So a little while ago, the Newbie Blogger Initiative Discord chat – specifically the talented and likely far prettier than me Faeldray – offered a writing prompt about what would be our dream game. Any genre, any type, money no object. Pure, self-indulgent awesomeness.
With my head rolling about the question for a few days now, I think I can commit my ideal MMORPG to digital paper. To later be ruthlessly torn asunder by the reality of logistics. But please, wait until the end of the post before getting out your hacksaws, and let a guy dream for just a moment.
So first thing’s first: setting. This game is set in a steampunk era, because the mixture of fantasy, tech, fashion and sci-fi just hits so many notes. It’s also a setting that I feel is rather underserved by MMO’s at the moment. The primary focus of this game is the settlement of a recently discovered continent. Travel across the globe has only just recently finished, and the world this game is set is has been largely isolationist until recently, where it began to fill out its world map.
The primary interest of this particular continent is the abundance of energy wells that pockmark the continent surface. These wells produce a power that has been previously undiscovered or understood, but initial studies have found that the applications of the energy are immense; clean energy, medicinal benefit, weapon application, propulsion. A multitude of uses that could possibly improve the lives of the game’s planet. Naturally, there are differing opinions on how to harness this energy. Thus begins a three-faction race to control the continent and its power.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that this dispute would be settled through combat with steampunk mechs?
I love mechs. LOVE them. It’s a technology that has no place in existence, which makes them even more fun. It also makes them perfect for the setting, since steampunk is all about hyper-engineering. The game would be an open sandbox-style RvRvR game that involves holding territory and advancing your chosen faction’s application of this new energy. Basically, think Camelot Unchained with a slow-moving tech tree.
The three factions are as follows:
- Murrin – A faction that have been the armorers of the realm for decades. They plan to maintain their technological grip by fashioning the best possible weapons and engines. They see the new battlefield as a business opportunity and field test both, letting them develop unheard of tech to sell to the highest bidder.
- Thel’ar – A noble faction made up of a collection of high houses. They are the best in governance and military strategy, and have won countless wars. The conflict is about pride as much as it is about a promise; they seek to harness the energy to enrich the lives of their lower-class citizens and to show they still are the best fighters.
- Kurth – A loose amalgam of city-states that have basically managed to stop punching each other long enough to investigate the new continent. Theirs is a history of inter-personal battle as they fought for the scraps left behind from a Murrin weapons test that irradiated their previously unified nation. They hope that this energy source can provide healing to generations of mutation.
Mechs are all different among the factions, but all can be broken down in to three different types:
- Scouts – Small, agile, fast. These cover a lot of ground quickly, and also can transform in to gyrocopters capable of low-ceiling flight. They have smaller weapons hardpoints, but make up for it with sensor-dampening capability as well as recon ability. They’re the eyes and ears of any war group.
- Skirmishers – The medium mechs. Think of them as being steampunk Gundams of a sort. These are the most numerous weapons on the front line, and also carry the most variety of armament. They are capable of modest movement speed and tactical awareness, and tend to do the most work out of all mech types.
- Heavies – The big guns. The MechWarrior or Front Mission mechs of this universe. They’re large, slow and powerful, and tend to fill a few different roles, from leading the charge on a front line to laying siege to enemy installations to long-range artillery support. They fill in the gaps that Skirmishers can’t, and help pave the way for smaller units.
Each type can be further personalized by selecting and building each section from an available number of parts, from arms to legs to chassis to weapons and countermeasures. You can cobble together your own, personalized mech completely from the ground up. Like an Armored Core powered by steam and dreams.
This all sounds like fun, but what if you’re the sort who would rather not pilot a mech? Well, this sort of tech can’t happen without a lot of support players, and that’s where even more variety comes in. Mechs need people to maintain them while in the field, so small support teams of Manufactors would need to be near each skirmish, driving immense retrofit and repair vehicles to units in need. Materials would have to be trucked from safe ports to player-held capitols by Runners. Even players who want to offer command and control would have their own playstyle as Commanders, with an overhead view on a tactical map to see what Scouts see and to direct units.
From a beautiful, sexy steampunk airship. Of course.
This creates interplay among people and interdependence. Scouts are the eyes for command. Runners keep the war efforts fed. Commanders help people maneuver and strategize, deciding whether to hit supply lines or make a run at a player-held energy vent. All in a coordinated effort to advance their faction tree.
The more territory held, the more this tree moves forward to new advances. The rate of this advancement would have to be slow; at least five or six months for each new unlock in a selected branch approximately. Maybe longer. Where the tree grows would be taken up by factional poll, and the more energy vents held, the faster that faction’s tree progresses. Conversely, lose too much territory, and the tech branch goes away as a result of lack of resources or research.
What’s to stop people from joining a faction that’s already in the lead? Well that’s where the Mercenary system would come in to play. If there’s any numerical balance that favors one faction over the other, then new players can be listed as Mercenaries, offering their services as any of the forementioned jobs for any faction that requires the numbers boost. If space allows, a Mercenary can become conscripted in to any faction they choose. It’s the best method I can think to make sure factions remain as balanced as possible.
Additionally, there would be a fourth threat that could keep things in check. The energy vents in question aren’t completely benign, and could potentially draw vicious creatures through a dimensional Tear. If a Tear occurs, then all factions automatically unflag and can work jointly to take out the shared threat. Which would be to everyone’s benefit, because failure to comply or work together means the area would become sealed, closing any vents in that sector and making the land utterly worthless to everyone until a new vent emerged.
Which would take at least a calendar year.
I’m sure there are more than a few loopholes in this idea. I’m sure that there’s even possibly no way this sort of game could happen. I’m also sure that I would probably be one of a very few number of people who would find this sort of game interesting. But that’s what dreams are about, right?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit here and drool on myself as I slip in to this little personal universe of mine.