Editorial: Building a Better Online Game

In today’s market there are only a handful of high profile online games that gamers are willing to invest significant amounts of time into. None of these games are perfect though, so today we will be looking at what elements we can steal from from each to build the perfect MMO.

V4der, Vaderrr, Vaderz, DarphV....
Look, I created a clone of Darth Vader!

Story

Story has come a long way from the early grind-heavy games found ten years ago. I played Ultima Online and Everquest briefly back in the day and honestly cannot remember having any narrative driving me forward in the either. Even Warcraft relied on content from past games to flesh out its universe, adding little to tie the world together as Blizzard have with their recent expansions.

Technology has come a long way, allowing players to experience content through the use of phasing. This allows developers to change the world for individuals as they quest through a zone, or to act out scenes in-game when activated by a player.

The best use of story I have found in an MMO to date is in The Old Republic. What it lacked in its end-game content, it made up for with its questing experience. Never have I felt more the hero than I did while playing this game. Now that it has gone free-to-play it is worth checking out, especially if you enjoyed the two Knights of the Old Republic games.

We put a farm in your farm, so you can farm while you farm.
Farming really is end-game content now.

End-Game Content

Raising a character up is all well and good, but once the level progression has ended what is left to do? If the game in question was The Old Republic I would suggest starting a character of a new class and begin all over again. Not everyone wants to play these online games like they would an offline one, so there need to be content for characters who have achieved the max level.

In EVE Online characters never finish progression. Skills can take months to max out, only for there to be a whole new set to learn afterwards. There is much to do here once a considerable number of skill points have been obtained in a specific field of skills. Whether one enjoys crafting, gathering, warfare or economics (especially economics), the game has something to be enjoyed. That being said, it can be difficult for new players to break into this game for the very same reasons.

The model adopted by EVE makes it difficult to introduce narrative into the game; the idea being that players create their own stories through their actions in the game. It is for this reason that World of Warcraft is a clear winner due to the almost overwhelming amount of content that can be experienced at the end-game.

Blizzard have refined raiding with every expansion, Mists of Pandaria being no exception. Raid finder offers all players the ability to see content, which previously was only available to the top half a percent of the player base. Even gearing up for heroics is simple with the introduction of Scenarios, delivering story-based encounters to a smaller group of players, with upgrades for newly dinged level nighties.

EVE Online: still a game of numbers.
An Epic Conflict

Group Content

I have spent countless hours raiding in Warcraft with my guild over the last three years. We studied the fights, prepared ourselves with the best gear available, then threw ourselves headfirst into epic encounters. I mainly raid in a ten-man group, though I have also tried twenty-five and even forty-man content over the years. None of this can compare to EVE Online though.

Corporations (EVEs guilds) often consist of many veteran players with considerable wealth behind them. Fight often break out over sectors of space which are not controlled by the games NPC factions. These are highly desired by corporations for economic or military reasons. The fights can get rather large, as anyone in the sector can join in. Fifteen hundred pilots engaged in an epic conflict that caused the destruction of in-game property estimated at roughly $27,000. Warcrafts forty-man PvP battles should be ashamed.

Conclusion

Even veteran developers would struggle trying to blend together these diverse systems into a beast of a game. I’m sure one of the studios has come to the same assessment as me though, so it may not be far away if it is possible. Blizzard’s project Titan could be unveiled any day now. My copy of White 2 is sitting right next to me though, and promises me hours of enjoyment for the next few weeks. Actually, forget everything I’ve just written and give me Pokémon Online instead. Please?

Readers, have I forgotten any games in my categories? Can you suggest a better idea to put into a new game? Let me know in the comments!

One comment

  1. That pun on farming as end-game content is enough to award you Employee of the Year.

    EVE Online is the kind of batshit-crazy game I would play if I were fascinated by numbers. Also, if I were rich. Because I think you pretty much have to be rich in real life to get anywhere in EVE.

    Also, how dare you ask for Pokemon Online. It is called Mists of Pandaria, and I have caught 268 of em all. Get to work.

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