I’ve been playing Champions Online a bit lately, partly because I’ve felt a bigger need to get my MMO fix and partly because I have a Lifetime subscription. One of the things that I find particularly about the game is how they do instanced zones. Continue reading “Seamless Instanced Worlds”
I recently found out that Tabula Rasa was going to be shutting its doors after just one year on the market. In addition to this, Richard Garriott, whom largely is thought of as one of the major pioneers in MMORPG design, is leaving NCSoft as well. While this isn’t entirely surprising, the move is still rather amazing to me and quite sad to see it come to this. Continue reading “Goodbye Tabula Rasa”
I read a recent blog post somewhere recently (sorry I don’t remember where) that talked about the original vision of what MMOs were intended to be and the disappointment of where they are now. At heart of this dilemma are the constant need to do mind-numbing quests, the staticness of the world, and the never-ending grind. MMO design today relies upon these things and offers little to no innovation on a game to game basis. To me, the last big innovation in the MMO genre came with City of Heroes’ introduction of the mentoring system. Something that still hasn’t gotten widespread attention in MMOs.
Thinking back on Ultima Online this last Monday (as small a thought as that was in that particular article), made me want to reminisce with the game. Many call it the first MMO, but really it wasn’t, there were many before it. Certainly it went much bigger than others before it, being the first to go to 10,000 players per server, and still remains one of only two or three to have that distinguishing accomplishment. If you consider this game to be the start of the MMO genre, it may very well be one of the only games there, sorry WoW & EQ with your 3k servers, you don’t come close.
One thing about any new Campaign Setting is that you really need to find a hook for it. By this I mean you need to find something about the world that hasn’t really been done fore, that distinguishes it from the others and makes it fun. You can’t just turn out yet another generic world and expect people to buy into it largely because Forgotten Realms is already out there with such a rich history and large world that it will be impossible for you to be able to compete with it. Not only do you have FR to deal with but you have what is likely hundreds of other generic campaign settings that are out there like Dragonlance, Greyhawk, the GURPS worlds, and all the tohers. There’s a lot of generic worlds, and you can’t be one of them.
For my campaign, after pulling the hood off of the MMO aspects that had been there, I realize there wasn’t a huge hook there. I had a ton of MMO hooks, but not many hooks for the actual world itself outside of a couple new races to play and new categories for old races to be stereotyped as. I do have some however…
The first major hook is that instead of being a world… it was going to be a moon. However, this is one hook that I am strongly considering dropping. Now being a moon could do many cool things, but the negatives of it are equally if not more so huge. Much of the coolness of this I think would largely be graphical, meaning you look into the sky and instead of seeing X moons and X suns, you see X moons, X suns, and a ginormous planet. This changes the visual landscape quite a bit. But this would also have huge effects on seismography, weather, day/night cycles, and seasons. And herein lies the issue… You see though we as humans have been to the moon, we really haven’t stopped and considered these issues as much. As an example… we say there is a dark side and light side of the moon but this is hardly true. When there is a half moon in the sky that means half of the light side is in fact dark and half of the dark side is in fact light. There is a day/night cicle there just as much as here, but it isn’t as regular because it is predicated not due to it’s rotation, but due to where it lies by the Earth in proportion to the Sun. How is this changed when you add a natural rotation to the moon (after all our moon is abnormal that it doesn’t rotate which is why we have our tides). And how does a lunar revolution around a planet affect the seasons? If it takes a month to revolve around a planet… if it is say spring or autumn, is it possible that during one part of the month you have winter conditions and another part summer? Would 50-80 degree differences in temperature in a relatively short period of 1-2 weeks be fairly normal? And what does this mean to the game? These are all interesting questions and would certainly bring an entirely great new hook to any game, but may also take months of research just to come up with a realistic answer. Sure I could fudge this stuff and just say it is “earth-like” which is very popular to do, but I’ve never been copasetic with this type of explanation… or even the explanation that “well it’s a magical world, anything can happen.”
Another hook is a more spiritaul world than deity driven one. In a sense this is similar to what we see in the Final Fantasy games where the magic is driven by the elements. Not that this is a direct correlation, but this is closer to what I am talking about than what we generally see in RPGs where there is a set of Gods ruling over the universe and magic. The idea is kind of to combine the established tradition of Priests and Mages into one where you still get the effects of both. Yet I also still want to maintain the idea of religion oddly enough and want to enforce the dilemma of faith versus magic. It is an odd dichotemy that you don’t often see.
Another hook is a post-apcoloyptic setting. You see these settings quite a bit in modern or futuristic settings, but not nearly as often in a fantasy setting. (Unless of course you see an MMO wanting to find a sequal to get a new land ala Everquest 2 or Asheron’s Call 2). I’m not saying what or how it is happening here… but suffice it to say something happened and now we are in a world where the ruling empires are no more, there are struggles for control, much of civilization is cut off, monsters are resurging, new ones are popping up as magical mutations become rampant, etc.
In truth, this last one seems to be the main hook in the game. But is this enough? Essentially I currently have 1 big hook and 1 minor hook, and 1 hook that I likely won’t use that would be moderate if I did. I could use a couple more decent hooks that really make my campaign one significantly interesting. One that I’ve always toyed around with is some sort of inherent magical manifistation in non-magical classes… Eberron did this well with dragonmarked, I also loved the guardians in Sovereign Stone, but the idea really comes from Shadowrun in reality. Something like this might really give an in play difference to the game. But this may not be enough….