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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

The funny thing about opinions....

Posted by BadSpock Friday June 26 2009 at 2:47PM
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Here's the funny thing about opinions....

Let's say you want opinions on a new economic measure, something like a new Bailout proposal for Wall Street.

You ask the opinion of two people, one of them is a highschool student in an economics class, the other is a economics professor at Harvard who has written a half-dozen books on the economy.

They are both entitled to their opinion right? They are both entitled to have an equal say right?

Wrong.

It's called having an "informed opinion" rather then just an opinion. Everyone has an opinion. Most people are arrogant, ignorant of the "real" truths, and self-righteous idiots.

Or it's like when they had Ron Paul debating a Baldwin brother on Fox News... let's see, long time serving US congressman and a medical doctor, or a washed up 2-bit actor.

Both are entitled to their opinion, but are they both equally right?

No. The long term congressman and medical doctor's opinion is "more right" because it is a MUCH more informed opinion.

Not everyone deserves a gold star for being special and unique and having their own special unique opinion...

Many on this site and other MMO sites would GREATLY benefit from realizing that no one cares what they think because they are more then likely wrong and their opinion is based around feelings without any relevance or facts.

Even me.

Thoughts on how to revitalize and save WAR RvR

Posted by BadSpock Thursday June 25 2009 at 12:54PM
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Cut from some postings I made, to those who have played/do play WAR let me know what you think.

I believe this game has too much potential to fail.

1. Make the best PvP gear come from gaining influence in Tier 4 open RvR areas, and in city siege/capture.

2. Make it so you can only get certain pieces of the gear sets from attacking and taking objectives/keeps/cities, and certain pieces only from defending and holding objectives/keeps/cities.

3. Make the Renown so the best Renown gear you can get caps out at Renown level 40.

All the rest comes from open world RvR.

4. As for scenariors? Well, you still have 80 renown levels and each level gives you points for improving your characters stats. Scenarios should be a way to help you level and enjoy PvP in small bursts but it should be all about open world RvR.

This will funnel people into open RvR in Tier 4 across the realm and make them focus on attack AND defense equaly, and still give scenarios a reason to be played if you want a quick game to increase your renown rank a bit.

5. Make the highest level Guild Ranks and rewards only available to guilds who take control of keeps. The longer you hold the keep, and the longer you defend it, the more points you build up. Have the keeps only attackable during prime-time hours for that server to prevent ninja ganking of keeps.

It's just like the battlegrounds versus arena in WoW. You want some good, entry level gear you can run scenarios until Renown rank 40 but if you want the REALLY good stuff you have to participate in open world RvR on both offensive and defensive fronts.

You want your guild to get to the max rank you have to organize and batlte over keep control, which btw helps your realm and city and yourself cause open RvR gives best rewards.. etc.

6. I don't think there should be any keeps in Tier 2-3.

Would make the competition over keeps in Tier 4 a little better.

Also.. make Tier control of 1-3 a lot more important to Tier 4 control and city siege, and rely mostly on the battlefield objectives on those tiers.

7. And do so by making character who are high level de-rank to an appropriate level, the opposite of the bolster buff for low level characters, instead of the chicken mechanic. Only use the chicken / chaos chicken if they wander into opposing PvE areas of lower Tiers.

The battling in these lower Tiers for high level players would add to their influence with the Tier 4 area of that racial pairing, the only way to get the best gear as discussed above.

8. Edit - Remove the Healer NPC's! When you die you get a stacking debuff that lowers your stats, it's never an issue because of the silly Healer NPC's you can pay to have it removed. I'd say get rid of it for both PvE and PvP, but if anything just PvP please. Helps prevent the zerg methods of PvP and gives dying some consequence, turns big battles into wars of attrition rather then number zerging.

Guess you can keep the Healer NPC's but they can only heal PvE death related rez sickness.

Thoughts?

 

MMOs have strayed too far

Posted by BadSpock Thursday June 18 2009 at 1:12PM
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If anything MMOs have become too complex and too dependant on technology.

They need to go back to the basics, not try and make things more complex.

Leave FPS combat to FPS games.

Leave tedius and boring crafting with dozens of steps to real life and management games like the Sims.

Leave the min/maxing of stats and finding the most "efficient" ways to get to the end.

These are MMORPGs. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.

The more technological and "complex" and "action oriented" these games become, the more they have to use instancing and zoning and other systems that take away from the Massively part.

