I’m currently really appreciating MMO developers who actually spend some time on “quality of life” features. This isn’t necessarily about making games easy or casual-oriented. It’s about more time playing and less time on menial or banal tasks imposed by UI limitations.
I have three examples from Guild Wars 2, but I could equally have drawn examples from Rift as well. Arguably Blizzard propelled WoW to super-success by taking an established MMO formula and polishing it to the nth degree (some of their early devs were EQ veterans). In the same way Rift was like a super polished and graphically upgraded WoW with some EQ2 and other games mixed in. Trion brought AoE looting into their game, they streamlined the WoW-style questing interface (e.g. if you hand in multiple quests at once it goes from one to the next without you need to click the NPC multiple times). Simple little things that are easily missed but things that make the game a pleasure to play. So here’s my GW2 quality of life favourites:
1) Dye system
Out of combat you can change the dyes on your armour whenever you want as often as you want. There’s no “wasting dyes”, e.g. because the end result doesn’t look like the preview. You still have to collect the dyes on each character to have a full pallet, but the starter set isn’t bad and dyes drop with some frequency as random loot. I love this implementation! Of course there’s an appearence armour system as well, but I haven’t even touched that yet.
2) Daily achievement
Ah dailies, how I love and hate them. I can’t help but do them in Rift, I did a lot of them in WoW towards the end as well. In GW2 though they’re slightly different. The big difference is the daily achievement is account level! So you can split the various tasks across a couple of alts (makes the creature type kill count very easy!). You also don’t have that horrible pressure to complete dailies on multiple characters. A great step away from repetitive grinds as content!
3) Inventory management
However much it might break immersion I do love the right-click deposit option to dump all my crafting mats in the bank from anywhere. This is a huge quality of life feature as it means a lot fewer trips to the bank just to empty space. It has also saved me a few times, mid dynamic event, from missing out on loot as the dreaded ‘inventory full’ message came up in the midst of some crazy action. Two clicks to select the ‘deposit all collectables’ and I had enough space to carry on.
4) Instant Access mail
Another immersion-breaker candidate but having constant access to the mail is a nice feature. It means I can read the letter from the NPC containing a bit of story immediately after doing the related event or completing the related personal story stage. I get to read it while it still has some meaning. A few times playing SWTOR I’d log in and find I had mail that I hadn’t collected, and then I’d have to scour my memory as to who the sender was and what I actually did for them to earn their gratitude.
None of these features are so ground breaking that I can’t live without them. But that’s the real power of quality of life features. They can easily be ignored or taken for granted but they add to the overall pleasure of playing the game and can have a subtle but significant effect. Certainly going back to WoW to help relatives over the last few days with their characters was jarring – I really noticed the features that I am already taking for granted from these other games.