“If you didn’t have to worry about finance, what MMO would you make? What lessons would you take from WoW or other games? What would you do to attract players?”
I’ve wanted to do a post on this very topic for quite a while, in fact, Naithin tagged me ((Okay, so that was the settings rather than the mechanics, but that’s a much bigger topic! For settings, I like something semi-original.. We’ll exclude LotRO from that statement because playing in a fantasy world I’ve been in love with since I was about, what, 13? Is fantastic and full of fangirly moments.)) to do it back when I was pondering and I even saved a draft to remind myself, I just never got around to doing it. I have been keeping my eye on the shared topics since I came back incase anything caught my eye. Up until now I’ve had nothing really to say on any of them, but this is one I had been pondering. My biggest issue is story and how to keep the players gripped, and I suppose this is more of a mish-mash of the things I’ve liked from other games, but it is my dream MMO. These are the features that I’d like to see in my imaginary favourite game.
I’m starting with the genre because all games need a starting point. It’s all well and good saying “we’ll get rid of quests!” but if you don’t even have a genre, then it isn’t much of a starting point because you can’t decide what you’re going to replace the quests with. I’m not sure what my story would be, I’m not actually a game developer so it’s not so important, but I’m definitely thinking of a fantasy MMO here. Perhaps an urban fantasy, but still a fantasy nonetheless. It’s just my personal preference. I love magic, and big two-handed axes, and riding around on fantastical creatures, and internet dragons too much to move away from that genre, I’m just not sure how to make it different. How about a steampunk urban fantasy with an anime-esque feel, kind of ‘Full Metal Alchemist’ style? I fully believe that a deep and rich storyline, and a sense of humour is one of the most important aspects of a good MMO.
I adore Guild War 2′s ideas of a much more dynamic levelling experience. I like the idea of using exploration, finding ancient cairns on mountain tops that you have to really work hard to find your way up, and when you get up there find the most amazing views, and great secluded spots for group roleplay. Then you explore some more, and come across a village under siege and instead of static quest givers saying, “Please help me, my house is on fire, there’s a water bucket here, you just have to run over there and throw it on!” (Which I always found lazy) The NPCs in the area are already getting stuck in, and instead of quests, they shout for your help, and can either move along and leave them to it, or you can join in and get rewards and experience. There would be different levels of these opportunities. The bigger events rewarding more experience and items would be rarer, as opposed to the small events which would be just as common as quests, just a lot less static feeling, a lot more like the newer WoW quests, and you could level from doing these things. Though if you wanted there would be instances and PvP and perhaps there could be experience given for completing different exploration tasks. There would be no more, “Kill 10 pigs over there, they’re eating ma lettuces.” It’s dynamic, fun content that changes. More like an instance, or a single player RPG like Dragon Age than an MMO, but you could group with people. The tougher the ‘event’ you’re trying to do, the more you benefit from grouping with people. It would take a little longer to reach max level than it does in Rift or current WoW, but that’s all part of the game, the journey. The faster it goes, the faster people get bored. Keep it going and keep it interesting.
If there’s nothing to do at max-level from the get go, people won’t stick around. My MMO would of course focus on making the levelling experience as fun as possible first but there would also be different things to do once you reach the end. For an MMO to be and remain fun, there needs to be choice. Incorporate dungeons, heroic dungeons, raids, battlegrounds, arenas, rated arenas, rich lore and places for players to use for roleplay, achievements, things to explore, pets and mounts to collect. It would have cross-server battlegrounds for better queue times, and a dungeon finder more like an announcement board than anything automated. You could sign up as interested for whatever dungeons you want to do and write a note for anybody who might be looking for people for a group to see. Equally, if you’re a group leader looking for members, you could sign up with your group and put a notice up with any specifications you might have. There would need to be things to aim for: plenty of gear to go after, appearance clothes to find, pvp gear to get, interesting things to craft which perhaps require rare materials to make. Then there are titles and mounts and such that really make your character feel like your character, rather than another one of the masses. If there isn’t enough to aim for, then the end game just wouldn’t be worth it.
As for professions, I actually really liked the way Aion did professions. Okay, it could be a bit of a pain finding the right items if you wanted to craft something, and often the materials were overpriced on the auction house, but they had repeatable workorders that scaled with your skill level and everytime you crafted something it would give you a tiny bit of experience. My MMO would probably use something similar. It would give you a bit of experience, enough to level if you really wanted to, probably the equivalent of how much you get in WoW from mining a node, so enough but not too much. It would use the repeatable workorders idea – you could pick up 2 or 3 workorders at a time, buy the items from a vendor in the same room, craft them, hand them in (again for a small amount of experience), and you would gain skill points and a reward bag which might give you recipes/patterns, materials, maybe a rare chance for a companion pet, a flavour item, or maybe some appearance gear depending on the profession you’re working on. If that’s too tedious, you could level by crafting items as and when you have the materials, though unlike in Aion, these would be a fair bit easier to get your hands on.
My biggest gripe with any MMO is variety. This is in reference to hair, facial expressions, skin colour, tattoos, body size, height, clothes, basically anything that differentiates one character from the next. My MMO’s character creation screen would have all of those options. There would be presets to choose from and a randomizer for people who don’t care what size their character’s nose is, and a name randomizer as well. For those of us it’s important to, there would be plenty to customise, everything I mentioned above, plus you could choose between a few, maybe 2 or 3, starter gear sets and choose what colour your starter gear set would be. Each class would have different options, but different races would share the same choices, or perhaps there would only be the colour changing choice and each race would have a different option as well. I like the idea of characters looking different from the get go. If you wanted to, you could easily spend a couple of hours perfecting your character. And once you’ve finished creating your character, each race would have its’ own starter zone with its’ own lore. Perhaps there would be slight differences in how people treat you depending on your class.
Once you get further in the game, you have the issue of appearance homogenisation. Everybody starts to look the same because they’re in the same levelling gear and riding the same faction mount. I’ve already mentioned mounts, but there would also be companion pets to go after. There would be a barber shop in which you can change hair and makeup, but nothing related to physical appearance because that would require plastic surgery. There would be both armour dyes and appearance slots, because it’s nice to be able to really customise your character, and for people who really like to collect gear sets for appearances or off-specs, a wardrobe feature. This would initially have a limited number of slots, but you could perhaps provide ingame currency to up it, the same way you can with bag slots.
So, what about you? What would be your dream MMO?