Everyone has their ideas of what the next big MMOG needs to include in
order to be a truly great game. In the last couple of years, many
companies have tried to create the new standard, but almost all have
failed. What must game developers do to lift their games out of the
cesspool of mediocrity and into the spa of greatness?
I have put together a list of the top 10 improvements and changes I
feel have to be addressed in order for an MMOG to become the gold
standard in online games.
Coming in at number 10 on the list is guild tools. Every MMOG has them
to some extent, so you would think that after all this time developers
would finally get this right. Guilds are the lifeblood of MMOGs, so
creating tools to keep guilds happy should be a high priority for any
development team. However, in most MMOGs, the guild tools are woefully
inadequate. If a new game wants to draw a guild away from their current
MMOG, they need to entice them with all the tools they need to run
their guild effectively.
style="font-style: italic;">DDO Randomize Traps Please
To start with, the idea that you should have to wait until a certain
level to form a guild, or forcing guilds to slowly unlock their guild
options, is archaic and has to go. You want me to take my uber guild
that has played together for years and wipe everything we use away just
so we can start over? How does this make sense? If you want me to
convince everyone to switch to your game, you have to provide more
tools, not less, than the ones I have now. Tools like calendars,
vaults, guild auctions, wearable guild cloaks, and guild halls to
display the many great deeds of the guild should be available at level
1 and for free. Don't give me new problems for my guild; we have enough
of those as it is. Instead, provide solutions that will give me a
reason to switch to your game.
Random Traps & Ambushes
One of the coolest moments I have ever experienced in an MMOG was while
playing Dungeons & Dragons Online. I was in the beta and the
group I was with was completing a new dungeon for the first time. We
entered a room and had to pick up a vase that was on the far wall. When
we picked it up the floor then fell out from under our feet! We dropped
to the lower level where 10 Hell Hounds were waiting to ambush us. We
panicked and starting screaming, trying to get some order back to the
group. It was great! After the fight, every one of us said that this
was the coolest thing we had ever seen in an MMOG.
Fast-forward 2 months, and I was with another group doing the same
quest. I couldn't wait to see how everyone would react to the trap. We
entered the room, and 3 different players told everyone about the
trap’s location and where to stand to avoid it. When the trap
went off, no one fell into the pit, and we sat up high and killed the
Hell Hounds from a distance. While this was much more effective, it
wasn't fun. This could be easily avoided if traps and ambushes were
New Mission Types
Missions should be about strategically matching the right player to the
right task, letting everyone get to be a hero by allowing them to play
to their strengths and weaknesses, and then inviting them to join back
up for the big battle royal at the end. In movies, books, and comics,
heroes split up, take out different objectives that they are suited to,
all while still working as part of a team. Is it too much to ask for
missions that don't involve moving as a big huddled ball of players,
slowly sweeping a map? I mean, it's an MMOG... why do we always have to
be within 5 feet of each other? Why can't we put that "Massive" part to
use? Lets see some missions where players have to split up, moving to
different places while taking care of different goals in the same zone.
I remember when Dark Age of Camelot came out in 2001 and introduced the
world to a new way to PvP. It was innovative, meaningful, rewarding,
and, at the time, I remember thinking, "Wow, if it’s this
good now, imagine how great it will be in a few years." Well, years
have come and gone (eight in fact), and DAOC is arguably still the best
PvP MMOG on the market. In 8 years, we can’t do better than
this? That is just plain sad. Give us rewards and reasons to fight.
Give us siege weapons that aren’t limited to certain areas,
but anywhere and everywhere we want them. We want choke points and
useful terrain, which will allow us to use some form of strategy
besides the zerg.
style="font-style: italic;">DAOC Still the Best PvP?
Put the RPG back in MMORPG
Once upon a time, there was a brand new genre introduced to computer
gamers. This genre excited gamers because it promised to take Role
Playing Games (RPGs as they were called at the time) and allowed them
to be played with many friends at the same time across the entire
world. The gamers rejoiced, and there was much celebrating to be had by
all. However, all did not end well for the gamers and their beloved
MMORPGs. Slowly over time, MMORPGs became lazy. They told gamers to
start calling them MMOs, and over time the gamers forgot what MMOs were
suppose to be.
Can we please put the RPG part back in MMORPG? I'm not saying we should
sit around in voice chat talking in character like lofty elves, but can
we get just a little bit of that single-player RPG experience in the
game? Can I take missions or say things that might actually have some
repercussions later in the game? Maybe lie about a mission? Tell the
quest giver I did something that I didn't do? I understand
it’s a large persistent world, but can't we have some input
into our storyline?
Web Based Auction House
Auction houses are great, there is no denying that. I can sit at an
auction house for hours looking for that epic weapon or the last
ingredient necessary to create that suit of armor I'm wanting. The
problem is that when I log into the game I have friends pestering me
about, you know, actually playing the game. They want me to go out and
raid or get some PvP action in. They just don't understand that I only
have so many hours in the day to log in.
