Posted by: markfender | September 23, 2014

MMO Dungeons

MMOs are a cool idea that maybe don’t ever meet their potential.

ice-mountainsBut maybe that potential is the wrong direction to go?

As the name implies, MMOs are about being massive and being multiplayer. So, that means the more players interacting in an area, the better….supposedly. But that requires a ton of coordination, a good rendering engine, and the willingness of players to engage in massive activities. And all of those things sound like a lot of work.

I’m not interested in coordinating a bunch of pubbies in completing a raid properly. I imagine there’s a small percentage of the population that is interested in that sort of activity. So, you’ve already limited the player base’s ability in engaging in that massive 40-man dungeon to a few people. Not that massive.

Obviously, you need a good rendering engine as well. I know that in Guild Wars 2, their World vs. World had issues early on where not everyone was getting rendered. You’d just see a sea of red name tags converging on your position (This has since been fixed). But, even besides pure technical issues, MMOs like to have flashy spell effects as their feedback engine. That’s great and all, since it makes your everyday killing of mobs entertaining, but it can get bad in massive fights with 40+ players. All you see are bright shining lights and have the understanding that there’s a bad guy somewhere in the middle of all that. Everything you’ve previously learned about watching for tells, windups, and other pivotal boss mechanics disappear when you can’t even see those things due to all the other players and their special snowflake powers.

The third part is that people need to be willing to do massive events. Leading pubbies can be exasperating so most leader-types get into guilds and draw from hand-picked people. Which implies a whole other level of organization. Likewise, I’m not terribly social in these games – I don’t want to group with other people to do the content sometimes. I’m sure there’s lots of people that can’t get over their crippling fear of online interactions who would never join a 40 man raid.

And yet, the coordination between different people and class mechanics are some of the fun of MMOs. It seems to me that MMOs should maybe focus on smaller-scale groups. Why aren’t their 2 to 3 man dungeons? A smaller group is easier to coordinate. A smaller group is easier to get together. A smaller group wouldn’t obscure the bad guy in bright shining lights. Since most MMos rely upon the holy trinity anyway, it only seems natural to make dungeons that require one of each branch of the trinity, instead of weird corner case positions like “off tank.” It’s a lot less intimidating to find two other people to run a dungeon with than five or six people. Likewise, the more small groups running a dungeon, the easier it is to find a group that works for your playstyle. When the dungeons are bigger, they tend to evolve into “speedrun” type events, where the only people running the dungeon are people who are farming it. Because they have to coordinate a large group, they get antsy about being specced right to meet their goals. That eliminates a lot of people who just want to see the content, have that one fun fight again, or just hang out with some like-minded people enjoying a game. But with smaller groups, there would be the potential for those people to also find like-minded people to do the content with.

I think MMOs should focus on smaller-scale coordination between players. Don’t focus on combining “massive” and “multiplayer.” Instead, they should focus on those words exclusive to each other. Make the game world massive. Have 40 three-man dungeons, instead of the typical five 6-man dungeons available at launch. Make the environment bigger. Then, make your multiplayer gameplay work with smaller groups. Maybe, if it all works well, you’ll have the same amount of people playing your game, but they’ll be interacting with smaller groups of people.

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