Design your ideal MMO Part I

Back in October of 2007 I had this idea for a series of blog posts that would take the concepts, design elements, features, and so on from mmorpgs and break them apart into simple decisions.  Our blog readership has really grown since then so I want to revisit it and hope that it gets the attention it deserves.  I’m going to take the basic ideas from the previous attempt and rework them slightly this time around.

What type of mmo do you prefer?  That’s the question we’re going to focus on in each of these posts.  First up this week I want to tackle one of the bigger debates out there: Graphics vs. Gameplay.  Feel free to pick more than one.  The options listed below are mostly there to act as a guide and provide direction.  Which type of mmo do you prefer?

  1. A mmo that focuses on having the best graphics out there but neglects gameplay and content almost completely
  2. A mmo with good graphics and a seemingly unlimited amount of average content
  3. A mmo that has average graphics but focuses on making great content
  4. Other (please explain!)


Which did you choose?  For me, content and gameplay are king.  I need my gameplay to be fun, active, dynamic, and I need it to last a really long time.  Graphics are not completely out the door though because they need to be good enough to immerse me in the environment – whether they be highly stylized and cartoony or realistic they need to look “current”.  So in a way I’m fine with average graphics, especially stylized.   I know many of you are going to ask the question, “Why can’t we have both amazing graphics and amazing gameplay?”.  I purposely left out that pipedream because I want a decision between gfx and gameplay to be made.

Graphics are obviously important these days as well.  Several mmorpg’s are being designed to tout DX10, 3.0 shaders, and gorgeous environments.  The most recent example of amazing graphics is Age of Conan which brought with it a flurry of issues including the latest controversy of DX10 being delayed until sometime later this year.  Cutting edge graphics come at a cost, and sometimes that cost can be too high for many potential players.  Maybe you’re not a ramen munching college student and can afford the best.  Does that impact your decision at all?

What is important to you when choosing if you will buy, subscribe to, or continue playing a game?

Part II will be all about PvP vs. PvE.

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  • Even though I have a rig that’s capable of running most things that are out, when it comes to MMO’s I want less graphics and more content. I personally loved WoW’s art style and the fact that lots of people could run it- it meant the community was made up of more than just the people who keep their systems cutting-edge (not that there is anything wrong with those people, but a virtual world is more interesting when it has different types of people).

  • I guess that depends on what you mean by “content.” I think very few people would play a game with nothing to do but great graphics. But I think there could definitely be a niche for a game with great graphics, little designer generated content, but lots of tools for players to make their own content. Koster’s on to something with Metaplace. I think if MMOs are ever going to be engaging on a truly fun, long term, it’ll be through user-generated content, not designer. The designer can design great looking tools, but the players are the ones who’ll make them work.

  • Gameplay > Graphics. I pretty much agree with you there keen, gameplay is much more important than graphics, but the game should look good (current, as you said) afterall – the key is that the engine you build your game on doesn’t limit you in your freedom of gameplay design (invisible walls, swimming, flying, zoning etc.)
    Stylized > Realistic: I don’t care if a mmo has stylized or realistic graphics, but I know that realistic graphics age much faster than stylized and thus are less efficient for an mmo.
    (sorry for my poor english -_- )

  • @jadawin: I really like the connection you made there. A diverse demographic absolutely influences and affects the community in a mmorpg.

    @Dm: I’ll go into more specifics on types of content later because you’re absolutely correct that the type of content and the maning of the word ‘content’ matters. Great train of thought there with the user-generated content.

    @Tom G: We think very much alike!

  • I’m going other on this one.

    Currently, a MMO needs a unique and fantastic art style more than it needs gameplay mechanics or DX10 shaders. The reason that many people play MMOs is because they want to be a bad ass looking dude doing bad ass things in bad ass places. It doesn’t matter if all of your rogues play like the Prince of Persia if they all look the same and are in dingy environments. The game has to look cool to interest people into seeing it’s “revolutionary” gameplay.

  • I honestly cannot see anyone subscribing to an MMO based solely on it’s graphical content. That’d be like buying a high performance sports car with no wheels. Sure it looks good, but it’s not going anywhere.

