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The staff of gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Where is the Fun in MMOs?

Posted by garrett Wednesday April 7 2010 at 10:22AM
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Ya I said it, where is the fun?

I am asking this question because I often think about what would make MMOs better. So here is my take on what is fun in MMOs....

1. Customization - Something WoW lacks tremendously and other MMOs get about 50% right. Making your character your own is all part of the game and one of the biggest things MMOs lack. Thank god for APB and what they will be showing to the world soon. Because MMOs are in serious need of giving players the tools to stand out in a crowd.

2. PvP - Ok this is not for everyone, but this is for me. Fun PvP areas are critical but there also needs to be a reason to PvP. DAOC had its realm pride, something the players created. They had a good system with Relics for players to steal and fight over. They even added in Darkness Falls as a great place to level characters and the end game fights determined who controlled the zone for lower level players...simple question...WHY HASN'T ANYONE BEEN ABLE TO DO THIS AGAIN?

PS: EVE has awesome PVP even if it is relentless, at least you know it is out there. Fear is missing from MMOs. Fear leads to teamwork, teamwork leads to guilds, guilds lead to player pride, and that is a sense of accomplishment better than loot. at least it is for me.

3. FUN quests and boss fights - Progression is important in any RPG. However, progression for the sake of watching a bar move from left to right is painful. The grind that MMOs have adopted can easily be solved by adding in some quests that have purpose. Also, boss fights rock. Everyone loves boss fights. If MMOs would put wandering bosses in around the world that actually dropped decent loot...COOL! The gathering and kill quests of MMO's past should in turn give way to some more depth. Star Wars: The Old Republic has some of this, from what we saw in the demos. Lets hope they get it right.

4. Socialization  - Chat, Guilds, whatever, Yay! Ok great....give something to players that encourage them to help other players. Faction reputation should not be for NPCs....give it to players who help characters lower than them, who help a solo player who is about to die because they took on too many NPCs. These games are epic, heroic, REWARD GOOD DEEDS for God sake. If you gave loot for a faction system that was in the code for helping other players and not something players controlled, that would be so cool.  Or, what about evil. Ultima could do it. You were branded a criminal....FUN! You hung out with other criminals. Even more fun! APB does this...why cannot a fantasy MMO do it?

Hope you enjoyed these few ideas. To me if an MMO could implement these concepts the fun factor might be there....instead of just charging players for healing potions...which is where we are going apparently...

Amathe writes:

To me, the fun is mainly the wonder, suspense, excitement and fear I feel in a strange and mysterious world, as I explore, make discoveries and have unscripted adventures.  


Which is why I don't have much fun anymore. Talk to guy with exclamation point, walk or travel to place marked on map in almost total safety, kill some creatures who present little challenge, get reward. /sigh

Wed Apr 07 2010 11:13AM Report
zeowyrm writes:

on point 1, you clearly haven't played lotro.  Their cosmetic item system  far and away is vastly superior to every other game.  It is damn near impossible to see 2 characters of the same class who look the same.  Rest of the game is meh, but making your character feel unique is something they have in spades.

Wed Apr 07 2010 11:25AM Report
zeowyrm writes:

Side note, did this feel like a glorified plug for APB to anyone else?

Wed Apr 07 2010 11:26AM Report
Unprodigy writes:

The severe lack of number 4 is what's killed Fallen Earth for me for now. That's truly sad to me. :(

Wed Apr 07 2010 11:38AM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

"Fear is missing from MMOs. Fear leads to teamwork, teamwork leads to guilds, guilds lead to player pride, and that is a sense of accomplishment better than loot. at least it is for me."


Couldn't agree more. That said, challenge is another good way that leads to guilds (if done right that is). Not exactly forced grouping but somewhat close to it. (Mabinogi does that to some extent for exemple)

Wed Apr 07 2010 12:00PM Report
Murashu writes: I agree on many of your points. 1. I want more customization, but not just in character looks. I miss city/player housing. Nothing in any game Ive ever played has allowed players more freedom to express themselves than a good player housing system. 2. Many games have PvP today, but the ones with the full blown, well thought out systems seem to be best IMO. EVE isnt just a great PvP game simply because you can kill one another in it. Its great, because PvP has consequences. You can loot the other player, you can steal the other players hard work, you can control systems and have everyone else in game see the result of your work. 3. Boss fights are something I really enjoy but most games today seem to skimp on creativity until the end game. I recently restarted my AoC account and have been trying to get into some dungeon groups. Most of the comments I have heard from players is that the dungeons suck before lvl 80 so just skip them all. What is the purpose of having 79 levels of unfun content with 1 level of good content? Wed Apr 07 2010 12:42PM Report
neonwire writes:

