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MMO rants

I like to blog about things that I've found bothersome in current MMOs. So expect a lot posts about things I dislike and about how I feel they should be changed.

Author: beregar

Ashes of Creation or just Ashes?

Posted by beregar Sunday May 7 2017 at 4:11AM
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I pretty much stopped playing MMOs after Guild Wars 2 proved to be more or less a dud in the end. Even before that my gaming had gradually decreased to a point where I wasn't really playing anything for months - and even if I did it was for a hour or two at most before I decided I had something more important and interesting to do.

As far as I was concerned my gaming days were over, and they still might be, but I still checked news on the a few times a month. I'm also habitual Kickstarter backer so I've backed projects like Crowfall, Chronicles of Elyria and the latest being Ashes of Creation (fyi: includes a referral link). You know on the off chance that they might actually end up being games that pull me back into gaming.

Ashes of Creation is developed by a team of industry veterans (most formerly from Daybreak Game Company) put together and funded at least partially by Steven Shariff who is himself an avid gamer. The company behind the game is known as Intrepid Studios. The game itself has been in development for about a year with aimed release date being before 2020.


The game promises to have a bit of everything for everyone and most importantly promises to bring together PvE and PvP players through the node system which is a core design element to provide interactive and ever evolving world. Does this sound familiar? That's because GW2 promised pretty much the same minus the bringing PvP and PvE players together part.

All elements of Ashes pretty much revolve around the node system. The idea is that players initially enter into a world void of civilization but filled with resources and ancient evils. The nodes are points of possible development which encompass entirety of the world's playable areas. Initially these are invisible to players but as players explore and do tasks in the world the nodes slowly absorb activity within its zone of influence (ZoI) and develop initially into a camp and a village and eventually into a city and a metropolis.

Supposedly pretty much all player activity within ZoI adds into development of the zone, and once the zone has reached village stage it can be sieged by other players in the form of controlled PvP. Once the siege has been declared there is a preparation period which is longer for the more developed nodes.

The incentive to siege nodes comes from limiting effect it has on surrounding nodes. Once a node has developed into a metropolis stage it prevents other nearby nodes from developing past a certain point. The activity within node also affects surrounding PvE content in that player actions may spawn events that are exclusive to that node.

Aside from node PvP there is also the castle PvP which is basically guild vs guild PvP and sieging of caravans that are used to move resources between nodes. It concerns me a bit that there appears to be nothing preventing PvP players from attackin PvE players save for the corruption mechanic. If a combatant attacks player who is flagged as non-combatant they will receive corruption which increases experience debt on death and makes it so that the player has chance to drop part of their gear on death. Something that is normally not possible. Still we all know there will be players who will kit into a throwaway gear and gank newbies. For them the corruption score will be a mark of pride.

Speaking of gear. Crafters will be happy to know that crafted gear plays important role in the game along with farming, trading and breeding. Perhaps because the game won't have fast travel outside of scientific metropolises and also lacks global auction houses without an economic metropolis.

For PvE players there is the questing system that is split into tasks, events and narrative. Tasks are simple quests such as kill 10 wolves and skin their pelts and are probably the primary method for developing node for a PvE player along with gathering. Events are supposedly things where world reacts to player actions such as spawning an ancient dragon when players delve too deep. Some are exclusive to specific nodes while others have other triggers. Finally there's the narrative that tells story of the world without being a direct part of it - so you likely won't end up as one of the thousands of Commanders of the Pact who still hunt wolves for living.

For those interested in social aspects there are positions to be filled in the node hierarchy depending on goverment type of the node. There aren't yet accurate details what benefits if any you get out of it other than supposedly mayors get get nice flying mounts and can pass laws.

Combat system is going to be a hybrid with tab targeting and positional mechanics. How that turns out will be anyone's guess. There will be also extensive character customization along with 8 races and 8 classes. Each character can select a primary class and a secondary class which augments their skills. For example it was mentioned that a fighter/mage combination would allow a fighter to add "teleport" augment to their rush skill which would be otherwise unavailable to them.

All in all the game promises a lot and anyone who backs it must realize these promises might never turn into anything concrete - that is always the risk with any crowdfunded project. I initially pledged only $40 but ended up switching to $125 package because of how enthusiastic the developers are about the game. It helps that Steven himself funds majority of the game. Oh and the game looks pretty sweet already. I think it's worth checking if nothing else.