    For me it’s all about gameplay. Makers of an MMO should base most of their efforts on gameplay. Without it, people will migrate to other games. Why do you think all of those free MMOs are terrible? Some of those games have graphics that match or even surpass WoW, but you don’t see them with millions of users. Gameplay is key.

  • Whatever game you choose, Ramen Muncher should be a career choice.

    I’d fall somewhere between option 2 and option 3. If a game looks pretty damn good, but is skimpy on content, I can live with that for a while. I don’t need all my MMO’s to be a game I can play for years any more. I wouldn’t MIND if I found an MMO where I could be happy for a long time, but a brief journey through a unique and beautiful world might be a nice way to spend six months.

    Average graphics and great content is the best choice for me. I’ve chased after the “best” graphics since I was buying Voodoo cards. I can live with average for a great game. I’ve been playing a ton of Civilization IV recently, perfect example. Except it’s not an MMO 🙂

  • Must…stop…reading…HKO site…

    It’s sad. HKO actually has a lot of really fantastic features and concepts that should be in many mmo’s out there.

    Owning property, farming and other interactive tradeskills, building your own house, combining items to make new ones… WHY is this stuff in HKO and not any other MMO? The insanity!

  • (Just a note, the “Mail” option when you leave a comment says optional and required at the same time if you didn’t know! Ha ha.)

    My standards for different types of games changes. For a MMO that is free, I can withstand mediocre graphics because I know they don’t have a studio to develop them, even though that is rising now-a-days.I like how sometimes they focus more on gameplay than graphics.

    Now if I am going to pay monthly for a game my standards are extremely high. WoW used to qualify for this until they came out with stuff I didn’t think helped the franchise. The only things I care that look good graphic wise is mostly my character, I love fancy cool armor. I can live with “OK” world graphics and that tends to make games run better anyways. I can’t play a game that has wonderful graphics but no content, at first it may be okay but eventually runs out of the “awe” factor.

    I want to add that maybe it may not be a dream for future MMOs to be in the best of both worlds Keen. With the current consoles being able to easily run high end graphics, and being able to support K/M inputs a dev. can easily bring in people. Not happened yet but maybe sometime in the future.

    -Damen

  • Oh and when I was talking about how I am mostly about graphics for my character I also meant to mention that I HATE, absolutely hate, when every character looks the same. I can’t stand that. I love a game where everyone is unique and armor choices are abundant. Even if they are do the same thing, make them look different.

    -Damen

  • I think WoW’s graphics are a step in the right direction…cartoony…maybe…but it allows more people to play.
    The next step is content. The real problem in WoW is its boundaries. Landmass has only so far you can explore, as well as the PvP and PvE aspect having those same boundaries. There is a limit on how far you can go before you start doing thesame thing.

    The real thing you need in a MMO to be successful is content to explore and ways to make your character really look cool. Throw in a real crafting system, where the best is almost the best in the game, and doesn’t require top end dungeons drops to make the stuff….and I think you would have a winner.

    There has to be a great story along with the game. I still can not believe that there is still not a great attempt and a Dragonlance MMO….some much lore and content there it isn’t funny.

  • Well yes, it’s an MMO. An MMO depends heavily on longevity, so why would you drastically shorten the life of your game by going photo-realistic graphics.

    You simply must go stylized. Not only for the longevity, but for the broader market that can comfortably play your game. Realism only reduces your market.

    And now it’s math time:

    Stylized > Realistic
    Content > Graphics
    Content => Bug-Free

    Fun > Everything

    It all comes down to whether something is fun to play. In the case of an MMO, it comes down to whether something can stay fun to play for a really long time.

  • Finally I debate that won’t erupt into fanboy flamers…I hope…

    I totally agree gameplay is paramount. Graphics need to be current just as everyone has said, but the only importance is to make sure areas are vibrant and feel alive. This can be done with low res graphics, but that immersion factor has to be there. WoW honestly is a great example because the graphics had enough awe factor that kept things like boring gryphon rides entertaining for the first couple months. But also it’s gameplay like boring gryphon rides that has turned my WoW into just another icon on the desktop (can’t bring myself to uninstall, the nostalgia factor is too great :P).

