warning very long
So I've been an mmo player since I was 7, and some of the best memories I've gained have been from playing with friends over time. I've taken note of all the successful practices implemented into said mmos over the years. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of the recent mmos within the last few years have fallen far short of what mmos used to be. I've spent the last 2 years trying to find a good mmo for my husband and I to play, and it gets more disappointing each time. I'm not sure where to pitch my ideas for a new "timeless" mmo, so I was hoping to share my thoughts here and discuss with you guys!
Things that have worked well:
Challenging content- an mmo could be lacking in graphics, good ambience and sometimes even a large audience, but challenging and fun content will always keep dedicated fans staying. This can be done in a number of ways;
1) team co-OP for high value but high risk bosses/raids/pvp. This could include contesting a high value land area, a castle area, sea battles that reward high value rewards to the victors, dungeons that damage gear or vitality upon death, but award well once cleared.
This should be implemented with caution however and added with free dlcs over the games lifetime. Adding an incredibly difficult raid requiring 50 people in the baby stages of an mmo can end up being discouraging more players than anything. Release 1 or 2 difficult events at first, but overall, keep content with the flow of the population, to keep things fresh and not overwhelming.
2) Discoverable puzzles and in world treasure, like finding a cave system that branches off in several different directions and having to find a way out within a time limit, or finding treasure on the ocean floor and having to transport it back to land before being ambushed by pirates (npc or pvp).
Slice of life content- Some players aren't playing an mmo for adrenaline fueled mass raids, and prefer to unwind and do something relaxing after a long day. For this, life skills like fishing, cooking, tailoring, gardening etc are great peices of content that will keep people online for hours;
1) the most successful implementations of this are when the life skill is immersive, with plenty of steps but not entirely tedious. Short cuts awarded after certian proficiencies are a must, and bundling skills with others are also important. IE fishing > cooking or raising animals> gardening, mining> weapon smithing. The crafting system should be realistic but not super hard to understand.
2) life skills are a great way to supplement a player economy in the most equal of ways. Actually discouraging p2w, exp cultivated over time allows any player to sell their skills to their peers. The higher their skill level, the more money they can make in that profession. For example, the game could include an extensive tailoring content skill, where an experienced tailor could make a customer outfit for a player, based on pre modeled parts they put together, with their own dyes and colorschemes.
Planning- There's a third type of mmo player, and that's the planner. They enjoy spending hours, (sometimes more hours than the game itself) planning anything from raid dungeon rotations, best combo guide for the class, or best item guide. As such, content should be included in the mmo that is simple enough for a newbie to get by, but diversified enough for a planner to excel:
1) one such example is creating an interchangeable combat system, with different selection of classes and skills, to allow players to create a medley of combinations. Archeage did this fairly successfully, allowing players to combine 3 different combat skillsets and selecting their specific skills. You could be anything from a giant sword wielding bard, to a magic casting archer, to everything in between. Planners excelled here, by planning and testing the best skill combinations and their accompanying items.
2) POE has also been fairly successful in this, evident in thousands who plan their build paths months before the next league. There's a ton of flexibility in terms of pairing items to amplify their effects. IE, item A is useless by itself, but when combined with item B, it's incredibly strong
This of course leads me to combat.
This may be a bit harder to implement given the conditions of interchangeability I mentioned above, but it has been done before. Fluid combat with good animations can make the game feel more immersive, realistic, less repetitive, and give the player more sense of control.
Great examples of this are vindictus, which allowed the player to execute different attacks based on keyboard combinations. It gives a very street fighter type of feel to a genre that is usually notorious for it's static/stale combat.
Another great example of this is black desert online's combat, that had very fluid animations and combo stringing to keep the fights interesting. For a VERY grind heavy end game, the combat kept me going for months.
Lastly, warframe does well in terms of combat in it's parcore
This also brings me to my next topic:
Story is important, but what everyone really stays for is the end game. The end game is truely a games bread and butter; without an enticing endgame to keep players coming, the game is guaranteed to die off sooner rather than later.
1) there are plenty of examples of games lacking in their end game (like bdo very much lacking pve content), but a well known example of this is Wild star. A well recieved game in itself, it was a true raid or die game. There just wasn't much to do in the game other than raiding, or decorating your house (which I will get into soon.)
2) elder scrolls online does a fairly decent job of end game content, allowing players to focus on being a thief or killer, doing trials by themselves or with guilds members, or doing story based dungeons. This can be expanded on, like allowing players to become bounty hunters hunting npcs or other players, opening up a shop to sell their goods, becoming a decorator/artist for hire, or performer in the town square/ theater.
3) a good mentorship program could count as ingame content as well. One of my favorite things to do in the end game was meeting new players and helping them out. In this new system, mentees can enter an apprenticeship to learn a desired skill (life skill or combatwise). Both participants could get compensated with ingame rewards/currency, and it promotes meeting new friends in game!
Pre end game aka leveling :
I understand that new players need time to learn the game, but it shouldn't be overly easy as well. Hand holding and mind numbing repetitive quests for leveling are a fun killer. The constant pop ups, same kill 10 of x y and z quests, and massive story dump at once can be over whelming, especially to new players. There should be some sort of introduction for the first 10 levels, but after that, encourage players to explore the world freely as an alternative if they prefer.
Beginner quests should of course teach the basics of combat, but encourage players to test it on their own, not force them to do 50 kill quests before level 10.
1) one thing I enjoy that some mmos do, is neatly organize missions so that a player can easyily tab through story or suggested missions (ie getting your first pet, your first mount etc) mission UI can get incredibly cluttered, so good organization is needed. 2) other avenues of exp gain are needed than just generic story leveling. Players can gain exp for exploration, combat, leveling up life skills or even interacting with other players (like the apprenticeship program).
