While devouring a steaming bowl of ramen, my Trickster Rogue hit level 30. I had earned a few titles, Selunite being the one my character PhoenixDown chose because it just seemed cooler than the stale “Hero of Neverwinter” title. Plus being attached to one of the gods seemed pretty cool… for some reason. I was late in getting my first artifact, but now I love being able to spawn a shopkeeper anywhere I go, especially since I tend to hoard my items. I have no friends, no guild, and I’ve stuck with all of the free qualities of the game so far.
Why the hell am I still playing?
It’s certainly not for the story. While Dungeons and Dragons undoubtedly contains a seemingly never-ending amount of lore and storylines, I still spam the shit out of the X button when any dialogue appears. Questing is repetitive, but I still fight to grab a certain amount of imp wings and push through dungeons to kill the same boss every… single… time.
It’s not for the characters. While the voice acting is suitable, at least for the occasional NPC that I actually listen to, it doesn’t influence the story in any way. No one is memorable. No characters ignite feelings of sympathy or companionship, and while I understand that this is a MMO, that the depth is supposed to reside elsewhere, it’s still extremely disappointing to me. Perhaps I’ve spoiled myself with games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect where I’ve grown to love characters as if they truly existed (I’ll still fight you for Liara). Perhaps I still just don’t understand the meaning of a MMO universe.
Perhaps I simply want to change it.
I’ve finally tentatively come to the conclusion that my feelings toward MMO titles stem from the fact that I’m a console player. Before the PS4, I had only barely waded into the world of MMOs where I battled to earn levels just as furiously as I battled to make my clunky PC work. Maybe it’s just personal preference, but I hate grinding out levels. I hate fighting mobs of specifically leveled monsters placed in specific settings on specific maps. I hate looking at cool looking armor and weapons and thinking, “Well maybe I’ll be able to grab it when I’m level 60. If I’m still playing by then.”
It’s all so tedious and repetitive. And repetitive and tedious. Do you get what I’m saying? Maybe I’m just a sheltered noob.
Sure, grinding through dungeons to obtain rare loot can be exciting, especially when you’re playing with friends, but it just never ends. I’ve never reached an endgame of a title simply because I wanted the “game” to end 400 levels earlier. The satisfaction of leveling up just dissipated over time.
So why am I still playing? I have no clue. I can’t wrap my head around the reason why games like Neverwinter still attract me. I know there’s something nice about nurturing my own character from the beginning. Customization is fun. Playing with other people is fun. But I can’t think of a specific reason.
It’s not like Call of Duty where I can spew out a hundred different reasons why I love playing the same gametype on the same maps fifty thousand times. And yet I still catch myself snatching up my controller and running through another dungeon. What entices you to play MMOs? What do you hate about them? If you could create your own, what unique qualities would you add?
Loads of customization options
Building a character from the ground up is really special to me. I like flowing through an experience and watching “my” character grow, and it’s no different in a MMO. Build off of the usual selection of races and classes. Allow players to create a backstory and have it actually mean something to their progress. I like to reference games like Dragon Age for these specific qualities. For example, in Thedas, elves are usually looked down upon. Many are servants and live in poverty. Because of this, being an elf in Dragon Age: Origins developed some negative consequences.
Obviously armor customization is a must. Forget being realistic. Being able to acquire fun and colorful armor and weapons will help create a more unique experience for players. The processes of finding these and transforming them into something awesome should be a little more extensive than just finding them as loot. Which brings me to my next point…
The ability to level up through different skills
Did I mention I absolutely hate grinding through levels? With everything centered around battle and obtaining power, other opportunities are missed. Why not let a player focus on something like blacksmithing, cooking, leatherworking, or platesmithing? Allow them to level up based on their skills and open up the opportunity to obtain necessary items and ingredients to help them build on their skills. Being a good cook could mean adventuring to find rare animals to hunt or herbs to find. Being able to plant your own crops could play a huge part in it. Maybe start a business and sell your creations to other players.
One day there could be an event centered around finding a rare type of ore. Those into blacksmithing could venture out to take part and try to obtain items to help make better equipment than others. Things like this would make the game feel more player and character driven.
I’m not saying eliminate the usual questing/dungeon diving/combat leveling, just add other aspects. Create a world that can thrive on diversity and numerous skills that don’t necessarily rely on how powerful you are as a warrior.
A world that changes through player actions
Perhaps two competing blacksmiths have set up shop nearby. They’ll both have to find resources to try to put their businesses on top, right? However, mining in a specific place could drain the area’s resources. Have the ecosystem change in time. Same with animals, herbs, and other ingredients. The way people spend money could affect the economy. Maybe some areas are withering in poverty while others are brimming with wealth. Let skill and supply and demand fuel the world. Sure, it could get ugly, but when faced with the freedom to shape their own experiences, the player community can create some beautiful things.
While my ideas may be pretty shaky at best, it’s still fun to dive into the possibility of creating something more. What are your thoughts?