Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Game World

An MMORPG is defined first and foremost by the world in which its players are allowed to play. It can be a theme park or a sandbox, of course, but past those labels, there is so much more it can be.

In making a game world, one has to choose how everything will interact and, more importantly, how players will interact with the world. Any type of player one wants to find in their world must find something to do, and even players who defy categorization can be accounted for.

Do you make a game for achievement fans and player-killers? Drop the crafting and appearance differences, and make sure you display their appropriate numbers for all to see. If you want socializers, make sure it's easy for them to find each other and form groups. You want a mix of explorers, achievers and socializers? Make your world complex yet friendly, then, and you will find some of each.

But if one wants their game world to be taken seriously, they have to think further than the four Bartle categories. Which killers do you want in your world? You can pick the action-driven ones, and make mercenary work easily accessible. You can pick the ganker, who likes to prey on weaker players, and encourage the laws of the jungle, where only the strongest survive. And as you ponder your game world, you will no doubt notice that the categories just fill themselves; as if the world had taken a life of its own, so will the players fill the world before you even craft it.

In our game, for example, we had a magic-heavy, skill-based, complex world that encouraged player interaction. You'll find that anyone with some social needs will thrive as long as you make it easy for them to find each other; the merchant-like achievers will likewise do rather well if there is enough complexity to allow some speculation on the side; and the killers will find plenty to do if you make it easy for them to jump into the action for their side and get paid for their accomplishments on the battlefield. But, of course, each of them would do well to be explorers, of the world's geography and its basic rules.

If you craft a decent world, players will come; but if you make a deep, wonderful place in which they can live, they will be sucked into your alternate reality. Your world may be a roller coaster or a city builder, but in the end, if you stay consistent in the design, you will end up with something someone wants to play; and that is really the basic of making a game.