Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why MMORPGs suck

Yesterday I felt like playing an MMORPG again (Runes of Magic, to be precise). And soon I remembered why I don't like them: They are boring! Sure, they throw in a lot of gimmicks, ways to advance your character and improve its equipment. But all the icing and decoration on the cake can't mask that the combat gameplay itself - and that's still the core of every MMORPG - is just crap.

You go to a mob spot, click a mob, push your skill hotkeys in the optimal order you've figured out after 10 minutes, and then pick up the drops. Again and again and again and again. Sorry, but that's not an interesting past time for me. Not when you have do do it hundreds (literally) of hours to advance. That's like working an assembly line.

But how could one create a combat system which is more challenging, more surprising, and requires strategic ability or fast reaction? In an MMO you have to deal with two limiting factors: Realtime and network latency. The realtime nature means that you can't pause your game and plan your strategy, like in Bioware single player RPGs. You can't have a combat system which requires fast reactions either (like in the Elder Scrolls single player RPG series), because of the network latency. Everything that happens on the server reaches the player between 100ms and 1000ms later, once in a while even much longer due to a lagspike (and that could mean a very frustrating death in the middle of combat).

But is it really impossible to design a fun combat system around these limiting factors?

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