A question for you...what next?

Good, and great games, are a partnership of sorts. They are partly the creation of a team of developers, and partly the experience that the player has with it. The games we make are only partly what we think will make for a good game, they are just as much what we think you will enjoy. So one thing that developers are always trying to get a grasp on is what people actually want to see in a new game.

It is also a lot harder of a question to answer then you might think.

There is always the discussion about whether you go with the expected, try to innovate, or a balance between the two, and I have talked about that before, so this isn't a post to go over the subject again.

This time out I wanted to ask you all out there a question on this subject.

What do you want (and not want ) to see in the next generation of MMOs?

It is a far reaching question. There are a huge number of players that play and enjoy MMO games these days. From the millions who play World of Warcraft, to the ever growing masses who consider themselves part 'gamer' due to the continued popularity of consoles. There are players with many years of MMO experience, across dozens of games, and there are those who have only really known Azeroth. As I have said many times before, I am not sure at this stage that anyone will ever make a 'traditional' MMO that will be better than the standard set by Blizzard, (at least when compared to what they have now, some five plus years in), but someone will most certainly make a game, that we call an MMO, that will live up to being the 'Next Big Thing' as it were. It just won't be quite the same as the other games out there.

I also think there will be plenty of room for traditional style MMOs aimed at the niche markets of the veteran MMOs communities. Some of those games will be great games for their intended audience, they just also face the challenge of expectation. Even if they never intend to, they will be compared to certain games that they don't have a chance of matching for sheer polish and content.

So really what I am asking you all is that if you realize that challenge? What is it that you are looking for in the next generation of MMOs that will come. Now that many have concluded you simply can't hope to just borrow liberally from Blizzard's behemoth and watch the dollars roll in, there will be a period when people are genuinely searching for the next combination of online elements and game-play that can move the genre forward.

It is also interesting to hear what people are looking for and see how that matches up against what is realistically technically feasible with current, and realistically near future, technology. Sometimes I read threads on various MMO sites, and the ideas sound great, but I know that our current technical platforms simply can't match that ambition, or cost.

So sometimes it is just fun, and interesting, to simply ask people what it is that they are looking for in the future. It doesn't matter how crazy it sounds, what would you love to see in your next MMO passion?

So what is it that you personally that would make the perfect next MMO for you?


Wollan said…
It's not a new idea but I would love to see time-of-day actually being reinforced to a great degree (and with the MMO clock being equal to local time ala WoW).

'They only come out at night, mostly'. Would fit perfectly in A Secret World.

If this makes business sense is another question. It would be very interesting though!
Anonymous said…
The perfect MMO may be one that takes the most beautiful things that can happen in life and creates experiences filled with emotion. That is what creates the best communities and makes everyone stick like glue.
AmandaP said…
I would like to see MMOs go back to having as many social features as they do progression features. I think games like UO and AO knew very well that it is good for the game to have a lot of social features. The fact that they are now referred to as 'fluff' is a real shame.

Whether it is player housing, nightclubs and taverns, social clothing or roleplaying features, I would most love to see a return to the days when an MMO supported more of a social ingredient in the game.

It seems that all they care about these days is the number of quests and the number of raids. That is a shame, because they are only a part of what made the genre so much fun for many of us.
Anonymous said…
I want to see less bugs
Wollan said…
A GREAT lesson can also be learnt from Demon's Souls (hardcore PS3 rpg adventure).

There's one revolutionary aspect to that game that other games have yet to learn from.

It deals with multiplayer lobbies, forums and strategy guides in a very worldly matter, these aspects are 'textured' over the landscape.
Let me explain:
- To join or request other players into your realm you simply place a Rune stone on the ground specific to that action. Basically you sidestep the clinical gui aspect of a mp lobby which otherwise takes you out of the game.
- Strategy guide/Forums: You write text on the ground where you are standing. These sentences are built by predefined words and sentence structures so you bypass rude language, modern/flawed language and super detailed exploits. When someone rates your message as a positive you gain full health wherever you may be (the game doesn't natively give any help reinforcing great community interaction through this system).

The interactions above are also always relevant as they are location based. Simple brilliance!
Wollan said…
The Demon's Souls example works for games with different universes/realms/instances. Doesn't make much sense to put down a rune stone for co-op if the other player is standing next to you.
Craig Morrison said…

While there were parts of Demon Souls I didn't like personally, you are right - that particular feature was a very cool twist on the multi-player environment.

