Sony’s Blackguard is asking for ten features that people would like to see in the ultimate MMO. Fair enough – I’ll give it a try. I admit, though, I’m thinking more in terms of EQ3.
- Robust economic system. I want to have a large store with effectively unlimited storage; no merchant should be destroying/vendoring items because he ran out of space in his bank. Give me plenty of space to make a ton of money, whether to actually spend it or simply hoard it like the miser that I am. I want to pick things up and sell them; get monster loot; steal things; make useful items that people will actually buy; invest in cooperative ventures, or do simple banking. The more real-world financial topics you can bring in, the happier I’ll be.
- A class-based system with an interesting division of classes; but not too many. Too much choice (aka 24 classes in EQ2) is not good; especially when combined with the likely restriction on number of characters per account. Probably 6, or 12, is a good number of classes. Go class based because you can not only balance the game better for a better gamer experience, but any skills-based system runs into the same phenomenon of too many choices. Skills also degrade into the “what build do I create” scenario which kind of defeats the purpose of skills in the first place.
- Soloing is a choice allowing you to experience the entire game less the unavoidable grouping items. You can’t solo your way through a raid; but you can buy that raid loot if someone is willing to sell it. Some tier of gear should be the “Soloist Elite” level, whatever the actual name given is. Create dual dungeons for both solists and groups – or, alternatively, for even more divisions – with different populations.
- Quests are great. They give people a bit more direction in the gaming experience than just handing them a sword and saying “Go!”. Include as many as you can, but written well, with interesting and engaging storylines, and a plethora of possible steps in each quest. Basically duplicate EQ2’s system, since I can’t imagine a better system existing.
- What will achiever players achieve in the game ? Give them levels and loot, of course, but also leaderboards on various items. The more the better, allowing a determined player the chance for fame on whatever statistic they like the best – or on the largest number of them. And don’t limit the total of things tracked, aka, don’t stop tracking at 10000 items.
- Find a way to keep guilds limited, and yet meaningful. Here’s a tall order to be sure, but there it is. You want to accomodate the determined player who wants to have his own pocket guild for a couple people and all their characters; at the same time, if guilds are to be meaningful they need to be collections of people congregated online at similar times, and every guild I’ve ever been a part of is mostly offline when I am on. I’m thinking of a set of categories to which a guild must subscribe, divided by time zones, and limiting the number of them allowed. Raid guilds, soloer guilds, chatty guilds, and no more than X allowed to exist. You get the idea.
- If I manage to defeat something (heroic) solo that almost killed me, make sure I get a reward. The current grey-no-chest system works except in these instances. It might not be a big deal if you carefully design the quests such that soloists can complete most of them at the recommended levels; the problem being, grey killing is often the only way available to advance a quest. In fact its so frequent that whenever I actually get a chest fighting an eligible mob it’s a real surprise !
- Optimize the graphics for speed, not beauty. Immersiveness really comes from a high frame rate, so don’t try and do too much for pretty pictures. My guess on the state of the PC industry is speed isn’t going to increase that fast anymore; Moore’s Law is finished. This should make developing to that expectation easier. All this said, graphics are important – the pendulum has just gone way too far on the level of pretty versus performance.
- Design your crafting system in such a way that the reward from participating in it is profit – not levels, skills, or some kind of status. No experience gets rewarded at all. Instead, perhaps recipes are available for purchase from NPC’s for the more common items and rare recipes are drops from monsters or quest rewards. Provide the crafter a way to determine what people want to buy, which he then makes; a reverse broker system would be one method.
- Let the players know how the game works. EQ2, nobody understands how the rules work. Instead players back into rules based on observed behavior, and the occasional quick tidbit thrown our way by a dev. It would be much more interesting to play if I knew that a level 1 fighter swinging a sword at a level 1 creature has a 50% base chance to hit; modified by skills based on (2x skill / max skill); et cetera et cetera. Versus the current system, wherein I walk my level 1 fighter up to the mob and see what happens.
I’m a little ambivalent on the last one. I never expected to play EQ and EQ2 long because this feature simply doesn’t exist. Diablo2, now, there was a game that was well documented.
Then again, I’m the longest and most active EQ blogger at the moment, which suggests that knowing isn’t that important. Documenting this stuff would be difficult to be sure; and yet with all that said, once I actually knew the rules I might be more interested in my character sheet and all his stats, versus just looking at his level and intuiting things.