I was reading my Feedly about a week ago-ish while getting ready for work and enjoyed Rakuno’s post on his “FrankenMMO” so much that I decided to write my own! Of course you should bear in mind that my first MMO was World of Warcraft and I only really got into trying different MMOs around 3 years ago and even then played WoW for most of that time so there’s a lot I haven’t experienced yet but I’ve done my best to puzzle together the features I’ve liked the most so far. It’s ended up being so long that I’ve split it up so watch this space for part two.
Where an MMO all begins. You can’t log in to play without a virtual avatar and there have been many different versions of character creation. My personal favourites have come from Aion and Rift because I recall being able to spend a silly amount of time playing with sliders to get my settings just right. It’s important to me to have a character that looks unique as there’s not much I hate more in an MMO than running past multiple people who look just like your character. It gets.. boring. So sliders are vital. Many hair choices, also. From the get go, not the ingame store. Some games only give you a few options and I’m not keen on that. There should also be multiple races. Many go with the human races and that’s fine, but there are folk who like playing Elves, Little People, Large People, Furry Creatures, and so on, so there should be choice. Guild Wars 2 is pretty good for racial choices. And of course, for those who couldn’t give a crap, a randomise option.
Aion gave us wings. My god those things were pretty. Fairly crap in the beginning but I loved being able to glide gently to the ground when I fell off of something, and it’d be nice to be able to reach awkwardly placed corpses and nodes. Just flutter on up with the challenge being in the landing.
As for flying mounts.. I’m kind of over them. I loved collecting them in World of Warcraft but they really make the world feel small and I’m wondering if that’s part of the reason why I don’t enjoy the game so much any more. I much prefer taxis and teleportation systems as a method of getting around when you can’t be bothered to run, by foot or land mount. At least then you can go afk if you can’t be bothered with travel time. Mostly, though, I just love when worlds feel big and epic.
However, I’m not against land mounts. Or underwater mounts, for that matter. I adore games that use different styles of mounts and give you the choice between several. It’s another nice way to personalise your character somewhat. Gaining the currency to buy one also gives you a goal, and I love me some goals.
The ultimate in goals. Sorry Syl, but I love them. Some achievement systems seem to be there just because the developers feel it necessary to pop one in these days and they feel a little half arsed, but my favourites are achievement systems that aid in exploration. I love unlocking titles and silly little achievements for exploring the world, Rift and The Secret World do this particularly well. And Guild Wars 2 receives an honourable mention for daily/monthly/living world achievements, as well as granting you rewards at each milestone and providing a simple tracking system for whatever you’re going after. World of Warcraft’s system is what got me so into achievements in the first place but after playing around with a few, I find it a little obtrusive. Plus I think the amount of “gz” I’ve seen for reaching level 10 or entering the Darkmoon Faire have just broken me in that regard.
However, I’d love to see options. I like my achievements being account wide. Some prefer them to be bound to each character. Some would rather not have them at all. My MMO would have those options.
Ah yes. And where would any MMO be without gameplay? Combat style should make you think. I don’t like how in Guild Wars 2 you’re given 5 main abilities and you might use three of those in the average fight, if you’re lucky, many classes simply auto attack. Yawn. I want my combat to feel like a dance. I want a big, ramp up ability like in Secret World, so that it feels like a crescendo rather than just a shiny button that locks up for a minute or so after use. I want to dance around the mob, stun them, dodge backwards, and all sorts. It shouldn’t be “1, 2, 2, dead,” it should need a little thought. You need to know how to play your character and utilise their abilities based on the type of mob you are fighting. And yes, I mentioned dodging. I love dodge mechanics in an MMO and after Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World I find too many games lack them.
This is a complicated one. I tend to find, “Pick Warrior, Mage, Priest, or Rogue” boring but Guild Wars 2 has proven to us that removing the trinity (tank, healer, dps) is not a popular choice and I’m definitely there.. While I love Guild Wars 2 and my dps classes, it just feels like utter chaos without tanks and healers around.
With all that in mind, there’s only one real answer: choice. Rift, at the very least, has a decent Soul system once you’ve chosen one of the four base classes. Your Rogue can be an Assassin, a Ranger, a Bard, a tank, your Mage can be a Warlock, Stormcaller, Pyro
maniacmancer, healer, support, and so on. You have choices and that’s cool. In Everquest II, you open character creation and are met with an overwhelming choice of classes. This way is a little old fashioned now, in my honest opinion, but you can’t complain about the lack of choice. Guild Wars 2 has you choose your class in a similar way but the playstyle changes drastically depending on the weapon you have equipped. I found FFXIV’s class system intriguing, how you choose a class and can unlock others later, but you have to level each class from level one and that gets incredibly grindy. It’s a good idea but still needs some polish to make it a truly good feature. So we head back to The Secret World wherein you have ability and skill points. To unlock a class, similarly to Guild Wars 2 you must equip the right weapon, but that’s where the similarity ends. You then place points in an ability wheel which you earn throughout gameplay, and your skill points are placed in a separate section which unlocks the ability to equip higher level gear and weapons. This is how you unlock each class, as you start off as just a human being and work your way up.
This is something that grinds my gears about World of Warcraft. You see an ore node, a herb, or something similar, but there’s a mob. You have to kill the mob to get the resource because it will simply interrupt you. Some classes can stun, sleep, polymorph the mob, some can pop their pet on it while they grab the resource, others just have to kill it. In the meantime, another player has swooped down and taken the node and swooped off again, leaving you shouting, “That git stole my resource!” No, they didn’t, they were just rude. But Guild Wars 2 has proven that this isn’t a necessary feature with shared resources. Imagine the same situation, except you can both take the resource. They’re still a little rude for not helping with the mob, but mobs are shared too so it’s equally worth their while to help you kill the mob because it’s polite and absolutely nothing is lost.
Levelling and Questing
I like levelling, so that’s one thing I wouldn’t take over from The Secret World. But how it’s done is important.
Quests work, and I’m happy to do them. But the whole ‘kill ten rats’ thing has been done. Yawn. So Rift? Nice try with carnage quests, but all you’ve done is streamlined the yawning. Lucky for Rift, they’ve also streamlined story quests and played with rifts a little more so there are multiple ways to level, and I believe this is key. Guild Wars 2 has, likely, my favourite levelling experience of any MMO right now. Everything you do can give you experience. Discovery and exploration, earning achievements, completing ‘hearts’, which is Guild Wars 2’s play on questing. They’re a little like quests but you also unlock a vendor when you’ve completed one and they count towards zone completion. Sadly, I think they’re doing away with hearts for any future content but I like them. There are also zone events, your character’s story quest, dungeons, and living world content, and all sorts. It really encourages you to mix up your levelling a lot, especially with the addition of daily achievements which change every day. The Secret World, however, makes you choose. You have 6 slots for your ‘quests’ (I forget what they call them at this time), one for your main story, one for a dungeon, one for a major quest, perhaps a timed event or something, and then three slots for side-missions. These are basic, repeatable missions (that’s the word I was after, isn’t it?) which reward experience, reputation, currency for that zone. So you have to decide which missions are the most worthwhile to you.