I'll clarify the terminology just in case some people don't know:
MMORPG - I think everyone knows what this is. Massively multiplayer online role playing game. Lots of people playing an RPG on the same server.
Ironman - This isn't a game about Ironman. This means that your character has one life. When you die, you're dead, game over.
Free For All Player Versus Player - Players versus each other, Free For All meaning everyone can attack everyone/anyone.
Could something like this work? I've always been a fan of the Ironman concept. Trying to strive for a goal with the thought that one error could cost you everything. Where death is a major variable. But finding a game with a balance between it being a challenge, and being a frustration is nigh on impossible. With the added threat of a douchebag just murdering new players you get from FFA PvP it makes it a real difficulty.
Now, the way I'm envisioning this in its basic form is multiple servers with limited population per server. For argument's sake, we'll call it 1000 people per server. Players progress and level, try to avoid dying. As the game progresses, the server population drops. People establish themselves as front runners, better gear, etc.
To try and limit the doucebaggery there would need to be some sort of restriction or immunity at the starting phase. You cannot attack players or be attacked for the first X amount of days/levels whatever.
Now, the ironman-ness. When you're killed, you're removed from the server and you go into a holding pattern. For all intents and purposes on that server, you are dead. All your gear is left behind, and you start afresh.
The survivors on each server will need repopulation so the servers would also have different bounds for this. Say, if there's less than 250 people remaining on the server (one quarter of max population) then the server is eligible for repop. Once there's enough people in the holding pattern from all the servers they are all amalgamated and the server is refilled (prioritising the people that have been dead the longest).
What do you guys think? Could it work? The biggest limiting factor I can see is getting a large enough active population. What else could be a potential flaw? Would people be interested in an MMO where death means death?
Edit: Further Detail from further consideration
While I've been musing on this I've decided to take it forward and try and develop it into a fully fledged GDD. At the moment concentrating on basic gameplay and mechanics before I work on details and move onto background, lore, and plot. I'm doing this, currently, as a design exercise. I do not have a team in place to build this. It is an ambitious game, I know it is, so you don't need to say "go with something simpler." Perhaps once I've completed the GDD I'll think about getting a large team together to try and build it, but that is not certain, and not going to happen in the near future.
Combat and Gameplay
These are the main points, I'll go into detail for each heading below.
- It will be a Fantasy RPG.
- 3rd Person full 360 degree rotation.
- No classes. No magic. No (significant) ranged abilities/builds.
- Twitch based combat, and skill oriented.
- Gear based character build. No levels.
- FFA PvP, with Friendly Fire.
Medieval fantasy setting, I think most people have an idea about what this means. It'll be a completely new world, not set in our world. There probably will be multiple races, but differences between the races will be almost completely just aesthetics. One race will not have an advantage in terms of combat. Possibly the different races will have differences in other non-combat aspects such as different proficiencies with crafting or unique non-combat skills.
3rd Person Perspective
This will be the default view, though this is subject to change (depending on how well the combat works). The camera will definitely be 360 degree rotateable as you maneuver around the world. I don't think this is really any different than most people would have expected for an RPG, it's pretty default. There'll be a wide range of scrolling view from close "over the shoulder" to "3rd person Isometric" and right up to "Top Down" perspective.
This is in the sense that you do not create a character and decide he is going to be "A Mage" or "A Rogue." There will be different playstyles, but not the typical ones I think, and not determined through 'class selection' everyone starts on equal footing, and no-one will have a pre-determined advantage vs anyone else.
This means, no casters. There will probably (almost certainly) be magical items, but there will not be any mages. This is primarily because I envision casters as "squishy ranged attackers" and I am against ranged-focused play in this game (which I will explain shortly). There is a possibility of having magic focused melee combat, but at the moment it seems unlikely.
No Ranged Builds
No hunters, no casters, no rangers. Whatever you call them, no-one who kills enemies from far-far away. This is to balance the FFA PvP aspect. A group of 5 hunters for example, could ambush other players quite easily. 5 simultaneous high powered attacks from range, and the victim doesn't have much chance, and not even much chance of killing one of the attackers. If everyone is melee, then if you want to kill other players, you have to at least put yourself at risk to do it.
Some one-off lesser ranged attacks may be introduced. The occasional throwing knife for example. This will depend entirely on whether I can balance them in without them becoming overpowered - particularly in an ambush situation.
