Saturday, July 4, 2009

Important MMO elements to me

I recently got asked a question by evizaer about what elements would make a good MMO for me. Unfortunately I couldn't fit that answer into anything less than a thesis, so I took a look at the excellent example provided by evizaer and decided to follow suit:

Ten points:
  • Emphasis on horizontal progression
    Some vertical progression is fine, but the game should be based on your ability to use your skills at the right time, rather than being significantly more powerful because of level and/or items.

  • World without a player
    The virtual world and all it's NPCs/Monster should exist and interact with one another as if the player wasn't even there. The player's impact on the world should always be minimal. Events should be occurring all the time which are optional but reward the player for participation.

  • Minimal static questing
    NPCs can still provide quests, but they should lead to events. If two teams have the same quest, the team that gets there first and completes it gets the reward.

  • Carrot and stick society
    Want to kill a peasant? The villages will attack and arrest you. If you break down a door to a house, expect to pay or suffer the consequences. If no one sees or hears you do it, expect to get away with it.

  • Destructive and constructive environments
    Want to burn a house? Can do. The villages will rebuild it. Want to cut down a tree? No probs, but some dyad will regrow it. Just be careful not to set the forest on fire on your first day ;)

  • Death is bad
    You don't necessary have to lose your character completely upon death, but the consequence should be enough to piss you off for the next ten minutes.

  • Difficulty through strategy
    The goblins aren't hard to kill because of their level, they are hard because the sneak up behind you an attack in numbers. Each enemy should have different attack strategies. It's good to feel 'hunted' sometimes.

  • Spawning and movement
    You should never see someone appear out of no-where. Spawning should happen out of sight of players. Enemies should not be glued to areas, they should move around and perform believable tasks.

  • Aggro
    Forget aggro bubbles. If something hears or see you, then it reacts accordingly. They might ignore, observe, flee, hide, attack or call for re-enforcements. Also if an enemy is losing the battle, surrender and fleeing is an option.

  • Players must be able to feel safe
    PvP should be kept to certain areas. This may be an arena or the 'borderlands' etc.
Some more general points:
  • Convenience vs Immersion
    MMOs should appeal to both the casual and hardcore audience, with minimum sacrifice to immersion. Its great to be able to teleport everywhere, but unless 'teleportation' is apart of the story somehow, the game loses a bit of it's immersion. Same goes for bears dropping gold and bastard swords. It's nice to get such drops off wild animals, but it makes no sense what so ever. There needs to be a balance between player convenience and game immersion.

  • Realism vs Fun
    A truly realistic virtual world, would be no fun. The game need to be a game, but with elements of realism. A good game will have found a balance.

  • Solo vs Grouping
    The game must cater for both. Grouping should be rewarded to encourage community involvement, but solo players should not be penalized.
I realise that a lot of the elements listed hear are wishful thinking with today's technology, but lets not forget that MMOs in general were once a wishful thought ;)


B.J. said...

I agree with everything but "players must be able to feel safe." I dislike the idea of borderlands as PvP areas. I prefer an open PvP world where the only safe places are towns (be they player created or NPC populated).

The most fun I'll ever have in an MMO involves being able to live in a sandbox with other players, interacting in whatever way we can, and limiting PvP (even if we're not PvPing) places an artificial barrier on the world that I feel detracts from it.

Crimson Starfire said...

It's actually funny you should mention that, because I also prefer open PvP. Not sure why I threw that last point in. I must be sub consciously bowing to my PvE side?!?!

A good game would have areas of sanctuary, but it shouldn't be on my list. Weird...

Cheers for pointing it out.

B.J. said...

Oh, definitely. There have to be areas of sanctuary, but I think those need to be few and far between. Or at least consistent.

I think WoW really blew this one with having all endorsed PvP instanced. Even on a PvP server, there's no PvP. If I want world PvP, I need to keep a character at Stranglethorn's level and stalk questers.

Anton said...

Your second point sounds opposing to something I've always really really WANTED

"The player's impact on the world should always be minimal."

I would really like to see an MMO go the other direction, where NPC's AND players are always impacting the world to make it ever-changing, rather than rebuilding itself back to the way it started all the time.

Crimson Starfire said...

I agree with you, but the problem with that is one person makes a huge impact and ruins it for everyone else. The world needs to be changing on it's own. Player interaction should only ever speed up or slow down the process.

motstandet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
motstandet said...

If you have players making drastic changes to the persistent world, then either the world becomes a chaotic mess where the player who changed the world 5 minutes ago doesn't see the effects of his labors anymore or the number of changes in so limited that it happens too infrequent for the average player to actually have an effect.

I wanted to comment on your horizontal progression point, Crimson, but I decided it needed more explanation. So you can read it here:

Melf_Himself said...

You know we really need to change the blog layout so you can see the whole wall of text as you write your comment!

I of course agree with you on most points, but have to differ on:

- Player's effect on the world... I have an idea whereby players could affect the world in a balanced way. Say players want to siege an enemy castle. There could be instances related to this: assassinate the enemy leader, sabotage the gates, spike the guard's drinks, cut off food supplies, gather resources, etc. When, say, 10,000 of these instances have been completed, or 5,000 if the players earned a 'gold medal' reward on them, the city becomes open for siege. Basically, make people grind to affect the world, with the grind being reduced (and your impact on the world strengthened) if you're actually good at the game.

Player safety: I think this depends on the game. If it's a PvE game (WAR, WoW) you need prescribed areas for PvP. If it's actually listed on the box "You're not safe anywhere! Total PvP experience!" then it's a different story.

Teleportation: What about between quests hubs etc a la Guild Wars? I love that aspect of the game. It gets so boring running (or even flying) everywhere. Even the 30 second cut scene in WAR was too much. Unless the game is actually loading the new area, I want to go where I asked when I asked, not be milked for more time (aka subscription dollars) at every turn.

Everything else you said I /sign and bow before your leetness.

Video Game Philosopher said...

It sounds to me like you want a realistic MMO, rather than a more....well, playable one. Don't get me wrong, immersion and feeling like the world is a living and breathing thing (which most of your suggestions support) is a wonderful idea, and is probably something I would play, but it is also somewhat of a niche style. I would bet that most WoW players are content with they way NPCs interact (exception: Escort Quest NPCs, which need significant AI upgrades).

Unfortunately, most players do want to feel like they are significant and are having drastic changes happen because of them. For instance, WoW's new world instanced content has several story lines where you literally are the cause of an outpost being built (a couple of dozen different outposts, and it does get boring eventually).

Destructive environments, however, would be a win, especially in terms of PVP. WoW again has some elements of this in the PVP fortress of Wintergrasp, but I feel it needs to be extended to the base world when they redo it for Cataclysm.

I apologize for turning this into a WoW rant, but it is the most popular MMORPG.

dandyman said...

Great concept! You mentioned very relevant elements

I disagree on three points though.

1. I disagree with restricting PvP.

I believe it should be possible anywhere. However there should be relatively safe zones

2. Realism vs Fun

Realism is part of the immersion. I'm very much in favour of realism. A good game would incorporate realism in a fun/visual entertaining manner

3. player impact on the world

Does not need to be minimal, but opportunities to make large changes should be very hard and very rare (e.g. like an uber boss of a faction)

Other than those points, I think its a great post :)