Housing- Now housing has always been one of my favorite aspects of an mmo. Owning a peice of land or housing in a game truely makes me feel like I own a part of it, that I'm truely immersed in the game. I'm sure lots of people can relate to the nostalgic feeling of returning to your ingame home after a long day of raiding, or having a little social party with your guild or family on base. The best example of housing I can think is RIFT, which had no decor limit and allowed free sizing and placing of furniture. Somehow it was optimized well so such crazy builds wouldnt lag even the worse machine much. Decorating definitely devoured hours of my time. Honorable mention goes to Archeage, for it's easyily craftable and freemium furniture that didnt have potato design/graphics, as well as the ability to add custom designs to blank items like portraits or rugs.
1) That being said, wouldn't it be great if you could cultivate your life skills in your own home? Like gardening or tailoring? Well, a very few mmos have implemented this, like dragon raja and archeage. Housing isn't just about coziness, but functionality as well!
2) people love showing their houses off also, so it would make sense to help them do so. While my proposed housing plan will largely be instanced in small neighborhoods, there would be allotted plots in the non instanced map that would be filled with a chosen players design. Each week, a player who has entered the contest with the best design as ( voted on by their peers) will have their home showcased.
3) another way non instances housing could be implemented, is having player owned shops or farmers markets around cities and towns. This would make it easier for players to advertise their goods, and help metropolitan areas feel more populated.
Heavy p2w- I can not stress enough how much p2w decreases the lifespan of an mmo. Whales end up discouraging most of the population from playing, as they are essentially being taught that no matter how much they work in the game, it will be fruitless compared to a whale that can swipe for better gear in a matter of seconds. As a result, the population dwindles in a downward spiral, until only the upper echelons of whales are playing. Without fortified guilds, friends or even competition at that point, even the whales grow bored. I specifically remember a guild leader in Archeage spending thousands on the game, to ultimately just grown tired of it once all of the competition had left and the server had died.
1) to prevent this, we must give the general population the hope and understanding that hardwork and time can truely pay off. Archeage unchained attempted to address it's mother title's issues this way, and somewhat succeeded (at first, gold buyers ultimately brought back p2w to a non p2w game). The games generic "Hiram" gear 'upgraded' by feeding other pieces of gear/grand gems and gold to it. In practice, this is a good system based around grinding instead of crafting or outright buying, but gamigo's piss poor management did not implement this well at all.
2) management is incredibly important, especially in a competitive or mmo game. Gold buying and selling should be monitored and taken very seriously, and also balancing and nerfing should be implemented often in patches. Players will get turned off if the same 1 class since launch is still 1 shotting everyone with crap gear on.
3) Games like warframe and POE have great non p2w player economies, but that is largely due to their non pvp nature. The true key to a long lasting game, is to figure out how to create a thriving mmo that does not support p2w. One of mmos greatest mysteries….
Monetization in games-
Speaking of anti-p2w, one of the biggest reasons developers turn a blind eye to it, is the promise that they will make money, and fast. They'll add anything from gatcha card systems, to p2w buy diamonds to sell to other players systems, etc. The perfect mmo should avoid this, and find monetization opportunities elsewhere. I get it, dev's need to make money in order to keep the servers running and content coming. So I think POE is a fantastic money model to emulate.
1) POE is PVE based, so where does it get its money for continued content? Cosmetics and merchandise! The perfect mmo could monetize cosmetics for your character, special glider/airborne designs, weapon or animation skins, mounts, even teleportation animations similar to league of legends with exclusive skins. Out of game merchandise, like 3d models of your character or npcs, tshirts, posters etc, can be sold independently or with tier preorders. As much as I dislike fortnite, this is primarily where it also gets most of its money- cosmetics for characters.
Lack of a good story/world building- The world and it's story shouldn't be an afterthought. It should be consistent, packed with explorable content, and feel fleshed out, not as a second thought. I've seen a few mmos not know exactly what it is. A medieval survival with guns and cars? Odd, but if absolute needed, it can be implemented if done correctly. Perhaps make the car seem old fashioned or primitive.
I should also not hate the main characters of the story. I can't tell you how many times I've gone through an mmo story and sat begrudgly through annoying tasks for an npc I absolutely can't stand. It's okay to sprinkle in spicey characters now and again, but if they're the main quest giver, I'm sure people would appreciate not hating them. The directors for the story should write compelling characters, one players would be more than happy to help. I've found my self at times only continuing story quests because I liked the npc giving them.
The player should feel like they're made an impact on the world around them. You just saved an entire town from mass extinction? The npcs should reflect that event. Just reached max level or got an incredible peice of gear? A npc walking by could comment on that. Questing should also reflect this, so players feel more connected to the story, and not feel as though they just saved this village the 100th time, right after another player.
The community of a game can make or break an mmo. A lot of the time in competitive mmos, it's a me vs them sort of atmosphere, and a lot of players just end up playing solo. A good mmo should try to encourage players to meet others, work together, maybe even just explore the vast uncharted land of the world. That being said, level and gear gapping can really spread the distance between old and new players, so if they join together, such stats should be balanced or at least reduced slightly.
1) one of the greatest things about WoW, is it's community (or was). I'm sure lots of people have nostalgic memories of helping and meeting new people, and it kept them coming back of years. On the other hand, one of the worst communities I've seen was in Archeage, who had driven many players from the game, with dev's or moderators doing very little to combat harassment or threats.
So here are my ideas for a good mmo. I have yet to see a single one implement all of what I mentioned, as I do understand it would be fairly hard to do. What do you guys think?
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