Five small features that I wish were in every MMO

Rotating between MMOs has gotten easier for me, and it’s actually become a boon for my perspective.  When I get to a particular title on my rotation, I’m reminded what I like about it — and what I appreciate in other games that aren’t in this one.  Of course, it’s sometimes disconcerting to have to shift gears and accept that I don’t have access to a certain feature for a little while.

As I go between RIFT, LOTRO, TSW, and GW2, I wish every MMO shared the following features:

1. One-key loot / auto-loot

TSW and GW2 both allow me to spam a key in order to suck up loot.  It reminds me of how much I liked that feature in Dungeon Siege, way back when.  No more clicking corpses — just jam on F until my bags are full.  LOTRO’s new expansion goes one step further by just slinging all of the loot you gain into your bags (with a large overflow bag in case you’re in the middle of a hot streak).

It’s a small thing, almost lazy to appreciate, but I’ve gotten past the days of clicking corpses one by one for goodies.  At least the industry standard is adapting AoE looting, which helps somewhat.  But I think I still prefer one-key looting.

2. Dodging

I don’t dodge a lot, but in the games that have it, I deeply appreciate the ability to do so if the situation arises that I need to avoid a devastating attack.  GW2 lets me dodge twice in a row before recharge, TSW allows one dodge.  Nothing doing for the other games, and let me tell you how many times I’ve double-tapped a movement key  in RIFT when a big attack was about to happen.

3. Moving while casting

Making casters stand stock-still to sling non-instant spells has always been a pet peeve of mine.  These classes are already fragile — now you’re making them stand still to be a better target.  Meanwhile, those heavy armor-wearing fighters are dancing all over the place.

Again, TSW and GW2 both allow casting movement, and it’s wonderful.  I don’t get error messages because I haven’t come to a complete stop at a four-way intersection before casting; I can just sling spells and skills on the go.  Lifting this restriction adds so much to the freedom of combat, even if it is just visual most of the time.

4. Mail from anywhere

I’m not a big fan of having to wait to go back to main cities to do all my bizness, especially when it’s small fry stuff like mailing a piece of loot to a friend.  I have a mobile mailbox in RIFT that’s great, but it’s even better to be in GW2 and just fire off mail from anywhere — and receive it anywhere.  I think it helps to promote guild support as well, because it becomes far more convenient to ask if anyone needs a drop you just got, a drop that you can then mail the second someone says “me!”

5. Instant adventures

Looking back over this list, it sounds like GW2 is king of these convenient features.  And it pretty much is, although I could easily draw up another list talking about things that game doesn’t have that I wish it did.  Such as RIFT’s instant adventures.

GW2 has a very nice open/laid-back grouping system, but RIFT is more organized and lets you join an actual group for a world activity with a single click of a button.  I’m teleported to the action and can just enjoy myself without having to hunt down where the hot spots are.  I would love to have this in GW2, to be able to voosh my way over to the nearest big event, or in LOTRO, to organize warband fights in Rohan.

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22 thoughts on “Five small features that I wish were in every MMO

  1. An interesting thing about Vanguard: With the macro system and the extensive list of macro command you can easily simulate the same “one key loot” behaviour. And that mmo is 5 years old..

  2. Completely agree Syp. No matter the game, there is always some room for improvement. I really like Rift’s Instant Adventure feature. It’s great at getting anywhere from 5 to a raid+ of people together FAST to do some game content….it can be chaotic but that adds to the fun factor…and it doesn’t take away from the structured, tactical raids that require much better organization. This would be a great feature in GW2 to supplement the many dynamic events.

  3. Interesting thoughts, though I have to say I pretty much disagree with every one of them :)

    I think reducing loot to something you don’t even see until you are rummaging through your bags later is a mistake. GW2 is a terrible offender of this.

    AoE loot is ok, but you should still have to see the things you’re looting, and actively take them. That satisfaction is part of the reward cycle and loot will become even more mundane when all you’re doing is opening bags at a vendor and junking it.

    Dodging is another form of positioning, feels a little more active. Kind of like a free immune button every few seconds… this would be an interesting addition to some games.

    As for moving while casting, I think it’s great but shouldn’t be for everything. There should be certain abilities that allow you to, and certain ones that don’t. WoW has some special abilities now that you can use while moving.

