Next MMO Generation: Feature set

After recently starting, and then shelving SW:TOR, I’ve come to realize that the current MMO model just can’t hold my interest. It doesn’t matter if it involves elves or dwarves, space, or superheroes, as a player I’m tired of the treadmill and things that remind me of that gamestyle.

So rather than bitch about what is wrong, i thought I’d ask what other people would like to see in the next generation MMO? Maybe everything is awesome today, and I’m the one who is out of touch…

Personally, some of the things I’d like to see:

Smaller MMO: I don’t interact with 10,000 people on my server. They make me queue, they compete for my resources and quests, they offer me little in the way of gameplay. I’d rather just have 500 people that I have real meaningful interactions with.

More server choice: PVE? RP? Is that the really the extent of choice? Why can’t there be a children/family servers, local servers, servers with specific rulesets(ie permadeath, competitive or time-limited(ie max 8 hours a week))? Ask me what kind of game i want to play, and give me the environment to play that game…

No disneyland: Sorry, i hate disneyland. I don’t want to experience the exact same thing everyone else has. I don’t want to stand in a line and ride the same ride that ends the same way all the time. I want uniqueness and randomness. 10,000 people who look like me, act like me, jump like me and have all my equipment? No thanks. How about, i just got this purple item and it’s the ONLY one like it. The ONLY one. I found it and it’s the only one of its kind on the server.

Win condition: The game doesnt last forever. Maybe ‘the world’ lasts 100 days, and the server is seeing who can be king in that 100 days. Maybe it’s who uncovers the sacred unique item. Or maybe it’s who gets the most gold. Or maybe it’s all that, rolled into a scoring mechanism and at the end of the 100 days of my artificial life, i get to see who won and how i did. And then, i try it again…

Classless: I hate classes. Want to be a battlemage? Study armor and magic. Want to be a bush wizard? Nature magic and wilderness skills. Rogue? Thieving and skulking. You get the point. Stop shoehorning me into some predefined role, ie: paladin. Instead, let me choose things like armor type, magic type, weapon types. Look at skyrim. Ya, the UI(particularly for the skill tree) was bad, but I could build my character any way i wanted…that is great!

More dynamic world. Part of the problem with modern MMO design stems from the fact that they need to plan to satisfy 10-20k people, all of whom might be in your zone right now, all needing 10 bear asses. Assuming every bear has but one ass, you need to have 100k bears, or, maybe 10k bears, but they pop back up as soon as you kill them. That’s just silly. I want a world that looks, feels, plays and responds like a real organic world.

I see ArcheAge. That is all.

Pretty much what you said here.

I want to mix Eve’s “Take whatever space you can” but on one planet, though limit it to two or three sides ( Horde, Alliance, Ron Paul ). Instead of just PvP it could be based on Points of Co-operation. You got with your guild and killed X, because of this you’ve won land" because of this you could get access to different buffs, or resources, or quests or any number of silly things. Make the events weekly and random. ( Kill X, deliver whatever, bribe someone, win at chess… ).

I want quests to be ‘random’ and I want to come in half way through quests with my friends. Mr Blah wanted 10 things killed and my friend’s killed 3? Sweet, I’ll help kill the other 7 and get experience for the quest as well. You’re being sent to go talk to some bloke in another area? Cool dude I’ll go on a run with you. None of this “But you haven’t heard the start of the story”, fuck it, my friend can fill me in on the way.
I’d also like to extend this with what I’ve quoted. Someone else just got all the bear asses you need Mr NPC? Great, give me something else to do.

Oh and if you’ve got a “Big Bad” make him threatening. WoW specific but Deathwing wasn’t a threat. He split the world in half, we jumped ahead a few years and everyone was just at the pub. And that was it… well… then we killed him… sort of. The point is I was never worried about him showing up and turning me into some kind of Blood Elf Toastie.

