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MMO Blender

MMO Blender: Game of Thrones, MUDs, and the perfect quest text

Screenshots, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

Game of Thrones Ascent screenshot
Nothing seems to suck me into a game more than a good story. The brilliant thing is that the story doesn't have to be complicated or intense as long as it's original and easy to follow. I want characters to meet, locations to discover. I need to immerse myself into a story more than I need to raise a level or obtain powerful loot. In this edition of MMO Blender, I wanted to use three main games as prime examples of systems that, when combined together in some form, would deliver the best story-driven experience I can imagine.

There are several factors to consider: story, movement, character, and interaction. I want to use War of Dragons as an example of movement in a mostly text environment, Gemstone IV for character and interaction, and Game of Thrones Ascent for story. Hopefully, when I am done, I'll have convinced someone to give me a few million dollars to create this dream MMO.

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MMO Blender: Mike's spaceflight of fancy

World of Warcraft, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Opinion, War, MMOFPS, RIFT, PlanetSide 2, MMO Blender

MMO Blender
You know what I love? Space. Not real space, so much; real space is a vast expanse of horrors that generally confound and cripple the mind if considered too seriously. I'm talking about "space," as in the setting of some of our favorite movies, games, and cancelled television properties.

The problem with space, of course, is that it is a setting and not a story. You can't prime an audience by simply shouting, "Space!" The space needs context. Is it "final frontier" space? Is it the space in which your screams go unheard? The greatest space tales have always used the deep black as a backdrop, not a subject.

My perfect MMO would almost certainly take place in space, but the way in which the space is used is what makes it worth playing.

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MMO Blender: Eliot ponders a fantastical fantasy

Fantasy, Culture, Opinion, MMO Blender

Of course, it would still likely be smothered by waves of people stating how tiring fantasy is at this point.  So maybe it's not worth bothering.
Fantasy, at this point, is almost tragically boring.

That seems like a contradiction in terms. A fantasy setting is supposed to be fantastic by its very definition; you should be surrounded by neat and astonishing things at every term, immersed in a rich and baffling setting where magic is a valid explanation for almost everything. Unfortunately, we've seen so many versions of the same old fantasy setting that it's become boring. It's another round of the same elements with slightly different names, and while you can give them floppy ears and call them Asurans, they're still just gnomes with better public relations.

So let's stick a fork in it and say we're done... or maybe not. There's some fantasy out there that could be collected into an interesting state, I think, something a bit further afield of the bog-standard elves and humans and dwarves dealing with dragons and whatever else. So let's mash this stuff up in a blender and see if we can't come up with some fantastic fantasy again.

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MMO Blender: Beyond Shawn's Thunderdome

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Post-Apocalyptic, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

MMO Blender Beyond Shawn's Thunderdome
If there's one thing I've noticed about these MMO Blender articles, it's that the Massively staff members seem to really like their sandboxes. Maybe it's not even so much a staff preference as it is a statement about where we all are as MMO players. Themeparks have been done and have been perfected, but many of us want to stretch the limitations of a truly persistent and open online world.

At least that's what I'd like to think. It's an ideal situation I can dream about, but do we all really want a truly open world with limitless possibilities? What would we do with so few rules?

My perfect MMO has what I'd consider to be the best of all worlds. The trick is, of course, getting it all to work in one game.

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MMO Blender: Larry's anti-power-creep MMO

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, League of Legends, MMO Blender

MMO Blender Larry's no power creep MMO
On Tuesday, I suggested ways to get rid of power creep in MMOs. You know power creep: the constant treadmill of stats that keep getting better and strong but ultimately start to feel like more of a grind? It's very annoying to long-term players, and I'd imagine that it's frustrating to game designers because it's time and talent wasted when game content is no longer useful to anyone.

In my quest to find the ultimate MMO, I have searched for game elements that reduce the amount of power creep but still come together to support a themepark game. Let's be honest: Sandbox games might suffer power creep, but because most sandboxes are skill-based, that power creep is not as prevalent or can easily be mitigated by tweaking classes. But themeparks are linear by design, and to remain fun, they have to retain part of that linear quality. Progression and continually racking up numbers and achievements is enjoyable to a large number of MMO players, otherwise it would be games like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies dominating the market, not World of Warcraft.

Believe it or not, there are online games that have done a tremendous job of trying to defeat power creep, but unfortunately, they do not exist as one game... until now in my Anti-Power-Creep MMO!

