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...
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