I don’t think these obstacles can be surmounted by evolution—we need revolution. We need games to try whole new styles of immersion, character advancement, combat, crafting, harvesting, and just about everything else.
Below I present you my 10 points for the re-envisaging of MMORPG. I will spend more time going over each of these points and suggesting ways to implement them. A few games have accomplished one or two of these, but I’ve yet to see a game include more than half of them.
The Ten Points:
- Severely limit vertical character progression. A character should not be inherently more powerful the longer he spends playing the game. A character should be more powerful if the player plans its ability use better or plays the game better.
- Focus on horizontal character progression. More abilities that are of relatively equal power become available as characters progress.
- Foster non-combat professions and give players meaningful content that doesn’t involve fighting.
- Do not force players into PvP. But reward players for doing it—if it’s a higher risk activity, it should be more rewarding.
- Death needs to have meaning. The obsession with single-character play has to end. It yields too much investment in one character which leads to severe risk aversion.
- Cut down on the role of chance. We can create sophisticated, innovative, strategically deep combat mechanics, we don’t have to rely on random number generators to provide spice in MMORPGs.
- When a player is in-game, he should be doing something meaningful. Gameplay has to have effects, even if they are small, on both other characters and the player’s character. These effects build a story and a living world which reward intelligent action and planning.
- Let the players make the story. The world can have a rich history that rewards thorough reading, but the present needs to be in control of the players. They need to have the power to make game-level stories happen and to record them in a way that is publicly viewable.
- Encourage community-building behavior. Reward players for being in groups, guilds, and factions. Give groups experience bonuses, better item drops, and other perks for participating in the social part of the game. If a game encourages socialization, it more quickly engenders social responsibility in its players—this binds players and keeps them playing the game.
- Focus on the player’s in-game experience. If you give the player a rich world, rewarding actions to undertake, and well-constructed game mechanics, your game can still fail. It’s crucial that you present the game to the player with the utmost care. The game has to allow the player to plan and make intelligent decisions: the player must be presented with appropriate information, well laid-out and easy to read and understand.