5 Outdated MMO Tropes That Need to Go!

MMOs are a growing and evolving genre. It’s amazing to see how well they’ve progressed in the last couple of decades. And yet, despite all the growth there are still some nagging issues built into the core idea of what an MMO “should” have. MMORPGs tend to build on the ideas of games that came before, but unfortunately sometimes that means they take the negatives along for the ride.

I wanted to write a short list of some of these features that have aged so poorly, I feel it’s about time they be retired.Some of these can be attributed to insufficient coding abilities – which I think is less of an excuse than it was 5 years ago. Others can be attributed to just plain developer stubbornness, which is ridiculous given the growing scope of the MMO playerbase. Anyway, I can’t think of a good segue so…on to the list!

1) Factions.

I HATE UOkay, I wanted to get what I figured would be the most controversial item out of the way immediately. Why do I think factions are a waste in the modern game-scape? Let me put it this way…

If a player downloads your MMO and their first thought is: “Gosh, I really want to play with my friends, but I also really want to play the race I like the most. Since they’re on opposite factions, I guess I have to choose.”

Then that is a failure right off the bat. Playing with friends, or playing a character you feel you can most identify with and potentially enjoy longer. Hmm. See the problem here? There are several inherent issues with factions but this is the biggest one. Anyone who has experienced that indecision and sadness when first playing a factional MMO can tell you how much this kind of choice sucks.

“But Gloria, factions add another layer of storyline and content!”

Actually – I would argue that they don’t. Factional content in MMOs is usually relegated to the EXACT SAME kill/fetch/gather quests on BOTH sides. It’s the same mechanics, just with a different bit of flavor text added. You’re still killing the same bosses in dungeons, you’re still exploring the same zones with the same quests. It’s all EXACTLY the same with the exception of the storyline blurbs. And it NEEDS to be exactly the same because both sides have got to maintain balance, otherwise you end up with accusations of favoritism.

Imagine if the time spent essentially copying quests for both factions in the same zone went into building a second brand new zone instead? Or a new dungeon? And you could experience it with all your friends. In fact, you’d have more access to these dungeons because an entire half of the playerbase isn’t arbitrarily blocked off from you. That means lower dungeon finder queue times.

Factions initially were a way of extending samey-content to give the game an illusion of having more depth. After years of this, I really think factions do more harm than good and any time a new MMO uses factions as a feature, I immediately drop it a peg lower on my, “I GOTTA BUY DIS!” list.

2) Ownership/Tagging Quest Mobs

WELPLet’s all fight over the same 6 spawned monsters in a starting zone at the launch of an expansion or game. Boy that sounds really fun. That’s how I want to remember my first foray into a new world. Oh and that guy who runs up and taps all of them only to just AOE each and every mob down before you can get there? That is a cool guy. Yep.

I guess I don’t really understand the point of mob “ownership.” If people are in the area, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone is trying to get the quests done. Pitting people against each other in a race to be first for what is inherently a grind just adds a layer of unnecessary frustration.

“But people will take advantage of it!”

Look, if I’m killing a quest mob and Johnny Q Magey comes up and hits it with his wand just to get credit and then afks while I do the brunt of the work…I don’t care! Because I’m still getting my quest credit! *throws confetti*

3) Lack of body shape options.

THREE WHOLE OPTIONS?!In this the year of our lord after the year of Luigi 2014 we are still experiencing MMOs that have a single body option for male and female characters. And in most cases your options are generic thin lady and hulking manbeast. Above all else I find this sad. Customization for a character can truly make it identifiable for the person playing it.

There’s nothing wrong with “pretty” models – or even the ones that are super boobalicious. What IS wrong is the lack of choice given to players. Even Nintendo Miis can have their body shapes customized – and the most you use those for are streetpasses, let alone diving into an immersive role playing game.

What’s even worse is that in a lot of these games, the NPCs have a wide range of body types. You value your NPCs enough to give them variety but you don’t value your playerbase enough to give them that same option? Come on.

4) Expansions for subscription-based games.

And you'll pay it, too.Okay, I knew this would be the other controversial one. Allow me to explain my reasoning -

If I am paying a subscription fee each month, I know that I am paying to access content. In order for me to keep my fee active, I need a steady stream of content. In my years playing MMOs I’ve found that the idea of expansions stunts the flow of content rather than improves it. You wait and wait and wait and then this huge pile of new stuff falls right into your lap for you to rush into and enjoy.

Instead of having points of small content releases like patches and then dumping a HUGE BUNDLE O’NEW’SHIT on people in the form of expansions, subscription MMOs would do better to simply stagger medium content patches throughout the lifecycle of the game. A steady stream of new content is better than nothing…nothing…nothing..LOTS OF SOMETHINGS! ESPECIALLY when people are paying MONTHLY for said content.

You cannot dump a ginormous single content patch on people and say, “Now now, this needs to last for a while so don’t go experiencing it all at once!” because…hello? Have you ever met humanity? That’s not how our species works. Even worse is dumping said large content and then gating it off just outside of reach until a designated amount of time has passed.

Spread that content out – like a nice even coating of peanut butter on PB&J. That way you don’t have people who swallow entire mouthfuls and get sick of the taste.

5) Linear leveling.

neeeiiigghhhhWhat I mean by linear leveling is essentially when your character is dropped from starting zone A to questing zone B. You then quest through B and go to questing zone C. From there it’s off to D, E, F and so on and so forth until you’ve reached level cap. Zones are usually relegated to character level. So if you’re level 4 you’re gonna stick to the level 1-5 zone because it’s a killing field anywhere else.

