Posted Mon, Feb 24, 2014 by Lewis B
Something I've been thinking about since my colleagues and I chatted about the failures of Pantheon and how it didn't quite resonate with the paying public, is what is my idea of the perfect MMOG?
It might sound an obvious question, but pinning down what it is that really makes an MMOG special is surprisingly difficult. Even games that have held my interest for thousands of hours, such as Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft, are not mine. Without question they have some great ideas and offer a fun romp through a luxurious theme park. What's missing for me in all of these modern MMOGs is the feeling of confinement: an ability to step off rails and pursue ones own endeavors, without further rails.
The two massively multiplayer games that have struck a chord with me are Neocron and Eve Online. To discuss the latter first and I should clarify, Eve Online is a game I adore but one I choose not to play. I adore it not only because of its SciFi setting but because its rules are few and human behavior is encouraged rather than squashed: treachery, deceit, trade, player versus player, looting and democracy.
These might sound possible within most of the MMOGs we all play and they absolutely are, but it is the depth to which they can be undertaken that is the key difference. Eves economy is without rival, its PvP almost old school in your ability to kill and grieve others and the emphasis on trade and democracy a cornerstone of what makes it great. Why I don’t play Eve is another, lengthier matter (primarily due to its mouse click movement and stilted combat) but I support everything it stands for.
When it comes to Neocron and as a game I discuss fondly and regularly, there was something about its lawlessness and small player base that made it an intimate and competitive game. Many of its principals were the same as Eve Onlines, by giving players freedom to do as they wished. While its economy was no match for Eves, it was however player lead and with no auction house or trading post, trading became one of real life bartering and back-street dealings.
For the most part, Neocron lacked any kind of infrastructure to support anything other than Player versus Player. It’s content wasn’t instanced and AI controlled enemies out in the game world were very sparse. It left you with limited locations to level that were often hot spots for combat against other clans. Considering you and your clan could also control the entire world map and earn considerable money from doing so, it was the greatest endgame incentive for anyone: level up, join a clan and take part in clan wars to earn territory.
It didn’t need gimmicks or content updates because what was already in existence provided more entertainment than anything else. The player driven rivalry and grasps for power were daily occurrences and never petered out as long as I played the game. Neocron always gave me the impression that its developers worked backwards, by designing the endgame first (Outpost Wars) and simply filled in the gaps to allow players to quickly level up. Unfortunately I all too often think the reverse in the modern MMOG’s I play.
Back onto the subject of “What is my idea of a perfect MMOG?” it would honestly have to be a remastered Neocron. The key differences however would be scale and polish. Outpost Wars still to this day remain one of the most comprehensive end game creations I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. What often let them down was the fact the game was buggy at times and lacked weight. That wasn’t to say combat wasn’t punchy (it absolutely was) but it was much lighter than modern variants. Further to this, rather than the world broken down into square zones you loaded through it should be seamless similarly to World of Warcraft or WildStar to prevent players jumping over borders to avoid being killed or chased.
If I was to pinch anything from other MMOG’s to bolster any form of sequel, it would undoubtedly be Eve’s guild, trade and craft systems. Alongside this I’d like to expand on the limited action sets of WildStar and in Neocron where you only really had a couple of skills (shoot, a shield and a heal) there’s potential to expand this quite significantly. Lastly and from a PvE and leveling perspective I’d probably drop it all together and simply have a few NPC’s dotted around the map that can be looted for rare objects. Seldom seeing enemies makes them a much more rewarding experience, as opposed to the typical cannon fodder. Leveling up could simply be achieved by participating in crafting, PvP or trade.
Would that be enough to warrant a significant player base? I think so. Considering the demand for highly skilled, competitive PvP this would fill the niche perfectly. Playable in 1st or 3rd person and with aiming reliant on both your own aim and the items you wear, it’s a perfect blend of skill and itemisation. Considering the fact the original Neocron was almost made on a shoestring budget, I’m sure this could all be achieved with a small development team and small (by modern standards) amount of money.
Most importantly of all, what would be your idea of the perfect MMOG?