Those prone to following my meandering posts are aware of a recent post on the difference between Wandering MMOs and Goal Oriented MMOs. In that post, I noted the linear nature of goal driven MMOs, and how the lack of diversity along the routes to the endgame can create painfully boring grinds for gamers that demand atypical gaming experiences. As I considered this matter, I realized that my major issue really boiled down to a simple concern: choice.
Solution to the linear goal driven MMO? The Super Quest.
Linear MMOs prevent players from fabricating their own in-game realities as they are shunted down preordained paths. Players who object to these paths opt to not partake in the grind and ultimately leave the games for greener pastures (or no pastures at all). In order to capture these players, as well as potentially enhance the gaming environment for non-objecting participants, these linear games must expand horizontally (add a greater depth of content for each level rather than merely add levels to the end). Since it is unlikely that games will return to the free-wheeling ways of games like Ultima Online (and to a certain extent Star Wars Galaxies), games need to achieve two goals: (1) a greater emotional attachment to the linear story line, and (2) add meaningful variables to the experience.
The "MMORPG" acronym is misleading. Most MMORPGs get their "RPG" by being based in a fantasy setting and revolving around a single character, they rarely carry the complex story lines that players commonly expect when they purchase an RPG. A Super Quest would eliminate this deficiency by effectively instilling a RPG subplot into the broader MMO game.
A Super Quest would involve a hyper-stylized and choreographed excursion that players would participate in over the lifetime of their characters. At each level, the next step in this quest would then become available. The quest objectives would typically be story driven and non-superifical (no collecting of pelts etc.) Decisions in this quest would have meaningful results in your interaction with non-quest elements in the MMO by rewarding you with prizes or even separate class specializations. The quest would involve periodic forks so there would be an enhanced replayability. The game would still be linear, but it would be much less so, and it would be exceedingly easy to add content to any point in the quests without requiring a major rehaul of the system.
Here's a quick example (Assume quest parts for each level following the same general pattern):
Level 1: Select Super Quest Arc (perhaps 2-3 options). Complete 1st task.
Level 2: Complete 2nd task.
Level 5: First Fork (Split in quest)
Level 10: Second Fork, Major Reward
Level 15: Fork
Level 20: Class Determinant (Allows you to modify your class in some meaningful way. Options will depend on selections in prior forks).
Level 60: Question completetion, major reward, induction into a certain faction or clan etc.
Now the linear MMO is an actual MMORPG. A Super Quest need not be as engaging as a full blown RPG, but it would add a necessary element that currently lacks in the grind dominate MMOs out there today.
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