I often get asked what I want from an MMO, or what i look for in one. This isn’t a difficult question for me because I know exactly what I want. What tends to be the difficult part is the reactions and subsequent arguments discussions my response seems to elicit. I’m usually met with “that’s not what you want” or “that’s dumb in today’s market” and even better “we had that already and we’re evolved from that”. As I rained blows upon these questioners, I figured there had to be a better way of answering while remaining calm. So here we go!
The genre hasn’t evolved or devolved as some would say. It’s not as black and white as some may make it. I like to use the term streamlined. It has become simpler, with fewer moving parts and much less time requirements. While certain aspects have definitely improved, such as combat and mechanics, I feel many other systems have been left in the dust. These small, yet interdependent and interlocking systems are what made the genre what it once was.
I’m sure everyone has already heard the term virtual world before, but this is what game worlds used to be like. A living and breathing world filled with danger around every turn, yet encouraging exploration. This is a tough balancing act but I feel players are up for the challenge. Zones used to be multi-leveled with a wide range of levels within them. I’d like to see that make a comeback at some point. I understand why the change happened, due to questing and story elements forcing players down a linear path. I just don’t agree with the change.
I’d like to see zone design rethought from not just overall size but also depth. Every zone having two to three levels of complexity would be a nice start. An above ground section followed by sub levels of dungeons and crevasses to delve into and explore would be amazing. No reason these need to be instanced. If they are then I’d like to see them remain public so anyone can enter. These wouldn’t just be the normal run of the mill dungeons either. To foster cooperation and grouping in the open world, I’d like to see certain requirements met to even be able to explore all areas.
For example, I’d like to see lots and lots of traps requiring thieves or rogues to disarm. Bringing mechanics like this to the world opens up player interactions that would otherwise never occur while players play with a single player mentality. I remember lots of sub-zones in FFXI having many pressure plate doors requiring groups of players to work together just to get through. Hell, some zones were inaccessible without players having certain key items or achievements. I know this sounds like gating, but it was done in a way that encouraged working together. I really miss these aspects. I don’t see why complexity cannot be brought back to the open world.
Exploring this world is content in and of itself. This is why I’d prefer not to have any forms of quick travel other than those provided by players themselves. Need to get somewhere fast? Better find a mage or druid to teleport you. Worry not, with this system in place, you can be assured that there will always be a dozen of them broadcasting their services in a town near you. All you have to do is ask and possibly provide a tip! Yeah right, they’ll charge you and you’ll pay because it’ll save you 30 minutes of travel.
My basic premise for world design is that i shouldn’t be able to run through a zone without fear of death. Players should also need the help of other players on their adventures. Zone maps should be complex with different paths and dangers around every turn and getting lost should be a possibility. Granted i could get lost in a square room but my point stands. I can already see heads shaking but I’m fine with that. Not every MMO should be for everyone. Luckily, this one is designed for me! It’ll be small and niche but filled with my types of players. Those seeking adventure and danger will have a blast.
I love this one because it apparently shows I’m old with slow reflexes. Nothing could be further from the truth but this is the normal reaction i get when i lean towards the tab-target side of the discussion. It may sound ironic but I’m so completely sick and tired of action combat at this point. Give me old-fashioned World of Warcraft targeting mechanics all day every day. While i wouldn’t call action combat shallow as far as the actual mob interactions go, I do feel they are shallow when encounters become group based. As a player that prefers group play over solo play, I feel normal tab-targeting just works better in this regard.
This debate also carries over into my next preference of having an expanded trinity system in place. Being a huge proponent of the six man group size as i am opens up slots for more roles. I’d like to see full support and crowd control classes back in play. Of course to achieve this requires content that actually needs all these extra roles. The emphasis has moved much too far to the side of damage and healing instead of control and minimizing that damage. I say this fully aware that I’m mostly a dps class player but that mostly due to limited options.
I don’t enjoy healing or tanking so I’m left with damage. I’d love to play a support class like bard or even a control class full-time. When shit hits the fan, everyone will be thankful I’m there. Classes like this just make everything smoother on healers and tanks. Damage dealers are of course not left out here either since support classes can also buff their damage as well as debuff mobs to allow them to do even more damage. I really could see myself full timing a bard the more I think about it. I fondly remember being inundated with tells back in the day from groups begging me to join them on my bard. It was a fun time.
Now that we have an expanded trinity with our faithful tab-targeting in place, we need proper classes to make them shine. I do mean a lot of them. What is it with newer MMO’s releasing with only a handful of classes? It aggravates the hell out of me when I can’t find a class i like because there just aren’t enough to choose from. Warrior, Priest, Mage, and Scout is not variety! It’s a lazy system to create one class for each armor type and calling it a day. This is unacceptable.