Number 4 is one of the reasons why I have not played any mmos for ages and have pretty much given up on them. These games are shared by thousands of players and yet I find myself having no interest in interacting with any of them. Why is that? Its because I constantly found myself playing against the computer (ie pre-scripted content) and the players were just there to help me get through that content. Beyond that they have no purpose in the game world. They were never part of the "story". The story is always between me and the computer. The other players around me are just other "viewers" that are all playing their own copies of the same game as me. Why would they be of any relevance to me if they cannot effect me and the world my character inhabits? Thats nowhere near the full potential of what an mmo should be.

Mmos should be so much more than that and instead they just seem to be stuck in a rut......unable to move beyond the stage of "online co-op rpg". If the players have no power to affect each other and change the game world then whats the point?

Online single player games with co-op features and a chat channel are fine but it would be nice if games companies started making more REAL mmos so that mmorpgs and single player rpgs are more distinct from each other. Then I might actually find some reason to play mmos again. Currently they are just too damn boring.

Wed Apr 07 2010 12:56PM Report
peacekraft writes:

I agree 100%. Someone make DOAC2 or atleast relaunch DOAC please?

Wed Apr 07 2010 2:17PM Report
peacekraft writes:

DAOC* -fail.

Wed Apr 07 2010 2:18PM Report
Pagoas writes: i get swarmed by waves of apathy before even downloading a trial version of 90% of the mmo's out nowadays. maybe the problem lies with me and not them. or maybe they just all suck. i would ponder more, but ennui has overtaken me... Wed Apr 07 2010 2:40PM Report
Lord.Bachus writes:

1 Combine an MMO with Sims 3...

2 Give PvP a reason, give people a reason to join up..  and espescially get more then 2 factions in PvP 3 or even 5 or 7.  also it was much more fun to choose your abbilies instead of gaining Armor for PvP.

3. Its not quests... people have short time goals and long time goals in their games... Both must be fun and give rewards.. but most of all people must feel like heroes after completing them

4. ,,......

Wed Apr 07 2010 2:55PM Report
wootin writes:

Amen brother! Preach it!

Wed Apr 07 2010 3:25PM Report
darkpath19 writes:

The people, it's as simple as that. 

Wed Apr 07 2010 3:32PM Report
Craio writes:

Regarding helping other players: some games don't even allow a healer to heal/res someone that aint in the team/group/party/...

Wed Apr 07 2010 3:53PM Report
Digna writes:

I would knock #2 down the list to 4 or 5 to be fair to those of us who don't PvP (plenty of us out here.) Replace with exploration of a new world. And jump socialization up a notch or two.

Wed Apr 07 2010 3:58PM Report
Nesrie writes:

Yeah I have no enjoyment of PvP, so if PvP is No. 2 on a games list of features, in order of importance, I wouldn't even play.

Wed Apr 07 2010 4:13PM Report
Isane writes:

They are pretty much all paint by numbers these days, remove aution houses ,mail , fast travel and you may get a community forming. Make traveling and selling good part of the game again. Add a little danger back into the games actually have monsters that can kill.

Wed Apr 07 2010 4:42PM Report
Khalathwyr writes:

But garrett, you're just citing older games and hating on WoW. You obviously are looking through rose colored glasses and are just nostalgic...

That's the "counter argument" posts like these get on the forum, anyway. Personally, I agree with 99% of what you wrote and would add in the crafting variant of UO or early SWG. All these things were fun and I agree in asking why haven't AAA companies utilized these FUN aspects of game design again.

Wed Apr 07 2010 4:51PM Report
MadBloodDoll writes:

No mmo encourages me to help others when playing. I just play with 1 or 2 friends, ignore the rest. It's because of that socialization that "cheating" is needed to do raids. Should scale but the developers in these games keep copying of WoW. it's going to change though, in  a huge way. You'll  see. There's a danger in not doing that now.

