The Digital Continuum: Kaiju MMO

Kyle Horner
K. Horner|06.28.08

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The Digital Continuum: Kaiju MMO
I know there's been a The Daily Grind about this subject already, but I felt like talking about my own personal kaiju (giant monster) MMO and this is just the place for that. Growing up there were certain things I could count on. For instance, there would always be some sort of Anime marathon in the summertime on the Sci-Fi Channel and that very same channel was also usually good for giant monster movies. Oh yeah and you could always count on a new Megaman game coming out that year.

It's strange how this never occurred to me but giant monsters are almost perfect as a theme for an MMO. Purely because the theme itself provides a gigantic, epic sort of combat gameplay that is central to the thrill of massively multiplayer online games. Whether it's a game where the players create and control their own giant monsters or fight against the monsters is the choice I've been struggling to answer -- but then something dawned on me. The two game types, when combined, make for a very interesting type of MMO experience.

This is of course only one way to approach such a game, but it seems like a fun idea. The main game would have players creating human characters that would join a kind of defense force to fight against giant evil monsters. Essentially your typical monster movie storyline, which is completely fine story-wise considering the source material. There are all sorts of quest chains that could be designed around this type of gameplay. Players could take part in excursions to far away planets in order to research the origins of one particular giant monster and fight many smaller, weaker versions along the way. Another gameplay hook example would have players designing and controlling their very own mecha or strike vehicle to help them fight a giant monster more effectively.

It would all lead to these epic boss fight experiences where players actually fight massive monsters attacking Earth or even other friendly planets. Yes, there could even be alien species to mix things up a bit. In fact, this would allow for some variety in class types. Some classes could maneuver and fire artillery while others piloted mecha or strike vehicle. While other classes may have psychokinetic powers derived from the enormous monsters themselves. Anyhow, these PvE boss fights could have various objectives such as capture the monster alive, distract the creature to allow a cities' citizens to escape or minimize collateral damage. As players level up and eventually reach endgame they'll have become incredibly familiar with how the giant monster fights work, which will make them perfect candidates for PvP.

Taking a page out of the Lord of the Rings Online handbook, players who've reached max level will unlock a monster slot and subsequently allowed to create a low-level monster for PvP scenarios. I say low-level, but really there would probably be a lot of functionality to grasp as a giant monster player even at the first level. There wouldn't be many levels -- I'm thinking ten or twenty, tops. This is where players get to fight as a rampaging monster and earn rewards for further customization and new powers. The design challenge would be in making a balanced experience for non-monster and monster players alike. Although that's not really something I care to tackle here -- it's just worth mentioning.

Being only a rough outline means there are a lot of design holes in this concept such as PvP balance. To be honest I also wouldn't mind a Kaiju MMO where everyone actually gets to be a giant monster from the moment they log into the game. The only problem with that is figuring out how to make players feel special in a gameworld full of giant monsters. Maybe it's something that could only be realized once server tech and game worlds become advanced enough to literally allow players to feel like they're inhabiting a world the size of Earth proper.

Never in my wildest dreams do I think an MMO like this would really come to fruition. I suppose that makes this a pipe dream of sorts, but who knows what the future holds. Between games like The Agency, Stargate Worlds and Champions Online maybe there's room for a Kaiju MMO in the future --- just maybe.
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