Slow as Sunday: The individual in MMOs
2/14/2010 1:58:00 PM
One of the fundamental flaws of massive multiplayer role playing games is the lack of a sense of individuality. When I take on a role I want to feel that I am a hero, not just one of many cookie cutter characters populating the world. The good news is that tools are already available to increase the variety of characters and there by encourage the perception that an individual character are unique. Let's explore how the early levels of an MMORPG can increase the variety of characters and create unique experiences.
The first step in many a video game is creating a character. We can take advantage of this process to foster variety. Let's say that there are two factions, each with five different races. Now let's assume that each race has at least four different classes and one unique class based on race. Already there are 50 individual options for character creation. If each faction has five different regions, then we increase the number of options from 50 total to 125 unique character choices for each faction. That's a good start.
The second step is almost always a tutorial. Mixing player choices into the introductory levels can develop the individuality of a character even further. If each character has a tutorial based on class and each class has three or four different guilds within variety jumps from 125 per faction to at least 375. The choice of which guild doesn't even have to be in the player's control. If we disguise the guild choice as a class-wide "recruiting" mission, then the game can assign which guild the player character joins based on alignment. Alignment will be determined through the choices of the player in the tutorial. This will create a more organic process when assigning a guild and get the player in the mindset of "playing" their character's role.
The third and strongest tool we can employ to make a character feel more unique are the quest themselves. Offering quests based on race, class, region, guild status, or a mix of the four will give players different experiences as they play. By the time a player has maxed out their character they should have had hundreds of unique quests. We haven't even touched on personality or multi-classing and we already have a set up that ensures a varying mix of characters. As for creating the experience of being the hero, we've created many more options for a character to achieve greatness. They can be a bastion of their race, a leader of their guild, the paragon of their class, or a mighty warrior for their faction.
What can make or break the unique quests is the significance they have to the rest of the story. If what my dwarven war cleric of the deep vale is doing in the hidden enemy camp near his hometown doesn't feel like it has an impact on the overall story, then it was just a waste of time. Making each quest and decision have an impact on the game, however small, will go further n creating a sense of worthiness and heroism in the player than any other tool .
With just a few small differences suddenly MMOs contain millions of individuals, not just millions of subscribers. Instead of a player just taking on a singular role in their community they are now a multifaceted and colorful character. After all, it is a much greater feat of strength and unity when challenges are overcome despite our differences, and a much more rewarding.