World Of EveCraft

By Jim Rossignol on October 19th, 2007 at 5:00 pm.

Following on from this thread, some MMO theory gibber.

So here’s the thing: Eve Online is a better model for making an MMO than World Of Warcraft. If someone, right now, was looking for a way to create an interesting MMO they should take Eve as their mechanical gameplay model, and not WoW.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that Eve Online is a better MMO than World Of Warcraft. Eve is messed up and broken in all kinds of outrageous ways, and the PvP-heavy spaceship-centric world design puts most people off the idea completely. What it does mean is that there’s the potential for a better MMO to be built using the principles that Eve has pioneered. So forget what you know, or think you know, about Eve Online and imagine instead what World Of Warcraft would be like if it were designed with the same principles as Eve Online.

This is a thought experiment. It requires that you try to imagine what the most successful MMO in the world would be like if its design principles were quite different. (Less successful, probably, but still…) It would look similar on the surface, and have the same fantasy-world design that we all know and love, but its innards, its workings and functions, and the experience of playing it, would be rather different.

First and foremost:

There would be no levels. You would not level up, you would simply collect skills over time.

Eve does not have a level system. Instead it has a huge range of skills that allow you to use a range of equipment proficiently. You train these up over time. Easy ones take a few minutes, advanced ones take days or weeks. You cannot grind skills, only money.

So if you were, say, a World Of Evecraft paladin, you’d slowly master a huge range of paladin-relevant skills with perhaps some crafting skills thrown in for good measure. Older paladins would be slightly more proficient in combat than younger ones, but their true value would be in their versatility. A paladin character created just a few weeks ago might be able to fight with a one-handed sword at the same level as his older friend, but he would not be proficient with heavier armour, or horses, or axes, and so on. The older character would also have some crafting skills under his belt, making him wealthier, and some magic, making him handy in a tight spot. He’d probably be able to afford better equipment, and there would be nothing stopping him giving a decent sword to his poor and lowly newbie friend. He couldn’t give him a giant warhorse, of course, because the newbie wouldn’t have trained to handle it.

This has some other ramifications, the most significant of which is that there’s no gulf between low level and high level characters, and they are not separated by an artificial vertical barrier. You’d never need to ‘catch up’ with a friend who had leveled beyond you. He’d simply be better at dealing with the problems you tackled together.

This means that if an experienced character is going out to kill a tough dragon then younger, weaker characters can still tag along to help. He might “LFG” and settle for a couple of younger healers instead of one older, richer one with good kit. Because there are no levels for characters, there are no levels for monsters, they are simply tougher, or weaker. Tougher challenges require teamwork.

This means there’s broad scope for PvP too. If you’re going out to fight other players then the younger, weaker characters can still contribute to the overall potential of your group – an older character might mince the newbies with his greater range of skills, but he’ll still be vulnerable to their attacks once the fight starts. In a level-based system it would be almost impossible for a bunch of level 3 characters to take down a level 60 character. In a flat, skill-based system, a wide range of weaker characters could indeed kill a lone, powerful older character. It’s not only more realistic, but it breaks down the kind of weird, artificial structures that are formed by PvP in a level-based game.

This means there has to be teamwork, and there has to be co-operation between older and newer players.

Money would be the main driving force in the game, not XP.

Because there’s no level-grind, money becomes ever more important. It can buy you the rare weapons and the decent armour. If there is real loss and destruction of property – as there is in Eve – the need for money becomes ever greater. The drive for money also creates some immediate and important goals, ie: securing resources. While World Of Warcraft’s PvP servers do see some fights over resources, they’re nothing compared to Eve’s vast territorial conflicts. In our imaginary Evecraft game you’d be riding out from the safe regions of Ironforge and Ogrimmar to try to secure mining resources, or lumber, or alchemical ingredients. You’d fortifying, driving off raiders, and exploiting the resources while you controlled them. The places where these things appeared would be fought over by players in long, drawn-out wars. Mutual-interest alliances would form naturally among the players (as they have in Eve) who would in turn spend on infrastructure to defend their investments. Evecraft creates conflicts that far outweigh the arbitrary Horde vs Alliance struggle. This is a struggle for livelihood, and the ability to craft magic hats.

The lack of levels would mean that WoW’s many regions would not be off-limits to anyone (as they are now if you’re not the appropriate level), and your safety in a particular area would depend entirely whether you were likely to fall foul of local player alliances, or whether you were canny enough avoid the gangs of player-brigands who would no doubt appear on the roads between important resources centres. Of course there would be safe areas, instanced dungeons, missions and crafting you could do without risking your neck – but heading out into the big bad wilderness would be where the real rewards could be reaped.

Suddenly, with some rather different design principles, the traditional fantasy MMO starts to look a little more like a palpable, “real” world. No longer is there level 35 cake you can’t eat because you’re only level 30 (which must be one of the weirdest things in WoW), simply some more expensive cake that you can’t afford unless you’ve managed to hook up with the guilds who control more lucrative areas, or you’ve managed to corner the market in crafting charmed socks.

This is how the principles of Eve create a compelling world that people can’t leave alone: by supplying them with the tools to create goals they can set for themselves – something beyond simply completing quests or repeatedly defeating dungeons. It’s a world where you can follow the quest arc, but it it always points to a big bad world of risk and adventure beyond the horizon. (Eve players call this 0.0 space.)

What Eve doesn’t do, of course, is create a world that is as compelling and immediate as World Of Warcraft. And this ties in to my final point.

You might respond to all this and say: “but levelling up gives us something to aim for, the skilling in Eve is so much more nebulous, so to speak. It’s better to have quests and a magic horse at level 40 I can aim for. That is why WoW has some many millions of people playing it.” This is correct, and it’s another reason why the principles, rather than the execution, of Eve Online are worthy of copying. If you were to base your game on Eve you’d make skills, items, and equipment both aspiration-worthy and customisation-friendly. It’s about presentation as much as mechanics. Many of Eve’s skills are little more than percentage stat increases, so any game wanting Warcraftian appeal needs to make more of these skills have direct and obvious ramifications on characters – pets, mounts and transport, even player owned structures and one-off items. One of Eve’s failures is the obscurity of its aspirational targets – any game wanting wider appeal needs to present this more clearly.

Of course I don’t actually give two hoots whether a game is appealing to a wider audience – my criteria is whether it’d be fun to play: and a “flat”, open world in which players can feel like the are able to set their own goals and surmount significant challenges is the kind of game I want to play. I don’t want to be cut off from older players or newbies by the level-divide, and I don’t want to feel like the world resets no matter what I do it. I want to see real change. I already play that kind of game in Eve, but I know that the game I’m playing is far from perfect. Nevertheless it’s an admirable set in the right direction and one that I’d like to see mimicked and perfected, just as the games that followed Everquest did for the linear level model.

