I am going to go through some things that most MMO's have that I would like to see improved or changed, this will lead to some comparison. I would also like to bring up my past MMO games I have played.
EverQuest (Only a few months)
EverQuest 2 (trial only)
Final Fantasy 11 (the first month)
City of Heroes (got in beta and played for about a year) (on a side note, I do have city of
Villains and have played it as well)
World of Warcraft (got it a month after release and quit 6 months ago)
Vanguard (played the first month it was out, recently tried again for a month)
Aion (just got it and have played it only a few days)
Guildwars and all stand alones plus xpac (got lucky and was able to play alpha and am
still enjoying the game)
Dungeons and Dragons Online (got it when it came out, playing more now that it’s free)
Star Wars Galaxies (played a trial)
Atlantica online (played about a week)
Champions online (played a few free weekends)
Warhammer online (played the trial)
Eve Online (played about 2 months)
Anarchy Online (played for a month while it was free)
Ultima Online (played a month)
So I have some experience with online games, granted there are a few trials in there, but I do use them for what they are, a way to see things about the game I might like. Beats reading
and wondering if it’s a fanboy or a troll. This article is by no means my way of convincing you that one game is super fantastic and another is jacked up beyond repair.
So on to my list of things that I think an MMO should have or improve on:
I am a firm believer that when I die I dont want to just get back up and have no
Consequences for why I died, makes the game pointless. However I also dont want to die
and have to spend my time making up for that death instead of progressing. This is where I give World of Warcraft my nod, I think their take on death isn’t too harsh, but isn’t too easy either. Sure getting your armor and weapons durability diminished wont work on all games or seem that much of a punishment, but it’s enough to push you to think about strategy more on why you died and how to improve it. If you think being able to rez where you died is ezmode think again. When I played wow I can’t tell you how many times I died doing a quest, ran back to my body, and rezzed only to find that all the enemies I did take down are spawned right back on me. At this point I tried to rez as far from them as I could, than I would get away from them and rethink my strategy on why I died and what I could do differently. I also would make sure I repaired often as I did forget to do that once, ran in to fight about 3 enemies at once on my warrior only to realize my weapon was broke. It sucks, but I could have prevented it. This makes the
death penalty more on the players head and less of a pain to fix as well. The death penalty in CoH is ok, but man does it take forever when you have died 6 times in a quest, get a ton of xp debt and realize that even if you finish the quest, you didn’t get anything for it as you are now making up for that debt. I do like perma death on games, but an MMO with it is a bit too unforgiving. There is nothing like leveling to max level only to die by something stupid and have to start at level 1 again.
Ok I dont run my games on the newest and the best computer out there. My computer is a few years old. But it also is not the worst thing out there (I play games at moderate to high specs). I do think Guildwars gets my nod on this one. It’s pretty, even though it’s been out forever, every time I log into that game I am always amazed at how pretty it is for it being a little older than WoW. I think games should be more like this, where no matter what system you have, it’s pretty. I also think the way Vanguard tried to do their graphics was a good start; make a system that has long term viability. Now if only it could be just as pretty on low ends as it is on high end specs. WoW has a good graphics engine though it is starting to show its age. I also commend them on having decent graphics that seem to improve with each expansion (though not by a lot).
-Combat and Leveling-
Ok I am going to split this up into two parts, pve and pvp as both are different in their own rights
Pve combat is great when you want to play the game more like an rpg game. I mostly like to solo, I have always done that. I love when games add that solo feel (Aion with the personal quests, Guildwars use of henchmen). I also like instances and those are the times I love to group with people. I would like to see more dungeons like Vanguard where they are not instanced. I think if they set it up like it was a multiplayer version of Oblivion on that end it would be fun. I also think they need regular instances as well, kind of a medley of them for all level ranges. I also think there should be many quests in all level varieties similar to how wow did it. I love being able to do quests and not feel like I am just grinding to the next level. I do not however like how easy it is to level in wow and think if they dumbed down their xp amount on them it might make levels more earned and feel more worth it. I remember playing wow when it first came out and thinking I was god when I hit level 20. Now when you do it, it doesn’t matter much. I have heard Aion has a high leveling scale later on in the game but I have also heard it’s not as bad as Atlantica is (when you hit 90 or so you apparently need the same amount of xp it took to get
from 1-90 just to reach 91). Developers should probably test their scaling a bit more, but that’s just minor if they over all game is good.
