There have been many MMOs over the years which sadly closed down. Studios or producers just did not see the value in keeping these games alive and in the end they closed their servers forever. Many of these games just never met their numbers or got lost in the tidal surge of games that came out the year later. Still these games held onto some of the best ideas in MMOs. Just because a game closes does not mean a gameplay mechanic does not change MMOs or how we think about current game play. Let’s look at a list of game ideas that really worked well, despite the end of their run.
5. The Matrix Online – Class System and Hardlines
The Matrix Online was a very early MMO based on the popular films. It was a quick jump at the popularity of MMOs growing in the post Warcraft era, but sadly got drowned out by other games. It did not help that the second and third Matrix movies did not perform as well as the original. Still, The Matrix Online had a class system which allowed players to download and swap out skills if they had enough memory on their character. The system actually encouraged flexibility and made for some fun changes if you needed certain skills before a mission. Now you see modern MMOs allowing for full respecs of classes. Even World of Warcraft is flexible within their classes to allow players to swap any one of the three specs they have chosen within a city.
4. City of Heroes – Sidekick Feature
Often time’s players avoid MMOs because of the huge learning curve it takes to get into certain content levels of the game. City of Heroes was an immensely popular super hero game which was launched a few months before World of Warcraft. Back when the MMO wave was just beginning. The game added a feature in called the Sidekick system which gave new players the ability work alongside a veteran player and gain experience. It allowed players to help each other level up. City of Heroes was one of the first games to adapt this system and now you are seeing a lot of MMOs work on different mechanisms to bring players together despite their level.
3. Tabula Rasa – Logos
Tabula Rasa had gone through many design changes in its lifetime. It ended up launching for a two year run and closing down in 2009. Despite the best efforts of Richard Garriott and the team, we think Tabula Rasa had a lot of mixed ideas from the start. However, the idea of Logos was very cool for a game that tried to cross borders. Logos was a language in the game which looked almost like hieroglyphics. It was able to be read by any player no matter the language barriers around our current world. This system was fairly easy to learn and players could follow story, find their location, and know the current status of events just by looking over a Logos script. It made story telling in the game easier for any player who took the time to learn the language (which was not that hard).
2. Star Wars Galaxies – Crafting
Crafting systems have existed in MMOs from the beginning. Now, it is almost mandatory that you include a crafting system in your game no matter what you create. Star Wars Galaxies wrote the definitive version on crafting in any MMO and almost any game period. It allowed for salvageable parts, a full player run economy, and lots of options. Many of the crafting systems that have come since Star Wars Galaxies have some kind of DNA in them which followed the early years of this game. Unfortunately, SWG fell to a one two punch after the NGE was released to try to bring the game more in line with World of Warcraft. It eventually was closed which many suspect was to make way for Star Wars: The Old Republic.
1. Warhammer Online – Public Quests
Warhammer Online had a huge following leading up to the launch of the game. It was looked at as one of the few games that could contend with Warcraft on the market at the end of last decade. Warhammer launched with a game mechanic called public quests which allowed players to enter an area on the map and fight through a zoned encounter together. The system was genius and rewarded players for entering the encounter at various stages based on their participation. This system has gone on to be copied by many (all?) successful MMOs since the demise of Warhammer. It is now a staple among any online game that is built today - the biggest evolution of which can be found in Guild Wars 2.