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I started playing MMOs about 12 years ago. In the beginning, they were great. I was absolutely thrilled by my first MMO experience. In recent years, however, I've found myself struggling to maintain interest in anything. While it's true that I could just be burned out on MMOs, there are specific things I've noticed that have really started to annoy me regarding the design of recent games. I will detail some of them for you here, in the hopes that some may share my feelings and perhaps point me towards anything more desireable, as I am rather out of the loop regarding newer MMOs in development.
This thread is, in part, a looking for game thread. I posted it in general because of the rant involved, and the potential discussion it could lead to.
Please be advised there is a TL;DR section down toward the end, for those who don't have the time now/can't be bothered to read the whole thing.
First, the quests. Lineage 2 was my first real MMO and I fell in love with it right away. I remember being at a low level, exploring around the Elven starting zone, and deciding to check out a nearby dungeon. I slowly made my way a few rooms in, then came across another guy doing the same. We joined up and made it further in, before finally dying valiantly to some much more powerful enemies. When we went back, we found a higher level guy burning karma (he had just killed someone else - open world pvp), and instead of killing him and having a chance at his items, we decided to let him join us so we could make it further in. This is something else I find lacking in recent MMOs -- a gray area. There was no clear best option to take here, as both options offered us risks and benefits. We had to make a meaningful choice about what to do with this guy.
What I really enjoyed about that was the spontaneity. We were just exploring, seeking danger and better loot. There were no quests attached to that dungeon, you didn't feel railroaded there or obligated to do it because of the quest reward. You simply delved into it because you wanted to, either in hopes of finding something valuable, for roleplaying purposes, or whatever. My own motivation was thinking that because the mobs further in were so hard to get to, they must offer some good drops. Lineage 2 had far fewer quests that would come about under certain conditions/milestones and on a more significant scale. The way MMOs have been going for a long time now is quest after quest after quest, the same re-skinned thing from one area to the next. Most dungeons (and pvp for that matter) are instanced and have to be queued up. Everything is so contrived and handed to you. There is just no spontaneity nor reason to go off the beaten path anymore.
When did that become desireable? Do people really enjoy that? I played many MMOs after L2, including Aion, Vanguard, Rift, Tera, and most recently Neverwinter. All were guilty of this. In Neverwinter I tried really hard to be interested in the quests, to actually read all the dialogue and try to immerse myself in them. I just couldn't do it. There are so many of the damn things, and they're all so similar and forgettable that I inevitably end up just doing the same old click quest, click accept, run off following map indicators, kill/gather x of y, return, accept all rewards, repeat. What's worse is that this is most often the most efficient way to progress. It ensures the fastest experience, level appropriate gear, and transition to the next area. So even as much as I hate doing them, I end up doing them simply because I'm just shooting myself in the foot by not doing them.
I realize that quests are useful in exposing players to the game's lore. I guess what I'm looking for is a less story-focused game? That's not really true, though. I can enjoy a good story and lore. I just wish the game encouraged you to have a more proactive role in discovering the world's lore and story, rather than shoving it down your throat with the endless quests.
What should I talk about next, crafting? The only game where I really actually enjoyed the crafting was Vanguard. It was a whole other game unto itself. You had to balance various factors while crafting, like the item's quality and durability during the craft. In addition, you could craft pretty much anything. Valuable items and gear, as well as ships for traveling and houses to live in.
In pretty much every other MMO, crafting just seems like an afterthought. The process is just as boring and grindy as questing. In fact, a lot of them are just another endless meaningless quest grind. The gear is usually not competitive with similar level gear acquired by other means, and there is little motivation to actually do it. I also dislike it when a game - like Neverwinter, for instance - allows you to max all crafting disciplines on a single character. When I pursue crafting, I just want to focus on one or two disciplines and take those as far as I possibly can. Hopefully, the crafting is deep enough that I can spend every single hour available to me pursuing that. Being able to max everything just means I can do everything myself, which is not really interesting to me. That just becomes a single player game. I like to actually have to engage the economy and seek out other materials I may need from people who have mastered other disciplines.
