mmorpg as a whole seems jaded, bored, and downright disappointed in the direction the MMORPG genre is going. Everyone seems to think this is a microcosm happening only here, but as someone who has been lurking and posting on MMORPG communities around the internet since Ultima Online was the big thing, the sentiment is pretty much everywhere. The genre has become so paint-by-numbers and predictable that the concept of an "open fantasy world" just doesn't really work anymore.
Personally, I think the biggest issue is balance. Every studio is obsessed with it, and because of this the playerbase has become obsessed with it. It's an endless loop that has essentially polished away all of the interesting features games used to have and left us with a boring, albeit shiny pebble.
It's by far the most important thing for most people. They want to pick up a new sword and feel like a fantasy badass. That doesn't exist anymore though. You pick up a new weapon and feel nothing. You get a new chestpiece and feel nothing. It's boring. How do we fix loot?
Make it interesting again!
Drop this idea that every item just needs to be a stat upgrade. Get rid of the "tiers". Have some base armor and weapons to work toward, but add some crazy stuff for some variety in there. Make these rare but plentiful enough that everyone can feel like a badass a few times in their journey. What I mean by that is, consider a camp filled with rat men and the shaman got himself a staff that summons an army of imps. This is a rare occurrence, one of many that happen in said rat camp. Sometimes this camp might have a rat that got lucky and found a sword that has some ridiculous bane effect against ogres. Or a bow that fires exploding magical arrows. Anyway, you kill the shaman, and now you have this badass imp army summoning staff that your friends are envious of. It can't be "Farmed". In fact it might only drop a few times over the next year across the server. But there are hundreds of crazy artifacts like this that people can get lucky and find, some weapons, some spellbooks that teach you a bunch of unique rat magic spells, some armor pieces, hell even house plans for a neat one-of-a-kind rat house.
Acquire it in weird ways!
No Wowhead telling you where to get any of this, in fact these items might not even always be drops. Sometimes a smith is crafting a bunch of shitty weapons for practice and accidentally rolls a 20 while a god was walking by and crafts some badass longsword of explosions. Or a thief opens a treasure chest in some lords manor and discovers a necklace that turns him into a cheetah with crazy run speed. Maybe that rat magic spellbook you looted has a spell that lets you "scavenge" from nearby, randomly picking up items, but one time you get a quest item that leads to all sorts of other rat shenanigans. Make it crazy again!
Make it temporary!
You got your magical boots of eagles with giant wings on them that let you double jump, but the magic wears off over time. 1,000 jumps and you need to bug an enchanter to recharge it. 10 recharges and it only has 50 jumps a charge now and costs a fortune in materials. At this point these things are on their last magical legs and one more re-enchant might break them. You pop em in your house (hopefully non-instanced UO style so you can show off your shit) as decoration/memorabilia of something awesome that happened to you in this game and head out to hopefully get something equally as cool in the future.
Let people taste the power, have some control over extending it via other players, but don't make it permanent. Your sword of ogre destruction let you dominate the ogre dungeon and become server renowned for having insane damage there, but now your sword has holes in it after tons of use and repairs. At least it felt good for a while. Now it's just neat house decoration. A relic to look back on. The best week of ogre slaying ever.
Classes and Builds:
Why does everyone in modern mmorpgs have to be good at everything? Let some builds and classes excel at different things. A rogue with daggers might be a beast at taking on humanoids, but he sucks at killing skeletons without anything to pierce and stab. A wizard lays waste to camps full fire creatures with ice magic, but the dungeon nearby has a bunch of golems that laugh at magic in general. A tank might be required for one boss, but a team of summoners spamming pets into another might be the only option due to some crazy point blank AOE. If your summoners didn't show up that night, go kill the boss that is easier with your ranger heavy raid force instead.
How about merging some of the traditionally side stuff into better ways to kill? Combat will always be the focus of MMORPGS. Imagine someone primarily focusing on blacksmithing and mining being a beast when it comes to killing earth elementals and golems due to a bunch of bonuses blacksmithing gives toward killing that stuff. Or having a life-long quest that forges more and more powerful hammers for smithing that also do a huge bonus amount of damage to said golems and also shaves off ore with every hit giving them a reason to go out and do a bit of gold farming with their mining. It might be better to straight up mine, but it's more fun and generates currency to kill. Choice is important.
Super specialized builds are something that rarely pop up in current mmorpgs and are swiftly nerfed when they do, but why not just embrace the concept? You love farming a specific poison oriented dungeon and might build a character entirely around killing poison stuff. Sacrificing other stats to buff out his resistances and building toward maybe even seeing some kind of bonus for being poisoned. You wouldn't want that character on your demon temple group, but you might swap to him for a boss that does a shitload of poison damage. Alts are fun. Embrace them. In the ultima days you had alts for everything.
I really do think balance has "ruined the magic" that early MMORPGS had. It wasn't all nostalgia. If you remove people's ability to perfectly min-max, they will adapt. You might lose the hardcore tip-top raiders who want everyone to be the exact same on DPS and want BIS gear on week 2 of an expansion, but they are such a tiny fraction of the overall playerbase. It used to be a special thing to see someone rockin that dream sword you want as a newb, or someone showing off a chest piece he got in some dungeon no one expected an item like that to drop from. I think we'd do well as a whole to step away, or at least give an alternative for people that don't want to play a spreadsheet anymore. There are plenty of those out there these days.
Thanks for reading if you stuck it out.
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