Let’s Build an MMO, Round One

Let us pretend, for a little while, that the readers (and writer!) of this blog have all just been hired by an up-and-coming studio to develop a new MMO. You have the chance to shape it. This will happen in the comments to this and subsequent posts in the series.

The question asked in Round One is: You’re building an MMORPG. What features do you want to include?

Let’s start with a couple of core assumptions:

  • The game will be an MMORPG, not an FPS, RTS or some other kind of hybrid. Within that restriction, however, there’s no need to assume anything else; we don’t have to use third-person view, for example, or sticky targeting, even though most MMORPGs have both.
  • The genre is traditional fantasy of some flavor, just so everybody has a solid grounding in what to expect and what’s been seen before, and to insure a fecundity of ideas.
  • We assume that money is not an object, and that the game will be sustainable after launch, whatever the parameters of our design turn out to be. The object is not to think of a game that will make money, but to explore our own desires toward an MMO desgn.

The Rules
In round one, you can submit up to three things you want to see in the game. These can be mechanics, world features, gameplay elements, races, classes, combat systems or whatever you’d like. Feel free to elaborate on them, but don’t get too detailed – we’ll save that for subsequent rounds, in which we’ll dissect the things that get selected in this one.

For the purposes of our discussion, submissions will be considered canonical. If you want something enough to list it as one of your three items, it’s in… although it may not resemble what you intended when it comes out the other end of the process. But remember, you only get three, because we’re a committee.

Oh, and I’ll get picks the same as everybody else. But I’ll put mine up after some others have weighed in first; the object is not for me to shape our hypothetical design, but to see what we can come up with in collaboration.

At the end of the round (once I as moderator feel that discussion has run its course, probably a few days) I’ll assemble what we’ve decided on into the basis for round two.

Have at it!

13 responses to “Let’s Build an MMO, Round One

  1. 1) Deep and Meaningful Crafting System, 2) Interactive Combat System (i.e., not a system where you use a skill or ability and it has a cooldown, and if a hit occurs in a specific area, the target dies or is severely disabled), 3) Realistic and Player Driven Economy

  2. 1. Single Shard server. 2. Meaningful group play(incentives for grouping beyond “this is too hard or tedious to do alone”). 3. A variety of in-game player community tools(more than just a colored chat channel and nametag, things like a calender and BBS/forum)

  3. What would ‘incentives for grouping beyond “this is too hard or tedious to do alone”’ consist of? What kind of incentives would you offer other than ‘You get more XP over time doing group content than solo content’ or ‘You can’t complete this content-that-gives-good-gear solo’?

    • Things like: Not splitting xp for being in a group(as opposed to 1/6th of it in a 6 man group), Giving equal rewards to all participants of the group activity(as opposed to having one drop per mob, have one drop per player)

      ‘You can’t complete this content-that-gives-good-gear solo’ is the same as “this is too hard or tedious to do alone”, unless you mean it’s a group activity with players say, each pulling a switch at the same time. Wich is actually impossible to do solo. Such things would ideally be avoided, but could be implemented as a scaling system for dungeons or somesuch. Where in a group of 4, you all have to pull the lever at the same time, but in a solo encounter of the same dungeon, the lever is either not involved, or takes a skill check to ‘find it’ or something of the like.

      Grouping should be something players -want- to do, not something that they would actively avoid because of penalties. By taking away the penalties, if the content is fun and finding groupmates is easy, players will want to experience the content together.

      This also doesn’t need to apply only to fighting, it could be put towards any content in the game.

  4. 1) Clear split between primary means of acquisition of items/equipment for combat and non-combat activities. Gear directly related to combat to be primarily obtained through combat; items not related to combat to be primarily obtained through non-combat.

    In simple terms, if you want better gear to kill things, kill things that have better gear than yours and take it off them. If you want to decorate your house with exotic furniture, go to exotic places and either buy it, steal it or learn from someone there how to make it.

    2) Full housing system. At least as detailed as Vanguard’s at a minimum. Preferably as detailed as EQ2’s. If possible, non-instanced.

    3) Absolute minimum of gated content. Viable means to reach and meaningfully experience virtually all areas of the gameworld even if playing solo or purely as a non-combat character (crafter, explorer, cartographer etc). This could be achieved with scaleable content, instances, faction, diplomacy, stealth, or a mixture of means.

