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General: MMOWTF: No Nos for MMOs

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

Dan Fortier gives some free advice to MMO developers on what not to do with your MMO. MMOWTF is a weekly column on

Sometimes you look at the debacles that have occurred over the course of the short history of MMOs and you wonder: Do they ever learn? You would think that by looking back with hindsight at some of the mistakes that have been inflicted on us by shortsighted or incompetent developers that the next generation of publishers would have compiled a very comprehensive list of what not to do. Sadly, we see the same mistakes being repeated time and time again mixed in with a fresh batch of new blunders with every title released. Have no fear my fickle readers for I have created a short cheat sheet for all current and future designers called: No Nos for MMOs. Read and be enlightened!

The full column is here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios



  • Distortion0Distortion0 Sheppton, PAPosts: 668Member
    This is actually pretty good advice. Hell, #4 is why I left a bunch of other MMOs for CoH/V.
  • PetoPeto OuluPosts: 12Member
    That hit the nail on the head, those four just kill any - or atleast
    most - of the  interest I might have in a game.. If only every
    developer would read this...

  • TechleoTechleo Grants Pass, ORPosts: 1,984Member
         A big problem with modern mmorpg's is the linear nature of the quests. You follow the trail of quests the same way every time you play. This leads to the duldrums of your 4th charecter on WoW which felt like the 1st. In some games like AO and CoH it allows you to guide your own course. To much freedom can lead to the same situation where you dont feel like you have a purpose. Some would say EvE is like that, Im not so sure I aggree. In anycase I too play CoH because the storyline can progress at whatever pace you want. You also can pick which storylines to follow with no real consequences since theres no uber equipment. Mind you Id like to see more styles of dungeons and quests. Thats something doeable. Not so sure WoW can pull of a shift in there play style, let alone desire doing so.

  • RamsieRamsie Austin, TXPosts: 51Member

    I can not speak for them all, but I do read and hear what is being said. I agree with most, if not all that was stated. There are a number of others out there as well, but as they stated, that is certainly a good start.


    I will add this one:

    Do not make a change, for change sake.

  • Parsifal57Parsifal57 Hampton, GAPosts: 267Member

        I pretty much agree with everything in this article (Unusually for me image). One rule i'd like to add is:-

        When a  balance/gameplay change needs to be made and there is an easy way and a right way, don't take the easy way and be prepared to explain the reason behind the change, not give some PR speak which basically says we thought it needed changing so we changed it.

        Most people will be more understanding if the reasoning behind a change is explained, they still may not be happy but at least they will understand why the change was made.
  • n2k3156n2k3156 West Nyack, NYPosts: 523Member
    "This may seem like a no-brainer, but anyone who has beta tested several
    MMOs can tell you a few horror stories of designers that completely
    disregarded important and persistent. Warnings about issues that ended
    up as game breaking bugs."

    Typo  image

    Pretty spot on article.

    NGE Refugee.


  • QmireQmire VojensPosts: 423Member

    I loved the part, with the companies and silly promise...

    WoW, Hero classes rings a bell, anyone? It was the thing that kept me believing, there was a reason for quick level'in towards 60, where from then on the hero class would be some sort of epic journey.

    Such a shame... Just hate it when companies gives out a promise about something so damn important and awesome, then try to hide it away quickly after release. WoW is nothing but a crackgame now, with 7 million junkies worldwide.

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

    Originally posted by n2k3156
    "This may seem like a no-brainer, but anyone who has beta tested several MMOs can tell you a few horror stories of designers that completely disregarded important and persistent. Warnings about issues that ended up as game breaking bugs."

    Typo  image

    Pretty spot on article.


    You saw nothing.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • HashbrickHashbrick Green Bay, WIPosts: 1,215Member Uncommon

    Good artical, one more thing to add though...

    Don't always give in to your player base when the game already has a direction, give it time for the players to adapt to the direction your game is headed.

    This is the exact reason why Jedi was implemented in SWG and why it was changed around how to unlock it 3-4 times(I stopped counting after I quit the CU), after that all hell broke lose and SOE lost trust in their players now the game sits to die slowly.

