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Content, Community and Choice (long)

These three things are the pillars of any MMORPG that is worth playing for more than a month or two, and every MMORPG  I have played that has been released since WOW has failed in one or more of the three categories. Now before you go posting  WOW didn't either this is not about WOW. WOW is the Mircrosoft of MMORPGs. It was in the right place at the right time with the right product the perfect storm of MMORPGs  so to speak and whether you like it, hate it or don't care it will remain king until it gets too old or there is a major shift in the way most people game.  Enough of WOW on to the meat.

 

Content. There are all kinds of content. PVP, raids, solo, group, questing, tradeskilling, and player made just to name a few.  Most current MMO's suffer from one or more of three major problems with content. The first is over focusing on one aspect of content, like  only being a game for raiders, or only being a game for soloers. The problem there is you have a one dimensional game and while it is a fine and very fun game for those players who like that particular play style everyone else who doesn't love that play style gets bored quickly and without something else to keep them loging in you will lose them as a customer eventually.

 

The second major content issue that crops up often is  just the opposite of the first problem. The game tries to be everything to everyone and doesn't focus on anything. In this case you wind up with a game that after a month or two almost no one likes because there in tyring to please eveyone they deliver medicore content accross the board. In some cases this is actually worse than the first problem because at least there is usually something well done in an overfocused game.

The third problem some MMORPGs suffer from is removal of actually having to play the content from the game. For this I'll use questing as the example. Just about every MMORPG has quests. In the Older games like EQ1 quests were not a primary means of level advancement. While there were some quests especially early on that rewarded enough experience to aid in leveling as you got higher in level the number of quests that gave significant experience dramatically decreased. Today's MMORPG's changed quests from being something you do in your spare time or because you really want the really nice item that is the reward and turned it into a primary way of obtaining gear and leveling.

 

Along with that change came a large increase in the number of quests and the dumbing down of quests. Most quests now days are kill x mob, and bring me proof type quests or fedex quests and  you no longer have to really interact with the NPC's any more as you are led around by a ring in your nose from quest marker to quest marker. That takes what is a large part of the fun out of quests.  The solving of the puzzle/s as to where to go and who to see/kill. Since quests are not really optional content any more a lot of the difficulty in doing them has been removed. By removing actually having to play the game to do quests you take something that was fun to do some of the time into just another type of grinding. This problem is not just limited to quests, but can be found across the board in just about each type of content. Questing is just the one where the change is the most obvious.

 

So for content a good game should pick one or two areas they want to focus on and then include just enough of the other stuff  that people have the option to do something compelling that is not the primary focus of your game without causing you to sacrifice the quality of your core content. If you want to make the other areas more in depth do so in an expansion as it is almost impossible to do everything at a high level of quality in a reasonable amount of time and still release a polished game. Over promising and under-delivering is probably one of the biggest no nos I can think of for a developer to do.

 

Community. Even if you have the greatest content combination in the history of MMORPG's eventually that content will be come old and dated this is where a strong community will help keep people logging in. what kept me playing EQ for six plus years was not the content, buth the people I had in game friends and foes that I logged in every day to play with. To that end almost anything that encourages player to player interaction is a good thing and this is where the current crop of MMORPGs has failed.

Removal of mechanics like corpse runs, Removal of any need for high level characters to interact with lower level ones, overly solo friendly PVE content, rewarding time spent offline, the elimination of open world PVP for PVPers. The revmoval of any or all these things removes many of the reasons to have interactions with other players which results in a poor community. Most people will take the easiest path presented to them no amount of self policing voluntary action can take the place of mechanics and systems designed to make it in the best interest of the players to interact with each other rather than ignore each other most of the time.

 

And that brings us to the third leg choice. At its core every RPG/MMORPG  has some level of linearity to it. One of the most difficult things for a GM/DM to do is to learn how to guide their players through the content they created while still giving their players the freedom or at least the illusion of freedom to choose their own path. This conundrum is only exponentially worse in an MMORPG as instead of dealling with a handfull of close friends you are dealing with potentially hundreds of thousands of complete strangers.

You can have all kinds of choice added to the game things like customized character appearance, armor dyes, different types of play style allowed. But the most important use of giving players choice is when you put a mechanic in the game that may make it desirable for  them to do something they don't really want to like interact with other players or group. So for example grouping in an MMORPG should always be the most efficient,  easiest, better rewarded  and desirable way to progress in a game, but a player should still be able to do something compelling  and get some decent rewards solo if they don't feel like or don't have time to find a group. Finding that balance is like I said one of the most challenging things to do. 

Another example is corpse runs. instead of just saying you have to get your corpse back or you loose your stuff you give a player options. Get it yourself with  or with the help of friends, Or you could get someone with the right items/abilities to drag/summon your corpse to a safe spot, or you could wait a period of time for your corpse to decay and get your stuff back from the local undertaker for a small fee. By giving players options on how they deal with certain situations you take away the feeling that they are being forced to act a certain way by giving them options that lets them get what they want while encouraging the desired actions/behavior you want.

 

The mistake most of the games are making in the choice area are they are just not giving us the choice. Example WOW goes from being a primarily solo game  up to the max level and then at max level it turns into a mostly raiding grouping game. They players don't  have any real choice in the matter that is just the way the game is and if you don't like raiding or PVP instances you are basiclly SOL. EQ1 post POP is basically a raiding only game again no real choice. Pre-POP EQ1 there were tons of productive things you could do, but post POP although a lot of the things were still there, the time to prepare for and actually raid the new content took up most of a players time and energy leaving almost none for other things.

 

I applaud anyone who actually bothered to read all that. whether you agree or not with anything I said.

Comments

  • AmarantharAmaranthar Member EpicPosts: 5,242

    Good post.

    I'm a huge believer in options and the freedom and freewheeling game play it allows. As such, I like "worldly" games, where you can interact with the environment allot, and where the level grind is absent. There have been many times in games like WoW that I would have liked to stay in a particular dungeon for a while, just because I liked it. But you can't in these level grinds because they force you to move on.

    There are aspects that are completely missing in these games. They are all about the grind. But where are the puzzles, the curious things, the strange events, the meaning to anything more than *get the next level, get the next item*? The social aspects are very lacking. I've joined several guilds. They don't hardly play together, mainly because of the separation by levels and zones. There is no feeling that you "own" something in the games. In UO we had a guild house, we would meet there, maybe have a brief meeting, then go somewhere to do something. Our guild house made it feel like we had an ownership in the world, and the social ties surrounding that were good. Where also are the social ties that come through trades? In medieval times, a trade was a large social thing, and included guilds. That's missing in these games too. And what about hunting? People have always gathered to go hunting, but it's so poorly done in these games and there is no social aspect to it at all. Nor any meaning besides the infamous grind. It would be great to have some meaning, such as rare drops from rare beasts, trophies, etc.

     

    Once upon a time....

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