What Makes an MMO Good or Great?

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There are a lot of things that can make an MMO good, but what makes one of them great?

I break it down to 4 major categories. We’re going to look at graphics, consistency, content, and off-line integration. Combining all of these categories together we’re really just talking about details and it truly is just details that make things great.

Graphics
Now, it’s easy to ask if the game has good graphics or great graphics. There are a few things to consider when trying to answer this question. One, when was the game created? Two, is it just a PC game, or is it a console game as well? Three, is my graphics card powerful enough to run the game the way was intended? Now, depending on who is reviewing the game and what their hardware is, the answer might look different to each person. I happen to run the much newer system that I’m able to run it on DirectX 11 with Ultra High settings turned on, so for me the game looks great. That is not to say that there are certain things that could be polished up a little bit more but overall for me it looks really good. I have been happy with the architecture and landscape of the game, the polish in the game and the overall theme of artwork that is consistent throughout the game. Given the age of the game and system it was built on, I would still say this area is great.

 

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Consistency
There are several different things that I want to talk about regarding consistency starting with questing. The problem I have with the consistency of questing in the game, is that there are quests that have no purpose being solo that I cannot do with my group. As far as immersion goes, this kind of breaks it for me. Here I am grouped with my friends for an hour and all of a sudden I have to do this solo quest that is really just me queuing into an instance and then talking to somebody or observing a conversation. To me this just does not make sense and there’s not a place for it. Another example of this that bothers me is when I am able to queue into a quest that allows “no more than two players”. What in the world is that about? If I can see it with two people why can I not see it was six?

Another part of consistency is the Epic Books not being narrated all the time. I am certainly not asking for every single quest to have a unique voice and be narrated every single time. I understand that that would make the game enormous as far as audio file size and it’s just not practical. I do, however, think that the epic book should in fact be epic and be narrated. I know this tugs at Andang’s soul a bit seeing as he likes to do his own narrations, but it could be a feature that can be toggled off.

Some smaller details that bother me here are things like graphics clipping, re-using skins and themes for armor, “You must face the target” and “Too many attempts, slow down”. For example, you can mine a Riddermark Skarn node from horseback facing away from it but you cant loot clickable quest items unless you are behind the item and directly facing it. The “Too Many Requests” error message usually occurs when I am working on legendaries. Trying to reforge all of those relics in a timely manner is a cruel joke.

Graphics clipping happens on character armor, on landscape areas, quest rings that are in trees, resource nodes that are not able to be used because they’re underground or in trees. It is these types of details that don’t break the game but when they are paid attention to can really make a great. Reusing old armor skins is, to put it politely, flat out lazy. A creative company, with creative talent, being paid to be creative and not being creative is a little sad. Needless to say, consistency weighs pretty heavily on whether or not I think a game is good or great. In this area, I say LOTRO is good, not great.

 

Notice the clipping of the sword into the back of the horse.

Notice the clipping of the sword into the back of the horse.

 

Content
This category may seem a bit obvious, but I think it still needs to be stated. If an MMO does not have great content, how can it be great itself? I don’t think it can. The whole point of an MMO is to tell a story. This, LOTRO does quite well. Where i feel the game is lacking is group-based content. If you read my previous article on raiding, you would certainly know where I stand on this subject. In a super short summary, i think there is no reason for a game to Massively Multiplayer if you don’t have great group content. Doesn’t that just defeat the purpose? Couldn’t it be just an RPG at that point? Over the years, Turbine has attempted to add new gameplay mechanics that I have not necessarily agreed with. Mounted Combat and Skirmishes to be frank. These systems really don’t add or subtract from the story but they are also not implemented in an effective way. I try to avoid these systems when possible because of this.

The Epic Books are a great way to achieve great content. You have a linear plot line that other quests and instances can intersect. I see glimpses of this through the game but it goes back to consistency. Each year, Turbine proudly debuts a new system. First it was Legendaries and Radiance, then it was Skirmishes, then it was level scaling and Mounted Combat, and lastly Epic Battles. I honestly think any one of these things could have been great had they focused on that system continually and not let them fall of the radar. Legendaries for example are hardly what the name implies. I really miss just more rare loot itemization. It’s nice that I can build the weapon I want, but its not rare or difficult to get. MMMMMMMM, Baingrist. Content should drive the game and necessitate things being added or subtracted from the game. Turbine does an okay job with this overall, but could certainly do better.

 

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Offline Integration
This topic has me going back on forth a lot. I miss the ability to look at my character offline and compare them to other players. Stats, leaderboards, and forums make for a better all-around experience in my opinion. I don’t want to spend my valuable playtime researching what i want to do with my character; I want to go do it. Fortunately we still have the lotro-wiki and the forums, but we have lost my.lotro.com.

I think that Blizzard still has the best implementation of this with Armory App. Being able to talk in guild chat, use the remote auction hall, see calendar events, and being able to check for upgrades and specs. This gives me the ability to almost always be involved with game at a moments notice. On the flip side, if the resources that were once used to make this kind of experience were reallocated to the game, then I think the game would be a much better place. Off-line integration is one of those things that I think that you have to have to make a great game but is not necessary to have a good game.

All in all LOTRO is still a good game that I would recommend to anyone. I don’t think that it is as great as it used to be, but it still has the potential to be something epic.

4 comments

  1. Goblinbane /

    For me most important are well designed questlines with interesting stories. By well designed I understand that they avoid pointless travels, they allow you to be all the time on quest level while going through storylines without need to go somewhere else cause your quests outleveld you, (so you must leave the cause for which you fought and go to other end of world to get some xp in totally different stories and then come back – for me, old rpger who cares more about stories then killing pixels, this kills fun a lot).

    Lotro started a few years ago designing questlines that way and redesigning old areas to that scheme (ND, TS, MM and others). I like that a lot.

    Greatly designed quests with awsome stories are also in SWTOR – if you care most about storytelling, thats really game for you. They really did awsome job there. The only problem in that case is that some quests in your class story (like epic in lotro) are badly tuned and there can appear really big difficulty spikes, which sometimes demand some additional leveling or gearing, but having to use all your skills to maximum is good from time to time :).

    MMO which I generally liked but stopped to play due to terrible questlines design is Age of Conan. You are fast too low level for quests in played story/region, so you need to got to completely different part of the world, quests are throwing you into different places in whole game world. There are insane travels from NPC’s to quests and back and difficulty spikes are sometimes terrible. So I decided that better spend time in games with better designed content.

  2. well written. Lotro is magnificent game and its potential is very large, almost incomparable, and its a really shame if turbine dont fully use it

  3. onesacker15 /

    I absolutely love the Armory app that WOW has and most recently the Destiny companion app that came with Destiny. I am at work a lot, but when I get really involved in a game, my mind is stuck in that realm. Having a way to quickly look your character and it’s stats is an amazing feature that helps immerse me in the game whenever I want to be, even if it is at work ; ). I really wish this was a feature that LOTRO could incorporate, because right now, while setting at work, that’s all I am thinking about!

  4. Another great article: most of the points I am sure I have ranted about in the past.

    Oddly from another perspective I find solo quests that suddenly morph into group quests just as irritating…

    I do believe that LOTRO could end up being EPIC although at the moment I am at a low point in my LOTRO playing and even have bleak thoughts about its immediate future. I do believe it will find its way, one day…

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