Responding to my gloom about MMO designs that make “Massively Multiplayer” mean “solo or be griefed (more),” Axiom comments:
You might want to check out Guild Wars 2, which is nearing the end of development and is slated for Closed Beta in November or December.
The game was designed from the ground up to eliminate a lot of the ways that typical MMOs fail to encourage cooperation and rather foster anti-social behavior.
Some of the ways they have addressed this are:
1. No mob tapping or kill stealing. Everyone, grouped or not, who does a minimal percent of damage to a mob (5% to 10%) gets full XP and their own individual loot, both at the same level as if they had defeated the mob alone.
2. Rather than traditional quests, the PVE content is mostly in the form of Dynamic Event chains that branch and cascade through out each game zone. Events scale up with more players, offering more challenge and reward. At the completion of the event, in addition to mob xp and loot, everyone gains a reward based on their level of participation vs. predetermined thresholds, adjusted for the number of participants. The rewards are issued whether players succeed or fail the event and you aren’t competing with others for a finite number of reward slots.
3. The game does away with the “holy trinity” of class roles; tank, dps, heals. It also allows any class to fulfill any role situationally, with some skill swapping mid combat. There are no dedicated healers. Group combat requires players who are good at playing various roles that their class allows and adapting continually to the ongoing situation of an encounter or series of encounters.
No more waiting for a particular group build to tackle content. People can successfully group together, no matter what combination of classes they represent, with player ability and cooperation being much more important than class. This removes some of the barriers to grouping that other games create.
4. The game has an advanced side-kick system. Characters are always automatically scaled down in level for content that is a lower level than they are. This makes it easier for friends of different levels to group meaningfully for content of any level. It also prevents higher level characters from going to lower level areas to trivialize content for lower level players there. There is also an active side-kick up system when grouped with a higher level friend to take on higher level content. Once again, serious barriers to cooperative play are negated.
5. There are no targeted heals or buffs. They are proximity or area of effect based and effect other players, grouped or not. This allows active cooperation for world content with out the need for active grouping.
6. There are no factions in Guild Wars 2. All players on the same server, regardless of race, are friendlies. There is a massive, persistent world based PVP game, called World vs. World vs. World. This is where three game servers are pitted against each other for a two-week war that takes place in a large, four zone region that contains villages, mines, forts, towers and other resources that can be captured and held, along with dynamic events and other shared goals beyond racking up raw kill counts.
The winning server earns a server wide reward at the end of the two-week war and then new groupings of three servers are assigned, with the goal of grouping servers of similar prowess against each other. This builds a server-wide community with a common goal, while also eliminating situations where players on the same server are in an adversarial relationship with each other.
Everyone is auto side-kicked to level 80, though they still have their own gear and skill unlocks. A true level 80 would have a gear and skill selection advantage over a true level 30, but a skilled level 30 would still have a chance. This helps to level the playing field and greatly decrease opportunities for griefing.
7. There are 5-man dungeons in the game, rather than raids. Though some world events scale up to handle 10 to 100 characters, providing a PVE outlet for mass combat, organized group raids don’t exist in the game. Successful completion of these dungeons requires smart game play and cooperation, rather than a particular mix of classes. A good group of any class mix can be successful, making group formation easier and more inclusive.
Mob xp and loot work the same way as they do out in the world, full xp and loot for all. Completion of the boss encounter awards all players a token which can be traded for gear of their choice, rather than random drops of epic boss gear that place players in competition with each other and often leave some participants with out any boss level reward.
8. All classes have self heals. All classes can rez other players (and even some npcs) without limit. Players aren’t forced to chose a class based on a need for a healer or someone who can rez. This also takes pressure of people who prefer a support role in MMOs, as no one individual can be blamed for failure of a group because they were perceived to have failed at some niche role.
9. There is no real death penalty in the game. No debuffs or XP loss. Upon death, players can teleport to a nearby way point (which are liberally scattered across each zone) or wait for another character to rez them. This minimizes the negative aspects of group wipes, as well as griefing opportunities in World vs. World.
These are the main design features that have specifically been implemented to address MMO game design flaws that in other games tend to discourage cooperation or encourage griefing.
If the game is successful, hopefully other future games will learn from GW2′s innovative game design, duplicating these features or coming up with their own solutions to the many community and cooperative play issues that result from standard MMO design.
This is basically why KTR may effectively become a GW2 fansite sometime next year. Of course, we have all heard the prophecies of the MMO Messiah before, which leads us to SynCaine’s response to one of several comments in a lucid discussion thread:
Watch your whore mouth! GW2 has solved all MMO problems, EVER, and suggesting otherwise is blasphemy.