It was on listening to episode 21 of the VanHemlock and Jon podcast that a thought struck me, like a stretched rubber band back-firing into one’s face. In the podcast they discuss spoilers, and it was the section where they compared PnP RP modules and MMOs (with respect to repeated content being, in essence, a self-perpetuated spoiler) that caused the Overly Elongated Rubber Band of Insight to strike me painfully in the idea bucket.
In PnP RPGs, dungeon masters will often create their own adventures, and player created content is nothing new to the MMO space, if a little under utilised. However, DMs can also buy ready prepared modules for them to take their adventurers through, and I wondered whether a model such as this could be applied to MMOs.
Could a game world be designed around the idea of pre-packaged adventures that the players could purchase and then undertake? I’m thinking of a scale much smaller than full blown expansions, for example: a set of quests and a final dungeon along the lines of the Deadmines story in World of Warcraft. With players purchasing these adventure packs, the developer could perhaps invest more time in the creation of the story, scripting it and maybe even being able to provide voice-overs for the chief protagonists. Players would chose which adventures to go on by purchasing the ones that interest them, and it would provide a natural selection process for the content produced by the developer, with substandard adventures failing to generate significant sales, perhaps providing a driving force to not take the easy, grindy route with an adventure. Adventure packs could involve a locale and all the adventures within; you could have Age of Conan’s Tortage everywhere you go, but all for a price, of course. The developer would provide a basic game framework with characters, basic equipment, a means to travel from adventure pack to adventure pack, and perhaps provide an introductory adventure area or two. Where the players went from there would be up to them. Imagine a World of Warcraft where you didn’t have to purchase the Stranglethorn Vale pack if you didn’t want to, it would enable players to vote with their wallets whilst still remaining subscribed and loyal to their game of choice, a trend that many seem unable to break even when certain MMO developers appear to be taking their players’ custom for granted of late.
A badly written PnP module could be made enjoyable with a good GM’s direction, whereas without a GM a badly scripted module stays bad. That means there is less of a gamble on buying an entirely unknown PnP adventure than there would be for an MMO adventure, and so I suspect there would be a much greater need to rely on reviews or playing through the module initially with MMO adventure modules.
It’s a good idea and could be made to work. I’m simply not sure that it would be spoiler-free
It’s a nice idea and one that’s never really been seized upon by the gaming world. Oblivion had a similar idea but was hampered by the fact it was Oblivion…
Oh yeah, would there be a module that removed dwarfs?
@Elf: You are of course right, it’s always going to need people willing to play the modules blind in order to get the rating system going. Whether the game companies could preview the modules and give people an idea of the flavour of that module without spoiling it, I’m not sure.
@Aaron: Hoom, it certainly makes sense that a single player game has done something like this already, I wonder if the reason we haven’t seen it in MMOs is because it is entirely unfeasible or for some other reason, maybe it doesn’t seem a profitable or viable option to MMO developers.
And no, there’s no module to remove dwarfs. There is, however, one where dwarfs rule the entire world with an iron fist and force everyone taller than them to crawl around on their bellies in the dirt, like the unworthy worms that they are. It’s very popular with intellectuals, sexy people and God, or so I hear.