    Gameplay should be engaging and interactive, actions that make the story you’re trying to tell come alive. Honestly maybe I have severe ADD or something but running for 20 minutes just to reach a point in a zone to complete 1 or 2 quests is quite upsetting. I honestly don’t understand why a mount is the most epic of achievements in most games that have a constant world. Is hoping on a Donkey or a Horse really that difficult that you have to be able to use bright shiny armor and wield massive swords before you can hop on a slow ass horse that doesn’t really speed things up a heck of a lot because you just make the zones bigger?

    …sorry derailed there for a sec. OK bottom line gameplay > graphics is my vote

  • I would always vote for gameplay and content over graphics but they are not mutually exclusive. Too many people make the mistake of thinking you can’t have both.

  • Content and gameplay will always trump graphics, unless graphics are your sole source of enjoyment in gaming and your sole standard. Not to say that graphics or game world size don’t matter, but I will take a tightly packed game world with tons and tons to do over a massive sprawling beautiful wasteland of content any day of the week.

    We need things to do. Devs constantly underestimate just how much content we need and have the ability to chew through. I think it’s a shame they spend so much time on certain zones, only to have players enter at level 20, leave at 30 and never revisit for any purpose. Zones should be a renewable resource of content.

  • Graphics may be the reason that will excite you and make you wanna play an mmo, but if the content and the gameplay is not so great, then eventually you gonna get bored of it really quick. That’s why i believe average graphics with a Great gameplay is what makes an MMO successful.

  • Kind of a leading question isn’t it? Content is king in all things, in this case as gameplay.

    I just highly disagree that it’s a one-or-the-other situation in the graphics versus gameplay, especially since they’re generally entirely different departments when it comes to MMORPG development teams.

    So yeah, I’m refusing to answer the question on the grounds of baiting and too bleeding obvious. =P

    The more important questions, are about the difference in perceptions and preference of gameplay, because what I think is tedious and sucks, plenty of other folks seem to enjoy.

  • I go for setting before I play, gameplay as I play and community then traps me to keep playing when I may have gone through much of the content.

    I don’t think graphics necessarily need to suffer too much to give us great gameplay either, it’s all to do with how development time is spent and how big an audience the game wants to keep due to computer restrictions.

    I think community is a huge part of the equation though, and the games I remember the most fondly are those with a strong community vibe, even when I forget their graphics or their quests and dungeons (pre-instances ;p)

  • I’m with Rog here. The question in the post, as posed, already oozes with value judgments. It’s one of those questions whose formulation is already highly suggestive of the “right” answer. And it seems to me that recent personal experiences and present future hopes sort of influenced its wording as well.

    Not a good opening move for an interesting debate (for a much more interesting post concerning graphics/gameplay, see here: http://gotgame.corante.com/archives/2005/06/13/graphics_dont_matter_and_other_assertions.php), but that’s just my opinion.

  • I choose gameplay and content with a good graphics as long as it can be played by lots and lots of people.Unfortunately today`s dev are more in awe about what technology allows them to do than taking the best of it and make it an unforgettable journey for the player.

    I’m really looking for games with more dynamic worlds such as EvE and fortunately WAR,where your actions have consequences on the world.A game where the RPG in MMORPG make sense by giving freedom to players.If someone wants to craft only let it be so,if he wants to get rid of the competition allow him to hire thugs or assassin and allow them also to be able to hire bodyguards.

    I dream of a game with 2 factions Arcane vs technology(like in Arcanum which can also allow sub factions within them such as School of against Circle of .Until this become a dream comes true all I have is WAR promising lots of goodies and I`m also putting faith in 38 studios but a road lies ahead 😉

  • Looks like some words are missing in my post after I posted it…sorry for that

    updated :

    1.which can allow sub factions witin them such as School of ( insert name here ) against Circle of ( insert name here )

    2.I`m putting faith in 38 studios but a long road lies ahead 🙂

  • To the folks who think that we can get the best of both worlds eventually – it can happen, but only one way. Please allow me to explain some basic software design principles to you.

