Perfect Ten: Important features MMOs lacked at launch

    
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Every MMO represents a journey, starting with an idea, progressing to a fledgling beta, launching as a production title, and growing thereafter. All of the games we know now aren’t exactly the same as they were one, two, or more years ago by virtue of change.

Thus, it’s often easy to remember that many MMOs launched without what we would consider fairly important features, particularly those specific to the game’s vision or name. I list these today not to make fun of the games (well, not just to make fun of them) but to illustrate how features are often sacrificed in the pursuit of getting a title out of the door — and how far these titles have come.

1. EverQuest: A robust questing system

For a game that sports the word “Quest” (with its own intra-word capitalization) in the name, EverQuest couldn’t have been more misleading than the book The Neverending Story. “I’ll take, ‘Things this game doesn’t really have’ for $200, Alex.”

Oh, EverQuest had some quests of a sort, but as veteran players will tell you, they were hard to find, difficult to finish, and not really the core of the game at all. A more accurante title for the game circa 1999 would have been EverCamp or EverGrind.

2. Dungeons & Dragons Online: Dragons

We’re going to be picking on names a bit here in this column because your name helps to sell your brand and experience in a huge way. Dungeons & Dragons is a gamer’s household name; it conjures up specific fantasy tropes, including the two words that make up its title. But guess which one DDO lacked when it launched? Hint: It had plenty of dungeons.

Sure, dragons are usually high-level critters and shouldn’t be frittered away on lowbies, but it does seem like a development oversight. Of course, if they were looking for dragons, they should have been talking to the person who probably absconded with them: Daenerys (level 12 Queen/Fighter multiclass).

3. Guild Wars 2: Guild wars

Woo boy, I can hear the fanboy defense coming out right now: “‘Guild Wars’ is referring to a historical event that happened well before the events of the first game, so it’s stupid to hold them to that as a feature!”

My rebuttal: I’ve always thought that that was a silly reason to give for the franchise’s name, and in any case, the first Guild Wars had, y’know, wars between guilds. The sequel, now even further removed from the historical event, still doesn’t let guilds go at each other in some sort of epic struggle. I guess it’s one of those names that the devs hope you don’t look at too closely these days.

4. City of Heroes: Capes

For a game that was all about superheroes, it was downright strange that there was nary a cape to be seen in Paragon City from April to September 2004. I guess I understand that capes are difficult to program and animate, but it still was an odd omission.

The game owned the eventual inclusion, however, as Issue 2 included a storyline and quest that explained the absence and return of capes.

5. Star Wars Galaxies: Space flight and combat

Oh, you knew I was going here eventually. SWG’s rush out of the door in June 2003 meant that certain features had to be postponed until later on, one of those being any semblance of space travel or ship-to-ship combat.

The wait for space combat would take a while for fans: Jump to Lightspeed didn’t come out until well over a year later in October 2004. When it did, however, fans finally felt as though the game was finally “complete” (in a sense).

6. Anarchy Online: Had anarchy, wasn’t online

OK, this is low-hanging fruit, but the irony of a title boasting to be “online” while being very opposite that case when it launched back in 2001 was not to be missed here. Yes, Anarchy Online got its issues sorted out, but for weeks and even months the game was nigh-unplayable, making all of the features it did have a moot point.

7. World of Warcraft: A fleshed-out endgame and structured PvP

It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses and remember how many of us had a blast leveling in World of Warcraft back at launch. It was probably a good thing that it took us so long to do so because WoW circa 2004 had incredibly little to do once you hit the cap. Most high-level dungeons and raids were still under construction (leaving Molten Core and Onyxia to shoulder the raid burden), and there was no such thing as structured PvP in the game (such as battlegrounds or arenas). Maybe the devs thought they had months or years until the bulk of the playerbase would be at a level to require such content. I dunno.

8. Destiny: Group finder

For an online game that has an awful lot of group content, it seems absolutely bizarre how little effort Destiny put into creating tools for communication and cooperation. A group finder? That might as well have been some alien language for this dev team, which is only now reluctantly including such features for some of its content.