There’s a load more stuff about Eve’s semi-real time combat, trade and politicking I should add in here too, but actually I’ve got to play TF2 and then head to the pub. More on this subject, I suspect, later on.

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147 Comments »

  1. Fat Zombie says:

    Actually, that I would like.

  2. Kast says:

    This… sounds perfect to me. Delicious, moist MMO cake.

    Who do we need to [beg/kill/give foot rubs to - delete as appropriate] to get this game made?

  3. MPK says:

    As an EVE player who ditched WoW mainly because of that level 35 cake, I endorse this idea.

  4. Heartless_ says:

    Take note as well, EVE’s developers take the game way too seriously and it trickles into the player base at such a rate that it alienates almost any new players. The idea that you need a “thick skin” to play EVE is another failure in execution.

    But that brings up the question of whether it is really execution or the basic principles that EVE is built on? Talking about the need to fight over resources, whether it is mining nodes or NPCs to kill for cash, it definitely alienates players that can’t compete. And those players very often just give up and leave the game.

    If I had the time and skills, I would throw up my own personal WoW server and give some ideas a spin. I have seen some servers (shotdown now) that have tried to just start everyone at level 60 and every NPC to level 60 and then start everyone at 0 skill and cap the number of skill points you could get. It was killed fast unfortunately with a cease and desist order.

  5. feffrey says:

    I tried to get into eve with the 15 day trial, and started to like it. I ended up not getting is the subscription cost. Sure it looks like a great game and I would pay 50 maybe 60 one time to play it, but I hate monthly payments for games. If they made a single player version of eve that would be awsome, but as it is I just don’t like monthly games.

  6. Kelduum says:

    For anyone starting Eve, look up Eve University, a 1400+ member corp dedicated to training new players, and showing them the ropes. And yes, those are active members.

  7. Zell says:

    What you have to ask yourself is, why does WoW have a trillion subscribers? You could argue it’s because the great unwashed masses are dumb, and that a good MMO would not cater to their grinding urges. The problem is, that’s A) bad business sense, B) smug enough that it ought to set off some warning bells and C) simply incorrect. I have a large assortment of friends who would agree with your assessment here in the blink of an eye — hell, it’s a very difficult assessment not to agree with — and yet they still go home and raid WoW after work.

    I am not saying WoW couldn’t be improved on. But I think I am saying that it satisfies many of us in ways we’re not entirely comfortable acknowledging. I have always been impressed with Eve. I’ve tried three times to start playing it seriously. And each time I leave impressed yet more or less uninterested.

  8. stark says:

    I really admire the EvE-Online folks for their persistent skills-based system, I just can’t seem to stay interested in it past the 14 day trial. 10-20 minutes of intense action followed by 90 minutes of stargate jumping, repeat.

    SWG had the skill trees before the dreaded ‘NGE’. They had weapons you couldn’t equip until you learned the skill, etc.. It was a sandbox environment.

    I have some hopes for the new generation to implement these types of systems, but people seem to flock to the ‘level’ experience. Nothing compares to a , I suppose.

  9. stark says:

    *…nothing compares to a -DING-, I suppose

  10. tom says:

    Gah i could rant on for years about this sort of stuff. On the whole I totally agree, but there are some points that niggle with me. Eve isnt quite as flat as you suggest, it still suffers from one of the main problems that wow does, the itemcentricity of the MMOG. Essentially a level divide still exists, its just measured in gear rather than level. Even the skillset isnt really flattening because better gear requires higher level skills which require the player to have been training up longer.. At least the skills system does accept that like most MMOGs the main way to improve your character is simply to spend more time with the game. Where most games this might mean killing 200 rats to get that next skill level , Eve admits this is boring and lets you go live in RL while you ding virtually.

    In many peoples eyes WoW only begins at 70 anyway, XP is often a long lost memory for many players and the issue becomes gear and money. Eve is different in that gear and money is player controlled, not locked in instance grinds.
    I dont think you can ever eliminate some form of levelling and with any sort of levelling there will be inequalities in player level. (I use level here to mean a stage of character progression). People want these equalities anyway, they want to outgear/outlevel/outgold their fellows. GW took and interesting step by only allowing a limited skillset to be taken by players ‘in the wild’, but even here elite skills and better gear control a levelling mentality.

    Personally im quite interested to see if a system would work where game mechanic level is as flat as possible and rewards only exist in an RP fluff sort of mode. This kinda works already with some MultiFPSs, online ranking, player titles and fancy outifits. But would it be enough to motivate players to form 40 man raids just for fluff without any statboosts?

    anyway as you can tell i could drivel on for days, better get back to farming primals instead :)

  11. Jim Rossignol says:

    Eve’s not as gear-centric as you might imagine. I still regularly use the basic ships it took me a couple of days to train. The point is more about flattening the world and the player interactions within it, rather than removing inequality between players.

  12. Craig says:

    I’ve always wanted something like this. Basically this Evecraft was Ultima Online back in 1997. IT was all skill based and everyone was on an even playing field. no levels, just magic weapons and armor found from killing dragons, and then player made weapons and armor. It was such an awesome system.

    I want to see that remade again now but in 3d. Level systems are just so old and been done before that skill systems are the new way to go.

    When UO 2 is released, thats the day I quit my job.

  13. schizoslayer says:

    PlanetSide and Eve both launched at around the same time. I remember being in the Eve Beta while Jim was in the Planetside beta and we exchanged stories.

    What brings me to Planetside though is that it took a similar route, flatten the playing field and allow progression through increased flexibility rather than betterness. Actual skill and tactical nounce was far more important than what level you were.

    Since WoW however it seems developers all collectively turned away from this new avenue of thought and went back to the Diku formula. There was a definite wave of revolution on its way with both of those games. It just crashed into the side of the good ship Warcraft and lost momentum.

    However the actual game that starts a revolution is rarely the most polished or well executed. It’s always the game that had the idea and inspired others to explore that idea and learn from it’s mistakes. Eve and Planetside are intrinsically flawed in their execution at some point but a badly executed idea doesn’t make it a bad idea.

  14. Aimless says:

    I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy Tactics on the PSP recently, and I think the Job system in that could be very interesting in an MMO.

    Basically your characters can change Jobs (read: Classes) at any point in the game bar during combat. With each action they gain Job Points, or JP, and these have the dual purpose of being the currency with which to ‘buy’ new abilities and levelling up that particular Job when your JP reaches certain lifetime totals.