This means that from level 1 to whatever, our characters are put on a little quest train that follows the quest tracks and gives them a safe and properly organized tour of the leveling content. Wee.

A necessity borne from the days of coding restrictions – this is something that needs to GOOO AWAAAAYYYY. Especially with the new scaling technology most MMOs have available.

Imagine your fresh-off-the-docks lowbie arrives on a new continent and it’s time to level. And what’s this? EVERY zone is available to you because the mobs are going to scale to your level when you get there! So where do you want to go first? WHO KNOWS! The exploration potential is unlimited!

“But Gloria, how would this work with the removal of mob tagging?”

“…shut up.”

Anyway, enough prattling from me. Obviously these are just thoughts I had bouncing around in my head.  Aaand I can’t think of a way to end this soooo. Bye!

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11 thoughts on “5 Outdated MMO Tropes That Need to Go!

  1. Every single one of these issues is (more or less) addressed in Guild Wars 2:

    1. There are no factions, everyone plays together. Also, every race can be every class.
    2. No mob-tagging. Jump right in and help your fellow adventurers, everyone gets credit.
    3. Sliders for body height and a bunch of (admittedly pre-set) shapes during character creation. They doesn’t go as far as I would like, though. Half credit here.
    4. Pay once, get all the content, no fees for expansions, just regular content updates.
    5. Zones scale to your level. So while you do start in a beginner zone, your high-level friends can come join you, and the scale down to you. Rewards are based on your actual level, not your (maybe scaled) level, so you can get high-level rewards playing in lower-level zones.

      • I sincerely wish I had been able to get into GW2 more than I did. I alpha/beta’d it, and bought the game, but never made it very far. I wish I could pinpoint why. D:

  2. I completely agree with you on factions. The only thing that’s worse than factions, in my opinion, is Race/Class combinations. It’s the same concept as factions in terms of why it’s wrong; if I really want to play a certain race, and I really want to play a certain class, but I can’t because of (insert imaginary reason labeled as “lore”) then it just sucks to be me. Sure, it doesn’t stop me from playing with my friends, but it still stops me from playing what I want to play for reasons that don’t actually need to exist.

    “You can’t be an intelligent Engineer, Mr. Draken, because you come from a tribal society. We don’t care that you’re actually smart and wish to pursue such a career, because your entire race has to follow the exact same rules.” If only we had real world examples of restricting people based on their “race” to learn from…

    • Totally agree, hate being locked to certain races cause I want a certain class. Ruins it for me cause I’m not able to play an avatar I don’t like the look of. I mean I might play it for years.

  3. I should also state that to some extent, I’m fine with factions themselves existing so long as 1) races are not restricted to certain factions, and 2) factions are not a division of the player base, but rather a change in the story that you experience. For example, if factions were treated more like Paths are in Wildstar, where you get bonus content for making that choice at character creation (or better yet, at some point in the leveling process so you don’t make that choice blindly), then I think factions can work to strengthen the game.

    On one hand, having factions can strengthen your community by bringing them together (For the Horde!), but on the other, if there’s any perceived weakness in one faction versus another (most common in PvP) then it tears your community apart instead. If factions only impacted storylines though, I think they’d go much further in strengthening the game itself.

  4. I’d echo what Phil said; GW2 fixes a lot of it (and though I am not a really active player right now, I can go back at any time without paying a dime, which I like).

    As a compromise, if a game dev NEEDS to have factions, they could just let players choose their own faction either at creation or shortly thereafter. The Pandaren solution but expanded to every other race. I’m sure we can concoct reasons why a Tauren could be part of the Alliance (Cenarion Circle liason?) or why a Dwarf might have decided that the Alliance just isn’t for her.

  5. Rift did a really great job transitioning to having no factions. It even made sense from a lore or story point of view!

  6. Pingback: RT @gloriaboboria: New blorg post! 5 outdated MMO… | Belghast Does Things

  7. Speaking to factions, specifically WoW factions, it do be time for them to go. The current faction structure is irrational at this point (in the LORE, even) seeing as how a good half of the reasons for them no longer exist. And who in their right mind would trust Sylvanas at this point…

    There’s a couple of MMOs that have put cooperative elements into the major quests/mobs. I’d like to see cooperative tagging implemented just to eliminate the asinine new-xpac spawn rates in the starter zones.

    The major issue with expanding character model options is a coding and hardware issue. Attempting to implement a true custom character model system makes for both a MASSIVE increase in developer time (you have to figure out how to make everything scale properly to a unmanageably larger number of models) and hardware demands (you can no longer use a generic /distant/female/NElf scalar) for display/rendering.

  8. 1) I agree completely. Hate factions standing in the way of playing together.
    2) Mob tagging is something I partially understand their reasoning behind. It doesn’t reward tag and afk (they experimented with this on the Isle of Thunder I believe) and where it doesn’t hurt to group up, having mob tagging actually forces you to connect with other people, which can be quite a positive experience (E.g. Frogs on Timeless Isle). Oddly enough, I’ve met a lot of people grouping up to kill frogs this expac. But I don’t know what their POV is, just offering my own.
    3) I honestly like playing as beefcake/waif so this doesn’t really bother me >.> Choice is not a bad thing though.
    4) I do believe the current system exists out of necessity rather than choice. Nobody likes long content breaks, but sadly it’s something we and the devs have to work with.
    5) I’ve actually pitched this idea to Don Adams before and got a response, so you can check that out if you like (https://twitter.com/_DonAdams/status/451802947622412288)

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