What actually prompted me to start writing this post was my thinking to myself (a dangerous thing), “Why do I hold DAoC in such high regard compared to other MMO’s that I’ve played? Is it just because it was my ‘first,’ or is there something else to that?”  Then I started wondering (oh oh, here’s trouble) what MMO did I play after DAoC that I really liked, and why didn’t it unseat DAoC from it’s top position. And then my stream of consciousness (OMG) continued wandering on to wonder just how many other MMO’s have I played for longer than say, a month or more (ie I actually subscribed to them for awhile).

As  a part of my game design work, I’ve got a “Best and Worst” list of game-mechanics present in most of the games I’ve ever played. So that helps to figure out why I think certain games are better or worse than others in regard to specific mechanics.  The one thing I’m not so certain of, however, is that if you combined all of the “best” mechanics and removed all of the “worst” ones, would you end up with a game that was “fun.”  Another “problem” is that such “best and  worst” scenarios are highly subjective.  And even given that, I have to wonder if such a game would be “fun” for me to play. I think it would, so that’s the kind of game I’ve been designing for the past couple years.  Whether anything ever comes of it, who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Without further ado,  here are some of the MMO’s I’ve played and some of the best and worst mechanics I thought were in the game – I’ll try to keep it under five, I’ve got pages of this stuff though, so it might be difficult to pare down, LOL.  In no specific order, other than this is the order that I’ve noted them in my research.

Best of Guild Wars:

  1. Unlimited re-specs, with the caveat that from a repertoire of many skills, you could only use eight of them at any one time.
  2. Dual-Classing, probably the best implementation of dual classing I’ve seen in any MMO
  3. Henchman & Heroes, a great thing for those of us who prefer to solo.

Worst of Guild Wars:

  1. Limited Z-axis, no jumping, little “obstacles” that you should’ve been able to step over, but couldn’t.
  2. Not given enough character slots to play each of the professions, you had to buy the extra slots.
  3. No “end-game,” each of the expansions was interesting to play through, but after that I didn’t feel any desire to continue playing.

Best of Neocron:

  1. Edgy futuristic “look & feel” (better than The Matrix Online, IMO)
  2. Private, “free” apartments to stash your stuff
  3. First semi-FPS style MMO that actually worked for the most part.

Worst of Neocron

  1. Ultra slow leveling
  2. Low player population
  3. No idea what I was “supposed” to be doing

Best of AC2 (Asheron’s Call 2):

  1. Totally awesome graphically, simply the most beautiful virtual world I’ve ever seen to date.
  2. Ability to play musical instruments – this was a novel idea and I really enjoyed it
  3. A very useful “newbie-area” tutorial
  4. “On-the-spot” crafting, you didn’t have to travel “elsewhere” to break stuff down and re-craft it into something useful. However, there were crafting centers where your success rates were greatly improved.

Worst of AC2:

  1. Awful Towns – No NPC’s, couldn’t go into buildings, no player housing, etc.
  2. Lack of variety – only three races and very few classes to choose from.
  3. “Pyramid scheme” guild system – where founders got extra perks
  4. Terrible PvP mechanics – gang/rogue warfare = boring/frustrating NOT fun 
  5. Probably THE premier example of a game with huge potential and not bringing it into reality.

Best of Anarchy Online

  1. Lots of variety in classes and how to spec – very complex, which could be a bad thing too, but mostly I liked it. Endless opportunities to tweak your character with skills, implants, crafting, etc.
  2. Interesting semi-instanced areas, where it wasn’t just you/your group, but it wasn’t “free-for-all” for everyone either, so in some “dungeons” you might run into one or two other groups.  There were fully instanced areas as well as full “free-for-all” areas, probably the best mix of private, semi-public, and fully public areas I’ve seen in an MMO.
  3. Expansions presented tons of new content to explore.  One of the first games where I experienced weather – dust-storms, being struck by lightning, etc. Very cool.

Worst of Anarchy Online

  1. PvP content took very long to get to. Had to spend a lot of time grinding up levels in order to participate in PvP. No battle grounds to try out PvP with similar level opponents.
  2. Graphics are severely dated by today’s standards – desperately needs a new engine or release of AO2.
  3. Complexity – yup, it makes both the “Best and the Worst” since it can be a big obstacle to new players. The tutorial area leaves a lot to be desired in introducing players to managing their character growth.

