My Perfect MMORPG – Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what my perfect MMORPG would be. No idea how feasible it would be to create (although I’m sure it would be possible with enough cash), how popular it would be or actually if it would be any good. I’m not a games designer so I’m not actually sure what makes a game “good” or “fun”, I guess I’d just need to cross my fingers ad hope that it’s decent :)

I’ve broken this article down into two or three posts because I think it’s too big for one. Here’s my initial outline of what my perfect MMO would be and the overarching design concepts driving it.

Genre/Setting

Sci-Fi. Absolutely, Sci-Fi. Oddly enough I’m not actually a huge Sci-Fi fan and I tend to read mainly fantasy books mainly and, obviously, play mainly fantasy MMORPGs. Still, there’s something about a Sci-Fi setting that grabs me. Maybe it’s the lack of current science fiction MMOs or something about the vastness of the genre that appeals to me but my perfect MMO wouldn’t be fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I still love fantasy MMOs but there’s something about them that’s becoming very tired and stilted lately and I’d want my MMORPG to have an air of freshness and originality about it.

It also wouldn’t involve any existing intellectual properties (IP) because, quite frankly, I can’t think of any that either haven’t been done already or are any good. Apart from Star Wars and Star Trek there isn’t much in the way of mainstream Sci-Fi that would translate well to a MMORPG except for maybe Mass Effect.

I haven’t though too much about the story of this Sci-Fi world but I think it would offer the classic approach of plenty of aliens, strange worlds, nano-implants and nano-technology driven abilities.

Concept & Approach

The approach for my perfect MMO would revolve around two fundamental game concepts: third person, over the shoulder, perspectives with no starships whatsoever (I don’t really like the idea of mixing characters and starships – I think that’s two separate games) and an open skill or attribute based system.

I don’t know if I would call the game ‘sandbox’ or not. I guess it’s quite an abstract term that’s hard to define. I definitely like the idea of avoiding standard levels and classes though and going for a more open-ended approach that lets players increase their attributes (strength, willpower etc) through experience or implants and learn skills which allow them to accomplish new things like use different types of weapons, armor or abilities. I’m tempted to avoid the idea of time-based training like in EVE and maybe go for a system that sees skills having attribute and other skill pre-requisites. The general idea behind it all being that you accrue attribute points by performing actions (fighting, completing missions, buying/selling, crafting etc) and use them to increase your stats, in turn giving you access to different skills. No idea if that would actually work but it sounds interesting.

All of the action would take place on different worlds and space stations, giving the player plenty of diverse environments to explore. I’d also want a healthy mix of playable races and starting areas to make sure there’s a ton of replayability and interesting stories behind each race.

In terms of goals, I’d love to be able to mix the direction of something like World of Warcraft with the vastness and freedom of something like EVE. No doubt this would be tough to balance. I really want to strive to create a virtual world though with its own economy and a meaningful crafting and marketing system plus plenty of opportunities for players to engage in PvP and territorial wars. All of this without sacrificing immersive quest lines and even end-game raiding. I don’t know if this mix of play styles is at all possible but I’d love to find out.

So, overall, no small undertaking! I’ll write more about the ideas being PvE, PvP and crafting etc in Part 2 and hopefully flesh my ideas out a bit and try to make sense of it all. Even writing this short article has certainly given a new-found respect for game designers. It’s bloody tough to try and balance grandiose concepts with mechanics that would actually work and be fun. I wonder how (or if) any game designer actually knows if their game is going to be decent before they play the final thing.

Anyone else got any concepts or ideas for their perfect MMO they’d like to share?

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12 Comments

  1. mrwhisky says:

    What I would love to see most would be a properly done MMOFPS similar to SOE’s Planetside (with an actual development team). I know that several MMOFPS games are currently in the works (Global Agenda, 3rd person view; Fallen Earth, post apocalyptic with a lot of PvE content) but they don’t seem to come close to the pure tactical PvP madness that Planetside used to be some years ago. I think there would be a huge market for a game like that – something that SOE fails to realize with Planetside as they are letting it die a slow, painful death.

    • Gordon says:

      The problem with FPS MMOs like Planetside and Tabula Rasa (which I actually enjoyed quite a lot) is that the developers get too wrapped up in the FPS combat and forget about the rest of the game. RPGs have a lot more involvement and longevity than FPS games and that’s were the focus should lie. The perfect MMOFPs would almost be a standard MMO but with it’s combat reworked.

