idea is every 12 months is one big storyline for the world, broken in four phases (3 months each.) Each storyline would have quests, dungeons, objectives and a ton of stuff related to it on top of the already existing tons of ‘general’ quests to do. You represent and serve your nation through the storyline and attempt to bring glory or sometimes save your people. This can be diving into caves and ruins and looking for new and powerful artifacts, gathering supplies, or sabotaging the competition. Throughout the year, the storyline would go from phase to phase, and the world would evolve because of it.
Leveling would mostly consist of either doing quests that are related to the overall story line, or smaller story lines throughout the five nations. Oh yes. No hostile ground to be found, but a member of nation A would probably be engaging in different types of quests while in Nation C than the actual members of Nation C. This creates a big world where you can go where you want and participate in the kind of stories you want to play through. Espionage and spying? Let’s go to another nation and see what they’re up to! Help build the military? Let’s see what can be done here at home. Claim forbidden lands and forgotten secrets for your country? Let’s head into the unclaimed neutral territories and see what treasures can be found! But once you hit max level, you can join the overall story line in a much bigger way. Getting into quests that directly tie in and wandering into dungeons to square off against enemies or find powerful relics.
Now, I know what you’re saying. Isn’t that unfair to people who start later? Wouldn’t they have to catch up? How could they catch up to their current tier of dungeons if they weren’t there for the beginning of the story lines dungeons?! Whoa whoa WHOA! Calm down. The dungeons aren’t tiered. In fact, things like item levels and tier sets wouldn’t exist at all. Lemme tell you about my ideas on-
Alternate Gear and Rewards
Dang. I’m getting downright snappy at those. Anyway, unlike a certain MMO that I currently play, my idea for gear would be that it has no bonus to stats. Or at least anything with bonus to stats would be very rare. Instead gear has 2 factors to it: 1) Appearance. Unique and awesome looking gear. 2) Properties. Things like chance on hit procs, extra fire damage on hit, or even cosmetic things to your character for equipping it. Imagine collecting a white armor set that once you equip all the pieces, angel wings appear on your back. Pretty cool huh? This 2 factors can sometimes tie into the story lines, or your nation. Better properties are rarer, or require massive crafting projects.
Yea, no dream MMO of mine would exist without a solid crafting system. With the story lines changing and evolving, there would always be room for more stuff to be added. Start the game after a certain story line was over but really liked the look or property of some items from it? Maybe they can be recreated by tracking down someone who has crafting recipes from that time. Of course, crafting would tie into the ‘alternate rewards’ quite a bit.
See, some people will never see the merit in player housing. If only you and your friends can go in it, what is the point? Imagine your own personal trophy hall. Prizes from your conquests, rare furniture, and amazing artifacts fill the room. You can just walk in and say, “This is what I’ve accomplished.” Between player housing trophies & decorations, an appearance tab of some kind and maybe some titles, there’s a ton of cool things you can give players as rewards! Once again, with the evolving and progressing story lines in the world, having something on your wall that isn’t accessible anymore is awesome. Doubly so if they fought in some epic event to get it. Remember the Haunted Memento is WoW? I held tightly on to that thing until I deleted all my characters back in January. It was a prized possession of mine and one of many rare treasures that I had horded over the years. Imagine if that wasn’t just an afterthought? I would be in heaven!
Players Brutally Beating Down Other Players
…What? Not everything has to be a perfect transition, you know. Anyway, PvP would not be as prevalent as it is in games like WoW. The nations, while competing with each other, are not engaged in open war. There’s no two factions vying for control of the globe. There are several nations who want the leg up on the others, and don’t want to do so by destroying their resources and people in open conflict. However, PvP would exist in my dream MMO. Mostly in the form of events. Say for instance, one nation is using an armored caravan to transport goods back home, and the others are attempting to seize it in vehicles of their own. If the armored caravan is protected using its on board weapons, the nation transporting it gets a bonus until the next transport. If the other nations stop it and seize the caravan, they other four nations get a smaller bonus and the transporting nation gets nothing. Not to mention there could be PvE elements of stocking up and gathering supplies to better defend the caravan or boost the attacking nations weaponry and speed in the assault.
Maybe a full on death match arena as well. I dunno. I’m not a huge PvP guy so the ideas aren’t nearly as formed there to be honest. Still think competitions between nations would help. Though my dream MMO would definitely be more PvE focused. Hey, what can I say, it’s my dream MMO. Your dream MMO can have all the PvP it wants. Dream MMO. You know it starts to sound silly if you say it too much.
So there you have it. My lovely little thought experiment on how I would design my own MMO given no constraints. What would you do differently? It’s kind of fun to think about. You also now know exactly what I like and dislike in my games! So if you think I might like something, feel free to suggest it, I love to try new things out. Except Rift. My computer can’t run it. I’m hoping to have a new one by the time The Old Republic comes out.