Thursday, August 16, 2012

Top Qualities That Make A Great MMO

I have played numerous amounts of Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) from social to hack-n-slash and even though there were some that did their best to come close to a perfect MMO, they each there a faults.  Drawing from my experience, I’ve come up with a list of qualities that will make an amazing MMO.

1.       Character Customization
Detailed Character Cutimization
 It can’t be left unsaid that no one wants to look like the character next to them, so having the ability to create a unique avatar that embodies the player in a virtual reality brings out a freedom that players easily embrace and encourage. It is true that games like Skyrim require a huge amount of memory to allow players to have freedom to change even the smallest features like the shape of a nose or face, but this comes with a benefit. Unique customization appeal to players innate inclination for self expression which always gets positive commentary.

2.       No Lame Quests
There is nothing I hate more than quests that make no sense. Following wolves, feeding cows or solo quests is redundant, frustrating, and boring causing a huge distaste. Quests that go with a story or deviate from a story involving fighting, searching, collecting, and exploring are good ideas but pushing beyond the mediocre is even better. Adding twists to a quest and allowing players to make decisions that will change the outcome will make completing quests more exciting. Performing quests that involve killing 10 wolves to clear the farm seems too simple and boring. However, battling monsters to get to the top of a spiral hill to rescue a runaway orphan and safely retuning him/her is tricky, challenging, and levels player s without them knowing.

3.       Unique NPC Mechanism
Sorry Store is closed. Come back when it's open.
 I know Shenmue is not an online game, but the NPC mechanism was awesome. They weren’t just waiting around for you to come to them. Most of them time in Shenmue, if you wanted to talk to a certain NPC, you had to know their schedule and/or find them in the town. Granted, shopkeepers, merchants, and core people should be stationary, but allowing a variety of different sales people every 10 hours would be encouraging. A structure I enjoyed in Tales of Graces f and Morrowind was the reputation you have with the merchant; depending on your selling and buying habits, your reputation with a specific merchant would affect your future spending habits.  Few online games use a unique NPC mechanism that I believe would be an interesting aspect to any MMO.

4.       Awesome Armor/ Clothing Options 
Now that's a hero's outfit.
 I played Final Fantasy XI and Aion a great deal because I was working hard to obtain unique and flamboyant armor and clothing to show off. Having a full body Tier 3 outfit was once a big accomplishment in WOW. That kind of recognition sparks respect and a reputation when you’re the only one walking around with an armor you can only get through a quest that is hard or happens once a year. Also, accomplishing a certain craftsmanship level would yield a unique item based on the level. In Final Fantasy XI, if you’re cooking level was high enough you would receive a non-transferable chief’s hat. Having armor designed to impress players is a big plus. If I’m a level 80 Horde warlock, I want to look like a badass warlock with crazy shoulder blades of fire and a giant cloak that shadows my character’s face but gives it bright red glaring eyes. Let my armor glorify my effort!

5.       Secrets and Easter Eggs
I can’t say this enough; every area should be full of exploring possibilities and new findings. I played the social MMO The World based of the dothack series and even though it only ran for a couple years, there were numerous amounts of secrets that everyone was busy finding them all. There were less than 10 quests available but so many secrets that nobody complained that there weren’t enough quests. I remember finding secret areas with weird landscapes and rare items to put in my house were so exciting, I had to show off to my friends. Easter eggs and secrets build communities, so pump more of them into MMOs!

6.       Breathtaking Landscapes/Great Graphics  
Look Ma! I can see the sunset from inside my game!
When I first started Final Fantasy XI, I was a super noob. I didn’t know anything at all, but I befriended a small paladin Tarutaru who took me through the most exotic and beautiful places in the game. They were hour long travels we had to take to get to these places, but they were all worth the dying, running, and aggravation. The bond that resulted was one that I treasure to this day. The effort that is taken in making games look amazing never goes to waste. There are players that truly appreciate the work developers put into when creating a world that is vast and beautiful.