    Originally posted by imbant

    Did we say we were trying to do good for the game? the game is in the hands of aventurine, no one else...

  • DrowNobleDrowNoble Trenton, MIPosts: 1,296Member

    Wow not what I expected from Dan considering his last few discussions and editorials I read.

    I beta tested quite a few games and I agree with what he said about listening to your testers.  Plus about not worrying solely about endgame content (Blizzard pay attention!) was also dead on. 

  • mindmeldmindmeld StockholmPosts: 226Member
    Agree 100% with what the article saidimage

    -Semper ubi sub ubi!
    always wear underwear

  • KyleranKyleran Paradise City, FLPosts: 20,184Member Uncommon

    Can't disagree with any off the points raised by Dan... all great suggestions.   Personally I'd add:

    Design your economy/gameplay to be resistant to gold farming and botting.


    In my day MMORPG's were so hard we fought our way through dungeons in the snow, uphill both ways.
    "I don't have one life, I have many lives" - Grunty
    Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
    "This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  • kaosskaoss Oxnard, CAPosts: 20Member

    Now these was a good read

     It think it hit a nerve on me and a few other. Without breaking NDA, One beta game im testing i posted it on the Beta forum just to realize i was the fifth one!! But it didint stop their as soon as i hit refresh 4 other done the same thing. Their going the wrong path eq all over again arrggg image

  • Ammon777Ammon777 Boredom City, MTPosts: 308Member

    I completely agree.

    Might I add that MMOs should only be built by actual players that appreciate good gameplay.

  • vickykolvickykol Oakland, CAPosts: 105Member Uncommon

    This was a great editorial. 

    Game developers need to remember that the subscription nature of the MMORPG makes this a repeat business, and that relationships with the customers are key in any such business.  The issues mentioned in this article are basically CR problems.

    I will add another one:

    "Don't add/change an element because it is popular in game X if it is inconsistent with the rest of what you are trying to do with your game."

  • bverjibverji Corpus Christi, TXPosts: 722Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Distortion0
    This is actually pretty good advice. Hell, #4 is why I left a bunch of other MMOs for CoH/V.

    Heh, number 1 is why I and most of my guild left COH. As well as number 4 bec ause it had almost no end game.
  • ZarraaZarraa Rockton, ILPosts: 481Member

    Originally posted by Distortion0
    This is actually pretty good advice. Hell, #4 is why I left a bunch of other MMOs for CoH/V.

    Cryptic ( COH/COV) is one of the BIGGEST offenders of this articles 1st rule.
    COH's Issue 5/ ED "DEBACLE" is STILL a sore spot among many of those who still play.

    They basicly reset the game and at the same time obliterated dozens of builds.

    Zarraa Voltayre
    Ancient Legacy/Zero/Sum/Damage Inc

    Dutchess Zarraa Voltayre
    Reborn/Zero Sum/Ancient Legacy/Jagged Legion/Feared/Nuke & Pave.

  • eshieshi montana, KYPosts: 99Member
    I think SWG is a good example of #1: "DON'T MAKE HUGE CHANGES TO YOUR GAME AFTER IT'S RELEASED." SOE changed SWG so many times in the first year, i mean the changes made sense at first, but then when they started messing with jedi and screwing with combat until it was a complete mess, thats where the line needs to be drawn.  Obviously SOE knew they had screwed up everything, because then they changed the system to CU, luckily i dropped out before and was fortunate enough to play on pre-cu and not suffer.

    To comment on Haskbrick's comment on jedi, i have to say the original plan was working pretty well, only the super hardcore gamers basically would have gotten it, and it was dangerous to be jedi, it was so easy to be killed.  ...but then came the dreaded holocron...dun dun dun!  It inflated in game economy, and changed the game direction from having fun to grinding thousands of monsters for that one holocron.  SWG would've been sooo good had it not been for holocrons!!

