We here at the MMO track like to think of ourselves as knowledgeable in the land of multi-player. MMOs are the best example of it, with thousands of players on the same server wandering in and out of each other’s lives, stealing their kills and shouting Chuck Norris jokes (seriously people, please stop). And even in our MMOs, we are familiar still with single-player, never grouping, never raiding, playing the game all alone, surround by other people who have little to no effect on our game.
While not a widely used term in the wild, it has been used in game design circles for quite some time. What it means is playing a game that is largely single player, but in an “always connected” mode that allows the game to mix in multi-player elements when it wants to. There aren’t a lot of games out there actively using this sort of thing because the whole concept it still in the early stages. Before you can have a light bulb in your house, there has to be a line running the electricity to your home.
Of course, it isn’t completely absent. If you’ve played the console game Dark Souls then you’ve experienced the ghosts and messages, which are passive impacts from other players. And we’ve seen it in the MMO realm in RIFT and Warhammer with their rifts and public quests respectively. Players playing their own game, momentarily, organically, coming together to defeat an event and then going their separate ways.
Bungie, makers of Halo, have just released the first teaser of their new game, Destiny, which they emphatically state is not an MMO.
However, while they say it is not an MMO, it is going to have an “always connected” requirement, and the rumors are pretty thick that it will include a lot of mingle-player content.
The mind reels at the possibilities if you consider them… imagine playing a shooter and being able to “call for help” and another player, on the same map, in a nearby area gets the call and is directed up a fire escape to a door and opens into a catwalk above the area you are in, you can see them, and they can see you, and they can help you, and then they move on to the other end of the catwalk to another door, unlocked now that the trouble has been dealt with, and get a reward for having helped you out. Or what if in the distance, when most games have AI NPCs fighting each other as scenery, it is actually other players. Or when you enter a new area, player corpses from other gamers litter the floor, from which you can pick up supplies, but only if other players have been having trouble and dying a lot in that area – if the majority find the area easy, the floor will be clear.
In the RPG world, you simply need to steal mechanics from games we already know and love, like rifts and public quests. Or what if in the next console RPG from BioWare or whoever, choosing the evil/dark side puts a bounty on your head. Literally. And another player can get a “quest” to take you on, putting them in your game where you have to PvP fight them – they win, they collect the reward; you win, they can’t come after you again. What if the game had two towns, A and B, and quests to help one by hurting the other. If more players keep choosing to help A and hurt B, town B visibly weakens and perhaps the rewards for choosing their side will grow.
In any event, the next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft are likely to require an always on connection to the Internet (EDIT: though Sony’s PlayStation 4 announcement yesterday didn’t mention it, it didn’t rule it out entirely), and with that many games will start taking advantage of it. Dynamic content based on the play styles of other players, but not direct contact that allows players to completely ruin your day. It sounds good to me. How about you?