Some interesting ideas here. I think that as long as we have mobs that respawn we’re going to have players that find the zones where they can reap the maximum reward for the least amount of risk/effort. Part of the problem with most online games is what I term the “Groundhog Day” syndrome. This happens when every NPC/mob pops right back up after being killed which creates a stale non-dymamic virtual world. This methodology created the spawn “camping” that EQ became infamous for.
I’d like to see the concept of *hunting* introduced into MMORPGs. I look to hunter/gatherers in our own history for inspiration for this. North American Native peoples would follow the migratory patterns of buffalo and other game animals. Nomadic cultures would herd their flocks to greener pastures. The bottom line is that people had to work for their food and resources. Failure to do would result in starvation and the end of the tribe.
How can we translate this to MMORPGs? We could put mobs on longer spawn times and that would have the effect of forcing players to actually hunt instead of camping a general vicinity waiting for mob repops. This would force players to move to other zones to seek their prey and create a sense of adventure that is less routine. It would also discourage professional farmers from staying in one area and damaging the economy. From an immersion perspective I can’t believe that a pack of orcs would willingly line up to be slaughtered at an orc camp after seeing their fellow orcs die like so many bowling pins being knocked down. Yet this is the fiction that we are asked to buy into with the current MMORPG state of affairs.
All these ideas may be impossible and impractical given that most designers of online games are currently in a convenience-driven paradigm which caters to the player by spoon feeding them content. Richard Bartle wrote an excellent essay on how newbies are designing online games which seems to explain this trend. Another example is the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Online will teleport your group directly to the dungeon avoiding “tedious travel”. I often wonder how long it will be before players will be able to dial up mobs much like ordering take-out food.