If it were my MMO

In the spirit of my recent design thoughts, I’ve started to think of what features I would put into an MMO if I were the designer. This list is far from complete, however, I thought I’d give it a go:

  • Zoneless: This one is a must for me. I hate zones with a vengeance, and I think in todays technology, this isn’t that much of a stretch. At the very least, I’d like to go pseudo-zoneless like WoW. In WoW they have a bunch of small and moderate sized zones that are cleverly hidden so that the player doesn’t even really realize they are zones, and then has a few larger zones (continents) that are of the more traditional loading time type.
  • Star Wars Galaxies

  • Skill-based: Some of my favorite MMO systems weren’t class-based. These include UO, AC, and SWG. I’ve always felt too restrictive playing in a class-based system. I like the ability to customize a character how I see fit.
  • Ecology: I’d like to see the virtual ecology, because I really do think it could be a fun system that creates more dynamic content into the game with very little designer work once the system is in place.
  • Placeable Houses: I loved having the goal of buying these really expensive houses in UO and being able to put them on your own plot of land. It is so much more fulfilling than just getting an instanced house like in AO or EQ2, or even the pre-placed houses like in AC (though because they were unique, it still felt nice to get those).
  • Player-controlled ships: The one reason I really want to try Pirates of the Burning Seas is to try their ship ownership and ship combat. Outside of that, the game looks very bland at best.
  • Meaningful PvP: This one is tough and I don’t know how to do it, but I’d like to see PvP with purpose, not just mindless killing, while also keeping the new player safe.
  • Humor: One thing I really took out of AC was the humor of the game. There were moments of the game that just made you smile and laugh that I think is really missing out of games. EQ2 tries sometimes, but overall is a stick in the mud. I think this is something WoW really does well at though.
  • Logic: I don’t want dungeons that are there for dungeon sake. Give me a reason that someone built a long tunneling system of corridors into the mountain that was obvious that it isn’t just for mining (as the fancy decoration suggest it is not).
  • Randomness: This one is odd to some I know, but I like the fact that I’m different than other players and randomness does this very well. I don’t just mean randomly generated items, but that is included. I also mean stats. Go back to the D&D core that even D&D is leaving behind, and make each character truly different. There are more positives than just different players as well if you look for it.
  • Story: Another holdover from AC where the story was unparalleled. I want to see a story that is continuous through the years of play. Give people something to follow. I want real stories published, not just try to piece them together (although I do want that too). I mean at its core this is what RPGs are about but most of them don’t really do much with stories.
  • Dynamic Content: It’d be nice if someone figured out a way to make content more fluid. I mean I like the various quests games come up with, but I’d also like to see content that actually happens without real scripting or design. This is the holy grail, stuff that happens just on the fly, because of other stuff, or due to players making it.
  • Fantasy: I know a lot of people are sick of the fantasy games in the genre, but at the same time SciFi thus far hasn’t fit very well. I also haven’t been particularly happy with what has come thus far from the fantasy setting. I don’t think EQ’s fantasy was half bad, and AC’s was great though they stopped continuation. UO also was decent, but the newer ones all comin out, they aren’t very good.
  • Original: One of the big faults of EQ is lack of originality. Everything is really generic. It is as if they took the base D&D and put it directly into MMO format, which I guess isn’t bad, but I need something new even if it is the fantasy setting. I love AC for this. I want something different, different races, different monsters, different cities. Show me something I haven’t seen before.
  • Open-ended: I would like to see a game where it isn’t just levels, monster fighting and quests. One that is rewarding even if you don’t fight. One that allows a number of different forms of fun and activity. Another holy grail if you will.
  • Tradesklling: Going with my last one, I’d like to see tradeskilling done better. The reason it is crap is because devs think it is unpopular so they do it half hazardously, yet it was immensely popular in UO so obviously there is something to tradeskilling.

There’s my base list. I have a few more, but I honestly don’t want to share them at this point because those are the ones that aren’t stolen from elsewhere. More than happy to share what I want to see in games that was stolen from elsewhere.

6 Replies to “If it were my MMO”

  1. So basically you really want a spruced up AC. You use it as a yardstick enough times.

    And skill based games don’t make for successful games.

    AC/UO/SWG never had long lasting subscriber base.

  2. I don’t know if you are correct on skill-based never being successful, UO had over 200,000 users for more than 3 years I think, and over 100k for over 5 years… that’s not bad at all considering they were up against 3D games that were far superior to the graphics they ahd. SWG had issues, but it was largely not due to the skill-based system (and to be honest it wasn’t entirely a skill based system. I think AC is the only one who wasn’t able to really hold subscribers for a long period of time.

