Persona 5 is an amazing entry to the series, which despite its incredibly large amount of playtime, leaves me yearning for more. As I near the end of the story, I find myself stalling with other projects and games because I don’t want the journey to be over just yet. While playing it, I can’t help but think, “Hey. This could make a perfect MMO.”
Most MMOs revolve around repetition. It’s an easy way to extend game time and turn a game into something that requires you to come back each day in order to achieve whatever goal it is you have in that world. Usually this is done by killing monsters for hours upon hours, or going into various dungeons where, you guessed it, you kill monsters for hours upon hours. Although, at least in the dungeons you get a small sense of exploration along with the endless grind. However, people get tired of grinds pretty quick. In order to help players stay interested and have a place of repose, there are often slice of life aspects added in. The most popular being houses, and giant cities that have some kind of gathering circle, maybe with some silly side quests thrown in to give you a good laugh.
Persona 5 takes both of these elements and merges them so flawlessly that I think with a just a few tweaks it would make a fantastic MMORPG.
The Slice of Life
In Persona 5 you build social links by interacting and becoming close with NPCs while also raising your social stats which include Knowledge; Charm; Guts; Kindness; and Proficiency. Sometimes, you’ll need a specific social stat to be a certain level in order to further your bond with the NPCs. Now, this might just sound trivial and even boring at first when it comes to gaming. I mean, don’t many of us game to get away from this kind of thing? However, the game makes all of this very worthwhile by not only having interesting; thought-provoking; and emotional stories attached to these social links; but also by giving them use in battle. Each social link increases the power of future personas that you acquire through fusion.
So how could this be used in an MMO?
Activities that increase your social stats could be dailies, and the social links themselves could be tied to weeklies. As Persona 5 takes place in Tokyo, the world could be huge. In the actual game, the areas are small and more accustomed to fast-travel so that you don’t get overwhelmed with having to explore this huge city every day. However, in an MMO environment, we could see the full city of Tokyo, encouraging exploration and giving longevity to the game. If you decide you want to up your social link with a certain NPC, you would have to find where they are and at what times, and then once per week do whatever quest they want and get to know them better. In turn, this would increase your combat abilities and help you progress throughout the game with everyone else. However, since Tokyo is so big, it would require a community to learn when and where the NPCs are and to get general gossip about what events are going on so that you can plan around it - making for the MMO aspect. It could make for the perfect repose from the battling; the dungeons; the raiding, while still helping you improve in those areas.
So what’s all this talk of battles and dungeons?
If you’re new to the Persona series and have read everything up to this point, you might be thinking it’s just some slice of life anime simulator and be wondering why I keep mentioning this whole battle thing. Well, in the game, you become “Phantom Thieves” and go into the hearts of people with distorted desires, and, well, you steal their heart. You do this through a mysterious phone app that appears on each of the main character’s phones and input keywords into it. It then acts as a navigation system which leads you to the manifestation of these people’s distorted desires.
With this concept in mind, I find it easy to believe there could be countless amounts of dungeons, or, as they’re called in Persona 5, “Palaces.” This is where the fighting is done. Which can get rather complex. The combat focuses on finding the weakness of each enemy and exploiting that to the fullest, which requires a fair amount of experimentation and making sure you have the correct personas to get the job done. As such, it being a turn based combat system complements the strategy sometimes needed in the fights.
Now, taking this back to the MMO end of all of this. First things first, turn-based combat has to go. There are MMOs with turn based combat, but well, we don’t talk about those. So, how could Persona 5 make use of its strategical style while also ridding itself of turn based combat? The best way I can think would be to take a note from Final Fantasy XI and have a system similar to how skill chains work in that game. If you wanted to exploit a weakness, rather than just using dark on an enemy that is weak to dark, you could have a friend in your party who focuses on support and have them null the enemy’s defense towards dark. In the turn-based world, this typically lasts for 3 turns. So, instead, how about three seconds? This way you would need to coordinate with your allies and use your dark move right after they null the enemy’s dark defense. This would allow for the same feel and strategical thinking that is used in Persona 5 while still also tailoring more for an MMO.
Alright, let me go back to the slice of life now
One of the main things you do in Persona 5 is constantly moving back and forth between the “Metaverse,” which is where the palaces and enemies tend to be; and then going back to reality. So now that you know a little bit about social links and social stats, but also palaces and distorted desires, how would one go about finding the keywords I mentioned earlier? The ones that allow you to enter a palace.
This would be where more of the MMO and community driven aspects could come in. In order to find out who has distorted desires at all, you could explore Tokyo and listen in on conversations and share that info with fellow players. Eventually, you’d have all the required fields, which include the person’s name; their desire; and the physical location of where their palace is (in the real world / Tokyo). This would further encourage moderation between the Metaverse world and the normal world, and give a nice balance to each side of gameplay.
In Persona 5, there’s constantly a rating telling you how people view you in the game. Like, for example, whether or not “The Phantom Thieves” are just. In an MMO world, this rating could be based on the first team to down a new palace. Oh, and I forgot to mention, if you kill someone in the Metaverse rather than steal their heart, well, let’s just say they die in the normal world as well. This could be used as an incentive to get world first so that you could either kill the boss, or just steal their treasure, depending on if you want “The Phantom Thieves” to be seen as good or bad.
Another aspect is that depending on how the public views “The Phantom Thieves,” a place called Mementos changes. Which is somewhere in the metaverse that is based on everyone’s cognition, rather than just the distorted desires of one person. As such, maybe a very tough boss could appear down there if people keep killing the bosses instead of only stealing their hearts. This could be motivation to be seen as corrupt and bad, as that boss might drop something very much so worthwhile. Likewise, there could be an NPC in Mementos that would only give you what you want if he has a good cognition of you - so if you’re seen as the good guys, which would then give the incentive to not kill. Creating a constant back and forth between the two factions and making for a very interesting and lively game.
I love the game how it is
Just out of how incredibly well done Persona 5 is, I do like it being exactly how it is right now. However, I do think these small ideas could transform it into a very unique and fun MMO, that could really pit two factions against each other in a new and fun way compared to the typical Aion and World of Warcraft rivalries we have now, and if an MMO like this ever existed I would give it a try in a heartbeat. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll have that perfect balance between the slice of life aspects with the more heavy-hitting and typical parts of what we see in current day MMOs that I feel this game could provide if it were in that environment.