The Daily Grind: What tends to attract you to an MMO?

Not this.

What first attracted me to Final Fantasy XI had nothing to do with MMO design; it had to do with the fact that it was a Final Fantasy game, and I liked that franchise. What attracted me to the next few games I played was the ways in which they were specifically not FFXI, which had some elements of gameplay that have been mitigated in the following years to their credit. But as time has gone on, I’ve noticed that there are other things that tend to attract me to games, things like more variable endgame models, more freedom in play, and visual customization.

Yet there’s more to it than that; there are games that have a lot of things I like in list format which I’ve got absolutely no impulse to play at all. The full breakdown of what gets me past looking into a game and actually invested in it is rather long. But I think we can all at least make a quick stab at the ideas that tend to attract us. So what about you, dear readers? What tends to attract you to an MMO?

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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First, the graphics have to be there. I like a variety of styles and themes, but 8-bit won’t do. Isometric won’t do, either. I want to feel immersed in environments and see things as if watching a movie.

Second, character creation must have sufficient options. If I cannot create my own character (which must look different from at least 70% of the game’s population) then I’m out. Personalization is very important to me. I would like more than one race option. I would like age options and weighted bodies. I would like non-misogyonist female armor.

Third, I must be able to PvE without getting ganked. I don’t mind PvP in the game; I just don’t want to participate in it.

Finally, I want at least somewhat-open world zones. I won’t play instance-hubs. I don’t mind instances within a zone; I just don’t want a cluster of instances to pass as a zone without explorative opportunties.

If those things are in place, then I’ll try it. Naturally, if combat sucks or story sucks, or there’s something egregiously stupid about the game (like no player trading systems), then I weigh whether I can put up with the bad stuff.


Bottom line, my character; I click with that it doesn’t matter what the mmorpg/game is.

If my little back story, and looks suit with the back drop, and being able to squeeze out some extra dps or whatever as in work the character, i’m good.


Things that attract me to an MMO:

1. Detailed character creation. I don’t care how much content a game has. If I can’t begin my journey creating the character I want with detailed options such as height, anatomy adjustments, muscle definition, dozens of hairstyle and eye options (including heterochromic and inverted eyes), tattoos, etc… anything to make your character unique from millions of other players, then that’s a dent in my interest. With the engines we have available now, there’s no reason why every MMO can’t have this. It’s unfortunate that the MMOs that have such features, not many people in the west care for (Black Desert and Blade & Soul have the best IMO)

2. Leveling experience. Just because end-game is where the work is at, doesn’t mean the leveling experience should be neglected. Out of those I played, Guild Wars 2 and FFXIV I liked the most. GW2 has your character walking down their own story path while FFXIV have frequent cutscenes where you character interacts with NPCs regularly. I feel either method is the direction MMOs should take. The traditional method of hopping quest hubs doing errand quests like in WoW or Tera feels like nothing more than an XP treadmill while missing that immersion of your character’s influence on the affairs that are going on in the game.

3. Lore. I expect the same level of story detail and treatment of any written work out there – memorable, minimal stereotypes/tropes/clichés, relatable, character agency, character choices that make sense, etc. WoW has plenty of lore to work with, no doubt. The story has been in development since the RTS games of the DOS days, while other MMOs have to build the story as they build the game. Though, this is not to be confused with execution. Blizz’s writing ability has been questioned and the constant retcons made their lore pretty messy. Not to mention players feels there isn’t enough spotlight between races.

4. A fun combat system. I’ve played both tab-target and action combat. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy action combat more because of my experience playing hack n’ slash console games. I feel action combat gets so much hate because players feel there’s isn’t any stragetic effort in ability rotation or the lack of a target focus. You still have to arrange your abilities in an order for a smooth chain of attacks. Plus players don’t realize that tab-target sometimes does possess some action combat qualities. Features such as “auto attack” or “auto assist” has you swapping targets automatically, not too differernt from moving onto another target in action combat. Running into a group of mobs and AoE’ing them down – another shared behavior. WoW’s current tab-target system is broken; despite having mobs in front of you, you’ll sometimes end up tabbing targets 30 yards away – or even worse – one in a pack of mobs that haven’t been pulled yet. Oh the amount of wipes or near-wipes that happened…

5. Roleplaying elements. I’m a role-player. I exercise the “RP” in MMORPG. Having just pve and pvp stuff isn’t enough. Having things like housing, relationship systems, armor dyeing, and aesthetic/glamour gear adds to the rp experience.