    You have a project – say an MMO!

    This MMO needs x, y, z, and p (Harvard comma).
    The company can spend 25% of their time (money) on x, y, z and p, or divvy the money differently.

    Lets say X = Graphics.
    Lets say Y = Game play.
    Lets say Z = Content.
    Lets say P = Polish.

    Now, if you spread your resources out across all 4, you get a very mediocre game – unless you increase the amount of resources you throw at it.

    That’s one of the reasons that WoW did so well – they threw loads and loads of cash at it, bringing that 25% up to about 70% of what an average came developer could do if they focused ENTIRELY on one area.

    Now if I were a betting man, I’d say that in the design of AoC they decided with something close to the following breakdown:

    Graphics = 50%
    Game play = 25%
    Content = 15%
    Polish = 10%

    Your opinion may vary.

    WoW was probably closer to:

    Graphics 20%
    Game play 20%
    Content 20%
    Polish 40%

    But in any case, those numbers can obviously be supplemented by throwing more cash at a project, but the basic point is you will NEVER get a game that has 100% of it’s potential graphics, and 100% of anything else. Just won’t happen – until programmers grow 3 more heads, 6 more arms and an external shared bladder.

    Cheers,

    Adam

  • You’re going at it the wrong way 😛
    If you want to make a good mmo, you need both. Gameplay is important and the visuals are important. In addition to that there are tons of other things to take into concideration, and all of those should be striving for perfection to. For me, it is important that it feels innovative or new. In terms of graphics, the design is more important than the number of polygons or the fancy shaders. In terms of gameplay, good gameplay needs a good world and story to work. With the right settings, even kill 20 rats are justified. It’s all about the wrapping.

    my two cents

  • You do understand Keen that the people making the graphics engine are not the same people as those designing the quests, classes etc.

    To put them against one another is like saying you can´t have good graphics in an mmo because then we will have no content in it.

    This sounds like complete nonsense and a bad excuse for something like say wow to not ever upgrading the engine of the game.

  • Let me play the devil’s advocate. Graphics are important for the hype of any MMO. Sure, marketing is evil, but you have to draw people to your game to even -discover- any content – good or otherwise.

    A game that looks too primitive graphically, even with good content, won’t attract new players any longer. It becomes a niche, if great game. (eg. nethack, Everquest, etc.)

    Every time I look at Eve’s newly refurbished ship screenshots and see a badass equipped character in WoW, I feel the urge to try both games out. I just stop because I know I don’t like the basic gameplay of both games.

    Now stylized versus realistic graphics is another debating point. Look at Champions Online, WAR and AoC. Some are more cel-shaded or cartoony than others, but all of them are pretty cutting edge ‘current.’

    Of course gameplay and content are important. But is having a LOT of it really what people want, or is it that we’re tired of the same rat-killing pie-running quests and want something more different and innovative?

    And just how different and innovative can it get anyway?

    If you look at AoC with an objective eye, it has quests with dialogue choices and cutscenes. The mobs in open world aren’t as regularly spaced out as that of WoW or LOTRO – the animals have a tendency to follow each other, and I was amused by a pride of lions walking past, Lion, Lioness, cubs and all. Not to mentioned, challenged to get just the male lion’s head/mane.

    And yet, because we distill the quest down to the bare minimum of “get X poofles,” and ignore the window dressing, AoC’s quests are still not innovative enough for most people.

    So what in the world do we want as fun gameplay and content?

    Should we move away from a “to-do” task list that nets you xp? And are levels and xp gain really necessary for an MMO?

  • I think the problem with Gameplay in an MMO is that you have 80 or 50 or whatever levels you have to go through and increasingly amount of experience to get to each level so you need a lot more quests each level to get to the next level and so on. Which means its hard to make all those quests feel unique if you have so many to get to the next level which is why companies sometimes go the easy route to make a few truly unique quests and make every other quests the same kill 10 rats.

    Went a bit off topic there but oh well.

