Design your ideal MMO Part IV

I’ve asked you about graphics vs. gameplay, PvP, and character progression. In Part IV I want you to focus on two things. First, what type of PvE do you want in your end-game? Second, where will the best gear in your game come from? This is really important to think about before answering quickly because it determines a lot about your game. Keep in mind while answering these questions that you also need to decide how important gear is in your game – does it make a huge difference who has the better weapon? Look at the following and see if any of these match your style and if not feel free to comment about what would:

  1. Raids, raids, and more raids! Raiding is the “end-game” PvE and gives the best loot.
  2. Single group content (6-man, etc). No raids in this game.
  3. Crafting makes the best gear. PvE content is for “fun”.
  4. Raiding, 6-man, and Crafting all provide equal loot opportunities.
  5. Curve ball! My ideal game is a PvP game and the best gear comes from PvP! Any PvE is strictly for adventure.
  6. Loot? My game has no loot.
  7. Other (please explain!)

This used to a tough one for me. There was a time, about four years ago, that I would have sided with the raiders and said “raiding deserves the best loot!” while flashing my hardcore gamer membership card. When I opened my eyes and realized how ridiculous raiding treadmills really are, it became clear to me that there needs to be alternatives. Sticking with my answers from previous parts in this blog series, my ideal MMO is a pvp game with progression equally spread between PvE and PvP. I really feel that raiding, as it’s been done in WoW, is not what I want in a mmorpg anymore.

Since my game is a PvP game, I think that ultimately the best gear should come from PvP. However, PvE should offer gear nearly as good and allow for those who PvE to be competitive in PvP. Allowing those who only PvE to enter the PvP scene and be competitive with items is perfectly fine because PvP has another means of determining who is “better” and that’s with a system like Realm Ranks in DAoC. Those who PvP with their time will naturally rank up and gain access to abilities that will set them apart in PvP far more than any item they find in a dungeon. The gist of what I’m trying to say here is that gear is not all that important in my ideal mmorpg. I want to worry about my enemies experience in combat, and not that axe on his back.

Again, I’m all about options, opportunities, and choices. I don’t want “raiding” in my game but I think “raids” are a fantastic opportunity for developers to present single epic encounters that are fun and challenging for a larger group of players. The act of “raiding” and the event of a “raid” are two entirely separate things. Raids would be few and far between and only attempted for the sake of killing a Boss (maybe for something like a Tome unlock, a title, a cosmetic change, etc) and be more for bragging rights than for set items. I like killing big dragons with lots of people. I enjoy zerging enormous demons and watching them lay waste to everyone. The reason behind doing it though makes all the difference in the world.

So, what say you?

  • I think, for me, there should be a choice. All paths eventually should lead to the same product. That means they should be as difficult to get, but also as time consuming to get, whichever way you go.
    The problem is, if you make it so you need a very high PvP rank to get the good gear, and that gear is overpowered, only the hardcore PvPers will get to that rank, and then will own in PvP. Instead, I think there should be 2 tiers of gear, with little difference in stats – the only reason to get the top tier is for status primarily, with a minor stat boost. The first tier should be relatively easy to get, and allow you access to all the other aspects of endgame (being deined entry on an instance run due to gear sucks). The second tier, for the hardcore, as I said, provides only a minor stat boost, but also brings status and reknown.
    I enjoy the process of a raid, but I don’t like it when the raiding becomes grinding. Plus, it’s just crazy… farming the hardest boss in the game just makes no sense. So I agree with you in the fact that it should be for Tome rewards, not gear (you might get lucky, and get nice gear, but it shouldn’t be a certainty or the motivation).
    Crafting, well, I don’t like crafting in MMOs if I’m honest. It’s basically a time-killer the devs throw in, that you can only do well in if you enjoy grinding (which I don’t). WAR’s version of crafting is much better in my opinion, but, obviously, it’s not a viable way to get gear (though talismans could empower a certain item – but I wouldn’t want it so that you NEEDED that talisman to be allowed on a raid).

    So, my ideal MMORPG would allow you to get good gear from PvE (mainly single-group encounters) or PvP, but a huge grindfest shouldn’t be necessary to get good enough gear for endgame. However, a second tier of really ‘elite’ armour should be available for the hardcore players, providing a minor stat boost, but with the added status they provide, but, which require a lot of work to achieve.

  • I agree that choices are better than forcing someone to go done one path. The nice thing about crafting and small PVE groups is that you can try to get gear upgrades without spending the vast amount of time that you need to dedicate to raids or, presumably, city sieges.

    Yes, crafting can get really boring, but it allows the person who does not have a ton of time to dedicate to the game to remain competitive. I will always be a “casual” player because I can’t dedicate four plus hours a day to a game (damn job!). But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my MMO as much as someon who has the ability to play six hours plus per day. Yes, the hardcore player should get some added perks, but the casual gamer should still be able to at least compete.

