Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The game I'm wishing for

Massively asks what next-gen MMO people are wishing for from Blizzard. Someone asked Tigole whether that game would be sci-fi, fantasy, or historical, and he answered "all of the above". So based on this little information, what game am I wishing for.

I'm thinking of a Victorian steampunk game, where steam-powered ships fly through space and visit fantastic worlds to trade with them. I really, really want a space game next, because that is apparently the only way to get something like a trade economy into a MMO. With trade I don't mean what is already happening on auction houses, but the idea that some goods are more abundant and cheap in some part of the world, and can be transported and sold at a profit somewhere else, where these goods are rare. That concept fails on fantasy worlds with their teleports, but works well with space games.

I want that game to somewhat resemble a cross between WoW and carebear EVE. No PvP, but a huge single-server galaxy to travel through. Mining asteroids, but with some amusing puzzle mini-game, not the boring EVE way, provides the basic resources for building various parts to upgrade your spaceship with. Various regions of the galaxy have different minerals on the asteroids, which is where the trade would come in. Another thing copied from EVE would be buy orders on auction houses. Where WoW comes in is in my dream game having tons of PvE content, like quests, or borrowed from WAR even public quests, like a fleet of space pirates attacking a planet. There would also be group PvE content, where players would need to form fleets to tackle some NPC threat.

Combat would be ship vs. ship combat, and I'd borrow a lot of good ideas there from Pirates of the Burning Sea. As the ships are Victorian, broadsides in space would be very cool, and give combat a tactical maneuvering component. There could also be planetside avatar combat on the fantastic worlds, and player avatars could explore planets, and even build player and guild housing there.

There would be no character levels, but a skill system. We could take offline skill learning from EVE, plus give out skill points for various activities, but unlike EVE I would introduce some sort of skill cap, like in Ultima Online, where you have to unlearn old skills to learn new ones. The advantage of that would be that new players could catch up to veterans. And instead of learning everything with time, players would be forced to specialize into careers that only consist of skill templates.

I don't really believe that Blizzard's next-gen MMO will look anything like this, but a man can dream, can't he?
I would like a game where the emphasis moves away from tank/healer/dps and running around killing mobs. Even a good game like this can't seem to feel new and interesting. Also, less of the twitch factor involved and more tactics and strategy.

Maybe, more emphasis on building things and trading.
Your game idea sounds like a lot of fun, Tobold. I think some influence could be had from the Space Rangers game series - which show how you can pack a ton of varied gameplay into the space theme, with combat, both air and ground, but also all kinds of mini-games, quests, and goofiness.
Personally the game I'd like to see is a kind of integrated game which uses space, planet-based "traditional" MMO themes, as well as FPS and real time strategy elements. In the space realm you'd have mining, fighting, trading, etc similar to EVE has now, with a big focus being on a player economy, shuttling goods and people from world to world.

On the planets, you could have several, with different gameplay types - one might be a RTS type world where you try to take and hold territory with mechanical armies, another might be a Team Fortress 2 style team battleground where you rack up points and awards, and a third might be more of a traditional explore-and-loot MMO world. In addition you'd have player/guild owned factories, cities, etc throughout, with other players able to raid them.

I think a combined game like this would be popular and help break the fantasy stranglehold.
Tobold - step back and reread your description of the "ideal" MMO. It's functionally so close to the current EVE that it will never happen. They don't have the revenue to introduce those kind of changes, and yet it's too close to their product for anyone else to want to copy. Not gonna happen.

The other issue is that while you've - may I? - "mashed" a MMO to your liking, it's virtually a certainty that you've alienated more players than you've attracted. Successful MMO's have, for better or worse, a consistency and conherence that holds up well over time. Mixing it up like you suggest just wouldn't work, either.

Sorry, but I'm disappointed because WAR is a flop, and so was AoC and every other "WoW-killer" for last few years. We've hit a plateau with a single industrial-strength game available, and while that's a disappointment, it also means your ideal MMO may not happen for a while...
I think a combined game like this would be popular and help break the fantasy stranglehold.
Perhaps, or you could end up with Spore, where each part is a bad, shallow copy of a better game, and the integration between games is lacking at best.
It's functionally so close to the current EVE that it will never happen.

Yeah, nobody would ever produce a game that is functionally close to an existing game, like WoW. Oh, wait! No! Actually most of the games coming out since WoW have been functionally close to it. If you believe "WAR is different from WoW, because WAR has RvR", then my game is different from EVE, because it doesn't have PvP.