    I think better graphics do account for something, its the back of the box. Do you look at the screenshots or do you look at the blurb, I think most people do look at the screenshots and if it shows rubbish graphics it puts a lot of people off. That said if you open the box and put it in and there isn’t anything to do then that is also the crime. It depends what you are looking for if you are selling your product, do you want them to just buy the box or do you want them to continue to pay monthly.

  • Bit like golf courses, you want a nice looking one or a well laid out one? You want one that tests your skills or one with a good bar to drink in? You want a course thats by the sea, has harsh winds and thick rough or do you want it in a sunny place with nice trees and little cars to putter about on.

    Obviously some course have more of everything you want (Waves at Augusta) while others are there for the skill (Step up Carnoustie).

    In all cases you are doing your hobby and finding the best possible way to do that for the budget, time, skill and dedication you have.

    I have always liked these two quotes..

    “Nothing poorly presented will sell well.”

    “If it’s in your soul you can tolerate almost anything.”

    Paul

    BTW how do I get to take part in a pod cast? Eh eh?

  • I hate how most mmos require you to do thousands of small, easy, boring quests to advance. Entering a new zone will surely lead to a totally crowded quest log. In AoC the whole map will sometimes be covered by overlapping quest markers, if you encounter any mob in LotRO you can be sure that killing it will count for at least one of your 40 quests in that zone, even if it happens by accident and you didn’t even know you had to kill that mob.

    MMO devs seem to think that killing 10 rats, 10 wolves, 10 boars and 5 spiders is less boring than killing just killing 35 rats. Well, in my oppinion, the opposite’s the case, and in addition it’s much harder to design 3000 uniquely feeling short quests than it is to make it 1000 long quests.

    The same goes for items. I don’t care if a game has millions of armor sets, if a third of them are useless and another third is just ugly. It’s all about big numbers in mmos today.

    Oh well, back to topic: I’d say “1. Other (please explain!)”. Gameplay is the most important part for me, if the game mechanics are great I can grind mobs for hours without being bored and it’s very important for pvp as well. Content comes second, but I could not care less for graphics, as long as the general design is well done. Look at wow’s paladin t3-t5 sets. I’d rather have diablo 2 graphics than those incredibly ugly items.

  • I wish somebody would make a game that played like the TV show Andromeda, where you could use fighters, capital ships, fight aboard your ship, fight and trade at stations and build empires. It would be like a cross between Freespace, Earth& Beyond, Planetside and EvE! There you go now someone make it! 😀

  • @Anders: You are right that the graphics designers aren’t the same people as the content designers or gameplay designers. However, there is still only one single budget on the top level and a few lead designers calling the shots on where the most resources are going to be put.

    Every MMO, and every digital game for that matter, has to make a choice at some point: “Where are putting our money and our most amount of people?”.

    A game that has brilliant gameplay as well brilliant graphics just costs insane amounts of money (and requires good/lucky designer choices). Who know, maybe EA can pull it off, they sure have money 😉

  • I’d go with option 3…within reason. DAOC created some amazing looking places with their older graphics, and even Anarchy Online style graphics are acceptable to me if the gameplay is great. But blocky characters like Asheron’s Call or anything anime or too cutesy is out for me. And it’s got to be first person. I get little enjoyment out of looking down on everything.

    Even adding great ambient music can make up some for slightly lacking graphics. I’m not going to keep upgrading my rig so I’d rather they find ways to make the most out of the least.

  • Whilst I think realised graphics, are the ideal; modern techinal constraints mean that you can either have well rendered and well-lit stylised graphics in a game, or less well rendered and well-lit realised graphics. Case in point: Age of Conan vs. WAR. AoC looks fantastic, if you have the hardware, WAR looks … meh, whatever hardware you have. If you have a top-end rig, AoC wins clearly on the graphical side. As you scale down the quality of the PC you compare the games on, WAR starts to look more and more appealing, until you’re on minimum specs for AoC, and not much below maximum on WAR.

