This is one of the best ideas I’ve seen for MMOs in a long time. I did read about an idea like this back on the old Middle-earth Online forums. Now that the Vanguard forums are about to be dismantled in preparation for the release of their game I wanted this excellent idea to live on at least in some form in the hopes that some MMO will implement it.
I was thinking about ways to make a MMOG seem more of an evolving place rather than static, and I starting mulling around a simple thought in my head.
How about throughout the world have small, unlit campfires. With a simple toss of a torch, fire based spell, or some other similar method, a player can light the campfire which will prevent most roaming mobs from walking past and aggroing on a healing player. This campfire will just act as a pseudo-safe spot to heal that should be relatively close to a decent hunting ground.
But the fire will eventually burn down if unattended (maybe needing attention once every hour or two), so how about if the area is popular enough that the campfire is maintained for a long period of time (24 to 48 hours for example), a merchant will spawn. This merchant will tend to the fire, but he’ll only be there for as long as it’s profitable for him. So now the players must sell and buy from the merchant to encourage him to stay; the merchant will maintain the fire. After a much longer period of time, other merchants and trainers will hear about this evolving site, and travel to the place to set up shop. Maybe a few wagons or small huts will appear, making the site bigger and able to fill the needs of the players. If there are cities or towns relatively close by, maybe guards will appear to protect the area (which is now bigger than a campsite, but is still basically just a small area to buy and sell and not worry about mobs).
But even if the spot becomes a small village of about 6 to 8 huts (it should never be able to become big enough to be considered for permanent buildings) and stays like that for a long time, if the player traffic dries up (maybe an expansion that draws the players away from the older areas) the site will slowly decline, eventually turning back into an unlit campfire, waiting for a player to restart the process.(2nd post)Aggro rules should be handled separately; if Sigil wants the mob to stick to the initial aggro target and ignore aggro created in the safe area, or maybe pace around the “safe area” border then go back where it came (though an attack from the safe area will render the safe area ineffective for the player who attacked the mob), then that could be easily done. Griefers exploit flaws and if you don’t give them any flaws to exploit they won’t be effective.
As further evolution of this idea, a small unlit campfire (that won’t progress past the initial campfire stage) set deep in a dungeon could be an effective way to let players really go on a dungeon romp, rest and heal, then fight mobs on their way back to the entrance.
Another possibility, if the upcoming Sigil MMOG involves both good and evil player characters, would be to provide evolving outposts in unfriendly territory. Whether the area would be classified as neutral (everyone can buy/sell/rest) or faction oriented depending on some factors determined on creation (though this could be a bone of contention for the initial creation of the site), it could provide a haven for those who don’t want to run halfway across the world to get to a merchant that’ll let then buy and sell.
Maybe so long as both good and evil maintain a certain “buy and sell” activity in the camp it will remain neutral, but if the good characters stop going to the campsite and the merchants must rely on the evil races to maintain the site, it will slowly convert to favoring evil characters (and likewise for good characters). That way it will evolve as well, giving good prices to those races who help maintain the campsite, while overcharging those who just pass by occasionally. Whether the merchants would actually end up refusing service to a player character would be a game design decision.