The recent thread about what you want in an MMO got me thinking about what it would be like if I actually had the authority over the construction of an MMO. What sort of MMO would I want to make if I could make anything? What setting etc? I've actually been thinking about such things for a while so it's a good opportunity to put it down and see what it looks like. Most importantly, what things would I do new and differently than existing MMOs that have *so much* that is now cliche.
So her is my MMO plan (#1):
#Suikoden MMO! I mean why not. Those games were awesome. The lore is great, the world isn't all black and white generic fantasy. Everything is about political manipulation, people who act like real greedy, underhanded, sometimes idealistic, etc people.
#The graphics would be a bit more of a cartoon/anime style. This would be for two reasons. 1) not as expensive to develop and still look nice. 2) if you're not trying to make things ultra realistic, you can take a lot more creative liberty in developing the feel for your world.
#The party mechanic would set this game apart from other MMOs. Instead of you controlling just a single person, your main persistent character would be a party manager. The thing you would control would actually be a small group of 3 or 4 people. This allows for many new mechanics in an MMO.
> Your group could contain a healer and DPS both. You could control multiple roles at one time instead of being stuck playing only a healer or only a tank, or only a dps. When you *attack* an enemy or enemy group, your characters would fight on their own, but you would have abilities you could use realtime. Your healer might auto spam a light heal but you would have the tactical big heal at your command. Your casters might stay back and shoot spells, but you'd have the CC, or big nuke or AoE in the menu. Of course you could macro these abilities to a single bar to make your unit really fight as a coordinated force.
> You could switch out party members. During the game, you would be able to recruit new characters. You would have a personal barracks for your company where your characters hang out. You could get any characters level 1 from a general recruiter, and some characters that have a little bit more specialized things doing quests or finding them at rare times on quests or in towns. i.e. there might be "rare" characters that you only have a chance of getting. They would not be a huge significant advantage, more unique than anything. This fits in with the Suikoden games who always have a common theme of recruiting characters that you can then trade in or out of your party (108 in each game).
> You can of course group with other parties to make a raid to do bigger quests. During this you could specialize your party as a ranged unit or a healer unit or whatever.
> There would not be a traditional "tank" role, though there would still be healers. I just feel that it ruins immersion in games when you can just shout at an enemy and they'll run to the heavily armored guy that they don't hurt much and ignore the squishy people. Monsters actions would depend a lot on the individual monster. A lot of attention would be given to monster a.i. to make them more interesting than your average MMO mobs. Mobs would also be often in varied groups. wolves might just be all in a wolf pack who attacks the closest party member (probably a melee) making them tactically easy, but a group of kobolds (dog people in suikoden!) might have some bowmen who hang back and they might try to get by the melee to take out the healer. Positioning would be important in combat. Enemies could not just walk through you. Their A.i would be set up so they maintain a defensive stance and try to move by but you might be able to block their movement. Enemies wouldn't just ignore their own self defense and run past a melee (unless they were some sort of berserker programmed to do that) Certain classes might have a temporary taunt to turn an enemy around, but there would not be a standard threat table. In certain mob groups, there might be a tactician controller mob that orders other mobs of the group to do smart things like CC the healer, but if they were killed the remaining mobs would just fight the nearest thing like they were Puggers in a WoW BG.
#Social organization: the player has their own 'company' which includes a company barracks where you house your warriors. Your persistent character is your company manager. When you chat in towns, thats who you are talking with. Bigger than this would be guilds of multiple companies. These would operate somewhat like guilds in other MMOs. People you run missions with, share a channel with, etc. Perhaps have a shared central command with.
#The class system would be set up this way: classes would be changeable. What class a character can join would depend on that characters skills and your company's reputation. There would be very basic classes that anyone could join, like say squire or scholar. What class you are effects what skills increase as you gain xp. you gain levels in that class and stats to the main character, but there is no main character level, just the strength of their skills. What abilities you can use however are entirely dependent on the level of the class that character is. Skills include things like 1h sword, dagger, blocking, conjuring, evasion, stealth, magic attack, etc. A characters stats like strength, intelligence etc would not change. They along with the skills would modify chance to do damage, dodge, etc all that.
