Current MMO Quality

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or “Why don’t MMO developers learn from each other?”

I’ve been wondering this already a while. Every new MMO I had certain expectations. Perhaps these expectations are already wrong, but that’s just what it is when you are gaming through all these MMO’s. Today I explore the MMO market and its differences.

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Players of course, especially when they travel from one game to the other, will have certain expectations from the next game. Whether that is what the game is advertised (or hyped) for or something that they had in their previous game and ‘expect’ to have again in the next, I don’t know. It all depends on which game or which development team.

Like I wrote last week, I’ve been playing Asheron’s Call 1 and 2 in the past. Asheron’s Call 1 was just a great developed game with a huge diversity into what you could do in the MMO world. I believe it wasn’t as much content as it has become over the past 10 years, but the developers did definitely do more effort to include a lot of things from start.

Asheron’s Call 2 was their sequel to Asheron’s Call 1. Even though they commercialised at the time to take into account only the good things of MMO’s to create theirs, they missed out on a great amount of things. They even managed to skip out most of Asheron’s Call 1 (their own game!) content and features which have made that game so big.

Just to take an example: in Asheron’s Call 1 you could enter houses, where you would find sellers (NPC’s) or quests. You could open doors and close them and they all made a specific squeaking noise. In Asheron’s Call 2 they made houses look like blocks of concrete with a texture on it. You could not open a door or enter them at all. Asheron’s Call 1 offered housing in which you could place objects you found throughout the game into your house and craft furniture for it. Asheron’s Call 2 did not offer such thing.

Turbine’s later game Lord of the Rings Online included a small version of housing at a later stage (patch) and had huge limits as to how you could place things. You would say that with the years between LOTRO and Asheron’s Call 1, technology would have improved and things would be easier for both developer (to program it) and player (to use it), but it was simply left out or cut short.

Nevertheless does Asheron’s Call 2 offer a lot of functionality that newer games are lacking at again.

More recent games such as Guild Wars 2 by ArenaNet have put a lot of time and effort into game mechanics, but still manage to leave out main features such as player housing, mounts (even if it was just for vanity) and most of the most common emotes. So yes I like Guild Wars 2, but I just end up getting crazy by certain things that could have been fixed so easily or could have been added as a selling point to that game (over other MMO’s).

Guild Wars 2 came after World of Warcraft right? Well why can I do emotes while sitting such as waving at a passing person in that game. I can’t in Guild Wars 2, nor in Turbine’s game Lord of the Rings Online which also arrived after WoW. Emotes seem to have been programmed individually. When you sit down (emote) and you want to wave at a passing person, you will perform the wave emote. The wave emote is programmed or animated to be from the standing position.. character stands up and waves. Does not return to its previous emote or position. Really annoying for a role player!

And there are solutions for us role-players but that make it less of a game and more of a chat *waves at personsname* in chat.. or /e waves at personsname but they are less interactive, less fun. Could just as well login to Skype and do it there instead.

We use the home instance of Guild Wars 2 as housing. Some houses have doors! AC1 anyone? but otherwise there is no interaction there. Mind you, Turbine’s LotRO had doors, but behind each door resided a portal towards the “inside” of the building. What was the point of that?

Well for the most part these special systems have to do with making it easier to make things. Letting emotes only happen from their own pre-programmed and pre-animated positions saves the developer from a lot of extra character model work in which perhaps arms would twist wrong etc. Opening doors in real time gives the problem of showing the same animation to everybody in that same area, the same door should be open or closed for anyone. Another problem is that inside area’s (houses and the like) will need to be there in the same world, a lot of rendering issues occur and you will have the added graphics on the screen at the same time.

But on the other side I believe it has to do with that game developers put all their time into what they think are the main features of their game, leaving out the extra randomness that players will enjoy. They rather concentrate on building a quest system or a different name for a questing system, a combat system to defeat monsters and so on. They feel that features such as horses (mounts), extensive emote systems and housing are not important enough for their game or are there for one select group of people, the Role-players.

But what they forget in the same time, is that the role-playing community is most likely the type of player that will stay in your game the longest, providing that you have these extra features. If a role-player enjoys your overall gameplay and you have the extra ‘random’ content to fill in the extra hours of their gameplay experience, they will stay longer than the players who rush to max level to leave for the next game coming out.

Although not really an MMO, Minecraft is a game from just a couple of years ago. Minecraft is created by an indie developer of course, but a lot of ‘features’ are included that I’ve never seen in a game or MMO. Do you know any other game that has the option to build your house from the ground up? To dig in the ground as to gather materials? To craft to such an extent, but with a simple logic? To build traps, tripwire contraptions, electro circuits..trains on train rails… but above all have water physics??!

I really hope that in the near future a new team of developers will step up and create that kind of experience where everything good from all MMO’s are available. Everything worked out well and into the details with a lot of depth.

I have good hopes for indie developers, whether they come via Kickstarter or not, that know about this lack of depth in the industry and will take it further from there.

Next article will be about Single player quality!

Game on(line)!

Steven

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