I asked my son this afternoon if he wanted to continue having an active World of Warcraft subscription.
He just doesn’t play anymore.
He’ll log in to mess around on his mounts, he loves flying and swimming and riding. The game doesn’t hold any other attraction for him, though.
He tries, and I think he mostly tries to make me happy. He sees how much fun I take in the game, and wants to like what I do.
With the pre-order for Warlords of Draenor out, the question needs to be answered. Does he want the account to stay active? Is this something he wants enough that we continue spending a monthly subscription for it, and pay the $50 for the expansion to come?
He didn’t really answer it, and I didn’t press him on it now. I know he’ll want to play the expansion when it does come out, but I think we might be safe in letting the subscription lapse until then.
From our discussion came, wholly unprompted, his wish for changes to World of Warcraft.
It started as what he wished WoW was like, and became his idea for making what he thinks would be a whole new MMO even better than WoW. Yeah, I know.
The more he talked with enthusiasm about what he wishes the game were like, the more I found myself agreeing.
This is MMO Design by way of an eleven year old Minecraft devotee and once-upon-a-time Warcraft player.
First, the game world you play in, the questing and villages and NPCs, everything that makes the normal leveling experience should be single player. No other active players in the game world at the same time you are playing your character. The world has one active player, just like Skyrim or other big RPG games.
This way, you don’t ever have to worry about accidentally tagging a bad guy someone else was sneaking up on or farming or trying to skin or any of a hundred other reasons people get angry with you for killing a creature in a zone. Anger that results in foul language and harsh words directed at you, and griefing behavior, all while you’re just trying to have fun and complete a quest.
It also means you can gather herbs and ores and other materials at your own pace, without competition, or fear of someone training a herd of mobs on top of you and vanishing, or swooping in and mining the node while you are busying fighting the bad guy standing on top of it.
The game world, according to the Cub, should be unique and persistent only to you, and should react to your choices and decisions.
It should have terrain that is affected by what you do, terrain that you can manipulate and adjust similar in concept to how Minecraft allows you to change things. If you have a shovel, you should be able to dig a hole. If you dig a deep enough hole, and put a rug over it, an animal could walk over it and fall in. By being your own World, what you do only affects you. If you kill all the NPCs in a village, the consequences only affect you. If you tear down the buildings of an enemy, raze the ground and build a new Alliance village, it only affects you, and the change can be a lasting one. Trees you plant stay there and grow over time, dig a trench away from a lake and it fills with water for a moat, build a castle within what you’ve decided is your demesne and rule as tyrant or benevolent dictator however you see fit.
His biggest complaint about World of Warcraft is that it does not allow for player creativity. You can’t even dye your clothes different colors to make a unique outfit. You can’t cut down or plant a tree, you can’t do things outside of incredibly narrow limits, and the reason for that is everything has to be the same experience at all times for every player that comes along.
Even instanced and phased zones don’t help in his opinion, because they are scripted encounters on rails that you can only play one way, and is reset as soon as you leave and cannot be revisited later. He wants to fight an incredible battle, and if he cannot save his pet and it dies, plant an apple tree at that spot that he can come back to and visit over time, and leave flowers beneath it as it grows in remembrance of his pet and it’s favorite food.
But what about World of Warcraft being an MMO? The whole point is that you play it with friends, it’s an activity you can do with lots of people.
His answer to that one surprised the heck out of me. I hadn’t thought of it this way before.
He said that, really, all I do in the game with others is chat with my friends in the guild and cross-realm with Battle Tags, and do instances or raids with them that are zoned in from wherever I am anyway. I don’t ever just meet up to quest, or beat down a random orc. Oh, sure, I’ve leveled with other people in the past, but leveling is so fast that it’s literally only a day or two, maybe a week and then it’s back to the end game grind. When compared to a year of bumming around solo, that week or two of shared leveling ain’t much.
But still, meeting other people in game is huge fun, you still want to be able to do that. You just need to plan for it, form a group and queue to zone into a public meeting space.
Separate the public meeting parts of the game out. Add in a cross-game chat for battle-tag friends so you still have the private whispers, and add channels to sue for your group of friends and call them guilds or clans. Boom, same experience you have now.
