Game talkWhat is your ideal MMO?

 Posted by (Visited 21471 times)  Game talk
Feb 272006
 

The discussions on the lessons make me curious.

What is it you want? Not in terms of exhaustive mechanics, specific and highly detailed setting information, and so on, but the spirit of it.

(Not that I think you’re necessarily a representative bunch…!)

  100 Responses to “What is your ideal MMO?”

  1. most interesting to me. It tells a story based around the idea of a MMO minigame that’s an abstract simulation of sex, and why players would/could use it. (Here.) It even rewards monogamy. Raph Koster recently asked people what they wanted in an MMO. (Here.) Well, more accurately, what was the spirit of what they wanted? My answer to Raph was:I want an MMO where: (a)any single player can effect meaningful change in the world around him, (b)player skill (items/effects excepted) is what matters and not

  2. What is your ideal movie? Your ideal book?

    I don’t want an ideal; I want variety so that when I get bored of one genre/style, I can move on to something completely different.

    At one point in time, all literature in Western Europe had to be about Greek gods or heros. Then came Geoffry Chaucer, who wrote a compendium of short stories about average folk. (Or that’s my take on it. Those more versed in English literature may know otherwise.)

    Why are (almost) all MMORPGs about combat and characters getting more powerful/wealthy (a pale immitation of the hero’s journey)?

  3. Simple: something that actually requires skill. PvP in Guild Wars comes close but still feels a bit too loose to me. Also, there’s the whole thing about GW not really being an MMO since almost everything is instanced.

  4. - Everyone plays together. No levels, no radical differences in power. A newbie who first logged in an hour ago can productively play with anyone in the game. (A Tale in the Desert has this in spades: The only real power there is knowledge and social networks.)

    – No grind. Progression, yes, but player time is not tied to advancement. If you need to control the rate at which players advance, limit them to a certain number of actions per day or allow activities to take place offline. (ATITD fails utterly at this, which is why I no longer play.)

    – A mutable world. Let players build and break things.

    – Social architecture. Put too many people in one social space, and it becomes hard to develop social bonds–you never see the same person twice. Put too few people in the space, and the game becomes bland. I want to see multiple overlapping levels of social organization: Familial structures to tie friends together, guilds to connect common actors, towns or cities to place diverse individuals in the same social space, and nations to link otherwise unrelated communities.

    – No artificial constraints. Let someone be a fighter, a tracker, a healer, and a crafter without creating multiple characters. If you want to create group dynamics based on different roles, let people swap out mutually-exclusive roles at will. When five friends get together to do something, they shouldn’t be blocked by character class decisions made months ago.

  5. Here is my ideal mmo :

    A crafting / vendor / entertaining system like SWG.

    A game based on possesion. Player cities like in SWG. And bases / strongholds that can be placed in those cities only. A city should declare its faction or choose to stay neutral. Ability to build walls around cities, and destroy them by raiding. In summary, a pvp system based on mass raids.

    A levelling system like in wow, interesting and fun, but let’s say takes 1/3 of the time.

    A dungeon system like in wow. 5 men, 10 men, 20 men, 40 men instances. Server-wide efforts needed to unlock some of them.

    An alpha class that fight among each other with death penalty, like Jedi in SWG. This class should be alpha, but with death penalties and hard to achieve and survive. This is the ‘hardcore’ level for very skilled players. And this class fight among each other, not the regular players.

    Ability to create ‘Better races’. You start the game. After 3 months you start the game, you can marry a female. After 3 months, you can have a child. This child will be a playable character in 6 months. But with more skill points / racial advantages than the original, etc., and carry the same surname of the father. Then the cycle goes on.

  6. No leveling system.
    A system of justice enforced and regulated by players. (no outside pvp rules)
    Some place where the world is capable of change based on players rather then being completely static. (200 players cast la siege spell.. boom to mountain)
    a system where players are born to the world. not just “poofing” out of space. (aka family system)
    A place where if a enemy dies you dont just see another appear out of thin air to replace it in 15 minutes. Dead = Dead. Complete removal of a monster type is possible.
    A ingame event staff for important characters within the back story.
    Quests are not something that is done by NPCs but chosen by players for other players to complete.
    A place where death isnt meaningless. Where death can be cruel. Item loss to Perma Death even.
    A world that supports people who like to create things like books, paintings, and even play a game of chess. (ala uo)

    All in all I want a mmo that is more like a virtual living world. Where players are able to do a vast range of things even if it is to start a “zoo” or make a 50 floor tower filled with gold golems. A place that is something you could just walk around in and explore. A place that people are satisfied even if they do not have the best gear or biggest house. Something along the lines of Aragorn from LotR. To be content. Lastly a place where there is no contact with the outside world. 0 ebay, 0 lvling services, 0 sweatshop companies.

    Yes I aim high but thats my ideal world. It may sound odd but combat isnt everything. Both sides of the coin need to be revealed in order to create a balance. As well as the need for penalties in order to create a higher sense of joy. Im sure this isnt for everyone tho in the gaming world.

  7. In order to attack the “Pale hero’s journey” problem, why not let players take the roles of NPC’s. This could be a way to avoid the problem of everyone being the same and having the same items and stories at the end of the journey. It would of course demand a large work load on the designers, but I merely suggest that a few select players would be able to be a part of shaping the world. Maybe such a world could be divided into chapters like in Guildwars or even be a kind of ongoing soap like Chris Klug has suggested. Effectively, making all the NPC’s into PC’s would be impossible, but if a few key positions were reserved for players to take over I think it would give an incentive to keep on playing the game. One could imagine then that these characters would be required to take on the “burden” of permadeath (this would also make it possible to discard players who fulfilled the role badly), but at the same time be able to earn a place in history. It should be possible to take over their parts through an array of different means, i.e. assasination, political, inheritance, war etc..

  8. [...] (link: What is your ideal MMO?) Tossed into: Design Things — by Corvus @ 7:18 am [...]

  9. Sadly I have no link to it, but there was once a very good posting on “what players want” on the Star Wars Galaxies forum. It sums up to something like “live in the star wars universe and be a hero”.

    The three most important points for me are:

    – Premise
    – Conflict
    – Immersion

    I haven’t realy cared for mechanics back when I played pen & paper RPGs and I still don’t. Most content works with any mechanic in PnP, as it does with any MMO.

    So what I do is constantly ask myself with whatever I’m currently working on:

    – Do I still meet my premise?
    – Do I have a strong conflict?
    – Does it add to the immersion?

    If you ask 1000 players what they like, you’ll get 1001 different opinions about mechanics, what is constant are the said three points.

    So my ideal MMO would give the players every freedom of choices possible, and deliver on all three points with all choices.

  10. I just want to play with my friend and I want to be able to skip a week of playing with out haveing to play catch-up.

  11. Excavius’s world sounds good. He’s aiming high but most or all of what he wants can be done today, it’s a question of volition/funding as usual.

    MMOGs can be whatever their designers want them to be. Some designers want their MMOGs to be crap, and some players want to play crap MMOGs. There are also designers who want to make exceptional MMOGs that show how interactive, immersive, player-driven, and fascinating an MMOG can be, and there are (enough) players who want to exist in that type of virtual world.

    The whole “everyone pays 15 bucks a month” thing is probably not helping the situation, though — if you want a higher quality world, you’ll probably have to pay for that quality. Others have observed this but it’s worth repeating.

  12. A true world which works on many levels.

    The ‘perfect’ RPG for me would have the PVE/adventuring depth of WoW or EQ, the community/homebuilding/economic depth of early SWG, and the player control and development of EVE Online. It should have a rich world and background lore, and player knowledge of this lore should matter. It should have NO cookie cutter or ‘flavor of the week’ characters; there should be hundreds, or thousands, of ‘optimal’ builds. It should be strictly enforced Single Character per Server. It should be designed so that it is not necessary to be part of an ‘uber guild’ to see all the world; to use one of Raph’s other comments, one man — or at least a small band of loyal friends — should be able to slay a dragon.

    There should be no ‘end game’. I *despise* the idea that ‘the game doesn’t really begin until you hit the level cap’, and I always have. Ideally, there is no ‘level cap’ (or skill point cap or experience cap or whatever). If this is technologically infeasible, then, make it so hitting the final tier is very difficult and cannot be done my macroing/grinding/following a formula. When you do max out, you basically ‘retire’ from the game; your character becomes a figure in a ‘Palace Of The Gods’, something for other players to revere. You have ‘won’, in other words. Perhaps you gain the ability to craft a demi-plane/instance/zone which others can visit. (A lot of MUDS worked like this, I believe)

    In terms of more specific mechanics, I’d like:

    Clothing to matter. Each item of clothing has a ‘style’ value (noble, merchant, criminal, etc), and how you’re dressed impacts your dealing with NPCs. You don’t visit the Queen of England in a torn t-shirt, and you don’t meet with a gang leader while wearing a tuxedo, after all. (I’d also like an instant civilian clothes/fighting clothes switch)

    Truly unique items/encounters/skills. Currently, most games have everyone running around with the One Ring, Excalibur, and the Horn of Roland.

    A crafting system which is more based on laws of physics which can be discovered than on ‘click and combine’. I’m thinking of the beetles in ATID.

    Content creation tools that don’t unbalance or destroy the game. Why can’t a wizard research a truly new spell? Or a bard create a song? Or a blacksmith model a sword using a 3-d editor?

    A reason to stay home, and a reason to leave home. :)

    A sense that your character is alive when you aren’t there. If you log off in the rain, when you log back in, your character has dramatically reduced hit points and morale because he’s been sleeping outside for days!

    Interactive social animations. I want to kiss, hug, slap, and actually intersect my target.

    Make standing/faction with the NPCs as important as guilds and PCs. If you’ve created a world with rich lore and ancient organizations, factions, and cults, make belonging to them rewarding mechanically and emotionally.

    “world Events” which are more than “Oh, cool, there’s a zillion dragons destroying all the major cities. Again.”

    Player-editable animations and sound emotes.

    A very strict “No assholes” policy. Use the ban hammer heavily.

    A true role-playing intensive server.

    A world large enough that there’s always places to explore, without it being endless random terrain, ala too much of SWG. Imagine worlds the size of each SWG world, but with the kind of detail and life of the zones of WoW or EQ. Or something like EVE Online, but with every star system feeling truly unique and individual.

    Something very much like true tabletop gaming, where a group of 4 to 8 players can queue up for a live GM who will give them his sole attention for a 4-6 hours, running them through a scenario where is playing the NPCs, spawning the monsters, etc.

    A world where everything that exists is ‘real’ — if I pick up a plate, I can hit someone with it, do some damage, and possibly have the plate shatter to shards. Then I pick up the shards.

    Realistic weight and mass — how does a backpack hold 10 iron breastplates?

    A game where the lower levels aren’t zipped through in an hour. Make each ‘ding’ an event.

    More tactical choices in combat, so that player knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of various creatures matters. No more generic attack sequences which work against everything.

    Some means of eliminating twinking, gold farming, character selling, etc.

    A game which is its own OS and has to be booted from CD/DVD, so that there’s no way to install third-party programs that make many game elements impossible. (i.e, some games have no stealth or invisibility because third-pary cheats show all ‘hidden’ figures.)

    Real-world legal action take against people who exploit bugs. (“Dupe fake gold;pay real fines.”)

  13. I want two different online games. The first thing I want is what many people want: a theme-park like experience that leads you through well-designed static content created to evoke a particular experience. I guess sort of like a single-player game, only it’s really big and you can play cooperatively with friends. WoW would be close to perfect for this kind of game if it didn’t have a nasty habit of dividing my guild into little pieces with its level requirements. Current industry trends are already well on their way to serving this want.

    The other MMOG that I want is more like the game a lot of other posters have described. I want an open world with robust systems for player influence. Player-made towns. A robust system for guilds and alliances that also facilitates guild vs. guild conflict on terms the combatants choose, from full-time full-loot all the way down to 2 hours on saturday evening with the only prize being a statue that goes back and forth between the winner’s guildhalls. A PvE spawning system that a group of players is able to visibly influence it. UO’s champion spawn system is a start, but I’d like to see something that caused NPC forces to spread if left alone and be pushed back when attacked, and occasionally automatically launch an attack on player towns. The key to making something like this work is to design the system with the players’ perceptions in mind rather than trying to model a real-world ecology. Also you need to make sure that the game world isn’t over-crowded, because too much player pressure can break any dynamic system. Add to this mix paid employees that run live events and such and you’ll have my ideal MMOG.

  14. I’m out of weed, so I’ll try to stay realistic.

    I want a MMORPG that, first and foremost, actively fosters player-to-player interaction and I think the one mechanic that has shown that it works is forced grouping through class interedependecy and the lack of soloing content.

    I also think downtimes and steep leveling curves are an important element. Downtimes give people the opportunity to socialize.

    Steep leveling curves segment a server’s player population into smaller population brackets which is important for the developement of communities. It’s also important with regard to content. If everyone advances at the same pace, everyone will want to do the same content at the same time. Hello, game developers’ nightmare!

    Basically, I want that stuff that makes casual players cry out in agony and I don’t want it because I’m particularly hardcore myself, I want it because all the games that tried to “fix” EQ ended up being completely horribly when it comes to player bonding within the game (sandbox games excluded here).

