I used to love Everquest 2. I mean really love it. My feelings towards it transcended beyond the way a man feels about a woman, the way he feels about a fine cigar and even the way he would feel about a fellow Spartan (should be be one himself). To me, it was a game that absorbed years of my life, the plucky little kid who fought back against the face of overwhelming odds (World of Warcraft) and worked harder than anyone out there to improve, to evolve, to better itself. Under excellent guidance it streamlined its mechanics, enhanced its gameplay and tempered some excellent lore into a very immersive and well executed MMO. Not long after I stopped playing though, the game designers just seemed to give up.
Posts Tagged ‘mmorpg design’
I’ve been playing SW:TOR since Tuesday and, whilst I have been enjoying it quite a lot, a number of big game design flaws have cropped up already, most of which I think will start to grate on people pretty quickly. The biggest flaw, in my book anyway, is the now very apparent terrible distribution of classes amongst the playerbase. Simply put, everyone is playing the same darn class (Advanced or otherwise)… and I don’t just mean by a small percentage either, I’m talking about by a frickin’ massive degree. I think for every one Vanguard I’ve encountered, I’ve seen about 20 Commandos and I’m not even sure the Smuggler class exists.
As you may know, I’ve been avoiding the SW:TOR beta lately (and thus this entire post might be complete crap) but one thing I haven’t been able to avoid is reading a lot of information about the game. As much as I tried to resist, curiosity got the better of me and I started checking out the SW:TOR skill tree (aka talent) system to see if I could decide what class I wanted to play. Suffice to say, I was pretty shocked at how outdated, inflexible and unoriginal it was.
I’m quite enamored with Skyrim. Partially because it makes me say things to my wife like, “honey, I’m going to play Skyrim, come get me in three hours” but mainly because it gives me everything I’ve always enjoyed in a RPG and always wished for in a MMORPG: freedom, immersion, exploration and a real sense of satisfaction.
Skyrim’s not perfect. The UI is awful, the combat is a little clunky and a lot of the voice actors sound like poor Arnold Swarchenegger impersonators but all of these things, for me anyway, are easy to overlook as you get sucked into a pure, honest and unashamed role-playing experience. The game doesn’t pander to you and it doesn’t patronise you but neither does it make your life hard for the sake of creating artificial challenge or immersion. There’s no mandatory grinding and practical concepts like fast travel and providing exits at the end of long, winding dungeons keep you from getting frustrated. It’s the perfect blend of hardcore and casual (something I’m hoping MMOs will get right one day).
My post last week about MMO designers using class flexibility as a way to keep the Holy Trinity on life support rather than find alternative solutions drew a lot of great feedback, fantastic comments and interesting discussions. I always love it when readers know more about a subject than I do and aren’t afraid to get stuck into a debate about it, however it did raise a lot of good questions about my motivations for writing the article in the first place. To be clear, I don’t hate the Holy Trinity (in fact, I’m rather fond of it), it’s just that I don’t think it works in today’s MMORPG.
Let’s face it, the holy trinity mechanic for MMOs isn’t going anywhere. No matter how restrictive it is, no matter how much it impedes gameplay, no matter how much it puts the whole silly concept of raiding at odds with the leveling game (I just despise the idea of a single ‘main tank’), its here to stay for a long, long time. Regardless of how much we might want the holy trinity to accidentally asphyxiate itself during a sordid little sex game with its dirty sandbox cousin, it’s never going to die, especially not when developers have found a way to keep the darn thing on permanent life support. Y’know what I’m talking about – the concept of hybrid classes and versatility.
I must be getting old. As much as I love contemporary MMOs and could probably never go back to the original days of Everquest, there’s a trend emerging that I’m struggling to cope with: spell and combat ability overload. RIFT is the worst. WoW is pretty bad, as are other games like Everquest 2. You know what I’m talking about – the floods of endless abilities that end up filling your hotbars to the brim and cause your fingers to cramp trying to hit all of the keys. It’s button mashing digit dexterity gone mad.
Don’t get me wrong, I love choice. I want my wizards to have dozens of spells to pick from and I want my warriors to be able to choose between being a wrecking ball of destruction or an armoured tin can of impenetrable goodness. Choice is good, selection is good, variety is good. Having a UI clogged up with seven hotbars and 40 abilities, each of which require constant and consistent mashing is not. I don’t want a ’standard rotation’, especially not one consisting of a dozen attacks and I don’t want to have actions taking up space in my UI that I only fire once in a blue moon. What I want is to make intelligent, informed decisions when I play, with each action generating a clear and conceivable benefit. And I want to do it all with ease and simplicity.