And I'm not claiming this is the ideal game, it's just the game I'd love to see next.
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Oh, and Anakh is not the first one to get this idea. One of our local computer magazines reviewed this game in their April 1989 issue.
I could picture something that starts out in the Wild West and evolves into a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-esque Space Cowboy Sci-fi adventure.
The "steampunkish" vibe that Treasure Planet had going for it was one of that story's strongest elements. It is surprising to me that such hasn't been tried yet.

NeoSteam tried a steampunk sort of world, but the gameplay just didn't live up to the promise of the theme. Too bad, really.
Why can't this work in a fantasy setting.

My dream game: EVE game mechanics (skillbased, trading, hardcore PvP) in i a seamless world that resembles WOW and has the graphical expression of WAR.

I like the steampunk idea though :)
*Votes for Tobolds Steampunk Game*

Steampunk is a likely theme in my opinion. Its the only one I can think of to combine all those themes/elements without some really crazy and artificial 'hitchhiker'-combination.
And I would totally buy a steampunk-pve-eve. Blizzard doesn't need to worry about the real eve, with their resources and the usual polish they can easily snap away the pve-players of eve.

It would be a really sad honor for the eve-developers to get copied that way.. I kind of like the way they treat their game, even if its not my kind of game.
I've looked forward to a lot of games in the past which just didn't deliver what I hoped, Pirates of the Burning Sea definitely being one of them, but Jumpgate Evolution looks to be on course to being my ideal game, (how I loved Elite & Freelancer back in their day) though the whole PVP/PVE situation seems currently undecided, and it gets lots of abuse from the EVE fanbois, which is probably the best backhanded recommendation it can receive.
But, but... Market combat == PvP!
Probably not what you meant, though. ;)

EVE's economy is important because stuff gets destroyed permanently. Are we ready for PvE with EVE's PvP scale of death penalty?

Also - the "new players can't catch up" thing aimed at EVE is a bit of a myth. Changing ship is changing class; only skill points that apply to the active ship/systems being used are relevant. Long-term players thus have access to more "classes", and a set of core skills that modestly improve the performance of all their ships.

The trick of EVE's balancing is to make sure that the stack of ship classes are all still useful for something in the same fleet at the same time. New players can thus become competent in the "light" versatile classes quite quickly, old players tend to have access to "heavier" classes that are useful in specific circumstances.

Limiting the number of skill points a player could accrue might cause even more alt-inflation than EVE has due to the impact "don't unlearn skills if you want to experiment with something else, create a second character". And if they don't, the game becomes less fun.

For example, my main can fly a single racial type of frigate tacklers (average), EW cruisers (average), Tech 2 remote repair cruisers (very well), and boost mining gang output (very well). None of these skill sets overlap much, outside a core set of "fitting" skills, and there are plenty of much younger people in my corp who can out-EW, out damage, and out-tackle me, because they've focused more.

(Disclaimer: I run four characters. I am not unusual).
Great post Tobold. Copying all the good stuff from EVE and repackaging it in a more mass market friendly package strikes me as a very good investment. CCP themselves have been trying to move EVE in that direction for some time but they are restricted in how far they can go by the heritage of the game.

Are you determined not to have any pvp at all in your game? What about some form of faction based low impact pvp (perhaps you return to home base on a defeat but get 100% insurance for all losses). I have always fancied being a blockade runner - making lucrative trade runs through dangerous regions of enemy space.
I'm completely in favour of this game. I put together an outline for my own ideal MMO last year, and it's pretty close in overall intention, albeit a bit different on some details.

And as an aside, the steampunk feel with broadsides would make a lot more sense than EVE's spaceship combat at 2 kilometres, which has always seemed bizarrely close-ranged to me.
@Drew: Only blasters are going to have the tracking at 2km - that's prett much a broadside. ;)

I'm interested to watch how the 40K MMO develops. GW's Battlefleet: Gothic 40K property might fit your/Tobold's space combat requirements. Broadsides, ship armor, ramming speed, fighters, boarding actions...

The human side of 40K is also pretty steam-punk if squinted at right: ritualised ancient high technology tended to by a technopriesthood.

I've no idea if THQ's studio is planning to include a space phase in the MMO, but given the high bar Star Trek Online is likely to set on such matters, it's an obvious element to hope for. :)
And as an aside, the steampunk feel with broadsides would make a lot more sense than EVE's spaceship combat at 2 kilometres, which has always seemed bizarrely close-ranged to me.
That depends entirely on the ship and the weapons. A Rifter (which is roughly as big as a 747) fights at 2km. My Drake is comfortable at 50+km, and even that's relatively close.
I don't think the question asked of Jeff Kaplan had the fantasy genre in there. In fact the one thing we do know is that it probably won't have any elements of fantasy/magic. Though, since Tigole is working on it we can probably assume raiding.
Speaking of steampunk, my dream is to see something along the lines of a playable Girl Genius.

