Having played many mmo and orpg games over the years I feel I have a pretty firm grasp and should be done when creating such a game, and more importantly what NOT to do. The following is a list of things that should be avoided:
1. Making your game too hard in an attempt to make it “Epic”:
This is a common mistake. The idea that the harder the game is the more people will like it is a misconception. People tend to get extremely frustrated and often “rage-quit” when a game is too hard (especially at lower levels). This does not mean that the game shouldn’t be difficult, but rather the difficulty should gradually increase through the zones so that once a player feels they have accomplished something (a major factor in whether a person continues playing), then they can delve into the more difficult aspects and levels of the game.
2. Mixing graphic styles:
Feel like mixing low res with high res? Or using tiles/sprites that have entirely different styles? Don’t do it. While there may even be popular mmo’s that do this (ie. Nexus:Kingdom of the Winds) it looks horrid. It would be better to create your own gfx, even if they are not the greatest, than to have a crazy mix of different resolutions, palettes and styles. Consistency is a beautiful thing, which is probably why graphics artists alike stick to palettes and “styles” when creating their game art. (this goes for the Interface as well as the tiles/sprites)
3. Creating a grindfest or what I like to call “questfest” type of game:
Sure, it is easy to create a game that is nothing but killing mobs and doing quests to kill said mobs. But a good game (whether single player or multiplayer) must be more than this to become a well thought out and memorable title. What about the seemingly forgotten importance of a good story? The people, places and environment in an ORPG is what I consider the most important aspect, and what will ultimately determine whether your game stands out or not. Break the cycle of grindfest/questfest games by creating well thought out lore in your fantasy world. This doesn’t mean copying J.R.R Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons (ie. Humans vs Orcs). Fantasy is not meant to be about known worlds or things, but rather an expression of what you consider fantasy to be to you. Practice writing your own out of the box stories, and creating a world you would like to live in. The key here is to imagine you are reading someone else’ story. Does it captivate you? Does it make you want to delve into this world and live there? If the answer is yes, then it’s likely other people will want to do the same.
4. Making another WoW or Runescape:
While these games are popular, one has to ask themselves: “Would people rather play my clone or the original?” The answer should be obvious. Similiar to the previous taboo, this implies that you’ve given no thought to the game. For the pure hobbyist this is considered fine of course, but If people don’t play your game don’t be surprised. To break this instinctive desire to mimic what is already considered great, a game designer should brainstorm until they have their OWN creative and original ideas.
5. Launching a game too early in it’s development:
While it is tempting to go Beta as soon as you have 20 maps and 10 quests, this is a bad idea. The reason being: people will initially play your game and enjoy it, but be quickly disappointed at the lack of game content and possibly never play again. This is, no doubt, the reason why notable game production companies hold “closed alpha” testing and sometimes even “closed beta”, so that the general public must wait in anticipation to eventually behold the greatness of the final product. There is something to be said for suspense. Tease the potential players, and don’t release a half-arsed game so that people get a bad first impression.
6. Not dealing well with critique of your game:
When you realize that the people playing your game are genuinely interested, and are simply giving what THEY think is valid criticism, it is easy to accept critique. However, if you take criticism as an attack on your creativity or hard work you have already failed as a game designer. Because, essentially, you are saying to your potential players “I don’t care what you think” and this is becomes a major turn off in and of itself, even if your game is great. I have seen mega productions fail and plummet in their player base due to this kind of attitude. In the same respect, you can show you don’t care about the player base (and in turn the game itself) by not being involved in solving problems with game mechanics, updating when necessary, fixing bugs etc. As every good company knows: For every single person who is dissatisfied with your product, at least 5 more will hear about that person’s complaints. Whereas, if someone likes your product they may only tell 1 or 2 other people. So it is easy to see how a game can fail if complaints/criticisms are not genuinely considered, or at least taken with a grain of salt.
7. Poor Mapping
(Thanks to Zetasis for this addition)
Mapping is one of the most important aspects when creating an ORPG. The map is what players will see the most so decent mapping is very important. Players don’t want to play on a map that is too cluttered, but they also don’t want to play on a map that is too empty either. Also, try and make a map logical. If the map area is a desert then there shouldn’t be any trees. If the map area is a dungeon then try and give it a dungeon feeling by adding things like rocks, bones, and torches. One way to become a better mapper is to look at exceptional examples of maps made by other members of the community or online.
Feel free to discuss, give opinions, or add to these taboos.