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If a charachter had a life span in game, an MMO would offer a much richer experience and would solve many of the problems of todays MMO.
1. Risk vs Reward - If a charachter lost 1% of thier toons exsistance for every death for example, then each player's progression will ultimately end at 100 deaths. Suddenly the world is dangerous again.
2. Casual vs hardcore gamer - This concept works for both. It would be entirely possible for the casual gamer to be one of the most powerful on their server. The Hardcore gamer may reach power quicker, but is also more likely to die an early death. So wether you are the turtle or the hare, the same level of accomplishment is obtainable. Log on for half an hour gain some progression, log off....maybe 9 months later you are the elite of your path and in rare company.
3. End game vs dynamic game play - Take less development in end game and focus more on world alteration. Imagine at the end of a life returning to "starting areas" only to find the entire area is different then when you first traveled through. As players play, their actions affect the world around them, thriving settlements are now ghost towns, roads over grown. No two lives would be the same.
4. Guilds/Clans - Would rise and fall organically. A strong guild could lose their leadership to death, a master metal worker to death. A guild has always been the sum of their members, but what would happen if their two best soldiers died? The world would not be a stale, but ever changing.
5. True need for class/path diversity - With lose of life, comes a true need for healers, crafters, scouts, politics,.... With death a crafters come a real need to apprentice replacements, a healer is needed to prolong life. Imagine being the only Grandmaster weaponsmith in your area instead of everyone being one after 1 month? "yeah we had a weaponmsmith who could make that, but he died last week. Try the town down south, heard they had a guy."
6. True accomplishment - How much disovery, power, fame can I earn in my lifetime? Isn't a ticking clock the highest form of motivation. With some sort of acheivment system, a players life takes on true meaning. Ever play on a new server and get excited about being a sever first either solo or guild? I have and it is truely a great feeling, never to be felt again after a month. What if you could set new individual or guild records continually?
7. Solo vs group play - This is similar to casual vs hardcore. Regardless of your playstyle the risk will match the reward, without a race to a stale end game, your progression is your own. You will always be behind and ahead of your peers.
8. No useless zones - How many times do we see a starting zone packed for a month or two only to become a bunch of quest giving NPCs with no one to talk to? There would not be a need for "new players" to keep areas thriving, there would already be a circular mechanic of fresh adventures. As mentioned, by the time a player lives out one life, it is quite possible the world he remembered the first time through is completey altered...always offering "fresh content." Even a progressed player would enjoy revisiting where he started helping mentor a friend new to the game.
9. Community - Would receive a huge boost. Imagine a vet asking a newby where something is or for help progressing because the world he knew was gone? Crafting would mean something even at a very low level because of a new need for gear. This would bridge the vets to the newcomers instead of the core vs the noobs. Add to the fact the world is dangerous again, and there is a persistant need to help each other out.
So there are my reasons why toons need a lifespan to take MMOs to the next level. Something like this with an heir system (to keep your house or maybe add some form of continual improvement to the game)., and I think an MMO would have a good chance at a healthy population of gamers for more than a 6 month run. A game that would challnge and entertain for years.
So what would be the draw backs to this?
See any other benefits?
Does this form of MMO remind you of a game you have played?