About a year ago, I wrote about the “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena” genre, and expressed that while I generally support the genre as a game designer, I don’t do well playing within the genre. I still haven’t played much within the genre, I’ve only read about it, and the same kind of goes for “tower defense” games. Sure, I know about them, but I don’t really play them. They aren’t my thing.

Well, I had this thought, about the “lane” concept in Defense of the Ancients et al. The lanes are the paths characters charge down to slaughter one another. Generally speaking, the lane runs both ways but is linear … due to the limited scope of the game, a lane is where you find your fights. There are some paths between the lanes, but they’re less commonly used, and only then by the players.

Looking at the idea of lanes as a metaphorical thing, instead of a literal thing, you have several paths to reach your enemy, whoever the opposition is. They don’t differ substantially, and you can cross between them with the right kind of effort. The main reason they exist, is to divide your attention. You’re forced to join forces with other characters to protect your base. You’re caught in a tug-of-war for dominance.

What if this concept were applied on a larger scale? If there were multiple sides in an ongoing conflict, that were constantly pitting their forces against one another? You know something that bugs me about MMORPGs, is how the heroes always seem to outnumber the normal people. I think it’d be a good change of pace to have it the other way around — to have NPCs clearly outnumber the players.

I’m thinking something like one of the Dynasty Warriors games, where the battlefield is totally covered by computer-controlled characters, led by rival hero characters. They play the tug-of-war game, pushing each other back and forth across the field until one side manages to take the other out. Is there a massively-multiplayer game like that?

What I want is a step beyond that, though. Rather than just pushing each other back and forth across a literal battlefield, I’d love to see the computer control masses of merchants plying their trades, armies of religious leaders arguing philosophy and doctrine, and legions of craftsmen plying their trades back and forth across an economic and political battlefield. There needs to be a game like that.

And it needs to look good. And sound good. And it needs to be fun.