Devs: It’s 2015. Group finders should be a mandatory, automatically included feature. Accept it.

9. Ultima Online: A functional user interface

I’ll let Bree explain this one: “UO’s original UI was really ad hoc. By default, most everything was hidden. There wasn’t no hotbar system or a fixed map or unit frame. Everything was pulled out of nested panels and via macro and just floated on your screen wherever you put it until you dismissed it, even unit frames and spells. Classic UO didn’t have chat in the sense of a chat box originally, either. Where a chatbox normally goes in an MMO (and where it goes now in the advanced UO clients), there was a single-line entrybox reserved for admin messages and guild broadcasts. All other chat in the game was overhead, the ancient version of chat bubbles, and you could see it only if you were in range.”

10. Warhammer Online: Four “living cities” and four classes

A couple of months before Warhammer Online’s launch, the team announced that a large amount of content could not be finished for release. This included four out of the six racial cities and four classes (the classes would later be added in but the cities never were). Considering that this was a realm vs. realm title with an endgame that focused on sieging and conquering enemy cities, it was a major hit to the titles prospects as the next big PvP event. I always wondered what it would have been like to explore the Dwarf capital, but alas, that was never to be.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Rozyn
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Rozyn

Ha! I was just talking about #3 with a friend yesterday! Even if they just opened up the WvW maps to GvG it’d be something…

Ryuen
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Ryuen

salidar Ryuen I really should have put a winking smiley in there.
Honestly my response was half jokingly made, only half though because like I said, I experienced that launch.

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

NCsucks I dunno.  blasting away with an assault rifle was pretty similar in-game as it would be in real life.

Pixelmancer
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Pixelmancer

dragonwhimsy Still no capes in GW2, though. I have many sads because of that. :(

salidar
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salidar

Ryuen salidar I am certainly not saying they aren’t mandatory for an MMO to be in any way successful. I just don’t consider them MMO features. Online game features, sure. shared by MMO, MOBA, TCG, OARPG, and pretty much every online game out there. Having a stable server and network connection for your players is not negotiable for online games. What features are included, arguably, are negotiable. Different people want different things after all.

NCsucks
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NCsucks

TSW: proper combat.

Ryuen
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Ryuen

salidar Having ‘experienced’ the launch of AO I would say functional netcode is a very important feature of an MMO.

Yangers
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Yangers

AoC: any substantial content beyond level 20. They’ve fixed it now, but it never really recovered from that launch.

Leviathonlx
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Leviathonlx

Let’s not forget how many recent MMO’s tried to tell us how much a LFG tool was a bad thing as they wore their rose colored glasses until they eventually added them months later.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

I’d actually say that this is because good MMO PvP doesn’t exist.
Not only are the servers and mechanics never designed for it, but it has other issues, too. That you can bring items and skills meant for a PvE game into the PvP battlefield just completely breaks balance, that vertical progression exists in MMOs means that you have people on completely different levels of itemisation because there’s no power plateau and what could be a game of skill turns into a game of whomever has the biggest numbers automatically wins. PvP in MMOs is absolutely ridden with pervasive I-WIn buttons like that.
On the contrary, a MOBA or team based FPS is designed from the base up to have everything it needs to survive. Lower latency servers, no PvE items to ruin balance, a distinct lack of I-Win buttons, and more leads to a much more polished, enjoyable experience for everyone involved. I think the only people who enjoy MMOs any more are those who prefer the I-Win buttons of stats and items over one actually having any skill at the game. This is why I believe most serious PvP players have left MMOs far behind in favour of MOBAs and team based shooters, which makes more sense.
At this point, I really think that MMOs should just drop PvP and leave that to the games where it works and makes sense. If that happens, then you’ve no more worry about balancing skills for PvE and PvP, no more stress over I-Win buttons, you don’t even need to care about any of that. And there are less complaints of people being overpowered, and only the more extreme cases need be fixed.
MMOs throw in the PvP gimmick just to make money. This is something we should all know by now. No MMO out there could put claim to having better PvP than a game that’s designed around PvP from the ground up. So I don’t think MMOs need ‘decent PvP,’ they need ‘no PvP.’