Thursday, June 7, 2007

What Makes a Good MMO?

Since EverQuest, I've been playing one MMO or another. Currently Julie and I are playing World of Warcraft but I've played EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes.

Out of all of these I'm going to eliminate the games that I haven't gone back and played. That takes us down to WoW, EQ, AO and CoH. I'm going to eliminate AO because the only reason I've gone back to play it is that it offers a monthly fee free version. I recommend AO though, it has some unique features and there are several solo friendly classes if you are like me and just want to play alone. Being free doesn't hurt either.

We are now down to EQ, CoH, and WoW. Let's walk through them in that order.


I haven't played EQ since I bought the platinum version last year for 20 bucks. The only reason I went back and played that was because I'm very nostalgic about EQ. It was the first MMO I played and at the time had some amazing game play. I can remember playing it on dial up and literally taking 5 minutes to zone from one zone to the next. I survived the character wipe, which morphed into the item wipe.

It was also the first game where I made friends, most of who I still talk with on the Denied message board. I'm still Kodith to most of those people. I even have a customized Chiefs jersey with Kodith as the player name. My email even contained Kodith. In many ways I was Kodith while playing EQ.

EQ was a great game for many years but didn't fare well after competition starting showing up. The game still isn't very casual friendly. They added a 'real' economy too late and generally screwed with their player base too many times. Something that personally ticks me off still is that we played on Test server which didn't allow for transfers to or from. The devs and/or other Sony employees have seen fit to transfer both ways for those players that are part of the in crowd. That still makes me angry, I'm not sure why though. I would love to go back to the "good ol' days" of EQ.

/gu Anyone up for CoM? I want a GJB!
Ahem. Moving on ...

City of Heroes

City of Heroes is currently the only super hero based MMO that I'm aware of on the market. CoH has the best character customization of any MMO I've played. I've spent hours just in creating and tweaking the looks on my characters. I had registered for the CoH beta when I first heard about the game and got into the beta a few months before release. The beta had some nasty lag bugs but otherwise I was hooked. Blasting baddies with ice blasts? Check. Smashing faces with super strength? Check. Force fields? Flight? Super speed? Check, check, check.

CoH also offers Issues, which are free mini expansions. They are currently on Issue 9 which was just released last month. Joe and I played CoH for a few weeks before and a few weeks after Issue 9. Issue 9 added some loot-lite options and a Invention system, a crafting system that is optional but very beneficial. CoH is one of the most casual and solo friendly games I've played. I like the fact that I could get and complete a mission in under 30 minutes. While some of the archetypes may do better at soloing, it is possible to solo all of them.

I should probably mention that City of Villains is the evil or bad guy version of CoH. Instead of rescuing citizens you will be robbing banks and smashing up cars. CoV is what tempted me to play again a few months ago and was completely worth it. The villain archetypes were new to me and very refreshing. Previously you could buy just CoH or CoV but now it is possible to buy the Good vs Evil edition for around 30 dollars. I'd highly recommend CoH for anyone that is looking for a new MMO to try out.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is the MMO right now. With 8 million subscribers worldwide, it is the king of the hill without anyone trying to climb it. There are some upcoming games that may be trying to take a chunk out of their subscribers base but I don't see anyone usurping their role anytime soon.

WoW offers a good assortment of races and classes although after CoH the character customization features are very lackluster. This doesn't take much away from the game though since almost all armor pieces and weapons change the way your character looks. WoW is extremely easy to pick up and play.

I started in the late beta and after watching the cinematic intro (which you can find on the World of Warcraft movies page) I was enraptured. I think I even made Julie watch it. After creating my character and logging in, I was amazed at how the world looked. While it has an almost cartoon like style, the details and feel are perfect. After watching me play for a few months Julie showed interest and I went out and got her a copy too. Playing together makes it even more enjoyable.

Here is a quick list of things WoW has going for it.

Easy to learn and play.
Casual and hardcore friendly.
Economy is very good on most servers. The auction house is very well done.
Free content updates.

