I’ve been reluctant to post many game or book ideas in the Wacky Business Idea series, just because every gamer or reader has TONS of ideas (which are usually pretty lame). This is one of my best (although probably still lame) video game ideas.
In the distant past, computer role-playing games (RPGs) were quite popular. Games like Bard’s Tale, Wizardry, Ultima or heck, even The Legend of Zelda would involve fighting your way through an adventure, where your character(s) would become more powerful as you went. I wrote about paper role-playing games, and their connection with personal finance, extensively in a previous post. One of the elements of computer RPGs was that at the end of the game there would be a massive reward for your characters. They would become the saviours of the world, kings and queens, gods or some such thing.
When massive multiplayer role-playing games (MMORPGs), like World of Warcraft, became popular, they had the added dimension of being able to play in a world inhabited by thousands of other real people. You could join with them on quests, fight with them or trade with them, all of which lead to a vibrant, dynamic world (which is why they’ve become very popular and there are fewer single player RPGs being made).
One thing that players complain about is that they aren’t important in MMORPGs. They’ll complete a quest to save a princess from a dragon, and 10 minutes later she’ll be back in her tower captured by the dragon again (and waiting for the NEXT player to save her). There *ISN’T* an end to the game, and players only have as much renown as their accomplishments warrant. Given that everyone is running around doing the same thing, its pretty hard to be noticed at all, let alone be the most famous character in the world… of Warcraft. Probably the most famous World of Warcraft character is Leeroy Jenkins, who is famous for being stupid.
This business idea is to try to tie single player and massively multi-player RPGs together and get the best of both. Customers would purchase a RPG which would include both the game and a server (a computer program that lets other computers connect to your’s). Like a MMORPG the game world would run all the time, and you could invite friends to come and play in it. Like the single player RPG, there would be a central “world threatening” danger that the players would have to band together to fight. At any time, one, some or all of you and your friends could be playing, and when you’re playing together you don’t have to stay in the same area (perhaps at points in the game you would be required to split up to deal with different issues).
The game could be sold in “modules” where the same characters continue playing in the same world, but the purchased content adds new areas, character types and new over-arching mission(s). The world would change as the characters accomplished things, and these changes would remain when new content was added (so if a character was the head of the thieves guild in Skara Brae they would remain the head of the guild, and no one else could be the head of it).
Optional extensions could be things like offering to run the game on the company’s servers (so that you wouldn’t have to leave your computer on for your friends to play), or even helping people to run their own public servers (as smaller, more intimate alternatives to MMORPGs) – even for a small monthly fee if it was good enough for people to pay for.
Some games, such as Neverwinter Nights or Diablo do something SOMEWHAT similar to this. The major differences between this would be the focus on adding content extensions, and the game being built to be played multi-player (rather than it being an “add on” to the single-player game). MUDs (basically non-graphical, text-only, MMORPGs) were an old school idea along these lines but what I’m describing would be something a lot closer to a single-player RPG than a MUD is.