Designing the Perfect MMORPG (Pt 1)

Ok, you have a reasonable budget and a pretty decent team of programmers and artists. Everything is waiting on YOU to work all the design out.

What I want to know, is what you feel is missing from MMORPGs, or what do you think could have been designed much better in current titles. Does fishing for 36 hours straight to get to level 2 fisher really piss you off? How would you do it differently? Think all magic systems are horrible? (fireball1, fireball2, fireball3 gets old after a while doesn’t it?) How would you do things differently?

I’m not looking for story ideas here, I just want to see what everyone thinks is missing or could be done better from a gameplay and mechanics perspective. Any interesting ideas out there?

Sound off…

73 thoughts on “Designing the Perfect MMORPG (Pt 1)”

  1. My perfect MMORPG wouldn’t be an RPG at all but a complex action game, similar to something like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry, where you started out with all your skills and everything was based on your personal skill. But then everyone would complain about lag and how much it affects an action game and then I’d go back to the drawing board. Not to mention the two games that I’d be drawing inspiration from are widely disliked by the casual gamer for being too hard.

    RPGs just seem so limited to me, though. They’re all based around numbers that represent things that would actually take user input in an action game (i.e. dodging, parrying). How do you get better? Well, since you can’t really get better in terms of the traditional term of skill, since those are represented to you as numbers, I really have no idea what I’d like to be seen done. I’d like to see something that just gets rid of getting more powerful in terms of numbers and relies more on the user input, but the good idea hasn’t hit me yet, if ever it will.

    As far as I’m concerned right now, the idea is impossible. RPG + pure skill just doesn’t mix. Perhaps there’s some happy medium, but that would be a fine line that would be easy to mess up. Just think about it, how do you take something like a healing class and apply pure skill? That’s going to take a lot of imagination to do well.

  2. hrm, so what you are saying is that you want a mechanic for combat that relies on the user’s skill, not on “click to attack”. That isn’t hard to do at all actually, but it has the -risk- of making combat more tedious. For example, lets say it will take 500 successful sword strikes to kill the big ogre boss. Instead of just clicking the guy and attacking once, and then watching the rest, you end up madly clicking on your attack button over and over and over and over.

    On the other hand, what you suggest would be really cool in a PvP environment…much more strategy and real skill would be key, not just who fired first.

    Worth thinking about.

  3. Since it’s late and you DID ask what we feel is missing from current MMORPG’s.

    1. A sense of accomplishment, that you actually had an effect on anything.

    I’ll use WoW as an example (but ALL suffer from it)since that is one I am playing th emost right now. Oh and

    SPOILER ALERT for part of a WoW storyline I(what little of it there is)

    I am in a decent guild. We down Onyxia every time she is up do our thing in Molten Core and whatnot. We get (or got depending on how many times one has killed her) a nice lil glow from having accomplished taking down a tough boss, but nothing changes. Immediately after having just killed Onyxia you can portal to Stormwind and look there she is standing right there next to the king. You get NOTHING from that fight, you don’t get any story (a nice lil cut scene for taking down a major player in the scheme of things would have been nice) you don’t change anything, you don’t get a piece of paper advancing the plot…nothing. You get a couple new sticks to bash things over the head with and thats about it.

    It’s a flaw in every single MMO out there and one that is going to be very hard to overcome. You obviously can’t have one off bosses for each and every guild out there, but putting in world events that the players helps in is a start. That said crap like the gates of AQ opening DOES NOT COUNT. Sending people out to farm a bunch of crap is not, and never will be, fun. That was one of the most poorly implemented “World Events” I have ever had the displeasure seeing. Put in some new quests, send the player ot a place he’s not likely to go to again any time soon and let him have his moment in the sun where it appears he’s done something to affect a change (a tower crumbling after he defeats a major boss..whatever) and awhile later reset it. Atleast attempt ot give the illusion that he’s done something important.

    2. Quit putting in faction/reputation grinding

    I don’t know what game started it but grinding for faction just bores the living hell out of me. Doing mindless fetch quests, or killing the same type of mob over and over and over ad nauseum is boring. It’s not fun, and it doesn’t serve a point. If you want a player to work to get something make it a REAL quest, not hey go gran 4000 of these and i’ll increase your rep, or , ok if you kill 2000 of these flaming cocroaches we’ll give you 2 rep a piece for them. If the developer absolutely has to have a faction sytem, don’t make me kill 4 million of whatever give me some quests to kill some nice big dangerous mobs and give me alot of faction, once I kill this boss type and a chance at some decent loot (and by chance I don’t mean a .01% droprate either). THis may seem aimed at WoW but I can think of a couple others where rep/faction irritates me (Eve, and Anarchy Online come to mind)

    3. Add some variety

    If you are oging ot make me wear armor that covers me entirely make it so I don’t look like everyone else when I am wearing it. I know it seems like bloat on items but it’d be nice if there were a couple different styles of helmets/breastplate/body suit out there that had the same stats so i could CHOOSE what I wanted ot look like without gimping myself. Especially if it is a quest reward, if I just won the helmet of rabbit killing damn it give me an option of 3 different kinds of helmet with the same stats that i can choose from. Oh and quit reusing armor meshes, seeing the same helmet with different names and stats but in 4 different colors is just lazy, especially if you completely reuse the same mesh for two different types of armor..but you just name it differently,no way in hell a helmet made of cloth (hell that wouldn’t even be a helmet but a hood) is ever going to look like one made of Plate…so don’t use the same mesh for both

    Alright that was longer than I thought it would be (only meant to put that first one in there :P ) but it’s almost 0400 so you got that instead.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to write that so late in the evening. Good stuff, just what I was looking for.

    I am definitely looking forward to more commentary on this one folks! Get your friends to post!

    By the way, two of the things that used to irritate the hell out of me in EQ was the faction grinding and the fact that every bard looked alike in that cheesy blue armor. haha.

  5. Firstly, I just want to say that I agree pretty much with all the points raised by Rand ‘al Thor – they largely sum up the glaringly obvious problems with the current crop of MMOs.

    As for my list, Ill try and keep it brief as Im still at work – apologies in advance if this becomes somewhat disjointed as my train of thought wanders all over.. :)

    1) Improved sense of immersiveness
    I’d like to see stuff change over time – i.e. seasons, npcs doing repairs on buildings, dungeons where the roof caves in blocking one path, but opening another. Forest fires. The small events that randomly happen all over the world, that give the player the sense that this place exists and follows rules they are familiar with. That kind of thing.

    2) Player impact on the world
    One of the biggest problems is the sheer repetitiveness brought on by the desire to churn out more “cookie cutter content”. A world that the player can interact with and actually affect permanently in some way would be a good next step. This can take a number of forms – i.e tradeskill created items that can be designed and built by the player (think selecting what stats you want to have, combined with what mesh / colour / texture / particle effect etc to create a “unique” look for the item), trees that are harvest for wood take time to grow back, stuff like that.

    3) Targetted, dynamic content
    Id like to see more “dynamic” content overall, in terms of quests. Anarchy Online started the idea with mission terminals, but noone else seems to have picked up on it since. Basically, target quests / activities for a player that revolve around them – both in group and solo scenarios. Tailored to time available, skills available etc.
    Can be mixed with point 1). i.e. during a dungeon run with your group you come across an injured npc. you have a choice – kill him and take whatever he has, heal him, teleport him to safety, lead him out or leave him.

    eep, better go now, boss is watching. Maybe more later..

  6. Put the end game in the beginning. Design the game so that it isn’t broken into two stages, grinding to get to the fun part and the supposedly fun part. As MMOs don’t generally have ends (or server resets), working your way through content can’t lead to a satisfactory conclusion or change to the world (see Rand ‘al Thor above). Design the game instead so that grinding is never a necessary or important part of enjoying the game (see lufia22 above) and that all players can take part of the game (or world) content.
    Regular “dings.” It’s Pavlovian: people enjoy getting rewarded for their actions. While it makes sense to reward more often in the beginning of a game to draw people into it, a traditional MMO eventually spaces the dings far enough apart that the irregular pattern no long resonates with the player, who by now has set up new goals, a desired behavior. Making the “dings” happen every four hours, that is providing a reward (a level, a new ability or skill, a game-changing item) to the player character an average of every four played hours makes the game more sticky and encourages reward. Instead of grinding to advance through high levels for days or weeks at a time, players can choose to have smaller blocks of playtime and still get rewards regularly, or play in a larger block and get more rewards.

    I’ve got lots of other ideas as well, but these two are pretty high on my list.

  7. Its the MM part that nullifys any possible improvements. Features such as events, GM interaction, having the story matter, dynamic worlds, managing the playerbase, playing a character as opposed to a number, community and world building endgames etc stop working as soon as the game gets a ‘Massive’ playerbase.

    Not that they cannot be made to work, but no mainstream developers seem interested in making them work. These features can be found in NWN persistant worlds and smaller ‘MMOs’ (ATITD obvious example).

    I agree with the above posters, player skill progression over number progression would be a welcome change. And who says that a raid boss needs to be hit 500 times – I think the current situation of raid bosses with massive health and resists sets a dangerous precendent, which is required because of the repetitive combat of current MMOs, where bigger numbers = greater challenge.

    My biggest problem with logging into any MMO atm is ‘grinding to get to the fun’. One example of this is pvp in shadowbane and DAoC – its a PvE leveling/grinding game you have to do to get to the point of the game – PvP.

    On that note, we need better retention methods. Of course game devs want to make money, want players to keep playing and paying, but massive level caps, huge grinds, ridiculously low drop rates on items, etc, just arnt fun.

    I’m sure we could all write pages on how MMOs could be improved. :)

  8. one small thing i’ve always wanted in wow, since they just use a rank number system for different spell levels ( frostbolt rank 3, frostbolt rank 4, etc.), is to gradually make the spell graphics more and more elaborate for each rank.

    starting with very simple and small particle effects at rank 1, and moving up to big swirling vortex’s of fire or ice or whatever the spell is…

    it’s just another way of showing character progression.

  9. …I should qualify that. Oblivion (actually, the Elder Scrolls series as a whole) has one of the most immersive environments I have ever seen. The Gothic series is a very close second… These games truly make me feel like I’m “in” their world – I don’t know what does it.

    Perhaps it’s a combination of some of the above suggestions. Maybe it’s the reward and feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing the quests – even the grinding ones. Perhaps it’s the interaction of NPC’s with the player, as well as other NPC’s – the whole built-in “living world” character attributes (jobs, tasks, conversations, automated rat-killing from city guards). Think about the Grand Theft Auto series and just how “real” they feel. Maybe it’s the scope of the storyline and the dynamic changes felt as one “accomplishes” something… the pursuit of the end-game maybe?