    Generally new characters only have the two starting jobs available, Squire and Chemist, but they quickly gain access to new classes by reaching certain level requirements in the previously mentioned Jobs: a level 2 Squire can switch to being an Archer, a Chemist to a White or Black Mage. To be able to train in the more advanced Jobs you would need several different level prerequisities in lower tier positions; the Ninja Job requires players to be a Squire (lvl. 2), Archer (lvl. 4), Thief (lvl. 5), Knight (lvl. 3), Monk (lvl. 4), and a Geomancer (lvl. 2), for instance.

    The part that makes it ideal for an MMO is that you are not constrained in what you learn, so if you had gone down the melee route but fancy giving casting a go, you can simply go back and unlock the magic orientated Jobs with the same character, forfitting none of your previous abilities and not having to reroll as a seperate entity.

    Furthermore, whilst a character can only have one active Job at a time they are also allowed to access to one other’s skill set. So if my character was a Knight, for instance, I would be able to use any of that Job’s abilities and would have the option of being able to also cast White Magic so I could heal myself and others. Now I wouldn’t be a great healer, partly because the active Job affects a characters statistics and because I would be wearing caster-unfriendly plate, but it allows players to essentially create their own classes.

    Sorry, I know that was long and I probably didn’t describe it very coherently, but I think a similar system would fit perfectly with Jim’s EveCraft idea. There is obvious character progression as you gradually unlock the abilities of different Jobs and indeed new Jobs themselves, but at the same time you aren’t becoming a one-hit wonder, so to speak, just a player with a far greater roster of abilities.

  15. MPK says:

    To be honest that exists in EVE already – each ship has bonii that multiply the effects of various mods and skills, and the tech 2 variants of each have even more. An EVE pilot can use remote shield reppers in a Gallente cruiser, but their effects will be multiplied in an Osprey, and even more so in a Basilisk.

  16. MPK says:

    “In many peoples eyes WoW only begins at 70 anyway”

    I always took great offense at this. If life begins at 70, what am I doing for the rest of the time? What’s the worth in playing to 70 if the self-confessed “best bits” are after I hit that and can no longer progress as a character (at least until the next expansion). Why can’t I just start at 70, get the best bits straight away and do all the rubbish 1-69 bits at my leisure?

    At least, before I quit, I took a character to 40 solo. That’s quite an achievement, I feel, in a game that tends to punish the lone player. I’m not saying I didn’t spend time in PUGs, but I was never interested in being in a guild and being locked into the respawn cycle of the higher level instances.

  17. Aimless says:

    “To be honest that exists in EVE already – each ship has bonii that multiply the effects of various mods and skills, and the tech 2 variants of each have even more.”

    All I got out of that was the mental image of a ship manned by multiple Bono clones.

    I’m not having a go, I just think it shows EVE to be ostensibly impenetrable for those unfamiliar with it. Now I’m sure my description of the Job system was probably a bit esoteric, but the problem I had with EVE when playing the trial was that it seemed to mainly be about rafts of stats that I didn’t understand. I’m not saying that it’s bad, just that the thing that appeals to me about MMOs as a concept is that of a virtual world. With EVE it sometimes felt I wasn’t moving, let alone exploring, and there’s something about being able to walk around a spaceport and explore every nook and cranny that will always be more appealing to me than a rather static loadout screen.

    I suppose what I’m getting at is that the fewer stats clouding MMOs the better, in my opinion. I imagine that’s partly the reason why an ability-centric system appeals to me.

  18. Zell says:

    “If life begins at 70, what am I doing for the rest of the time?”

    The people who say this have most likely played the game for a long time, probably seen the early content more than once, and are more interested in the social aspect of doing multi-player content with a reliable group of people. They would also, perhaps, argue that 1-69 is when you learn how to play your character.

    Note that “The game begins at 70″ is another way of saying “The most interesting portion of the game doesn’t have levels.” At 70, the game is indeed flat; anybody can play with anybody else usefully.

  19. Garth says:

    I think my hugest problem with WoW is actually it’s most touted features.
    You can see many of the greatest villains in Warcraft history, and then fight them! You can see the battles of Mount Hyjal, the massive dragon Onyxia! … and so on.

    The reality? I’ve never seen Molten Core. I’ve never been to Blackwing Lair, or AQ 40. I’ve never seen Naxxramas, Hellfire Citadel, Sethekk Halls, Coilfang Reservoir. I’ve never seen the opening of the Dark Portal, the battle of Mount Hyjal, or Lady Vashj in Serpentshrine Cavern. I haven’t fought in Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, Tempest Keeps Botanica or The Eye. I will, and I say this with certainty, never see The Black Temple.

    You see, WoW has the most ludicrous requirements in history just to do these raids that require 20 people or whatever. So even if you get 20 people together, you all have to have done a huge prerequisite of quests and instances and other raids to even start it.

    People say there’s a whole new game at 70. That new game, for me, is losing to the same epic-ly geared people in Battlegrounds every day. If I try to join a raid guild (even though I’d pretty much rather break my own leg than sit for 6 hours in a cave pressing ’2′ over and over,) I won’t be let in, because I don’t have (wait for it) epic gear.

    Yeah, great game design.

  20. Kast says:

    Ditto everything Garth said.

    I hate groups. I hate guilds. I hate raids. I hate battlegrounds. I’m not quite sure WHY I play MMOs, except that perhaps they’re the only games out there that offer the ‘epic’ scope I’m looking for. Other players mix things up and give a world life, but I’d never actually want to play with them. Eww.

  21. Alexander says:

    Interesting point about the instant gratification of ‘achievement’ (skills DO something), in defence of Eve I could say that most skills directly relate to flying specific ships, but on the other hand most of them are just marginal increases of mining yield etc. so this is really a valid point besides the interface and learning curve problems (should never be underestimated).

    So immediacy is really important. We want instant ramification, instant achievement, instant everything; (but) a good game designer (Valve is getting good at it) knows when to dish out the rewards, and when the player should be drifting around (here a comparison with the age old Dungeon master comes to mind). It’s like having a good relationship.

    To me Warcraft is only interesting up to a certain point (in the sense of gamedesign), the game mechanics are pretty much arcade-like and the game is mostly tetris. There is hardly any derived complexity to be found (implying a game shouldn’t be complex by appearance, but by consequence), as long as the game mechanics are correct hardcore gamers will have their share.