I do like the idea of “this weapon is the only weapon” though I’d probably do it through some kind of customisation rather than “you found this thing”.
Give weapons stats that could be “adjusted” through various means ( blacksmithing etc ). An example of this could be a “warrior” class who gets a sword. Does that player want a more pointed end for stabbing? A serated edge to cause more bleed damage? Make it cost money to alter this stuff, or special training ( not so you can’t use a curved weapon if you don’t have curved weapon training, but so you’d not be as proficient ).

Let me have fun. This is another WoW one. With the introduction of transmorgraaiosdoation you can make a weapon/clothing look like a different weapon/clothing. The issue is that Blizzard had rules about it. Can’t turn a dagger into a fish, can’t have a warrior in cloth. Don’t give me a racetrack and tell me I have to drive the speedlimit.

I’m sure there’s more but this will do for now.

The thing that’s killed MMOs for me, and I’m quite sure I’ll be in the minority, is the fact that they are too easy and don’t require good cooperative play.

Hate to keep going back to EQ1, but before Sony got a hold if it, that game was brutal. You lost exp when you died, you could even lose a level, and gaining exp was no easy matter. The game also required you to group for everything, and not only that, the people in your group had to play well or you were going to probably die. Add to that you’d piss off everyone else in the zone as you’d probably create a train.

Viewed by todays standards, people say ‘well, no one would put up with that now’. What that set of circumstances did create, was an actual MMO, instead of a massive single player game. You knew pretty much everyone on your server, and had probably grouped with them, or at least had some kind of run in with them. This created a really dynamic, and often contentious community, but it was exciting (magic word).

The other thing the difficulty did was also to create excitement. In todays MMOs there is virtually no death penalty. In EQ if you died, not only did you lose a painful amount of progression and exp, you also lost all your gear, and had to get back to your body to recover it. Once again, this forced you to cooperate and enlist the help of other players. Some very strong bonds were formed by that game because of the difficulty. All of this made fights very tense and created a real sense of fear, caution, and once again, excitement.

I will, until my dying day, never forget exploring Lower Guk. We were the first party on the server to even find the place, and there was literally nothing on the web about it. The sense of danger and dread trying to learn that new content, in our crap gear, has never been matched by even a fractional percent by another MMO.

TLDR: What’s missing from MMOs? Real danger, real penalties for failure, and an environment that forces interaction with other players.

I have not a complete trought of this. Only “ideas” floating in my head.

Heres some min-dump of that (sorry!).

[datapoint 1] It seems that the dikumud formula is not very flexible, and is flawed. Players are push to more and more power and then presented a precipice and asked to jump and reroll. Because you can’t pressent “even bigger blades” against “even bigger baddiers”. And if you can, players will not follow because will present “mmo fatigue”.

[datapoint 2] What people really want? the perfect themepark?, adventure?, a wallet garden?, to feel again something like the first kiss/first mmo?. Some of these things are possible, other not. Perhaps some people want some things, and others completelly and incompatible ones.

[datapoint 3] The dikumud formula support even more patching. I like how terraria separate characters and servers, allowing fresh worlds to be visited by old players, or new players in old world. OGame also used to release new world periodically,as the old ones where too mature for new players. At some points SWTOR make you want to quicksave.

[datapoint 4] Would people accept alternatives to the dikimud formula? these alternatives exist?

[datapoint 5] Perhaps start programming these games with document-centric databases and prototype based languages. As oposed relational databases and class based languages. Most MMO translate to the quests structure the limitations of a relational database, and to UI and gameplay the limits of a class based OOP language.

What MMOs seem to have turned into is solo games with multiplayer lobbies and a multiplayer option, where the sense of a virtual world is more or less vestigial.

This seems to be the result of a combination of two things: the older MMO players getting jobs, family, etc., and having less time to live and breathe in virtual worlds, and the younger players inheriting and getting used to, and therefore demanding, ever “poorer” MMO design (Bartle article, which is amazingly prophetic) that’s more and more similar to normal multiplayer games you can jump into and out of easily.

