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Sethisto

How do we make the MMORPG genre great again?!

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I've been playing these dumb games since I was a kid, starting with Ultima Online at age.. 12 I think? I've watched them evolve over time to something completely different than what they originally were meant to be as both the companies themselves and the communities grow older and more streamlined. I still play them often, but the love I once had for the genre isn't really there anymore.

 

There are a lot of reasons why, in my opinion, these games are a lot less engaging than they used to be. I might rant a bit, so bare with me..

Templated Systems and easy everything Has ruined the mystery!

We spend a lot of time playing an MMORPG. I think I'm at something like 7000 HOURS on WoW now. One thing I miss more than anything is discovery and complexity. As much as I love WoW, it really "templated" the genre. Back in Everquest, it was almost scary to run through a city if you didn't start there. Every race had it's own, and each city had loads of smaller factions littered throughout. You might have the bards guild or the mage guild on entirely separate lines. Some were actively against eachother, and visiting the opposing building while friends with their enemies meant you would be killed. This system was complex and kept the world feeling alive. Now days NPC'S are just shops or ignorable. You could roll up an evil character and work on improving your reputation to visit a good city, or vice-versa. That kind of freedom made it feel like you were part of a world.

This is something that has pervaded just about everything in the genre. The discovery and freedom of an MMOs has been removed entirely as everything follows an exact template from 1-100. Each zone is capped at a certain level, each gear piece is perfectly tailored just for you. Surprises are nonexistent. When you finish one place, you never return, as it has nothing else for you. Back in EQ, zones had a wild array of things littered throughout. There might be an NPC on one side who drops an earring that lets you breathe under water. You'd see level 60's battling away in a castle nearby while you were over in another area trying to pull things your group can kill while avoiding the random high level mob that wandered into the newbie area. This stuff felt surprising and fun. There were frustrating moments, but it kept a sense of danger that games these days just don't have. Most of my WoW life is spent on Netflix now when leveling, because everything is so ridiculously easy i don't actually have to look at the screen for more than a second or two at a time.

 

Loot is boring!

This is, once again, something WoW has standardized for the industry. If you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons, Everquest, and even lvl 60 in Vanilla WoW, you probably have seen the alternate side of loot. In these systems, loot is rare and valuable. Something to get hyped up about when you finally acquire it. In EQ, the better items were always much harder to get and much less common. You didn't suddenly have a full set of gear after three dungeon runs. Loot didn't drop in piles, so the act of looting something was much more exciting. Item levels and "tiers" didn't really exist. A group dungeon with a super rare spawn might have a better dagger than a raid mob. Multiple daggers would drop in a single raid, some vastly superior to others, but people weren't running around in perfectly tailored best in slot sets. That worst dagger could actually be a huge upgrade to someone and a valuable item for an entire expansion, as they might not even ever see another. This made the act of looting something much more exciting. I could name every single item on my bard in Everquest because each piece was so valuable to me. Now days I couldn't name a single item on ANY of my WoW characters. It's all replaced constantly with completely generic blandness. The only thing I read is Item Level.

"randomly generated" loot is another thing that WoW has been toying with even at the higher levels lately. Even "epics" are getting random stats. There just isn't anywhere near the excitement in looting a randomly generated bracer compared to finally acquiring the BRACERS OF THE GODS that are a +50 strength upgrade over the bracers of damp grass i looted back at level 40. That is the greatest mmo celebration ever, and something that just doesn't exist anymore. They also removed any kind of complexity from loot. Everquest 2 was incredible on this for a while. Everything had procs and effects. I had a belt on my tank that had a 10% chance to proc an explosion when I took a hit, and was part of a set that would increase in power if I got all three pieces. My rogue had a necklace that would drain 5% of my health every time I used an ability, but increased my overall damage by 10%. You'd put your best rogues in a group with an awesome healer to keep them up. These things just don't exist anymore as games move more toward making it as easy as possible to min/max for the sake of balancing everyone 100% perfectly.

And finally... Resist gear. I miss it. I know it was a pain, but it gave you something to do, another set to farm and complete. It added an extra layer to the raiding environment when everyone post raids would be off farming leather for the guild's Volcanic armor maker or helping people farm the fire elemental in Blackrock depths for resistance bracers. It gave you more community building moments than current games are slowly removing entirely. That brings me to my next subject...

 

Communities are becoming pointless

Outside of RP servers and the highest points in raiding, community is a thing of the past in WoW and many other MMO's that copy it. You could be fully decked out in heroic raiding gear and barely talk to anyone. You don't need to make a group anymore, as dungeon finder does that for you. You don't need to join a guild anymore, as pugs can raid anything below mythic. Server communities are dead now that cross-server has flooded every zone with a bunch of unknowns. Rivalries between server side Horde and alliance are over, as you will probably never see the same person more than once.

