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The List: Most Overused MMO Conventions

Columns By William Murphy on February 04, 2010

Most Overused MMO Conventions

Now, I'm not writing this list to start fights. In fact, "The Most Overused MMO Conventions" could just as easily be a list of what makes an MMO tick. But if we couldn't point out faults or redundancies in our entertainment, we'd be blind fanatics. Like poking fun at oneself, poking fun at the things we love serves a valuable purpose... it keeps everything in perspective. I love LOST, but I know just how ridiculous the show is based on its need to keep preempting every season with a lengthy recap of what shenanigans the passengers have been up to. Similarly, I love MMO gaming, but I'd be glad to see some old habits of the industry and the players change in the coming years. I warn you, this whole thing is going to sound like one giant complaint, but trust me I'm just having a bit of fun. Here then, are seven of what I consider to be the most overused MMO conventions.


#7 Kill Ten Rats

This trapping is nearly as old as the MMORPG itself. How many times must we be ordered to go out and kill ten of anything while being told it's a heroic deed? True enough I've come to expect this form of quest from any new game on the market, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Not to pick on Champions Online, but it was a drag logging into the game for the first time and being asked to go kill some alien pods right from the word go. Sure it was part of the game's tutorial, but it certainly set the tone for the rest of the things I'd be doing as a superhero in Millennium City.

I'd love to offer a way to avoid this particular trend, but I can't think of anything that doesn't mean fundamentally redesigning ninety percent of all MMO quests. There are plenty of examples already in most of our existing games that diverge from this common rodent-clubbing exercise, but one gets the feeling that the "KTR" quest type is used so often because it's so easy to implement. Still, I wouldn't mind one day going through the entirety of a game's content and not finding one NPC asking me to clear a forest of boars or foozles or whateveryoucallems. Especially considering the necessary respawn of said foozles makes my efforts seem pointless at best.

#6 The Holy Trinity

This is one I'm tossing into the list, even though I've come to accept it as an inevitability of design. Maybe one day some brilliant designer will really find a way around this, but until they do I think it's safe to say we'll be spamming chat channels seeking healers and tanks until the end of our gaming time. I suppose the "RP" is for Role-Playing, but when I think of playing a role I think of taking on the persona of a different character. Instead because of the trinity role-playing can be summed up as "I'm a tank" or "I'm a healer". I can see it now: Hell for an MMO player is going to be nine million DPS classes and not a healer in site. I'd better start living virtuously and roll a priest.

#5 Fed-Ex Quests

There are two oft-used quest designs that we've become more than familiar with over the years. The first is the aforementioned "Kill Ten Rats". The second is easily the more annoying of the two. There's nothing more impeding to my enjoyment of an afternoon spent questing than finding an out of the way Fed-Ex quest which offers me little to no experience and strives only to suck away my time. Yes I know I can skip them, but asking me to skip a quest is like asking Balki Bartokomous to stop annoying the bejesus out of me. And yes, I've been watching a lot of Perfect Strangers reruns.

Okay, so they help point players in the direction of a new area, but some might argue that this only adds to the increasing trend of hand-holding in our MMOs. Not only that, but more often than not the Fed-Ex Quests make the player feel less like a hero and more like a union-sanctioned delivery driver. It's not exactly thrilling gameplay and neither is it actually necessary.

#4 Fantasy

I love elves, dwarves, goblins, and orcs as much as the next guy. But come on, folks. Global Agenda's marketing department got it right: at this point the fact that a new game might not have elves in it is actually a potential selling point. I may even be saying the exact same thing next year about Science Fiction as a setting for our MMOs, but right now I'll just focus on the obvious. I've had enough of D&D inspired gaming. Though it's not an MMO, I actually had trouble getting through Dragon Age, so sick I am to death of all things sword and board. Also worth mentioning? Blizzard's got fantasy covered. Like it or not, any new game released with familiar trappings of medieval fantasy is going to be directly compared to World of Warcraft, and as we've seen in the past... that's not always a good thing.

#3 Oversized Armor and Weapons

Tying into the above, there's a disturbing trend of making characters' armor and weaponry seemingly impossible to wield and yet somehow the three-foot gnome named Gigglespork manages to slice and dice without toppling over. Look at some of Blizzard's armor designs, for instance. Put on some of the top tier shoulders in World of Warcraft and watch as your hero shrugs. How is his or her head not impaled simply by stretching their neck?

I won't deny that the designs are cool looking, but I don't think armor and weapons need to be comically oversized in order to be effective in design. Take the distinctive look of Global Agenda's four classes, or Team Fortress 2 and you have a pretty good indication of how effective art design doesn't need to rely on size to capture cool.

#2 Levels

As old as pen and paper gaming itself, leveling is a wonderful indicator of character growth. It's almost too perfect in fact. So easy it is to convey advancement through levels, that many players spend the entirety of their playtime focusing on the little number next to their character portrait. I've fallen prey to this pathway to ennui myself. The problem with a player's level being so indicative of success is that the level becomes the only thing worth striving to. Soon the game isn't so much about playing as it is about achieving the next highest number. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I'd like there to be more to my games than climbing the ladder.

#1 Acronyms

LFG, DPS, LFM, OMW, WTF, MT, SC, DM, EQ, WOW, LOTRO, WAR, SWTOR, FTW, MMORPG... really? I mean, do we need to shorten everything? Maybe this complaint should be more directed to the Internet as a whole, but I've seen in my ten years playing a distinct rise in the sheer amount of acronyms we use to get by in our daily chats within whatever game world we might inhabit. It's almost the point where I think developers should stop bothering to name everything when creating their lore and instead just assign arbitrary or witty acronyms to everything. I think from here on out I'm going to make a concerted effort to type everything out word for word... I'm betting I last an hour.

QFT. Oh well. I tried.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, 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.