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| The Perfect MMO (15 comments )|
by: indigo196 (258) | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
I am a firm believer that to determine what the perfect MMO is one must have a true perspective of the genre. I find that most people make the incorrect assumption that the first MMO was Everquest. The fact is that the genre was started by Neverwinter Nights in 1991. The original Neverwinter Nights was co-developed by AOL, Stormfront Studios, SSI, and TSR. Neverwinter Nights ran from 1991 to 1997 and included both PvE (Player vs. Environment – AI controlled encounter) and PvP (Players vs. Player) play with PvP Including an NCAA like tournament to reach a champion. Other ancestors of our current MMOs include The Shadow of Yserbius, Fates of Twinion, and The Ruins of Cawdor. These games were played in the days of dial-up connections and were extremely expensive to play with some monthly bills exceeding $500.
Most of today’s MMOs focus on the same basic principles of game-play with minor variations and massive upgrades to the graphics capabilities of the older games. They provide players with the ability to play PvE or PvP with a character that they created and advanced. This is augmented by having different professions (classes for your D&D folks), races, and equipment (special equipment). They key to a successful MMO today are:
• How rich and diverse the PvE environment is
• How challenging the PvE world is
• How configurable your character is
• How friendly and helpful the community is
• How well balanced PvP play is
• How unique the loot is
Using these criteria it is my opinion that there is no perfect MMO yet, but the closest thing to it is the Guild Wars series. The rest of this article will explain why I feel this way.
Rich and Diverse PvE Environment
Guild Wars is currently a three chapter game that provides players with graphically beautiful scenery that ranges from medieval villages in autumn to snow capped mountains and arid deserts. Guild Wars does not just stop at the foliage and weather, but expands the variety by having three continents that each has their own unique architectural flavors. Guild Wars: Prophecies was built in what could best be described as medieval European style and featured a gentle friendly environment for the starting area and a post-magic-apocalyptic environment for much of the remainder. Guild Wars: Factions had three distinct cultures. The Canthan areas were built in a medieval Japanese style complete with dwarf trees and oriental clothing. The Luxons were a nomadic people and their style showed a Chinese/Mongolian theme. The Kurzicks lived in a vast petrified forest that seemed to reflect a strong Germanic gothic influence. Guild Wars: Nightfall is even more diverse than factions with areas that range from African savanna to opulent Middle Eastern areas with golden jeweled palaces. Nightfall also contains an area known as the Realm of Torment which is a nightmarish twisted landscape that seems to come out of Freddy Krueger’s mind. All of these areas are done filled with fantastic textures and I have yet to get a feeling of déjà-vu due to repetitive blocks of terrain. There is no game that I have tested or played that offers such a rich and diverse range of environments to experience.
Challenging PvE Environment
Guild wars presents an amazing level of challenge without too often resorting to giving monsters insane amounts of health. The first time players ventured into the depths of Sorrows Furnace they were assaulted by well built teams of enemies that used the same skills as were at the players’ disposal with devastating effects. In Prophecies the Thunderhead Keep mission held up hordes of players. Both of these areas challenged players to learn to work with their teammates and became easy as more and more people started understanding what the enemy was doing and how to counter it. If a player owns all the chapters they will face a tremendous range of skilled enemies that have hundreds of potential skills. The PvE areas also contain challenge missions which track how well other teams did in the mission and there is even a challenge mission ladder that ranks all the guilds. Beyond the simple goal of defeating the game by completing all the missions, players can strive to achieve a broad range of titles that can be earned through determined play. These titles add another optional layer of challenge or just plain fun for players by having serious titles like the Defender of Cantha, obtained by gaining an expert rating on all the Canthan missions, to the frivolous title of Drunkard which is earned by spending massive amounts of time drunk.
