With CCP announcing Dusk 514, a shooter-based MMO that will interact with EVE Online, Tobold ask’s what other MMOs would work well with a secondary product attached to them. My initial thought was to have player-controlled mobs facing off against players, but with the mobs controlled in the Majesty style rather than the LotRO monster play way.
For anyone who has not played Majesty (which has a sequel coming out soon it seems), the basic idea is that instead of having direct control of your units, they have their own AI that you can influence by placing rewards on different units/buildings/locations, plus they naturally hang around their building, so placement of that is very important. Each unit type has its own behavior, so rogues are quick to chase gold, while paladins require a far higher offer to draw their attention. Berserker units seek to fight other units over buildings, while mages will happily wander around and fireball whatever crosses their path. The beauty of it was that while you had SOME control, it was not absolute, and so tactical thinking was superior to twitch micromanaging. Plus since luck factored into it a bit (if your highest level paladin just happened to wander into your enemy’s town and got himself killed, it was an unavoidable setback), games always felt fresh and on-edge, rather than the more step-by-step stuff that happens in a traditional RTS.
So back to MMOs, what this system would basically be is a Dungeon Master style system, where a player could elect to grab control of an instance, and change it up in some ways. Not a total remake, but imagine someone in control of the Deadmines, mixing up what units control the boat at the end, what units VC uses for his bodyguards, or what abilities a certain boss has access to. Everything would be based on a (hopefully) balanced point system, so you could not flood the ship with all of the bosses, or stack two bosses on top of each other to create an impossible encounter. Other modifications could be different bounties set on party members. So you could select the priest and set a bounty on him, making mob agro more likely to target him (although rules of agro would still work, just that the priest would start with a higher threat level or gain threat faster). To mix it up, a DM could instead bounty a mage to confuse the party who expect the priest to be picked. The higher the bounty, the fewer points the DM has to spend on other areas, so while mobs would be more driven towards the squishy, there would be less of them, or they would be weaker.
A character-based reward system could be given to the DM system. This could reward a DM who designed an interesting instance, as voted on by the players in it. Rewards would likely need to remain fluff-based to avoid abuse (and even then you know some people will just to collect all the shinies), and a ranking system could be added to further reward top-notch DMs. A party could then put in a request for a DM to control their instance, and e-fame could be gained by those who do a good job.
The system would only really work in an instance-heavy game like DDO or WoW, as the population of adventurers would need to be 5x the number of potential DMs, and of course if a party enters an instance without a DM available, the encounter would play out as normal. But just like in Majesty, I believe a large part of the entertainment would be just watching your mobs interact with the heroes, and in this case the heroes are also live players.