    What people – players and most importantly game developers – must realize is that not every system or mechanic that is “fun” is a good one and not every mechanic or system that is not “fun” is a bad one.

    I don’t think that any of the mechanics I’ve mentioned are “fun” per se but they create a great enviroment for social networks within the game. The social aspect is, in my opinion, the true strenght of MMORPGs and I believe that these games should try to leverage this strength. Allowing players to solo from 1-60 within a couple of weeks is not the right way.

    As far as “time-based advancement” is concerned… I’m with Anyuzer on that one.

  15. Any game that doesn’t inspire threads like this: WoW Player-created Generic Complaint Thread

    Seriously though, ever since I started programming MUDs I saw what I think the medium should aspire to. I’m firmly in the world simulation camp and I don’t think anyone has done it right with a grand enough vision to make it all work.

    I’ve always been of the mind that the game world needs to be built and then the players need to populate most of the world with “places”. The Live Team’s responsibility is to provide dynamic content to the world in an effort to keep the world moving; to stir the pot so to speak. The server would provide a framework for establishing player run governments, guilds, businesses, religions and hunting groups. Everything would be tied together by a resource/spawn system that encouraged communities to form for protection, commerce and resource gathering. Because the “places” of the world were designed by the players, the developers could use this organic content to create “challenges” and other events both large and small scale using background tools developed by the server team. The development team could in this manner add quests and content to the game that was triggered from what the players did in game. Ignore the corpses rising from the graveyard and your city might be invaded but once you erradicate the problem, the same problem does not show up again.

    The game should be built from day one with technology in mind. If it is high fantasy based, ocean travel might not be possible but after a series of quests are put in game and completed at the community and individual levels, this technology could be unlocked. My ideal world would feel alive and players would always have the idea that they might discover something new that the server has never seen before.

    My ideal game would take all of this and wrap it up with community tools that allow access from multiple devices, phones, web browsing and from within the game. The idea is not to limit the number of people in the world by forcing them to workonly through a graphical client. Commerce, guild management, city management and a host of other activites could take place on the web or over your phone to keep you connected to the world when you couldn’t run a DirectX client.

    My ideal world would have roles for casual players and for hardcore players. It would link these roles such that neither can live without the other and both benefit from a continued understanding of their importance.

    My ideal world would give value to the newbie in the eyes of the veteran such that it was always in the best interest of the veteran to establish ground with the newbie and there were tangible benefits to players for designing a community that was newbie friendly.

    My ideal world would b e a giant sandbox that players could build a world in and developers could tell stories, create adventures and keep alive. In this regard, the developers are designing a setting and the mechanics of how things work in that setting but the players are ultimately responsible for creating the bulk of the content. The job of the developers in this scenario is to make sure there’s enough default stuff going on such that the world gives players reasons to want to create their own content.(politics, quests, markets…)

  16. My ideal is close to Damien’s. Something a tad less restrictive, and I really like immersion. I’m an SEA on the Bartle Test, so enjoy Social stuff, exploring and making my character grow, not just in power or levels, but in his/her own story.

    I’ve run a MUSH long enough to know that the ideal can never be made. You just have to come close enough.

    I guess my ideal would be a game in which the designer who made it also plays it because s/he designed a game s/he wanted to.

  17. I’ll go back and read everyone’s after this, so mine has probably been said.

    I want an MMO where (a)any single player can effect meaningful change in the world around him, (b)player skill (items/effects excepted) is what matters and not time spent in the world doing any repetitive task. And (c)a world that would be interesting even with no players. If Days of Our Lives can go for this long and still have viewers interested, I fail to see why an MMO can’t change the story a tad bit every week/month in a player-participatory fashion. (Not just a static story with additional events tagged on with larger events happening in expansions.)

    Great, now I’ll have to go blog my own in-depth ideas. ;)

  18. Slightly OT but when I think of mmogs I’m reminded of Alan Moore’s discussion of Koch’s Snowflake with respect to Ripperology:

    Eventually the snowflake’s edge becomes so crinkly and complex that its length, theoretically, is INFINITE. It’s AREA, however, is never exceeds the initial circle.

    Likewise, each new book provides fresh details, finer crenelations of the subject’s edge. Its area, however, can’t extend paast the initial circle: Autumn, 1888. Whitechapel

    I think video games in general and mmos in particular have this problem; so with that in mind I try to think of a “unique” mmo. (It can’t be unique if it has a fantasy setting, but let’s ignore that point for the moment :)).

    Obviously my ideal mmog would be a dynamic world, but failing that I’d like it to be a “layered” world. I’d like to see content designed with a character’s role within society in mind, as opposed to the character’s role within a group.

  19. A MMO in wich I can be unique?… and not be a clone of all others players.

    Not in terms of class/powers/skills as I couldn’t care less about those but in terms of actions

    (a bit like in SWG, every server had it’s most famous weaponsmith, best decorated house, most frequented players’ city…)

  20. You read my mind, Raph; I was thinking that a forum for discussing the ideal game was necessary, especially between this crowd of people, but I couldn’t quite decide how to do it.

    To be perfectly honest: one I designed, or used a codebase I designed.

    I’d like to see a world where you can throw a random object, time how long it takes to reach the vertex, and how long it takes to catch it, and from that, determine what the gravitational constant is, roughly.

    I like internal consistency. If death is what we think of it in the real world, then I want it to have roughly the same meaning in the virtual world. So if I kill the king of Happyland, the king is dead, and the kingdom will have some leadership issues. He doesn’t respawn. Now, if death is different, then by all means, change it. But don’t pretend it’s the same thing.

    I like complications. “Kill monster, get loot” isn’t bad merely because it’s unethical, or because it’s juvenile, but rather because it’s too mindless. Someone once characterized EQ as a place where you went to some spheres, which would then drop some loot for you. There’s no depth. I’d like goals to be less obvious. Levelling is too simple, and too abstract. We have computers. We can do better than HP.

    I like emergency. Not in the “Fire! Foe! Flee!” kind of way, but in the sense of unintended, but interesting, consequences, though the former isn’t so bad if it’s encapsulated within the context of the world. I want crazy things to be possible, if someone thinks of it. No, I don’t know how to do it.

    And along the same line was internal consistency, I want to be able to actually change the world. I want to be able to cast Fireball at a place and torch it. Of course, you’d be hauled off for arson, maybe killed. That’s fine, too. I want to construct a bridge over a raging river so it’s easier to cross. I want Wall of Fire to leave burn marks in the grass, and Cone of Cold to leave frost that will eventually melt. If a thousand people cut down a tree from a thousand-tree forest, I want that forest to be gone.

    I think I can summarize this as: “I want realistic consequences for all actions, and not to toss them aside because players would be unhappy.”

  21. [...] Quote from: MightyAl on Today at 11:23:39 AM(…)http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/02/24/what-are-the-lessons-of-mmorpgs-today/Quite sad, isnt it?I read that a couple of nights ago.Most noteworthy things IMHO:- People are only good at one thing.- You never, ever, ever change jobs. If you want to, you probably need to die.- You can be the best in the world at your job (But so can everyone else).- Killing is the only real way to gain peoples admiration (Well, you can make stuff too, but you wont earn the same kind of admiration).- There are no such things as social progress or technological advancement.- You should not associate with those of lower social standing than yourself.- You cant be in two places at once. But places can be in two places at once. (Ok, this one is not bad, but funny  )- Actually, in general, taking your time is counterproductive.Im not gonna talk about SWG here since I doubt Mr. Koster is doing any concrete design jobs anymore, Ill just note that in pre-CU SWG the above statements held less truth than they do in the NGE.He made a follow-up, btw. How did haxal (Oropher) end up there? [...]

  22. If I was to summarize what, in spirit, I want in an MMO?

    I want an MMO where people are primary, and the world is secondary.

    These are massively multiplayer online games, right?

  23. Sorry about comment 19 – that one got auto-linked without anybody of us doing anything (evil internet).
    But now that I am here anyway:
    What do I want in an MMO (MMORPG in this case)?

    – More focus on other playstyles than just combatants (PvE / PvP). That market segment is not really opened up as far as I can tell, and including players that are interested in leading a social virtual life are vital for the immersion of an MMORPG.

    – Complexity. The possibility to discover new facades of the gameplay engine even after having played for 6 or 12 months. Learning is fun for months, mindless button-smashing is fun for a few hours.

    – No level grind and no level system as it promotes separation of players, and all measures taken to combat this are just band-aids (and not really successful as a group full of max-level players will always be more effective than a group of mixed players).

    – Individuality. Players need to be able to distinguish themselves from other by looks, deeds and achievements.

    – The same world for everybody. No seperate servers. The option to stick in one area with current friends, or go out to explore the world and find new friends.

    – Dynamic environment. Mobs should not be spawning in the same places all the time, but react to player extermination attempts. Meaningful PvP / PvE environment as in territory control changing. Weather having an influence on movement, combat or crafting efficiency. Seasons.

  24. Mind control.

    No, not as a power set, as in the game mind-controls me.

    Grind can’t be solved. Grind is in the head of the player.

    Griefing can’t be solved. Griefing is in the head of the player.

    The Tragedy of the Commons is writ large in every attempt to have players affect the world.

    So, since the game is going to have to mind-control people out of the broken behaviors that make games less than fun, it might as well mind-control me into thinking it’s my ideal MMO.

    And so it will be.

    –GF

  25. My top desires in an MMO, in order of importance:

    1) Deep character customization, creation and development. I want a character that has a unique set of skills, a unique look, and develops over time. And I want real choices as I create and develop my characters.

    2) An engaging combat (or other game) system that is fun to think about and fun to play.

    3) A deep world that I can change. It doesn’t have to be a global change, just local changes. It doesn’t have to be realistic, just consistent.

    4) Strong macro- and micro-economies.

    5) Strong separation of different modes of play. I want to PvP only when I’m interested in PvP and not have my PvE cluttered with PvP attacks. I want to take time to socialize on my own clock. I’d like a number of clearly delineated subgames to be available.

    My top concern in RPG’s of all forms has always been character development and creation. Given such a character I mostly just want fun gameplay to engage in that then spawns further, interesting character development and choices. Gameplay that evolves over time through a world that I can impact and through robust economies seems to be the most effective ways to do this. While it is great to offer different modes of gameplay I don’t want to be forced into one or the other at any given time.

    My dream game has the skill system of Diablo, the character customization system of SWG and an economy that is a more balanced version of what SWG has. I’m not sure what it would have for a combat system — I’d like to be surprised. I liked EQ2’s engine but I suspect that ideal for me would be something more strategic which borrowed from FPS’s, RTS’s or tactical RPG’s. I would do just fine with a turn-based system even though I don’t think this really fits the genre at large. I want a world that has a good static content core but borrows some dynamic content like that of Achaea and ATitD (but emphasizes better PvE with this).

  26. Nobody would ever produce my ideal game ;-)

    That said, I “lament” pieces of various MMOs in which I’ve participated:

    UO’s advancement
    UO’s pre-split danger
    SWG’s early char customization
    EQII’s graphics quality
    EQ’s environmental diversity
    EQ’s events (some of them)
    DAoC’s dynamicism (for its time)

    This could go on forever, of course. Other things I’d like to see:

    Death handled in a way that isn’t pointless. (Why die in WoW?)
    A “built-in” way for an individual to have a real impact on the virtual world

    Apprenticeship – there should be real learning involved in developing a successful character. I know many people prefer that their games not become work, but I find that kind of character development engaging and immersive.

    Story. I read a post (sorry, I forget by whom) about how the developer’s writing should take a back-seat to the player’s “writing”. Leave room for the player’s own story. I’d argue that this will happen regardless of the depth of your canon.

    There are so many other things I would wish for, but I’m certain many other people would be wishing AGAINST those very things.

  27. Not to derail, but I think another discussion worth having is:

    “Given your ideal game, do you think it would sell well in the current market?”

    I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that my ideal game is at best a solid niche title and that levels, grinds, raids, etc., sell to a wider audience.

  28. StGabe, I’ve actually seen a LOT of people say that, and I think it’s worth wondering why.

  29. StGabe, I wish what you said wasn’t the truth but unfortunately, I can’t find any evidence that speaks to the contrary. Could an alternative style game (ie non-combat-centric-raiding-level-grind) be just as popular? I think so but its just opinion. I too think it is worth wondering why the only games that sell to a wider audience are level grinds with raiding.

    Do I wish things were different, yup. I’m biased though, because I’m hanging on to a game concept that I’m beginning to realize will never see the light of day unless I fund it myself.

    It’s sorta like the new Blu-Ray discs from Sony. Many of us hope that their price point of $40 shows Sony once and for all that it can’t feed us DRM laden crap products and expect us to keep buying them. Alas, the platform will be successful because the vast majority of people are lemmings. The same goes for games and expecting people to vote for change with their wallets is setting yourself up for disappointment. People consume what they are fed in the entertainment world and they happily do it over and over again even when they are fed the same thing.

    Hopefully, someone figures out a way to grassroots fund an MMO or happens upon someone with a boatload of cash and nothing to do with it. Perhaps then, we will get to see if our ideal MMOs stand a fighting chance in the real world without being relegated to a niche product from day one of the announcement press release.