  • I’m completely onboard with ‘no grinding’ for loot. I think that items should come to you naturally as you progress and should be more of a “oh cool, I’m at this point in my progression and look what I get” or “Cool we killed this boss and look what I got” instead of the alternate mindset of grinding things out with the omly motivation being gear.

  • I think there should be raids but you shouldn’t just grind it over and over again, you can only kill the dragon once and get his loot. I think gear shouldn’t be that important but should make a difference, if i wear plate armour I better be able to survive longer then people who wear cloth armour. But I don’t think you should get the uber gear from raids, i think you should get it on the most difficult epic quests…you can’t do that quest again and it is fun, but you need a good group to pass those epic quests. With raids you should get a nice chunk of money, and a totem of the monster. This sword doesn’t really do anything that uber, but if you have it in your pocket it might give you a boost..say on strength or something like that its not too over powered that if you have it you can win the game with it. It also provides a status symbol.

    Though the only flaw with the you don’t get gear you get status symbols is once you get that status symbol you will not play the raid again..which is good but what about the people who have just joined your guild? I think you should only kill the dragon once, but if other people want to kill that dragon but missed the chance to then they have been left out. So I think there should be a lot of raids with different status symbols but they basically do the same thing.

    I don’t think you should get better in PVP, because that just creates a divide between the haves and the have nots. I think PVP should be an empire system like EVE, you can own zones and if you keep those zones you get benefits like rarer resources for crafting or special crafting areas that let you craft some special weapons. You can win and lose these zones, you can also build empires to control more zones.

  • I’d vote for four. All paths should lead to roughly the same quality loot, but each has unique looks. Raiding would probably be the fastest way to gear up (assuming you got lucky) but small group content and crafting would provide equal benefits with more personal time invested. Time investments should be reasonable – it will not take weeks to earn a single piece of gear. Especially since gear in my ideal game would mean more than it does in Guild Wars, but less than it does in WoW. A person in average gear should stand a chance against a person in top-end gear, assuming equal skill and balanced class opponents. Gear gives an edge, not an overwhelming advantage.

  • I’d like to add that I think epic quests (as Sylar suggested) should be an additional avenue, making it possible for the solo player to get the same quality of gear with a fairly significant time investment.

  • @ Singlemalt – the problem I have with crafting is, if you’re unable to play much a day, it penalises you, as to reach the top of a profession requires a lot of crafting in most MMOs. So I don’t see how it’ll get you the gear you want fast than say, doing 2 hours of PvP a day?

    @ Railtih – thanks 🙂

    @ Keen – yeah, the loot chest one of the hardest bosses in the game drops should be an afterthought, not the motivation. The motivation being, simply the achievement.

    @ Sylar – I agree, gear shouldn’t be the reason you group with someone, or allow them to come to an instance with you. I think restricitng people to only kill a boss once isn’t a good idea, but I think you should only get the main reward the first time.
    As for PvP, I agree with you – when the best PvPers become stronger, it really starts to suck. It should be roughly equal.

    @ Graktar – I don’t like the idea of giving people in the best gear a huge advantage. It’s tough but it discriminates against newer and more casual players, but the hardcore people who get the best gear first want some advantage because of it. So maybe, I think if they were duelling, and the only difference between the players was gear, the person in better gear should win, say 65% of the time. That’s just my opinion.

  • I personally couldn’t care less about phat lewt but it really helps some people focus and understand character progression. To them character progression without loot or strict levels is kinda vague. (These people include all my brothers, save one) So I would say its not entirely a bad thing and makes it exciting to get random progression bonuses form bosses. In City of Heroes these were in the form of Single Original Enhancements and such but in wow they were blue and purple pauldrons of the drunken boar or whatever. In lotro there is a decent balance (I believe) between loot received from pvp and raiding but the 6 mans are still very much lacking. I have no idea why loot cant be almost as good or at least painted the same color from 6 mans as raiding. As long as the raiding loot is slightly better than the other stuff it’ll motive the loot mongers to go with the non-loot mongers (explorers) and see the spiffy raiding dungeons.

  • oh and I really like epic quests. As long as they are not like Lotro’s class quests (go kill 100 crawlers and get their eyeballs (20 eyeballs at a 1/5 drop rate)

  • Lotro does do a good job with rewards for its book chapters and boss kill quest rewards. Everyone who has the quest gets the loot and only has to do the dungeon successfully once. No repetition for recyclings sake.

  • As far as crafting goes I think it should be an adventure.. not a queue, and its ok if crafting goods are just as good or slightly worse but not if they are better because then your sending the message that thats the focus of your game. ok I’m done commenting sorry for making lots of time stamps 😛

  • What do you guys think about removing the “no drop”/bind on equip requirement from loot? Then, even if crafters didn’t produce the best loot, but could produce money to buy that loot, all you’d have to do is figure out how to get crafters/gatherers to make money; you wouldn’t have to balance the itemization.

