Salem definitely looks harmless enough, but it's possible that the cute-gothic gloss is masking a gangland waiting to happen. What if Salem became an interactive version of The Wire? There are no drugs in Salem, but there's definitely an option for theft if you've learned the skills required to steal from other players.
In fact, as far as gathering wealth goes becoming a career criminal would seem to be one of the most successful occupations in Salem. The only downside is that all crimes leave clues, appearing as guides which victims can follow to find the perpetrator and enact punishment whether they are online or not. Revenge killings are themselves a crime but that's not always going to be a big enough deterrent, so professional criminals will need to rove in gangs for safety.
From there, it's only a matter of time before someone tries to find out if there really is honour among thieves, with packs of bandits descending on each other's charming colonial houses in blazes of abuse and violence until someone calls a Samurai to settle things.
What if you established a toll bridge in Salem?
What if Salem's community protested?
One of the most common reasons that people avoid playing new MMOs is that they don't feel like they'll be on a level playing field with established players. That's could be doubly true in Salem, where long-time fans will not just know all the tips and tricks but may have also taken choice slices of real-estate. It could be very unfair for a very long time.
So, what do you do when a fraction of the society control the majority of the wealth? You protest. Maybe it's a sit-in intended to fill the servers, or maybe it's a violent mass attack on the few who have power. Maybe it doesn't matter what form the protest takes as long as it brings about change. That begs the question: What if the protest was successful?
What if Salem was emptied of content?
Nevermind the sociological possibilities, what about the geographical? True, developer Seatribe holds the ability to reset the world - a power they've exercised previously on the similar Haven & Hearth - but it's something they are reluctant to do with Salem.
'We find whenever we change something, we offend someone,' Seatribe's Björn Johannessen told us. 'It's important to us that players feel the rules and world are consistent.'
Suddenly, Salem empowers every player to redesign the game on a grand scale and, while cynics would say such co-operation is unfeasible, mass Minecraft projects prove otherwise. All it requires is a charismatic leader to come forward with a single idea. Sine waves which ripple out from the cost? An endless empty plain with a central shared village? The sky is, quite literally, the limit.
What if you had to hire bodyguards to protect you?
What if Salem's Witch trials were repeated?
There are two types of Witch trials which could arise out of Salem's design, the first literally arising out of Salem's introduction of magic as a very high-level and feared skillset, the second involving any of the ideas discussed above. Because, when you think about it, the only thing that might stop any of these ideas from becoming reality is the simple fact the some people don't want them to. Salem's community likely won't ever be wholly united behind the idea of levelling the world; word might get out that an invasion is in progress, whether it is or not.
Fear encourages people to do silly things. Clanmates could be viewed with suspicion, rumours could spread like wildfire. Is your neighbour who you've assumed them to be, or are they secretly sizing you up for the slaughter? All you can do to prepare is bulk up on your combat and survival skills, just in case you need to defend yourself or make a run for the wilderness...but then others start to view your change in schedule with suspicion. Are you just being paranoid? Only time will tell.
Salem is being developed by Seatribe for PC and will be released in mid-2012 by Paradox Interactive.