Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Perfect MMO

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Lots of really good blogs out there with some great insights on the current trends and opinions of MMOs. We're all players in the virtual world, and armchair developers in this blog space that we've created. I think that this type of discourse can have nothing but a positive outcome for the gaming we all have come to love. But, will there ever come a time when we'll feel the need to stop writing about the games simply because we're having too much fun playing? What kind of game would it take to make that happen? Now, don't get me wrong, I hope it never happens because I think we have a great blogging community. But lets just suspend disbelief for a second and think...what would be the perfect MMO?

Basic Features:

There are some basic features that should come with every MMO. No matter if its using elves or spacships, every MMO must adhere to certain unwritten standards or it just won't fly.
  • Intuitive UI.
  • Progressive quest system.
  • Intuitive crafting system.
  • Character Creation system (with more than two options for hair type).
  • Travel system.
  • Guild system.
  • Current Graphics engine.
There maybe some missing for the list...but you get the idea. An MMO should have at least those very basic features. Now, lets go into some detail of what would make the perfect MMO.


Whenever an MMO comes out, some of them choose to leave PvP out. I didn't put this as a basic feature because its still not a standard with most MMOs just yet. It should be, but its not. Most of the MMOs that shipped without a PvP system put it in at a later date as a content expansion...and in there lies a big problem. The perfect MMO would have a PvP system that is implemented right out of the box. If a game does not have PvP designed into the system from day 1, then I would argue that any system designed afterward would be incomplete and far from seamless.

Another issue with current PvP implementations is instancing. Some MMO designers choose to either create PvP systems that are separate from the PvE world or they create 1 or 2 servers for the PvP crowd. PvP should be implemented on each server, with some protections for those who don't want to participate (consent etc). PvP should impact the world as a whole. A noticeable mark should be left on a city that has been attacked, for example. The players should be able to build and destroy any structure within the game. PvP should not be something that is turned off or on in the world...it should always be there, always be persistent and impact the world in noticeable ways.

Player Appearance

CoH did this perfectly. No character should look the same...ever. Not much more to say about this. I don't see that in the real world that look exactly like me, I shouldn't see it in the virtual one either.

Customizable UI

Given the creativeness of the mod community, the players should be able to customize their UIs. I see no excuse for MMOs of today to have a fixed UI these days. WoW is a great example of this implementation. There are literally hundreds of mods out there that players can use and tweak. This not only changes the look of the game for players, but enhances the accessibility of the game.

Non-grinding End Game

Somehow, and I don't know how or why, the end game in MMOs have just become a grind. A second day job for most of us. We all seem to have lots of fun leveling up to the cap, but once we get there its all about grinding for equipment, grinding for reputation, grinding for materials... grind, grind, grind. I'm sure an employee a Starbucks does less grinding than the average MMO player. We have to change that. The game past the level cap should be just as fun and engaging as the post level cap game. How do we do that? I really don't know. What I do know is that the current time to reward ratio is way off the mark. Lets get it to a more reasonable and accessible range.

Maybe the solution is multiple leveling systems. Once a character reaches a cap, they become a demi-god like figure and start leveling in a different realm of existence. They can interact and influence the lower plane player characters as they level up to a more god-like state.

Power and looks

Lauren over at Mystic World wrote in her recent article that EQ2 is missing a certain "god" factor. She's right of course. Take a look at a level 70 character in EQ2 and they don't look powerful. They look kinda, well, meh. Now contrast that to a level 60 character in WoW....big difference. Those characters look like they'll eat you up and spit you out for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In the perfect MMO, you should look good throughout your character's life in that MMO. At the level cap, everything should glow, twinkle and oscillate to show off the fact that you've kicked a lot of ass. Now this goes back to the grinding point....every character should feel this way, not just those who have 8 hours each day to spend sitting in front of a screen. Player contribution when it comes to evaluating equipment rewards should not be dependent on large values of time.

Meaningful Crafting and Quests

Everything that I do in the MMO world should have some sort of meaning. I shouldn't be doing "Kill 10 rat" filler quest...unless those rats are 10 feet tall and shoot lasers out of their eyes (now, thats a threat that needs to be taken care of). I should feel like I'm changing the world somehow. I'm a hero damnit! When I was a kid we had a kid next door named Jimmy. Jimmy was one of those kids who liked to burn up bugs with a magnifying glass. OK..we all did that at one point, but he did it in that creepy "next is a cat" kind of way. That's how MMO quests are right now...we always start as that kid with the magnifying glass, and its creeping me out.

