Last week, I offhandedly mentioned an “Ultimate MMOG Check-List,” and while we may be a week late for Christmas, I think the season’s still appropriate for a belated holiday wish list, don’t you?
I certainly understand that variety is the spice of life and that having MMOGs that cater to a bunch of different playstyles is a good thing. We have WoW, but we need LotRO, EVE Online and Champions, too. The things that make my ideal MMOG, however,may not be the things that make your ideal MMOG – but hey, that’s why it’s a personal wish list of “things that I want to see more MMOGs do.”
Smooth and Natural Animations: Your game can have the most beautiful graphics in the world, but if the animations aren’t up to par, the world just won’t connect with me – you know, the sort where you’re running to the side, but your torso is awkwardly facing forward. WoW‘s graphics may be aging, but the game’s animations are still fluid and natural.
Smooth Ability Execution: Kind of related to the above point – if I hit a button to do an attack, it should start executing that ability immediately. Combat in Warhammer Online felt so disjointed simply because there was a good second or two in between the command to perform a skill and the skill actually going off. There’s no way to compensate for the actual lag on the servers, true, but I should see it happening instantly on the client-side.
Awesome Boss Battle Music: Yeah, I already covered this one.
Soloable: Yes, it’s an MMOG. Yes, you play with other people. I do like large group-based content, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want to be forced to sit around in town with a thumb up my ass for an hour if I can’t find a party for whatever reason. If I can’t get a group (or don’t feel like playing in a group,) I should be able to go off and advance by myself without running into a wall of murlocs (or Crab Norris, for that matter.)
Optional PvP: I’m really more of a “cooperative” guy than a “competitive” one, and, more often than not, I prefer working together to fight the AI to stomping some poor sap’s face in PvP. But face-stomping has its place, and I have my PvP moods. It should be there; I should have the option to partake in it. Those who do PvP should be rewarded, but I shouldn’t be penalized for not wanting to be jumped out of nowhere by a pair of Undead Rogues for half an hour. And that brings me to…
Little-to-No Death Penalty: People crow that a stiff death penalty (experience, item loss) makes for a more challenging game. No, it doesn’t – it just makes for a more punishing one. Increasing the amount of time not playing the game because you’re waiting for your stats to go up from Resurrection Sickness or what have you, is a bad idea.
A Sense of Humor: I like a good epic story, and I want to feel like I’m in the middle of something grand, but a game should never be afraid to poke fun at itself, or at the conventions of the genre. It’s not an MMOG, but I cracked a smile at the beginning of Dragon Age, when, upon clearing a larder of giant rats, my companion remarked that it felt like the beginning of every old adventure tale he’d ever heard. Little jokes like that can go a long way.
A Top-Down Game: There are two schools of thought when it comes to content in MMOGs: There’s the “top-down” school, which suggests that the content should be largely created by the designers – you’ll be playing a very heavily-designed game – and then there’s the “bottom-up” school, in which the designer leaves a world for the players to create themselves (WoW vs EVE, essentially.) Between the two extremes, I lean towards the top-down end of the spectrum, since the developers tend to know what they’re doing a bit more, but that doesn’t mean that the game should be without…
User-Created Areas: It could be houses to decorate. It could be shops to set up. It could be entire towns, a la Star Wars Galaxies. But providing the player space to design is something woefully overlooked in MMOGs.
Cosmetic Gear: I was first introduced to the idea of a cosmetic set of gear in LotRO, but I still think it’s brilliant. We all know the pain of getting a shiny new piece of equipment only to find out that it either ruins the aesthetic of a cohesive set, or it just looks ugly all on its own. It’s got better stats, though, so you can’t turn it down , and must pay the ultimate fashion price. Giving players two sets of gear to wear, one for looks and one for stats, is just a no-brainer.
Giant Robots: Covered this one already, too.
The number one thing any new MMOG needs to do, of course, is “Launch a finished product.” With millions of lines of code and a huge world, it’s only natural that there will be some bugs, and that’s okay. But if some aspects of the game blatantly don’t work, they shouldn’t go live. Dealing with server issues and growing pains is one thing, releasing an unfinished game is another issue entirely.
I think that’s a fairly simple and reasonable list. So why don’t more MMOGs do these things?
Ah, well. We can still hope for The Old Republic, or whatever Blizzard’s working on in its secret laboratory.
John Funk would kill a man in Reno, just to watch him die. And to get cosmetic gear in WoW – that too.