All of my thoughts right now seem to be focused around game design viability.
I have a rough outline for a game right now. More or less, anyway. Consider: take the codebase from say, EQ, or DAOC – some fairly simple game (there’s that phrase again!). Now, implement all sorts of shifting story goodness – sort of like AC1’s old story arcs on overdrive. The city that is under seige might actually have the seige lifted, if enough players pitch in to help. Another city is worried about the seige, and is asking for help to build walls, make spears, and do a few other odds and ends. And through it all is knitted an ongoing story that is actually impacted by the players. Weekly (?) content patches arrive that alter the face of the world based on what has been happening recently.
It’s really not a new game. You could probably do this with a UO or EQ emulator (if they were not illegal). It’s just a new take on how that game is run. And how players interact with the world and with each other.
Horizons was supposed to do this: a pve adversary that actually responded to what players did, attacking their towns, trying to take back territory, fighting off incursions. Players able to rebuild old ruined towns, bridges, and such. Some decent ideas there that never really launched well.
Story, story, story – a game where the story IS the game, really, instead of just being the backdrop to create a threadbare illusion of being in a fantasy world.
What I am pondering now is:
Could a game that basically used some “standard game” dynamics, but refocused the entire content base on evolving story, work out? Is there a niche market interested enough in an immersive roleplaying, story-oriented game to snag a small subscriber base? It hasn’t been done, at least not in the modern MMO era. But is that because there are inherent flaws in the concept, or because it just hasn’t been done yet?
This rather goes against the grain for me. I have spent most of my daydreaming time these past years thinking of grandoise MMO designs with intricate, complex systems. New and innovative features galore. Tons of exciting examples of “the way it should be done” – all those cool things that would be designers talk about on various forums out there in the internet. Instead, here I am basically talking about a game design where the only major innovation isn’t even really a part of the gameplay.
It’s also something of a leap of faith. I’m a decent writer, and was always a pretty good tabletop GM – but am I a good enough writer and GM to keep a large number of players interested and engaged for a goodly period of time? It’s certainly something I think I can do better than your average mainstream game – which makes it a GREAT way to differentiate the game from the pack. Everyone talks about story, but the delivery is usually so bad that you *hope* you can ignore it. A game that can really deliver on good story might just work.