What is Your Favorite Thing About MMORPGs? [2017 Edition]

What is Your Favorite Thing About MMORPGs? [2017 Edition]

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If you could name just one single thing about MMORPGs that you love -- and it had to be one -- what would it be?

Having a hard time figuring it out? 

Think about the last MMORPG that you really, really enjoyed playing. What made it so special for you? And I'm talking REALLY enjoyed, not a passing 3 monther or fling. Not a sucky MMO. None of us have anything great to say about those.

I'm talkin' the MMORPG that almost brings tears of nostalgic joy to your eyesand makes your heart skip a beat. Those are the feelings we need to dig up!

My opinion on this has held true over the years:

I enjoy the leveling process more than anything else in MMORPGs!

So many people hate leveling up and consider it the worst part of MMOs. If you're talking most MMO​s, you're right. But the MMOs I enjoy, the ones I stick with, and the ones I opine about all have a fantastic leveling experience.

Why leveling? What makes leveling up so great that I would declare it my absolute single most favorite thing ever about MMOs?

Leveling Encompasses So Much​

There are so many little good things that fall under leveling up.

I love upgrading gear and finding new things to use. I like collecting things from different zones and storing them in my bags or bank wondering if they'll be useful later.​

Leveling Takes You To So Many Places​

When leveling up, even in a large sandbox world or a pseudo-sandbox like EQ, you get to move around and see so much of the world.

I love progressing through a zone and having that feeling of 'moving on' and accomplishing a place. I like to see different landscapes and experience different types of monsters.

Dungeons While Leveling are Way More Fun

When leveling up, dungeons are more like a crawl for experience AND loot vs. just a grind for gear or a raid treadmill.​

When leveling the dungeons feel so much more dangerous, and then when you progress past them you can still go through parts of those dungeons and have memories.

​Leveling Has Better Story 

There always seems to be way more story while leveling. Even in games with no true story (I'll lump EverQuest into this one again) it feels like I can at least make a story up in my head as to why I'm going through zones.

Leveling Has The Most Character Progression

The best MMORPGs -- the ones I can look back on and identify one thing I love so much -- have a leveling progress that captures fantastic character progression. Leveling up is a defined process, and each level is a significant improvement.​

Every point in strength feels life changing. That's what stats are supposed to feel like.​

I love planning out a character and working hard to achieve that next skill point because it will unlock a huge part of my character that will define me.​

Gear Matters Much Less

In most MMOs, while leveling your gear matters less than your character progressing. Again, see above.

Compared to the end game where it's all gear grinds for micro-improvements, gear while leveling up can sometimes have a big impact when combined with the right stats and character builds.

​Leveling is the Adventure -- Leveling is the GAME

In most ways I feel like like actual 'game' and 'adventure' happen while leveling. The "end-game" is the END. I hate the end of most things, and if I'm every looking for the end of something it usually means I wasn't having fun anyway.

When leveling ends, that usually means the work or the job begins. I have one of those. I prefer the adventure.

So what do you enjoy most about MMORPGs? Is it something small and particular, or wide and broad like my love of leveling? I would love to hear your answer.​

This post is based on my blog from July 15, 2009 titled, "What is your favorite thing about MMORPGs?" Check it out to see if you posted a reply. Did your opinion change? A lot has changed in 8 years...

  • Interesting question at a time when I am feeling a touch burned out of MMOs.

    I thought long and hard and came up with, “Being able to casually join into an open group – preferably consisting of more than 10 people and stretching to the 40-100s of players, cooperate and synergize to get stuff done successfully, with everyone going home happy.”

    This covers anything from A Tale in the Desert’s digs or vigils, where you can get both some casual socialization/friendliness and a reward at the end, to stuff in GW2: invasions, Living Story Lion’s Arch events, Dry Top or HoT zone metas, Tequatl and Triple Trouble or open WvW zergs.

    The strength of an MMO lies in the Massively Multiplayer combination. For everything else, there are other genres of games that do it better. (IMO, feel free to debate.)

    I mean, I wanted to wax lyrical about Explorer stuff like knowing more game trivia than others, having secret locales and knowledge to fall back on or gain an advantage over others or help others out with… then I realized that these things can be done in survival sandboxes, or roguelikes or RTSes, unsoweiter.

    But MMORPGs, well, only they can do the massive numbers of players thing. Every other game chops it down to a more manageable, controlled number.

    • It really is an interesting time to ask the question, isn’t it?

      I too feel that burnout and dissatisfaction with MMORPGs right now. In fact, the industry is on life support.

      Grouping is a great one! It’s definitely my #2 choice right after the leveling process in general.

  • You ask, the last?
    For me, I’ve been playing MMO’s since 2001? Launch of DAoC & many since then. The last you ask for me, is ESO.

    What you just wrote describes ESO. Levelling, Story, crafting, dungeons, places.
    ESO has all of that in spades. Do yourself a favor, forget your previous prejudices, play ESO & enjoy the level experience, best there is.

    The end game & PVP is another story, but dont let that stop you.

    • It can be from the last great MMO you played, or in general. For those having a hard time figuring out what they like most, I think going back and thinking about the last time you really had so much fun that you could say, “man i love this MMO!” would really help.