Wed Apr 07 2010 5:35PM Report
ThomasN7 writes:

Socialization is a big part of mmos but if you notice now almost every mmo out there is completely soloable. Where is the socialization in that ?

Wed Apr 07 2010 6:45PM Report
Vanderthorn writes:

1) Customization of self/home/area would be nice

2) Having any visible affect on the world around me would be a huge help towards building suspension of disbelief (like any good movie).

3) All roleplay is limited to 2 dimensional crap.  Fetch this, kill that...come I like you.  Something other than "kill enough of these and we'll like you more"  would be a huge step up roleplaying-wise.   This again destroys suspension of disbelief...

4) I learned to love PvP in Warhammer...could not stand it before that.    I could give or take it now...

5) I want a game that's HARD...I should change that to "I want a game that feels like I worked hard to accomplish something" (using brains, tactics, and maybe even a little luck) instead of "the work" being enduring sitting in my chair for 5 hours grinding out a level.  I understand that there's a delicate balance between gameplay fun and difficulty...especially when the mass dollars scream "don't penalize me for wasn't my fault!". This sort of ties into suspension of disbelief again, no penalty for dying means less fun for living.

6) More/better crafting...  Lotro is a horrible grinding game, but I do like the idea that all the best items are crafted instead of dropped.  Now, if the crafting wasn't so clinical, it would be a lot more fun.  Even WOW's crafting is somewhat fun if useless.  Lotro's was still too easy and the rest of the game.  Warhammer's was so useless, that I stopped choosing when I made characters.  Anarchy Online was sort of badass in that you could take some time and actually make/install implants you should not have been able to.  It took a lot of time, was expensive and gave a reward that felt like you did something.

7) Does EVERYTHING have to be level-based?  Doesn't anyone have a better idea YET?  Why can't damage be "a broken leg" so that you have to go back to civilization for care.  Instead it's ALWAYS a colored bar that gets longer or shorter.  Again, a problem with suspension of disbelief.


In the end, if a game designer took those 3 words (suspension of disbelief) and redesigned how games work....THAT PERSON WOULD CHANGE THE GAMING WORLD.

"It's a limitation of the system" is really a "limitation of the designer's creativity".  You can have a game without hit points... but nobody tries.

However, since it's all about the dollar...little to no risk will be taken.  Thousands of games have players tolerating hit points, so creativity is wasted on how pretty the healing spell will be.  I can't fight millions of dollar paying people who stare in amusement to pretty flashing pictures on their screen.  When someone decides to try, I'll be the first in line.

Wed Apr 07 2010 6:51PM Report
Jadawwa writes:

You said "fear"-- it applies. It makes a game feel like a risk is being taken. It makes you own more of your actions. I have not seen that since ....... 

Wed Apr 07 2010 8:55PM Report
Strap writes:

I'm so sick of hearing people go on and on about lack of socialization in MMOs, and bemoaning the fact that so much of the game can be done solo. Why don't you ask yourself why soloing is extremely popular?

The OP asks about fun in MMOs. Grouping is so often NOT fun that I've almost given up on it. If I manage to find people I get along with then yes I love to have good group content, but if I don't and my only choice is to PUG with jerks then I will very quickly leave the game.

Wed Apr 07 2010 10:34PM Report
Vayrel writes:

"Why can't damage be "a broken leg" so that you have to go back to civilization for care.  Instead it's ALWAYS a colored bar that gets longer or shorter.  Again, a problem with suspension of disbelief."


"You can have a game without hit points... but nobody tries."


Bushido Blade... what a great and fun combat system. No Hitpoints,  Combat felt real and was dangerous. I wish an MMO could capture that. Many MMOs have lost touch with the Risk vs. Reward factor. I think it is the idea of dumbing down the system so that everyone can participate, and therein lies a problem. you either make the game very difficult and challenging and lose people who cannot do it. many Casual players will fall into this role. or you make is playable by everyone and be a WoW clone. WoW has so many people because its EZ mode MMO. Your atypical gamer (people that have never gamed before) can play alongside hard core players. Since WoW is the most sucsessful game other companies try to emulate that. IMO to the detriment to the industry.

Wed Apr 07 2010 10:36PM Report
WSIMike writes:

Anything that can be said in response to this blog must be qualified with one simple and obvious act:

Fun is subjective.

I find exploration and long journeys from one town to another to be fun. Others consider it to be a chore.

