We have played dozens of MMOs over the years and one thing that a lot of us agree on is that there is no “perfect” MMORPG out there. As someone who has been playing for almost two decades, the fun factor in MMOs ultimately comes from the “liveliness” of the genre. You get to meet new people from all over the world and work towards common goals. And the only way to foster a great community is by having fun gameplay to begin with. But nothing is perfect, and some of our favorite MMOs have been through rough patches or have problems that affect them to this date. If we had to envision the “perfect” MMO, here is a wishlist of what we would expect from the title.
PvP games are all the rage. From traditional fighting games which have evolved for decades to modern shooters like Apex Legends and Halo Infinite, players love competing against each other. Despite the popularity of PvP games in the current generation of gaming, the aspect is lost on some MMOs.
Guild Wars 2, which has amazing world versus world combat, is let down by the fact that a couple of its maps feel exactly the same and the game struggles to balance servers, which takes away from the experience. The world versus world combat is what defines the game and yet, it has some glaring issues that are currently being addressed.
PvP in many MMOs is amazing in concept but it feels lackluster in practice. In an ideal PvP title, I would want player versus player experiences to be adequately rewarded and fun to the point you want to jump into PvP on your own instead of being obligated to.
The perfect MMO in our minds would not only offer meaningful progression through PvP but it would also offer the ability to push our builds to their limits against other players of similar skill. PvP in MMOs does not need to be overly competitive, but it should also be appealing enough for players to naturally partake in and have fun.
A Little Less Instant Gratification
The “sense of pride and accomplishment” meme about microtransactions needs no introduction. Some games are plagued by microtransactions that diminish the value of actual earnable rewards. We are not against the idea of microtransactions completely as they allow some games to maintain a free-to-play model. But if I could purchase a mount for $10 that looks like a better version of an earnable mount from an endgame activity, that would be far from what we want to see.
Destiny 2 sold an Atheon (raid boss) emote as part of a premium currency bundle when its Vault of Glass raid returned. A lot of players were unhappy with the decision as it should have been something earnable from the raid itself. Being able to buy a raid-themed item without ever completing the raid seems odd and it should not be a thing. This issue is not limited to one game alone and devs should step up and draw a line when it comes to its reward structure. Players should not be able to pay their way to instant rewards.
More Meaningful Worlds
The massive worlds in MMOs take months or even years to develop but players are able to quickly burn through expansion content and clear everything out in a matter of days. And even then, a lot of players are focused on the vertical progression and leveling up characters as quickly as possible. It is what the MMO formula is all about - progression. You complete all of the content in the new areas of an expansion and you are done with it for good in a lot of games. There is no incentive to go back to older areas. Experiencing a beautifully created area only to forget it in a matter of weeks does not feel right and we want game worlds where every location matters forever.
Games tend to focus on new areas a lot, which leaves older content in the dust. Adding story content and activities in older areas would help repopulate older areas with active players. Rebalancing the leveling experience and offering engaging content that players want to play instead of rushing through all of the content is something we would love to see in an ideal MMO. WoW Classic has already done that to some extent and it offers players an opportunity to go through some of the best content it ever offered and we want more games to do the same within its existing game worlds.
With MMOs getting bigger each year with expansions and content updates, there is a lot of lore that gets added but how much of it truly matters? Final Fantasy XIV is one of the few titles that manage to have a coherent story that is not too overly complicated and it is engaging nonetheless.
While we all love watching lore videos to recap some of the things that have happened years ago, we should never feel obligated to keep up with every nitty-gritty detail to understand what’s going on in the game world. MMOs need to have expansive stories that we can interact with and the major chunk of the story should be present in-game and not in hidden lore tabs in items.
Offer players freedom through balancing decisions for XP gains and gameplay is very important. The perfect MMO should not impose certain playstyles or gameplay patterns upon its players. If you want to revisit an old campaign, the game should allow you to. If you want to level up your character in any area of your choice, the game should have balanced XP gains in all areas to offer players freedom. If you want to use a subclass because it is fun, you should be able to instead of being weighed down by the “meta.”
There will always be the best loadout and the best farming methods, but its alternatives should be good enough to the point that players can freely engage with the game however they want. Players should never feel pressured into playing a certain way. They should be able to let their decisions guide their experience instead of the game telling them what to do.
An Open Relationship Between Devs and Players
This is something that is not a direct element of gameplay but it plays an important role in the overall health of games. There will always be decisions that devs make that player disagree with. Being transparent with the community and the players being mature enough to offer criticism when it is needed can go a long way.
In our ideal MMO, developers and players would have a harmonious relationship where players always know what to expect from future updates and the player base should also have platforms to voice their wants or concerns. The community is the pillar of any online game and not MMOs alone and it is what ultimately defines the success of a title.
All of these things combined to form our wishlist for what would be the perfect MMO we would love to play for hours every day. While no game can truly offer “infinite” PvE content without getting you bored, it should still make you want to come back for more.