The Daily Grind: Which MMO is most in need of a major quality-of-life overhaul?

    
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MOP reader Ashfyn recently made an offhand comment about quality-of-life upgrades in MMOs that caught my attention. “[Age of Conan] was a my favorite game back [in its day],” she wrote. “Logged on about two years ago and found the QoL was very poor by current standards. I like my comforts, and AoC had hardly any. I usually don’t delete games, but unless there’s a major overhaul of things like inventory and such, AoC is not returning to my hard drive.”

Now, I love classic and older MMOs, but this is so often my experience too. I’ll give a pass to graphics, since what I’m really there for is the mechanics. But it’s the quality-of-life messes that break me, and I can’t help but wish more older MMOs focused on that rather than on new content and pie-in-the-sky graphics upgrades.

Which MMO is most in need of a major quality-of-life overhaul?

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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Ryan Allgood

Final Fantasy XI. The game itself is still quite fun, especially with a smaller group of friends. It even still looks pretty solid compared to other games from the same era, and considering it’s supposedly in “maintenance mode”. It’s great as both a social MMO and an MMO with plenty of stuff to do when solo.

But good god, the UI could use an overhaul. Windower certainly helps, but it’s a little awkward that you need to technically break the ToS in order to have some of the massively helpful QoL features. Control scheme could use improvements too, even if my muscle memory makes it easy to slip back into it.

Bereman
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Bereman

I definitely get the Age of Conan issue…it’s UI and user elements and such weren’t exactly well-designed when the game launched, when they worked properly at all, and were basically not touched except to fix certain glaring issues.

Though it’s the same company that required the building of a Tier 3 City require more materials than could actually fit in a single player’s inventory, whilst requiring that it be crafted by a single player using the recipe for it. Yeah…at launch, and for a good couple months afterward as I recall, you literally could not build a Tier 3 city, which meant a major feature of the game, Guild City sieges, was blocked.

Because of inventory size limitations.

*shrug*

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Bruno Brito

SWG:L.

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Loopy

Hear hear. I feel like i’m missing out on like 99% of what the game offers just based on how clunky the game plays..

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Bruno Brito

It’s really clunky. REALLY clunky.

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Robert Mann

There’s QOL, and there’s QOL. My QOL points likely don’t mesh with everyone else’s… so everyone will have a different answer to a subjective question.

I usually find peoples “better” UI stuff straight annoying, so I’m likely to disagree with many about what would be best as an update, and which game would need most, such a thing as a UI update.

I tend to want deeper systems and worlds designs, with more to do while travelling rather than more fast travel… so I certainly would conflict with many there (although fast travel is better than running through mobs 20000 times with nothing actually there that matters).

I consider things like housing and crafting as possible points of QOL, but in those cases the only thing worse than not having them is what MMOs do with them. Pointless grindy phoned in nonsense, with no actual reason to care beyond in-game currencies, to me is worth… well, less than dung in many games I have played.

I don’t want an AH, since I want to see a community based game where people are actually running stores and sought for specific crafts and goods, so I cannot say something like ESO getting a real AH even though many would be happy to have that… since you are asking me what games I think need such an overhaul.

I think the one place I can agree with people is something that is simply not going to happen. LOTRO needs an engine update. It’s been a limiting factor since RoR released. It’s not happening so far as anyone can tell, and I’d bet the odds are slim.

Actually, there might be one more thing many would agree with me on. Removing monetization hell from some games. Taking practical steps to make a good relationship with players, and getting them on board with what needs to be done to have a title remain working, would be quite novel indeed. Sadly, we are getting more of that, rather than less, and game companies continue to try to phrase that increased dig at wallets as a QOL thing, rather than the reverse.

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Kvarin Sunermidst

I’m always confused as to what constitutes as QoL changes in MMO’s. So many different standards, it’s hard to nail down. Some people like to do everything manually or as hands on as the activity could possibly be while others may prefer an almost fully automatic mode for their MMO’s, much like some of the asian brand ones that automate nearly every aspect of the game.

I’m of the former camp and the more manual the game, the better. Fast travel is not a positive QoL improvement to me and I think back to how many people cried for it back in Vanguard only to watch the once vast beautiful world turn into just a few popular hotspot fast travel points.

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Utakata

What is one’s demand for better QoL changes, is another pining for a “Classic” version of that game… /le sigh

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

It’s like two audiophiles arguing over vinyl versus FLAC/WAV/AIFF, much like MMOs I see value in both camps, for example have you ever heard something Dire Straights or Boston with a decent turntable with high quality stylus, played through a restored Pioneer Vacuum Tube Amplifier (early 1980s equipment) while the recording is technically not as good as a quality High Def digital file it’s like a fine wine or spirit, that said I usually listen to my music streaming High Def through Spotify with either a pair of Sennheiser headphones or my Klipsch Sound Bar (still my best speakers were my Infinity Reference 5s which I owned 20 years ago).

