The lights are on
Power Member - Level 9
So, I wrote an article that I meant to really cover what I thought the MMOs of today were doing wrong and how to fix them. It was kind of long winded and really fluffy. I feel like we don't need that and pretty much everyone that has played any MMO can probably follow along.
Down With Classes!
Let me say I don't think classes are bad. I don't think choosing a class is bad. What is bad is locking into a class. This sucks. It limits your fun, your flexibility, and your choices. It's not fun. The days of people sinking days and weeks on end to start over with a new character are all but over. Limits are now a relic
The job system is really a good solution to this, and it's pretty well established. Several MMOs have used this system such as Final Fantasy and Eden Eternal. Choosing what classes you want to play, mixing and matching combinations, fitting it to your style, and the freedom to swap on the fly is the only way to go.
Ultimately, "Skyrim" was the game to really set the bar in a completely new way. Classes on the whole can be a limiting experience but having a blank slate that grows and gains strength in a field you practice is the most organic and fun I've had to date. I feel like more games will ultimately follow suit (or at least I hope). The freedom of choice is why games like Far Cry 3 and Skyrim have done so well. They have RPG elements but these features enhance the game, not limit it.
Change the Scheme All to the Moon
Healer, tank, and damage roles are now archaic terms and ideals. The need to group up and tackle problems is a notion that needs to fade away. Static encounters and mechanics are frustrating, boring, and unsatisfying. Number crunching isn't dynamic or satisfying.
Guild Wars began to change things with smart positioning and self healing abilities. EverQuest has promised more interactive and destructive battlefields.
Bosses don't need to have a set pattern and a million health. Weaknesses to weapons and abilities change the experience to something engaging. Realistic damage zones and battlefield actions need to be incorporated; if you hit someone clean through the head they should die. Battles should last seconds, minutes only in extreme situations. A player facing a huge boss should feel heroic and taxing to their skills and timing. If a group needs to be brought into to a fight, it damn well better be to fight another group or huge menace.
The ability to advance solo needs to be an option, just not an easy one. All features need to have the option to be done by yourself, smaller groups, or a larger organization. And depending on the number of participants, the encounter, the difficulty, hell the whole dungeon itself should change and tailor itself to the situation. But it should never offer less to pursue things by yourself.
(My reasoning for this is that just because an NPC or event has become strong enough to pose a threat, they should never be beyond the skills of one person to handle. Otherwise you're saying that a player cannot be as powerful as a computer controlled cluster of data. See "Sword Art Online")
And PvP needs to feel like a true duel. A fight to the death. Visceral, gritty, and a display of skill of power, not a flexing of gear and numbers.
Challenge and Reward
Players are resourceful. They will find a way to make the best skill, the best spec, and the best way to exploit any system. In fact, the true die hard gamers will almost always be able to outpace and out play any system or feature the developers can conjure. Best of all, they love to hear that something is impossible.
There's nothing wrong with making things hard or challenging. But challenge doesn't mean gimmicky. Boosting a monster to ridiculous levels of health or time consuming mechanics is not only lazy, it's disgraceful to those that play the game. Also, if you create this challenge players that challenge should be amply rewarded.
I am Unique
Every player has to (HAS TO) have the ability to customize their avatar. Their appearance, their play style, their equipment, everything has to be able to tailor to the player's choice. Not only is this important to keep the player engaged and attached to their avatar, but offering new items and cosmetic options keeps the player wanting more.
Nothing was worse than World of Warcraft's Tier 9 gear. All classes had similar armor and character designs. All melee fighters had the same armor, all casters had the same armor... etc etc etc.
How unique... different color swaps.
Payment is Due on Delivery
Last but not least is the payment plans. Let's be honest, not many of us care if we have to pay for an experience that we all enjoy. However, if you say one thing and do another, you're going to receive massive backlash from your player base, your online community, and you'll ultimately tarnish your reputation. That's something you cannot afford.
If you're going to charge a subscription, make it something everyone can live with. 5 or 10 dollars is pretty nice, it's substantial enough that you'll make a decent profit, yet cheap enough that you look better than your $15 competition on the surface. That counts for a lot. And if you're going to go Free-to-play, actually do it! Do not half ass like "The Old Republic" did. Do not give the player the option to "play for free" but withhold features, tools, or hold the free players back. Such ideas separate your player base and do more harm than good. People are more likely to quit than pay your "optional" subscription.