    I love Eve simply for the fact that there’s a ‘story to be told’. That I relate to the game through tales of the destruction of a Titan, tales about a guiding hand social club and so forth. The fact that a game allows for a superreal adventure, void of any item surrogates to stimulate masculine pack ranking comparison behaviour or female supererogatory sexual prestige. [insert sharp comment about massive multiplayer tetris with fantasy looks]

  22. malkav11 says:

    FFXI implements a job system that’s very similar to the Tactics job system and somehow manages to make an MMO using that idea really terrible. Go figure.

    I have to say, I’m not convinced. EVE’s biggest problem for me was not that the skills didn’t give out visible benefits. It’s that the learning system completely disconnected my advancement from my doing things in game. It made the game intrinsically all about money and loot and that’s exactly what doesn’t compel me in a game. Now, the player-generated content (i.e., the trading and politicking and so on), that part of EVE is really neat. But I’d have to have a bunch of friends already playing for that sort of thing to keep me in the game without compelling developer-generated content. Or maybe no monthly fee.

  23. Matt says:

    The way you describe EVE is the way WoW felt to me at endgame. After you get to endgame in WoW its all about items and money, much like how you describe EVE online to be.

    I have tried EVE and could not get into it, similarly I very much disliked the endgame of WoW. I did however enjoy the leveling process in WoW, what with the questing with others, getting new abilities (not merely higher ranked ones mind you) and getting a story.

    I think the leveling process is good for most people because it helps them break easily into the mechanics of the game. EVE would be daunting for most because the mechanics are all there for them but they get little to no direction on how to use the mechanics. WoW is successful I think because of the ease of learning the mechanics and the slow buildup of skills and depth that makes the game accessible. I can understand if people would rather just jump into endgame and not have to deal with grinding or questing, but it really does help players become better at understanding the game they are playing.

  24. Martin says:

    A very interesting read, Jim, and I agree to a great extent.

    Please revisit this topic again.

  25. dartt says:

    The level 35 cake is a lie!

    Nice read.

  26. Pete says:

    Disagree. They’re my two favourite MMOs, in fact I’ve tried and quickly hated most other MMOs. However EVE and WoW are utterly different and should never be compared or conceptually merged.

    How about comparing it the other way – imagine EVE but with imaginative and varied missions instead of mind numbing courier or kill missions. Imagine EVE without this stark divide between carebear-land/Empire and the deadly wild west/0.0. Imagine EVE but without the steep learning curve and pratical REQUIREMENT to join a gang/guild to get anywhere. Imagine a game where the fun is around every corner rather than having to be found in a vast emptyness. Sounds great at first, but if you think about it it just wouldn’t be EVE anymore and said “improvements” would have damaging knock on consequences to the gameplay.

    It’s like, I don’t know, comparing a giant funfair to paintballing for cash, then trying to borrow good bits from both.

    Now granted – skills over time, the superb economy, territory control, fleet warfare… all brilliant, and I love both games. EVE is also the first and only MMO to truly break the mould and I cannot wait to see their WoD game. However both have their place and audience due to their almost entirely opposed designs. I really don’t think World of EVECraft would be that interesting, however all credit for kicking off a bloody interesting discussion.

    I may have slightly missed the point here. I can definitely say that now WoW has, arguably, just about perfected the first generation, traditional EQ-style MMO that we really should see more companies REALLY break the mould like EVE did. Not just giving us WoW with cars, or lasers, and then tweaking some peripheral details like PvP/RvR/leveling etc. It’s like all these MMO designers have spent so long playing in these other MMos that they don’t even know how to think any differently or take risks, just how to improve slightly.

  27. Nuyan says:

    Hmm. Personally I think the future of MMO’s should (and will end up taking) the whole sandbox principle of Eve Online. I do however fear that many people need to be put in a direction, are unable to create their own fun and have to walk hand in hand with a game like it’s their mommy. Games like WoW/LOTRO/EQ (and WAR AoC too) etc all place the player on a rollercoaster track, force them to follow quests, level up and then just grind for more and more items. Eve however doesn’t have a track, players need to create their own fun, they have to set their own goals and find out for themself what gives them satisfaction.

    A lot of MMO’s like WoW followed the Diablo2 route and are full of little psychological tricks to continue people playing and have fun, levelling up for a few skills, items, reputation-grinds. All that kind of things. And I fear many players just need those things to enjoy a MMO, personally I see ‘through’ it, when I see a game now that has all these items and levels it directly puts me off the game and the chance I’ll be playing it will be a lot lower. But you know, I think many people need these kind of things and that’s perhaps the reason why many developers think sandbox games aren’t commercially attractive.

    I do however still think it’s the future and that it will just need some time for people to adapt. A good sandbox’ish game could be a lot more easier to get into than Eve Online currently is. Also, sandbox games will have a more ‘stable’ playerbase. People don’t have to wait for new content as instances and items to be added and old content won’t be skipped like the lvl 60 content in WoW when TBC came out.

    And perhaps Darkfall Online will be “it”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bYYT6Wg3Gg
    http://www.lordsofdeath.com/www/?p=12

  28. Martin says:

    Ok, a somewhat longer rambling about why I think World of Evecraft is a great thing. I’d especially like to reply to Pete who I also feel has missed the point slightly.

    The reason why World of Evecraft would work is because it borrows the free-form, skill based gameplay from Eve while using WoW’s (in many ways excellent) presentation.

    Imagine a world where you have a plethora of quests – as in WoW – that do have prerequsites, only not based on levels. In order to be able to take out that band of thugs you need to be a good fighter, that is, have a high skill in melee or ranged.

    If you don’t meet this requirement you train, or take on other quests, until you do. This is what Eve can learn from WoW, how to give players goals and guide them when needed.

    What WoW can learn from Eve is how to allow players to achieve these goals on their own, without forcing them to level up per se. Sure, a skill might be seen as a level but if you have designed your skill tree good enough this is a moot point.

    WoW could be just as fun or, in my opinion, more fun than it is now even though it was based on a skill tree system instead of levels.

    Let my thief, whom I’ve played for 10 hours, group up with my brothers paladin whom he has played for 100 hours. Of course he will be better at chopping up bad guys and he might have a means of transportation that I can’t afford or even know how to use but we can still be able to go out and have fun together.

    I would *love* to see a game like this, especially if it’s as polished as WoW is.

  29. Iain says:

    MPK Says: “At least, before I quit, I took a character to 40 solo. That’s quite an achievement, I feel, in a game that tends to punish the lone player.”

    I’ve taken a character to 70 pretty much solo – and I think it’s a misconception that the game “punishes” a solo player. There are a lot of quests that do require you to play in groups, but there’s a whole lot of other content that you can do solo – albeit maybe a couple of levels behind other people playing in groups – but then there’s so much content in the game that you’d be hard pressed to run out of quests at any level of the game. It’s perfectly feasible to play WoW almost exclusively solo – it will just take you a lot longer to reach the level cap than people playing in guilds, and you will have to skip quite a few of the instances – though I’ve taken to going back and doing the lower level ones solo, so I can get nice gear for my alts.