The more "complex" and "action oriented" these games become, the more they become "niche" titles for the elitist MMO "hardcore" which takes away thousands, if not millions from the Multiplayer part.

The more I have to worry about managing resources and min/maxing my stats and the more I have to focus on number and mathematical efficiency, the less I am able to feel like I am Role Playing and the more I feel like I'm working or doing homework.

Just give me games that are fun to play, easy to get into, yet take skill and are challenging to master. Give me games that focus on the massively multiplayer part, the community and the vast openness of the world rather then spending all my time worrying about stats and managing this and that and doing homework.

Too many games and too many gamers don't realize that the thing their MMOs are missing isn't complexity, there is plenty of that in modern MMOs...

What they are missing is the fun. The adventure. The sense of discovery and wonder and camradiere and competition that comes from playing with and against other people in a massive online world.

No they are more focused on min/maxing their stats and finding the most efficient route to get the best loot and it's really quite sad what this genre has become.

It's incredibly sad that if you suggest things like taking away the loot and removing levels that people outcry "well what would we do then?"

Why the hardcore gamer has ruined MMOs

Posted by BadSpock Wednesday June 17 2009 at 11:11AM
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This is cut together from a few posts I made... enjoy. *very long read sorry*

-Summary (for lazy people)-

But the main point here is, this "hardcore" mentality of grinding and forced group content to seperate the player population into different "classes" of players, brought about by the EQ design of raiding and group-only content as the "end-game", coupled with the notion that players have to grind through meaningless content to get to the "good stuff" has ruined the MMORPG genre.

It's all about forcing players in certain directions instead of giving them options and encouraging them to try new things.

The min/max mentality brought to MMOs by power-gamers and the "hardcore" has created the very raid-centric, forced-grouping, item-focused inflationary stat level-based games that so many self-proclaimed "hardcore" gamers complain about.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Everquest killed the MMO a long time ago adding levels and grinding levels to a persistent online world.

I hated Everquest, with a passion, I thought it was boring and stupid and the graphics were lame so I always went back to UO.

SWG pre-CU was just a huge grind. What they did wrong, what UO did right, was that in UO you could "grind" to a high enough level in your skills/stats to enjoy 90% of the game in a matter of hours. SWG you had to spend weeks and months of grinding to get enough skill points in your combat professions to survive hunting anywhere other then the starting planets.

Instead of just open world like UO they had open world + grind... or simply put lack of driven content with a grind. Fail.

Come on, "grind out 10-12 professions in order to unlock Jedi slot" what a  joke. I quit right when the Holocron grind started. THAT is lazy developers. No content, just grind grind grind and we'll give you a treat! BS.

This "hardcore" grinding mentality, what many here refer to as somehow challenging or more difficult has ruined MMOs.

At first, WoW was able to fool me into thinking I wasn't just grinding levels because they had all these cool quests and instanced dungeons. They had content, real content. Driven content with a grind that was hidden, that was masked behind actual stuff to do.

Now though, years later, I see the quest grind for what it is, a convenient way to hide the fact that we are just grinding levels in order to get to the "good stuff" at end game.

They have gotten better though. Using more advanced technology like their "phasing" system and vehicular stuff (like riding giants) they were able to make the level grind through Northrend in WotLK a lot more fun and interesting and varied...

But again it's still just clever disguises to make us forget we are simply filling up a bar until we level, so we can fill up the bar again in order to get to the "good stuff" of end-game content.

Skill based games are no different. Instead of filling up a experience bar you have to grind to raise your skills up.

Now we see games like TOR talking about using story very heavily to disguise the level grind. And I think they are going to pull it off. I've played through Mass Effect maybe 5 times total including once for the "majority of content" achievement which was ridiculous...

If TOR really does have the content equivilant of KOTOR 3-10 then I'm sure I'll enjoy the game for a good long while... but I'm just not interesting in being a Bounty Hunter or Republic Soldier so I am stil hesitant, curious to see what MMO type stuff they have in game and what the "end game" is once you finish the story arc for your chosen class. Reroll? PvP? Dunno about those options...

I'd play TOR if it was offline and single player just cause Bioware is making it, it's Star Wars, it's KOTOR, and it's story driven. But as a MMO? Not sure about this one.

And then there is FF XIV which interests me greatly. They have said "no traditional experience point system" but what does that mean? They have said character progression and story are the key elements of the game, and that weapons matter greatly and have hinted that group play and formations are important... but I need more details.