One day.....
Blizzard is quite good at refining concepts and gameplay elements that others have pioneered. I think the game will contain elements from some more current games but perhaps not always been explored successfully.

Combining "sci-fi, near-future, post-apocalyptic, historical" sounds like like a few stories you can find in SciFi litterature and steampunk theme would fit quite well there.
What about a game in a sci-fi setting, where all chars could choose a class to be and respec (whatever the price or time for it) later on?
Where a universe were so big that player housing is not a problem at all.
Where you could dogfight, but also be a pure merchant or a foot soldier.
Where you had a social hyerarchy were implemented at random on char creation and you had to adapt to it, rise in it or struggle to get out of their ties (realm voting would be nice to see on a democratic planet. A dictatorship with a coup by a faction of players would be huge. I imagine the social turmoil, migration, merchant exploits, etc.. that would ensue. And loving every minute)
Where you could lose yourself exploring lost planets with nothing but wildlife. Even become a famous hunter IF you were really that dedicated. Or make a hut there and be a hermit.
Where cityplanets would be so huge that you could have a universe to explore and never leave hometown because youre running a flourishing business on "stimpacks" and having fun with mates at the local arenas.
Where you had a humanoid (or not) avatar that actually enters and leaves a cockpit when using a spaceship or other means of transport.
Where all the stats and min maxing is well hidden beneath a layer of polish so good you dont even think about numbers but instead about feeling good doing stuff.(elitist jerks could still do their thing though, they always do)
Where the lore is rich and well crafted. Even magic is allowed.

Those are some things I would like to see in an ideal MMORPG
A carebear version of EVE with EVE's great economy won't ever work. EVE's economy only works because everything you buy is going to be lost at some point. Which creates demand for more of the items.

Without that demand, there's less production. And with less production there's no longer a need to have goods in certain locations, and without that there's no longer a regional price difference.

I'm with you, I love EVE but I'm a carebear. But I just can't see an economy as great as EVEs working without continual and perpetual loss.
A MMO where every single quest could be:

1. done solo
2. with a group
3. with a guild

With different rewards for each.

An example:

1. scout the keep and steal an item from the overlord

2. kill the overlord with a group

3. loot the entire keep with your guild

This would ensure that no content ever became outdated, as you cold always solo it if needed.

= # # =
Here's a subset of what I would like to see in a future MMO...

Imagine an MMO where some specialized professions (like land vehicle mechanic, spaceship engineer, etc.) give the player access to spore-like editors in which they can alter items in which they are specialized.

So, if you want to change the shape of your land rover, you pay or trade something to another player who has the skill to take your vehicle into their editor (shop) and change it for you.

Those with "Editor" professions would differentiate themselves from eachother by the different parts they have found through their exploits in the game (i.e. quests, exploring, other means)

Also the skill level of the mechanic may affect how long the vehicle can go before it needs a "tune up", i.e. the vehicle stats start to lessen over time.
I would like a horror based MMO, where you can play a vampire/werewolf/ghost, etc,etc. Or maybe a hunter of these types of creatures. If it had graphics of WoW, and the RvR type play of WAR. It would be delicious.
@wayofthechosen: Handily, CCP-White Wolf's World Of Darkness mmo is in stealthy development at the moment. ;)
World of Darkness Online, based on WhiteWolf's IP in a huge sandbox city like Dark COX with a mature touch and strong hunter/police AI to uphold secrecy. Somewhere like the GTA wanted-levels.

Or WH40K MMO. An idea would be to start as single marine/eldar/whatever and paralell/instead of gaining levels, you get pet "squadmates" you can equip and tweak to your likeing, thus simutating big battles (if technology allows)

Whilst I'd be happy with most content from fantasy to steampunk to sci-fi and all the wonders in between, it's the mechanics of an MMO I'd love to see drastically changed.

Rather than the 'kill ten foozles' shtick by throwing numbers at them that are greater than numbers they throw at you, I would love to see more skilful combat employed.

For example: Quest one: 'Go kill a deer in the king's forest. Here is a shoddy bow.' Off you go, with ten arrows, and you have to kill the deer. The deer can spot you and run away (like anti-aggro?) so you have to keep a safe distance, and the more skilful your aim, the more chance you have of slaying said deer (hitting in the neck kills it, say, whereas hitting the hind leg makes it stumble off. Or something!)

Skill rewards could be 'steadier aim' or 'better equipment', allowing for faster shots, accuracy and whatnot. Instead of the bog standard, soulless mathematics of xp. (You're a better person now because there are a lot more numbers on your character)

I'm rambling now, but nearly all hand-to-hand MMO combat consists of: face foozle, hit button, watch numbers float away from it until it falls over.

Where's the skill?
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