So I have to ask myself, when else can I sit in front of the computer
for hours and shop the auction houses? The answer is, at work! That's
right, I already sit there for hours pretending to work while shopping
at Amazon, so why not let me shop the auction houses through my web
browser without logging into the game? Just let me log into the site
and see the auction house, allowing me to either make purchases or list
items for sale. That way I can spend my time in game actually playing
Mobs Active & Alive
Don't you hate it when you head out into the woods to kill the bandits
that have been giving the tavern keeper all that trouble, and when you
find them, they are just standing around staring blankly ahead? Oh,
occasionally, 1 or 2 will walk a few feet before returning back to
their starting point, but for the most part, they just stand there and
wait for the pull.... err, I mean to die.
Give the mobs life. If they are suppose to be harassing a town, then
damn it, have them attack the town from time to time. Have them beating
a prisoner or chopping down trees. Anything other than simply standing
there waiting to die. They’re supposed to be dangerous foes,
Let Me Keep My Character & Change My Skills
When Ultima Online first came out, I made one character named GodsWrath
(yes, I know that's a cheesy name, but it was the 90s, and everyone had
cheesy names back then). All of my friends knew that was me, and no one
ever had to try and remember names of Alts. That was who I was in-game.
If I wanted to play a different style, such as using magic or swinging
a sword, I simply started doing what I wanted and over time I got
better and better at it. I never had to make a new character; I simply
became what I wanted to play.
style="font-style: italic;">UO Lets Us Do It
Now fast forward over a decade, and this is all but impossible to do.
You would think, with hard core gamers going so far as to preorder the
game for the 3-day head start just so they can reserve their name, that
companies would make it easier for them to play their beloved
characters. I'm not talking about a simple respec option, I'm talking
about letting me rework my entire character. If I am playing a healer,
and after 40 levels I discover healers are not really for me, there
should be a way for me to switch things around without having to replay
the entire game from scratch.
No More Collect Toe Nail Quests
How many times have you been told to go out and collect 10 bandit toe
nails, wolf pelts,
or any of the hundreds of collection quests that plague MMOGs today? So
you run out and find the elusive bandit camp. You think "Oh joy, this
won't take long. I only need 10 toe nails and there are tons of bandits
here." You kill the first bandit... and get nothing. How can that be?
Shouldn't every bandit have 10 toes? My quest should be over pretty
quickly, right? Well, maybe the bandit is missing a toe here or there,
but he was walking around pretty good without a limp, right? That means
he should have at least a couple. But no, you have to kill 5 bandits to
get 1 toenail. How the hell is that possible? And doesn't every single
wolf have a pelt? I'm told to collect 10 pelts, yet somehow I have to
kill 50 wolves to get them.
This is just piss poor design on the part of the developers. Either man
up and tell me I have to kill 50 wolves or, if you want 10 pelts, let
me kill 10 wolves. Developers only seem to do this because they know
gamers will get upset at having to do such a repetitive mundane task if
they know how long it will take from the offset. Stop taking the easy
way out, developers! No one finds this type of quest fun, and if it's
not fun, you shouldn't put it in the game.
Have you ever been in an instance for the first time with a group that
has been there before? It's all shiny and new, and you can't wait to
explore the mysteries that are waiting within. Then some ass hat that
has finished the quest 80 times before begins dictating where to go and
what to do. He ruins any ambushes or surprises that the instance might
have in store for you, and gives away every strategy that should be
used to finish the instance as quickly as possible. Is there anything
worse than this? Why am I even playing?
This isn't all Mr. Ass Hat’s fault though, there is only so
much content in these games, and eventually players will have played
through most of it several times. It’s only natural to want
to move through the same old content as quickly as possible. The
solution? Dynamic instancing! Wouldn't it be great if every time you
entered a dungeon the layout was different? Perhaps this time you have
to go left, not right, or there is suddenly a secret corridor that
wasn’t there last go ‘round. Maybe this time the
entrance to the boss room is down the third corridor on the left, not
the 5th. Use this with the random traps and ambushes mentioned above
and you have a new and exciting experience every time you enter an
Games like Diablo have been doing this for years. Isn't it time for
MMOGs to be able to compete with games that came out in 1996?
The key word here is "innovation." When MMOGs started almost 14 years
ago, developers asked, "How can we do things differently?" They pushed
the envelope, constantly giving gamers new options and dramatic changes
from previous games. It seems they have now fallen into a rut of N+1,
where they simply take the same old tried and true formula and make one
small mediocre change. They then put it in a shiny new box, and try to
tell you this is new and different. Gamers are optimistic, not stupid.
We might flock to the new game to give it a go, but when we see it's
the same old game we have been playing, we quickly move on. It's risk
vs. reward at its best, and game companies need to be encouraged to
take risks. Play it safe, and watch as your servers empty and your
precious subscriber base moves on. But take a risk, give us something
that no one else does, and reap the benefits.