Champions Online, Star Trek... there are some big name games from big name companies with big budgets that are trying to break the WoW mold and give us the next generation of MMOs....

but only time will tell.

Now what if you made the rewards for group play, be it small group or large raids, equal in terms of power and stats to what could be achieved through solo play?

What would happen?

Would people would only solo and avoid the group stuff because it is more challenging?

I don't think so.

People would form guilds and groups and raids and go tackle the challenging group content because they wanted to.

What it comes down to is that by placing the "best" stuff in group/raid encounters, the developers are forcing us to play in groups and raids. We don't have a choice. We do it, or we don't get to experience the best stuff in the game.

But take that away and people in an online game will still group up and be social and do things together with their friends and guilds because they want to, even if it only gives them rewards comparable to other game play styles. 

This was true in UO and it'd hold true to games today. I just don't think many EQ bred MMO players would be able to understand this at first.

Players will generally find the best/most efficient way to get the best possible rewards the fastest. So if all gear is equal but it's easier to get/takes less time to get in a group then people will do it in a group. This is true.

But people who will not or cannot group should be entitled to the same rewards if they put forth the same level of commitment and dedication.

This is the basic reason why Blizzard introduced the Heroic badge rewards. So people who couldn't do the really big group stuff could still get the same level of rewards, it'd just take them a little longer to do so.

And what happens? People start calling them "wellfare epics" when in fact it's actually easier and faster to get the gear through the group/raid stuff then it is to "grind" the smaller group stuff.

But Blizzard messed up it up. They had it right in TBC when they'd introduce a new level of raid content, they'd introduce a new tier of badge rewards of similar power but all the raids/dungeons still used the same badges. The small group player could still keep up.

The same in Arenas to an extent, you could get the gear faster, with less work by doing Arenas. A few matches a day, done. Wellfare epics. It was actually harder work to grind the battlegrounds for the honor gear.

But what happened? The elitist players, the ones in the big raiding guilds that grew up playing Everquest and the ego-centric power-gamer mentality complained that other, lesser players could get the same shiny pixels as they could... even though the "casuals" had to put in a lot more time and effort to do it.

You can't argue that point, I've seen a player get new shiny epics in nearly every slot, upgrades from greens and blues by getting power leveled through a raid by their guild mates. It'd take weeks of dedicated play (if not longer) to get the same quality of gear through crafting, heroic dungeons, and badge turn ins.

So Blizzard actually listened to the "hardcore" whiners for WotLK. They made the badges on different tiers. This way the "casual noobs" could never get the same level of shiny pixels as they could by doing raids. They succeeded in shutting out any casual player who wasn't in their little raiding clubs from getting the best rewards. Their e-peens were safe.

I can say this because I was in a big raiding guild. I was in the top tier, the elite club of raiders on my server that had all the best and most shiny rewards. And I got drunk on the feeling of power and superiority and I'd look down on other players. I'm ashamed to admit it.

My main toon is named Kaedin, an Undead Warrior on the Dalaran server. Look her up. I don't play anymore, got burned out on Ulduar but I thought I'd throw this in so no one thought I was just a "casual noob whining I couldn't have the best stuff" because I did have all the best.

Vertical progression through linear gameplay encourages this top-down power-gamer mentality has ruined MMOs.

What we need is a game where progression is horizontal or flat. Where people who want to solo can solo up to the pinnacle of game play. Where small group players can play in small groups up to the pinnacle. Where large raid groups can do their large raids. All the rewards are equal, there is no fastest or best way to do things. It's all a matter of choice and the availability of social interactions you choose to participate in.

Imagine a WOW where long, solo quest chains and difficult crafting recipes held the same level of rewards as 5 person dungeons and heroics/badge turn in, and these both held the same level of reward as large group raids.

Would people still raid and do group stuff or would everyone solo? Why do the more challenging content if you can get the same rewards by playing solo?

Throw in an achievement system that does nothing for your character but add meaningless points and bragging rights, like WOW has (which is a good thing) and people will have all the motivation they need to continue to raid and do group stuff instead of just soloing.

Why?

Because it's there... because they want to. Because they can.
 

New content is new content. Content is content. People do stuff because it is there to do.

Walking around you discover a dungeon with monsters you cannot defeat on your own. What do you do? Either avoid it and continue soloing, or call your friends over and tackle it together. Even if you knew before hand that you wouldn't get any better rewards by doing the dungeon versus soloing, there are a very large percentage of MMO players who would do the dungeon anyway because it is there.

