Saturday, September 29, 2007

Any and all worlds

Over the past week, I've been wondering what type of setting I would choose for an MMO. fantasy? sci-Fi? real? gothic?

I asked myself... Should the world be designed around the gameplay? Or the other way around? Some of both must happen in any game, but which should take precedence?

More than a few times, I came up with something that initially sounded pretty good but ultimately either would cause problems or prevent me from including some of the features I'd hoped for.

Well, I finally found a setting that feels damn near perfection for what I want to do. I don't want to give the specifics just yet, but the general idea can be summed up by its two basic elements:
  • It's all genres/settings mixed into one.
  • It's not the real world, but it will include a great deal from the real world and is meant to illuminate reality.
Ok, a little confusing perhaps, so here are some examples to get the basic idea across.

All settings
  • Imagine something like a warg chasing after your '69 Chevelle.
  • Imagine your spaceship needing a little maintenance because some mischievous gremlins/goblins sneaked on board and played with the wiring.
  • Imagine casting an illusion spell on a dinosaur.
  • Imagine your group fending off a local vampire with a shotgun, a runed battleaxe, and a robotic companion.
  • Imagine walking from a medieval tavern to techno-pulsed nightclub, because they're on the same street of the same town.
I'm not sure how far I can push this, but I honestly think I've found a way to integrate all sorts of wildly different stuff into one world and make it believeable.

  • See the ruins of a familiar real-world city and hear what the NPCs were able to discern about our society from archeology alone.
  • Make an impact in allegorical representations of real issues... real enough to feel important, but whimsical and imaginative enough to be fun (first and foremost).
  • Deep philosophical, psychological, and scientific questions posed in a casual, simple, and seemless manner.
The point of this (besides adding depth to the world) is less about teaching heavy-handed lessons than about encouraging players to regain a child-like sense of wonder and awe; to remind them of the beauty in simple, everyday things; and to get them musing on questions and considerations that don't come up in many people's lives. A psych test I once took identified "Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence" as my strongest "signature strength". This is about trying to share some of that.

Think of it as being like a well-made film, like The Matrix, which you enjoy mainly as fun but find yourself discussing at length with friends afterward, because it's both fun and meaningful. Games, also, can be both fun and meaningful. Developers interested in meaning usually fail by getting their ideas across by blunt force. I can do it more subtlely and seemlessly.

Anyway, here's hoping Metaplace will let me tackle something so ambitious one day (after a lot of practice on smaller games, of course).

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