    Part of “no gated content” also means always trying to provide more than one means of achieving any given in-game goal.

  5. A couple of mine have already been mentioned, but that just leaves me room to add some secondary ones. 🙂

    1) Reasonably intelligent hireling NPCs available with in-game or RL currency, up to maximum party size. I agree with the benefits for grouping, but also want to cover those times when you can’t get a decent party together. They should have an ability to control them that allows giving them roles that give you a reasonable expectation of what they’ll be doing in a situation. In this, the game could benefit from borrowing the squad AI ideas from some of the latest FPS games. If a decent squad system was implemented, it could be used by a party leader to direct players in what to do as well, though of course that would be up to the players whether to follow directions. 😉

    2) Multiple viable level-appropriate summoning/pet options, available at higher than one at a time for a summoning-focused build. This is about the only reason I’m playing a Pale Master on DDO is because it lets me bring more than one summons along. Unlike the DDO summons, there should be a minimal ability to control how they behave. Level-appropriate in that the creatures you can obtain at a particular level should be reasonably viable for content of the same level you’ll be entering. Real props if I can choose to pull a single high-level creature or a pack of lower-level ones with the same cast. My D&D experience is very minimal, but there is strategy at times to pulling a pack of mobs to distract an enemy vs a single stronger one. When the enemy cannot crit their way out of flanking because there are more summons than they can kill in a round, this can be a good thing.

    3) Extensive appearance customization. APB gave us a glimpse of what level of customization was possible while spending insane amounts of money. 😉 LOTRO actually has a nice idea with their wardrobe system, allowing you to save a look you like while discarding items that are long past their viability in game stats but still look cool. While I don’t play any of the superhero games due to my rule on not playing subscription games, I understand there are some excellent customization options in City of Heroes as well. However, unless our system has no lore to limit it, I do think the customization options should be built around the lore and restricted in ways that make sense. We don’t really want orcs with Hello Kitty helmets unless they have personally beheaded Hello Kitty in-game to acquire it. Although, that brings up an idea. I haven’t played the Monster Hunter games, but some of the ideas of having you make your wardrobe and equipment from parts of monsters are kind of interesting. Requiring players to utilize in-world textures and materials while designing their look could be interesting. Doing so without requiring 4,387,639 different inventory slots devoted to those who desired to create their armor out of one shell from every insect in the universe might be a challenge. Still, the idea of using the real textures available in-world is kinda neat, whether we implement it as killing 478 zebras for a zebra stripe cloak or as simply assembling 478 generic hides and selecting zebra from a list of natural hide appearances when crafting. Then applying indigo to turn the white stripes blue.

  6. Expansion on the summoning idea. What would be really cool, I think, would be if there were “summoning points” that a summoner build had available, which increased with level and items similar to the way spell points do. Then let the summoner have in play at any one time that many points of summoned creatures, mixed and matched to his desires from the list of creatures he has available.

    So if your high level summoner has 1000 summoning points, and he wishes to do so, he can summon a single 1000 point dragon. Or he can summon one thousand 1 point ducks. Because how embarrassing is it to have the mighty orc general literally nibbled to death by ducks? 😀 The counter, of course, to the thousand ducks would be a well-placed fireball or other AOE attack. But who would not want to have the option to kill something with vast quantities of ducks?

  7. 1. High level of character customization ala APB (hell, shoot for the stars and let’s one up it!)
    2. Costume slots independent of gear (I wanna see my pimp hat, not that damn bucket helm)
    3. A system for players to submit content and have it reviewed/included into the game. (community driven content has helped so many non-MMO games out there, I think someone needs to incorporate it into an MMO and do it well. We’d probably need to incorporate some better checks and balances than something like Second Life’s iteration. Community/Developer driven voting system perhaps.)

  8. 1) GOOD Collision detection
    2) Already been mentioned, but EQ2/SWG like crafting and personal housing (instanced is fine with me)
    3) NPCs that move and carry on a life like in LOTRO, and that at a minimum have a personalized greeting to you if you’ve helped them, also as in LOTRO (phasing technology is too inconsistent right now for any elaborate personalization, but just that little chat bubble that appears as you pass an NPC whose orchard you saved earlier really makes a difference)

