Now this game idea is one that Nico and I are pretty excited about. Partly because it sounds like lots of fun and would be a new type of game, but also because it shows what could happen if the notion of what a game is supposed to be like was tweaked just a little.
Nico and I suggest a horror MMORPG. You may say "...thats really not a very novel idea." Well, bite me, yea it is. Here's why.
Like I've said, games have a pretty high tendency to focus on action and adventure. Even survival horror games like Resident Evil, which claim to emphasize staying alive over shooting everything, are still pretty much about shooting everything. That's not what horror movies are about. Horror is about being scared, feeling victimized, embracing trauma, and living through it.
This game that we've devised would put a player in an MMO world of spooky, creepy and otherwise frightening surroundings full of critters and dangers. And it would not give you the ability to defend yourself. Not to any substantial degree. Maybe you could kill little monsters that bug you, but basically you'd be in constant danger of being killed by all the horrors
There would be safe spots, camps and outposts, where you and other players could meet each other and mingle without being threatened. You could form groups and go exploring together.
In fact, the game would be set up such that you have to have a group.
If you go outside the camp, you would be able to make your way around for a while, running from things, hiding, fighting back against small assailants, but it would be impossible to go very far without help. With friends you could actually survive. But not by killing monsters. A monster would have the ability to kill everyone if you tried to just attack it. No, your friends are there to cooperate to lure monsters away, gain access to places that a single person couldn't (stand on each other's shoulders to get up high, use your combined strength to move things, etc) and to just help each other. A wounded person could require help from his/her comrades to be carried to a safe place to recuperate, whereas they would only be able to crawl and be devoured if alone.
Experience, we figure, would be gained not by killing monsters, but by actually exploring places you've never been, or where nobody's been, and by collecting information about the world. I like the idea of there being a plot, a reason all this is happening, that none of the players know. By finding pieces of paper, computer files, whatever, that provide the community with info, you gain experience and skill points. When you take back info to a camp, that camp could have an archive of all the info that's been found. New info would give more exp than info already found by someone else.
The thing that Nico seems to be really excited about is the idea of a class system based in the modern world. Skill points could be given to things like medical knowledge, physical prowess, or specific abilities like psychological analysis, military experience, cpr or dissection. I see people being doctors, therapists, cooks and the like, who would be able to heal the wounded, have more physical strength, calm down people who are getting too stressed, or (one of my favorite) examine a fallen creature for discovery experience. Just like being a cleric, or sorcerer or whatever in D&D, a good party that survives the dangers of this world needs to use its different members' abilities to meet challenges. With the right people, you could even kill something, on occasion.
I think this is a really cool idea because it makes use of the notion that the fun of the game is putting yourself in danger and somehow getting out of it. The fun in the game is exploring and finding out what's out there. Immersion is the main motivation. The heavy focus on exploration and attention to environment leaves a lot of room open for expression. An interesting story and complicated artwork would really fit in a game like this, and enhance all of the gameplay, rather than detract from it.