  30. Kressilac – I think the best hope is for a similar situation to what happens in the film/tv industries, that of the blockbusters bankrolling the experimental/arthouse work. I think we are decades away from that in the MMO industry though. Theres probably only Vivendi/Blizzard who could literally dump tens of millions into an experimental MMO as it stands now…

  31. I’ve eventually come to the conclusion that my ideal game is at best a solid niche title.

    – St.Gabe

    I don’t really see why this has to be the case. Your earlier description of your ideal MMO isn’t revolutionary (not meant as a criticism).

    There are games out there that individually do parts of what you describe (perhaps not to the level that you envision).

    The trouble is, there is no game I’m aware of (please please please, tell me I’m wrong) that incorporates all these things and just works. I must apologize for quoting myself there (Raph’s other topic on lessons learned).

    I truly believe that a game must meet certain basic criteria for user friendliness (not easy or dumbed down, just a well designed user interface), minimal bugs, reasonable balance, etc. The ‘basics’ of quality?

    If a game doesn’t meet these basics, yes, it is confined to a niche … the niche that considers innovative gameplay more important than basic quality.

    In general, there aren’t many MMO’s that meet this basic level. I think THAT’s the real problem.

    Potential players will choose first those games that just work. They’ll follow the buzz of recommendation.

    If by some chance ‘they’ are presented with multiple options that meet this basic level, then they’ll reward innovation.

    There aren’t many options out there for games that just work. And if they do, they have minimal innovative features.

    My opinion only. I’m sure there are many people that would say that their current favourite game ‘just works’. I haven’t tried them all, but most that I have tried have failed to capture me … usually as a result of some basic problem.

    CoH / CoV currently has my attention. As a game, it more or less works. Other than intial character customization and a lively combat system, it has none of the features you mentioned. I’m not addicted to this game (I sooo want to be addicted to a game again). But I make do for now.

    The last game I was addicted to had problems. I enjoyed it because it had something close to some of the features you describe (I’m part of that niche that values innovation enough to forgo the basics). I finally left when the innovation was removed, leaving me only with the problems.

  32. I want to be Conan the Barbarian, just like in the old comic books I use to read!

    All the conscious entities in the game have a real human brain controlling them, hopfully a brain of a top quality actor.

    At most, there are maybe five other Heros (I don’t want my glory whored) in the game, and eventually we’ll meet and go on an epic quest together -nothing short of saving the Universe.

    And the World has to be at least as maleable as the real one, adding magic would be a plus. My hands in game work just as well as the ones typing this Reply!

    No, I don’t want some MMOG that would bring World peace, or teach jerks to be polite (yes those things would be nice). BUT I WANT THE ULTIMATE EXPIERENCE! Am I sick?

  33. There are games out there that individually do parts of what you describe (perhaps not to the level that you envision).

    Perhaps. I think that my ideas of ideal will never be optimal for the market though. When a game company like Blizzard comes up and does a summary of the most effective mechanics for the mass-appeal product of genre, most of mine won’t be included, and probably for good reason.

    From what I understand of the conceptual development of WoW, initially there was quite a bit more character customization of stats. You could apply points here or there as you wished. However, they decided that this would only cause more problems down the road as players build what they later would deem to be sub-optimal characters. The later talent system was a very watered down Diablo system and the allowance that you can change your talents whenever you want (well at a cost of some gold) is very far from my ideal.

    Playing WoW for a while and seeing how players enjoy its experience, and from a distanced perspective as I haven’t played much MMORPG’s at all over the past year, it seems clear to me that they are right not implement what I want here. I do think that greater customization would suck up a lot of dev time and would generally have a low rate of return with regard to the entire audience.

    Essentially the sorts customization and dynamic world elements I want come down to time versus skill. I want a deep enough character and a deep enough world that I have to think a good deal about both in order to have the character capable of affecting the world in the ways I want to. I want non-trivial choice which implies skill in choosing well. And in general having this will tend to drive off those who don’t want to think as much as I do or can’t make good choices. Better to allow this all things to be earned not through character choices but through time investment if you aren’t going niche.

    To me I guess niche just means that you are willing to sacrifice appeal to the majority in order to appeal to a minority audience with focused desires. I’ve given up on the notion that my desires are in the majority and find that as the market grows my particular demographic shrinks as a % and it makes more and more sense to ignore my particular playstyle.

  34. >StGabe, I’ve actually seen a LOT of people say that, and I think it’s worth wondering why.

    Because any logical analysis says we are early adopters. We have a different set of barriers then broader audiences.

    These are still mostly technical revolving around the UI and interactivity in general.

  35. What kind of analogy would I use to describe my ideal MMO? You see the themepark analogy used frequently, but in Disneyland you don’t get to paint the rides, or move the popcorn stands around — you don’t really even interact with the other tourists at Disneyland, except by accident, certainly not by design, the focus is very PvE in a themepark.

    How about a MMO like a city? In a city you can build, there are social frameworks and competition. But in a city, its easy to just wander in and get lost. You don’t want to become the MMO equivalent of homeless.

    Maybe a good analogy would be a University. You have a goal and you have progression. You have social networks, both “dev” designed, like classes and intramural sports, as well as “player content” like frats. You also have orientation week as well as a guidance councillor and a dorm RA to help you out when you are a newbie. I think my ideal MMO would be most like a University, as long as it had a campus town with a really good pub crawl.

  36. It would take a great deal of effort to describe my perfect or ideal MMO, so instead I’ll just point out a few areas that bother me.

    I test strongly (70%) as one of Bartle’s Explorers (technically ESA). I would really like to see a game that has more content that caters to me, the explorer playstyle – desire to explore, to find, to know, and to be immersed. With each new game I come to, I have to find my own niche goals to work on that will keep my interest in the game, so that I care about my character while advancing with my more achiever oriented friends.

    I agree with others that the world should change with actions done in it. (cutting down all the trees in a forest kills the forest). I’d like for exploration of this changing world to be rewarded, not in the sense that you get xp for visiting locations but where exploration actually served a purpose in game – perhaps some way of having mapmaking as a viable job in game.

    As is often mentioned player created content, but I’d especially like to see this in more “frivolous” areas like music and other arts. I don’t think there’s been an MMO yet that I haven’t turned the game music off within a month of starting. As much as I like my own music, it often doesn’t ‘fit’ the scene, so isn’t perfect; but at least more varied.

    I wish how I interacted with NPCs mattered. I’d like to see more options in how I respond in conversations with NPCs beyond the “keep talking and give me the quest” or “I don’t care about you anymore” options and have those matter. Rather than the current situation: in one quest I’m perfectly cordial helping this strange little man while the reward doesn’t really matter, but thanks for the sword anyway, then in the next I’m brusquely telling this little old lady that the reward better be good every step of the way. Basically I’d like to see more factions that really matter and better scripts for the NPCs out there including my options for responses.

  37. StGabe, I wish what you said wasn’t the truth but unfortunately, I can’t find any evidence that speaks to the contrary. Could an alternative style game (ie non-combat-centric-raiding-level-grind) be just as popular? I think so but its just opinion. I too think it is worth wondering why the only games that sell to a wider audience are level grinds with raiding.

    OK, I am obviously biased, but I’ll give this a whirl with a set of assertions, all of which are IMHO.

    The folks who buy WoW for the raids are a tiny tiny subset of early adopter players.

    I personally suspect that the large group of folks who bought WoW mostly did so because of Blizzard and Warcraft’s brand. Growth since has proceeded from (deserved) great word of mouth, but their early adopter chasm was not crossed because of the game.

    The large, untapped market is of people who enjoy casual games, games like The Sims, games like GTA, and games that only require the mouse to play, like Bejeweled.

    The current entire market for MMOs in the West IS early adopter niche — and for that matter, so is the entire traditional boxed product game industry. Almost no games reach beyond a niche market.

    The games that are reaching beyond lately often have large “sandbox” elements to them.

    All of this leads me to conclude that many of the things that people are saying are nichey AREN’T: decorating houses, making stuff, sandboxy gameplay, and so on. I think the thing that is nichey is the current prevalent model.

    Evidence exists in the Asian games as well; they are markedly less complex to operate than the ones here, pay more attention to branding and character design in many cases, and have embraced several “worldy” design paradigms that are not common here, including PvP long before it was popular on this side of the Pacific.

  38. Over time, my tastes have changed considerably. But they generally hover around central elements:

    Fantasy- I’m old skool. I can’t get enough of European-inspired magic and swords. I want to cast spells. Spells that break things with blinding flashes of light.

    Travel- I like WoW and GW’s discovery systems. Get their once on foot, by exploration, through trials and tribulations. Fly there later.

    Combat and Equipment- Combat needs to be engaging, as in, choices I make during it are more important than those I made leading up to it. Did I bring the right weapon (daggers and skeletons, not a good mix)? I like Planetside’s approach. EQ1 did some nice stuff early on too, making certain weapons better against certain targets. I wish for more of this.

    Combat Action- Collision detection, location-based hits, positional advantages, all that good stuff. Fantasy in an FPS.

    Grouping- Allow group leaders to teleport others to them in certain locations (normally right outside an instance). By default. Lore it up however. This is required to lower the barrier to grouping.

    Objectives- I want to be part of a thriving Player and NPC society. I want quests from NPCs and other players. That they already exist seems to be lost on many, since player quests don’t give XP (generally just money or items). I want a more formalized system though, where players can post quests (not for XP, but for money and items) and others can sign up for them. Eve’s Contracts come to mind.

    Reputation. Ultima IV level of reputation. I want townspeople to turn on me if I have an ‘Air of Dishonesty’ about me. That’s immersion. And if I’m in a group and someone else has an Air of Honesty, there should be a system by which they can “vouch” for me, perhaps paying off a guard, or escorting me to the town Mayor and explaining I’m not such a bad guy. Reputation is already gamed in these games, so let’s make a game out of it!

    Real Crafting- I like how ATiTD handles crafting, but even accept EQ2’s system. Both are engaging. Both allow the user to affect the outcome through choices made during the process. SWG did as well, though it was more a numbers game.

    Resource collection- Current games seems to do this pretty well. I like EQ2 and ATiTDs systems here, particularly how in the latter players can affect it.

    PvP- This requires a flat power curve. Levels are all, err, leveled out. Like Planetside. Higher BRs and CRs can benefit, but a lowbie can still be a good shot.

  39. I want a world that acts and reacts. I want a world where ever aspect of the game changes based on things that happen in it. I want the sense of purpose and real accomplishment.

    My most fond memories of gaming is that sense of accomplishment and purpose. After beating Super Mario Bro. I felt like I had just saved the princess. In Deus Ex I felt like I had shifted the world at the end.

    My current problem with MMOs is that virtually nothing changes. More specifically that nothing change despite what the player does. How many EQ years has Fippy Darkpaw run towards the gates of Qeynos. Do you have any clue how many gnolls my character alone has killed? Why hasn’t Blackburrow ever stormed the gates of Qeynos? I know if I was a gnoll I’d be pissed that all these humans kept coming from all over to kill my people.

    These so called worlds for the most part stand still.

  40. not another rpg

    I have for years now been dreaming of a big, virtual “god game” run in a perpetual world on a fast clock. could be railroad tycoon, civ, simcity … especially something like simcity / tropico … where you manage your little space and the collaborate with your neighbors to get your little piece to work with everyone else.

    you check in when you feel like it, make decisions … set the course, like gardening, then check back in tomorrow or next week to see how things have developed.

    i’m pretty disappointed that the industry hasn’t figured this out yet. there are plenty of mediocre “free” web-based games of this nature. my main gripe with all those is that they are basically text-based games … nap maps. I like clicking around the tiles and saying “put a widget here, and a wodget over there, and connect them with a road …”

    anyhow.

    just thought i’d mention it.

    love,
    -danny

  41. I want a MMOG that can, in every respect, be rightfully called a True Masterpiece.

    P.S. make it a Sci-Fi one please.

  42. What would the ideal mmorepig have, from where I stand?

    A mutable world. Players can change it. Both for the better and for the worse.

    Actually playing the game needs to be enjoyable. Whenever I play World of Warcraft, I wonder why I can’t just have a robot do it for me. Besides the Terms of Service.

    There needs to be more to do than kill the monsters. And that something more needs to contain better than navigating a menu. I’m looking at you, every crafting system ever made.

    Ethics more detailed than good and evil.

    None of that Tolkien stuff. There’re more better fantasies than elves and orcs.

    Oh, right, a solid, functional, inviting interface. So. Important.

    No classes, no levels. I can do anything I want as soon as I start playing. You can limit how much anyone does at once, sure. And there are other ways to create the positive effects of level gradations than blocking off fun.

    No visible system numbers. None. Make them guess before they fill out their spreadsheets.

    A bright, vibrant, colorful, animated world. With dancing. Lots of dancing.

    It would get as little in the way of player expression as possible. The vast majority of items have no inherent alteration to player characteristics.

    Magic would actually be magical. Not just wave your hands and shoot a fireball out your ass. Nor should it go the Ultima Online direction, and do everything better than the skill that usually does it.

    Also, a pony and a rainbow for every player.

    -Me.

  43. Raguel wrote:

    (It can’t be unique if it has a fantasy setting, but let’s ignore that point for the moment :) ).