  9. 1) Make a real virtual world, first and foremost. No level-bracketed zones ala theme park design. This means animals and monsters have “realistic” placement, movement and migration patterns. This means a full, dynamic, moving weather system. This means non-instanced player cities complete with player housing and player shops. This means full non-combat professions, not this crap of being a Super Master Adventurer AND a Super Master Crafter. This means the NPC’s also have their own lives irrespective of us players but will also react to our presence (see GTA 4 or Red Dead Redemption for perfect examples). This means players have the ability to affect the world and its lore (extreme example: player makes a villain necromancer whose zombie army takes over a region. Developers and player come to an agreement to retire that character from the player and it becomes an official NPC in a storyline for everyone to play in, etc.). This means PvP has meaning, and everyone, including PvE-only players will have not only the chance to participate in some meaningful way, but they will want to do so out of a sense of “realm loyalty” rather than mere leaderboard points and an auto-resetting capture point.

    2) Meaningful crafting is the basis for the entire economy. This means item durability to encourage or force participation. This means building up your crafting business, not just leveling a crafting progress bar. If I’m a Super Master Farmer why do I still have to go out and plant and pick the crops myself? Why can’t I hire some NPC’s to do that for me like a real farmer would? Etc. et al. Why can’t I raise horses (or insert freaky fantasy mount here) and sell them to players instead of only buying from NPCs? Why can’t players form the fantasy version of a megacorporation and put an NPC supplier out of business? Why can’t I not only have a personal store (not in my personal house, and not one of those Asian lag-fest kiosks) for players to travel to trade at, but also hire trade caravans to transport my goods to neighboring cities — also opening the opportunity to hire player or NPC mercenaries to protect the caravan from bandit players and NPC’s who might try to rob it?

    3) Limited “canned” animations, but use something like the Aurora physics engine instead for player movement to make combat more dynamic. Current knockbacks, for example, are on a measurable arc that has no bearing to the characters distance from impact point. Everyone gets knocked back the same height and distance, which once known, becomes merely another aspect of the choreographed fights known as Dancing With The Mobs. Unknown quantities such as falling over and turning, being bounced off a wall, etc. can introduce a small dynamic sense of the unknown even into repeatable combat events.

  10. I would like to see projects in the game where players work to improve the world. If there is going to be a tram (don’t wow me dude) from one city to another, the players should have to build it. This could be in the form of compleing quests or gathering supplies to help build it.

    I am invisioning something like a railroad, where land has to be cleared of hostiles, ties have to be harversted/hewn, iron collected and rails forged, even guarding the safe transport of those materials to the worksites. Ideally I would like to be able to go out to the site and physically see the progress. Imaging a group of dwarf NPC’s working on the line, but if they don’t have adequate supplies, they are all sitting around drinking and complaining about why they are not working. Once the rails have been established, there are numerous other expansions and improvements that could be done such as adding towns, building forts in un-occupied territories, perhaps even the building of new ports to set out to explore new lands.

    The developers could set the world up the way they want, but it would be up to the players to put in the work to “uncover” it. In doing it this way the developers still have control of what gets built where, but the players have a sense of having an effect on their world. Things like the building of a new seaport, could be done as pre-cursor quests leading up to new game expansions.

  11. 1) Consensual PvP included in the game, restricted by location, i.e. something like DAoC’s frontier zones. If you go to the war zone, expect to fight. If you’re not looking for a fight, you shouldn’t have to worry about some asshat with his PvP flag on jumping in front of you hoping you’ll tab target him by mistake.

    2) Combat mechanics that are dependent on reactions or situational use. Good play should consist of the player successfully observing, deciding and acting instead of getting the optimal skill rotation from the forums and programming it into their keyboard.

    3) Lots of appearance customisation and/or a wardrobe system a la LotRO, so we don’t have the invincible army of clone raiders standing around in their identical epics.

  12. 1.- Player Government: players can be either elected or earn their spot in a region’s government. This can affect political stances, economy, even wars and local laws. It can go as deep as offering jobs and positions to other players.

    2.- Player skills over system in combat: It is annoying not to be able to dodge/block an arrow, axe blow or a fireball, let the players fight almost as if it were a FPS and leave an option “auto-fighting” for the lazy-unskilled players. TES IV: Oblivion’s combat is what I’d like to see, with some improvements.

    3.- Improved crafting system: No random effects, if the crafter wants to make a magic fiery sword, let him do it, also he should be able to design it or choose several designs of the desired weapon/item. It should be the skill level which would give the item its quality and ultimate stats. Also these items could be improved over time and a higher skill.