The setting can be just as important as any mechanic or feature in a MMORPG. Have you ever sat and thought about what your favorite setting is, or might be if you were given the chance to make it just how you want it? Would it be Scifi, High Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Modern, Dreamlike, Low fantasy, or something completely new? I’ve given some thought to what my favorite MMORPG world would be like and I want to share my ideas and musings with you. I’m going to unload a lot of ideas that have just been floating around in my head. I hope you can follow. [Note: I’ll probably continue to edit this even after it is published.]
I’m a fantasy guy at heart. I love the medieval setting, especially when it centers around something close to Arthurian legend. My ideal setting would be somewhere between standard fantasy and high fantasy, where magic is prominent in the world and the races that inhabit it. The races would be your stereotypical fantasy types like Humans and Elves, but I would step out from the norm slightly by adding different types of Humans. In DAOC there were the Saracens, Britons, and Highlanders and I would want something very similar; they would look very different and their starting locations/lands would have a distinct feel. My Elves would be divided up into Wood Elves and High Elves (no Dark Elves here). I have not decided yet whether or not I would want Gnomes or Dwarves.
The races would each be in their own “realm” – not quite the same as DAOC’s use of the word, but more like a Kingdom or land very much autonomous and distinct from the rest of the world. Within these realms would be sub-realms to accommodate the diversity amongst races. Between the Kingdoms there would be lands which are unclaimed. It’s within this area the most of the conflict would take place between the races. All of this would be seamless. In fact, the entire would would be seamless (truly seamless, if possible one day).
Classes are important because they emphasize the setting just as much as the landscape. I’m not sure about names for classes, but I’m leaning towards something a bit more descriptive than “Warrior”. I’m thinking along the lines of “Bowman” for a class, because you get the idea immediately that this guy uses a bow. Taking it further, a “Longbowman” would be one that uses longbows. Classes would be unique to their realm and perhaps even sub realm. A “Sword master” would perhaps be a dual wielding Saracen, and perhaps only the Elves would have the ability to use Druid-like magics.
Zones within each realm would have their own unique style. For example, the standard Human lands would be filled with all types of wide open plains, lush forests, and swamps. Within this would be a more snowy area for the Highlander types and a more desert-feel, yet still high fantasy/medieval Saracen-esque land. You get the idea where I’m going with this – it would be very simple yet beautiful and fully realized as a “realistic” fantasy setting. I want the world to feel lived in. That’s important to me. The sterile feeling of some MMORPG cities really saddens me.
I mentioned before that magic will be common in my world, but at the same time I would not want to devalue it as so many worlds in today’s mmorpg have done. At the same time, I don’t want to have people using a “Longsword” or “Mace” and get bored by the lack of flare and diversity in gear. This is where I would reintroduce the idea of the true “quest” and allow players to obtain magical items, but they would be important. Items would have meaning and be a sign of fame and status. If you had a particular magical sword it would be known to everyone what you accomplished to achieve it – and it wouldn’t always be that you killed a particular boss after farming him a dozen times.
There would be safe areas, such as starting areas and ‘mostly safe’ places in the outlying space around the starting locations, but this world would not be entirely friendly to the player. It would have dark and truly dangerous locations that players would not even think of going without a group. The world, not the mechanics, would encourage grouping. What the world has to offer to those who socialize will be far more rewarding than what a solo player could experience.
Monsters in my world would, of course, vary greatly. Yes, it would have wolves and probably even snakes. However, it would also have the stranger and more mystical foes that I can not recall fighting in a MMORPG yet. I would also revive the idea that Dragons are something to fear and something to always think about as epic. Maybe it’s cliche now, but I remember the days of running around in newbie areas and thinking “I wonder if this game has a Dragon?” and imagining how great it would be to one day take up arms against one. IT was an exciting thought that lit the spark of adventure every time I heard rumors that one existed in a cave deep within some high level place.
Races, and even sub races, might be in conflict with each other, but the focus would never be on dominating the enemy or their lands. It would be about coexisting amidst this conflict. I want the emphasis to be placed back onto the world that the player is apart of, and less about the player himself.
Without getting too much into mechanics, I want to emphasize that my world and the characters within it would be heavily influenced by the lore and legend. Players would appreciate the importance of where they are and what they are doing regardless if they read the texts or not. I would want every place within the game to feel like it was designed for a reason. It would take some doing, but I know that a finely crafted world is capable of immersing the player in this type of experience.
A lot of this probably sounds like generic medieval fantasy, and that’s exactly how it should sound. In my opinion we’ve stepped so far beyond the roots of fantasy that we’ve neglected a little bit of what made it special – to me at least, which is why this is my ideal setting.
That’s the gist of what my ideal MMORPG setting/world would be like. I’m interested in hearing about yours.