Over the past year or so, we've seen an increase in the cross-over of ideas among the various SOE titles, and the announcement of Player Studio in several MMOs is just the latest example of a shift towards centralizing things. With all of the news about upcoming titles and new approaches to future design, there's plenty that could work well in Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures (and in kid-friendly MMOs in general!)
In this week's MMO Family, let's look at what Free Realms and CWA could borrow from other SOE MMOs.
Free Realms has dueling, and Clone Wars is going to add it in soon, but what might be even more exciting is multiplayer PvP with some simple territorial control points (a virtual version of king of the hill). Both games have moved towards an open world setting with dangerous mobs, but what if each game also included a persistent open world area where players could jump in and work as a team for a little fun skirmish? Heck, Clone Wars Adventures is tailor-made for team-based combat now that the devs have added in four distinct battle classes and a Sith vs. Jedi match up.
EverQuest's business model
We learned last week that EQ is moving away from a robust Marketplace and more towards smaller transactions built right into the UI. Ironically, Free Realms moved in the opposite direction last week when they unveiled house builder packages that are as high as 13,500 Station Cash. That's the highest price I've seen in any of the SOE cash shops, and for a kid-friendly game, that's bound to set up lots of confrontations between children who desperately want it and parents who have a hard time getting on board with paying that much for virtual blocks.
Both Free Realms and CWA are building up meaningful crafting systems, so why not do what EQ and EverQuest II are doing and move many of the vanity items over as recipes that can be crafted. Clone Wars is actually moving in that direction by allowing crafters a discount on certain cash shop items, and hopefully Free Realms will consider that as well. Overall, though, it would be nice to see prices come down a bit in both titles.
The presentation at SOE Live made it clear that this game was all about finding, taming, and riding dragons. This concept would work perfectly in Free Realms, since they already have dragon mounts in game. Longtime fans still ask to bring back the Pet Trainer class, and what better way than to add in dragon taming, which is actually fairly popular in kids' entertainment these days. And dragons would be perfect as flying mounts, something that Free Realms really needs to add to the game.
We heard this phrase over and over at SOE Live, and both kid-friendly titles are moving in that direction. It's nice to see actual danger out in the world, and both games seem to be focused on designing content that's social, which is a nice shift away from the heavy instancing that was featured in the past.
While it's hard to find the balance between safety and freedom, I'd love to see some sort of way to link multiple family memberships and then give them the option for more freedom. Instead of having a moderated chat, for example, family-linked accounts could have unmoderated chat and not have to see every other word show up as ########. It would also be great to see family members have access privileges that let them collaborate on building projects. And I'd love to see lobbies like kart racing or demo derby allow for fixed groups without NPCs. For younger kids who are still getting a handle on the games, it would be great to have them "beat mommy or daddy" without an NPC racing by and messing that all up.
It's funny to hear SOE President John Smedley tout the move towards making MMOs as viewable entertainment, because Free Realms added the ability to record video a couple of years ago, and CWA followed suit not long after. While both games have a plethora of videos up on YouTube, it would be nice to see some sort of official compilation of the best videos, similar to what the PlanetSide 2 team does with their regular show. It would even be a great way to set up a promotion or contest, because players could create videos around a certain theme or location, and let their creativity take it from there.
This isn't necessarily an idea that's borrowed from another SOE title, but instead is inspired by its grandfather, Star Wars Galaxies. Clone Wars Adventures has moved toward an open world setting and away from the lobby, but what it really needs now is space flight. There are space-based mini-games, but they feel like just that -- a game. There are spaceships available for purchase already, but right now all they do is sit in the garage and look pretty. It would be a blast (literally) to be able to take them for a spin and explore the wild west of space in a Star Wars setting. If CWA did add free-form space flight, it would be somewhat ironic given that financial juggernaut Star Wars: The Old Republic has not.
Both Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures seem to be focused on a rapid schedule of new updates, and there's a renewed focus on tailoring it to what the players want. At the same time, there's a lot of idea-sharing that occurs among the various development teams, and we're seeing popular features in one game cross over to other titles. I have a few suggestions above, but what about you? What are your favorite features in SOE titles that you'd like to see in their kid-friendly games?
The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to firstname.lastname@example.org.