Features Out of Sync with the Rest of the Game

Features Out of Sync with the Rest of the Game

Have you ever noticed a particular feature in a MMO that simply feels out of sync with the rest of the game?

“Why does this exist?” -or- “Why did they do it this way?”

Those questions often preceded the realization that the feature is out of sync.

When features are out of sync, they don’t contribute anything to the overall flow of the game. They feel tacked on or out of place. When features do not align with the rest of the game’s design, they can even get in the way of having fun. These misfit features can be extraneous activities, or at the forefront of the game. Some of these features can even purport to be the core feature of the game, but end up being completely inharmonious with everything else leading up to them.

Examples of Features Out-of-Sync with their Games

Here are a few examples of MMO features I feel are out of sync:

Crafting in World of Warcraft

This has often been the biggest example. Crafting in WoW has gone through various iterations, but all of them essentially share one trait: Crafting in WoW is a misfit feature.

Gear crafted isn’t competitive with gear found by doing any other activity. Simply questing, running a dungeon, running a raid, or do any activity will yield better gear and faster than one could ever achieve with crafting.

Crafting has, in the past, given buffs unique to the profession. This was an attempt to make it relevant, but just proved the point that crafting was out of sync with the rest of the game’s direction.

We could change this subheading to say “Crafting in Almost Every MMO” because crafting is largely a worthless activity in most games. When done right, crafting is an integral experience rewarding to all who craft or buy the goods being created.

PvP in Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online

In both of these MMOs I felt like the PvP was a great example of a core feature out of sync with the rest of the game. Though a central feature, PvP felt meaningless to the overall design of the game. Whenever I participated in the PvP, I felt like something was ‘off’, and it was more than simply badly designed battles arenas.

The PvP was a misfit from the rest of those games because I lacked a reason to care. Let’s contrast that with Dark Age of Camelot, which had a very similar setup. The realms were each divided into their own PvE areas and PvP areas. An outsider may look at that and say the PvP was segregated just the same. The key with DAoC was that the PvE portion was the “realm” you were connecting with and creating a community-driven bond to defend. The PvE side developed into the “homeland” and the buffs protected by the PvP keeps became enhancements and sources of pride for that homeland. No such bonds were created in GW2 or ESO.

Arenas and Battlegrounds

I have always been a harsh critic of battlegrounds and arenas. These instanced and arcade-like battle arenas create a repeatable simulation of combat for the sake of combat. They’re detached from the rest of the game and only serve to bolster one’s collection of a currency or rating.

In most MMOs, there is little if any crossover into the rest of the game. WoW has gone as far as completely segregating the experiences throughout most of its history. At times, completely separate stats were created to keep them separate. In Warhammer Online, battlegrounds were so out of sync that they actually negatively impacted the rest of the core gameplay by rewarding players disproportionately — talk about out of sync!

For all intents and purposes, PvP in this fashion is a separate game entirely and thus out of sync with the rest of the game’s design.

Avoiding Misfit Features

In order to avoid making the problem, one must first understand and agree that it exists. That in itself feels like an impossible hurdle given the landscape of games — particularly MMOs.

When one can at least agree that it’s something identifiable and avoidable, the next step is to simply identify what role each feature plays in the game’s overall design. Why does crafting exist and what purpose is it going to fill? Does any other feature invalidate or conflict? Does this move the player forward in their journey toward accomplishing the main goal of the game?

I feel as though those questions are probably asked with good intentions, but abandoned when things become too hard to justify. When faced with “data shows players like battlegrounds,” it can be hard to focus on the big picture and say, “but they don’t fit with our overall design philosophy.”

  • The only way to make crafting relevant to the game is to make it mandatory for every player to do it to get -all- the game benefits. Otherwise just the few who love crafting will partake, and sell the items/looks/benefits to others who can’t be bothered. So, some crafting for oneself for the largest percentage of perks, and a smaller percent to sell to others to make it economically interesting.

    For example, you get uber duber sword from dragon drop, as do many others in the game, but, if you are an expert crafter, you can add a +10 stat (strength)/look(big flames on sword) that no one else can ever get, unless they craft up to a certain level also, and you can’t sell it, trade it, you alone will have the item and perks. But in addition your crafting will allow you to add another lesser+5 stat(strength) and/or look(small flames on sword), to make other players happy.

    So if a player hates crafting, that’s fine, he can buy/trade etc. for lesser items or perks that a crafter can sell, but, the crafter, if they so desire, through hard work and time, will always have the best, as they alone can add that personalized stat or look that makes the effort of crafting worth while.

