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.

This Week at a Glance

Crazy week of 14 hour work days and trying to get a few projects off the group for my little startup project I’m doing. Starting a business is a lot of work. Let’s play catch up.

Chronicles of Elyria

Several of you emailed me or commented about Chronicles of Elyria with a “Check this out, Keen!” or “Hey have you seen this?” Yep, I see it. I think there’s a lot of really, really baseless hype right now. I can’t get excited for Kickstarter projects anymore. I’ve been pretty vocal about my dislike for the crowdfunding model for video games. While it has worked wonderfully for some games, I think it’s been the death sentence for twice as many more.

Don’t get me wrong here. I think the game has plenty of awesome ideas. In fact, I’m hyped myself at the thought of how some of these ideas can translate into a more dynamic and “living” world (sandbox?) rather than a themepark.

  • Characters age and die
  • Characters can permanently die
  • Characters stay in the world and if merchants they will be turned into NPCs (really cool concept?)
  • No in-game maps
  • Game enforced palyer contracts (also really cool)

What I can already say I dislike immediately are the ideas of players being Kings and a less than super simple business model. I have never seen the promise of player Kings or rulers or mayors or whatever they may be actually pan out into something that makes ANY sort of sense. So that idea already throws a red flag for me. And the concept of having pre-launch currency, in-game currency earned by playing, yada yada, all makes me frown and wish they’d just charge $14.99 a month.

Chronicles of Elyria is on my radar for sure. Let’s hope Kickstarter works, they actually make the game, and it’s what they promised the world.

Overwatch Open Beta

I’m enjoying Overwatch Open Beta significantly more than the Alpha I played a few months ago. However, the game still suffers from immense balance issues. Some characters are just worthless due to team composition needs. Some characters are still ridiculously powerful unless hard-countered by a specific character. I like Overwatch, but end up feeling frustrated 50% of the time I play, but that’s shooters in general.

World of Warcraft – Ding 100

My Monk reached level 100 and I was able to start my Tanaan dailies. In just 3 days of dailies I now have a full set of gear for my healing spec. I’m up to like 650 iLvl or something. Half my items are 675-680 epics. I’m planning to start dungeons soon, and farming raids for cash.

Redefining WoW’s Endgame

WoW World Quests

Yesterday I mentioned how WoW’s zones will scale in the Legion expansion. Utilizing such a feature, Blizzard plans to do away with Daily Quest Hubs and replace them with ‘events’ that will rotate in and out. These events seem to operate similarly — from what little information I have — to those “public quests” (wrong analogy but they are open to everyone to open their map and go to) used in other games, with the exception being many seem to be geared toward solo players.

The “World Quests” are designed to offer more of a guide or structure to endgame play sessions rather than act compulsively on players as a “you must do these quests in this order every day” type of mentality. As someone who has never liked dailies, and currently stuck doing them in Tanaan on my Monk, I am definitely looking forward to a system that presents me with opportunities rather than forcing me to feel compelled to “do my dailies.”

“World Quests will show you quests, rare elite spawns, rare spawns, pet battles, outdoor PvP activities, world bosses, special dungeon activities, profession activities, and more. Want to know what there is to do in Azeroth today? Just open your map!” – Muffinus, WoW Designer

As I alluded to in the beginning, I think this will work nicely with the zone scaling. Players will have reasons to go everyone in The Broken Isles rather than all congregating in one final zone. We’ll be able to choose what types of activities we want to do each day when we log in. Some of these quests will be daily, weekly, or even hourly events.

There will still be rep grinds. There will still be a legitimate argument to be made about semantics. In a way, these are still “dailies.” You’re still logging in each day and doing activities, otherwise you’ll miss out on potential progression. Blizzard is simply expanding the scope of the definition to include more play styles and a slightly more forgiving presentation.

Despite the semantics, this is a step in the right direction. I like choices. I like logging in and being able to think, “What would I like to do today?” Any step away from “go to this hub, take these 10 blue exclamation points, and come back tomorrow” sounds good to me.

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.