February 12, 2013

The things that I think are MMO design no-nos

I’ve discussed a lot on what I think would make a good MMO before and there is still a lot of ground to cover on that subject but I think another aspect I think should be covered are things that I feel are definite no-no’s in the field of MMO creation and building. Now, this is not a comprehensive list nor is it ordered in level of importance, but I have noticed a trend in designs that I feel many MMO developers lately have been going towards that have been actually hurting their game designs, instead of helping. So, let’s dive right in to what I feel are some of the things that developers should steer away from as far as MMO development.

Making the world WoW big
This one is probably going to be confusing to some on how I present it, like, the first question is, “What in the world is WoW big?” WoW big is actually a term I use to describe worlds that are just unnaturally big just to be big. This doesn’t mean a world that is designed to offer a lot of explorable terrain, quite the opposite really, but terrain that is made as if for people that were way bigger than the characters actually are. To me, this is a big negative in the feature of the game. Now, in areas the common statement is that it’s designed that way for ease of camera use and movement, but when a lot of structures and areas have this unnatural design and feel to it like it was meant for people fifty times bigger than the characters, it is a huge detraction from the actual enjoyment of the game for me.

Making something big just to make it big is not a proper answer to good game development and actually hampers a lot of immersion for players from the game. When you enter a building, you want to actually feel it was reasonably designed with the height of the largest race in mind, of course, but when it looks like 100 foot giants should inhabit the area, it presents a feeling that the developers actually built the world smaller, then just up scaled it to make it look bigger.

This has the negative impact of removing players feeling of being a part of that world as well as presenting the issue of needlessly increasing travel times from one point to the next. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a nice sized world and encourage world design to be built with a scale in mind, but I want it to feel like a natural scale. This also puts a damper on PvP when the world is so large like that distances from one point to the next are actually tedious instead of feeling natural. If the goal is to make the world feel big it should feel naturally big, just don’t set your scale to over drive and call it a big world because everything is bigger in proportion to the character. It is actually a huge detraction.

Land to just have land
This is kind of the same vein as above, but different enough that it warrants its own point. Putting in land to just have land is pointless and needlessly adding things that don’t need to be added to the game. Don’t just keep adding land and expecting people to like it, and thinking it’s enough to satisfy people who want a big world. It feels unnatural when you do so. You also don’t want so much land that people become lost and confused from one point to the next.

Again I move back to PvP and I will use Guild Wars 2 as an example here. In GW2’s WvW there are 4 continents for PvP for players to play in. And each of these lands are huge in their own right. But, the PvP player base isn’t large enough to accommodate such a grand scale on the maps themselves. This creates a dichotomy and needless bloat for an activity that people would like to participate in but just presents too large of a land area for PvP to be participated in meaningfully.

Hand holding of exploration
This, again, is another sin that GW2 makes; the hand holding and out right requirement of finding all the points of interest, vistas and other such shenanigans in the game in order to build a viable character. Players do like large swaths of land and they naturally are inclined to explore. But players hate having the exploration shoved in their face to the point that it feels like handholding, or worse and more likely, that the devs are trying to shove your face into it. Yea, you might have created some beautiful terrain and such, but players want to naturally explore it, not feel like they have to or even have every part of them shown to them. It doesn’t feel like exploring them when everything is conveniently marked, or when it is actually required that you do that activity in order to enjoy the game.

Quests, quests and more quests
This one will probably shock people, but games that are built around nothing but tons of quests and events bore the ever living hell out of me. It’s yet another nail in that coffin that removes my sense of purpose and self in the game and hinders my enjoyment of exploring a vast world. People will try and claim GW2 lacks these things but moving the exclamation marks to heart locations is just the same shit in a different way. I am still required, for decent advancement, to go to these locations and complete their tasks in order to gain experience to advance my character. I still feel like I am on a rail and have little control over where I want to go.

The concept was to make quests feel natural and such, but it failed on so many fundamental levels. I can handle events, but I want to choose to be a part of them, not required. Quests should feel natural to, such as NPCs mentioning things or you finding things along your way, not having to go visit a particular point to complete them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think quests are good, in their own respective ways because they give people things to do. But MMOs these days have gone overboard. Sometimes a player should just create their own quest such as if they see a dungeon and go explore it. They shouldn’t be required to see NPCs to get the quests for bloated XP gains just to continue. And that’s another factor I hate about quests to, the huge XP bloat making them the main feature and required instead of the actual adventure itself. Developers need to put quests in more naturally and use them more sparingly, not at every opportunity they think they can put in a guy with an exclamation mark.

Always on rails
This is a cardinal sin all modern MMOs have; they put their game on rails, whether or not the players realize it, and lead the players by the nose along that set path with little deviation. There is little choice on where you are going and how you are getting there. The path is always going to be the same with only slight differences from one step to the next. This to me is dumb. A player should be able to choose where they want to go or how they want to get there. The fact developers seem absolutely terrified that players might try something off the beaten path boggles my mind. Let players have some freedom with your game.

The butchering of social interaction
The social experience has been getting butchered more and more in MMOs as time progresses. The constant focus on solo experience has been removing the need for people to even bother socializing with others and this is just bad design. While some people will say it’s dumb to be forced to team, my answer is you shouldn’t be playing an MMO anyways if you hate to team. No, I am saying that there should be things and activities that are designed around socializing and joining others to be a team. These are things that help out an MMO, and the scary part is how many people keep believing that roles and such are evil and should never even be considered for MMOs these days, as if the very idea of working with others is somehow evil. I don’t get it personally.


Anyways, those are my views on the subject. Leave a comment below If you have some points to bring up of your own, and if you are looking for an RP guild for TESO, maybe check out The Black Wolves and see if we might be what you are looking for.


  1. Some really great ponts here, and yet most of these are common design practices for mmo's.

    Wanting to be wow big from the start is a death sentence for new mmo's, it just bloats development costs far too much. Much better to start off smallish and grow. Rift worked out well in this regards I think.

    I also don't like how questing has been iterated now. I think GW2 was kind of going in the right direction but they made to many allowances make in more mainstream. If you read any of the older, way before release interviews Colin discussed how originally there wasnt any hearts.
    Have a look at firefall sometime, while rather small the way they have done ther system is rather good. It is a mixture of randomly and constantly spawning events and player intitiated ones.

    the one critique i have thoguh is about the size of gw2's wvw battlegrounds. I actually think they are far too samll. With swiftness and the few waypoints a large group can travel the entire map in a minute or so. It negates many important tactics and the powere of small tactical groups to an extent. It is why keeps and towers can swap sides so often. It also means one larger group can control an entire map with ease in most cases. with the amount of people it always feels crowded, I am on a tier 1 server so that may be a part of it but I always think in pvp and territory control distance should matter

    1. Yes, I have read that but that still is a case of this is what they promised, but this is what they delivered. It doesn't really matter how much talk they do when the final product isn't even near where it should be.

      As far as PvP is concerned, that's a whole other ball of wax of issues with GW2 and the fact that PvP is horrendously broken there, regardless of what people might think. Upscaling might be one thing but gear is still important and so are the character stats and skills. The maps are too horrendously big and the PvP is only really doable in laughably hysterical zerg mentality. It's the type of PvP that drives me batshit insane because tactics and skill are secondary.