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MMO Design: What An MMO Could Be

Updated on March 16, 2016

The Issue with MMOs

While there are MMO games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, Final Fantasy 14, and Guild Wars 2 that have garnered success in the video game industry, I believe that the very structure of MMOs counter the format of more popular and successful games. Games like Hearthstone and Dota 2 offer players brief game play with compelling depth which promotes replayability and ease of play. MMOs themselves demand more of a time commitment than people have and most of the content MMOs offer is a segmented list of tasks the player must endure to reach more enjoyable content. I hope to address these issues by putting forth a design that I believe would be an ideal MMO.

Streamlining Your Experience

I want create this MMO by firstly deconstructing the MMO formula. Taking away common tropes or segments of an MMO that are too time consuming or overused game mechanics that are not enjoyable. There are two part of an MMO that desperately need to be redesigned and those are; Quest and Zones.

Killing 15 Cave Rats is not a Quest.

Collecting 20 moss samples, slaving 17 bear-ogres, escorting Sir Hamleton Mr. Scaredy Dude, these are not quests, they are tasks. Not only are they meaningless, they are boring and time consuming. I believe a quests in an MMO should take your character on a journey. Quests should start from character creation and continue until the she/he reaches max level or completes end games content. Yet quests should also be segmented, allowing you to complete them in decent size increments. In my "ideal" MMO a quest will lead you to the end game. Every step of the quest will change the world around your character, giving your time invested, impact on the world. This quest design isn't a new concept, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Final Fantasy 14 have a similar quest structure. The problem is that their quest system also contains those kill this, collect that type quest that should be cut entirely. The idea is to have quality over quantity. A handful of multi-step story driven quests, would engage players more than 2,000 repetitive tasks.

Another Zone, Full of Nothing

Most zones of an MMO exist to fulfill two objectives; a place to do your questing and worldbuilding. I would like to posit that by cutting out the all the multiple zones needed to support the arcanic quest system you could reassign those resources into refining and developing other aspects of the game. The only concern of cutting down or eliminating zones would be; how do you build a world that players will care about and remain engaged with without zones? Imagine a vast hub city of roughly the size of Chicago. A city filled with NPCs, some that may offer a choose-your-own adventure style story quests. Exploring the city may uncover hidden areas with story centric clues or aids, all of which is optional. Condensing the digital landmass you can create a content dense hub, instead of a world littered with tasks.

Developing Fun Core Mechanics

Now that I've striped the MMO formula of quests and zones, I want to focus on the core mechanics of this "ideal" MMO. I want to talk about combat first because I feel that it is the most important factor of a modern MMO. Most MMOs abilities are used in sequence with some synergy involved between the abilities. This leads encounters with enemies into a repetitive rotation of abilities, in my opinion very boring. Great combat should evolve into the player reading the enemy's movements and attack patterns and using abilities or attacks correctly in the right situation. Great examples of this combat system in MMOs are games like Wildstar and Black Desert online. Another aspect of MMOs I'd like to talk about is dungeons and raids. In my representation of what an MMO should be, dungeons and raid would be the core content of the game. The hope is that by cutting extraneous content of most MMOs you could create dungeons more mechanically rich. Raids in most MMOs are a time consuming objective which counterintuitive to me original design philosophy. To solve this raids would be broken up into stages, made to be more like several dungeons linked together.

In Summary

MMOs do not have to be the typical task mastering, large but shallow world we have become accustomed to. By discarding the fluff we can narrow down to what makes MMO fun and build a game from that. A shorter more enriching experience.

Stating the Obvious

All of the above is my strictly my opinion of the current state of MMOs and the direction I would like to see them go. None of this should be taken as fact, but with that said, I would love to know what you think about these ideas. Do you have anything you would add? Comment and let me know. Thank you for reading!

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