    The biggest problem with WoW isn’t the grind, it’s the being able to find a group of players that aren’t complete bum-holes, and that’s just as big a problem in other MMOs as well.

    The reason I’ve put nearly 1000 hours in on WoW and around 10 in on EVE is because EVE feels like a job while WoW feels like escapism. Most of it is probably just presentation, but WoW is Kobold Bashing 101 and in truth never gets much more complicated than that, while EVE is MSc Advanced Economic Theory with Stellar Cartography and Quantum Gravity.

    I can see the appeal, but whereas you can get a character up to level 70 in WoW in a couple of hundred hours if you really know what you’re doing, the time taken to train skills up to genuinely useful levels in EVE and make enough money to buy a ship that will last longer than 5 seconds the moment you step out of 1.0 space is so prohibitive you might as well install an intravenous drip of caffeine and forget about sleeping for a couple of years.

    The problem with “flat” MMOs is that when you just have “skills” instead of levels is that there’s an even bigger penalty for not getting in with the first wave of players – because you can’t catch up that time on someone who’s been playing the game for three years before you started.

    Neither system is ideal, in truth – but when you artificially cap a player’s progress, it can level the playing field (if you’ll forgive the pun). Though that does bring it’s own set of problems when a server gets top heavy with the majority of the population at the level cap… It’s a curious design problem, when you think about it, because if you make an MMORPG where character progression is genuinely based on the skill of the player and not some arcane skills or levelling system, the least skilled players will always remain at the bottom of the pile, get frustrated and stop handing over the money fee. Which is why MMO mechanics currently reward persistence and repetition, rather than genuine player skill.

    So yeah. MMORPGs. Big, fat waste of time, really…

  30. Zell says:

    “Eve however doesn’t have a track, players need to create their own fun, they have to set their own goals and find out for themself what gives them satisfaction.”

    I’d say this pretty much summarizes one of the big questions in our field. To what degree do we take the player through a linear plot, usually as the protagonist — vs merely presenting them with a world, with a set of laws (physical, social, heuristic) and initial conditions? I’ve seen endless discussion threads on this matter, and they are usually good reading.

    In my opinion, neither extreme is desirable. We grudgingly accept Half Life’s complete lack of interest in triggering the next plot step until you’ve accomplished a precise and usually obvious objective (only the physics puzzles help you feel like the world matters much). The same degree of linearity in WoW chafes even worse; especially since you’re surrounded by other people supposedly going through the same epic storyline as you are.

    But too much simulation isn’t desirable either, especially in a graphical setting where you need to worry about things like art budgets. You really do need players to stumble upon the lost ruins of Zub because you spent a lot of bloody effort on it. It’s incredibly difficult to write a captivating plot without the players feeling herded through it.

    The thing is, I love content. I will even accept WoW’s ridiculous quest lines, because as shallow and forced as they may be, they are still fiction; there is prose, there is a story arc. Eve doesn’t manage very much of that. Yes, it’s a player-driven universe, but you know, truth be told, the average player is bloody boring. They just don’t do that many epic things.

  31. Redd says:

    Craig hit the nail on the head. You have just described the pre-Renaissance expansion world of Ultima Online. We were not looking for a renaissance, nor a dilution of environment. We played to recapture the primal that was, and again now is, missing from our lives. If you weren’t there, you missed your dream. Sadly, the zeit is now a zeitgeist.

  32. Aimless says:

    “The problem with “flat” MMOs is that when you just have “skills” instead of levels is that there’s an even bigger penalty for not getting in with the first wave of players – because you can’t catch up that time on someone who’s been playing the game for three years before you started.”

    I disagree. If someone can start a character and have a few hours of training quests that explain the basic mechanics of the game and upgrade their stock skills a bit, and then be able to jump straight into helping their friends that might have been playing for months already then players are at least useful from the get go.

    In WoW you won’t be able to take down a creature 10 levels higher than you no matter how good you are at playing your class; players are always hampered by level disparity. Now if a 2-hour-old character is fairly proficient in their basic sword swipe, at least they can contribute to any group even if their contribution would be meagre to that of a player that had maxed out every ability. They might not be sought after players by randoms, but they’d be able to join up with their friends questing straight away.

    Furthermore you could have it so that there is a fast-track system for those grouping with their more experienced friends. For instance if a new swordsman joined with a friend that was a master of the blade, the lower skilled player could passively gain skill advancements simply by fighting along side and ‘observing’.

    But all talk of character progression aside, I think the easiest way to keep people playing is to simply make the game enjoyable. WoW is very compulsive and constantly dangles the carrot of progression in front of the players nose to keep them going, but so long as something is entertaining people will play it anyway; I don’t play Team Fortress 2 to become the best in the world at it, I load it up to have a good time.

    Now maybe I’m just naive, but I think a bit of imagination and trickery can go a long way to transforming a chore into something enjoyable. As an example of the latter, you could have player actions be ‘remembered’ by NPCs. So, perhaps when you first meet a quest giver they’re pretty cold toward you, but after you’ve done a few tasks for them they start using your first name and being a lot warmer. I’m sure it wouldn’t be that much of a technical jump to have them name drop you to other players as well: if you did something particularly quickly a NPC might mention your good example to other players that want to try their hand at it. It’s great to leave your mark on the world, even if it as a soluble one.

    Imagination is also very valuable. Imagine Portal without GLaDOS or the personification of the WCC: it would still be a good game, certainly, but I doubt we’d see so much heartfelt enthusiasm and goodwill surrounding it. These periphery elements, whilst not essential to the game mechanics themselves, are often what makes a game. So, to give yet another example, perhaps there is a minstrel that wanders about town that will compose ballads about players for a donation, with the contents based on character variables such as their reputations with certain factions, or proficiency with certain skills, and the overall tone being more positive the larger the donation.

    And don’t even get me started on how moribund MMO quests are and how easy it would be to tweak them.

    Anyway, sorry for wittering on again; this is a subject I have rather strong opinions on.

  33. Jae Armstrong says:

    First of all, any discussion about MMORPG design needs a link to Musashi’s now-6-year-old-but-still-awesome “Unbelievably Long and Disjointed Ramblings About RPG Design” (http://mu.ranter.net/theory/index.html) – partially because it’s absurdly insightful and detailed, but mostly because everybody deserves to hear about Radioactive Polkadot Dragons and +329 cheese-based weapons.