While some of these things have made it much easier to play, they have also taken a huge chunk out of community building. Back in oldschool WoW, you'd log in, grab some people off your friends list or guild for a group, head to the dungeon entrance, bitch at the rogue who has to fly back because his weapon is broken, run into your ARCH RIVAL hunter and his merry band of night elves at the portal, have an epic battle while waiting for the rogue, and go laugh about it on the forums later. You and that hunter and his friends would probably see each other almost daily, even in random battle grounds. I had almost as many alliance friends as fellow horde back in the day just from these rivalries. Cross-server everything destroyed that.


You also had people to look up to. This ties into loot from earlier. If a rogue was rockin the chrommaggus sword you knew he would hit like a truck and wanted that weapon for yourself. People would hang in Ogrimmar in their full set of PVP gear and be virtual baddesses with adoring fans wanting what they had. It put a sparkle in a new player's eyes that they too could have that some day. Now the cities are just a mish mash of random people.

 

Oh god what have I done

I was supposed to be writing a pony editorial for EQD not a MMO editorial. Uhh this seems to have gotten away from me. I'll bitch about more things later. For now, what do you all think could change MMORPGS for the better? Are you fine with the way they are? Or do you miss some things that were axed?

 

 

 

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I just want to see a MMORPG game with a bit more innovation. And I mean, really turn things upside down. MMORPGs often change combat mechanics. They create an interesting gimmick to the world. They have a type of quest that no other game has. They're played with a different camera perspective, or even a different amount of dimensions. There's all sorts of small differences all over the place in the genre.

But... They all still feel like it's fundamentally the same game running underneath. The same class/race system. The same party archetypes. The same MILLIONS OF QUESTS type of game. The same community features. The same way of handling loot. The same levelling up system. It's all just so... standard. MMORPG feels more like a mould than an actual genre. There's an absolutely enormous amount of variety in the not-online RPG genre, with tons of games that have absolutely nothing to do with eachother, play nothing like eachother, feel nothing like eachother... Why is it that making one "massively multiplayer" suddenly means you have to do every single thing in this super specific manner? I mean, yes, there's things that can't work otherwise if you're accomodating your game to be played by a ton of people at the same time, make them part of a community, and mantain it for long periods of time, so I guess there is a wrong and a right way to handle the social half of the game. But mechanically, every single modern MMORPG feels like a mere variation of eachother.

It'd be amazing for a company to come up with a MMORPG with a bit more creativity and ambition behind it. Like, I'm talking stuff like say, Star Citizen is doing. Obviously, the thing is not an MMORPG, since the game world is not 100% shared by every single player in the server and it's not really an RPG in the first place. But a game with a similar overall structure, with RPG mechanics and a fully shared online world? That'd be the kind of innovation I'd like to see from the MMORPG genre.

I guess this isn't exactly what you're talking about, since you're mostly comparing new MMORPGs to old MMORPGs, and I guess most people who are into MMORPGs aren't looking for such a drastic departure. But it's how I personally feel about the genre as of late. I want to see something new and exciting.

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This video by Saberspark pretty much sums up how MMOs rise and fall.

As a person who played Maplestory and Runescape, I can attest to many of the things described in the video.

 

Too many games nowadays have mundane DLCs and "pay to win" "freemium" gimmicks these days.

Also, too many games these days babystep players up until end game levels, everything is watered down and there is no sense of adventureanymore. The lack of exploration required gives people less incentives to talk to each other. Thus eliminating the community factor in most of these games. Everything is all about who can inflict the highest virtual numbers now, and people actually pay big money for it. It's stupid!

 

Aside from dedicated veteran players. It's pretty much all bots left.

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The only MMORPG I've ever been able to get invested in was Final Fantasy XIV. I've tried WoW and dropped it in a week...

Touching on what Seth has to say about loot got me thinking back years ago, when Diablo 2 had come out, and all the hours I spent invading the secret cow level on hell difficulty hoping to find good unique items. Fun times, getting excited to see green named set items, discarding all the yellow named items as trash. Loot drops are addicting, and perhaps are the single biggest reason for being tricked into playing a MMORPG, even if said loot isn't really all that special. After a while, ilvl is all that matters. That's why I usually play as a crafter, build my own gear which I know won't be the highest level stuff I can have, but still better than farming raids. Raiding has never been very fun for me.

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