Keeping players in the game, rather than looking things up on the web, is something we are always striving for, and it was a genius little touch in Demon Souls.
Balthar said…
I would like to see more dynamic 'life' in the worlds for want of a better word. I understand it is hard for mulit-player games to do, but it must be something that some dev team somewhere can solve. With every NPC, Mob and quest giver just standing there waiting for you current games just seems very contrived.

There must be a way to inject some form of dynamic, organic AI behaviour that helps draw the player into the world that a game is creating.
Tom said…
I like a relationship with my character. I used to think that what I was saying was "character customizability," and that IS very important, but it's more than that. I get a relationship/bond with my character by being able to do things like write a publicly inspectable bio; and/or make changes in my character that reflect specific points in that bio (e.g., scars, custom tattoos); have distinct gear or abilities that reflect a long series of moral choices my character made; etc. I like Bioware's "good versus evil" systems with their effects on your character's appearance/posture; City of Heroes' inspectable bio system; etc.

Related to that, my ultimate "out there" feature that I'd love to try in an MMO is characters who have lives outside my control. I think this builds on games (which I've never played) like Black & White and Sims. My character is influenced heavily by my prodding -- perhaps even directly controlled to a degree determined by status (combat/etc.), class, or outside factors -- but otherwise the character picks his fights, build his homes, makes friends, etc. For example, I picture a game where players are gods or demons who persuade/tempt one or more members of the NPC world population to do their will; you can either possess a "berserker" for direct control, or bribe a craftsman, or tempt a politician; you can focus your efforts on one character for more influence (and to cement your control, in case other players can also influence your NPCs), or spread your influence across many "alts" to build a mini-empire. Your influence -- good versus evil, subtle versus violent, etc. -- begins to reflect itself on how your character dresses, etc. even when you are not in direct control.
Jesper said…
I want to see a dynamic MMO, meaning that you actually have as much impact on the world as it has on you. Minecraft is a good example on how you can make an impact on the world that will also affect others. This is not exactly how I think it should be done in MMOs, but at least something to the same extend.

I would also like to see progression revamped so it doesn't favor people who grind the most, but instead make people progress their character's role in the game based on their actions. That means remove level, remove gear progression, etc. and instead make it possible to instead progress by for example getting higher ranks (ultimately one can become the king for example). Something that will make you have more impact the more you play, but without giving you unfair advantages like 50% more armor.

Make gear become a matter of choice instead of progression. Heavy armor makes you take less damage but also makes you slower. Light armor makes you take more damage but you become faster. Make choices, not upgrades.

Also game play should prioritized above lore. It's way more fun to play a game that is fun but doesn't make sense than a game that makes sense and as a course of that is less fun to actually play. I mean, if a certain minigame concept seems fun, but doesn't fit lore and is therefore not implemented, then obviously the lore is too strict.

Does any of this make sense to you or am I just rambling?
Craig Morrison said…

It makes sense, and it is something we hear a lot, in particular from veteran players.

However, it is also very difficult to work into an MMO setting. The 'Hero' factor as it were, in that it becomes difficult to allow all your users to 'affect' the world in that way without things getting insanely complex.

As for progression I am not sure that debate is going to go away. 'Progression' is fairly ingrained in this genre, and the problem is that without it you struggle to reach a wider market. For a smaller, niche, title it could be possible, but then a developer faces the viscous cycle of having what appeals to one demographic being what drives away a wider audience (and when you are spending millions of dollars on one of these games that can be difficult to justify). The game you describe would, at it's core, also be a skill based system, more akin to a FPS than an MMO...MMOs have their roots in RPG gameplay, and the 'traditional' RPG tool set has progression of some form (and the associated power) at it's core.

Such a game might well work well with a limited audience (as you see in many MUDs) but getting it to work in a true MMO setting has been something that no-one has figured out how to do yet.
PadreAdamo said…
I want a more action-oriented experience. I am sick and tired of static loot systems and classes. I have been playing MMOs since the dawn of Legends of Kesmai and Meridian 59. I firmly believe that the way Asheron's Call handles loooot is the way forward and leaves a lot of room for innovation.

Innovation is the key forward. MMOs that follow the same status quo of design leave too much to be desired in a stale genre. There was a time when MMOs were worlds and devs grew them with the player base...we need that time back.
false said…
I want to be able to fly from outer space to the surface of a planet with no loading screen, then hop out of my ship to play the land game with no loading screen in a Science Fiction setting.
Adamo said…
in one sentence:

A finished, fully working product with clear planned, reasonable ingame systems.