    It’s not that I prefer raiding over crafting, it just seems that balance is a tough pill to swallow and that using an economy, things might work themselves out. In commenting on these posts, I’ve found that my game seems to involve less participation by the developers and more by the players, and allowing all items to be freely used, reused, and traded might not be a bad thing (especially if the raids are instanced, so the market couldn’t be cornered for items).

  • I largely agree with your assessment – IMO, gear *quality* should play a pretty minor part in how your character performs, especially in a game that has any kind of PvP at all. You should still be able to choose gear that enhances certain elements of your character, but actually getting that gear should be trivial.

    A fundamental question that seems to be forgotten is this: “would people engage in this activity voluntarily if it didn’t provide rewards that enhanced their character’s power?” The answer in the case of WoW’s treadmill-style endgame activities is pretty obviously “no” from my perspective, and this is an issue that needs to be worked on for future games.

  • I think thats a good idea DM (the no bind thing) It just depends on how you want your game to “taste”. If you want everything tradeable like in EVE and crafting to be a viable use of total time just as viable as running dungeons or raids and you want it set up so some people and run raids to provide goodies for others to buy then it works just fine. It all depends on if your obsessed with controlling your players experience and lives or enabling them to do new and different things according to their own choices.

  • Keen, in your original list of choices you forget to include the option of microtransactions. Then everyone can get the best gear and participate in all the great end-game gameplay together.

    Another possibility is that there isn’t an end-game per se. Why have a level cap? Why create an end to that +1 ding that everyone loves so much? I always hate it when I play an RPG and my character hits cap.

  • I loathe microtransactions and can’t imagine anyone out there who would choose them over a subscription model. I have never played a business model game that has the quality, longevity, polish, gameplay, etc like that of a subscription based game.

    As for there being no level cap, it’s an intriguing idea but not one I ultimately want to play. Can you imagine the amount of content that a developer would have to create in order to accommodate there being no level cap? You would end up hitting “content caps” which would ultimately be exactly the same as a level cap because beyond that is nothing more than a grind for the sake of grinding. When the content runs out the game ends. The only counter to that is self-replicating content like taking keeps and fighting for control of territory ala RvR… but that can only take you so far.

  • Keen you bring up a good point here. Until we can make a computer capable of designing games at top quality levels (fun, always something new, contiguous plot, etc.) which I don’t even believe is really possible, but anyways until it is we will never have an “infinite” game per se. All games are finite, either the artificial end of programming-land stops you from progressing or the artificially imposed level cap with some slowing grindy raid/pvp/rvr content slows you from progressing in a logarithmic manner.

    Some people prefer the non imposed, freedom to pretend to level and progress that way forever model to the imposed, we wont let you level but we will give you lots of things to do to look cooler and cooler and get slightly beefier and beefier model 🙂

  • I think everything should be sellable on an auction from the lowliest tail to the highest gear you should be able to buy it at a price. If you restrict some amours and some weapons you just restrict the economy and the economy is quite important. I think FFXI did this quite well, all the really rare items went for millions and they were so sought after just because of the price. If they did this people would see an item on the auction going for a high price and say to himself i want that because i will be rich, and then they will get a group together with the same ideals and go out and get the item. People will sit there until everyone gets the item, from what i have played of FFXI. A very good system i think.

  • PVE / PVP (RVR)

    I’d definitely choose a path similar to Warhammer where PVE and PVP are combined and almost interact with one another on a equal level (so as to be almost interdependent upon one another). For example, their talk of Living Cities and conquest of cities was pretty cool. I mean it’s sounds like the final attack on a city will be a combination of PVE and PVP together. Getting to the city is primarily PVP but with side PVE quests that directly influence the PVP combat. Even more so the final attack within the city, almost sounds like a ladder-based tournament amongst all PVP players to determine who goes within the final epic PVP/PVE battle at the end. By PVP/PVE, I mean that it sounds like you get the PVP aspect where the best 48 players from both sides face off against each other but after that’s done (assuming the attackers defeat the defenders), you have to defeat the final PVE “bosses” within the city to take it over. I mean this is pretty damn ingenious. It lets everyone compete in the realm battles but they are also competing to see who will get the bragging rights at the end to defeat the final bosses in the unique PVE raid-like instance.


    To me this really comes down to one conditional thing. If you don’t offer some form of benefit to utilizing different types of armor, especially if your game has classes, then I think it’s pointless to focus on equipment similar to WoW and instead it would be better to take a path similar to Warhammer, where you seem to be almost given your equipment to match your level / status.

    For example, in WoW right now, there is no benefit whatsoever for a warrior to utilize Cloth, Leather, or Chain Mail after he or she has acquired Plate Mail. I mean it’s almost similar to how you progress through the game. Once you’ve quested through an area, it’s pretty much pointless to go back to it. In comparison, think of the tales of Conan where he utilized different types of armor based upon the need and situation. When he needed to move faster and be more agile, he chose Cloth or Leather. When he was going to be within a heavier longer battle, he chose Chain Mail or even Plate, since it was more about damage absorption and sustainability. Either way though, he was just as deadly, especially considering the equipment he mainly utilized was mundane and not magical.