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MMO Blender: Eliot's rock odyssey

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Humor, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

First person to mention Black Heaven in the comments gets a cookie.  And if you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up.
I'm upset with bards in MMOs.

Don't get me wrong, I like the fact that they exist. But every single game that features bards uses them wrong. The bard is always a back-line character, someone who sits in the back and heals people through gently strumming on a lute. And that depresses me, because I want to see some bards that actually rock. I want to see some music used offensively. I want to have the option of making my bard kill things through careful use of sweet riffs.

You can say it sounds ridiculous, but tell me that it's somehow more ridiculous than having a bard heal you via magical singing and I will call you a liar.

So let's go for it. Let's dedicate an entire MMO to bards who aren't about muzak and nurturing new age songs, but bards that are going to defeat things through the unmitigated power of rock. My only regret is that this is a week too late for Rocktober.

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MMO Blender: Jef's SWG/Star Citizen mashup

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Sandbox, MMO Blender

MMO Blender: Jef's SWG/Star Citizen mashup
Thus far I've managed to keep my nose out of Massively's MMO Blender column. This is primarily because I don't need 1000 words to describe the ideal MMORPG when a short phrase like "Star Wars Galaxies minus the IP" basically sums everything up.

That said, something happened a couple of weeks ago that caused me to expand on this idea. Chris Roberts returned to the ranks of gamemakers, and when he announced his Star Citizen multiplayer title (which I desperately hope he renames, incidentally), it set in motion an MMO flight of fancy that I would love to experience.

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MMO Blender: A real-time Farmville MMO minus the Zynga

Real-Life, Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crafting, MMO Blender

FarmVille screenshot
Let's talk about FarmVille for a minute. Yes, I mean the Zynga-produced FarmVille, the one that helped social gaming become what it is today. There are a lot of things that have been said about the game, like "it's not even a game" or "it preys on gamer's addictive natures" and all sorts of sufficiently evil-sounding things. Say what you want about the evil monster that is Zynga and make all the jokes that you can about FarmVille and other social titles, but I want to tackle it from a different view. Let's look at it as the sandbox game that it is and use that example to invent a brand-new MMO, although I'm sure ours would not meet with even a fraction of the success that FarmVille has.

FarmVille is arguably the most popular sandbox title in the world. We've defined "sandbox" a million times on this site, but it's easy to see just how open and flexible FarmVille is. Is it limited to the confines of its unique set of tools and designs? Of course, but so is every sandbox.

FarmVille has successfully introduced the wonders of sandbox gaming to people who might never give a similarly described game a chance.

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MMO Blender: Eliot swings for internet spaceships

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

This looks like a game I would like.  It is the exact opposite.
Honestly, EVE Online always depresses me.

I know some of you really love the heck out of EVE Online, and that's great. The problem isn't that the game is bad but that it's a game which holds basically zero interest for me except for the fact that it's a game about spaceships that you play on the internet. That part interests me because it's almost a textbook description of the things that I find interesting. Throw in some giant robots and psychological horror and I'm completely sold. Move on to open PvP, corporate warfare, and shuffling through spreadsheets while playing the ore market, and you've lost my interest.

This isn't a lamentation on the fact that games exist that aren't meant to please me. No, this is a lamentation of the fact that I want another internet spaceships game. I want my spaceships on the internet, but I want them to be my kind of spaceships. And so with all due respect to the existing contenders, I'd like to talk about my version.

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MMO Blender: Eliot's online brother from an offline mother

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

No, more online than that.
We don't need to go online to have a good time, oh no.

Obviously Massively's writers like us some online games. I am no exception to the rule. But I also started playing video games back when the internet existed only in its most nascent form. I started out by liking video games, period, and the online component came much later, with a lot of benefits, to be sure, but I still love some offline action just as well.

I don't feel the need to bring every game into the online arena. There are games that just don't work as well in a multiplayer environment. But there are also a lot of offline games that translate quite well to an online space, and I'm not just talking about ones that play like MMORPGs stripped of the first three letters. Today's MMO Blender is taking inspiration only from games that do not have a primary online component. Let's see about making a nice big MMO from single-player offline offerings.