Throw in an achievement system that says "I've completed this dungeon" and even if you get no reward for doing so, people will flock together and do it.

Don't believe me? 

It's all about psychological conditioning. By making the group stuff have the best rewards the MMO devs have conditioned us to want to do the group stuff so we can get the best rewards. It was the true genius of WOWs design that you graduated from solo to small group play via questing into dungeons, then graduated from small group dungeons to large group raids (and later heroics and different raid tiers) and thus they effectively removed a lot of the desire to group and be social in an online space and instead force fed it to us as a requirement.

This is why MMO communities have suffered so greatly. People only group because the content forces them too. How many people have guilds with a small niche of people they actually like and the rest there to simply fill up the space to make a full raid? As long as they are do their job well, doesn't matter if you like them or are friends with them or not.

Forced grouping creates communities where you only group to accomplish an objective, not because you want to.

Take that away and people will group and form communities and be social because they want to. Let the solo players play solo. Just because you don't have to group doesn't mean guilds will fall apart and no one will ever play together.

I've rattled on for long enough....

But the main point here is, this "hardcore" mentality of grinding and forced group content to seperate the player population into different "classes" of players, brought about by the EQ design of raiding and group-only content as the "end-game", coupled with the notion that players have to grind through meaningless content to get to the "good stuff" has ruined the MMORPG genre.

It's all about forcing players in certain directions instead of giving them options and encouraging them to try new things.

The min/max mentality brought to MMOs by power-gamers and the "hardcore" has created the very raid-centric, forced-grouping, item-focused inflationary stat level-based systems that so many self-proclaimed "hardcore" gamers complain about.

Stop Using Hardcore/Casual Incorrectly

Posted by BadSpock Thursday June 4 2009 at 11:07AM
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Attention:

Users and guests of MMORPG.com, and really this applies for all other MMORPG related websites and forums.

STOP USING THE TERMS "Hardcore" AND "Casual" INCORRECTLY!

 

Many seem to believe that these terms refer to things such as the type of game, how the systems of that game play, the difficulty of a game, the user-friendliness, or even how "grindy" a game feels.

These are all incorrect.

Hardcore and Casual are play styles, and in most cases have very little to do with the actual game mechanics.

Hardcore means that you play the game feverently, you devote a lot of time per day or week to the game, you devote time to researching and discussing the game on websites and forums like MMORPG.com, you talk about the game offline with your friends, these types of things.

Casual means you don't play as often nor for as long per session. You don't take the game as seriously, perhaps not investing the most time/energy into the more difficult challenges in the game. You get in, do what you wanna do, and get out.

Case in point - everyone favorite or least favorite MMO - World of Warcraft.

One of the reasons World of Warcraft is so successful is that you can play it in a very casual manner OR in a very hardcore way, or anything in between.

The game allows you to log in for 15-30 minutes, do a quest or two, maybe participate in a Battleground or few Arena matches, maybe run a quick dungeon... and then log off. Very casual.

The game also lets you raid for 4-5 hours straight at a time, spends countless hours grinding faction reputations or crafting skills/resources, you can min/max your character to the extreme and play competitively in the Arena for real world money... these types of things are all very hardcore.

Or you can do anything in between in WOW.

You also have games like Free Realms that are designed to be played in a very casual manner, with very little content in the game that really requires that much dedication, time invested, or skill/research.

On the opposite side of the token you have games like EVE that require a large investment of time, energy, thought, and socialization to really succeed that make the play style very hardcore in comparison.

 

You could design a game that had very harsh penalties for death such as item and experience loss, a game that could have full Free for All PvP, no quests but instead open-ended "sandbox" game play...

... but make it so everything in the game you can log in and do for 15-30 minutes and still progress your character and accomplish something significant, lots of options for instant travel and such.

Or you could make a game with no death penalty or item/experience loss with no PvP and a very easy experiece curve for leveling...

... but make all of the quests and dungeons and raids take hours to complete and require considerable preperation and time spent gathering resources and have limited windows you can access the content and have lengthy attunements and strict timers.

Hardcore and Casual are NOT game types. Stop using the terms in that way. You are wrong.

Hardcore and Casual are play styles.

Any game can be played either casually or hardcore. Some games have systems and mechanics in place that tend to favor players of a specific play style, while some have content for both and everything in between.

