So with the 10 year anniversary of Deus Ex doing on at RockPaperShotgun, I’ve begun to seriously and honestly think again about games, game design, and what I want from it.
It turns out, these things run through my head all the time. I find them to be a wonderful way to experience stories, ideas, places, relationships…..essentially anything and everything in a new and genuine way. When I was young, I used to play Sim City and think that someday I would be able to play out the lives of individuals in the same manner (which eventually became The Sims). When Sim Town and Sim Tower came out, I started to think that what would be a real nice change of pace is a full simulation from the ground up. I thought how amazing it would be to seamlessly go from ground, into space, and land on another planet. Spore is the first step, but I want a more visceral experience. I want to be able to land and wander around in a fully living/breathing city with it’s own social norms and economy with spacefaring traders the only link between these disparate sections of the same community. I truly, deeply wish you could leverage EVE Online as the connecting fabric between Global Agenda, Planetside, Star Wars Galaxies, and The Old Republic creating a supermassive (and hopefully super-successful) MMO. A persistent state of identity across multitudes of highly detailed locales and game mechanics seamlessly integrated into one hell of an amazing experience.
I do believe this is possible, but it would have to take form in a completely different manner. Let’s say I am in charge at EA trying to get this to work. You grab 1 studio to design a fully encompassing game with subsections of game mechanics that can stand alone on their own as a game themselves. For instance, you have one part that is all about trading and building corporations and the interesting interactions that happen between competing corporations. This is akin to EVE, and can be successful on its own. Another section has to do mostly with large scale open field warfare in land based combat. This could be your Planetside game. Another part is the interaction on the local level of creating a city and maintaining it. This is your Sims Online meets APB. Each of these games gets developed by a different studio with the goal of eventually combining them together maybe a year or two after launch. This allows each community to figure out it’s own identity and culture and gives the developer time to solidify their own mechanics and start getting ready for the transition to a larger community.
What I love about this concept is that if you started with one big game, people would be turned away by how massive and confusing it is. If you start them as separate, however, people can pick and choose which kind of experience they want to take part in. Then, when the games together, you have all sorts of interesting interactions happening. You might have a major corporation in the EVE world funding the war efforts in a Planetside battle so that they can gain the mining rights in an area.
My favorite scenario: A soldier from the Planetside area could be in town shopping at the Sims area and decide to steal some ammo before going back into the field. This causes a bounty to be put out to the APB players. The corp he is employed by decides to ship him off to another planet via the EVE part of the game to defend an operation that is under attack, not knowing about his earlier transgression. The APB players then send a message out that a transport is leaving with a known felon on board, leading to the transport being ambushed at the nearest jumpgate by some bounty hunters. This causes a delay and the reinforcements don’t make it in time. Now all of a sudden an operation on the other side of the galaxy is in the hands of a rival corporation because some dude wanted free ammo.
You have operational issues such as keeping the economies in line with each other, making sure players don’t all crowd into certain areas, getting the different games to talk kindly to each other, and somehow getting a largely seamless transition from one area of the game to another. However, I think the difficulties are far outweighed by how exciting the opportunities and interactions are.
From a business perspective you have risk split up into several properties that can fail without jeopardizing the success of the whole project(though yes I do realize that MMOs are extremely expensive and risky - much less several of them!). If you successfully join them together, you have a property that cannot be rivaled by anything or anybody for a long time. Nothing can beat World of Warcraft because people don’t want to leave it for the same experience - entertainment inertia if you will. To succeed - have to do something different. However, if your game encompasses nearly all experiences - competitors will have to make something MUCH better or MUCH bigger to even compete.
I call this The Last Game because it’s not a just a space game, or a dungeon crawling game, or an FPS…….its all games together. Games are, at their root, an abstraction of the world around us. No matter how odd the game - they all have one foot firmly planted in reality so that we can enter their world with at least a semblance of understanding. A game that can combine so many aspects of our universe becomes not just A game, or A good game, it becomes THE game. It becomes the only game that matters - only to be supplanted by a newer version of the same game. Really it only ends until it realistically simulates the universe itself. Though, at that point, you’re really just talking about the creation of The Matrix. Of course, this isn’t where I intended my line of thought to go, or this blog post for that matter. It is, however, where the idea ends. Along with this post.