    Therefore, if a game allowed you to selectively customize your character to that level (and was designed that way from the start) then I think ya make armor / weapons a strong focus in the game with varying degrees of quality and varying degrees of magic to them. I mean the same goes for weapons. Make a reason why a warrior would choose to use two daggers versus two swords. And by this I mean more than just a focus on damage output. Similar to how armor would affect your speed and agility, make certain weapons better for certain types of combat and make them adjust your speed even (i.e. large two handed weapon harder to run with). To sum up, give reasons for using different types of weapons / armor (besides just damage output), otherwise bestow the armor / weapons upon the character as they progress through the game.

    To be honest, I’d rather see more importance placed on the type of armor used (i.e. cloth, leather, chain, plate) and less emphasis on the benefits of equipment quality or magical bonuses of it. I mean WoW is absurd to this degree, especially if you compare regular armor vs magical armor on two equally leveled / spec’d characters.


    Ya, it’s called a player skill-based game. If you watch FPS games long enough you’ll be amazed at how skilled people can become over and above your expectations of the “norm” or even “elite”. Thus if the game uses the player’s skill versus his or her character’s skill, there are no level or skill caps whatsoever to contend with. Again for this to work, the gameplay has to be well designed and balanced with this in mind.

  • It’s a very tricky question. While I understand that you want to create the ideal MMO, the rewards from them should depend on what kind of game it is. A game like for example Warhammer is based solely on PvP and therefore most of the best rewards would come from PvP as the developers want to encourage people to do this, it is what they designed the game for.

    While I find the PvP MMO most intriguing, and would probably chose option #5 for rewards, I guess I have to have some understanding for the people that isn’t that much into the PvP thing, they need a little goal too. So I would choose option #7: doing PvP rewards PvP gear. Doing PvE rewards PvE gear. And crafting support both PvP and PvE.
    If you have rewards from one part of a game, but that can be used for all three parts of a game, you will get balance issues and whining. WoW is a proof of that.

  • But Regis, if you have gear which is restricted to one area of the game, it means you are chanelling the player into that area after spending time in it. For example, if I concentrated mainly on PvE, I wouldn’t be able to compete in PvP even if I wanted to.

  • Loot ? what is loot 😛 ?

    Anw, i’ll go with the PvP game and the best gear comes from PvP! Any PvE is strictly for adventure.

  • High end gear should be distributed evenly throughout the game. Pvp, raid, quest and crafting should all have comparable end game items. If you make any item greater or with a distinct advantage players will flock to that portion of the game and you end up with alot of unused content. especially when alot of your endgame content revolves around pvp.

    I also would like for raid encounters to end with the player recieving a high end reward for completing the raid. Any additional “epic drops” would be slightly better, but moreso from a “look” or “bragging rights” perspective.

    Additional titles or standing with factions can be given to encourage players to help friends/guildmates through the raid.

    In my ideal game, gear would not definatively decide a pvp battle from the start. I would however reward players for good pvp play. I would have “unlockable powers” for player weapons during pvp matches. For example after your warrior gets 3 kills he recieves a bloodlust bonus or armor penetration boost, with more powerful rewards as kills increase. similar to cod4 where you can call in air strikes, choppers etc, as u get more kills.

    The stronger the weapon, the greater the increase in power. Epic weapons reward epic bonuses. In essence good pvp play unlocks your weapons “potential”.

    This has the effect of rewarding players who pvp the best, and not just people who have the time to grind out gear. of course, those who grind and are great at pvp will have a distinct advantage, but as far as im concerned. That would be an advantage that they have earned.

    just my 2 cents! 🙂

  • That’s true, Gordo. But I guess that’s something you have to take if you only specialize in one direction. I mean, it’s nothing that stops you from following more than one path, and *my* ideal MMO would not be a time sink where you *have* to focus 100% in one area to success (*cough* WoW). If not, you will have the old “getting the beast gear for PvP by PvEing” (and vice verse) discussion.

  • I wonder how Spellborn will do end-game.

    They have already stated that gear has absolutely no stat bonus attached.

    Heck, I wouldn’t mind grinding raids for gear if the gear LOOKED better than what I currently have. I’m not going to grind a raid to get a soulbound chunk of stat bonuses (only to have it invalidated in the next expansion).

  • Oh man it would take too long to write a response! IS it weird that I think about this stuff the whole time I’m driving? lol

  • This is probably going to come across as rude, but I have to admit I completely gloss over these ‘design your own’ posts.

    Waaaaaaay too many armchair designers as it is.

  • Then why take the time to comment? It’s obviously something that myself and others find interesting. I think it’s awesome to hear what other people like and dislike most about their mmorpgs. I also enjoy sharing my thoughts on the subjects because, if it wasn’t obvious, this is a site where I talk about whatever I want. Enjoy your gloss.

