The premise for this challenge was to create a Free To Play (F2P) game. I knew very vague things about this
genrebusiness model, and after reading some articles and criticisms, became horrified by the very concept. In short, a F2P game is little more than a slot machine with something that looks like a videogame (usually a RPG) thrown around it. The purpose is not to entertain, but to make the player spend more and more money on it. I know I'm being harsh, and I know there are some F2P games around which seem 'just fair' and offer decent game design, but regarding the ones I played, all where below-average games with abysmal control methods, repetitive graphics and boring-to-death (B2D) dialogue.
I came to the conclusion that the only way to make an ethically acceptable game with this premise was giving the player the opportunity to get back some of his money. And even so, it still seemed filthy and obscene...so I came up with a nihilist design about self-extinction, death and greed, lots of greed. By chance, a few days before the challenge was published, I stumbled upon the closest form of pure evil available online, and borrowed some ideas from their business plan. It's no crime to steal from a thief, you know...
Here's the full text from my entry:
Extinction: Imminent, a Multiplayer Online Action RPG
The aim of the game is to kill everyone else, and finally kill yourself, to achieve the extinction of your race.
The game is played in extinction waves, each one for a race, with a predefined duration (say, 6 weeks). Each wave has its own world and characters. You can't participate in two waves simultaneously. Global level is calculated from the number of waves the player entered and his dead count. Local level is the level during a wave. It always starts at 1. Players can only enter waves suitable for their current global level.
During a wave, to avoid high local-level players killing the low-level ones, the former would not even see them: i.e. a level-50 player can only see (and thus, kill) players of level 40 till 60 ([-10,+10]); let's call this the killing interval. It remains fixed until the last days of the wave, during which it widens gradually, i.e. week4: [-20,+20], week5: [-30,+30]...until the final day, when everyone can see everyone. So in the last weeks everybody pays a lot to level up quickly before the powerful players can see them.
Entering an ongoing wave is free during its first 2 weeks. After that you must pay an increasing percentage of the current bounty to enter (the later you arrive, the higher the accumulated bounty is). This is good for players who don't want to play 6 weeks, and good for players who were there since the beginning: newcomers add a substantial amount to the bounty. When paying to enter an ongoing wave, you are given a starting level equal to the arithmetic mean of the other players levels.
You can pause the battle anytime. Offline players are counted as dead, can't be seen nor killed, and can rejoin anytime before the last 4 hours of the wave. Leave for too long, and become cannon fodder: other players will have a level much higher than yours.
The 'winner' (the last, suiciding one) earns a percentage of the real money spent by players during the wave. Actually, that percentaged sum is the one players see on the interface, they never know how much was spent.
Players obtain experience the usual RPG way: killing. Game currency is bought with real money. To obtain items (weapons, spells, etc.) or better stats, you buy them, steal from a dead enemy corpse, or find items in the game world; these items are distributed pseudo-randomly and never respawned. You can always buy items with no real money invested, just search and kill. But money spent is not lost, because there's always the chance that you become the wave's winner and earn precious cash.
The only NPC's in the game are the shopkeepers; they can be killed during the last week of the wave (everyone must die!); after dying, their shop disappears, provoking a scarcity of new resources. But you can buy a really expensive spell that revives a shopkeeper (and her shop) for 5 minutes.
Extinction: Imminent was awarded second place in this Game Design Challenge.