Sunday, 29 June 2014

MMO Design: Activities need more Player Interaction

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

In MMO's everyone gets into fights all the time. Is it simply because there's nothing better to do?

Most MMOs focus on one thing and one thing only: combat. Regardless of the setting, narrative, or game play most of your time in an MMO will be spent fighting either foes either controlled by other people or the AI. There are numerous combat system types which may or may not be similar to each other across the games but generally there is quite a fair bit of thought that comes into the design. Most of your character's gear often affects combat in some way too. Comparatively, there aren't many other in-game interactions that in depth.

My question is, why not?

If you needed as many hot keys for crafting or conversation with NPCs as you did in combat then that would give them more weight. Suddenly you might find that you can talk your way out of fighting in that game, maybe even forming alliances with otherwise hostile NPCs. Maybe people will be happy to craft items and or housing all day if the construction game was good. Maybe character X makes better medicine than character Y not just because of some arbitrary number on that skill, but because the player behind it was actually more competent while making it.

There are MMOs that have tried somewhat to go there, like Mabinogi where you can harvest wheat, grind it into flour, get some yeast and bake bread or harvest chicken eggs, setup a camp fire then get your frying pan out and make breakfast. All those actions needed more player interaction than the Ultima Online version which was basically double click on something, target oven.

A sword crafted in Mabinogi actually took someone the effort and time of hammering correct spots in a mini-game. For me that is more valuable than the mass produced ones in Guildwars 2 where you simply need the material then press the "Craft x number" button which spits out the finished items in less than five seconds. If you translated that into combat basically you have one "fight" button that you just press to fight, cutting out all technique and short handing extra abilities. You'd consider that lazy right?

If people can keep thinking up of unique attack moves for six+ different classes per game I'm sure that if they put their heads to it they can come up with equally just as good systems for the rest of the interactive activities - and that is something I would like to see. What do you think? Is that something you agree with or do you think it would be too annoying if making a single shield or trying to convince a merchant to give you a discount was akin to having a solo boss fight?


  1. I believe there's gonna be crafter only classes in EQN. Some MMOs have actually featured similar in the past, you could easily just be a trader or crafter in UO for example. I agree with you that MMOs could easily feature less combat-centric experiences but for that they need to be more sandboxes / simulations than progressive themeparks. And if you look at the most successful MMOs in the past 10 years, unfortunately the great majority of popular games are themeparks. I wonder if the themepark approach could work without the combative aspect....but substituting combat with another progressive, competitive element comes down to the exact same thing eventually.

    1. Yeah, there needs to be more Sandboxy goodness! I wouldn't want to remove combat though. All this stuff needs to go along side it. I want more interactions, not less. :P

  2. I agree. A lot of my guildies in The Rift is actually mostly crafting or housing as we speak. Landmark seems to pick up on that too so definitely, we need variety and people are different. I can find pvp fun for quite a while but suddenly I want to do something else. I think im average like that :)