I just went back to Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn, so it’s not surprising that I dreamt about gaming last night. However what did surprise me was the logic of the dream. I leapt out of bed and immediately wrote it all down, before even putting the kettle on. If you know me you know I can NOT survive without my caffeine hit.
Anyway, before I tell you what my dream was about, let me give you some background on MMOGs of the present. MMOGs – Massively Multiplayer Online Games – come in all shapes and sizes but they all have two things in common:
– the worlds are persistent, – i.e. they continue to exist even if you, the player, are not there to see it, and
– thousands of real people play in them.
These two elements give MMOG worlds a semblance of reality that is very addictive. Unfortunately, the semblance is paper thin. In the real world we have to do things to survive. In the current gaming worlds, survival is a given, and the purpose of ‘doing things’ is to either :
– gain levels
– or gain better gear
Once gamers have achieved the maximum levels and gear the game will allow, they struggle to find exciting things to do.
As someone who loves crafting, I have an added layer of purpose in FFXIV because of the player housing. Crafting things for our group house, and making it look warm and welcoming give me something to do most days. Unfortunately, most of the other endgame activities bore me to tears. Eventually I, and other players like me always leave to find a new gaming world to discover.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Just as we find a purpose for ourselves in the real world, we could also create a purpose for ourselves in the gaming world …if we were the ones in control instead of the devs [developers].
It can be done because different types of MMOGs are already doing elements of what’s needed. Unfortunately none of them are putting it all together into one coherent whole. In my dream, however, I did.
Part of the plot of Innerscape [the human-centric sci-fi novel I’m working on] takes place in a gaming world of the future. That world will behave something like this :
Meeka’s dream gaming world
The gaming worlds of Innerscape won’t charge a subscription fee. They won’t even charge to download the gaming software [or whatever performs that function by 2100]. But they will charge for in-game necessities such as housing.
Essentially, everyone will pay ‘rent’, and the rent will be on a sliding scale from a few credits a month to hundreds, perhaps even thousands.
Rental of two credits a month will pay for bed and breakfast at a common Inn, or whatever the cheapest form of accommodation is in that world.
For that basic rental, the player will get enough ‘sleep’ and ‘food’ to get them through one gaming day. In fighting worlds, this will mean that players will have a 50/50 chance of winning against non-player foes at their level. Now a 50/50 chance of winning is no better than random chance, so the aim for most players will be to increase that chance of winning as quickly as possible.
How a player increases his or her chances of winning depends on the type of game they are playing, but generally, the process will mimic real life in that there will be two major streams to follow – the hero stream or the villain stream. Or something in between.
Heroes are good guys who earn the respect of the non-player characters [npc] in every city, town and village. This respect translates into increased strength, endurance, agility etc when the hero is fighting a villain in the city, town or village. Not surprisingly, the opposite happens with villains. They lose the respect of the npcs in the city, town or village, which in turn, weakens them in all the important attributes.
As an example, let’s use some numbers to explain the effect of respect. A hero player may have combined attributes worth 100 points. However when this hero enters a city, town or village, the respect factor boosts their combined attributes by a maximum of 50% – e.g. the hero’s attributes go from 100 to 150.
Now lets look at what happens to a villain when he/she enters a town. Out in the wildlands, the villain’s attributes are worth 100. Inside the city, town or village, however, their attributes plummet by 50%, i.e. they drop to 50.
A hero with attributes of 150 can easily beat a villain with attributes of 50, so it makes sense for heroes to gain respect, and for villains to stay away from areas where they are weakened.
Of course gaming is never that straight forward. If a very powerful villain [say one with attributes worth 400], enters a town, his/her attributes will only drop to 200 – i.e. 50% of 400 = 200. 400 – 200 = 200. 200 will beat the local hero who is only at 150.
But what if there are two local heroes in the town when the villain attacks, and they both fight back. The chances are their combined stats will be more than high enough to beat off even a very powerful villain.
Clearly then, towns favour heroes. But what if a group of villains attack? Again, the result will depend on numbers; 3 villains at 50 would have the same ‘power’ as one hero at 150. However if you add one more villain, the balance suddenly changes in their favour – i.e. 4 x 50 = 200 vs the 150 of the hero.
As with all things mathematical, two heroes would again easily beat four villains [of the same level] so the balance of power is constantly in flux and makes for interesting, player initiated events.
