MMO Development Lesson #37

Create memorable moments. It is impossible to make every adventure in your game memorable, exciting, and unique. And, frankly, it generally isn’t a good idea to try to in an MMO. However, you can create incredible moments for your players and purposefully distribute them throughout the experience so players experience moments as they play the game. Distribute these moments so players will encounter them regularly and they will remember them and be carried through your world happily.

MMO Development Lesson #36

Without the risk of failure there is no risk of success. You need a balance of positive reinforcement and negative punishment–too much in one direction is a bad thing. For the most significant feelings of accomplishment, there must be significant risks and significant punishment for failure (not that I’m necessarily recommending significant punishment, but the more significant the punishment for failure, the more significant the psychological reward for success).

MMO Development Lesson #35

Players are the x factor of MMOs. If a player can do it, they will do it. They will behave badly if you let them, they will exploit if you let them, they will ruin the experiences of others if you let them. It’s best to mitigate undesirable behavior through reward/punishment or by altering a system’s design to prevent it. But, while heavy-handed artificial restrictions should generally be a last resort, sometimes they are unavoidable.

MMO Development Lesson #34

Finish your game before launch. If the launch date can’t be pushed back, remove the unfinished portion of the game and get it done right. For example, if the last 20-30 level chunk of your game has (basically) no quests, and quests were previously the method to gain levels, change the level cap to end when the quests end. If the content can’t fill out as many levels as the mechanics, you pretty much have to go with the weakest link and temporarily lower the level cap.

MMO Development Lesson #33

If a decision can logically be altered, let the player change their decision. Certain aspects of a character are essentially set in stone in most fiction, such as race choice; these aspects don’t need to be changeable. But, anything that makes sense to change (and is technologically feasible) like talent or achievement choices should be alterable by the player later in the game. Other examples are hair style choices, faction selections (depending on their importance in a game), and where their home recall point is.

MMO Development Lesson #32

Players should be making informed decisions. If a player is asked to make a meaningful choice, such as selecting their class or race, they must be informed. Give them all the information they need to ensure they’re making a good choice (in their perception), or they’ll be anxious about making it in the first place. This applies at every step along the way, particularly if the choices are permanent, and it can be quite tough to do effectively at character creation. But, whenever a player is making a decision, they need to know what the consequences and possible outcomes are before they are asked to make it.

MMO Development Lesson #31

Too many options are too many. A lot of us experienced players love having options. We like to choose our skills, increase our stats manually, and micromanage every little detail of our character and play because it’s part of the fun for us. For most people, that isn’t the case. Even for the people like me, there’s a point that there are just too many options, and I become gun-shy about making bad choices. Too much of anything is simply too much, and if you want an accessible game, avoid giving players too many options.

MMO Development Lesson #30

A required feature for your game’s genre may not be required for your game. Sometimes new features appear in almost every new game of the same genre. Mounts, for example, seem to be required as a baseline feature for a traditional MMO. Are they? Of course not. Not all burgers need cheese to be delicious, and not all MMO games need mounts to be great. An example in the FPS genre is BioShock–it doesn’t have all of the features of an FPS (or any other genre), but it’s still an amazing game. Never include a feature in a game because you think it’s a core feature to the genre; always include a feature in a game because it’s a core feature of your game.

MMO Development Lesson #29

Play your game. It sounds natural, but it isn’t always easy. Play your game like a player does, not just on your GM account, because the lack of power makes it a whole different ballgame. You need to at least understand the perspective that players have, which is hard to achieve when you know all the numbers all the intricacies of the game but lack the insight about how players really play. I know it’s hard to play your game that way when you made it (and to find the time to do so), but it’s a skill that you have to nurture. And, your employer better let you play while you’re at work, or they don’t know what’s good for them.

MMO Development Lesson #28

Perception is reality. When it comes to game balance, what really matters is how it feels while playing the game, not what the numbers tell you. It may be perfectly mechanically balanced–you have all the numbers, you’ve made all the calculations, and it is balanced. But, if that’s not how it feels when you’re playing the game, it isn’t balanced and needs to be changed. This is one of many reasons that it’s 100% vital that you play your game as a player does (a lesson unto itself).