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# MMO Checklist?

## 22 posts in this topic

Let's say you wanted to explore your creative ability by designing a unique MMO experience. Versed in the ways of design, your building of ideas might remain fluid and critical. I figure having a list of MMO design elements would be a good place to start. Examples would be leveling skillsets stat augmentation environmental interactivity Perhaps there is a source I could find this information readily available?
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I assume when you say "MMO" you mean "MMORPG"?

Searching for "game design patterns" might turn up some useful info for you.
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Firstly, MMO does not autotmatically imply MMORPG, and different types of MMO game may require very different design elements; something that fits well in an MMORPG might be absolutely terrible in an MMOFPS or MMORTS for example.

Secondly, I'm not entirely convinced that such a list would be all that useful - as a designer you should be trying to create an interesting and hopefully different experience from all the competing games out there. As such you should not neccesarily reuse existing design elements from other games you've encountered but should instead be trying to figure out what you need to build a fun, interesting and coherent experience suitable for your game. Just because most games of a certain type include a health bar doesn't mean yours has to, and the same should apply equally to any other element you can think of - not all RPG games neccesarily need to involve the concept of levelling for example.
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Quote:
 Original post by Chocolate MilkLet's say you wanted to explore your creative ability by designing a unique MMO experience.

Quote:
 I figure having a list of MMO design elements would be a good place to start.

One does not get to 'unique' by starting with the list of lowest common denominator features.
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While I'm not sure what the OPs motives were, I actually would like to see such a list.

While you're both right that using a list of common denominator features wont directly cause ingenuity, it does form an explicit layout of features to look at with a critical eye.

Seeing a relatively complete list of common features is to me a great resource to wonder "what if I changed this?" Listing it explicitly can be an instigator for rethinking a feature where it might slip in without a thought if you were less careful. You can look through the list of "essential" features to see whether they are really essential after all for your design.
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Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
Quote:
 Original post by Chocolate MilkLet's say you wanted to explore your creative ability by designing a unique MMO experience.

Quote:
 I figure having a list of MMO design elements would be a good place to start.

One does not get to 'unique' by starting with the list of lowest common denominator features.

Actually starting with a clear view of what is common may allow you to more easily develop a unique product. Want a good example? Take a look at cars. Cars have had your basic checklist of features needed since soon after they came into being, a rather lengthy list and growing over time.

Now, lets compare it to one of the most unique cars around, the Ariel Atom. What features did it cut from the list? Windshield, side panels, basically every bit of body work. How did they arrive at a design like that? They started off with the check list of what a car needs. Wheels, steering/controls, a seat for the driver, a frame to hold things together, an engine, transmission, suspension. Basically, they cut things down to the barest minimum, and then looked back at the list and figured out what they could improve over the normal car. Big, power engine, excellent suspension.

Having a list of things for an MMO game helps you look at each piece of a common game by itself. Examine how it works and functions, what impact it has on the player. After looking at them all start looking at how they interact. What can you change? What works, what doesn't?

The biggest issues people often have with MMORPGs is their leveling. The game becomes a grind, you have a goal to get to Level X, and to do that you have to run through and keep doing the same things over and over again to gain enough experience. The gameplay is really rather shallow. Want fun and unique? Find a way to design your game elements to make traditional leveling useless. Provide a game where you want to play to PLAY, not to level up. And honestly, this suggests a strong PvP focused game. Why do people enjoy games like Halo and Counter Strike so much? It isn't like they gain experience and level up in those games. Sure, they get BETTER at them over time (some people anyway) but from one round to the next, what they do in game has no real impact on the future rounds. This competition draws in millions. Why? Because humans like to prove they are better than each other.
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Two words.

Endless Content.

That is why WoW is on top, and will stay as such. No single person in the game has done everything in the game. Continuously adding things to the game will keep the demand extremely high.
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Quote:
 Original post by TalrothActually starting with a clear view of what is common may allow you to more easily develop a unique product. Want a good example? Take a look at cars. Cars have had your basic checklist of features needed since soon after they came into being, a rather lengthy list and growing over time.Now, lets compare it to one of the most unique cars around, the Ariel Atom. What features did it cut from the list? Windshield, side panels, basically every bit of body work. How did they arrive at a design like that? They started off with the check list of what a car needs. Wheels, steering/controls, a seat for the driver, a frame to hold things together, an engine, transmission, suspension. Basically, they cut things down to the barest minimum, and then looked back at the list and figured out what they could improve over the normal car. Big, power engine, excellent suspension.

