We had a discussion today and some intriguing ideas came up about player psychology. We started talking about how just because players can do something doesn’t mean they should. We ended up theorizing ways in which virtual worlds, not necessarily “games”, could be constructed to facilitate a deep and meaningful experience.
In Open-PvP when players come across one another it is common to instantly try and kill each other. I start thinking about game theory; Will that person attack me? What if I don’t attack them first and they get the drop on me? In almost every game I don’t think about anything beyond the act of engaging in PvP. What if the consequences for being bad really did alter the way the game played out? What if I had to think even further about what my actions would mean for how I would be allowed to continue participating in the society or community of that virtual world? Suddenly we’re talking about more than the choice of being bad — we see a choice to be good.
In a virtual world you could have people that attack anyone and steal their stuff, but there would be a real consequence for those players to avoid. Then the criminal players have to either be really competent and savvy, or pay the price. A bounty might be set on their head. Guards might get called. There might even be a player jail or penal colony island the players are sent to if they are caught. A simpler system might banish that player from territories owned by the faction the good player belonged to, and the criminal player would become shunned. I see a faction system like EQ working well with that system.
The hardest part is getting players to understand the system, recognize the consequences and risks are in place to create a purpose for the opposite side to exist. This isn’t about making something less fun, but making something real. Being a “Rogue” can have more meaning than “I use daggers.”
I get really excited when I think about virtual worlds and how there’s more to them than high scores, what items you have, or winning at something. When I create scenarios for people to actually participate in the lifeblood of a game my imagination takes me places I wish modern games could go.