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MMO Blender: Using older MMOs to build a perfectly paced world

Fantasy, Video, EverQuest, Fallen Earth, Culture, Game Mechanics, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Ultima Online, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, RIFT, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crafting, MMO Blender

RIFT Sanctum creenshot
One of the issues I have with so many modern AAA titles is that when I play them, I immediately feel forced through a series of noisy and chaotic moments. I know that these tutorials are supposed to make me feel as though I am stepping into a sort of world-on-fire, but to me it just feels like a mess. RIFT is a great game, truly, but every time I want to start a new character or try the game out again, I dread going through the annoying tutorial. It's so demanding. It grabs my hand and pulls me through a linear series of non-discoveries.

Now, this might just be my fading gamer memory, but I distinctly remember how it felt to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere in an MMO. While there are a few modern titles like Wurm Online that basically do the same thing, the mystery and immersion of those first few levels in most major MMOs has been replaced by sheer noise. I don't like it.

Good pacing is a wonderful thing. If it's tweaked just right, players feel immediately invested in a world even while feeling completely lost. I'd like to make this week's dream MMO using those older-game designs. It's time to slow down.

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MMO Blender: Karen's kid-friendly game with grown-up appeal

MMO Industry, Opinion, Kids, Family, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

MMO Blender  A kidfriendly game with grownup appeal
I regularly explore the good, bad, and the ugly in kid-friendly MMOs, so I was eager to have a turn with the MMO Blender to see if I could concoct a game that would be appealing for kids but also have some features that should be standard in grown-up MMOs as well. There are a lot of MMOs out there that are aimed at a young audience, but I think the industry sometimes holds back and opts to make a game that's safe. The result of going safe, though, is that it's also not that compelling. Let's take a look at a few features that would make a (nearly) perfect kid-friendly MMO, one that might even be appealing to adults.

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MMO Blender: Eliot's Copernican dream

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Miscellaneous, Crafting, MMO Blender

Whoops, that was apparently the place I lived.  Well, spilled milk.
When I tried Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for the first time, I fell in love. Not with the story, and not with the art, but with several elements of the actual game itself. The idea of having all of that brought into the MMO space filled me with a lot of excitement, but I had a feeling that we'd never actually see it come to pass.

For those of you who missed out on what happened with 38 Studios, possibly because you read the internet on some bizarre time-lapse system, here's the deal: We're never going to see Project Copernicus come to pass. Oh, sure, we might wind up with something that vaguely resembles that game, but odds are low. More likely the franchise is going to be sold off by the state of Rhode Island for a pittance, and if the game ever resumes production, it'll bear only the faintest traces of its origins -- some art assets and little else.

I'm not shedding tears over the world, though. In fact, I'm not going to shed tears at all because I think there's something to be built upon from the ideas of that single-player game, ideas that could make for an excellent MMO. And like any good gestalt, it reaches out to be something much more than the sum of its parts.

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MMO Blender: Larry's roleplay sandbox

City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Culture, Economy, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Star Trek Online, Guild Wars 2, Roleplaying, Crafting, MMO Blender, Housing

MMO Blender Larry's roleplay sandbox
I can't say that I represent every roleplayer in the MMO space, but I have been a part of MMO roleplay communities going on eight years now. I think it's safe to say that I have a pretty good handle on what roleplayers want out of MMOs. Fortunately, there are existing game designs that can give us what we are looking for.

When developers stop giving roleplayers new content, we -- unlike other gamers -- start to create our own. In fact, the vast majority of us don't rely on the game developers to give us any story content beyond the backdrop of the world our characters are living in, but that's not to say there aren't tools developers can give us that help with our level of immersion. Let's explore what makes a great sandbox for an MMO roleplayer.

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MMO Blender: Eliot's superior superheroic romp

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, Opinion, MMO Blender

If you're reading this and you haven't yet seen The Dark Knight Rises, really, what's your deal?
I like superheroes. So I'm not unhappy at the presence of several superheroic MMOs, but I am unhappy at how the games handle heroes. I think there's space for a game that does superheroes better than they've been done yet, one designed to be unmistakably about superheroics while still being a really great MMO. That means taking little bits and pieces from several other games and blending them into one unified whole, something that's more than the sum of its parts.

The problem is that superheroes aren't just people with powers beating up other people with powers. There's more to it than that, and there are a lot of little elements that depend entirely upon the setting. Some stories just don't work in the Marvel universe, some don't work in the DC universe, and some need a completely different setting altogether. So let's look at this from the ground up while I show you my dream superhero MMO, one that would deliver exactly what I'd like to see.

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