You have a point with your example, but I don't think it holds with MMOs. The only common elements are that they're 'massive', they're 'multiplayer', and they're 'online'. Everything else is totally open. The original list said "leveling, skillsets, stat augmentation, environmental interactivity", yet there are already MMOs without those. So such a list is pointless. You're not going to break any barriers simply by removing the clichés, because people have already done that.

Also, cars fit a certain sweet spot in design. MMOs however are just one part of a wide range of pre-existing games with fuzzy divisions between them. Is a MUD an MMO? What about those turn-based PHP games? Or if you had a lot of players on Unreal Tournament? How about play-by-email which predated all these games? Minor tinkering with the most blatantly middle-of-the-road feature list for MMOs is like removing Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and hoping to have innovative fantasy fiction.
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Some of the features I am incorporating into my own multiplayer RPG:

- Fuzzy stats ("Strong as a Clydesdale" rather than STR 100)
- Critical hit locations (a la RM/MERP) and conditions
- Time as a determining factor for your character's lifespan, along with...
- The ability to prolong your own legacy through descendants in your bloodline

I'm not sure these would be popular features among the mainstream multiplayer RPG crowd (in fact, I'm fairly certain they would be quite un-popular), but these are things I always wanted to see in such an environment.
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 Original post by HodgmanI assume when you say "MMO" you mean "MMORPG"?

Oops. I meant MMORPG.

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 Original post by KylotanOne does not get to 'unique' by starting with the list of lowest common denominator features.

There's far too much one could do with the list to declare it an act of unoriginality. I have an idea that alters the fundamentals of how players spec and how players progress through content in a way that completely reshapes the direction of gameplay. Although I'm changing big factors in ways that heavily effect gameplay, I'm keeping the heart of the MMO beating.

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 Original post by caffieneWhile you're both right that using a list of common denominator features wont directly cause ingenuity, it does form an explicit layout of features to look at with a critical eye.Seeing a relatively complete list of common features is to me a great resource to wonder "what if I changed this?" Listing it explicitly can be an instigator for rethinking a feature where it might slip in without a thought if you were less careful. You can look through the list of "essential" features to see whether they are really essential after all for your design.

Yes, exactly. I still haven't found a decent list though. I bet somewhere in a book on MMORPG's lies the answer.

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You might want to check out this thread, Jerky's posts in particular.
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I remain unconvinced as to how enumerating a list of clichés helps anybody. If you truly have a great idea to change something, then it's a great idea, regardless of what anybody lists here. If typing these things out makes you happy though, feel free.
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I think you need to focus your attempt and organize it better. For example if you want to brain storm about avatar advancement than list all of the previously used methods. You will quickly have a list of possibilities that would far exceed an equal amount of time trying to create a system from nothing. It also provides you with a potential experience to work off of as opposed to a theoretical position. Trying to brainstorm MMO is pointless IMO unless you want to pbrainstorm far more vague concepts than the ones you listed. If you want to do that I would start by writing a 2 page essay on the design differences between WOW and EVE.

It is highly unlikely that you are going to think of something exceptionly new on your first time out. A MMO meanwhile is so complex and has so many different parts that any attempt at completely redesigning it would take a huge amount of time and testing. It is far better to refine as opposed to re-invent.

There may be specific parts of MMO design that interest you that you want to re-invent but choose wisely.

If you want something really new like a MMORTS than I would still work off of a well defined base. Whether it is traditional MMORPG mechanics or traditional RTS mechanics.
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In defense of list-making as a design technique:

It is true that lists can stifle creativity if not used carefully. On the other hand lists are a good tool for organizing the results of research and brainstorming, and may help you identify holes where you have forgotten to research, brainstorm, or make a decision. I believe the key to using lists without being limited by them is to alternate list phases with research/brainstorming phases, and start your design process with one of the research/brainstorming phases.

