This week the subject of my column is simple. It is not about the industry or trends. I don't have some gameplay insight on something spectacular to share with you. Let's face it, October and November are the quiet months in any industry. In the MMO world, it is the time when companies go quiet and work on their games as opposed to promoting them all summer long. So what do I have to talk to you about today? I want to ask the question, how do you pick your MMO?
This is a tough topic and can be very subjective. So let's start by saying a new game is announced. It could be anything, but I want to know what steps you guys go through as gamers to look at it and decide to give it a try. I have to use myself as an example so here we go:
The first thing I look at is who is making the game. If it is a named studio that I have faith in I am immediately comfortable knowing the product will be decent enough for me to buy or at least take the time to Beta test. Some studios in this business have great reputations while others are down right loathed. These reputations are based on a couple of simple factors: How they deliver their product and how they treat their customers. I look at it like this: If a studio has made one good game in the past, they're probably ok. I say one good title because not every studio makes a perfect game every time. I go by the theory that if they did a good job once, they can do it again, even if they have also failed in the past, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If the studio is new, I ignore this check mark and move to my next decision.
After that I immediately look at the screenshots. We post screenshots here at MMORPG.com every day for that very reason. If a new game is announced that sounds cool, I want to see what it looks like right away. I don't need some flashy trailer. I want gameplay images, pure and simple. Screenshot are critical in my decision to buy a game. If the screenshots are lousy or don't show enough, I usually won't go back.
The next factor is genre. Genre is important to many people. We all have our likes and dislikes, especially in gaming. Some people like sci-fi, some fantasy. That part is easy to figure out. My reasoning with genre is this; do they bring something new to the genre while getting the ideas of that genre correct? That is the question I ask. With sci-fi games I ask myself a couple of questions: First, is it something new and second, is it cool sci-fi that I would enjoy. Granted these factors can be different for everyone, but there have to be certain parts they get right in the style of the game.
Now, if it's a fantasy game, I look for something different. I look for something that steps away from the D&D model and goes into a new direction. Unfortunately there are way too many fantasy games out there that follow the same patterns in genre. No one ads anything new these days.
My next factor is class and race. I love Orcs. If you make a fantasy game with Orcs in it, I will try it. I will also play an Orc in it no matter what. That is the race I like the most. Obviously everyone has their favorite race. Elves, Dwarves, whatever your taste may be, you know that if a fantasy game has that race in it, you will play that race almost instantly. Class is also very important on a more customizable level. Character classes are critical to any game play experience for me. If you are making new classes you better explain them to folks very well so people understand what they can do. One of my favorite classes in any game was the Savage in Dark Age of Camelot. It was not that unique, but it was cool enough to make people notice. If I have the choice of picking a class, you better do a damn good job in explaining what I can and cannot do with that class.
So I have gone over all of the "impulse" purchase factors I have for an MMO. Now it comes down to game play. The game has to be fun before it is anything else. It has to move fast enough to keep me excited about the game play and not stall or lag. It must have something worth doing in the game. I know killing ten rats for ten rat tails is old now, how about we try not to make the same mistake again in the future with MMOs? Make quests that are cool and fun and give the player a goal rather than just have them do stuff for the sake of doing it. Oh also the game has to have good PvP and a decent crafting system. While crafting is not my main focus in MMOs, I do like the idea of players making their own personal stuff.
I am sure I left things out. Really though this column is about getting a discussion going about what makes you the player want to buy a new MMO. Perhaps the marketing folks will read this and learn what players really look for. I know everyone has their own methods of choosing a game, but overall I think many folks follow a checklist in their heads. It may not be in this order, but everyone has their own personal list of elements they would like in an MMO. Tell us yours in the discussion.