Let’s just begin with the fact that I hate EVE Online.
I played it for a number of months, and in that time I mined, I fought pirates, I ran trade routes some of which I did through “zero space”. I read the message boards and I talked to people in game. I joined a corporation, I formed a corporation, and I fought in corporate wars. I was literally bored out of my mind.
But… I have to give EVE credit for one thing. The guys at CCP have over a a hundred thousand people paying to play a game that doesn’t exist. Now, before you go on a tirade defending EVE, pay attention… EVE has no designed large goals. There is no “end game”, in fact there is barely any “game”. All the stuff people love, corporations and politics and piracy and all that… player created using simple tools provided by CCP.
CCP has given you a basic economy system, and from that players have developed complex trade routes and commodities management. CCP has given you corporation structure, and from that players have developed complex politics. And so on… what CCP didn’t do was spend any effort developing story and static content, they developed no dungeons, no wide ranging NPCs (there are some low end pirates, the guard NPCs for protected space, and some space stations). They didn’t waste any effort trying to create repeatable encounters with respawning monsters, because they also didn’t create any level advancement for players.
Of course, CCP also doesn’t have 6 million subscribers, but their buck and a quarter thousand is nothing to shake a stick at.
So, this has brought me to my theoretical game design. Make tools not games if you want a deep community. Let people define the game for themselves. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make games at all, but games should be small and contained.
The idea I have is what I’m going to start referring to as “city-centric” design. Essentially, a player joins the game and is initially made a citizen of one of a handful or less completely NPC controlled cities. From here they can play numerous games, be that crafting or adventuring or whatever. But, as long as they remain a citizen of an NPC city, their advancement in the game (however advancement ends up being defined) will be self only and hindered. The NPCs of the NPC city don’t care about you. So the push comes to either join or found your own player created city. As a citizen of a player controlled city, every game you play affects the city. If you decide to run caravan escort missions, every time you succeed you strengthen the trade route between your city and your destination city; every time you fail, the trade route weakens. The strength of a trade route will affect the supply and price of city specific products and resources. If you keep running caravan escorts from your city by the coast to a city in the mountains, mined ores will slowly become more plentiful and cheaper. At the same time, this makes things easier for people who have chosen to play the blacksmith game. You can also attack other cities and play defender for your own city. The people who run the city, the dictator, king, or elected official, will have control of city development… like a real time strategy game, or Sim City. They get to decide how resources are spent, the style (texture sets) to pull new buildings from, and prioritize city missions (they’ll determine if that caravan protection you just ran payed out 1 gold or 5 as a reward from the city). They’ll control alliances and animosities. And of course, when communicating with the leaders of other cities, they’ll need messengers to carry the letters, which the players can do.
So, what about PvP vs PvE? Do both. Allow the players to decide if the mission they are undertaking will be done PvP or PvE, and control the affect the result has. PvP is generally harder, so a PvP caravan escort would yield more change than a PvE escort.
Then, we can take the whole thing a step further… people who don’t want to be citizens of a city can choose instead to belong to a guild… an adventurers guild, a tradesmans guild, etc… and those guilds can buy/rent buildings in cities, as many as they can afford. Tasks performed for the guild will enrich the coffers and prestige of the guild.
My mind is racing with ideas… now I just need someone to bankroll them… Ha!