Part two, aka “The Bride of FrankenMMO”. Looks like this has become part two of three! I really hope I get time to sort out part three asap because that one still needs to be written. Anyway, in the meantime, enjoy and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!
Whatever. No, seriously. Whatever works best for the developers. I might say I like buy-to-play, but the developers might not be able to provide the best game with that payment model. I’m not any where near knowledgeable enough to judge that, however, I can put forth my opinion.
All payment systems have their merits, and of course I prefer no subscription fees whether free-to-play or buy-to-play, but then a lot of things end up in the game’s store and I don’t massively enjoy having to pay to unlock bank space, character slots, and so on. I’m a big fan of Rift’s payment model. They give you the choice to play for free, the entire game, with just a few limitations, or you can pay to unlock bits and pieces. You can buy the base game and unlock a veteran account. Stick in a fiver every now and then to unlock patron passes (subscription time that you can buy ingame), and earn loyalty for fun rewards. They reward you for spending money with them. This I like. It means I actually don’t mind paying a little every now and then as there’s not subscription to worry about.
Taking a look at the likes of Lord of the Rings Online who have presented such a severely limited free-to-play experience and when you try to purchase the expansions in their store they won’t let you unless you subscribe.. (true story, by the way) it just puts you off completely. Free-to-play seems to be a difficult system to get right.
Buy-to-play is a nice idea in theory, and I believe The Secret World manages it quite well? But it often comes across not entirely different from free-to-play as, if people don’t buy the initial game and/or spend money in their store, how can the companies continue to run the game? Guild Wars 2 has limited bank space, character slots, and so on. You can happily play the game unlimited, sure, but there are still a couple of things that rankle me about this method when you have to pay so much for the initial game and then find certain limitations while playing. I think stores for buy-to-play games should be purely cosmetic, fun, and maybe the odd extension.. say.. allowing extra character slots beyond the initial number of classes.
Monthly subscriptions seem to be the default for a newly starting out MMO. Fine, whatever. As long as the initial month is free so that you can try it out before deciding whether or not you want to pay or not and if you do decide to sub, it needs to feel worth your money. If a game company chooses a subscription model, they really need some kind of reward system. World of Warcraft used to give its’ players a unique pet on their anniversary. Now the coolest mounts and pets end up in the Blizzard store and the anniversary reward is a temporary experience boost shitty tabard. Not cool. Whereas FFXIV actually gives you two options. You can pay £7.99 per month, or up it to £8.99 for a few extra features. Extra character slots, perhaps? I can’t 100% remember. But the longer you’re subscribed to FFXIV, the better the veteran rewards are. This is how you keep your fans paying for and playing your games, and something I would expect from my perfect MMO.
Personally, I just want the subscription model to be fair. The companies need to make money, yes, but they need to find ways to not appear quite so greedy. Buy-to-play is the subscription model that usually gets me air-punching, mind.
Cosmetic Items and Gear
I want to choose how my character dresses. I don’t want her to look like a shit Wonder Woman. I don’t want to run around in the Sexy Bra of Awesome Stats. I want to dress well. Lord of the Rings Online was the first game I played that did this well with their wardrobe system in which you had a separate tab for a cosmetic gear set, and thankfully Rift has the exact same method with armour dyes also involved. World of Warcraft has transmogrification which is decent. Guild Wars 2 makes you buy the armour changing items from its’ store but it does feature my personal favourite dye system in which you collect dyes, and once you own them, you can use them unlimited times on that character and play around without wasting them. The Secret World lets you dress yourself and not have to worry about how armour looks because it’s all weapons and trinkets with the stats, clothes are purely a visual thing. I could go on, but I’d definitely like a combination of Rift’s wardrobe with multiple slots for different sets (which is something I don’t mind so much having to unlock for store credit as long as the first slot is unlocked) and Guild Wars 2’s dyes.
