…or If The Darkspawn Are A Damn Race, Who The Hell Am I Fighting?!
Driving around yesterday running errands, I contemplated something pretty crucial to my whole setup for a Dragon Age MMO. The question was this: If the Darkspawn are a playable character race in the game, and they are the main protagonists in the RPG, who the heck are the good guys gonna fight before they get to the Darkspawn PvP fights?!
Clearly, Darkspawn/Grey Warden fights are what could eventually be a huge part of the end game for this MMO, but let us not forget the struggles the Templars/Chantry have had with the Mages/Circle. It is this conflict which is at the center of Dragon Age II, with few Darkspawn to be found at all (save for your trip into the Deep Roads for lewt, lewt and more lewt). I think it’s very possible (and quite good actually) that you have two types of end-game conflict in the game.
So with that said, you have to then consider who or what players will fight as NPCs in the game. I think you could probably have abominations and various beasts available for the good guys to vanquish, but this might get a little tedious. As for the bad guys, I think the easiest thing to do would be to have groups of humans, elves or dwarves trying to “reclaim” places the Darkspawn are inhabiting. As I indicated, this game will take place shortly after the “enlightening” of the Darkspawn at the hands of the Architect, so having semi-intelligent Darkspawn would definitely fit the lore.
That being said, there are surely going to be some groups of people in Ferelden that don’t take too kindly to having packs of Darkspawn, sentient or no, living nearby. And there’s nothing to say that Darkspawn wouldn’t want to kill a few pigs and wolves themselves. All of this would also apply to the Qunari, but with their homeland being so far from Ferelden itself, it might prove to be a bit more problematic for them.
I would create a level cap of say, 50 levels, and let Level 35 be the point where anyone on the good guy side could begin the ritual of becoming a Grey Warden. The only problem with building this into the game is that it only seems fair to do the same type of change for the bad guys…I just don’t know what you could do though. The guys at Bioware would probably be able to answer that more readily, but there would need to be some sort of equivalent to the Grey Warden ritual for Darkspawn and Qunari (not becoming a Grey Warden though).
The only other option would be to do what I suggest you not do in the first part of this series, which is make Grey Warden a playable race from the start of the game. This would allow anyone to become one right off the bat. But it would alleviate the need to create something for the bad guys to call their own on that level.
As there is literally tons of lands with which to work with, I think the thing to do as end-game approaches is to open up new areas of the map, and let the higher players fight it out for control of those cities. This could be handled in much the same way other games handle PvP-type content, with battlegrounds set up and maybe have specific spots on the map up for grabs. Each side would be able to control the map and therefore gain advantages to having control that the other side would not have.
What could really be cool is if the Darkspawn ever gained control of enough of the map, they could perhaps initiate a Blight, calling forth a NPC-controlled Archdemon that would then have to be wiped out before the Blight was over. I don’t know if this is something that would play out frequently, as there have only been 5 Blights in the history of Ferelden (a long time presumably), but as far as end-game content goes, you don’t get much better than a Blight.