  • boognish75boognish75 lancaster, NYPosts: 1,540Member
    I almost agree, a game shopuld not change after it is released, but too evolve the game is good, to keep the end from coming, i mean end game, keep it going like an mmo should be, an ever evolving story with twists, quests and what not.

    playing eq2 and two worlds

  • RihahnRihahn Aurora, COPosts: 146Member

    The beta tester comment was pretty exact. Not only for 'free' close/open betas, but I see it as well on the professional testing front... QA always suffers from 'time compression' as it's universally seen as the lowest yield portion of development. So as dev runs long, QA time gets chopped, the title publishes on time come hell or high water, and the subscribers (who don't seem to like to pay to beta test) head for the next game.
    Anyways, I would also add:
    A)    Do not "Future Proof" your title's hardware requirements.
    If there is anything the MMO world has (hopefully) learned in the last two years, it's that you can net 7+ million subs if your game runs well on a PIII 700 with a video card from five years ago. This is in direct opposition to, say, EQ2 which still requires a supercomputer chock full of bleeding-edge or near-future hardware to run at its designed levels.
    B)     Let game design staff design the game, not the art department.
    Yes, it's pretty, but it contains absolutely no 'fun'. While I realize that 'fun' is hard to quantify (though I've boiled it down to three basic requirements - which is fodder for a later session) the chances of your art department knowing how to implement 'fun' is about zero.
    All too often these days I see 'game X' touting its combat footage and screen shots, rather than worry about such things as "does the crafting system cause carpal tunnel?" or "is the walkable terrain clearly defined?” If you look at the credits on a few near-miss titles you'll see an almost ten to one ratio of art folks to designers.
    Anyways, that’s about enough out of me - your friendly neighborhood MMO curmudgeon. image
  • AnofalyeAnofalye Quebec, QCPosts: 7,433Member



    I agree with the OP.  However, starting a new server with completely different rules and system is definitely possible.  See, if SWG would have see CU on new servers only, then NGE on a next gen of servers would prolly be towering over all other SoE products in subscribtions and fans would be "happy".  Of course, updating existing games would start been an issue, but if you have double the players, you can then decide which servers deserve updates and which doesn't...which is better than been stuck with the NGE, for the better and the worst.  Expansions should normally not go live on existing servers, only on new ones, while you automatically duplicate toons from server A to server C, so you don't waste time to ask players which server they prefer, transfer or not...the player has his toon on both server at the release of a new expansion and can try both and change his mind as often as he wishes.  If the player advances his character on a server and not the other, he pretty much make his choice...and if he plays on both, well he advances twice slower, which mean he will remain a subscribing player longer, which is again something you should be happy with.


    No player will hold a grudge to see you do all type of weird stuff on different servers, in fact, most will love to know that you are always trying, seriously, to improve the game.  Even if you make a pink server and I think you are nuts, that is still not affecting me in any ill way, and once you see that players don't join the pink servers you can just shrug off these months of developpment and return to the basic, to what the players like.

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

  • TiiKiiTiiKii Durango, COPosts: 162Member
    GREAT Article! image

    Now.. If only, Dev's, Game Presidents, whomever.. would come here and read this.. taking it to heart.

    Instead, they give you BS as in - "Working As Intended!" *sighs*


  • KillerJimmyKillerJimmy asdfPosts: 216Member

    #1 is huge. It could go along the lines of a thought I had about why I quit MMOs.

    #1.5 Don't ruin player plans

    This came to me when I was playing WoW recently and trying to figure out why I quit most MMOs I had liked. Sure I had played them for a long time (usually around 6-9 months, sometimes more), but something had to trigger my leaving. Many times I would think while playing: "I need more content", "PvP isn't balanced",  "x is broken with my class" or "x and y bugs are really annoying and should have been fixed months ago"...but I would play on.

    What made something snap inside?