The onliest reason to pay real money for this cind of entertainement.
Unknown said…
I agree with what many have mentioned:

- Impact on the game world
- Immersion into the character / role
- Blend of challenge and ease of access
- Clear, frequent and achievable goals (new gear, abilities, locations, story beats, etc)

I think those are things the majority would want from an MMO. But I also agree that there are challenges delivering those in an MMO that has to be produced for reasonable sums of money in a reasonable time frame.

Craig is right though, not every player can be The Hero. But we (the playerbase) could still collectively affect the state of the game world.


- Each month the player base has to decide (on behalf of their faction/town/guild) between 3 options

a: go to this place and achieve this goal
b: go to this other place and achieve this other goal
c: do neither and remain here to further develop the current goal

If these choices clearly have implications on the content delivered, each player is effecting the world they play in.

Combine with a short dev cycle (for this small piece of the larger dev schedule) and you can release pieces of content guided by player input.

My personal bug bear with MMo's is not "feeling" my role or class. What (apart from abilities and where I stand to do my damage) separates a demo from an assassin?

Both are "dark" classes and do a great job of feeling different to each other. But thats not the same as making ME feel like i'm an assassin or a demo. The world doesn't react to me differently, the quests don't change or give me different options for how I complete them. I acknowledge that creating 9 versions of each quest would be unreasonable, but additional archetype (mage/rogue/soldier) options for some key quests would be great.

I'm a digital project manager in real life and design games for fun as a hobby (proper design docs and all) but even without doing this for a living I can see how creating something that is financially doable, easily extensible, well balanced and engaging is extremely tough.

I just want an awesome sci fi MMO - Anarchy Online was my very first MMO and I LOVED it.
Temporel said…
>However, it is also very difficult to work into >an MMO setting. The 'Hero' factor as it were, >in that it becomes difficult to allow all your >users to 'affect' the world in that way without >things getting insanely complex.
I think it's a mistake that MMO developpers are making these days. They try to think "how to make it so that everybody is the hero". When no matter what they do there is still advancement, there is a still a huge difference between players (newbies, veterans, hardcore, stuffed, unstuffed, t1,t2,t3) so if the only thing they offer in differentiation is a gear you can get by doing repeatable things then it's a fail.

First you need a world that live. Immersion is the key (and it goes along with content) I think that's where Wow succeeds. AoC has immersion but not enough content or variety yet to please people who are not into endgame and sorry to say but kithai isn't right for me because mobs have higher level pushing players to need new gear when it should just have tried to bring content and stories. Anyway ...

What do I want to see in the next MMO? plenty of things.
First I think all players now want the game to be bugfree, stable, with a solid interface (customisable) from day 1. (auction house, preview of items before buying, details and information everywhere if we want to...)
Then on the setting and gameplay. There is so much to see yet.

First like you see books and movie evolve people want more and more a mature setting (in that regard AoC is great) but not always in the graphics (some prefer to escape and don't want the game to look anything like this world, I prefer when it does) mostly in the story telling. (Dragon Age did a great job at the story beginning).
Story of your character is a key, having the game create a story log as you manage to do things would be great but for this you need interesting things to do.
I still dream of the day a dev can provide an mmo that lives without players, where players have to fit in. Where quests are created on the fly by actions in the gameworld(you kill that guy then someone else want revenge, someone might investigate, someone is looking for that ring he had etc...). A game when you become special and different, you. Not only by gear and look but by what you did. So choices are important of course but also things that can only be done once and you gain yourself a name.
I guess it's a bit like the fantasy world in Tad Williams book "Otherworld" but more realistic.
I think it'd provide a challenge (to get a name, to do things noone has done) that would make people not complain to not be the king, they just might be proud of helping bring him to the throne (or down). So probably technology is not there yet.

But it all comes down to this, feeling you're doing something for a reason, feeling you're doing something important and not just time sinks. I mean I'd be very happy with a WW2 mmo (like Andrew also had fun with concept designs in my younger days) with classes, trainings, and dynamic battles. Or a mafia one, or anything that is trendy, the setting matter little (just not very interested in sci fi ) and it can stay fantasy but then it has to be really epic or gritty. But not stand in the middle (half epic and somewhat dark isn't really a selling point )

So in short:
- Story (quest lines and only quests lines, no repeatable content or provide new reasons to do the same things (and do not mean by written text but again by a quest line))
- Immersion (means stable client, easy to use ui, etc)
- Impact on the gameworld (but not guild wise, I mean it could also but I mean on a personnal/character level)
- Make characters really unique.
AndreasB said…
My primary requirement for a game (especially MMOs) is a good, immersive storyline. A storyline that can be delved into and lived by your player character. The results of your interaction with the storyline should be a lot more apparant than in most MMOs to date. (WoWs phasing is a good start, but not used enough.) I would live to see plenty of quests like AoCs destiny quests (voiceovers not a requirement).