  • I love the crafting and the farming! I spent countless hours in WoW, listening to music and flying around, peacefully gathering. I love being able to ferret out secret places and little used paths to find things. Rift had these little sparkly things (artifacts) that you could gather and sometimes they were in the most out of the way places. I love when devs take the time to input a good crafting system and little things like that.

    • I totally agree! I love exploration to find rare crafting materials, and just the act of gathering. In Star Wars Galaxies I would roam for hours finding rare resources off on my own.

  • For me it was the first time in World of Warcraft I walked into Razor Hill and saw the Orc barracks. My character WAS an Orc Grunt from WC3. It was a matter of setting. Since then WoW has woven this setting, fleshed out the past, and its links to the future through its story telling.

    But with WoW, each expansion mimics the story telling of most modern movie and TV stories. With long histories/backstories, which lead to a showdown, a wrap up and an epilogue. That is what happens during end-game, spanning quests, dungeons and raids.

    The story overwhelms what you are looking for: adventure.

    I’d be interested in people’s take on FFXIV. Do it bring the adventure?

    • My very first character was also an Orc! I was an Orc Hunter and I can very vividly remember seeing the Orc Barracks in the distance as I ran there from the starting area. It was jaw dropping to be IN what felt like a virtual WC3 world.

      Thanks for bringing back that memory. 🙂

  • Discovery – and that goes back to the EQ days when myself (warrior) my pocket cleric, a rogue, and two druid friends literally stumbled onto the Tower of Frozen Shadow. No guides, no mods, just walked into the place and started exploring (carefully).

    Remains my favourite place in any MMO to this day because of that. But back then, just discovering a nice place to camp mobs out of the usual spots was incredible.

    That ‘discovery’ can never really come back, of course, but it was a beautiful thing when it was possible.

    • Legitimate question: Why can’t that come back? Why isn’t that possible? Are the worlds too small? The games not designed to be explored or players given a reason to do it? I’m not convinced it’s solely because of spoilers.

      • I think it’s a combination of things. The spoiler effect plays a small part but not the entire issue. It is true that in a current MMO a Tower of Frozen Shadow might have a dozen guides posted about it day one of early access but you could simply choose not to go hunting for that info.

        Players are encouraged to just rush to the max level. There’s no time to stop at these hidden gems anymore. And these game feel like they are being built more as business ventures now. They always have to ask themselves the question, Why put anything in that most people might not find? If you remember EQ was an indie game (Verant). I don’t think any sense of discovery will come from a AAA studio, ever.

        Quest hubs are ruining it. A Tower of Frozen Shadow (I’m going to keep using it 🙂 ) in a new MMO would have a dozen quest lines pointing to it (Kill 10 shades!), faction NPCs standing outside, and ports to get there instantly. Just… let some dungeons go completely unmentioned by any NPC.

        That rush to the max level really kills the desire to explore though… Maybe this is a different topic but in EQ even in Velius era (where the Tower of Frozen Shadow is found) players of all levels could find bits of velium ore and all kinds of crystal silk most anywhere that you could sell to max level players. You could be level 20 and still feel like you are participating in “the game”. Hell, even at level 1 you could sell bat wings to max level players because it was a spell component of Levitate. I still hate that the Bazaar in Luclin killed that market with the NPC bat wing vendor 🙁

        I think a game needs to have several systems working together to make it possible to feel like you are “discovering” a world. It won’t be a AAA studio or a McMMO that’s for sure. It’ll be the unknown game.

  • For me it was DAOC. My first time in a battleground with my Infiltrator. Stealthed trying to land my perforate artery on an unsuspecting bonedancer. Hoping he didn’t see me. I was hooked. At least until the damn hibs teamed up with the mids against us honorable Albs. LOL

    • If you had to bundle that up into an explanation so that future MMO devs could make something similar, what would you say it would be? Complex stealth mechanics? Positional attacks? Battlegrounds being persistent zones?

  • Definately the persistent pvp zones. It may have been it was my first MMO experience. Still looking for that feeling. The only thing that came close was Warhammer keep sieges. Too bad the endgame was totally borked. Waiting on Camelot Unchained hopefully.

  • My first great love was Asheron’s Call. (Arguably, it was my last *great* love, too.) And going off that, the one thing I love most about mmos is the feeling that I’m inhabiting a real world with thousands of other people. I don’t like the theme park model. I don’t like being told my character is the one true hero of the world when everyone else is told the same thing. I don’t like an obvious path I have to follow. I want freedom, complexity, and challenge.

    Basically, I want a fantasy sandbox with heavy roleplaying elements.

  • I’m with you that it’s all about the leveling. I don’t have alt-itis becuz I like how each class plays — I have alt-itis becuz I like to level up.

    I recently got my last job to 60 in FFXIV. I’ve barely logged in since, and don’t really plan to until the expansion drops becuz then I can start leveling again.

  • Ultimately it’s about needing other people to help you achieve your goals. You don’t realize at the time that’s why it’s fun, but that’s why it is.

    I could go further. It’s about convincing this group of people that probably doesn’t care about you at all to help you. Probably the same thrill you get in politics. Finding “followers” or at least finding people you can convince to vote for you.

    So as these games get more solo friendly, and let’s face it they all are now, that’s gone. Along with the fun.

    I keep waiting for one of them to figure it out.