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MMOWTF: Behind the Madness

Just in case you can't get enough of my weekly published trash you can read all about the crap that never got it's own article. Enough the blog.

Author: Danmann

MMOWTF Recap #7: Case of the Missing Rant

Posted by Danmann Thursday June 21 2007 at 1:31PM
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When I went back to look for this article on the Features>Column list it wasn't there! After a bit of checking I found it in the news forum back on page 40 something so no real mystery except how it went missing from the feature list. Besides a few goofy typos this one made it through the editorial ringer intact and ended up being one of my most balanced and useful articles (despite my best laid plans to the contrary)


Roll that beautiful bean footage!



             No No’s for MMOs



Sometimes you look at the debacles that have occurred over the course of the short history of MMO’s and you wonder: Do they ever learn? You would think that by looking back with hindsight at some of the mistakes that have been inflicted on us by shortsighted or incompetent developers that the next generation of publishers would have compiled a very comprehensive list of what not to do. Sadly, we see the same mistakes being repeated time and time again mixed in with a fresh batch of new blunders with every title released. Have no fear my fickle readers for I have created a short cheat sheet for all current and future designers called: No Nos for MMOs. Read and be enlightened!



This one is my biggest pet peeve of all. Making sweeping changes may seem like a good idea if your game isn’t doing so hot, but trust me, it’s bad news. First off, it makes it look like you didn’t spend anytime actually testing or designing the systems you are changing. You don’t want the customers doubting your competence when they are paying a monthly fee. Not only will the current group of players be less than thrilled, but playing Husker-Du with your code isn’t the best way to keep the game bug free. Keep in mind that the customers you lose aren’t going to be instantly replaced instantly with loyal new players who love your new changes either.


At first glance this might seem to be a thinly veiled swipe at Sony, but it’s really not, although what happened with NGE did draw a nose pinch and a slight head shake. My main beef with these kinds of changes is that it shows a lack of preparation and demonstrates a general whimsical approach to game design that doesn’t fit well with the MMORPG genre. Players expect a certain level of stability in their game and woe to anyone who takes away a gamer’s security blanket.



I’ve noticed a tendency in Developers to promise the world early on and it’s not always a bad thing to keep all you options open, but when your eyes get bigger than your budget, timetable or coding skills, you are going to find yourself in a sticky situation. Now of course 90 percent of the people attending your Dev Chats or reading your blogs won’t be around to pay for the final product if it gets that far, but if you don’t focus your efforts on the key features that define your game then you are going to end up wasting a lot of resources on unworkable designs.


The next time your fans ask you "Can I play an evil dragon with a rogue class?", think twice before you say "Why not?". Know your limits and keep your design goals realistic and you will be fine.




This may seem like a no-brainer, but anyone who has beta tested several MMOs can tell you a few horror stories of designers that completely disregarded important and persistent warnings about issues that ended up as game breaking bugs. Remember that these people are testing your game for FREE. Make sure they have easy access to all the game files and patch notes and keep them informed on what aspects you need them to test. While many of them may have ulterior motives, they are a great source of feedback and a motivated group of testers will find thousands of bugs that you would never have found otherwise. If you ignore them, treat them like dirt you will find they will just stop helping or hide critical bugs from you to exploit later. Some are going to do it anyway but you definitely want to keep it to a minimum.


Generally speaking you want to have at least a couple people who are in constant contact with your testers and making them feel a part of the development process. They may be fickle or unobjective at times, but it’s a win-win situation if you play your cards right.





This one is quite simple: If you spend most of your time designing content for the max level folks instead of enhancing the overall game experience then you are only contributing to the power leveling problem. There are always going to be people that spend every waking hour playing your game and they will always be able to get bored of your new stuff faster then you can design it. Instead of catering exclusively to this, why not give players a reason to stop and smell the roses?


This isn’t about casual vs. hardcore either, if you make it possible to take part in PvP or group content throughout the game you will be much more likely to avoid the ‘endgame heavy’ development issues further down the road. Sure you might tick off the powerlevelers and your forums may have a few more "OMG where r the Tier 5 Mage Cloaks!!" posts, but it will save you more headaches in the end.


I think that’s enough good advice for a Monday. Until next week why don’t you earn yourself a few stars by contributing to this discussion. I’ll be watching.


- Dan Fortier

cmagoun writes: Though I generally, agree with your points, I think there are cases where a major overhaul of a game could be warranted. EQ2 and CoH got pretty major overhauls and it they are both much better games than at release. My opinion, of course, I am sure there were others who hated the changes in both games. Still, I think there are times when you can look at your design and realize "that just didn't work like we expected." Is that bad design and/or testing? Probably is, but once you have made that realization, do you let it lie, or do you make it right? I imagine you could make a business case for both approaches. Just some thoughts for you... keep posting. Thu Jun 21 2007 3:28PM Report
Danmann writes: Well some games can only go up, but even then it still shows that they didn't think thnigs through in the first place which is forgivable if they make it right afterward. The problem is that once Devs get change happy they rarly stop when they should. Thu Jun 21 2007 11:52PM Report writes:
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