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Big Ideas: How to make heroes

I really like the idea of MMOs. While I don't play them often, I always enjoy my time in an online environment. Even if I don't group with people, just seeing random strangers run by me on their way to or from something gives a fine sense of truly inhabiting a living world. There's a difference between playing with others and playing alongside others, and for me it's a comfortable one.

However, the immersion breaks down somewhat when I realize that I'm traveling through a world with millions of other people who have gone through the exact same experience as I have, probably numerous times in many cases. Every one of us is a combatant of one form or another; we're all heroes of the same story. The comfort to take from this -- knowing that there are repositories of knowledge out there to help guide you when you get stuck -- is somewhat leavened by the fact that there is little to distinguish your heroism from anyone else's. How do we make real heroes in a world where everybody is one?

I realize that the goal of an MMO is not necessarily to create what I have in mind; what I'm going to call a unique shared experience, to court an oxymoron. Essentially, the issue is this: how do you build a world where each player contributes something of equal value, where that value isn't measured in number of enemies slain, or number of quests completed? Furthermore, how do you make that fun?

For the purposes of this argument, we'll use the typical fantasy-themed world as a backdrop. Ideally, such a game would allow you to create your character from birth. Let's say, a protracted childhood, up to the age of adolescence, when most people begin to have dreams of what their lives will become. This would be the time for the player to make the choice: choose a profession and work as a craftsman in a guild? Go to college and learn higher arts? Take your lessons on the streets and eschew education? For this kind of game to work, each player should realize that she is merely one of thousands or millions, each working to create a living society. The joy of this game should be actual role playing, not conquest, not the mere tally of victories over cookie-cutter enemies.

The idea here is that the world itself should depend upon the actions of its players for upkeep. There should be no weapons without someone at the forge to create them, a singular character who has gone through the training necessary to be able to create quality weapons. Similarly, there can't be metal for these weapons without miners to excavate them from the bones of the world. There should be cooks to prepare the food to feed the miners, and merchants to sell the tools to them, and carpenters to create the tools, and lumberjacks to fell the trees to supply the carpenters ... a true society, with each player contributing something to the good of the whole.

In this society, there is no such thing as a warrior profession. We might posit a standing army for town defense, but that would have to be voluntary, with the stakes for enrollment rather high. The death penalty for losing in combat should be just that: death. Permanent death. For heroism to have true value, it can only be measured against the backdrop of true loss. The world itself -- or at least the local town -- should feel the impact of each life gone to ground, never to return. Each soldier that volunteers to fight leaves a void where his function once was, and the town must make up the difference one way or another. The threat to the town should be dire enough to warrant an army, considering the resources mounting a defense would cost. And once a soldier's life is terminated, that life is over for good.

Is the game-playing audience ready for such a game? Perhaps not, perhaps so. There are, of course, concessions to be made to the game-nature of the MMO. Perhaps resurrection with a subsequent loss of age, prompting a return to the adolescent choices previously mentioned. That would, in effect, grant the opportunity to pursue a whole different path than the one previously chosen. However, a larger problem presents itself: if the standing army of volunteers is unsuccessful in repelling an attack, then it means the death of the town, and the entire player population is similarly wiped out. And what is the non-combatant populace meant to be doing while the soldiers go to war?

Say instead, then, that every player is a warrior -- but only for so long as there is war to be had. During times of peace, they shed their armor and weapons and return to the task of keeping their town alive. And from each battle, tallies of confirmed kills to confer a rise in status for each soldier, leading to ranks, which mean better abilities, etc. A return to the standard combat model of MMOs.

But what about when players go offline? Then their functions are automated, as their avatars become NPCs, run by the AI. A simple matter to hang an icon over their heads to indicate the lack of a driving player. In this way, the town is never unpopulated, and never undefended.

In this way, we witness two types of necessary heroism: the type that carries the day of honor from the battlefield, and the quieter type that ensures that there is a life to return to after the battle is done. In this way, we pay heed to the notion that for true heroes to exist, there must be more to their lives than mere martial prowess. There must be that which sustains, side by side with that which destroys. And life, above all, must be the reason for its own existence, and the need to respect it as being more than a repository for the fighting spirit. For the truest form of heroism is that which continues on after the battle has been won.
Категория: MMOG articles | Добавил: Khazad (30.07.2009) | Автор: Posted Jul 29th 2009 Akela Talamasc
Просмотров: 1347 | Комментарии: 1 | Теги: eng-article | Рейтинг: 0.0/0 |
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