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E: ID4 2006 (Pt 2)

Updated Fri, Feb 13, 2009 by Ralsu

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Independence Day: Freeing My iMMOGination (continued)

Remember that I was thinking of a franchise I'd like to see make it to the realm of MMOG.
I was using 3 major criteria:
  1. familiar, tested core system
  2. character customization
  3. prevent griefing
Once I'd selected the core systems, I applied 6 elements of my dream MMOG:
  1. story
  2. world
  3. combat
  4. quests
  5. character building
  6. diversions

Ogre Battle Online: Play This Game

The Ogre Battle series has been confined to consoles, and its fan base may be a bit smaller than that of Diablo. The great thing Ogre Battle Online (OBO) would bring is some innovation to the genre of MMOGs. Hailing from turn-based strategy roots, OBO would introduce a new type of MMOG to the market. And if you're wondering about my subtitle for OBO, previous Ogre Battle games have incorporated Queen songs as subtitle. I thought no Queen song fit better than "Play This Game!"

Ogre Battle games have a tested core system for those who are familiar with it. It would take some nifty marketing to get the rest of the gaming world interested in the concept. Griefing would be less of a problem than normal becuase of the juxtapostion of the Imperial and rebel forces; players are suppoed to fight each other frequently. The bigger issue would be preventing exploits in the battle mechanic that would make gaining experience too easy. In Ogre Battle games, certain classes mow down other specific classes with ease (Knight vs. Mage or Exorcist vs. undead).

Story
OBO, like its predecessors, would feature an imperialistic government oppressing the working-class. Players would be able to choose to become part of the rebellion or enforce the law for the Empire. Though that story breaks no new ground, OBO would present a MMOG with world with complex political strife. Decisions would be less black and white.

World

Ogre Battle games have never really featured an overworld. Instead, players navigate from plotpoint to plotpoint on a map. Along the way, players encounter random enemies or major attacks. For OBO to work as an MMOG, players need some sort of environment, though. Thus, I see OBO having a full overworld teeming with enemy forces. Near the starting cities, players would encounter very few enemies. NPCs tend to sympathize with others in their region. As players move farther from their starting points, they'd encounter cities that are torn between loyalty to the Empire and a desire to see political change. OBO players could influence the political landscape of the realm through their actions.

Thus, in addition to overworld locations such as the Tenne Plains and Pogrom Forest, OBO would largely feature cities as battle landscapes. But the world wouldn't be all war all the time. See my ideas for diversions below.

Combat
MMOGs do not mix well with turn-based combat. Wait--do they? Aren't the 6 seconds between quads from a skeleton in EverQuest II establishing turns? OBO would incorporate turns based on initiative. All players with the current highest initiative could act in one round. Then the next. Then the next. Combat would feature the full grid-based movement system, and players could choose form basic actions on their turns: attack, defend, cast, items. Players would receive damage bonuses for flanking, and resistances and elemental alignment would play a huge role in any battle.

Grouping in OBO would form "Units," which could consist of up to 10 players. Whenever a Unit is short some members, players could hire Imperial soldiers or rebel vigilantes to fill out the Unit. Battles would be decided by defeating all enemies on the field. Defeated players would be sent back to the last headquarters visited, with a loss of all XP above the current level.
OBO
Quests
OBO quests would tend toward things such as "Liberate the trade city of Velnan from the Empire" and "Crush the rebel resistance at Lake Jansenia." Even so, OBO would have room for training exercises that could lead to XP. It is also possible to envision rescue mission of the type of "Save the Seer's Daughter from the Gryphons." This would be a great way to incorporate the wild animals of the Ogre Battle universe. These wild animals also show up in diversions below.

Character Customization
OBO players would start with a basic character--male or female, Empire or rebel. At level 5, they would be able to choose a class based on training completed at each level up. For instance, training at the Imperial soldier training grounds would yield a Knight or Archer. Training exclusively in the Arcane College would produce a Wizard or Mage. As players increase in levels, they would be able to cross-train. Mix Knight training with Exorcist training to produce of Paladin. Mix Knight training with Thief training to produce a Ninja. The OBO would allow for utility of pure classes and hybrids alike.

Diversions
OBO would lend itself to a couple of no-brainer diversions: Diplomacy and Breeding. Because of the politically-charged climate of the OBO, rebels could talk their way into a major Imperial outpost on the premise of being Imperial spies. Diplomacy would also help those destitute farmers on the outskirts of the Empire to remain loyal to the king. In short, the Diplomacy system would allow players to affect the tide of the civil war. Though the Empire may have a firm grip on the region known as Zenobia this month, rebel players working hard through battles and Diplomacy could shift the balance next month--making Zenobia a dangerous place for Imperial-aligned players to visit.

The Breeding program would allow players who choose the Beast Tamer and Dragon Tamer classes to hone their skills in controlling monsters. They can persuade wild beasts to join them, take the home, and eventually breed them. The resulting beats could be rented for combat and further bred to create more powerful creatures. The breeding classes could also choose to take their beasts into combat with them, though they would be controlled by the game's A.I.

Of course, OBO players would be able to craft weapons and armor, convert beast hides into gear, brew potions, and build boats and fortifications as well. When the whole land is at war, everyone must chip in!

Parting Thoughts

I've set my imagination free this Independence Day to think about some fun concepts for MMOGs. I first came up with a Diablo MMOG that would be unique in providing an extremely dark backdrop for typical MMOG gameplay. I then invented a turn-based strategy MMOG based on the Ogre Battle series of games. How would you build your dream MMOG? Tell us in our forums!
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