Best of World of Warcraft:

  1. “Ease of Entry” with an abundance of easily found quests and excellent introductory areas. Bonus XP for “discovery” of new lands or logging off at an Inn, and very little “down-time” between encounters.
  2. No “I Win” buttons, just because you were first to cast a crowd-control spell doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to win.
  3. No obvious “bot” classes, used in other games to buff-up a “main” character while taking no risk itself (ie, the many “Enhance Clerics” standing around the keeps in DAoC).
  4. Spells are castable even if you’re getting hit – they just get delayed a bit
  5. In-Game mail and the Auction house – great ways to get rid of stuff you can’t use or to actually make some money with your crafts/crafting supplies, and to get items to your alts.

Worst of WoW:

  1. No difference between Alliance and Horde – all the same classes and all the same builds. Boring.
  2. PvP battlegrounds not so great – no reason to PvP except for personal advancement. As opposed to DAoC where you impact your entire realm based on your country’s success or lack thereof in PvP. WoW PvP servers (which is where I got my first level 60) were simply player-killing for the hell of it, worse than gang warfare even.  
  3. Raids as “end-game” content. They required tons of overhead to manage and really were just super boring after awhile. My god, we’re running Molten Core for the 100th time just so a guild member can get that one piece of equipment that may or may not drop. Ugh.  Which brings me to my next point:
  4. Totally equipment based combat.  In order to succeed in PvP or high level PvE you were basically required to have certain pieces of equipment.  And as a side jab, you couldn’t even customize your armor – at least in other games you could dye your armor sets.

Best of Dark Age of Camelot:

  1. By far, the best PvE/PvP ruleset out there. If you don’t want to PvP, you don’t have to, and if you do, there are rewards that impact your entire realm, not just your own selfish titles and advancement.
  2. Three Realms.  I’m so tired of the two-sided “good vs. evil” paradigm, a geographical basis with multiple countries is so much more realistic and having a third contender definitely helps to balance things from being totally one-sided.  It’s also very cool that NONE of the realms shares the exact same classes or race attributes.  It’s actually a different game experience to go play the different realms. This adds at least 3x the re-playability to the game.
  3. Many classes/races to choose from. And most are even fun to play, imagine that!
  4. Huge amount of content – I’ve been playing since within 6 months of their release date and I’d have to say I’ve probably only traversed 30% of just the map content within the world of DAoC, let alone all of the other content.  I mainly spend almost all of my time in Albion, but even there I haven’t really experienced much of the Atlantis, Catacombs, or Darkness Rising content.  I’ve seen most of the original game areas (in Albion) and most of the Shrouded Isles too, but not in Midgard nor Hibernia, where I think my highest level characters are in their 30’s or so…. I’ve got ten level 50’s in Albion, consisting of 2 Cabbies, 2 Clerics,  2 Minstrels, Scout, Friar, Paladin, and a Sorcerer, so it’s not like I’m just watching the clouds go by there… Anyways there’s more content in DAoC than any of the other games I’ve played – with the possible exception of EVE and maybe AO. WoW is TINY in comparison any of those games.

Wost of DAoC:

  1. Some classes/specs are just not worth playing, esp. if you’re a solo player.  Mentalists, Bards, and any assassin  or healing class is just a pain in the butt to play solo.
  2. Downtime between encounters – they’ve addressed this somewhat with patches, but in the beginning it was just annoying to have to wait… and wait… and wait some more for your power pool or health bars to come up to snuff before taking on the next MOB.
  3. Obvious “bot” classes, like “Enhance Clerics.”  On the majority of servers they can still buff someone without time nor range limitation, so you can have your Infiltrator(assassin) buffed “to the nines” out in Midgard territory even though the buff-cleric is tucked safely an ocean away back at the border of Albion.  That’s just stupid.
  4. “New Frontiers” destroyed “Epic” RvR encounters.  When Mythic re-made the maps and rules for RvR with “New Frontiers,” it was totally in favor and support of “8-man” roaming groups and totally removed the natural mile-gate “choke points” where the epic RvR battles used to take place on a regular basis. This was a PvP breaker for me – I used to love heading out to what I knew was going to be a “real battle,” sometimes involving hundreds of people. It was simply amazing!  Now it’s been severely dumbed down to just little 8v8 skirmishes – boring!  Now the battlegrounds are the only places that have anything like the old epic battles, so that’s where I get my PvP fix now.