No one of us wants to play a game in which our character looks or acts just like one of seven million other characters. Games must provide ways to differentiate your characters look and multiple options for character development. Guild Wars has allows changes in skin tone, hair color and style, height and clothing. In addition to those variations the base model for each character is different depending on which chapter you create her in. Each chapter also has multiple variations of armor and weapon styles for each profession and in addition you can dye weapons and armor. Just ask any mesmer in the game about armor and dye and you will here sob stories about how much they spent on getting all the different armor varients and dye combos (Mesmers are the stylish good looking profession of the game and players are fanatics about looking good)
Characters in Guild Wars choose a primary profession and secondary profession. The secondary profession can be changed after advancing to higher levels in the game which adds a greater range of flexibility than any other MMO I have played. You can spend points to increase abilities in four categories for the primary profession and three categories of your secondary profession. Each profession has a primary attribute which can only be increased if the character has that as their primary profession. The points in these attributes can be changed whenever a character is in a town and there is no restriction as to how often this can be done nor is there any cost. This ability to mix two classes allows for a great deal of customization not available in other MMOs. The free changes to attributes and secondary professions also make the game last longer because players are free to try different skill sets to overcome challenges.
Friendly and helpful community
First it must be said that Guild Wars doesn’t segment players off on to dozens of individual servers that form their own community and become tiny little islands. If you own a copy of Guild Wars you can play with anyone else in the world that owns the game as well. Players do have regions which are broken down for areas of the globe, but there is an international zone in which players from any region can meet and play. I can no longer imagine having to discard a character because you find out after six months that some of your real-life friends are playing on a different server. The pain of having to rebuild your character might be enough to make you quit. In all my time I have played Guild Wars I have rarely seen the type of petty fighting that went on in another MMO I played. Perhaps it is due to the fact that PvP does not intrude on PvE in the form of ganking and that no one has to camp a spawn for hours on end just to complete a kill the monster type quest.
Guild Wars has an excellent PvP component that is balanced on a regular basis. The game has developed a meta-game that revolves around knowing the current trends in team design and their counters. This creates a depth to the strategy of this MMO that is not seen in other games. Guild Wars provides everything from casual PvP in their random four vs. four arenas to high-stakes PvP in their seasonal tournaments that end in championships. Guild Wars provides the following PvP experiences:
• Random Arenas (click join and get a random group to fight with)
• Team Arenas (you pick your teammates)
• Guild Challenges (two guilds face off)
• Heroes’ Ascent (several teams fight successive battles in a tournament style with one final victor)
• Hero Battles (one player vs. one player with the assistance of their heroes)
• Arena Battles
The game rolls together the need for thoughtful strategy and twitch reactions to create a superior experience. Interrupting spells, covering spikes and snaring opponents are just a few of the subtle aspects that make up a Guild Wars PvP experience. In the history of Guild Wars there has never been an undefeatable build though there have been flavor of the month builds that tend to do well at the less competitive levels. Guild Wars also does not have any ultra-powerful weapons or armor so it is much easier to achieve a balanced game between casual and hardcore players.
Many MMOs drive their players further and further away from their families because there are ultra-powerful items that must be had if you want to remain competitive. In Guild Wars there are items that everyone lusts after, but they do not cause an imbalance between the casual players and hardcore players. The items are simply wonderfully skinned and objects of desire in the same way a classic work of art is. In fact items do not make or break any character in Guild Wars because they are not all that powerful. I admit that this might be an issue for people who want an ever increasing level of equipment, but for the rest of us the thrill of getting an ultra-rare skin is enough to satisfy our desires.
One traditional problem that faces casual MMO gamers is not having enough time to play and occasionally having real life rip them from the game in the middle of missions or quests. Guild Wars solved that by giving players a choice of preconfigured henchmen that can be added to the party. Originally the solution was implemented poorly. Guild Wars: Nightfall has come close to perfecting the implementation by providing players with customizable Heroes and the ability to control the actions of the heroes. Players can equip their heroes, control the distribution of their attribute points, and select the skills they equip.
Yes, even Guild Wars has some drawbacks. The plot of Factions was considered weak and the voice acting in Prophecies was only average. The restriction of equipping only eight skills at any one time might also bother some players. Guild Wars instances also eliminate the ability for helpful players to save people who have ventured to an area that is above their level.
In conclusion, while there truly is no perfect MMO, I believe that Guild Wars strikes the most perfect balance of any MMO to date by providing a compelling, rich, detailed and challenging PvE experience that at the same time providing a very well balanced and varied PvP experience. Combine this with the fact that the game has a customizable UI, receives regular updates that are streamed to clients, almost no server downtime, and has no monthly fee and it is very hard to find a better value in the MMO market. In a little over fifteen years the genre has made tremendous advances and I can only hope that it will continue to do so in the next fifteen.
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