    Maybe, and this is my worst fear, maybe they feel so “real”, because they AREN’T online. It’s you and only you against the world. A complete immersiveness that can’t be broken by external elements and factors inherent to online play. Server crashes, n00bs asking stupid questions, patches that break your install, trolls, the “it’s so fux0ring laggy” comments, the “lfg lfg n1p”‘s and all the other out of character nonsense.

    I agree that major improvements can be made across the board to fighting systems, npc interaction, “big story” missions and general character advancement systems. I also think though, that none of these would make the “ultimate mmo” on their own. I really think that the technology (bandwidth, stability, etc) as well as the player base has to improve significantly as well.

    How to do this? Hmmm….that’s a tough one. Player-moderated account management? Strict message board/chatroom rules? No in-game chatrooms period? Force characters into gm-moderated guilds? Dynamic universe with actual end-games, cutscenes and massive server wipes afterwards? Sheesh… that really is a tough one.

  10. …..argh what happened, I typed out a very very long post and it went *poof* in to the ether after I hit submit.

  11. Aha thank the world for the back button and the page still having my response on it.

    To Drypuulse

    That always been a bit of a gripe with me to. It falls under the category of variety. If I am casting a Fireball rank 7 it should look alot more impressive than the guy who just wandered out of the training ground. Now it wouldn’t have to be EVERY level of the spell looking different but say ever 2-5 levels of a spell (depending on the spells max level).

    Oh and another thought that came ot mind as I woke up this morning along the variety comments I made about armor. It’d be nice if you could add personal touches to your armor, give some slots for some stuff that adds nothing but a graphic to some existing armor. Feathers tied to your arm, helmet, spikes that can be added. And make them somewhat to get, I hate it when developers add stuff that serves no purpose, and then either give it a stupidly low droprate off of one type of mob (yay for the farmers?) or make you jump through hoops to get it

    For games that don’t have a whole lot of variety available in what your Avatar looks like to me the above should be essential. It’s one of the problems I had with Eve (every ship looks the same, and regardless of the fact that you create a face at the beginning, all most other people ever see is your ship) and that I have with WoW. I may be a bit spoiled because I was in CoH and they have hands down the best character generation of any MMO, but WoW is just very limited. Having set templates (7 faces 3 hair colors etc) just should not be the way to go anymore. WoW really let me down in the fact that you can’t adjust ANYTHING. Every human uses the same hey I work out at the gym 6 days a week body is the exact same height and weight. Now tell me what sense it makes for every mage to have a warriors body.

    Now I lump that all in to variety but it can also be a factor of immersion as well. You don’t go in to New York City and see every person walking around with the same size shape or height. Nor should you walk into Stormwind or Ironforge and see people of all the same height and shape. It breaks you from a bit of immersion by pointing out the fact that you are in an artifical world with artifical constraints that extend all the way to you not being able to make yourself different from the other red headed dwarf standing two feet away.

    More thoughts on changing the world

    As I was thinking about this I came to the conclusion that they COULD make it give the illusion you accomplished something in a game world thanks to the wonderful inclusion of instances. Right now instances are made for multiple people, but a developer COULD include single man instances if they desired. Now I don’t want insances for every level (that’d be redundant) but make one instance for a single adventurer send him there on a low level quest to start out with. He goes in completes his quest kills the Big Bad Dude (hereafter referred to as BBD :P ) and effects that instance, once he is done with that quest he is locked out of the instance until he gets a quest later on as he levels, he gets the next quest 10-15 levels down the road that sends him back to the instance he killed the original BBD and reenters. As he enters He sees the changes he caused in the environment, with a little time thrown on them, that brings in some immersion, makes him feel like “Hey I did that”, he goes on to kill the next BBD in the chain causes some changes and comes back again later sees the new AND the old changes.

    Now obviously I have no clue how to program so that is probably alot harder than I realise but it’s my dream world, programmers get to work :P

    I’m sure there will be more later as there is something on the edge of my mind wanting to come out right now but I can’t formulate it in to words just yet.

  12. I was doing the same when I accidentally closed the browser. Argh! I hate starting from scratch.

    Rand’al…split it into two posts. It might be too long.

  13. There have been a number of good points raised so far, but here is my take on what would make a more fulfilling MMORPG.

    A truly persistant world where you actions have permenant effects is something that is asked for several times and then dismissed as impossible above, but I belive it is possible to achieve using some different thinking. So we want our actions to last, that wolf to stay slain, this quest to be done once and for all, but there are issues.
    Any one village can only have so many vermin infestations to be cleared out, children missing in the woods, or threats from orcs in a week, even in a lawless and remote setting. So have lots of villages, a truly huge world where starting location means something and where your journey places is an adventure in its own right.

    Imagine, you start in one of 1000 hamlets which generates one quest a day, with most quests having a natural ending, if the child isn’t rescued then they will die and the body found, or will wonder home alone and safe, thus limiting the maximum number available. Quests will be automatically generated by using a building block approach and logic, thus in a farming village you may get giant rats in the grain need killing, while a mining town might get goblins down the mine. Each village has a number of local geographical features that are used, creatures that are currently local will be significant etc. and these determine quests.

    Once you have helped out the villagers, made some coin and gained a new weapon or whatever you set out along the road towards the city, along the way you will meet people needing help, random creatures and visit other villages needing more significant help. The villages will gain more significant threats depending upon the general levels of the player population and will stop being a place for new players to arrive if threatened by something higher level.

    I could go on talking about how natural cycles will affect creature population and local threats, in a very similar way to how WISH had planned to work.

    Levels, Spells/Skills, items and more:
    I am a regular D&D player and believe that the principle of those rules is far better than the fixed archetypical system of the average MMO, no more the healer or tank that can’t deal any damage, no more the mage who can’t get a decent amount of armouring (through magic and items). The fighter with a big sword can do lots of damage, while the mage can protect themself with armour spells, or at higher level by being invisible and flying out of reach while blowing things up.

    Instead of getting a few skills every level for a lot of levels, have a choice of a few spells from a much larger pool of choices, and allow the chosing of any level below the one you are reaching. Give a few interesting abilities that will continue to improve rather than becoming obselete as you level.

    Don’t give XP for just killing things, award it for accomplishing something within a quest (including killing things relevant to the quest) or for creatures that aggrssivly attack you while travelling (but don’t make it possible to easily seak out and annoy such creatures).

    Same with treasure instead of every other badger carrying a pair of boots just give the main end of quest encounter decent loot and maybe some of the harder ones basic cash loot. In a bigger more complex quest then more encounters will have treasure, but keep it limited, and make magic stuff rare. It isn’t necessary to have a dozen magic items after only a few hours playing.

  14. To Rand ‘al Thor:

    For some reason all your posts are entering the queue for moderation. I think I’ve got your posts all squared away, there was about 5 of the same one here. I’ll approve them as soon as I can, not sure what is causing them to hold for moderation. I’ll try to fix that problem.

  15. Oops sorry about that Ethic didn’t mean to spam your inbox. Yeah they were all just the same response with me trying to break it in to pieces, So now that its posted the others can be deleted.

  16. ok, random brain dump:

    1) Spells. I don’t want Fireball1-Fireball5. I want ONE fireball spell. I want it to get more powerful and evolve as I get more powerful. When I am a newbie, my fireball spell should be about the size of my fist and be good for starting a campfire or scaring the horses. At level 50, it should be the size of a small house and be capable of an area effect good enough to wipe out 20 ogres. I should also have the option to “dial down” the effect when I cast it. After all, I am a master mage and I have spent decades honing my magic skills.

    2) Persistence in an MMORPG, defined as the actions of a player influencing the game with some lasting effect, is not impossible, nor is it all that difficult. The problem here is that MMO design has stagnated in the “level and loot” model where the emphasis of the game is to gain levels and collect loot. Persistence doesn’t need to be restricted to one-shot global events that can only be completed one time by a few people with no -real- impact, or limited to killing the level boss over and over and over. I will elaborate on my thoughts on some ideas and their implementation sometime in the future.

    3) You must have Story, Content, Mechanics, and Community. In my opinion, there is no MMO (yet) that has really addressed ALL four of these cornerstones well. Story sets the reason and background for the world…this is the “WHY”. Content is the “WHAT”. People, places, things, etc. There is usually a lot of content in MMOs, but not much in the Story department, or areas where content is sorely lacking (player customization). The mechanics are the “HOW” of the game. It seems to me that most MMOs limit mechanics to generic chat, person to person trade, PvE and PvP combat (no real innovations here either), and other generic “gameplay” mechanics. Where are the robust economic models? How about dynamic ecologies? Guild tools? Finally, Community. Community is the “WHO” of an MMORPG. Most developers and publishers view community as the forums out of the game and rarely implement any story, content, or mechanics to engender or facilitate community in an MMO. This continually blows my mind. The whole point of MMORPGs is the community and multiplayer functionality that is made possible by the internet. Instead of building a game around this, it feels to me like MMORPGs are designed like single player CRPGs of the good old days with some networking and chat added on.

    4) I think separate servers for RP and PvP is insane. Both are core elements of what makes a MMORPG an MMORPG. Name one other industry where key elements of the product are divided and separated. You dont -watch- a movie in one theater, and then go do a different one for the audio. You dont buy a car in one place and then get the engine elsewhere. Imagine if you went to a restaurant and they told you to choose…you can have a fork OR you can have a spoon, but you can’t have both.

    5) Other stuff…I’d like to see some innovations or original ideas for death mechanics, moral choices, reputation/notoriety, and crafting economies. Of course my heart really lies in the psychology and sociology of MMORPGs, but that is a story for another day.

    Keep the comments coming, there is lots of good stuff here. And seriously, get your friends to comment as well. I want to see a lot of opinions here. Who knows who is reading this stuff. Maybe we will get lucky and some designer/developer out there will implement some of this stuff.

  17. I think that there is a pretty consistent theme running through the replies. People want meaning from the game. People want to be able to make a difference on the face of the game world. If you take the AQ event from WoW, instead of having people farm things and the only difference being the number of boxes/crates behind the collector, have them farm stuff and then go build stuff near the gate. Then at least they can say, hey I helped put that catapult together when they next ride past.

    The best implementation of this kind of thing comes from a Mud I used to play called Armageddon. In Arm you could really effect the game world. Cut down too many trees in one part of the forest and you have to wait a few months (game time) for them to grow back. Of course the first M in MMORPG didn’t really apply to Arm and I see that as the major problem. Scaling stories, quests, opportunities to interact with the world out to a large number of people.

    With regards to loot, sometimes I think it sucks the way WoW does loot, but then I also think it sucks the way CoH does loot. It is always fun when you get a random drop, last night I got a purple in WoW of some random mob. I don’t have that opportunity in CoH and I think it detracts somewhat from the experience. I do however think that there should be alternatives to simply grinding for items in raids, but that is only going to be viable if grinding for items in raids is not your end game.