Back in black

Posted by BadSpock Tuesday June 2 2009 at 12:56PM
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Been quite a while since I've been active on MMORPG.com…

Spent some time over at TenTonHammer, then after a series of new MMO disappointments returned to World of Warcraft for Wrath of the Lich King pre-release patch and then release… stuck there until recently; spent a deal of time on MMO-Champion accordingly.

So why am I back to MMORPG.com? It's this blog to be honest.

Maybe I just need to vent frustrations; maybe I've broadened my perspective on the MMO industry and want to share my insight, who really knows.

I find that the MMO industry is now right back to where it was about this time last year. Everyone is waiting on the new challengers to the WoW throne.

Last year we had Age of Conan and Warhammer Online as the two main contenders. This year we've got Aion, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Champion online, and a host of other smaller games. *note some/many will probably be 2010 releases*

But before we can look forward to these new, potentially exciting releases we should look back and figure out what we learned from last year's challengers.

I think the biggest thing we learned from Age of Conan was a lesson we should have learned a long time ago. That lesson is that a buggy, incomplete release will forever doom a game to mediocrity and/or downright failure. I think a secondary lesson to learn is that scalability is very important. Players with big-rig high-end gaming machines want a good looking game that runs well, but not everyone has a monster system so developers shouldn't set the bar too high.

I think this failure on the part of AoC may be directly contributing to the wave of more "stylized" graphics we've seen in MMO's recently. Photorealism + massively multiplayer online is a very hard equation to add up and equal success.

I believe WAR taught us that if people want FPS-esque PvP then they'll play FPS games. WAR really is/was a good game and they did a very good job bringing players into the war effort and trying to make you care about the outcome… but the biggest problem I think they made was to eliminate any risk from the warfare. Without risk the victory is not as sweet.

It's really hard to motivate players to look beyond their own character or Guild in terms of what is important to them. A player may care if their guild loses the keep they once controlled, but do they care if another Order/Destruction guild loses a keep? Having game/server wide repercussions to the actions of players is a great idea, but the player's character has to feel the effects or it's not worth the effort for most.

Players, in general, are greedy and focused on rewards for themselves. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it's something developers need to pay attention to.

Being the best PvP'er on a server is one thing, but having a special Title or big shiny Axe that no one else has is what really motivates a lot of players. It's all about the e-peen and bragging rights.

In gear/level based MMO's, your accomplishments are what you can show off. Look at the forums, people always ask to link screenshots or videos or they won't believe someone did something they said they did. It's all about showing off what you have done and being able to prove how awesome you truly are.

This motivation to get better, to be the best… to look up to others who have better gear and try to get that awesome stuff for yourself is a primary motivation for many, many MMO gamers.

I think WAR did a good job at trying to motivate players to care about more then their own interests, but not enough to get them to care about their own and thus players lose motivation to log in and continue playing and trying to get better.


In terms of the future, of future MMO's on the horizon….

One thing I can say definitively is that players like options. Making a game that is JUST PvP or JUST PvE is a mistake; you essentially cut off half of your potential subscriber base.

You have to give them fairly equal attention so it doesn't feel "tacked on at the end" like WAR end-game PvE did, or PvP in many games does.

You also can't force players into doing either. If doing one gives better reward or faster advancement then the other, players will feel forced to do it, even if they don't want to, because it's the "best" way to do things.

WAR is one of the few games where you can advance completely through PvE OR through PvP, or with a combination of the two. I really hope more games follow this model.

Another piece of wisdom I can give is that most players don't like to do the same thing all the time. Grinding in an MMO is really just repetitive actions. Anything in a MMO can be a grind.

Doing quests can be a grind, running instances or raids, PvP mini-games like Battlegrounds, crafting… they can all be a grind.

At their most fundamental level MMO's are designed to be grinds. You can't spend 3-4 years making a game that will last a few days/weeks game time and expect to charge a monthly subscription to continue playing.

If MMO's had no grind, no real repetitive actions then they'd be a lot more like their single player RPG brethren. You'd play through all the content at a reasonable pace, finish the game, and be waiting for more content to be released. Unfortunately due to how much time, effort, manpower, and testing it takes to create content for an MMO, there is no way you will ever have enough content so players won't be able to burn through it faster then you can make it.

So what do you do? Stretch it out a bit… make things take a little longer then you would in a single player RPG. These include things like travel, questing, combat, everything.

