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News & Features Discussion  » General: Why Not Throw Out The Rulebook?

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Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

OP  5/21/09 5:27:57 PM#1

Who says MMOs should be the way they are? This week, Massey suggests the only chance some upstart has of matching World of Warcraft is to forget all their assumptions about what an MMO "should be" and start over.

Ignore everything. Even games that try to be innovative still employ basic conventions of MMOs, because they’re “supposed to.”

Who woke up and decided every MMORPG needs to have a D&D-esque character development system, or even a UO-esque one for that matter?

Who said that MMOs require hot bars?

Who proclaimed that it’s not a proper MMO unless you have quests?

Read more here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios


Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/23/06
Posts: 1154

Bringing teal to your lives since 1998.

5/21/09 5:55:39 PM#2

It speaks volumes of truth about what MMO's need.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/03/09
Posts: 1839

5/21/09 6:03:03 PM#3


I understand that you said you cannot suggest anything, because you're too close to the problem. But how is a company supposed to release a polished game without funds? We all know, or think we know, that a publisher won't give a company funds unless it is following a path that has low risk. It's why people justify copying WoW, because it is proven that WoW's model is successful. Some people argue that the reason a game with innovative ideas is released in an unpolished state or why some games don't release at all, is because they could not secure proper funding to deliver a high quality product.

So while I agree with your article, I don't know how a company will get out of this trap. I agree that the next blockbuster MMO will need to redefine the genre, but I don't see how they'll get the funding to create a game like that and release it in a polished state.

Another comment I'd like to make, and this is just to people in general, is that I agree to why MMO's are becoming stale for most of us. We don't pick up a game and feel like we are playing a new game. We pick it up and say to ourselves, "Gee this feels familiar." Everything we do, from the controls and UI, to collecting quests, and advancing our characters is familiar to us from a previous game. The names of the mobs are different, the skin of our avatars and the environment is different, and even the classes and races may be a little different, but it still plays the same. I guess it's why a game like Morrowind was such a breath of fresh air after playing turn-based RPG's for so long.

Another point I have to make is how will veteran MMO players take such a radical change to the genre. You already have veteran players complain about a game with too much instancing or making statements of "this MMO isn't a real MMORPG, because it doesn't have this." So the game companies isn't just the problem, it's the players unwillingness to let go of the past to see the future through unbiased eyes and without expectations other than having fun. Hopefully your article will wake the gamers up on this forum to do their part in advancing the genre.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/12/06
Posts: 115

5/21/09 6:26:11 PM#4

The MMO you speak of would be a product in search of a market, and you should know what that means.

What Nintendo did worked, not because it reinvented games, but because it reinvented the way we played them. Take any game off the Wii and play it with a standard remote; the novelty is gone.

Hotbars work because a keyboard can hack it and a mouse can click it. UIs are the way they are because that's how the tools interact with the computer. Change those, and you will revolutionize gaming.

Mark my words, it's not what you play, it's how you play it.

A dyslexic man walked into a bra.

  User Deleted
5/21/09 6:49:10 PM#5


"I want to see a game company come in and approach the basic premise of a video game that allows thousands of players in a single world simultaneously from an entirely new direction.

At its root, that’s all an MMORPG is and that’s all it should be."


Dana, I wish more people thought like you. So many people seem to have it cicatrized into their minds that the Diku-style MMO = MMO, and anything outside that is "niche." I think that's partly because they view MMOs as a genre instead of a plaform, which reinforces the thinking that certain features are a given or expected in an MMO.


I'm hoping that anyone interested in making a new MMO approaches it the way you suggest.  think we'd all be pleasantly surprised by the results.





Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/11/05
Posts: 540

5/21/09 7:39:29 PM#6

Loved the article. It definitally captures the idea of what a video game should be in the 21st century. More so in MMOs by the number of games that follow the stagnant *working* idea.

MMOs Played: I can no longer list them all in the 500 character limit.

  User Deleted
5/21/09 7:49:55 PM#7



This is the WHOLE point right here this is what WE as gamers have known for the longest time now. I kind of wish someone would of taken these STEPS a long time ago. Acutely I know the reason why and I believe as all ready is been presented is that BLIZZARD hit the bulls eye with WoW and every other or ninety eight percent of MMO companies wanted a piece of Blizz PIE they tried they fail they tried again they failed again with a few exception with some MMORPG that went the opposite direction take CoH and CoV also for example PotBS totally different style of MMO's but this even these games had some WoW in them hmm go figure.

