Now that it has been announced that the coming World of Darkness MMO will be based on the Vampire: The Masquerade game line and not the Vampire: The Requiem line, many fans such as myself are extremely excited to see how they will make it happen. I, however, found myself thinking of different ways I would rather the game would be approached.
Memories of the other White Wolf video game, Bloodlines, easily comes to mind as how the feel and approach to the powers may be. In most typical Massively Multiplayer Online games, role playing takes a huge back seat to the act of grinding away at "creeps" to collect drops, rare items, experience points and the like. For some reason, there is an ever present need to give a false feeling of accomplishment in leveling up, when all leveling up is really doing is giving you access to a new location where you once again become the lowest rung on the ladder.
I hate games like that. In fact, as wonderful as World of Warcraft may be, it was that grinding fact which made me truly loathe the idea of playing the game. One would have to spend hours attacking all these unnecessary critters to keep gaining levels up to hit the next needed skill point. Other MMOs like Guild Wars on the other hand try to remove the "grinding feel" by introducing the idea of instances where a mission is played out by a group as an experience of their own. However ultimately, these games feel flat for me since they never really allow a person (or a group) to have a larger effect on the massive game world.
Here are some thoughts I would like to share on what would make a good White Wolf MMO:
1) Everyone starts out Mortal
The entry point for everyone, including during Beta testing (save for the game developers, the authorized Storytellers, and perhaps premium members who pay for the premium accounts) is to play a normal every day mortal. The game world itself is a virtual representation of the real world, with certain areas of course left for future development. Maybe in beta test, the game first opens up three major cities: San Francisco, New York and Toronto. In all settings, new players join the game as mortals who choose from a list of twenty job concepts that determine their starting key skills. You got policemen, prostitutes, gang bangers, media people, church members, bar owners, clubbers, politicians, and the like. Every job class gives characters a key set of skills which include a primary skill only they can do (examples: Only policemen can legally access weapons in police areas, and legally enter locked places, while clubbers can automatically identify nightlife people such as prostitutes or gang bangers, media people can affect people's fame ratings, etc) as well as two sub skills which cross over with other job classes (ex: Policemen and gang bangers get ranged weapon skills. Church members and Media People get "Can't hurt me in public" skills. Something like that.)
It is only through in-game interaction that a player can eventually become supernatural.
So if you play your cards right, you might have some vampire find you worth its time and get embraced. Or maybe your Church member's meddling too much with the casino downtown has the Brujah owner come over to threaten you bad. With the initial batch of supers being part of the Storyteller team, this ensures all new embraces have a nice story reason to be embraced. This also quickly encourages the idea that being a ghoul might be sought by some, and rejected by others. This also makes the idea of being embraced both exciting scary and not just a "class" to choose.
2) There are no Character Levels
Instead, there is an in-game economy which truly rises and falls like the real world. There are the increase of access to new skills, or the increase of efficiency of existing skills. (ex: New cops can fire a gun, older cops can fire more accurately and opt to disarm with trick shots, etc)
3) Age however should have an effect.
As mentioned above, time does pass. It affects economy. It affects stats. Age does give you more skills, or enhances existing ones, but can also impair you. Slower. Smaller field of vision. Longer healing times. Even times when you log in you discover you are "sick" and can't play properly. Why? Because this makes the idea of the Embrace once again tempting. Makes you think about "growing old" and avoiding it.
On the flip side, being a mortal should have a perk, and this is: Being able to play during the day time hours of your location (yes, Vampire players can only play at night based on the real time of the location of the player) and the chance to have children. If a player finds another player, and the two have a child, both have a 50% of keeping the child, which means: you have a free character ready to be used once your existing one dies. Vampires? No such thing. Their immortality is forever... unless someone offs them and throws them Final Death.
Yes. Its painful. But damn, it makes Diablerie again so much worse. (and Tempting) And forces players to support going against it.
4) Stories have three kinds
The first are your generic missions.
