It’s been quite a while since I last blogged, but life has been keeping me distracted.
I have a couple ideas that have been running through my mind lately, so I am entering them. My story/book idea will be entered in my next blog entry as it has been in my mind for about 2 months. This entry will have my latest idea, entered sooner, before I forget.
(note: every mention below of ‘his’/’him’/etc is to be mentally changed to the matching female preposition, if a female is the person/character in question. Leaving the male reference is made for simplicity).
You start the game waking up in a forest, completely unaware of who you are, or what brought you here. (Yeah, common beginning, but that’s all that is common)
Looking into the nearby pool of muddy water, you see a reflection of your character. Here is where the player gets prompted to choose his race (Human, Elf, Dwarf), sex, and height (range dependant upon race of course). Nothing else is chosen, ever. Every action taken is counted and affects his stats in varying degrees, depending on the context. Chopping trees down builds strength with every swing, using magic increases magic capabilities, etc. This is all done without any notification to the player, nor is it available in any stat listing. The only way to see any stat increases are graphically represented on the character being played. Strength bulks up the muscles, dexterity shows in increased speed and movement, magic shows on an increasing tattoo-like design crawling up the characters arms from his hands, and maybe a glow in his eyes. Wisdom is increased by experience (also not displayed), and will only be perceptible by others in the outfits and items accumulated. Experience is accumulated by figuring out the available things and doing various things like defeating monsters, or other players. Wisdom can be additionally boosted by giving money/things to religious locations/NPCs. As wisdom increases additional bonuses will be granted, as if from a deity. Again, nothing is told to the player, he just might notice his weapons glow a bit, or lighting might strike down (seemingly at random) one of a group of opponents, etc. There isn’t the standard additional hit points as you level up. The PC has a set number of hit points based on race and health condition. You can build your hardiness, and therefore natural resistances, but without armor, a knife to the heart still kills no matter how long you’ve been playing your PC. ‘Levelling up’ is replaced by building skills, collecting better quality armor and weapons, more powerful magic spells, and simply the players skill at playing (and later, the size of their army).
You are in first person mode, looking around is a closely grown forest. Behind you is some sort of metallic vehicle that obviously fell from the sky and was destroyed. Shards of metal are laying about of all shapes and sizes. Also laying around are other materials (TBD later as needed). Everything you see, from the trees and branches (many sizes) to the metal and other items are available to gather/touch/use. This ability to touch everything should be designed into the game throughout. Everything should appear natural, rain, thunderstorms, windy, wet after a rain, dry after days without rain, etc. Objects with openings at the top should collect water during a rain; objects covered should stay dry during a rain, etc. Natural sounds should connect with actual objects, except maybe some additional crickets or distant birds. If any other noise is heard, the source of the noise should be able to be seen.
The forest is very large, with a few barely perceptible paths already existing. The paths are only to lead the player more directly to some useful locations, they can be found by wandering as well:
One path leads to a fast flowing river, if the player goes into it, the character gets pulled under water, and the screen goes black. After a few moments, the player is in a newly created forest with no way back to the previous one. Here there are more distinct paths, but otherwise the same.
One path leads to a stream filled with fish. Using a tool (fishing pole, also creatable) food can be caught here.
One path leads to a cave. A bear lives here, but if a weapon has been created it can be killed. The cave can be used as shelter as easily as building shelter.
The longest path leads to an area of people noise, then a distant city is seen. Continuing will lead to the MMO area (a popup warning such before loading/connecting).
You find that common sense determines what usage everything is. For instance, grab a piece of metal that appears sharp, and it can go into inventory marked as ‘Tool’. Using it on any other object causes it to be cut. Grab a branch that appears around 2 feet long, and connect it to another sharp looking piece of metal, and it goes into your inventory as an axe, marked as a ‘Tool’. You also have the ability to name everything in your inventory, so you might name that tool "Axe", or you might name it "Chopper". Basically, you are to build whatever you think up to make. Of the possible things created, there should be the ability to create many tools, bow, arrows, knife, axe, hammer, etc. With cloth around, you should be able to make a little bit of armor (leather like), some additional clothing (you start fully clothed, but optional clothing is nice), and a backpack-like item. You start with 2 2-section inventories (pockets), but a created belt gives a weapon slot, and creating an additional harness provides a quiver for any made arrows. Making a backpack gives an additional 12-section inventory +8 for material only.
