NBI Game Design: A Western Wonderland

I’ve always love engaging in a bit of armchair game design even if that real world potential is only in my wildest dreams. The NBI is discussing this as part if the talk back challenge at the moment; Liore discussed creating an economy, Lyle Dark creates a Frankenstein mmo by using mechanics from many sources, Doone discussed a few key points, and JVT creates a rather extensive list of mechanics. There are some great points made here and I thought why not have a go at being game designers for the day.

I’ve had one idea in particular rolling around in the empty space I call a brain for many many years now. It came out of my initial experiences with eve; I love a lot of things it does immensely yet no matter how I tried I just couldn’t feel connected enough, it lacked that personal touch. I want that level of complexity and community engagement but not in space, and I don’t think the usual fantasy style would work either. I want a wild western Eve.

The world

The western type environment would be easy to develop for overall as you have long expanses of dirt. A lot of desert areas can look rather boring but just think about the level of beauty it contains in games like Red Dead Redemption and that’s what I would like. A brilliant land if red, brown and gold. There could be many areas that contain more life along rivers, lakes and coastal areas that would serve as a contrast but also as highly sought after locations.

rdr land

There is a reason for it to be desolate and that would play into the overall feel of exploration and construction the game will have. You can have a lot of land with materials, resources all’s and exits hidden around the world and its more up to the players to find them. You need the travel time too, varying types of resources would be spread around the world, speciality resources only available at particular zones that would need to be transported around to create an economic system around supply and demand.


What I imagined was guilds and groups setting up mining operations in the far reaches of the world, outposts on the popular trails, and even complete towns. The initial step would be equivalent to a town hall, that could be constantly upgraded, these of course would be a huge investment that not everyone would be able to build, the standard solo player would have a very hard time doing it. There would be benefits to those that settle on the land as they would have a certain amount of control over the town’s options from how it builds, progresses, npc characters, building missions, putting in pretty decorations and taxing other establisments. Other PvP type options would be to allow outlaws, how to settle disputes, and even creating kill on sight orders, this way pvp has meaningful consequences but is regulated by the players and has a place in the world.

Once a settlement is made then it would enable others to build within the town’s limit things like personal houses and certain speciality buildings from saloons, hotels, corner stores, and a myriad of other types. People could make their building by placing down prefab structures then either turn it into a home or set up a business place to hawk their wares or even enable quests. I would make rest, food and drink a more useful activity that required a bit of time; resting maybe giving more health for a time, drinking the local brew a few buffs (depending on what it’s made from).

wild west town

I want these towns to become the focal point of player activity and interaction but also for each town to have a personality. With the buffs the activities allow and as the only place to buy items these would become hubs for players to congregate as a way of meeting people, creating groups, an sharing stories.


These towns would require a certain amount of management in order to grow as well as just general maintenance. To grow I imagined a system kind of like Patrician or maybe Port Royale wherein you need to maintain a certain level of food types and materials in order to help the town grow. As a town grows it allows more buildings within its premises, npc characters will move in that can be assigned specific roles, jobs or even hired by others, projects the town does will produce more, and it will even have an upgrade tree it can continue on with that help in building, mining, food, entertainment, and defense.

Each town would have a certain auction house system that is just focused on town supplies such as what they are selling and buying. The owner could manipulate these prices but only around a certain variable that depends on the town’s need or excess. Towns could put up specific contracts on a global noticeboard or simply rely on people to provide it.

Trade in this environment would become an important part of gameplay with buying materials and then selling them to towns that need them profitable and rewarding. But it would also be drought with danger since the world is large and people can take these resources from you.

The other part I thought was bringing these towns into the transportation system. Railroads would be completely built by the players and create a much faster network of travel between certain points. Because of the distance and materials needed these would be a large undertaking but be a huge benefit to those that do. First it would dramatically increase movement which means more people and trade. You could also charge for access to your tracks or just be benevolent in your use of them. When the game begins there would be nothing, travel would be hard and long but as the months and years passed large networks would surface. It would be a large focal point for communities to build as well as creating differentiation between servers.

Management would also entail keeping control of the town and protecting it from outside influence. I want others to be able to take over towns or destroy them but I’m not sure of the actual mechanic just yet. I’m thinking a week long affair of controlling certain points nearby, the winner being the person with the most control overall. The npc characters of the town would help out, the larger your town gets the more, and stronger they get. A territory mechanic as a way of changing the owners of settlements but that is a much larger mehcanic than I want to go into here

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Well that’s the fundamentals anyway and I could keep going on other points like combat, customisation, housing, guild options, ui, world design, crafting, monetisation and many many other things. Actually I might go into that later on. It is a remarkably  fleshed out idea as I couldn’t help but think over what I would like and what would make a good sandbox/eve adaptation after seeing all these failed model. So if anyone has a spare 20+ million lying around just give me a call and I can create the next amazing sandbox to wow this generation… either that or it will slip into obscurity.

#ArmchairDeveloper #MMO


2 thoughts on “NBI Game Design: A Western Wonderland

  1. I’d play this 🙂 I’m nuts for games like Patrician and an MMO which offered that level of town management would be sweet. Too bad A Tale in the Desert is gone. It has much of what you describe, but that game is also pretty ancient. It’s not as appealing aesthetically as you describe and doesn’t have the modern tech to really make into something incredible.

    I’ve never fantasized in a wild west setting, but that could be pretty exciting as an MMO 🙂

    • Yeh I could never get into A tale in the desert much because of its age, it’s sad to say but I am a little drawn to the new shinies.

      I love those games every couple years I get the urge and go back to them and putting it into am mmo would be great.

      As for the theme, we see plenty of post apocalyptic wastelands but very few westerns.. I can only think of one that hinted at that them although it had its own modern spin.

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