    And remember, this was built when Asheron’s Call (the first one) was one of the “big three” of MMOs, along with UO and EQ. And the genre still hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s almost distressing.

    Secondly;

    “So, perhaps when you first meet a quest giver they’re pretty cold toward you, but after you’ve done a few tasks for them they start using your first name and being a lot warmer.”

    EVE actually does this. With a standing (basically a measure of how highly the “agent” thinks of you) of ~1.0, you’ll get treated like dirt. I think the actual text is “Unless you’re here for a mission, get out of my office”. Get that up to the mid ranges and they’ll mellow, start calling by name, etc. At the high end they transform into amusingly servile lickspittles, lauding you with hyperbolic praise whenever you deign to open a conversation with them.

    The mission system in EVE is another thing worth comparing to WoW, I think, and not in the way most of you might imagine. Missions in EVE have trivial premises; hauling cargo (thankfully avoidable, if you know what you’re about), shooting pirates, hunting down spies. Trivial, tiny little things with no impact on the wider world and designed to be as repeatable as possible. And they’re more immersive for it.

    Let me try to explain that, with a contrasting example from WoW. There’s an early mission for the Blood Elves, about level 20, if memory serves, where you’re charged with liberating an abandoned town from marauding Nerubians (the spider people), by charging up there, ganking a few soldier types and bringing back the head of their leader.

    On the surface, that’s a damn sight more engaging than “we think there might be a few pirate types floating around the system; go eyeball this place and shoot anyone suspicious looking”. The problem is that this is an MMO, and no matter how many spiders you kill, they’ll respawn. If you kill the head spider, he’ll respawn. The quest won’t care; you’ll still get kudos for doing your part to reclaim the elvish homelands no matter that, when you get right down to it, you haven’t done a damn thing. The spiders are still there. The town is still overrun. Because that quest has to serve the next ten, twenty, hundred players to spawn themselves a Blood Elf. And all the hundreds after that.

    And I still haven’t touched on the most heart-rendingly immersion-breaking aspect of this quest: that when fighting the spider-general-thing, you can see his subordinates wandering around the town in the background, minding their own business while you put holes in their leader. Not even particularly far away.

    Thirdly, going off on a tangent to the whole EVE/WoW hybridisation discussion (moreso, at least), I’ve had a few thoughts of my own about MMO design.

    Permadeath.

    Not permadeath as in, “You know what would fix MMORPGs? Permadeath,” but more, “I wonder what an MMORPG with permadeath would be like.”
    Even a cursory examination of the concept leads to the conclusion that it has- HAS- to be the sort of mechanic to build around. You can’t simply take WoW, for instance, and drop permadeath into it.

    My solution? Make the content base wide, not tall. I.e. severely limit character growth and vastly increase the quantity of content for each level. And the severely in there means that high level characters, while being in no danger of death unless they completely screw up, should not be able to annihilate low level monsters with an idle back hand, and newbies should not face instant death at the hands of high end monsters (though by no means should they be able to make it to the end of end game dungeons). Essentially the game would not only be built to work around permadeath, but to expect it. Eventually, your character is supposed to die, and sooner rather than later. You make a character, grow it, lose it, then get another one and go off and do something different with it.

    But most of all to make it work the game has to be fun at every point. I think Mr Gillen makes this point in an EQ2 piece (http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=57193) where he talks about quests to kill rats and fauns and strangely cunning centipedes: low level is not an excuse for boring. “You have to grind to get to the good stuff” is NEVER a valid argument.

    I had a fourth point, but I’ve forgotten what it was. Nevermind.

    So, Nethack Online anyone?

  34. Eschatos says:

    I normally hate MMO’s, but this week, I’ve been feeling in a mood for them, so I started up WoW on a private server I know of. The game feels fun, but it’s completely broken by the fact that there’s almost no one on the server and that there’s an insane XP and gold multiplier. Maybe I’ll try paying for it, see what it’s like.

  35. Starflyer says:

    The biggest part of EVE is the risk, If your ship gets destroyed its destroyed and even non pvp players can lose valuable ships and equipment if you put a foot wrong in a mission so you have incentives to get more cash and looks after your assets. Regarding some of the comments that EVE is overcomplicated I would argue EVE is what you make it, If you want to be a fiscal genius and play the markets and investments you can or be fleet commander and mastermind epic clashes of huge space fleets you can (aptitude is needed ofc) or you can totally ignore these aspects and do other things entirely.

    Game play wise I would say combat leans heavily towards an RTS type of game play of knowing tactics and strategy and the best ways of using them.

  36. Galan Amarias says:

    There was a player above who made the mistake a lot of us EVE players fall into calling the WOW loving comunity dumb or stupid. The games are different. About as different as possible while still both being MMO. For my part I played WOW to 60, mostly solo, before there was level 70 content. I loved it intensly as it was everything I’d ever wanted EQ to be and all that SWG had failed so very, very horribly at. Then I hit 60 and I ran out of things to do, there was no compelling casual content left.

    Some time later I saw a banner add on an online comic for EVE. It had space ships exploding and I’ll tell you I was hooked right there. When I realized that I would be able to skill offline and the only grind was money, I loved it even more. I poured over the forums to learn how to fit my ships, where to go what to look out for. I was in geek heaven. However this is why EVE wonderful as it is, is a nitch game. Bless it for not trying to apeal to everyone.

    That being said the notion of a skill system and especially learning over time rather than by squishing monsters could work well in a fantasy game, a car game or whatever. The notion of compition for resources and threat and compition generated by other players and not by the NPC could also go well in a fantasy game. However these things do not seem to apeal to the majority of mmo players. For me, they are now a requirement I won’t be leaving EVE anytime soon and I’ve already stayed longer than any other MMO. Still an MMO like all games is ment to be recreation, people will do what is consistantly fun and it’s tough to be new in EVE. So, while I’d love to see a game like the OP described, for my money I’m already playing one and I’ll not be quick to trade my lasers for a sword and horse.

    Finally, a note on the skill sysem and younger players competing. It is true, young players will never be able to do all the things that an older player can do. They will not have access to the bigest ships or the best guns. However with very little time in game they can match an older players skill in the initial ships. For EVE that’s the Frigates, Cruisers and Battlecruisers. Those “lower skill point ships” are always useful. A young player can join in and participate usefully in nearly any activity with less than a week of skilling. More preciously, five three day old players working in a team can kill any player in any battleship if that poor older sod tries to fight them alone. You just don’t get that newer player usefuless in a level based game.

    Also thugh an additional 5% incriment in tracking speed or dammage may not seem like much when you put it into pratice and see just how much more dangerous/profitable you’ve become you get a reward much nicer than hearing the bell and setpping up a level.