So for instance, lets say you recruit "George" from the local city recruiting agency. He's strong but not too bright so you start him as the "squire" class and add him to your party. When you make him a squire, levels give him 100% xp to 1h weapon skill, shield skill, 50% xp to parrying skill, 50% to polearm, 50% to medium armor, 10% to medicine, 10% to light armor, etc. After you've had him in your party for a while, he's gained say, 10 points in shield and sword skill, so you go back to the town. Because you have been doing missions for this town and you are now friendly with them, and he has the required skills, he may now class change to the city guard class. This changes his skill gain levels around and gives him some new skills when he levels up. Also, reputation would not be so straightforward as lots of rep would be mutually exclusive. If you are doing missions for the thieve's guild say, the city guard might not like that and your reputation with them might go down.
The biggest benefit to this class system is it would be literally limitless to how many custom classes you could have. Some might be very similar but have unique flavor, allowing you to purchase from specific vendors or use slightly different abilities. For instance, there might be the city guard, the gladiator's guild, the mercenaries, the Maximillian knights, etc which are all basically 1h weapon and shield wielders but they have different alliances which gives different opportunities, allows slightly different abilities, etc. At the start of the game, there would be a set, but as expansions added new areas, new classes could be added for people to discover. Some classes, as with some characters, might be very rare too. Some might be rare because the guild is in a hard to find remote location, or have very high skill requirements, or maybe even have a long difficult trial by fire type quest.
#Armor and weapons: One way I want to differ greatly from other MMOs is that I don't like the cliche that armor is basically stat sticks. There would still be armor, and even rare armor, but armor wouldn't have stat or skill bonuses on it. It would be for defense only. Also, armor would have tradeoffs. Heavy armor will impare movement and dodge. However, skill using it will lessen the penalties. Skill in heavy armor will reduce movement, dodge and hit penalties, skill in light armor will increase the amount of defense it offers.
Also, because you're gearing 3 or 4 characters at a time, there would not be as many slots as in WoW for instance. Main slots would be head, upper, and lower. There would also be two misc slots that can be rings, amulets, earrings, totems etc. Basically how the 'trinket' slots in WoW work. These items actually can increase stats or skills or have other bonuses. Because people are gearing multiple characters at a time, this tradeoff makes the amount needed less. Also, it allows more unified looking armor sets. Since armor isn't a bunch of stat sticks, you're probably going to want similar type of armor on all your parts anyways.
Weapons on the other hand would have a lot of difference in quality between good weapons and not so good. HOWEVER! It wouldn't be like WoW where as you level up you steadily get stronger weapons. damagewise you could buy serviceable weapons in any big city. You might find a super rare sword on some epic quest that is ever so slightly better, but not to the degree other games do. maybe a point more damage, or slightly faster or lighter. Rare and unique weapons and armor would be as much a sense of pride as anything. epic lootz would not be the central means of progression. material things would be just that.
#Not a persistent world. This one might find some disagreement, but I think that the persistent world in games like WoW are kind of weird in the way they distort the size of things. Goldshire is like right down the road from Stormwind, like a block away, and the entire town is two or three buildings! I always felt that games like FFXI gave a much better feel of a large world, even though WoW actually has way more literal area. Its just a little is left to imagination! Something that's missing these days. I know that even Guild Wars went "well WoW is popular and they have a persistent world so we should too" but honestly, think about your life. Even though the real world is persistent, we have locations where things happen, be it home, school, work, club, bar, etc.
There would be main towns you could meet anyone, but nature areas would be instanced and a little like dragon age or mass effect games. You would accept a quest, and a place would be on your map that the mission chain would be on. So it would be like lots of out of doors dungeons, though what you do there would be a specific quest. Areas could be quite large since you don't have to pack them all together. You can also have many good sized cities since you don't have to stuff them in the middle of forests and things that people have to navigate around. There would be many "solo" missions (solo as in your party that you control) but also many raidlike missions where you group up with others.
This has some primary benefits: 1) you can make a huge world. When people explore a forest, you wouldn't be able to see the next town over both directions. You can give the feeling you're in one location and other things are very far away. 2) it is very easy to add new content. You can add a whole new mission instance just down the hill from the other one without having to modify everything. 3) player controlled areas! Your guild could own a fortress out in the country that could be upgraded through accomplishments, doing missions and spending gold. The fort could become a castle and perhaps even your own guild town with your own vendors, banks, etc.