Who does have time to invest in full-on virtual worlds these days? Not me. Some EVE Online players, perhaps? But even the “hardcore” EVE players seem to be a relative minority in EVE.

The only way I see for the “true” MMO idea to survive is through something like NWN’s Permanent Worlds, but scaled up a bit. A “server” in such an MMO would be something a fair bit bigger than a NWN PW, and more professionally run, with more intensive GM-ing (with the GM-ing as part of the service you pay for) - but with a similar flavour of intimacy and camaraderie.

Which is why I’m wondering if Cryptic may surprise us yet with their take on NWN, as they’ve expressed great respect for the NWN1 & 2 idea, and they’ve got quite some experience in UGC now.

In fact, isn’t that another way to look at it? Isn’t a “sandbox” game literally UGC? I think there’s a bit of conceptual re-jiggery has to happen, to the exent that players are given more sophisticated tools to “affect the gameworld”. Not just that they’re given “sand”, but also some tools to make their own themepark rides for each other.

(Imagine you could, within certain restrictions to prevent griefing, build the type of cave dungeon you would get in the older type of open world MMO, that travellers could just wander across, not knowing what it contains. Perhaps you have a “lease” to that particular dungeon for a while, then another player could “lease” it with a different adventure later, so that wandering travellers would never come across the same adventure twice - summat like that anyway.)

One point re. the OP though - isn’t the problem with the “no restrictions” type of classless, or skill-based system, that people are such lemmings that everyone would just roll the OP combination? Especially if some degree of “realism” is aimed at. e.g. if heavy armor gives better protection than light, at not too great a cost in mobility (which is in fact how it was - the notion of heavy armour reducing agility is a bit of a myth), wouldn’t everyone just roll a character with heavy armor? Again, IRL, as soon as guns developed to a certain level, axes and swords became obsolete.

I simply will not play any MMO that has more than one live server/world. I am just so tired of playing a game only to find some people I want to play with (at a new job, a message forum, a blog, whatever) are on a different server and either I need to start over or pay to move.

To that ends, I don’t mind instancing, even instancing cities. I know some people hate it and want open seamless worlds where they never hit a loading screen, but that is far less important to me than being able to play with the people I want to play with. Most recently, SWTOR, which I wasn’t going to play at all until some friends talked it up enough, and now I’m not playing because I have a half dozen or so circles of friends playing, all of whom I’d like to play with, on different servers - so now I have to choose, or play on a bunch of servers. That I can’t play with all my friends using a single character is enough that SWTOR will never get a dime from me.

I’d love to see a true player run economy. It was one of the things that SWG really did right back in the beginning. If a player wants to devote themselves to being a pure crafter, let them do it! Hire other players to gather resources, craft the highest quality weapons/armor/houses/doodads and build a reputation and clientele.

I like nooteh’s idea on modding items and think it would mesh well with this. Want that sword changed up? Take it to a player swordsmith. Need that Leather armor to give resists rather than bonus stats? Take it to that master leatherworker.

I don’t want to change the world.

I’m not looking for a new England.

I’m just looking for an MMO. Lookin’ for an MMO. Lookin’ for an MMO…

Sorry. Couldn’t be helped. Mainly because Gurugeorge stole my best lines. :) That’s the page I’m on. UGC. You get dynamism and replayability (unlike static PvE where things get dull after one play through - though I’ll admit I don’t understand raid mindset at all). You can define your own peer group, territory, and who can impact it (unlike PvP where that’s imposed on you via conflict).

I’ve even been pointing back to NWN/NWN2 persistent worlds in some chats the other day with an industry guy I play with sometimes in SWTOR. He seems convinced it will never work in an MMO, that live RP model with player GMs entertaining their friends on a consistent basis. But he hadn’t played SWG when it had Storyteller which was esentially a hack that allowed just this approach. Players used the hell out of it even though it didn’t give them any in-game rewards (unlike Architect or Foundry) and actually cost them credits to use. And we’ve seen NWN persistent worlds that have gone on for many years so there’s something going on here.

