was built, to some extent, on ideas I'd tossed into a 2008 blog post
. Myst Online
had just been cancelled (early 2008). I was interested in how such a game -- an MMO puzzle-exploration-adventure -- might have been built without MOUL's
technical or scaling problems.
Neither the 2008 post nor Seltani really addressed the question of what players would do in such a game. (Neither did Cyan, of course.) I pretty much threw that problem into the "user content" bucket. People will build stuff and then explore each other's stuff! Well, I'm very happy with Seltani's world-writing model, but this is clearly not enough to feed an active fan-base.
So. This weekend I hung out with two friends who got to comparing their Guild Wars characters. (They're not serious about Guild Wars, but, you know, they raid.) I don't know the game, so their conversation was a cheerful torrent of opaque terminology, but I got to thinking about the depth of MMORPG mechanics. That's a genre which keeps the players coming back, right? It's not a solved problem: most MMOs fail. But we know it's a solvable problem.
This is the MMORPG formula, as I understand it:
- A deep combat system with lots of options. (Different kinds of attack and defense, different character specializations with synergies.)
- Long chains of equipment upgrades which require players to go out and complete many different kinds of tasks.
- Big fights that require lots of well-equipped players to cooperate over an extended interval.
But does any of that make sense in a social, non-combat-oriented scenario? Spoiler: yes.