You also repeat a lot. Same mobs with different skins, same kill/fetch quests with different flavor text and slight variations on directives.

It's a necessary evil. In order to create an MMO with no grinding, no repetition or time sinks that would STILL give the months and months of game time to warrant a monthly subscription cost… you'd have to have the largest, most talented team ever assembled for video game production, infinite technological and financial resources, and it'd STILL take years to make...

But it's SO much of a risk to enter into the volatile market that is MMO gaming, it would be nearly impossible to find financing/production support for something that large given the high rate of failure in the MMO industry.

The smart developers use tricks and enough "unique" content thrown in between the grindy elements in order to keep you paying and playing. They also heavily rely on the "carrot on a stick" game play tactic to always push you to keep going to upgrade that +1 sword of greatness to the new, spiffy, shinier +2.


In order to beat WoW you have to do what WoW does, the way WoW does it, but do it better and do more of it. You also have to do a few things WoW does not do.

You can make it so you can level from 1 to X through only PvP, but you can't take away the end-game PvE dungeons/raids in order to do it.

The problem a lot of games have is that they try to be the "not WoW." They try to do things differently then WoW does it to attract the players who are tired of WoW, but what they fail to realize is that sometimes… and yes I'm quoting Scubs…

"You find that thing you hate ends up being the thing you miss the most when it's gone."

To put it more bluntly: players may be bored of the WoW way, but they are comfortable with it.

Many jaded MMO'ers, like myself, turn away from WoW to look for what WoW is missing, and we have been able to find it in other games… but those games end up missing the things that WoW did very well that we enjoyed about it.

Yes, what I'm eluding to is the "perfect" MMO. The MMO that would have everything any MMO player would want but be free of all the things they don't like about MMOs.

But how do you define perfection in terms of a MMO? In truth, you can't.

What you CAN do is give players choices.

This is why successful, popular MMO's always have different server types; whether it's PvP, PvE, or Roleplaying etc. etc. the more choices the better.

Using the same content, the same world, the same quests, and the same game systems, but simply changing some of the rules that govern how the player interacts with these systems is a very cost effective and profoundly successful way to increase the reach of your target audience and thusly subscriber base.

How many more people would play WoW if they opened up a FFA PvP server? If they opened up a "hardcore" PvP rule set with experience loss and item loss? It'd completely change the game economy, making crafted items a much hotter commodity. Even vendor bought items would become the new "base" and the value of even green items would skyrocket. Epics would be rare and highly coveted. Players would completely rethink their tactics.

Obviously is not as cut and dry as that, a game needs to be designed from the ground up to be compatible (with rule set changes) with as wide a variety of server types as possible. You probably couldn't just add a hardcore PvP server to WoW without completely changing a great number of game systems, and thus why they haven't/won't because it's not cost effective.

The game has to be built from the ground up with all the potential server types you are going to use already firmly in place so all the game systems are compatible, it's just some of the governing rules of interaction that change.

Developers of future MMO's need to keep their eyes open if they want to create the next blockbuster. Otherwise if you build a game for a niche all you are going to get is a niche.

This is just a single example in a much larger and much more complex web of reasons and rationale to bring a new direction, a next generation of MMO design philosophy.


So what would I do?

Well, without going in too many specifics…

And this is already incredibly long post, to any who have made it this far you are a saint for your patience and determination.

1. PvP is a very hot topic. You have to have PvP in ample amount for those who want it, but it has to be completely voluntary / optional for those who don't want it. The best way to do this is making two separate yet equal paths similar to how WAR did/does it on their Core (normal) server types.

2. PvE should be all about choice. You have to break up the monotony by giving players different ways and means to enjoy PvE content. Standard MMO quests, public events/quests, ample quantity of instanced dungeons, open world dungeons for grinding. The key here is that you will always have repetitive content, but what you need to do is pace it and space it out between different varieties of content so the player is never stuck doing the same thing for too long if they don't want to.

3. Crafting needs to be important and separate. Just as you separate PvP and PvE, crafting needs to be a separate yet equal affair. An hour spent gathering/harvesting materials and crafting should equal the same gain to your character as an hour of PvE content or hour of PvP content would be. You cannot throw crafting in as a side component to PvE adventuring. Separate but equal.

