My idea of a great MMO, Chapter 1: Starting Assumptions

Posted: October 25, 2006 by Kendricke in General Game Concepts

I thought it might be fun to spend some time over the next month or so going over my personal ideas on what would make a great MMO.  Now, realize up front that this is more art than science from my point of view, and largely this will be conceptualized and not outlined in any great detail right away.

Now, obviously, this is the “wouldn’t it be cool if…” stage of creation, because that’s a great place to start.  Even if later revisions in design or opinion contradict these initial ideas, or even if the ideas are completely unrealistic our outside of the realm of the possible, it’s still fun to sit down with nothing more than unbridled enthusiasm and imagination and start wondering what you’d try if you knew you could not fail (I read that on a motivation poster once).

However, that said, there are certain assumptions I want to make up front to lay the foundation for the ideas to come – to keep to a standard concept and focus, if at all possible.

First Assumption:  The MMO is to be a game, not a world simulation.  I love details as much, if not more than the next guy, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to have to worry about a day job, fighting off the plague, losing teeth, spending weeks or months healing from relatively minor wounds, worrying about where the nearest privy is, general taxes, or anything of the sort. 

Second Assumption:  True Race/Class Balance is Impossible.  That’s right.  I said it.  You can’t balance race or class properly, so don’t make promises about it.  In fact, you might want to ban the phrases outright if at all possible.  Make sure people understand the expectation right out of the gate that not every race will have an immediate or overwhelming benefit and not every class is going to be great at doing something.

Third Assumption:  Avoid “timesinks” that do not add to the MMO in some way or fashion.  Some timesinks might make a world feel larger (boats or airships or what have you).  Some timesinks might add to rarity or even challenge.  However, when there’s no purpose to a timesink other than to kill time, avoid the timesink.  This means cutting back on random quest spawns or timed spawns, and working more with triggered spawns.  Difficulty should be gauged in the quest or event itself, not in the difficulty of simply waiting for the quest or event.

Fourth Assumption:  What you see is what you get.  I’ve talked about this one before, and recently was reminded of those discussions when I saw Blackguard discuss the concept again over at Nerfbat.  Basically, if you can see an item on a creature that you kill…it should drop in some form or fashion (or…what you see is what you get).

Fifth Assumption:  Social interaction should be made incredibly easy – but not enforced.  The MMO’s design should include situations that increase player interactivity – but do not force such interactions.  Every aspect of the game’s design should be built with this idea at least passively in mind.  A lot of players don’t like grouping, or maybe just prefer to have the option to solo.  Even as you keep this in mind, additional rewards should be given to groups and/or raids over and above mere experience/progression rewards.  I’m thinking that soloing should be workable…but that grouping will be where the real fun is at. 

Sixth Assumption:  Death should mean something.  Death should really mean something.  It shouldn’t ruin your night or destroy a group, but it should be something to be avoided and even feared. 

Seventh Assumption:  Players want more options over their own playtime.  Provide more looting options, more guilding/grouping options, more housing options, more UI options, more options in general. 

Eighth Assumption:  Guilds are to be catered to.  Not specific guilds, mind you – but the concept of player run guilds/clans/associations/crews should be held in the highest of esteem and priority when designing the game.  Give guilds more options, more control, and more rewards.  In general, long after a game has lost lustre, most guilds are still recruiting and retaining players.  In my opinion,  as a general rule, guilds are the real powerhouses of MMO playerbases.  

Ninth Assumption:  Players want to be different.  Players are not just natural packrats who like more stuff, they want more unique or different stuff.  Looking like everyone else isn’t appealing to most players.  They want to look different than everyone else.  They also want more ways to show off that “stuff”, be it through houses, or leaderboards, or what have you.   Get away from cookie cutter templates and move toward snowflakes (no two alike…).


I think these assumptions (and perhaps a few others) are always in the back of my mind when I’m choosing what game to play or not.  A game never comes along (or hasn’t yet) that includes all of my personal assumptions or preferences, but as long as it meets most of my criteria, I tend to play there for a long, long time.

We’ll see how the ideas flesh out from here.

  1. olivia says:

    love boat idea. Was very disappointed by boat trips and coalmine truck journeys on Runescape. You no sooner get in than you’re at the other end. I was looking forward to a voyage. And wouldn’t have minded the time spent at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s