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So I was just reading the 'Living NPCs' thread and it got me thinking; What if an MMO was created with absolutely no NPC content?
We all know UO (in it's hay day) was loved by a huge number of fans, many of whom are still loyal to the 'old' UO to this very day. Why? Because players were literally forced to interact with one another on an almost constant basis. NPCs had very little use (apart from loot), and most of the game revolved around PvP and player interaction.
So, imagine an MMO with no NPC vendors, no NPC guards... No NPC monsters. A world in which players would *have* to create their own lives, their own stories and their own quests. You want loot? Go kill another player and loot him! You want to buy some new armour? Go visit a player that's been training crafting and is capable of making it for you. You've been killed by someone and looted? Gather some friends together and go kill him back!
Okay, so a world entirely devoid of NPC life may be a little far fetched, but I think this is a trick current MMO developers are really missing out on. It seems that the current emphasis is to create a game that'll play much like a single player game in 'co op' mode, with NPC interaction playing an enormous part. I know for a fact that there are a huge number of MMO fans that, having played older MMORPGs when they were first released, miss that feeling of absolute 'sandbox' freedom. An MMO is about players interacting with one another and NPCs really needn't play a large part. I think the first developer to realise this could, potentially, make an absolute fortune.