Hi! I've recently registered but have browsing this forum for about a year.
My game idea is more specific than what I present here, because the technical implementation and the mechanics go hand in hand, and I'm not ready to share that yet. Keep this in mind.
I'll start with some haphazard background to my idea, picking some of many key experience parts just to give context. It can be useful later when big broad words starts to get flinged around to have something to relate to and compare to.
I've played many games and like many genres, but I think the rpg segment has been missing out on opportunities I think many of us have dreamed of since the ultima series started making the game feel more alive with ultima 6 for example. There are probably more examples of this, and more knowledgeable people on the series, but I digress. Ultima 8 was the first ultima I played and even though it wasn't the best ultima in many regards, a first is always special. I loved that the world had a history, and a political/economic context, that even if it was simple in some ways in the more mundane aspects it made me dream. I dreamt of building my own house, even if just with free logs. I tried it since objects could be piled upon each other. From this dream I realised in a concrete manner much later that this was in fact a need that wasn't satisfied in this game, I was just thinking outside the box, as kids usually do.
I also missed being able to write books myself, and making a living in this world. Lets fast forward in time. I'm playing TES Morrowind and I am fiddling with the farmer mod. I pile my money and items as the experienced game hoarder I've become. I have no interest in real showcasing as some, just organizing so that objects are no longer a object in an inventory but real objects outside my character. Persistent. The ability to drop stuff on the ground or in containers to hoard. Also installed some craft mod but was quite let down. Lets go back in time a bit: I've fired up the sims 1. I'm amazed, it reminded me of little computer people, advanced tamagotchis that can kiss, go to work and visit the bathroom for hours! I like being able to build my own house, with my own money that I earn in an abstract way, but nonetheless it was fun. The issue I had was that this doll house was empty of objects, the food just magically appeared when I opened the refrigerator, the house was built not by my sweat by numbers. Money was as abstract as the work was, and everything was this money. Having studied social science I must mumble herp derp, alienation, derp herp.
Now, I've stepped upon dwarf fortress and Minecraft in more recent times. Dwarf fortress astounds me in its ambition. I've always wondered what would happen if you took the dynamics of civilisation and but the game context on a smaller scale, like an adventurer, or city builder. The world is generated and simulated, giving the world a real context. Minecraft is a kind of basic lego, but is still fulfilling to build with blocks in a pretty world. The adventure part or the representation of the characters or mobs are limited, which doesn't surprise me considering how the engine works. So the world is pretty and I can build a wooden cabin (and I still love it so much after tens of iterations), but I seriously miss a proper context outside the lonely but exciting playground.
Although these games are good and it's very reasonable that they have chosen their scope the way they have for accessibility, fun or technical issues, I find that they all marginally feed some need I have.
Now in recent years I've tried to brainstorm and analyse different mechanics that I've seen, trying to understand what is missing and what really could be done.
The gist of this is that I have dreamt in several direction, it could be the size of the world, the freeform travel (ultima series), or it could be the interesting and big context(morrowind/ultima/dwarf fortress). But most of all I have dreamt of a good abstraction of crafting. Crafting as a recipe, is in itself boring. It's not the ability to combine that I think is interesting, its the context I am crafting in. Going to work in the sims represents economic behaviour. As abstract as it is, it's more interesting for me than combining three gems or monster drops to make a health potion. This is really each to his own really, but it's not the fantastic properties I dislike, but the economic absurdity, lack of context. In Ultima 7 I could bake bread in a very simple manner but amazingly more complex than the sims implementation of work. I would organize the dough and bake in as efficient manner I could and at the end of the day get a salary depending on my efficiency. This minigame is fun for me since I can relate to the context, I can almost see my character dusting of all the flour of the clothing as I exit the bakery in the evening. There exist a power in using context we can relate to in our real life, work is not fun per se, but the ability to see between the pixels and sense the world gets better with a proper context. Even a simple game can elicit feelings of pride, dignity or accomplishment.
There are loads of possible references that would be interesting to add, and experiences that would nuance the aspects I'm referring to but I'm already making this post to big so I have to continue with the idea itself.
It's not an idea more than it's a proposition. What if the world could be generated and simulated like dwarf fortress and that the world would be persistent and continuously simulated regardless of what you player character is doing, and also if what you do really have a dynamic effect on the world? Big and abstract words indeed. As stated previously I don't want to go into technical details but consider the world of your player character. In my proposition there would exist a market that you could have access to. A market of both labor and goods. There would be ways of communicating with the market beyond simple buy and sell, and you could also make, control and participate in organisations in whatever hierarchy model you want. These organisation would be able to interact with each others too. The disposition of the individuals you meet will also affect the end result, so there is not just economic numbers. This disposition is based on many complex factors, but just think that as in real life, trust and social standing is important. Everything in this simulation is built and created, and every activity possible for the npc's are possible for the pc, and vice versa. Items, livestock, freeform building of houses, farming, metalworking, textiles, woodindustry, many more resources. Needs would be simulated somewhat similar to the sims but with focus on survival. Different modes of cooperation would evolve depending on the economic context. You can partake or live by yourself. Disregard the technicalities and please tell me what aspects you like/ dislike about this proposal? This is the general outline but many functionalities have not been mentioned.
The proposal is explicitly single player as of now, as my experience with online games are that people tend to break character and grief. Which is natural. Therefore npc's have a better chance of creating immersion, even if they are alot simpler. An example reference for an online setting is the indie mmorpg haven and hearth. I'm out of time and got to post this now.