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I’ve been extremely interested in the concept of making an online adventure game for a few years now. I’ve played most of the MMORPGs and as cool as they were, I left all of them for essentially the same reason. I found myself falling behind in the XP game so much so that I couldn’t play together with people I had become good friends with because, as we all know, typical MMORPGs discourage players with level differences from actually playing the game together. Sure I’d make new friends, but then they’d pass me as well.
I constantly felt alone in a world bustling with activity. It was somewhat depressing even. Perhaps I don’t have the mentality of the average MMORPG player. I surely don’t fit into the typical demographics, being that the most I can usually commit to gaming is about 20 hours a week. Unfortunately, most MMORPGs require much more commitment in order to progress at a rewarding pace.
I also found most of the stuff you could do in MMORPGs to be extremely boring and monotonous. If I wanted to become a master beer brewer, I’d have to brew 100,000 pints… each brew consisting of 4 uninteresting mouse clicks within an inventory screen… but that would only be for lagers… don’t get me started on the ales. I’m sorry, the only reason anybody would become a master brewer is if they had way too much time on their hands and the thought of being the best at something allowed them to stomach the most nauseating game experience ever. Maybe that’s the society we live in…
So what is a person to do when they clearly can’t (and don’t really want to) play MMORPGs, but still like online games and are eternally fascinated with single-player adventures and RPGs? (I did play Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights and it was the best MORPG [minus the massively] I’ve ever played. However, it still had that XP / level thing that I can’t commit enough time to play.) I think my online adventure gaming solution would be a hybrid of adventure, puzzle, arcade (simple), and role-playing games (minus the XP thing).
Why not just make an online “pure adventure” game? Because if anyone was to play it for any length of time, they would constantly need to have huge amounts of story driven content to occupy their time. I mean, how long does it take to complete the average adventure game as opposed to the typical RPG? Definitely a lot less time, unless the puzzles are maddeningly cruel. It also takes a lot of time to design and write a single-player adventure game… imagine multiplying that by a number that you can’t count to.
As far as allowing the community to build content and areas for a game goes, Neverwinter Nights (NWN) did this quite well, but it’s only flaw was in that a lot of people are not world designers and/or they can’t write. There are a lot of bad NWN modules out there. I don’t know how many days I wasted trying to find a server that was worthwhile playing.
Back to this hybrid idea (that others have pointed out in this thread)… without XP as the driving force behind what your character can and cannot do, how would you appeal to a wide audience of gamers? Variety is a simple answer, but that’s what all games strive for. In fact, a hybrid MMOAG would have to do the other things that current MMORPGs do and better in order for people to be the least bit interested.
Engaging story aside, I believe key aspects to a hybrid MMOAG would be…
–> All actions would be visual. This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many MMORPGs actually show your character grabbing a hammer and pounding metal in order to make a cool set of crafted armor? Wouldn’t it be neat if you had to know how many times to bang that metal (or at least pay attention to the metal’s condition) to make to best armor? Perhaps a small puzzle within a typically mundane action… which leads me to my next point.
–> Keep the player engaged. Even if you’re just riding a horse to the next town. Maybe make it into a simple arcade sequence where you have to make the horse jump over a log or two… and duck under a few tree branches. Yeah, it would be a lame game on its own, but would definitely be better than Dark Age of Camelot’s hop on a horse and watch the world go by for half an hour. I’d also ensure the horse riding game wouldn’t last more than 30 seconds. Don’t get me wrong, horses are cool, but the cool factor is like one of those sparkler candles. Yeah, it kicks ass, but it also fizzles out faster than you’d expect. Don’t let the audience see a smoldering candle. Keep them on their toes. Keep them from falling asleep. Trust me, that is a good thing.
–> I think aspects of the game should be a fully realized. For example, your character owns an apartment. Well that’s fine and dandy, but that’s about it when it comes to the typical MMORPG (Anarchy Online, anyone?). What if some story elements surrounded your domicile? What if NPCs came to meet you at your home or certain equipment necessary to solve puzzles was too large to carry? Then you’d have a reason to go back to your home. That’s where the microwave is… these burritos don’t cook themselves, mister!
–> There should be fun stuff to do when there’s nobody online that you care to play with. The idea of single-player mini-games is cool as long as they produce a nifty reward for the efforts. And when I say reward, I mean something useful in the game, not just fluff. Have you ever played Animal Crossing? That’s a game where you work your ass off to get an item that doesn’t do anything. All the rewards in Animal Crossing are useless graphics. I hate Animal Crossing, even though it’s such a cute game. If the reward system is good enough, it would be beneficial to create multiplayer mini-games… within your game. I’m still waiting to play a game of poker at the local tavern in one of those MMORPGs.
–> Repetitive actions should have variety and progress in said variety. Beating rats about the head with a wooden spoon is cool the first 50 times… but wouldn’t it be awesome to squish them with a sledge hammer? …or use that ol’ Jedi choke trick and watch them squirm? Perhaps, upgrading your sword might disintegrate the enemy instead of leaving a bloody pile of quivering flesh. Food for though anyhow.
–> I believe that crafting things is very cool, but should be controlled. For example, I think that if my character wanted to make a Flaming Moe, he should have to go and collect the ingredients. However, once an ingredient is collected, a timer would have to start that would restrict the player from collecting the ingredient again from the same location until the timer runs out (maybe a full day or something, basically to discourage camping of areas). Also, by spreading out the resources across the world, it creates a need to explore and share Krusty’s Cough Syrup. Collecting resources should involve interesting puzzles and some should be critical to advancing the plot as well as for just making cool stuff to use and share.
–> If there was anything to gain in the game to keep the diehards happy, it would have to be money. There should be a lot of interesting items to buy and a lot of insanely high priced items as well. Sure, your old clunker transport spaceship does the job, but wouldn’t it be cool to fly in style… say, an intergalactic warship with cruise control and driver’s side airbags?
–> I think NPCs should definitely remember your character or at least remember how they fee