(Posted as a response to an F13 thread, highlighted here so it doesn’t disappear into message board epherma)
So if someone gave me $20 million and told me to make an MMO I would (after asking for $20 million more – blackjack and hookers are expensive) create an MMO that roughly approximates what military colleges use to teach young officers about geopolitics.
Basically, everyone gets to run a country. (Set it in a mythical post-World War 2 era, but with no Cold War and no bipolar world – think the Warring States period of Japan, but with a lot more guns) You want to take over the world – or maybe not, maybe just develop your own little mercantile slice of heaven. You have a military, which you can develop, and you might even use it once in a while, but generally wars bankrupt you as a nation and budding little Napoleans will figure out why world conquest never actually works.
The MMO part of this would be in live team support. Basically, the “quests” in this game would be global events. There’s a tsunami, say, that has laid waste to 8 countries. Including a couple that are at war with each other. How do you as a world handle it? How do the international systems in place – alliances, UN equivalents, et cetera, react? Who takes advantage of it for political or economic gain? Who just wants to be nice guys?
This would not be a 3000 person game. This would be a 300 person game, with maybe 50 countries. You’d have a bit of “levelling up” to run your own country, depending on the country in question (maybe you need political support and get “elected” by the NPC voters, maybe you can take over in a coup and piss off the people who WERE running the place). None of this is rocket science, there are text MUDs (mostly sci-fi) that do this sort of thing all the time.
See, my pet theory is that there’s a space in the market for a game that uses MMO design principles, but does not actually stick you in a suit of armor and expect you to run around a first-person-shooter level hitting bunny rabbits over the head for their lunch money. There’s a level of seperation involved in playing a national metagame, yet still allowing for socialization and personal projection. People who’ve played PBM games of Diplomacy may be nodding their heads here.
This would also probably only cost around $5-10m to develop. Much less if it’s done as an “indy” game with low production values. If it was done as a web game I could probably do it myself, if I had mythical spare time. But it would be pretty cheap. More money for the blackjack tables!