We can all find things we'd change about everything we come into contact with. Me? I'd love to change my receeding hairline, but alas it's not that easy. However, what if we could change one major thing about our favorite MMOs for the better, what would it be?
Play armchair game developer for a moment. You're in a board room meeting with other devs and creatives on your team trying to figure out the best way to make your game better. Is it tweaking a mechanic to make it more streamlined, or is it figuring out what you need to do to keep players in your game? Is it something to do with a major, game selling feature that could use some improvement? What would you change?
If you've been here a while (and many of you have - like, quite a while now), you konw my favorite MMORPG on the market is The Lord of the Rings Online. There are any number of things I would change about the venerable MMO, starting with its aggressive cash shop, but taking that out of the equation for a second, the major thing I would change about LotRO right now would be its engine.
It's a fourteen year old game. I totally get that an engine overhaul is likely out of the cards. I'm not even talking about upgrading it for prettier graphics - though that would be nice. The team at Standing Stone Games has shown a willingness to iterate on their engine to make improvements, adding DirectX features as they've upgraded, most recently the Per Pixel Lighting Attenuation. It's a great addition, but it doesn't solve one of LotRO's biggest issues: its performance.
If you spend most of your time in the old Shadows of Angmar areas, and even into places like Caras Galadhon or down into Enedwaith, you're not going to encounter too many performance issues. For one, those places aren't as populated as they once were in their hey day, but two, they are a fair bit older at this point. With every major update LotRO has attempted to push graphical fidelity, but the engine itself has never quite felt like it could keep up with some of the systems the developers were adding to the game.
The biggest example of this was the Riders of Rohan expansion's mounted combat. Rohan, the vast steppe-plains that they are, are ripe for mounted warfare. When mounted combat was added, it was novel at first. However, it was quickly apparent that the amount of lag it introduced into combat wasn't worth the feature. Horses still rubber-band when going too fast or circling around enemies. Skills feel delayed and unresponsive. Even just using your warhorse to travel the land can feel a bit sketchy as the client and server compete to see who can put your character where it needs to be first. It's not a great system, and it feels like every major system added to the MMO for the most part has felt this same lag.
The epic battle outside of Minas Tirith, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, is a sight to behold. Fires dot the landscape outside the Tower of Guard, as Nazgul atop their Fell Beasts circle overhead. You're tasked with the defence of the city, taking out seige towers and Mumakil alike. However, the battle is also known for the wicked lag the area introduces. Even in the Epic Battle instance it feels like too much, as if the mechanic and feature is just too much for an engine made before the game even launched in 2007.
We know the team has plans to potentially work on a graphics overhaul of LotRO. And for some, the MMO needs a fresh coat of paint. However, I hope they go that step further and really look at how they can improve performance across the board with their engine, whether it be massive improvements to the bones that are already there or a massive overhaul to the engine or game itself (I mean, Blade & Soul is doing it, though it might be easier going from one version of Unreal Engine to another).
I totally get my change is a pipedream. The amount of money it would cost to do something like this just might not be worth it to SSG, Daybreak and their new owners, EG7. But, if I could change one thing dramatically about the MMO, it would be an engine upgrade.
What about you? What one thing would you change about your favorite MMO, and why?