SyFy's Fidgit writer Tom Chick penned a column back in January talking about five reasons why he believed that the Multiplayer Online games are, in his words, "broken". Of course Tom used World of Warcraft for his visual features... I prefer City of Heroes.
But as a writer myself and the manager of my own MMO blog, here is my take on this whole subject...
How can this be a sign the MMO world is "broken"? Seriously. This is the fuel that feeds the fire that is MMOPRG. The companies that invest in these programs, that house the servers, that make the changes that people want and need and appreciate, they don't do these things out of the goodness of their hearts. They're in it to get paid.
This is a problem? Okay, so we have different classes and different categories for characters and you have to come up with a way to differentiate them to a computer.
You know what one of the most prolific discussions are in the CoH message boards? What kind of category Batman would fall under. He's a scrapper, okay, but he does have some stealth abilities, which is a stalker trait (villain category). He's a fighter and a martial artist, but are his reflexes "ninja" reflexes or are they "willpower" reflexes?
Don't want aggro? Simple: get rid of the classifications, archetypes, roles, whatever it is that differentiates types of characters. Just create characters and then mix-and-match types of powers. I understand that DC Universe Online will be doing just that.
(3) Button Lock
Yes I hate waiting around for a power to "recycle" too! Punch - wait 5 - punch - wait 5-punch... it gets annoying at first. Then you develop more powers and then you create combinations. Punch-jab-kick-jab-roundhouse-punch-jab-roundhouse-knockout-punch. Once you get used to it things just move.
You want a solution? I have one. Instead of "locking" a power until it fully charges, how about being able to use it depending on how long you recycle it? So the first punch is at 100%. If you wait another 5 seconds it will be back at 100%. If you punch immediately afterward it's at 20% power. If you wait 2 seconds it's at 40%. If you wait 3 it's at 60%. At 4 it's at 80%. That's what the human body does. Of course that requires another level of programming to make it all work.
(2) Static Worlds
This is an eternal problem for City of Heroes players too. Take, for instance, the Rikti invasions. Wave after wave of alien ships bomb the city, blow up streets, and yet the monuments are undamaged. The buildings that were standing before are still standing afterward. The cars are still running and the people are still walking. There are no rescue operations after the invasions to free trapped citizens in burning buildings or from cars damaged from the bombs. Giant monsters can go rumbling about and then five minutes later there is no sign that they ever were there. Now that is one GREAT city maintenance job!
There IS a solution for this, but it would require additional programming.
(1) You can't play with the people you want to play with.
I'll one-up this. See the girl on the above image? That's a player-created character. The male character on the left of her is a non-player character (hence the yellow ring at his feet). Rather than having him just stand there giving out missions, why can't she team-up with him? He's got the experience.
When it comes to other players, City of Heroes has one-upped the original author's complaint with their super-sidekicking feature, which elevates or hinders all team members to the level needed for the mission. But how about bringing in those legendary heroes or villains to work WITH you?
On the plus side, DC Universe Online is supposed to allow you to work side-by-side with their legendary characters. I hope this will really be the case whenever they go live with it.
Now I DO have an issue that the author didn't mention...
Okay, so my character has immobilized a thug. The thug cannot move. Why is it I cannot hit that thug each and every time from point-blank range if the thug cannot move?
The problem is that games like City of Heroes are still based on the old Dungeons-and-Dragons rules, which meant that you rolled dice and then your attack depended on chance. But the real world is not that random. If you immobilize a person, they cannot move. If you attack them at point-blank range, then you should ALWAYS be able to hit that person.
MMOPRGs have obviously grown from the days of the old Ultima game, and even from the original paper-and-dice incarnations, but clearly there is plenty of work that needs to be done before they can resemble the intricacies of the real world.