You got your MMO in my platformer!

No, actually, Raph Koster’s wondering why we don’t have more platformer in our MMOs. While playing some other games Raph has gotten curious if people paid attention to more than leveling in MMOs. One example being:

Our environments could learn a lot from games like Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones — at one point my daughter shouted out, “Now that’s a Jackie Chan moment!” when I ran off a wall, jumped off a springy shutter, caught onto a overhanging plank, clambered on, then dove into the gap between two buildings, lodged myself within, flipped around, and dropped down onto an unsuspecting soldier.

He’s got the right idea, but it’s not environments that we need to learn from this, but the gameplay itself.

Just adding the relatively simple action set [grab, hang, climb, push, pull] to typical small set of MMO actions [run/walk, jump, attack, evoke via spell, use/equip item] would, I think, introduce such a larger variety on the already existing styles of missions/instances that I don’t get why it hasn’t been done. And that’s not to mention entirely new quest/skill options. Sure most MMO gameplay happens on a 2d grid, but I’d say it’s true that few games use the vertical dimension to really add to gameplay. (Some examples would be FPS’ that use high sniper spots, low trenches to dig in, and let you hide behind objects by ducking or climbing, and some action games like Prince of Persia and Spidey.) But I think creating an interesting world may possibly be easier to do with an MMO than a game like Prince of Persia.

You don’t really have to design every nook and cranny of a world by hand. With the simple action set I mentioned above players and NPCs could do a lot of the work in shaping their world for you. I think it’s easy to see different types of fun emerging here on it’s own for people to get a good grasp of their abilities. (Ever play Halo with friends or online? You’ll eventually run into fifteen other people who just want to pile on top of each other and move level objects around to try new feats and gain access to new heights. It’s in our nature to be inquisitive.) At most a player just needs a few easy training missions like climbing up a tree and out on a limb to rescue a cat, or swinging across a small stream. So let players/NPCs worry about placement of tables, chairs, fruit carts with springing awnings, barrels, planks/boards, ropes, and all the derivatives they could create with those tools.

By letting players actually place objects that can be physically interacted with (even if players still can’t collide, like in WoW), you can free your designers up to worry about larger and more spectacular mission-related interactive environment items like strategic ledge placement, vines, columns, and chandeliers to swing from.

Sure you’ll get someone who’ll try to make a hundred-barrel pyramid, or fill a tree with chairs, but that’s all in good fun and if one wanted could be curbed with NPC ‘street sweepers’.

Of course, the problem as always is latency. Though, anyone want to do a broadband-only MMO on the premise of new gameplay that will lampooned as “you can move your own crates!”? Nah, didn’t think so.