I’ve been ranting on (or as I prefer to refer to it, “thoughtfully exploring”) the possibility of truly dynamic virtual worlds that are more than mere scripted amusement park rides (“Oh Boy! Let ride the Deadmines again Mom!”).
I’m torn. I used to play a lot of strategy and RTS games– mostly against human adversaries. A couple of things I liked about them: I got to think and act both tactically and strategically and, if you used a random map, each game, even against the same opponent, was different.
On the flipside, with MMOs, I love the notion of a persistent world and identity and the ability to develop my presence over time.
When I think about how to try to take MMOs to the next generation, a couple of ideas get mentioned in some form: Players need to be able to change the world, and (over simplifying) mobs need to be smarter.
Changing the world is hard, but probably not nearly as hard as creating the illusion of a thinking adversarial force. I think the illusion of a player impacted world isn’t too great a leap from where we are now. If we’re talking about raising crops or deforestation/silviculture that’s pretty “topical”. Irrigation is the same. Dam building starts getting a bit crazy as does road and city building. Still, even with fairly limited choices, the illusion of impact can be created.
The thinking adversary is a bit different. Scripted battles are relatively easy versus orchestrating some overarching story driven activity. Currently implemented “world events” are really not much more than scripted performances or reimplementations of existing mechanics.
So, how about this for complete chaos: Actual Intelligence. Yes, hire peeps to BE the baddies in game. Not each orc or goblin, but imagine if each factional leader or evil uber mob was an actual thinking human (or several to cover hours of operation). Of course, you could make them deities as well, but I kind of like the idea of the evil wizard in the keep actually being an active participant in the world– marshalling forces, harrying the forces of good, guiding and directing baddies in the game.
Too many goodies harvesting valuable lumber on the evil wizard’s lands? He sends orcs and trolls and wargs and what not to harry the players or launch a counter offensive.
Effectively, employees of the game company act much like GMs of old pen and paper RPGs. Each server would be a completely unique gaming experience, and yes, there is the risk that that would suck. But thats what server transfers are for….
The Evil Overlord gets to play the game much like an RTS while players at large are mere adventurers in the world. If a game had many factions, each faction could actually have a real live leader that had the ability to wage campaigns against the other factions and reward players for their participation. Sort of world event meets mega raid.
Maybe even the uber players on a server would get a chance to take control of the keep (and its evil minions) in a form of the ultimate king of the hill MMO experience…