How I Would Build The Ultimate MMO

If you’re not familiar, Star Wars: The Old Republic runs on the Hero Engine.  I recently ran across an ad for the Hero Engine for $99/year, plus 30% of profits.  That’s a pretty affordable price for a group of friends to build their own ideal MMO.  Some game engines are even free.  Feelings aside on the Hero Engine itself (It’s gotten a lot of flak for being…ungood.), it’s gotten me to thinking what I would put in my own MMO.  Guild Wars 2 has taken the biggest step in the right direction.  It took a lot of the aggravating, annoying but necessary parts of MMOs, and created better ways of doing those things.  Well, i’m confident I can take it one step further, and make it even better.  Next-Next-Gen!

Free To Play

Every game needs its freeto players (free-to).  Let’s face it, we’re all not part of the top 1% of the world.  Being free removes any barriers to trying a game, and gets you lots of warm bodies on opening day. When I say free, I don’t mean completely free.  Let’s be realistic, a game that doesn’t make money doesn’t stay live.  Funding games through cosmetic and convenience items has proven profitable time and again (League of Legends, Guild Wars 2).  I want as many players as I can stuff onto my servers.  Populated servers make for happy players.  Let the players decide how they want to be monetized.

Content Creation

World of Warcraft had about a 6-9 month long content cycle.  That was a bit long for me.  Guild Wars 2 on the other hand has new content every two weeks.  That is way, way too short for me.  I want to be compelled to log into a game because it’s fun, not because i’ll miss something forever if I don’t.  Star Wars: The Old Republic has a 6 – 8 week content cycle, but it realistically lands on the 8 week side every time.  I think this is a good pace.

Lately, some games have been adding a player made content option.  I think this is such a phenomenal idea, because it lets players create content FOR the developers.  And players want to do this.  Whether it’s to show off their creative side, or getting to make some real world money on the side.  Check out Landmark, EverQuest Next, and Planetside 2 for examples.

Open World

Star Wars Galaxies had such vast, open worlds, it has put every other MMO landscape to shame.  I want an epic feel when I mount up, and look out towards my destination.  Early on in MMOs, the feeling of exploration is great.  You don’t know what’s beyond the trees, across the river, or over the hill.  After a few characters, or even levels, the familiarity sets in.  I want open worlds where I can just ride for 30 minutes in any direction without reaching a zone wall.  Loading screens do not make for an epic feel.  I can tolerate one occasionally, but let’s not go crazy with it.

Player Housing

This is a must have for me.  A place to customize and call home.  It doesn’t have to be fancy at all.  Keeps, Castles, or whatever other structures are appropriate for the setting would be available as well.  Player created towns are such a great social opportunity.  Back in Star Wars Galaxies, our guild’s player city hosted a traveling band one night in our cantina.  The band went from town to town playing.  A band traveling from tree to tree just doesn’t have the same feel.

Horizontal Progression

I hate leveling for the sake of leveling.  Levels separate players, and that means it can separate friends too.  Horizontal leveling lets you group with your friend, and still progress your own character too.  I wouldn’t mind an initial leveling phase like Guild Wars 2, and then have everything plateau out at the final level.  Having to ditch your friends, or waste your own time, isn’t a productive use of valuable free time.

Non-Combat Classes

Crafters, entertainers, or whatever else people can think of.  I love the idea of classes focused on something besides combat.  I’d probably never play one, but it adds to the game’s atmosphere for me.  Some people don’t play games because of the combat, so this path gives a viable option for people to try.  Non-combat classes opens up a game to a whole new group of players.

Unique Feature

Guild Wars 2 has World versus World, Star Wars: The Old Republic has Galactic Starfighter, and the upcoming title Archeage has naval combat.  An MMO needs that one thing that no other game has.  A feature that sets it apart from the crowd.  Content so good that it is bound to be copied by the next MMO coming to market.

