In fact I’d love developing it along with some fun people or company! The game would be a classic ‘dungeons & dragons’ style fantasy MMO, but it would open up a totally new game environment. The text below is not far removed from my brainstorming draft, so bear with me – I may very well edit (and update) it in the next weeks/months.
Since I am a nobody with no money and little energy I suppose hauling this idea around would be useless (and very boring). Hence I decided to just post it. Someone will sooner rather than later create a game such as this, and we can only hope it will be as far removed from being a next farmville as humanly possible, but I suppose anyone who has any idea about gaming would be able to see a platform such as this can get you rich (and ruin a lot of RW careers through severe game addiction). So if someone snitches this idea and becomes a zillionaire with it, please feel free to donate a share of the profits when you do. I can sure use the money.
The platform for the game would be ‘by and large’ a(ny) programmable ‘handheld device’, such as an iPad, a programmable mobile phone with a decent screen, a laptop – and possibly (but not preferrably) a desktop device or game console. My personal preference would be to make the game initially playable by bluetooth connectivity.
The game is set in a virtual mirror world – that means : a world with a geography which is a parody of our own world. If you enter the game (which transpires somewhat like a simplified MMO) you are located in a part of the virtual world corresponding to the real world. That means – you can flip on your handheld, log in and look for action where you are. In essence, you might log in in Amsterdam, and the handheld would signal your presence to the online world, and present you with a set of game challenges that correspond to your location in the real world. The game on handhelds would not require full internet connectivity; ideally you’d download content offline, for instance when you have your iPad ‘docked’ and you are doing other things. When you arrive in a city where you haven’t been before first thing you’d need doing is update on the current situation in that place. The device downloads stats pertaining to the place you are in. This would mean you download geographical data on the mirrorworld. Say, you arrive play in New Jersey, you ‘dock’ your iPad in your hotel (maybe via a USB cable? Not sure how that would work – I don’t know much about iPads). The program on the iPad downloads updates via a secure internet connection from a central server to the iPad. After updating on the local status quo of the mirrorworld you might find yourself (since it’s New Jersey) in a poisonous bog. You would find creatures and challenges pertaining to this specific locale. You would be able to venture around and do battle with NPC’s and monsters.
The basic interface would be a trimmed down MMO, along the lines of World of Warcraft, but with a twist. Characters start as a species (race) of humans or humanoids (elfs, orcs, trolls, halfdemons, halfdragons, werewolves, pixies, kobolds – anything goes). Characters generate a character, and there would be distinct restrictions on what races a character could begin with. Immediately the player would be presented with a number of choices, which would focus the character in a certain direction. The game would not have ‘levels’, and a player would have no idea to know what the level of another player would be. Instead, the game progresses by a character entering a career, acquiring skills in a ‘skill tree’, deriving perks from the career active at the time. Progress in the game would unlock new careers, in a steady ascension, where a player unlocks abilities of all sorts while in a career, and one careers after another. Some careers would initially be geographically set – ninjas and samurai would initially be restricted to Japan for instance, while Zulus would be restricted to parts of Africa.
In the early parts of the game, the mirrorworld is empty, with only a few sparse NPC settlements and a range of low level monsters. However, the emptiness itself would allow players to literally decide on how the world develops – first settlers in a region would have a first mover advantage, being able to create infrastructure –literally settle villages for instance. The ideal version of this game would allow for as much in-game options as possible – a player would be able to chop down wood, implement a sawmill, trade in lumber, have a few dozen farmers working for him, collect duties and taxes, for instance along a road over which he has control, create illegal moonshine and smuggle it, and send out NPC pirates to harass nearby villages or settlements – a PC in new jersey might for instance decide to hire orcs, equip a number of boats and plunder and loot the villages in Brooklyn.
The local region would be bigger, depending on the number of players present. If mirror world New Jersey would have only 25 local players, they’d soon get to know one another and decide to gang up on each other, or cooperate. They might create guilds – and guilds might allow advancement in a type of ‘guild careers’. Also a player might decide to run multiple characters and nobody would be the wiser, except for the fact that his characters would largely operate in the same geographical region.
