4 Things Every MMO Needs
My recent piece about what would make Guild Wars 2 more swell-tastic got me to thinking: There are plenty of other MMOs out there that could improve themselves--and I don't mean by tinkering with combat, improving graphics, or STOP NERFING MY CLASS ALREADY, WE ALREADY DO LOUSY DPS, SHEESH!
Rather, I think it's the simple things in life that make a game worth playing, or at least more worth playing than its rivals. On some level, all MMOs are pretty similar, so making the games more convenient, or at least less aggravating, could make a huge difference in how much people play it.
Or maybe I'm just lazy and want games to do more for me. Equally plausible.
I'll never understand why this one isn't present in every MMO on the planet. Nearly every single-player RPG gives you some way to sort your items by type (armor, weapon, potion, jewelry, etc.) and sometimes within types (leg armor, breastplate, helm, etc.).
So why do so many MMOs still think it's perfectly fine to just have you toss all your stuff into a handful of bags and hey, good luck finding that potion you tucked away for a rainy day – that potion of fire resistance for when Rothgar the Magma King rains lava down on you, that is.
But hey, it's not like MMOs have hundreds of items, in dozens of categories, and you're usually expected to have the right stuff for every occasion... oh, wait.
In keeping with the tradition of its single-player games, ZeniMax Online Studios has made it known that The Elder Scrolls Online will include a sorted inventory system, and a few games offer this kind of feature in their bank space, but it's rare to see it implemented in personal inventory.
Maybe it's harder than it appears to create a sorted inventory system for an MMO. If it is, I'd wager that it has to do with something else single-player games rarely have: inventory bags, which I also loathe. On the list of epic treasure I want to acquire for my super-warrior, “+5 Sword of Unthinkable Power” is a few spots above “15-slot Burlap Sack.” Just a few.
Ditch the bags. Give us easy-to-navigate inventory. And speaking of inventory management...
More often than not, crafting in MMOs is little more than an exercise in inventory management. To make a sword, I have to have enough iron and coal to make the steel to make the blade and then leather to make the sword hilt and polishing stuff to make it crit and...
How about this: When I want to make a sword, I just open up the panel for the sword, click “Create,” and the game grabs all the components I need from my inventory – if I have them, of course – and “poof”! Instant sword!
If I still want to make individual components, like blades or hilts, that's fine. But the intermediate steps just take up time without adding anything to gameplay.
And while we're talking about crafting-related things that don't add anything to gameplay, could we take a moment to talk about gathering tools? Why do we still have those? Sure, they're typically inexpensive and/or easy to get, but having to keep the right one (“Iron? Sorry, this pick is only for mining copper. LOL noob.”) and in functioning order – repaired or with enough charges – is just a pain and unnecessary annoyance. If you thought I hated “bags as loot,” just think about how I feel about “mining picks as loot.”
“Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough.”
“No. His socket wrench. It has eight functions. It was a tool for a more civilized time.”
And while we're still talking about crafting, how about when you do have to crank out a bunch – like 50+ – of ingots, leather strips, or whatever, it doesn't take forever? If there's a chance I can idle out and get disconnected by doing a crafting task, it means it's taking too long. LOTRO, I'm looking at you.
In addition to not having crafting tools (yay!), Rift is also one of the easiest games around to swap between different builds. This is likely from necessity, as Rift has some of the most complex character customization in MMO gaming. Imagine having to re-select your three souls and fill out the trees on them every time you wanted to go from your DPS to your tanking build, or from your solo to your group build... you get the idea.
Why don't more games make this an easy transition? It doesn't necessarily have to be as instantaneous as it is in Rift, where you can swap builds anytime, anywhere, as long as you're out of combat. Maybe you have to visit an NPC and/or pay a small fee.
But don't make me memorize or have to write down what all my traits and skill trees are for each build. If you want to promote diversity in builds and encourage players to try different styles, let us switch between them more easily.
I think BioWare missed a major opportunity with Huttball in Star Wars: The Old Republic. With early rumblings that the PvP war zone could be translated into an e-sport, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to keep stats like in a professional sports league: stats like goals, assists, win-loss records, kills, and so on. OK, so that last one isn't found in many sports leagues, unless you count Blood Bowl.
Huttball is a special case in that it “looks” like a sport, but simple PvP stats like kills, deaths, K/D ratio, W/L record, and so on are great ways for players to track their progress and compare their leet skilz to those of their friends and guildmates. Most instanced PvP includes a summary screen at the end that lists these numbers, so why not keep track of these over the lifetime of a character?
Stats are the definition of “fluff,” in that they don't really add anything tangible to the game, and so they're usually not a priority at launch – and sometimes not for a long time after. PlanetSide 2 is one of the few games that did launch with extensive stat-tracking features, so I can see just how inept my Terran Republic character is at fragging NC and VS insurgents – and so can you.
These are all fairly minor points that, as previously mentioned, don't really have any impact on gameplay. But with so many MMOs available these days, it's the little things that matter, and seemingly small features like the ones listed above could make the difference between a person staying with an MMO and wandering off to that all-too-available “next game.”