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The List: Five Ways MMOs Could Be Better

By William Murphy on April 12, 2011 | Columns | Comments

Five Ways MMOs Could Be Better

Last week we took a dip into “Glass Half Full” territory with our List centered on how MMOs could be much, much worse.  This week, in the grand tradition of bipartisanism we’ll flip that coin and take a stab at a List that details the many ways in which MMOs could be so much better than they are now.  We all like to play armchair designer now and again, so let’s make sure this week is no different.  Strap on those thinking caps and let’s delve into our favorite hobby’s weak points.  Lord knows we can all find plenty.  I mean… just read the forums if you don’t believe me.  This is by no means a full list of what MMOs could do better, and instead represents just a few ways I think they could be improved.  Please do add in your own thoughts down below.  Commence theory-crafting!  

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5. More Realism!

“What the heck, Bill?! This was on the other list of ways in which MMOs could be worse!  What are you trying to pull?”  I’m not trying to pull anything I swear.  The ways in which I worried about “realism” in my MMOs with the last List were all about features that would pull away from the joy of playing a game.  That is not to say there aren’t ways our games could include realism and still maintain a sense of wonder and fun.  There are some games I want to provide me with ease of access to features.  These games are a little more casual in their approach, and that’s fine.  But when it comes to Sandbox-styled adventures, I want a large world that takes time to travel across.  I want less static quest givers, and more vibrant player-run cities.  I want to see buildings built and ransacked.  I want to see factions at war, and players running governments.  Basically, I want A Tale in the Desert with combat.  

4. More Variety

This is happening already.  We’re seeing so many different types of games come to the market.  From the action-oriented, to the FPS, to the RTS.  It seems like so many genres are getting their MMO on.  We’re getting more science fiction titles, we have some macabre-set games on the horizon, and we even have a modern day game making its way towards launch.  So I almost feel like I shouldn’t even put this one on the list, as it’s coming true in the near future.  But I don’t want to see the genre stop at science fiction.  I’m still yearning for a wild west MMO, a true steam-punk adventure, and perhaps even something set in pre-history.  But how on earth am I going to play all these if they each carry a subscription?  Well, we’ll get to that.  Keep reading.

3. More Single-Server Games

I don’t know if it’s possible.  And I know that EVE already does it.  But I’d love to see more games try and hopefully succeed at making their games take place on server or “shard”.  I don’t want to see layers of instances either.  I’m hoping that the server technology behind Rift leads to more stability and capability for developers to let gamers mass in the hundreds and not send everything crashing.  Now obviously the worlds themselves would need to be bigger to make this possible.  So maybe this wish is pretty far-fetched.  But as a fan of many games where the servers tend to go dead and my character’s left talking to himself, I really wish there was a better way to offer virtual worlds than splitting them up into many parallel dimensions.

2. Less Grind

I know it’s part of the genre to keep us entertained for hundreds hours on end.  But that’s just because you want us to subscribe to your game and to do that we need to have something enthralling us for hours and that amounts to little more than pretty Skinner boxes, really.  But we’ll get to the subscription and my hopes for its downfall next.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with experience and levels and all that.  I love advancement and the feeling of achievement it brings in table-top RPGs, MMOs, RPGs, etc.  But all I’m asking is that in the future we get less obvious quest grinds and more cleverly disguised engagements where the player doesn’t know he’s a lab rat.  I hope the directions in which games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 are going are a sure sign that a more interactive adventure is here to stay.  But we’ll have to see how each of those games pans out, I suppose.

1. Less Subscriptions

I know there’s a fear of Pay-to-Win wallet leeching games.  And I get it, trust me.  But I suppose I’m hinging a lot of hope for the future of the genre on Guild Wars 2 when I say I think the industry needs to steer away from the standard $15 subscription rate.  We can all point fingers at many games we don’t believe deserve a monthly subscription.  And in truth, I think a lot of studios would gladly ditch a subscription if someone else could prove that AAA titles could be built from the ground up with F2P in mind.  It’s not that I don’t think there’s room for both subscription-based games and “freemium” titles. I’m just sick of seeing the freemium games be the ones who couldn’t hack it at the standard subscription rate anymore.  I’m no Warren Buffett, but it doesn’t seem like a great way to promote competition and diversity in business to keep every game tied to some arbitrary $15 rule. 

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.