    I strongly disagree. There’s a lot of possibilities that have been left untouched by other games. Most of the fantasy games out now are specifically high fantasy games. There are a lot of other genres of fantasy, including barbarian (or “low”) fantasy like ElfQuest (and which the upcoming Conan game from Funcom will focus on), dark/gothic fantasy, horror fantasy, and many others. There’s a lot of space to explore just in fantasy that games have ignored.

    Some thoughts,

  44. >OK, I am obviously biased, but I’ll give this a whirl with a set of assertions, all of which are IMHO.

    Thats why we like you Raph ;)

    >The folks who buy WoW for the raids are a tiny tiny subset of early adopter players.

    Yep, no agruments here.

    >I personally suspect that the large group of folks who bought WoW mostly did so because of Blizzard and Warcraft’s brand. Growth since has proceeded from (deserved) great word of mouth, but their early adopter chasm was not crossed because of the game.

    Don’t lay this off to ‘extremely polished’. Your extremely polished was the customer’s acceptable quality.

    >The large, untapped market is of people who enjoy casual games, games like The Sims, games like GTA, and games that only require the mouse to play, like Bejeweled.

    Absolutely

    >The current entire market for MMOs in the West IS early adopter niche — and for that matter, so is the entire traditional boxed product game industry. Almost no games reach beyond a niche market.

    Yes I think so too. But this is largely a UI/interactivity thing. Gamers have already crosssed that barrier, which make them the obvious market.

    >The games that are reaching beyond lately often have large “sandbox” elements to them.

    Eh? Blinded by WoW I guess. Can you list these?

    >All of this leads me to conclude that many of the things that people are saying are nichey AREN’T: decorating houses, making stuff, sandboxy gameplay, and so on. I think the thing that is nichey is the current prevalent model.

    I think so too but find it hard to produce empirical data in light of past releases.

    >Evidence exists in the Asian games as well; they are markedly less complex to operate than the ones here, pay more attention to branding and character design in many cases, and have embraced several “worldy” design paradigms that are not common here, including PvP long before it was popular on this side of the Pacific.

    I still believe PvP is a special problem because the disparity between level playing fields and RPG. Am I missing somthing?

    As above and what DQ said.

  45. Don’t lay this off to ‘extremely polished’. Your extremely polished was the customer’s acceptable quality.

    Of course; the polish drove word of mouth hugely, and permitted crossing over to a much larger group.

    But consider the basic question of how many controls WoW (or any of our games) affords. just count how many buttons are required to do the basic navigation of the game, how many axes of control are needed.

    Then consider that mass market titles mostly stick to >The games that are reaching beyond lately often have large “sandbox” elements to them.

    Eh? Blinded by WoW I guess. Can you list these?

    Zelda, Sims, Grand Theft Auto…

  46. Hey Raph, What about your ideal mmo. What would you like to create for a ideal world. (although it may never be done). We know that you cant list some things for obvious reasons but what about the core essence of it.

    On another note I also approve the one world/one character server as well. If you do something bad in a world expect to have enemies and not be able to just poof.

  47. A dedicated and voracious programmer will scratch her itches. If she wants something badly enough, she’ll make it, herself. I don’t have time to build an MMO by myself. So, it’s perilous for me to even contemplate what I want. Maybe I’ll make some comments later, when I have time.

  48. Basically most of you want to be able to live real life, online! But, be able to be whoever you want whenever you want and have it feel as if you’re actually what you’re pretending to be.

    The only interactive system, theoretical or real, that could offer the immersion, options, freedom and meaning you want from this type of game is the holodeck technology on Star Trek shows. Add in a way to network holodecks and allow people to experience the same world at the same time and you have the ultimate MMORPG. A real life simulation where you aren’t playing a character, you ARE the character.

    I think its gonna be awhile before anything even gets close to what yall are asking for.

  49. Ideal MMO for me:

    * no level banding
    Level banding breaks up players, limits what they can participate in. Worse, it breaks up friendships according to play-time.

    * unique characters
    We can’t all be heroes, but we can all be individuals. I don’t want to be punished for being different. I don’t want to have to wear the same costume as everyone else because it has the best ‘stats’ for my ‘class’

    * the ability to affect the world
    Houses, cities, customised items, customised content – and a market to support them. When I do something, I’d like to leave my mark on the world somehow.

    * everyone play together
    Planetside captured this in its early days (before the addition of the dreaded BFR) – everyone was useful, everyone had something they could do, and all the cool things required you to have someone else’s help.

    * excellent in-game communications
    Too many fast-paced games still rely on text chat for communication. Voice macros are becoming more common, but to really communicate and coordinate you need more than just text. GUI elements like waypoints, goal reminders (a.k.a. WoW quest window) and similar that can be set by the team leader, a friend, whatever.

    * fun core mechanic
    I feel any game – MMO or not – should know what it’s core mechanic is and it should be fun. The thing that you expect the bulk of players to do the bulk of the time. For most it’s combat, but it doesn’t have to be. It does have to be fun in and of itself though, not a means to an end.

    * no obviously pointless downtime
    Things like travel time, extended rest periods, etc. can end up frustrating the player more than not. A casual gamer with an hour to play (which I find myself becoming more and more lately) cannot play a game where it takes 30 minutes just to reach your friends (WoW, I’m looking at you!) and another 15 minutes to prepare to defeat your foe. City of Heroes’ ‘Recall Friend’ is one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a MMORPG yet.

  50. In response to The Smart Guy:

    > Basically most of you want to be able to live real life, online! But, be able to be whoever you want whenever you want and have it feel as if you’re actually what you’re pretending to be. (…) A real life simulation where you aren’t playing a character, you ARE the character.

    I think that is taking it way too far. The “shortcomings” of current MMOs seem to be that they are built not having long-term character development in mind, and if they do, character development is quite simplified (kill X number of Y to get to max level, or do quests A, B and C to get to max level).

    The focus is too much on becoming more powerful rather than to actually participate in the world. In my opinion most MMOs do not have an endgame because the worlds are not dynamic, leaving players to do the same repetitive tasks over and over once they reach max level, eventually becoming bored.

    People want an MMO as an escape from their real lives (or to have at least a small sandbox to play in, in which they can experiment without real-life risks). I agree on that point. However, this does not imply that the MMO needs to be 100% realistic.

    I dont need a 100% accurate physics engine to feel immersed. I dont need permadeath to feel 100% immersed. I dont need to die by just being hit once by a bullet to feel immersed.

    What I do need, however, is some set of goals to strive for (that can be set by me or by the games narrative), a good chance of succeeding in achieving most of those goals, and a balanced amount of effort that it takes to reach those goals. And I need the possibility to set myself new goals as I master previous ones, or receive new goals from the narrative.

    While I strive to reach those goals, I need to be able to use as much common sense as possible, not running into blatant immersion-breakers. If I kneel behind a wall, a monster should need longer to locate me, and another player should not be able to shoot me through that wall.

    If it rains, I should not be able to run circles as tight as if the soil was dry. If one of my goals is to take over a city with my guild, I should be able to put guild insignias on the city hall, and if the minions of boss mob ImEvil take over a city, it should not be a safe place to go anymore until the city has been freed again. And if mob ImEvil dies trying to defend that city, he should stay dead and ImEvenMoreEvil should take over his empire.

    Also, PvE should not need to be much different from PvP. PvE needs a lot more AI than it has currently. If I am out hunting, see wolfhound A, attack it, and can predict that wolfhound A will come running towards me, and that I need to root it after the second arrow I shoot, and then just shoot some more arrows, than that is an immersion breaker. Why doesnt wolfhound A run away when being hit, and wolfhound B jumps onto me out of a bush while I try to keep up with A?

    I want to be able to look up to other players who accomplished something. If I start crafting swords, I need to invest serious effort before my swords are as good as the ones from Jack Armsman who has been making swords for 6 months and knows what he is doing.

    I want to be able to do something besides combat and crafting, just having a glorified chatroom in a tavern, for example, and be able to meet people there who actually enjoy doing just that.

    I do not believe that all of what I described above can be accomplished by programs alone. I think a healthy dose of game masters with ground-breaking tools is necessary to accomplish it.

    So to conclude: I dont need a holodeck, but a believable world that I can influence would be nice. I dont mind if I see my book shelf over the top edge of my screen, or here some kids shouting outside when I am playing that MMO.

  51. Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine existing games into a virtual world?

    For instance, there’s some dance pad game that is a niche game. Now if you could connect that niche game to say the virtual SWG world and have the people playing the dance game controlling perhaps psuedo-NPC dancers in a cantina. There’s a guitar game out there, that lets you play music. Same scenerio, you can either play the guitar game solo, connect with some freinds through some P2P type instance, or connect to a virtual world in which you play for, interact with and provide entertainment for others.

    One of Raph’s comments made me think of that, and maybe it’s a thought worth putting out there.

    As to the question at hand. What is my ideal MMO? One that allows me to explore and discover new things. One that is dangerous. One that would allow me to pass along some of my characters knowledge and skills to my next character when my main dies. A virtual world that changes. Quests that have consequences.

  52. A game that did not try to cater to different mindsets, i.e. is it a fun game, or an RPG. If it is an RPG then consequances to actions exist.
    A setting that has been thoroughly worked out, with ‘metaphysics’ so the game makes sense in context to itself, even if it is completely unrealistic. Basically context, this is important since people constantly relate everything they see in a game to real life, at some point anyway. By having a world actually follow its on metaphsyics whatever systems are used make sense in relation to what the designers say is supposed to happen.
    People have to be IC but the game does most of the work of being IC so drop down menus exist so players cannot just start typing tripe. A game I am writing for PBM is working along this premise. That also means that any time a conversation path is chosen the game knows exactly what context the conversation is, thus further effecting character personality traits.
    Combat is more dynamic and flows better like Unreal Tournament side stepping, but much more so. Standing mostly still exchanging rockets or great swords to the head just undermines the action for me.
    Characters can be NPC or PC and not be so obviously noticeable. NPC that stand about repeating the same script undermine imersion.
    Players do not have to grind. Since it is impossible to play 24/7/365 there is a restriction on the amount of time=gain.
    A social and political system that does not rely on players.
    A non-static world, so quests are given out in a natural way and the results of the quest matter, no matter what the results are. So if all the vile monsters are killed all the warriors have a choice sit about or do something else. If a society has no external threats it will likely suffer from heavy infighting, thus players always have something to do.

    If it is a game about skill and fun, then no need to make a new one they already exist play UT or Starcraft ;-)
    Richard Brewster (Bat)

  53. Oh, and abolish roleplaying. Not that I have anything against RP, I love to participate in it myself, but it is unenforceable in MMOs. Why bother setting yourself up for disappointment by establishing RP servers? The community cannot police itself because the community is fractured (if not broken altogether).

    One player’s RP simply means to be playing a char in the MMO. The next player believes it is a matter of speaking “as” the character (never mind that said speech might be “l33t”). Yet a third may restrict RP to “high fantasy” language. And then there’s the player to whom RP means that YOU play the game HIS way.

    I’ve seen RP fairly successfully enforced by the community in a couple of MUDs, but MMO communities are simply too capricious.

  54. I personally suspect that the large group of folks who bought WoW mostly did so because of Blizzard and Warcraft’s brand. Growth since has proceeded from (deserved) great word of mouth …
    [...]
    Of course; the polish drove word of mouth hugely, and permitted crossing over to a much larger group.

    Prescription: Secure an excellent brand to ensure a large opening? Then polish, to ensure positive word of mouth and brisk growth?

    Is there no room for innovative features in this prescription? (Or is this hidden in that word ‘polish’? If it is, it shouldn’t be … they are two different concepts)

    The success of WoW obscures the truth. Imagine two games, with equal ‘polish’, equal starting community, and equal basic features (combat system, advancement, etc).

    If the second such game included additional features that addressed Raph’s lament, I’d play the second game, not the first.

    The trouble is, this is not the case. Very few games are polished (at least, that I’ve played).

    And among those games that might be said to be polished, most fall short in other ways.

    Some lack basic features that WoW includes (some lack crafting and economy, some have you playing a ‘ship’ rather than a more personal representation). Many of these games also lack the brand.

    Despite a hundred or more MMO current, or coming, there is really no choice available to the consumer.

    In a world where all games were polished, progressive features that add additional loci of control, would become the deciding factor on whether the game declines or grows.

    There is, perhaps, little evidence to support this belief, only because the industry has delivered so few samples to examine.

    A revised prescription:

    Build a MMO on a strong brand and they will at least come and take a look.

    Build a MMO that is polished and they will come, stay for a while and tell their friends that they’re having a good time. Their friends will come if they have nothing better to do.

    Build a MMO that is polished and more innovative than the competition and they will come, stay and bring their friends along too.

    But consider the basic question of how many controls WoW (or any of our games) affords. just count how many buttons are required to do the basic navigation of the game, how many axes of control are needed.

    Is this too much of a simplification? It’s not really the number of controls required that could turn a person off a game. To my mind, it’s more the nature of the controls that matters.

    On the web, there is typically more than one site offering any particular functionality you can name. In the end, I find people migrate to the one that has the best user interface.

    I’m not an expert in such things. As a web developer, my interfaces are not typically the best. When it is important for an interface to be amazing, I go out and subcontract someone with more skill than I in interface design.

