The perfect game

I want to talk about some features that I’m attracted to in MMOs. It doesn’t mean that they are 100% necessary for me to enjoy a game, in fact, some of them may exclude others, but if a game has some of this characteristics I would probably turn my attention towards it.

Probably, there is not a single game that gets them all, and it will never be. Actually, I’m pretty sure that if a game tried to grab all my “amazing features” at the same time it would become some kind of Frankenstein monster that nobody (even me) would want to play.

Now, what would make this amazing terrible Frankenstein game need?

Skill progression

This can actually mean two different things, and I am ok with both.

It can be skills instead of levels, as EVE or Wurm Online do, where your character is always evolving, but there is not a single number defining your power. Your character may be the best in one aspect of the game, but terrible in another, but you aren’t more or less powerful in absolute terms just because of that.

A small part of the EVE skill tree

Another view could be skills and levels. Everquest, for instance, has this system where you will get levels as you accumulate XP, but your skills will improve when you use them. So, if somebody helps you power-leveling a tank, you will end at max level, but with 0 (or close by) blocking or parrying skills. Or, in other words, you will not be a tank at all.

This accent on skills can become grindly depending on how long does it takes to level them, and has the risk of you becoming a kind of Jack of all trades, but master of none if you are not planning thing beforehand. But at the same time

Catch up systems

I’m thinking about two different things, again. The first is the one you can see in a lot of veteran games. It’s basically a way to level faster at least up to some point close enough to be able to play with veterans. I personally don’t like the “Max level instantly”, at least for the first character, but being able to level with just the main story, or avoiding the grind for old reputations helps a lot if you are arriving “late” to the game.

There is a variation that also looks cool. It’s the level-syncing (think ESO). It looks great on paper, but if you get into the game alone, it can be tricky to find groups at first.

The second one is more controversial. I’m talking about short term caching. Some system that guarantees that a player who has lees free time to play don’t fall too far behind the most hardcore ones. It’s actually dependent of the type of game. I mean, for the usual theme park I don’t mind at all leveling slower than other more dedicated people. If they are puting the effort, they deserve to get there first.

But thinking of a game like Eve, if I hadn’t be able to level my skills offline, I would probably abandoned the game after a week. There are some games where leveling the table is important. Of course, somebody that is playing  hours a day, 7 days a week would have more money or learn more about PvP than me, playing more casually and I am absolutely OK with that.

Deep crafting system

Maybe deep is not the right word, but it has to be something more than collect materials -> click button -> receive the item.

My favorite (of those that I’ve known) was Star Wars Galaxies. You had some generic requirements like: “200 units of metal” and you could use any metal you had. But each kind of metal had different properties like weight, strength… that affected to the stats of the crafted item. On top of that, you could try to improve the result with some research points (I don’t remember the exact name). So, in the end, crafting the same item would yield a lot of different results. A bit tankier, a bit quicker… Amazing.

Meaningful player impact

I came to MMOs coming from RPGs. I want to shape the world. It can be in subtle ways, it may need the cooperation of a lot of players, it can (probably should) have limitations, but it has to be something.

EVE, or Wurm are again great examples of what you can do. In EVE you have the high sec areas where players are (up to some point) limited in how they can change the universe. Sure, you can go and kill somebody, or deploy a citadel, but the 4 NPC factions control and shape that areas and that’s all. But as soon as you move to low sec, J-space or null sec, there is a ton of things players can influence. In low sec (parts of it, at least) you can help one of the 4 main factions gain control of a solar system. In null, they simply don’t exist. There are some NPC pirate areas and thousands of systems directly ruled by player alliances. The map changes daily. Empires fall and rise…

Wurm is actualy quite different. There are some PvP servers that actually are similar to null sec Eve, but most people play on PvE servers. There are vast areas of land that you can terraform, mine, buid, develop…

Wurm online terraforming and building.

Yoou can pay and get a deed anywhere you want, except overlaping to other deeds, that (on PvE servers) would stop other people to modify. You can even drop massive amounts of dirt or sand over the water and create a new island.

There are a few more cool things like a complex player driven economy or incentives to cooperate but, in the end, I’ve found they are more subtle, harder to find unless you really try the game and stay for a while.

And maybe that’s the key. You can think a lot about what kind of game would truly be your “perfect” game but, in the end, you try a game and you enjoy it or not. With its virtues, its flaws, its community; thanks to them or despite them.

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