Seeing as how the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG for short) World of Warcraft has been the biggest hit computer game of the year so far, and that the genre as such seem to become ever more popular with gamers, I thought that this would be a nice chance to offer my own idea for a MMORPG:
The game, which can be considered a cross between World of Warcraft and Real Lives Plainly, it takes place in a virtual version of our planet, though obviously not quite as detailed, but just enough so that all major continents and cultures can be represented. The hook is that when you start a new game, usually you start a new character, you don’t get to decide the race, skills or abilities of that character.
He (or she) is just born into this virtual 3D world, into a set of circumstances drawn completely by chance based on a large database of statistics from our world of today. Every third character created will be either Chinese or Indian, 3 out of 4 will be born poor, some will suffer a severe risk of being born with AIDS or other such diseases.
Instead of levels, you age one year at a time, gathering enough experience and skills to age another year. Obviously, the first 10 or 15 years pass relatively quickly, leaving the player plenty of room to mold their character into whatever they may want. Though obviously limited by the circumstances under which they grow up.
So, for instance if a character is a Namibian street vendor, it will be very difficult for him to pursue a career as a computer programmer – though not actually impossible. He’ll be needing to learn how to read and write, find a computerrich environment (most likely not in Namibia) and learn his stuff. Migration will obviously be a challenge for a game like this (something not really covered in Real Lives, and certainly not an issue in World of Warcraft).
The player would maneuver his character around the 3D setting, trying to make a buck or two, but quickly getting frustrated. Since the characters will (most likely) suffer lots of hardships and setbacks, they will be bored by the lack of options and try to fight the system, break the deadlock of having no options and no places to go.
They can turn criminal, join the army or the police or even try to organize a rebellion. The more malleable the system the better – and the only monsters in the game will be other people trying for the same goals or NPCs trying to keep the set order of the system.
Basically (and hopefully) the only way to “win” the game in most cases (unless you happen to be lucky enough to start out in the west or in a rich family somewhere in the rest of the world) will be to change the system. Revolutionize. And only by working together in groups can you make it work.
I think that would be a masterpiece of political game design.
Hm. Considering it a bit further, I guess the problem with most of these political games is that they basically aren’t a lot of fun.
People like escapism, flashy graphics and bouncy castles. They don’t like stuff that is too real, ‘cos often, real life can be kinda dull.
Of course, that would be the whole point of this game. To make the basis dull and dreary enough to force the player to think “outside of the box” – problem is then, what would be the best way to reward the player for doing so, keeping their interest through and beyond the initial try-out phase.
Thing is, I think, that what a lot of people find appealing about MMORPGs is the possibility of being whoever they want. A superhero, a knight in shining armour, a futuristic street samurai, an anime blow-up doll – anything. If you take away that basic premise, as you’d have to to make give the political MMORPG any sort of basis, it wouldn’t be as appealing to the public.
Nasty dilemma, that. But interesting.
That is an EXCELLENT idea for a game. I love it. I really hope someone takes it up, that would be totally kickass. Totally.