Look no further than the original EQ for a basis to how class variety should look. I don’t believe anyone has done classes better in this regard. Perhaps FFXI is a close second but those two games are so similar that either could take the lead. They had not only a ridiculous amount of classes when compared to today’s MMO’s, but they all have interesting and distinct play styles.
Now while everyone had a role with all those classes, I certainly wasn’t a fan of what roles those always were. I would improve on this system by implementing options as far as roles go. Just because I might be playing a warrior shouldn’t mean I’m relegated to tank duties only. I absolutely hate when I’m role locked depending on my class selection. I’ve always enjoyed having the option to dps as a plate wearer and I see no reason why this should be limited. I know this would complicate class balance but class balance be damned. I’ll take options over balance any day.
I’ll never understand how a beloved feature such as housing either gets continuously overlooked, poorly implemented, or completely disregarded. I think it’s just laziness on the part of developers. Blizzard can’t even seem to get this right and they have the manpower and funding to blow the roof off any previous iterations in any number of other MMO’s. Apparently this is more difficult than i had previously assumed. Regardless, this feature is something i want and i want it done right.
What do I mean by right? Well EQ2 and Wildstar are a good jumping off points for personal housing. While i appreciate what Star Wars Galaxies brought to the table in this regard (hello player made cities), I’m willing to cut devs some slack with instanced forms of housing. I really don’t mind if the tradeoffs are we’re allowed to be more creative with our homes. They do need to have an option to allow the public to visit when, say, a toggle is turned on. Players can show off their creations similar to the way EQ2 does it.
In order to accomplish this, a lot of thought and care has to be put into giving players the proper tools to be creative. This means getting the crafters involved as well. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different and interesting furnishings could be created by the players as well as dropped from mobs in the world. I think there could be an economy within the economy for these types of items. It certainly would open up player interactions and trading, which is another plus for such a system. I’ll build it and they’ll certainly come.
Of course none of this means anything if players don’t have the tools to put what they want where they want. The last thing i want to see is some pre-built plug and play layout for housing where only certain buildings can go in certain plots. For me, that takes all the fun out of being creative and thinking outside the little box they give us. Allow me to build whatever eyesore I feel like building. Trust that creative players will outshine the ones erecting penis statues and other nonsense. I certainly have faith they will.
I can’t believe there are players out there against this feature but they do exist. Crazies are what i call them because they just have to be a bit cuckoo not to appreciate what a game changer for the better this system can be. Once again it has to be done correctly and with a bit of thought. One way not to do it is the way GW2 decided to handle it at launch with their town gear system. I don’t know about you but if i can’t wear my outfit of choice out-of-town or in combat, then it may as well not exist. Thankfully Anet redeemed themselves and built a system even WoW is now copying.
Having a huge collection tab with every item in the game that unlocks skins as players acquire them is just genius. This basically fixes the need to horde items in a bank or on alts and nicely cleans up everyone’s inventory. I can’t be the only one with maxed out banks on my main and my alts with nothing but appearance gear filled to the brim. This stuff had to go somewhere and i’m glad it has a place now that no longer fills up my inventory.
Now, no wardrobe feature is complete without a proper dye system. This seems to be yet another feature that everyone gets wrong more times than not. There are usually either not enough dyes or items can’t be dyed properly. An even worse system is when only one dye can be used on a single item instead of multiple dyes. It’s no surprise when such a limited system is implemented that everyone typically looks the same.
Leave it to GW2 yet again to get this system headed in the right direction. It’s not perfect but it’s miles better than any other system I’ve seen from any other MMO. Not only do i have a huge selection of dyes to choose from but every piece of armor has multiple options to actually dye. Being a collection type system also means I don’t have to run and buy a dye every time i either get a new piece of gear or just want to change-up colors. I’d like to improve on this by making all dyes crafted by players as well as rare drops off mobs in the open world. This again creates more items for players to interact with and create markets for.
I’ll finish up my dream MMO with the lone aspect I believe to be most important to not only gameplay and role-playing, but also longevity. I got into this genre for the social aspects of overcoming more obstacles by having to rely on others. It’s why I stuck with the genre for this long and why i still love it despite the road many devs have taken to lessen that interdependence. It should be no surprise that my fondest memories of this genre are ones that involved many other people over long periods of time.
While i and many others simply don’t have the time we used to in our younger days, I don’t believe my needs and wants have changed. I believe the players that expect the genre to change for them and their limited time is the reason we have so much throw away content and sub par games these days. They still expect to see everything despite time constraints. That’s simply not how this genre was originally built. I fully understand i won’t get to see everything in my MMO of dreams, but that’s perfectly fine. That’ll be a carrot on a stick that will keep me motivated and playing for a really long time. That’s exactly what I’m looking for in an MMORPG.