Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wouldn't it be Cool if...? Offline Gameplay

As much as bloggers like to kick and scream about it, the fact of the matter is that theme park MMO's are what the consumer base is buying. They have the best IP's and the biggest budgets for advertising. See: SWTOR.

There is a growing trend lately to make theme park MMO's more solo friendly. Or, in some cases, completely solo-able up until end game. Regardless of what you may think about that decision, I was curious if companies would be willing to take the next step and create a small part of the game accessible without being online. The benefits of doing so would be smaller than soloing or grouping in the game itself, of course, but allowing players to bring a part of the game world with them on a phone or on their laptop when they don't have internet available is a great way to keep people hooked.

Firstly, let's talk about the restrictions of such a system. As I mentioned, the benefits would be lower than if you were in game, perhaps you are only capable of storing half a level of earned exp on your offline character, or a certain amount of reputation earned with a faction. This cap would be necessary to prevent people from playing solely offline and not paying for the game beyond downloading this. Once this cap is reached, the player can keep playing for fun, but in order to gain more exp/rep/gold they would have to connect to the internet to "deposit" the rewards on to their character. There would most likely have to be an anti-hack system in place in order to prevent players from exploiting this as well.

From there, all that remains is making the content. Perhaps you could make a side-scroller dungeon, or stick to the RPG roots of the genre and make it more of a classic RPG. I think it would be fantastic to see a game like WoW suddenly in 8 or 16-bit format, like the original Final Fantasy's, or possibly similar to A Link to the Past. Most of the developers probably grew up playing those games, and I'm sure they would enjoy the opportunity to make a retro side-game. I know I would.

Blizzard has been experimenting with branching the genre into other avenues, like its iPhone apps and its magazine (that they rarely ever send out). Even Dragon Age made a Facebook game that has achieved a certain level of popularity. I think there is a lot of room to cater to their audience in ways that are unique to gamers. Indie games are becoming quite a hit lately, with titles like Braid making its way onto Xbox Live. A company making their own "Indie" game that connects to the online experience would definitely work for this crowd.


  1. THe main problem with this is, as Raph Koster put it "the client is in the hands of the enemy". It would be far too easy for people to hack the offline game to give themselves the maximum allowable offline rewards and the go online to synch up with the server and unload their ill-gotten gains.

  2. That is a major, possibly unresolvable problem unfortunately. The only possible way to combat that is to only allow players to upload rewards a set number of times a week, say, twice or three times. It wouldn't weed out people who were hacking from people who really enjoyed the game, but it would gate progress. It also may make the rewards given from this venture so slow that actually logging on and leveling yourself would be more efficient than the offline game, essentially making the rewards in the offline game more of a bonus rather than the goal.

  3. The idea is not to necessarily have the actual game off-line but to have another game made that ties in with the online game? Is that what you are talking about?

    This could be interesting, but there might be some sort of coding issues involved. Perhaps if a game is designed with the idea in mind from the ground up?

  4. A separate game altogether that ties in, much like the Dragon Age Facebook game and Dragon Age: Origins is. The goal is essentially to give players the opportunity to still be able to play their character and possibly gain a small amount of advancement to upload to their online account. Or, if not advancement, then some non-combat rewards, such as pets, mounts, achievements, what have you.

    The main goals are to allow the player to play as their character, in a distinctly separate game in the same IP, offline.

  5. It could be cool, actually. Imagine - you gather treasures in the online world, but they're locked or encrypted.

    You could then have an offline game that allows you to spend time unlocking those puzzles, and when you do, you can use the rewards online.

    Just food for thought!