As much as I love the idea of multiplayer, I've just about hated all the MMOGs I've ever played, from the early MUDs to the current crop of WoWabees. The presence of other live players should
make the world more alive, but usually it ends up breaking immersion instead. People just don't roleplay, neither in speech nor gameplay style, and I've yet to find any MMO with a world that feels anywhere near as interesting as the best single-player games.
I'm exaggerating, a bit, but it is true that trying to encourage humans to play "properly" is one of the biggest challenges that every online game deals with.
Hence I still find it odd we haven't seen more attempts at a limited or pseudo-online element, that would allow for much greater control but also is infinitely simpler to code. Demon's Souls comes to mind, but also the bones files and high scores in nethack, or the classic door game LORD, for example. The whole aim is to make a single-player computer-generated universe feel more alive and unpredictable with the least possible effort, not to turn it into a multiplayer universe.
So just to toss up some ideas, some probably trivial to code, others less so, but none anywhere near as major as a complete rewrite:
- bones files: when you die, your wreck and a final mayday message or SOS beacon are uploaded to the internet. During play, your game will occasionally/randomly download some of these and add them into your universe for you to stumble upon. Maybe finding said player's corpse and delivering it to a proper funeral home earns some money. It could be a whole new profession
- auction/trader: selling items to a special dealer in stations will put it up for sale or auction online. This should be limited and apply perhaps only to rare artifacts, to avoid upsetting balance.
- message/news boards at stations. maybe not a full discussion forum, no point in that imho, but perhaps notable events or major deeds would be logged and advertised to all, perhaps allow the player a one-line comment or something just for flavor.
- when you enter a specific area, "register" that online (like foursquare
), and if others are there as well, the game could say "Joe is in the area" and spawn a copy of that remote user's ship into the system (just another AI ship, but same name, ship, and equipment). Allow a simple in-game chat or even just simple greet/give/offer/request functions.
- replicate major universe actions to other players. the more we'd implement and define such major actions, the more possibilities it opens. for example destroying a space station would cause it to disappear for others as well(replaced by an apologetic message from the govt and 'under construction' graphic for a period of time), or destroying a mining operation would cause a spike in prices at the local stations with a corresponding news entry, or killing enough pirates/cops would result in an excess of the opposite (and again a corresponding news entry), etc. This could go on and on, e.g. allow a user to set up a pirate base and it would affect that area of the universe (more pirates, economic effect, etc) in every player's game, and correspondingly bring in income to the owner of the pirate base. The more player go out and destroy the base (thus removing it from their game), the more the owner of the base sees it as increased govt presence and decreases in pirate income, until eventually if enough players do it, the base is actually destroyed in the owner's universe as well.
- all sorts of rankings and top scores could be posted at stations.
Basically there are many ways we can create fake links between individual single-player games, without much coding effort. It's all faked and static (none of this has to happen in realtime, but could just be loaded in during startup, or during save/load operations), but in my opinion can add a huge amount of immersion and fun to the game.
But I think it's just me, cause almost no games do anything like this. It's either online or offline, period.