    Do game companies hire experts in user interface design? Or is this left up to the coders and game designers who (imo, no offense) aren’t likely to have the same skills as someone who makes a living from great UI.

  55. Players start in small communities under threat and have to develop those communites. There power tied to the existence of that community. Failure will destroy the community – but leave the players alive but starting again. But where they can turn a village soon to be destroyed into a thriving city.

    A game where players have the choice between developing them selves or developing there community – unlocking new powers from them or for everybody.

    A game where communities battle other communites for resources – in a geographical sense.

    A game were look and function are seperate – and you develop your look as much as you develop your ability to kill.

    A gmae like guild wars whre you unlock more powers – not just better powers

  56. [...] Raph Koster posted the question ‘What is your ideal MMO’ on his blog, which is really opening up a can of worms; however some of the responses echoed the idea of removing character levels from MMOs: [...]

  57. Of course; the polish drove word of mouth hugely, and permitted crossing over to a much larger group.

    Perhaps another discussion that would have merit would be: “What is polish?”

    It’s more than just miniming defects. There’s a whole body of investigation on effective UI to consider. This polish concept is also about low-level design decisions.

    For example, I once played a game where the division of xp encouraged solo groups. Forcing grouping is not ideal, but forcing grouping for the sole purpose of running solo is worse still.

    A theory of fun (I haven’t read it yet, sorry) could lead to a series of tests that every design decision is evaluated with.

    I read (as best I could) your presentation on methods for describing game designs. The methods you described seemed like they might show promise for detecting logical and some interface issues. But they didn’t seem to tie in with concepts of fun. Did I read it too lightly?

  58. My dream game would be like this:

    A realistic feeling world that’s highly interactive. I loved the way in UO you could reach out and touch so many things, making your curser act like your hands and eyes. Picking things up and dropping them, drinking a mug of ale, setting it down on a table, refilling it from a bottle or pitcher, and drinking it again, reading signs and or looking closely at things, the levers and puzzles, the painting with the numbers on, books! Interaction, for entertainment as well as a way to hide things in the wolrd and allow players to discover them on their own, without needing to be directed by some quest.

    A world where players can build cities, castles, temples, or other things that revolve around either a community, or their own individual power.

    A world where there is risk, but also ways for protection against risks through social means or pure power.

    A world where there are few godlike characters, and those that are have so many restrictions through costs in money and time that they have to continue this expence, so that they don’t have the inclination to misuse their power against other players. A world that doesn’t center around level grinding to a sure win to levels of godlike power. A world based on skills mostly, where a skilled player merely has an advantage, not a demi-god status.

    A world where trade skills require time to make items, and items are made in parts first, them assembled, and where newbies have a place in this by making parts for greater tradesmen who can then modify them and assemble them. Up the rungs of the ladder. Where a field can be grown by one, and a more skilled character can hire the lower skilled to do work for him, so that he can apply his greater skill to grow better or more crops. The time requirements making this more feasable.

    A world without artificial restrictions to social interactions. A world with crime, but also with player justice when and if caught. A world where a city can go to war with another, where conquests are possible, and revolts too. A world where politics play a key role.

    A world where death hurts enough and is feared enough that players activities reflect this. Where permadeath can be a risk in extreme but predictable situations, the risk being offset by the possible rewards.

    A world full of challenging adventures, where the journey is at least as entertaining as the climax.

    A true skill based game, because it just works better for the players. Where there are classes, but not defined by choosing a class. Rather, a mage shouldn’t be able to cast spells while wearing armor, andthieving abilities require light armor and small weapons, due to the effects of the armor, weapons, weight, etc. Where they can try it, and find out why it causes failure, not simply be told by the game that they can’t do that. Where stats play a role in limiting a player on where he can take his character growth.

    A world where players “win” by using their own smarts, not just given victory by spending time on predictable patterns.

    A world with a good NPC AI. Few static spawns, MOBs that roam in search of goals, build their own communities and defenses, raid, etc. NPCs that fear for their lives, or lust for blood and gold, or have other agendas based on social orders.

    And a world where there’s a full time staff that has the tools available to bring life to the game world. Both in acting and leading events forwards, and in dropping unusual settings for players to stumble onto. A world where there are background stories running for players to discover, get involved in, and defeat or join.
    A world full of mystery and intrigue, secrets, lost lore, and hidden or fogotten things of all kinds.

  59. I don’t feel comfortable describing my ideal MMO in great detail… save to mention specifically to StGabe that perhaps the tension between two different design impulses that he says he perceives explains why I don’t have just one, but in fact several.

    I’d like to explore the user content side of things much more.

    I’d also like to make the fully immersive world.

    I am also very interested in a world where every activity is a fun game or activity in its own right.

    A while back on f13 I posted the following:

    My mantra these days:

    NO
    • Fee
    • Shards
    • HUD
    • Levels
    • Skills
    • Inventory management
    • Tutorial
    • Dragons or elves
    • Grind
    • Boobies
    • Travel
    • Static zones
    • Tedium or makework
    • Hotkey fests
    • Spreadsheets
    • Oppressive maintenance
    • 4 hour sessions
    • 4 gig installs

    YES
    • …to swords
    • Explosions
    • Fun in 10 minute blocks
    • Building
    • Groups levelling up together
    • Player skill required
    • User content
    • Consequence to actions
    • Competition
    • 60+ player games
    • Interdependence
    • Embedded experiences
    • Self-directed pursuits
    • Humor and wit
    • Intelligence
    • Obvious play mechanics
    • Quality story and worldbuilding

    Tuebit: I gave my prescription a long time ago, but it doesn’t start with a big brand, it starts with a powerful idea. A brand is just shorthand for a concept, a worldview, something that drives passion.

    There’s a lot of misconceptions, for example, about the power that the Star Wars brand had in terms of the word of mouth growth for that title. If you go back, you’ll see that there was relatively little marketing in a classic sense. There’s a LOT of SW games, so in itself the brand doesn’t necessarily provide a ready-made audience, and when you look at the sales history of other SW titles, this is borne out — none of them get truly massive boosts solely on the brand.

    Instead, it was the slow growth via forums and word of mouth as we built the community step by step the old fashioned way that got the momentum going. And that was done by presenting a vision that caught the imagination. I carefully watched the metrics on the community growth, and the pattern was very clear: it was a classic j-curve, not an “open big” curve like you would expect a brand to give.

    UO was very much the same thing btw. ALL the initial buzz came from word of mouth via a rogue website and our participation on web forms and newsgroups. The team rogue announced the game, rather than the company doing it, and I vividly remember the day when marketing came up to our floor and asked “what IS this game? We keep getting asked about it during out preview sessions for Longbow!”

    Once you have your core of passionate evangelists, you then move on to execution. And you do have to execute, or you will dissipate the momentum.

    My sense is that WoW didn’t have that sort of adoption pattern; they ran quiet until the beta, and the beta itself is what drove stuff. But the immense power of the Blizzard name is a massive, massive factor. There’s a lot of folks playing that game who are new to MMOs who were brought in by the brand, I think. So they got to skip some chunk of J-curve growth. Then the polish sealed the deal.

    Network effects, btw, also tell us that the larger you are, the larger you get.

  60. I gave my prescription a long time ago, but it doesn’t start with a big brand, it starts with a powerful idea. – Raph

    I’ve either missed your prescription, or didn’t recognize it. Do you have a link? I’d enjoy reading it (or is this a reference to your book)?

    My sense is that WoW [...] ran quiet until the beta, and the beta itself is what drove stuff. But the immense power of the Blizzard name is a massive, massive factor. [...] Then the polish sealed the deal.

    I played during stress test. My reaction: ho-hum, not a very inventive game, but WOW, it just works (the polish). I’d agree: the Blizzard name got me to try, but the polish kept me (for a little while). POLISH was the key!

    Interesting comment on the SW brand. I would have assumed it was a bigger impact. I tried SWG because of the brand. It was the innovative features that hooked me. It was the polish (lack thereof) that drove me away ultimately. POLISH was the key.

    The point of my previous posts … in todays market, I think ‘POLISH’ is the starting point, without which innovative features mean relatively little.

    By all appearances, POLISH is poorly understood … it is more than just defects. A person such as yourself could do much, I would think, to help codify what is this thing called POLISH (a design can be polished design).

    Once the industry gets that out of the way, it can focus on competative differentiation through innovative features.

  61. Now for every NO, you need a way to get around the reason it was invented in the first place.

    HUD – how to convey enough information to the player so they don’t feel lost

    Levels/skills/inventory management – how to provide meaningful, quantifiable character development

    Spreadsheets – you’re basically saying no math. Yet when simulating a world, math is the only tool you have.

    But hey, if it wasn’t a challenge it’d have already been done. I like the spirit, though. A game my mother could pick up and play, because it doesn’t rely on the “pre-existing knowledge” players are “supposed” to have about the genre. Elegant simplicity…yum.

  62. It’s just like polishing a car. You can polish it. And then you can polish it some more. It doesn’t change the car any, although it does seem to make the car run nicer, in your own mind.

    But if you discover that the car uses an awful lot of gas, well, you don’t forget that even while it seems to be running so nicely down the road.

  63. Oh, and did I mention that it would probably sell quicker too.

  64. Wish there was an edit. A follow-up anecdote about ‘Dark and Light’, a game that could have been my ideal game.

    Rumour & FAQ purported that …

    Players could have an impact, conquering forts, building up a lively city of mixed NPC / Players around it. There would be a sense of joy at the accomplishment.

    With open PvP (not that I’m a big fan of PvP) and everything being destructible, there would be a sense of strife, danger and possibly despair.

    The world was huge. Exploration would require great effort. Weather effects would be dynamic (snow accumulated, water froze over). You could ride a critter in the summer, and snowboard in the winter. Mobs would congregate and migrate, perhaps threatening a city.

    Politics and player interaction would matter. 30+ crafting trades were planned.

    Emotion, player driven story, a dynamic world, a variety of roles for individual play styles … w00t!

    The game was hyped. It topped mmorpg.com’s list of anticipated games for a while. 250K members signed up at the forums to discuss and wait (far exceeding the numbers on other games, even those with big brands).

    Then a sort of open beta was launched. What features that were there were ill designed (imo). Nothing about the game was polished. It was buggy.

    Expectation plummeted, the game fell off the list of anticipated games.

    Lack of polish will probably relegate this game to a niche (at best). Had it the polish, I have no doubt it would have done well.

    Instead, I’ve currently settled for a game that works, despite its limited scope (CoH/CoV).

  65. By all appearances, POLISH is poorly understood … it is more than just defects. A person such as yourself could do much, I would think, to help codify what is this thing called POLISH (a design can be polished design).

    It isn’t poorly understood, I don’t think. I think it’s mostly just expensive. A lot of the polish on Blizzard products comes from just holding them back from release while they get playtested and playtested and playtested and playtested…

    Now for every NO, you need a way to get around the reason it was invented in the first place.

    Some of them proceed from false assumptions. For example, by saying no spreadsheets, I am not saying no math — I am saying that game design that can be reduced down to a simple spreadsheet isn’t deep enough in terms of emergent properties. Similarly — there’s so much crap on HUDS today that players literally cannot absorb all the information (it exceeds the typical bandwidth of attention); clearly, there hasn’t been enough thought about how much information is actually needed and how often.

  66. Re: shards

    UO was the game that came up with shards, I believe.

    Re: chabuhi’s “abolish RP”

    What if the community wasn’t so fractured? Maybe they’re merely doing it wrong in the current MMOs? I’m inclined to say it’s still worth a couple more shots.

  67. Michael, by all means, PLEASE keep trying! :) If an MMO could pull it off, I’d be all over that game. I don’t know how you avoid a fractured community, especially when you’re talking about millions of subscribers world-wide.

    Even in the MUDs I mentioned, I see casual (OOC) language slide by not infrequently despite rigorous rules against it. It doesn’t bother me because I tend to go with traffic, but it just illustrates how hard it is to draw a consensus on what passes for IC RP.

    I would be very interested in (and encouraged by) an MMO developer that could make it happen.

  68. The large, untapped market is of people who enjoy casual games, games like The Sims, games like GTA, and games that only require the mouse to play, like Bejeweled.

    I think you may romanticize this part of the market.

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on casual games of late and they are a good example.

    You want skill with your game? Generally the advice for very casual games is that the player needs to use the mouse and one button only. Even using the right mouse button is too much. If you can’t count on a player figuring out how to use the second mouse button then you certainly can’t assume that they are going to be skillful at your game or enjoy a game that rewards skill. A casual game will generally stress one type of skill, such as pattern recognition but rarely are levels difficult enough to where a player has to try them again and again to get them right.

    Now look at the way that almost every casual games these days is structured. It has a strong thematic structuring several, well, levels. With lots of rewards between levels to make the player feel good about their accomplishment. Can you say ding?

    From studying that market it seems clear to me that casual gamers want straightforward, highly-structured games with regular feedback where time and not skill will get them to the next ding. Far more important than real choices or stories is a feeling of building accomplishment. This is what I think WoW has captured better than most other games on the market. Also, it is why I think that the level model has been so successful and will continue to predominate.