Now, next thing I say is purely a personal opinion, because I usually don't craft in MMOs..well, I do, but I usually get bored of it very quickly. I don't find crafting very useful in most of the MMO that I have played. They really haven't enhanced my game play by that much, and they certainly don't really provide anything of any real use or staying power. I would like to see crafting become a bit more engaging to the player. How? I have no idea. I would love to hear from real crafters on this one. How do you guys feel about crafting in MMOs right now? Do you feel as I do, thats its really not that useful? Any comments I get I'll be sure to post in a follow up.

Well...thats all that I've worked out so far. More thoughts are baking in my head but aren't quite ready.

I would love some comments on this one. What features do you guys think would make the perfect MMO?

D out.


Craig said...

I agree with almost everything you said, but I must say that I think the high level characters in WoW look stupid. The armor sets go too far as far as I am concerned. I already have a problem with the cartoony nature and I think those armor sets take it too far. WoW was one of the most fun MMOs I have played until I hit 60. I am now playing EQ2 and having a blast. A lot of this stuff is up to personal taste.

Saylah said...

Hi Craig,

The WOW end-game can become a complete and utter grind for many players. I think it's one of the reasons that you see so many alts. I've never played a game where the average player has so many alts - multiple ones at 60. To me that says, people get to see and decide they'd rather start all over again then do what there is at the end-game.

I've become accustomed to the WOW graphics. I hated them at first but over time they grew on me and I like them now as much as the more realistic ones. Can't agree with you on the armor sets. Most people drool over them, myself included. They look hawt and badazz. People are so hooked on them that they added that dressing mod so you can see what stuff will look like on you. It's a huge part of the draw - the look, the stats, IMO is what turned the loot into crack.

I'm sure there's a happy medium but it's got to be something more than what EQ2 armor looks like, which is very mundane.

As for the perfect MMO for me...take the leveling game in WOW, EQ2 crafting/housing/zones, add a little Harvest Moon (I want to farm for real) and the socialization and character dev from The Sims, and I'd been in heaven. Don't know what kind of game that would make but I'd certainly give it a try!

darrenl said...

I would love to incorporate some of Eve's leveling features and player freedom as well.

The perfect MMO, and I've daid this before, would be if WoW, EQ2 and Eve had a baby in some sort of twisted love triangle.

Craig said...

Yes, like I said, I think that kind of stuff is down to personal taste. I got to 60 with my Rogue and didn't even get to see much of the end game content because I would literally sit in IF and try and get a group for a few hours at a time with no luck. I started some alts, but didn't get past 35 on any of them.

That would be awesome! They could film it and put it on Youtube!

Anonymous said...

I'm working on a space MMOG, taking your comments into account. It's seamless and non-linear... so non-linear it doesn't have what one would consider a quest system. Players and AI post contracts and other players/AI can accept them, such as "escourt me to and from the astroid belt, max. 15min, I must take no more than 100dmg, you will gain reputation and 10% of the profit." The contracts are customizable, but based on a limited number of conditions and effects. Once the a contract is accepted the game monitors it, so there is no subjectivity to it. Legitimizes a level of player/player/AI interaction that is lacking in most games.

As for levels, it's not the traditional scheme. There are a couple of alternatives on the drawing board, but it'll be much more complex and lifelike - no single number identifies you - it's a combination of your deeds and will give someone an idea of what you're like. There will be experience that affects what components you can equip to your ship, but it won't be like current systems.

Ships(ur primary avatar) are totally customizable, combining a hull, engines, weapons, and other devices to create a truelly individual look + functionality. Some exciting things that I desire personally - so if you're anything like me and you're into astromony/space exploration then you'll enjoy it. One could learn a lot about actual space exploration and theorized technologies by reading the optional description text.

As for affecting the game world and end-game grind and guilds: there are many competing factions within the universe, and as within an RTS their territories shift and expand, potentially some being destroyed. Most factions are AI controlled with players only participating, but also player controlled and owned - the closest thing to a guild. In effect it will be far more legitimate/powerful/consistant than traditional guilds and will leave a real presence in the game world. End-game players can switch into more of an RTS - controlling many ships, miners, fighters, even stations.

Players can do anything they like - there are no limitations such as classes or skills - only your deeds affect what you can do. If you destroy friendly ships you will be labeled a rebel and treated accordingly, but the enemies of ur faction may now welcome you, etc. Players can gain money in many ways - mining, contracts, looting ships, harvesting gas, producing goods, generating resources, exploring and selling information, bounty hunting, etc etc.

Much more, but that's a lot more than I planned to post. Let me know what you think or any things you'd like to see implemented.

-Andrew Lundgren
Project Lead - Cosmic Dawn :)