7.       Great Sound
 It should be a no brainer, but I thought to add it anyway. There is nothing that hurts the senses more than appalling background music. If I’m in a town, I don’t want to have to either mute my speaker or get out of that town ASAP. Melodramatic background music isn’t good either, even though at certain times the intensity of this music gets the player going. If you’re a level 75 Warrior in FFXI fighting an ruthless boss with 4 parties of 8 people, that music better be as epic as the moment. I personally am not big on sound effects, but if it serves a purpose to emphasize a story then by all means.

8.       Class System Alterations
It gives me such pleasure when the character’s skills I acquire are predicated on my choice. If I choose to acquire certain passive abilities that will make me a better healer or maybe a tougher healer that choice should be up to me the player. It should not be enforced because I decide to be a healer and therefore am weak and should die easily. Games like Ragnarok Online, allow players to change their stats according to their preferences. So if I want to be a healer that has a higher defense, I should have that liberty to do so. Class systems should also have the freedom to mix classes. In Final Fantasy XI, you could have a primary and secondary job; your primary job could be healer and your secondary job could be a thief. You’d then have the ability to heal and execute dodging skills that would make you a better player.

9.       Guild Houses/ Player Houses 
Now this is a house!
 Having a home for a player or guild creates a welcoming environment for players to become much more social in a game. MMOs aren’t just about battling and leveling up, they are opportunities to build friendships you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in person. Incorporating a house brings small communities of companionship together in a vast world of isolation.

10.   Stable Economy
 There is nothing I detest more than to go to an auction house with such high inflation that it ruins the experience. How can I pay for an armor that is 1 million gold and I received 32-100 from killing mobs? Economy should always fluctuate with reasonability. Having conquests, raids, and territory control are ways to fluctuate the economy. Like in Aion, if a fraction had control of more territory than another, their economy is good. Taking steps to make getting money easy for everyone speaks volumes about a game’s mechanics.

11.   Massive World No Quick Travel
I use fast travel so often in Skyrim that sometimes I wish to travel to certain areas, because I know I’m missing out on secrets in between.  I enjoy how WOW uses awesome mounts to travel from place to place, because you can see the area your passing through, but games like Aion that teleport you to places make traveling an adverse side to travel.  Forcing a player to travel by foot or use mounts is a great way to instill them to explore. Using alternative means to travel like boat, underground tunnels, and aircrafts to certain places makes an online experience so much more gripping. Allowing players to travel wherever they want to even at level 1 would be superb.

12.   Alternative Activities
Sometimes players want to take a break from working in a game. Sounds weird? It’s not. Collecting rare items, perfecting craftsmanship, exploring, acquiring knowledge about the world we’re playing in are things that should be incorporated in a game. Adding games and contests are some things that enhance a video game experience because it caters to players personal inclinations. 

13.   Special Events 
Christmas lights on trees in-game? Beautiful!
Every year in Final Fantasy XI, RIFT, Aion, and WOW, events would occur in various areas that players could then redeem one of a kind items or armor; you must complete a quest or mission to get the prize. It mostly involves having people party up to get them, but when you do everyone is super excited to repeat it with friends who don’t get it. Taking the time to design amazing events conveys to other gamers that you do care. So show some love!

14.   Player Vs Player (PVP)
There is nothing more awesome than having a close call kicking your friends’ arse in PVP. Sometimes it’s aggravating to die to someone, but for that one win it’s all worth it.

15.   Fabulous Mounts
Simply stunning mount!

 I despise riding a mount that makes me look depressed, so if I can ride around in a skeleton horse, people will think twice before messing with me. Generic horses are out. Dragons, panthers, or robotic horses are much better props.

These are all my personal preferences for a better MMO. Granted using keys like W,A,S,D while targeting with the arrow for the fighting system are expected, but what are some other ideas and insights you have and hope to see in MMOs?

Narz is long standing Sega Fan, gaming equality advocate, founder of Girl Gamer Vogue, and writer for GameTyrant. Check out more of work at Knickledger and Gametyrant.

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