I Wish Making An MMORPG Was That Simple

I saw an announcement for MMORPG Tycoon 2 and it got my thinking. MMORPG Tycoon 2 is about making and running your own MMORPG. Well the idea once again popped into my head about wishing I could simply make a MMORPG — a real one.

I can’t code. I have the artistic skills of … something with no artistic skills at all. Those barriers to entry are impassable.  I do have one talent: I know what makes MMORPGs fun, and I’m great at seeing the big picture and bringing projects together. If I had a set of tools that basically did all of the coding and art for me, and allowed me to simply create my world, enter in all of my mechanics, develop my own features, and essentially put it all together with a user-friendly interface, then I could easily make my own MMORPG.

Imagine if it was that simple. Imagine if like you see in that MMO Tycoon video you can simply drop your zones next to each other, plop in some art assets, code the orcs to behave a certain way and use X defined abilities, and piece it all together. I feel like I have the millions of ideas for executing an awesome world all up in my head and on the hundreds of pages of design documents I’ve already drafted over the years. Imagine if the tools were $15/month or $100 one time or something cheap rather than thousands of dollars in licenses.

Someone should develop an engine that handles all of this, makes it all super user friendly, and basically lets us launch our own MMORPGs, and charge a monthly fee per user. If I want to form a dev team then I just pay for more monthly licenses. It can’t be that hard (for those people with talent) to develop a program where people can collaborate online and build a world. Just take something like MMORPG Tycoon or Project Spark and make it better and a real MMORPG tool. Dangit, I want to get started now!

I wish they had that feature back when I played!

Have you ever played a game (mostly MMORPGs), quit for a while, then later found out a few feature was added that you wish was there all along? I experience this all the time. I’ll see someone announce that “guilds can now build cities!” or “X feature that totally sucked is gone and this new Y feature has taken its place and things are amazing now!” The catch is I’ve already quit.

It’s that “Ugh, why wasn’t it perfect when it launched?!” feeling. Games change over time — hopefully for their betterment. I’m okay with that. I always wish they’d change before they launch, or while I’m still playing, though.

That segues nicely into a little discussion about development. I subscribe to the “launch your game when it is ready/finished” philosophy. Don’t rush the game out the door; I don’t want to play it that badly that I’m willing to have a subpar initial experience and find out six months later you’ve fixed the game after everyone already moved on.

Although we often hear the (legitimate) sob stories about running out of money and launching now or never, from my perspective you end up in the same place either way. Your game is either good enough and ready, or it’s not. If it’s not, that will kill you prior to launch or after launch.

I’d like to do away with the “we’ll implement that after launch” mentality completely. Implement it now. If it’s a feature you know people want, put it in before you launch. If guilds building cities is something crucial to your game feeling ‘complete’ or ‘fun’ or ‘ready’ and you launch without it, you’re making a huge mistake.

So there’s really two sides to this discussion:

  1. Developers knowingly didn’t finish the game before they launched leaving a huge feature out and had to try and get it in later
  2. Developers realized X feature is something players really want(ed) or their game really needs and release it after launch

Both are leading causes of MMORPG failure.

Thoughts? Are you okay waiting for big features to be implemented later? Are you like me and often feel that it’s too late to go back and play the game now that it’s fixed or better because that ship has sailed? Personally, I’ll go back and play great games all the time. I’ll resub to MMORPGs decades after their release… if they were fun before. If the game was womp womp and I quit, chances are I won’t be going back.

Legion Zones Scale

The Broken Isles Zone Scaling

This isn’t new at all, but if you haven’t been following every Legion detail (like me) then you may find this to be some welcome information: World of Warcraft’s Legion expansion will feature zones that scale to your level. Monster levels, quests, and rewards will all scale based on the level you are in the zone.

This essentially means that instead of everyone progressing down one linear path throughout the entire expansion, players will be allowed to choose when they go to each zone. A few details still evade my understanding such as how this works for telling the narrative of the expansion. I know that when players reach level 110 they’ll be able to go to Suaramar which will present a cinematic experience — perhaps that’s where the more congruent story comes in?

I’m also curious to see how the scaling works, exactly. If I go to Azsuna at level 109, and my friend is level 101, will I be scaled down or will he be scaled up? I guess I don’t understand how we can tackle monsters together and have that experience scale up to me and down to him.

Though my mind is wracked with questions, I find the idea very inviting. I like freedom to go where I want, when I want, and to be able to group with friends more readily. I’m so ridiculously glad I won’t be on a PvP server, though. I can’t imagine having all of the higher levels ganking lowbies just because the zones scale and we’ll be forced more than ever to interact.

Do Levels Really Mean Anything?

The concept of zone scaling does once again bring into question why levels exist in WoW. The entire 1-110 experience will exist as what? A tedious activity designed to keep people paying subs longer? Leveling artifacts and iLvL are already end-game leveling curves anyway.

Although it’s truly too late to remove levels from WoW, I feel as though Legion inches us one step closer to their inevitable free max “level” expansions. After leveling two characters to 100 — I just hit 100 on my Monk last night — I’m pretty tired of the experience, and the idea of buying a level boost isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibilities for me moving forward. I don’t think I can stomach 60-100 ever again. I’ll put my prediction in writing here that we will eventually see progression become an “endgame” activity, and levels will be cleverly hidden behind items or other mechanics.

