Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gaming in Waves

Here's another crazy idea I had the other day. Call this "mixing what I enjoy about Diablo with what I enjoy about WoW." Add in a dash of SWTOR's fourth pillar. That's where this idea was brewed.

We've seen a whole bunch of MMOs that basically start on some day, and then run perpetually forward, never looking back, until the servers are switched off. Somewhere around, say, year five, I'm pretty sure story hooks that were never meant to run for five years are being exhausted and stretched so much that we turn to the Bronze Dragonflight. Or time travel... second only in (my personal) annoyance to dream sequences.

I'm not saying a story can't run past five years, I'm just saying that within the media of video games, the way we're doing it right now, today, makes it pretty difficult. If the games going to be profitable, you're going to have people jumping on at a variety of points during that five year run. You'll have TBC babies, Wrath babies, and Cata babies. People that never saw Vanilla. People that have no idea what the Burning Legion even is. Why? Because they missed a whole bunch of story!

So here's a potentially revolutionary idea: what if a game was designed with this sort of "wave-like" adoption pattern in mind. That is, what if there were "launch dates" every month. Once a month, there was a server launched that started the story fresh. Maybe eventually these servers "caught up" and get merged, but they start fresh from vanilla with a certain time cycle in mind.

Each new shard could definitely incorporate the latest "quality of life" changes (or not). Each would have a firmly published schedule of events (or not). Each would follow the same storyline (or not).

You could have spoilers, or alternate endings. You could have everyone dumped into a common "max level" continent at the end. You could have a "sidekick" system allowing people to transport their main "back in time" (I know, I know. I just bashed time travel). Or you could have a "refresh" where a character "relives" their previous adventure. Perhaps the character could just jump into a prior spot in the flow (not necessarily the beginning) and experience the story again from there (getting de-leveled to match the point in time), jumping out (and back to max level) whenever they'd like. Maybe the leveling would be completely dependent on the timeline (and not the concept of experience points). Most importantly, you could jump into a game a year down the road and not feel like you missed anything.

And think of the press? Launch days are cool! What if you had one of those every month. Sure, they'd probably lose their shine after the first one, but there would still be some hype for each one. You could even manufacture it to some extent. Maybe with each launch there is a server limit, and you get "wait listed" for the next launch if you join between launches. Now, this would have to be done carefully so as not to piss people off, but as long as you're only talking "wait a few weeks" (and not months), I don't think it would be too bad. (Also, a clearly communicated schedule would be key, here.) There would be special launch events for each one, localized maybe. I don't know.

There are a whole bunch of possibilities for a game like this. It's like phasing on 'roids (or something). A game that is constantly launching. Think about it. I'd be interested... maybe in the second wave after I've seen how it goes and they work out all the server kinks...


  1. Sounds like A Tale in the Desert, an MMO that resets every few months.

  2. I dunno, almost sounds like leveling a brand new alt (yuck!), 'cept you could have a crowd of people with you like the year it was released.

    On the other hand, I missed some events in Vanilla (like the opening of the gates(?)) and would be cool to participate in those.

  3. @Targeter - Never heard of the game. I'll have to check it out.

    @Elk - A lot depends on implementation, obviously. I think it'd be more likely to be successful if resetting was a choice (you could just chill at max level, too). Or, and here's a novel concept, leveling was ACTUALLY REALLY FUN. :-)

  4. First off I think Blizz has pretty much said 'no' to vanilla servers. While there is a crowd out there that would like to see them I'm not sure how many of them there are.
    Leveling back in vanilla was nightmarish. Remember walking to 40? Remember summoning stones? Remember having to manually get groups together? I don't miss this sort of stuff at all. My first successful toon was a hunter. I started WoW back in April of 2005. It took till November of 2006 to get to 60. Of course, I was an extreme noob back then but by comparison my shammy was rolled in mid March and hit 85 in late May. I think I had a 4 day played time.

    I think it would just be easier for Blizz to say, "If you want to do vanilla raiding then level to 60 and turn off your exp." Do it again at 70 and so forth. I believe there are guilds out there that support this style of play.

  5. Yeah, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm not sure it could be done within the paradigm of WoW (and WoW-like games). The "reversion," if you will, wouldn't apply to quality of life patches, just the story. For example, you wouldn't have to lose an implemented dungeon finder, but you would maybe retain some of the gating (keying). Also, the capitals would not be damaged by a future boss.

  6. Seems like a lot of trouble for Blizz to go to in order to recycle old content.

  7. Right. I would not advise it for WoW. It would have to be for a different sort of game.