I'm sure I'm missing some things that I take for granted. To me, WoW is the best executed MMO I've played. Even in the late beta there were few bugs to speak of that would keep you from playing.

Now that I've written a book, let us get back to the original question: What makes a good MMO? has a poll up currently asking a similar question. I answered Questing and here are the results.

I'm somewhat surprised by these survey results. I wouldn't have guessed that Role Playing/Community would be the highest. Maybe readers are biased towards this aspect of MMO gaming.

For me, there are several factors that can make or break a game.

It needs to have a nice clean interface.
The controls need to be easy to learn and use.
Game play needs to casual friendly but offer a challenge.
Tradeskills must be viable and easy to use.
Content needs to be varied enough so that I don't feel like I'm doing the same quest over and over.

Out of the three MMOs I've talked about here I would say that WoW scores very high except on the last point. The quests almost always consist of go get this item from (place/NPC/creature) or gather these (5/10/15/whatever) number of (NPC drop/placed item) or the classic kill (X) number of (Y).

CoH scores high on all the points but the last two. The tradeskills are limited to only inventions but they are viable. The content for CoH is better now with the newer mission types but still can feel like you have done the same mission at least a few times before.

For those of you who have played MMOs, what makes a good MMO for you? Do you disagree with any of my points or have anything you would like to add?


Ultimate Online Multiplayer RPG said...

Though perhaps Graphics Interface, and Controls, do add to a good game, to me what is most important is the core of the game. How hard is to gain levels? How is the combat system? What skill options do you have? How do you make money? and what does money buy you? These are key components that establish a good mmorgp. What are the keys to answering these questions is a longer story, I'm not sure of, but would be happy to write about if anyone would like to hear. post if you want to.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the downsides of Wow, especially the repetitive questing. In addition, I must say that I truly despise the fighting method of Auto Attack. I wish the players had more involvement in fighting. Every attack has the same repeting 3 or 4 animations and then the game decides whether or not each attack hit, missed, blocked, or parried, and even with that the animation doesn't change. wouldn't it be awesome if animations were based off of how the attack was dealt with? where you leaned away from an attack coming from the left, while throwing your arm to block a punch from the right? Kinda like the Euphoria engine used in Star Wars Force Unleashed.

While this isn't as much as a problem with spellcasters and ranged attackers, they have their own set of faults. In wow, every ranged attack hits. The spell or arrow homes in to the target until it reaches it. Sure, this makes great fun for those who fly around with 5 fireballs tailing them, but I honestly prefer the Guild Wars method, where you can actually dodge the attacks. That could allow indefinitely distant ranged attacks, at the cost of missing most, if not all, of those sniping attempts.

Also, I kinda wish there was more variety in creating a character. For now, all you get to change is how your character's face looks and his skin color. what if you could change how heavy he was, or what his blood type was? For example: if a character had slug blood (because he ate unhealthily, say) he could heal more quickly than someone with quick blood, but he wouldn't be as agile and would slowly recover his energy after a fight, while someone with quick blood would be agile and revive quickly, but could die easily from a major wound. It's a little complex, but each character would be significantly more unique and individual, and the player would be much more attached to their character.

One last thing and I'll stop. If you get hit by a sword, what constitutes you as dead? what says how much "damage" you take? go watch the WoW Burning Crusade cinematic trailer again. watch how the orc cuts straight through the fish dudes (if my memory is correct) cleanly. Shouldn't that happen every time to an enemy without armor? I think damage should seriously be reconsidered, because if you expect to survive a few swings from a sword, or a blast from a gun, you've got another thing comin'.

sorry for posting this a year later =P

OH! one laaast thing... Death is freaking stupid. you die, and you have to walk back to your corpse? no penalty that cant be fixed with 10 gold tops? come on... Death should be something people FEAR. You don't want to die! Neither should your character! And permanent death just sucks, so scratch that of the list.

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