So where to begin? What will the next successful, popular MMORPG look and feel like? This blog will examine how a next-generation MMORPG can find success by pulling from other successful internet-based offerings.
Successful internet sites or services include the following:
Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace)
Internet browser & Email, news and shopping service (MSN, Yahoo, AOL)
Internet search engine (Google, Live Search)
Auction sites (eBay, Swoopo)
Discount sites (newegg, craigslist)
Employment (monster.com, careerbuilder)
Sports news (Espn)
Gambling websites (no examples)
Online MMO's (WoW)
Online free games (Farmville)
The above categories put together compose "the Virtual Universe". Now I don't claim to be an expert user at any of these websites but for sake of the conversation I will have to assume that we all are generally familiar with each of the above examples.
What I propose is that if a game was developed with all 12 of the above categories integrated into their product in some form then the game will become an outstanding success.
1. Social Networking
Every account needs to include a home page that also links to the person's "Facebook" page. They can give other players access to their homepage by inviting and/or accepting friends. The account's page will have customizeable privacy settings. This has to be carefully set up as this networking feature will be invaluable as a way for players to network while not in-game (typically while they are at work). This page will automatically update with status updates on the player's level, equipment, achievements, etc. but also allow the player to add his own content about his player's status. There will also be a "RL" tab that allows a person to put personal information, photos and chat just like Facebook that is interactive will any other account holders that they choose.
2. Internet Browser & Email
The game needs to have an in-game browser that allows navigation to all online resources to the game. Each account user gets a character Email address that is accessible in-game or via explorer. It only accepts Emails from other active account user's Email, however. Online resources include the above mentioned homepage, but also a wiki area (to be discussed later), the game's main website and other appropriate links. The game's browser needs to be similar to those like MSN and Yahoo in that it will provide in-game news, in-game shopping specials (ads from player merchants) and the like. This means that the game will have to be dynamic otherwise there would be no need for news.
3. Internet Search Engine
The in-game browser needs to have a well-designed search engine to help players lookup information from the in-game wiki.
4. Auction Sites
The game needs to be gear and item driven. The economy needs to be carefully developed to be complicated and balanced. To help people sell items, there should be several different tools to help them do so. Depending on which method, there will be a different cost of doing business. eBay-like auctions would available in city markets but available for view and bidding from anywhere (even through the internet while not in-game) – but you would have to physically go the city market in the appropriate town to pick up the items. In addition, other ways to buy goods could be made available. Like swoopo.com, players for a small fee can bid on an item by increasing the bid by 1 cp. The last player to bid wins. The seller gets a percentage of the bid income plus the final bid price. Also, you can complete instant deals with other players for a small broker fee through the internet browser. In this case the transaction would be made in-game or out of game through a homepage applet. After the transaction is agreed by both parties, the gold and item will be exchanged using an NPC broker. The brokers will be located in all cities but will charge a fee relative to the distance between item location and the selected broker.
5. Discount Sites
Discount sites like newegg and craigslist do well for good reasons. Newegg does well because they have EVERYTHING electronic you may need with great selection and the prices are extremely low. Their low margins result in high volume so they end up being more successful than companies who sell at higher prices especially considering how easy it is nowadays for people to compare pricing online. The proposed game needs to keep pricing carefully in mind. Even though it is providing a service better than the existing MMORPG’s the subscription cost will need to be as low as possibly tolerable.
What about the success of Craigslist? Well, craigslist is free as far as everyone knows. They only charge for some rental ads and some job ads. The genius of this is that so many people use the free services that when it comes time for one of the users to need employment or a place to rent they will know to check craigslist first, benefitting the paying clients of craigslist. Our game will need to do something similar. We can provide some kind of gaming website that promotes our game. Or provide a “craigslist for in-game items” where people can browse for items posted for sale and get in contact them for a broker purchase. These activities can be completed 100% out of game, through internet explorer or using their iPhone’s browser, for example.
Most MMORPG have wiki sites set up by a third party and people contribute to the information database. Our game will have an integrated wiki and the beauty of it is that it is accessible and manageable in-game. So if you just became the first person to find “The golden fire sword” you could open up the wiki applet in-game, drag and drop the item into the wiki starter, it will make note of your location, and you would add comments and link quests, etc. Or you can keep your finding a secret… You could be in an area, open up the wiki and it can show you information about where you are standing based on input from other players. Hints about mobs, special drops in the area, etc.
The game should have an outdoor system (for the known world) just like mapquest. However, the map as it appears to you will be fogged out in the “unknown areas of the world” except for areas recently visited (over the last 60 days) by members of your guild or your current party. As the game needs to be dynamic the map can change over time, requiring the 60 day re-fog. Just like in map-quest, you can ask for directions and it can give you the safest route for your level (long), the shortest route (unsafe) or the fastest route (mostly safe). Travel needs to be an important part of the game so the world will be set up with that in mind. So going from point A to point B is not just a timesink but a challenge to your own survival. The map could be linked to the wiki.
There will be set up (accessible in-game or through ads on the internet site) an area where people can post for jobs or post for “now hiring”. The jobs will be related to the economic system set up in-game. It will be set up in such a way that your employment is limited as well as how many employees you can have as an employer. So, you may need to fire and rehire based on performance.
9. Sports news
Espn’s site is great in that is has every sport, every stat you need to get, in addition to information about upcoming games, etc. Our game will need to have a site set up that provides stats important to the game. PvP event results, upcoming pvp events. PvE event results, e.g., raids or GM events, and upcoming events. Stats, results, schedules for any other in-game social events or activities. Guild stats, achievements, rankings. All the good stuff – available in-game and out of game via the internet site.
10. Gambling websites
People like to gamble. Game needs to have tables set up in the local pubs where players can gamble away their virtual gold in search of fortune, or some entertainment. Gambling activities need to be appropriate to the game’s genre.
11. Online MMO’s
The game has to be polished and stand up mechanically to, well, WoW. Much of the UI features and graphical effects are exactly what people enjoy and our game needs to provide it with DX-11 or better. The in-game chat and guild features, group and raid content, pvp activities, etc. need not be reinvented but rather merely enhanced.
12. Online free games
What Farmville excels in is that it lets people very casually log in for a few minutes to work on their virtual farm. Our economic system needs to provide a similar activity for folks so that they are engaged in the game throughout the day while they can’t commit to the full in-game activity. So, while you are at work you can check in on your business, make some decisions, deals, etc. then log back out and get back to your RL job. How else do you keep up with the 24/7 players?
OK, that’s all for now