    Casual players joining the market will, I think, tend to stress WoW-style development. I don’t think it is a mistake that WoW grew the market significantly with its style of play. Some of it was Blizzard’s name but a lot of was simply that I think it is far closer to casual games in structure than most prior games on the market. It is the direction that I think casual MMO’s will go, not complex player-created content and story creation. That will remain the domain of the hardcore. SL is a great world but it is a world for a very specific sort of hardcore social player. I think it was wrong for us to assume that we dreamed of all these things when we were growing the genre that they are how the genre would inevitably succeed in the mainstream.

  69. [Polish] isn’t poorly understood, I don’t think. I think it’s mostly just expensive.

    If you’re correct (and you’re the inside guy, so I assume you are), perhaps the problem then is with development funding models that don’t account for the opportunity cost of lack of polish.

    If the opportunity cost is the difference between 250K odd subscriptions and 5.5 million … hmm, polish doesn’t seem so expensive afterall.

    A lot of the polish on Blizzard products comes from just holding them back from release while they get playtested and playtested and playtested and playtested…

    That suggests that up-front detailed designs, analysis and statistical modelling is incapable of getting a game near to polish (I’m not suggesting that playtesting is un-necessary, clearly it is important).

    Is formal detailed analysis, design and modelling done? Is it possible to do this for a game (set aside whatever culture prevails)? I’m not referring to the engine that runs the game … but to the mechanics that is the game.

  70. Tuebit:

    Now its a bit easy to say that “If the opportunity cost is the difference between 250K odd subscriptions and 5.5 million … ” but prior to World of Warcraft or a scant 18 months ago, the largest MMO only had 500K subscriptions. (Asian servers and their wacky subscription counts aside) No one even knew that 1M subscribers was possible, let alone 5.5 times that number. Is 10M subscribers possible? 100M? WoW is the first game to show the publishers that if done right that a MMO can be a Billion dollar per year game. That’s bound to turn enough heads in the investment community but its going to take time.

    Two years ago, you released and hoped for 250K subscriptions knowing you might get 60K. That’s because the threshold was 500K. Now the top threshold is 5.5M(and growing) so expectations/opportunity cost justifications can be somewhat higher. Is LotRO or Star Trek Online shooting for 250K subscriptions? I doubt it given WoW’s success. Assuming the developers can polish the game like WoW did, either of those brands is as strong if not stronger than the Blizzard/Warcraft brand. So while the math seems simple in light of WoW’s 5.5M subscribers, its still very new math that only Blizzard’s and Vivendi’s stockholders have seen any benfit from. Lets hope DDO and LotRO are equally successful and Atari/Infogrames stockholders begin to see the light.

  71. Kressilac said: Now its a bit easy to say that …

    Very good point. My apologies for mistaking hindsight for foresight.

    Although, I think there were still inklings of the importance of polish as early as 2001 with the very poor initial showing of Anarchy Online. I thought it had great potential as a game, but it never really recovered from its poor launch.

  72. I’m still looking for an MMO that I can play intensely, but only for a few days, or at most a few weeks, yet not feel like a community exile. This as opposed to the dream of a casual game — I don’t want my games casual, I just don’t want them dominating my life.

    The only way I can get this now is through LARPing or intense boardgaming on occasional weekends, or through games like Galactic Emperor for three weeks.

  73. Assuming the developers can polish the game like WoW did, either of those brands is as strong if not stronger than the Blizzard/Warcraft brand.

    I don’t know Kress, how did the respective fans compare in pure gamer numbers, as opposed to fans of the books and movies? Didn’t Blizzard have a much larger gamer base to draw from? I know a game can count on some new gamers to crossover, but it seems to me that the other two were well behind Blizzard in gamer followers. And I am including the P+P followers from Warcraft. I think they’d be much more likely to make the crossover than someone who read the Star Wars books, and who was also almost certainly one of the movie goers too.

  74. Amaranthar, you could be right and Raph’s post about the strength of the SWG brand might indicate that I was attributing too much to the brand strength of Star Trek and LotR outside of games. We’ll see but then again, I’ve never really been a huge believer that you need a great piece of pre-existing IP to launch the ideal MMO. Again though, I am biased based on my ties to my own design.

  75. That suggests that up-front detailed designs, analysis and statistical modelling is incapable of getting a game near to polish (I’m not suggesting that playtesting is un-necessary, clearly it is important).

    The usual way the industry does that is by cloning an existing game pretty faithfully, then polishing it.

    There are no good methods for detailed design, analysis, and statistical modeling yet, alas. Here’s where I reference my “Grammar of Gameplay” stuff. :)

    StGabe, you are very correct about the highly limited interfaces and tight mechanics that the casual games provide. But let me suggest to you that GTA, for example, is a virtual space with a lot of those small simple things embedded in it. And people, even casual ones, do “get” virtual space.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about the responses to the lament thread (including all the commentary on the various forms where it has been reposted) is this:

    The objections to it all only come from current players. The agreement comes from current players, ex-players, and people who say “this list is exactly why I don’t play MMOs.”

    To me, that shows there’s an audience there that the current games do not tap into. How big is it? I don’t know, but I still think the potential audience for virtual worlds in general is far far larger than what we have tapped thus far.

  76. Growth since has proceeded from (deserved) great word of mouth, but their early adopter chasm was not crossed because of the game.

    In a sense, they began their early adopter growth during the first Stress Test in Sept ’04. This makes the records they achieved at launch somewhat understandable. The hype began because the polish was evident months prior to launch.

    But moving on:

    And people, even casual ones, do “get” virtual space.

    This is an important point. There are a lot more people in virtual spaces than there are those in MMOs. Some of those spaces are graphical, but others are more metaphorical. All share the same element though: customized/personalized environment.

    People get this. People may not buy a product only because of this, but they sure like it when it’s there.

    The reason MMOGs remain niche (5% of online gamers in the U.S. are playing MMOs, even with GW and WoW) is because all of this customization and personalization are locked behind progressive time sinks.

    Time sinks are expected here because of the history of the genre. But it’s holding us back. There are better ways to make things harder, but most often it’s reduced to just making things take longer. Longer is harder, after a fashion. But unlike a challenging puzzle or a tricky maze, time is not something some can over come.

    If I got nothing from my list above, I’d want this one thing:

    Makes games with mind-bending puzzles, and, as able, a pause* feature.

    * Note: Sure we can’t have universal pause on 40-person raids, but that’s a very niche subset of the playerbase. We knew this before WoW exposed it again with the outcry of shock at just what the level-60 game is for all the newbies. But we also know that there’s ample solo content out there, many times in private zones. So why isn’t there a pause in private zones?

  77. I don’t think it’s just timesinks. Other big barriers that clearly apply:

    • credit card barrier — a big turnoff for lots of folks.
    • retail store barrier — e.g., “gamer audience” barrier. The non-gamers don’t have an inkling the stuff exists. I actually think some of the “Wow is the new golf” is coming from this, even among GAMING execs (many of whom were not gamers and didn’t “get it” as to what MMOs were)
    • interface barrier — these things are just insanely complex and confusing
    • subscription barrier — non-initiates have trouble justifying the fee
    • gameplay barrier — the pacing not only of the experience but of the actual gameplay is all wrong for a huge portion of the market. The combat is both too slow and too simplistic for many weaned on Soul Calibur, for example.
    • narrative/directionality barrier. Even the most directed of the games is still rather freeform for those folks who are looking to be guided.

    I think there’s more, but those are the biggest ones.

  78. [...] Raph’s got up a question for everyone about what their ideal MMO is. I’m rather amazed to find a great many people responding that they want more forced socialization opportunities – that the strength of MMOs is that they offer people a chance to socialize. [...]

  79. Raph’s got up a question for everyone about what their ideal MMO is. I’m rather amazed to find a great many people responding that they want more forced socialization opportunities – that the strength of MMOs is that they offer people a chance to socialize.

    Utopian Hell, I don’t think people are saying that they want more “forced” socialization, they want it better, deeper, and with more meaning. The idea, I believe, behind it is to fix what is perceived as wrong with it. That being that it has very little to do with anything in game, and that it’s overall pretty meaningless to the game world. It’s pretty much a roleplay thing combined with a deeper world thing, with a little gangsta love mixed in.

  80. Makes games with mind-bending puzzles, and, as able, a pause* feature.

    * Note: Sure we can’t have universal pause on 40-person raids, but that’s a very niche subset of the playerbase. We knew this before WoW exposed it again with the outcry of shock at just what the level-60 game is for all the newbies. But we also know that there’s ample solo content out there, many times in private zones. So why isn’t there a pause in private zones?

    This is something that I’ve been harping on for years. But my question is, why does it have to include a pause? Why does it even need to be in a private zone?

    Let me explain by an old example, one I’ve used many times in various places. In UO, there were some levers in the dungeon Covetous. In earlier days, before they lost all but the most committed of powergamers blind to the world around them, just about everyone tried these levers. Every time I was there, it didn’t fail that players would stop while running by and try them out, ask what they were, and get answers from everyone else in the area. But the word spread quickly that they were broken (whether they actually were or not isn’t important). They were dismissed by almost all, and anything of that kind of play was dismissed. Out of mind, out of game. Now, suppose that they actually did have some deep secret to them, and suppose that players had some way of knowing, or suspecting this. Would they then have been dismissed, along with that whole idea of game play? I don’t think so.

    So, here’s a time sink that doesn’t require anything that feels false to the idea of a persistent world. The world continues, all the while players could be thinking about these levers, even outside of the game world. Especially if elsewhere in the game little clues are left that seem to indicate something about these levers.

    How much of a draw is that? Hard puzzles left in the game, that require exploration and thought. It is progressive, but not in the immediate sense. Just give players something to think about even away from the game, and something to look forwards to.

    It doesn’t matter if they are the ones to actually solve the puzzles, as long as they always have something on this order to look forwards to. These aren’t the instant gratification player types. They are the challenge type. It works for their game. Of course, it would be a huge plus to also have lots of little, easier puzzles, and keep adding them to keep the world full of them. This encourages the players that there is something meaningful, and also satisfies them against possibly never finding the answers to the big ones. But as long as they are there, in the world, they will be drawn to try to solve them.

  81. Really, it’s best not to get me started.

    I want a cross between an MMORPG and a resource management strategy game, with a complex feudal hierarchy, land management, and players creating missions for subordinate players, and controlling NPC peasants and soldiers.

    No, wait, I want a massively multiplayer fighting pet monster game.

    Or, maybe I want post-apocalyptic-survival-horror-resource-collecting-empire-building-tech-tree game, in which the players have to fight various horrors, as they desperately band together to rebuild civilization.

    Even if I made a list of design principles, they wouldn’t universally apply to all the sorts of games I can think of that might be fun.

  82. Now, suppose that they actually did have some deep secret to them, and suppose that players had some way of knowing, or suspecting this. Would they then have been dismissed, along with that whole idea of game play? I don’t think so.

    That’s an interesting thought, Amaranthar – certainly something that would appeal to me in terms of immersion. It made me wonder, though, how much of a secret the developers could make them. It made me wonder if the UO levers may actually have had a function, but somehow the “conventional wisdom” drove the population to simply accept that they had no purpose.

    Especially if elsewhere in the game little clues are left that seem to indicate something about these levers.

    This, of couse, would be key in keeping the mystery alive.

    Of course, it would be a huge plus to also have lots of little, easier puzzles, and keep adding them to keep the world full of them

    The problem I see with this is that such things quickly become how-to’s. The adventure is lost because many gamers don’t want to figure out how to do things on their own. Go to a web page and get the walkthrough seems to be the status quo these days. I’m not saying that all players are like that, but it seems like there are enough to make an effort like you mention above somewhat futile.

    Still, I agree with you – *I* would love it.

  83. The problem I see with this is that such things quickly become how-to’s. The adventure is lost because many gamers don’t want to figure out how to do things on their own. Go to a web page and get the walkthrough seems to be the status quo these days. I’m not saying that all players are like that, but it seems like there are enough to make an effort like you mention above somewhat futile.

    I dont think its futile. Even if the majority of players chooses to look up the solution in how-to-guides, the ones that do want to solve those puzzles on their own will do it and feel great about it. Maybe even a lot of the how-to readers might think “neat feature”, and if it is not that way, it wont hurt them, either. Its better to offer the choice of looking up a solution or finding a solution than not to offer a puzzle that has a solution at all.

  84. Chabuhi, you’ve got some good questions there, to that whole idea. The first one in particular.

    How to ensure that a secret is really deep enough to last. Players are amazingly intelligent and quick, and can easily surprise you by solving things very quickly. If that’s the rule of the day, it pretty much ruins the whole idea.
    So what you have to do is hide some of the clues in other puzzles. Some easy, some not so easy.

    Another example serves well here. In UO, outside of the village of Yew, there’s a place called the crypts. In there, there’s some sarcophagi, marble, with some diamond shaped decorations on the sides. Wouldn’t it be cool (and effective for this) if one of those diamond shaped decorations could be pushed, like a button, opening a little drawer on the other side of the sacophagus? Now, suppose there were a dagger in this drawer, and it had an inscription on it that matched the numbers that are in 2 locations in the dungeon Covetous. 3-4-1-5 (I think). Here’s another clue, but what does it mean? The player might recognize the numbers, and might not. If not, what happens to the dagger is important and this is why a game needs to be designed for these kinds of quests. You don’t want it dissappearing from the game by a character quitting and taking it with him, or dropping it if the decay rules apply to it. But now, the clue is in the game, and what it might mean is another mystery, but tied to the first. More discovery is required, because if you have explored this part of UO you would know that there’s nothing you can think of that this dagger might apply to. Most players would think maybe that you need to kill something in Covetous with this dagger. Maybe another clue, pertaining to the dagger, is hidden somewhere. By tying the clues together, you have a string that ultimately leads to the final discovery. The player is always going to be hooked on this little quest.

