Michael de Plater, Creative Director of Monolith Studios, took the stage today at DICE 2015 to talk about where he looked for inspiration for the Nemesis system in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Turns out, Monolith took cues from a number of things, including sports and multiplayer games.
While Shadow of Mordor is a singleplayer experience, de Plater wanted to foster an atmosphere found routinely in multiplayer games: one of competition and revenge. The Nemesis system, which generates names, traits, and ranks for orc leaders, helps provide that. If you're killed and taunted by a named NPC, chances are you'll remember him, and make it your mission to track him down for a little payback. Adding to the drama, orcs accumulate scars as you fight them repeatedly, giving you a visual history of your conflicts. This both contributes to a player's personal narrative and makes their eventual triumph even more sweet.
de Plater also mentioned that sports—not sports games, but real sports—were an inspiration, given the drama and narratives that develop naturally over the course of a season:
"Sports are designed as systems which generate stories every year. They start with the early play-offs, they're designed that if there's a failure through the mid-season you don't rewind to the last save and start playing again from that point, as much as you potentially wish you could."