  18. A55cl0wn…I missed replying to some of your comments. MMORPGs are, by their nature, not what they call “zero sum” games. This means that they aren’t supposed to have a discrete end. You can’t “win” an MMORPG. You aren’t supposed to finish it. This is why there is so much dissatisfaction with MMORPGs…they are still being designed using a lot of design principles and philosophies that work well for games that you do finish. When you are in a given MMO the goal is to see all the content, finish all the quests, get all the items, and go through all the levels. At that point, everyone gets bored, and they start over with a new character.

    This drives me nuts too. Leveling, gathering loot, and running quests (instanced or otherwise) is not what MMORPGs are supposed to be about. This is why MMOs fail, and the people getting the money will continue to make the same mistakes. Sure, some MMOs are quite successful, and people that work on them will get a lot more money to keep making similar games…but the problem here is that THERE ISNT ANYTHING BETTER so as players we keep playing what we are given and the cycle repeats.

    One of these days, someone in a garage somewhere will have a few lightbulbs go off, and they will manage to get a good team and funding together, and they will design the worlds first TRUE mmorpg.

    The idea, at least back in the early 90’s when I was doing virtual reality stuff and focusing heavily on designing immersive environments and virtual communities, was to focus on the four cornerstones I mentioned in my last post (although they weren’t called that, I sort of made that up when I wrote the post)…1) Have a good story that sets the tone and “justifies” the mechanics. There is a reason you dont see guns in fantasy settings…it doesn’t make “sense”. 2) Environment is critical for facilitating immersion. This content, combined with the story, helps the user suspend their disbelief of being in a computer world, and they accept it. 3) Mechanics…make everything interactive and dynamic. And of course 4) COMMUNITY. Everything is about the social aspects of interaction, communication, and community. ALL MMOs (even the ones that claim to be entirely focused on RP or social mechanics) fail here. Some more miserably than others.

    Anyway, the current crop of MMOs are missing these key design philosophies, and until the money flow starts going to new blood, we are going to see more of the same. I should note that I think there are some really cool or interesting projects in the works, but from what I have seen, none of them are innovating or going through a shift in design paradigms.

    MMORPGs should be about -experiencing- the game world, and interacting with other people. I’m not saying that you have to force RP or anything dumb like that. What I am trying to say is that something like Lord of the Rings Online should be created in such a way that the user feels like THEY are REALLY in the world of Tolkein. In Star Wars, you want to feel like you are really zipping around the Empire (or whatever). The experience is cheapened if everyone is a Jedi, and Han Solo is everyone’s best friend, etc.

    The industry has gotten really good at creating technologies to make pretty worlds that have the potential to be highly immersive. We have also gotten fairly decent at making things look realistic, and networking technologies have certainly improved. Toss in broadband proliferation in the global market, and killer physics SDKs, and a lot of the core technology needed to build a brilliant MMO is there. What we are lacking is a really innovative and ground breaking DESIGN. Throw out everything you know about MMORPGs and start from scratch. Study MUDs, learn how communities interrelate and evolve online, etc.

    Someday I will have the right funding and I’ll do it myself. In the meantime, Im hoping someone else wakes up and smells the MMO coffee. I’m sick and tired of the same old game with a facelift.

  19. Here’s my 2 cents:

    1) Skills/Abilities- To a point, UO did well with this one. The more you do something, the better you became at it. The less you used a skill, the more it would atrophy. You could buy skills up to a certain (read novice) point. Which makes sense in a way. And you could learn by observering another using a skill to a point. I liked that system, but no other game company really caught onto it.

    2) Magic- AC was sort of on the mark with their magic system. You the student mage had to research spells before you could cast them. Of course, this soon became a minor obstacle as 3rd party programs came into it. But I still remember the thrill of learning how to cast lvl 3 spells… my desk was covered in spreadsheets with all the combinations I had tried/learned. To me, that was fun. Some others may not think so.

    Also, I agree with previously mentioned items… my fireball 1 should be pretty pathetic, but 5-6 levels up, I should be causing effects to the local weather system due to all the heat I am drawing from the surrounding area.

    3) Making my mark on the world- Horizons had a system in place where you could build structures. Most people can construct a lean-to out of sticks and moss in a days time. Make players able to build housing of their own, with much variety. Again, some would prefer just to buy… so make npc carpenters/etc that players can own. The player that contracts the job, it’s a money sink for them. The player that owns the npcs only gets a small portion (have to pay the workers you know) of those funds.

    4) Biosphere- Make the world really alive. Season changing and weather is a start, natural disaters too… but take it a step further. Why do the same mobs stay in the same spot no matter how many times they are killed, or the food they eat is removed, etc. Why would a dragon roam way back in the boonies, if there is a better/easier food source closer to a road for instance. Why would it not move elsewhere once that resource is depleted?

    5) Customer Service- Have a team of GMs large enough to handle customer tickets in a timely manner. And have the queue systems on tickets prioritized. The first time a “I’m stuck” ticket sit for 4 hrs, b/c someone GM is answering 15 “How do I get to Funkytown” tickets… the entire CS department gets flogged. A mediocre game can hold customer well with good CS, whereas some of the coolest games get dropped if the paying folks feel slighted.

    6) No major Changes- Beta ends at the end of Beta… not 12 months of people paying. Get the damn mechanics down, and in place before you go retail. Nothing irks me more that after three months of playing the game I love, to not being playing the game I loved 3 months ago. Tweeks happen, minor bugs addressed, new content added… all perfectly fine. But doing an radical alteration of the basic playstyle of a certain class (or classes) or doing a 180 degree turn on the basic back story of a game is really not the way to go.

    The hardest part about this situation as I see it, is that not everyone likes the same thing or playstyle. So the perfect game may be proverbial end of the rainbow.

  20. 4, 5, 6!! Everyone should read those three points by Inhibit again. And a third time if you are a developer.

  21. Change!~
    Time doesn’t seem to pass in any mmorpgs I play. Rain, snow, seasons etc that people mentioned are cool ideas. I think adding “time” as an element would add a sense of change to a game.

    One thing that would be fun to see is actual changes in the appearance of your character as he gets experience. In the game “Fable,” your character’s appearance changes as you gain strength, gets very evil or good, get battle scars, and ages. AGES. Gads. What if after a certain amount of time your character died of…old age?!

    “I got him to 32nd level paladin before he died of a heart attack at age 57.”

    In Fable you can also get married. It might be interesting if your character had to have children to open up new character slots. Your original would eventually die and pass on his things to the family. It might give a sense of changing times. This would introduce the real “end game” of life.

    “He was the son of my 21st level blacksmith.”

    The games DO have a backstory…but do they matter except as ambiance? Is there a game that has a sense that, at least in the present storyline, that there is a sense of ongoing history?

    There should be a sense that things have and are happening. The King of the land gets an heir. Makes a decree. Is invaded by the orcs from the Black Mountains. A plague hits nation. The king is assasinated and replaced by his bastard half brother. And your guild is now considered criminals by the town guard becuase you are loyalists. The Usurper fights a war of succession with the son of the King. That could be 2 real years of game time with all the scenario possiblities that go along with it.

    “Oh, my paladin’s father, the blacksmith, was at the siege of Downcaster when it fell to the orcs. That was the family’s original hometown. Downcaster fell during the 2nd Black Mountain War. Very cool fight. We almost repulsed the orcs. My man was killed by a very large rock. The orcs took over the town. Then I moved the family to the shanties outside the capital.”

    I don’t know, maybe it’s too much to ask for, but it would be fun.

  22. 1 – Choices. Meaningful choices, in fact.
    The majority of MMORPG gaming currently have very few meaningful choices. You buy what you can buy for equipment, purchase your powers, and your real choices are limited to how you’re going to kill X monster. Not ‘are you going to kill x monster’. You can’t go around him, can’t go above him, and your quest probably ensures that killing him is the [i]single best[/i] choice.
    So that super-intelligent dragon can’t be talking into passing over meaningless artifact of minimal value in exchange for gold? You can’t sneak by a bumbling thug (and be rewarded for it)?
    Hell, make it part of buld choices – the difference between the “darkest”, most evil priest and the most holy is something like 15% damage on the former, and 15% bonus to heals on the later. Wohoo.
    Make choices. A priest should be able to get *really* good at healing, or *really* good at protective spells/buffs, or *really* good at dark magic, maybe even be passible with the two other aspects, but the difference should be an order of magnitude.
    Make these choices informed. Players should know what the powers do and will do easily. They should have the ability to find out in game if their powers could be problematic, even if it’s something like an NPC muttering about a priest that couldn’t fix their leg or couldn’t defend them from a zombie.

    2 – Intelligent area creation.
    Why the hell is flux sold three hundred meters from the nearest forge? Or enchanting equipment half a mile from the. Why is the inn on the far side of town from the main gate?
    Towns are towns. They tend to be built organically (outside of France and California). Make them that way in your game. Similar crafts will be grouped together. Inns and bars will be near the main roads, residential areas less so. Include readable maps in game.
    Getting lost looking for the potion store is remarkably irritating.

    3 – Make wow (not the game) moments.
    Yes, they’re cheap, and don’t really add content. They’re still important. When you see a huge waterfall or a giant monster or a really really impressive mountaintop view, you go wow.
    That’s important. Gives people a reason to explore, and that’s probably the single biggest drive to level for some people.

    4 – Place bugs before QoL before Content.
    Few companies do this, and I really don’t know why it’s so rare.
    If 1% of your playerbase runs into a really crippling issue, it’s worse than if 50% don’t get a new zone this month.

    5 – Combat should be interesting.
    The best example of this is a seldom-known game called Phantom Dust. Horrible plot, poorly animated characters, but the single best combat system I have ever seen in a multiplayer online game.

    6 – Can the random().
    People who get lucky won’t know it, people who aren’t will hate you very much. World of Warcraft has the worst possible examples of this, particularly in the 20-30 content range. You will get missions that consist of farming a specific enemy for hours trying to get a certain drop. I think I got through 200+ Ichorless spiders at one point, and later farmed a few thousand turtles to get twenty turtle scales.
    Make your number generator mimic what people expect. If you’re going to say that players have a 25% chance to miss, don’t put x=random(1-100), where if x

  23. 5b – The end result of current MMO tech is that a player can run/teleport/fly to the ends of the earth, but that arrow will still follow him if it’s be determined it will hit.

    6b – Make your number generator mimic what people expect. If you’re going to say that players have a 25% chance to miss, don’t put x=random(1-100), where if x

  24. [ED : Okay, this is getting old… don’t know why it keeps curreing this last section off.]

