Category Archives for "Game Design"

“Solo-Friendly” is Mostly an Illusion

In my last post I pointed out that "LFG" is still very much a thing in modern MMOS -- even the most "accessible" ones. The interfaces have been updated, but the concept is still 100% there.

Today I want to point out how this idea of solo-friendly gameplay is also largely an illusion. When people look back on MMOs from 1997-2003 they often think of how those games were really not solo friendly at all. Then they look at modern MMOs as a bastion of "play by yourself all you want" which is completely false.

Let's compare the old school games like EQ (circa 1999), SWG, UO, etc., to today's accessible giant.

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LFG and Premade Group Finder are the Same

I was watching a video about an upcoming MMO and it was talking about the grouping experience and how it wouldn't have the Dungeon Finder mechanic of putting you into a random group and teleporting you right to the instance. Instead, you would need to do the traditional LFG process of finding people, forming the group, running there all manually.

A lot of people will say that the LFG process is dead and long gone, meant for an older generation of MMORPG. They'll say that LFG is tedious, etc.

Playing WoW for the past 6 months  has shown me that the LFG model is actually alive and doing quite well. Though the pioneer of the aforementioned Dungeon Finder, WoW still utilizes the LFG system for its core gameplay.

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There’s No Shift Back to Old School MMORPGs

I had a friend ask me what I thought about the MMO industry going back to the old school style of games. Then I saw this question from the Pantheon twitter account. What do you think about the industry’s recent shift back to older school games and vanilla re-launches/servers?

MMO industry going back to old school style of games?

Industry shifting back to old school games and re-launches?

I’m not living in the same world, I guess.

The MMO industry has not shifted anywhere. In fact, the MMO “industry” is quickly losing its “industry” status altogether. The MMO genre has been dead for several years now, with a handful of strong titles still living on to keep that flame from going out.

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Harvesting Resources in MMORPGs

I have always loved the act of going out to gather resources. There’s something so meaningful about the accumulation of raw resources, whether it be to take those resources and create something yourself, have someone else use them to make something for you, or to simply sell. Harvesting resources can be so much more than that, though, and should be if a MMO ever hopes to create a harvesting system that’s meaningful.

My days of meaningful crafting in MMOs were few, relatively speaking. My big claim to crafting fame was in SWG where I made millions and millions of credits as a Chef back in the early days when I could make various foods and drinks to radically improve people’s stats. I took those millions and invested them into a vast network of resource gathering harvesters (by purchasing other people’s slots to use them since you could only have one character). I took them resources and either used them, flipped them raw, or converted them into items that I then resold. At one point I even opened up a tailor shop and a weapons and armor shop where other crafters sold their goods on consignment — goods they made with my resources.

I’m a believer in harvesting resources being more than smacking a random node that then disappears. That’s lame, and I don’t find it ‘fun’ at all.

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Dialogue Options in MMORPGs

I'm a fan of dialogue trees.  I like when I have the choice of what to say in a RPG, though I know that most of the time the dialogue options have very little, if any, real meaning on the game.

One of the few MMOs to ever do dialogue options was/is SWTOR. In almost every case they were even fully voices. Like most dialogue options, however, they fell into the trappings of being super narrow in scope.

Light Side = Spare or be nice
Sith = Kill or be rude

Typically the outcome of your decision didn't reach beyond that one quest.

ESO has dialogue too, sorta. Maybe more of a faux-alogue tree because their conversation trees represent another side where the options are: (1) The option you're supposed to pick to advance the conversion, (2) the 'tell me more' option or 'small talk', and (3) 'Goodbye'

These motifs are common in games as are others.

In most RPGs -- like Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Dragon Age Origins, etc. -- the options tend to be:

Top = Good
Middle = Neutral
Bottom = Bad

When it's so programmatic you really don't even have to think about the choices sometimes. And again, they rarely go beyond the quest or that specific hub or area. I don't like having the choices made so transparent.

Divinity Original Sin is an RPG I can think of that did a nice job with consequences for dialogue trees, and they also did a decent job having multiplayer dialogue options.

In Assassin's Creed Odyssey the quest dialogue options are pretty good. They aren't  prescribed as being good or bad. I like this. In fact, I like it so much that I get super OCD and have no idea how the person I'm talking to will respond. I want to know! So I look it up. To me, that's really cool.

