Norseheim is a textual world being run by Jamie Slate at Catawba College as experimental research into co-operation and competition under constraints. This is a long-term project which takes an Economics perspective (although nothing is published yet).
What makes it particularly interesting for us here at Terra Nova, however, is the nature of the constraints. Basically, four times a year, the player database is purged. Everyone starts again from scratch.
Now you might think that this would be a Bad Idea, but apparently the players love it. It may have something to do with the academic cycle, but it seems that people are willing to play a virtual world that they know will only last 3 or 4 months before it resets entirely.
Imagine it wasn't an academic textual world, though, but was a commercial graphical world. Would people still play it, or something like it?
I'm guessing they would. If there were new shards starting all the time, so newbies were never dumped in a "lame duck" instantiation, a fixed time limit could be attractive in several ways:
- You only have to commit for a fixed period, not indefinitely.
- There's greater narrative scope for the designers.
- As most of the characters will be of the same "level" anyway, the concept of levels can be replaced by some less grindy means of measuring success.
- You're free to reinvent yourself periodically, instead of having to wear a character that might have been appropriate for you two years ago but who just isn't "you" any more.
- Content can be arranged so that players will want to be in similar geographic areas at similar times. You won't need so many players per shard to get that "village" feel.
- Lots more...
It also raises some interesting non-design problems. It looks to me as if it would discourage RMT, for example, because investments won't necessarily be seen as sufficiently long-term. On the other hand, if RMTers persuade the courts that people own what their characters own, the whole concept of a purge might be threatened.
I'm pretty sure that scheduled purges have been done before, but Norseheim is probably the first time it's happened under academic observation right from the beginning. It'll be instructive to see how things develop.