Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Design Dilemma: What is the MMO industry doing?

Hi everyone,

Today's post is about the current MMO industry, their successes, and their failures.
Going to start this off with a little rant about game mechanics and content design, or lack thereof.

The recent games have been well, pitiful. They entirely focus around leveling, without giving a real purpose for it. In many of the first MMO's, gaining a level meant getting these lovely things called "stat points" to distribute into your stats in any way you choose. Giving you the freedom to design your character a build, and gives you a purpose of getting the next level. Now fast forward to current MMO's. The only purpose of leveling, since almost all of these games have no significant stat system, is to be able to equip the next set of gear. What a privilege, except for the fact that everyone else is aiming for the same thing, and in the end you're all just clones.

Which takes me to my next point: character development. I don't understand both the current new gen MMO players, or the new MMO developers. They seem to enjoy creating/playing games with no actual purpose other than a massive time sink. What happened to having pride in the fact that you were smarter with your build, your skills, or combination of the two. Now the common theme seems to be finding the best gear possible through hours and hours of farming, to prove you're "superior". To me, the difference between superior and inferior in an MMO is that what your character does, no one else can do, or will be able to do. Not, what your character does everyone else's will do in 2 months. Time should not differentiate good from bad. It should to an extent, but not as a sole factor.

Another point to rant about, is originality. I understand making monster sprites is not "easy", but if you're going to go through 3-4 years of developing a game, at least try. Having 15 monsters use the same sprite, and just naming them "Angry Bear", "Black Bear", "Young Bear"... shows a lack of attention to detail. In order to fully submerse a player into your world, you need to address small issues like that.

However, with that thought, comes the opposite rant. I do not want a company to spend 3 years designing every inch of each piece of armor sprite wise, just so I can look pretty in it. Its not like my gear will change everyday, and after 5 minutes of staring it, my eyes will phase out what it even looks like. So if you have extra time for your graphic artists, sure, make they all pretty, but it should not deter ANY time from the game content design, as it serves no real purpose to the gamer.

My last rant point is about content and PVP systems. If you're going to develop a game, at least give things for the players to do, other than quests to kill X monsters, or go walking for 10 minutes. Create new tasks, such as how crafting was introduced during 2nd generation MMOs. Or mini games, or politics, or exploring. Give them something, but make sure it still relates to the game and has a purpose for the core of the game. People don't play mini games just for the sake of playing mini games - give them a purpose. More devs need to use that little thing called creativity, something I thought game designers would be ripe with, but apparently not of late. A good option for this is generally organized PVP of some sort, or even better yet Party vs Party, or Guild vs Guild. I don't mean the open PVP style either, that's fine and dandy, but its very difficult to make it enjoyable for all periods, for long lengths of time - most of the time its just annoying. More people need to study Guilds Wars system for Guild vs Guild: there is lots of variation, competition, and tons of strategical skill required. Make it about more than just who has the highest level characters.

note: I am very critical on the stat and character development systems, as these are the core of any game and directly effect every other feature of the game.

Taking a little of this advice, I think most MMO's can be highly successful. However, fail on even one of these major categories, and you might have a flop on your hands. The market is very picky, if you don't make it perfect, why would they pay for it?



mmorpg reviews said...

The design industry is decent. its not easy to code

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