    6c – Make it so players might hit three times in a row, then miss completely.

    7 – Can the cliches.
    I don’t think any hero wants to kill rats. Or gerbils. Or worms. Thugs are a good starting point. Robbers work too.

    8 – Sidekicking/Exemplaring.
    Most genius thing I have ever seen. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at City of Heroes. Do this, but make it even more friendly to do so.

    9 – Make dungeons decay.
    Yes, the top of the server can go back and do Raid A with a team of five. Make it so that everyone can do that by the time big Raid D has come out. No reason to make the content so damned unaccessable to your biggest section of playerbase.

  25. blue: I am totally opposed to redefining the word ‘random’ so that it suits the mistaken conceptions of the majority of gamers. Instead, design your systems so that the RESULTS are what people generally expect. If you have a 25% miss rate, yes, you are going to have strings of 5 misses in a row, and you’re going to have them fairly often, far more often than most gamers think you ‘should’. That’s what ‘random’ means.

  26. Gr, still can’t figure out exactly what the issue there was (wasn’t even using special characters the second time), so I’ll try to put this in a different way.

    6 – In the gaming industry, we use random number generators to mimic events that really shouldn’t be completely random. If a character is trying to learn a new skill, they’re not have a chance in hell of doing it the first time. Even if they’re lucky, it won’t happen. If they’re trying to take down a wild animal and find a pristine antler, it should be nearly impossible for it to be salvaged on the first kill, but after a while I’m going to figure out what I did wrong and not send a gunshot into the things paw.
    In a sparring match with a decent opponent, the chance of me connecting a punch is low but the chance of connecting two in a row is *astronomical*, as is the chance of him or her blocking/dodging a long series – eventually one of us will notice the other’s weaknesses or patterns (and we will also correct our weaknesses as they are used against us).

    In real life, an aspect of being human is that past experience changes our chances in the future. In effect, we weight the chance of an occurance toward that ratio.

    But that’s far from the situation when you plug a pure random number generator in. The first time you kill an enemy, if they’ve got a one in twenty chance of dropping something, and the hundred thousanth time you kill them, they’ve got that same one in twenty, even if you haven’t found one yet. A 25% miss rate will create streaks of 5 misses nearly one time out of every thousand even with a perfect RNG. And this is true whether I’m studying a book to figure out a simple recipe, picking a lock (which is probably the best example of something you won’t get lucky at, but aren’t ever going to fail a high rate of time in), or negotiating with an enemy.

    It’s not realistic, and even more imporantly, doesn’t feel right. Players notice this. They comment and they bitch, both on streaky successes and streaky failures.

    Yes, a corrected system where a high likelyhood of success is given to what the gamers think is the ‘correct’ short-term ratios isn’t truely random. But then again, we’re not here to make things correct to a mathematical algorithm or truth. We’re here to make things fun, and the existance of “streakbreaker” code in CoH/WoW/EQ2, and the sheer number of complaints about being killed or surviving only because of a good string of luck, well, they suggest that truely random events aren’t as much fun.

  27. There are some really good ideas listed here, so I don’t think it would be appropriate to go “me too!” on all of them. They are pretty self apparent.

    Instead, let me give some ideas for later game content. First of all, design your game to be played gradually, rather than a race. Don’t worry about how to keep the speed-leveler/raider happy – worry more about the majority (statistics vary on %) of the casual player who might spend a ages on a specific level just because they are exploring, or having fun with friends. Yes you have to have end-game, per se, content, but having your developers spend 90% of their time to make this intense encounter that most people will never experience is silly. Yes you want people to stretch for the ring, but people become tired seeing the ring always moved out of range and will just forget it.

    Make a good story and stick with it. This was touched on above, but I want to elaborate on it. Your game world should be true to itself. If your lizard people were all wiped out by a plague, then you shouldn’t be able to find a hidden society of them living on an island somewhere. Sure an explorer or two might have escaped random_disaster_01, but enough to breed? Unlikely. Instead, have them reappear, if they must reappear, as diseased versions of them. Mmmm flavor. When you have new events happen, find a way to tie them back into the original lore. If nothing else, your old lore can be the reason for your new lore. Ignoring what you have established as the reason for your world existing in the first place to make new lore removes immersiveness. You want people to want to play your game, so be sure to use every hook. Think of new lore as a sequel to your book. I know a few places where the lore has basically gotten tossed due to staff changes. Well…someone has to remember that people like a good story and will go out of their way for it. Draw them into it.

    Don’t put in trunciated content assuming you will have an expansion. CoH is an example of how not to do this. Except for the rampart bugs, the game was complete at release. Yes, it had no true end game (still doesn’t, beyond Hami from what I understand), but it wasn’t build assuming they can have an expansion pack fix it. EQ, post Velious, is an example of trunctiated content. It’s like every expansion ends like Back To the Future 2 – “To be continued!” (ya I know the movie said to be sue me). Ah, and talking about expansions…

    If you must expand, EXPAND. Don’t slap on a few zones and call it a day. Grow your world. Add depth to the old world while adding to your new world. Tie the new to the old. Not just scripted GM events, but have call outs to the new content. Why should I buy an expansion besides it being an expansion? Give me a good reason…not just a few minor things. Change my world…hell ROCK my world. And for gods’ sake, make it a complete expansion before it hits the door. An extra 2 months of production time to get an expansion out to raves beats having a half made one put out that forces you to mark it down to get any income and you still have to pay your developers to fix it. I’d rather pay Joe Developer to fix it when I know I’d be getting a lot more money.

  28. I think that “end game” and “high level” content is a bad idea. There is too much emphasis on leveling.

    Think of it this way…single player games are linear in the sense that there is a beginning and an end to the game. Like Chess…there are thousands of variations in the middle to reach the end (win or lose), but there is a definable start and finish.

    MMORPGs are supposed to be persistent state immersive worlds with dynamic (to some degree or another) content. These are not supposed to have an end…the “journey” is the goal, not the destination. Granted, there are mechanics that are implemented to govern how you interact with the world and with other players, and there is usually some model for measuring your strength/power to give you some sense of movement or advancement. But this has become the focus…there are level caps, “high level” or “end game” content, many aspects of the game and areas of content are based on your level, item and spell usage is also based on level, and the mechanics for determining whether or not you can kill something is likewise dependent on level.

    What if we stripped levels out completely? Would it be possible to use some other measurement of power that wasn’t so directly tied to the games mechanics and content? Should levels (or something else) be based on an alternative to experience points?

    Thoughts or ideas here?

  29. I would like to see a MMORPG where the social role/status would play huge part, and the actions people take would depend on his status. For example, (in case of mafia) a mugger would take actions from his boss and do the job (or not). And the bosses role would be to give those actions, manage how well they were performed and so on.

    Government people on the other hand could try to stop crime, they could add police forces (which would once again be some players in the game)… and the main idea of ‘levels’ would be to achieve greater status.

  30. Hrm, ok. So you are suggesting a greater emphasis on social mechanics, specifically status or rank as it relates to quest and event generation, as well as the social dynamics between players. This could be further extended with reputation/notoriety, NPC responses to the player based on social rank/reputation and maybe modified by charisma/presense, or the implementation of more robust mechanics for social structure and government?

  31. 1) Test your game mechanics: The majority of MMOs get wrapped up in graphics and end up with glaring mechanical flaws in the systems of combat, tradeskills, communications, etc.. Before you start trying to make the game visually appealing, make sure it works. Write your levelling, tradeskilling, combat & adventuring abilities, and all the other mechanics into a MU* (MUD/MUSH/etc.). For those not familiar with the term, I’m talking about a text-based telnet multi-user game. They’ve been around since before ‘The Realm’. Over a decade later, a lot of aspiring game-makers still can’t make an interesting system design without making it frustrating and unenjoyable.

    2) Realistic Experience: By realistic experience, I don’t mean realism of the game. I’m talking about characters with learning curves. Characters should have difficulties with unfamiliar creatures at first contact (I’m talking about archtypes, not brown bear vs. angry brown bear). Once he/she gets the hang of it, the encounter will go easier, but increases in skills/experience points/whatever-system-used should plateau. This discourages grinding.

    3) Advancement: I’d like to see adventuring and skill gains become separate but interdependant systems. Sparring and working with trainers should be a necessary component of skill gains, and account for the bulk of progress. On the other hand, training ceases to be helpful until one learns to use their skills as the situation arises, so adventuring should raise the cap of a skill being used. The control between the two would be somewhat diminishing returns as the skill reaches the cap, and more diminishing returns as gap widens between the two. For the most part, going out and killing things should be about changing a situation or acquiring the possessions of said corpses.

    4a) Tradeskills: After what I said in #2, there need to be systems in place for the acquisition of petty resources and experience that don’t depend on grinding. A versatile and interactive tradeskill system is a must. To promote versatility, don’t narrow players into picking one or two specializations. Instead, put a ceiling on how much can be learned (across all trades), with an exponential cost system, and let players decide whether they want to be adept at several skills, or a renowned master of one. As for interactivity, EQ2 has a basic, repetitive, and not particularly fun way of going about it. Two better examples to follow would be ‘Puzzle Pirates’ (though a bit too skill-based for some players), and charcoal braziers from ‘A Tale In The Desert’ (where one had to learn how to use vents, fuel, and water to balance heat, oxygen, and pressure).

    4b) Money-making: As opposed to genocide, ‘Medievia’ had a good system for building wealth: stocking a caravan with goods and escorting it to another trading post. It gives variety, lets people “play the market”, encourages teamwork (help each other defend their prize), and opens many opportunities for “random encounters” of all sorts.

    4c) Alternate Experience: I’d really like to see other avenues open up as far as world interaction goes. Throw some difficulty into mountain climbing, spelunking, etc. that would create niches for players looking to do something different. Let there be skills related to environmental conditions… One player can set up shop as a sherpa, taking parties up a mountainside to whatever aberration they wish to fight.

    5) Where the hell did ‘Dawn’ go?: That old piece of vaporware had some of the best ideas for persistent change in a world. Goblins bugging the town? The actually will be, and will barge in pillaging and looting. They will come from an actual settlement, and the only way to get rid of them would be to gather a small army and wipe out the entire force. And they’d be gone. No respawns…. but that’s almost too much of a dream.

    That’s all I can manage, for now.

  32. Excellent. Good stuff there. I completely agree, especially the part about MUDs….there is a ton of great research and knowledge base out there, yet it seems that so many people making MMORPGs dont have a clue and are missing out. Just because the MU* stuff was text-based doesnt mean it should be disregarded as unworthy of attention. Some of the best games I have EVER played were text based.

    Keep the comments coming folks! There is some really good stuff here.