#Now, obviously there wouldn't be world PvP, and in fact this would be intended to be mostly a PvE game. However, PvP could exist in several ways, with different things in different towns. One common way would be the arena. Only one of your characters would fight against one opponent character. Some classes wouldn't be very good at arena but that would be ok because every player could have a specialized gladiator character as part of their company. It doesn't matter if a mage isn't as good at arena since that's not your only character. Guild settlements. Guilds could run private matches within their guild or even challenge other guilds to fight their best player. There would be a public ranking of guilds and gladiators for fame and prestige.
#Advancement. In most MMOs the primary advancement is actually gear. Think about it. Sure you level up, but often leveling is seen as just how you learn your class. The real content is endgame progression where you slowly get better loot. Heck, in WoW it takes like a week or less now. They keep making it faster for players to get done with that hassle and get to the real game-- endgame.
Levels in this game would be set on a parabolic scale with no actual cap! What does this mean? This means that raising a skill each level takes more xp. Individual levels would not make that big of a difference, so a lot of weight is places on the skill of the player in working their characters. This also means that after a certain point it would take a ton of xp to get up another level. So, some characters will put in a ton of time to get really masterful at say, being a swordsman. They'll put in all that extra training for that extra few % skill, sort of like real life. On the other hand, while a masterful swordsman would be nice in your party, it's going to have a much bigger impact the synergy in the party and using your abilities correctly. This also means that people who played the game for 10 years won't have a massive advantage over people who have only played 6 months, but on the other hand, they still have something to show for all that time that you can't get without the extra effort.
Advancement would also exist in finding new classes to move your people in to, finding new rare characters to level up, progressing your company barracks, your guild fort, obtaining wealth, etc. Gear would be a tool, and there would be gear that is very prestigious, but it wouldn't be a primary measure of progress.
#Finance and economy: First, things wouldn't soulbind. Maybe a few very rare unique things that are only for the purpose of saying "I accomplished this" but most items would not bind. They would also be able to be broken down for materials. This is vital in order to ensure the market is not flooded. As much as possible, I'd want to model the economy around the EVE model. There would be multiple markets in various nations. I think I wouldn't make every single town have its own market, just every nation. That should be a good compromise between creating variations in price that can be exploited but still convenience of availability. I would definitely implement the "buy orders" from eve. If you do not know, basically you can put up a "buy order" at the market and a price. Other people then can "overcut" your order. This keeps prices inbetween what people are willing to buy for and what people are trying to sell for. People can still of course put an item up with a higher price, or they can just fill a buy order and have it sold right away. instant cash ,woo hoo.
A wide variety of armor and weapons could be crafted of course. Since armor is not about stats so much there would also be a lot of customization in crafting it. You could use different items and different dyes to give it a different look. People would buy armor based on their need but also based on what they want their character to look like. Other items like furniture could also be crafted. Some crafts might have to be used in place. For instance, there could be a masonry craft that allows people to put specialized improvements on their guild castle.
Also, people would not be limited in the crafts they could have. Any character could have one craft, so you could specialize recruited characters that craft for you. Maybe it would work under the job system somehow. Perhaps you could recruit noncombat characters and put one or two in a standby slot for your party, so even though they don't participate directly in the fight, they might add some passive bonuses like out of combat healing or treasure finding, and they get xp from this and can raise their noncombat class. This actually is very close to the support class in many of the suikoden games. Those characters than serve as shopkeepers, armor repairers, etc.
I think I've already experienced a flawless MMO mechanically; DDO.
However, it needs a bit of help in the graphics and controls department.
I think if it were to get a graphics overhall and a change in the clunky controls, it would be the "World of Warcraft" killer that everyone's been talking about. So I'm inclined to say that any RPG I make would mirror that.
(Also, you know what I hate about World of Warcraft? The 2D armor. I want my character to walk around with layers of plate and shit, not a 2D suit of armor...)
Character Classes: There would be none. Rather than that, at character creation, you would choose your "source of power" (fire, ice, gravity - whatever comes to mind). Fire would allow you to either fight as a ranged character (firing chargeable fireballs, unleashing explosions and whatnot), or you could also be melee "brawler" and fight with your fists and legs, using your fire power to give you momentum in your attacks. Ice would be able to create walls, effectively creating obstacles in the world that can block/absorb incoming projectiles (atleast if you place it in their way), but also blocks that you can jump onto, to reach higher places (which would be important in dungeons). Of course, if you decide to use a bow, you could create your own arrows if you use the "ice" element. Gravity would probably use heavy weapons, making use of gravity by lowering its effects on you, thus jumping higher into the air and then increasing it, to drop with a heavy blow onto an enemy. Telekinesis could use throwable weapons, whose trajectory would be controllable by the player - but then again, the games mechanics would include active blocking/dodging, so even that wouldn't guarantee you a hit.
