Imagine you could create your ideal, perfect, play-this-forever MMORPG, but it had to be constructed out of elements from pre-existing MMO games. So you could take, say, the player economy from EVE and the setting from LotRO and the graphics from EQ2 and the PvP from Warhammer Online. Or what have you.
What would you pick? What would be your ideal MMO, within these caveats?
I’ve been thinking about mine, and I’d probably try to bolt the following together. Bear in mind that I know very little of WAR, GW, AoC, Aion, STO, CoH, etc, and I’ve picked up knowledge of other games like EVE and RIFT by osmosis. And other than UO and SWG, I didn’t play anything pre-EQ2/WoW.
Class & leveling design: I feel very tempted towards SWG’s system of skill points, but I’m not sure how much of that is fond nostalgia. RIFT’s souls system is intriguing but on reflection I think it being so open detracts from the uniqueness and flavour of each character. Ultimately, I quite like WoW’s system – lots of classes, easy respecs within classes – although by now it has as much flavour as year-old chewing gum. I liked the uniqueness of LotRO’s classes, but I found the game mechanics opaque enough that I never felt in control of my character. No clear winner here, I think; any system can work well if it suits the game.
Questing system: I’ll give this one to World of Warcraft, because it was one of the first themepark MMOs to implement really strong quest-based gameplay, and it’s continually improved on the system with every expansion. (Although I do wish they’d implement one feature from LotRO, and make quest items abstract so they don’t take bag space.)
PvP system: I have very little interest in pure 1v1 or small-team competitions like WoW’s Arenas; I do occasionally enjoy larger objective-oriented competitions like WoW’s Battlegrounds. I don’t actually care enough about PvP to rate any game on this factor, though, provided my PvE fun doesn’t get ruined to cater to PvP.
Story & NPCs: I’m actually going to give this one to SWTOR in advance, because I’ve always wanted to be able to play Bioware games multiplayer. This finally scratches that itch (although I fear that my Commander Shepard may never finish her adventures as a result).
Crafting system: I’ll say SWG‘s system, with the caveats that it has to be able to integrate with gear from questing, PvE instances and PvP content, and that there has to be some way to mitigate the effects of gold-sellers on the system. Failing that, I seem to recall EQ2’s system had some interest to it. Just not WoW’s shallow, bland, unrewarding system, thanks.
Achievements system: I don’t mind WoW’s system, although I would prefer it if it rewarded you for things you wouldn’t otherwise do. On the whole, I like LotRO‘s system of Deeds for exploration, questing and skill use, which reward you with actual character improvements.
Travel system: A mixture. I loved DCUO’s movement modes, and they were very genre-appropriate, but it lacked taxis and automated systems. I loved the animations of LotRO’s horses (they actually move sideways like real horses do) but the delay on mounting and dismounting is frustrating. Overall I’d have to give it to WoW, for the best compromise between flavour and usability. (And I still remember how incredibly cool my first griffon taxi flight was.)
Wardrobes/Cosmetic gear: LotRO, hands down, with DCUO coming a respectable second. I could ramble for ages about what makes LotRO’s wardrobe system so awesome, but unless you want to sit through that, you’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s awesome.
User Inferface: Based on pure default with no alterations, SWTOR‘s actually looks like the most usable, because all the UI components are in approximately the correct place; health bars should not be in the top left corner of the screen, dammit. Based on non-modded customisability, LotRO wins, with its system where you can ‘unlock’ all elements of the UI and reposition them to your liking. I believe RIFT works similiarly. And for pure customisability, you can’t go past WoW‘s addons system – I know it’s all the rage to disapprove of it and claim MMOs should never have addons because they ‘ruin’ the game, but I for one really appreciate WoW’s moddability and miss it in other games.
So, those are my choices. What are your picks?