The Daily Grind: What one lesson do you wish MMO developers would learn?

MMORPG veteran Raph Koster went on a glorious Twitter tear last week, and I’m sure some of you can relate. In response to a thinkpiece on augmented reality, Koster argues that AR developers are worried about the wrong things – they’re worried about the tech and not putting sufficient effort or research into social systems.

“The essay skates over this in one paragraph saying, ‘It’s sort of like an MMO,’ but that’s wrong. It is an MMO, in every single way. Make no mistake, a mirror world is just an MMO server with phones as avatars. That means every social pattern you ever saw in an MMO will be present, from the WoW plagues to the client hacks to the parties killing monsters to debates over who owns what slice of virtual land to yes, harassment reporting and godlike gamemasters who effectively police the space with panopticon level awareness of history. Those servers will swallow activity, not just point clouds, to a degree beyond what people fear now with stuff like maps apps tracking your location.”

“Frankly, just about no AR people I have met grasp that this is what they are building,” he concludes, suggesting it’s a “terrifying” notion that developers aren’t learning from the lessons taught by games like “Habitat, LambdaMOO, Ultima Online, EVE Online, Second Life, [and] Habbo Hotel,” which already laid the groundwork for how virtual worlds work (and don’t) when players run amok.

It also drives me up a wall to see naive MMO devs parrot the same old design ideas that have been proven failures over and over and over again – and it’s not even my lessons and games and books being ignored here, as in Koster’s case. It’s such a waste of talent and resources – we’d all be better served if MMO devs actually learned lessons from the mistakes of thousands of developers who came before them.

What one lesson do you wish MMO developers would learn?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Hope

You made your game free to play so you could more easily sell me cash shop stuff and lockbox keys. I get it. I’ll buy the stuff if I’m having fun – after all, you going free to play means your game’s not knocking a $7-15 hole in my budget every month; I’ll happily spend money sometimes. But that’s not what your going free to play did for me.

I was happy your game went free to play because it means that, since I’m no longer paying a subscription fee, I don’t have to play every day to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. I buy a space ship or costume or mount or whatever, I get to use it whether I play again tomorrow or some time in early 2018, and that’s delightful.

So stop trying to make me play like it’s a subscription game.

Don’t expect me to log in every day to claim necessary rewards for progression (Cryptic with your “refining”). Don’t demand that, to earn progression currency, I do dailies that reset my progress on them if I don’t finish them before the day ends (Secret World Legends with your Marks of Favor). Don’t make everything a level of expensive in-game that it will take me weeks to earn if I play for hours every day and years if I take breaks. Let me take advantage of the customer-facing advantages of free to play.

I’ll still buy the cool ship/costume/mount. I promise.

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John Mynard

I would point out that, while it barely qualifies as an MMO, Warframe checks most of the boxes I’ve seen people talking about in this thread.

#1 It’s fun. But it has some complexity.

#2 The customization is bordering on insane.
Every Warframe, weapon, armor cosmetic and syandana(Warframe lingo for cloak/backpack/things) is full colorable to suit your mood. Want your big, hyper-masculine Rhino to be pink with pastel armor? Why not? Myself, I’ve settled on black and white with blue trim, copper metal if there is any, and blue energy.

#3 The devs are super-communicative without giving the store away.
Where feasible they give insight into how the game systems accomplish what they accomplish.

#4 System changes and redos are almost always positive.
A meta-pattern of certain weapons had been known about for a while. These certain weapons were the only ones worth having, so they were the only ones people used. The Warframe devs introduced a whole new system of mods and relative weapon strength in relation to these mods that completely upset the apple cart. The existing meta weapons were weighted weakly, while weapons that weren’t getting a lot of milage were weighted more strongly. This resulted in an incredible broadening of weapon usage. Some weapons are still garbage, even with a Riven, but it comes down to the mechanics and usage cases of the weapon. That list isn’t very long however.

#5 Graphics matter.
Warframe is gorgeous. But it can run on a toaster and we’ve been assured by the devs that with the Plains of Eidolon release, even toasters are going to not be so toatery.

Basically, if every MMO/Multiplayer game could be run like Warframe, we would have an embarrassment of riches as gaming fans.

ernost
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ernost

You game needs to be able to run on low end systems. I’m not saying it needs to look good. I’m saying that if I turn all settings to low, and it still cannot run on my system, I will not play it.

The main reason WoW became so popular is because it could run on any system.

Grave Knight
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Grave Knight

Stop giving us so little inventory space but than give us lots of things to pick up.

EDIT: Scratch that. While it’s a good lesson to learn I rather have them learn “ADD MOVEMENT SYSTEM AND REMOVE INVISIBLE WALLS!” Hands exist, let us use our god damn hands for something other than holding weapons. And if your level design relies on invisible walls than it’s not a good level design.

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Peregrine Falcon

Stop making it so difficult to play with OTHER PLAYERS!

City of Heroes had sidekicking before WoW launched, but your MMO can’t? Why? Because you don’t want me to play your MMO with my friends? Ok, we’ll all go play another MMO that does.

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refaal

“Your game is not going to kill WoW. Only WoW is going to kill WoW.”

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Every change you make for the benefit of the game will result in player loss. Take this into account when accessing the importance of the proposed change.

(Game) Death by a thousand cuts (changes) :)

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Carebear

I will quote what Jeff Kaplan (previous director of World of Warcraft) once said:

The single most important thing to remember when creating a game is that it must be FUN. When someone sits down to play your MMO, they are doing so to be entertained. An MMO should not feel like a job or obligation. It’s very important not to fall into that trap of trying to manipulate your community, as if you’re trying to run an ant farm. As a designer, it’s your responsibility to create a world that’s exciting, challenging, and FUN. It’s not your job to play god over someone’s play experience.

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Sorenthaz

Feels like that’s been thrown away a long while ago with the rise of F2P, as well as P2P games needing ways to keep players feeling like they need to stay around during long periods between content updates.

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Loyal Patron
Armsbend

It is so uncommon now it could read like an inspirational message. The only game in active development right now that has mentioned fun at all is Sea of Thieves.

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Cosmic Cleric

quote what Jeff Kaplan (previous director of World of Warcraft) once said:

The single most important thing to remember when creating a game is that it must be FUN. When someone sits down to play your MMO, they are doing so to be entertained. An MMO should not feel like a job or obligation. It’s very important not to fall into that trap of trying to manipulate your community, as if you’re trying to run an ant farm. As a designer, it’s your responsibility to create a world that’s exciting, challenging, and FUN. It’s not your job to play god over someone’s play experience.

So sad reading that, and thinking about how Blizzard/WoW is like now, the opposite.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Graphics matters

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Ket Viliano

I will add that graceful degradation of graphic fidelity on older systems matters.

luxundae
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luxundae

Give us what we want, not what we ask for.

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Ket Viliano

You can have any color MMO you want, as long as it is painted black. :P