For more information check Ashes of Creation site, Ashes of Creation Kickstarter (Ref link), and Ashes of Creation community docs.

Wasteful Development

Posted by beregar Sunday July 7 2013 at 6:52AM
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Mark Kern made a point in his blog post I've been wondering about pretty much since I started playing MUDs and later MMOs. If you happen to be one of the few people who have actually read my previous blog entries you will notice I've written about this before but I think it's time to give a refresher on this.

The core of the argument is that current MMO develop is wasteful because regardless of how much people like to tout that "it's the journey that matters" the truth is that majority of the meaningful gameplay exists in endgame. Even if the journey itself may be enjoyable eventually lower level zones, resources, and rewards become meaningless simply because majority of the playerbase has reached maximum level.

I have accepted the fact that many people like the feeling of leveling as opposed to merely improving skills so what I suggest is to make enemies, resources and rewards tierless. This has following major benefits:

  • All zones are available for all levels
  • All enemies provide a challenge regardless of player level
  • All enemies (and zones) provide valid rewards regardless of player level
  • All resources are useful for all levels (if resource refining is implemented)
  • Doesn't invalidate player levels (or a skill-based system either for that matter)
  • Development time is not spent on a "throwaway" zones, resources and rewards
  • Zones won't die out as the game matures assuming all zones have appealing content
  • Updating older zones with new tech and mechanics becomes more feasible

About implementation

Some games fight this by implementing a sidekicking system which downlevels the players either to zone or party level but even in these games majority of the content for a max level player is in higher level zones. This is because the design principle for those games is still built around level-based zones. This is not a problem in a tiered system since the design principles are different.

Tiers in general allow mix of easier and harder content and rewards so there will be always challenging content for both solo and group players as well as rewards that are more prestigious than others. The best part is that tiers in no way invalidate player levels if that's the desired advancement method.

Enemies are split into tiers that tell the player their expected difficulty. These tiers can be as simple as solo, group, and raid/epic but nothing prevents more complex tiers as long as they are not too complex for players. This is improved if enemies are dynamic and "learn" new abilities when faced by increased threat level i.e. multiple players and/or higher level players.

Dynamic rewards means that when a higher level player loots an enemy they receive reward appropriate for their level. Some content such as gear enhancements, special currency or some materials may still be (player) level gated after all.

Resource refining will allow a system where higher level materials are refined from lower level ones instead of having separate level based resource nodes. This means that both lower and higher level players will use same basic resources because higher level materials rely on those resources. This does not prevent the game from having higher level nodes as long as all recipes primarily rely on base materials.

A few counteraguments and counters to counteraguments

"Players lose the feeling of increasing power because they can't rampage through easy enemies!"

True but I honestly never really feel the sense of power even if I can oneshot a level 1 spider or orc because I can't do the same to a level 60 spider or orc and the only difference is a recolored and slightly tweaked model. I guess swarm type enemies could satisfy the need for rampage but not the feeling of progression. I'd rather take more varied zones and enemies over this to be honest. This is really a matter of player preference.

"High level gear loses purpose because there's no high level gear!"

Not true. Tiered system in no way prevents development of more rare or epic gear which is statistically or visually different from regular gear. Those are acquired from higher tier enemies and encounters. This merely means developers don't need to spend resources on lower level gear as it does not exist. As an added bonus you will have more visual customization options available. In fact this system still requires GW2 style transmutation crystals if you want to have different skin for your epic item unless gear visual is separate from stats (i.e. gear is natively fully customizable).

"The system breaks apart when two enemies of different levels attack same foe!"

Tiered system works best if enemies are dynamic and dynamic enemies should basically factor multiple things when facing by increased threat level. The simplest method is summing up the number of foes and their levels and using it to calculate the threat level. As the threat level increases they gain more abilities to counter increased threat level. However the best method is to treat fights as dynamic encounters that scale with players (i.e. enemies call for assistance) instead of merely boosting the single foe. Maybe I should write a blog entry about dynamic encounters...

Quest Design (Part II): Storytelling tools

Posted by beregar Monday December 20 2010 at 12:20PM
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This is the second part of my quest system related blog posts and here we are actually getting to the core of what is my issue with quests. The first part was a general overview of the quest types but this is all about how I feel the storytelling in quests could be greatly improved.