    Minimizing the mail system would make it feel more “gamey” rather than a world you’re in. I think mail needs to be a destination service, though I can see the immersion problem with sci-fi or modern themed games.

    Instant adventure? … oh vey. Instant gratification, you mean? ;)

    I think some of these things just take the genre in the wrong direction. More interesting combat options like dodge are welcome, but anything that makes the world itself irrelevant is a bad idea in my opinion.

  4. With respect to point 1, I do love the one key looting in GW2, however I also love the AoE looting from SWToR. If they could combine the two??? Perhaps I’m spoilt by City of Heroes, no looting, stuff just drops into your inventory as you kill. :D

  5. That was always a great thing about City of Heroes. You didn’t have to worry about picking up stuff while you were in the middle of a fight.

  6. The cynical response here would be to say you are basically interested in one game, but you would like it reskinned in a bunch of different themes.

    Vacuum-looting works in games with limited to no inventory management, or where looting is an afterthoughts rather than a tactical consideration like in Darkfall or EVE. How different would Diablo 2 be with unlimited inventory?

    Dodging is the ez-mode (or just cheap frustration, depending on how you look at it) implementation for non-tab target combat. Remove locked targeting and homing missile attacks, and every movement is a GW2-like dodge, minus the silly “you rolled in fire but took zero damage because logic”. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the game and the gamer of course.

    Moving while casting should be a design and balance decision, not an engine limitation or something to outright fix. Imagine if every skill in LoL was ‘fixed’ to allow movement while casting? How weak would a GW2 Elem need to be made if every AoE would be insta-cast? Also ‘fixing’ this is another step towards action combat rather than hotbar spamming, which if you go too far gets too hard for the ‘casual’ or whatever we are caller lesser-skilled players these days to compete, and that crowd hates having a game identify them as a weak link.

    Mail or AH at anytime depends on the game. In GW2 location, distance, and proximity all don’t matter, so you might as well let the player do anything they want at any time. In EVE location very much matters, so the GW2-style AH would be horrible. In MMOs with meaningful travel (the horror!), instant functionality like mail service would greatly detract from that.

    Same for instant adventures. Again if you are playing an MMO where travel is a problem to solve, fine. If you are in a virtual world, you don’t view travel or location importance as a problem, but an important feature.

  7. In my opinion, moving while casting seriously broke the balance between melee and ranged classes. Before both types had their basic weakness. Melee had to travel to the target and stay on it, while ranged had to stand still in order to unload. Making ranged much more mobile has eliminated that weakness, to the detriment of the game as a whole.

  8. Yeah, I have to throw in with those who are against moving while casting as a general thing. There needs to be a balance in there. Saying that you don’t want to have to stop moving to cast is a pretty broad net and breaks a lot of balance.

    The others… if they make sense in the game. I like instant adventures. I also like strawberries. But I don’t want strawberries in everything I eat.

  9. I’m all for balance, but that doesn’t mean that casting while standing still is the only answer to that. Again, GW2 and TSW have included that and it handles great — and people rave about it. Casting while standing still, to me, feels like an unnecessary relic of the past generation of MMOs. I’m totally fine with it going away.

  10. @Syp – See my comment about strawberries. I am glad you are happy with how casting works in GW2 and TSW. But your title says “Every MMO.” I do love me some instant cast spells when I am playing a caster, but sticking the free movement while casting feature in games like WoW or Rift pretty much breaks the melee/caster balance and would require a huge rework.

    You may think that is dev time well spent and that we should all just suck it up and go through yet another giant “forget everything you ever knew about your class” soul revamp, but I do not.

    There are lots of good things that games can pick up from one another. But my gut says that this particular one strays too far into game design and balance to put it on a list with convenience items like easier looting or mailboxes.

  11. Also GW2 has stand-and-cast, like the Elem’s fire rain (or whatever it’s called). Just poor design on Anets part with those, or something deeper?

  12. Really don’t understand the resistance to move while cast. MMO’s need to evolve and fluid combat which does not require people to be rooted to one spot is a big positive. But it needs to be in the context of the gameplay. GW2 has active non-directional combat and move while cast definitely suits that style of game.

    Old fashioned MMO’s like WoW came from an era where no one was allowed to move while casting and it was such a rigidly defined gameplay type. It also bred a style of player who didn’t have to think about what they were doing and simply spam their keys.

