What makes a good MMORPG? The graphics design? Well, look at WoW, the most popular game in the genre never has a good graphics design. Just compare it with FFXIV, L2 or BDO. The variety of skills? There are good games without any skills, only basic combat and with hundreds of skills. The variety of classes? TW3, maybe the best RPG ever, basically has only one class. The combat style? There are good games with tab targeting and with action combat. The variety of quests? No.
Let start with the virtual world. The good MMORPG needs open persistent world. Open, so the actions of the players could change it, and persistent, so the changes to lead to consequences. Without consequences the actions will be pointless. Exactly the actions with consequences for the other players create the MMO part of the game.
Then comes the RPG part. Role playing is mostly about character creation and progression. So how your avatar walks through the game.
And the most important thing for a good MMORPG is how the MMO part, so the virtual world is connected to the RPG part, so the progression of the players.
This is a hard task because the multiplayer and singleplayer are in constant conflict. The safest way to play a game is solo. So you avoid the risks of frustration, rejection, public exposure and failure.
At the same time to connect the virtual world with the players the game needs reasons and tools for competition and cooperation. When the players compete or cooperate they fulfill the purpose of the virtual world as multiplayer space.
The problem is that for the cooperation the player has to put the interest of the team, first. And for competition the player has to be ready to lose.
Let look at several games. WoW – the game has open world, but it is not persistent. If one player fulfills a quest to save a village, the next player will do the same, so there will not be consequences from the actions of both.
In WoW the RPG part is placed in the world of the game. But the connection with the MMO is instanced. The competition is in battleground before, now in arenas, while the cooperation is in dungeons. So the MMO and the RPG de facto are not connected.
GW2 – it has open, persistent world. Still the connection between the MMO and the RPG part is instanced. There is not competition in the world of GW2, and there are not reasons for cooperation, although the game creates some illusion for such. The competition and the cooperation are placed in WvWvW, arenas, and instanced dungeons. Again the MMO and the RPG de facto are not connected.
ESO – it has open, persistent world – Cyrodiil. There are competition and cooperation. But the RPG part is placed in different instances.
Albion – it has open, persistent world. There are competition and cooperation. The RPG part is separated in the open world and instanced areas. The main problem is that the only instrument for the competition is the full loot. Also the world lacks of feeling for exploration, so the RPG part is pretty boring, as the monsters and the landscape repeat in many areas.
What all the games missed? There are instruments none of the games above utilizes well, like player to player quests – the MMO games do not need NPC quests in general. Asset management – from trade, trough houses, to land, although Albion do that better than the others, specially for the trade, as the houses are instanced, and the land basically is manageable only in the hideouts. Noncombat classes and skills – here Albion also takes the lead, but even in this game the combat classes and abilities are far superior.
So what makes a MMORPG good is the open persistent world, where the players can compete, but also need each other and the character progression is entertaining.
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