Onwards with the storytelling tools...

I feel one of the major downfalls of MMOs is how the world around you is completelly static. If you bother to read the text provided by an NPC quest giver there's often a sense of urgency that doesn't manifest in the surrounding world. NPCs cry for player's help but they seem content to loiter around even as enemies are assaulting another player a few meters from them. They ask you to perform actions that have no influence whatsoever to anything, such as killing x amount of enemies, and then hail you as a savior even as more enemies keep popping all around you.

What I feel is that MMOs should look more into movies and single player games in terms on how to give proper feel to quests. If you read my previous entry you know I support two types of persistent content: events and instanced storyline quests. Both of these types allow developers to set a pacing, and when you can set a pacing, you control the flow of entire quest.

Cutscenes are the first major storytelling tool. These allow dramatic appearances, dramatic defeats, and cinematic overviews on quest's or event's progression. It's very easy to trigger these as each phase of public quest/event is completed. They are also completelly wasted and annoying when overly long or lack any connection to what actually happens around you. These are probably the most common storytelling tools in some of the modern MMOs.

Music is the second major storytelling tool. If you think any epic movie (i.e. Lord of the Rings) you probably realise how vital part music is to set the mood. You may not notice its presence, but you would certainly notice its absence.

Weather and lighting are the third major storytelling tool. Cutscenes and music you occassionally see in games, but very few MMOs use changing weather and light to set mood. Something they are perfectly suited for.

Scripted events are the fourth major storytelling tool. This is also the first one that puts stress on the server. Mobs appearing from thin air and then standing around picking their nose is a huge immersion killer. Scripted events are one tool to fight this: the easiest one is to use terrain to cover their spawns. Have them run in from dark cave entrance, have them spawn within bushes, heck even use teleport GFX where appropriate, or simply don't spawn them when there's a player within sight range. When given ”Defend the Fort” quest I'm expecting enemies to actually assault the fort while allied NPCs are defending it. Uusually enmies are just loitering on the other side of walls while allied NPCs are more concerned with their own navels than fighting them.

Utilizing abovementioned tools is all part of what I mean when I say ”immersive storytelling” or ”immersive quest”. For example imagine a situation where you are in the Gnarlwoods slaying Gnolls as part of a hunt type quest, and the ”Haunting” event triggers. Light starts very gradually dim over minutes and glowing fog spills from the ground. Music gradually takes eerie tone, and ambient sound turns from bird song and chitter of woodland animals to bursts of manic high pitched laughter. Sparks of light can be seen filling the air while shadowy figures flicker through the mist. Some of these are just figments but others coalesce into wraith-like figures that assault the players within area. As the event progresses all these storytelling tools react to it.

Events and instanced areas would be excellent targets for these tools. Still they are not exactly what I meant with ”mechnically interesting instances” I have mentioned in some of the comments. More about that in the area design articles.

What do you all think. Should MMOs improve the use of these tools as part of their quest system, especially in creation of events and storyline quests, or are they completelly pointless waste of resources in your opinion?

- B

Quest Design (Part I): Quest Types

Posted by beregar Saturday December 18 2010 at 2:28PM
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I'm very vocal in criticising how quest systems usually work in MMOs as I draw my enjoyment primarily from doing quests and find current implementations rather lacking. This lead to a longish wall of text so I'm splitting it into parts for easier consumption. First I'm going to talk about quest types and why I feel all of them are necessary. After reading all the entries you will come to understand why I've so high hopes for GW2.

When reading the entries keep in mind that I subscribe to idea where world zones have certain ”hotspots” called adventuring areas. Zone borders should be mostly invisible to players but they help avoid a situation where countryside is littered with enemies to a point where you can not move more than a few steps before you get assaulted by random woodland critter. Similarly we don't want monsters and events to spill into areas where they do not belong.


Quest types

I believe following quest types all play an important part when designing a quest system. However I feel many of them are implemented in a rather questionable manner, some barely exist at all, and some are too dominant. Here's my take on the different types of quests and how they should appear in games.

Crafting quests teach you the basics of crafting and even provide some income. However I feel crafting should actually perform useful role regardless of your level. You may remember I subscribe to tier based leveling model and personally I think crafters should be the ones used to customize your gear. I also like the idea that most epic items can only be crafted from materials earned through adventuring, but recipes themselves are earned through the crafting system or even through lore quests.