    -Galan

  37. baron says:

    The reason I used to play WoW is because it was a simple game. I used to raid BWL, MC, Onyxia’s Lair etc. And all I had to do was watch some bars and hit a load of buttons. If my bar went over the tanks I just deagroed. It was too simple. And then there was the fact doing that bored me to tears, but if I wanted to be able to kill people in PvP I needed the gear so I could comepete with the other guilds that raided and had all the high level sets.
    Thats why I moved to EvE, yes the skill based system won’t allow you to catch up with a 2003 player, but thats why you can specialise in certain ships and equipment. The 03 player will have better skills and be able to fly more ships, but if you were to train for an heavy assuly cruiser and then train all the related skills you can fight the guy and win. And a 1 week old player can still be useful as a tackler or a electronic warfare guy. You can’t say that of WoW, you will never see a 1 week old char running around BWL.
    I will admit that EvE’s tutorial does suck, thats why a group of player formed EvE uni, they will show you what you can do, and gice you experience you wouldn’t otherwise gain, they also explain everything quite effectively. And anyone can go anywhere, people who say that if you aren’t in 1 of the big player alliances you won’t get access to any of the good stuff is basically lying. You can run missions in High Security space which are very profitable. Or join a small corp that lives in the 0.0 NPC regions, which have station you can sit at and some high rewards fo living there.
    EvE is what you make it.

  38. Gargy says:

    I’m a longtime player of both eve and wow, but i’m currently only playing eve.

    I dont think that world of evecraft will work for the masses the way world of warcraft does. In world of evecraft pvp with real losses in terms of equipment would be necessary, but for the large majority of casual mmo players this is problematic.

    In wow you can happily kill npc’s all day and level up without any real understanding of the game, yet never loose anything. In eve that can get you killed with significant financial loss. That does not appeal to everyone. Wow is mainly a PVE game with some pvp tacked on, while EVE is mainly a pvp game with some pve tacked on. Even playing the markets in eve is pvp.

    Your wish for a world of evecraft game may come true with CCP’s next project. They are developing a world of darkness mmo.

  39. Duoae says:

    Interesting though not the ultimate concept in MMO design (IMO).

    I haven’t read through all the comments so i don’t know if this has been addressed or not but there are some serious shortfalls of the “time to research” grind – it is a grind, just different.
    The main problem is that new players will not be able to compete with the advanced players like you suggest in the article. I played Eve in the beta (unfrotunately couldn’t spare time to play after release) but the grind to be able to get any equipment and those “powers” you refer to in the article effectively meant that there was just as tangible a gap between the lower and the higher level characters as in WoW. You could hit a player with your measly lvl 1 laser but his long range 2nd lvl rockets would destroy you – perhaps if you even got to any point near him.

    I think that the next really successful MMOG will combine casual (i hate using that term) and hardcore (i hate using that term even more) players. i.e. it will be more like traditional combat games (fighters, Quake, Unreal Tournament) in the way that characters interact in battle but the game around that will be the part that’s built up into a complex trading/learning/crafting/etc game.

    Thanks for the article.

  40. Ghiest says:

    Sounds allot like UO, rather in UO the skills are trained by using them rather than just setting them to learn over time. Not that I liked UO that much really, I still think EQ was far superior. But then again that is another topic.

  41. FaceOmeter says:

    Jim, total agreement with everything you just said… can I just add that I think someone has already had ago at making World of Evecraft, but they changed the title to “Guild Wars”…

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think GW exactly fulfils your requirements, but given the low level “endgame”, the use of EXP to gain skills rather than stat enhancements after level 20, the focus on team play, and the way the economy works (it needs an auction house really badly, but otherwise) it’s well on the way.

    Of course, it’s a CMO rather than M, relies on instances, and has diabolically awful (?so bad they’re actually genius?) cutscenes, but I think your business model is still closer to reality than you allow…

  42. Jim Rossignol says:

    Yes, GW does do some excellent stuff in that area. It’s just a shame the game itself has some many design foibles that I take issue with. I think my main issue with GW, aside from the fact that I don’t really get on with its overall fantasy presentation, is that it lacks ‘worldy-ness’. Both Eve and WoW have a strong shared world with only minor instancing aspects. The general instance-based character of GW kind of puts me off even really thinking of it as an MMO.

  43. Marshall says:

    It’s already been said, but the proposed model is very similar to SWG before the “New Game Experience.” SWG was the first MMO that I played, and after SOE went and undersupported the game and cocked everything up, I haven’t been able to find a game (except EVE and maybe A Tale in the Desert) with anything near as satisfying of an economic model, or a PVP model.

    In SWG we actually engaged in PvP over both tangible resources or access to them, as well as legitimate faction rewards. Items, even “super-magic legendary ones” were subject to the same rules of decay, and were destroyed through combat (although not as decisively as in EVE). Areas of territory were controlled by players of the opposing faction in an organized and sensible fashion, not in the random “invisible noob-killing rouge” model that makes WoW so annoying. Lastly, the game was skill based, and with a cap – an advantage over EVE in some ways, since newer players could skill up quickly and build successful characters.

  44. Nick says:

    GW is closer to a single player game with multiplayer options in it’s feel. Which I like. It’s the only “mmo” with a pre-written story your character is actually part of rather than hero number x standing in line to kill big boss y, which is a commendable effort I think as there are no real heroes in standard MMOs. Things like EVE make their own stories however, which is also a good thing, a proper living world.

    The Problem with SWG is that it was a bit clunky and it wasn’t Star Wars, it had the skins, models and whatnot, but it was just all wrong. It was quite fun and certainly had some great ideas (until they destroyed all of them in the NGE).

  45. Kim says:

    I have been playing WoW for 2 years now and you can’t help but notice the amount of people not playing anymore. WoW in my opinion is dying, alot of people that used to raid the pre-TBC 40 man instances at least 3 times a week have left because once the TWLK is out all the hard work put in to get gear will be wasted. On my server there is only 6-8 guilds actually do well with 25 man raids. Pre-TBC there it was atlease double.

    I have given up raiding like most and I’m enjoying my freedom.

    I also tried EVE online, I couldn’t get in to it personally. I do think if Blizzard was to make another MMORPG with a space setting it would probably World of Starcraft.

  46. Tr00jg says:

    Although your idea of such an MMO sounds just too good to be true, it could work.

    Something I don’t think you took into account is why WoW’s leveling system is so friendly. It IS because of the “proverbial” dangling carrot in the form of knowing that when you reach a level, you WILL get a new spell or that mount everyone is running around with.

