The Perfect MMO, As Envisioned By A Player
MMO combat has long been the domain of dice-rollers and min-maxers, and I’m honestly okay with that. I enjoy doing number-crunching to make myself a big bad fella. The use of randomization isn’t the biggest problem with MMO combat. Instead, the two biggest issues are with solidity and cooldowns.
MMO combat isn’t solid. That’s a self-evident fact of the genre. When you swing your sword, you don’t feel the weight behind it. When it slams into an enemy, you don’t feel the crunch of bone beneath the edge. It’s all a game of pretend slap-fights.
Ideally, MMO combat should be chunky and straightforward. Your character should plant their feet every time they take a swing or use an ability. Enemies hit should react in concrete, observable ways. Combat should feel less like people swinging pretend swords at each other and more like combat. A few games – like Warhammer Online – have come astonishingly close, but none have succeeded fully. Solidity makes both PvE and PvP extremely engaging, as players and enemies alike swing their weapons with real force and react appropriately.
As a bit of a tangent, players should also be encouraged to fight multiple enemies at once. Wiping out hordes of minions is far more entertaining for the end user than slowly killing them one at a time. Give players good area damage options to deal with those pesky groups, and make said groups more prevalent among the lower class of enemy. Chaining through enemy after enemy is an incredibly satisfying experience.
The prevalent trend in games at the moment is to emphasize cooldown management over resource (health/mana) management. While this is certainly a valid (and sometimes even fun!) way to do things, it’s a problem. It makes players focus too much on looking at their hotbar and skill cooldowns, and not focus on their health or mana.
I personally prefer a resource-based system, not a cooldown-based one. Give players powerful spells, sure, but tie them to a resource like mana or health so they can’t endlessly cast them. This gives players a lot more flexibility in determining their skill rotation without forcing them to hammer on a key every time a skill is about to go off of cooldown.
Likewise, I really enjoy the “limited skills” system of Diablo-likes, specifically Diablo 3. The capacity to respecialize at any time – as long as you are out of combat and don’t mind losing your buffs – is needed for MMO combat. Rather than having each player able to use 50 different skills, many of which are similar, just give them fewer skills and force them to choose a specific kit. It’s much more fun to work with limited resources, and skills can be considered a resource.
MMO economies have many, many issues. The irrelevance of crafted end-game gear is a major hindrance, as is the painful grind required to reach said end-game crafting. If it can be improved, it must be!
I’m really frustrated with crafting. Building the same gear over and over, or upgrading gear by combining a bunch of the same item (hello Champions Online), simply isn’t fun. It’s just a time-waster, especially when taken in conjunction with crafting’s ultimate lack of importance. Players should learn via experimentation, not grinding.
Ideally, crafting should be discovery-based, not grind-based. As you find new recipes, new tiers of crafting are opened for you to explore. It encourages players to experiment instead of farm, and really pushes home the message that MMOs are living, breathing worlds for you to play in. If you can change the stats on that flaming greatsword, anyone can!
Likewise, crafting the same item shouldn’t make it so you can craft the next, bigger item. Instead, it gives you a bonus to the item you made and makes further productions of that item more valuable, perhaps through attributes like higher durability. Real-life blacksmiths become known for a particular item when they spend ages on it, but mastering the exact movements to pound out a short sword does not impart the capability to craft a shield.
This is arguable, but all good in-game economies require an open-ended end-game. The problem with World of Warcraft‘s economy is that items purchased on the auction house are – unless consumable – essentially worthless compared to their larger, fancier dungeon drop counterparts. It’s a problem everywhere, though. It’s not simply localized to World of Warcraft.
Ideally, all in-game gear and items for the end-game are crafted through items earned or gathered during the course of the game. Instead of feeding money into a void, players should feed money into each other’s pockets. Giving players greater control over the means of production as well as the items listed results in one very rugged lesson in capitalism.