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Community Spotlight: My Ideal MMORPG

Weekly Column by Jon Wood

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Community Manager Jon Wood. Each week, Wood takes to our message boards and examines a specific topic raised by our community. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

As Community Manager, part of my job is to keep an eye on the forums here at MMORPG.com and to keep in touch with what's being said. As you might expect, there are thousands of different subjects being discussed here every day, and occasionally these topics repeat themselves. One of my favorites of these repeat thread subjects has always been the "My ideal MMORPG" posts.

A quick read yesterday took me to a post by dilatedmind. He's been a member for almost three years now, and had quite a bit to say on the subject. Below, you'll find a sample of what he had to say:

"Firstly, there cannot be any levels. I'd like to see the game based on real life, and by that I mean, a real player based economy, real politics, and yes, dropping your items when you die. The game should be skill based, and stat points should be dynamic. Id say basically rip off Ultima Online in this [regard]. I'm not sure if I like the idea of races. Sure it may be cool to be an orc, dwarf, or something that's non-human... but I think anything [that's] gimmicky needs to be avoided. When you start out, it probably would be best to have a few major NPC cities, similar to Shadowbane. Outside of these cities though, I'd advocate having something that's Shadowbane like, politically. You should be able to group together with other players, and form a nation. Unlike Shadowbane though, there shouldn't be resource locations to capture. Id want there to be actual resources. Think a mix of UO and Shadowbane... if you wanted to build a wall for your city, someone would need a lumberjack skill. Then they'd cut down some wood, use their carpenter skill to make boards, and have someone with a construction skill build a wall. Most anything would be player craftable, and magic items would be kept to a minimum. The person who has the highest crafting skill, and uses the absolute best resources, will make the most useful items. It should be easy to get standard resources, but there would be rarer mines as well. Basically there are [a lot] of things from UO's resource gathering system that I like."

Read it all here.

Response to the post has been somewhat less than positive, with users pointing out the fact that what dilatedmind describes is similar to our everyday lives.

"Well, sounds like you want a new game called Life Replacement," said user Aquakitty.

Others though, either offer support. "It sounds a good, but then again lots of people will flame this and say 'Dude, there is something called real life!' But it sounds awesome!" Sahilian wrote. Others offered existing game examples such as EVE, Darkfall and Star Wars: Galaxies.

Personally, I like the idea that what he's striving for is a real-life simulator. After all, isn't that generally what role-playing is at its core? Looking beyond the rules and the complexity of role-playing games, hasn't the point always been to create a world that was like real life but more exciting? It's always seemed odd to me that MMOs have moved further and further from this goal of simulating the real world in favor of holding to well used conventions like levels, classes, experience and the like.

The reasoning, I'm afraid, is often all-too obvious. Game companies, which are generally about profit, first and foremost, know that the old tried and tested conventions sell their products not only on the store shelves, but month after month. Not only that, but also concepts like a skill-based system would cause any number of balance headaches and other design nightmares for a development team. And while it sounds good in theory (ok, it sounds wonderful in theory) giving the players full control of things like economy, politics and the like takes the control out of the hands of the devs. A few companies have done this in the past, with varying degrees of success, but on the whole it's a risk that few companies will take.

These ideal games are always a great deal of fun to read, whether it's because you agree or because you hope to poke holes in the design. What's unfortunate is that the tried and true games, games that we describe as "cookie-cutter" or "clones" will always fill the bulk of the market. These designs that sound ideal to hardcore gamers are too risky on a financial level. Why risk your money when you can go with a "sure thing"?

Still, it's fun to dream, and it's fun to read the dreams of others.


Jon Wood