First off... no, whatever you read below is not what I am working on... not what I intend to work on in the near future nor anything I know that is being worked on by somebody else.
I simply want to share a concept of a game that I'd love to play somewhen in the not so distant future. It is how I think a cool game would work.
This concept is based on multi-layered game types the player can experience and eventually decide which of these layers is most fun to him/her. Just to give you an example what I mean with multi-layer game... actually the only true approach into this direction was the game "Spore". In that game you started as single cell and throughout multiple phases with different gameplay types you evolved into a space faring civilization.
I do not claim that all ideas of this concept are unique. I just throw together what I consider fitting.
The game is supposed to be an instanced MMO.
Phase 1 - Survival:
You, the player start as survivor of crash landed ship on the surface of an unknown planet. The area you can explore on this planet is limited (relative small).
Your first task is to survive, find food, find water and build your personal shelter/home.
This phase mainly serves to introduce the player to the game and explain the basics of movement, construction and combat.
The end goal of this phase is to have a shelter that you can defend from the local wildlife and all the resources needed to survive on this planet. The shelter is your personal base (something you never can lose throughout the rest of the gameplay).
Once this goal is reached your next task will be the construction of a communication array.
The completion of this task will end phase 1.
Phase 2 - Construction:
The construction of your shelter and the com array allows you make contact with other stranded players on this planet.
In the end this means you get access to a much larger map on which you can see your territory (the map from phase 1), the areas where other players have crash landed and unlocked the com array (you can not make contact to phase 1 players or visit their maps).
The map you have access to in this phase is just a part of the planets surface. You won't ever get access to the entire planet surface to keep the impression of big scale.
Task is to make contact with other players (the amount of players on this planet is limited) and eventually start the construction of a larger Outpost/City.
- Clarification -
All players of this phase 2 planet are automatically considered a clan/guild/faction.
Friends which want to play together should at the start of the game specificy that they want to start together on the same planet.
e.g. A player can add people as friends and start a new game together with them. Open crash locations will be filled with random players bit by bit.
The player which initiated the game is considered leader by default and can manage the clan/guild/faction (which also means to manually add new players or remove players from the planet). This will ensure that you can bring more of your friends into the game... on exactly the same planet.
Removed players will not have to start from the scratch. They simply will be moved to a different instance with different players.
The leader also can pass the leadership to other players.
If a leader is inactive the leadership automatically is transfered to the (active) player with the highest online time.
The leader also can give specific management permission to other players.
- end of Clarification -
The center of the phase 2 map is an area where all players can start constructing an outpost, which will become the permanent settlement of your clan/guild/faction (whatever you want to call it).
While the Phase 1 shelters will be the personal homes of every individual player this Outpost is going to be the home of the Clan (for simplicity reasons I stick with clan from now on).
All phase 2 players will have to work together to build this outpost.
They will have to start building some basic construction buildings, machineries, resource refineries and they will have to find resources on the maps, build mines and other resource collectors. With other words they will have to cover the basic needs of a larget settlement. Later on the will build more advanced buildings for transportation, a command center a central com hub, defense perimeters... etc.
A basic landing platform will allow NPCs to come to your planet and your clan can hire them to help you with upcoming tasks (e.g. repairing stuff or trading with the outside world).
Over time your small outpost grows bigger and the population rises (the amount of players wont change at this point).
Players which actively work on Outpost projects will be able to get rewards for tasks and update their stats and their equipment. They also will earn money which they can use throughout the entire game.
In the end your Outpost will reach a size at which new projects become available, including a space port.
Once completed the space power will allow the Outpost to construct its first space ship and enter Phase 3.
Note: The clan never will lose progress on the Outpost (its going to be a save harbour through all upcoming phases).
Phase 3 - Space Race:
By launching the first space ship the Clan gets access to the entire solar system.
How clans approach this phase is mainly up to them. There will be many different solutions how to start and how to progress.
The construction of an orbital space station certainly might be the best choice. Such a space station can be upgraded with additional modules and eventually will be able to construct different ship types for the players of the clan.
With access to these small crafts players can travel between planet and station whenever they need and also reach out to other planets of the solar system to collect resources and build new structures for the clan.
A second option might be to build a moon station first which will be more complicated but also more rewarding.
If a Clan thinks it can cover both tasks... that is option 3 then.
Reaching out further into that solar system will be more resource intense, more risky but also more rewarding.
There will be opportunities to build space outposts around planets, mining stations on moons and asteroids, gas collectors around gas planets. But there also will be pirate attacks, hidden pirate stations which you eventually have to destroy (which wont be an easy task).
Your moon base and your orbital station around your "home planet" will be the main structure in the system and can be upgraded with the resources you get from all over the system.
Your final goal is to build a shipyard, able to construct ships big enough to leave the system.
- Clarification -
Content of earlier phases always will remain available to you.
That means you can go back to your planets surface and improve the outpost if you desire. You also will be able to go back to your Phase 1 shelter and do whatever survival stuff you did.
To be more specific, content of earlier phases wont lose importance. The opposite is the case.
Your personal shelter will serve as respawn location for you once you die. It also would be the place where you have a personal vault to store your private items (not clan items). It also will be the place where you get daily/weekly objectives for bonus rewards.
Even when you are at later points of the game you will be able to upgrade your shelter (e.g. adding customizations or teleportation pad for quick travel which you unlock at phase 2 or a small landing platform for a small ship)
Same applies to the phase 2 outpost. (e.g. in phase 3 you might gain technology which allows you to build mining lasers... which then can be used to upgrade mining stations of phase 2 in order to increase the productivity of the home planet).
There always will be reasons to go back to earlier phases or to have clan members to take care of such tasks. This will spice up the gameplay and makes sure that "older" content does not become obsolete at some point.
Every phase will have a limited amount of max assets you can build. This limit increases over time by reaching specific milestones.
Phase 3 is going to be the first phase in which you can lose progress.
While your shelter and your clan outpost is pretty much secure, every of your clan structures in space can be damaged and even destroyed.
With "every" i mean "EVERY", including your orbital station around your planet and your moon base.
Once the pirate threat gets too strong you might lose everything. In that case you get pushed back to phase 2. There you need to build a new spaceship and try phase 3 again (a reset of phase 3).
Only when you advance far enough in phase 3 and defeat the pirates (NPCs) you can continue to phase 4.
- end of Clarification -
Phase 4 - Galactic Neighborhood
With the ability to travel between the systems you also will face other clans at some point. Generally the map will be designed so you have a few neutral systems between the players. Some space to expand.
You will be able to interact with other clans... visit their worlds (if they are in phase 4), trade with them... fight with them... and create alliances.
Due to the fact that the scale of the game increases massively with this phase the micromanagement has to be scaled down at this point so the game remains fun to play.
So when colonizing other worlds you will be able to let NPCs do many tasks so you can focus on giving commands and flying around. Ideally every clan member should be able to claim control over one nearby star system (turning clan members into governors of these worlds). This will be the directly controlled systems of your clan.
Additionally the clan can conquer other systems (of other clans) which turn into vasalles.
Once a clan has lost all of its systems, that clan is pushed back into an early stage of phase 3 and can try to do it better next time.
In order to prevent being beaten over and over again by specific other clans, there should be the option to switch the galaxy instance and therefore get new opponents after a phase 4 defeat.
The game ideally will allow players to play it like they want. First person view, 3rd person view... thats their choice.
It is also their choice how they gather resources and construct bases. This is a strategical element in which some choices work better than others.
I eventually would be a mix of shooter, space sim, survival game, building sim and strategy game. I could imagine that a quest system would be able to also add an adventure/RPG element into this concept.