  33. Actually…. Postscript:

    6) Raid Mechanics: The solution to the end-game problem is to focus on lateral rather than vertical character development. After (at most) 100 hours of gameplay, a character should be good enough at *something* (healing, damage, crowd control, buffs, utility spells, etc.) to be able to contribute to raids. As they continue to grow, they may get somewhat better at that one thing, but most of the growth will be either in abilities that support their first strong point, or a completely different field, allowing them to adapt to the situation at hand. Raids are about strategy and tactics. To take WoW as an example: taking monsters that could be functionally defeated by a 5-man party, multiplying their stats by four, and declaring it a 20-man raid is an unnecessary hassle. That doesn’t need to be a raid. Strategy, tactics, and accessibility. If the majority of players are capable of participating, they can spend their time trying to figure out how to take down their opponent with whatever mix of talents they could scrape together, rather than grinding so they might one day have the opportunity.

  34. “end game” is cliche now, and it’s an assumption that the game will have one. Either I’m jaded from playing there too long or just it’s morning pre-coffee apathy, but I don’t see it as necessarily wrong. However, I do find wrong using a character fully geared in end-game/epic/insert-adjective-here gear and/or skills as the baseline for how your characters are to be silly. I know for a fact EQ does this, as I’m beta’ed plenty for years. Testing midgame content of the next expansion, geared in the tip-top rewards from the previous expansion, and then making it just too hard for me to win, automatically sets it up for failure. If someone has ruined their social life to the extreme that they have all those shiny pixels, I don’t really care if they can kill a_lint_spore_04 27% faster than me. I just want to be able to kill it!

    Now, I’m not advocating mediocracy. But the uber focus of games is silly. I’ve been hearing stories that WoW’s expansion follows EQ winning (*eyeroll*) strategy of this, which is inevitable I suppose. But building a game that is built for say 75% of the Best Possible Character instead of 99% will allow more people to enjoy it, thus making them refer friends to play it, and so on, thus generating continued revenue flow.

    You have to have an “end-game” event in the games now, for the always present powergamer. Give them a shiny Stick of Basketweaving +1 that shoots streams of hot pink sparkles when equipped. Yay them. No matter how convoluted you make the final sequence, they will get to it – either via your direct hints, cheating, or just sheer will, and beat it. And then complain it wasn’t hard enough. To this, I say – “Screw them”. I’m driven to win too, but if a game is robust enough, you should have other stuff to do rather than just race for the end beastie. That’s basically them making your MMORPG into a ORPG. Why in the world would you want to encourage that?

    Social interaction is a major tying in feature and shouldn’t be overlooked. Read any half dozen quit posts across the game world. More than half will say that people stayed for their friends, not the game. Leverage that. Make there benefits for not being a social outcast and out grinding for their Happy Breastplate of Hamster Love +4. I can think of several games I hung out for months after I wanted to quit simply because there was friends in game I wanted to hang out with rather than leave.

  35. Oh, and finally…well for now, I think raids on the whole should be very limited. Group events should be far far more prevelant. I know many people that raided simply so they could get housework done. They’d take that time to clean a room, or pay bills, or whatever. Spending hours to clear/buff/etc to a monster for 5 minutes of action and then 30 minutes of loot arguing gets boring after you’ve killed the uber monster 1 or 2 times. I admit, the first time killing the big guy can be fun, but I’ve had much more fun over the years in beating challenging group events/confrontations, with much more loot satisfaction, than in raids.

    Coordinating 40-70 people in concert takes a particular kind of mind, one I know I do not have. I am thankful and in awe of those raid leaders I have played under, but it’s somewhat silly that a game should be more work than..well…work. Guilds should be friendly and fun, not accounting offices. There is no raid loot system that makes everyone happy. It’s not possible, since the nature of a raid means not everyone gets a shiny. If everyone did, then why have it as a raid? Like it was posted above, just taking a group mob and making it 20x harder isn’t a true raid mob. That’s lazy coding, honestly.

    All these suggestions though, and no game out of it. If we could only make one…would it work? I’ve been on a team trying to develop a team, and we ran out of money in early Alpha. It’s cost prohibitive, and seems like any big studio who will back you wants too much of a vanilla appeal game than unique thought.

  36. “Jezebeau: To take WoW as an example: taking monsters that could be functionally defeated by a 5-man party, multiplying their stats by four, and declaring it a 20-man raid is an unnecessary hassle.”

    I’ll give you a good example of this. In one of the EQ betas I was in, we found a mob at the end of a zone. It was a boss mob, and guarded by a pile of mini camps of monsters. The only way to get to the boss mob, even make him and his guard targetable, was to kill these camps before they respawned. My group spent a week solid on this before we hit the right combo to make the boss and his guard targetable, then a few days more to figure out how to kill both before respawn, etc. It was thrillingly challenging, good exp, good loot, and buckets of fun. We didn’t even have a “prime group” all the time, as it really had much more to do with group mechanics than anything else. After beating it a few times, and with a happy afterglow, we called the developer over to show him our work. His reaction? Doubled HP on all the mobs, added silly AE effects to the boss, and sped up the respawn, thus changing the one group event into a 3 group raid. The loot, of course, was not altered. Game altering loot perhaps you think? No…out of the 4 times we killed the boss, twice we had to call a friend’s alt over to loot a piece. I know post release, from reading about it on Allakhazam, that people complained what a waste of time the event was, which is sad. A fantastic group event changed to a silly, mutli-group raid.

    Ok…enough for me this morning.

  37. I think it’s important to distinguish end-game content from raids. For example, you can raid quite earlier in a good many MMORPG games, but the result isn’t considered end-game content.

    Raids just happen to be the most dev-team friendly one.

    I think my team realized that it would take a little over a month to create and create a new quest zone, balance the item drops for it, make sure there’s something innovative programming-wise, and get it through QA.

    The same zone balanced around one player could be finished in four days of two hour sessions, and farmed to get an acceptable number of item rewards within, oh, I think it was a full week. That was without making items ridiculously rare (our design decision was that bosses would always drop something of high value, and that a single room with five encounters would have a high chance of such a drop).
    Balanced around a full group, it took about one week to finish, and then twenty days to completely clear of items.
    Balanced around a trio of such groups, you could even double or triple the rewards and still increase the amount of time needed to complete item collection.
    That’s why we really figured that we’d have to pull more to raids than to small groups.

    Even if you have a better mission development cycle than we did (not horribly unlikely), and can keep up a level of demand, we found a different problem. Eventually, no matter what you do, you create Tank Mages and gimps. Mudflation at its heart.
    That’s actually true whether you expand upwards or sideways, interestingly. A single character that can do multiple things well can be just as dangerous as one character that’s too good at a single thing.
    The best solution we could find was to have things directly scale (for example, going back to a low tier after farming a high tier would improve enemy stats enough to keep you challenged while still dropping lower tier loot, and going to a PvP encounter would scale down every stat you had by an equal amount to a set value). Not quite fun – losing abilites or strength never is, nor is getting your backside handed to you by guys you killed before – but it’s better than having farmable instances or completely equipment/time dependent PvP.

    The idea of eliminating levels is easy, since I’ve seen a few situations where levels were just a way to help players know what they could and couldn’t take (and to simplify rewards). As long as your characters grow organically, and can’t be gimped by choosing to focus on the wrong things, it’s pretty easy to provide a ‘behind the scenes’ metric by looking at average statistic values, or combined value of known spells/abilities. But that may not fix the problem you’re bringing up.

  38. I wonder how things would work out if the overall power level (ignore levels) of a given mob type was based on how frequently it was killed over a period of time (few weeks?).

    So, if you ignore the sewer rats and keep beating up on the orc village for a few weeks, you start seeing weaker orcs and a sudden invasion of the town by nasty brutish and real strong rats. Or maybe if players are too busy with this dungeon over here, the content starts weakening over time and content elsewhere off of the beaten path gets tougher and maybe their loot drops increase in value as well.

    This doesnt seem to be too complicated a mechanic to implement in my mind, and it would bring a much more dynamic feel to things. Not to mention it would encourage players to sample different content and areas.

  39. That seems decent, although it might be a bit heavy serverside (and having a problem with sudden ‘pops’ of stronger or weaker enemies breaking immersion). At least it’ll give people the feeling that they’re doing something lasting, even if it’s a simple sliding scale between a couple locations. I’m a bit against the ‘go kill rats’ part, though…

    On that ideal, why not have ‘abandoned’ cities that can be repopulated if you clear enough enemies from inside? Of course they’d have to be depopulated after getting too many people or after x amount of time (ie people start moving out because a nearby orc tribe has begun attacking and making people feel unsafe, since such a big town is a threat again), but as long as you keep enemies required for quests outside town, it wouldn’t have too many negative interactions.

    [ed : hopefully I avoided any formating typoes in this one.]

  40. I was using rats vs orcs as a generic example. I meant to clarify that this transition of power would occur gradually…

    Here is the thing. Gamers usually go for the path of least resistance to get to the higher levels as soon as possible. This means that after some period of time, new players coming into the game have access to maps, spawn points, loot tables, quest solutions, and they are told by other players go -here- for levels 14-23, and then go -there- for 24 to 30, and then meet us over -here- for 31 to 57. As a result, there are vast amounts of content (as I have defined content previously) that is basically abandoned. This is further exacerbated if it is too easy to travel from one city/population point to another via teleportation or some other mechanic.

    So what I was suggesting, was an idea to keep the entire player base from hitting the same locations over and over, thus missing out on the larger world. I envisioned things gradually changing over a week or two, so there arent “pops” of really strong or weak creatures. So it shouldnt be server CPU heavy at all.

    The other thing that would be interested here, is that as an area “weakens” it becomes useful to younger players, while the older more powerful players have to “roam the lands” looking for a challenge to their skills.

    Looking at Blue’s last comments, and something I read at mischiefblog (I may be wrong) earlier….I wonder if combining some of these ideas would be workable….players get together, start a small town, and eventually abandon it (they moved on, joined another city, whatever). After a while it starts to decay (eventually going away completely), however there was a nearby orc town that was raided nonstop for two weeks by players, and a few orc refugees escaped. It took them three days of travel to get here and they find an abandoned group of buildings, which is just right for them to take over.

    Maybe one of the refugees was the Orc Chief’s son? No players discover the new orc settlement here for a few weeks, because they are busy slaughtering orcs in other areas. So the old chief’s son gets older and much much stronger, and as a result his little town starts growing rapidly. Finally, several weeks after his flight from home, he now has a small army of young and angry orcs that are going to go on a pillaging spree…they manage to completely destroy seven player settlements and are responsible for hundreds and hundreds of PC deaths, when finally … well who knows what happens at this point.

    The thing is that suddenly we have a mechanic for 1) relocating spawn points 2) dealing with abandoned player content 3) NPC “memory” for some events, actions, or players they encounter and 4) dynamic story content that can have unexpected consequences.