Hunts are repeatable missions for those who just wish to get online and bash a few heads or don't have the time for a full adventure. They are focused on adventuring areas and simply involve hunting certain amount of enemies. Each adventuring area has an NPC that grants these. The NPC also works as a store that exchanges ”trophies” dropped from enemies to cash and items. So if someone doesn't have time, or isn't interested in storyline adventures, they can just grind items and money through trophies. These are unfortunatelly the predominant quest type in MMOs even if my personal preference would be them to be fillers.

Note: These hunts may also trigger events. I.e. Gnarlwood adventuring area is well known of its gnoll population and players may receive hunts to clear patrolling gnolls. This eventually triggers the ”Gnoll Revenge” event that causes a large force of gnolls to assault nearby human settlement. You can choose to just defend the settlement or take the fight to gnoll fort. This way the people doing hunts can feel they achieved something.

Lore quests and exploration quests are quests that focus entirely on noncombat activities and learning the story of the world. They are usually represented by some sort of feats system and collections rather than actual quests. However I feel rewards for these should go beyond experience and items, and should be connected to the nature of the quest itself. For example you gather enough entries and you earn experience along with a minor trait, crafting formula or even ability that is connected to what you learned.

Note: I've always felt exploration and loreseeking should be rewarded in a manner similar to slaying enemies. If someone is willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to these activities shouldn't they be rewarded for it? Where exactly it says combat is somehow superior activity?

Public quests and events are cooperative quests best presented in the persistent world. Ideally persistent world should have multiple smaller localized event chains while dedicated adnveturing locations also have a larger primary chain that tells the story of the area. These public quests/events have a starting point and an ending point after which the quest resets. These are an excellent method for players to cooperate without actual need to form teams. They are also great for cinematic battles and scripted actions. These either don't exist or play very minor role in most MMOs which is very dissapointing from my point of view.

Note: I wholeheartedly support ArenaNet's plans for cascading event chains. Event driven world has been my dream since late 90s.

Storyline quests are done through instanced arcs. They may tell story of the game world but there should be also smaller storylines focused on adventuring areas. The key here is that these are the core quests. Sure you can get through the game world by doing only public quests or hunts, but you are going to miss all the fun instanced spaces can offer. I feel this is where current games could improve most and these are the focus on upcoming blog posts.

Note: I also like the idea that these may interact and trigger events within outside world. I.e. You go through the Necropolis storyarc which triggers the ”Black Tide” event where fleeing necromancers spill to surrounding areas along with an army of skeletal minions.

I skipped tutorial quests and class training quests as they are very specific in their use and shouldn't be used as methods for general advancement. However I'm very curious what people think about these quest types. Any particular favorites? Where do you think the emphasis on quests should be? Public quests? Instanced story quests? Hunts? Lore and collection quests? Perhaps on something I have completely missed?

Once you are done here I recommend reading the part 2 which actually gets into some of the specific issues that I've with quests.

- B

How many chances does a company deserve?

Posted by beregar Saturday December 11 2010 at 8:46AM
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Today's blog entry ponders about how many chances does a game company deserve. What sparked this is the new project under development by a certain MMO company known best for its superhero themed MMOs. Unfortunatelly after the initial product their later releases haven't fared very well...

Note: Images are merely cropped screencaptures from the game's websites and their use should fall under the "fair use" clause. Please don't sue me. :)

Let's have a look at the games first

I played City Of Heroes from the start and enjoyed it greatly. In fact I have played it around 60 months over years. However eventually it came to a point where I was just not satisfied with how shallow the actual content is. Sure there are more customization options than in nearly any other game (characters, powers, UI) but there aren't that many noncombat activities and the core experience (aka missions) is formed out of linear instanced boxes that are mechanically boring. I do like instances and promote their use. It's just that instances are pointless or even harmful from the player's perspective if you don't use them to provide a customized experience.

I was in Champions Online beta pretty much since the moment it started and I was also one of the people who bought Champions Online lifetime subscription when it became available. Now I disagreed a lot with how the game was implemented but I still thought developers would see the "light" if I provided enough feedback and good reasoning behind it. Alas, this was not to be but luckily I managed to bail out and got a refund a few days before the game was released.

