Let’s be honest, these days most MMOs tend to look the same or bring a few more features which make them stand out of the crowd for a little while. But regardless of MMO type we should have a standardized model, which makes developers push even harder for more originality in a game. With no further ado, here are my top 10 features every MMO should include:
#10 Complex Character Creation
Technology evolved so much lately that low visual effects and graphics are becoming a thing of the past. Today, on a mediocre gaming platform, we have the possibility of rendering high quality graphics and get extreme close ups on characters and objects, so it would be fair for players to be able to model a complex featured avatar. Every Character Creation tool should come with advanced options to address every little aspect of the face and body, in order for players to identify themselves with their hero/heroin. After all we do live in another world when we play on-line, so we should have the pleasure of importing ourselves in our character’s skin.
#9 Role play
Every time we start a game we have to choose a class for our character, meaning if we want to experience another role play we have to start a new character from scratch. Some games have developed another strategy and offer players the possibility to change character roles on the fly, without losing their items and experience, and this has been a tremendous success. MMOS should include an optional play model, where players can just buy a new role (with in-game money) and switch their character from melee to range or caster, for example. This aspect would cut down on the numbers of alternative characters and give you more flexibility in fights and play style.
#8 Encourage exploration
The idea of exploring a world is given little thought in a MMO. Most of the exploring is done by reaching your objective and killing your targets. What if exploration would open a wider world, where you don’t even have objectives in that area and where bonus content, Easter eggs, epic monsters and rare treasures could be found!? In addition to this, why not give some extra experience for uncovering new territories with mysterious wonders and ancient relics!? Exploration should be the number one focus in a game, where players are taken in by the environment and always come back to find new changes in previously visited areas. It would be a delight to discover a new village with interesting NPC and various quests, just so the following week you find the same villages forever in ruins after a devastating raid from and enemy faction or a natural disaster. Game content should be fluid and in constant change.
#7 Rare treasures
Finding a rare treasure in a remote and random location would greatly improve the player’s sense of observation. In extension to exploration, gathering this epic loot could lead to unlocking special god items or any other type of content that is extremely rare and exclusively obtained through treasure hunting. This will skyrocket the player’s admiration for someone bold enough to accomplish such a difficult task.
#6 Advanced player homes
A player home should be his sanctuary. Some MMO games have this feature but it is very rudimentary and barbaric in its purpose. Most of the player houses have only clutter objects and some minor bonuses. A true player house should be a hub of interests, where you can do all of your crafting, be able to travel to recently discovered lands (through portals if possible), have vendors in a nearby market and organize your loot, treasures and trophies on stands and walls. This feature should help players reduce unnecessary travel time for various tasks that are usually tedious and build up frustration rather than fun (ex.: crafting).
#5 Interactive environments
Have you ever entered a tavern by doing a quest or something similar? Well what if you want to join the party and have a pike of mead, just for the fun of it? Sounds like a joke, but some games offer small environmental interaction through emotes. This is not enough, players should have a chance to sit on chairs, dance along with other NPCs, idle away when AFK and interact with the environment around them. This gives the game a taste of admiration to detail and feel the originality of the developers, without seeing the world around you a copy-paste machine. Besides, if players have the freedom to do what they feel like, they will always see the game as an enjoyment rather than a fixed system with focused objectives.
#4 Changing weather
Usually MMOS have three or more types of weather environments (desert, savanna and snow). You always know where they are on the map and never care much for how they look. A beautiful idea would be to shift these weather environments in the world and add more flavor to them. Snow should melt, heavy rain should fall, the sky should sometimes be cloudy, nights should have lively stars and all this weather impacts should affect you stats. If it’s cold outside you should get some warm clothes or if it rains there should be a chance you get hit by lightning when you are in open terrain. Weather should be an element of surprise and players will take better care of how they travel and how they get equipped.
#3 Immersive combat
There are many ways the combat system is used in MMOs, but most lack one element: you can’t use the environment to your advantage. You can fight a monster or another player in all directions except UP, so why not be able to climb trees, buildings and other types of structures to plan ambushes or to evade your predator. The player’s awareness will go through the roof with this feature in mind. One other aspect regarding combat is the way our character hits. Usually we choose a target and start pounding it with a stick till it dies, or it kills us. A better way to do this is to use various defense tactics, like raise a shield and stop incoming damage, skill shot your hits instead of locking on one target, and try to hit as many opponents as possible to adjust your positioning and raise your chances of surviving.
#2 PVE option
When joining an MMO you are demanded to select either a PVP or PVE server. This may be a turn off for some people, as in most cases it is impossible to transfer a character from one server to another. A workaround to this issue would be to include a PVE toggle on PVP servers. If players have the toggle on, no other player can engage them, but if it’s off then he can slaughter anyone he wishes. The toggle option should have a 30 minutes cool-down and should only be available outside of combat.
#1 Intelligent AI
By now we are used to the mediocre AI mechanics and pretty much anticipating all the predefined attack moves needed to counter attack an enemy monster. This is very boring when going in grinding missions! Developers should create unpredictable AI monsters, which call for backup and work in packs in order to defeat the player. Monsters should always change behavior depending on the combat situation and make players team up and coop, to find various strategies that will help them to be victorious.
I am aware that this list is difficult to accomplish for a standard MMO, but it is not impossible. The problem with MMOs that I like is that some have what others lack and vice-versa. The list could go on but I think this about covers all the basic requirements that an online game should have. My opinion revolves around the fact that I live and play in a virtual world where I want to feel content for logging back and enjoying my freedom. I do not want see an online game as a chore that I have to finish as soon as possible and think of the next game in line. Developers should try harder to imprint chaos and disorder in their designs to make each gameplay a unique and realistic experience.
All I can say is wow! You’ve put into words what I’m searching for in MMOs. I want something a game that’s dynamic, ever-changing, like you so clearly stated in your list. If you know any MMOs that fit your description please let me know. It would be a dream come true if any MMOs existed that hold up to your list. =) For now, I’m still searching. Wish me luck.