Regions would slowly ascend in size, depending on the presence of players, and depending on how much effort they’d have invested in the region. Players would have freedom to specialize in trade, managing NPC’s, or character career advancement. The ideal game would have no limitation on what a player would be able to have his character learn – ranging from rogueish sneaking skills, to wizardry, to martial arts, to dandy dueling skills, to heavy armor horseback knights. The game would involve a pastiche of late medieval cliche’s and you might find knights, witches, warlocks, shamans, samurai, musketeers, Vikings, necromancers, pirates or berbers fighting side by side – or against one another.
The game world would assume very little in terms of civilization. Maybe there’s be NPC cities in the game world corresponding to cities in the real world, but in essence there would never be a difference between what a player or an NPC would be able to do – a major city in the virtual realm, could eventually be taken over by a single player.
Now comes the catch – players would initially only meet each other if their handheld would be able to engage in contact by bluetooth.
So no – a player would be unable to visit another country ‘online’ and pretend to travel there. In the game he is in a virtual place roughly where his physical self would be, and the more players would be in that region, the ‘bigger’ the virtual land would be. The measure of size of a virtual domain would correspond to a geographical place in the real world that would be linkable to a specific IP range, where about 25.000 (or less) people would live in the real world. So if you’d live in a town with 50.000 inhabitats, the game would compose about two distinct regional zones where your character would be able to wander about. Initially these zones would be random and with 10 or less people in each zone, a single walking character would be able to traverse the zone ‘walking by foot’ in about half an hour. However, if the same zone would have 100 active characters, the zone would be bigger, possibly requiring a few hours to traverse by foot.
The game would be combat, depicting through a fairly modest a graphic game interface a very large number of options. Magicians would have access to innumerable spells, ideally tens of thousands of spells, which the magician would be able to learn every single one, if he or she had enough time to do so. However – the ideal state of the game would be that the game would be adding new magical (magician) spells faster than any single player would be able to keep up.
All characters would have a website, which the player would be able to visit, and the website would allow very detailed tinkering of the character appearance and portrait. This would not have much more function other than ‘self-expression’ (effectively no more than a character facebook) but later upgrades in the game might make these detailed character portraits come alive.
A game such as this one would have many avenues to a business plan – creating (registering) a character beyond a first might cost a very small amount of money. Special unique items might cost a certain amount of money. Training rare critical skills would cost some money. Or downloading ‘the piracy package’ or ‘the magicians package’ might cost some money.
In an ideal world the game would have a creative engine, allowing players to do something unique – create instanced zones or ‘dungeons’ and manage them as Dungeonkeepers (more or less equivalent to the game), but only if this practice can be made to work if it makes the host game masters actual money, and would not open up a kind of favoritism. Maybe a game master would operate (host) his instances through an anonymous server and he’d would have guests from Sao Paolo one day, and Tokyo the next. The point would be to allow players to make an actual real world income in this game environment by creating content, graphics, subroutines, instances, monsters – who knows?
The point of this world would have to be permanence and consistency – a smith in a village would be the same smith. There’s be no way to know whether or not a icon depicting a gnome in rags would be an NPC beggar or a player spy that would be snooping on the players pirate wharf, probably no more than a block away (since the snoop would have to be geographically nearby to do so).
Best of all, a game such as this one would be able to grow very fast, be very addictive and be very very profitable. Starting the game up would be fairly easy and not require an insane developer team. There’d be no elaborate graphics needed on the screen of an iPad or mobile phone. The game would however need a constant stream of new content and game mastering (which could be filled in regionally when needed). Initially zones would be random Diablo-like affairs, easily downloaded peacemeal. Most players would only spend time in their home zone, or in the zones immediately adjacent their own.
High level players might have to manage more elaborate bits of software, maybe a few years down the road, on their desktop computer or game console. The game developers would gradually have to grow into new (and compatible) formats.