Recipe For MMO Success

I have absolutely no professional training on game development.  Only the experience of over a decade of playing video games.  So how did I do?  Think you’d give my MMO a try?  If not, what would you put into your MMO?  There’s been a lot of Star Wars stuff lately, so hopefully this heals break the monotony.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “The Best MMO Ever”
    1. I’m all for taking requests, but I’m not sure exactly what you mean about developing it further. If you give me an idea of what you’re looking for, I’ll make something happen!


  1. Horizontal Progression — One of the things that City of Heroes did well at launch and magnificently later was having mechanics to allow you to team with anyone you wanted, so that except for the level-gated content — the Task Forces had minimum level requirements, and the endgame Incarnate content required a character at level cap — you could have teams with characters spread from level 1 to level 50, and everyone could contribute and earn appropriate rewards..

    At launch, there was the ‘sidekick’ and ‘exemplar’ mechanics — when sidekicking, a high-level character would pair with a low-level character, and the low-level character would fight as if they were one level below their mentor; when exemplaring, a high-level character would pair with a low-level character, and would fight as if they were the same level as the low-level character. This would allow characters of widely-different levels to team together and do missions for either the high-level or low-level character, with each one contributing. This had some problems, in that if one member of a sidekick/exemplar pair disconnected, the ‘link’ would break, getting low-level characters killed or high-level ones ejected from the team (Task Forces having a maximum as well as minimum level, so if you reverted to a level higher than the cap, the game would kick you from the team).

    Later in the game, this process was made automatic — you formed a team, and as long as the team members met any minimum level requirements, the sidekick/exemplar would happen automatically — doing regular missions would sidekick or exemplar everyone on the team to the holder of the mission, and when doing Task Forces, if the team had characters above the level cap for the TF, they would be exemplared to the level cap, then any characters below the level cap would be sidekicked up to them.

    With this change, teaming became effortless. Get some of your friends interested in the game, have them start new characters, and you can use one of your existing characters to team with them as they do their missions, and you weren’t stomping everything into the dirt for no XP. And because each character in a team got their own ‘loot’ drops appropriate to their level, you had no ‘ninja looter’ problems.

    And the developers took it one step further for events with the use of the “giant monster code” — originally just for the ‘Giant Monstar’ class of mobs, then extended to the mobs spawing in zone-wide events like the Rikti raids or the zombie invasions, where characters were automatically scaled to the same level as the event mobs, so that whether or not characters formed teams, they would all be fighting as if their opponent(s) were the same level they were.

    The SWTOR ‘bolster’ mechanics are a poor shadow of what CoH had, because it only works for specific engagements and only boosts characters to the level cap; there is still no way for a player, with their character roster on a server filled up, to bring friends of theirs into the game and team with them without creating a new character to level with them — either by paying cartel coins for an extra character slot, or by shifting to another server — which loses the off-screen support of the other characters in your legacy, because there’s no cross-server mail.

    Having a mechanism in the game to allow you to scale characters up;/down in teams would keep people together, but it’s something that needs to be built into the game at the start. City of Heroes had a simpler design problem because it was, to a great extent, stat-free; you slotted enhancements into your powers, but your base stats were all determined by class and level. In a gear-based game, you would have to determine what a ‘standard’ level of gearing was at any given level, then scale a character’s gear stats according to the ratio of their stats at their ‘natural’ level to the ‘average’ gearing — so that if you were wearing a chest piece with a gear rating of 150, and the ‘standard’ for your level was 100, when you were scaled down to a level where the ‘standard’ gear rating was 20, your chest piece would have a rating of 30 — and then work out what that meant for the boost to each stat was. Once the conversion tables were defined, it would be a straightforward process, but it’s a great deal more complicated to set up.

    1. I played CoH when it was new(ish). That was a ‘fun’ game. Being able to create your own super hero powers combination was amazing. Guild Wars 2 does the auto-tuning of character levels really well. I think they have the best implementation of ‘scaling’ that i’ve played to date. Bolster in SWTOR is such a good idea, but has had such a terrible track record. Whenever I hear bolster, I go straight to assuming that they found another bug.

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