I find more enjoyment in a slower-paced MMO where there's time and opportunity to engage in more of the content along the way before I've out-leveled it. Others find all that boring and pointless and care only about leveling to cap as fast and efficiently as possible... and many of them don't even find that fun.

I find repetitive end-game grind to be boring as hell after a few runs of the same areas. Others can do the same runs for months and never tire of them.

So... really... It's impossible to set down any kind of objective standard, because what is "fun" is, by its very nature, dependent on who you ask.

Wed Apr 07 2010 11:22PM Report
Blazz writes:

Customisation of everything, if someone tries hard enough, should be available. I want to bulldoze mountains, and replace them with cities. I want those cities to be destroyable, left a pile of rubble. If someone were to come along with mass piles of dirt, they should be able to cover up that ground.

That alone would get me into a game (and I'm heavily thinking on LOVE... but I still have yet to take action... apparently there's no real consequence to anything yet? But that was a while back when I heard that)


I agree that PVP should be a good part of the game, if included, and that factions should not be limited to just the same ol' good vs. evil crap or even just one vs. another. Look at WoW - the Steamwheedle cartel could easily be considered a money-making, money-driven, neutral/friendly to money giving customers, regardless of alliance/horde relations. If I could create a Steamwheedle Cartel Goblin or Gnome or whatever, I'd be pretty happy with that. I could wage wars based around money - earning reputation could be as simple as depositing large chunks of gold into the Steamwheedle Cartel's safe.

They, being destroyers of forests and things in order to make large heaps of gold, could be somewhat against the Cenarion Circle's goody-two-shoes approach to nature. There's money to be had in mining (to death) the insides of a mountain full of Mithril.

Obviously, they can't just flip the PvP dynamics around in WoW and hope everything turns out right - but another five years down the track, they just might have that sort of thing going on. (I predict a very sandboxy game in the future for WoW - you know, in like, five years)


A huge one, FUN quests and bosses, should definitely be in. Anyone remember Shadow Fang Keep (or SFK)? Remember Arugal? He teleports around the place, casts large-damage shadow bolts, and turns one player, at random, into a werewolf majigger (can't remember the race name atm), who attacks friendly players under mind control. If that's the healer, or the tank, you're probably screwed right about then. Or if it's your twink rogue, you'll all die now.

That was a pretty fantastic fight, that makes players fear a bit for their lives - I mean sure, if someone CC's the transformed player until the spell wears off, you'll likely be fine - but you still have to deal with Arugal himself. What if you could do a quest that had something like him at the end? Someone who needs another player to kill? Left 4 Dead creates the need for others in that you get into states of near-death quite often, and need another person to pull you out of those states. Like stuck in the mud.

Socialisation should be a huge thing - every class should have at least one thing they can give to other players that will help them, and another that helps only people in your group - in a relatively significant way. (i.e. You can buff your damage by 10% by yourself, and another players' by 10%. And your whole partys' by 10%. If there are two of you, you can both target the other, making a 20% bonus just from the first two, and 30% all up by being in a group. You'd both be at 20% if you weren't in a group, but still buffed eachother. That's the sort of significance I'm talking about.)

That's the kind of statistical significance you could add, to a combat based game.

Other things you could do... I don't know, have a scavenger-type buff to increase loot drop percentages? Prospecting buffs to increase mining drop percentages and things... perhaps one that helps to find more cloth on a person (part of scavenging?)

But that's still talking about loot/combat.

Maybe you could rate other players on their friendliness, on their personality. They could give themselves points towards their own persona, and other players could rate them... giving them a "what I think of myself" vs. "what others think of me" - that you can only do while in a group.

Blah, just pushing the ideas out.


Also, no RMT should be in the game without an in-game alternative. It can be painfully hard to get, but as long as it is in-game, I personally don't care what they sell. Those things you buy from WoW's pet store? Should be able to auction them off. Then you have this Real World $ vs. in-game $ economy going - which I think is one of the fantastic things in EVE.

And hell, it really cuts in on the actual RMT for in-game money services.


Thu Apr 08 2010 2:56AM Report
daltanious writes:

1) After playing CO no other game can satisfy my wish for customization. :-) However at least in Wow there is miriad of different equipment and weapons that is hard to find identical characters ... in other games is more likely that to happen.

