Thursday 28 April 2011

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.

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