I already mentioned Vanguard, but I suppose L2 is another example that stands out. In L2, there was much more incentive to have a crafter, because it was the only way to ensure access to higher level gear. That gear could drop, but chances were very small, and like I talked about earlier, there were no quests offering them as rewards. I liked that. The crafting system itself could have been much more interesting in L2, but I liked that they played an essential role in gearing people. If you didn't have a crafter/had no interest in having a crafter, you could always seek one out and pay them for the service. And many people didn't have them, because it was no trivial matter to get one to the higher levels required to craft higher level gear. I liked that, also. That made sense to me.
I guess what I'm looking for is crafting that is more involved, is a non-trivial pursuit, allows you to focus on 1 or 2 professions to great depth, and plays an important role in acquiring useful gear, as well as stimulating the economy.
The next big thing is customization. This is a really big deal for me. I'm talking about character customization in the form of racial/class stats and traits, skill trees, etc. Cosmetic customization I really don't care about. I despise uniformity. As soon as I realize just how similar everyone who picks the same class ends up being toward the end game, I lose all interest. I like to be able to put my own spin on things, as well as being affected by the luck of the draw.
L2 is actually a bad example of this. Especially in the earlier days - which I'm primarily talking about - there was very little difference between certain race/class combinations. A skill here or there, but that was it. Thankfully, in later updates they added more skills to differentiate them, but unfortunately they added other things I really didn't care for. But at least they had things like item enchants and augments, allowing luck to come in to play when setting your character apart. That, at least, allowed some differentiation in gear towards the end game.
After L2 I discovered games like Rift. The single thing I enjoyed most about that game was the different souls and trees. I loved having that choice and variety. Sure, it may be difficult to balance, but I'm not really concerned with the absolute most effective build. I never look up builds. I just build whatever it is I'm interested in. As long as the system allows for some true variety in different gameplay approaches and is reasonably well balanced, I'm happy. However, what I didn't like about games like Rift is that the gear is so uniform. Everyone follows the same gear progression, and inevitably ends up in pretty much the same stuff in the end game. This kind of kills it for me. I'd really like to see more randomization when it comes to itemization. I don't necessarily expect a full blown D3 or PoE type of RNG, but at least some amount of it would be nice. When I'm level 40, and I already know what I'm going to be wearing at level 60 and the exact progression path I'll take to get there, a lot of the mystery and excitement is taken away from me.
The other thing I should mention regarding items is the different tiers available through pursing different gameplay options. For example, gear obtained from raiding is usually the most valuable. This is a big problem for me. I've really disliked the focus on raiding content. I find it very hard to raid. I'm an adult with other responsibilities and areas of my life that take priority over a game. I can't commit to playing at a certain time for 3+ hours at a time. Hell, I find it very difficult to sit in one place for hours at a time even when I do have the time for it. I understand it's a challenge:benefit thing, but that type of content is really just no good for me.
To summarize, I'm looking for extensive customization, both in character development and itemization. I'd like to be able to have a totally different build/gear than other people of the same race/class. Also, I'd like to be able to pursue and acquire the best gear available without having to treat the game like a full time job. I just don't have the time/lifestyle for that.
I think I'll finish with pvp. As you might guess starting out in L2, I became intimately familiar with pvp right away. At first, I shied away from it. I downright scorned it, in fact. I later warmed up to it, however. So much so that I went on to make something like 16 videos of nothing but pvp exploits. Unfortunately, I haven't been too happy with the way most recent MMOs have handled pvp.