  • I think people have realize that it is incredible difficult to accurately relay the full concepts of an MMO (especially by just commenting about them generally on a blog) because MMOs themselves are incredibly difficult to design. I mean you just can’t say, I want my MMO to be like WoW but have permanent death in it. It would never work, as you basically have to redesign all aspects of the game so that one component can fit within it.

    It’s pretty much the same reason why I think Blizzard’s attempt to duct tape on certain features that other MMOs have in upcoming expansions is a futile attempt. Sure it will most definitely emulate that feature (and even possibly be somewhat fun) but it won’t fully take advantage of it compared to if it has been designed into the game from the start. I mean once you’ve designed the core foundation of a game, it’s pretty hard to change it after the fact without radically altering the gameplay and probably pissing off / losing a lot of customers in the process (because it’s no longer the same game).

    That if anything is why I find it so hard to talk about one specific MMO design element at a time because all components of the game are often interdependent of one another and need to be designed in parallel.

  • Put another way, think of MMO design like stacked dominos. By altering one game design component, you are in effect knocking over and requiring the altering of other components that are dependent upon that initial component.

  • I think the problem is, how do you continue to play the game if there is a level cap without the need to do the same things over and over again. That is why there should either be no levels or no level cap. Sure with no levels it is going to be hard for the designer to make an infinite amount of content, reason why EVEs missions are quite boring and basically they are the same 5 missions all the time. Same with no level cap. If you put the level cap people are just going to do the same thing over and over again because there isn’t much else to do. So it comes down to PVP where the game lies, EVE did this well with its empire system. PVE will always have an end, just like an adventure always puts down his hat and says enough is enough. There will always be a finite thing with PVE. PVP can be infinite because the borders keep changing, but people might be bored eventually.

    There should be an incredible journey, with no x kills y quests, it should have epic quests that really suck you into the game and when you eventually finish you say to yourself well done, and then you get ready for the next epic quest.

  • @Keen: I take the time to comment because it’s still a valid point, regardless of your details. I wasn’t meaning that as an all-negative or to be mocking, like you said: having opinions can be interesting. But it’s not the opinions that I’m taking with a grain of salt, it’s the too many cooks in a kitchen that they’re not actually chefs in.

    Now that doesn’t mean that a food critic doesn’t know what good food tastes like.

    And this is my point:

    Whether you’re a commentator, an enthusiast, a blogger, a journalist or just some guy making replies to posts… If you really want to design it, then design it. If you want to critique it, critique it. Doing both is actually not recommended, which pretty much goes for any artform.

    I don’t think you’ll get much reception from game designers if you were to interview them with your opinion of how to make a good game. Unless you’re basically describing theirs of course. =P

    And equally, game designers that critique the field are mocked for not speaking with their craft.

  • Adding an addendum to it doesn’t get taken wrong again:

    I’m not against anyone saying what they like or dislike, that’s pretty much the standard themes here and something you’re very good at and many of the comment posters are too.

    Even this stuff is kinda similar to that, but I guess with the theme of it.. It’s triggering a ‘shit or get off the pot’ reaction from me. =P

    If you want to write a design doc, do it. None of us would truly know if it would be good until we actually played a game based upon it.

  • Have you discussed possible themes yet? Perhaps everyone loves the Tolkein-ish setting, but there’s quite a few other possibilities out there. There are countless imaginary worlds from classical and contemporary writing. Some of the best fiction ever written is so old that there’s not even a copy right on it (no license fees on a 2000 year old IP). Imagine an MMO based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales for example. I wonder if you could broaden the userbase by using a setting that is more generally familiar to people who aren’t gamers and doesn’t come with any stigma. Anything that looks like Dungeons and Dragons is going to make about half the people in the US and EU say “nerd” or “geek” without hesitation.

    I am not trying to hijack the conversation, by the way. The point I’m getting at is that if you start getting creative with the world itself then the question of “end-game” and level caps can have radically different possibilities. WoW has a huge problem because the low level content is useless to high-level characters and the high level content isn’t accessable to a new casual player. Would it be more appealing if, in addition to the overall level, there are sub-levels that correspond to each area of the game? For example, if I’m in area ‘A’ for the first time, then I may be a level 40 character but the skills I need for area ‘A’ are still at 0 and area ‘A’ is the only place to level those skills. You could do the same thing with gear. Each new area could have a theme for gear that is specific to the area you get it. People who wanted to collect a set from each area would then be encouraged to visit them all.

    I don’t know what the best solution is, but the WoW formula seems wrong. People and gear just can’t keep getting better and better forever in a linear fashion. The ‘end-game’ should be a moot point. If you make it take long enough to reach the end of existing content then you can release new content before the old content runs out. You just have to figure out a way to add new content that doesn’t obsolete the old content. Ideally I would think you should be able to do various areas of the game in any order you like. There’s no reason that the newest expansion has to be ‘more powerfull stuff’ than the previous expansion. Just make it powerfull in a different way.

