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A fix all?

A generalization of a "fix" for most if not all games. Why? Why not?

Author: Karnage69

A fix all?

Posted by Karnage69 Tuesday December 18 2007 at 7:40PM
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This is not a review of a particular game, but more of a constructive feedback on what I, as a beta player and long-time MMORPG gamer, believe some games need to be more successful. While many players who try MMORPGs are initially put off by a variety of problems, such as server lag, lack of end-game content, or continual incomplete add-ons.  I personally believe that most gaming companies are putting forth an effort to correct these issues. While fixing those problems will help the initial impact the game has upon new players, it doesn’t fix the issues that I believe many MMORPGs face.
Because of current low population in some games, playing solo or in small groups is an issue that many players have to deal with regularly. A merging of servers is a step in the right direction, but these problems still exist, especially in non-peak hours. There are obviously some characters in some games that are easier to solo with, or easier to find groups with, but soloing is a fact of life for many players. Some games simply make it nearly impossible to solo. This is not to say quests should only be about soloing or should be easy enough to solo. But why consistently make dungeons or quests so extremely hard that you HAVE to use a party equivalent to a small army? Many MMO's are lowering the number of people suggested for raids, dungeons, etc. Why? Because it is hard to get a large group of people together for an extended period of time. Soloing is a part of any MMORPG, no matter what game you play. Lack of time, lack of tolerance for the youngsters in the game, playing classes that are not conducive to grouping, and many other reasons make it some times necessary to solo, much less preferred. I find myself reaching levels far beyond the suggested levels of the quest before I can ever accomplish them. I want to experience the full game. Someone created those quests as part of the game flow, why not try to complete them? I don’t necessarily WANT to do it solo, but because I can’t find a group of people willing to spend five hours in a dungeon to complete two quests, I’m forced to solo it or pass it by. With this in mind, I offer my advice and views on grouping and population issues within many, if not all, MMORPGs.
One, make the dungeons into instances designed for your parties designated quest, ultimately giving any dungeon multiple uses for multiple quests. It would allow for more players to be working on the same quest at any given time to accomplish the tasks and needs for that specific group, since there can be virtually limitless versions of that instance. A variation of this setup is used by a few leading MMORPGs. How many times have you run through a dungeon to complete a quest, but before you can reach your quest objective the group decides (against your will) to branch off into another part of the area, only to A) wipe or B) complete someone else's quest and disband because of time restraints. Or worse yet, you work through all the lesser mobs, only to find another player/group has already killed or is camping the mob you need. Sucks, doesn't it? The dungeon itself could have the same layout or be different for each group,  the mobs could be placed in different areas or even randomized, have different scripted events for whatever quest you or your group might be on. This also allows for multiple uses of a dungeon. The same instance setting could be used for multiple quest types.  This creates variety and re-playability! It seems that many MMORPGs these days don’t want to put forth an effort to make dungeons fun and exciting. They make them a dull, boring, grind-fest. Ever done a dungeon so many times that you know exactly where to go and what to do? It’s like programmers would rather throw more monsters into a dungeon than actually make it interesting. Use of instances would be an excellent opportunity to be creative, even if it were only by using randomization.
Two, have these instance dungeons scale according to your group.  (i.e. calculate the number of members in your party, the level of the players, etc. to alter the difficulty level accordingly). Points could even be assigned to gear, a rating system so to speak, which could be incorporated into the scaling process. The weaker the item, the lower the rating. The stronger the item, the higher the rating, or something to that effect. It would turn the instanced dungeon into a more balanced eco system! This would effectively make any dungeon as difficult or as easy as it should be for the amount, level, and gear of your group! You might be thinking, “Why should a game adapt down for those who don’t have nice gear?” What about the time you wanted to make a duo with your girlfriend or wife? That three-man team with your brother and best friend? What about the gamers who don’t have 10 hours a day to spend on playing video games? All of these are valuable customers with paying accounts. I would think that recruiting and keeping these customers is any MMORPG’s overall goal. As with the point system mentioned above to help determine the difficulty of your dungeon, this system could be used to determine the value of drops/items you get from the creatures you kill. “Boss mobs” if you will, could be adjusted to the group on hand. In this way, raiding would still be the best way to get the best gear. The more people you have, the better items you have, and the higher level you are, the better gear that will drop. It’s a pain to spend five hours a day doing the same dungeon over and over for, faction adjustments, just helping friends complete a quest, or for no better reason than boredom, and still receive nothing better than what you already have. Even if you upgraded an item even a fraction, it still wouldn’t be a complete waste of your time. Dungeons would not have to be obsolete or reworked because of new expansions, etc. With that being said, group numbers and level caps on dungeons would prevent over farming. Using the point system would open a rather large gateway to implement scaled items, or even leveling items to make them better as your character progresses. Some MMORPGs have tried to address this issue with socketing and level restrictions. The actual number of items could be limitless, while not creating a huge inventory issue for programming.
Three, create a mentor system! This includes scaling characters up or down, effectively being able to group with anyone at anytime. A version of this system is used by many successful MMORPGs (Including CoH, EQ2, and others). Ever created a character with a group of friends that you just loved so much that you couldn't leave it alone? Within a week you find yourself way ahead of the rest of your friends, unable to group in any constructive way. What about the time when you made a character with some friends and you are the one with a life? You actually go out and do things in the sunlight, while your keyboard crazed friends surpass you in levels ten-fold. Wouldn't it be nice to just increase or decrease your level temporarily to play with your friends, without starting over or feeling like you were a drag on the group? Imagine playing for the fun of the game and the camaraderie when you have the chance to play, and not feeling like you had to be power leveled every other week just to stay up.  Granted you wouldn't have the same amount of skills as they have, giving you reason to level up, but the skills you have could be scaled up to at least make you a viable asset.
In conclusion, I believe good answers to the population and grouping issues would be instance and scaled dungeons, leveled gear, and mentoring in groups! There are many issues that MMO's have these days. It is probably impossible to address them all in one game, but with these suggestions I believe some of the major issues could be quickly and easily addressed for many other MMORPGs.
Thank you for your time.