    But it is also because it IS structured and more concise. If you give a player too many options and less structure (like EvE), the player gets lost in doubt… What is this? What is that? Should I train this or that? Will I regret making this choice?

    In WoW, there is only one way, so the player don’t have to worry about making decisions that will cost him time and money (if it doesn’t turn out the right way).

    It is simplicity that makes a good game. It is twisted logic. The more rules and constrictions there are the more people will play and find it fun.

    Look at Tetris/pacman/chess and board games. It has simple and concise rules that make it good.

  47. dood says:

    it’s already been done, it’s called ultima online and it was the best MMORPG ever

  48. Jens Arnesen says:

    Kim, how can you argue WoW is dying? It’s got more subscriptions running than ever, several times of what the original Everquest had, and that’s still alive. Not as many people do endgame raiding any more, but that’s because it’s no longer a requisite to be able to mash things in PvP, with the arena sets introduced. Old servers are dying, not the game. I think we can safely say WoW will not die until at least another five years has passed.

  49. Shafty Corkstopper says:

    EQ: 1 year
    Motor City Online: 1.5 years
    SWG: 6 Months
    WOW: 2.5 years

    I agree with the article. The type of MMO he is describing would be far suprior to the current level based system for a lot of people. There will however be those people who will stick to the old ways because that is how it has been done for generations with Dungeons and Dragons and such.

    The thing about WOW is that the game really isn’t about lots of factions fighting for dominance over resources. It’s about a really epic storyline and many epic sub-storylines that paint a beautiful picture. For some it is about the fat loots, and having mountains to climb. They want to see if they can beat what the devs have thrown at em using teamwork and strategy.

    So Evecraft is really out of the question. Blizzard’s formula works near flawlessly for the world they wanted to design.

    So yes this new MMO idea is great, but the truth is that it has already been tried. The first MMO that I played without levels, and even without skills, was Motor City Online. In this game you had to build a car and race it for money. You could make money by just doing the noob races over and over, but where you made real money was by betting pink slips and large sums of cash against other players when you raced directly against them. In addition, there were weekly time trials that you could compete in as individuals or as a team (racing club). You would spend hours finding better parts to put in your car and adjusting them just right to get a little extra juice or cut your weight down a bit. New tracks were added, new cars, and new parts. It was really a compelling game for those of us who love cars and design and engineering, but then EA decided to pull the plug on the servers and that was it. The dream was over. It wasn’t a perfect game because EA really didn’t put a lot of effort into it, but by far it was the best damn racing game ever built, and probably my 2nd favorite MMO ever.

    The other game that really tried hard to do what was mentioned in the article was Star Wars Galaxies. The gave players a set of worlds, each with different resourses of different qualities, and let them go at it. Crafters could gather materials and try and build higher quality goods than others while at the same time being competitive in prices. As time progressed people would devote themselves to production while others would focus on resource gathering. Sometimes producers would contract out with resource gatherers for large quantities of goods. Eventually factories and mining machines and powermills and all sorts of building would pop up across the planet (a square planet) along with player built cities (made from the resources and production of houses). There was no “XP” but each skill had a level up type of “XP” individual to just that skill set. If you leveled your pistols you could put a skill point into a certain section of the “pistol” tree, and so on. Engineers and miners would slowly improve their skills to create a character as well. It was loads of fun… until. You reached the end game. Each character was limited to 255 skills so that nobody could master all of the skills. But when this happened you were left with… “now what?” If you were a miner or engineer you could keep making money, but if you were a combat class then making money was kinda dull. Basicly being maxed out as a combat class meant you could kill the noobs and fight for either the rebels or imperials in “battles” that were more like cat fights. There were some battles that cropped up between factions, but for the most part there was no great amount of property loss. Buildings for the most part couldn’t be destroyed and there really was no incentive to attach the enemy base other than to “see if you could beat them.” One really good thing about SWG was the character customization. Although the graphics had no love put into them as far as artistic immersiveness (WOW’s graphics are low tech but look gorgeous because of the time put into them) you could customize your character with all sorts of clothes, coats, skin tones and hair styles. A clothing store was a fun place to go and meet people for buisness. Selling clothes and running your own buisness was loads of fun as well.

    I hit max skill in SWG after 4 months of playing and then spent a couple months doing the crafting and mining. I thought it was lots of fun to sell goods to other players and haggle for deals. Sadly after WOW became a big hit (well after I quit SWG) they completely re-did the game with a patch that changed it to be exactly like WOW with classes and levels. They completely ruined what little they did have in their favor.

    Eve was fun when I played the 14 day trial. I spent most of my time mining resources which got really repetitive. There really was no depth to the game at any of the low levels other than avoiding enemies and trying to find good mining spots. There was no sense of community. I felt like I was almost by myself in the game until someone sent me a message.

    So it has been done before. It just wasn’t executed properly. I’m looking at the MMOs that are coming out today and they all look horible because they try to emulate what WOW did. Only Blizzard entertainment could do what they did and get a subscriber base of 9million. I quit wow about 8 months ago now and although I think about returning now and again, I’m not seeing much incentive anymore. TF2 is way too much fun.

    All that aside. If some developer (anybody) can get the forumla right for the type of game described in the article, I would definately play it and probably stick with it as long as I stuck with WOW if not longer. The game needs to be fun even after reaching the end level, and you need to be able to interact with the community easily and often.

  50. Doug says:

    It’s strange how all MMO’s have some kind of grind which must be completed before you can access the rest of the game. Why is that the case? In every other genre, this process is simply called playing the game. When I play Half Life, I don’t think to myself that the time spent in the first stages was wasted, or somehow boring, just there to put some subscription time between me and the fun stuff. It’s actually engaging and fun.

    In WoW, the game starts of fun, then there about 200-300 hours of boring (levels 20-70 are pretty much unnecessary time wasting), then you hit the level cap and you can start having fun again by doing proper PvP, or by raiding, whatever floats your boat. My point is that the process of going from 1-70 needs to (a) take less time, and (b) be more engaging. If exploration of the world and helping PCs and NPCs in meaningful ways were the focus, rather then slaying millions of stupid, unchallenging wandering enemies, the word ‘grind’ would not exist, because you would have to pay attention to actually play.

    Now I love WoW myself, but you’d have to be stupid not to see it’s faults. The infinite grind has made me quit a few times now, but I keep coming back to PvP. Other MMO’s take note – the play experience of WoW PvP is a nearly perfect implementation (provided you picked a good class for it, of course. Referring to class differences in PvP as ‘balance’ is a fun little joke players like to have with each other, because we’re all aware thats entirely the wrong word to use).