  • Bah, forget my touchiness, I’m really not trying to tell you what to say on your own blog, I think you know I’m no troll.

    It’s not the usual topic and I’m realizing I don’t exactly want to stifle the conversational rhetoric (not that it would anyway, heh), sometimes it ~is~ fun just to imagine.

  • Imagination is the mother of wasted time. …but wasted time has a brother named invention.

  • As much as I hate raiding treadmills, one lesson we can take away from Blizzard’s success is that players REALLY like upgrading their gear. They like gear upgrades SO much that they’re willing to endure the pain of repeatedly raiding the same dungeon in the hope that a nice pair of pants drops.

    Personally, I’m a big fan of small-group (e.g. 6-man) content and Realm-vs-Realm-style PvP. Therefore, in my ideal game the best gear would be available through those two activities. Personally, I’ve never played a game where I enjoyed crafting gear, but if others want to craft I’m happy to allow crafting to produce high-quality gear as well. However, I don’t think the “raiding-for-gear” can work in a game where raid-gear is not better than small-group gear. Putting together (and coordinating) a group of 30-40 people to repeatedly raid the same dungeons is a painful exercise that few enjoy. Thus, I think that unless raid dungeons yield the best gear in the game, they won’t be popular enough to justify the developer time required to make them.

    That being said, I think there’s a place in a game for a small number of relatively short, but challenging raid encounters that yield cosmetic improvements (but not gear upgrades). I think that if there was a challenging dragon fight that required 40 people and yielded a unique and distinctive armor dye or weapon glow that many people would enjoy doing the encounter.

    One final thought on PvP and gear. I think gear needs to give some advantage (although obviously not an insurmountable one) in PvP, because RPG is all about character progression and everyone really enjoys having ways to improve their character. However, there’s a temptation in designing PvP systems to give all the reward to the ‘best’ PvP players. I think this is dangerous in the long run because having a system where the most skilled realm (or guild) gets all the best gear (while their opponents are unable to get gear upgrades) will ultimately lead to an unbeatable realm (or guild) with no interesting battles. That is to say, in giving gear rewards for PvP it’s important to reward participation and not just victory.

    So I guess my vote is for 2 or 5 or something like that.

  • @Rog I am not an armchair designer (not that you said I was but anyways just clearing it up) I have made two large Rpgs and am currently working on a 3D turn based one in my spare time 🙂

  • @Rog: I want to make sure that you and others reading these particular blog posts realize this isn’t about me wanting to design a mmorpg or encouraging anyone else to design a mmorpg. It’s a means of causing people to think about what they prefer. I’m wanting people to imagine and design what their ideal would be in their minds.

    I recently heard a comment from someone that “mmorpg players don’t know what they want”. I know that comment to be false because I know exactly what I want. When presented with the decision of multiple games before me which do I choose? Well, I choose the one that has the most features, mechanics, and style that I prefer. This is all about finding out what others prefer and sharing my preferences on the particular subjects at hand.

    @Lepinski: This particular line pretty much sums up why I think raiding for gear is awful:

    “Putting together (and coordinating) a group of 30-40 people to repeatedly raid the same dungeons is a painful exercise that few enjoy.”

    Painful repetition is the mother of all evil in a mmorpg for me. Placing the best gear and rewards at the end of an activity you find to be painful and repetitive seems almost masochistic, doesn’t it? If you enjoyed raiding and found it to be an easy and natural way of playing then I could see your ideal mmo having such a system.

    Lastly, it’s important to look at this particular statement: “I think gear needs to give some advantage (although obviously not an insurmountable one) in PvP, because RPG is all about character progression and everyone really enjoys having ways to improve their character.”

    That’s a common trap that many developers seem to fall right into. Gear is not the only form of character progression. There are skills, abilities, cosmetics, and many other forms of progression that mmorpg seem to have abandoned. Particularly in PvP there are several ways to reward and progress the player. PvP Lvls/Realm Ranks are a very basic yet powerful tool for character progression. There are dozens of ways you can use them to progress a character forward or reward them without even offering them one piece of gear.

    I’m really enjoying your replies everyone, thanks! 🙂

  • @Rog

    “If you really want to design it, then design it. If you want to critique it, critique it.”

    Huh? By saying what we want to see designed, we are basically critiquing what we dislike. Seems to go hand in hand to me. I mean look at the last Warhammer podcast and how the idea for its version of crafting started. He used a negative (critque) of what he didn’t want to see.

    “It’s triggering a ’shit or get off the pot’ reaction from me. =P”

    I understand your frustration, yet I think player feedback and ideas for a game can be beneficial. You as a developer just have to know where to cut the line between feedback and ideas because more often then not, a player’s solution to a feedback problem may actually be the worse approach to take. In other words, the developer should observe more of what the gamer is getting at, to discover the true problem, instead of taking their solution at face value as the only correct solution to the problem.

