Today, I promised myself, I was going to craft a 100% positive blog post about MMOs. So after digging around in my noggin for a bit, I rummaged up some fond memories of games past and present, and some of the spiffy features they offered that I experienced for the first time in a MMO:
Sidekicking (City of Heroes/Villains)
Anyone who plays MMOs know that one of the banes of the genre is staying in the same general level range as all your buddies so you can group up and play together. If Todd is level 40 and I’m a mere 10, I can’t play in the areas he’s doing, and he gets no benefit beyond companionship to stoop down to where I’m playing.
City of Heroes sidestepped this whole issue by introducing the sidekick system (and later, the exemplar), where a lower level character could be “sidekicked” to a higher level character, temporarily boosting them to their friend’s level minus one. So if their friend is level 40, they would become level 39 and their current powers boosted accordingly. Instantly you have a game where the guy who plays three hours a week can log on and play with his 35-hour-a-week buddy!
Auction Houses (FFXI, EvE Online, WoW, LOTRO)
The only MMO I played without auction houses was Anarchy Online, which in truth might have had an auction house but the game was so darn confusing and dense that I probably wouldn’t have recognized it if I passed it on my way to die somewhere else. In any case, auction houses take a static, fixed economy between the game and the players, and transforms it into a vibrant, real-world-style economy between players and players. It’s a beautiful thing we take for granted, to be able to buy and sell to the entire server without having to spam a trade channel all day long.
Universal Feats (AO, CoH)
In their first expansion, Shadowlands, Anarchy Online offered characters a new feat every ten levels, which they could draw from a universal pool of feats available to any class. City of Heroes also offered universal pool powers that could be accessed by all classes. I love this idea and wish more games had it – that you have both unique, class-driven skills, yet could also dip into skills beyond your class.
Talent Trees (WoW)
While WoW didn’t have a monopoly on talent trees when it came out, it certainly utilized them to a degree not seen in MMOs before. It solved the problem of players both wanting fixed, defined class roles, and a desire to differentiate themselves into unique niches. Without talent trees, WoW has nine classes; with them, it has 27 (or more!) sub-classes at your fingertips. Now, if only they’d make respeccing cheaper…
Deed Logs (LOTRO, WAR, Mythos)
I’m a huge proponent of alternative paths to character development past the “gather xp, gain levels” grind that’s been present ever since MMOs first began. We’re just recently starting to see MMOs come out with variations on a deed log (LOTRO) or tome of knowledge (WAR) or accomplishments (Mythos), where you can independently pursue specific goals to gain unique rewards, such as titles, skills or attribute bumps. Even City of Heroes introduced collectible badges that could earn you new powers or abilities.
Flight (CoH, WoW)
Being land-locked is often necessary for developers to create an immersive experience that isn’t broken, but when a game can incorporate flight (or super-jumping) smoothly, it suddenly opens the doors to a new dimension in travel that is surprisingly liberating to the player. Hitting level 14 in CoH to gain your first travel power, or dinging 70 to gain access to flying mounts in WoW is pleasure beyond description. Flight allows the player to be an explorer all over again.
Collectable Skills (Guild Wars)
Oddly enough, I’d like to credit Guild Wars with taking a slightly different approach to leveling, where, instead of buying your skills from a trainer, you have to go out and find them, whether they be from quests, unique mobs or certain milestones. Having to work for my skills makes me appreciate them more.
What are some features that you look back on fondly?