The setting would be a completely new world. A large world. Like, really, really large. Cities would be actualy cities, not just some small lump of buildings where npcs sell their stuff to players. Rather than quests, players could enroll in missions, gaining territory for the country that they do their missions for, and uncovering new areas of land, potentially new dungeons. There would still be quests however, but those would be mainly requests by villagers/citizens for you to gather some rare items from rare monsters or things like that. Fulfilling those quests might increase your reputation with the person that requested it (thus reducing the prize from stuff they sell, if they do own a shop), maybe expand the variety of items a shop can offer (until they are sold out, which would be when the shop owner gives players those requests again) or simply give a gold reward.
There would be a lot of solo dungeons, and most, if not all dungeons would have some sort of puzzle/plattforming parts that mostly also include your characters abilities, and sometimes include more than just one characters abilities - at least if you want to explore every part of them. Just think about Golden Sun and how they used character abilities, that's kind of the way I'm imagining it.
Character Progression: Well, unlike other MMOs, there wouldn't be any XP, at all. There also wouldn't be "Gear" the way most MMOs handle it. Different weapons would all always be about equally strong, but work differently to balance them. For instance, Daggers would be fast but deal less damage per hit, but stagger enemies only for shorter amounts of time, while big hammers would be slow, but stagger enemies a lot more, or even knock them down. And your "armor" would only affect you depending on the armor class (light/medium/heavy) rather than be upgradeable and with stats. For general looks, I personally would like something like this, to give the people more of an "adventurer" look:
All this doesn't mean your character can't progress however. It's just different - because you primarily upgrade through gems or something similar to socketing. Basically, what I want is for people to start out with 1 stat in each attribute each. And then you can either use gems, or maybe it's just accessory (like rings, necklaces) that determines your stat gains. I'm not sure how many attributes there would be, but I'd imagine something like 5-6 (Power for ability/attack damage, Vitality for HP, Defense to reduce damage taken, Agility to increase run speed and jump height I think, Willpower to increase Endurance/Mana regen/generation and Regeneration to increase HP regen or smth like that). For each attribute the maximum would be somewhere between 9-15 I think, but you would need to balance your gemming to upgrade your stats to the points you want them to (you can't have every stat at the maximum, you'd have to decide for yourself which stat you want to maximize, or if you want to raise them all up equally). Different gems/accessories with different stat allocation would be dropped in dungeons, some, more common ones can also be gotten from shops in the cities.
There also are unlockable elements/power-sets in dungeons, which gives players incentive to search for that too. When you get them, you can either decide to create a new character that uses that element, OR, you simply swap your main characters element, which can be done in cities/outposts.
Cosmetics: That's what I personally think would be among the great points of the game. Because you can look just how you want to, and the game would offer a variety of cloths for you to choose from. None of the clothes would contain any stats besides their armor type and the armor value that is assigned to that type. Which basically means you can fully customize your characters looks without worrying about stats at all. You can also play the way you want to. If you want a 2 handed sword wielding fire mage in knight armor, then please do. Of course it would have drawbacks, since it wouldn't allow you to be too agile, but at the same time it gives you good protection and the look you want to have, right?
Housing & Guilds: You can build your own house (probably by being able to select "rooms" and place them where you want inside your building area) and decorate it with stuff you find on your adventures (kinda to show off what you've done). Different building styles might be unlocked by traveling to different areas that are built in different styles. There would also be guild halls ofc, in which every player could have their own rooms/areas. But, players can also join different military organizations, thus making them part of the "army" which would give them a place in the barracks of that place. The military would in theory be a really, really big guild that generally fights against armies from other "countries"/large cities for territory, making it a "world pvp" group. Guilds could also join the fight for territory by allying themselves with an army for that fight, but at the same time, guilds in general would be independent from the army and can still normally exit/enter all cities regardless of whose territory they are.
That's all I can think of right now, maybe I'll expand this later.