Balancing Roles Matters Just As Much As Balancing Classes

Though I haven’t been commenting and publicly hanging on every announcement made by the team at CSE, I have been following Camelot Unchained rather closely over the past year. My inbox is constantly blowing up with an evening update, an alpha test announcement (which by the way are always so last minute or during horrible times for me… come on Mark!), or a newsletter from the team. I think they’re making what looks to be fine progress on the upcoming PvP-centric MMORPG.

The latest newsletter (#19) discusses one item in particular that I think will hit home for a lot of us MMO vets: Balance. CSE is aiming to balance around rock-vs-paper mechanic rather than an apples to apples one. In other words, one class type can bet another class type — or taking it a step further, one class specialized in a certain mechanic can beat another class specialized into a certain mechanic like magic vs plate being strong and physical vs plate being weak.

This rock-vs-paper idea isn’t original — it’s been around forever. Even Dark Age of Camelot utilized the system. What’s also not unique is how difficult the idea of balance can truly be, and no matter how hard anyone has ever tried to create the perfect scenario, it never works that way. Paper doesn’t always beat rock in MMORPGs… and perhaps it shouldn’t be a hard counter. The idea of a perfect counter doesn’t exist, and that’s honestly part of the fun. I have no doubt CSE is well aware.

Taking things a little bit further out of the nitty-gritty mechanics side of this conversation, I like the concept of filling a role. When I say filling a role, in this context we can consider a role as a counter or a necessity — or both.  I’ll dumb it down. I used to really, really like the idea of being the guy who killed archers on the walls of a keep. Those archers were countering melee who would run up to the doors, and to counter them I had to sneak into the keep and take them out.

I like to imagine a PvP world where players will say willing specialize to fill roles. If people are going to carry a battering ram, who is going to hold the shield above them to protect them from arrows? Who is going to repair that door? Who is going to protect the people repairing the door? There are so many complexities when you take a PvP game’s balance outside of “my class heals and your class shoots stuff.”

Balancing ROLES to me is just as important as balancing the mechanics of blunt damage vs. plate armor. Without a balance of roles we are left with a very sterile system where we just worry about what class we’re up against or what weapon they are using rather than how they are playing. Balancing classes around roles becomes even more complicated than simply balancing roles against roles.

The “HOW is my enemy going to defeat me this time” is something I want to see balanced around. It may seem obvious, but that’s where most of these PvP games fail even harder than class balance.

More Thoughts On Super Mario Maker

I wrote my Super Mario Maker review last week, and after seeing the public’s thoughts on the game, as well as a comment I received, I think it’s necessary to continue the dialogue.


Click to enlarge

Super Mario Maker truly is the first of its kind. Does it have its problems? Actually, very few of what I would consider actual problems. The ‘issues’ are all in what Super Mario Maker does not include. I found the image to the right (I do not know who gets credit for it) that nicely illustrates what’s missing.

Yeah, having those things would be nice. I spoke about that in my review. I want different biomes. I want slopes. The missing suits and even items which introduce major mechanics would be great too. Those things can be added in a patch/dlc.

There are bigger issues here with which I do agree.

No Map Maker in Super Mario Maker

No World or Map Maker

Here’s where most people get hung up: You can’t actually make a full Mario game in Super Mario Maker. You can’t make a world. You can’t make a map. Super Mario Maker is about making levels or courses. It’s about sharing those courses with people online and with friends. You download courses and rate them, discuss them, etc. People have taken to themes whether they be levels that are zany and play themselves, or creating the most ridiculously impossible course ever.

Yeah, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could make our own map and set up a series of levels? I’d love to theme a world and connect everything together. Lives right now don’t matter unless you play 100 Mario Mode. Fighting a boss is silly because it’s not really a boss of anything. There’s not progression. But again, that’s not Super Mario Maker’s fault.

However, the framework is already there for this to be a feature. When saving a level you can choose to save it to a world. Right now those worlds serve no purpose. Could this be a feature coming soon?

Lack of Purpose

This was alluded to a moment ago when I talked about lives not mattering and bosses serving no purpose. There is a distinct lack of “I should be checking these ?-blocks!” If you die it doesn’t matter. Coins don’t matter. Storing items doesn’t matter. If you die you just start over.

This is Not the Game You’re Looking For…

While I agree completely with all of the above, technically that’s not the fault of the game or its developers. They made a fantastic game within a tool, and a rather innovative new one at that. Super Mario Maker is a course maker using the items available. The point is sharing what you make with others in bite-sized pieces. With what we have been given, this is revolutionary.

I personally want the tools to make a Mario 64 or even a Super Mario 3D World level. How amazing would that be?!

It’s hard to ding a game for being completely new but not going the extra mile that we can only see now that we have this new thing in our hands. That’s why I think Super Mario Maker deserves the near-perfect score I gave it.  Now, if Nintendo launches Super Mario Maker 2 and adds nothing upon this model… then we have a lot to complain about.

I think this is only the beginning for this model. I predict Nintendo will run with this idea and create a Mario Kart variation, as well as a version to introduce Mario 64 / the 3D model. This has generated an enormous amount of buzz for them around something that has been out for 30 years… it’s incredible.