One big frustration with modern video game design, is if you try to be nice to EVERYONE, then you default to nuetrality and losing, instead of getting to be a high level hero, because rewards for completing content are insufficient to aid players against endgame content without throwing all the player weight behind a narrative ally that might not exactly be compelling enough to be “cool”.
Furthermore, I haven’t had an OS add-in in over 25 years. I’ve made suggestions for updating Windows 10 taskbar and print screen/record and clipboard, al very clever hacks, even the keyboard mouse input being replaced with something better than either, but it’s very difficult to get any OS-level access to implement it. It’s mostly static. Who designs this stuff? Games for Windows is a death sentence…
One thing that *Diablo 3* does really well is vary the monster/enemy personas with modular elements that can combine in interesting ways. Character model shape, size, skills, elemental properties, all combine in interesting ways to vary the combat. This methodology could easily be used to procedurally generate points of interest (Quests, a la Star Wars Galaxies), and Allies and quest givers. It’s mostly a matter of swapping variables (Like the example with Orcs/Dwarves/Elves/Goblins, you could simply swap the nomenclature and visual/audio input that makes the player identify with the content). I suspect a lot of modern engines are Bespoke, and implement data harvesting of players’ lives, to introduce drama, stress, and unique narratives, but it can be psychically harmful if the player doesn’t get what they want and is faced with too many black and white choices, if the designer is not effectively telling their story and balancing resources with edification through artwork, and if the difficulty curves and statistics are super-competitive.
WoW Classic was supposed to offer gameplay elements like this with “Reputation” and “PvP rankings”, but it was never made available to players like me because the time investment would be “Grind kills all day every day for years on end”.
Reputation isn’t necessarily the only way to advance player activities, there can also be physical (geographic/architectural) thresholds, like nearness to a monster generator or resource mine, or co-positional item inventory thresholds, like a gun that gets a new type of ammo, or maybe a new style arrowhead for your bow, or even point and click adventure style unlocks where you can’t get to the new area until you use an inventory item with an environmental object, or solve an environmental puzzle that isn’t too cryptic.
I guess what I’m getting at is that there are lots of ways of allowing players to drive the narrative, and be driven. The last question mentioning thematic and overarching patterns and atmospheric qualities are important in making games with more than just a handful of these systems possible, and I think systems like the one I am trying to design for my wordpress page with “Posts with copresent tags” are rife for exploitation in determining who or what constitutes a theme that can be modularized and statistically mapped to generate an enjoyable experience, add-ons be damned, and add-ins be praised.