6 MMO Concepts That Should Be Banned

by Tyler Edwards, Jan 18, 2013

People often say that MMOs are a genre that lack in creativity, and there's a lot of truth to this. In fairness, many elements that are overused are overused for a reason: they work well. But then there are those other design concepts, ones with no justification for their popularity. Most of these were never good ideas in the first place, but they keep popping up simply because they've become habits. These are concepts that should simply be banned so that developers are forced to think of some fresh ideas.

server transfer

6: Paying real cash for virtual convenience:

Whether it's a blatant case of pay to win or just a minor annoyance, this is something we all profess to hate. No one wants to fork over real world cash just to avoid a mountain of grinding, hours of travel time, or being non-competitive with other players.

And yet, developers keep doing this. Bioware had the temerity to ask players to pay for their own action bars after Star Wars: The Old Republic went free to play. Martial arts MMO Age of Wushu is already garnering widespread criticism for its overbearing cash shop, and it hasn't even made it out of beta yet.

We like to pretend that the concept of paying for convenience is limited to those "Asian grindfest" MMOs and a few desperate free to play Western games, but the truth is even many of the big name games are guilty of this.

Even the paragon of the genre, World of Warcraft, has some hefty fees attached to things like server transfers. $25 to transfer a character might not seem like a fortune, but for those with multiple characters - and in a game this old, that's pretty much everyone - that can balloon to hundreds of dollars just to leave a dying server or meet up with some friends on another realm.

Maybe we just need to stop being suckers and refuse to pay for these things. There has to be a reason developers keep trotting them out.

loot roll

5: Loot competition:

This tradition deserves to die not so much because it's overused - although it is - but more because it was simply a terrible idea to begin with. Making players roll against each for items is just a perfect recipe for drama and frustration.

MMO players are addicted to loot. It's what gets us out of bed in the morning. Every day, we slog through the tedium of work and family life so that we can sit down and earn ourselves some of those sweet, sweet shinies. And woe betide anything - or anyone - that gets between us and an upgrade.

Imagine if crackheads were forced to /roll on every hit, and you have an idea of how bad an idea loot competition in MMOs is. It leads to ninjas, to guild drama, to PUG destroying arguments on loot rules, and all other kinds of madness.

Individual loot systems are starting to crop up. Guild Wars 2 made their lack of competition a major selling feature of the game, and even more traditional MMOs - such as World of Warcraft - are starting to implement individual loot in certain areas. We can only hope that this becomes the new norm.

tera armor

4: Plate bikinis:

You'd be hard pressed to find many major MMOs whose box covers and promo materials don't feature a well-endowed Elven woman with armor clearly not designed to protect her vital organs. It's not hard to understand why this is. Simply put, guys like boobs. A small but not insignificant group of girls also likes boobs. So they're a great way to get people's attention.

And at least they're true in advertising, because most of these games also feature plenty of female armor sets straight out of the Victoria's Secret catalogue.

Sex sells, and these immersion murdering outfits do have a surprisingly high number of vocal advocates, so sexy clothes are likely here to stay, but we can always dream of a better tomorrow.

It would be nice if MMO developers could at least apply some logic to their exploitation. How about instead of defying logic with plate armor that isn't worthy of the term, we confine our scantily clad Elves to casters and non-combatant NPCs who don't need to wear armor?

How about we realize that a character doesn't need to be in lingerie to be attractive? I doubt anyone would suggest the Templar woman from the cover of The Secret World isn't sexy, and she isn't showing any skin from the neck down. Satele Shan was an iconic and attractive symbol for Star Wars: The Old Republic without dressing like a stripper.


3: Two factions:

Attention all MMO developers: you don't have to do something just because World of Warcraft did it. WoW's playable factions, the Alliance and the Horde, are iconic and a key part of the game's lore, but the concept of two factions is not an essential part of a winning MMO.

Not all MMOs need to have a noble if stuffy blue faction and a savage, reckless red faction. Having two opposed player factions has some advantages - creating a healthy rivalry in PvP, for one thing - but none so crucial a game needs them to survive, and it also has some major disadvantages.

For one thing, it divides the players. This is never a good thing in a social game. For another, it tends to be pretty illogical from a story perspective. Most MMOs feature some massive global threat, and in the face of that, it's pretty dumb to keep fighting over territory with your neighbors, especially since the factions usually end up working together for the important stuff anyway.

Ironically, Rift is a good example of both the right and the wrong way to do twin playable factions. At launch, its factions were the exemplar of uncreative design. The Guardians and the Defiant aren't like the Alliance and the Horde; they are the Alliance and the Horde.

However, Trion has recently relaxed the boundaries between the two factions, allowing them to work together on a limited basis. This eliminates many of the downsides of a two faction system while preserving their distinct lore and aesthetics.

kill rats

2: Killing rats:

This is something so many games claim to avoid, but which few MMOs actually do. Granted, it's not always rats, but every MMO inevitably seems to send you to kill reams of some random animal.

World of Warcraft centered much of its early advertising around its lack of rat killing, and it is true that there are no quests in the game that send you killing rats. But what did its early quests ask you to do instead? Kill boars, kill small cats, kill spiders, and kill kobolds. And by the way, kobolds are humanoid rats.

And now it's almost become a tradition for every MMO to promise epic combat from the get go and then promptly send you off to collect thirty bear butts or otherwise slaughter the local wildlife.

They especially seem to have a fixation with spiders. There must be a law that every fantasy game has to send you into a cave to kill giant spiders at some point. Granted, spiders at least have a bit more intimidation factor than boars, but still...

A few games are starting to finally leave this bad habit behind. Guild Wars 2 actually managed to deliver on its promise of epic battles from the moment you create your character onward. The Secret World follows a slightly more traditional quest design, but at least all of its monsters are actually monstrous. No rat slaying there.


1: Dragons:

Okay, we get it. Dragons are awesome. They're basically dinosaurs that can fly, talk, and breathe fire. We can all agree that's a really great concept for a villain.

But enough is enough.

The original raid bosses in EverQuest were dragons, and ever since, the entire MMO industry has seemingly revolved around these giant lizards. World of Warcraft has done dragons. Rift is all about dragons. Guild Wars 2 is all about dragons. Aion features their own variant of dragons. The list is just endless. Dragons have become so ubiquitous that PvE is now universally known as dragon slaying regardless of what is actually being killed.

Granted, most big name MMOs are set in fantasy worlds, and dragons are one of the most iconic fantasy monsters, but they're not the only fantasy monsters. The fantasy genre has a vast bestiary of fiends that could also be good enemies for an MMO.

There are orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, troglodytes, gryphons, hippogryphs, wyverns, manticores, sphinxes, minotaurs, vampires, ogres, trolls, giants, elementals, dark elves, illithids, fae, zombies, liches, shades, ghosts, hydras, anthropomorphic animals of all stripes, members of good races fallen to madness, demons, sea monsters, evil gods, naga, sirens, beholders...

Or perhaps developers could show some actual creativity and create some monsters of their own. It's fantasy; the only limit is your own imagination.

The point is this: the absolute last thing the world needs is another MMO where we fight dragons.