ZAM writers give their necessary features for new MMOs in 2013
Looking ahead to 2013 -- still not going to the shops by jetpack dagnabbit -- the staff here at ZAM banged their heads together and thought up a list of things they want to see from MMOs in 2013.
A wishlist, per se, of what we think new MMOs need to have at launch. One rule was given: no mention of F2P!
I mean, it's obvious isn't it?
So, with no further ado, here are the thoughts of a selection of writers here at ZAM.
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer
For me, a new MMO needs to focus on two key areas.
The first is that it needs to have a unique visual identity. There have been some great examples of this in 2012, with Guild Wars 2 treating us to fantastic locations and The Secret World using a modern day twist.
In 2013 I want to see this move further, ushering in a return of seamless environments and vistas unrestrained by portals or loading screens. I crave for them to start using top-tier graphics hardware and DirectX 11, enabling tessellation to give textures further depth, and using more efficient shader processing to present us with incredible effects.
I have heard the argument about holding graphics engines back in order to support a wide number of PCs, and frankly, I’m tired of it. In 2013 I want to be amazed; I want to feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on-end as I dine on a visual feast the likes of which I’ve never tasted before. I don’t want to begrudgingly accept the same old excuse-laden offerings we’ve seen previously.
The second is that I want to see innovative new ideas on how to encourage gamers to play together. I don’t think that the single-player style RPG approach is sustainable as triple-A content becomes more expensive to produce, but I’m not convinced that the mantra of sandboxing everything is the right approach. And although Guild Wars 2 has come up with some interesting proposals, I’m sure that there are other ways of achieving the same goal. Balancing the need for an evolving world rich in lore, and the need for players to tell their own stories and leave their own mark, is something I want to see addressed next year.
Bill "Lethality" Leonard
Without a doubt, for me, the most important feature in an MMORPG is its ability to create a sense of place. That is, a believable world I travel to and spend time in, not just feel like a game I play. Now this doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a sandbox, but rather that it delivers not only on the depth of a good RPG, but also on the breadth of activities available to players.
There are some obvious attributes of an MMO game world that help contribute to creating this sense of place, such as being a living, breathing and seamless open world where travel means something - but what do I mean by breadth? Well, we have an entire world (or galaxy) available to us - why does everything have to revolve around combat? Why can't I be a merchant who runs a small shop in a remote village? Or play a hunter by trade, not by class? Or maybe even just participate in varied activities throughout the word, each with their own progression systems - not unlike World of Warcraft's Pet Battles or the many side-games in Free Realms. The point being that with a world at our fingertips (literally) there should be more ways to play in that world.
I think games that are able to embrace this idea in 2013 and beyond will have the best chance of standing out in a competitive market. Create a world where we do many things, not a game where we do just one. We're entering the second generation of online gaming, and players are ready for more - I challenge developers to bring it on!
Josh "Vazzaroth" Hagood
A library of hotkeys is not going to be doing future MMOs any favors in 2013 and beyond. World of Warcraft may be going strong even after giving each character upwards of 50 or more abilities, but it seems the "6 filled hotbars on screen" MMO is going out of style. Most people fall back to a reliable rotation of fewer than 10 damaging abilities, with the occasional long cool-down pop. A lot of your character's potential is going to waste or is just flat out unnecessary. Having loads of buttons to press makes it that much more likely your group-mate will be pressing the wrong ones at the wrong time and can also overwhelm players new to the game. Plus, differentiating from the classic style of games past provides at least some ammunition against the almost unavoidable "WoW Clone!" remarks the Internet is so famous for.
The rise of DOTA inspired games has brought to light the advantages of having complex interacting game mechanics only 4 or 5 button presses away, instead of 20 individual spells to accomplish the same game play. MMO designers are taking note and starting to create games around a simpler UI and less overwhelming quantities of abilities, while still retaining customization and I think that's a great idea. We have Guild Wars 2 in the forefront already, and The Secret World following suit. The Elder Scrolls Online is at least one 2013 release (come on, no pushbacks!) already on the "less is more" bandwagon, and it seems to me anything else is going to be a tough sell in the post-WoW MMORPG market.
The ideals I hold near and dear that I would like to see in any new MMO in 2013 are simple but core to my enjoyment.
Mobility has become the perfect example of this in that once upon a time I did not mind standing in place clicking abilities until my target died, but now more dynamic fights, with a breakneck pace, have stolen my heart. Similarly quest presentation has become an important issue for me.
I loved the idea of quests becoming centralized and highly organized when I saw it happening, but now I hate the feel of being led by the nose the entire time. It absolutely thrills me these days when the quests are open ended or the story is engaging enough to give a veneer of personal choice. There is more out there that undoubtedly would make for a brilliant MMO, but those two issues are ones that I feel need to be addressed to really have fun.
Matt "Mattsta" Adams
A good MMO these days need to have good movement and animations. The recent trends in MMOs has been more active combat, whether that is the full on action combat of TERA or just the full movement and dodging such as in Guild Wars 2. With more active combat comes the need for movement to feel good to the player. A new MMO these days shouldn’t have players feeling like their feet are in blocks of cement when they cast spells as in the MMOs of ages past, but, conversely, it also shouldn’t feel floaty and without any sense of weight. As The Secret World’s below expectation sales have shown, an MMO that is unique in many areas of gameplay and has a good story to build off of will still flounder if the game doesn’t feel like a modern MMO in the hands of the players.
Scott "Jarimor" Hawkes
“Emergent Gameplay” is a phrase that’s been used repeatedly by developers such as John Smedley and in 2013 the industry needs to see MMOs implement this aspect of games more successfully. I understand why the theme park model of MMOs has been so dominant for so long – World of Warcraft being one reason – but there are so few successful examples of strong alternatives it’s baffling.
EVE Online is the standard bearer for many. Star Wars Galaxies was a series of great ideas buried underneath floundering systems and broken code. Placing content into the hands of the gamer alone isn’t enough to be successful, there needs to be the full range of aspects that a modern MMO requires, as outlined by my colleagues above.
However, the stickiness created by the sense of ownership for gamers when they make their own stories through evolving experiences is greater than anything a prettified grind can produce alone. A blend of classic MMO systems with sandbox tools could cater to players who want an RPG anchor but with greater room to explore.
The success of PlanetSide 2, Rift: Storm Legion’s stand out feature, Dimensions, and the excitement that the few details that EQ Next has aroused are the indicators for where the industry should be moving.
There will undoubtedly be more excellent theme park games, but I want to see greater variety of choice for MMO gamers in 2013.
World of Warcraft set the tone for the past decade in the industry by making theme park MMOs accessible and hugely popular. I would love to see a game do the same job for the sandbox. Could it be EQ Next whenever it arrives?
Those are just a handful of perspectives from some of our writing staff on what we would like to see next year. The most important question, of course, is what would you like to be playing in 2013?
Let us know in the comments below.