In my first post here at MMOCrunch I went over why I think City of Heroes/Villains (COX) is still a good and somewhat underappreciated MMORPG. This time around I am going to discuss something I touched on the last time, what makes a good MMO. There are a number of points, but there are some key factors in my opinion that can make or break a game.
One of the things that both COX and World of Warcraft do throughout the year is in-game events, especially around the holidays. This consists of special missions or instances that the player can partake in usually around Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day. Just recently COX wrapped up its Winter Event that ran from December 15th to January 12th. The event featured the opening of the ski chalet in Pocket D which is an open zone that both villains and heroes can hang out in. In addition to ski slope runs and extra badges, players were also granted the optional mission of rescuing baby new year (who to me just looked like a little person in a diaper) to gain even more badges and temporary powers. Scattered all through Paragon City and the Rogue isles are also presents that will either spawn killer snowmen or candy cane salvage which can be traded in for badges and powers. One of the highlights of the event is battling a building-sized snowman called the Winter Lord in a zone where heroes and villains can work together on teams while it is open.
World of Warcraft Winter event" src="http://www.lorehound.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/WOW-snowmen-thumb2-150x150.jpg" alt="Snowmen from the World of Warcraft Winter event" width="150" height="150" />In World of Warcraft it was called “Feast of Winter Veil” and ran from December 25th to January 2nd. Like COX it is themed around the holidays and features special achievements and instances for players. Instead of a Winter Lord causing mayhem, Greatfather Winter is the figurehead and seems to be more Santa orientated in its focus. These seasonal events help give long-term players a reason to keep playing, it’s like a holiday thank you from the game developers.
Another key ingredient to making a good MMO is keeping in touch with the community within the game. As I stated in my last post, what keep me coming back to COX is the people I play with. Having talked with many WOW players, it sounds like they feel the same. What both games have done well is keeping an open line to the users and re-acting to what they like and don’t like. Prime examples of games that have not done this are Sony Online Entertainment’s Star Wars Galaxies and the NcSoft’s ill-fated Auto Assault.
Star Wars Galaxies started off strong and early on was very popular among MMORPG fans. I used to have many friends who played it religiously and really liked the game. Then there was the update that changed many things, including making everyone a Jedi. Previously players had a long road to be a Jedi and put in many hours collecting Holocron pieces to get that rank. Then after the update it seemed all that hard work was for nothing and fans quickly left the game in disgust. There is now talk of a new MMO coming out set in the world of the Old Republic and I will be curious to see if fans of the genre will give it another try.
NcSoft thought they really were striking into new ground with Auto Assault developed by NetDevil. But after only a few months of being online, it was shutdown and many refunds were given. What made that game unique was that your main character was a vehicle with you having a semi-customizable human to wander around in cities with to either get missions or upgrades. I played the game quite a bit and did enjoy driving around in a post apocalyptic world blowing up things, but found being humanoid clunky and distracting at times. The mission types were escort, patrol and kill which would earn you in game money to upgrade your weapons and look of your vehicle. There was no death penalty per se in the game; once your health ran out your only cost was the time to get back to a mission, but no loss of experience. What ultimately killed it in the end was lack of players. Even though there was a really easy teaming system in place,there just wasn’t not enough people online to team with. I would log on and there would be hardly anyone on the servers. It is a shame though, I think if it had been given a chance by the fans it would have lasted longer.
So as we head into this New Year and decade it does not look like MMORPG’s are not really slowing down at all. Looking ahead I am anxiously awaiting to see what the new Going Rogue expansion for COX, DCU Online, Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic has to offer us all. If the developers keep in touch with the fans, listen to the communities and give them what they want it will be very busy online year. Heck, I might even have to play more than one at a time if they can bring the goods to the table, so to speak.