    “None of us would truly know if it would be good until we actually played a game based upon it.”

    I don’t think that’s really any different from a developers standpoint, as least those that I’ve read on Gamasutra and other sites. Until they actually begin playing the basic gameplay within say an alpha build, will they truly know if it will good or not.

    @Swift Voyager

    “I don’t know what the best solution is, but the WoW formula seems wrong. People and gear just can’t keep getting better and better forever in a linear fashion.”

    Totally agree. I’d rather see more parallel progression, in varying spokes, almost like how a chaos symbol looks. So being the best in one path, doesn’t mean you’re the best at everything. For this to be truly effective though, the gameplay needs to be designed so as to achieve success through varying paths. So a warrior may overcome a beast with pure combat skill while a rogue may overcome it with pure guile (i.e. The Hobbit) but both should be exceeding difficult to achieve in terms of gameplay for the player.

    And I think this can be applied to a player skill-based game as well. I mean look at games like Counter-Strike. Usually players excel at one weapon that they continually play with but have secondary backup weapons that they are fairly decent with as well. I myself was above average with flash grenades, something that people really didn’t utilize that much, and I could seriously screw up an opposing teams rush with a single flash, even on occasion taking three or four of them out in the process as well. So all in all, if you allow for people to succeed using their own unique strengths, instead of just one decided strength (i.e. combat), I think you’ll have a much more enjoyable game.


    “As much as I hate raiding treadmills, one lesson we can take away from Blizzard’s success is that players REALLY like upgrading their gear.”

    Yes and no. I wouldn’t mind if it I didn’t have to upgrade my gear every few levels but instead just every 10th level. Even more so, to me it’s not so much about the gear as the bling, particularly if I like role playing a certain character type. I mean this is the one thing I actually hate about rapid gear changes, as I may find a great looking gear set but within 5 levels or so, I’ve completely lost that character look that I feel like finally represents me.

    Therefore, I’d rather see more emphasis on gear customization and detailings more than anything else. In doing so, you’re helping the player to uniquely define his character. From what I read so far, I think Warhammer Online may have this to a degree. It sounds like you will have a set look to your armor, to visual define your class, level, and abilities, but at the same time you’ll be able to slightly modify your armor color and add detailings to enhance your overall look to one that suits your personal tastes.

    “That is to say, in giving gear rewards for PvP it’s important to reward participation and not just victory.”

    Again I agree completely. I think we need to see more rewards for varying things (i.e. Team Fortress 2 rewards, such as Best Healer, etc), not just for people who had the highest body count.

  • @Keen

    “PvP Lvls/Realm Ranks are a very basic yet powerful tool for character progression. There are dozens of ways you can use them to progress a character forward or reward them without even offering them one piece of gear.”

    Couldn’t agree more. As I said before, I’d love to see a game where a person can specifically focus on a leadership path of progression versus a close combat path (i.e. melee, spells, etc). So a person may be amazing as a commander, with all of their skills and abilities focused to aid them in leading people, but their melee combat skills may actually be quite mediocre.

  • First off, I would get rid of the notion of “The End Game.” A character should be able to contribute to the main function of the game after a brief “tutorial.”

    Next, I would throw out the idea of static and indestructible loot. Right now, every time a boss mob is killed it drops something of value. Over time you keep getting these and they become common. Hence why the various “Bind on” solutions.

    I would agree with Thallian and go with a CoH type Slot based upgrade system. You don’t get a new sword as you go up, as you go up you get more options to “upgrade” your weapon.

    The upgrades would be equally viable from all types of play. I might see some type of “combo” upgrades, but I am not sure.

    However, I would make it so that upgrades were limited. You can die so many times before they are “consumed.” I would almost say that all of them would be lost on death, thus making a good market for them.

    With regards to Raid, I hate the 1 item for 40 people “uber-loot.” Everyone should get something for participating in the Raid. Over time you then would get enough bits to get “raid loot.”

  • Another thing I would make sure of is that people don’t NEED to create more than one character. I think people become more attached to a game when they have one character rather than a whole list of different characters of each class. Perhaps some system where players get a +1 ding and they get to decide how to spend it? Add a level of magic skill or archery skill, your choice. If you like forcing people to choose a role when playing then make rules like no casting while wearing armor and such (or perhaps you can cast wearing armor but you will suck at it?). Then if there are 6 different “classes” people can spend 6 times longer leveling their single character and never need to go back and play the noob content a second time. When you want to make a group it’s always annoying when you are stuck doing a certain job because that’s all you’re good at, or when a piece of loot drops that your character class can’t use.

  • Its hard to make a group though if you do not know what your people are good at. At lest if there are cookie cutter classes it is easy to assign roles to people, the tank goes ahead and defends the party the healer heals people, the mage does crowd control and so on. If you have no classes you cannot have that kind of system it would be heywire you will have to group with the same people over and over again. Yeah some people do that, but many times i have just had a random group.

