The Perfect MMO, As Envisioned By A Player
The best times in any MMO always come from player interaction. It always provides a basis for consistent entertainment, and is what really makes MMOs unique. After all, without player interaction, you may as well be playing a single-player RPG!
Right now, most MMO competition revolves around a meaningless grind of killing other players for no real reason. Sure, you get emblems or other PvP-specific currency to use, but you don’t really impact the game world or advance yourself in any meaningful way. It’s all just killing for the sake of killing.
True competitive PvP requires stakes. This means territory or resources. Ideally, players should be able to conquer territory and use their newfound land to build a base and infrastructure to support their group. Mines that spit out minerals on a regular basis, shopkeepers and villagers that offer unique items and quests, and the ability to customize the landscape are all great things that no MMO has really touched. Of special importance is the notion of building a retinue of NPCs for a settlement, as a city is only as vibrant as the people who live there. Allowing people to craft both the city and the inhabitants gives them a huge measure of control.
Of course, you have to add new territory to grab at regular intervals, or established blocs of players will end up just squatting on the land.
In contrast, cooperation is fairly well-utilized in most MMOs. Dungeons can only be taken in parties, guilds are often formed between players, and you can never truly get into the end-game without someone holding your hand as you hack away at a boss.
What needs to happen is for cooperation to have a greater emphasis than rote memory. Ideally, dungeons and group encounters should change in between runs, forcing players to work with a team that they know in order to complete the encounter each time. If they decide to bring some fresh new face to the fight, they should get a reward, such as more XP or gold. Instead of focusing on each member of the group living in their own little world, MMOs should focus on building a cohesive and entertaining group dynamic.
Quality of Life
Finally, it’s time for basic quality of life features. Many MMOs shirk their responsibilities in this area, but these can be the features that make or break a game.
A personal pet peeve of mine is bad interface design. I can’t stand it. For every small, unintuitive, or otherwise unreadable user interface, I want to throw a chair through my wall, especially since it’s a field that has been trucking long enough that certain “common sense” design maxims have shown up. Here’s two friendly tips to any interface designers: Never overload your players with information, and never hide basic information under layers of menus.
Ideally, a UI should do most of the work for you if calibrated properly. You should have access to everything you need right off the bat, and more advanced features should pop up when required. If you need a game to look to, play Civilization 4. Sure, it’s not an MMO, but it has the best interface I’ve ever worked with. It’s flexible and smooth at the same time.
Don’t lock off the bank or auction house in a way that excludes non-paying customers. It damages the in-game economy far more than it helps. A proper in-game economy requires both sellers and buyers, and restricting store and bank slots for everyone except active subscribers does nothing but annoy people.
All developers should support add-ons. It’s really that simple!
Add-ons give player much greater control over the kind of experience they want. You should always strive to make your game playable and fun without add-ons, obviously, but tastes between players differ. While add-ons that actively change game mechanics are obviously bad, there are plenty of UI and quality of life add-ons in MMOs that are considered essential or supremely useful. Why bother blocking the people who want to make good tools for your game? Restricting player experience to exactly what the developer decrees is a bit egotistical.
And that’s my perfect MMO. A game where players have the freedom to help, hinder, or ignore each other. A living, breathing world, dictated by the developers but influenced by the players. A game with solid combat, engaging crafting, economic depth, robust player interaction, exploratory themes, and the customization necessary to top it all off.
Want to share your dream MMO? Maybe you’d like to tell me why my dream is terrible? Leave a comment below!