10 Things I Want From the Next Gen MMO

While the thoroughly enjoyable discussion about MMO taxonomy triggered by Virgin Worlds Podcast #49 and further fostered by Wilhelm2451 on the The Ancient Gaming Noob continues there and among other blogs, I thought I’d throw out a few things I’d like to see from the next generation of MMOs. By “next generation” I mean something that will hopefully be less of a debate topic than the one’s we’re currently discussing.

Of course, I’m assuming that the best ideas and features from this generation’s games will be a given. Things like:

  1. Seamless world
  2. World-wide Player-based economy
  3. Top-notch graphics that require only modest systems
  4. Customizeable UI
  5. Re-Customizeable Avatar
  6. Sensible Instancing
  7. World Events
  8. Player/Guild housing

I’m sure there’s much more that we wouldn’t be able to live without I haven’t mentioned.

But what I really want to see in the next generation of MMOs is (in no particular order):

1. Decay, Death and Inheritance. Our players should age and eventually die or retire in old age. We should be able to pass on most of our possessions or wealth on to heirs we select. Most of our ordinary items should decay as well. The period should be reasonable of course, but limited. It should be neither exclusively time-based nor experience-based. If you play a lot, you shouldn’t be penalized, but neither should you get a complete pass from Father Time. The MMO world may not be ready for reproduction yet… or is it?

2. Dynamic User-impacted Environment. Players should affect their environment. One of my favorite features of old RTS games was when the player economies started to collapse as resources were over-consumed. Forests should change shape in response to harvesting, animals would become more scarce as populations encroach or they are over-hunted, etc.

3. Orthogonal Game Play Options. I do want to grow up and learn about my society, but I also want to “get a job” or pursue a bunch of careers and not just grind an escalating list of uber mobs. Benefits/detriments of ageing could dramatically affect this kind of play. I might be a fierce warrior in my youth but turn to more scholarly pursuits as I wisen with age and my vitality is sapped. Likewise, lets kill XP once and for all. If I want to be a better fighter, I’ll train and fight. If I want to be a better arcanist, I’ll study and use more magic. With some overall limit on my learning capacity, I would have to choose a mix that I want.

4. Dynamic smart spawns in Real Zones. No mob should regularly spawn anywhere. IF I have to kill 10 foozles, I’d rather go foozle hunting in the foozle forest than camp the foozle spawn points. This would also be affected by #2. The spawn rate could adjust to overall player population, but there should be a foozle lifecycle that I and the world economy have to live with. If I don’t have to kill 10 foozles for the baker to make foozle pie to get to level 2, this gets easier…While we’re at it, lets keep the mob mix reasonable (i.e., no zone could support hundreds of predators unless there were thousands of prey. And while there are more and less dangerous places in the world (e.g., Walden Pond v. the African Savannah) there is still a range of dangers in each area. Mix it up.

5. Smart Mobs. If I attack one foozle out of a herd, that herd should either stomp my ass dead or run like the wildebeest. If I pick a fight with an orc, I would expect his friends to help and not just stand by like nothing happened. Likewise, if I’m ambushing a camp full of orcs, I expect them to use cover, and coordinate their defense, certainly not stand around wondering “hey, where’d Stan go? Wasn’t he here just a second…thunk.”

6. Big Angry Vindictive Capricious Dieties. BOW DOWN. Take care of your gods and they’ll take care of you. Or, if you don’t take care of your gods, they’ll take care of you too, so to speak. And take care of you they will in big, disruptive world impacting ways as well as in small player specific ways. Neglect the Temple of Arfnarf and she may bring death, disease and pestilence to your lands. Likewise, appease Wootenloot and watch your enemies crumble. Gods can change the shape of the world.

7. Seasonal Weather with Real Effects. We’ve seen night and day, but lets see seasons and have them affect everything. Seasonal flora and fauna, speed of travel, combat attributes, the whole nine yards.

8. Dynamic Avatars. Start out as 90 pound weaklings and end up as a musclebound 250 pound barbarian or 135 pound spindly scholar or anywhere in between in response to your chosen careers and activities.

9. Changeable Career Archetypes. The end of traditional archetypes as we know them. We should be able to pursue our destiny and enhance our skills and traits in the manner we desire.

10. Dynamic NPC society. Go to BED! Go HOME! What are you doing standing around the same place all the time? If you’re a merchant open your shop, close your shop. Get a [virtual] life!

Obviously there will need to be some concessions to create meaningful gameplay, but in the next world in which we virtually live, I want that world to live and player characters to truly live in it. If there’s a theme here, its to truly make the game environment a living, breathing and dynamic environment– as dynamic as the player environment has been. Clearly that much interactivity will probably require significant advances in both cleverness of design and pure computing horsepower, but maybe not so much. I’m reminded of just how much game they were able to squeeze out of my old Apple II+ with 48K of memory and hope for the next generation.

4 thoughts on “10 Things I Want From the Next Gen MMO”

  1. And, if I am going to go foozle hunting, how about just one or two foozles that roam the woods? 10 is over the limit in my state. But have said foozles leave spoor to follow so you can track them, or maybe have them call out their foozle mating call every so often, so you can get a bearing by the sound? (Better turn my sound on.) Or give me a foozle call, or a foozle tracking gopher if you must. Something so I feel like I have some control over what is happening and that I am not just wandering in the woods for a lucky encounter. (Roll 1d6… 1! Wandering monster!)

    Better quest/mob alignment is one I would like to see. We have to go kill 10 rats because that keeps us busy for a while, not for any real story value. Heck, I have done an EQ2 quest in Stormhold that requires you to kill 50 “annoyingly tough long after they are grey” mobs for a quest. The reward is crap and there was no way to justify 50 over, say, 5 or 10 of these guys.

    You might say this is a call for quality over quantity.

  2. All great ideas with which I heartily agree. The more I think about it, the more I see the “problem” with current generation(s) (oh no, lets not start that discussion again;) ) MMOs is fundamentally the character progression model, the consequences of which force us into the sort of stilted gameplay mechanics we see now with further concessions to the task of modeling and implementing behavior elements in the world.

    The argument goes something like this:

    If we didn’t need XP for character progression, we wouldn’t need to simply kill x dozen/hundred/thousand mobs for the experience to progress.

    If we didn’t need to kill dozens/hundreds/thousands of mobs for xp, the mob population doesn’t need to be wall to wall with fixed spawn point in heavily travelled zones, spawn rates don’t need to be ridiculous to accomodate “player need” for progression, which would allow devs to be more creative and complex in modeling the behavior and difficulty of the mobs that are placed in the world.

    Consider the dreaded Stranglethorn Vale in WoW. In the northern part of the zone, the Hemet Nesingwary series of quests require grinding through escalating levels of feline and raptor mobs. Tigers and panthers and raptors are wall to wall and spawn like popcorn. This is boring and a joke.

    Blizzard almost gets it right though with a few of the miniboss quests in this series. One in particular, Bhag’thera the panther miniboss, spawns randomly at 3 different points (though doesn’t roam very far once spawned).

    Bhag’thera must at least be hunted and when finally found, the fight is relatively long and pretty tough solo at level. Add a few more spawn points, increase its roam range and you’ve almost created the illusion I’m talking about.

    Make most quests like that instead of the lead ins, and I’ll start feeling more like a hunter and have a greater sense of accomplishment. Of course, with the XP advancement model, you can’t do it. You have to pac-man your way from level to level…

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