The first part is open world pvp. I grew to enjoy this in L2. I understand why a lot of people are apprehensive about it. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth being killed by some pimply, fat/scrawny 14 year old loser who plays the game 6x as much as you do, and 4x as much as any human being should. I'm not really sure how to fix that. I think that's just a demographic thing more than anything. That being said, I enjoyed L2's system. You could kill pretty much anyone pretty much anywhere at any time. However, there were consequences for doing so. I enjoyed this not only because of the accurate metaphor for real life, but because of the gameplay it allowed. We've all been annoyed by someone. Now you can kill them. However, it's a gamble on your part. Besides that, it can be an effective means of keeping rival clan members out of prized hunting spots, as well as other interesting aspects of gameplay.
On the flip side, it sucks being killed for no reason. However, L2 had a karma system in place, whereby someone who killed another would receive karma. This amount would grow for each successive kill. If someone died while having karma, they would drop some of their items. The only way to lose karma was through death or killing a lot of mobs. This creates more interesting gameplay choices, as I mentioned in my example at the beginning. After being killed by someone, you have options. Do you gather people to hunt them down? Do you hunt them alone, taking all the potential loot for yourself? Or do you just try to avoid them altogether? The person's level was not known to you. All you had to go by was the gear they were wearing, which could be deceiving. So judging your ability to take them down was another gamble. I enjoyed having these choices to weigh and decide on.
Of course, another big part of L2 was the castle sieges. Large fields of battle contested for castles, and the resources therein. This aspect of gameplay could be a lot of fun, involving teamwork, organization, politics, and was totally optional. It's your choice if you want to be part of a castle owning clan, but if you enjoy the benefits of such, you will most likely be expected to help defend it. As far as recent MMOs go, they seem to really shy away from open world pvp. The most common pvp nowadays seems to be in an arena type setting. That can be fun for a while, I guess, but I find myself getting bored of it pretty quickly. Nearly everything is instanced, putting you in random groups of comparable strength. It's just another example of everything being taken out of your hands and being done for you. Where's the risk? The reward is usually small, requires a lot of grinding to get to, and things like politics aren't even factors. At least in Rift you could invade the other faction's lands. However, there was pretty much no risk involved, and the reward was small aside from amusement.
To summarize, I'd like to see a return to open world pvp. Pvp that requires you to make choices, weighing your options and the factors involved. Pvp that requires more risk, as well as more reward. Nothing should be instanced. Random arenas are not necessarily a bad thing, but I just can't see it being enough by itself to keep pvp content of a game interesting.
I've been posting walls of text on forums for years, and this is the first time I've bothered with a tl;dr section. Consider yourselves lucky. I'm pretty much just going to re-post the last paragraph of each section, because I'm almost as lazy as you are. I'd strongly encourage you to read the full post for more info/details.
I'm looking for a game that encourages you to have a more proactive role in discovering the world's lore and story, rather than shoving it down your throat with endless meaningless quests. I'd like to see much fewer quests, and the ones that do exist should be more interesting and meaningful. I want a larger focus on exploration, and just going where you want to go and doing what you want to do, rather than feeling obligated to complete recycled quest chain after quest chain for the rewards and efficient level gains.
I'm also looking for crafting that is more involved, is a non-trivial pursuit, allows you to focus on 1 or 2 professions to great depth, and plays an important role in acquiring useful gear, as well as stimulating the economy. I'd like it if crafting was at least partially involved, if not the only way to get more valuable gear.
I also want extensive customization, both in character development and itemization. I'd like to be able to have a totally different build/gear than other people of the same race/class. Also, I'd like to be able to pursue and acquire the best gear available without having to treat the game like a full time job. I just don't have the time/lifestyle for that.
Finally, I'd like to see a return to open world pvp. Pvp that requires you to make choices, weighing your options and the factors involved. Pvp that requires more risk, as well as more reward. Nothing should be instanced. Random arenas are not necessarily a bad thing, but I just can't see it being enough by itself to keep pvp content of a game interesting.
That pretty much covers it, I think.
Anyone feel similarly, or perhaps completely differently?
Does anyone know of any current MMOs, or any in development that resemble what I'm looking for? Or am I going to have to make the damn thing myself?
Come at me, bros.