–> Most importantly, your character must change as the game progresses. RPGs do this in a simple, but rewarding fashion. Adventure games should do the same. After the game starts, your character should have to choose a profession at some point and follow a common story, but from that profession’s perspective (this would create a re-playability factor, like in the Quest For Glory series). By following the story, your character grows and gains items and abilities that help them in their quest and help other players too. If your character was a doctor, he might have to learn how to implant cybernetics into a person. Well, wouldn’t that be cool to surgically alter other players? Though, getting through the spaceport metal detectors would be a bitch. Also, I do think it would be a must for players to choose some new abilities as your character gains rank in his or her career. It gives the player a feeling of empowerment. That in someway they are tailoring their character to the way they want to play through the stories. I think the skill trees that branch out are pretty neat, like in Diablo II. (Slightly off topic: remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure books or the Pick a Path variety? I felt like I was in control of the story. It didn’t always work out as I expected, but damn it was cool! I felt empowered! …okay maybe not empowered, but it felt good, whatever it was.)
–> Character skills are interesting to have. In typical adventure games, the player could do everything required to progress through the game on their own. I think that should be true for a hybrid MMOAG as well. However, there are many different ways to solve the same puzzle or conquer the same obstacle depending on the character’s profession and/or abilities. Though, the solution might involve earning enough money to buy that knockout gas grenade or possessing the “computer hacking” skill to flood the room with the defense system’s own toxic gas.
–> Virtual pets are a must. Tamagotchi wasn’t popular because of the graphics… it’s because you had this little thing that required your attention and gave you back virtual affection. Everybody wants to be loved. Besides wouldn’t it be cool to have a pet that grows in its abilities like you. Not only does your character’s progression amuse and fascinate you, but your 50 ton gelatinous cube, Fluffy, would make it an interesting experience as well.
All those are important things to think about, but the biggest hurdle for any MMOG is to allow the player to feel like he or she is making a difference in the game world, but without ruining it for everybody else. Something to think about… I think I’ve blathered on enough though.
I always ask people who play MMORPGs if it was a single player game, would you still play it? [cue the unintelligible babble… somewhat like when Kirk and Spock would confuse the alien super computer and its brain slowly melted] Some say no, but defend their game by saying that it’s all about playing together, the players are what make the game. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put my enjoyment of a game in the hands of an eight year old in Guatemala. Why can’t a game be fun on its own… and then add the ability for people to play it together?
I honestly think there is a solution to a non-RPG MMOG that would appeal to many different audiences. However, it requires a lot more planning than any other game on the market… because it doesn’t exist. A successful one would be the first of its kind.
The funny thing about the human race is that we can envision something that doesn’t exist… and make it a reality. It is just a matter of time before a MMOG of a different variety makes an entrance. Who knows? …maybe it might start here.