5 More Untapped MMO Concepts
by Tyler Edwards, June 19, 2013
A few months back, we talked about the untapped concepts that exist within the MMO genre - settings and ideas that have yet to be explored in any real way by the world of MMOs. Since then, a few of the ideas in that article have come closer to reality. Age of Wushu is an Eastern themed MMO, though it focuses more on martial arts than a pan-Asian fantasy. There are some bigger name steampunk MMOs coming, such as City of Steam and Black Gold Online. But there are still many other potential concepts for MMOs that have yet to be properly explored; strong ideas that have been passed over by a genre obsessed with high fantasy.
5: The Stone Age:
The Stone Age might not seem the most glamorous setting for an MMO, but perhaps that's the point. Obviously, a traditional theme park game wouldn't work in such a setting. Okk the caveman isn't going to level up to become a mighty hero who can tank wooly mammoths.
However, it's an ideal setting for an old school, hardcore sandbox. Perhaps even with a permanent death mechanic.
Think about what life was like for our distant ancestors: they were in constant danger from starvation, from the elements, from rival tribes, and from predators. They had to rely on each other to survive. An MMO that simulated these challenges would provide excellent opportunities for social gameplay and deep player interactions. Your guild isn't just a bunch of people you run content with; they're a tight-knit tribe you rely on for survival.
A Stone Age MMO could provide great potential for different play styles to shine. Crafters who can provide food and warm clothing would be as crucial to a tribe's survival as a player who focuses more on combat. Whether you want to fight off lions with your trusty spear or sew pelts, you're a valued member of the team.
An MMO set in prehistoric times would also have lots of potential for PvP. Rival tribes could raid each other for supplies. Politics would come into play as smaller tribes seek protection from larger and more powerful groups. There's great potential for intrigue and betrayal.
Stargate is one of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time, spreading across four TV series for nearly twenty seasons, as well as three movies. Stargate focuses on the discovery of an ancient alien device, the titular gate, which allows secret government teams to explore the universe. And by "explore the universe," I mean get into epic battles with aliens at every conceivable opportunity.
With its deep mythology, vast universe, exciting action, and light hearted spirit of adventure, the Stargate franchise is an absolutely ideal setting for an MMO. The SG teams featured on the shows are even eerily like MMO groups: four or five people using their different specialties to fight aliens.
In fact, a Stargate MMO, Stargate: Worlds, was under development for several years. It would have allowed players to take on the roles of human SG team members as well as certain iconic alien races from the franchise, such as the wise Asgard and the evil Goa'uld. It was also reported to feature shooter inspired gameplay and flexible class archetypes capable of fulfilling multiple roles.
Unfortunately, its developer fell on hard times, and Stargate: Worlds was ultimately cancelled before it could release. The Stargate franchise as a whole began to struggle around the same time, essentially ending with the cancellation of the latest spinoff, Stargate: Universe, in 2010.
Given that, it's unlikely a developer will want to take a chance on another Stargate MMO anytime soon. But there are still countless Stargate fans out there, and the concept of a Stargate MMO has such potential that it's easy to imagine it doing well if anyone was willing to take the risk.
It's probably safe to say that just about everyone has wanted to be James Bond at some point. He gets the coolest gadgets, the coolest cars, the fanciest suits, and the hottest girls. Even if you're not a big Bond fan, you've got to admit that there's a certain indefinable cool factor to the world of espionage.
Why not make an MMO that captures all the mystery and allure of the world of international spies? Whether it's a Cold War story or set in the modern day, whether it's a campy romp or a deadly serious thriller, there's massive potential there - no pun intended.
A spy based MMO would probably work best as a story driven MMO with a lot of solo content, along the lines of The Secret World or Star Wars: The Old Republic. It wouldn't necessarily have a lot of room for raids or large scale endgame content, but it's a perfect setting for small group content, deep questing, and PvP.
An espionage MMO could also play on the traditional concept of factions in interesting ways. As with other MMOs, there could be two or three playable factions - the CIA, MI6, and the KGB, for instance - but players could have the option to infiltrate other factions. You'd never know if the person you're grouping with is really on your side, or if they are actually a double agent.
The potential for sabotage by double agents would need some limits to avoid making the game a troll's paradise, but then again, some people might like that sort of thing.
Vampires are very much in the public eye right now, so an MMO where they take a starring role could go far. But before you turn away in disgust, keep in mind that a vampire based MMO doesn't necessarily need to involve sparkling or emo teenage girls to capitalize on the fact that bloodsuckers are topical right now.
The concept of a vampire MMO isn't totally unheard of. CCP, developer of EVE Online, is working on a vampire MMO called World of Darkness based on the tabletop RPG of the same name, but it's still a few years down the road. Project V is a "vampire versus werewolf" MMO being developed in Korea, but when or if it will make it to the West is still unclear.
So there's still a lot of room for a high quality vampire MMO, especially since there are so many forms one could take. It could be a PvP focused sandbox with lots of player politicking as World of Darkness is reported to be. It could be a theme park with PvE content as well as PvP. It could be set in the modern era or in the past.
A vampire MMO could even get really creative and capitalize on the immortality of vampires by allowing players to level through history. Begin the game in Victorian England and be in the modern era by the time you reach endgame. Though that might segregate players too much.
1: Time travel:
Lots of MMOs feature time travel at some point. World of Warcraft has its Caverns of Time. Rift has its Defiant time travel technology. The Secret World has its time tombs.
However, an MMO with time travel as its main focus isn't something we've seen, and it's hard to understand why. Time travel presents almost limitless potential for an MMO. Imagine a game where you can level through ancient Egypt, then go to the future to battle alien invaders, and then hunt wooly mammoths in the Ice Age before slogging through the trenches of World War I.
An MMO based upon time travel could provide all kinds of interesting ways of playing outside the standard high fantasy box. It could take a bit of a science fantasy angle and blend ancient magic with advanced tech to satisfy all tastes, or it could take more of a hard sci-fi approach and focus on modern and futuristic technology.
Making time travel a core aspect of the game could also lead to some very unique and interesting gameplay. Imagine if all boss fights were balanced around a limited ability to turn back time and reset mistakes. Imagine if healers, instead of repairing damage directly, could reverse time on a single player to make their wounds never happen. No need for an automated level scaling system as seen in Guild Wars 2 when you can simply reset your character to any time in their development.
Blizzard's upcoming MMO dubbed Project: Titan has recently been rumored to focus on time travel as a core mechanic, but considering the recent news of its development being reset, Titan is still years away, and there's no guarantee the time travel rumor is accurate. So for now, it seems a time travel MMO is doomed to remain a dream.