    1. SWG - For SWG it wasn't what you might expect. I had wanted to unlock a jedi since I started, I wanted all the game had to offer and there was a super secret, super detailed way to become a hero. So I explored everything, I mapped every planet on foot...I had every POI in the game on my maps and could return to the x,y at any time. I knew all the caves very well. I spent a lot of time at old jedi ruins and a lot of time on the force crystal caves looking for the smallest clue or the smallest switch to open something. One day $OE released holos to light the way to the path. I figured: "I've done everything else in the game, this will be the final thing I need. Since I haven't done many professions..." If I had known the truth about 8 professions being the only thing to unlock jedi, I'm sure I would have quit right then. Instead I joined the holo-grind to get the jedi I had always wanted. I am not a crafter or businessman by nature, so I don't play one in games. The only way I could support the cost of switching professions and grinding them was to sell whatever I found while adventuring. One day our guild mall was just gone. I couldn't support myself with all that money missing, so I sought help from $OE. The CSR claimed it couldn't be recovered (which I knew was a lie) and with the prospect of my plans being ruined or hugely set back, I quit SWG. The entire core group of people that had made the guild famous quit within 1-2 months of that event.
    2. Lineage 2 - The grind in Lineage 2 is the silliest thing I have ever seen with a game, at 52+ it was taking me 3-4+ weeks to get a single level due to having a job. Still I played on. I went away for a week or two and when I came back everyone I knew had already left the game due to grind. This game is the only one where I think it wasn't a drastic game change that made me leave. Just the same old boring game play took important people from the game.
    3. World of Warcraft - I hate the WoW engine, straight up think it is junk. But I loved the game early on. I could solo significant encounters. I could play an important role in a group (coming from no groups wanting my class in L2, it seemed like heaven). From polish, to quests, to fun filled zones and PvP, this game had it made. When I hit 60 I did the logical thing for my character progression and started raiding with my guild. The thing I remember the most was looking forward to my teir 2 paladin set. I raided to get that set so I could smack down some evil undead. Then one day Blizzard overhauled the teir 2 sets. Suddenly the set I was looking forward to for a useful PvP boost, was 95% PvE. That was the original decline of WoW for me. Up until then I was hypnotized into not hating raiding, I put up with junior high kids who were AFK an entire raid and would treat people like pure dirt... After the set change I saw how bored I was with raiding and how much I disliked 30 of the 40 people I raided with 3+ times a week. Shortly after that I burned all my "DKP" on a decent item I wanted and I left the guild, I was sick of raiding. I switched to PvPing with a small group of friends for a good while. The final "I'm cancelling" event came when they rewrote my melee class to be a caster class. image All the items I had collected were now either worthless or not-so-great. The day that patch went live, I quit.

    Sweeping changes are death to your game. Smaller events that cause significant change for your customers are also bad.

    Disclaimer: I hate WoW raiding and the shallowness of the game in general. WoW is still the best MMO to be released in the last two years in my opinion (what does that say about games released recently?!), so I am back in it for a short time. image

  • VortigonVortigon PerthPosts: 723Member

    Originally posted by HashBrick

    Don't always give in to your player base when the game already has a direction, give it time for the players to adapt to the direction your game is headed.

    Good call Hashbrick totally agree.

    My addition to the rules would be;

     -Allow your game to mature and grow its player base over time, by aiming for long term growth not the short term buck.

    i.e  A slow burning steady flame is better than a flash in the pan.  Catering to the lowest common denominator may attract many players at launch but these are not the types that will continue paying year upon year for your MMO and support its community and longevity. 

    Players looking for the quick thrill will soon get bored and jump on the next bandwagon to come along.

  • kabanakabana Donuthole, AZPosts: 33Member


      This is a great topic!  I suggest a list of standard uh, Do Do's to MMOs.  ( He he, I said doodoo)  For instance, you have:

    1)  the general direction of the game specific to your game, 2) content that any player can do at any time at any level,  3) content that is for specific player levels, 4)  solo and group quests  5)  main objective, the goal of the game.

       I'm kind of new to MMOs, so I don't have  more specific suggestions.  It seems to me that what everyone has said here is common sense.  He he.  Since it needs to be said,  there should be a complete list of Do's and Don't's, like a Dummy's Guide to MMO design.

    (> <) This is Bunny. Copy Bunny into your signature to help him on his way to world domination!

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