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.