MMO’s always had the potential to have interesting applications. On a small scale, I thought it would be funny if sports games had multiplayer where the entire team was human-controlled. Think of the level of finesse required to execute a football play where everybody is playing a position!
MMO’s have demonstrated that people are willing to perform tedious tasks to help the team as a whole. Having a position that is niche or obscure will still be desirable if rewards are present. For example, a ww2 naval mmo, where a ship could have a captain, gunners, etc. not a twitch gamer/stick with high latency? Maybe positions that play out like a puzzle game where maintaining steam pressure or keeping the ship from capsizing involves some bejeweled or sudoku analogue for the engineer. Carriers that need players that arm, fuel, and tow the air wings for launch. And so forth.
I’ve dreamt of this very idea for years now- a spacecombat game where each ship is controlled and manned by a team of players, similar to your suggestion. You could have gunners, engineer, pilot, all reporting directly to the captain of the ship. Everyone’s interface would be different: the pilot would see a screen similar to a traditional flight sim, the engineer would have a UI which looks closer to a spreadsheet or flowchart diagram, while the captain’s view would be that of a real-time strategy game.
You could even take it several steps further: make the entire game hierarchical- each ship is part of a platoon, which is part of a fleet, which is part of an empire.
The only problem I can see is this: what happens when one of the players logs out? Does he get replaced by AI?
That game exists. Puzzle Pirates. Everything in the game, from swordfighting to the various jobs on a ship, is accomplished via puzzles. Swordfighting is a competitive block-dropping game (plays out like Doctor Mario), fisticuffs are a bubble-bobble or snood type game, various jobs are thematically appropriate variations on the bejeweled idea, carpentry is shape-matching, etc.
This would have to be a true simulation, from the QB on down, but I’d play that for sure. But most devs would simply cut corners, making say the linemen positions a simplified brute force deal where you just mash the gamepad button (I hate gamepads and truly will be appalled if they are still around 30 years from now). I guess you could model bodily movements with something like the various motion-capture devices, letting an OT use his hands and move his feet (and thus his body) to execute blocks, but that seems like too much detail for most dev teams.[cynic mode off]
The general problem with this sort of concept is making the roles interesting for all involved. A good example would be the classic Air Warrior / Warbirds / etc MMO bomber. Those games would let you load up a bomber with humans in every position, and the feature was almost never used. Nobody wants to actually be the starboard waist gunner, especially not when you could be flying your own bomber instead.
The catch here is that the definition of tedious varies from person to person. My experience was that the couple of people fishing up food for my WoW raid didn’t view it as a sacrifice for the group. They actually liked to do the fishing part, and having it be useful was a convenient excuse. A flimsy excuse, even, since it hardly did anything. They just wanted to do it. Go figure.
There’s been quite a few games like this, the most recent of which is Nuclear Dawn.
I played AW for a number of years, and there was actually a small but fanatical gunner population-most of the other gun positions would see a lot of action, and we’d have tons of fun flying all sorts of acrobatics while us gunners would shred any and all enemies. I usually manned the upper gun myself.
[Back on topic] That’s why I said it would have to be a simulation (implying depth)-it’s more than just pushing 300 pounds of flesh around to be a good lineman, and properly modeled playing one should be rather immersive and reasonably involved.
I think there should be a Metropolis game set in the futuristic visions of the 1920s, complete with mechanical people. It could capitalize on the success of the Bioshock games.
Of course, there would be one job that simply required clicking on lights on a clock face. Once a person started it, they would need to remain at it for ten hours straight. As time goes on it would become less and less responsive to their clicking. If they fail, the server goes down.
Actually, I wonder about a game where there’s a small, elite class of people who are playing one sort of game with all kinds of nice things in it. Meanwhile, there’s an underclass of a large number of people whose purpose might be to either subvert that system, be content with a role of drudgery, or attempt to force their way into the upper class.
The trick is, I think, finding a way to make the “subsidiary” roles interesting enough so that people choose to do them even when there are “star” roles.
The second trick is finding a way to assure those subsidiary guys that the star is going to be competent enough for them.
Using the air combat example, in the Battlefield games (specifically the Desert Combat mod for '42), they struck a pretty good balance with some of the troop carrier helis, which were fiendishly effective because the two door gunner spots were incredibly fun to play when the pilot was skilled–and a waste of time otherwise. So for someone to commit to “turret gunner” instead of “pilot”, they have to have a way to trust that the pilot is going to be able to a) stay alive and in the air long enough to be effective and b) understand fields of fire and masking/unmasking of turrets enough to allow the gunner to be effective.
In an MMO, perhaps, this might be much easier in a guild context. Again in the small scale, I have no problem grabbing a defensive cannon in WoW PvP (on, say, Isle of Conquest) but if and only if I’m in a guild group where I can trust that there are other guys handling the main tasks of advancing on the enemy.