  • 90% of gear is crafted. Mobs drop loot based on what they’re carrying (IE, Boss Mob #1 isn’t carrying a random assortment of various pieces of full armor sets for a dozen different classes). You want mage gear? You kill mage-types. You want plate armor loot? You kill mobs wearing plate armor.

  • Rofl good suggestion Tholal, I always wondered why they do that…

    Why not just have us walk up to a giant slot machine at the end of the dungeon and dispense random goodies from the database, if they are gonna have mobs work like that? (just being facetious, please don’t do take me seriously)

  • Like I alwyas wondered why the boss of Scholomance had everyones hats.. he must really like hats. (sorry for getting off topic)

  • @Keen: Fair enough and I’ll retract my statements in reference to your posts and most of the related comments. In essence you’re saying this is a mechanic to throw some player opinions up and of course that’s completely valid.

    I suppose armchair designing is a peeve of mine, along with design-by-committee, theory crafting and a few other trends that are bound to come up now and then.

    I do think most players know what they want, but I also think if they were to get what they ask for, it generally wouldn’t make a cohesive game. I admit a strong belief in game designers as dictators for a singular vision (ouch that word is tainted in the MMORPG field now eh?), or at least a tight-knit group of designers for each portion of a very large game.

    I think an MMORPG can still be successful by ‘listening to the players’, but I think there’s danger of that sinking into bland, unartful tedium. In fact I think that’s exactly what’s been happening to World of Warcraft slowly over time, because most of the initial coherent design has been handed over to a player-designer while much of the early design team has taken a backseat or retired on profits. It’s still a great game, but more and more it’s becoming a machine.

    Taking that game as an easy potshot, I also think the biggest opportunity they’ve taken for very real, direct player input into the game is their Addon system. While that’s been helpful on the UI side, the theory crafters have moved much of the gameplay into the realm of spreadsheets, where many players stare at bars and graphs more than the action on screen.

    These are just my examples and critiques of player-driven development.

    So lol I suppose my like / dislike is that I don’t want the players to get too directly involved in the games.

    There’s some precedent however for ~good~ player involvement, look at some of the early OOP-related MUDs where high-level players essentially become elevated into world-building.

  • I feel raids are necessary to players, so that they know there are thing far tougher than them out there. I definitely don’t want them to think that they can take anything one-on-one. What kinda world is it if 5 men can kill a dragon? To truly create a world that feels dangerous you’ll need a few monsters that need a whole army to take down.

    I would think that crafting will be the best way to get all but the best gear, as in my gear should/can be destroyed. Not so much after a thousand swings the swords gone, but more of if you do not take regular care of your gear it’ll fall apart much sooner. Maybe some classes will have a few nasty attack that damage gear as well as the player.

    So, while raiding will get you some nice drops, those drops will be more for special situations, like a shield that protects against Dragon’s Breath or something. The primary reason to go raid will be for money and to collect large amounts of rare mats. Now these mats are not something you could grind out solo’ing. Imagine a gem that has a 1-in-1000 chance of dropping from harvesting ore, a Raid boss would drop 10. The mats dropped from all the bosses of a single Raid should be enough to fully arm (from boots to helm, plus weapon) half the Raiding party in decent gear or maybe 4 or 5 in the best gear possible.

    PvP will provide rewards as well but those will be more suited for PvP combat, just as raiding drops will be designed for raiding. Crafting gives the most room for spec’ing for play style. Instead of gathering the mats and poof you get a sword, you would build various components of the weapon: shaft, blade, sheath, etc. Each can be fitted with gems that would change the properties of that component. When the final weapon is completed it would likely be complete unique item with wildly varying stats.

    I do not like the idea of solo dungeons, it just encourages players to be loners. Hell, if I knew it would work I would make the second half the game only reachable to groups. Sadly WoW killed that with it’s 100% can-do-it-by-yourself mode.

    Perhaps a 3-man Dungeons, ones that can’t be done alone but don’t require a tank or healer. One randomly generated dungeon, the Forgotten Cave. Very basic place, just lots of stone corridors, a throw back to old D&D dungeons with their many levels and random wandering monsters. And traps, some dungeons will have them but all Raids must have them. Randomly placed and nasty, give those rogues something to do.

  • More directly on the particular topic: I think the gear / loot question is related strongly to the gameplay, so how it’s found and what it’s like is dictated by that.

    If your PvP is sport-like, expect gear to be in sets with styles that carry easy recognition to specific classes. It will also drop in predictable fashion so it can be ‘collected’ for purpose, either by killing select bosses or by turning in PvP-earned points.

    If your PvE is group-progression (raid?) themed, then gear will drop to follow the expected progression: mostly from bosses in the current dungeon crawl with stats that make sense more for the next dungeon.

    An MMORPG with more varied gameplay makes naturally for more varied gear.