I really went off on a tangent for a simple comparison.

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Loopy

Agreed. Really comes down to the fact that QoL is not an objective term. Convenience for one person is a detriment to another.

Even if we had a game where you had to QWOP in order to make your character move, there would be somebody claiming that it’s what makes the game interesting.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Maybe LotRO, it seems trapped in a time capsule and it could use a feature facelift from everything from the Engine to the UI, I’m not even going to bring up graphics because with out an Engine update that wouldn’t even be possible.

There are other choices but I picked LotRO because it’s still trucking along making decent content updates, a lot of these other MMOS (that aren’t WoW/ESO/FF14/GW2) are either on maintenance mode, or life support with content releases that’s the equivalent of giving a vegetable in a Hospital Bed Tube Feed.

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Robert Mann

Engine, certainly. That’s a big factor with LOTRO and holding back some potential cool things. That said, it’s also a huge undertaking that is highly unless somehow several million people suddenly decide to play long term.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

That’s the problem though, the games that need the facelift the most are the games that time forgot.

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Dug From The Earth

EvE Online

Without any second thoughts. This games company is one giant poster child for “help, we need experienced UI/UX and quality of life people working for us”. While many other games can always use additional QOL improvements, none of them are as bad, or as lacking, as EvE online. The game came out over 15 years ago, and 90% of the games systems, UI, and systems still reflect this.

It doesnt help that the games community treats the lack of these things as one big “Git Gud!” or “Learn 2 play!” statement, kinda like how a drunk tells themself, “Everyone just needs to accept me for who I am, its not my drinking thats the issue”.

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Bryan Correll

It doesnt help that the games community treats the lack of these things as one big “Git Gud!” or “Learn 2 play!”

It really is amazing how many people seem to think annoying or boring is the same as being ‘hard.’

laelgon
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laelgon

My entire frustration with every sandbox MMO that goes the UO Spiritual Successor route and thinks that means you need to have a terrible UI and no in-game explanation of how the game works. Why have a grid based inventory, when you could have a “bag” that just stacks loot on top of itself, making it impossible to find what you’re looking for? Why have tutorials, when you could have your veteran players just tell people to alt-tab and read/watch hours of fan-made guides first? The barrier for entry isn’t skill, it’s the user’s ability to put up with inane bullshit.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

I find most claims of “games used to be so much harder back when…” are kind of BS when actually broken down and examined. Without a doubt most MMOs have gone through the roof on difficulty of execution (often referred to as “twitch” but covers more than just the need for fast reflexes), so that’s a place where you can say they’re objectively more difficult. And as far as the “not as deep” argument goes, I find that usually tends to mean “stripped of needless and/or intentionally time wasting complexity”.

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Robert Mann

I find twitch combat to be annoying, because I have tried my hand at combat IRL. It just doesn’t feel right.

Now, sometimes the ‘not as deep’ does indeed go into complexity that isn’t needed. At the same time, it can also mean that instead of only focusing on the current trinity of boss design (adds, bad stuff on ground, cleave) that covers 99.98% of mechanics… that you have something more interesting for those who like to think rather than just try to react swiftly. The complexity can be fairly low, while still allowing for that, in fact.

Both have elements of difficulty (D.o.E. for Difficulty of Execution), and I personally find I dislike the twitch D.o.E. compared to the tactical D.o.E. I’m more than happy to have things go a little slower, have less boss health, and have more varied important mechanics.

The market continues to only go with one thing, which is why there is a constant battle between players. Diverse offerings are what we need, but are the last thing that big money seems to think is wise.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Unless you’re referring to wanting unscripted/randomized boss fights, then the tactics stuff you’re referring to has risen significantly in addition to the reliance on twitch combat. Boss fights in MMOs today have tons of moving parts that players have to be aware of and ready to deal with; far more than the early days which were largely stationary affairs about flinging as many arrows as you could before the boss released some unavoidable fart cloud of death. However, they’re all a matter of rote memorization, which rewards player preparation, not player skill or knowledge. Actual tactics built around player observation and communication require players to not know what’s about to happen, and presently I’m unaware of any sort of big encounter in any MMO that isn’t just a bunch of pre-scripted mechanics that players just have to memorize.

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memitim

It depends what you call QOL improvements I guess but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone disagree that the UI and tutorial are complete ass.

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Bryan Cole

DDO, the UI needs a major overhaul. From color to function it’s a massive mess and is off putting for new players and extremely overwhelming.

Lotro inventory needs an overhaul so that I can understand what I’m looking at half the time.

SWTOR needs a combat overhaul to maybe a more action oriented one like GW2/ESO/Neverwinter.

AoC could use the same and a UI overhaul.

When I think of a really nice UI and inventory system I think of GW2 and even WoW, Rift is fairly nice too.

I would mention Anarchy Online and DaoC but for me, they just need a true sequel to both with today’s engines and comforts but same gameplay set to today’s standards.