Typically these are based on your job choice. Policemen have minor crimes to stop. Bar owners have a little economy resource management jobs to fulfill. You get the idea. Even Clubbers have their own little missions (ex: hang out at this club before it closes, locate where Rockstar NPC has gone). These give minor benefits ranging from more in-game resources, chances to build more contacts, allies, or even fame. And in some instances, even access to job alternatives. Policemen can become Investigators. Clubbers can either become Bar Owners or Groupies. Groupies eventually can become Entertainers. You get the idea.
But ultimately the best thing about these is it allows you to explore the city, meet more people, and possibly get the notice of the supernaturals.
A Bar Owner might post job openings for his bar. All other players who apply can earn some resources, and possibly gain an Ally if the Owner or the other applicants are willing. A Gang Banger might sell some drugs. Earn money on the side. Or need to hide from the law.
Weekly Events are your Storyteller missions.
Every day, a Storyteller hosts a mission which players can join in. Clearly some missions are easier to do for certain jobs than others. Monday might have a Storyteller hold a Concert in the City Square at midnight. All attendees see the concert unfold. The Vampire Rockstar might pick two in the audience to flirt with. Maybe an attack ensures. Mortals tend to be victims or crowds who basically want to avoid getting hurt. Vampire players can be from one or the other side. The players can run, hide, help or hinder. Their actions of course have consequences. And resolutions. Embraces may happen. So too may deaths. But maybe in Weekly Events, deaths are temporary.
And finally, Monthly Events are your Big Events.
Here more than one Storyteller is involved. At many times, these would be culminating stories that have been seeded all month. Maybe all month, players noticed mentions of something or someone called The Fallen in the city. Rumors of a man who kills people. Beheading them without moving. Maybe players notice strange symbols on the walls. Vampire players hear rumors. Learn of others being found dead.
These stories unfold during a Monthly Event. Maybe in this one, the Fallen is a big boss. All Kindred can join forces to stop it, but of course, only after sending their mortal pawns to soften it up. Or maybe it was just a false rumor. One intended to scare certain players away to move to a different city.
But one thing is for sure, Monthly Events are Huge. They affect major change. And they grant skills. Because when one survives a Monthly event, they leave it with a bit more than they had before.
5) I would really love it if the game permitted User Generated Content
Perhaps not something as wholly expansive as Second Life. But imagine if you were allowed to design your bar. Or if, as a Church Member, you could literally form your own secret vampire hunting group. Entertainers upload their own music (and yes, pirated music will lead to banned accounts). Artists can upload their own works (same clause on piracy.)
Suddenly a mortal player who makes artwork would be even more interesting to embrace into the Toreador clan. His works can clearly be part of the game world. You'd have people coming up with their own things to do. One creates a drag racing course. Another designs a supermarket with a hidden haven. A third might try to expose the Masquerade, only to be ignored by the rest, and eventually murdered by some crook who was Dominated by a Cainite.
User Generated Content would allow the World of Darkness to literally become OUR World of Darkness.
Can't you just imagine someone releasing word of an event: The Book of Nod Unearthed. And players amassing to attend only for Vampire players to easily see its a fake User Generated version and not the Real thing?
6) I would have the canon characters present
And by that I mean the big wigs.
Vykos should be somewhere in Toronto.
Victoria Ash should be clearly seen in some posh club. Her Majesty would make hurting her very difficult.
Boy would I love to bump into Anatole.
No really, I would.
New York would have something scary in the sewers.
7) And since this is the old World of Darkness
A huge part of the charm before was how much it did feel like it was part of the real world. So this would be something I would have exist in the game as well.
How would I do this?
First of all, Vampires in the know in the game realize the world SHOULD have ended. The portents of Gehenna were visible years back. A blood red moon was visible. India went media silent for some time. Elders recall dreams of a red mist descending over everything.
But the world hasn't ended. The clans are still there. The blood still hungers. Anatole still lives.
And more frighteningly, there are rumors. Some speak of it in whispers. Think of it as blasphemy. But there are rumors.
An Annex. A last chapter.
A new one.
That speaks of Gehenna being staved back. That whispers Caine made one last challenge to the Almighty. That Lilith laughed. That the Antedeluvians in their fitful sleep squirmed in fear.
And that the Almighty said yes.
Gehenna was halted.
And now, we are all living in borrowed time.
That's how I would do the World of Darkness MMO.
A pity I don't work for them.