Gaming My Way

24 Sep

What I Would Like to See in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game

Note I left roleplaying out of the title of this article. We have enough online rpgs to last a lifetime, unless a new one comes along that is substantially different from the current hackfests infesting the genre. And yes, I’m sick of the genre again, and likely will be for awhile. That’s the motivation for writing this post.

First off, no leveling up. This will kill a huge time sink of the online game genre, and let everyone get into the meat of the game quickly. This will have an added benefit of making it much harder for hackers to gain an advantage over everyone else.

Next, I want something with a little more reflexive skill and less auto targeting and trading of blows until one side of the other goes down. Think platformers, except with lots of people able to interact. Perhaps something like the playstyle of Super Mario Galaxy to start. Then don’t have a central hub. Rather, have all the levels laid out in a giant world, and towns interspersed every so often that serve as places to save and teleport back to. Then allow thousands or millions of people to play together, and provide meaningful ways for them to be able to work together to get through the challenges the game presents. Just a rough idea, but it would be far, far different from any online experience I’ve come across.

Perhaps there can be an upgrade system, but it should allow for meaningful rewards, and everyone should eventually be able to access all of the upgrades without sinking well over a year of play into the game like many online games require these days. They don’t all have to be usable at once, but they should be accessible. The kinds of upgrades I have in mind are things like boots to provide a double jump to reach new areas and provide extra maneuverability, or armor to take half damage from enemies and similar kinds of things. A sword could allow for dealing double damage, while a wand could provide a magical ranged attack. Maybe half, or a quarter even, of all possible upgrades could be in use at any given time.

No money though. Upgrades would be found via exploration or boss battles, and can always be picked up the first time you go through the area that has it. This makes upgrades simple to obtain, assuming you have the ability to get to the area it’s in or defeat the boss who has it. None of this .01% chance to drop that gets frustrating in online rpgs. An added benefit of the lack of money is the lack of an in game economy that can be ruined by gold sellers.

Cooperative play could be rewarded by alternate paths being used to get to a destination. All major destinations should be reachable regardless of play style, but having alternate paths for those who are playing together in a group seems like it would be a great way to cater to both playstyles. And perhaps there could be some solo only paths so our solo friends don’t get left out in the cold for unique content.

I mentioned using towns as save points and teleporters earlier. This would allow people to backtrack and move forward as necessary to as far as they’ve progressed. Experienced players could help guide newbies through rough spots, and it wouldn’t be an issue, since even with possible upgrades, the game is still dependent on the reflexive skills of those playing. Experienced players could be guides, but newbie players would still need to be able to navigate through areas on their own. Sure, the older players could help with clearing out possible enemies, but that won’t help with navigating lava pits, volcanic bursts and the like.

In order to prevent lookalike characters, a robust character generator could be provided to allow players to customize their look. This would be one way to allow some personalization while keeping everyone on equal footing.

In other cosmetic areas, there would naturally be lots of options for online chat. Most online games have this down pretty well, so there isn’t much that really needs to be said here. Less obvious features of said chat, which aren’t always implemented but should be, include the ability to ignore certain chat channels, such as shout or general, as the player desires, as well as ignore specific players. Just makes life more pleasant when spam is abundant in online games.

There would most certainly need to be bosses, or similar kinds of giant battles. The kind from the old days, where you squared off against Robotnik’s crazy contraptions, or the crazy robot designs from Megaman. None of this I brought a big group with high stats, so I win malarkey. Reflexes required for victory. Perhaps some pattern memorization as well. Now, I’m not suggesting this game have a through the roof difficulty like Ninja Gaiden or Super Ghouls and Ghosts, just that it require some reflex tests to get through it.

Naturally, a game like this comes with the issue that eventually, people stop playing because it’s over. Of course, if it’s designed well, people will play through it a few times, and if there’s enough to do, it will last quite awhile. Still, people will eventually finish the game and move on. This won’t be able to cash in on monthly subscriptions like WoW or Everquest, and frankly, I don’t want that to happen anyway. I’d much rather see it earn money through sales of the game itself, the way Guild Wars did.

Of course, as long as the original game is high quality, new content could still be added. Patches are certainly a possible way to add new areas and new bosses, as are expansion packs. These could both extend the life of the game by a fair amount, the way they do for online rpgs.

In essence, I’m asking for a massively multiplayer game that is designed much closer to a single player game that also has a coop mode, then scaling it to make it work for a large number of people playing at once in separate parts of the game. Or if not that, since that is likely a very inefficient way of doing it, then a game that just feels like an old school cooperative platformer while being a massive online game.

Now, obviously this is a rough sketch of an idea, and not fully fleshed out. Still, it would be a step in the right direction for online games, and provide a social online experience I’d be much more likely to buy into than what’s currently offered.


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3 Responses to “What I Would Like to See in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game”

  1. 1
    Tim Says:

    Eve-Online has managed a couple of the things you bring up here. The one I think they’ve done best is the chat system, controlling who you are talking to or listening to is extremely simple and straight forward.

    The second item is less centralization. Eve doesn’t officially have any central hubs (Though players have managed to turn certain areas into trade hubs).

    Eve also seems to have mastered a method of expanding content. A portion of each expansion to Eve has been available for new players.

    Now I agree that subscriptions are generally just a cash cow for most MMOs but you might want to consider that the subscription money pays for more than just keeping the servers up. Most of the good MMOs have payed GMs and maintain staff in other customer service areas than billing. And in the case of some MMOs (Like Eve, though I’m sure there are others) the subscriptions pay for the costs of content development. It actually bothers me that Wow charges a subscription and charges $30+ for expansions.

    I see two kinds of obstacle to the game concept you outline: Technological and Social. The tech side of things will practically solve itself soon enough, the number of players in FPS matches has been growing steadily for years. It will take longer for people (Publishers and other money people mostly I think) to accept the idea of a game like this without trying to make it into the same sort of cash cow as so many other games.

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