6. Being able to play and gear your class without relying on third-party websites. Anything about learning to play your class should be available in-game; should be able to just hop in and play regardless of the kind of player you are. Having to tab out to do sims and gear-checks, pick optimal talents and read skill rotations, I think is overkill. Talents should be about playstyles and not damage numbers.

7. Graphic art – artistic details of the game like environment, flora, structures, character model, armor design, etc. With a sharp eye, I’ve noticed WoW still uses “painted on” armor, while in other MMOs the armor is layer on top of the character model. Most of their armor pieces don’t have a lot of dynamic/physics movement either.


In the past, it was always the IP…..Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Warhammer, Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy. I have to actually want to live in the world, I have to be excited by it and eager to explore.

Following years of playing those MMOs (or, at least testing them out) I then developed a short list of requirements that are necessary for me to play a new MMO. They are:

  • A strong IP – this is still top of the list really. I struggle with generic fantasy (like RIFT), childish themes (like wildstar and wow) and anything that is particularly dark and dreary.
  • Horizontal Progression – I’ve seen vertical progression cause a ridiculous amount of problems in MMOs with no real benefit. It segregates the community, makes most of the content redundant, causes problems with expansions and in most cases, it’s false progression – numbers get bigger but gameplay doesn’t change. Horizontal Progression is the future of MMOs, even if most devs haven’t realised it yet.
  • Deep Combat Mechanics – I need combat to remain engaging and challenging for as long as possible. Shallow mechanics (like all action combat games and a lot of tab-target games) mean I can figure it all out in hours and am then bored. Deep combat mechanics allow for player skill to shine through, it means numerous options for tactics so you can approach combat in your own way.
  • Objective-based open world PvP – basically, fighting over keeps/territory etc. This is my favourite activity, I love large scale PvP that has a genuine purpose. Open world doesn’t mean free-for-all, simply that it takes place outside of instances (in the open world) and thus has no player caps. I would still want it to be consensual.

I should also point out that whilst these are the factors that attract me to games within the genre, they are not what attracts me to the genre.

Massively multiplayer….

That in itself is what attracted me to the genre. It is the only unique selling point of the entire genre, being able to be in a world with 1000s of other players. That sense of scale and community cannot be found anywhere else. It is why I also have to double-check every new “MMO” to find out if it is actually massively multiplayer (meaning it supports 500+ players within the same virtual environment) or not. A lot of online multiplayer games get labeled as massively multiplayer when they aren’t. Something like SWTOR with it’s player cap of 75 is not massively multiplayer – you can never have more than 75 people in the same virtual environment, less than a lot of online shooters. Its what put me off ESO (that, and shit combat) – it’s mega server tech and heavy instancing meant that Cyrodiil was the only massively multiplayer part of the game.

These requirements do mean that I haven’t found an MMO to play in over 6 years now. I test out new ones when they come along, but that hasnt been many.

Luckily, Camelot Unchained meets all my requirements, so I’m looking forwards to it eagerly!


I would also say that it needs to be a subscription game, but that is a requirement I’d be willing to give up if the game met my needs. I hate F2P, I hate cash shops, I hate unethical monetisation, and I’ve never spent a single penny in support of games that have it.

But, I’ve been waiting so long for a good MMO that if it happened to be F2P, I’d have to suck it up.

Castagere Shaikura

If ESO had the UI hotbar setting like EQ2 To me it would be the perfect MMO. I’m old school in I want to have 4 hotbars filled with skill. Every class in EQ2 has unique skills they use for solo or group/raid play. This dumbing down of skill use has killed the modern MMO for me. I like when I level up to feel powerful with the new skills I get. And EQ2’s alternate advancement skill tree also gives more options for making a unique character.

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Thinking about playing it when I’m not, and wanting to play it every day even when I can’t. That’s a start and the most basic thing that I need to keep me coming back to a game.

Beyond that, if I’ve played a game for 40-50 plus hours and still feel that way, then I’ll take a look around at the community, developer communications and future plans, and info about how it is trending in terms of buzz, positive community feelings, and population. If all of those look good, then I’ll consider letting it become a long term habit.

If a game seems like it is flailing about creatively, embittering or ignoring the community, or in financial danger, I’ll keep it at arms length or wait for a while and see if it turns a corner before giving it much more of my time.