However, Assassin's Creed Odyssey does the other cardinal sin of dialogue trees by having the options not reflect what the characters actually say. I have often chosen to say something because it sounds like a kinder thing to say, but then my character spouts off something snarky or rude and I wish I picked the other option.

A lot of the decisions in AC: Odyssey are also long-reaching into the game's story. If I decline to help someone, or choose not to save someone, or even choose to kill someone or offend them based on dialogue options, then that choice actually comes up later. I've seen massive world-wide ramifications of my choices. Now that's awesome!

I'd love to see the same thing in MMORPGs. That's because I like story with my MMO, and I really like when the world feels connected by choices. Where the challenge comes in is how choices have consequences, and how those would impact the world without immense phasing tech like WoW uses.  

I'd like to see dialogue options in a game like Pantheon; something more RPG old school feeling. What I'm trying to get around is my doubt in dialogue working in a game without it feeling like you're 'playing through it' rather than 'living in it'. Dialogue-heavy games are often played 'through' with a start and an end -- the end comes when the dialogue ends. That's something I'd love to get around, but I don't have a solution. Do you?


Should MMOs Be More Alt Friendly?

I haven’t felt the urge to play so many characters in a MMORPG for over a decade. I think the last time I felt this torn between characters was in Vanguard. In WoW I’m currently playing my Paladin main, a Warrior alt (who has almost caught up to my Paladin in gear), and now a Monk who is a fresh 120. I like them all.

Trying to level up alts and then subsequently gear them isn’t always the easiest activity in WoW. Taking WoW at face value and keeping all things relative to WoW, it’s not alt friendly. Since most of the end-game activities I want to participate in are gated by gear grinds, I find myself stuck in a feeling like I’m running in place. I want to go do higher M+ keys, but my luck on drops sucks. I can’t get the traits I want, or I can’t get the iLvl upgrades I want, etc.

The experience of making a new character and thriving has significant barriers to entry.

Should MMORPGs be more alt friend? If so, how?

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Azerite Armor’s Failings & Revelations About Gear

If there's one thing the entire WoW community can agree on it's that the Azerite Armor system has been a complete and utter failure.

What was supposed to be a system that allowed players to farm the gear they wanted turned into a RNG hell. What was supposed to be a system that made gear more available made gear more inaccessible than ever. What was supposed to be a system that made off-specs more friendly turned into a system that was just as unfriendly to off-specs as anything else, to the point where it's faster to make a new character than to gear up an off-spec.

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When You Have to ‘Sim’ Yourself

I remember the days when character stats were simple. You had strength, dex, int, and those usual stats. You might have even had a few percentages represented as ratios based on those major stats. When you found a piece of gear, like a sword or a new pair of boots, it was obviously an upgrade or a better items -- or it wasn't. For quite some time, this transparent and easily observed way of understanding your character's stats hasn't been present in WoW. Things have seriously evolved... or mutated.

To best understand your gear and what's an upgrade, or to even make heads or tails of it at all, you must do what the cool kids call "sim yo self". To simulate yourself you download an addon gives you a bunch of gibberish representing every facet of your character. You then plug that into a website like Raidbots where it parses all of your data and determines, based on various criteria, how your character performs.

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Crafted Loot and Dropped Loot Co-Existing

Finding a place for crafted gear in a mmorpg where loot can drop from monsters has always been a really rough spot in mmo design. Over on the Pantheon Crafters community they asked a question about whether or not they can co-exist without one eclipsing the other. Let’s check it out.

For this week’s Crafter’s Roundtable, we want to hear from everyone about how you think loot and crafted items can coexist in the game and both be viable without one eclipsing the other. Let us know what you think works to achieve a good balance, and what doesn’t, and why!

I’ve always preferred a system where players taking on the role of full-time crafters create the gear for the adventurers. The most successful design I’ve seen on this is where the adventurers bring back specific items to augment and enhance what the crafters make.

Since we’re talking about the two systems co-existing without one eclipsing the other, obviously both must come together make the best items. Perhaps a crafter can make an item and an adventurer can find an item, but when the two combine together they make something better. This relied on both sides. Still not a perfect scenario.

My favorite is expendable loot. Nothing that drops or is made should last forever. Master crafters could prolong the life of an item, but ultimately that item will break. I also like the idea of augmenting gear with either dropped augments or crafted augments, but those augments would cause the item to degrade even faster. I think I like this system so much because it affords players multiple opportunities and avenues for finding, improving, and retaining gear.

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