This. There is a dichotomy between the ever declining minority of people who want a more “hardcore” experience and the rest of us who don’t. Hardcore in the MMO sense usually means a throwback to the original EQ ruleset - forced grouping, harsh death penalties, etc. People in that subset usually have friends that they play with, so they want the “we” experience emphasized. I don’t have such a group, so I hate it when these games expect that I do. WoW succeeded in large part because it was the first of this generation that didn’t have such an expectation (Ultima Online also didn’t, but that line of game development is dead).

If we’re sticking with the “massively multiplayer” aspect, the game must be friendly to those of us who mostly play alone. That does tend to limit the dynamic potential of the world, but that’s where I think the Neverwinter Nights model is better anyway. Smaller worlds tailored to specific interests, with dozens of people playing instead of thousands.

I want an MMO where the main focus is exploration and building. There can be combat, but that isn’t the point of the MMO. One MMO idea (to simplify it greatly) I have is where the players form nations, building towns, cities, roads, ports, manufacturing centers and all that. Each nation can either ally or declare war.

These nations use NPC armies to fight which are a huge investment. Dead soldiers do not respawn so a failed attack will be a costly affair and you just can’t attack again next week.

The world is huge, ideally infinitely big although that may not be practically possible. I do have a solution to the problem of when one nation becomes unchangeable, which basically ends up with the eventual destruction of the world, but that would get into the deeper story of the game.

Another MMO idea I have is a FPS based MMO vaguely similar to planetside. Unlike Planetside, a single faction can win and the design promotes this. It also makes it important to take and hold territory as well as fix and maintain it. IE: You take out a fort somewhere and it will remain destroyed until players fix it. Once a faction wins, the world is randomized to some degree and they start over.

More persistance in regular multiplayer games. Imagine a game with L4D-style mechanics and games, but set on a fleet that engages in regular missions (think Space Hulk or Aliens) with an overall objective for your faction that you can help achieve with your friends without going through the bullshit treadmill and theme park world of normal MMOs.

Ultimately most of us don’t really want to interact with hoi polloi, and we’d much rather play with our friends.

Interesting topic and one my previous boss and I have continually discussed over the years (his office is still next to mine, although he isn’t my boss anymore). In the old days, we used to call each other at 2am back in the mid-late 90s to help each other “recover” our equipment after a bad UO or Diablo run, haha.

One of our popular conversations is, “When I hit the $100 million lottery this week, this is the MMO I will build with it.” Although, not sure that is enough money any more!

Here are some of the features from various games that we enjoyed:

Ultima Online: A skill system that allowed you to train and craft a character how you wanted, without levels and pre-defined classes that limited you. A living world that allowed you to mine/harvest materials, then craft useful items out of them. It felt like you were really making a name/craft for yourself since you were actually building the skills by continually using them. Also, Treasure Maps! Those things were awesome and wish a MMO would do them as random loot again someday, with crude, non-exact, maps that you would use to try to find the treasure. Perpetuum actually had a decent alternative to this that was fun.

Everquest: The difficulty did bring the community together, sometimes for good and sometimes bad, but almost always remember able. It isn’t by chance that most likely the top 90% of my MMO memories are from Everquest and the difficulties and challenges we overcame. A lot of that was probably the way our guild approached the game, and the fun we had together. Also, the newness and it being the first of its kind for many of us influences the strong memories I am sure. The early days of playing we didn’t know anything about min-maxing classes or equipment and played for ages without even knowing what an Enchanter could do. However, we still had a blast working our way though encounters and dungeons with the tools we had. Today it seems to be more about rushing to end game, running instances to get the best loot in the fastest most optimized fashion and not sure I like that as much. I would really like to be able to take any level and quantity of people that I want into a dungeon again and not have to leave people out because only 4 or 5 or 6 can enter at a time together. Who cares if I want to 20-man a 10-man dungeon? I want to be able to do that and have fun with my non-optimized group of friends like I used to back in the EQ days and still have a chance to succeed.