Best of City of Heros:

  1. Costume builder is freaking AWESOME – more fun than the game itself! Really, it’s a blast to mess around with!
  2. Flight – being able to fly is VERY cool. The only previous game where I was able to fly was Morrowind, and it was cool there, but in CoH it’s very well done.
  3. First few levels are fun and easy to accomplish.  Very accessible to most folks. The same can’t be said for subsequent levels, but I’ll leave that for my “Worst of” note.

Worst of CoH

  1. After the first few levels it becomes very difficult to solo, and missions start to take on “raid-like” proportions in time-investment.  No more logging in for an hour, getting stuff done, and logging out for “real-life,” now CoH IS your life.
  2. PvP definitely has that “slap on” feel – no real reason to do it, just kind of gank-festing. bleh.
  3. No economy of any kind, sort of strange that way. No real crafting or other “mini-games” or diversions to occupy your time, just mission running. That gets old after awhile.

Best of EVE Online:

  1. Disposition.  No more random “will you group w/ me” or “wanna buy such-n-such” because it costs “money” to message someone if they aren’t set to the highest dispo setting.
  2. One of the best PvP rule-sets out there.  I have a tough time deciding between EVE’s and DAoC’s rule-set here, I think a hybrid would be even better.  What I really like in EVE is that you can attack anyone anywhere – BUT… if you’re in “high-security” space the attacker/PK’r is going to get snuffed by the “long arm of the law” known as Concord.
  3. Very complex and varied ways to play the game.  You can be a mission runner, miner, commodities broker, part of a “zero-space” alliance, whatever.  It’s extremely open-ended and deep. Two things you don’t usually see in MMO’s these days.

Worst of EVE:

  1. You cannot level characters concurrently – this was a total “deal-breaker” for me as an “Alt-O-Holic.” It’s totally annoying and doesn’t serve any in-game purpose to block players from leveling multiple characters at once.  And you only get to make three characters anyway, so there’s another built in limitation right there. What it does do is force players of means to “multi-box” and pay for a second (or third, or I’ve even heard of players with as many as four(!?) accounts).  It’s basically highway robbery on the game company’s roadway, blackmailing their player-base to put out for multiple accounts in order to realistically play multiple characters styles. Very dirty tactics in my book – the dirtiest actually.
  2. No ship customization.  All Rifters look the same, so in a squad of ships you really don’t have a visual clue of who is who – unless everyone is in a different ship – but even then it can get difficult when your enemies are flying the same ships.  Instead of “playing the game,” you end up looking at the text-list of ships and using that to target and fire, instead of actually targetting and firing on the ships themselves.  It’s like playing a game of Excel, clicking on the correct cells of text at the right time, then clicking a function button from the menu bar – it just seemed a bit too much like musical-chairs accounting and too little “game-like” for me there.  
  3. The UI is less than sufficient.  It begs for customization and maybe one day it will be a thing of beauty, but like I said in point two – it just begs to be compared to an Excel spreadsheet- bleh.
  4. No way to reassign keys or mouse actions.  This is really annoying, esp. since the mouse operation of pitch/yaw is the opposite of how most other MMO’s do it.  
  5. Extraordinarily severe death penalty compared to other MMO’s. When you lose a ship and a good portion of its fittings, you are losing a HUGE chunk of cash/time to replace it.  Which is why most “experienced” pilots will tell newbs to never fly anything they cannot afford to lose, which translates to the fact that they gotta fly a piece of crap for a very long time; weeks if not months of real-time. Unless they want to risk losing a huge investment in a nice ship.
  6. The game is really not friendly to new players, there has been some progress here over the past couple years – it’s much easier now than when I first started a couple years ago, but it’s still not really what I would call “accessible” to new players.

Ok, I think that’s been drawn out long enough and covers most of the games that I’ve played for reasonable or extended amounts of time.  Most of them I’ve played for over a year (WoW, DAoC, EVE, CoH, GW), but some (like Neocron, AC2) I only played for a few months or so, all of them I played for at least 3-4 months. I didn’t include games that I played for less than 2-months (EQ2, DDO, LoTRO, Matrix Online)