Discussing such games as Lost Odyssey, Oblivion, Fable 2, and even Saints Row 2 with Navan Daughn and other friends of mine, I struck upon an idea of something that would really appeal to me.
One of the problems with these kinds of games is that they are such a huge time sink, but what makes this especially bad for me is that they are also almost completely solo experiences. Now this gives many advantages in their design for story potential, pacing, and the fact you shape the pace & initiation of the game events entirely; “you are the hero” as the catchphrase says, the illusion of roleplaying can be much stronger. However in general, I’d much prefer the multi-player aspects of an MMO. But an MMO of course brings with it all kinds of other issues. How do you have some kind of major player initiated world-impacting story or event, when 1000’s of players will all want to repeat that task. It’s why most of the storyline in such game worlds, is essentially a waste of time (outside of some of the meta-drama created in ‘true’ player worlds, such as Eve Online) as even in the best MMO virtual worlds ones you only really roleplay an immortal peon for the vast majority of players.
Which got me thinking, what about a hybrid? What about a video game with a virtual world of some kind, but a virtual world limited in extent of the players involved in it. In fact, limited to the extent that you choose. To coin my own acronym: A FLOWG: A “Friends List Only World Game”.
To explain the concept further, imagine a game with some kind of free-roaming world, like Fable 2 or World of Warcraft, but one that had many player initiated features & effects, such as permanent housing for example. But rather than the world be overwhelmed with 1000s of players’ worth of houses, you’d only see the houses and effects of say, the 4-5, or even 100 people you’d invited to play the game with you.
Even things like certain unique quests could only be completed once in your ‘shared’ virtual world. Of course the exact demarcations of how all these things played out would be down to the design of the game itself, exactly what crossover you had between the worlds and players. Adammk responded to this with “It would be a bit like a D&D party”… and yep that would be precisely my hope for this kind of thing when it came to an ‘c-RPG’ style game. Now of course one player could run off and “do all the quests” so no-one else could.. but the point is, why would you want to? The whole concept is one of mutual play with your friends. In the same manner I’ve not played a single level of Gears of War 2 on my own, why also would I want to play a hypothetical FLOWG on my own.
Of course there are technical issues I can foresee especially around adding/deleting friends as you go along, and scalability based around how many people was the limit or the average for most players. But I really think the benefits and advantages of this kind of game design could be enormous, so much so that I am amazed that no-one’s really done anything like it yet.