I want to make it very clear that I've played MMORPGs for a very, very long time like many of you.
My list of the games I got most into and what this post will be based on:
– Ragnarok Online
– Nexus: Kingdom of the Winds
– World of Warcraft
– Guild Wars 2
– Black Desert Online
Yes, I liked Korean MMOs a lot back then (who didn't?), but my points sort of apply to all mmos from that generation including Guild Wars 1 and Everquest and the like. The bottom line is that MMORPGs nowadays are just singleplayer games, but worse. The point of singleplayer games like Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Red Dead, etc. is to play through a story as a character and experience it. Imagine for a second that you played Skyrim but all you did was kill the same set of enemies whenever they respawned for about 6 hours straight. That's what MMORPGs are nowadays.
Point #1 – There is no point to most of these "mmos" being massively multiplayer.
The only reason I ever made a party in any of these more recent games is through dungeon queues. Nobody talked to each other. Nobody had any reason to make any conversation at all, and nobody would ever likely see each other again. Group content is not a thing. As I've seen people mention in other posts and comments, I could play most of these games with NPCs in my party instead and it would make absolutely no difference aside from less flaming.
In the past –
I looked for groups to play with actively. Guilds existed as communities. In Ragnarok Online, I would sit in one spot (Archer Village) with my guildmates for hours just chatting and we'd go out from time to time to help someone in the guild who was actually doing something and needed some assistance. In Maplestory, I would sit in a town (Kerning City) with my guildmates and do absolutely nothing until someone wanted some help leveling or needed people for a party quest. We'd hang around and wait for something to do together because most didn't feel like doing that isolated solo grind. Most people wanted to play together.
Point #2 – Leveling is a chore now.
Leveling used to feel like this long-term goal with more immediate goals mixed in. "I want to get my next job advancement which is in 15 levels. In 5 more levels, I can equip this new set of gear and in 3 more levels I get a new skill! 6 more levels and I can join my guildmates in party quests and dungeons and stuff. Also, leveling up at all feels awesome because it takes a while. I got help from people along the way and I'm stronger because my guildmate bought me this awesome thing. I might only get a couple of stat/skill points, but I'm that little bit closer to all these things!"
Nowadays, it's "Ugh. I want to try this other class but I don't want to level it and I don't feel like paying 900 dollars to boost a character to max level." Leveling up used to be the CORE of these games. When you met someone at school or work that also plays the game you would say "Hey what level are you?" They would say "80 / 60 / 100 / Whatever else is a high level or max level in the game" and you'd go "Holy shit. Can you play with me?"
The point is that leveling is now the equivalent of needing to clean your room before you get to go outside and play with the other kids. Why not just start everyone at max level and delete all the content that's not "Endgame content"?
Point #3 – Gear is bullshit.
Okay. You have gear with high item levels. Okay, you have the best gear in the game. So does everyone else so who cares? I play modern day MMORPGs and I don't even bother equipping most of the gear I'm HANDED FOR FREE from NPCs. I already know that it's going to be a waste of time and just more equipment clutter so I just get rid of it since I don't even need it. I level up so fast that gear becomes obsolete in 5 minutes of playtime.
Oh, your game has an enhancement system so people can keep upgrading their gear? Fantastic! Now I can just wear the same shit for a year and get +5 to all of it (*cough* BDO). Now I feel so much stronger.
In the past, people would hang onto gear for leveling other characters. It was important since money was harsh and in most games, you couldn't even afford to buy gear from vendors that was for your own level. You'd also end up using that gear for a long time on these other characters so it was always worth holding onto. Now, you get one set of gear that is usually objectively the best and you just roll with it forever. Oh, also everything is "Soulbound" so you can either sell it for the price of a paperclip or you can salvage it for useless crafting materials.
Since there's only one set of gear and you'll pretty much have it within a week or a month, they may as well just remove gear altogether and give your character bonuses once you reach max level.
Point #4 – Crafting is garbage
Now, nobody said crafting had to be AMAZING. Nobody expects to be able to enjoy crafting for hours on end. It's just not realistic unless your game is an MMO that revolves around crafting (see: Albion Online). That being said, refer back to Point #3 for reasoning behind the question: "Why the hell would I ever make a level 15 robe when I can go from 15 to 20 in 10 minutes?" If there's going to be crafting, it should be meaningful in some way. Ragnarok Online had classes that were specifically for crafting. They could fight. They could be minmaxed to do almost as much damage as the DPS classes. That being said, they also could make weapons that you could ONLY GET from these classes. That led to the market being full of weapons made by people with their names attached to the tooltip so people could even get famous by crafting the best weapons and having them be used by the strongest people. There were players who sold their +9 Two-handed swords for way more than other players' two-handed swords because they offered WARRANTIES. They would repair the weapon for you, re-upgrade it for you for a reduced cost, etc if you managed to fuck it up.
Keep crafting simple. Keep crafting meaningful. It doesn't have to be fun to DO. It just needs to be rewarding.
Point #5 – Stop introducing bullshit filler mechanics
One game has pets that stay with you forever. You level up the pets and gear them and whatever. Another game has some special upgrade system that works alongside the regular upgrade system. Maybe there's this weird special kind of gem you can insert into your weapons to make them better. All of them also have login rewards, attendance rewards, level-up rewards, "stay logged in" rewards, dailies, and other garbage that forces you to play every day. ALL of the above are useless trash because the games fulfill points 1-4.
People don't need to innovate. They need to start looking BACK to see why older MMORPGs were so successful.
– Leveling should be the core of any MMORPG and should be somewhat challenging.
– Communities form around challenges and people will ORGANICALLY help each other and connect.
– 99.99999% of items in modern MMORPGs are useless.
– 100% of crafted items in modern MMORPGs are useless.
– "Innovation" is the wrong direction. Go back to making a solid game THEN think about adding your poorly thought-out new ideas.
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