Twitch Based Combat
If you want to dodge an attack, you have to move out of the way of it. If you want to hit an enemy with an attack, you have to aim. It won't be a "Select Target, press attack" style of game. This will hopefully turn survivability towards skilled players rather than those who get lucky with crits/dodges. Towards that end, there will be very little RNG involved in the combat, ideally none at all.
There will be no traditional leveling with regards to base stats, you do not gain health or become stronger as you level. There will be no level 80 going around smiting level 10 newbs. In any one on one fight, you should have a reasonable chance to win (assuming comparable skill).
There will be leveling however in the sense that, as you 'level' you gain the ability to wear/equip better gear. This will be the main leveling focus, but if you do not attain better gear, it will mean nothing (a gear-level 80 in starter gear will be exactly the same as a brand-new player in starter gear).
Even with the highest gear possible, you will not have an overwhelming advantage against any other single player. If I can get the balance right.
I am also planning a skill/talent based system to grant players new abilities as they 'level' to add an extra dimension to character progression.
Gear Based Build
Since there are no classes, this is truly where the diversity comes in to play. To those of you that play Guild Wars 2 I know this will sound very similar, that's because that's where I got the idea from and it seems like a good way to have balanced players while allowing personal playstyles to emerge.
Note, I do not have exact details figured out, so numbers below are an approximation just now.
Equipping a weapon will grant you several abilities associated with that weapon. A two handed weapon will give you 15 abilities. A one handed weapon will give you 10 abilities. Abilities will be equipped in the action bar, in slots 1-5.
In the case of a 2H weapon, all 5 slots refer to the one weapon.
With a one handed weapon it is slightly different. Slots 1+2 refer to the left hand, slots 4+5 refer to the right hand. If one hand is empty you may place all abilities from the one weapon into slots 1-5. Slot 3 can be used for the weapon in either hand, or for a combination ability which will be available through different pairs of 1H weapons. (Hopefully that makes sense)
Abilities and weapons cannot be swapped while in combat. Abilities will be defined as "Main Hand", "Off Hand", or "Either Hand", as you level some of these definitions may change as Main or Off hand restricted abilities change to being allowed in either hand. Any one handed item can be used in either hand (a one hand shield is not restricted to off-hand only), and you define your 'handedness' during character creation.
As you level and gain the ability to wear better gear, you gain the ability to wear more than "2 hands" worth of weapons and the ability to define stances so that you may swap abilities and playstyle on the fly. For example wearing twin swords as well as a shield, to swap during combat for defense or offense. Initially I imagine this extending to "Up to 5 hands worth" (two 2H weapons and one 1H, or five 1H, or some variation).
The weapons I have planned currently are:
Fist Weapons (1H)
This may further subdivide into smaller categories with individual skillsets, but as yet undetermined. An example might be: Mace, Flail, Club.
Yes, there's a 2H shield. This would be pretty poor in a solo situation, but I think it might add useful co-operative style.
Armour would come in the typical subdivisions, Light Armour (Cloth), Medium Armour (Leather), Heavy Armour (Mail). Everyone can wear every kind of armour. Light armour would allow speed and maneuverability with weak defense, while heavy armour restricts movement and offers great defense.
Players will have the 'typical' inventory system for armour, Helm, Chest, Gloves, Legs, Boots, Shoulders, and you will be able to mix and match armour types. Wearing a full cloth set, but a chainmail chestpiece would allow reasonable maneuverability whilst giving greater protection to your torso. Different weapon abilities will also be dependent on meeting movement requirements - most basic abilities won't be restricted, but you won't be able to execute highly athletic abilities while wearing full plate armour, for example.
FFA PvP with Friendly Fire
PvP will be always on outside of safe zones. Town hubs and strategic areas will be considered a Safe Zone whereby you cannot harm another player or be harmed by another player. There are two exceptions to this. If you are flagged as a Criminal, another player may attack you. This will be done by the opposing player targetting you, and toggling their aggressiveness. If someone decides to try and attack you, you are then able to retaliate and defend yourself.
If you are outside of a safe zone, you are vulnerable to be attacked and you are able to attack anyone else outside the safe zone. This includes friendly fire, in that, even if you are partied with another player any attack may still damage them. If you are working with another player therefore, you need to watch where you're swinging your weapon.