    When you reach that point, I think it’s no longer a choice between Stylised or Realised, but tolerable vs ugly. Scale down a game so much as to make it run on a PC it’s not intended to run on, and it’ll look ugly – unless you program the game in a different engine for low specs; which, quite simply, is foolish. Whereas WAR; designed to low on the lesser machine, still looks tolerable at this level.

    However, what got me thinking is looking at an old PC I found in my attic. It must be about 5 years old, and I chuckled to myself as I looked at the components. Well, if PCs have come on so much in 5 years, imagine how much more they’ll come on in another 5 years. By that time, the modern equivalent of AoC (graphics-wise) would run nicely on all but the cheapest of PCs. What I’m saying, I guess, is that, whilst this may be the era of stylised MMOs, I believe the era of realised MMOs is yet to come – and AoC is ahead of its time.

  • Just realised I didn’t actually answer the question in my previous post!

    I guess, if I was forced to choose; I’d go 2. Though I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘Average content’ – if you mean pretty average type quests, plenty of different PvP scenarios and raids, but no ‘innovations’ then yes, I’d go 2. Because to me, a game where I can run through a valley and go ‘Wow… what a view’ is better than one with ‘dynamic’ quests, where I, get to see the results of my actions weeks after I did it… that just doesn’t do it for me.

  • No question in my mind, developers should spend more time creating great content/gameplay and less time on graphics.

    Great graphics might convince me to buy the box and play for a month. But for me, the decision on whether to subscribe to a game long term is 100% based on gameplay and content.

    So you can chalk up my vote for Option #3

  • Naturally #3

    You know how close our opinions lie Keen and I know that my love for quality content vastly outweighs my love for shiny things.

    That is why AoC failed to win me over…I saw to little quality and to much shine. Oh well.

  • Yeah, at this point, you need all of it.

    Graphics, Gameplay, Content, and 2 layers of Polish.

    If you absolutely had to take one away (not enough resources), I would take away content.

    REASON: Back in the day, you would have sacrificed polish. Today, even a small-scale MMO absolutely MUST have a lot of polish. The market is so used to these smooth AAA games that it’s difficult for them to accept anything else.

    So, if you have to sacrifice one, do less content. You can always add content, but if you ship an unpolished game, you’re done.

  • I agree Humble Hobo.

    Also; people talk about ‘revolutionary content’ in games. But, if it truly were revolutionary, it would be shunned. People need a certain level of familiarity in content, they need things that they’ve seen and experienced before. People say how WAR will contain the revolutionary questing system. I fear that, put simply, it won’t. It will be a slightly modified system of questing we saw in EQ2, WoW, LOTRO, AoC, etc etc. MMOs must contain vast amounts of content, as they are designed to keep you in the game for long periods of time. Therefore, the content will not be highly sculpted and crafted like it is in a 10 hour RPG or FPS. It will be repetitive, it will be the same as the previous MMO you played and it will be the best way to level up, because nowadays, questing is a vehicle allowing you to level, and you need to commit a lot of hours to reach the level cap, and therefore there need to be many hundreds of quests for you to complete. And no company has the resources to spend days on each quest. They will be mass produced and samey. MMOs nowadays are quantity over quality. Sad, but true. And I can’t see a MMO in the future that doesn’t stick to that rule.

  • @ Paul Barnett – Dude, you get to be on the podcast if you let us break the WAR NDA on our blogs. C’mon! It’s torture not being able to talk about your beta 🙂

    And if Keen and Graev aren’t already in the WAR beta, I’m sure that’s a requirement for being on the podcast as well.

  • Thanks for all the replies guys! It’s great to see that most people really care about content. To me it’s a no brainer that everyone should care for the substance in their games before they care about the shadows their character casts on the landscape. Keep the replies coming, and look for Part II sometime today.

    @Paul Barnett: Thanks for stopping by our blog! We’ll bring you in on one of our Warhammer podcasts here soon. 🙂

    @Rick: hah! Well, we’re definitely not in beta *sad goblin face*, but I like the way you think *evil chin rub*. j/k 😉

  • Keen – important point raised by Humble Hobo you haven’t acknowledged – content is the only thing possible to add after launch (with the slight exception of gameplay, but, bar a major overhaul, the mechanic will remain the same).