Also the monetization has to be non-shit or I won’t even consider it. I get F2P and I’m fine with monetizing in a reasonable way to make that possible. I’m also ok with spending money, and sometimes more than a little. But red flags like gross overdependence on loot boxes are a hard pass for me these days, because they signal that the team is not able to make fair money from the game on its own terms and has to rely on crutches like naked exploitation of gambling addiction to keep it afloat. Just merely having loot boxes won’t necessarily rule a game out, but if it’s clear that they are the centerpiece of monetization, then no.

It used to be that I was drawn to games first by setting, theme, and whether it looked like fun in lets play videos or whatever else I looked at. Now I almost don’t care how it plays or what or where the game is about, as long as its reasonably well put together mechanically. If the community is happy and the financials are solid and the team seems on the right track to keep them that way, that’s what matters to me, for any game that I’m considering spending 1,000+ hours on, which is how I tend to play any MMO that I stick with for more than a little while.

Brown Jenkin

At this point I’m actually really clear on what I’m looking for in an MMO, which is awesome. The downside is that so far I haven’t found anything that really fit the bill. For me it all boils down to systems and setting. I’m looking for an action-combat game focused on horizontal progression an d offering a blend of both PvE and PvP play. I’ve crowdfunded Crowfall, which is super-fun for what it is but obviously it is more heavily PvP focused than I really want. On the other hand I’ve crowdfunded Oath which looks awesome but will probably be out sometime around 2040.


A quick stab at what attracts me to a mmo? Hhhmmm. Well apart from the obvious (UI, theme, gameplay, story, etc etc) I would say a fair business model. I want the REVERSE/OPPOSITE of the WoW business model of specifically no permanence.


1. Art style and theme, I like Western fantasy games and Asian games that are set in an Asian world, preferably Wuxia/3 Kingdoms, maybe a mixture of both
2. The graphics – if they aren’t to my liking, I will have a hard time playing it, for example many new games, look very shiny, top notch graphics, but they just look ugly (Bless, ArcheAge, Black Desert Online, Astellia, Revelation Online, Lost Ark, Blade & Soul, etc.) There are games with simplistic and old graphics like Vanilla WoW that look a lot more beautiful than all those games altogether.
3. The UI. A lot of new games, especially Asian ones like the ones mentioned in 2. have UIs that are overly complicated and poorly designed to be functional, most of these have some transparent overlay map that you can’t turn off, but if you do, there is no minimap, or if there is one, it’s not as functional. Another example is ArcheAge where when you open your character sheet, it doesn’t display a separate character in the window, it’s just an cutout and it shows your actual character through the cutout, which isn’t necessarily a big deal, but it really ticks me off.
4. Gameplay and combat style. I like tab targeting games like Vanilla WoW better than action-based ones, because tab targeting feels more concise and fluid, more polished method, whereas action combat feels all over the place, you never know who are you even hitting, it’s so poorly made and not a single MMORPG has ever gotten it right, it’s pretty sad and yet laughable that so many people want this type of unfinished combat, which only works for single player RPGs.
5. XP gain and progression. I want a game that has a balanced, but still slow XP gain like Vanilla WoW and you get rewarded only after you put in enough work, not being handed everything on a silver platter for doing nothing, that’s completely demotivating.
6. P2W and overall game model – if an MMORPG is P2W, it’s dead to me.
7. Amount and quality of content. I like areas, cities and dungeons to be crafted with care, not done in a couple of days with random generating algorithms. Again like in Vanilla WoW – there are many small Easter eggs and other small objects and locations that add to the feeling of the world you’re in.

I mention a lot “like Vanilla WoW”, yes, I want a game that is like Vanilla WoW – IMO the best MMORPG that ever existed. I want a game that plays like WoW, but has a different theme and maybe some new mechanics to set it apart and not make it a complete Vanilla WoW clone.


The biggest thing for me is whether or not the game is soloable. I’m an asocial loner IRL, and I play one in game. Lol.
The MMOs I’ve played the longest are part of franchises I already am a fan of. I played LOTRO for a while, because I LOVE the books. And I started ESO because I am a huge Elder Scrolls fan.
Having a good story, and varied quest design helps. I get sick quickly of go here, kill ten rats, go there, collect five berries type of quests.
Also, I like how in ESO I can go anywhere in the game, because everything is scaled to my level. I don’t like MMOs that make it impossible to explore until you grind to the level for the next area.
Oh, and I hate grinding, so if I hear an MMO has a lot of it, I don’t play it.