  41. One of the underlying assumptions of an MMORPG, and one that is causing the most amount of problems IMNSHO, is that character advancement is a requirement of the game. In real life, physical characteristics tend to be shaped over time as a bell curve with a long tail to the right, with the highest peak somewhere in the 20s. Mental characteristics tend to be shaped the opposite, with most people reaching an intellectual peak around 40-50, and hopefully staying there for a while until old age hits and you start hiking your pants up to your boobs. There are other characteristics, like social and spiritual, that could be all across the board. The important thing is, none of these characteristics increase constantly until they reach a peak, and then never deteriorate. They often fluctuate, and always drop eventually. There is generally a dynamism in this, such that when focus is spent on physical characteristics the mental deteriorate, and vice versa.

    My observation is that this assumption is unique to the CRPG genre, is a leftover from the D&D RPG (note that not even all PnP RPGs follow this formula, although most do), and is in no way a requirement for a fun multiplayer game. Like a previous posted mentioned, UO had an interesting model for this, and more recently, Guild Wars has another. You reach your “skill cap” relatively quickly (in GW you can skip over it and go directly to lvl 20 on character creation, I’ve heard) and after that you spend time balancing your skills to suit your character and her playstyle/tactics rather than just improving them until they’re capped and you reach an “endgame” phase that you play while waiting for the next expansion to come out.

    I believe that the first step for a next-generation MMO should be to lose the D&D baggage of continuous character improvement and rampant munchkinism, which is contrary to all the 4W’s you describe:

    Why: In a character-advancement oriented game, nobody cares about a backstory. If I had a penny for every time someone skipped past the WoW quest flavour text, I would be a very rich man. Warcraft has a phenomenal backstory – novels have been written for the setting of Azeroth – but nobody cares, because the game doesn’t reward you for knowing it and in the end the quests are reduced to “Kill x foozles, get a pair of leggings” anyway.

    What: If your game contains any PvE at all, content is finite. In a character-advancement oriented game, the goal is to beat all the content – slay every dragon, loot all the gold. This means the operations team will constantly be trying to crank out more content, when they should be working on fixing bugs, writing stories and maintaining communities. Of course, this constant supply/demand treadmill is probably what most publishers want to see, since it means they can more easily justify charging a monthly fee for their game.

    hoW: No automated system is perfect, and munchkins will always find exploits, because munchkins are essentially Exploit Elementals. So rather than working within the system, enjoying the game for what it is, and reporting bugs if they come across them, munchkins try to find exploits to make themselves more powerful. My brother-in-law, for example, considers this practice to be The Game. He doesn’t care about how cool the quests are or how interesting the backstory – his Game is outsmarting the devs and his measure of success is his level and PvP count. A game not focused on rewarding munchkinism would see players using the systems rather than trying to outsmart them.

    Who: A game that focuses on character advancement is a competitive game where others are seen mostly as a potential competitor or a liability. Sometimes devs will build systems to encourage (or force) cooperation, but this cooperation is still just a game mechanic – which is why many players will not even interact with those who are seen as too weak, speak less-than-ideal English, or don’t use Ventrilo. On the other hand, in a game focused on cooperation, exploration or storytelling, most players are all too happy to interact with anyone, because interaction is the point of the game and is the reason the game is fun to play.

    I have more on other topics, but I don’t want to make this too long.

  42. Lachek, nice post! However, I disagree with you…not so much what you said, but your basic assumption on what I meant with my “Four Cornerstones” or the 4Ws..

    Story…This is critical to have. I do not mean a back story that gives flavor to quest texts, I mean the world setting and mythos. If you completely take out the story, then you cannot have orcs, elves, dragons, guilds, societies, history, landmarks, magic, etc.

    How boring would a game be if everything was simply giant squares moving around on a flat landscape shooting lines of energy at each other? Things change if they are fighting in the Caves of Ice, and they are a mix of warriors of different tribes that hate each others guts, and there is a shaman or two in the mix each casting magic that is particular to their tribe or region.

    You must have story. This is the justification for the world rules and mechanics, as well as providing direction for the creation of the content.

    What- you said “If your game contains any PvE at all, content is finite.” I disagree completely. Well, I assume you mean Player versus Environment…but the content does not have to be finite. In my definition, the content includes all of the objects, places, people, and so forth in a game. Granted, depending on the mechanics, this can be static and very finite, or other design models can be implemented to make things truely dynamic with high rates of replayability. Just because you can see all of the content (definitely finite) does not mean that it will always be the same everytime you interact with it.

    How: In a character advancement game, a lot of people care about the backstory, but there has been so much emphasis on “level and loot” [side note, did I coin that term or has it been used elsewhere?] that many of the players that sought out story, role playing, and adventure gameplay have moved on, so the larger percentage of the active MMO user base is more concerned with PvP and Raids than anything else. I suggest that there are a lot of people that do care about backstory, but arent around because there are no games that really implement or balance it well.

    I agree that there arent very many perfected automated systems and there are a lot of people that find a huge amount of enjoyment looking for exploits, but I think your point here is based on a misunderstanding of my point….the how is the mechanics of how the world works and governs how players interact with it (yes, mechanics also encompasses other areas). So, for your brother who measures his success in his PvP count…the mechanics govern HOW he can engage in combat with other people…what kind of attacks and defenses are at his disposal and so forth. Of course the STORY is important here, otherwise everything is either a close ranged melee physical “attack” or a long ranged attack. I agree that existing systems are boring and lack, but the “how” as a cornerstone is critical to making something worthwhile, but more frequently than not suffers from “Right Idea, Wrong Implementation”.

    Who: My point here was that this is an area that is probably the least paid attention to by developers. I dont mean character advancement or development (this is mechanics), but that the social interactions between people, parties, groups, guilds, and larger order communities are absolutely KEY to bringing life to a MMORPG. The community is what is the soul of a game. If developers moved away from linear character advancement to “high level content” and put more emphasis on game mechanics that are rooted on player to player or community to community interaction, I would bet that there would be higher retention rates to games, and plenty of things for people to do when they are tired of hacking and slashing.

    Keep it coming folks. Also, if you quote something here elsewhere, stick in a trackback thingy eh.

  43. Since I posted so much earlier, I’ll keep this really short. Nico – does your slowly weakening/strengthening philosophy basically take DAoC’s original camp bonus to the next level? I haven’t played DAoC since 6 months after release, so not sure this still exists in game…but killing stuff that hadn’t died much recently used to net you a bonus, and I think, but am probably wrong, that you got penalized, very minorly, for killing an oft-killed mob.

    I like your idea either way though. It becomes, in and of itself, a story item. Dynamic code, if you will.

  44. Hrmm, I admit I never really got into DAoC, so I dont have a lot of invested time there to really comment too much. There is a saying that everything has been invented already and anything “new” is just a recycle of something else. So, no, DAoC didnt spark the idea in my head, but rather the comments posted here and elsewhere.

    The mechanic of the bonus as you describe in DAoC is pretty good stuff…definitely something to award people that explore and look for new things to beat up on instead of over farming a particular spawn somewhere.

    I’d like to do treasure/loot in this fashion as well….anything we can do to keep players continually exploring for areas that havent been experienced yet, or that havent been interacted with recently is a good thing. Just another approach to taking “finite” content and making it both interesting, and reusable over and over (plus a little bit of unpredictability).

  45. (if this hasnt already been mentioned)

    One thing that really irks me about MMOs is that usually as a noob when you first start out in the game, and you are directed into building your own stats/skills/talents etc, you usually havent the clue wtf you are doing, (EVE im looking at you here) you go out, and buy/train skills at character creation make what to you looks like a good stat template, only to learn a month later that your choices were made poorly for the task your character does, and you have absolutely no way to alter that in any form (WoW covers its tracks here, as it makes you wait until lvl 10 to choose talents, and even then for a fee you can change them, also, it progresses your own stats for you, but this can also be limiting). Basically, give the player an idea of what they are in for, or give them a way out, have a system where you pay or complete a task to rebuild yourself without some negative impact (I realise some games have this option, but some dont, might be time to make it mainstream?

  46. I’m going to quickly expand on the 4Ws again in light of your comments. I believe I am very much in line with your train of thought on most counts, but I didn’t express myself clearly enough the first time around.

    Why: The backstory and setting ties in with the flavour. Without the story, the “world” is reduced to a “game” – in your example, squares shooting lines of energy, in my example, “kill x foozles, score this item”. If I play the game to beat it and reach the endgame, rather than participate in a virtual world (this ties in with ‘hoW’), then I won’t care about the backstory anymore than I would care about the backstory of Arkanoid (there is one!) or the particular setting/theme of a pinball machine. And if I go around acting like I’m playing a game rather than being a resident of Azeroth, I will break immersion for everybody else, causing them to ignore flavour and treat the world like “just a game”, too.

    What: Yes, with a fantastic, dynamic system you can adjust the world around you to become less static, more complex, and certainly more enjoyable. Everyone has a grand plan for how this system would work. But all these plans exist on paper only, and has not been tested for bugs and exploits. I am a firm believer that entropy increases linearly along with complexity, and that any system can be abused. I have recently heard of plans for automated law enforcement systems, dynamic quest systems, experimental magic systems and a plethora of proposed systems in this thread, and while I applaud every one of them and see them as huge leaps forward in MMO theory, a munchkin can and will abuse anything – and the more complex the system, the easier it is to abuse it. Systems that mirror the natural world tend to work the best, but since systems in the natural world are insanely co-dependent on other natural systems, devs take ‘unnatural’ shortcuts and this is where the systems break down.
    My proposed solution for this, which I will have to outline in another post, is to have the vast majority of what we think of as “content” provided by other players, for example by properly utilizing PvP and social games. While PvE definitely has merit, the current trend of “accessible” PvE games – WoW, CoH/V and DDO being some – are too “gamey” for me to classify as “Perfect MMORPGs”, and I strongly believe that too much effort is being expended building bigger rollercoasters for these games rather than providing truly great, rewarding and exciting gameplay. Other players are far better at providing such content than pre-scripted encounters or trigger-loaded instances are.

    hoW: As I mentioned, I do not believe that a system can work 100%. On the upside, I do believe that systems do not have to be 100% perfected in order to work reasonably well, as long as the focus of the game is not on the pursuit of XP and loot. In these cases, players will use the systems as tools to advance their own enjoyment of the game, and if the systems are broken, they will refrain from using it and likely report it.
    For example, consider a system built to simulate social domination in a situation centred around convincing another player to give up her position as captain of the guards. This is a story driven event – the reason the players are involved in it is to advance their own personal plot lines. If the system is known to contain an imbalancing factor that is unfair to one side or another, the players would likely refrain from using it and put off the plot line until the system has been fixed, or wing the challenge Out-Of-Character in a way suitable for both players.
    Now consider the same system, but instead of being motivated by a personal plot line the characters are motivated by XP and loot – the purpose is for one character to increase her skill in Persuasion, and the other character wants to retain her position which yields her a 500gp income each cycle. The broken system will be used, the first character will win, the second character will whine to the developers about the broken system but can’t do anything about it, the devs will balance the system (causing another bug in the process), the first character will whine about being nerfed, etc etc.
    I guess my point is, if people think of the MMORPG as “just a game”, they will accept the game mechanics as law however broken they may be, will abuse them whenever possible to maximize profits, and 50% of the population will always complain if and when a particular mechanic changes. If instead they think of the systems as tools that allow them to enjoy the game more, they will work with the devs to ensure the systems work as intended, since that increases their enjoyment of the world. For those trying to “beat” an MMORPG, dupe bugs are great fun – but they’re the root of all evil to those who enjoy “living” in an MMORPG.

