“The Butterfly Effect” or “An Idea for an Expansion-based MMO”
A Sound of Thunder is a movie that was released in 2005. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should, it is a decent flick, despite the (now) dated CGI and some truly horrendous green-screen shots, but I am just digressing as usual. Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead for the movie. By spoilers I mean I will lay bare the entire freaking plot of the movie.
In the future, some 50 odd years from now, one group of scientists have discovered time travel. They form a company called Time Safari and take oodles of money from rich folks to go back 65 million years and hunt dinosaurs. But what about the butterfly effect, you ask? Well the scientists are smart, you see. They always take the people to the same exact moment in time to kill this one poor bastard of a T-Rex, who gets stuck in swamp mud seconds before a volcano erupts. In short, he was going to die anyway, the travelers just change the means by which he dies.
In one trip, someone (we find out later) steps on a butterfly on their way out, and that changes everything. The present starts changing dramatically. 24 hours after this particular incident a “time-wave” sweeps the globe and all sorts of extinct insect species invade, complete with foliage of all different types and sorts. These time-waves will continue endlessly until 65 million years of alternate evolution catches up with us. Since we were the last major species to evolve, the last time-wave may turn us into something completely different (it does at the end) or it may wipe us from existence altogether as if we never happened.
Each successive time-wave brings with us newer species of beasts that have evolved in an alternate history on Earth, and they continue to stem any of the protagonists’ progress towards a solution to their time-sensitive dilemma. The first wave produces foliage and giant insects. The next wave results in what can only be described as “baboon-o-raptors” (velociraptors that survived the Jurassic era and have evolved to develop the intelligence and cunning of your common baboon). The wave following that one results in giant bats (not very imaginative I know). Since each wave brings with it new forms of both flora and fauna, the environment (and its challenges) constantly change.
Think the changes Cataclysm made to the surface of Azeroth, except each time-wave fundamentally changes the geography every time.
Sidenote: There is a huge hole in the plot. Minutes after the hunting party kills the dinosaur, a volcano erupts, destroying all life in the area. This effectively implies that the butterfly in question would have also died. So stepping on it and killing it, technically, should have had no consequence in the first place. Just saying.
The MMO: The Butterfly Effect
This creates a wonderful setting for an expansion-based MMO. The game starts normally. You are a civilian in the normal world, and at the beginning of your journey, the first time-wave knocks you off of your feet. You get up, only to find yourself surrounded by chaos. Vines and roots have sprouted everywhere and there are massive insects roaming the streets. There is panic everywhere. You have to gather your bearings and figure out what is going on. Information is scarce, and you have no idea that something like time travel exists, let alone that we screwed up the past resulting in a morphing present.
The setting would be earth, except ravaged by the sudden influx of brand new forms of flora and fauna. The ultimate objective for the MMO would be to figure out what is happening, and undertake smaller missions near your starting area, trying to sort out the cause of everything. You must band with other players to help out the beleaguered and trapped scientists of the massive facility where time-travel is made possible (thus the raiding experience). After rescuing these individuals you have to gather equipment from around the world to repair the machinery that will allow you to go back in the past and undo your mistakes.
Each successive expansion will be a “time-wave”. The landscape radically alters, new species and born and the existing ones evolve further (or go extinct), and you have to continuously adapt to the situation, steadily working towards repairing the machine. The machine, post-first-time-wave, has been encapsulated in a temporal shield, protecting it from further damage from successive time-waves.
Each time-wave thus brings macro challenges as you recover equipment from around the world, as well as micro-challenges in specific locations. For instance, say you travel to Japan to recover a critical particle accelerator. In order to acquire it, you must first help the local populace by dealing with their pest problems. They will then befriend you and guide you in the right direction. The individual who will sell you the device has his own agenda and goals that you must satisfy before he agrees to help you, thus following the established MMO dynamics of questing and (streamlined) quest hubs.
This is highly preliminary, and a very loose concept I know. I am just sharing it because I want to see what other MMO bloggers have to say about the story and setting itself. We will get to mechanics and MMO conventions in a later post.