Ok one thing I can’t stand is when people complain about overpowered classes; however I also understand when they do it because the game is focusing more on PvP over pve or the opposite. I think class balance is a core thing that games need. WoW started off doing it pve over PvP. Now it’s changed more to pvp over pve. Aion is supposedly group pvp over 1v1 pvp, interesting approach, but the 1v1 pvp should be focused on more than the group I think. WoW did have that going as they would have a Paladin who could take on most classes except the death knight. I think every class should be good against all classes except for 1. This weakness would make things more balanced. Sure the priest might not take on the warrior but that warrior won’t take on the death knight and the priest could take on the hunter. (Just an example not a fact). I would also like to see more world pvp, not select zones. WoW had this before the first expansion came out; it was the one thing I loved about it. You would be out doing a quest in a shared zone and see an alliance member (I have mostly been horde) doing a quest and you would start attacking them, most of the time it was with people of close levels, so the fights would be more even. Sure you had your high levels trying to gank, but there were usually high levels on your side there too. I do like the way Aion has their high level pvpve zones, I think the idea is a novel one, just as I think wow's idea of have a zone in the world strictly for pvp (wintersgrasp) is a good one. I just wish they had that for all levels to enjoy. I think the most fun I had in pvp on wow was doing lower level pvp. You didn’t have a lot of spells/abilities so it mostly relied on skill and luck. I dont think that level balancing in pvp is needed as I would hate to be level 15 and get my stats upgraded to a level 30 toon just to fight a level 30. Nor would I like the other way around.
Ok so I touched on this already so this will probably be short. Leveling should not be hard nor should it be too easy. You should not have to grind mobs just to level. That takes the fun out of a game (im talking to you Aion). I also dont like instant gratification on my leveling (pointing at you WoW). I do not mind however earning my levels, if you’re going to make it so you get a ton of xp for everything than make it so you dont level unless you do something special a quest or something. Not that I really want that, but at least make it worth it. I also dont want to be level 30 and be constantly reminded that since I am so low, im nothing but a lowbie toon who won’t be able to do anything until I get to max level, makes the game kind of disheartening as once you get high level you still really dont have a lot to do, your just abit more powerful than before. Another interesting leveling experience came from Eve Online, you dont really have levels
for your character but for your skills, I like this aside from the fact it takes forever to do
some of things you want to do.
One of my biggest complaints with WoW is how easy it is to get epic gear now. I remember back in the old world before the first xpac how when you saw an epic, you new they earned it and that it was tough. The gear was also worth going after as it was a big leap from everything else that you could get. Heck even rare items were hard to get. The legendary weapons were almost a myth and when you saw one of them you knew that it took an entire guild working together to help that person get it. Now everything is too easy to obtain and isn’t that much of a leap from other pieces out there. I also think that instead of putting +strength on a weapon or armor piece I would rather it have the socket system like Aion, I also think that if you put a skill for say axes it could go something like the following example: stone axe with 1 socket. your level 1 axe skill lets you do 1-3 damage with a 0.5% crit. level 2 axe skill is 2-6 damage with a 1% crit. Mind you these are rough examples but something along that I would love to see. Than you can add in epic items that have added elemental damage on the weapon or some special
thing like said example. I mean how cool would it be to have an axe that has no stats other than 4-6 fire damage and the rest of the damage is based on how you leveled your axe skill. To further make your weapon do more you could socket it with something to add more crit so now you have a flaming axe of neatness that crits more than usual. Seems like it would make weapons more balanced. You could do the same with gear as well. Helm of crap has 5 armor rating, you plate skill adds 10 more armor rating and you can socket it for dodge. Than you find Horned helm of fire, has an armor rating of 15, and every time you take damage, your attacker takes 5 piercing and fire damage. Rough example again and probably not the coolest thought out there but you get the idea. I also like the idea that Aion has with looks on gear, take a piece of gear that looks uber awsome, trade it for the horned helm of fire which looks like hat with a candle on it and change the look to look like the previous uber looking helm but keep your stats. This would also help out those role-players who want to pretend that their toon is a hero with a signature looking weapon.