Then came Star Trek Online. This time I was skeptical and didn't even contemplate about getting the lifetime subscription. Sure the game had a few things that were very appealing to me such as a great character creator, graphics style I enjoyed, and automated teaming/public quests, but content wise it was rather boring and used the same "kill everything on sight in static boxes" model that previous games did. They didn't really utilize instances to provide mechanically interesting battleground and the only thing you could do within the outside world was slow traveling. Sorry but the good wasn't enough to outweight the bad. Content is the king.

The new project

Of course by now you most likely know the company in question is Cryptic Studios. I loved their first game but they tried to recycle the same formula with their later ones without really improving the core gameplay. Obviously it didn't work.

Their latest known product in development is called Neverwinter and it's a cooperative online game similar to Guild Wars. There will be an online hub of sorts (the city) but as far as I know the adventuring happens in instanced "dungeons". It is also going to use 4th edition D&D rules, and knowing Cryptic it will hopefully have excellent character creator. The best part of all is that it's going to have a tool called "Forge" which you can use to create own adventures for you and your friends to experience. All sounding very interesting to me.

Now I'm again in a position to wonder if I should trust Cryptic to pull this off properly. For me it all comes down to how mechanically interesting instanced adventures will be and how powerful and easy to use the Forge will be. If they end up creating a game with an online hub but the instances end up being static boxes filled with monsters, I know I will skip the game in a heartbeat. If the game lacks any sort of persistence regardless of the fact that the game is centered around tools that could provide it (instances) it's not a game for me. I also suspect it won't be a game for many other people either. After all then it will be exactly like City of Heroes set in a D&D setting minus the open world part.

On the tiny offhand chance that any of the Cryptic folks actually might read this: Don't screw this up. Look into adventuring games like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and combine them with PnP D&D adventures to provide mechanically interesting instances. Games like DA can pull off story with pure hack'n'slash because you are not likely to play the game more than a few times. You have made it clear yours is a cooperative online multiplayer game (OMG) so if you end up making it hack'n'slash with walls of text... gods help us all.

What do you all think. Should we give them another chance? Do you even agree with any of the points I made or do you merely think I'm full of crap? :)

- B

Pet Peeve: Feature x sucks

Posted by beregar Wednesday December 8 2010 at 12:49PM
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This is my next instalment in beta related pet peeves. I realize I'm preaching for the choir but you can all nod and agree to my sage-like comments that never reach the ears of people who actually might be influenced by them. Most of those people would tell me to shove my thoughts into a place where the sun does not shine anyway - most likely after stating tl;dr.  :)

Anyhow here's the thing:

You are a developer/community manager browsing beta forums for player feedback. You come upon a post titled ”combat feedback” and click it to check it out. Inside you find a very eloquent comment ”Combat in this game sucks. Change it.”. Umm okay...?

Simply stating feature x sucks seems like a waste of forum space to me. Even worse is when actually useful feedback gets buried under threads that have nothing constructive to add. Developers get you think the combat sucks but to actually change the combat requires them to know why it sucks. Even better. Tell them how you think it should be changed.

Just don't expect miracles to happen. If you are the only person who thinks combat sucks chances are it won't be changed. If the game is two months away from release don't expect developers to completelly overhaul a system they have spent months over years working on. If the whole game sucks then chances are it's not a game for you. If whole community thinks the game sucks then chances are it won't live long after release.

- B

Dark Revelation Time

Posted by beregar Monday December 6 2010 at 1:27PM
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I blogged earlier about my likes and dislikes as an online gamer and how they lead to what I jokingly call as ”dark revelation” (dun dun dun)... or rather revelations. Well, here is what I learned about myself when filtered through some of the more vocal community opinions.

I realised I don't actually like MMOs!

(and yes, it deserved larger size, bolding and underline all)


Get ready to shed some light to all that darkness:


What I like is co-operative online games with persistent worlds.... err what? Let me explain: competing over limited resources is not my idea of fun. Camping for spawns is not fun. Not truly achieving anything even temporarily because of persistent nature of the world is not fun. Playing with other people is not fun if they are viewed more as competitors than allies. Does their presence really matter while fighting if they are more of a nuisance than help? I don't even like forming parties but I still like playing with other people!

