After reading Clive Thompson’s excellent piece on the sad, quiet ending of the massively-multi player online role playing game (MMPORG) Asheron’s Call 2, and then this report from in-world (with its tragic unfinished emoticon as the final character), I was struck by an idea.
Presumably most MMPORGs end when consumer interest dies off. That is, because the subscription base moves on, expenses eventually exceed revenue. If you ask me, the end of Asheron’s Call 2 feels pretty slapped together and anti-climatic. And, of course, it only happens once and leaves its remaining players hanging.
Instead, why not design a game that ends every three or six months?
Maybe such a game already exists, or maybe it’s in development. Regardless, I think it’s a great idea. You could run (as most MMPORGs do) several servers in parallel, so that the was an apocalypse every real-time month. You could have a multi-threaded end-game story, where there are real time limits to achieving goals. Choose whatever end of days myth you want–Ragnarok, Revelations, Rapture–or make up your own.
Even better, each player’s actions throughout their time on ‘Earth’ could send them to a virtual Heaven or Hell for a few weeks. They’d be sub-game worlds with ‘monsters’ and goals of their own (“Could anybody craft me a +2 Pitchfork of Brimstone?”). Maybe everybody gets to be an angel for a month, and then falls back to ‘Earth’ again? Alternately, you could take a Hindu view of the world, and each player’s actions would determine how they were reincarnated in the next instance of the ‘Earth’.
As regular readers know, I’ve abandoned every MMPORG I’ve ever tried after a couple of months. I do so mostly because they lack enough structure and specific longterm objectives to keep me interested. It’s easy to imagine myself committing to a six-month game cycle if I know there’s a powerful story and a promising result.
Game industry executives would no doubt point to the long-term recurring revenue model that make MMPORGs so appealing. I’d have to look at some reports on user abandonment and longevity to judge the viability of this idea. I do know that there’s a market for the casual gamer–witness the success of City of Heroes.
I’ve been reading a lot of books lately that encourage me to question conventional wisdom (The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, Blink, and so forth). Maybe the promise of a biannual apocalypse would be a breakaway hit? If nothing else, it’d be a great marketing hook.