The forest surrounding is extremely large, and completely local to your hard drive. As the game progresses, you must hunt for food, find a source of drinking water (river/stream)… both on a Sim-like bar, but much longer lasting. A day in game time, is an hour in real life. Food MUST be eaten at least once every 5 days, anything after 2 days begins pulling from your strength, and the longer you go, the faster the strength goes down. After the 5 days, your health begins decreasing. By the next day, the character dies. Water/drink behaves the same way, but strength decreases after 1 day without, and health after 2 days. A full water canister is found quickly among the materials at the start, but contains 16 days worth of water. It automatically gets used, as long as it is in inventory. Food must be found or purchased (later) and manually eaten.
Without any explanations, the player should be able to figure out that after creating an axe, the trees can be cut down, and an area cleared. If such happens, it should be relatively easy to build first a lean-to, then a shack, with a good amount of wood chopped, and a large area cleared, a full size log cabin. Nothing should be automatically shown to the player, but nothing should get in the way of an idea either. Nearby fruit trees can provide food as well as using a weapon on any animals found in the forest.
At some point, the player will find himself entering a populated area. This is the MMO portion of the game. A town/city/battleground or any other location where you’d expect multiple people to be, is an MMO server. The first time someone connects to a server, they are automatically put on a server that has a low amount of people registered there (and low ping). That server is also the town name, and is the home town of the player. At no time should there be more people registered on that server than it can handle if more than 75% were logged on simultaneously. A multi-server system should be running for any city. All characters visiting the city will have their home-town appended to their name (ie. Pachilles ‘of Langsport’).
Forest -First (local): Survival. Random (realistic) monsters/creatures. Time to figure out the game. Building tools, buildings, clothing. Basic resources (scrap metal, flimsy cloth, simple wood, basic food, water).
Town -First (MMO server): Server name is town name. PC takes town name as ‘from’. NPCs for directions, town guards, merchants (basic goods, Inn rooms, Inn food & drink, transportation), rumors, employers.
Town -All (MMO server): Saleable goods can be sold/traded here. Employer NPCs-Hiring messengers, resource gatherers, merchandise manufacture. Town Guard NPCs-Walk around the town; if a merchant yells ‘thief’ anywhere nearby, guard attempts to take into custody, or attacks. Perimeter Guard NPCs-Attacks any monster/creature that comes too close. Merchant NPCs-Purchases goods from PC or NPCs manufactured items (& some resources) and sells what’s actually purchased. Merchant gold is actually monitored and maintained. Merchant will see a PC stealing, but only if looking in the direction, yell ‘Thief!", and attack a short distance. Merchants can die, but will be replaced with a different NPC after a short time (they walk in from forest).
City -All (MMO server): Here’s where the real stuff happens. The race of the PC causes what city he can get into (afterward the first visit, all cities are accessible). The PC can come here on his own, or be led here from a job as a messenger (from a town). A story starts here, based on the rulers and war. PCs can enlist in the army, sell their services as a mercenary, be a supplier of goods, or find some other way to profit (spy, etc.). PCs can be major players, or another one of the masses, based on his choices. Here, you will also learn how to design and build your own empire in your beginning forest. Nothing is truly a ‘canned experience’, as the only NPCs in a city are those that need to be (some basic merchants, guards, servants, storyline persona’s, etc).
Surrounding towns is a limited area for gathering resources. Stone can be mined from a quarry, trees can be cut down for wood, metal of all sorts can be mined, cotton, leather, anything that can be of use. Surrounding cities are their walls where none may enter without paying a small toll, unless you’ve built a skill for climbing.