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memitim

DDO desperately needs UI scaling, it’s unplayable@4k .

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Bruno Brito

SWTOR needs a combat overhaul to maybe a more action oriented one like GW2/ESO/Neverwinter.

I know it’s a matter of opinion, but Jesus Christ, please no.

MMOs hardly make a good action combat system. ESO’s combat system is awful, and rampant with animation canceling. GW2 combat system is loaded with bugs and weapon-stowing, which is also a kind of animation cancel. And both games have weapon-switching, which is another system that completely skews balance and forces you to have another button just for the sake of it.

Also, action combat forces the talent trees to be overly-simplified.

What we need, is games to go back to tactical/strategic tab-target combat, while keeping a relatively fast pace. SWToR combat isn’t bad. It’s actually really good for the kind of game it is.

I think of all MMOs with action combat, Neverwinter is the one that nails it the best. All MMOs have something to be learned from. I think GW2 has a good idea on weaponry, but instead of weaponswitching, you should just develop more the number of skills you have to choose with your chosen weapon and class ( kinda like GW1 and ESO ).

ESO skill system is really good. I feel like their gear system is awful tho.

And Neverwinter instead of depending on weaponswaps to balance the defects of your class, actively improves the playstyle of said class.

I feel like if we’re to have a “action combat” MMO, it’s way better to be a hybrid, and to use Neverwinter’s system as base.

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Carebear

FFXIV: They really need to overhaul the inventory / retainers system and also the marketplace.

a) A crafting/Material bag where all materials goes there

b) Able to sell items directly on marketplace instead of clicking through 3-4 dialogue options to get the retainer out and check what you selling… then 4-5 clicks again to dismish retainer and …. then bring out the other retainer to check what you sell/sold.

c) Glamour system. Instead of the current system, it would be nice to have something like wow. Once you get an item that is spiritbound at least 1% then you unlock that appearance

d) they need to change the way of purchasing house.. the current system is atrocious.. I was competing 5+ hours for a plot, hitting the purchase button ever few seconds for 5 hours.. then someone just came in and relocated there and boom… 5 hours of my life lost! and for what? Was that a fun gameplay or something?

ESO: I really still dont get it why there is a global marketplace… I understand the RP value of the system, I just dont think its working as they imagined.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

FFXIV – YES, PLEASE! The whole UI is a mess, sometimes when you need to do ONE simple action you have to press three different buttons for no reason (for example when you give something to NPC, there is absolutely no need in all the movements you need to perform, simple “Give them [item]” would suffice). People got used to it and tend to argue about it, saying it’s not bad, it’s just different. No, it’s not “just different”, it’s worse than Facebook and that bar is pretty low!

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Dug From The Earth

I agree its a mess

The sad thing is that its mostly a mess for the non-eastern gaming world. If you ever have studied anything about UI/UX design, you will realize that where you are from has a big effect on this sorta thing. Just take a look at the FF14 website in comparison to say, WoW or ESO. The whole layout, interface, and the way users traverse it is like night and day to each other.

For FF14 to make improvements on a lot of the things we want, they would have to keep it separate from the version of the game in Japan. IE: its not very likely to happen unfortunately.

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memitim

I think a lot of it stems from the fact it’s also a console game but I’ll never understand eastern games fetish for plastering the UI with plain text, it’s so damn ugly.

Bereman
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Bereman

They do need to replace it for quests where you’re by default handing over everything…but the system still needs to be in place, as there are various crafting turn-in elements where you can choose to offer a normal quality or a high quality version of the same item for either normal or double rewards. There’s a variety of reasons you’d want to be able to select which item gets handed over and not have the system just automatically hand-in the wrong item.

But it makes sense for that particular portion of the game, and not the various times that you’re handing over a set amount of specific items.

Though those that “got used to it” are typically the ones that you can simply right click the icon in the hand-over window that pops up, which leads to another small window right there appearing with just the items needed for the turn-in. It’s not ideal, for certain, but it’s not a bunch of extra movement needed.

Bereman
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Bereman

c) Glamour system. Instead of the current system, it would be nice to have something like wow. Once you get an item that is spiritbound at least 1% then you unlock that appearance

I’d love an appearance catalog like WoW has…but the rest of their transmog system is kind of trash. Scaling gold cost based in level/rarity of gear? Only being able to make changes in cities unless you shell out a fair amount of gold for one of a couple mounts that come with Transmog NPCs? Requiring you to do one of the above to do something as simple as hiding your helmet, which just about every other MMO manages with a simple toggle or menu option??

The appearance catalog is great. The rest of their system can get tossed in a bin.

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Kvarin Sunermidst

I personally think the global marketplace is a good idea. As someone who actually tries to play ESO as an Elder Scrolls game, the marketplace makes total sense in the context of an actual world. And I think the fact that you have to travel to different towns and areas for different guild shops and wares was a nice touch.

But this just once again plays into the conversation of what a QoL change actually means because it’s different between people.