    That affects the question – pre-launch, the company NEEDS to work on the graphics and gameplay mechanics – as they can’t alter it after launch. At that stage, they’ll only put in the minimal amount of content, to keep players going for a month to 6 weeks. In that time they can start working on more dynamic and interesting content, without the worry of the game engine. In an ideal world, they’d code the engine and the content to a briliant standard pre-launch, but in reality, financial restraints mean that something has to give. And so the company either skimps on the content, gets the engine running well and make a clean launch (LOTRO), concentrates purely on graphics (Vanguard) or gets masses of content, sometimes at the cost of launch stability (WoW).

    However, as I said before, it’s impossible for companies to make a 200 hour plus game with no repetition. If WAR breaks my expectation and the whole game feels new and unrepetitve, I’ll be amazed and addicted; but to keep people hooked you don’t need content that is always new and refreshing – you need content that is rewarding; that could be hamster wheel PvE or PvP – and, as you see, only WoW has sucessfully managed to pull it off; without brilliant, revolutionary content.

  • @ Gordo “as they can’t alter it after launch.”

    Daoc released huge graphics enhancements with every expansion. Wow changed many game mechanics after launch. The developers can change whatever they want. You could log on your Orc one morning and your character is wearing a pink skirt a red bow, has whiskers and shoots purple rainbows at space herrings.

    I say this

    Vision > Gameplay > Graphics.

    If the developers have a good vision of where they want the game to go, then that’s superior. Wow plays hella nice, but the vision of eSport and uberRaid2.0 is shit.

  • What I meant by they can’t alter graphics and gameplay after launch is it’s a hell of a job to do it. Whereas adding a new area, a new dungeon, some new quests, is simply a case of using a map editor software, with some scripting, reworking the graphical engine or gameplay mechanic is basically rewriting that map editor – and then making all the old content compatible with the new version. An example is the so-called graphical improvement coming in the new WoW expansion pack. I’ve seen videos and screenshots and the changes are minute – simply because it’s too big a task – time better spent on content, and also risks alienating old players, as it changes the way the game runs. Gameplay is easier to change – but the only things they can change are face value changes – ie the spells you use, animations etc – if Funcom suddenly decided combat in AoC is wrong, they couldn’t change it to a WoW style of combat easily, no matter how much they wanted to.

  • It’s not the volume of content that I’m focusing on; it’s the quality of the content. I’m burned out on “average” content. No matter how beautiful, robust, or awe inspiring the graphics in a game are, if the content is average or mediocre I’m going to get bored. I abandoned AoC for this very reason.

    A mmo can have a small amount of amazing content at launch so long as it is self replicating. (PQ’s and Keep sieges come to mind) It’s fine to release a mmo with only a little bit of content because, as you said, you can create content and patch it in. But the quality of content matters as does the degree of polish.

    We’ll get more into the types of content this week.

  • Hey Keen, just wanted to stop in and congratulated you on your blog man. You and your bro have really become THE MMO blog to look at these past few month. I have seen a bunch of other sites point here. Anyway, grats and keep up the awesome, high quality , blogging you 2!

    (p.s. when is the next comic? pick up the pace dammit!)

  • Thanks Lumio! Great to hear from you man. It’s been a while since the Vanguard Vault eh? I read your comics regularly at TTH. Congrats on your fantastic success as well. 🙂

    Oh, and our Comic will be starting back up here soon. WAR’s delay slowed us down but you can expect to see Goblannoyed soon!

  • @Keen – Yeah, I accept masses of average content isn’t attractive. It seems you’ve played MMOs longer than me, and I can totally understand how AoC can put you off for that reason. What I do think though, is that no game in the near future is moving away from the mould of lots of average content. I’m really enjoying AoC at the moment, but I need to play it with breaks – I can’t become totally immersed because there’s so much repetition, I have to go do something else 15 minutes or so, before rejoining the game afresh.