 So YES it is time to start over please.

  User Deleted
5/21/09 8:11:04 PM#8
Originally posted by Isturi

 I kind of wish someone would of taken these STEPS a long time ago.

Many have.


Three Rings, CCP, Andrew Tepper, Raph Koster, Christopher Klaus, and several others.



Joined: 6/02/04
Posts: 3154

Google is your friend.

5/21/09 8:40:38 PM#9

This is something we have been saying here on these forums for the longest time. Years even. I realize Dana et al can't read every single post on this site, but, yeah, we came to this conclusion a while back. Course, maybe now that a "somebody" in the industry has made the suggestion the developers might listen. Cause, you know, the rest of us, despite how intelligent we may be, have no clue about what's fun or works in the games we've played for years. Nope, we're just hamsters on a spinning wheel in a cage.


Thanks for "manning up" and writing the piece D.

"Many nights, my friend... Many nights I've put a blade to your throat while you were sleeping. Glad I never killed you, Steve. You're alright..."

Kickstarter 2 / Naysayers 0


Novice Member

Joined: 4/13/09
Posts: 91

5/21/09 8:44:27 PM#10

Good article, and I like the points Nate makes.

I also wonder if the trend in mmo development has been catering to an increasing culture of selfishness, and this has been limiting the great strides in socializing and nation-building we once probably all imagined we'd be seeing about now.

Presently, almost all mmo gameworlds are defined by three things: environment, mob, player. New games focus so much on what a player can do, that the mobs have become almost irrelevant. You can play Warhammer Online right through without noticing any real difference from mob to mob other than whether it hits you at range or up close. That means you essentially get locked into a world that is entirely centered around your hotbars. The monsters are just there so that your hotbar abilities have something to activate on, and are otherwise an impediment to your leveling.

What am getting at is that I can't imagine the Next Big Thing happening until a game's development starts with the environment, and fills it with creditable hazzards and features, before introducing the element of the player. Does it seem to you that most games start with a list of the playable classes and work their way out from there?

"The Dungeon Archer". It'll be cool, you'll be able to kill things with a bow and have 30 abilities which express this in fine detail. What will you be shooting against? I don't know, some kind of leech. Does it matter? They're all essentially the same.

Am I still on topic? Sorry, never let a chance of a whinge pass by.




Joined: 2/10/05
Posts: 2244

5/21/09 9:29:14 PM#11

This is the inovation probably most people crave for - the thing it is not utopic, it is real and will happen. When? Don't know, I just want to be there to play it. It's not going to be the next-gen MMOs, but a new gen of MMOs, as one will revolutionize the market and then many others will simply follow it.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/03/09
Posts: 1839

5/21/09 10:11:35 PM#12
Originally posted by LynxJSA


"I want to see a game company come in and approach the basic premise of a video game that allows thousands of players in a single world simultaneously from an entirely new direction.

At its root, that’s all an MMORPG is and that’s all it should be."


Dana, I wish more people thought like you. So many people seem to have it cicatrized into their minds that the Diku-style MMO = MMO, and anything outside that is "niche." I think that's partly because they view MMOs as a genre instead of a plaform, which reinforces the thinking that certain features are a given or expected in an MMO.


I'm hoping that anyone interested in making a new MMO approaches it the way you suggest.  think we'd all be pleasantly surprised by the results.





I think MMO may be a platform, but RPG, FPS, RTS and etc. are genres. So in a MMORPG, people are expecting to see roleplaying game elements, while in a MMOFPS, people expect to see FPS elements.


Novice Member

Joined: 9/28/08
Posts: 1656

5/21/09 10:24:39 PM#13

Good, but useless article because MO is under dev already. When this game will come out, players will not even have the time to raod on other forum mmorpg's and drop Wow clones F all you carebears and others. MO is the only game under dev that will be totally different from other games. It will be the best for hardcore pkers like me. Quest will be totally different rather then killing 30 of that, bring 30 of that quest done and a stupid line quest. I mean, its an mmorpg damn it. Line quests is for single games and sometime, if im too dar on my line quests, i cannot invite my friends to help me finish it.

