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Dead Island: Recipe for the Perfect MMO?

General Articles By Richard Cox on September 26, 2011

Dead Island: Recipe for the Perfect MMO?

I know you’re sitting there thinking ‘WTF is this guy smoking?’ I’ll explain, and hopefully when we’re done, we’ll all be smoking the same thing. Yes, I think Techland and Deep Silver’s recently released zombie filled action/RPG hybrid has the makings to be the perfect MMO. Sure, I may be slightly biased by the fact that I love all things zombie, and have been craving a zombie themed MMO for many years now, but I also have some (at least in my opinion) solid arguments to back up my wild sounding claim.



Sure, Dead Island is set on a relatively small resort island, which works fine for a single-player or four player co-op titles, but it would need to be expanded for a game in which thousands of people share the same environment/server. But that small qualm aside, the world would work well for an MMO. There are a lot of different environment types to explore. There are tons of abandoned buildings that can be used by the players for such things as setting up shops, guild/personal housing.

But there is another reason I think the post-zombie-apocalypse setting is perfect for an MMO. Since the dawn of time, or well, at least since the dawn of MMOs, developers have been promising us “worlds you can shape and change.” We’ve all seen the hype about how the world will somehow be affected by the actions of the players, but in the end, it has always been more of the same. Nothing but a static world where we go about our repetitive and endless questing, crafting and socializing with not a change to be seen. Sure, there have been a couple of minor exceptions over the years. I was fortunate enough to have participated in the server-wide event in the early days of EQ2 where we came together to build new griffon towers, which became permanent parts of the world expanding the fast travel system. And even though not many people played it, Horizons had a great system where crafting centers started off as ruins and needed to be rebuilt by the players before they could be used. But now imagine a world where everything is ruins, everything is a clean (well, relatively speaking obviously) slate waiting for the survivors (players) to band together and build defensible structures to survive the zombie hordes.


I’ve always been a huge fan of crafting in MMOs. I’m a crafter at heart and have delved deeply into the crafting system of every MMO I’ve ever played, regardless of how painful it was. I’ve maxed out every trade-skill in DAoC back before it went easy-mode. I had several server-first maxed crafters in EQ2. SWG, Horizons, etc, I’ve crafted in them all extensively. But one thing has always bugged me: it makes absolutely no sense. Yes, I know, realism and video games mix like oil and water, but that’s not exactly what I’m getting at. Look at it this way, most MMOs out there are fantasy/medieval based, yet how many knights/sell-swords/whatever rode around slaying dragons and crafting up new sets of platemail in their downtime? It just didn’t happen. You were a fighter/adventurer/whatever, or you were a smith.

But in a post-apocalyptic setting, building usable items out of the scraps of yesteryear’s technology is necessary for survival. You can’t run down to Walmart and buy a new machete. You have to find a decently straight piece of metal, sharpen it, and find some material to wrap around one end to make a handle. Likely before the apocalypse, you weren’t a crafter of any kind, nor a farmer, tailor, metalworker, electrician, etc. But afterwards, those are skills you’d need to learn to some extent to survive. Sure, some people would focus more on scavenging, some more on fighting, but there would need to be some who focused on tinkering. And in this setting it makes so much more sense than just about any other crafting system in an MMO out there.


For almost as long as there have been MMOs, there have been people out there clamoring for a Diablo-esque “Hardcore” mode with perma-death. What better setting would it work in than a zombie apocalypse? And you know what’d be even cooler than that? Coming across the old you as a mob in the game, complete with whatever abilities and equipment you had when you were bitten and turned.

Obviously perma-death isn’t for everyone, so it would have to be an alternate mode or maybe alternate server as a worst case scenario. But really, it could just be an option during character creation. If you decide to go Hardcore, you’d get more XP and a better drop-rate but otherwise you’re out there playing alongside everyone else. The only difference being when you drop dead, it’s back to character creation for you.


And on the subject of character creation, Dead Island already has the start of a good MMO system in place. Sure, there’d need to be a couple more classes added to cover the support roles and maybe even some crafting specialists. Maybe add an EMT/Nurse/Doctor type character and one of those “natural medicine” type folks to cover two different healer types; one that makes use of existing meds and equipment, one that brews up potions and poultices from herbs and berries.

Then moving on to the crafting side of things, naturally we’d need a former auto mechanic to specialize in getting some vehicles up and running and made into rolling zombie killing monstrosities. And you could write off other crafting specialties with other former careers like some type of electrician or electronics repair person, the possibilities are really endless.

But in the end it will all come down to the progression system. Currently DI uses a very WoW-like skill-tree system. It works well enough, but it’d have to be fleshed out a little more. Personally I’d prefer a purely skill based system such as UO or even something like SWG, but the current system would be very familiar to most MMO players out there, because as we all know, the only MMO people play is WoW because it started the genre… Anyway like I was saying, the current system would work very well for an MMO; just flesh it out a little more to add some individuality between different people playing the same “class”. And naturally you’d have to add a character creation system for the appearance side of things; can’t have thousands of people running around looking exactly the same, but that goes without saying.

In Closing…

Really I could go on for days singing the praises of a zombie based MMO. I haven’t been much of an MMO player for a couple years now, but if anything could get me back to MMO-ing hardcore, it’d be a post-zombie-apocalypse game. Dead Island has caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about how well one would work if done right. DI does a great job of giving a glimpse of just how great such a game could be. It almost teases you with it. How about you? Would you play a zombie-themed MMO? What would you like to see in it? Is Dead Island a good start down that path?

Also, be sure to check out our full Dead Island review over at our sister site!

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