mmo mechanics

MMO Mechanics is a game design and mechanics analysis column by Tina Lauro. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

MMO Mechanics: Three ways non-MMO IPs could create great mechanics

I really enjoy being a guest on Larry Everett‘s video series Massively Opinionated, a series in which MMO enthusiasts answer some tough questions and argue the case for their answer to trump the other guests’ submissions. On each episode, Larry asks his guests to design their own MMO based on certain prerequisites or criteria. It’s a really fun question in which the answers are only limited by the question parameters and the panelists’ imaginations, so it’s not surprising that it’s my favourite question type on the show.

On one particular episode of Massively Opinionated, we were asked to design a sticky MMO that really grips players for a prolonged period of time. For that question, two of the three given answers looked to non-MMO IPs to bring something fresh and compelling to the genre that would optimise player retention rates. Ever since that episode, I’ve been mulling over how unique non-MMO IPs carry the potential to bring new, exciting mechanics to the genre.

I’ve sat on this idea for some time while I’ve mulled over which specific mechanics could potentially be derived from some well-known and loved IPs, and in this edition of MMO Mechanics I’m finally ready to put those thoughts down on figurative paper for you lovely readers. I’ve thought through three examples of IPs that could add something unique to the genre, but there’s so much unexplored possibility for the future of MMOs that I’m sure you could think of so many more. Don’t forget to scroll down to the comments to add your own thoughts.

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MMO Mechanics: Economic stagnation in MMO economies

MMO economies are notoriously hard to balance, so most MMO players have seen the effects of stagnation and hyperinflation in an MMO economy for themselves. MMO developers must put in a significant amount of effort to prevent this, otherwise they run the risk of trivialising the economy, its virtual currency, and the items players buy, craft, or otherwise encounter. Virtual economy balancing is complicated by the fact that there really is an infinite amount of currency that can be created alongside an infinite amount of goods that can be bought or sold, necessitating the need for a controlled inflow of money and also a way to drain money from the economy regularly. For most MMOs, this balancing act is a full-time job for a whole team of people, and some of the most complex economic systems, such as in EVE Online, require an economist’s help to maintain.

In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’m going to look at some of the ways MMO creators keep the circulating currency pool under control by exploring some taps that trickle currency into the pool and the common MMO money sinks that keep the money reservoir in check, and I’ll also discuss the mechanics that could be employed to help prevent economic stagnation.

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MMO Mechanics: Brilliant MMO boss mechanics

I love a good boss fight as much as the next MMO player, and I’m sure I’m not alone in favouring fights that really pack a punch with a unique mechanical twist. I spent years raiding in World of Warcraft, for example, without being able to cast while moving my feet, which made me appreciate the strategic planning movement mechanics required. I also adore when the raid or zone environment lends itself to the fight by including fun mechanics that help the bad guy go down that much quicker, as is the case for many Guild Wars 2 world bosses.

In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’m going to look at some of my favourite boss mechanics and explain the encounters that made me love them in the first place, using them to form a sort of master list of mechanics that make a great boss fight. I expect you to add your favourites in the comments below; with so many nasty beasties to slay, I’m sure our combined list will be a long one!

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MMO Mechanics: Four inspiring indie developments worth watching

The MMO genre has immense sticking power in terms of tenure, staying relevant to players for decades despite such fluid and rapid development in the larger gaming industry and particularly in relation to online gaming. With such an extensive back catalogue of games in the genre, it’s not surprising to see so many recycled mechanics being employed in new releases due to the significant financial risks associated with MMO development. The latest batch of promising indie developments, however, has me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation — moderated with a heavy dose of trepidation, of course — for what new, reimagined, or creatively employed mechanics we’ll see in the MMOs of tomorrow.

In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’ll break down the mechanics under the work-in-progress bonnets of some of the indie and fledgling offerings that have captured my attention for all the right reasons. I’ll look at what each game proposes to do differently and why that makes me excited for its release.