C:\Users\FF\Desktop\spin move.gif


Novice Member

Joined: 9/26/06
Posts: 2592

5/21/09 10:25:15 PM#14

Dont be surprise if this kind of new gameplay comes from Blizz next MMO.

They need a new mmo, yet they wouldnt want their current subs in WoW to fall too much, and they have the capital to do it.

And the fact is their new mmo will be a new ip really makes it all the more possible. Why new ip if there's nothing new they want to implement?

So i believe their next mmo will again "revolutionize" the market....




RIP Orc Choppa


Novice Member

Joined: 12/19/04
Posts: 1808

5/21/09 10:45:50 PM#15
Originally posted by Realbigdeal

Good, but useless article because MO is under dev already. When this game will come out, players will not even have the time to raod on other forum mmorpg's and drop Wow clones F all you carebears and others. MO is the only game under dev that will be totally different from other games. It will be the best for hardcore pkers like me. Quest will be totally different rather then killing 30 of that, bring 30 of that quest done and a stupid line quest. I mean, its an mmorpg damn it. Line quests is for single games and sometime, if im too dar on my line quests, i cannot invite my friends to help me finish it.


Thanks for the gibberish but this makes absolutely no sense at all. What does "raod on other forum mmorpg's and drop Wow clones F all you carebears and others" actually mean? Can you provide a translation please......prefereable in english with the words structured in such a way that they actually make some kind of sense.

It might be a good idea to stay away from alchohol before trying to convey a thought on this forum. Also what does "im too dar on my line quests" mean? That one really made me grin. Thanks for the entertainment at least.


Elite Member

Joined: 10/29/07
Posts: 17508

5/21/09 10:58:47 PM#16

I agree, we need more types of MMOs and Im not talking about Sandboxes/themeparks but we need a Runequest MMO.

The good news is that CCP/White wolfs "World of darkness online" will try something totally different and adapt White wolfs rule system to a MMO. If we are lucky it wont even have hit points :)

D&D was a brilliant system when it was made in the 70s but there are many more ways of doing things now. I don't think they can make another Wow on the same basics as the first, we already have a well polished game with those features, a new Wow will not get close to the number of subs the current one have.

Hitpoints is the thing I hate most in all MMOs, they are extremly unrealistic. To have the HPs in the armour is one solution of course but games like Vampire (White wolf) or Shadowrun (Fasa) have solved it in a lot more realistic and fun ways.

If you get stabbed once under your armour IRL it will affect your combat ability badly, in regular MMOs you can take it off completly and still take a few direct hits, not as many as with it on of course but it is still very unrealistic.


Novice Member

Joined: 11/27/06
Posts: 72

5/21/09 11:58:25 PM#17

I am sure there are tons of game developers out there with this grand idea of the next eveolution of MMO. Maybe they even have made some strides to see it come about. Only problem is, the publishers, corperations and resourses. I am sure many of the corperations out there give two shits about the gamers and artists. They do care alot about money and investing in a "Wow-clone" of the month will bring that in. Because it works, even if the game only last a year. As long as the return was greater than the investment, then it was worth the while. Even though there can be 10-60 thousand people losing something they enjoyed and even cared for is gone.

I have played Eve for over three years now and CCP always tries to break away from the mould. And they have their slice of the pie. But I can assure you the day Eve becomes a loss then it will be trashed quicker than you can say server crash. So the alternitive is to become a independent. You will be underground and you will be able to make a game that is exactly what you want it to be. It might even get launched. But it is going to suffer because the independents will never have the amount of money it takes to properly launch, advertise, hire a support staff and all the other expensices that are needed to at least some what guarante a successful life span.

So to anyone that has the next great game play system. Keep at it, you're well supported in your efforts. Keep pitching your ideas to any company that might listen and hope someone is crazy enough to take that leap with you. I hope you succed. This industry needs it

There is a Madness that has grown in the Light. And it is coming to burn you a cinder


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5/21/09 11:58:42 PM#18

Things to think about:

Genera:  We have Fantasy overload, Sci-fi some, Post Apocaliptic a little, Military, IP's, Comic Heroes, Spy (the Agancy).  What other ideas have not been used?  Wild West could be promising if done well and with some folk lore<there is an artical on this site>.