    Who: Exactly my point – switch the focus of the game from “kill all the PvE content so you can do all the PvP and raid content” to include mechanics that actually bring people closer together. ATITD and Eve does this marvellously. WoW, less so. In 9 months of playing WoW (6 million subscribers), never once did I get a sense of community, even when I had joined a guild. In ATITD (approx. 2000 subscribers at best) I was a valued member of a small village after playing for a couple of days, an hour or two per day. I think your loyalties are simply higher towards those you have raised a barn with than with those you have cleared out a dungeon with.

    That was longer than expected (sorry) but I think it more clearly reflects what I meant, FWIW.

  47. Good point Zxyrox. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to remake a character in some game or another because my stat/skill placement early on really screwed me up.

    1) Players shouldnt be able to completly handicap their characters because they spent some points badly. This is poor design.
    2) In the case of above, there should always be an option (however limited or restricted) to allow some reallocation (quest based or otherwise)
    and 3) I will repeat again that we need to move away from this heavy emphasis on character advancement through leveling as a core gameplay mechanic and goal.

  48. …and to add something to my ‘hoW’ section, I think one needs to address the issues with complex systems, including how to deal with exploits and nerfing, before thinking about adding more complex systems to deal with things like dynamic PvE scaling, random quests, functional economies, etc. This is why I have focused my comment on changing the players’ perception of “How a system should be used” rather than “What systems to implement”.

  49. I’m casting a vote for creating separate topics on specific issues raised in this thread at a later date. Designing a perfect MMORPG in a single thread with multiple participants covering every game design topic is very hard. ;)

  50. Lachek, thank you for the clarification, I agree with most of your perspectives here.

    “I guess my point is, if people think of the MMORPG as “just a game”, they will accept the game mechanics as law however broken they may be, will abuse them whenever possible to maximize profits, and 50% of the population will always complain if and when a particular mechanic changes. If instead they think of the systems as tools that allow them to enjoy the game more, they will work with the devs to ensure the systems work as intended, since that increases their enjoyment of the world.”

    Good point.

    There IS a difference between designing an MMORPG as a “game” and as a persistent world environment. These are two very different design philosophies.

  51. My goal with the post was to spark a discussion (notice the “Pt.1” in the header). There is a LOT of good stuff here, and quite a bit of it bears further discussion in another thread or something. Who wants to meet up at E3 over a couple of beers and figure out how to turn the MMO industry on its ear?

  52. I’m not sure if that system of truely dynamic content is reasonable or valid.

    It’s a good idea… but think about what would happen if you plugged it into any of the existing games. Take World of Warcraft, or EQ. Any outside housing would kill the feel of the areas (can anyone imagine the Barrens with a huge Tauren town right outside the Sluge Fen or a pile of small shacks around Un’Goro Crater?), and any huge changes in content could destabilize missions/quests.

    The only game I’ve played that I think has enough open space and a mission system that could support such a thing is EVE, and as a Massively Multiplayer Spreadsheet, it really wouldn’t benefit much from such a system – players might not even notice it exists compared to just having a guy twiddle around with seldom-used space. Maybe SWG, but I don’t know if the mission system is robust enough there.

    I’m sure you could design a game to work that system, but I’m not sure you should. I can’t see it adding enough character to the game to make up for the inevitable :

    Yell : “Were r the Orcs in Plains?”
    Yell : “Should be some around the far northeast.”
    Yell : “cant find ny ther.”
    Yell : “er, try the far south? Maybe the old village to the east?”

    Unless you plan to give players a reason to level alts, or make such altering enemy spawns autoscale, the average player will only see them once or twice.

  53. I’m not the type that gives up easily. I will either find what I think is the perfect MMORPG, prod developers into opening their minds and making one the right way, or I’ll do it myself. /cracks knuckles/

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand…what do you guys think about death mechanics? Death penalties and rez sickness? Favorite implementation in an existing title? How would you change things?

  54. Death is all the penalty I need. Even in games with very little (or no) penalty for death, I go out of my way to avoid it. I just plain hate to die.

  55. I’m going to go with much of what A55cl0wn posted. I’ve been trying to quantify what type of player I am and have decided it’s immersive. I WANT the RPG to be in an MMORPG. I want to have an effect on the environment in which I’m spending so much time. I realize the technical challenges of providing true character development in a persisted world. However, that is precisely what a so-called RPG should provide. EQ2 is a little better at making you feel as though you’re creating a character than a game such as WOW does. GW seems to have less linear play-style and choices but is way too instanced. I want a Fable-like game online.

  56. I could not possibly agree more with what Ethic says about death penalties in the mainstream of MMORPG design. WoW’s death pently doesn’t feel any less punishing to me than EQ’s [i]vastly[/i] harsher one, simply because I still hate dying.

    I contrast these games, however, from something like EVE. EVE’s ‘death penalty’ is an important part of how the game’s economy works. You get your ship blown up, and you need to buy a new ship.

    Part of that, I think, is that WoW is very explicitly designed to be a series of semi-disconnected ‘theme park rides’. PvP, raids, soloing, all offer distinctive and different experiences to have with your character. EVE is designed, equally explicitly, to be a ‘world’, where the systems all interact with each other to produce an overall gameplay dynamic. I don’t think one of these approaches is better than the other; I would prefer to live in a world that has games that approach ‘fun’ from both directions.

    If I were going to design the MMORPG I would want to develop, release, and play myself, right now (and, of course, I have game ideas aplenty, so this is just the one on the top of my stack ATM), I’ve been working on an idea that combines the crafting systems and personal avatar of SWG with the openess of EVE with the advancing technology of ATITD. Basically, you play a colonist from a crash-landed colony vessel on a habitable but undeveloped planet. You start with the somewhat basic but powerful tools you brought with you (lathes 4tw!) and advance… as far as the game lets you. Chop trees for crossbows to stake your claim to iron deposits to turn into the planet’s first guns! Horses lead eventually to cars. Building roads and railroads to connect settlements and industry! And, of course, the military needs to defend all this infrastructure from the inevitable bandits, pirates, and assorted twits EVE players are long familiar with.

    It would hardly be for everyone (just like EVE”s particular PvP-freedom isn’t), but for the people that liked it, it would be really really good.

  57. Personally, I’m a big fan of perma-death, or at the very least, a really NASTY, incredibly painful death penalty (EVE comes to mind).

    If you’re a jerk, you deserve to bite it. Mind you, you shouldn’t necessarily perma-die if ten-rats-kill-YOU, but if you happen to piss off the entire town guard and then take a dump on a sleeping hobo, and then PVP some n00b for the fun of it, all the while agro’ing a lvl 991 demi-Canadian Dragon of evil bacon doom, sending it on a mad killing spree through the town, yeah, you die.

    In the 10-rat case, I think a “semi-death” or unconcious state should take your character out of the action. The ability to continue to feign death after reviving, to make sure all the baddies have disappeared would be a must. After all, in a truly “perfect” mmorpg, you wouldn’t have to worry about being stuck on a spawning zone (they don’t exist anymore right?) and this method of death would presuppose that the rats are smart enough and motivated enough to chase after the rest of your group, or merely run into the woods because they’re hungry, tired, or running away from the aforementioned dragon. Or, maybe, they’d just fall asleep for a long enough period to get your arse outta there.

    Respawning my character COMPLETELY destroys the immersion and believability factor (slight knock against EVE’s podding system – after a legit PK, you should be gonzo, but I guess the “technology” of that day and age makes it possible)

    This would also take care of the level caps to a certain degree. At the very least, it would give the devs more time to iron out bugs and throw some more polish on the game engine, rather than constantly being pressured to make more and more high-level content for those crazy overseas kids that don’t need sleep and can get to lvl 64 in WoW in a couple of weeks.

    “Strange Brew” – the best Canuck movie ever, no dragons though eh?

  58. Whatever death system is put in place, it has to *make sense within the world setting*. EVE’s death system makes sense. WoW’s death system does not. Horizons tried its best to have their (lack of) a death system make sense by making all player characters Chosen Ones who cannot perma-die. In CoH/V, you’re instantly transported to the hospital … uuuh, I was in the sewers by myself fighting evil robots, and I guess they called the ambulance after they beat me up? The otherwise fantastic NeverWinter Nights persistant world called Avlis has a death system where you are instantly resurrected at your God’s temple – but to be fair, they have a free-for-all looting system, so if you don’t make it back to your corpse, too bad.

    What bugs me is that if the death system is not in theme with the game, it becomes *impossible* to roleplay, or even immerse yourself. How am I supposed to justify walking into a tavern in the world of Avlis and announce to everyone that “Shaliim del-Tor has resurrected me fifteen times today! I am the Chosen One!”? In EVE, on the other hand, it is very easy to justify that you’ve lost three clones and four ships in trying to recover some massive drug shipment from a competing corp. The WoW “roleplaying” servers are just a bad joke – how can you roleplay a character in a world you cannot change in any way, with a completely penalty-free death system?

    Pah. I’m with A55cl0wn – give me a perma-death system, with a good allowance for death-defying feats like running away, falling unconscious, being rescued by your party members, properly advertising dangerous areas and so on. Force people to play smart, and don’t pander to the lowest-common-denominator because that will lose you some short-term subscriptions.

  59. Deciding a death penalty really depends on your game and who you’re trying to appeal to.

    Casual gamers will like lesser death penalties. It makes mistakes less crippling, and encourages players to explore or to attempt trial and error. Hardcore gamers won’t like such a system – they’ll find that it allows players to progress even without the tactics/skill/equipment they found necessary, and that it allows the n00bs to step in their territory.

    Personally, I’m a fan of progressing penalties, from initially weak to overly harsh. While accidents happen, and you might die once or twice in a specific quest/mission/grinding session, that’s acceptable. If you’re throwing yourself and zerging enemies, well, not so much.