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MMO Mechanics: Three non-combat mechanics to love

The wheels in my head have been turning over non-combat mechanics in MMOs for a while now, perhaps because of the buzz surrounding Wander, the latest MMO to ditch combat entirely in favour of less violent interactive mechanics. I have to confess that I’m not a massive fan of thoughtless violence in my MMOs, so I tend to favour those with strong supportive mechanics that affect what I do outside of my usual mix of PvE combat. Characters in MMOs, for me at least, are an in-game reflection of the player, and I’d much rather rid the world of threats than kill other players in a frenzy without a plausible in-game reason.

I don’t believe than an MMO absolutely requires combat, and I certainly feel that other game genres have much stronger combat mechanics than ours if that’s what you’re looking for. Titles that allow players to choose another path if they wish are ultimately much more rewarding, filling my time with various pursuits and labours that use excellent mechanics. The virtual world I inhabit feels much richer when I have a hand in its economic or socio-political development through these mechanics, which is exactly what keeps me enthralled with the genre. In this issue of MMO Mechanics, I’m going to unpack three ways in which MMOs employ non-combat mechanics to enrich the game’s virtual world.

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MMO Mechanics: Three favourite action combat systems

Virtually every MMO contains dangerous places that are filled with other players or NPCs that will attack characters on site, and many also feature destructible terrain or objects that must be destroyed. With all that smashing, crashing, and bashing, it’s clear that the mechanics employed by our favourite genre must be as diverse as the array of titles that comprise the big bad world of MMOs.

I started my MMO journey in much the same way many players did, testing out the traditional combat offered in the classic MMORPG. Tank, DPS, and healer systems were the first I was exposed to, and standing still to cast was totally normal if more than a little bit frustrating. I really enjoy newer action combat mechanics that reiterate on the traditional MMO combat experience to make it that much more involved and intuitive. In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’ll talk about some of my favourite action combat MMOs, providing a little bit of insight into why each one made my mechanical roundup.

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MMO Mechanics: How strong communities are barriers-to-exit

MMOs occupy a unique position in our game libraries because they include a wide range of clever mechanics that keep us logging in day after day, week after week, and month after month. I have discussed how these act as barriers to exit before on Massively-of old: Daily chores and tasks with associated rewards are specifically included in the MMO mix to keep us logging in, and yet most players I talk to say that it’s their particular MMO’s community and social interactions, rather than the daily grind, that keep them logging in on a regular basis.

We’ve had quite a bit of discussion about stickiness in MMOs at Massively Overpowered, and there’s even been some speculation in Massively Overthinking about the death of the MMO guild. Feeling inspired by the sticky argument at hand, in this MMO Mechanics I’ve decided to look at how various MMOs use their community and social interactions as a stickiness mechanic, capitalising on our love for the people we game with in order to keep us logging in.
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MMO Mechanics: Navigating fast-travel systems

I’m delighted to resurrect the column that brought me to Massively-that-was, MMO Mechanics, for the ravenous readers of MOP. The column focused on the various mechanics that underlie the MMOs we spend so much time in, exploring the under-the-bonnet workings that keep players playing and tackling the issues some of these mechanics present. You might remember the original column from its brief tenure around a year ago, but if you don’t, you can still find it on the interwebs. To get the ball rolling again, I’m going to discuss the logic behind fast-travel, the merits and perils of its various mechanics, and their use in MMOs.

With such vast, interesting worlds lying tauntingly at our characters’ feet, navigating such an impressive amount of virtual space can be both a challenge and treat simultaneously. Just as in the real world, the secret of a true adventure is chasing the action wherever that may take you by whatever method you can, all to keep your quest alive. Depending on where we must go and the method by which we find ourselves there, however, what was once an exciting adventure can become mundane rather quickly. Say, for instance, you must travel to work each morning and travel home: This journey is repeated with enough regularity that you end up so familiar with the route that it becomes tedious, no matter how pretty and exciting it was the first time around. If you had a switch that could magically apparate you there and back again, effectively abstracting away that tedium, you might feel tempted to use it.
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