Social and RP elements should be integral to the game (AO showed how player housing can be done easily.) Social gathering spots are important when you want to relax, but also important to have social gathering spots for dungeon running and raids.

The setting is secondary, the storyline is king, feeling like a living dynamic world is what I am looking for. Dungeons should be part of the storyline, likewise raids.
Lyth said…
What I would like to see?
Dynamism mostly. As some people have noted whenever I go into a town the NPC's, are just standing there, day and night. Stores could for instance close at night some of the more shady ones could open at night, NPC's could move around, and actually be engaged in stuff. Someone stating he's been fighting this and that while just standing or squatting there comes off as rather disenchanting if you ask me.

Also I'd like to see the players actually have a larger impact on the world they inhabit. For instance city sieges and the like. And I'd like to see a world where killing some faction leader triggers more than loot drops and a respawn for said NPC. Then again this would justify making the rulers and faction leaders harder to get and the casuals would probably raise their voice against that but imho an MMORPG should be more about immersion than "just being casual".

And of course character customization. I think most of us don't like the idea of being shoehorned to a specific look once we reach certain levels of achievement. Wan't the most badass armor set? You'll be looking like THIS. This can be circumvented by allowing characters to re-dye their gear or maybe carry trophies or if there's enough resources, there could even be more endgame content gear variations.

And what I'd DEFINITELY like to see is a more down-to-earth approach to the combat system. I mean sure, carrying the two-handed flaming soul-sucking claymore of icy doom with its uber stats is nice but I'd like to see a system where weapon stats are only a minor contributing factor to the actual damage output and it being defined more by weapon skill and opponent type. Sure, enchanted items are fine but recently MMO's have gone a bit overboard with them in my opinion.
Unknown said…
More players be able to interact together in on instance at one time (without lag). This is clearly the way things are heading but i imagine a FPS where thousands of players fight across a vast battleground or something akin to the AoC sieges but with many more players and much higher environmental interaction.

A 'living' world in which NPC's and players can effect permanent change. Increase the number of NPCs, have multiple factions and allow both NPCs and players to wage war on other factions, destroying their settlements and populations.

Remove the quest mechanic and allow players to gain xp and rewards through any interaction with a dynamic environment. Killing anything (player, red NPC, blue NPC) gives xp but so does, opening locks, bluffing NPCs, scaling walls) Allow titles to be awarded by player votes, so players can be elected to ranks and again provide xp if you attain ranks.

I’d love to see an acceptance by the player base that all classes/ races should not be equal. How much developer time could be used for other things if they didn’t have to constantly work on balance? How much more interesting could fights be. Instead of multiple players grouping to bring down a Boss fight they could group together to bring down a Count or a King (controlled by a player).

You could tier access to key classes. Make the powerful ones require a constantly renewed support of other players, or link the death penalty to the power of the character / class. Kings / count who are killed don’t just instantly respawn but are dead for a week. Their power would be a great boon to their faction but the impact of their death would be significant too.
Rykoth (former AoC Player) said…
I really want a game that can fit both my thematic tastes. A dark fantasy that could be low or high fantasy, that is mature, and not only mature in theme, but mature in community.

