Non-existent Korean-clone story? Horrible fetch quests? Autotargeting? Shoddy crafting? Actually no, those aren’t that big a deal for me – or for most people, for that matter. My peeves are entirely different:
1) Unfriendly user Interface.
If there’s one thing the tons of Korean and Chinese MMORPGs get it right, it’s the UI. For the love of Chulhu, the UI is how the player interacts with the game. Why on earth can’t developers devote some time to making it simple, fast and easy to understand? Quite a lot of games have turned me off simply because of their downright terrible HUDs. Rift. Shin Megami Tensei.
In the very least, a user interface should support robust customization. Different players have different senses of design and usability, and everything should be intuitive right out of the box. GW2, i’m looking at you here…yes, Guild Wars 2, with its inventory that isn’t mapped to the “I” key by default and the stupid F1, F2, F3, F4 set that has to be remapped.
2) Single-player story
It’s a multipayer game. Scratch that. It’s a massively multiplayer game. So why the hell are we treated to lame into stories like “You are the chosen one! You will save the cheerleader! You will save the world!” and then thrust into a playerbase of some millions told the exact same things? WTF? Why not a “We” perspective for a change?
Developers, if you’re determined to keep that “I” perspective, hear me out: at least don’t make it look like this one player is the sole hope of the world. Make them an explorer. Make them a wandering scholar. Make them a warrior seeking to carve a name on the battlefield.
It’s just a bit of text, but it matters. The more realistic it feels, the more immersed we players get, right off the bat. GW2, Dungeons and Dragons Online and Neverwinter do this backstory game very well.
3) Poor mob AI
If you think the AI in <enter you favourite MMO here> is great, go play a little-known MMORPG called Ryzom. It’s almost dead: there are very few players there, but the world is up and running. Go there. You can watch as predators track and kill prey. Occasionally entire herds of herbivores migrate from here to there. Of course, animals make their own sounds and you can hear them – all round you.
Now THAT’S DECENT AI. It’s not fabulous. It’s not realistic to the point where it becomes ridiculously difficult to code or play against. But it adds a better sense of immersiveness.
Now I’m generally okay with most mob AI. Eden Eternal, for example, had some great world bosses and dungeon monsters running around that were a treat to hunt, fight and figure out. But quite a lot of MMOs fall into the trap of having mob AI that’s about as responsive as the average potato. We expect a challenge, not a bunch of vegetables.
4) No love for the clerics
The cleric is one of the most important classes in a group. Why then, are so many cleric classes an absolute pain to play? 90% of the time, a cleric is the hardest, most boring class to level up. You have no useful DPS skills like the other classes: alone, it takes ages to do a bit of solo questing.
The obvious answer – find a party – is terrible: it infers that the cleric is basically a piece of furniture for everybody else to lug around. You end up bearing the responsibility of keeping everyone alive while also being one of the most underpowered characters in existence.
Not to mention you’re basically cannon fodder in PvP, unless the game is built in such a way as the make a cleric build viable (EE: halkin cleric with crits).
GW2 gets around this rather neatly by eliminating a dedicated healer class. For those games that do have clerics, things should change a bit. Perhaps the exp rate should be adjusted: perhaps cleric heal spells could actually damage enemies when cast upon them. Perhaps, instead of a sack of buffs, clerics in general could be a proper utility class: AOE stuns, armor breakdowns, the like. Or, here’s something even better: make the clerics the tanks and give the warriors the utility and damage. They heal, don’t they? Stands to reason they can do Wolverine moments of their own.
4) Generic townspeople
Okay, it’s a town. The whole purpose is to get players together and have some NPCs on the fringe selling services. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to vary NPC models a bit from town to town. In fact, it helps a lot. Throw in a name, a little bit of flair or action, to create some kind of connection?
Here’s a list I found of some of the most memorable NPCs. Now, let’s not hold the legions of F2P MMOs to these rare standards, but http://www.onrpg.com/articles/top-5-most-memorable-npcs-in-rpgs/
5) Uninhabited starter areas.
Unless your content is heavily instanced and/or on-par with Dragon Age or somesuch, it’s bad to see an empty starter area.
It’s really bad. People should see, right off the bat, that there are other players in the damn game. There are games that successfully pull off an empty starter area (Path of Exile, Neverwinter, Rift) but they’re in the minority: most starter zones just feel like areas that were meant to hold a lot more people, but they just got bored and upped and left.
It’s a given that players move on to fresh content, especially in themepark MMOs. So why put the starter area in a zone that’s likely to be as a empty as hell in the next few months? Guild Wars 2, I’m looking at you here. Why not think ahead and put it in a major city? Or, as Rift does it, smack in the middle of an active battlefield?