Playing Politics

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The three hardest genres to cover at E3 are RPGs, MMOs and Strategy Games. It is possible to get a vague idea of what is going on in each, but even then you only get to see a few minutes of possibly hundreds of hours of gameplay. Wakfu is all three.

Currently in closed beta, Wakfu is an MMORPG from French developer Ankama, the same group behind the DOFUS games. Although the game features incredibly deep dungeon crawling and a strategy-based combat system with 14 player classes and hundreds of unique skills, the most interesting part is what happens outside of dungeons.

Wakfuís world is split into regions run by player-voted governors. As players participate in furthering their home nationís goals, such as making sure your nation holds top spot in dungeons, they earn citizen points. Once a player has enough citizen points, they are eligible to vote and can eventually run for governor. Thereís no set system for earning votes. Instead, players need to hit the campaign trail and sway voters.

Players who make it to the top spot can then appoint eight other players as cabinet members, who are in charge of different parts of the government. The positions are more than just ceremonial perks for your friends. Wakfuís other major feature is a living ecosystem. Resources, like plants and animals, are in limited supply. Youíll need to harvest natural resources to create in-game objects, but will also need to conserve your resources and replace them. The same goes for animals. It is very unlikely, but possible, to hunt species into extinction (or, at least, into rarity). As governor, youíll need to make sure the gameís ecosystem is thriving and help coordinate community efforts.

However, the position isnít for life. In addition to regular elections every few weeks, voters can rate their satisfaction in the current government. If a governorís rating gets too low, other players can band together and stage a coup, forcing a re-election.

Iím a massive fan of Strategy RPGs and was interested in Wakfuís combat system almost immediately. However, the political and ecosystem mechanics are even more fascinating. As far as I can tell, Wakfu doesnít have an exceptionally deep narrative thread, so the communityís reactions to keeping the world going and their satisfaction with the current government should provide for some great player-driven story moments. Thereís nothing like server/ guild drama to spice up an MMO.

Given the emphasis on player and group choices interaction, Wafkuís success will depend greatly on its community. So far, the mechanics are there, it just needs a group of people.

Wakfu is currently in closed beta, with an open beta coming sometime this summer.