And for group activities or public meeting spaces, how would it be any different than now if the multi-player shared servers still existed, but only for instances and raids, but you add a few new types of ‘raids’ to queue for and zone into.
You form a party with your friends wherever they may be, someone queues the group up for a raid or instance, and when it pops everyone gets moved into one shared multiplayer server to play together just like with Flex runs cross-server right now.
Once it’s done, you leave group and return to your own world hosted on your PC.
If you want to just meet and greet with people, you could set one special ‘city’ raid as something to zone into through queuing, just as if it were an instance. Basically, an instance without enemy NPCs for the sole purpose of having a city to visit with other people, use an auction house, pick up your mail, and /dance with a friend.
He started gushing about how you could have raid instances that were non-combat, the way you could use a mole machine to go to the nightclub at the Grim Guzzler in BRD. Dedicated raid instances without combat, designed around role playing themes like a night club so the group could have a dance night, and there could be a juke box where the raid leader set the music to play and acted as DJ for the night and chose songs. I think that idea came from him watching the TV show The Amazing Race this week, where they had a DJ challenge at a nightclub.
His biggest thing about having your own world was that you should be able to influence the way the story in your world worked, that you should have choices and they should change things, and you should be able to build stuff and do things you’d expect to be able to do. Simple things like dig a hole, or pick up rocks and stack them into a wall around your campfire to keep out wolves. And, since it was your own world, the only thing that had to stay locked by a central server would be the cahracter you use to play in groups with other people. The world itself could be changed and even, if totally hosed up, rebooted to plain starter vanilla.
If you wanted to carpet the land with wildflowers, use animal husbandry to breed unicorns and purple dragons, create a fairy tale castle and live as a princess, that’s your world. But if someone else wanted to go nuts as the evil overlord undead destruction Wizard, they could explode volcanoes on villages and rain down lava on their poor, charred cinder of a world.
Each world could be changed, and would be changed, to entirely reflect one person’s play choices and creativity, without hurting anyone else, and without ever getting griefed.
But if someone wanted to raid it would work just the same as now. Level requirements, gear requirements, whatever. You’d still be able to chat with the friends you only saw in raids.
And then each person could take video tours of their world and post them on YouTube for other people to see.
I’ve thought about his ideas.
I’ve been thinking about them the entire time I’m sitting here writing this down.
I’ve decided I want to play his game. For all the things you’d worry about losing like the auction house, you could place those things in their own instanced world/server that you joined through the queue system, that central city idea of his, and use that place to queue into to retrieve auctions or in game mail.
You could make it work, and about as well as you do now.
The only thing I can see as being the bone of contention is how to have a world resident on someone’s computer that isn’t subject to hacking to duplicate items or create stupid stuff that let’s people cheat on gear for group raids. I don’t know enough about the actual programming of games to know if single player worlds like Skyrim have ways already built in that secure your system so being logged in live to a central computer ensures you can’t hack your system and still link to the servers for shared play with others. I just don’t know if it’s possible. I’d think it could be.
I like it. I like the way it combines both things that I love most, the ability to play creatively in the world my way and change and affect things in meaningful ways like I can when I play Minecraft, and also allows the camaraderie of playing with my friends in group activities, and I also love that he gave thought to using the system to have dance parties and guild meet and greets.
Which brings up my next thought…
Is there any reason why we can’t have a raid instance RIGHT NOW to queue into that was without combat? A peaceful raid environment cross-server to queue for that IS a disco party with jukebox and disco ball? Imagine the RP possibilities if there were a range of non-combat raid instances to queue for as a group.
Meeting halls for guild discussions, even banquet halls with NPCs serving many courses, the possibilities are almost limitless once you kick over that non-combat instance idea.
And when you think about the possibilities of scripted events in a non-combat raid instance, like having those banquet servers wait to bring food out until every player zoned in sits down at the table, or the tank/raid leader ‘pulls’ the majordomo bell signalling the start of the meal, and servers begin bringing platters that you can interact with to get food or drink the way you can with Fong during the Legendary quest line with Wrathion…
The roleplaying possibilities with friends, bringing the world to life for things other than getting together just to kill shit broadens my entire conception of playing with people on a multiplayer world.
Excuse me while I go think for a bit, and wonder why my son sees the possibilities of these things so much more clearly than I do.