    To make it tolerable to a degree, someone who commits a little to crafting gets a little of those benefits to add to things, the more you commit, the more you get. +1 strength, +2 strength etc. for certain levels of crafting. Because most players usually just give up on crafting as it is, these days, more fun to run, shoot, kill, level, run, shoot, kill, level.

    I just fear that for many years, if ever, there will never be another company that takes the chance to make an mmo for the few of us who want a long, slow path of progress with the journey being the fun part of the game. Eve is a good example that there are many out there that will support a game like this. Not millions, but enough to keep it going.

    I wish I knew lots of code, had lots of money, and weren’t so old. Bleh. There never will be another EQ.

    • I don’t believe that crafting must be done by everyone, but I believe crafting must be tied into the activities and core gameplay of everyone in order for it to be relevant.

      If crafting offers no benefit beyond what they can achieve easily without crafting themselves or buying from a crafter, then crafting is useless. If crafting enhances the other activities, then it’s suddenly integral.

    • It doesn’t need to be required for every individual player but it does need to be required for the playerbase. It should be an integral part of the world.

      Look at EVE Online. Ignoring its barrier to entry for new players, its crafting system, at its core, is the ideal. 99.99% of every item or ship and even structures outside the protected zones, is crafted by players. There should be a choice between taking adventuring skills or crafting skills. Games with limited skill pools do this best. This promises to crafters that there will always be a healthy market for their goods.

      I think that is the bare minimum to having crafting that doesn’t feel out of place but any other extras added to improve crafting are always welcome. For example, differing qualities on the same base material, resulting in an iron sword being crafted with higher quality iron (maybe the iron itself was smelted by someone with high skill in smelting) having better stats than an average iron sword.

  • In WoW classic crafting is huge! This is one reason why when classic launches it will destroy BfA.
    Engineering is mandatory for pvpers trying to compete at the top, you get bombs, traps, gadgets etc..
    Alchemy is needed for raiders
    Blacksmithing and Leatherworking etc make BiS gear for many classes until far into classic.

    Crafting in classic wow is great!

  • “No such bonds were created in GW2 or ESO”. Completely and utterly untrue. I played DAOC for just under a year from launch and I have been playing GW2 for getting on for seven years, also since launch. In my short time in DAOC I played on two servers, firstly in a small, family guild on Albion and then in the leading Midgard guild on another server. I felt mildly connected to the realms and moderately so to the guilds. I never felt any very deep connection, though, and when I left it was without looking back.

    In GW2 I have been a part of the Yaks Bend war effort for the full run of the game. I’ve written about it many times. In my entire time in gaming I have rarely felt a deeper attachment to a nominal entity (guild, server, friends group) than I did for many years to YB. There were many difficult times; as a server we were roundly hated for our tactics for years and used as a byword for what some peopel perceived as being wrong with the game. I revelled in that. I answered calls to defend structures in WvW with orders of magnitude more enthusiasm and determination than I ever did in DAOC. For several years GW2’s WvW was by far the best thing about it and one of the best things about playing MMORPGs.

    Sadly, things have slipped over the past two years, due to ArenaNet’s neglect and poor decision making but that in no way invalidates the joy and splendor of the past. GW2 was designed with WvW at its core; far from being out of sync it was the intended end game. It provided that for me and for thousands of others. Some of the best memories I have of gaming will always be down to WvW and, specifically, to the bond I felt with my server, Yaks Bend.

  • I guess i don’t understand how out of sync features are worse than not having those features at all. some people still enjoy crafting, yes, it’s kind of like a separate game within a game, but having that option for people that enjoy it is a good thing for the game overall. having PVP as an option for those that enjoy it is a good thing, it doesn’t detract from the core game, it supplements it. crafting and PVP bring in players that otherwise might not play the game and makes the game more vibrant and interesting… it also allows for some variety and downtime, which is especially important in a game like an MMO where you’re expected to play for long periods at a time. is chocobo racing, or snowbaording, or card playing games in single player Final Fantasy RPGs core to the game? no, but it’s fun and it breaks up the monotony of the “core” of the game. more features in general are better than fewer, even if they aren’t perfectly implemented.

    that being said, it’s totally possible to add features that actually damage the core of the game. i just don’t see crafting or instanced pvp to be damaging, they might not be perfect, but they still add something positive to the game overall. the game would be worse off, not better, if they were removed.