Ok so mounts in WoW were awsome, as were the travel powers in coh and champions online. The wings in Aion are cool though very limited. Well there is not a lot I can comment on these without trying to make a story for a game that has goblins, orcs, humans, angels, and superheroes in it. I will let everyone else talk about these. I do however think that flying mounts are great and would love to see an aion/wow mix game where the angel races dont have actual mounts but their own wings to use.
Sound is a very important part of the game even though you might not always realize it. I know I loved the sound in wow and it made the world come alive. I also enjoy the sound in Aion, until I got to this old prison place with a bunch of ghosts around and all I heard was this annoying walk with chains coming from every enemy around. drove me nuts. Music in both games is also very well done and I would love to give them kudos. I loved the sounds in City of Heroes as well the powers all had unique sounds to them which always made me remember the good times when I read comics and imitated how those powers should sound in my head.
WoW had its butt handed to it with this one, as did guildwars. City of Heroes tops this one by far though I will give Aion a nod of the head from trying it out. I loved how when I play CoH I would spend hours making and remaking characters just to see what I could make, and this was before I actually would play the game! I still only activate my account just to see what I can come up with. Developers head my advice no this one, customization is a key ingredient to games.
This one is something that can be done many ways, some people love how in DDO you have to click the mouse to swing you weapon everytime. Some people love the auto-attack in other mmo's. I myself dont care either way, but I love how guildwars does their limit on how many skills you can have to use at one time, and I love how the combo's in Aion work. Balancing always being issue lets try to see that constantly being worked at for whatever the focus of the game is.
I know I have touched on this some but I wanted to do it again. Do you remember when WoW first came out and the big raid Molten Core was for 40 people or under? I miss those days, ya getting that many people on at the same time sucked, but once you got in there and was going through it was the most epic feeling in a game ever. Now that it’s all about 10-25 man raids, it’s not as epic feeling or fun really. I mean the raid is easier, not as much teamwork, and it’s got a small cheese factor to see 10 people kill a fire god that’s suppose to be ooh so powerful, I believed it more when it was 40 people. As far as regular dungeons go, I still stand on what I said earlier about open dungeons and what not. I would also like to mention the difficulty levels of them. I like that in Dungeons and Dragons online you can set the difficulty on almost every instance in the game, but I tend to wonder, if I go to an old dungeon and im trying to farm, wouldn’t it be more of a challenge if when I went in that instance everything scaled with my level, or even the level of the highest level player in my party. Would make it worth it more I think.
Ah yes another all important ingredient to mmo's, nay all games! Blizzard has done very will in this area, as did the developers in Eve Online. I think many companies should look at this and follow suit. It makes even a crappy game better. (though not by much).
I just want to say, make expansions, we will buy them. But please, and I mean this with the utmost respect, do like city of heroes does and make most of them free! I am not asking for all of them to be free, but you know; add an instance here and maybe a new class there for free, but sell the expansion that has a new continent, 2 new races, 2 classes and 10 new instances. That sounds a bit fair right?
Well I just wanted to close this and I felt I should say just a few more things. First and foremost, If you read this and agree, Please let me know. If you read this and disagree, well let’s just agree that im not perfect and nobody else is as these are just my opinions. Also, I am sure there are a few things I did not touch on, but that is due to time, effort, and I forget a lot of things as well. I would like to state that I know I used wow, aion and city of heroes for a lot of the comparisons but that is because those are the ones that tend to stick to my mind the most. I do understand that some things I talked about probably are too difficult to put into a game, or are impossible, that does not mean I can’t dream about them happening. I am eager to see your Responses on this so please share your own ideas or comparisons.