How exactly do lists stifle creativity? In 2 ways: the structure of the list itself including category labels, and neglecting to look for alternatives once you have filled a category.

So a good way to use lists in your design process is:

1. For each MMO you have played, make a list of all its major features, with a detailed description of how each works. Do not try to use the same list structure for all games, just record what you find. If any entry makes you think of an alternative, write that down too.

2. Write down any features you have been inspired to put in your game, not attempting to organize them in any way.

3. Now looking at all your lists side by side, identify all the categories such as monetary units, gathering, crafting, quests, pve combat, pvp combat, marketplace, puzzles, etc. This is now your blank master list. Setting aside your previous research and brainstorming, free brainstorm for each category. Add your research and previous brainstorming back in. If possible gather other people's ideas and let them provide additional research from games you haven't played.

4. Finally, cross off alternatives that you don't like, and wherever you have more than one alternative remaining in a category decide whether you can include both in the game, make a hybrid of the two, or if you can only have one, which is the better choice.
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I think a list of cliches would be very effective. You make a list of all the MMO cliches, then simply not do them.

For me, I think it's better to focus on a single, defining aspect. Like for my (purely theoretical) MMO, the defining concept is a more friendly environment for people to play together whenever they like. How to accomplish this? I thought up ways in which modern MMOs fail in this respect:

- Classes and Level restrictions prevent you from playing with friends at different stages of the game.
+ Solution: Remove levels. Classes more balanced to accommodate any combination of classes in a group.

- Grinding for so long to get to the end game, so you can finally do the "fun stuff".
+ Solution: Taken care of with removal of levels. ALL the game is end game.

And just keep going down the list, replacing the negatives with positive solutions.

: of course, the solutions themselves often cause more problems, which you have to solve as well.
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Quote:
 Original post by KylotanI remain unconvinced as to how enumerating a list of clichés helps anybody. If you truly have a great idea to change something, then it's a great idea, regardless of what anybody lists here. If typing these things out makes you happy though, feel free.

When was it stated that this list will be used in his designs? I think you are missing the obvious use of such lists. If he truly has a design in mind, then he obviously doesn't need the lists to lead him to a design. More likely, he wants the lists as a bar to measure against.

An MMO (or MMORPG if you are anal) is not an easy thing to design, despite what many budding designers seem to think. In fact, without trying to offend any of the amazing few who have actually made a hobbyist one, I would wager that they weren't truly "designed," rather they were programmed. What I mean by this is that the games were built from the tech/programming standpoint, rather than designed first, and programmed to meet the requirements.

Either way Chocolate Milk wants to proceed, whether he is a designer or a programmer, a list can help him keep track of his design, whether it is similar or dissimilar to the design elements comprising the list(s).

Doh, half way through posting, I noticed Humble Hobo and sunandshadow already touched on this.

Now, as Hollower already points out, I've compiled quite a lot of links regarding MMO design. Do I use these in my designs? Certainly, but not to copy. In fact, as has been suggested, I use them as a list of things not to do, for the most part. Anyone who thinks that they can design an MMO by themselves is going to need help, and there is no other place to find it than an expensive book, or by combing the internet for resources. The former I would rather not do, but the latter I have already done (and continue to do). I have amassed over 400 bookmarks regarding PW since it started. Of course, not all have to do with design, but the point is, I am always looking for inspiration.

What do you do to be inspiried? I, myself, read and play old games that have something I want to see in action. Occasionally I will try a current MMO to look at a particular mechanic in action, but this is rare. I usually just read about them.
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The fact that people are arguing for the hypothetical benefits of such a list, while not seeing fit to help provide one, seems to support my position. Let's see it, and let's see how it helps in this particular case, referring back to the original post.
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Quote:
 Original post by KylotanThe fact that people are arguing for the hypothetical benefits of such a list, while not seeing fit to help provide one, seems to support my position. Let's see it, and let's see how it helps in this particular case, referring back to the original post.

