Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MMORPG Flaws and Solutions

I'm sort of past my I hate World of Warcraft phase. Don't get me wrong. I still don't like it I just don't hate it. I see why people like it. Despite that I don't like what it's done to MMORPGs. Before WOW there was a period where there were a lot off MMORPGS trying to solve the problems everyone said plagued them. WOW solved some of them, but since everyone's been trying to play the lets be Blizzard game some of those flaws still exist. All of this is made worse by the fact that some of these problems were solved by other games. That died to WOW. Again I don't blame World of Warcraft for that.

I used to play a lot of MMORPGS, but lately I've been sticking to Everquest 2 and every few months poking my head back into WoW and they still have these issues. And honestly changing these would require massive overhauls to the nature of these games. Here is my list of these flaws and how I would fix them in another game.

Note: Like I said I've slacked of in how much I play other MMORPGS so I can't talk about how they handle them in WarHammer, AION, Rift, or Age of Conan. Blame the economy.

Class and Leveling
The Problem
Back in the day nobody liked how class worked. At the beginning of the game you would choose a class from 15 and that's it. That was your game role. We've come a long way, but I still think designers misunderstood the problem. I didn't not like like the class system because for 7 of the 12 classes I didn't understand what they did. I didn't like it because what is literally your first decision of the game, affects your play style, abilities, quests, weapons, and items.

You have to remember the internet was just coming out in the early days, so it's not like most players had a way of making an informed choice about it. It was mostly I want to punch dudes in face so I'm going monk. Even now with the newer games it takes a while for a player community who will catalog that sort of stuff to pop up.

I don't like how modern MMORPGs handle it either. The specialization and customization features in them solve some problems but at the end of the day what you can specialize in is still bound by what you originally chose.

Furthermore it made me feel sort of trapped. I'm the type of guy who would like to play a fighter who could maybe lob off a few low level spells when he needs to. I always felt that in a lot of ways modern MMORPGS made that problem worse. They constrained options when they should have opened them up.

Players don't want to be told by the game, hey that character you wanted to make. Yeah he can't be an elf.

How to Solve It
I have a couple of fixes for this. First off, make race cosmetic. With the exception of some games where you have flyers, most of the fantasy races in these games are already humanoid. A lot of the class locking is set in place just to balance out racial bonuses.

Second of all we really need to change the leveling system. Regular RPGs have done this quite a bit. Here are some suggestions.

Most modern single player RPGs I've played have it so that the skills and feats are still in categories but the players actions allow them to level up in each those categories. The first game I remember doing this was Dungeon Siege. You had 4 types of skills and they all leveled up based on how much you used them. So if your mage was out of mana and had to get tough he could still be a weak fighter and your fighter could use low level spells. And if you ever decided you want to take this character in a different direction you could.



As for feats and spells, simple, just use an ability tree that operated via a point system; that way players would still have to choose but again if they changed their minds they could. Even better give them the ability to at anytime change how their points are spent throughout that tech tree so at anytime If I decided that this rogue thing wasn't working out I could become a mage.



Not only that, but class as we know it would be more informal, players wouldn't be a rogue because the game said, hey you're a rogue, but because they to describe themselves to other players as a rogue. Role-playing ain't it fun.

Diversity of Quests
Problem
Back in my original Everquest days what drew me in was the idea that I was in a new world. It's the game designers job to build that world, and one of the primary ways it's revealed to players is through quests. And damn it now days we have some of the saddest excuses for quests I've ever seen. Throw magic missiles at me for saying this but this is why I prefer EQ2 to WoW. Though I still think they both have this problem Everquest is a little better, but in both my guess is 3/5 of quests wind up being kill x number of y monster.

No.

No. I know we can do better. I'll admit most of my reference points come from old games, but my reference points come from old games. Do you know how many different types of side quests Legend of Zelda Windwaker had and that game came out in 2002.

I said Eq2 was a little better but that makes it all the more infuriating, because I know the engine can do it. I know it can handle NPC conversation trees, completing a quest based on going to a location, and delivering quest items to NPCs.

Solution
Write better quests goddamn it! The reason why this one is infuriating is because it's just laze. It's like the designers went, ah nobody does quests ... except maybe for xp. At the end of the day it's a role-playing game. If the player decides to go meta, hey, that's their choice, but the designers still owe it to them not to. Otherwise the game just turns into mindlessly pressing buttons for an arbitrary and meaningless reward.

Lack of Player World Interaction
Problem
You know that thing I said about being in a world. MMORPGs don't feel like it. Why? Because the monsters I slay respawn and the quest I just did gets offered to the next guy to my right and sometimes even to me 5 minutes after I've completed it. Nothing the player does has any sort of permanence. It's hard to feel like I'm part of the band of heroes who just saved the village, when the zombie king I beheaded respawns in an hour.

Solution
Allow for player owned buildings, towns, armies and governments. Guilds are sort of this but guilds are informal. I mean a system where the game will let players build on a patch of wilderness and control certain things about it. This already done in a game called Shadowbane a while back it's dead now and I'll admit I didn't play it much because it was back in the days before I had broadband so it was laggy, but it was a great idea.



Also another game, Linage II allows for player castle sieges and taxation. It's going to be free to play soon so yeah. There goes my Friday nights.





Anyway give players that type of control would allow them make their own quests. Trust me somebody is going to want to do it, because some people prefer dming to playing.

I have a more complicated system for doing this but I'll get into it later.

Focus on Combat
Problem
When I got into MMORPGS it was a package deal. I wasn't just trying to kill monsters, but pretend I was part of another world. That has to be more than just slaying monsters. Again this is part of that whole restriction of player options I was talking about earlier, but it should be possible for players to go through the entire game without killing anything and still have fun.

Not only that, but when everybody is an adventurer it cheapens what it means to be an adventurer. Think about it like this. Imagine Fistful of Dollars.



Now imagine what if instead of frightened townsfolk San Miguel was filled with a bunch of cowboy drifters who didn't care about local politics because they would be out of town in two days anyway.

That's the cities in MMORPGs right now. All they are are places for players to gather a few supplies and and maybe sell a bit of loot before heading to the next dungeon.

It always felt to me that nobody had a real stake in what happened there, because there isn't really a reason to stick around. Who the crap cares if a dragon lit the walls of Stormwind on fire? I'm only there for about 1 hour out of 20 hours of gameplay.

Solution
A title system; give players the ability govern a town and offer bonus's to other players based on, "service to the realm" Merchant, artisan, and farmer/peasant ability sets that allow for a more robust player economy. I always hated how wow said you get two crafting/gathering abilities and that's it. It made it so if I wanted to start my own blacksmith business and just have fun doing that for a while I had to jump through a bunch of hoops. Again I sort of like EQs crafting mini-game.

Again Lineage II already did the artisan class and castle system.

Anyway that is my gripe about MMORPGs. Now I'm going to go play MineCraft and Magic the Gathering.

3 comments:

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  2. I get what you're saying about them constraining options. A little bit too much like putting you in a box and telling you to stay there. No one wants that when they are playing a game. Especially not when they are the type of person who enjoys solving problems.

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