Forest, back home (local/shareable): Once you’ve returned to your home forest with the added skills and/or plans you’ve picked up in the city, you can begin building your own kingdom. Using your local resources, or purchasing them from a town, with some time and effort you can build many buildings and homes for various NPCs. Build a house, a request from an NPC will show up asking to allow them to move in. If you build a business, guild house, etc., if you have enough NPCs living in houses, they will request the right to work there. The concept is similar to many strategy games. If you want to build something more complex than a small single-story building, you need to hire an NPC architect. Architects can be found in cities for hire, or you can build an architect business. In either case, if you have enough money, or enough resources and some money, any current building can be upgraded for more NPCs to move in or better the business. You can build a level 1 building, then upgrade them. Everything takes resources to build/upgrade. You can go gather your own and/or hire current NPCs to do it (with an established business model). Your forest has an unlimited supply of resources, as everything grows back over time after its gathered. As your kingdom grows, so does your lordly rank. Your kingdom will be frequently under siege by random monsters wandering your forest. Hire NPCs to be guards for your kingdom to keep it safe. At some point, you may want to build a wall around your kingdom to keep them from picking off your people. You can hire NPCs to trade resources and goods with towns (online and monitored). Guards will be needed to keep them safe from predators too. An online record of NPCs working in your kingdom, resources you’ve gathered, and gold you’ve collected is kept. At any point you go to a town or especially a city, NPCs there will behave accordingly. The player may also allow other PCs to enter his kingdom, but this is also allowing another player online onto his own computer. With a built kingdom, you can go back into the city and continue in the storyline, but this time, you start much higher up in the chain of the army (with your own forces to contribute), and get closer to the rulers and become a part of the storyline.
The storyline is constantly flowing, and quite subtle. Players can have an effect on the storyline. The storyline is not repeated for every player, because it is not ‘canned’. If a player manages to kill a storyline character, it is gone for everyone. The story continues without that character, for everyone. If the character killed is a needed character for the storyline, the story will change around him, but continue on as if he’s wounded and then when he reappears later, the story can continue again. Of course, if any story character is killed, the killer PC then becomes a ‘wanted man’. At this point, any NPC that sees the PC will attack (and they are very good fighters), this in effect will ban them from this city. Of course, this will not stop him from going to another city, but any city of a different race than the PC will treat him differently (higher cost of goods/resources, dirty looks, occasionally an attack from an unfriendly NPC character, etc). The ruling class of an opposing race will allow, but be wary. Each city has it’s own story. All storylines will revolve around a constant state of tension and war. The city of elves, the city of dwarfs, and the city of humans are at war with each other. That brings us to the final type of area…
Battlegrounds: Each battleground area is of a different design, but all have a few things in common. There are 3 forts, one for each race. A large area of land separating each fort. The entire area is surrounded by woods, and maybe water to a side. When a PC logs into the battleground area, he has a choice of bringing with him any number of the NPCs he has as followers in his kingdom. The player may send them to attack with or without him, toward a selected opponent. If he goes with the NPCs, he will be able to command them to some extent. This is a PvP area, so they can assist the PC in overwhelming/defeating any opposing PC.
Death: Any PC that dies, at any point, gets sent back to his beginning/home forest (basically bumped offline). If any of his NPCs are killed in a battleground, he must wait for a period of time for his NPCs to be replaced. The more to be replaced, the longer he must wait. At no point will an NPC join the players kingdom without his being in the area.
I know this would be a difficult game to create, and still be of good quality. This game concept takes a good sense of realism, a design implementing many aspects lacking in ANY MMO games, let alone offline gaming, and a good sense of becoming powerful as well as a feeling of owning something of value. Gamers are getting more intelligent, more demanding, and need something that doesn’t treat them like children. This game requires a sense of maturity, and working hand-in-hand with others. It leaves the game world as open ended as any MMO, as open designed as Grand Theft Auto, as strategic as many strategy games, and as exciting as many FPS games. This design leaves so much room to grow easily, and if we allow player created kingdoms into the whole MMO end of things, it can be a huge way to turn this game into a full world.