    The dagger, just like all the other clues, cannot leave it’s location if it’s a one of a kind clue item. In this case, the dagger might always teleport back to it’s drawer after a few minutes. Never to be taken away from it’s place in the game. It might have another clue inscribed on it’s other side. It might be the only item that can cut something that’s found elswhere, something that’s not one of a kind. Some clue examples:
    In the Tome of Light held in a great library somewhere, there’s an entry that reads “The Jack-o-Lantern of Revealing Light is fashioned from a wild pumpkin only found in the Forest of Frost, and must be fashioned only with an Edge of Coffins.”
    And in a journal of a long dead traveller, somewhere else, “I saw an interesting thing today. While passing near to the crypts, I saw one of the Keepers of Covetous comming out, carrying a carved pumpkin. I almost laughed out loud, but thought better of it lest I be seen.” And finally a clue elswhere, “From the Dark Forest must the light be brought, to show the way of the levers.”

    This is one of the reasons I liked the way UO allowed players to reach out and “touch” so many parts of the game world. It allows for the game to hide things in it’s basic design. In the early days, UO also was filled with the activity of players just lookign for things, trying this and that to see what happened.

    The problem I see with this is that such things quickly become how-to’s. The adventure is lost because many gamers don’t want to figure out how to do things on their own. Go to a web page and get the walkthrough seems to be the status quo these days. I’m not saying that all players are like that, but it seems like there are enough to make an effort like you mention above somewhat futile.

    Yes, they will, usually. Two things. One is that the real problem here is that games are designed statically, and repetative. They need to get away from this, with the exception of some static stuff for these kinds of players to enjoy. But if you’re going to make a game entirely open to this kind of game play, then you’re back to square one and the current number one complaint, boredom.

    Turn this to your advantage. Make it part of the game lore, done by the players themselves. Hey, in RL people write their own history. And sometimes it’s not entirely true. This can be a feature of the game system. Realism! Buyer beware!

    In my example, lets assume that the levers open up a secret room. The treasures or lost knowledge is won by the player who accomplishes this task. Let it be at that. Now you have a secret room that’s already looted, and the rest of the puzzles still in place.

    This empty quest doesn’t have to stay this way. The secret room can be used again, maybe for an event, maybe to house a new clue to a new puzzle. But probably not as the final to another quest puzzle.

    Some players might complain that the inicial puzzle solver has an advantage here, especially if he’s kept the puzzles secret to himself. So what? It’s only one part of a new puzzle, if the old one is used this way. Besides, some GM input can be usefull here. If the puzzle is commonly known through web sites, then it’s not such a problem. Especially if the game has their own web site tied into the game, and it’s easy and common for players to use this games web site for this use. The history of the game can be stored here, done by the players but stored forevermore by the game.

    One final thought. If I were designing puzzles like this for a game, I would keep some important info to some of the quest out of the game untill I was ready to add it. This way, even if I am completely outsmarted and outperformed by some players, there would still be a few puzzles left. I wouldn’t tell the players this. Then I would later reveal the clues, as new discoveries, or hidden in new discoveries, such as caves and books.

  85. [...] Comments [...]

  86. - All characters can perform the same skills
    – Skills advance by doing (success or failure)
    – Skills atrophy slightly from non-use
    – Each skill is valuable (what use is picking locks if there aren’t any locks to pick or if the only locks are behind the dragon?)
    – “Auxiliary Pervasive Gameplay” allows players to interact with the game without directly controlling their avatar (read in-game news, check in-game auctions, chat with players who are in-game, etc. via web browser or small client)
    – Quests based on player-to-player interaction (player 1 puts item up for auction in city A, player 2 buys item from “auction terminal” in city B, player 3 gets a quest to deliver said item) [player vs player quests could be included: bounties, capture-the-flag, etc]
    – Quests based around plot (and sub-plot) points (deliver supplies to outpost, once outpost has enough supplies, it is raided and players must now defend outpost, if outpost is sacked, they must reclaim outpost, etc)
    – Make player housing fun: if player logs out in/around house, then their character works his “day job” (tending crops, livestock, etc). When the player logs in, he is rewarded with the fruits of his character’s labor (crop to trade, wool to spin, food to eat, etc). This could be tied to the “Auxiliary Pervasive Gameplay” by allowing the player to place his character in a certain action via the small client.

    I could go on all day…

    See my site for other ideas and more details.

  87. Hmm… Interesting.

    I think I want a sandbox. But it’s not all that simple. I want a Goldilocks sandbox :-)

    There needs to be some structure to the world. Not too much, otherwise it’s just consuming entertainment while riding on rails, but not too little, otherwise the world becomes empty and meaningless.

    There needs to be some progress, an idea of the movement of the character towards some goal. Again, not too much as it will segregate the players into narrow bands, and not too little as it will make the movement meaningless and lessen the attachment to the character.

    There needs to be an extensible set of tools/blocks/Legos/clay/etc. for me to play with. Not too powerful, because then players will use them to break the world, and not too powerless, because then there is no point to them.

    How’s that for a starter? :-)

    Fey

  88. I agree with a lot of the suggestions here, but since I don’t care for repeating others, here’s a new one:
    I’d like a MMOG with at least 10 times as many NPC:s as PC:s. These would go about their business – harvesting grain, knitting scarves, going to school, getting eaten by monsters, etc. The AI would be complex, making them able to manufacture items, consume goods, trade, seek mates and so on. You could pay one to be your henchman and carry your stuff around, or train him in the use of a sword so he can assist you against monsters. Yes, it could be you giving the NPC:s quests to collect 20 herbs for your potion…

    And this world would change with time, say at 10 times normal speed. Communities spreading or languishing. NPC:s growing up and becoming well-adjusted adults, or psychopaths, or whatever, depending on their environment. Creatures becoming extinct or flourishing, or maybe even evolving.

    (Possibly one could dodge the massive processing power requirements for this by using player computers as a distributed network. Every computer could manage ten NPC:s, with some redundancy thrown in. Maybe you could have a few NPC:s assigned to you and get weekly reports about what they’re doing, or even modify their personalities and behaviour a bit yourself, to make them more lifelike. But I digress.)

    I want to be able to make an ambitious evil character, work myself up to a position of factory boss, commanding 30 or so NPC:s and maybe a PC foreman or two. Commissioning public works, being a pillar of the community. And secretly committing crimes to further my position, exploiting natural resources, etc.
    And when a Group of Unlikely Heroes exposes me – and defeats my ninjas, imported from the evil overlord PC in the East, who’s been training them for a while – I’ll get to toss out a few one-liners (“I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those pesky kids!”) before being hauled off to jail.
    Then, while my first character serves his time, I’ll play a druid, desperately trying to save endangered species from the encroaching civilization…

  89. My ideal MMO came and died already, or at least the incarnation I knew of did. It was a player-run Ultima Online server, with few enough PCs that the world wasn’t a mass of housing. It was roleplaying enforced to the point where many things about the ‘lessons’ weren’t true at all. Aside from a few grandfathered characters there was no grinding allowed, so being a crafter (other than the blasted blacksmiths) could actually get you respect. More important than that, people actually talked, interacted, grew as characters. Granted, it wasn’t perfect… several of the female PCs wanted to marry my character. But it was a far more friendly and interactive world than you’ll find on the official UO servers or any of the more recent MMOs. Without a sense of community like that place had, there’s just no point to playing.

  90. Fantasy and scifi are fine, but I want elements of horror and conspiracy in a game.

    Of course, too many people would try to make a “horror” game where you start with killing X zombies, then progress your way through ghouls, then slay the vampire to take his Phat Ring of Unlife.

    To really be true to the theme, horror has to be something that comes at you on rare occasions when you’re not expecting it, not a graveyard full of rats for newbies to squash.

    Conspiracy requires factions. Lots of factions. What’s more, you don’t know your standing with most of them, or even how many of them there are. I’m thinking at least 5 “hidden” factions, and many more public ones. Guilds should have reputations as well as players.

    And it’s not enough that each faction either likes you or hates you…You could be an enemy, an ally, a dupe, an initiate, a traitor…the list goes on. I’m thinking your standing should not only have a like/hate rating, but trust/distrust and respect/disrespect scales as well.

    Quests should be about revenge on the factions you hate, giving aid to allies, acting as a diplomat, helping one faction spy on another, helping one faction turn two rivals against one another, or just getting out of town before you’re forced to take sides in a conflict you want no part of (and maybe taking the boss with you)…not farming experience or loot.

    One of a kind items should be just that–only one member of the entire gaming population should own each one. On the other hand, when you’ve stolen a unique alien artifact, you’ll get some unwelcome attention. The aliens need it back. The military wants it to see if they can use it. Crackpots everywhere want to show that it verifies their theories. Men in Black just want you to be quiet.

    Death should be permanent, but rare. Losing physical combat should result in injuries lasting more than just a few minutes, however.

    Will that cause greater issues with training, and camping newbie areas for weak PVP targets? It could. But then again, your reputation with the ruling faction is everything…and they won’t like you attacking recruits or bringing your troubles into town for them to deal with.

    The player’s role in conflict shouldn’t be choosing sides at character creation and joining the battle lines. Rather, they should be thrown into the world without even knowing how many factions there are, and have to find who they want to work with as they go along.

  91. My ideal MMORPG would be one that had all kinds of classes available. A PC would be able to switch classes somehow. Every PC would start out as some kind of squire/apprentice class or something, and would be able to train under a higher-level PC (or a special NPC) who would assign the newbie quests that will help him/her learn about the game (and give the high level PCs a way to profit from helping a newbie). The newbie would of course gain some XP for completing the quests given to him/her.

    Many of the classes available would get absolutely no XP from killing stuff. The classes would get XP for doing something related to their class. The merchant would be able to buy XP. The healer would get XP for healing other characters who need it. The mage class would be able to do some kind of test every so often for XP. The meatshield would get XP for surviving powerful attacks. The thief would be able to get XP for stealing stuff from monsters or other NPCs (PCs too if there would be a way for them to get even).

    There would be classes related to things that dealt with how the person behaves in-game. A class that would get skills that focused on communication. A class that could only be obtained by doing something for a GM (in the game or in real life). A class that gave abilities related to having an apprentice (like borrowing some of their carrying capacity).

    If a player breaks a rule, they wouldn’t be banned. Their character would gain a special class that they wouldn’t be able to switch from untill they got enough XP (by helping out other players). They would of course get penalties related to what rule they broke. If they spam, they won’t be able to talk to other players. If they used a bot, they would no longer be able to pickup items and they would have to gain enough XP to lose the class. If they scam someone, the word “SCAMMER” would appear over their character. If by chance/spite/utter stupidity they reached some special level cap in this class, then they would be banned.

    There would be a way for karma to affect gameplay. The karma would basically represent a PC’s luck, and it would be able to be either positive or negative. Every PC would get a certain amount of points each day that they’d be able to use to raise/lower someone else’s karma, and they’d only be able to raise any specific PC’s karma a certain amount each week or so (GMs would be able to do so without any limits). As time goes by, a PC’s karma would slowly go towards 0. The karma stat would affect various things including the chance of rare items dropping from slain monsters, the chance of dodging/landing an attack, the chance of using a skill successfully, the chance of any items dropping from slain monsters, and maybe even the rate they gained XP at (if it was really high/low). If a player is rude, others will lower his/her karma. If a player helps out fellow players, others will raise his/her karma. If a player works to make the game’s world a better place his karma might get raised enough for him/her to be worthy of some special class. If a player is an obnoxious, racist, complaining, extremely rude, *insert adjectives of choice here* person who has nothing better to do than make other players miserable, then he/she might get a low enough karma to be given the class described in the previous paragraph.

    There would be ways to alter the world the game takes place in itself. If a mage trys to overkill stuff with fire spells while in a forest, there’d be a chance of the forest being burned down. If there is a certain kind of monster that can only be found in that forest, it could become extinct. If that monster was the main source of food for some other monster, that monster might become extinct. If a character with the right abilities needed something that could only be obtained from any of the monsters that end up being extinct, they might be able to clone a few of the monster, or use magic to mutate some existing monster into one that will be able to replace it. PCs would be able to grow plants. Some skills would allow a PC to create a unique item that they would get to choose a name for. The item might even end up being something that NPCs make comments about from time to time (You call that a weapon?! That thing is more like a butterknife compared to *insert character name here*’s swordchucks!). PCs would even be able to create guilds that could get their own castles that they would get to customize as much as their money/skills will allow.

    If a player reached some kind of level cap, they’d be able to get a special item/skill/whatever at the cost of having their level reset.

    Monsters would interact with each other and maybe even gain XP.

    There would also be some kind of dark world where PvP and PKing was possible at any time/place. Friendly fire would be allowed there. Players wouldn’t be punished in anyway for any rules they break while playing with their character there. Players there would get a huge bonus to any XP they gained there. The monsters there would be alot tougher. The PCs would be able to cause bigger changes to the dark world. Players would go to there only if they wanted to, and many might choose not to out of fear of having valuable items stolen from them and getting killed by other PCs.

