Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Dungeons & Dragons Online has a reincarnation system whereby once your character has reached maximum level you can start them again, carrying over some of the power that the character previously attained.

While reading Rohan’s post regarding public quests the following statement rang true with me:

I know that in RIFT, I’d close a rift, then ride by 10 minutes later and see a new rift in the same spot. Rather than wanting to participate again, my thoughts would be more along the lines of, “I’ve already done this, no need to do it again.”

What I wondered at that moment was how the game would play-out if that rift had stayed closed, if all the rifts remained closed once they had been sealed by the players. Essentially, the rifts would eventually be beaten back (or the world is overwhelmed) and then a server reset event takes place.

It would be along the lines of A Tale in the Desert’s tellings I expect, but mixed with DDO’s reincarnation, such that players didn’t lose everything upon a reset. The obvious way that this could have been tied-in with the current RIFT game would have been by using the soul system; perhaps instead of the immortal souls of almighty heroes having been handed out like candy based on a simple two minute quest, they could have been gathered as part of the reincarnation process. Thus players would feel even more inclined to hunt down rifts, because they would know that once the rift was closed it would remain so until the next reset event, thus making the land safer to adventure in (I would expect rifts in this version of the game to have a far greater impact than they currently do). At the same time players would be working as a whole towards the server reset in order to gain their next soul and any other benefits.

Understand, however, that I’m not suggesting that RIFT as it currently stands should change, I’m merely using it as an example of how such a system might work, and how it might change the dynamic of such a game. DDO and A Tale in the Desert both have end-level resets built into them, I wonder if a combination of the two could work. It should benefit public quests, since experienced players would be looping back through the content again rather than stagnating at the level cap, with all the dynamic content going to waste at the lower levels due to the inevitable player population tail-off that most MMOs suffer. Mixing it with DDO’s reincarnation would give players reward and reason for playing through the world again. A game like RIFT seems ripe for such a system, with souls tying in nicely with the theme of reincarnation, and the dynamic zone events allowing the developers to make each retelling a different experience for players outside of the basic rifts. Instead of adding content at the end game, it would then behove the developer to add new content throughout the game’s original levels, which benefits reincarnated players and new players alike.

MMO design seems very firmly set in its ways with regards to levelling to a limit and then adding new content on top of that. It’s the spawning salmon method, where the salmon swim upstream in a mass frenzied struggle, only to reach the spawning grounds where they then wither and die in stagnation; fresh water is added every now and again, but it’s not enough to support such a massed population. I think MMOs are missing an opportunity, it’s not for every game, but I think there’s a way for some of them to complete the cycle and have the salmon produce offspring, who then swim out to sea and begin the journey anew.

7 thoughts on “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

  1. ArcherAvatar

    This was easily one of the most thought-provoking articles/blog entries I’ve read in quite awhile (and I read quite a few…)

    I’ve often been accused by friends of dawdling in MMOs. Most of the folks I game with are ‘min/maxers’ of the Nth degree, and simply cannot abide ‘wasting time’ exploring an MMO world and enjoying the journey to level cap. They simply must rush to level cap foresaking everything else until they reach it. It’s a very common condition among MMO players… VERY common…

    Unfortunately, for that vast majority of players who approach these games as a headlong race to level cap, your interesting suggestion would merely devolve into another form of racing through.

    I know exactly what they would say, “How many times can I get this character re-incarnated in a given period of time so I can ‘stack’ up as much power as possible on him/her?”

    Many of us who suffer from extreme alt-aholocism are essentially attempting a much poorer version of what you’re suggesting – cycling through some of the same content multiple times to avoid the inevitable collision with end-cap and the gear-grind usually associated with it.

    Personally, I think the ‘hidden gem’ in your suggestion is the possibility of being able to accomplish something meaningful and somewhat long-lasting in the game world regardless of the current level of progression of your character. Participating in the closing of even a low level rift (to use your example) would feel like contributing to the overall effort of everyone in the game and would give a sense of accomplishment not usually found in MMOs (or if it is found it is fleeting and ephemeral.)

    Reading your blog entry forced me to go watch the ArenaNet MMO manifesto video for GW2 again to remind myself that there is hope yet on the horizon. Although not exactly what you’ve suggested, the scalability that game’s DEVs have talked about should hopefully lead to a level of re-playability not seen in previous MMOs I’ve played.

  2. Zoso

    Spinks’ recent tweet about Source Code, “Reminded me of how I play computer games”, made me think about time travel or loops; without spoiling Source Code, it has a Groundhog Day-esque element of recurring events but with the protagonist taking different actions each time. It maps closely onto saving and loading in a game (or, going further back, leaving a finger marking a previous paragraph in Fighting Fantasy).

    I think what you describe could work as a MMOGified version, a repeated loop of time where *all* the players have knowledge of what happened before rather than just a single protagonist; it could even allow for mechanisms like “non-permanent permadeath”, if you die you wake back up again at the start of the loop…

  3. Melmoth Post author

    @ArcherAvatar: Very glad to hear that the article resonated with you on a level or two.

    I definitely like the thought that meaningful world defining events would be another feature that could result from this sort of game system.

    Thanks for the feedback, it’s much appreciated.

    @Zoso: The ‘non-permanent permadeath’ idea sounds really rather nifty.

    But is it only me who thinks that it sounds like death by curling tongs?

  4. Kodoru

    FieryMUD (I’m hesitating to add up just how long ago this was!) had an optional reincarnation system on reaching max level. If I remember right, each time around you had to sacrifice more and more rare unique items, but you would get +1 to any stat on the new incarnation and different classes (druids, etc) would open up as options at various numbers of incarnations. So you could try out different classes each time, but maintain your “name”, and steadily improve. I liked it, haven’t seen anything like it since.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    Interesting! DDO’s True Reincarnation option sounds similar to this in several respects.

    I do like the idea of certain classes remaining locked until a new incarnation. Thinking about it, WoW’s Death Knight vaguely worked along those lines by being unlocked only if you already had a high enough level character; they didn’t go much further with it than that though, so they were never the prestige or epic class that perhaps they could have been. Then again, with the large number of max-level characters that most people have in WoW, I expect Blizzard could have made Death Knights only available on a player’s fourth reincarnation, and there would still have been hundreds of thousands of them…

  6. darkeye

    Never played ‘Source Code’, but I did play ‘Majora’s Mask’. I really liked the core idea behind that game, 3 days to save the world, that interval needs to be played through several times to acquire all the skills and items necessary to defeat the big bad at the end and eventually save the world.

    Rift already has a similar story, well on the time-travelling defiant side at least, the world does get destroyed. It would be really cool to have an MMO that has a years worth of content planned out, and events get more and more apocalyptic as the year passes and the end of the world gets nearer. Except I don’t know how you could resolve it, do you let some players win or send them all back to the start but with more powerful skills and items so they have a better chance at finishing it the next run through. A shorter time-frame might work, and maybe a special status/reward to players who have actually won through to the finale but can still go back to replay the timeline. It would be a brave developer to try that in an MMO.

  7. Melmoth Post author

    It’s curious that RIFT readily lends itself to that sort of replay element, even the story could easily adapt to it, as you point out.

    I never played Majora’s Mask, but I’ve certainly experienced games where you can’t complete sections of the early levels until you’ve obtained items/abilities from later levels and then return to the lower levels. Playing through the lower levels as a more advanced character can show those levels in an entirely new light.

    I think it would be a brave MMO developer to try it, indeed, but I also think it would be a clever MMO developer to exploit something that many players already do, and to give them a more solid reason for doing it than ‘I’m bored at the level cap, time to roll an alt’.

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