Enviroment:  How do players interact with the world and what things are in it?  What can be seen and what is just under the hood of this new expanse?

Art Style:  Is it photo real?  Is it based on a certain style?

Progression:  Skills?  Classes?  Neither?  Does a player assign points?  Is his mastery up to his use of it?

World State:  Is it a static world never progressing in time with all things avaible at once?  Is the world change with the seasons, offering new challenges and/or quests?

Instanced Encounters:  Will it have some form of Off Map play?  Diving the Net, Space combat,  Undersea Exploring, etc. etc..

These are areas to consider to break the trend of the Sandbox or Directed Themepark play.  I feel that the Sandbox still has value and should be re-explored in light of the bench mark of quality that WOW has introduced.




Novice Member

Joined: 9/04/03
Posts: 26

5/22/09 12:39:01 AM#19

 I've said this over an over, but it remains true for me at least.

The revolution will come when a company can provide a customized, personal and meaningful experience to the player.

This means costs go up, they charge us more, we get more and the game is a little less massive.

I for one, would pay more if I knew my actions were unique and affected the greater story arc of the world as a whole.  But this means that not everyone gets the "sword of such and such" or the "robe of badassery", but they could take with them the fact they took part in something that shaped how the game would be played.


Novice Member

Joined: 4/07/04
Posts: 3726

5/22/09 12:58:36 AM#20

Good article. I've thought the same myself for years. However, as has been pointed out, funding issues drive MMO development big time. It would be hard to secure venture capital for a concept that bears little in common with successful, established MMORPG design.

Although we could possibly be shocked by some upstart developer, it seems most likely that mold breaking innovation will have to come from one of the big players in the market.

To some degree, SOE has provided some interesting innovation with the recent release of the kid friendly Freerealms. The target audience gave them leeway they might not have been afforded when developing for an adult audience, but it is still nice to see something fairly fresh on the market.

An added risk to trying to develop outside the mold is that a game can be innovative, but still suck. It may be too easy to blame innovation, rather than other failings, which would then further reinforce the idea that money should be reserved for those chasing the established template.

What are the most basic elements needed for an MMORPG? Expansive, interesting 3D world and a 3D avatar to navigate that world with. A rule set that governs how the avatar can act in the world and interact with challenges and other players. There should be plenty to do without getting bored and some reward to inspire continued play. There should be many ways to accomplish this outside the current recycled mold.

I'd like to add something else to the discussion. Beyond the incredible imitation and duplication of the core game systems between most games in the genre, they all seem to have agreed on a similar degree of mediocrity and lack of creativity when it comes to world design.

Why does fantasy always have to end up being a slightly magical medieval reality? Medieval (European) architecture, armor, weapons, clothing etc... Not just that, but pretty boring representations of that common reality? Where is the imagination? World design rarely makes a single stride in the direction of producing landscapes that can compete with the most beautiful vistas in reality, in spite of the fact that design should be limited only by imagination (along with technological limits on what can be presented).

The sad thing is that often the concept art will produce some true creativity, but almost all of that is lost in the translation into game design!

That highlights a major obstacle to innovation. Often there are creative designs and game ideas in early development (showing that there are people with the needed imagination), but everything gets shaved down to mediocrity during development. Technological limits have some part in this, but there is much that is imaginative and practical that gets squashed anyway. (It seems as if lead developers feel a measure of their worth is there ability to crush imagination and innovation, forcing conformity).

Radical innovation would be nice. I'm sure there are many, many models that could be applied to the MMORPG concept that would be fun, innovative and abandon most of the established conventions. However, it's not just radical innovation that's lacking, but even evolutionary innovations that improve on the established standard.

I'm not even sour on Fantasy. We just need fantasy that breaks out of the current rut and brings the fantastical back into fantasy.

BTW, it's interesting to see the motion picture industry starting to really take advantage of the near limitless translation of imagination into reality using modern computer graphics and special effects, while MMO developers seem to limit world design to what they could replicate on film with a moderate budget and 1970s technology.


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