Every once in a while, I think about how a certain MMORPG had a really cool feature that we never saw anywhere else, and I deeply wish that other games would pick up the ball and run with it in new, exciting directions. Here are two MMO ideas I’d love to see transplanted to other games, where they could be expanded, enriched and explored:
Guild Wars: 8-Skill Limit
Whether you think it ultimately worked or not, Guild Wars had a really unique vision for progression in their game — to have players hit “end game” (level 20) relatively early, play down the importance of loot, and limit the number of active skills at any one time while encouraging them to go out and find more. Whereas other MMOs end up with scads of buttons and available skills at the level cap, Guild Wars has the same amount whether you’re a newbie or a vet: eight. You could never expand the amount of skills active at any one time, but you could gather more of them to create different builds — kind of a collectible card game element mixed with the rest.
Weirdly enough, I love it when a game gives me a very strict limitation but a lot of flexibility and variety within that limitation to experiment. If I had every skill for my classes available at the level cap in GW, it would both confuse and bore me, and I’d probably end up only using a handful anyway on a regular basis. Limit me to just eight, and I’m forced to make tough choices and decide between a specialized build designed to do one thing well, or a generalized build that’ll let me do a little of everything.
Another benefit of this system is that the devs can continue to add new skills and abilities at the end cap without having to worry that they’re overpowering players — whether I have 10 skills in my book or 100, I can only ever use 8 at a time. Guild Wars did kind of go overboard with too many skills, but it never broke the game even so.
So why not see this in other MMOs? The limited number of available skills is tied in with creating builds, and I think it’s a terrific thing to get players out from only playing their class one way all the time to shifting between builds based on the situation (think WoW’s dual spec feature).
Warhammer Online: Trophies
WAR might well be a museum of great ideas given mediocre execution, but I’d urge us not to give up on these ideas just because they might be attached to a game you don’t like (or never did). I loved a lot of WAR’s ideas, but the trophy system had me all a-twitter from the first moment I heard it. It really is a brilliant little stroke of genius — transfer the importance of visual customization away from the gear itself to what’s on the gear: trophies and dyes. Players could collect trophies by various means, and then put a few of them on various locations on their armor, ideally giving them a unique look from the rest of their class.
Unfortunately, two major problems kept the trophy system from really succeeding. The first was that you didn’t get many trophies unless you were high level, so you’d spend most of your leveling days not enjoying trophies whatsoever. The second was that most trophies were teeny tiny microscopic dots that you’d have to zoom your screen right up to it to see — never mind other players jogging by. In short, they didn’t do enough to visually set you apart, because you didn’t have enough of them and they were too small.
But that doesn’t mean that trophies should be abandoned! Players across all MMORPGs show great enthusiasm for collecting “fluff” gear and items and auras that do nothing for your stats, but help to create a unique appearance, and trophies mesh well with that. Devs should like them because they offer another type of loot to collect (and hand out), and players always like having something on their avatar that makes others pull up short and notice.
What other ideas would you like to see taken from one MMO and spread to others?