    Moving forward given the success of GW2 all MMO’s will feature the points Syp has raised. If nothing else GW2 has raised the bar for modern MMO design. It can’t happen soon enough.

  13. @Paradigm – Yes MMOs need to evolve, but that doesn’t have to mean they all become pure action oriented games. Heck, they don’t even need to evolve around combat – there are plenty of other things that need focusing on first. There’s a certain cadence to the flow of rules based combat and that is part of what makes them popular. It’s based on a dice roll, not a thumb twitch.

    There are many things about the games we play that are that way because…. we enjoy them. It’s fine if you don’t enjoy them any longer, but don’t dismiss it as something that has to change.

    Also, I think the jury is still out on the “success” of GW2. Just IMO.

  14. @Lethality – re: the success of MMO
    GW2 is succeeding just fine. Full servers, and active population, healthy and continuous profit from their ingame store, and they are still actively hiring for more positions at ArenaNet.

  15. @Paradigm – All we know for sure is it didn’t fail. But ArenaNet has made no more announcements about sales, and we’ve only seen a huge decline in player engagement from the sources that track it.

    My measuring stick for “success” is right out of Mike O’Brien’s mouth – he wants it to be the #1 game – and it is far from achieving that.

  16. I’ll cast another vote against casting while moving. I despise the snare/stun/daze mechanic in MMO pvp. The #1 reason why this mechanic has become so necessary is that DPS classes can kite effectively because they are allowed to spam abilities/spells on the run. Want to cast your big nuke? You better make sure you have the time to cast it while standing. Want to move? Then use the abilities that do less damage but make you mobile.

    Most MMO’s have dodge and block abilities. But instead of being movement based they are ability based. This makes more sense. If you want to dodge or block before a bit hit then play a class that uses those skills. What is the advantage of being able to double tap a direction button over using a ability button to do the same thing? AoC has used this mechanic for years, it is nothing new.

    Looting is a pita in MMO’s, I agree. Instead of allowing for AOE looting and auto looting why not just stop trash loot/items from dropping? Crafting items okay. But why do people need to pick up stack after stack of vendor trash?

  17. This gives me a good discussion post for Massively next week — I had no idea it’s a controversial feature. I’ll be interested to see what the larger community has to say about it.

  18. The bad part about the standing-still-while-casting mechanic is not so much that you are standing still, but that some MMOs give you annoying error messages if you are not at a complete stop. In that regard I very much prefer the approach City of Heroes uses – you simply stop and cast when the power is activated.

    The same goes for annoying error messages if your is slightly off target in angle – some MMOs gives an annoying error message and you have to turn a bit. Again City of Heroes does it better IMHO – you just turn slightly automatically.

  19. Vanguard has the best moving-while-casting I have seen. You can always cast but your movement is heavily slowed. Works wonderfully.

    Dodging I can take or leave. Usually I just ignore it and take the hits. If its very simple to do, I will occasionally use it. If dodging turns out to be something I actualy *need* to do to function I either find a ranged class that can avoid it or I find another MMO.

    As for one-click looting no thank you. I turn that off in every MMO that tries to foist it on me. I want to open all my mobs/chests/loot bags one at a time, peruse the contents, think about whether I want them and preferably think about which slot in which bag I want to place them If I have to do it under pressure of being attacked, so much the more amusing.

    Mail and AH/Store purchases from anywhere. No thanks. By all means sprinkle mailboxes and brokers liberally across the landscape, but not in my pockets, please.

    Instant adventures? About as welcome as Instant Tea. I’ll find my own adventures, thanks. I bet there’s one right over that hill.

  20. It does sound like you like Guild Wars 2′s combat system, and would like some of its features implemented in other games.

    But I have found Guild Wars 2′s combat difficult, while being both mentally and physically taxing (oh my poor contorted hands). In playing GW2 for a couple weeks, I never could figure out how to dodge attacks correctly and I found 1v1 combat vs. NPCs extremely frustrating.

    In group fights, the single-digit framerates made any sort of intelligent active combat impossible. I might as well have been rooted anyway.

    When elements like dodging and constant movement are added to a game, balance requires that they become mandatory player skills. I would hate to have to bring more movement into games I play where I can have a more relaxed experience.

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