4. Exploration should count for something. You can't call running from point A to point B because some NPC told you so exploration, even if you've never been to point B before. There has to be motivation to explore off the beaten path and make your own adventures rather then quest-directed linear paths.

a. As an example – NPC in town tells you to find an old man wandering the mountains because he has a quest for you. Most players who can't find him will simply cheat and ask another player or look it up on a website. So instead you don't make the NPC in town give a quest, or say anything about the old man. If the player is off in the mountains and happen to find the old man, they can get a quest from him.

What's the difference? You can't ask another player where the old man is or look up where the old man is if you don't know that the old man exists until you stumble upon him exploring. Sure, someone will post it on a website after they find him but how is the player going to find that entry on some webpage if they aren't looking for it in the first place? A step by step guide may tell you the old man is there, but you won't be google searching "old man in mountains" if you don't know there is one.

b. Take the design time to throw in large, cool, and fun exploration areas that have nothing to do with a quest. Put a multi-level dungeon out in the open world players can crawl through with no objectives or quests other then the ones they themselves set. Reward players for finding these things and exploring them completely. Again, you could find out about it through word of mouth or from a guide but you won't be googling "multi-level open world dungeon in zone X" until you stumble across it or someone tells you it's there.

5. Customization is key. The days where you could give players a few choices of head/face/hair and call it good are long gone. Item/gear/appearance customization in-game via LOTRO or EQ2 should be the new norm. Gear sets for looks, "hidden" gear sets for stats.

6. Scalability is also key. If you are building a game for the PC that you want a lot of people to play, you have to make your engine/client scalable down to the lowest common denominator and up to the highest. Period. If you are making a massively multiplayer online game you have to take population into consideration, in terms of content design, layout, and graphics, spawn rates. etc. etc.

Also you also need to take play styles into consideration in terms of scalability. Some people like to solo, some don't. Some like very large groups but some like smaller, more tight-knit groups. You have to make content and game systems that scale for these different demographics.

7. Make players feel powerful. This is a RPG after all. One of the core fundamentals of the RPG experience in the minds of many gamers is a progression in their character(s). Not only must you give them this in stats, but in appearance as well. How it is done depends greatly on the IP but it is important for players to feel as if they are continuously progressing, that they are never "stuck" and as they progress they are becoming more powerful.

You have to give players something to build up to, but something they feel is obtainable. You have to make them envious of players more advanced then they themselves but you have to make sure those echelons of power are within their reach.

What is equally as important as the once the player reaches the top echelons, the highest level then there still needs to be ways in which to advance. Socially, politically, and/or financially in addition to the basic RPG tenants of better gear and more power.

This is why games have put in achievements and titles and special rewards for players that reach the top and continue to reach higher.

8. Finally, and most importantly, is that you have to determine what players will be spending most of their time doing and make that thing fun. If this were a driving game where you spend most of the time driving, you have to make sure the driving is fun.

The ultimate reference to this is the Halo franchise. Halo didn't really do anything too crazy or innovative but what it DID do it take the basic formula of a FPS game, shooting and fighting with/killing enemies and they refined it and perfected it and made it more engaging. Every battle is a little or grand exercise in strategy and reinforcing those basic FPS qualities and molding it into something that is greater then the sum of its parts. The Halo series is so successful because in very few other games it's no where near as fun to walk into a room full of bad guys and blow them away. Period.

For MMO's if your focus is combat you have to make sure that the combat is fun and engaging. If crafting is a focus you have to make it fun and interesting. PvP has to be engaging and exciting if that's your focus.

If you expect players to spend countless hours and days killing monsters, you have to make sure killing monsters is a lot of fun and doesn't get old or boring. There have been a lot of ways developers have tried this. From elaborate combo and triggering systems ala WOW or EQ/WAR or action packed "twitch" controls like AOC, all that matters is that it's fun and varied enough to do for hours at a time.

If you've survived reading this for this long I applaud you.

To some it all up…

The point of all this is that you can't build a MMORPG around a gimmick. You have to build it around a solid core of fundamental properties and those fundamentals have to be good. The gimmicks only add flavor and can be good for marketing to use as a selling point, but if you don't have the fundamentals that players expect you won't keep their loyalty and their subscriptions.

Too many new MMOs are trying to be the "not WOW" when WOW is the fundamentals refined and perfected. The new blockbuster will be made by whoever realizes that the only way players will leave their comfort zone game is if the new one is just as comfortable and familiar, yet corrects the problems their previous MMO had and gives them a little extra on the side too.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments, but in a mature and thought out fashion please.