As the years pass and tastes seemingly change I find myself not actually looking forward to any specific upcoming MMORPGs at the moment, I find that kind of sad as the first few years of this blog were notable for the eager anticipation of some new games (SWTOR, GW2, FFXIV: ARR) and the unplanned discovery of others (BDO, ESO).
Syp has a post on his blog discussing what game developers should do to interest him in new titles. The list doesn’t directly address the things that encourage or discourage my interest in new games, so I’ll discuss my own points here. I’m much more interested in a specific style of MMORPG, one that apparently is out of fashion thesedays. I have more games than I can play at any given moment, and more content spread across those games than I could probably finish if I weren’t working and had all the free time in the world to commit to them. That’s not a bad thing, I’m not a completionist in any sense so my time spent playing any of the games on my computer’s hard drive is just that, time well spent enjoying virtual worlds.
Yesterday evening we happened to have a group of four online, but my WoW sub is inactive now, so we needed something to play for an evening’s “straight into the action” fun. Other than repeating the same Legion dungeons add-infinitum we’re kind of running low on stuff to do in Azeroth at this stage of the expansion. Thankfully someone suggested Shadowrun Chronicles as an option – we’d played the game months ago as a new set of four characters so it was an easy fit to load up and carry on where we left of. Shadowrun Chronicles highlights very neatly one of the main attractions to games for me though – easy small group play. “Just let me play with my friends” should be a mantra stuck on the monitor of every MMORPG dev’s computer as they code. Some games do this better than others but fixed group sizes and levels being out of sync shouldn’t be a thing in 2017. Put in flexible dungeon grouping, put in mentoring or similar already!
I think the second most important criteria to me is for varied content. Give me stuff to discover in the game’s world other than just combat+reward. I played Tera some recently and I was struck by how pretty but empty the world is. There’s nothing much to find or interact with beyond monsters to kill and quest-related stuff. If I compare that to World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online it’s quite a contrast. Things to collect (shinies!), lore objects or story-snippets to read, exploration points, buildings or ruins that are more than just a quest hub; there is so much devs can do to make a world worth traveling beyond the leveling path. When I played Archeage early in the year I had that same feeling that the world, while interesting, wasn’t elaborated enough beyond the systems and features that focused on player-player interactions.
A game that is super-focused on PVP or raiding may be the ideal design for many MMORPG players, and it is certainly the model for the crop of upcoming games, but for me they’ll likely seem shallow compared to the rich “do it all” game worlds we’ve had in the past. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the riches of content (in virtual world terms) that older games enjoyed.
It’s one thing that actually bothered me about Black Desert Online. The game has, on one hand, a wider than normal variety of activities for players, however I found my interaction with the beautifully drawn world to be rather shallow beyond the NPC reputation mini-game and the prospective of the rather byzantine trading-investment system. When I went out exploring and found ruins to climb or enemy forts to explore they seemed to be limited in scope to grind spots or empty architecture. The game makes a lot of NPC backstories but does nothing in the way of active exploration. I can talk to NPCs but can’t really interact with anything around me – there are no objects to find, and no hidden treasures.
So any upcoming MMORPG that makes something of its world beyond the basics is more likely to hook me: hyper-focus on systems or player interactions isn’t what I’m looking for.