The thing that spawned my blog name is my addiction to mini-pet collecting, and any game without them tends to bore me eventually. When World of Warcraft added the ability to learn mini-pets to your character so they stopped hogging bag spaces, I was over the moon, and honestly, their mini-pet system is still the best, especially now that these are account wide and you can name and battle them. I love it. However, FFXIV and Rift don’t do a terrible job of it, allowing you to bind mini-pets to your character also, although they aren’t account wide. Guild Wars 2 also gets an honourable mention for giving specific slots in the bank for your miniature collection which is account wide. While a lot of them are downright creepy being miniature versions of NPCs, and to use them they have to sit in your bag, the bank collections does go a long way for bag space at the very least. WoW’s system, however, hasn’t yet been beaten.
Of course, I’m also a big fan of collecting mounts, titles, cool looking armour, achievement points, artifacts, and anything else that might tickle my fancy.
Rift is the only game I have played in which I have yet had the opportunity to experience player housing. I know many games have it these days – Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest II come to mind, but I haven’t experienced their take on it yet. I do like Rift’s but it’d be awesome if we could do more in our dimensions. I’d like to be able to fish in the water, sit on our chairs, store readable books like in Skyrim, sleep in beds, cook on fires, and what about a few mini-games? Plus points for letting us design a few of these. They’re great places to create and socialise in. I love that you can invite people over, and they’re a fab addition for RPers too, but there’s definitely something lacking and I’m excited to see how EverQuest Next will handle this feature. Seeing the recent Landmark feature video, I think it might well satiate me in this regard so we shall have to wait and see.
Bag and Bank Space
flops I hate it. Hate it. Hate it. You have to shell out so much currency for bigger bags, and extend your bank space, and fish out your useless rubbish for vendors and find places for your shinies.. just.. urgh. Tedious. Guild Wars 2, at the very least, has streamlined some of it. You can deposit collectibles to your bank automatically wherever you are. Any crafting ingredients and mini-pets will go straight from your bags to your bank. If there’s anything you’d rather keep in your bags you can buy “invisible” bags which hold items that sit nicely undeposited. You can auto-arrange your bags so that everything neatly collapses into a block of tidiness, and you can auto sell grey trash items to any vendor. It’s still not perfect, by any means, but it’s the best I’ve come across. Of course, others prefer a more realistic experience if browsing Skyrim mods has taught me anything, wanting to only carry a realistic amount of items. I don’t find that particularly fun but I think differently sized bags can work for these people I just think that there must be a new way to deal with bag space.
Community, Guilds, and Friends
This is a topic that comes up a lot in the blogging and Twitter community, as they are the most important part of any MMO. Period. If not, they wouldn’t be called MMOs but rather “RPGs that happen to be online”. Doesn’t have the same ring to it.
World of Warcraft has simultaneously the best and the worst community. It’s so vast that this is possible. There are World of Warcraft bloggers and tweeters, there are different websites with communities for theorycrafting, mini-pets, PvP, gold making, all sorts. It’s fantastic. But also terrible, if Ghostcrawler’s recent news has proven anything to us. The division between the community has been astounding. I’d love to steal the best parts of WoW’s community but you can’t just leave behind the bad. So I’d love to create a game that doesn’t cater to negative players, but rather the ones that enjoy the games and enjoy each other’s company, giving options for group players and solo players who like to chat while they chill.
With guilds I really like the way both factions can join a Rift guild and that you can invite your own characters if you have that privilege in your rank. However, I’m also quite fond of Guild Wars 2’s allowing you to join multiple guilds and automatically be a part of them on your account rather than a single character. It’s so hassle free, but it doesn’t allow for much privacy if you don’t want to deal with your particular guild for whatever reason so it’d be nice to have an “invisible from guild” option for those nights.
And with the friends list, I stick to my guns. World of Warcraft so far has the best friend list, allowing you to friend by account or individual characters, giving people a choice. But I also like Guild Wars 2’s invisibilty option and ability to chat to anybody, regardless of server or even region, which The Secret World also does quite well. Too many games lack this and as a regular tweeter, it’s getting to be a necessity.