    Also, there’d be no rules regarding how much a player could sell an item for. If a player wants to buy a bunch of potions from an NPC, take them into a dungeon miles away from the nearest town, and sell them to other PCs for ten times as much as the NPC was selling them for, it should be allowed. I used to buy potions from NPCs and sell them at a higher price in dungeons when I played Ragnarok Online. It was like selling bottled water in the middle of the Sahara Desert, but with hundreds of people around. But then they decided that selling items that could be bought from NPCs for more than the NPCs were selling them for was the same as scamming. So gone were my chances of getting the most profit that I could by taking those hundreds of heavy potions into a dungeon that was not only infested with powerful and hostile monsters but was a long way away from the nearest NPC that sold potions, and selling them for a a little bit more than the NPC’s price (money in that game doesn’t take up any of the character’s weight capacity, but everything else does). There was even someone that accused me of being a scammer for doing this when I was selling the potions for a little bit less than the NPC’s price (thanks to the merchant class’s discount skill).

    I think I’ve described my ideal MMORPG enough. I’ve even mentioned ways that my ideal MMORPG would solve a few of the problems that I’ve seen in some of the VERY few MMORPGS that I have played.

    The apprentice class would mean less reason for a newb to beg for free items and tanking. Newbs that go right into the game instead of going through the tutorial (even though they get a few free items for doing so), and then beg for free stuff or demand that someone tell them how to do something, they really end up annoying me. Don’t tell me that everyone starts out as a newb! There is a difference between a newb and other new players. The newb doesn’t bother to learn anything about how to play the game as they’re downloading it and then expects to people to be nice to him/her just because they are new and are spamming them with requests for free stuff. The other new players will actually go through any tutorials the game has the first time they play it, had read any manuals/official websites for the game, and then proceeds to get their first few level ups and items on their own.

    The karma stat would provide an incentive to use common courtesy (no matter how uncommon it seems to be these days).

    The idea of a lawless dark world would give a place for things to happen that some characters would get upset by.

    I’m sorry that I made my reply so long. I actually hope to create my ideal MMORPG one day (I’ve actually planned out how some aspects of it could work). If… When I do, I’ll probably call it “WarCleMa”, and I’ll try to remember to check this website again when I begin programming it.

  92. Oi. Everything I have ever wanted in 5 minutes….

    1. Immersive persistent world. Storyline that draws me in (see auto assault… yes, thats what i said).

    2. Open ended character system (see SWG)

    3. Social options turned into a game but NOT limited to the game mechanics (see the Sims2)

    4. A life simulator behind the core game mechanics (see also the Sims2)

    5. Simple and intuitive interface that doesnt rob immersion (see WoW)

    6. Non combat options that allow for a totally non-combat character with as many options for gameplay as a combat character.. Especially entertainment and civics options (see SWG or Seed)

    7. Character design and image options (see SWG and Matrix) as well as a very deep character development system (an adequate one has yet to be developed by anyone, anywhere).

    Enough of whats been done…

    8. As stated before… something that truly teaches the player something real and useful. Killing is evil. Tyrrany is evil. Fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… erm, wait. Cooperation is the only path to power. Easier said than done, I know.

    9. A truly dynamic world that can generate its own events (from political upheaval to animal migrations) to challenge players. Constant change.

    10. All things for all people: a game that ends the fight between the fun first types and the persistent worlders…

  93. Raph wrote:
    credit card barrier — a big turnoff for lots of folks.

    I agree, but I don’t think this is an insurmountable problem. Game Time cards at retail would really allow more people access to these titles, as well as other creative ways of paying (like, for example, if the public spaces in WoW were free until level 20, for example).

    However, I think the people who play the least or also the most numerous segment of any game’s playerbase, and therefore the highest profit players. So locking in everyone means locking them in too. I imagine it’s hard to break that mold at this point.

    The non-gamers don’t have an inkling the stuff exists

    I partly agree. Execs knew of MMOs, but it was always niche stuff, and somewhat negative media coverage (ie, addiction, Shawn Woolley, etc.). WoW is a success story on a level even big companies can’t ignore though. What they are ignoring is the full story though, the part that includes their much-larger dev budget for example. I’m trying my best to educate though :)

    # interface barrier — these things are just insanely complex and confusing

    They don’t need to be. I long for a day of more progressive UI: don’t show the stuff a player doesn’t need to bother with yet, including hundreds of people yapping in public chat. Some games are making strides here. Guild Wars is no more confusing at first than Deus Ex. As more gamers come to a genre previously dominated by hobbiest, they’re coming with enough interest to learn UI.

    You’re not exactly sure what to do the first time you pick up Cartoon Networks’ Droppler either :)

    gameplay barrier — the pacing not only of the experience but of the actual gameplay is all wrong for a huge portion of the market.

    I don’t believe it’s the pace as much as the motive. One doesn’t concentrate on levels in other games. They get them through narrative and action. Newer games are making things a bit better. I hope for a day where there is no XP bar at all, and new abilities are granted entirely from quests. Quests with trainers. Why not?

    Amaranthar wrote:
    Now you have a secret room that’s already looted, and the rest of the puzzles still in place.

    In discussions like this, I am often reminded of Ender’s Game, specifically Ender’s progressive dream sequence. Each time he entered that “instance”, all previous moves and decisions were there for him to be remembered by, and in some cases, shamed by. In this way he was repeating the same zone but encountered new challenges along the way, until the ultimate goal (understanding the enemy) was achieved.

    Microsoft’s long-defunct Mythica was going to feature this, with modifiable worlds that remained that way for the players who modified them (they didn’t know how at the time, but I imagine it’d be like WoW’s RaidID system, a world built to spec for the leader of the group entering it).

  94. I have to say, I do not like the “instance” idea at all. To me it’s a cheap way to solve problems (probably much cheaper), but leaves the game feeling far less immersive due to it’s unrealistic, false feel. After experiancing an instance for the first time, I had to ask myself “now, did that really happen in this game world if there was no one in the woods?”

    Yet, I do think the technical aspects of it can be used. Just make it seem like it’s different and unique entrances and design instances in a generic way.
    For example, if you had planar travel of a sorts, gates to who knows where, you could have them go to astral fields of mysterious and unknown qualities. Now you can do alot with instancing and not make it feel like it’s a cheap trick.

    Another note on my ideal MMO would be that marketing people had nothing to do with it, except to be fed info like feeding a lion raw meat through a cage, with a very long pole.

  95. There are certain things I still wish from my MUD days.

    #1 Uniqueness (clothing and equipment)
    Though not an MMO, Diablo II had a good bit of diversity. Being able to combine runes and find rune combinations was cool. So was the “unique” items that were very rare drops. I enjoyed MUDs where equipment was cool and had special effects like talking shields that complained when taking a beating or swords that triumphed on a resounding blow (typically these went with a special combat effect so it was not seen too often). And have special effects be hidden so only use can reveal all the abilities. Not just maps can be exploreable, but equipment. There was also certain monsters where you needed a specific set of equipment to be the most effective. Like have a certain item be secretly a skeleton slaying item, another for dragon slaying, and so on. Let there be combos so that only when all are used at once does the special ability come out. Don’t make it all be part of a quest or automatic to know this information though.

    #2 Player Contribution
    This is something I’ve only seen some MUDs do well. Really to let all players have a role and feel a part of the world, community, city they are in. I remember civic duties that required citizens to do their part or there was a game impact. Supplies can run low. Towns can be invaded and overrun. Crops, minerals, meats, and hides need to be harvested. Caravans need to be protected. Invasion forces need to be discovered and repelled (hopefully before damage is done). Walls and houses built (or rebuilt). Horses tamed. It’d be nice to see intercity commerce where the surrounding resources can be bartered with other towns. Disappearing livestock can cause a scouting quest that ends in a full raid force requirement. The building of player towns can be an event instead of just a 1 second poof. And they can just as well be torn down in time with lack of participation. The frequency and type of events can all depend on the location you are in.

    #3 Challenging
    There should be some skill to combat. Knowledge should also be a determining factor…either equipment to use or tactics to employ. Not a big fan of people seeing the level of monsters. You should know your foe…are you strong enough to take on lizardmen? ogres? djinnis? Seems like too many stats are given out on foes and not enough left for exploration and knowledge. Maybe have books of lore that can help give more information on creatures. Levelling should take time, have less levels that take longer than many that take almost nothing.

  96. I was a big COD player, but then I went to WoW, quiting last month with a 60 priest, 60 mage, and 50 druid. Here’s what I felt about WoW:

    1) Raids do not an end-game make. I want a MMO game that has the replayability of a game like COD that doesn’t rely upon collecting new gear.

    2) The grind to 60 takes about 4 to 6 times as long as it should. If you make a real lasting endgame, then the character development phase needn’t be much more than an exploration/practice time. It’s good, however, that new players be segregated from the initiated for some time so that initiates can be reasonaby certain when they’re dealing with players of at least basic competency.

    3) I liked the individuation of abilities with classes, but strongly disliked the gulf of disparity between levels and gear. The class balance was never right, but I think it’s impossible to ever really balance what with gear complicating the picture. Still, Blizzard seemed to take the attitude that certain classes should be better at dueling and in BG’s than others, which is just wrong. Classes should be about different means to reach the same ends, not different ends (at least in the context of pvp).

    4) WoW is split into very specific modes: solo questing/grinding, group questing/grinding, openair pvp, dueling, BG pvp, 5-man instancing, 10-man instancing, and 40-man instancing. Why not have class stats and abilities vary in magnitude and effectiveness depending upon context? For instance, why not have the abilities of different character combinations in 5-man instance groups not give bonus stats or something? For instance, how bout having the healing abilities of pallies increase when a group has more than one pally? Or have them increase to priest-like competency when only one pally is in the group? The basic idea is to allow for more variety in how instances can be run so not every 5-man group has to have warrior-rogue-mage-priest-other.

    5) The movement and attack machanic was crude compared to an FPS, but suprisingly still fun. Still, it lacked a little depth in regard to player movement and positioning (and what’s with letting melee guys run around my priest in circles to avoid my spellcasts in a preposterous manner?).

    6) Money and gear are bad because they are really just disguises for the real currency, time. Getting new stuff as I advanced was fun, but only because it was mostly a bonus for my adventuring. Getting one piece of new epic gear every month with a raid is only as fun as long as the raids themselves remain fun. The 40 man raids are fun for the first 2 hours, less so in the third, then a burden after that. Each section of a dungeon is only fun about the first 5 times you play it.

    6) What’s with the cooldown time? Casters are made to wait ~30 secs every single time in between engaging mobs to drink. (The priest especially, is pushed to the limits of his mana in a fight–and then he can’t make his own water!) The raid cooldown waits are even more obnoxious, what with the whole buff cycles.

    7) Conveniences (mage porting, water/food making, summoning, fast travel) should rarely, if ever, be class specific. Should I really have to pick a shaman because I don’t like having to walk everywhere?

    8) Travel conveniences should come sooner and be more effective. How about making walking on roads give a speed boost? How about speeding up the gryphons when you reach higher lvls? Face it, you eventually get bored with the world (especially Blizzard’s low-poly, low detail worlds). Until travel times mean something other than making the player wait to increase immersion/boredom and to slow the player’s efforts to advance, there’s no reason that players shouldn’t reach near instant travel between the places they’ve visited. (A realm-combat system would be a good reason to restrict travel ability: you dont’ want enemy players warping into your territory.)

    9) I liked the sense of identity which class embues (rogues suck!), but then the only real way to be competitive in PvP is to know all about the other classes. So it should be possible to at least practice with a maxed out character of each class.

    10) Battlegrounds are a good idea: they’re like games within the game which you get to play with your character. Unfortunately, the feature was essentially broken for me because of the wait times need to be fixed. Moreover, all players should be limited to standard gear and supplies in a BG. On my PvE server, the horde side was always an organized, uber-geared team who got to play constantly while the alliance had random pickup teams because players had to wait 3 hours for each chance. Needless to say, the Horde always steamrolled the alliance. (This is a big point: if there are PvP skills in a game, everyone needs equal opportunities to practice them. Battlefield has a very similar problem with helicopters and airplanes: certain players hog these vehicles and get all the practice with them.)

    11) How about focusing on quest quality rather than quantity? The grind would have been so much more tolerable if I really felt I was doing stuff with my time. If Blizzard wanted me to kill 100 x’s, why didn’t it make the quest objective “kill 100 x’s” instead of “get 20 drops off of x with a 20% drop rate”. As it is, WoW’s quests are just thin disguises for the grind.

  97. [...] Raph Koster recently asked people what they wanted in an MMO. (Here.) Well, more accurately, what was the spirit of what they wanted? My answer to Raph was: I want an MMO where: (a)any single player can effect meaningful change in the world around him, (b)player skill (items/effects excepted) is what matters and not time spent in the world doing any repetitive task. (c)a world that would be interesting even with no players. If Days of Our Lives can go for this long and still have viewers interested, I fail to see why an MMO can’t change the story a tad bit every week/month in a player-participatory fashion. (Not just a static story with additional events tagged on with larger events happening in expansions.) [...]

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