The MMO Wish List - What Are the Extras Players Really Want?

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,...

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 exploration. 

Customization goodness. Yeah, CoX is awesome like that.

To anyone that's been reading my articles, it will come as no surprise that I'm a freak when it comes to my demands for character customization. I can't stand playing a game where I look like 90% of the population. In this category, there are both shiny legends and unsympathetic goats. When talking about customization done right, you'll be struck down with lightning by angry gods if you don't acknowledge the genius of the City of Heroes/Villains and Star Wars Galaxies teams. CoX may currently hold the record (and they absolutely deserve it), but before they threw their hat into the ring, Star Wars Galaxies created an unheard of masterpiece when it released.  

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.

In any game players have ever been able to ride a mount in, we've heard the constant cry for mounted combat. For every time I've heard this complaint I've heard the technical reasons on why it hasn't been possible in the past. Notice how I said the past though? This last year, Age of Conan introduced their version of mounted combat and this week sees the release of another form of mounted combat in Darkfall. In the past, I've never cared that much about it, but with these two possibilities, who among us can honestly say we haven't dreamed of charging down an opponent on the back of a horse, dragon, or (from those crazy folks at Blizzard), a motorcycle. Alright, I think the motorcycle option is completely ridiculous, but you get my point.

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!

Ten years ago, I took my Wood Elven fighter that happened to be KOS everywhere (Ralos Zek was the God of War - who else was I supposed to pick?) down into an underwater dungeon at the bottom of a lake outside of Unrest called Kedge Keep. For anyone that ever went, it was one of the most memorable areas in any game they ever played. Was it because of cool mobs, or awesome loot? That's certainly part of it, but the real draw of exploring Kedge Keep was that it resided completely underwater. To this day, I can't think of another game that had so much to do underwater. World of Warcraft and Dark Age of Camelot had their moments of underwater goodness, but it really doesn't compare to the extent that EverQuest used underwater zones. Why was I able to play in an underwater area a decade ago, but I can't now? I absolutely refuse to accept any answer based on a lack of technology. You also can't tell me that you couldn't have some unbelievably awesome adventures under the waves as well. So what gives, devs? 

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!

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