Sega CEO Hajime Satomi says he wants to improve the quality of their games moving forward. That could mean a lot of things. It's nice to hear, but what they do next with their games is the real answer.
Western MMO: 7 Things We Would Like To See
Do your eyes, like mine, light up like a Christmas tree when you read the words “Western MMO?” For a serious lover of the western genre like me it’s hard to contain the excitement at even the prospect of such a fantasy coming to life. If you can sympathize with me go on ahead and finish reading this here article. If not, feel free to mosey on out of this here blog, and don’t show yer ugly face ’round these parts again! I joke.
With a renewed interest in the Wild West, and with the MMO market absolutely exploding, now would be an optimal time for someone to give this idea a shot. Red Dead Redemption proved that a pure western game could do very well in an age of modern warfare and Tolkien-esque fantasy adventuring, and the multi-player feature gave gamers a minuscule glimpse of what an MMO set in the old west might look like, kind of. Thanks to Tarantino and Jamie Fox we have yet another western film to prove that we the people still do indeed dream of being gunslingers in a time when root beer was called sarsaparilla and the maximum horse power on a personal vehicle was limited to the amount of horses you could hitch your wagon to.
So, there is a market for a western MMO but is it even possible to create an MMO set in the American Wild West which could hold the attention of today’s average MMO aficionado? As an online gaming veteran and the president of the Rooster Cogburn fan club (not really) I believe the answer is yes, and in the following seven points I will outline some possible features which could make this idea a successful reality.
- Alternate reality game world – Sure, the real Wild West is pretty wild and there’s plenty about it that would contribute to a fun and interesting game world. As I said before, Red Dead Redemption has proven this to be true, but how much more interesting was the zombie campaign than the original story? Don’t get me wrong, the regular story-line was awesome – riveting to the end – but even with less of a plot the zombie DLC was much more intriguing, and let’s not forget spooky, than the original theme.This alternate reality could include zombies because, let’s face it, the walking dead sell IP’s. Add zombies to anything and it’s immediately more interesting. But beyond that the game could add in all kinds of creatures and story elements to kick it up a few notches without jumping any proverbial sharks. Let’s start with Cryptozoic creatures. Red Dead had Bigfoot, Jackalope, and Chupacabra, so they seem like no-brainers, but with some digging the hypothetical devs could come up with several other such legendary monsters to terrorize their players with. Did I hear someone say “Wendigo?”
Since we’ve got zombies, why not throw in vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, and anything else one might find in pop culture horror? If the Winchester brothers have hunted it let’s bring it on board!
In addition to the baddies adding in plot elements like secret societies might be a cool feature. As a fan of The Secret World, as well as probably everything that inspired it, I am partial to this idea but obviously we wouldn’t want a western-skinned TSW clone. A good western MMO would have to have a fresh take on this idea.
Lastly, it should go without saying but the magical arts would be a must. The Native Americans have their own lore on the mystical which could play in nicely, but voodoo and black magic would fit within the era and ready to be exaggerated to the maximum for use in our would-be MMO.
- Player housing – The ability to construct your own home and even a full community of neighbors would be a must. We’re talking about the American frontier! Staking your claim on a plot of land, building yourself a homestead, and cultivating the land would fit right into a game world set in the American old west. This would play into the crafting in a big way. Whether you are a clothier, a leather worker, a blacksmith, or any other profession, you could incorporate the equipment and facilities to practice your trade right on your own land. I foresee entire towns made up of player-made businesses being manned by hired (AI) employees. Other MMO’s have tried this to varying degrees of success, but it would be particularly at home in a western MMO.
- Crafting as a career – I talked about this in number two but it deserves its own point. Each character could choose a profession, or two. I think it would be a great idea to allow players to level up in the game through simply crafting and commerce. If someone wants to just make guns and run a gun shop they could progress in those areas without having to go out and stop train robbers or hunt deer. I do believe that the time investment should be incorporated, so, obviously if you spend most of your time crafting guns to be sold you’re not going to have time to do all the mining for ore that is so necessary to your business. That’s where trading and commerce comes into play. This is already an aspect of crafting in most MMO’s so it shouldn’t be difficult to incorporate. Hunting, fishing, mining, tailoring, leather working blacksmithing, gathering, farming, skinning, and plenty of other trade skills could be available to the player, offering lots to do, even at level cap.Back to the subject of running a gun shop, you needn’t craft them all, since there would be other ways to procure merchandise as well, such as criminal professions. Buying someone’s stolen goods at a discount price and selling them at full price is a viable way to make money, but of course there are always lawmen who would be constantly searching for criminals like you… PVP anyone?
- PVP – Now, I’m not a huge PVPer by any definition. I have almost completely avoided it in most of my MMO experience, and I’m sure I don’t have to explain why. There are so many ill-tempered and just plain rude people in PVP that I generally steer clear. Nonetheless, lots of people enjoy it, and it would be right at home in a game like this. Duels are commonplace in western films, TV, and games, and they would be as well in our western MMO. In addition to the simple high noon showdown, you could find yourself running down bounties, defending yourself from bandits, fighting over land and property, and much more. There are lots of possibilities on the PVP front.
- Mini games – Plenty of excellent MMO’s feature mini games and our western MMO would be no different. Red Dead had several which, in retrospect, weren’t all that helpful or fun, but they can be done better. Card games are a big duh. Old timey boxing would be an interesting feature. Shooting contests. Hunting competitions. You name it. There’s plenty to work with here.
- No factions! – Many of the MMO’s already on the market play on pitting players against each other based on their group affiliation. I would say that it’s time to try something different. Sure, there will be whites, Native Americans, African Americans, Asians, etc., and there would be lawmen, bounty hunters, criminals, and tradesmen, but there’s no reason to mandate that anyone be at enmity with anyone else based on any of that. There should, however, be some form of fame/infamy meter as well as, perhaps, a separate morality gauge of some sort. These features would affect how the player is treated by NPC’s and of course would influence how other player looked at them. Lawmen most likely wouldn’t associate with the criminal element, and doing so could add ticks to their infamy meter, which would give the public an impression of him which is less than desirable, but all of this is the player’s choice.
- Open-ended story – Ideally, in my opinion, a good western MMO would not feature a story with an end, but a series of interconnected story arcs which could potentially shape the game. This subject could have an entire article written on it, so I’ll leave it at that, but you get the idea.
Well, that’s my list. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section, and if you’re a game developer (because those guys can often be found reading my blog) take my ideas, please! I don’t even want royalties – Maybe a free copy of the game . . . and a cowboy hat.