    You seem to have a lot of faith in WAR – I wondered, what is it exactly you believe will break the mould so much? They claim they want it to be a ‘hobby’ – not a game – this means it must have masses of hours of gameplay. I do like the look of WAR – but I must admit, it seems as though they’re trying to fill player time – and when developers create a quest ‘to fill time’ or as a mechanism to level, it degrades the value of the quest, and doesn’t feel as though a ‘real’ action, to really influence the world.

  • Graphics are important in that as they give that first impression of polish. So that will get people to look at your game.

    But long term interest is the game itself. First, it must be “fun” to play. That is very subjective. At the very least the person playing the game should not find it a chore to interact with the game. Over the past decade or so a few standards in game have come about. WASD movement is here to stay. If you can not use it in your game people will get annoyed. At the very least you can create a new interface method, but have some hooks to existing interfacing methodologies.

    The other part of “fun” content is the rate of exposure to new things. It is a question of how long am I “stuck” in one area in order to grow my character.

  • @Gordo: Warhammer has a lot of content that I would classify as ‘better than average’ and this is the source of my extreme faith in Mythic. For example, Public Quests are a renewable source of content that meet several important criteria. Examples of that criteria include but are not limited to:

    Atmosphere – Does the content involve you in your surroundings and make you feel apart of the world? Check.

    Purpose – Why am I doing this? Am I being rewarded fairly for my time invested? Am I contributing to some greater cause? Check.

    Gameplay – Is it fun? Am I being provided with a challenge or objectives that make it more than “Go here, do this”? Is the experience dynamic and fulfilling? Check.

    To me having that type of gameplay all over the world in the form of renewable content breaks the mold. Factor in several other features in WAR that meet the above criteria and you have my reason for being excited. 🙂

  • Interesting. I’ve not read up on Public Quests, but I’ll do so now. However, I don’t think it’ll truly be possible to tell how good they really are, without trying them for myself. It is something I’ve always wanted in an MMO, something where the world reacts to what I’ve done publicly, as opposed to just a textbox of recognition from an NPC, or a tiny little animation that resets after a minute.

  • On the subject of quests which get you enticed and you get to feel as though you made a difference to the world – when that’s mentioned, I think of the Tortage intro to AoC; yet you hated it! I found it really enjoyable as it checks the 3 things you mentioned above – you land up in this town full of intrigue and violence, which builds the atmosphere well, you have a purpose to help the Resistance (ie you want to return to your homeland and find out your past) and as for the gameplay (or rather, the quest objectives) I found them fun too – you had to do a variety of taskts to gain the Resistances’ trust, including killing, gathering, exploring and it all comes to a climax in a huge battle. What did you think so different from what I said?

  • I would say choice #2.
    One example I keep coming back to for graphics is Oblivion. That game has it all with the exception of Multiplayer. Great graphics! interesting quests and a involved combat system, also you can design your character to nearly any class combo. Let them add Multiplayer and our desires are solved.

  • Hmm, my post seems to have disappeared… that’s strange. If it was purposedly deleted, I’d like to know why. Here’s a repost:

    I want the best graphics that will run well on my computer. In the past couple of years my main computer has been a laptop with dedicated but still very limited 3D graphics capabilities. So, games with high-end requirements like Age of Conan are out of the question.

    I would define graphics quality as a subjective quality derived from the combination of art direction, workmanship, and technical complexity. I prefer stylized art over realistic art because I find that stylized art is better for conveying essential information to the player and it is easier to make a game with lower system requirements that still looks good usng stylized graphics.

    Keen, I don’t see why you would present gameplay and graphics in terms of tradeoffs to each other in your original post. It’s a false dichotomy. Graphics are part of the gameplay and content, and there is no reason why a game with better graphics should be less engaging to play.

  • I’m pitting graphics vs. gameplay simply because I want people to choose which is more important to them. I also want people to decide to what degree they care about the gameplay, and where that balance is for them. Do you want amazing content with average graphics or average graphics with amazing content?

    Oh, and your comment was not deleted. I believe it might have been posted at a time when we were transfering our blog to a new server. Perhaps some data was lost in the intermission. Sorry for the inconvenience. 🙂