Whether or not the mechanics are similar to WoW, AoC, EQ2 or whatever, I want a game that is fun, has plenty to do, and is highly encouraging of a roleplaying playstyle without being persecuted for that gameplay style. I am tired of games that promote roleplaying, but then refuse to do anything when the rude players decide to step on those trying to enjoy that activity.
Unknown said…
Guess this is as open a question as 'what food do you like?'
I personally think that the constant progression of hardware capabilities allow us to aspire to deeper immersion in MMOs. AOC made a huge breakthrough in this area with more interactive fight mechanics, high quality graphics and outstanding music but... is that enough to attract the masses and especially keep and grow that user base? NO. Attracting people to an MMO is one thing, keeping them signed up and playing over years is a huge challenge. How can an artificially created world prove to be a new and exciting experience every day to the seasoned player?
Ever heard of the royal game? Chess, yes that’s right! My brother swears by this and uses FICS (www.freechess.org) to connect on-line and challenge other players. No waiting time in general, with a global coverage across continents, there’s always someone online waiting for a game. OK this isn’t a MMO but wait a minute, Massively multiplayer online? Guess it does qualify strangely enough!
What can be learnt here? People like to challenge other people. Sure you can play against a computer at chess but that’s a bit like making love to a sex-doll. At some stage you want to know what you’re really worth and the only way to do this is play against others. Now if you’re slaughtered again and again you’ll probably quit and find some other form of entertainment unless you’re extremely stubborn. So you do want to be able to chose your opponent that’ll be someone your level or similar but more than anything else is knowing who you’re facing. FICS uses a very reliable ranking system that will also serve to measure your progression.
Anyway enough with chess but think about marrying both worlds…. Build a truly immersive environment, with some background lore and a gradual progression where you learn how to master the game play. The environment needs to be affected by the player population: trade, buildings, wars… avoid massive grind as that will always end one day or another regardless of the game style (hard core/casual) but make it so that tournaments are regular and these can be player vs. player, groups vs. groups or faction vs. faction (replace faction by guild if needed). Create world events that unbalance long established dominance to ensure renewal and have a ladder system to measure where you stand vs. the others. For the people that still lack confidence in their capabilities of facing other players, there should be a tag mechanism that allows them to roam this world freely, face environment challenges (PVE) and yet be able to participate as spectator to the conflicts happening around them. No better learning school and motivator to join the brawl when they feel ready.
Just remember that all players aren’t equal in front of a keyboard and mouse, some have lightning reflexes, some have infinite time to play and some have both! Make it so that the MMO gives these guys the recognition they seek with a ladder system and doesn’t prevent the others from having fun and progressing at their own rate.
iBrock said…
I'd like to see a game world that has seasons: with for example, 4 real months being equal to a year in-game. As seasons change, the playfields subtly load different textures sets each week or two: leaves go from green to red/yellow and then fall, snow fall and houses and fields acquire snow and ice etc. Fittingly some appropriate social clothes would be required for certain climates (Fur and cloaks in snowy winter and silks in summer or topics.) Over the course of a year of game-play players would have to deal with challenges that are specific to the seasons. For example a desert playfield would be more excruciatingly hot in summer or tropical one could have flies, snakes. and water hazards, in the wet season. Finally, some zones should have seasonal dungeons, bosses, and drops.

Why? 1) it's more immersive; 2) players won't grind quite the same boards each week; and 3) players will stay on for at least a 4-month cycle to do the seasonal content.

And yes I know that this would demand 4 or 5 times as much work from art departments. Then again Craig, a big reason I'm a dedicated AoC player is the visuals.
JonL said…
I would love to see a game where the players could be trusted to run the story, in effect a game where there were no NPCs and players were allowed to build quests for each other. With the right rule-set around it, I am sure that it could be done.
Anonymous said…
What I want is 3 main things…

First, and by far most important, make a contract with me (the player) and keep it. Tell me right up front what the game is and what it is not. Please don’t try the gutless route of saying you’ll have something for everyone when you know that your game focuses more on a particular element of MMORPG play. Choose the areas that you’re going to be really good at and be the best you can be at those.

Second, what I do should matter. I don’t want to be “The One” because I think that storyline doesn’t work well in an MMO. Especially when you roll your first alt and THAT character is “The One” too. But if I’m part of (or even just an observer of) a world event, then that event should change things in the world. Don’t have me kill “X of something” when the somethings are a never ending spawn and killing them serves no purpose anyway. Likewise don’t have me be the FedEx guy delivering packages that anyone could have carried instead.

Third, let me fail. Rather than just re-trying the dungeon over and over, what if there is a separate result for the quest line that has to do with me failing to save the Artifact of Godlike Power? It wouldn’t have to be a major fork. Maybe something like “Since you failed to recover the artifact, we sent Agent X to get it instead. But before we trust you again, you will need to complete some other more menial tasks to prove your worth to us once more.”

Other stuff (from my own blog) includes giving me a reason to participate in PvP (minigames are a diversion and open world PvP usually ends up being more about epeens .. tie it into the world). As a crafter let me make things that are worthwhile and let me practice my craft without forcing me to participate in other parts of the game that I don’t enjoy as much.

For other things that I would also like, just review ArenaNet’s Manifesto. That coves a LOT of what I’ve been hoping for in this genre of computer gaming.