ll of us at the Digit test labs have collectively played a LOT of MMORPGs. Very few MMOs have stood the test of time, a classic example would be the World of Warcraft, which still has a massive and loyal fanbase. This is the game that made Blizzard. Of course, there’s plenty of other good titles out there. Each of them has something different to offer. However, in most cases this isn’t enough for us to want to keep playing the game. Eventually we get bored after we’ve experienced everything the game has to offer and we move on.
Let’s begin with lore. It’s the story of the MMO, it’s what keeps you invested in the game, and makes you take the setting, and the quests seriously. The lore is a huge part of what made World of Warcraft as successful as it is. The world of Azeroth has some amazing stories to tell and Blizzard has been building this world and its characters for years. So players keep returning since they’re emotionally vested in the world and its characters. The events in the game and the direction the world goes actually matter to the player. Blizzard has managed to capture this with WoW effectively.
Most MMOs today have massive worlds to explore, however, the worlds are usually pretty barren. The only places of consequence are places where you’re required to go for a quest or a specific place to kill a mob. Most MMOs don’t encourage you to run around and just explore the world. It’s just run from here to here, don’t bother sightseeing on the way, and then enter this dungeon. Guild Wars 2 does exploration brilliantly. In fact, it’s a core part of the whole leveling experience. The game encourages you to explore and find the wonders the open world has to offer.
In general, we love customising our characters. Games like The Secret World has some pretty extensive character customisation options. Most of the character creations in Korean MMOs are also very heavily detailed. Just take a look at the customisation in Black Desert Online.
Customisation doesn’t end with faces and body types, even being able to customise what you wear is important. A lot of games have plenty of fashion options when it comes to armor. Guild Wars 2 allows you to dye your armor pieces, allowing every player an individual look.
Duh. Gameplay is important in any MMO. Sorry to say it, but the gameplay in WoW is pretty dated. The days of tab-selecting and pressing 1, 2, 3 are over. We’d love if gameplay relied more on skill than pure stats. In games like Tera, Blade and Soul and Black Desert Online, combat is skill based, meaning even if you had worse equipment, you could beat tougher opponents.
Movement, and mobility, in general, in a game has to feel good. If movement isn’t fun, then it even ruins the exploration aspect of the game. There was a time when you couldn’t jump in the games. Well, you could jump, but your character wasn’t actually jumping, so you couldn’t get over obstacles. Good thing times have changed.
We like loot. We love good loot. We really love rare loot. It’s one of the factors that keeps people playing MMOs. The elation you feel from getting a drop that’s supposedly got a 0.00013% chance of dropping is unreal. WoW makes an effort to make special loot, that ties into the world and looks unique. This drives players to try and get it. When the best weapons are just given to you, the game’s not really as fun.
Guild Wars 2’s living world borrows from and refines the Rift mechanic in Rift. When an event pops up around you, it gives you a feeling that your world is alive. It gives you a feeling that it’s not just a scripted world that functions like clockwork. It’s alive!
Let’s not forget the seasonal and holiday events that plenty of MMOs do as well. Of course, in most cases they’re cash grabs for people to buy a bunch of costumes…
A good economy is a tough cookie. Giving complete control to players might not be a bad idea, but there’s risk of the market crashing when shenanigans take place. At the same time, monitoring the economy and controlling prices is also no fun. However, being able to trade is a must.
Balanced PvP is another tough cookie. There’s always going to be a group of people whining about how OP a class is, but you can’t have an MMO without PvP.
One of the reasons a lot of us haven’t played WoW is the hefty $15/month subscription fee. We’re of the opinion that the model should be done away with entirely. The best model in our opinion is the one-time pay model. Buy the game once and you have access to everything. If the game features a cash shop, it better be cosmetics only. Pay-2-win is a strict NO NO.
Attention to crafting, farming, professions
A lot of players enjoy crafting, farming for resources and the professions the game offers. Our perfect MMO would have a robust system for these, so that they do not actually feel like a waste of time.
Guild Wars 2’s chef profession is a good example of this. The profession itself makes sense when you mix the right ingredients you create a dish. And it’s worth leveling up and discovering better recipes because people will actually buy the food for the buffs.
Many players just want to rush to level cap. It takes very little time in most Korean MMOs like Tera and BnS to get to max level. Getting power leveled was a thing where people took lower leveled characters to high level areas where they would get absurd amounts of exp and level up faster. We’d prefer a more balanced approach though, but the leveling process itself has to be fun, not tedious. We’re not fans of grinding, but we don’t mind deceitful grinding. Guild Wars 2’s exploration is an example of this. Exploring the map is a form of grinding, but at least you’re having fun doing it so you don’t really notice.
The perfect MMO – Conclusion
We’re sure there are elements that you’d want to see in your ideal MMORPG that we haven’t mentioned. But these are what we think are the most essential must-haves in a good MMORPG. We haven’t mentioned graphics here because we don’t think that graphics necessarily affect how much fun you can have from an MMO. Let us know how your ideal MMORPG would be.
Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh
If he's not gaming, he's... no wait he's always gaming.