    The first thing to remember is to not make one death cause other deaths to be more common. If X can kill you when you’re not suffering from rez sickness, it’ll kill you when you are, and that basically turns rez sickness into an artificial delay tactic (and something that makes gamers want to go AFK isn’t too good of an idea, either). If X can kill you when your armor’s in good shape, no one will attempt a second fight at 90% armor values.

    Also, making characters feel like they’re going ‘backwards’ tends to be extremely casual-unfriendly. This is more true with XP than with currency, and more true if the XP can cause skill or power loss (I’ve seen quite a few rants about how ‘unfair’ that was).

    I don’t think perma-death is viable in a large scale and long-term MMO. It’s just not popular enough, and discourages anything but big groups beating on enemies that really aren’t enough of a challenge for them. Yes, it may be hard to explain thematically… but that mainly means you need to come up with better writers or a better mechanic for rezzing. Make the first quest/mission’s reward be divine intervention that makes your character somehow special enough to never die for long. Or look toward future tactics, where a rez machine was pretty the focus of the plot.

    There are ways to do it without breaking or even going against immersion, and I think it’s better to do that, than to create an environment that encourages players to not challenge themselves or take risks. Beating up things that aren’t a risk to you isn’t fun, but that’s what players will do if it’s the path of least resistance.

    I think the best idea is to have scaling penalties depending on the death, who killed you, and how often you’ve died recently, but scaling it correctly without seeming too harsh (EVE without the insurance) or forgetable (CoH inside missions) seems pretty difficult to come up with.

  60. Two comments here, at the risk of being intellectually overpowered by the great postings so far:

    1. On death penalties, I don’t agree with permanent death for your character. This option is always available to the player – you died, delete your character. For me, I’m with ethic. I hate dying. I hate running back from the GY and spending time trying to time my rez around the various Mobs and other players so that I can have some sheltered moments to rebuild my health and mana.

    I do believe that a progressive death penalty would be useful though to encourage players not to rush into encounters. Perhaps WoW’s dishonorable kill system provides a model. I’ve seen people go to great lengths to avoid killing civilians and then get in massive flame wars on chat when someone in their party does, because they know that the DK will stick with their character forever and make gaining honor that much harder.

    So imagine if we had “Astral Sickness” that slowly incremented. I’m pulling numbers out of my head here, but suppose each character death added 1/50th of a second to your rez time. WoW already has a minimum time that you have to be “dead” before you can rez (really only kicks in if you die very close to a GY). So say you die an average of 50 times with each level; by the time you are Level 60 you have to wait a full minute in the graveyard before you can move to your corpse. That would penalize completely careless players without impeding a player’s ability to take risks and look around the corner, go in the cave, or over a cliff.

    Then the dev’s could add a quest that would occur late in the game, in WoW terms say, Level 50, that would allow you to reset your penalty. It would have to be difficult enough to make people really want it, but it would allow players who had matured to recover from their earlier mistakes.

    2. On a different topic, I would like to see more gradual progression rather than the abrupt Ding of leveling. In WoW I can substantially improve my skills every two levels. That means when I am one point away from leveling I am essentially as skilled as I was nearly two levels ago, just carrying the “permanent buff” I got from the odd-numbered level and any extra items I was eligible to equip at that point.

    What if you gained some attributes (intellect, stamina, rage – whatever) throughout your playing and then periodically were able to learn the new spells and abilities. That would add a much deeper dimension to the game – “LF1M Mage, one bar from 40 pref but will take 39”

  61. Any attempt to split the difference between WoW-style light death penalties and EVE-style harsh ones is, IMHO, misguided. No solution will be at the same time light enough not to drive casual players into Blizzard’s welcoming embrace while at the same time keeping ex-Shadowbane players feeling like they’re being a sufficient affliction unto their enemies.

    In the larger sense, attempts to thread that needle and present a gameplay experience that will be strongly compelling to all or most of the types of MMO player out there are mostly going to end in tears and recriminations (see: Star Wars Galaxies, Horizons, WoW’s PvP/BG/Honor system).

  62. Uggg, not even gonna pretend I read all those replies but here is what I would like to see:

    1) Class/level based MMOs bore me to shit. BAM hit level 60 with mage type now go back and do the same chit with fighter type…oh crap Im level 4 again and bored to shit cause I know whats coming up and oh yeah cant play with my level 45 friends…..
    I like EvE’s skill based system, given enough time you can do whatever you desire. Also with EvE the skills are setup such that getting to lvl 3 is not too painfull and the difference between lvl 3 and lvl 5 is usually pretty minimal. So a two year old character can meaningfully interact with a 2 month old charater.

    2)Meaningfull content: In CoH we used to joke around about how good the villians lawyers were. In WoW you see the samething, villians never die, nothing changes. EvE is the same with the NPC content…HOWEVER…EvEs NPC content is kind of a “hey its here if you want it” thing. The big thing in EvE is the players and the Devs support this. The Devs actually report on the big player news, they report when an alliance breaks up or when an old corp is revived. Not only that but major changes can be made by layers. When the guiding hand social club took down that corp they took down the victim was honestly affected. They weren’t back the next day with all their chit intact.
    I see this as the big move in future MMOs, let the players make the content. Start with a bit of NPCism and slowly fade it out as players take over the role. Seed out the blu print to make item a and then take out the NPC….been too long since item a was around slowly bring back the NPCs.
    EvE does one other thing that helps in this area, players are neutral. In classic games there is a subconscious aftertaste of alignment and that affects things. EvE does away with this and allows players to take the role of good and bad as they see fit.

    3) dynamic environments: now this is a technology based complaint but in games like WoW and CoH I want to see dynamic weather and other environmental effects. CoH had planned for player actions to affect the environment but soon realized this would be abused as people would just go around destroying stuff (I see their point but I would have realy liked the effects) I want snow in winter and rain in summer, I like that games include day and night (incidently is WoW on a 24 hour timer, CoH was on like a 4 hour timer or something). I would like to see rivers swell and fade and trees change color. At the same time I wanna see mines get stripped and animal populations become endangered.
    With a game like EvE it would be nice to see how orbits affect the environment. And who hasnt wanted to land and stretch their legs.
    I think for a game like EvE a good solution would be to do a meta verse type deal.

    ::So here it is, my dream MMO::
    First off the “Universe” is actually a metaverse backend. The “space” portion is handled by one company and their client while “worlds” are leased to other companies. The clients are seemless, so when I land at a station and get out of the ship I load into the new client (via loading screen mabey, but in the perfect MMO this is fully transparent.
    NPC only fill roles that are needed but that the player base lacks. The entire system is dynamic, farm all the warthogs on one planet and boom they are gone…..unless some traveler brings some new ones. There are no “shards” we are all together and the world is fully persistant (since we are dreaming updates are done real time and transparently without need to down the server). Death would be meaningfull, if your world/area has sufficently high technology clone vats may be available, but otherwise when you die, you die.

    Tis a dream

  63. Death penalties are always an interesting subject. I suppose no one remembers original, release EQ, before they halved it (late beta 4 or jsut after release, I forget now when exactly it was)? Or remember the utter horror or undinging after a hell level?

    I do think that WoW’s death penalty is frivolous. It’s meaningless, but actually I like it right now since I have very little play time and I know that at most a death will set me back ~5 min, while logging on my EQ raid character will take me ~15 to get set up before I fight, and a death, if it happens, will be half an hour to rez, rebuff, get back, etc. AO had those reclaim booths, and unless you were reckless, you stood to lose nothing at all (some people even would use them to teleport around). CoH’s experience debt system worked for me as well, although again it was a bit heavy at some points, but has been lessened since. I don’t recall DAoC’s (teleported to a town and damage on equipment maybe?), and no idea what EQ2 does. It’s the one mmorpg I’ve avoided.

    There is no perfect system isn’t there, as everyone wants something different. Wow even has the two tiered rez system with taking damage and a few minutes of lessened stats rather than fetching your corpse. No loss of items/corpse = win for me.

    A harsher death penalty does increase immersiveness though. You have a stake in that character. You know you have something to lose. However, that should be balanced with monsters/game creatures that you can beat. You shouldn’t have to fight something that has a 70% chance of beating you just for minor progress. Progress is good, and builds that character stake, and retains people.

    Lot of talk about immersion and what helps increase it lately. Sounds like a good branch off topic!

  64. Allow players to customize their melee/magic/range/ etc. attacks. This would be more fun. :) I don’t think it would be too hard, players would just have to manipulate a few factors like speed, strength, accuracy and such which would increase as your base level increases. Plus allow players to choose the elemental/god/attribute/ etc. for each attack.

  65. I’m back from LA, sorry for falling off the map for a while. Blame it on United Airlines and EconoLodge. Anyway, I started a new post about MMORPG death. Check it out. Also, I’m working on a fat survey to do a little research on MMORPGs. Coming soon!

  66. my question is in the homm disces #1 and #2 why can,t they have some dragons of some color,phoenixes of some color to do the fighting or allow the player to be able to win a game now and then

  67. “I like that games include day and night (incidently is WoW on a 24 hour timer, CoH was on like a 4 hour timer or something).”

    Oh so that’s the problem with WoW, they want you to play 8-hours a day! ;)

  68. Well my perfect MMORPG game should have more focus on the RP than many other MMORPG’s games have. Possibility to buy houses, shops, running your own company if you want to and earn money that way, but better take care of the place. I would say the graphic should be as in Lotro and give the possiblitiy to completely change the appeareance of your own char then you will get the possibility to make your own UNIQUE character by changing the size of the nose, eyes, chin, ears all that, even height, and maybe even age, but not all the way down to 14 years. The game should be some kind of Sci-ficition, where you also can own your own spaceshit/cruiser and even start online spacewars with others, seens as usual strategy games aswell, but when it ends back to the graphic and movement as in Lotro/Guild Wars (minds me pretty much of each other) the combat system with the char should be skill based and not the same, click first and win and level system, but rather make alot of items, weapons, to buy and then instead of level there should be skills for different weapons and you should be able to learn differrent things, like melee fighting and magics over some long time, rather than go out grinding xp for level, then maybe go to lectures, find yourself a fully skilled player who can teach you, someting like that. There should be a possibility for travelling from planet to planet, of course with the risc to get into some PvE/PvP fights on the way, but only a low risc, and there should be some specialmade places only made for PvP aswell and all other for PvE and as in WoW there shall be some kind of instances where you can go and gather new items, gold, treasures, quests (not for xp but items and gold). That would be my perfect MMORPG some kind of Sci-fi Starwars game just focused alot on the RP since it is a MMORPG game, but of course gives the best to the PvP and PvE parts in the game aswell, it might cost alot, but I also think it will give alot to sell

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