While we’re on the subject of adding complexity to games, let’s talk about a couple of potential systems that could be really neat to see implemented. Maybe we’re talking pipedreams with these articles but, hey, why not? These ideas may not be reasonable in every case but forgive a little self-indulgence from me today.

One of the neatest events I’ve ever played through was the plague shipment in World of Warcraft. For those of you who missed out, before Wrath of the Lich King launched, all of the capital cities received mysterious wooden boxes. Over the course of the next few days, these boxes started releasing a plague that would turn people into zombies that could then infect other people. As time went on, the intensity of the infection increased. While it did turn out to be anti-climactic at the end, it was still very fun to play through “Night of the Living Dead meets Azeroth.” The whole thing was exciting because everyone wanted to know how the event would finish out.

While the plague event was scripted, having similar, more random, sicknesses in the game could really be a lot of fun. Contagion. Should you visit town to do your trade or go to a less populated area to avoid catching the sickness?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big detrimental thing to your character either. It could be aesthetic somehow. The fun would lie in your ability to keep free of it yourself or, if you’re the malicious type, spread it. Maybe you’d like to be the medic healing the sick or the apothecary creating and selling antidotes.

Featuring a plague wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I do think that it’d make for a very interesting study in propagation, especially if the scope of contagion were extended to NPCs. GMs could turn outbreaks into events by altering the intensity of effects of the disease. Players would have to have an easy way to overcome the illness, lest frustration would overtake some, but I think it could be done, even if it was a non-constant in the game world.

In the same vein of “flowing” content, I’d like to see a game with a working weather system. I don’t mean the random bits of rain or snow we see in some games, I mean a true weather system that moves across the world. Darkfall first piqued this interest in me when they claimed one exactly like that. Hell, they even intended to let players track weather patterns. There would be wind that would effect the world and (correct me if I’m wrong) even generate waves on the ocean. You could chase a storm if you wanted to.

How neat would it be to give weather some meaning in games? You could link spells and rituals to certain kinds of weather. Lightning in Moonglade? You’d better get out there to summon your lightning elemental.  How about getting five of your friends together and calling down lightning at your whim, giving your group a nice buff for your efforts.

Along with working weather, I’ve longed to see a game with actual seasons instead of static zones. Why is it that it’s wintery in one zone and summer in the next? It’s done to create that emotional impact and set the context for your adventures but let’s push the envelope here.

Artwise, I think it’d be hard, if not impossible to do in most existing games but it sure would break up the monotony of traveling and leveling alts quite a bit.

Warm weather animals could migrate and spawn in other parts of the world, similar to how they do in Darkfall. Lakes could freeze and snow could pile up. Or maybe the leaves of the Golden Wood could be seen fluttering to the ground before such a winter hits.

Progressive change doesn’t have to be limited to the world either. Though small, one of the features that really intrigued me about WAR (pre-release) was that characters would change over time. Orc’s would get bigger, dwarf’s beards would get longer, and all forms of elf would get more effeminate with each passing level. I’m not sure if this system has been put in yet, I don’t think it has, but maybe if Paul stops by he can let us know. To me, a system like that just seems neat.

Finally, I’d like to see GM run events return to the big MMOs. Maybe it’s that gaming companies no longer trust their GMs to take things into their own hands like that (or maybe it’s their investors…) but this is something that is sorely missed in today’s most popular pay-to-play games. Thankfully, Mortal Online is taking a step in this direction by allowing their GMs to control certain boss mobs against players.

GM events could be a lot of fun and really connect the community with the developing company. I don’t think that everything needs to come be a big numbered patch. These games are about content but I don’t always need 50 class tweaks along with every new batch of quests. All that does is slow down the content flow. To be quite honest, I’d be far happier with WoW there was more emphasis on producing content (and not just raids) and less on balancing X Class with Y Class. Something tells me that Blizzard would get far too much crying to ever do that though. Isn’t it funny how the vocal minority influences the majority experience?

Maybe these ideas aren’t the most realistic but they do stem from a common theme: change and more unpredictability. Let’s face it, these games get routine after a while. You learn the game, do your thing, and wait for that next patch to hit keep the air fresh. That works but unpredictability breeds excitement, even though it also breeds discontent in some.

I’m a fan of ideas that break the norm. Features that, even if small, show that the developers are trying to push their game and make the play experience their own. I don’t want a carbon copy of WoW, LotRO, or EQ2. I want the familiar yet the new. I want the comfortable yet the challenging. I want to feel like my game is a self-enclosed world and that, truly, the only limits are my own. That is the key reason behind why I, and I suspect many others, have looked into games like Darkfall and Vanguard.

My pipedreams may not be realistic or ever likely of getting done in the games that I play. They’d be hard to implement in a surmountable way for players that just don’t care. Still, would you prefer the same old, same old, or elements of change to keep you on your toes?

I’d always take the path of the new and leave the quarterly patches to come as they may.