I created a relatively basic breakdown of known actions(attacks) and their various components. I ended up with 8 categories all with around 6+ different factors in each category. All of this ends up being in an excel worksheet to organize it at all. This is just one part of a much larger task of what makes an MMO. Such a list would be a huge undertaking.

So as I said before, such a list needs to be organized and focused into a particular area.

A list simply organizes the process most people do internally which is to pull from our past experiences. With MMO development, especially if it is being done by a group of designers, organization of ideas will be a critical part of your design process, as is the act of borrowing from already established ideas.

Once these ideas are organized it is much easier to brainstorm ideas about what new things can be done because you are far more familiar with what has been done.
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Quote:
 Original post by KylotanThe fact that people are arguing for the hypothetical benefits of such a list, while not seeing fit to help provide one, seems to support my position. Let's see it, and let's see how it helps in this particular case, referring back to the original post.

Hollower already linked to a thread where I listed a bunch of resources where the OP could create his own list. He asked for resources and was given them. Are you suggesting that we create a list for him? If so, you are as good a candidate as any to make it. Why would we create a list for him when we know nothing about the game he wants to design? It's up to the designers to create their own lists for their own games. I've got all sorts of resources compiled on a private wiki, but that pertains to the game I am designing, not the one he is designing.
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The original poster didn't specify a list specific to his game, but of 'MMO design elements', which implies something more general (and thus, in my opinion, more useless). The poster also went on to say that they "still haven't found a decent list", implying there would be a standard list somewhere that applies to everybody. I am basically of the opinion that such a standard list serves no purpose, in much the same way that the old "what does RPG really mean?" threads on here served no useful purpose. I have no problem with people drawing up their own checklists relevant to the game they want to make.
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Quote:
 Original post by Kylotan The original poster didn't specify a list specific to his game, but of 'MMO design elements', which implies something more general (and thus, in my opinion, more useless). The poster also went on to say that they "still haven't found a decent list", implying there would be a standard list somewhere that applies to everybody. I am basically of the opinion that such a standard list serves no purpose, in much the same way that the old "what does RPG really mean?" threads on here served no useful purpose. I have no problem with people drawing up their own checklists relevant to the game they want to make.

I can't control what you infer from my words, nor can I guarantee you've completely misguided yourself from what you think I implied. But I'll leave you with a question. Is understanding what successful MMO's are comprised of a useful tool? Could someone take a standard element of the MMOs, decide he can do a way better job with it, and completely evolve it into something more fitting to its longevity?

Take the spec screen for example. For too long, RPGers have been staring at this window where they choose their specs. Even as the RPG genre gets much more twitchy and action oriented, we still have this death pace of a screen. Sure its fun to choose our specs, but why does it have to take us away from interactivity? If someone could reinvent the task of specing in a way that breathes lively gameplay into it, he'd be making the standard element unique.

Anyone could invent this kind of idea. How he reaches it is his own business. But, I tend to lean one way. For example. Let's say 2 groups of people wanted to put aging into their RPG. One group goes like this "Hey, why don't we try to put aging into our RPG?" The other group, after long hours of critical thinking, reach a possible solution to their design problem as a man in the back says "We could pull it off... with aging." One group is just randomly trying to be creative. The other group is using creative problem solving. I hope to be the type that uses creativity not as a replacement of education, but as a guiding tool of what I've learned. And we all know studying MMO's is a path of study.
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Quote:
 Original post by SephyxTwo words.Endless Content.That is why WoW is on top, and will stay as such. No single person in the game has done everything in the game. Continuously adding things to the game will keep the demand extremely high.

GOOD endless content.

Content than isnt just variations of the same limited mechanisms.
Content that offers more ways for players to interact (with each other and with the environment)

More realisticly -- incorporation of player created content (potentially being 'endless' and more importantly cost effective (\$ is a significant stumbling block for even getting barely adaquate amounts of content).

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Crafting

Ecomomy

Game which allows the player to exercise their imaginations when solving problems. Unfortunately this is not content but also game mechanics complexity.

NPC opponents that are smarter than the simple scripting we see in most games.
(and more complex interactions with LOGICAL behavior)
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