    But then what are the successful class-based games that held subscribers for a long period of time? I can only think of EQ1…. DAoC plummeted after between 12-18 months, EQ2 & WoW are still too new though I am sure WOW will be able to do it. But if you use WoW as a measuring stick that makes any non-wow game unfairly biased not to mention that WoW isn’t really an MMO in the first place. Maybe you could include Lineage, Lineage 2, & FFXI but most Americans don’t recognize these as popular MMOs even though they largely do better than American MMOs…

    Actually I think my list leans more to a modernized UO, with some of the story-based aspects of AC, with a flair of old school MMO mixed in (by old school I mean pre-UO).

  3. That’s true about UO but the skill based system and everybody becoming dex mages really sent most of UO base to EQ. The problem I see with skill base system is fotm skills. With MMO’s they are always in flux with balance and there is no way you can escape balancing imo. Its going to happen always. Also skill based system don’t lend themselves will with end game content. If a game has a skill based system that’s not infinite then maybe its ok because then everybody eventually can do everything. Otherwise people have to spec their skills in the typical holy trinity concept. And then really that’s a class based system.

  4. AC was really the only game that had the unlimited skills… and yes this was a problem. SWG actually I always thought did a fairly good job with their skills, but it wasn’t entirely skill-based was more of a hybrid which actually worked fairly well to get the best of both worlds. I do agree that the fotm thing is more severe in skill based systems… hence UO… however, this happens in every MMO… I know in EQ2 this happens heavily, it happened in CoH, it happened in DAoC, I’ve yet to see an MMO where people don’t sniff out that template that is “uber” and all of a sudden everyone and their mothers are playing that template (last i heard it happened in WoW as well quite a bit though honestly I don’t know first hand).

    UO had extreme balance issues, so did AC. I think skill-based systems do tend to be a little more sensitive to imbalance than a class-based system, but I think the effort is worth the end result. I just feel that the examples of AC & UO in particular are harsh as neither had a development crew who was particularly experienced with this sort of thing to be able to come up with a decent balance. Had they balanced better before launch, there might be a better example out there to use.

  5. Skill based systems CAN be balanced just as easy as class systems (which none of that is easy anyway). You also have to remember that sometimes a skill might become popular even known it is not truly more powerful. Just the rumor that some skill is great can sway a population to take it up.

    A simple low-level automatic balancing system could be where every time a skill was used in the world, anywhere, it’s global counter gets ticked once. Then a skill based algorithm looks at those counts and adjusts the skill’s effectiveness based on that count. Now, this is more about the combat skills. So if everyone is using swords, then the average damage of the sword drops making other skills like axes better.

    I like to think of MMOs as a chance for “emulated” worlds. Not quite simulation though. The above skill balance emulates the idea that if everyone in the world is using the sword skill, then the general world is also more knowledgeable on how to defend against swords. So when some guy picks up an axe, he does more damage as we are now emulating the idea that the world at large is not as prepared to defend against an axe.

    Just this one idea can create a world where people actually seek to be unique for the side benefits. So many people claim that skill bases games are harder to balance, but really, are they? I have yet to see a class based game that is balanced where classes don’t need tweaking again and again. Sounds the same as skills to me.

  6. @Brian….

    AC did this at launch and is one thing I thought they very cleverly came up with… largely didn’t work however lol their spell economy collapsed for the same reason UO’s virtual ecology collapsed… players generally don’t care if everyone else is doing the same thing, and sooner or later everyone complains about how this skill or spell is sooo underpowered… albeit they could just as well use a different one that may be more powerful because no one uses it.

    Now one problem with this that I think AC had was that there really weren’t alternatives… there were 7 types of each spell (for each element in the game) and everyone generally used the important ones because X type of dmg worked best for creature Y so of course everyone of a certain level range is going to use spell X if Creature Y happens to be the best possible XP gain and what not… perhaps more alternatives to both is a good thing. (Although this might be gotten around by introducing an xp economy as well where more people who farm something, the less xp you get for it… actually DAoC did this to some degree and IMHO it worked really well, people tended to search out those uncamped locations for the good xp).

    That being said, I think the real issue with skill-based systems is that these systems tend to be very open ended. Meaning that you can generally switch skills fairly easily (maybe taking a lot of time but still), whereas Class based generally keeps you locked in for the duration. It is for this reason that when a skill becomes overpowerful, that skill gets overly exploited really quickly whereas it takes time in a class-based system for this same thing to happen because first you need a player in what might be a lesser popular class to display the power of the class, and then you need those copiers to level it up. I imagine you see it pop up quite quickly in a game like WoW as there are few classes and it takes little time to cap. However, I know in EQ2 it took some time for people to figure out how powerful brigands were because at launch there were very few of them in the game, but they are all over the place now…

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