So what is it that you really want in an MMOG? Sounds like a
simple question doesn't it? I'd agree with that assessment, but as
we've all seen, this simple question has spawned more arguments, hurt
more feelings, and caused more corpse runs than any non-gamer would
believe. Since there are so many possible
meanings to the question at hand (and since you don't want to
read a thesis), I'll narrow the topic down to several areas I think
need improving from the majority of development teams out there. Some
developers have done a better job than others in meeting player needs
and wants in some categories, while other areas have been largely
ignored by everyone. No two players will ever be able to agree on a
list of issues that need to be addressed in any game, but for this
week, I'm talking about character customization, player housing,
mounted combat, ship to ship battles, and underwater
Customization goodness. Yeah, CoX is awesome like that.
Up until that point, no game had given players so much intricate control to make their chosen character exactly as they wanted. They may not hold the title anymore, but they were the first to step up and prove not only what could be done, but that there was a desperate need for players around the world to create unique characters. To any developer that may be reading this, please listen carefully: You can no longer get away with giving us four hair styles, five set faces, and the ability to change eye color. That's not going to cut it any more. If you do choose to go the easy route, have no doubt that I'll call you out on it every time. For those that do get it right, keep it up because we love you for it!
When it comes to player housing, there seems to be two distinct camps of thought. On one side of the coin, you have the individuals that feel no game is complete unless they have the ability to build the home of their dreams, with multiple options in terms of size and design. They spend more time decorating and furnishing their home than they'll spend in their local Department of Motor Vehicles in their entire life. On the other side of things, you have the players like me that couldn't care less about whether I have a home in a game or not. If a home is provided (like in EverQuest 2), I'll happily spend a disturbing amount of time and loot creating the look I want.
It's this dynamic split of a developer's targeted demographic that makes the choice of adding housing to their game a difficult one. I think most teams want to have this option added at release, but in the end, it's something that always gets pushed off to the back burner. I don't believe I've ever met a player that will refuse to play a game that doesn't have housing, but if you are one, be sure to let me know. Until then, I'll say that developers should spend their time concentrating their efforts on other facets of their chosen project.
Age of Conan actually does have color when you get out of the starter areas.
Give a player more ways to kill a mob (or opponent) than they can imagine, and you'll have a happy gamer. Why do you think geeks go crazy over the variety of moves and abilities in games like Mortal Kombat? The more variety we have in terms of death and destruction, the happier we are. As another quick note to developers in regards to my statements in this paragraph, learn it, live it, love it. Do this, and we'll be beating down your doors with subscriptions.
Ship to ship combat may seem the same as mounted combat, but there are too many variables to make this true. Controlling a ship by yourself and battling other players would be an unrivaled accomplishment at this point in time, but if you really want to get the froth flowing from the mouths of geeks, allow players to man a large ship like a galleon. Each person in the group could man a different station from lookout, to captain, to cannoneer. I'll agree that it's an ambitious idea, but the company that pulls it off (and pulls it off well) will be heralded as a revolutionary and hailed as kings among men. Some pirate MMOG's already exist - namely Pirates of the Burning Sea - but we don't hear too much about them anymore. I think this is because there are plenty of people like myself that simply couldn't care less about pirates. I can hear the boos now, but let's face facts - ninjas are, have been, and always will be cooler than pirates. So rather than focusing on a pirate game, give us ship to ship combat in large sandbox games like Vanguard. Do this, and you'll have a winner on your hands.
It’s not just the battles above the seas that we all crave though. Even early explorers knew that untold treasures could be found beneath the waves. Whether they were ancient ships full of gold or long forgotten civilizations they discoveries that excited the blood and changed the way the world was viewed forever. Ancient explorers aren’t the only ones that had a craving to uncover the secrets of Poseidon’s realm.
Nobody can blend in underwater better than a Dark Elf!
There you have it folks (and all you developers)! These are the items we, the players, want in our games. Forget the excuses, forget the lack of technology, forget the lack of time or funds. If a game ever releases with all of the above components, without leaving out all the standard fare we've come to expect, you'll virtually be guaranteed to hit a home run. If you build it, they will come!