I could probably go back even farther and point out things this idea has in common with my octopus/starfish MMO concept and my Becoming MMO concept. Nothing arises out of a vacuum, every "new" idea has roots in previous ones. But this concept was never developed to any significant degree, and I'm reworking what little there was in response to what I learned playing Skyrim, among other recent experiences.
Some people have also asked me for an example design document to go with my guide to developing a pet game design via writing a design document. All the pieces of this guide are available in this journal, or you can get it all at once as an article:
So, I started by going through the first step of my guide, "Statement of Purpose", for this game concept. This is an overly-wordy rough draft, because the first step guide is about producing a "brain dump", not worrying about polishing anything up. Still, I'd be happy for any feedback on this game concept. So finally, the actual content of this journal entry:
A statement of the designer's purpose that they want the game to accomplish:
My goal in designing WildWright is to create a gameplay experience which feels like the player has entered an interactive novel.
What kind of novel? Specifically a fantasy romance novel, or at least a fantasy novel with optional romance content. The 'heroine' of this novel is a problem solver who helps NPCs, heals wounded areas of the universe, and investigates mysteries. Thematically the novel should be about personal evolution, and a player's personal technology and magical abilities as part of their self-identity. The ultimate goal of such personal evolution is apotheosis (becoming god-like, as represented in the game by having wealth, safety, and the ability to do practically anything you want). So to support this theme that you win the game by becoming god-like, I think the players should start as "baby gods" or more precisely "life nymphs" or "fertility spirits" who are just reaching adulthood. After finishing the game's tutorial content they will be ready to set off into the universe with the goals of developing their life-related magic and establishing their own estates/tribes. An estate is a piece of territory where the player can build buildings or sculptures, breed pets, grow crops, display collections and outfits, and bring NPCs they have successfully courted to live as part of the player's new tribe. Your tribe is all the NPCs and pets who belong to you. Your estate is just as important a part of your identity within the game world as your avatar's body, clothing, and mount are. The middle or "meat" of the game is the player's journey to mystical understanding of the universe/nature/animals/and how "people" (the nymph species) fit into this universe, as well as what role the player wants to take as an adult in nymph society.
What about the "interactive story" part? The game must react in ways that recognize the player's choices and accomplishments. The way Joe Player and Jane Player can both start Skyrim or Fable in the same place and end up with quite different worlds shaped by their individual actions, with the world treating one like a villain and one like a hero, that is AWESOME. I want WildWright to do that in an MMO structure. So WildWright should provide an online world which encourages (but never forces!) players to interact with each other, especially admiring each others' buildingd, collections, and other accomplishments. At the same time the game needs to provide protection from interferance for players' personal SIM-gameplay projects, and also provide the story-rich structure and pacing of a jRPG. (Not a disgoranized sandboxy experience of questionable meaningfulness. Yuck.)
I want WildWright to give players an immersive fantasy world where they feel free to do any of a rich variety of fun things at any time. Activity options should include quests, combat, crafting, minigames, interacting with NPCs and pets/crops, customization, and art. I want this game to allow players to easily view and comment on the accomplishments of other players, from architecture and sculpture to appearance/gear/mount customization and collections to pet breeding to combat performance.