I'd rather see the open ”persistent” world portion as a place where I socialize, craft, trade, play minigames, and work with other people through public quests and events where everyone is rewarded. Put the actual ”story content” and quests into adventure packages that are basically instances. Places where you go alone or with a group of allies. Places where you don't have ninja looters, killstealers, or spawn camping. It looks to me like most people prefer going through this content solo or in small groups anyway. Just make them actual adventures, not spots for railroad slaying.

I also realised I like a lot things that people say do not belong to MMOs such as ”console combat” (read: action combat) and I don't even own a single console. The best part of all is that I realised it's all utter crap. What people are actually saying is that ”feature x does not belong to a game because I don't like it”.

Why is a MMO massively multiplayer anyways? What makes game a MMO? Supposedly it is the way how they potentially allow multiple real people in same spot at a same time. Yet, even in the best case scenario there are rarely more than a few dozen people in same area unless it's some sort of hub of activity – usually a city, end game area, or a raid situation. If the game has centralized server with hundreds of people interacting through hubs but most of the content is experienced by small teams in instances, doesn't it still mean the game is a MMO? Or is it combat areas that determine the nature of a MMO?

In the end it shouldn't matter under what category the online game is. If you enjoy the game you should play it and leave nitpicking to people who have nothing better to do. I wholly support MMORPG.Com's articles that touch any kind of online games. I for one won't be judging games based on some vague ruling system but based on how interesting they appear to be.

Okay. So maybe I like MMOs after all...


- B

Pet Peeve: it's only beta

Posted by beregar Monday December 6 2010 at 6:58AM
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You just wrote a lenghty post to a beta forum about what you feel is wrong with the game and how you think it should be improved and someone replies "it's only beta". No kidding Sherlock. That's exactly the reason why I wrote the damn post in the first place - because it's beta and I'm giving feedback. What should I do? Wait until release? Pretend the problem does not exist?

Few things are more aggravating than people going around the beta forums replying "it's only beta". This is like saying your opinion does not matter. It's even less useful than posts that say "feature x sucks". At least that's a form of feedback to developers. Generally this behaviour is seen in two situations:

A: Someone writes something you disagree with and you want to discredit their opinion and tell them to basically shut up. "It's only beta (shut up)"

B: Someone is in serious denial about the state of the game. Look I get it you like the game and that it has potential but if it's two months away from release, and it's a bug ridden piece of excrement or simply has systems that no one likes... well tough, but they are not going to fix those problems in two months without extending the development time. Simply looking back at other buggy/faulty game releases should tell the game is gonna tank if it's released as it is. Yet people cling to "it's only beta" like stating it aloud enough times fixes all the problems.

- B

MMO Likes/Wishes

Posted by beregar Sunday December 5 2010 at 10:57AM
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This started  as a list of things I like in MMOs but quickly took a turn to a wishlist. Certainly I've tried to stay within features offered by present MMOs where possible but there are also features from games that are not MMOs at all, and from games yet to be released. This is all part of the "dark revelation" I mentioned in previous entry. So bear with me. :)

Disclaimer: As with my MMO dislikes post these are just my opinions as a gamer. I do not try to speak for community as everyone is bound to know what is best for them. Even if game developers don't always agree with this. Opinions and comments appreciated.


Customization. I'm not talking about picking traits or adjusting your attributes. I'm talking about all kinds of sliders to change your body shape, facial features, hair, eye color, complexion etc. I want tattoos and patterns. I want ”acessories” such as jewelry, horns, wings, particle effects and other fantastic elements to create character that is unique to me. I want to customize the look of my gear and its stats. I want to customize my summoned pets. I want to have signature powers, and to customize the look of my spells and other abilities. So far the best examples can be found from games like City of Heroes, Champions Online, and Star Trek Online.

Action combat. I like to roll around and smash keys/mouse buttons to execute skill chains and combos. I like placing strategic ground targetted abilities to block enemy movement. I like to use cover. I like having a constant supply of basic useful tools for combat that never run out. I like having strategic heavy hitters that are limited in their use (i.e. timers). I like enemies that have special attacks you can evade or block. I like it when my skill matters when it comes to both strategy and execution. Champions Online had inkling of this. Single player games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Mass Effect likewise. Certain yet to be released MMO captures essence of this quite well.