Horizons: While the game was strangely barren in many areas, I really liked the way you manually mined the ore and stone and built your house from the ground up. It was sort of boring as heck, but the idea of building your own house/towns that way was always interesting to me. I think Age of Conan also had something similar where you built up your own city in a similar way. Giving a guild something like this to band together and work together toward a common goal is something I am looking for here. If you are going to grind gathering and crafting to gain skill, may as well have a way to use them as a guild to build something. You could also take this further like Shadowbane did it where you could use them to build up/repair your town after assault by another (or even NPC invasions; that would be cool). Imagine a Shadowbane with random Rift style invasions where nearby cities could/would fight together to protect the cities from the invasions, then go back to fighting each other in between.

Everquest 2: I really like the way they did their mentoring. If a game is going to be a level focused MMO, being able to mentor down to any level group mate to adventure with them was very cool. I much prefer that to mentoring up (like CoH used to) as there the lower level is being thrust to content they aren’t ready for, and thus missing out on their normal content progression. Everquest 2 did this very well.

DAoC: Persistent Realm style PvP. I still think they have done this better than anyone so far. The three sides are very important and not being able to converse with/understand the other side was a welcome feature. I think Warhammer Online missed the boat in that there weren’t 3 sides and you didn’t actually “own” any of the contested areas. In DAoC, you felt like your own realm was more important and were more likely to protect it as a community. In Warhammer, it seemed like they were just keeps/castles to take, and who really cared who owned what? One keep was really no different from the others strategically, that I recall. The keep fights were really fun, though. Also, while I realize that having points as rewards is important for many, encouraging groups to specialize and go off on their own (like the old 8-mans in DAoC here) to maximize Realm Point gain detracts from the immersion I would like to get in a realm combat game. I would rather rewards be based on what your realm as a team accomplishes, not that so and so went solo and AoEd the entire enemy team to maximize his/her realm points. Build a system to encourage community and teamwork in a realm style war game and that would be a good start.

Rift: For PvE, the rift style invasions are very well done. Some sort of similar dynamic content is very helpful in some format to keep things unpredictable and fresh. It is the first time in a long time that I see strangers commonly helping each other out and banding together to fight for the same cause.

Anyway, these are random ideas that don’t necessarily work well in the same game. But, they are features that I really enjoyed over the years and think can still have some merit if implemented well in a modern MMO.

I’m more into virtual worlds than themeparks but I’d settle for just different mechanics at this point. No Holy Trinity. No same old aggro management group play. I also miss UO/SWG where I could actually be a crafter, rather than every character being a grandmaster smith/alchemist/whatever.

These big budget games that are trying to rival WoW just don’t cut it for me, as the Bartle article predicted. I want smaller scale, smaller budget online games that can afford to target niches and try new things. Salem is on my radar for that reason, but we’ll see.

Most of all I just want to be challenged again. Its impossible to fail in many games today and while that reduces frustration, it also reduces the chance to rise to the next level and overcome challenges, leaving these games very bland/vanilla/unmemorable.

What the…this actually has me curious. Must go find more information! The music and general looks definitely have me interested though.

I am no great armchair designer, but I agree with the general sentiment here that I’ve just become fed up with the same old theme park design and empty mechanics.

If I were to ever consider the time and money investment of an mmo again it would really have to be something dynamic to make me feel invested in it and unique enough that I wouldn’t feel like I’d just crapped away dozens of hours of my time for the same exact experience everyone else is having.

One of the things I really enjoyed about A Tale in the Desert is that it does have many of these ideas, even still. In part this is because it is a smaller game run by an indie company so for instance it makes sense that everyone is on the same server. But they have also been building in ideas concerning requiring cooperative play, skill-based play rather than “classes”, end games, persistence and dynamism as the devs roll out new stuff, etc.