  2. Stabs says:

    Great minds think alike!

    I’m working on my MMO design concept, Querulous Plains, over at my blog.

    “It also wouldn’t involve any existing intellectual properties (IP) because, quite frankly, I can’t think of any that either haven’t been done already or are any good.”

    Hmm, how about Aliens? Or Terminator? Playing a character hunted by a broodqueen or by Skynet would be a dystopian alternative to the rather bland everyone is invincible in pve approach around most current MMOs. I’m thinking gameplay like Call of Cthulhu.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with originality if you want to go that way

    “I don’t know if I would call the game ‘sandbox’ or not.”

    Don’t. Even if it is. The word “sandbox” makes me rant.

  3. Longasc says:

    The idea of MMO-FPS is intriguing as it could imply a bit more than autoclick-attacking. But I would take Mount & Blades mounted combat system, it is a “perfect” medieval combat simulator that takes terrain, armor, weapons and all that in account. Stats/Skills are there, but play a minor role.

    I read both Scifi and Fantasy, both are next to each other in the bookstore, but for my MMO I would prefer a character-based fantasy world or SciFi with vehicles that you can leave/enter at will. A Fallout style world would also be cool – Max Max, here I come.

    I already twittered something like that yesterday:

    “I wish I could have Aion’s animations and beauty, LOTRO’s landscapes and parts of Conan’s sword-swinging in Mount & Blades setting. xD”
    +
    “Oh my god I forgot to mention Ultima Online’s skillsystem and world features… I blame Twitter’s 140 char limit!”

    I should also be free to play like the old Guild Wars, no micro-transactions. ;)

  4. [...] 2009 Games Leave a Comment I just read some interesting post from a great blog called we fly spitfires. Gordon tells us his few of a perfect MMO game and there are some good ideas and it inspired me to [...]

  5. JC says:

    A friend of mine had an idea for a fantasy setting MMO world where the overland areas would be more or less “static” like we see now, and there’d be a few static dungeons as well, but mostly there would be dynamic dungeons — his live team would spend all its time creating new dungeons and they’d swap them in and out of the game every month or so. He felt this would make it so you couldn’t simply go grind out xp/loot/whatever, but would need to constantly be exploring, since the dungeon entrances would move around as well.

    Personally, I like how Morrowind (Elder Scrolls 3) handled it — there was a set storyline/questline you could follow which would be your “theme park/on-rails” area, but it only took you to about maybe half of the game world. The other half was always out there waiting for you to discover it also, and you could completely ignore the “main quest” if you wanted at no penalty to yourself. You could find the assassin’s guild and join them, or join the Imperial Guard if you wanted. Options galore for if you wanted to simply “sandbox it” but if you felt the need for story. . . that “main quest” was always there waiting for you too. If only they’d been able to make it an MMO instead of simply single-player. /big sigh

    For a sci-fi setting, the game “Privateer” handled it similarly — you could explore the galaxy and get any ship you wanted, but there was a storyline/quest series you could do any time you wanted too.

    • Gordon says:

      Oblivion was just like that too and it was an excellent game. I kept playing and thinking to myself “if only this was a MMO”. Bethesda could do worse than just remake it as a virtual world :)

      I loved Oblivion’s mix of “sandbox” (sorry, Stabs!) and theme park modes. I don’t think I actually spent much time on the main quest because I was too busy becoming the top gladiator and joining the league of Assassins. Plus the ability to complete quests in more than 1 way (i.e. charm people, bribe them, kill them etc) was amazing. I guess that’s the sort of thing I’m looking for in my perfect MMO :)

  6. Tesh says:

    Mmm… Privateer was all kinds of awesome, and a natural fit for freelancer sellswords, er, guns for hire.

  7. Andy says:

    I really want to see a modern urban setting. I’m hoping the world of darkness mmo (if its even still on the table) can be my ideal mmo. I love the world and the atmosphere and would very much like to see something like that translated into mmo form.

    The secret world did seem interesting and while I don’t personally hate funcom like a lot of people, my trust just isn’t there any more so I’ll just have to wait and see how that goes.

    While I do love sci fi and want more sci fi mmo’s, I feel a game like WOD could be a fresh start in developing mmo’s with a fresher setting that has barely been touched upon. Who better to do this than CCP?

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