(1) Are MMO's good at combat?They're not the most vivid experience, because vertical progression is a major component, skill expression tends to be undermined, which is further excuse to not design encounters that require telegraph and anticipation as it leans on the crutch of tank/healer/dps. If skill expression becomes important healing becomes redundant as the focus shifts to avoiding damage.
(2) Are MMO's good at travelling and exploration?They're passable but certainly not good, MMO's tend to have the utmost basics when it comes to platforming which means they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for exploratory level design. Worse yet is the mode of travel in MMO's, so monotonous people much prefer fast travel and skip their journey altogether undermining the very reason anyone plays a game to begin with.
(3) Are MMO's good at RPG elements?
It's ironic that MMO's evolved from things very focused on this, but MMO's tend to have the least RPG in them, something most would contend by technicality. Yet mages can't use their ice magic to freeze water to cross a lake, firearms don't use ammo, creatures don't leave tracks, fire can't be used to burn away obstacles, demons are exorcised by punching them in the face like every other problem you'll ever encounter. MMO's are by far the very least creative when it comes to problem solving in games because they all have health bars.
What if you made combat full of mastery and skill expression?
What if you made travelling engaging and exploration dynamic?
What if there were proper RPG elements that required creativity?
Would this make a good MMO?
A better MMO possibly, but a good MMO not quite. None of these things are responsible for an MMO's main attraction: community.
Without community the whole purpose of a massively multiplayer RPG becomes redundant, if you didn't want to play with other people solo RPG's do literally everything better without contest, they do those 3 questions justice that an MMO has never done and more. But a solo RPG will never have your stuff stolen by a person, vengeance exacted on a rival, compromise between conflicting interests, team work and group failure, meeting a friend or laugh at a team mate that pulls more than they can handle. MMO's can be great because they're social, you get to experience fantasy with a sprinkle of the real world when humans interact, it's a game that only works when things are done together.
So what happens when you add more content? More zones to quest in, more dungeons to trawl, more battlegrounds to wage war. People start to spread out, faces become infrequent and getting a group to do something, anything, becomes a problem. Now add an expansion and then keep adding them, there becomes so much to do there's too little people to do it with. An individuals needs on a realm becomes too idiosyncratic, too difficult to find another of similar interest, there's just so many damn things to do. So, interfaces to find like minded people are added, now you don't need to spend hours trying to find someone to do that one thing of many, but now you don't need to socialize. The very foundation of the genre becomes undermined. People are no longer the main attraction but an obstacle, an obstacle to get your carrot, the carrot that used to be an activity you did with friends or friendly strangers, now they're faceless people you've never met or quested with, strangers you'll never see again from a server you're not even on. No icebreakers necessary, the activity is done before a word is uttered. People no longer have qualities discerned from NPC's you're now playing a solo RPG where the combat isn't that engaging, the mode of travel is boring, exploration is meager and the AI is buggy if not down right rude.
All because there's too much to do and no one to do it with. Maybe less could be more?
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