I’d love to see something along the lines of what several of you have already explored. I’d like to have a really huge world. Instead of servers being separate shards of the same (small) world, have one huge world where each “server” (I know a server isn’t a single machine; I mean the resources normally associated with a single shard or world-instance) is instead dedicated to a geographic portion of the world - a continent perhaps, or kingdom. A single character should probably never see the entirety of the world (unless they specifically set out to be a world explorer type of adventurer).

PCs set out to be “local heroes” instead of “world heroes”. In other words, you may be Beowulf and gain reknown in the Norse kingdoms (your locally geographic area and players), but no one in China has a clue who you are or what a Grendel is. They’ve got their own monsters, problems, kingdoms and wars, and PC heroes making names for themselves. Perhaps PC and NPC bards carry tales of adventurers from neighboring kingdoms. Word of particularly nasty PC or NPC bandits spreads and provide incentive for enterprising and bold heroes to travel outside of their local area.

Perhaps time advances in a quicker fashion. What if 1 year in-game was a lifetime for in-game characters (or a career-time). You can continue to play as the children of your previous character. This allows time for wars, political intrigues, etc to play out, without the majority of characters reaching deity-killing levels then sitting around wondering what to do.

Perhaps each kingdom/continent/area/“server” has a GM or GM and helpers who can plan or kick off things like monster incursions that need to be dealt with, or kingdoms heading to war, or caravans that need protecting, or whatever. Goblin tribes unite and become a threat and must be swept away or into their caves in the dangerous wilds to be dealt with by another generation after they grow in numbers again. Players aren’t locked to a single “server” or area, they are free to move between but it takes time and effort.

Perhaps many players act as mercenaries and hire themselves out (or guilds == mercenary groups, like the Black Company) to whichever king can pay the most.

Magic is rarer than in most games, and true power requires true devotion. Perhaps cold-based spells are only taught by eldritch masters in the snowy wastes far away. If you want to learn them you will have to undertake a perilous journey and spend a lot of time under their tutelage. Perhaps you need to hire some bodyguards (PC or NPC) to ensure you arrive safely.

Crafters are true artisans. The best arms and armor crafters are known for their high quality. There is a high demand for such goods in the neighboring kingdom, which is on the brink of civil war. There are many mercenary companies in need of a good armorer. Instead of 1000 people running around with “Windsheer, the legendary golden sword of Vreet!”, perhaps items could have some kind of “history” page associated with them - think Baldur’s Gate item descriptions meets Dwarf Fortress lore and history. If Bob the barbarian amassed a fortune over a lifetime of looting and pillaging, and had the greatest blacksmith known to him make him the best blade possible, then lost his life foolishly attempting to slay an elder dragon in its underground lair, that sword has all that history attached to it and sits there waiting until someone powerful enough to defeat the dragon comes along and claims it, adding their bit of history to it. Later they pass it on to their heir, and it becomes legendary of its own accord.

I have no idea if such a game is possible (probably not), and it wouldn’t include any voice acting (since the gameplay is largely emergent), but I bet $300 million could probably get close to it.

I miss the sense of community from Dark Age of Camelot where you’d hear that your relic was being attacked and start the hard ride to the frontier from Gna Faste, but not before running to Spindelhalla to spread the word to players in side that may not have heard. Then rushing out to help defend, even though you weren’t even max level, because it mattered. Each expansion weakened this sense of community because the same number of people were spread out among so many more places. Atlantis really made it worse because the gear power creep was so great that it ended up shutting out lower level players from frontier PVP entirely.


So making a good mmo is a solved problem.

Daoc, planetside… the problem is getting these formulas updated.

Solved for you. Lots of players aren’t remotely interested in that.

We need more variety somehow. An MMO you’d like for your niche. An MMO I’d like for my niche.