Monday, July 28

The Quest for the Holy Grail - Part Three

I have more to add regarding my criticisms and claims.

This time it's in relation to MMORPGs.

The current set of MMO games focus on task resolution with a linear plot provided by the developers of the product. Even within this structure the potential for creating stories ourselves (that is by the great unwashed instead of the developers) is still very large. However, the mechanics of these games do not support this kind of play. In fact, they actively discourage it. Where this kind of play does exist it frequently consists of ignoring the mechanical aspects of the game and using the MMO as a kind of chat room. While I have nothing against this kind of play it is dissonant.

Therefore, I want an MMO that is built to support storytelling in its mechanics, either as well as or instead of task resolution.

Mechanical aspects could include such devices as character traits and attributes. My character could have traits like cowardly, fearful, bewildered, introspective, intelligent, educated, popular. Each of these and many more besides would have actual mechanical meaning. The game could enforce these traits in many different ways, but in the spirit of providing solutions that are not purely speculative, I would like to propose that the game gives experience points when the conditions of the trait are filled. Cowardly: run from potentially harmful encounters. If orcs invade my character's village (populated by many other characters) and my character, the coward, is challenged to a battle, then he runs and by running he gains XP. Character traits wouldn't be visible to other players except through actions. It is possible that players could choose a trait from a list when interacting with another PC, if they choose a trait that is on that PCs list, then that PC gains some XP. Essentially this offers a means for a player to state what it was they felt the other PCs traits were based on their interactions, offering a form of player to player feedback on performance.

I want to see a mechanic for relationships within the game. If the character Tharin is annoying and I want him dead (or my character does anyway) then I could create a Nemesis relationship with that character, earning experience points whenever I manage to make him fail at declared activities (or some other defined set of parameters). The Paramour relationship declares my romantic interest in another character, and I gain XP whenever I manage to woo said strumpet - with a bonus for marriage.

I want plots to be seamlessly integrated into the game. Developers, moderators, game designers become actors and script writers instead of programmers and directors. They create characters that enter the game, these characters have no special qualities beyond those of a normal character, that is they have traits and relationships, for example. And they interact with other players in an effort to keep the story active and moving.

I want 'tokens' that can be passed from player to player that have some significance to the mechanics of the game. This is particularly hard to define because they are highly dependent on the implementation, they could be things, attributes, circumstances, features that are either temporary or meaningful in many ways. Examples of this sort of thing include; curses - the princess is cursed to eternal slumber lest she be kissed by her one true love; quests - only s/he who finds the Holy Grail can be named King; Titles - Princess, King, Duke, Arch-fiend; or even objects - The Dragon's tooth, Excalibur, a poisoned apple, a letter of free passage from the King. Each of these mechanical items have benefits and costs, each lost or gained, each is rare.

This sort of game absolutely must give some consideration to the variable nature of attendance online. While it's difficult to have a showdown with your Arch-Nemesis if the two of you never appear online together, it may be possible to create work-arounds. Thus, creating a language and mechanism that permits this sort of relationship and makes it interesting and engaging is needed. Structures can be introduced that support this kind of play. For example, two rivals are vying against one another for some reason (any reason is fine) and the mechanics of the game declare that a rivalry exists. In order for it to be possible to have such a rivalry the game must support some means for the two characters to interact even if they are not in the same space. It also must support some means for others to interfere. The idea here is simple. The two rivals must touch a central point each real world day. Each 'touch' is worth a point. The one with the most points is the winner. Other characters can interfere with this by moving the touchpoint, by blocking the rival they do not support, by acting as a secret proxy (or even disguise) for the rival and gaining the touch. Relationships such as Sycophant, Kingmaker, Servant or traits such as Malcontent, Anarchist or Deceptive could all play a part in this kind of 'battle' garnering XP for the player who participates and uses these traits.

Once again I feel that my words fail me. Once again I want to know what you might think. Problems, suggestions, any ideas of your own? Would you be interested in playing in such an MMO?


Berkeley said...

Exactly! This is what I wanted the original EQ to be when I first started playing. And yet in it's infancy, even the slightest roleplay was rare. Most players were consumed with the mechanics of the game, and achieving success in the endgame. That included using it as a "chatroom" in the most deviant manner if necessary to achieve those goals.

What were the rewards? Loot, friendship, status? All things that would be eventually replaced and forgotten, or interchangeable and used as a means to sustain the other. Sure, there are life lessons there, but I digress.

Your ideas would contribute to a more engaging world, one of possibility. I want to say more, but I find myself fumbling, fingers crossed over words that fall down from a mind that races.

nobody said...

I'd really like you to describe your experiences with MMOs. I don't care for eloquence or lucidity as much as I care for passion, interest and exploration.

Do you still maintain friendships from those days? How have those friendships evolved? What was the point (for you) of playing EQ (and other MMOs you may have played)?

I will maintain that I am ignorant and my hope is that you will enlighten me with your experience and insights.