One such event will be the capture of a city, town or village. If a large enough group of villains capture a stronghold, and can hold it against the heroes for one week, the npcs in that stronghold will turn neutral. If the villains make an effort not to antagonize the npcs, their ability to hold on to their captured territory becomes easier. If they are ‘cruel’ to the captured npcs, they risk turning the npcs towards the heroes again. And that could lead to the loss of the stronghold when the heroes launch a counter offensive.
But why would the heroes do that? Because their homes and businesses are in the captured stronghold, and while the villains are in control, the heroes can’t access any of their gear. They will literally have nothing but what they stand up in, and carry in their personal inventory. Thus the motivation to recapture a stronghold will be core to the game.
To recapture a stronghold, the heroes will have to begin by winning over the npcs on the outer perimeter of the stronghold. This is effectively like being Robin Hood.
Once enough npcs have been won over, the dispossessed heroes have to form an alliance and then, when their combined respect is high enough, they must launch an attack against the villains holding the stronghold.
Given the tendency of npcs to side with heroes not villains, villains have to expend a lot of energy to take a stronghold, and even more to hold it. This gives the advantage to the heroes, but only in the places where some form of order reigns. Out in the wild lands, both villains and heroes are dependent on their own prowess. Or on their ability to create and hold groups.
Groups of Heroes can tame sections of the wildlands, but here they will suffer the same difficulties as villains do in cities – the terrain is against them, and they must fight twice as hard to achieve anything at all.
Once a slice of the wildlands is captured and held for one week, however, crafter and builder classes can move in to consolidate the taming of the wild. Players can come in and create farms, and lay the foundations for a new village. These players contribute to the well-being of the battling classes that protect them, making them more effective. Sound familiar?
Once the heroes have carved out a certain level of ‘safety’ for the village, npcs will migrate to the village and help make it stronger still. If the heroes can keep the village going for one month, they will gain the respect of their npcs and after that, fighting off the villains will become much easier.
The internal structure of these gaming worlds will go much deeper than simple wars to gain territory. When heroes are not out fighting off villains and imposing order on the wildlands, they can go in search of treasure. Often the treasure will be nothing more than money, [after all, even heroes have to eat]. However, sometimes the heroes will find recipes that crafters can learn.
As everything in the gaming worlds has to be created by the players, such recipes are worth more than gold as they allow new techniques and new gear to enter the economy. This gives heroes an advantage over villains who generally do not craft, and must enter strongholds to buy the gear they need. Or steal it if they believe they are strong enough.
These recipes also give crafters a degree of power and influence they would not otherwise have, making it more logical for heroes of all stripes to work together so everyone can prosper. Those heroes who prove to be overly greedy will slowly lose their respect levels and that will make them more vulnerable when the next villain attack occurs.
Basically, then, the gaming worlds will have in-built structures to act as checks and balances, but how the worlds actually develop will depend largely on the players themselves. They will be the ones who create the society in which they live.
Of course in any world, there has to be some wiggle room for those players who hate to conform in any manner, shape or form. So each world will have the potential for players who fit the nomad category. These players will pay no ‘rent’ and will function as hunter gatherers. They will live rough, eating only what they can capture/harvest in their weakened state.
Progress for these nomads will depend on how effective they are at surviving in a hostile environment. If they can find enough to eat they can build a humpy [a small shelter made of branches and leaves]. In time they can trade furs or other natural ‘ingredients’ they have gathered to the villagers for money.
That money can then be used to buy a tent and perhaps some cooking implements. In time, such successful nomads might join together to form tribes of hunter gatherers. Of course, whilst living in a tribe would have distinct survival benefits, it would also create its own unique problems, and players would have to create rules that balanced co-operation with freedom.
If you’re still reading this long brain fart, you will have noticed that in my ideal gaming world, every action has consequences. You may also have noticed that the world combines virtually every type of MMOG currently in existence – PVP, PVE, strategy, conquest, social reality, you name it, it’s there because that’s exactly what we have in the real world.
I can’t see such an all encompassing world arriving any time soon, but as a writer I can make the future into anything I want, and this is what I would like to see in the MMOGs I play. If you’d like to see something different, don’t be afraid to say so in comments. I only bite trolls. 🙂