Sense of progress. I like to get new toys to play with. I like knowing my character is growing more powerful. Something that dates back to my DnD days. Levels often give you new toys but more often than that they end up replacing existing toys with exactly same looking toy but with different name. Not enough! Give me sense of progress instead of throwing same stuff at me with different name and color. Give me upgrades that are both statistical and visual! Both abilities and enemies!

Storyline persistence. I like to get an illusion that what I did actually matters. Lack of persistence is the main reason why I drop most MMOs very fast. I like to see NPCs to react to my actions. I like to know I really saved the day when I saved the day. I like to see my home and hometown to evolve. I don't want to leave those 20+ hostages to their cruel fate simply because quest demands I only rescue 10. This is something developers of Guild Wars 2 are working on with their personal stories and home instances. Let's hope they succeed because it's one of the key selling points for me.

Subgoal driven quests. I want quest areas to invole more than going through a horde of mobs, even if beating the boss in the end is the primary goal. There should be a lot things to do in between. Rescuing allies who help with the fight, eradicating a tough mob by flooding the room, finding a point of interest or something useful in otherwise dead end, sneaking around enemies instead of fighting them etc etc. I also wish to be rewarded for these actions and not lose experience. Instances are optimal for this. I want each instance to be an adventure that has its own identity. Not just a box with monsters. I even wish them to be replayable. Even heavily instanced games like CoH, CO and GW don't use these elements. DDO had a lot potential because of its D&D roots but didn't really use this feature either.

Public quests and events. I like sharing rewards and working together without need to form a party first. Why hide your boss mobs and raid mobs in an instance when you can have half of the server wailing at them? It goes beyond this too. Guild Wars 2 is promising us dynamic event system where events react to our actions in a persistent manner until reset point is reached. This sounds too good to be true and again one of the key selling points for me. It is something I've been asking since I started playing MMOs.

Graphics. A good game must have solid gameplay, solid customization and solid graphics. I'm a big fan of flashy effects, and spell/skill effects that change over time. I'd rather the graphics be more fantastic than realistic. I hate cartoony graphics though. I particularly like the way how Star Trek Online handles character and environmental (planetside) graphics but hate how Champions Online looks.

Ease of traveling and exploration. Map travel is a must! Once you have found the local ”hub” for activities, you should be able to get there instantly. Guild Wars is a shining example of working map travel. Traveling for the sake of exploration is enjoyable too. I love exploring new locations if they have points of interest in secluded scenic spots. I love strange movement methods like flying and underwater exploration. I love being rewarded from exploring a new spot.

Minigames, emotes and other fluff. I love all kinds of minigames from fishing to chess to bar brawls. I'm still hoping for Breath of Fire style fishing minigames and Archon Ultra style battlechess – or optionally Arcomage style cardgame. I also love collections especially if they are tied to quest areas, exploration and lore entries. I'm a huge collection junkie since EQ2. I love fluff abilities and special emotes. I love special effect auras (whirling leaves, orbiting crystals etc). I love having pets – especially if you can play pokemon style combat with them. Stuff that isn't useful for combat but ”cool” to have.

Powerful UI and item management. I like dragging my items to chat to broadcast their info. I like customizing my chat tabs to show exactly the things I want them to show. I like mouseovering skills to get short explanations. I like to click things to get detailed explanations. I like to have a separate inventory for quest items and collections. Even better would be simply a diary entry that keeps track of your collection. Basically the item goes ”poof” and appears in whatever keeps track of the collections and/or quests. This also extends to features that save time such as auction houses that remove the need to stand around while selling.

Adventure creation tool. I like the idea of creating own instanced stories where I can control the lightning, morph the area, set enemies, create rewards, create subgoals, trigger events. Basically a game within game. I'd also love to be able to use this tool to customize my ”home area” where other players can visit. City of Heroes is the first MMO game where I played with content tools but not the very first game. Single player games have had these tools before (i.e. TeS construction set, community mods for BG series) so have co-op games (i.e. Neverwinter Nights).