2) could not care less

3) wow has all this, but some other mmo are also good

4) agree, but still want completely soloable content (mind that soloable does NOT mean easy, far from that); because of my time schedule I do not have 2 hours of time searching for group to find myself at that moment of glory to quit

Thu Apr 08 2010 3:34AM Report
Edli writes:

Character customization is almost perfect in Aion. No game to this day have the amount of customization in creating a char than Aion does. Plus you can dye your armor and give it any color you want. You can even change the appareance of the equipments. The result is a great diversity among the players.

Thu Apr 08 2010 4:42AM Report
Blazz writes:

@pre_mar - I would argue that at maximum level, you end up with every class wearing exactly the same super-awesome-tier-ten-set of armour for their class group - and even the different types of tier ten (i.e. tank, healer, dps, for a paladin or druid) look the same.

@Edli - I would like games to have armour that we can add deformers to objects, and actually model (to a limited extent) the armour/weapons. That's where I'd like to see things in a few years. If the objects could keep their texture UVs set to the points, that'd be cool - just means we'd have to stick with that limited amount of vertecies... but I guess, that probably comes from my digital animation studies.

Thu Apr 08 2010 6:52AM Report
Sovereign797 writes:

YEAH! Preach on brother, tell us how great APB is some more.........



Thu Apr 08 2010 8:42AM Report
Dark_Elf81 writes: Ahhh refreshing. well i agree on most of the comments... what i do miss though might be the implementation of fun factors, like some goofie line ? pirates of the carabean - "Where is my brain" its catchy cause he's dribling around for he's brain... the parrot from the rogue leasons in wow is awsome... but aparently its just a little quest or 2 that actually is fun like that in wow - imo. Small puzzles would be nice as well, some kind of scrable game in the middle of the constant grinding can make some differences as well from the constant "normal" behavior of doing the same to the same cause... Thu Apr 08 2010 12:29PM Report
Torschen writes:

"Fear is missing from MMOs"

I want to note than in Entropia Universe, which is real money game, you have PVP areas where other player will be looted if killed. And too bad some valuable mining areas happen to overlap.. I tell you, running in PVP mining, carrying tons of ores worth some hundreds of dollars in real world currency knowing someone might come and shoot you... THE FEAR IS VERY REAL!

Fri Apr 09 2010 12:48AM Report
SirMullich writes:

I would broaden "2. PvP" to "cooperative or competitive gameplay."  The primary distinction of an MMO is the ability to have lots of people play the same game together, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have to play against each other ... the definition should also include playing with each other.

Fri Apr 09 2010 7:38PM Report
Gjorgi writes:

#2-PvP My take is games have become focused on free for all pvp which fails do to relentless greifing or 2 faction pvp which can quickly become unbalanced.

What is needed is faction pvp with at minimum 3 factions and preferably more.

I played Eq Tallon Zek and we had some great 3 and 4 way battles for camps and zones with players dropping what they were doing to help repel invaders. Ir had it's probs due to verant  not hard-coding the teams but damn we had alot of fun and created some awsome community.

Maybe one day someone will figure it out but I am not holding my breath.

My 2 cp.

Mon Apr 12 2010 7:49PM Report
J.Yossarian writes:

1. As long as the customization is meaningfull, sure. Having to choose between 200 different eyerbrows and then being forced to use a helmet cowering your face isn't. It has to be big and noticable, otherwise yeah. Though even in WoW you can get a character that feels reasonably unique.

2. Here you're using a very narrow definition of PvP. There are quite a few players who enjoy closed scenario PvP; this is the most popular for of PvP and has been since the advent of online gaming Quake, CS and so on. I'm not sure you do need "a reason" for PvP, experience dictates you don't.

3. There points about quests seem strange to me, it has allready been done in WotLK; it went quite ok. Wandering bosses, that would depends on how implemented.

4. The system you propose seem far too easy to game and exploit to me. I'm not sure this system would achieve that much. I'd think better "looking for guild" tools would be more usefull as such.

Tue Apr 13 2010 4:12AM Report
rrhills writes:

I used to work in a game shop at the same time Pokemon came out in fact i was the gym leader for the store running events. we used Pokemon kinda like a gateway drug we would get the kids hooked on playing the game then point out the Magic was just a little bit harder but you could  win bigger prizes in tounrments. it seems a little under handed but its a busness and there was money to be made.

Mon Apr 26 2010 8:15PM Report writes:
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