... if my current obsession with Eve was merged with my long standing Warhammer 40K obsession?
Also known as, the Warhammer 40K MMO in development somewhere in the bowels of THQ.
I've had various discussions with my buddies on Deep Space about what form this game will take. They are almost unanimously agreed that Space Marines of some sort will be playable characters but I hope beyond hope they are wrong because there are several things wrong with such a concept.
First off, how do you balance it? Basic space marines are seven to eight feet tall genetic super humans, capable of taking abuse with ease that would kill a normal human several times over. Faster, stronger, more durable, able to breath poison atmospheres, and typically equipped with the best wargear in the known universe, at level 0 they would be superior to every other human combat character class imaginable. At high levels their progression would be unmatchable. Unless you forgo the decades of background material and make space marines... well... human.
The next problem is that space marines are soldiers in an army. Outside of Tabula Rasa almost all MMOs have the characters be independent agents in the universe they inhabit, free of direct affiliations to the established military. Quite simply put, space marines do not have a choice of where to go, they are deployed as units in armies and strike forces in decisions beyond their control. Unless you expand the established decades of background material and allow for some sort of space marine agents that are outside of the normal Chapter command structure.
Lastly, how would you prevent almost every subscriber from playing a space marine character? In the table top game Space Marines (both loyalist and renegade) are the most popular army because they are cool with some of the best models and visuals. In an MMO, most new players would gravitate to the space marine because they are supposed to be the best and have the most established fan base. But in the background space marines are exceedingly rare compared to the billions upon billions of humans in the galaxy. Unless you create a setting where the large number of space marines in contrast to the small numbers of others are explained (i.e. an unrealistic situation).
So basically you would have to make space marines less formidable, more independent, and more common than what has been postulated by decades and numerous tomes of background information. In other words, why bother having space marines at all?
Caveat: there is one way I can see space marines being a playable characters and that is if space marines are the only human characters in the game (loyalist faction and chaos faction). Other player characters could be from the other Xenos races for something like: Space Marine, Chaos Marine, Eldar Aspect Warrior, Ork Nob, etc. I think it would be easier to balance a Space Marine against the elite of other races from the table top game much easier than it would be to balance again other basic humans where numbers overcomes lack of skills. Of course you still have to ignore the military aspect and relative rarity of space marines, and in order for all these races to interact, one has to have an appropriate setting which leads to coalitions of Order versus Disorder, and I think that is not as attractive as what I'm about to propose.
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My proposal? Simple. Pick a setting first.
Setting of a MMO is important. For a 40K MMO, it could make or break the game. And one of the most visually inspiring aspects of 40K is the Hive Cities and I think one of these should be the setting.
Secondly, forget about the Xenos races as playable characters for the first version. They introduce too much fantasy elements of space orcs and space elves. Concentrate on 40K's strength, a vision of a dark millennium where humanity is holding on to civilization by the skin of its teeth, constantly fighting itself to hold together or fall apart.
The factions within humanity are multitude and lend themselves to the big three factors: balance, independence of characters, and lots of diverse attractions. Some examples of factions: there are three major inquisition branches, and they usually do not work well with each other and within those main branches are further divisions; there are chaos followers of the various dark gods; hive gangs; Adeptus Arbites police (although getting into paramilitary structure there); rogue traders; hive nobility; mutants in the underhive; Xenos sympathizers; and so on.
Best part of all is that most of those factions are constantly fighting with each other so no great need for Order versus Disorder dichotomies.
Space Marines thus can remain as NPCs, perhaps giving out missions to players of allied factions, or being the big bad that have to be killed. Same with Xenos races (maybe the hive is surrounded by the remnants of a failed ork invasion in the wilds outside the hive).
Later on they can add expansions as other worlds where the various xenos (one at a time mind you) can be added as NPCs or even PCs. But I think the basis of the game should remain as the human factions.