MMO Dislikes

Posted by beregar Saturday December 4 2010 at 3:18PM
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I'm a sporadic blogger and tend to write subject pairs so today's entry is going to discuss about my dislikes as a MMO gamer. The next entry in nearby future is going to be about my likes as a gamer. These together lead to what I like to call "dark revelation" about myself as a gamer. The revelation? That will be revealed in future. :)

Disclaimer: Remember that following things are my opinions only. I claim not to talk for the community nor know what community wants (an impossible task). However I claim to know my own likes and dislikes based on my experience as an online gamer (started with MUDs). I appreciate any feedback and thoughts on the matter. When you look at the entries I'm sure many of you realise why my motto is "content is the king". :)



Lack of customization. I get your game has gazillion races and classes but if they all end up looking same and have same amount of half-assed abilities then what's the point? Can I opt for a design with fewer races that actually look unique and fantastic as opposed to just humans with different skin tone and head slapped on top of the same basic body? While we are at it could I also have classes with actually meaningful differences? You know abilities that change appearance and progress as your character does? How about spell and skill customization? Equipment customization? Signature abilities? Customizable pets? Thanks!

Level gating content. I hate leveling. I hate losing access to content. I like earning new things. I like feeling more powerful. Wait. What? Current MMOs don't give a real sense of progress. Is it really progress if your level 50 enemies and abilities are identical to level 1 enemies and abilities. Only recolored and renamed. Where is the sense of progress? Where is the sense of power? You have only managed to lose access to some of the content.

Bad use of open (”persistent”) world. Sense of accomplishment calls for truly persistent changes which are ironically quite impossible in the persistent world. Your ”savior of NPCs” kills 10 enemies and rescues 10 people and the quest giver declares ”OMG! You have saved us all”! Yet nothing changed. There are 20 more people to rescue and baddies to kill, and more respawning from thin air even as you are defeating them. Instead of cooperation players compete over who manages to snatch the kill so they can progress to the next stage of the quest. Isn't this what instances are made for?

Bad use of instances. MMOs often place the world shattering enemies in instances where a small group of people fight them. Shouldn't it be the open world that is used for these great evils? For things that require cooperation from multiple players (public quests/events)? For things that trigger these events (slaying of enemies)? For things that won't cause players to compete over limited resource instead of cooperation (crafting, community building, merchants, shared event goals)? Isn't it nicer to kill those 10 skeletons knowing more will come but you worked towards triggering an event?

Bad Combat. Facing a regular foe and spending a minute to take it down is sign of bad combat. Even worse is the situation where I don't have a button to press because there isn't a single ability that is not on a timer. Bad combat is also involved when skill does not matter. Only gear. Standing still while characters exchange attacks may also be a sign of bad combat. Yet bad combat may also involve spamming same ability repeatedly because nothing else is quite as good as it is.

Stupid enemies. I'm supposedly this nearly god-like being who can fling fire and brimstone from my fingertips, a highly trained ”savior” of my people, who can return from dead because of some obscure lore reason, and you are sending me to fight what? Beetles? Plants? Rats? Wolves? BUNNIES? Greeeeat. Pass...

Railroad Slaying. I don't mean slaying of railroads. I mean entering into an instanced area with linear map design and slaying everything on sight from beginning to the very end. You are given this whole instance where all kinds of persistent changes could happen without affecting other players in any sort of negative way. Only not. There are no subgoals where you can rescue prisoners (allies), use trickery (flood room and drown enemies), find exploration rewards (items, collections, a summoning stone), blow up a bridge ahead of a chasing enemy horde, face a dark room that limits sight to a few meters, face traps that scatter the team etc etc. So many options! Yet the only thing you can do is slay creature after creature until the end.

Traveling as a time sink. You just wish to reach the next area, not scourge current one of all life hell bent on stopping you. Finally you have spotted the ”right way(tm)”. Only to find that after slaying a horde of mobs you hit a dead end. There's no exploration reward. No hidden quest. Not even a collection item. JUST A DEAD END!?!? To add insult to injury you can't scale the wall that separates you from the exit on the other side... /EMORAGEQUIT! (thank you Guild Wars and Prophecies maps..).

Bad UI. This is usually a bane of MMOs not ready for release. Simply trying to figure out what your ability actually does is some sort of arcane science. There are no customizable chat tabs. You can't drag your powers around or even move the power bar. The worst are the games where you are thrust into the gameworld with no idea what to do. Map markers for quests are for wussies anyways!

Bad Graphics or graphics style. This is a broad definition even for me, and often it's just small things that are off putting. For example weapons larger than a man flung by a twig-like girl in chainmail bikinis is major turn off – as in it can turn me off from the game without even trying it. Cell/Comic Shaded graphics are another thing (CO). As are too cartoony or blocky ones (WoW).