Since the first MMOs hit the market many years ago, they have proven themselves to be a recipe for success. Unlike classic games, they are a source of substantial revenues many years after their launch, either by subscription or items sold in the cash shops.
With World of Warcraft becoming the most profitable game in history, many companies tried to get a slice of the cake. This way, many games hit the market with the only purpose to bring quick profits... and surprisingly it worked. The shiny banners inviting you to play for "free" and the promise of untold adventures tricked naive users into paying sometimes astronomical amounts of money for a worthless game. With the situation getting worse with time, it's more and more difficult to find an online game truly worth playing. I for example, haven't managed to play a new MMO for more than a week before giving up... mostly because of boredom or frustration with the game-play or other aspects of the game. So I have decided to present you further in this article what I consider to be a good online game and what expectations I have from it.
I chose to begin with this topic because, in my opinion, it's what gives a game that magic power which, in many cases, makes you forget any other faults and keep playing. And because it is something that most MMOs lack. In most games the storyline goes like this: someone evil threatens to destroy your little perfect world and you are the only one (along with many other "ones") who can do something about it. You know it, you’ve heard it... boring! All quests are something like "Kill some stuff for me" and if you are lucky "Kill an evil guy" which is challenging the first time, but later it's a piece of cake... and how come he can die more than once? Of course I don't expect a multi-player game to have the kind of quest where the hero's actions have a great impact on the game world as in Gothic or the Knights of the Old Republic Series. It just can't be done for each and every player.
Instead a storyline that involves a lot of players, filled with quest leading to epic battles (Lord of the Rings like) would be perfect. Some solo quest may be used especially in the beginning of the game when the player must mainly learn game mechanics but their number should lower as the player advances. Another thing that should not miss from a good storyline are choices. Usually in a MMO quests are straightforward. There is no tension, no choice and no repercussions for your deeds. An ethical system like the one in Neverwinter Nights should fit right in. Finally, a breathtaking plot is all that's missing. Something to keep tension rising, sudden turns in storyline, unexpected ends. This is what I think a good storyline should look like.
In a nutshell - I hate them! It's a horrible thing that can be done to a game, especially when PvP is involved. In a fight the player with the higher level wins, with chances for the weaker player increasing only when the players' levels are quite close. A great alternative to this is a skill system. You fight with the sword, your sword skill increases along with your strength. You use fireballs, your fireball skill increases along with your mana, and so on.
And aren't you sick of not being able to wear that cool armor you found just because your level is not high enough or because you don't have enough strength? Well, I believe the player should be able to use any item he wants. You don't meet the requirements, then you can't use that item efficiently. For example, you find a sword and you don’t have enough sword skill to use it, so you'll get a high miss rate. The same thing with an armor that you don’t have enough strength to wear; if you still use it you will be slowed down proportionally. The thing should work the other way around, having a high enough skill allows you to use an item more efficiently than initially possible.
Using such a system makes PvP a lot more interesting. When facing an enemy for the first time you wouldn't know what to expect, the talent of combining different skills efficiently being the one that decides the winner, and with almost no limits to the combinations, the strategies that can be applied are endless.
Clearly, point & click is the most common control system used in MMOs… but unfortunately not the best. It's true that is the easiest to implement but its limitations mean that the player is also limited in play. A WASD scheme is the best option in my point of view. And it's absolutely necessary to have a jump function. I find it very interesting to be able to go anywhere you want on the map and to jump from place to place and see how high you can get. Apart from the fun part, a WASD control allows the player to have more control over the character and even duck some ranged attacks if possible.
One thing that annoys me terribly is the lack of a collision system. It's hideous to see your character passing through another, which happens mainly in cities where the player density seems to be very high. It would be more natural for characters to bump into one another and stop, although it's quite hard to implement on such a great scale and it would make travelling through cities awkward... but hey, this happens in real life too!
To be honest... I don't really care about graphics. After a long gamer experience I have come to realize that some fancy graphics and effects don't always make a good game. Actually, when a producer tries his best to make a game look good, he tends to forget about other important stuff so many times a nice looking but poor quality game hits the market. I would prefer anytime a game with medium or lower graphic but good in other aspects than one that is visually appealing but it's boring.
If I had to choose a graphic style I would have to chose between the cartoonish style of World of Warcraft and anime. By anime I don't mean the crappy little kids with big heads that show up in most games that brag about having "anime graphics". What I really mean is those serious cool looking characters from shows like Dragon Ball Z or Bleach, that really look like they're going to kick ass and not like they're going to play hide and seek in the back yard. Of course this is all for nothing if the graphics don't match the setting. It has to be a harmony between the effects and colours used and the places the developers are trying to represent.
This is where the word ideal reaches it's limit as "ideal" and "payment" are two words that can hardly be put together in the same sentence. But if I am to think of something, I believe a mixed system would be the best solution. There should be an item shop for those who are not willing to regularly pay for their game or don’t have the money. This is the usual system, you buy virtual coins with real money and then you spend them on items in the shop.
But there might be another option for those who want to pay for a subscription. In exchange for the 15$ paid every month, the player gets a certain amount of coins with which he can also buy items from the shop, or even better, may use the gold earned in-game in order to buy those items. This way, a producer can please both sides – those who want a subscription and those who prefer an item mall. I for one, prefer my games as free as possible though...
Well, this is what makes me decide whether I want to continue playing a game or not. It's made of all the things mentioned above and a few other small details. One of them is the setting. I don't know about you but I'm sick of all those games with martial arts that take place in ancient China and most of the other fantasy settings. I would rather play a science-fiction game or a post-apocalyptic one and even one placed in an alternative-universe... the more diverse, the better.
And thus we get to our next small detail: diversity. There are many MMOs where you have to face the same enemy again and again, but with a different name and colour and even worse, placed in almost the same setting, with nothing but a few changes. In order to keep the player interested the settings and things he encounters have to be as varied as possible, you must not let him get bored and always bring something new ahead of him. One final touch may be given by the community. I know it's not up to the producers to have a noob-friendly community but one can make a big difference by constantly drawing new players into the game-world.
Well, these are the things I consider an MMO should have in order to consider it perfect. Of course this in only a little part of all the aspects of an online game, just a few that I considered to be most important. Bur remember, all this was from my point of view. Do you think there are other things that would make a game perfect? Is there anything you disagree with? Feel free to express your ideas and opinions in the comments section below! Until next time, I wish you good luck!
Written by Sicaru Adrian for MMORPG Gate
The Perfect MMO - a point of view