Any idiot can be a critic and most are. It is awfully easy to sit back and nitpick the latest and greatest MMO releases but it much tougher to come to the table with suggestions of your own. In that vein and since nobody has done it yet, I’ve come up with my “wish list” for an upcoming MMO. Lots of games have some of these traits, but very few of them have more than one.
Each one of these deserves a little more explanation or detail than I will provide here, so stay tuned for upcoming columns where I explore the implications of each of these design points or features.
MMO developers have grown lazy. Many of the forumlae used in modern MMORPGs are holdovers from the days of MUDs and MUSHes. MUDs and MUSHes are, in turn, heavily derived from the days of pen and paper gaming. Instead of a d20, they might use d100, but it is, essentially, the same mechanic. (That’s why you have hitpoints in World of Warcraft.)
This carries over into game mechanics such as “classes” and “stats” and other things that reduce game mechanics to a relatively simple mathematical formula. Makes sense since computers are really good at math but why not introduce some new elements which will drive players more into the role playing aspects of the game rather than consulting a “Min/Max DPS Spreadsheet”?
While we’re on the subject of DPS…
Do you know what the biggest difference between MMORPG Combat and real combat is?
No army in the history of human civilization had a tank in the front to attract and soak up enemy damage, a healer behind the tank who could (relatively) safely heal the tank up during combat while the rest of the army was relatively free to damage the enemy at will.
No enemy in the history of human civilization would sit in one place and pound on the guy screaming “HIT ME!” while ignoring the rest of the folks who were pelting him into submission.
Again, it’s a left over tactic from the days of pen and paper RPGs, and I think we can do a bit better.
Oh, one other difference? You didn’t have to stand there pumping bullets into a real enemy for 15 minutes while waiting for him to fall down. You want to know what sinks games like Star Wars: The Old Republic? The fact that a group of 10 people, wielding lightsabers, can wail on a single opponent for more than 2 seconds without cuisinarting that poor bastard into a million twitching pieces.
That brings me to the next problem…
It is rather difficult to make a player feel like a hero in an MMO. Could you imagine the world of Beowulf, for example, if Beowulf slayed Grendel only to go back a week later and find Grendel terrorising Heorot all over again? What’s the point? The fact that end-game raiding is, by modern definition, a grind of killing the same bosses over and over again to get enough loot to fight the next boss which will have to die several dozen times, etcetera, ad nauseam is a problem which can be solved.
Killing a “boss” should have a dramatic and lasting impact on the game world. The fact that guilds spend time and energy wiping to a boss multiple times (no fun) in order to learn a strategy that they will have to apply several additional times in order to gear the guild up to repeat the process on the next boss gets boring in a hurry. What if we could change that script a bit?
There are some other “staples” of MMO gaming that should be put out to pasture. If you are a hero strolling into a village to slay a dragon, do you REALLY need to start by killing 10 rats in the center of town? Heroes should be heroic. Pest exterminating is not heroic.
Part 4 – Game Setting
Lord deliver me from yet another…
- High Fantasy Epic with Dragons, Dwarfs, Elves, and Magic.
- Futuristic Sci-Fi games that replace Magic, Archery, and Armor with “The Force”, Blaster Rifles, and Nano…armor.
Same game, different aesthetic.
How about a game where magic and firearms coexist? How about a world with spaceships and six-shooters? Gee, if only there were some source material…
Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I have a few ideas on these subjects. If you’ve got some of your own, I’d love to hear them.